The Badab War, fought between 901.M41 and 913.M41, was one of the most insidious and dangerous internecine conflicts to wrack the Imperium of Man in recent history, made all the more lamentable because the unthinkable had occurred. As a result of a conflicting nexus of honour, treachery, politics and greed, several Space Marine Chapters turned Renegade against the Imperium and bloodshed and outright civil war ensued -- a war which turned entire armies of the Imperium's most powerful warriors against each other and in doing so swept millions to their deaths in its turbulence.
Such was all the result of the treachery and hubris of the former Chapter Master Lufgt Huron of the Astral Claws Space Marine Chapter, the self-styled and infamous "Tyrant of Badab." The carnage wrought amongst the stars of the Maelstrom Zone during this conflict was such that it rocked the faith and order of untold Imperial worlds never touched directly by its violence, and caused loyal subjects to look upon their Adeptus Astartes protectors with fear. Such were the dire sins and hidden truths that lay behind the war, that a pall of secrecy and lies descended about the conflict even as it was fought.
The rebellion was eventually put down by the forces of the Inquisition and those Astartes Chapters who remained steadfast in their duty to the Emperor of Mankind, but its instigators, the Astral Claws, wholly given over to Chaos in the course of the conflict, turned Renegade and its survivors become the infamous corsair band of Chaos Space Marines known as the Red Corsairs. The Red Corsairs are led by the treacherous Chaos Lord named Huron Blackheart, a vicious Champion of Chaos Undivided who is now nearly unrecognisable as the once-noble Lufgt Huron. Blackheart and the Red Corsairs currently dominate a large Chaos empire within the Warp Rift known as the Maelstrom in the Eastern Fringes of the galaxy. There Blackheart plots his vengeance upon the Imperium and prepares to build a new empire dedicated to the Ruinous Powers that will bring the demesne of the Traitor Legions within the Eye of Terror to shame.
Origins of the Conflict
The Maelstrom Zone
Situated along the Eastern Fringe in the Segmentum Ultima, the region of the galaxy now known as the Maelstrom Zone was first explored during the Great Crusade of the 31st Millennium. Second in size and extent only to the Eye of Terror, the Maelstrom is a vast Warp Rift that scars both the physical universe and the fabric of the Immaterium beyond. The Maelstrom covers an area many hundreds of light years across, and its presence in space is marked by a vast, slowly turning gyre comprised of nebulae, dust and stellar material in which countless stars and worlds have long been lost to the Empyrean.
During the Great Crusade, the vast armies of the Emperor of Mankind attempted to penetrate the Maelstrom and cleanse it of the evils that lurked within. The wealth of the worlds bordering the Maelstrom has drawn Mankind to the Maelstrom Zone time and again despite its manifold hazards and difficulties, and indeed there is ready evidence of humanity's presence in the region as far back as the Dark Age of Technology. The Maelstrom Zone has also drawn humanity's enemies as well in their countless number and diverse loathsome forms. Hundreds of warships and thousands of troops were lost in the early campaigns during the Great Crusade era, and with the rest of the galaxy to reconquer, the Emperor declared the region Purgatus. In the years following the Horus Heresy, Primarch Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines Space Marine Legion decided that the inhabitants of the Maelstrom were too great a threat to the shaky stability of the recovering Imperium to ignore, and ordered the surrounding regions reinforced in an effort to contain any attacks that might originate from within.
Over time, the Imperium slowly established several important Imperial outposts within the Maelstrom Zone during the 38th and 39th Millennia. These outposts rose to prominence as flickering beacons of human influence and strength within the region. The three vital star systems that formed the links in a distant chain that allowed the resources of the Maelstrom Zone to flow into the coffers of the more established Imperial sectors beyond were the star systems of Cygnax, Sagan and Badab. As the situation in the Maelstrom became ever more volatile, this path of Imperial commerce came increasingly under threat.
By the middle of the 41st Millennium, the heavily militarised Hive World of Cygnax located in the star system of the same name was the most populated planet in the northern Maelstrom Zone. Having long been a lynchpin of Imperial control of the region, Cygnax was a key strategic world, forming a bulwark against aggressors and serving as a safe port for Imperial merchant and naval vessels. In the year 557.M41 disaster struck, when, with the suddenness of an onrushing storm, Cygnax succumbed to corruption from within and attack from without. The planet rapidly fell into bloody civil war between its Imperial garrison and Death Cult nihilists, backed by the intervention of the dread Chaos Space Marine warband known as The Reborn. Despite the intervention of the Mantis Warriors Space Marine Chapter, which itself had made a home in the nearby Endymion Cluster Sub-sector, the death toll rose exponentially into the millions. The Death Cultists managed to gain access to part of the Cygnaxian missile defence network, and in a suicidal rage unleashed a rain of atomic and plasma warheads upon the doomed world, shattering its hive cities and disrupting the planet's orbit for several years. The resulting permanent nuclear winter, radioactive fallout and tectonic upheavals annihilated all life on Cygnax. With the fall of this key world, Imperial control of the northern Maelstrom Zone swiftly crumbled. Without Cygnax, along with other Imperial losses suffered in the region over the previous few centuries, vital military supply chains stretching as far as Bakka and Terra itself were threatened, forcing the Adeptus Terra to act.
The Maelstrom Warders (587.M41-715.M41)
In 587.M41, the High Lords of Terra pronounced an Edict Imperialis in response to these dire predations, ordering several Space Marine Chapters to permanently base themselves in the Maelstrom Zone in order to protect the Imperium's interests and pacify the region. In recognition of their past glorious service to the Imperium, the Astral Claws Chapter was given the high honour of the senior role in commanding the newly formed Maelstrom Warders. This force was to include the fleet-based Lamenters and Charnel Guard Chapters to patrol the outer regions, and also incorporated the Mantis Warriors who were based in the nearby Endymion Cluster. Once this force was put in place, the Astral Claws Chapter took over an orbital battle station in the strategically vital Badab System, which became their fortress-monastery and base of operations. After their establishment, a detachment of a Imperial Navy squadron were permanently assigned to the region to conduct search and destroy and convoy protection duties. This naval detachment quickly stabilised the surrounding areas and purged the inner zone of heretical and xenos elements that had plagued them. Soon the wealth of the Maelstrom Zone once again began to flow into the coffers of the Imperium.
The greatest operation during these times occurred during the Scourge Campaign from 640.M41-651.M41, in which the Astral Claws and their allies conducted a series of major combat operations, striking deep into the heart of the Maelstrom in an attempt to take the battle to the foe. Initially the Space Marines were successful, until the abrupt withdrawal of the Charnel Guard Chapter. The Adeptus Terra severed the Chapter's ties to the Warders, dispatching them to the Thanatos Crusade into the Veiled Region. This sudden loss effectively ended the campaign. The Astral Claws subsequently petitioned for a replacement Chapter to be reassigned, but were denied. Less then two decades later, the Warders suffered a series of setbacks and a high number of casualties amongst some of their allies, causing a rift in relations between the wider Imperium and the Maelstrom Warders during this period. Soon the Warders became hard pressed by an upsurge of daemonic incursions and corsair attacks, pushing them into an increasingly defensive posture and suspending all operations near the Maelstrom itself.
Once again, disaster struck, as a series of Ork raids originating within the Maelstrom struck deep into the Badab Sector during the Battle of Hellsiris. The Astral Claws' Chapter Master Rovik Blake, went against his own doctrine, and pursued the Orks back into the Maelstrom itself. Having led the Astral Claws for the last two centuries, he fell in single combat with the Ork Warboss Vorg Manburna and forcing the Astral Claws to retreat. On return to the Badab System, the Captain of the Astral Claws 3rd Company, Lufgt Huron, was appointed as Chapter Master by popular acclaim of his peers in 715.M41. He became the youngest warrior in the Chapter's history to attain this esteemed rank. Imperial historians now point out that such a man of flawed character should never have been allowed to rise to the command of a Space Marine Chapter. But Lufgt Huron had already proven to be an exceptional warrior as well as a skilled tactician and charismatic leader. He quickly reorganised the Chapter's strategic deployments and established a policy of expanding his Chapter's fleet which had been badly depleted, including within its ranks captured corsair vessels in aggressive raids. He also established the questionable scorched-planet policy against their enemies and increased his Chapter's stockpile of Exterminatus-class weapons. This resulted in several fringe worlds that harboured renegade ships in the past being turned into lifeless husks.
Rise of a Tyrant (718.M41)
In 718.M1, a failed coup attempt on the Hive World of Badab Primaris led to an abortive civil war, and the Astral Claws stepped in and brutally crushed the conflict. In the aftermath, the elements behind the coup were brought forth to Lufgt Huron for judgement. Mindful of the lesson of Cygnax, the Chapter Master personally took matters into his own hands, swiftly reimposing order once more. This time he employed the Astral Claws much more brutally as they executed much of the planet's ruling class as well as purging those they perceived as morally recidivist. Taking upon himself the mantle of planetary ruler, Lufgt Huron stylised himself the 'Tyrant of Badab', claiming the inhabited worlds in proximity to the hospitable region of the void around the Badab System as his Chapter's fiefdom. In his subsequent pronouncement, he echoed the example and precedents of the sovereign realm of Ultramar and the Warder's charter. The nearby system was soon purged wholesale of the ruling elites and in the decades afterward, a number of Astral Claws 'watch bastions' were established. The Tyrant's chosen servants and political allies were placed in positions of power, turning the Badab Sector into a pocket empire, commanded by the Astral Claws.
To further cement his power, in a massive reorganisation of the uneven and often isolationist native planetary defence forces in the region into what would become known as 'The Tyrant's Legion'. Following a unified command structure these forces now followed a standard dictated by Huron. The Astral Claws assigned detachments to further train the Tyrant's Legion in order to purge them of weak elements. Soon the Tyrant's Legion proved their worth as they repulsed numerous corsair raids, freeing the Astral Claws from their defensive stance. The Chapter was able to conduct a series of lightning raids into outlying areas to harass and destroy heretic and xenos controlled areas. With the increase of Huron's tally of victories, and the curtailing of corsair activity and the increase of production never before reached, the fame of the Astral Claws 'Tyrant' grew beyond the Maelstrom Zone.
Spurred by this success, Huron had his servants deliver a formal and lengthy petition to Terra, making a detailed case for completely subduing the Maelstrom and the surrounding area, which would greatly benefit the Imperium in the long term. In order to achieve this, Huron advocated the deployment of several more Space Marine Chapters to the Warder's ranks, suggesting even that a new Founding might even be warranted to meet the needs of his plan. Unfortunately, Huron's petition was dismissed without full hearing on the grounds that the requirements of the Imperium were better met elsewhere.
The Astral Claws Falter
During the mid 700s.M41, the Astral Claws submission of required Gene-Seed tithes to the Magos Inviglia of the Adeptus Mechanicus became infrequent and incomplete. Although initially a cause for concern, such matters were not uncommon, particularly those Space Marine Chapters deployed to border areas or on crusade, simply because the Chapter itself might have a temporary need to retain the gene-seed itself to sustain battlefield losses. But as the omission persisted, this signaled to the Mechanicus that there was some darker motive at work. This would later prove to be true with the Astral Claws, as evidence later indicated that this first great sin against the traditions of the Astartes would arguably result in the Chapter's fall into heresy. Repeatedly denied the reinforcements he had requested to aid him and the Maelstrom Warders in carrying out their tasks, in his arrogance and pride, the Tyrant sought to expand his forces into a force equal to a Space Marine Legion of old. Further covert investigation would later uncover that the Astral Claws' Apothecarion were conducting heretical experiments in rapid zygote cultivation. Though largely unsuccessful, the Astral Claws eventually stood at around an estimated 3,500 battle-brothers strong.
In 729.M41, Lufgt Huron's servants delivered a formal document of petition to the High Lords of Terra making a detailed case for complete purging and subduing the Maelstrom and the surrounding area. In order to achieve this, the document sets out the case for a massively augmented deployment of Space Marines to the Maelstrom Warders. Huron's petition was, once again, dismissed without a full hearing on the grounds that the Imperium's needs were better met elsewhere.
The Badab Schism (748.M41-900.M41)
After further requests to redistribute resources from the Maelstrom Zone were denied and met with increased quota demands from the Administratum, in protest, Huron withheld Badab Primaris' planetary tithe to the Administratum and further blocked the passage of trade through his realms in protest over the Adepta's failure to provide him and his allies sufficient resources to police the Maelstrom. Refusing the Astral Claws' role as defenders of the Maelstrom Zone, the Tyrant soon diverted the industrial resources and manpower to directly supplement the Badab Sector's defences as well as augmenting the Maelstrom fleet detachment and fortification of key worlds under his command. These space-based defences encircling the outer and inner spheres of the Badab Sector came to be known as the "Ring of Steel." On Badab Primaris, the Tyrant ordered the demolition of the ancient citadel of the ruling dominars and instead erected the legendary, hugely fortified 'Palace of Thorns' to his own specifications and design. The clashing entitlement of the Administratum's Imperial tithe and the ancient rights of the Astartes commanders to defend the Imperium by any means necessary swiftly came to be known as the Badab Schism and would last for more than a century and a half, during which the Astral Claws and the Maelstrom Warders would continue to carry on military operations as usual, against a volatile backdrop of worsening tensions with the Administratum and Segmentum authorities.
The sudden loss of the lifeblood of industry and commerce was keenly felt by the Kathargo Sector. For more than eleven centuries the Karthan Lords and Planetary Governors had held the charter to distribute the industrial output of the Maelstrom Zone and guard its passage from the Administratum-controlled supply fortress on Sagan III, and then to the western Segmentum Ultima and beyond. Isolated by vast distances, the Karthan had long grown fat and decadent, protected by the blood and toil of the more strife-torn realms.
War on the Horizon (780.M41-900.M41)
Freed from their inglorious garrison duty, the Astral Claws intervened in the aftermath of the infamous Fourth Quadrant Rebellion, which had troubled the Imperium for many decades. Gathering in a mixed taskforce comprising of various companies from the Astral Claws, Fire Hawks, White Scars, and Celestian Guard Chapters, backed by Death Korps of Krieg and Kol-Sec Imperial Guard regiments and the Titans from Legio Venator, Lufgt Huron was elected battle leader by common consent. Under his inspired command, the taskforce ruthlessly eradicated the heavily fortified Lycanthos System of Traitor and Chaos forces in under a year. However, Stibor Lazaerek, Chapter Master of the Fire Hawks, continued to harbour a grudge over the fact that Huron was given overall command despite his seniority as a Chapter Master. This grudge would fester over the coming years until finally it would bear the fruit of bitterness.
In 821.M41, a heavy Ork raiding force from the Maelstrom was intercepted and destroyed in a series of battles in the Khirab Sector in the Endymion cluster by a combined force of the Maelstrom Warders. During the battle, Lufgt Huron slew Rakka, the Ork Warboss, in single combat and was hailed as a hero of the people of Endymion.
In 869.M41, at the instigation of their Chapter Master, the Black Templars declared a Crusade of Wrath into the Maelstrom, assaulting it from the eastward approach. Meanwhile the Astral Claws, Lamenters and Mantis Warriors launched their own assaults from the southern and north-eastern approaches. Thanks in no small part to Huron's brilliant strategic planning as well as the mettle of the Maelstrom Warders and the Black Templars, they achieved a stunning victory against 23 alien or heretic stronghold worlds. Unfortunately, wider events intervened, once again putting a premature end to the Astral Claws plans, as the Black Templars were called away to aid the beleaguered realm of Ultramar in the wake of the Tyrannic War. Having already suffered substantial losses in the campaign, the Warder Chapters were forced to withdraw from the Maelstrom, much to Huron's fury.
During this time Lufgt Huron was uncharacteristically taciturn and withdrawn on his return from the Maelstrom, either locking himself away in the Chapter's archives for days on end and refusing to see anyone, or keeping long silent vigils alone in the Fortress-Monastery's Panopticon-Solar, gazing unblinkingly for hours at holospheres that depicted the Maelstrom Zone. Some observers say that it was during this time that Lufgt Huron became corrupted and fell from grace. Denied his goals he had spend a lifetime fighting for, he had been denied his glory as it was snatched from his hands at the last by those he should call master, finally unhinged him, or maybe he had given in to hubris and false pride. Some of the Tyrant's detractors have even gone so far as to suggest that during the Crusade of Wrath, whilst deep within the nightmare realm of the Maelstrom, something vile or warp-tainted promises had wormed their way into his heart.
Matters worsened once again, not only within the Maelstrom Zone but the wider Imperium as well, as the threat of Hive Fleet Behemoth left the defences of the Segmentum Ultima in disarray, and wars and rumours of wars as far as the Eye of Terror and the Ghoul Stars threatened to erupt, as well as galaxy-wide revolts and other strange phenomena. Soon crisis followed crisis, and in the dying years of the 800s.M41, Lufgt Huron saw the Maelstrom Zone slipping from his grasp and all the victories the Warders had gained began to crumble, and so in an attempt to tighten his grip, he remained unaware that elsewhere events were moving against him. It would not be long before the brooding Tyrant of Badab would spark into violence, and the Imperium would once again, shed the blood of its own.
Shadows of War
The Destruction of the Tithe Fleet (901.M41)
With preliminary judgements into the Badab System in the Segmentum Courts Temporal weighing in the Administratum's favour, an Imperial investigation fleet, including representatives of the Adeptus Mechanicus Biologis Inviglia and the Administratum Lords of the Kathargo Sector, was sent to Badab to demand the delivery of the Badab tithe and the Chapter's gene-seed requirements. In circumstances that cannot be fully confirmed or explained, the investigation fleet was fired upon and destroyed in its entirety as it attempted to force its way through the Badab System's so-called 'Ring of Steel' in order to press its demands. No ship survived and more than 20,000 servants of the Imperium were lost.
Soon claim and counter-claim ensued in the aftermath as to how this tragedy occurred, and Lufgt Huron, delivering his own dominion's report on the Badab matter to the Segmentum authorities, adamantly insisted that the fleet was fired upon only after refusing to give away to the just authority of the system's masters. Within the Kathargo Sector, outrage at the incident quickly became widespread, and soon such trade links that had remained between the Maelstrom Zone and the Kathargo Sector were abruptly severed or subject to the harshest scrutiny.
The Karthan Sector Governor Tanit Koenig moved to heavily censure the Astral Claws Chapter, along with calls for the arrest and trial of Huron for such treachery against the Imperium. With the weight of suffering and bloodshed elsewhere, the tangle of claim and counter claim fell on deaf ears. In addition, Lufgt Huron was the lawful master of a realm permanently on a war footing; a bulwark against the xenos and Chaos, and on the most basic level authorised to defend those domains. Without hard evidence, charge of willful and premeditated homicide against the Imperium's servants would be almost impossible to prove in this case. Over the next three years the Karthan Imperial commanders took it upon themselves to send two further punitive expeditions into the Maelstrom Zone but both fleets were lost in unconfirmed circumstances, supposedly never reaching the Badab System. The intervention of the Astral Claws and their allies was suspected.
Unable to enforce their will decisively, the increasingly desperate Karthan lords, near bankrupted by this stage, attempted to circumvent Badab itself, taking the far longer and more perilous route in order to access the lost tithes directly to make up their shortfall. By 903.M41 the agents of the Karthan Imperial commanders began to spread propaganda in both the Segmentum Assizes and the Senatorium Imperialis to any that would listen. As the local Administratum continued to press the High Lords to intervene directly, the Maelstrom Warders continued to arm themselves for war and conducted sweeps of the Maelstrom Zone in force, while they simultaneously continued to augment their defences within the Badab Sector itself.
The Maelstrom Secession (903.M41)
To answer the continuing threats to the control of his domain, Lufgt Huron issued the infamous 'Articles of Just Secession', which were also signed and ratified by the masters of the Lamenters and Mantis Warriors Chapters. These documents were designed to formally sever the Maelstrom Zone's direct tithes to its neighbouring sectors. In support of their cause, the document cited both the edict that founded the Maelstrom Warders and the ancient rights and titles of the Adeptus Astartes prerogative in their defence, precedents that both weighed heavily in their favour. These articles also called for a full investigation into the Karthan Sector, asserted the historic and lawful sovereignty of the Space Marine Chapters involved from outside interference by the lower Adepta and stated again their willingness to defend the Maelstrom Zone from any who would threaten it.
As the situation devolved further the Karthans threatened all out war, but lacked the means to do so alone. Instead the petitioned aid to mount an attack from the Deparmento Munitorum and the Segmentum Naval sub-command at Ryza, but were flatly refused and informed that the matter was an 'internal dispute.' Met with denials, the Karthargo Sector itself drafted increasingly large numbers of troops into its planetary defence regiments. To further their goals, the Karthan Satrap sent several direct and open appeals to several Space Marine Chapters with whom they had past dealings with. The Satrap had quickly realised that only Space Marines could truly hope to contest other Space Marines in open battle. The Fire Hawks Chapter was the first to respond to their cause.
Breaking of the Storm (904.M41)
At the direct request of the Karthan Satrap, elements of the Fire Hawks Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes were sent to investigate the disappearance of Karthan shipping in the areas to the galactic south of the Golgothan Wastes, which bordered the northern reaches of the Maelstrom Zone. In the past, the Fire Hawks Chapter had used the vast orbital dockyards of the Karthan capital world of Sidon Ultra for resupply. The volatile and bellicose nature of the Fire Hawks Chapter was widely known, and it is likely that this also figured in the Karthan Satrap's reasoning in making her request. This monumental arrogance and folly would soon prove disastrous.
Conducting search and destroy operations in the Golgothan Wastes, Knight-Commander Stibor Lazaerek acquiesced to dispatching several starships into the northern Maelstrom Zone. One such vessel, the Red Harbinger, entered the Endymion Cluster in 904.M41. This ancient region of space was under the stewardship of the Mantis Warriors Chapter, one of the Astartes Chapters that belonged to the alliance of the Maelstrom Warders. When the Red Harbinger entered the Galen System, they were intercepted and surrounded by Mantis Warriors vessels. Ever fierce and proud, they were goaded by the Fire Hawks' refusal to allow them to board and threats of reprisal and opened fire, crippling the lone cruiser. With this single act, the full-scale conflict between Space Marine Chapters that was to follow was ignited. The Mantis Warriors boarded and captured the Red Harbinger, but the engagement was brutal to the extreme as both sides took heavy casualties. Less than 20 Fire Hawks were captured alive, and none surrendered, but their struggles brought time for an Astropathic message to be dispatched to their Chapter warning of their fate and who they had fought.
Upon learning of the fate of the Red Harbinger, Chapter Master Lazaerek and his entire Fire Hawks Chapter became incensed and withdrew their forces from the operations already under way. The entire Chapter fleet deployed with the utmost haste to the Maelstrom Zone. Soon matters escalated upon the arrival of the Fire Hawks as they were met at Galen by a taskforce consisting of both Mantis Warriors and Astral Claws warships. In a tense standoff, the captives were eventually returned and both sides traded threats. The Fire Hawks finally withdrew to await the arrival of their full forces, and especially their massive mobile star-fortress, the Raptorus Rex.
The Fire Hawks Chapter fleet rendezvoused in the Sagan System, and aided by their Karthan allies, soon launched a series of probing attacks and reconnaissance missions towards the Badab Sector and the Endymion Cluster, but by doing so, escalated tensions to the point that the situation was rapidly proving untenable. Having prepared for war for many standard years, the Tyrant of Badab and his allies were battle-hardened and had the advantage of being intimately familiar with the territory of the Maelstrom Zone. The Mantis Warriors proved to be impossible to pin down due to the superlative guerrilla tactics that they employed. Using the Karthans to distract the Astral Claws forces in the Badab Sector, the Fire Hawks struck the Agri-World of Iblis at the edge of the Endymion Cluster, attacking civilian targets and burning great swathes of crops and land in order to antagonise the Mantis Warriors into fighting them in open battle.
Unfortunately, this type of attack had been anticipated and planned for by the Secessionists. As the Mantis Warriors pinned the Fire Hawks in place on Iblis with their hit-and-run tactics, the Secessionist fleet was able to draw their forces away from Sagan. A combined force of the Astral Claws and Lamenters Chapters soon descended upon the Sagan System and decisively overwhelmed the Planetary Defence Forces and Karthan troops. Badly mauled, the stranded Fire Hawks and Karthan troops found themselves cut off from supply and behind enemy lines. This forced the Fire Hawks to withdraw from the Iblis System, as they raked the surface of the planet one final time and successfully punched through the Secessionist blockade that was attempting to pin them in. The Fire Hawks' Raptorus Rex claimed the life of the Seccessionist Maelstrom Squadron's only Mars-class Battlecruiser, Sacred Tetrarch, in the process when the warship's mighty Nova Cannon proved unable to prevail against the formidable star-fortress.
A lull descended upon the region following these tumultuous events as the Secessionists consolidated their gains and the Karthans retreated in disarray. Soon the Fire Hawks, heavily outnumbered and outgunned, were forced into a long period of retreat to the Maelstrom Zone's fringes which lasted until late 904.M41, when the Marines Errant Chapter answered the call of the Fire Hawks for reinforcement. This Chapter diverted a sizable force of six companies and a fleet of support vessels in order to aid their brother Astartes, although their precise motivations for doing so remain obscured. But soon the star-faring Chapter quickly became bogged down protecting Imperial shipping along the Pale Stars region and the outlying Maelstrom Zone's colonies as the Secessionists renewed their offensive. The Marines Errant split their forces in an effort to guard the convoys in transit from the increasingly frequent Secessionist raids and attacks.
Matters soon became more complicated when the Marines Errant were caught between the Fire Hawks' desire to destroy Lufgt Huron's forces at any cost, and the growing need to protect Imperial shipping and the outlying Kathargo Sector's colonies from the marauding Secessionist forces. This difficulty was further complicated by a conflict of interest due to the ancient ties of loyalty and blood the Marines Errant had forged with the Lamenters Chapter, which they had fought beside as recently as the Corinth Crusade, but now faced as enemies. This led to incidents where the Marines Errant failed to try to do more than drive off the Lamenters' forces during raids, and in which both parties gave quarter to the other, raising the mutual ire of their respective allies.
Towards the year's end, matters worsened as an ever greater number of star systems were drawn into the rapidly escalating war. The Fire Hawks and their Karthan allies continued to suffer heavy losses in battle. Soon a dozen worlds had fallen in short order to Secessionist control, succumbing to direct Secessionist assault or by diplomatic submission to prevent a slaughter of civilians. By the end of 904.M41, worse developments for the Karthans and their allies appeared in the form of the notoriously grim and independent Executioners Chapter. News had reached the Marines Errant that the Executioners had announced their intention to support the Secessionist cause, in payment of an ancient blood oath given by their Chapter to the Astral Claws. The Executioners sent their mighty warship Night Hag with a full augmented company of Astartes to aid the Secessionists.
Desperate, Karthan Satrap Tanit Koenig was forced to take drastic action as her own tithes and supplications to the Procurator-Generals of the Adeptus Terra were long overdue. Nearly bankrupted by their sector's losses in the war, and with their fleet anchorage at Sagan III now in the hands of the Secessionists, the Karthan Imperial Commanders mounted a final attempt to harvest the resources needed to meet their own Imperial Tithes from the nearby worlds of Vyaniah and Khymara before the Secessionists could claim these worlds as their own.
Unfortunately the Secessionists' intelligence network had already ascertained every detail of this supposedly secret convoy, and laid a carefully prepared trap, allowing the Karthan convoy to take on the vast amount of wealth awaiting them at Vyaniah before they were attacked as they were preparing to transit into the Warp. The Secessionist forces, comprised mainly of elements from both the Astral Claws and Lamenters Chapter fleets, were led by Lufgt Huron himself. The Karthan convoy was encircled and then taken one vessel at a time in a series of ferocious ship-to-ship boarding actions. Over two dozen vessels were taken as Secessionist prizes for almost no losses sustained by the attacking forces. Only through the brilliant leadership of Lieutenant Commander Anton Narvaez was the Marines Errant capital ship Star Jackal able to escape the Tyrant of Badab's cunning trap, fighting its way clear whilst sustaining heavy damage. By a twist of fate, the damage sustained in this battle caused the Star Jackal and its brilliant commander to fall behind in the Marines Errant's pursuit of the Mantis Warriors to the world of Bellerophon's Fall. It would be there that many of the Chapter's commanders and senior officers were to die.
The Astral Claws fought the Fire Hawks back to the edge of the Golgothan Wastes, focusing all their attentions on eliminating the Chapter altogether. The Astral Claws succeeded in inflicting further serious casualties on the Chapter, which could no longer be considered an effective fighting force. To make matters worse for the Imperial Loyalists, the Marines Errant Chapter was drawn towards the industrial moon of Bellerephon's Fall by the Mantis Warriors. The two Chapters engaged in fierce combat, but the Mantis Warriors managed to isolate and entrap the Marines Errant 1st and 3rd Companies in the Rust Zones, destroying much of their command structure in a series of murderous surgical strikes. The Marines Errant were decimated and forced to retreat in disarray. After the deadly battle, it fell to Lieutenant Commander Narvaez to mount a rescue mission, in which he succeeded in saving the besieged survivors in a daring counter-raid. In the aftermath of this tragedy, it would also fall to Narvaez to take the reins of leadership as the Marines Errant Chapter's last surviving senior officer in the war. Anton Narvaez would later somehow manage to reform the Marines Errant contingent into an effective fighting force once more, although they returned as a mere shadow of their former strength. Facing bitter recrimination in light of this tragedy, the alliance between the Fire Hawks and the Marines Errant all but collapsed. The Secessionist forces would continue to make major advances throughout the rest of the year almost unopposed. The Maelstrom Zone now belonged almost wholly to Lufgt Huron, the Tyrant of Badab.
The Eye of the High Lords (905.M41)
With five different Chapters of Space Marines now embroiled in open warfare, with a sixth en route, along with various naval detachments, local defence armies and the sectarian forces of various Adeptus now involved in what was rapidly accelerating to become the greatest conflict of its kind since the infamous Fourth Quadrant Rebellion, the Imperium's high authorities finally acted. A triumvirate of Imperial Legates were despatched under the Seal of the High Lords to pronounce judgment over the ongoing strife in the Maelstorm Zone under orders to leave no stone unturned. Inquisition investigation swiftly uncovered a damning chain of evidence concerning Lufgt Huron's activities and those of the Astral Claws. Multiple charges were laid against the Tyrant, ranging from their scarcity of returned gene-seed tithes to damning evidence of their direct involvement in attacks on Imperial shipping.
The Terran Legates quickly pronounced that the Badab Secession to be a matter of the Imperium's security rather than a civil conflict. They issued an immediate demand for the unconditional ceasefire of all parties and the surrender of the Secessionists. Lufgt Huron immediately rejected their demands. As a result, the Terran Legates issued orders for the immediate arrest pending trial of all the Chapter Masters of the Secessionist Chapters and the seizure pending judgment of their worlds, goods, records and chattels by whatever force was deemed necessary. The Imperium was now officially turned against the Tyrant of Badab and all who stood with him.
As for the Karthans, their own role in contributing to and worsening the unfolding events of the Secession smacked at best of gross arrogance, but more likely wanton ambition and misrule. Legatine investigations carried out at Sidon Ultra, capital of the Karthargo Sector, confirmed these suspicions. They found the Imperial Commander and Karthan Sector Governor, Satrap Tanit Koenig culpable for provoking the war, and she and the worlds she commanded were brutally punished. Tanit Koenig and her ruling clique were subsequently executed, and the Karthans were made to pay for their transgressions, with the entire 14 billion strong population of Sidon Ultra committed to indentured servitude for six generations in payment of outstanding debt. Full scale Administratum rectification audits and Adeptus Arbites Moral Enforcement pogroms soon began moving outwards across the Kathargo Sector as tithe costs and reparations to the Adeptus Terra were extracted forcibly from the Karthan worlds, a process that is still ongoing to the present day. The armed cross-sector conflict and its causes however remain unresolved and the war continued unabated.
The Loyalists Gather (905.M41)
A major deployment of Space Marine forces was brought into the war at the Inquisitor Legate Jarndyce Frain's request to enforce their authority. The Red Scorpions Chapter form the greatest part of the Loyalist Space Marine force, backed by battle companies drawn from the Salamanders, Raptors, Fire Angels Chapters and the surviving Fire Hawks and Marines Errant Chapters. These latter Chapters are ordered to stand down from independent operations and submit to the High Lords' authority. Though Inquisitor Frain had theoretical command of the forces prosecuting the Legatine Mission's orders on behalf of the High Lords, the overall tactical command of the unified Loyalist Space Marines forces fell to Lord High-Commander Verant Ortys of the Red Scorpions, as Magister Militum; a "first amongst equals" in the commanders of the other Space Marine contingents. Given the inherent dangers in dealing with conflicts between Space Marine Chapters and their relative autonomy from direct Imperial control, Inquisitor Legate Frain had little choice but to go along with the decision of the gathered Space Marine commanders. But obviously he would have preferred a commander from a more 'tractable' Chapter, as the Red Scorpions were famously independent-minded and an occasionally fractious Chapter in their own right.
Lord Commander Ortys's first command was to deploy his own Red Scorpions along with the bulk of the Battlefleet Solar ships to conduct a series of offensive strikes and feints into the Secessionist controlled regions to gauge their resistance. This resulted in the heaviest naval engagement of the war to date, resulting in the indecisive Battle of Silent Reach in early 906.M41, when cruiser squadrons of the Maelstrom and Lamenters fleets clashed with Segmentum Solar and the Red Scorpions warships in the barren void between the Galen and Grief star systems. This engagement proved inconclusive with both sides suffering damage but few losses of any major ships by both sides. The only serious loss sustained was by the Maelstrom Fleet's flagship, the Overlord-class Battlecruiser Gauntlet of Wrath. The Secessionist fleet broke off from the engagement into the Warp soon afterwards, leaving the Loyalists to claim a tentative victory. A dozen such engagements occurred in a short space of time during this period. The Loyalists quickly succeeded in checking and containing the Secessionist advance in the early part of 906.M41, especially with the addition of the remaining Marines Errant and Fire Hawks forces after they were cleared of heretical or seditious intent. In pursuing this strategy across a broad front, hoping to reveal a weakness in the Secessionist defences the Loyalists soon discovered, quite remarkably, that no such weaknesses were apparent. Thus, the Loyalists were forced to change their strategy.
Firebombing of Sacristan (905.M41)
- "Burn them all; the God-Emperor will know His own."
- — Stibor Lazaerek, Grand Master of the Fire Hawks during the 'Firebombing of Sacristan'
Before they submitted to the Legate's will, the Fire Hawks had one last act of bloody vengeance to carry out, which has since been entered into the Imperial history of the war as the infamous 'Firebombing of Sacristan'. In what is widely regarded as a strategically wasteful and vainglorious assault, the bitter Lazaerek used his surviving Chapter fleet led by the Raptorus Rex to conduct a retaliatory orbital assault on the frontier planet of Sacristan, a sovereign world on the edge of the Endymion Cluster. Over a period of several days and nights the Fire Hawks Chapter fleet systematically laid waste to the planet's few cities, slaughtering their inhabitants before they finally withdrew from the system leaving the planet aflame, wiping out more than 90% of its population.
The Vyaniah Raids (906.M41)
Lord Commander Ortys next viable target of opportunity presented itself in the form of the Vyaniah System. Vyaniah was an important world and served as the gatehouse along one of the secondary Warp routes around the rim of the Maelstrom. Furthermore, its defences and garrison were weaker than the heavily reinforced Sagan System. There were further intelligence reports indicating that the Secessionist occupied world was awash in civil unrest which might be stirred up into open revolt by a Loyalist attack. While the Fire Hawks and the newly arrived Raptors Chapter conducted patrol and escort operations, the Red Scorpions, Marines Errant and Novamarines conducted a three-pronged raid on the Vyaniah System, with the target of damaging its production capacity and orbital transshipping platforms. This would effectively weaken the Secessionists' grip on the system.
Confronting the reformed and reorganized Badab Sector human Auxilia of the Tyrant's Legion in open warfare for the first time, the Loyalist Space Marines had greatly underestimated them, and as a result their strike groups were largely prevented from achieving many of their goals in the first raid. Only four orbital platforms were taken out of action and though they managed to damage Vyaniah's manufactory complexes, production was not significantly affected. Data intercepted from the Vyaniah command vox-network however revealed the price of the Tyrant's Legion resistance, with the Loyalists inflicting a greater than 178:1 kill ratio. In 906.M41, the Red Scorpion forces conducted the last of the Vyaniah raids which proved particularly bloody for the Tyrant's Legion. The Red Scorpions invaded the Caelian industrial hive with the specific goal of inflicting mass casualties on the human defenders and picking off their Astral Claws masters when they were found within their ranks.
Despite the attacks the Secessionists maintained control of Vyaniah, and shortly afterwards further ill news came to the Loyalists, informing them that several military convoys from the rear supply lines from the Kathargo Sector had been attacked and scattered by an unknown warship that later proved to be the Night Hag of the Executioners Chapter. They also received more disturbing news in regards to the fate of the Fortress World of Surngraad, deep within the Maelstrom Zone. Refusing to bend their knee to the Tyrant, this fiercely independent world had held out against the Secessionist fleet, but Surngraad had partly succumbed due to treachery from within, and Huron's forces now controlled the northern citadels. Remaining too deep within enemy territory to mount an effective relief operation, the prospects for the ancient fortress world to fall to Secessionist control proved to be a grim prospect for the Loyalists for a future siege.
The Betrayal at Grief (906.M41)
After the Vyaniah campaign there was a brief lull in the constant fighting, an impasse that was unexpectedly broken by the Secessionists with a remarkable proposal. Personally sending his emissaries to the Loyalists, Lufgt Huron offered a temporary ceasefire and honourable parlay with the Magister Millitum in order to avoid further bloodshed between the two parties. Despite the Inquisitor Legate's strong objections, Lord High Commander Ortys agreed to the meeting, trusting Huron's word as a fellow Chapter Master to maintain the truce. Ortys had also equally promised to show his intention to remain iron in his resolve to carry out the judgment of the High Lords.
The parlay was arranged to take place on an abandoned way-station in the orbit around the gas giant Shedim in the outer reaches of the uninhabited Grief System. Reconstructed from damaged and recovered records, what occurred next remains a point of contention and stubborn enigma to the present day. The station was located on an asteroid mass, abandoned some centuries before due to solar flare activity. Each party consisted of their respective leaders and their chosen Honour Guard, which was deposited on the asteroid by Thunderhawk. Upon the opening of negotiations, it was readily apparent that it quickly devolved into an acrimonious and volatile atmosphere. Lufgt Huron, who was in an imperious mood, commenced by ranting against the Maelstrom Warder's supposed contravention of Imperial law. He also went into a ranting diatribe against his enemies and their perceived enormities and insults. Master Sartaq of the Mantis Warriors was also present with Huron's party, who swiftly accused the Fire Hawks Chapter of perpetrating wanton crimes of genocide. For his part, Verant Ortys stood firm, reiterating the Legatine write of authority and the unassailable right of summons. Soon an adjournment was called for, as the talks became heated, and both parties withdrew to separate compartments on the station to confer with their fellows. Matters of record regarding the following incident, becomes muddled and contradictory.
Loyalist communications to their strike cruisers was suddenly cut off as three unknown vessels attacked from concealed positions deep within the thick atmosphere of the gas giant Shedim. These attackers assaulted the asteroid base before either Loyalist or Secessionist vessels could respond, raking the way-station with a devastating salvo of weapons fire before boarding with a raiding party comprised of heretics, mutants and other renegades. In the ensuing melee, the Loyalist delegation, including Lord Commander Ortys was killed, and several members of Huron's party including Chapter Master Sartaq of the Mantis Warriors were also slain. During the three-way space battle around the way-station, the Red Scorpions' Chief Librarian Sevrin Loth valiantly launched a counter-attack and recovered his fallen Chapter Master's remains, the Red Scorpions clashing with both the raiders and Huron's Astral Claws before both sides broke free from the disintegrating asteroid base to avoid certain death. Sevrin Loth had saved the honour of his Chapter against all odds and in doing so wrote an enduring legend for himself despite the bitter blow the Red Scorpions had suffered. During the resultant chaos, the Tyrant had somehow made his escape early on, and what hand he had in the deaths of Lord Commander Ortys or even Chapter Master Sartaq cannot be confirmed.
In the aftermath this incident, which became to be referred to as "The Betrayal at Grief", many within the Loyalist ranks blamed Huron's perfidy for the attack, claiming it as rank treachery, while the Secessionists lay the blame at the feet of the Inquisition as a plot to assassinate the Tyrant by covert means. Legate Inquisitor Frain concluded that the incident may have been due to the possible intervention of third parties of malefic design who wished to benefit from the continuation of the war as the whole region descended into bloodshed and anarchy. Frain also didn't rule out the possibility that the plot was carried out by Lufgt Huron himself, in order to assassinate his erstwhile ally Chapter Master Sartaq of the Mantis Warriors. Ortys's death merely served to seal the assassination in a shroud of doubt for friend and foe alike. Evidence from that tie had been the uncovering of growing disquiet among the Mantis Warriors in their support for the Secessionist cause. Committed as they were to protecting their fellow Maelstrom Warders from outside aggression and defending their sacred independence and rights of the Astartes, they still saw the direct judgment of the High Lords as something not to be disregarded. Rumours concerning the rule of the Astral Claws within their own domains had begun to circulate and had been the cause of disquiet for some time. Sartaq's death more than likely served to ensure the Mantis Warriors' resolve, particularly if it could be laid at the feet of an enemy Chapter. So much the better if that enemy would blame the Mantis Warriors for the death of their own. Now that the possibility of rapprochement between the two opposing sides had been effectively destroyed, the war soon escalated even further with no quarter given by Red Scorpions or Astral Claws. Soon secrets would be uncovered that would lend the Secession an even darker hue.
A New Leader (906.M41)
With the death of Chapter Master Ortys, the strategic initiative was temporarily delivered into the hands of the Secessionists, and raids against Imperial shipping increased. For a time the Loyalists were sorely pressed to hold what little ground they had taken in the Maelstrom Zone. The Pale Stars were all but entirely cut off and heavy Space Marine escort forces were required in order to maintain access to the worlds of Galen and Khygmara. The situation was finally eased with the arrival of contingents of the Howling Griffons, Novamarines, and later the Sons of Medusa Chapters, and the appointment of Carab Culln, the new Lord High Commander of the Red Scorpions as the new Magister Millitum of the Loyalist forces.
As his Chapter defined such things, Culln had grown forthright, proud and above all fiercely loyal to the Red Scorpions during his illustrious career. For this reason Culln was viewed as the natural successor of Lord High Commander Verant Ortys, the Chapter Master of the Red Scorpions. During the Badab War his transition to the position of Lord High Commander and Magister Militum after the death of Ortys on the world of Grief at the hands of the Renegade Astral Claws was greeted with wide acclaim by his Battle-Brothers and most importantly blessed by the Chapter's Chief Librarian Sevrin Loth, who oversaw the change of command and quelled any dissent. Culln's ascension had been contested primarily by the Fire Hawks Chapter Master, Stibor Lazaerek, who demanded that he instead should be granted overall command of the Loyalist forces in the conflict due to his seniority and long, honourable service to the Imperium.
As Ortys' successor, Culln was entitled to step into the mantle of his predecessor as Magister Militum and overall commander of the Loyalist forces, but this was by no means guaranteed. With the principal support of the Raptors and Salamanders Chapters, as well as his own impassioned pleas in the Loyalists' war council that he had the right of vengeance and the proven mettle required to see the war to its end, Culln secured the support of the Fire Angels and Novamarines for his command. Both the Sons of Medusa and the Marines Errant Chapters then agreed to his selection for reasons of their own. Despite some continued minor dissent, Carab Culln was acclaimed as the second Magister Militum of the Imperial Crusade to retake the Maelstrom Zone from the Secessionists.
Culln quickly took control of the situation and brought forward plans to convert the old way-station on the largely abandoned Mining World of Hallows Point into the first primary Loyalist base and staging point in the Maelstrom Zone proper. With ships and materials moved into the system with great dispatch, 'Vengeance Station' as it became known was fully operational in under a standard year. The Loyalists retook the offensive initiative even before Vengeance Station was completed. Soon a renewed phase of aggressive operations was ready to take place, with the Red Scorpions Chapter particularly eager for battle. However, their eagerness was tempered by their new master and the wise counsel of Chief Librarian Sevrin Loth, who promised their battle-brothers a bloody but carefully considered retribution.
Loyalist Redeployment (906.M41)
By the close of 906.M41, dozens of separate void actions had already been fought by Red Scorpion detachments, ranging from defending convoys to raiding outposts and intercepting Secessionist shipping alongside the Raptors, turning the tide against Huron's raiders for the first time. At the same time the Loyalists were bolstered by fresh forces from the Novamarines and Sons of Medusa Chapters, who immediately carried out probing attacks into the region of the Endymion Cluster and against the edges of the Sagan System, maintaining pressure on the Secessionists and keeping their forces pinned down. During this new campaign the Loyalists garrisoned the barren Khymara System and established several outposts and listening stations in order to conduct sustained operations in the contested Gargathea System.
Gargathea III (906.M41)
Gargathea III was a Feral World of poisonous fens and corrosive jungles. This heavily contested world soon turned into a savage battleground as the Raptors, Salamanders and Fire Angels Chapters clashed against the Astral Claws and Mantis Warriors amid the tangled and often lethal vegetation. The war on Gargathea swiftly developed into a series of hit-and-run engagements of ambush and counterattack. The battle lines on Gargathea remained non-linear, save for a few scattered landmarks of half-overrun Explorator bases and old smugglers' outposts. The outcome of such vicious fighting was uncertain and a high amount of casualties were sustained on both sides. Gargathea remained a contested world of vital strategic importance due to the planet being one of the few life-sustaining worlds in the region. The Secessionist forces were finally displaced from the planet at the end of 907.M41 and the system reclaimed for the Loyalists.
Loyalist Reinforcement (907.M41)
With the arrival of fresh reinforcements to replace them in the order of battle, the Marines Errant first took up reserve duty for the remainder of 906.M41 before they finally withdrew entirely from the Badab War early in 907.M41 with some acrimony attached to their departure. The Fire Hawks Chapter, who grew increasingly embittered, were forcibly retired to the rearguard for a time by the newly appointed Magister Millitum - Lord High Commander Carab Culln - in order to avoid further trouble in the ranks of the Loyalist forces. This redeployment of the Fire Hawks was proved particularly effective as the presence of the mighty Raptorus Rex at Hallows Point ensured the security of the Loyalist's facility while under construction. The presence of the mobile star-fortress soon proved vital when Hallows Point was raided in late 906.M41 by Secessionist vessels led by a trio of Lamenters Chapter strike cruisers. The attack was repulsed without major damage to the half-finished base and anchorage as the concentrated firepower of both the Raptorus Rex and the Red Scorpions Battle Barge Sword of Ordon proved a decisive factor.
The scales began to tip in the Loyalists' favour as further reinforcements arrived almost month by month, with missives from the Adeptus Terra informing them that other Space Marine Chapters were en route. Lord High Commander Culln knew that he must press his advantage soon or risk the war devolving into a slow battle of attrition that would bleed his forces dry. The first move forwards would be the relief of the Fortress World of Surngraad that stubbornly held out against the Secessionist aggression by their heroic self-sacrifice and single bloody-minded faith in the God-Emperor. The Raptors and Salamanders Chapters were assigned the task of intervention by sending a select strike force dispatched on a long-range incursion mission behind the Secessionists' lines. The Raptors covertly landed a strong force of battle-brothers in field-modified armour over three hundred kilometres away from their chosen target. Shunning heavy gear and vehicles in favour of reduced visibility to auspex and thermal detectors, the Raptors war party launched a lightning assault under the cover of a blinding gale and succeeded in breaching the fortress walls of the main orbital defence complex with melta-bombs, gaining entrance. They then successfully sabotaged the base's weapon silos despite taking heavy casualties from a bitterly contested counter-attack by the Astral Claws. With the way open, the two Chapter's battle barges bombarded the planet from the upper atmosphere, smashing the Secessionist held positions into surrender, and liberating Surngraad. The liberation of Surngraad marked a turning point in the war, as the Loyalists began to drive a potential wedge down the middle of the Secessionist worlds. But before they could take advantage of this new gain, dire news came from the Howling Griffons stationed at Khymara of a deadly new threat.
Huron's Sins Uncovered (907.M41)
Inquisitorial interrogation of an Astral Claws Apothecary captured during the battle for Surngraad's polar fortress revealed to the general shock of the interrogators that the prisoner was not in fact an Astral Claw by origin at all, but was in fact a former member of the Tiger Claws, a Chapter long thought lost. The Astral Claws' hubris resulted in their Chapter secretly absorbing the remnants of their long-lost Successor Chapter into their ranks and ultimately led to Lufgt Huron's dreams of expanding his Chapter into a force with the strength of one of the Space Marine Legions of antiquity, in order to pacify the Maelstrom permanently and crush Mankind's enemies. Some Imperial scholars contend that when the last remaining Tiger Claws survivors were taken into the Astral Claws midst, these once-loyal brothers grasped a poisonous viper to their hearts, thus causing them to eventually cause them to fall from grace. Further dire and extreme interrogative methods were then unleashed in utter secrecy as a planned series of stalk-and-capture raids were engaged upon by covert Astartes and Inquisition forces operating within the Maelstrom Zone. Evidence was quickly amassed of an unforeseen and terrible heresy that had been pursued by the Astral Claws and Lufgt Huron for more than a century.
The Tyrant had ordered the withholding of his Chapter's gene-seed tithes to the Magos Invigila, not to replenish the Chapter's own losses, but at first in order to help save the remnants of the decimated ranks of their near extinct kin, the Tiger Claws Chapter, which had sought sanctuary with them in secret. Lufgt Huron and his fellows hid them within the Astral Claws' own ranks. He then further compounded this sin by seeking to expand his own forces far past the levels mandated by the Codex Astartes. For at least a hundred years before the outbreak of the conflict, the Astral Claws secretly attempted to transform their Chapter slowly into a force equal to a Space Marine Legion of old. In his monumental arrogance and pride, Huron sought at first not to rebel against the Imperium, but to prove his case by scourging the Maelstrom clean, and establishing a new realm carved out for Mankind in the name of the Emperor.
To outside scrutiny, the Tyrant placed Astral Claws detachments within the Tyrant's Legion's ranks before the outbreak of the war as trainers - tasked with the purging and improvement of the mediocre and often corrupt PDF armies of the Badab Sector. But in reality, the Legion's Tribunes were in all cases passed off as the force's commanders. This perfidy succeeded in concealing the true numbers of the Tyrant's growing Chapter from prying eyes and enabled the Astral Claws to disperse these hidden forces all across Huron's domain, hidden within the Tyrant's Legion. The perfidy of the Tyrant and the Astral Claws rapidly became apparent when the Badab War engulfed the Maelstrom Zone, as did the identity of the true commanders of the Tyrant's Legion who willingly followed their master without falter, taking up arms against any who would challenge the Tyrant's domains. Further covert investigation uncovered that the Astral Claws Apothecaries had also been conducting heretical experiments in rapid zygote cultivation and while largely unsuccessful, thanks to the use of its un-tithed Gene-Seed, the Astral Claws Chapter stood at around an estimated 3,500 battle-brothers strong.
The Axe Falls at Khymara (907.M41)
- "Here we stand and here we shall die, unbroken and unbowed. Though the very hand of death itself come for us, we will spit our defiance to the end!"
A disastrous defeat for the Loyalist forces in early 907.M41 would mark the bloodiest year of the conflict, for the bulk of the Executioners Chapter had arrived in force in the Maelstrom Zone, and immediately conducted an immediate surprise attack at Khymara. They succeeded in destroying the Loyalist outposts, listening stations and the vital Astropathic relay complex on the night moons of the Khymara System in one stroke. The Howling Griffons Chapter forces garrisoning the Khymara System were outnumbered and overwhelmed, suffering greatly as their bastions and stations fell one after the other despite their tenacious defence.
The Howling Griffons were systematically destroyed by the relentless onslaught of the Executioners from an unseen quarter. As the Howling Griffons' positions were being overrun and decimated on the airless dust moon, it fell to Dreadnought Confessor Titus to rally the beleaguered forces of his Chapter. Unafraid of the firestorm around him, with implacable zeal the venerable Dreadnought Chaplain led the desperate counterattack which bought his Chapter the chance to regroup and mount an effective fighting defence at the cost of his long life. After the Executioners had finally withdrawn from the battlefield, the surviving Howling Griffons found that their foe had honoured Titus' glorious sacrifice by laying out the wreck of his sarcophagus within a ring of broken weapons, placing one of their own shattered standards in the lifeless grasp of the fallen war machine. The death of the revered Dreadnought Confessor Titus struck a hammer-blow to the Howling Griffons' morale.
With the Khymara System's defence platforms and listening stations destroyed, the Executioners forces had achieved their primary objective. They could have pressed their advantage and utterly destroyed the Howling Griffons' outpost but instead withdrew suddenly from the system, leaving the Howling Griffons garrison with more than 70 percent casualties. This development provoked much consternation from Lufgt Huron, but mindful of the dangerous temperament of the Executioner's commander, the High Chaplain Thulsa Kane, he was known to have stopped short of issuing any formal reprimand to them, and instead welcomed them into the battle for the Secessionist cause. Despite the grievous losses dealt to them, the remainder of the Howling Griffons taskforce continued to doggedly fight on, refusing to shirk away from their responsibilities to the Loyalist cause until formally relieved from the war in 909.M41.
Enemies Unlooked For (Mid-907.M41)
Taking advantage of the anarchy that reigned within the Maelstrom Zone, it was unsurprising that attacks from unaligned raiding forces and xenos races based within the turbulence expanse of the Maelstrom dramatically increased, reaching a new height during 907.M41. The Secessionists suffered the worst at the hands of these non-aligned forces during the Badab War. A large Ork corsair fleet spilled forth from the Calah System, assaulting Secessionist supply convoys between the Endymion Cluster and the Badab Sector, and ultimately assaulted the Mantis Warriors at Endymion itself. A large force of over 20,000 Boyz proceeded to slaughter the planet's meager garrison, forcing the Mantis Warriors forces to pull back to defend Endymion and meet the Orks in a rapid moving land battle on the dust plains of Oarella, less they lose the world. As serious as the Ork attack against the cluster was, there was far worse implications of the growing threat of the daemon-tainted corsair-cults based on the blighted world of Magog. There increase in power had actually driven forth the recently defeated Orks. This forced the Secessionists to launch a direct assault on the hellish world, which despite a prior Exterminatus campaign had long remained a thorn in the Maelstrom Warders' side. Corien Sumatris, one of Huron's most seasoned battle-captains, commanded an Astral Claws battle barge and conducted the attack on Magog. A force of two companies of the Chapter and a strong force of hand-picked Astral Claws and Lamenters Terminators successfully cut off the threat while it was still forming. The Tyrant knew well they could ill afford the risk of fighting a war on two fronts if they continued to allow the dire threat on Magog to continue to grow. Though a costly diversion that caused a high number of fatalities, the Secessionists were able to reinforce their flank just as a new enemy entered the conflict.
The Wrath of the Minotaurs (907.M41)
The powerful fleet-based Chapter of dark renown, the Minotaurs, arrived in full strength in the Maelstrom Zone in mid-907.M41. They announced their presence in the war by launching a full Chapter-scale assault on the Secessionist controlled mining facilities on Kyro, wiping out the 46,000 strong Tyrant's Legion garrison and rendering the mine-works unusable. Afterwards, the Minotaurs sent a ship with a representative and officially presented themselves to the Loyalist council of war. Their master, the darkly famed Asterion Moloc remained with his Chapter to raid through the Pale Stars region in order to decimate rather than conquer a pre-planned list of resource production within the region in order to starve the Secessionist war effort. While the Minotaurs Chapter ceded overall strategic authority to the war council of the Loyalist Chapters already engaged in the conflict, they deliberately stayed largely aloof and distant from its general chain of command, distancing themselves from the other Chapters as was their wont and deferring to the Legate Inquisitor's authority more often than that of the Lord High Commander Carab Culln or his advisors. This distance was shown in their standing representative to the war council -- the gaunt, brooding and taciturn Chaplain Ivanus Enkomi, whose red-rimmed eyes observed all, although he barely spoke a word during the gatherings. The Minotaurs' Chapter Master Asterion Moloc never put in a personal appearance at these councils, and the only evidence that he served during the Badab conflict at all came from pict-footage recovered from battle scans and fearful stories spread by the few Secessionist survivors of the Minotaurs' brutal attacks.
The Minotaurs had come in answer to the direct summons from the acting Legate Inquisitor for more Space Marines to join the Loyalist cause against the Secessionist Chapters. Though the arrival of this savage Chapter was cautiously welcomed by the Loyalists, they undoubtedly couldn't deny the considerable strength that would be added to the Imperium's cause. The conflict was in its fourth year of open warfare, and the Minotaurs committed their entire strength to the war; ten companies and eleven capital ships of various types. While the Chapter coordinated their efforts with the Loyalist command, they operated largely independent throughout the conflict, striking targets as they saw fit. The Minotaurs attacked indiscriminately, attacking not only the thirty-plus Secessionist-controlled minor worlds and stations, but also overlooked independent minor outposts. Operating largely independently in the southern Maelstrom Zone, the Minotaurs proceeded to strike targets amid the Pale Stars and Dene Stellar Drift border regions. The viciousness of the Chapter's reputation for leaving no survivors among those that resisted them quickly grew, and remained uncontested until the arrival of the even more savage Carcharodons Chapter.
Only the warships and strike forces of the Executioners seemed able to halt the Minotaurs' progress within the region, the two Chapters seemingly relishing the battle between them as a kind of bloody sport. For the remainder of the year, the Minotaurs gained several important victories for the Loyalist cause, destroying the Tyrant's Legion force on Crows Word and Larsa, and forced the Astral Claws to withdraw or risk having their worlds isolated and ravaged one-by-one. Within one third of a standard year of the Minotaurs arrival in the region, the direct and collateral damage caused by their forces reduced the human population of the Pale Stars alone by more than 20 percent. The power of this Chapter quickly proved a decisive weight in the Loyalist's favour regardless of its brutal methods. By the end of 907.M41, the Secessionist forces had begun to be pushed back from several key systems and suffered severe losses. In the northern-central Maelstrom Zone, the battle for Galen between the Astral Claws and a joint force of Salamanders and Fire Angels eventually resulted in the Loyalists successfully taking the system. To further add to the Secessionists' dreadful losses, was the loss of Vyaniah, which finally fell after a massive joint assault by the Minotaurs and Red Scorpions Chapters. Lufgt Huron had all but abandoned the world and the sizable Tyrant's Legion garrison stationed there to their fate. As the Angels of Death fell amongst the beleaguered defenders, their end was swift and brutal, and by dawn Vyaniah was in Loyalist hands as the Tyrant's Legion was put to the sword.
The Scouring of Cygnax (908.M41-910.M41)
In early 908.M41, Inquisitorial agents had acquired evidence of a plot between the Astral Claws and renegade Heretek scavengers from the Golgothan Wastes. They had devised a plan to acquire recovered buried weapons stores on the Dead World of Cygnax. The Sons of Medusa taskforce, backed by the newly arrived company from the Exorcists Chapter, were given this task. Given the chief role in this task, the Sons of Medusa led the determined and brutal campaign to scour out the Tyrant's forces, the conduct of which caused some discord between the two Chapters, with accusations that the Sons of Medusa were more interested in pursuing their own mysterious agenda instead of hunting down the enemy as expeditiously as possible. The Exorcists soon withdrew and redeployed their forces for the forthcoming assault on the Sagan System, leaving the Sons of Medusa to eliminate the Cynax threat as they saw fit.
Second Battle of Sagan (908.M41)
The Second Battle of Sagan was a major planetary assault undertaken in 908.M41 that drove the Secessionists from their fortresses in the Sagan Sub-sector. The assault was carried out by the largest combined Loyalist force fielded to that point during the Badab War. This offensive utilised the massed strength of the Fire Angels, Red Scorpions and Exorcists Chapters supported by assault-specialised forces drawn from the Salamanders, Raptors and Novamarines. The Secessionists chose to mount a defence at any cost rather than giving up the strategically vital Sagan System. The fighting proved to be bloody and costly in the extreme. In a desperate attempt to either drive the Loyalists from the surface of Sagan III or render the planet unusable to them, the Astral Claws resorted to the use of viral weapons that slew tens of thousands of the world's population. This use of weapons of mass destruction ultimately destroyed a sizable component of the Secessionists' own battle line. The Fire Angels deployed their full Chapter strength and bore the brunt of the Loyalist casualties, valiantly sacrificing themselves in order to contain the Astral Claws' desperate final attempts to drive their foes from the world through the utilisation of suicide attacks. This campaign resulted in the highest death toll of any single engagement of the war to this point in the conflict as well as the loss of several key Secessionist warships in a vain counter-attack on the system.
The successful invasion of the Sagan System proved to be a major turning point of the war. After the system fell under Loyalist control it became the primary Imperial base in the Maelstrom Zone, affording the Loyalist offensive greater access to the primary stable Warp routes into the region while denying those routes to the enemy. Shortly afterward the end of the campaign, Sagan III was used as a supply point in order to fully relieve and reinforce Surngraad and support the start of the Endymion Suppression Campaign. This Loyalist advance effectively forced the remaining Mantis Warriors forces into a purely defensive posture, isolating them from the Badab Sector and their Secessionist allies. After the Second Battle of Sagan, the Maelstrom Zone was effectively split into two regions -- the Endymion Cluster and the still heavily defended Badab Sector itself. From this point onwards in the conflict, the Secessionists were only able to conduct commerce raids and targeted strikes which were carried out by the vessels of the Executioners and Lamenters Chapter fleets.
Beyond the difficulties posed to the Imperium by the ongoing Badab War, the safety of the Ultima Segmentum was also threatened at this time by massive Ork incursions after multiple WAAAGH!s erupted across the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy. With the Secessionists having been judged sufficiently contained after the victory at Sagan, the Loyalists redeployed the Chapters that had suffered battlefield attrition to some degree to deal with the Greenskin threat. This redeployment included the forces of the Novamarines, Raptors and Howling Griffons Chapters. They were withdrawn one-by-one from the conflict in managed stages as part of a major Imperium-wide strategic redeployment along with a number of warships of the Segmentum Solar reserve forces which had been deployed in support of the Loyalist cause.
The Destruction of the Lamenters (908.M41)
Legate-Inquisitor Frain provided the Loyalists with a mass of data about the Lamenters movements and deployments which was used to identify a pattern. By 908.M41, the Lamenters Chapter had already suffered significant losses through attrition, but they were still a formidable force to be reckoned with, and a plan was put into action to isolate them from the Tyrant's cause and take them out of the war. Using the intel acquired by Frain's insidious spy network, the Loyalists quickly discerned that the Lamenters were being used as an ablative shield by the Tyrant of Badab to guard his southern flank and contest the Loyalist domination of the Pale Stars, while he kept the bulk of the Astral Claws in reserve near Badab itself. The losses incurred by the fleet-based Chapter had been due to their continuous deployment defending the southern Badab Sector as well as serving escort duty to many Secessionist supply convoys. The Minotaurs Chapter gathered in strength awaiting the opportunity to strike where they would be most effective, until finally the opportunity came, when the location of the Lamenters' Chapter barque Mater Lacrimarum was discovered in orbit over the Feral World of Optera taking on supplies.
The Minotaurs immediately dispatched a rapid strike force to attack the vessel and succeeded in catching it and crippling its main drives preventing it from fleeing the system. The Lamenters were forced to defend their Chapter Barque at all costs, as it contained both their recovering battle casualties as well as their precious resource of gene-seed. With the continued attacks upon the barque, the majority of the Lamenters' fleet was drawn back to the Optera System. Once there, the Minotaurs laid bloody siege for 17 standard hours of brutal ship-to-ship fighting. Though the Minotaurs suffered heavy casualties, they eventually overpowered the Lamenters by virtue of their brutality and sheer weight of numbers. Their forces shattered, the few remaining Lamenters were forced to surrender rather than risk the annihilation of their precious barque. The majority of their fleet was left ruined or drifting in the void. The Minotaurs claimed salvage rights to the crippled Lamenters fleet and the wargear of the fallen to replace their own serious losses. The surviving Lamenters were incarcerated on a prison hulk orbiting the nightside of Sagan II amid rumours of their growing insanity in confinement. Only 311 Lamenters Battle-Brothers survived to be interned on the prison hulk orbiting Sagan for the rest of the war. Less than 100 (estimated) Lamenters were deployed elsewhere during the fighting that still remained. The Chapter's severe losses effectively removed them from the Secessionist order of battle. The loss of the Lamenters from the Secessionist cause was a great strength they could ill afford to lose.
The Angstrom Incident (908.M41)
The Loyalists intervened in matters unfolding on the world of Angstrom in 908.M41, in what would become one of the most remarkable operations of the Badab War. The sovereign independent Adeptus Mechanicus domain of Angstrom in the eastern Maelstrom Zone had remained neutral throughout the conflict, rejecting diplomatic missions and threats from both sides to join them in their cause. The Magos felt that there was no cause for them to interfere in what they perceived as an 'internal dispute' between rival Imperial factions. Angstrom continued their operations as usual, which included a long-standing agreement to render up a 'bounty' of advanced weapons and refined ores to be collected by the Imperium's representatives on a 3-yearly cycle from the edge of their planetary system. The Magos pointedly didn't care from which of the Imperium's servants retrieved the bounty, only that they carried out their part of the arrangement without fault. In the past this arrangement had provided the Maelstrom Warders with a vital resource and the Tyrant's servants continued to be in the perfect position to collect it. The Red Scorpions and Salamanders jointly conduct a secret plan of attack, deploying a small elite force to sabotage and prevent the Secessionists from claiming the 'bounty' of the independent Forge World of Angstrom. In the confusion and destruction that followed, the Angstrom Mechanicus, incensed by the outbreak of hostilities within their domain, assaulted both sides and drove them away from the system, granting the Loyalists a major strategic victory, but did however stir the notoriously bellicose Mechanicus of Angstrom into taking a greater interest in the war. They sent their warships and ground forces in retaliatory raids against Galen and Ibis, until the Terran-Legates intervened and brokered a peace, guaranteeing the fickle Angstrom Mechanicus restitutions. Remaining cautious, Lord High Commander Culln took precautionary measures and dispatched the Fire Hawks Chapter and the Raptorous Rex alongside a pursuit force, composed of a mixture of Loyalist Chapters, to conduct a blockade of the outer system's approaches for the duration of the war.
Loyalist Domination (909.M41)
By 909.M41, the Imperium Loyalists had effective command of the Maelstrom Zone's major warp-routes, enabling them to rapidly move their forces across the region and subject many rebel worlds and outposts. The Angstrom Incident's aftermath effectively cut the Tyrant's sphere of influence in half and contained the Secession, dividing the Secessionists between the Endymion Cluster and the Badab Sector itself. Only the unpredictable forces of the Executioners Chapter offered a significant threat to the Loyalists' control outside the Secessionist enclaves. From this point onwards, the Secessionists (greatly reduced In fighting strength and ships), were effectively hemmed in around a handful of heavily defended star clusters, and relegated to conducting scattered raiding operation and fighting a series of close defensive sieges. By the end of 909.M41, whispers had reached Imperial intelligence operatives of the Tyrant's increasing violence and paranoia, and of the further tightening of his murderous stranglehold on those worlds he still controlled.
The Mantis Warriors were reduced to fighting a guerrilla resistance against an ongoing Loyalist suppression campaign against combined elements from the Fire Angels and Sons of Medusa Chapters. Sporadic and oft times bloody engagements were also fought in the Tranquility, Iblis and Sigard Systems. The Loyalist forces suffered a severe defeat when the Fire Angels Strike Cruiser Polaris Rising was raided by the Mantis Warriors under the leadership of their prophetic Master Librarian Ahazra Redth. They succeeded in damaging their main plasma reactors and weapons bays before withdrawing their forces, leaving them at the mercy of two Ork kill-kroozers. The Fire Angels fought a resolute last stand against the vile greenskins, disabling one of the kill-kroozers before they were boarded by the remaining Ork vessel. As the Orks swarmed the decks of the Fire Angels' vessel, the Mantis Warriors fell in ambush upon the badly mauled Ork forces from their flank and annihilated them. The remaining 37 surviving Fire Angels were marooned on Sigard VI under the care of their surviving Apothecary and his med-servitors, while their battered vessel was taken by the Mantis Warriors as their prize.
The barbarous Executioners Chapter continued to prove to be the scourge of Loyalist patrols and supply convoys, as well as destroying numerous outposts and listening stations. Some 43 merchantmen and 11 warships had been either seized or destroyed. They also committed themselves to several heavy raids as far as Bellerophon's Fall and Kyro. Their heaviest actions fell against the savage Minotaurs Chapter in the southern Maelstrom Zone, such as the bloody tank duel fought on the airless moon of Uzeal in the Crow's World System. The location of the Executioners' base of operations continued to elude the Loyalists, allowing the Executioners to raid almost at will, giving battle against the Red Scorpions and Minotaurs Chapters, harrying Loyalist shipping and stymieing attempts to consolidate Loyalist gains. At the close of 909.M41, the Maelstrom Secession had largely been contained, but the war itself was far from over.
The Loyalists knew that the next phase of the campaign would be particularly brutal. It would be a time of ruthless planetary purges, scorched earth campaigns and apocalyptic sieges. The Loyalists needed time to prepare for such a campaign and fresh reinforcements if a victory was to be swiftly achieved, but Lord High Commander Carab Culln and his advisors knew they could not afford to wait too long before they went on the offensive, for every day gave the Secessionists further opportunity to entrench and perhaps make good their own losses. Culln knew he simply could not afford to allow a general of Lufgt Huron's calibre too long to rebuild, plan and prepare.
The Subjugation of Galen (910.M41)
The beginning of the year 910.M41 proved to be a final deathly calm before the oncoming storm which would inevitably see the Badab War brought to its terrible conclusion. Many of the Chapters on the Loyalist side had suffered substantial losses and now would be replaced by other Space Marine Chapters of even darker renown. The Maelstrom Zone would soon be visited by slaughter unlike anything it had known in its long and turbulent history. For six long years the isolated Galen System had been a prize that had been battled over repeatedly, changing hands between Loyalist and Secessionist forces several times. Most significantly the Galen system had been the site of a major battle between the Fire Hawks Chapter and a mixed Secessionist assault force which had incurred heavy losses on both sides, a battle which had seen Galen II's life supporting domes laid waste, leading to mass refugee immigration to its neighbour, the Frontier World of Galen VI.
Under the direct command of the 'Magister Militum' Carab Culln, he ordered the Loyalist forces diverted to impose order on Galen VI, crushing any hope of future resistance utterly. Accompanied by an Ordo Hereticus detachment under Inquisitor Kramner, one of Legate-Inquisitor Frain's personal aides, the only stipulation was that the planet was to remain habitable with a sufficient core of the population and infrastructure left alive and intact to service the needs of the Imperium's war effort. Plans to retake the world were calculated accordingly, under the direction of the Sons of Medusa Chapter's 'Iron Thane' Vaylund Cal, the theatre commander. The Sons of Medusa launched an orbital bombardment of predetermined landing zones on the outskirts of the Old City. They then launched three company-strength landing zones on the edge of Galen VI's Old City, encircling it and destroying all resistance.
Over the course of three days and nights the industrious Sons of Medusa landed supplies and additional Astartes and began the task of fabricating new fortifications and bastions. On the dawning of the fourth day, an unnatural fear and dread had descended upon the several million surviving inhabitants. This fear was a calculated weapon oft employed by the Sons of Medusa. Without warning the Chapter launched a large armoured assault composed of Rhinos, Razorbacks, Land Raiders and hulking Dreadnoughts, while Land Speeders took to the skies. Alongside the green livery of the emerald-armoured spectres of death was the crimson colours of the Inquisition's Chimeras and Repressors. From their vehicle's hailers the Inquisition demanded the immediate surrender of all of Galen VI's population for immediate judgement. Some of the population hurled themselves suicidally at the embodiment of the Emperor's Wrath only to be ruthlessly cut down by the Sons of Medusa, while other cowered in their hastily prepared defensive positions or attempted to flee the city. Those that attempted to do so were ruthlessly cut down by the patrolling Land Speeders and Vulture gunships. Those that offered serious resistance within the city were isolated and destroyed. Only those that offered no resistance were spared, ignored by the Sons of Medusa as they had been so ordered. These survivors wept openly in joy only to be taken by the Inquisitions' troops for processing and judgement to await their fate in the Holy Ordos assize-bastions awaiting them in the Imperial landing zones.
The Old City was firmly in the hands of the Imperial within 56 hours of the commencement of the Sons of Medusa's attack. Soon news of the massacre had spread across Galen VI, a shroud of terror descended upon the planet. Soon, millions of native and refugees alike surrendered, even though to do so was a death sentence, rather than live in fear of what was to come. Soon the ruins of Old City were re-purposed and rebuilt as an internment and processing centre to handle Galen VI's population. Overall, the Galan campaign was considered a success, although much of the population of Old City had been slain, the total death toll was considered light compared to that of a lengthy, planet-wide campaign of attrition. Amazingly, the Ordo Hereticus was merciful, indenturing the majority of the planet's population into a lifetime of penal servitude to pay for their crimes and transgressions. As a result, the Departmento Munitorum raised a number of fresh Penal Legions from the most hardened elements found on the world, while the rest of the populations was set to toil on Galen VI itself or deported elsewhere within the Maelstrom Zone to aid the rebuilding effort. The Sons of Medusa departed Galen VI shortly thereafter, leaving the Galen VI as a veritable prison world whose population would pay for their crimes against the Imperium for generations.
Blood in the Dark Waters (910.M41)
Arriving without warning in 910.M41 an unidentified, fire-blackened Space Marine Strike Cruiser identified itself with ancient, though still valid, Imperial authorisation protocols. It was the Levitus Vex, and its coming heralded the arrival of a force whose name was to become synonymous with bloodshed and the darkest acts of the Badab War. The unidentified Space Marine force had come to offer its aid to the Loyalist cause against the Secessionists, claiming to have come in answer to a summons from Terra itself. They identified their Chapter as the Carcharodons Astra, using the ancient High Gothic form of their name, also known as the Carcharodons (or the "Space Sharks" in Low Gothic), and formally requested the Loyalists' acceptance and permission to enter the war zone and draw blood. Upon their arrival, the Carcharodons' Force Commander Tyberos presented the Inquisitor Legate in charge of prosecuting the Badab conflict with Notices Patent provided to the Chapter affirming the rights and titles issued to it by several High Lords of Terra and Inquisitors now long dead. Tyberos even submitted himself for psychic probing and gene-sampling. The Inquisitor Legate vouched for the Carcharodons. Lord High Commander Carab Culln of the Red Scorpions, the Magister Militant or supreme commander of all the Loyalist forces, accepted the Carcharodons into his line of battle, although he was still wary of their loyalties and their deviations from the Codex Astartes during their long voyage beyond Imperial space. The Carcharodons' reappearance, as if predators drawn by blood, when the Badab War was to enter its most deadly stage seemed to many a suspect one at best.
The Tranquility Campaign (910.M41)
By 910.M41, the strength of the Mantis Warriors had been greatly diminished, but Carab Culln recognised the folly of leaving them undefeated at his flank as the Loyalists turned their full force to the invasion of the Badab Sector. The 'Magister Militum' had already considered a change in his deployments in order to mount a renewed offensive against the Endymion Cluster, but with the arrival of the Carcharodons, the Lord High Commander had been offered an unexpected asset to deploy, and so he let loose their savage ferocity against the Mantis Warriors and the unsuspecting worlds of their domain. The fleet of the Carcharodons broke out of Warp directly above the Sigard System on the galactic plane, perilously close to Sigard's swollen and violent sun, masking their presence with its solar flares. Split up into dozens of striking forces, the grey-clad Space Marines let the Sigard system have their first taste of their wrath and fury as they proceeded to devastate the numerous belt-colonies, ship-clans and asteroid citadels. The Carcharodons proceeded to devastate the entirety of the system, destroying in mere days and weeks what had taken millennia to build and had withstood the ravages of xenos and corsairs alike. In the aftermath of this brutal campaign, an Imperial Naval scout vessel reported the entire system littered with wreckage, their vox channels full of discordant ghostly vox signals of dead and dying ships. It was also noted that the Carcharodons had deliberately plundered and scavenged, both in terms of gear, resources and indeed human life. It has been the conclusion of several authorities since that the choice of Sigard, with its wealth of void-colonies and infrastructure, had been the Carcharodons' first target not simply because it had long connections with the Mantis Warriors, but because after the Carcharodons' unknown voyage from the outer darkness they had need of its bounty to replenish themselves in readiness for their part in the war.
They Carcharodons continue to systematically annihilate planets in the Cluster known to have harboured the Mantis Warriors, forcing this Secessionist Chapter to stop using their hit-and-run tactics against the Loyalists, and mass their forces in defence of these worlds. This strategy spared the Carcharodons from having to pursue them across the Cluster to places where their foes held the advantage of support and local knowledge. First the Carcharodons ravaged the Feudal World of Iblis, smashing its infrastructure and putting its rulers to the sword, then they attacked the planet's scattered settlements and nomadic crawler-caravans by night, leaving bloody wreckage in their wake. They proceeded to turn Iblis into a wasteland inhabited only by shell-shocked survivors. The savage Chapter then moved on and attacked the blighted industrial world of Endymion Prime itself, where a small Fire Angels force already held command of a decrepit, manufactora complex against Mantis Warriors-led insurgents. The Carcharodons launched an orbital assault, oblivious to the Fire Angels' disposition into the contested battle, hundreds of grey-coloured drop pods dropping to the planet's soot caked planet amid a great slaughter.
Honour bound to defend this world, the Mantis Warriors were forced to respond, coming to Endymion's aid with increasing numbers of their Chapter to curb the savagery of the Carcharodons' assault. Though the Mantis Warriors matched the Carcharodons with their own fierce martial skill, they were too few, and could not turn the tide of the assault. Led by their Chief Librarian Ahazra Redth, the Mantis Warriors refused to retreat and died in the defence of the planet, just as the Carcharodons' leader Tyberos had predicted. The Carcharodons continued to employ this pattern on the worlds of C'sthal and Largitor, and then the twin worlds of the Tranquility System themselves. Each battle forced the Mantis Warriors to come to the aid of the beleaguered worlds, destroying the Mantis Warriors' ability to affect the war. Now worn down and scattered, the Chapter had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force but at a great price. In the aftermath of the Tranquility campaign, the Fire Angels, having suffered heavy casualties, sought permission to withdraw from the conflict. This was in no small part to the increasing anger of the Fire Angels against the Carcharodons, with whom they had repeatedly been at odds during the Tranquility campaign and whose methods they held in utter contempt. Appalled by the actions of their allies, the Fire Angels withdrew their remaining contingents from the war with honour and returned to their homeworld to rebuild their sorely damaged Chapter.
With the threat of the Endymion Cluster neutralised, the Carcharodons redeployed, splitting their fleets to patrol the Loyalists rear echelons and relieve the Minotaurs and Red Scorpions to consolidate ahead of the expected invasion of the Badab Sector. Unfortunately for the ravaged people of the Endymion Cluster, this would not be the only time when calamity was visited upon their doomed worlds, for the Carcharodons would yet return in later years to enact a final act of savagery against them.
The Corcyran Massacre (910.M41)
This is considered by some as a "lost tale" of the Badab War whose true facts will never be known. The event that became known in Imperial records as the Corcyran Massacre was discovered by an Imperial Navy patrol in 910.M41. The wreckage of a smugglers' base was discovered in the dust wastes of the forlorn world of Corcyra II. Within the base was a nightmarish scene of carnage and destruction rarely witnessed before by men. A bloody battle had been fought between two sub-company-sized forces of Space Marines from the Executioners and the Carcharodons Chapters. These two Chapters, both infamous for their savagery and unyielding stances towards their foes, had fought each other to mutual annihilation. The base around them was ripped apart, its former inhabitants now mouldering into dust. Many of the bodies of both sides showed signs of having fought on despite suffering horrendous wounds, severed limbs and massive trauma that should have felled even an Astartes, and several were found locked in deathly, gore-splattered embraces, striking at their foes with their last ebbing strength. It is not known which Chapter's last warrior survived to the end to claim a bitter victory. Neither Chapter has acknowledged any survivors of the massacre living to tell of what happened at Corcyra II.
A Clash of Iron and Fire (910.M41)
In mid 910.M41, there was in increase in corsair activity along the Eastern Maelstrom Zone. Among those in the Loyalist high command, this was believed to have been caused by at least one Astral Claws task force that had somehow slipped out of the Badab Sector itself and was now operating from the edges of the Maelstrom. Imperial Navy escort search-and-destroy squadrons were dispatched to the area to quell these attacks so that the Secessionists would not be able to exploit the opportunity to start a new battle front on the Loyalists' flank. Upon the Frontier World of Rook they found their evidence. This was one of the few worlds within the Maelstrom that could be relied upon to willingly aid Imperial agents, as their population was made up of Oblationist zealots. They informed the Loyalist command that there had indeed been an increase in slave raids of nearby systems of human corsair ships led by an Astral Claw strike cruiser identified as the Hyrcania. The pattern of attacks by these corsair ships was tracked by the echo left in the Warp to the Lamptan system and its twin Feral Worlds of Shaprias and Scarfel. Having divined that a strong enemy force was massing at this location, the Imperial Navy squadron was forced to withdraw in order to refit and resupply, returning to seek reinforcements.
Elsewhere, in the northern Maelstrom Zone the Carcharodons were busy carrying out the final stages of the Tranquility Campaign, while in the southern zone, the Minotaurs and Sons of Medusa, backed by Imperial Guard penal regiments, were assaulting Isin on the edge of the Badab Sector itself, where the Tyrant's Legion was putting up a tenacious defence. Lord High Commander Culln marshaled his own Red Scorpions Chapter and the newly reinforced Exorcists Chapter contingent at Sagan in preparation for an assault on the strategic Warp terminus of Piraeus. This was a vital target and considered by many to be the gateway to the Badab Sector. Overall the Loyalist forces had suffered considerable losses since the start of the war, and the contingents of many of the Space Marine Chapters which had previously fought for the Loyalist cause had now departed. Some, such as the Howling Griffons and Marines Errant, had withdrawn owing to the casualties they had suffered, while others such as the Novamarines and most recently the Fire Angels had departed for reasons of their own. In short, Loyalist forces were stretched thin despite the fresher Space Marine companies that had recently arrived, and Lord High Commander Carab Culln could not afford to be drawn into fighting on an increasing number of fronts to be bled dry slowly by attrition, as no doubt was the Tyrant's plan.
Taking council with his fellow Space Marine commanders, it was the leader of the Salamanders contingent, the old and famed warrior, Pellas Mir'san who offered a solution to the events on Lamptan. Offering to lead his own forces in a lightning strike against Lamptan, the Salamanders would rely on the element of surprise, the arcane skills of Onna Nostroma to position their attack, and the power of their potent battle barge Pyre of Glory, dealing a crippling blow to the enemy. Chaplain Ivanus Enkomi, representing the aloof and secretive Minotaurs Chapter in the war council offered to take his personal guard and such forces he could muster to aid the Salamanders in this mission. So approved, the strike force, named the 'Gift of Fire', was further augmented by a pair of Imperial Navy light cruisers and a frigate squadron. This force was dispatched immediately on the long voyage to the Lamptan System, there to meet the foe in battle.
Castigation of Shaprias (910.M41)
When the Loyalists entered the erratic binary star system of Lamptan, their fears were soon realised. Above the feral world of Shaprias a ragged armada of star vessels, scows and wrecks had been assembled from scavenged hulks and pirated freighters, while auspex scans and augury-probes revealed that on the planet below vast camps and training grounds had been raised up. Here on Shaprias a new army was being forged from brutal and tainted tribal warriors enslaved to the Tyrant's cause, a disposable weapon to kill and be killed at Lugft Huron's will. Mir'san deduced that the bulk of the enemy warships were away on some mission of plunder. There would not be a better time to strike. Swiftly, the venerable Salamanders commander configured a bold attack plan. The joint Astartes strike force made planetfall and immediately attacked the Secessionist bastions and training camps. In the meantime, their ships and naval escort immediately swept out again and set about destroying the armada as swiftly and thoroughly as possible.
When the two Chapters launched their Drop Pods and Thunderhawk gunships they divided their chosen killing grounds. Though they met with firmer resistance than their Salamanders cousins, the Minotaurs were masters of siege craft, as they attacked the iron-shod bastions of the Astral Claws. Using their Thunderhawks to punch a gap in the enemy's firing lines, the gunships disgorged assault Terminators and Devastator squads directly into the smoking wreckage. The rest of the company-strong Minotaurs force deployed directly behind this breakpoint, suffering the brunt of the enemy counterattack. Despite heavy casualties the Minotaurs' Vanguard held the ruined bastion with disciplined ferocity, not giving an inch of ground to the oncoming Secessionists. The bronzed armoured Minotaurs clashed in brutal close combat with the Astral Claws Retaliators who advanced under cover of their combat shields through a hail of bolter fire to try to re-take the sundered fortifications, only to be hurled back time and again from the mount of twisted metal and shattered rockcrete.
Although in numbers the Minotaurs and the defending Astral Claws at the bastion line were roughly equal, the enemy was well entrenched, well armed and well led, lacking nothing for bravery and fighting spirit. But the Minotaurs were masters of siege-craft, and this blood-soaked close-quarter hell was exactly the kind of battlefield in which they reveled. Led by an armoured spearhead of Land Raiders and Siege Dreadnoughts the Astral Claws were pinned in place by the Minotaurs' second attack line. Chaplain Enkomi personally led a jump pack equipped Vanguard Veteran Squad in storming the secondary enemy bastion and slaying all within. Encircled and cut-off, the Astral Claws were swiftly isolated and destroyed in detail. Though their progress was slow and bloody, the Secessionists could not stem the Loyalists advance. The Astral Claws made them pay a price in dead for every fortification the Minotaurs look, but inevitably, the bastions fell one by one and victory was claimed by the Minotaurs.
Meanwhile, the bulk of the Salamanders forces descended on the heart of the city-sized training camps. A secondary force, composed of a chosen wing of Caestus pattern Assault Rams carrying aboard them a force of Salamanders Fire Drake Terminators, the greatest warriors of their esteemed Chapter, took on the task of attacking the Secessionist landing grounds. On their first pass the armoured prows and magna-meltas of the Caestus savaged the enemy transport craft caught on the ground, sundering and burning through their hulls, rupturing their fuel tanks. The Fire Drakes, assaulting from their craft into the billowing black palls of smoke turned confusion and destruction into a massacre, their Storm Bolters and Cyclone Missile Launchers sweeping the panicked foe away before any resistance could be organised. Elsewhere the main Salamanders force led by Captain Mir'san had descended into the heart of the enemy, deploying their troops and armour into a defensive ring at the centre of the training camps. Utterly surrounded, the Salamanders force at under a hundred Space Marines was outnumbered more than a thousand to one by the horde of savages and mutants, the brutal inhabitants of a dozen nearby worlds, that rose up before them.
Though their position would have been considered a suicidal one by any other warriors, these were the scions Vulkan, and they cared little for such odds. The great horde, which was leaderless and staggered by the sudden fury and shock of the Salamanders assault, were slow to react, and by the time they pressed the attack, they were met by a wall of firepower. Thousands of heretics fell within the opening minutes of the battle as Whirlwind launchers, Destructor pattern Predators and the ordered ranks of the Salamanders let loose with a salvo at almost point blank range. Soon the broken ground of the training fields was covered with mounds of twitching bodies. The horde only rallied when their taskmasters took to the field behind them, the blood-stained and steel-coloured power armour of Astral Claws. The Salamanders marked their true foe in the form of Retaliator Squads amid the filthy rabble of the heretic horde, keeping up their relentless tide of fire. Mir'San sprang the second phase of his assault plan into action, as three prized Achilles pattern Land Raiders sprearheaded a counter assault aimed directly at the Astral Claws contingent. The tanks fired their Thunderfire cannons and multi-meltas, blasting a swathe through the ranks of the horde. As the Land Raiders ploughed through the centre of the Astral Claws force, they swung aside as the fury of the Ancients was unleashed.
Six Dreadnoughts, led by the darkly famed Bray'arth Ashmantle the 'Iron Dragon', stormed into the Astral Claws line, smashing them asunder and drenching them with purifying flame. Overmatched and overwhelmed, the Astral Claws did not yield lightly, but were slain in glorious combat, felling two of the Salamanders' Ancients. As the last Astral Claws died, the name of the Tyrant was howled with their Centurion's dying breath as the Iron Dragon tore him in half and cast his carcass to the winds. With their masters slaughtered, the horde panicked and broke, the tens of thousands that remained alive fleeing in a mindless stampede away from the lords of fire and death at their backs, crushing and killing hundreds more of their own number in the rout.
Deep beneath the smashed fortifications the Minotaurs and Salamanders soon discovered what secrets they were built to defend; a vast natural cavern system housing heretek laboratories. These had been manufacturing combat drugs in vast quantities and attempting primitive gene-tampering and experimental surgery on the feral warriors of Shaprias, along with hundreds of Imperial prisoners taken in raids across the eastern Maelstrom Zone. At the lowest levels, guarded by a cadre of the hated 'Corpse Taker' Apothecaries of the Tyrant's Legion and their servitors, was an armoured vault within which was a store of Space Marine gene-seed in part stolen from Loyalists fallen in battle.
The conflict in orbit had also gone in the Loyalists' favour while the battle raged below, but not without cost. While the makeshift armada had been blasted to scrap and burning debris, concealed weapons platforms set to guard the fleet had inflicted damage to the Pyre of Gory and gutted the Sword-class frigate Epona which had to be abandoned as a burning hulk. Less than eleven standard days after the battle was first joined, Gift of Fire departed the Lamptan system to undertake the perilous voyage back to Loyalist-held space, with over a thousand freed prisoners carried in the holds of its Naval light cruisers, and the priceless recovered gene-seed held in the inner sanctum of the Pyre of Glory itself. Gift of Fire had claimed a great victory for the Loyalists and uncovered and thwarted a dark machination of the Tyrant's that if left to hatch out could have had dire consequences for the Imperium. Little did any in the Loyalist high command suspect however that the attack at Lamptan would have immediate and unforeseen consequences that would unexpectedly alter the course of the Badab War.
The Red Hour (911.M41)
The Gift of Fire task force was unexpectedly struck by a powerful Warp squall and scattered en route back to Imperial controlled space. Calamity was averted by the formidable skills of their lead Navigator, and only a single frigate was lost to the Immaterium, while the Salamanders' battle barge Pyre of Glory and the light cruiser Admiral Gregorius were turned back into the Maelstrom riding ahead of the stormfront and forced to ford into Realspace in the relative stability of the Calah Shoals within the Maelstrom's boundary to repair and refit. The Loyalists' arrival had not gone unnoticed, for soon news of their presence was carried to the Secessionists. The Astral Claws strike cruiser Hyrcania was still in the region, having found its home base on Shaprias destroyed. Its master, Arch-Centurion Carnac Commodus craved vengeance and atonement for his failings in the eyes of his lord. But Commodus knew that alone, his vessel stood little chance on taking on the wounded Loyalists. He sent an encrypted Astropathic message seeking aid was received by an unexpected ally in the Phaeton's Wrath, flagship battle barge of the Executioners Chapter, and her accompanying Gladius-class Frigate escorts, which had been taking on supplies at the uninhabited Ocean World of Deluge on the edge of the Magog Cluster.
Their combined battlegroup attacked the wounded Loyalist vessels as they moved toward the Warp transfer point at Calah to embark once again. The light cruiser Admiral Gregorius was blasted to atoms in the opening salvo of the Secessionists guns. The Pyre of Glory quickly proved to be far less easy prey. The Salamanders' mighty battle-barge managed to repel the first boarding assaults against her and destroyed two of the attacking frigates. But after a three hour long running battle, the Phaeton's Wrath managed to entirely disable the Pyre of Glory's thrusters leaving it dead in space. High Mortiurge (High Chaplain) Thulsa Kane vox-signalled the Salamanders' vessel and offered them the chance for honourable surrender, vouchsafing passage for them from the war zone under oath not to take up arms again in the conflict. Captain Mir'san conceded to this demand, despite the misgivings of some of those under his command, knowing that to do so would risk his force being destroyed without being able to strike back at their foe. Having himself fought alongside the Executioners Chapter centuries before as a Scout neophyte he trusted to their oath of offered surety.
Both the Phaeton's Wrath and the Hyrcania drew alongside the battered Pyre of Glory and docked, Thulsa Kane personally leading the Executioners boarding party and accepting Mir'san's sword in surrender as the Salamanders stood down their arms. It was then elsewhere within the great ship, the unthinkable occurred. Thanks to the conditions of the surrender, Arch-Centurion Commodus led his own boarding party to seize the Pyre of Glory's armouries nearly unopposed. Heedless of the consequences, Commodus sought to breach the ship's sanctum vaults and seize not only the recovered gene-seed from the caverns of Shapiras, but also the Salamanders' own recovered stock from the fatalities sustained during the conflict. When the Salamanders' Apothecaries resisted, Commodus cut them down. He then unleashed his unfettered wrath upon the Salamanders, ordering the massacre of the Salamanders they had taken prisoner. He then ordered his 'Corpse Takers' to strip them of their gene-seed whether alive or dead. A pitch battle quickly broke out across the decks.
As reports reached the bridge of what was happening, Thulsa Kane was incensed with murderous rage. Seeing this reaction, Mir'san wisely divined that the Executioners may not have possessed full knowledge of the heresy and blasphemy committed by the Astral Claws, perhaps having been deliberately deceived by the Tyrant. Controlling his own outrage, Mir'san poured deliberate scorn on the Executioners' leader, both for this breach of his word and the dishonour of standing by and allowing the Tyrant's sins to go unchallenged. With the reports of his Executioners' own eyes giving the gravity of truth to Mir'san's claims, Kane's wrath was terrible to behold. He declared that the blood oath binding his Chapter to Huron's cause had been violated, and the dark stain of infamy the Astral Claws had brought upon them could only be washed clean by a river of blood. Those Salamanders Battle Brothers that survived what was to come have since given witness that a bleak madness came upon the Executioners at Kane's pronouncement, and that they tore into the Astral Claws with a murderous vengeance, heedless of the risk to their own lives, satisfied only that their former allies would die by their hands regardless of the cost.
Captain Mir'san rallied his surviving Salamanders brethren and mounted a defence of the battle barge's inner sanctum, unleashing the power of the mighty Ancients, led by Bray'arth Ashmantle upon the apostate Astral Claws. First the corridors and vaults of the Pyre of Glory and then the Astral Claws Hyrcania ran red with blood. This dreadful battle became known in the legends of war as 'The Red Hour,' as every single Astral Claw, Chapter serf and servitor present was relentlessly hunted down and slaughtered. The Hyrcania was left a charnel house of decapitated bodies, as the Executioners took more than 200 heads from their former allies. Thulsa Kane came alone before the Salamanders' commander, Captain Pellas Mir'san and knelt in the light of the burning sanctum braziers. Offering him no words, he presented a single gory object which rolled at Mir'san's feet -- the head of the Arch-Centurion Commodus.
Without further comment, the Executioners withdrew, leaving the stricken Salamanders battle barge and the empty Astral Claws strike cruiser docked alongside. The Executioners' maddened desire for vengeance had not been satiated, and soon its message reached every corner of the Maelstrom Zone. From this point onwards, the Executioners Chapter became a rogue element in the conflict, not only seeking out and descending with suicidal fury on the Astral Claws and their agents wherever they could be found, but also refusing to surrender to Loyalist forces when encountered. The most notorious incident of this kind, occurred when the Executioners' destroyed the Sons of Medusa strike cruiser Warspite in the Grief system in 911.M41. But there were other incidents as well. Beyond these lamentable incidents, the Executioners Chapter's attacks on wider Imperial shipping ceased almost immediately. These unusual developments were only explained some standard months later, when the badly wrecked Pyre of Glory finally limped into port at the Loyalist battle station at Surngraad with their strange and bloody tale to tell.
For the Tyrant's cause there could have been no more bitter blow than that struck by these allies turned enemies. Not only had the severing of the Executioners from the Secessionist cause robbed Huron's forces of much of its remaining strength in warships and raider craft, but as foes the Executioners were both implacable and had the advantage of detailed knowledge of many of the Secessionists' hidden bases and deployments which they put to immediate use in destroying them. With first the Lamenters and then the Mantis Warriors shorn from the Secessionist order of battle, and now most bitterly the Executioners turned against him, Lugft Huron and what remained of his once-mighty Astral Claws were truly alone before the Imperium's wrath, their dreams of dominion and eternal glory shattered.
The Tyrant Stands Alone
An Order for Death (911.M41)
Following what he regards as the treachery of his former allies, Lufgt Huron announced in a recorded message that was relayed throughout the warzone that the Astral Claws and their subjects no longer were part of the Imperium of Man. Up until this point, although the Badab Secessionists had been declared heretic by the Imperium, within the worlds they had controlled the pattern of established life had gone on much as it had for many centuries, and the worship of the God Emperor had been maintained. Those prelates that had overtly disagreed with the Secession had been removed and replaced with those more amenable to the Tyrant's cause and millions still followed their faith unimpeded, while the Sector's native defenders believed naturally enough that they fought and died in a battle against heresy, rather than in its name. The truth was no longer concealed from the pitiable masses of the Badab Sector. Within Huron's remaining domains, all signs and symbols of Imperial authority, culture and creed were cast down in a firestorm of iconoclasm, and the mass executions on Badab Primaris of clerics and functionaries (most of whom have remained largely ignorant of the true cause and nature of the conflict), are said to last for weeks without pause. Reports from Inquisitorial agents that had infiltrated the Badab Sector reported at this time that conditions on its principal worlds grew ever harsher, famine and want commonplace, and despair's shadow fell over all.
As for the Astral Claws themselves, although the practise was by no means universal, many of the Battle Brothers began to deface any semblance of Imperial heraldry and insignia from their armour and wargear, scouring it to bare metal or daubing it in reds and crimsons in representation of their blood oath of vengeance, until only the symbols of the Tyrant remained. Whereas before the population of the Badab Sector had been controlled with inflexible and savage discipline but were still viewed as a war resource to be maintained and managed, now the Astral Claws' wrath grew ever more arbitrary and brutal as their increasing paranoia and the murderous rages to which Lugft Huron was becoming prone took their toll on those unfortunates caught within the Tyrant's domains. On Badab Primaris, for non-Astartes to dare to look directly upon the face of one of the Astral Claws was now punishable by blinding, and after an assassin tried to take the life of Huron within his own command chamber (the assailant being slain by Tyrant himself), non-Space Marines were banned entirely from the precincts of the Palace of Thorns on pain of death and thousands of civilians were killed in groundless reprisals by the Astral Claws Retaliators. By this point the mind set of the Astral Claws themselves had succumbed to a siege mentality, they expected death as now inevitable but were spurred on by a bleak desire for vengeance against those they believed had wronged them, spite and rage consuming what little remained of their honour.
The Invasion of Pireaus (911.M41)
Lord High Commander Culln, having waited as long as he thought was strategically advantageous to gather his forces for a heavy assault, put his plans for the invasion and conquest of the Piraeus System on the edge of the Badab System into action. The Piraeus system had been identified as the key to the subsequent attack on the central Badab System due in no small part to the relatively stable Warp rout between the two regions. A plan long in fruition, Culln had already set up a series of secondary fronts at Isin and Decaballus, where raids and hit and run actions by his own Red Scorpions Chapter along with the Minotaurs and Exorcists had destabilised much of the region and forced the Tyrant's armies to spread their outer defences thinly.
The initial attack would occur with an Imperial Navy assault to interdict the industrial world of Piraeus V (also known locally as Yarrow Station), with a direct Space Marine assault against the lunar colonies on the second moon of Piraeus' dominant gas giant Kritias. This attack was to be conducted by the combined forces of the Exorcists and the Red Scorpions Chapters, their strike force amounting to an effective strength of 6 Space Marine companies. The majority of the Space Marine contingent was made up of fresh reinforcements of the Exorcists Chapter who Lord Commander Culln had kept in reserve for this closing stage of the war, although overall tactical command of the assault was taken up by Lord Commander Culln himself.
From the start, the invasion of the Piraeus system was subject to reversal and unexpected calamity. As the invasion fleet left the Larsa System one of the Imperial Navy cruisers attached to the force, the Spear of Mendoza, suffered a catastrophic Geller Field failure, hurling all onboard screaming to their doom in the Immaterium. Several other ships were either damaged or scattered, due to unexpected turbulence in the usually stable Warp route. This forced the ill-fated fleet to arrive piecemeal at the target system's edge, further out than had been planned. The Loyalist ships were forced to reassemble and operate at maximum thruster burn for a number of days to reach the inner worlds of Pireaus, after which time all element of surprise had been lost.
The Loyalist fleet had little choice but to press the attack. The bulk of the Imperial Naval ships led by the Retribution-class Battleship Throne of Blood broke off to engage the defence fleet and bombard Piraeus V, while the Space Marines strike force diverted to assault the moon of Kritias Secundus. A flotillas of planetary assault craft ferrying Imperial Guard and Inquisitorial forces formed a rear echelon intended to consolidate and exploit a successful Astartes attack. Initial enemy resistance in space proved insufficient to slow the attack down even though the Imperial forces sporadically encountered minefields that were breached or bypassed without loss. The Secessionist armada around Pireaus V stood little chance of long delaying, let alone preventing, the Loyalist force assembled by Lord High Commander Culln from their inevitable assault. The fighting above Piraeus V proved particularly fierce, as the defence ships flung themselves almost suicidally against their attackers. The Imperial Navy ships however were prevented from achieving their secondary objective of close bombardment of Pireaus V as ground fire from massive emplacements of macro-cannon and defence laser batteries on the surface, unpredicted in strength and ferocity, forced the Naval ships back.
Elsewhere, in orbit of Kritias Secundus, despite strong resistance greater success was found by the Loyalists, and between them the combined might of the Red Scorpions' Sword of Ordon and the Exorcists' Redeemer smashed aside the moon's asteroid forts in short order. Landing zones in the vicinity of the lunar colonies' main citadels and generatora stations were quickly identified and subjected to preliminary bombardment before a full-scale Planetstrike was initiated via Thunderhawk and Drop Pod assault. On landing, the Red Scorpions and Exorcists were immediately met head on by the Tyrant's Legion in a strong counter-offensive, their enemy's numbers increased several fold by indentured workers, driven on by the use of explosive-collars and armed with little more than sharpened tools and crude promethium bombs. Though the assaulting Space Marines killed the Tyrant's Legion Auxilia and their slave-worker allies in droves, their numbers slowed the attackers down, preventing them from spreading out to assault their individual targets as planned. It was at this point, when the bulk of the Red Scorpions and Exorcists Chapters were both bottled in their landing zones, that the Astral Claws' sprung their trap.
Previously silent and long concealed ground batteries fired from the depths of the alien forests that covered the moon, striking down Thunderhawks and landing craft and ripping into the Space Marine ships in close orbit above. From within the moon's citadels cannons and mortars thundered afresh, pelting the Loyalist Space Marines with missile and shell, indiscriminately targeting the battles where their own forces were engaged at close quarters with the Loyalists. This was only a heralding barrage however, and from concealed bunkers, scores of Land Raider tanks and Rhino transports bearing the insignia of the Tyrant of Badab roared forth -- the near-Chapter strength of the Astral Claws with their master, Lufgt Huron leading at the fore. Lord High Commander Culln and those Space Marines that stood with him were caught between a crossfire from above and the Tyrant below.
The Tyrant had long ago divined the importance of the Piraeus system as a keystone in the Badab Sector's defence and drew his own plans accordingly. The presence of a concentration of Astral Claws on Kritias, and the secret upgrading and cunning deployment of its defences had not been the whole of the Tyrant's strategy either, and within an hour of the hidden guns on Kritias Secundus opening fire and cutting off the Loyalist spearhead from its supporting ships, the Tyrant's own war fleet ripped into Realspace at the edge of the inner Piraeus system. What was to follow was to be one of the largest and the last major fleet engagement of the Badab War. With the final remaining operable battle barge in the Astral Claws fleet, the mighty and storied Seraph of Judgment, the Secessionist armada represented the last excise of their once vaunted naval power.
Outgunned, the senior Imperial Navy Admiral realised that the tactical situation had suddenly shifted and quickly realised that if the Tyrant's fleet could take on the two Loyalist forces (both of which had already sustained damage and expended considerable stocks of their ordnance) separately, they might yet attain a crushing victory. But if matched simultaneously, the Loyalists would be far more evenly matched against them. With communications with the ongoing ground war impossible, it was with a heavy heart that Captain Waite Ryder, the Exorcists' Master of the Fleet reluctantly agreed with the Vice Admiral's dire assessment of the situation and complied with his plan of feigned retreat and rendezvous. With their enemies seemingly in full-flight before them the Secessionist fleet ravaged into the inner system at full speed, striking at targets of opportunity such as the ungainly Loyalist rear echelon transports. Thousands of the embarked troops aboard these Imperial transports died as a result.
On the planet's surface, savage fighting raged on as the Loyalists and Secessionists clashed without mercy. The Astral Claws came on in savage and bitter fury as the Red Scorpions met them with righteous hatred of their own, while the Exorcists displayed their usual unnerving calm in the face of overwhelming force. Lord High Commander Culln stood at the fore, at his side was Sevrin Loth, Chief Librarian of the Chapter. Lufgt Huron struck the Exorcists' battle line ferociously, smashing aside Space Marines with contemptuous ease. The Tyrant's blood-spattered personal guard poured into the breach behind him, forming a murderous wedge as the Tyrant strove to reach his true and chosen enemy; Carab Culln. Captain Silas Alberec, commander of the Exorcists forces, led a counter-assault force of his Chapter's elite Enochian Guard to confront the Tyrant head on in an attempt to blunt his attack, and prevent the momentum of the battle from shifting at a critical juncture. Instead of being matched with the Tyrant, Silas Alberec found himself in a duel with Ancient Kleitor, one of the most feared and infamous of the Astral Claws' Dreadnoughts. The Exorcists Captain suffered terrible wounds which crushed and crippled his Terminator Armour before he was able to disable the Dreadnought's motive systems with his master-crafted relic mace, The Hellslayer, felling the great metal beast.
As the battle continued to rage the two Chapter Masters at last found each other, and Carab Culln and Lufgt Huron matched their skills in personal combat. The Tyrant charged the Red Scorpion Chapter Master in a fury, bellowing his rage and blaspheming the Emperor bitterly, while Culln fought in grim silence, concentrating on countering the frenzied blows of the Tyrant's relic Lightning Claw known as the Ghost Razors with the ancient heirloom of his Chapter, the Blade of the Scorpion. Soon Culln was covered in dozens of bleeding wounds. It was at this point, when the two warriors parted from the exchange of blows that Culln finally spoke, taunted the Tyrant with accusations of his own. Further maddened by these insults, the Tyrant of Badab howled in rage, charging at the Red Scorpion again. But Culln expected the frenzied attack and deftly turned aside allowing the Tyrant's momentum to take him past. In a blow that would have normally fell even the mightiest of Space Marines, Culln lashed out with the Blade of the Scorpion and slashed deeply into the Tyrant's side, parting his foe's armour in a welter of blood. But the Tyrant shrugged off his opponent's attack and wheeled around, his claws arcing down and the ghostly blades punching through Carab Culln's breastplate. Only through monumental effort was Culln able to fight on through his agony, hurling himself backwards onto the ground before the Tyrant could close his clawed fingers and rip out his heart. The Red Scorpion then slid down a slope of rubble and armoured bodies before the looming Tyrant whose bitter laugh echoes above him. Culln staggered once more to his feet, direly wounded, as the battle continued to rage around him. Then suddenly, a new sun burned the heavens, raining destruction down on all below.
Gambling on a dangerous plan to extract the forces stranded below, Captain Ryder bargained that the planetary defences would be half-blinded by the battle raging above them in orbit. The Exorcists' battle barge Redeemer was among the least scathed, its bays filled to capacity with surviving Thunderhawks from across the fleet for the emergency operation. The vast battle barge sliced into Kritias Secundus' thin atmosphere. The ground batteries proved ineffective against her, as the fire blazing around her shields made the Redeemer appear as a terrible blazing sun in the sky and the panicked defense crews failed to quickly respond. Librarian Taloth of the Exorcists was able to lock in on the bright soul of Sevrin Loth and the familiar spark of his wounded master Alberec, and so the Redeemer made for its intended target. At this unexpected arrival, the Astral Claws were hurled back amid a storm of dust and debris, and below its skyblotting bulk, the battlefield where Culln and the Tyrant fought was showered in rubble and flame, parting them before their combat could reach a final conclusion in either's favour. Immediately extraction operations got under way before the enemy could rally to the defence as the Redeemer's guns rent the ground asunder and pulverised the towers of nearby citadels. In a desperate operation lasting near two hours almost three in five of the Loyalist Space Marines that had made planet fall were recovered, although most of them were either casualties or bore some fresh wound or scar to mark the furious combat they had seen. Not least of the wounded was Lord Commander Culln, who was taken up in the care of his Chapter's Apothecaries.
Above Kritias, battle had once again been joined between the Loyalists and the Imperium warships. The Secessionists both outnumbered the Loyalists and outgunned them, but the Loyalists, even though many of their vessels were damaged, had the greater number of heavy warships in their line of battle, and were far the greater in quality of skilled and disciplined crew. The rebel fleet came on in a chaotic and ragged attack column, and this was to prove their undoing as the combined Imperial Navy and Space Marine warships formed into tight formation and crossed laterally in an oblique pass on the enemy column, maximising their broadsides while the Secessionists could not fully bring theirs to bear. The star battle was eventually won for the Loyalists with the death of the Seraph of Judgement but at great cost, and there remained a great deal of bloody fighting to do as the surviving enemy ships were put to flight or captured in a series of brutal boarding assaults.
The invasion of Piraeus was over; both sides claimed a victory and both sides tasted defeat. For the Secessionists, the Loyalist invaders had been driven off and not one iota of ground had been surrendered to them, but in doing so they had gambled the last of their once mighty fleet and lost it, and with it any hope of maintaining dominion outside of the Badab system itself. Fatalities on both sides had been appallingly high, and Lord Commander Culln had seen his attacking force blunted and many of his most powerful ships of the line damaged to the extent that might take years to repair. The Badab War had arguably been won at Piraeus by the Loyalists but there was one last battle to fight, and that was likely to be the most terrible of all; the final Siege of Badab.
The Fall of Badab
The Silent War (912.M41)
After the tumultuous events surrounding the failed invasion of the Piraeus system and the unknown status of the Executioners Chapter, the Badab War entered a new and uncertain era. The Secessionists were at their lowest ebb during the conflict, and the Loyalists hadn't fared any better after the substantial losses they had sustained in the recent campaign. They were in no position to exploit their enemy's weakness or press the attack. From the aftermath of the invasion of Piraeus to the mid-divisions of 912.M41 became known as the 'Silent War' as it was composed of hundreds small scale engagements, many of which all but unreported and unknown. The Maelstrom Zone could not be considered pacified by any means despite the sundering of the Secessionist domains and it was only the presence of the Loyalist detachments of the Minotaurs and Sons of Medusa Chapters that kept the Imperial lines of supply viable.
Without the thinly spread Imperial Guard and Inquisition forces attached to the Loyalist command, the retaken worlds in the Pale Stars region would have slid into anarchy or succumbed to the same civil strife that had stricken those in the Galen System. Soon the Loyalist command received word that the Tyrant's forces were falling back to the Badab System, stripping the defences from worlds such as Isin and Decabalus, abandoning them to their fates. Matters became further confused when it appeared that some forces of the Tyrant's Legion, and even some small splinter groups of Astral Claws had abandoned their master, turned fully renegade and made an attempt to flee into the Maelstrom Zone, while once again corsair and xenos sightings began to increase across the western and southern zone. Potentially spread out over a vast area of dangerous wilderness space, the Loyalists now seemed to face multiple foes whose action could not be readily predicted. If the Loyalists did not take the strategic initiative the conflict could spread slowly throughout the entire region, possibly taking decades if not centuries to quell.
The injured but still active Lord High Commander Carab Culln convened a full council of war at the newly commissioned Imperial battle station complex in the Vyaniah System to determine a strategy and divine a future course of the war. Representatives from all the Loyalist Space Marine Chapters still involved in the conflict were present; Culln's own Red Scorpions, the Salamanders, Minotaurs, Exorcists, Carcharodons and Sons of Medusa. The Fire Hawks' master, the now ailing Stibor Lazaerek was also summoned as an equal, despite reservations held by others. Some stain of blame and suspicion of dissent still persisted amongst some of his peers. Inquisitorial Legate Jarndyce Frain, whose voice was that of the High Lords in the council, served as arbiter, and at Frain's personal invitation a deputation of the Archmagos of the forge world of Angstrom was also received, and now welcomed as allies to the Loyalist cause.
Legate-Inquisitor Frain brought news to the council that the Mantis Warriors Chapter had finally submitted themselves before the Legate's authority to avoid the utter destruction of their worlds. But he brought ill-omened news as well, reinforcements from the Imperial Guard Segmentum reserves and fresh warships from the Imperial Navy would not be forthcoming. Wars and conflicts were everywhere, and matters pressing against the Tyranid threat and newly arising xenos powers to the galactic east claimed priority on all that might be gathered to the Loyalist cause on short notice. However, the darkly reputed Star Phantoms Space Marine Chapter were en route at full Chapter strength and would be with the Loyalists by the year's turning. The Adeptus Mechanicus of Angstrom would provide further aid to the Loyalist cause by granting a bounty of arms and munitions. They also vowed to aid the Loyalist attack on Badab when the hour of battle came. In accordance with the Loyalists' newly formed strategies, and with the hard lesson of Piraeus well learned, the ultimate goal of the investiture and siege of Badab would now be delayed until overwhelming forces were available. In the meantime an enhanced blockade and watch would be maintained there while the Maelstrom Zone was brought better under its heel.
The Fire Hawks immense mobile fortress-monastery, the Raptorous Rex was brought to the Piraeus System to form the lynchpin of the reinforced blockade, but when the Loyalists arrived in-system they found it in half-abandoned shambles. Kritias Secundus was ravaged and near lifeless, and Yarrow Station had been gutted and was now famine-stricken by its former Astral Claws masters and left to their fate. The Fire Hawks wrath sealed the fate of the traitors below with a protracted orbital bombardment. The Carcharodons were recalled from the Endymion Cluster having completed their work in accordance with the Mantis Warriors' surrender agreement. The Carcharodons large fleet, along with ships from the Exorcists and Sons of Medusa Chapters were assigned into small battle groups alongside Imperial Navy scouting vessels and despatched on independent hunter-killer missions throughout the Maelstrom Zone.
Debts of Honour (912.M41)
With the Badab War drawing to its bloody conclusion, there remained a few major matters to settle. This was especially true in regards to the Executioners Chapter. It soon came to pass that the Sons of Medusa and Carcharodons Chapters began to coordinate their efforts to hunt down the elusive Chapter. They had discovered what they believed was their centre of operations in the Dene Stellar Drift, and they intended to prosecute a campaign of annihilation against them. As skirmish and clashes between them began to escalate, Salamanders' Captain Pellas Mir'san was deeply troubled. The Executioners had acted with honour during the war, and moreover, he felt his own Chapter owed them a debt not easily repaid following the events of the 'Red Hour'. Renewed by the arrival of the Salamanders' vanguard cruiser Obsidia and a half-company of battle-brothers freshly returned from the Segmentum Solar, Mir'san took it upon himself to seek out the leader of the Executioners, Thulsa Kane, and attempt a parlay and a negotiated end to the Executioners role in the war.
Questing along the Maelstrom Zone's southern periphery for several months, the Obsidia rushed in response to reports of battle at the fringes of the Eridayn Cataract. There they found the Executioners battle barge Phaeton's Wrath and the infamous Night Hag hunting down two damaged Sons of Medusa strike cruisers in the dense asteroid fields and dust clouds of the turbulent star system. Without second thought to his own ship's safety, Captain Mir'san interposed his vessel between the two warring sides and deactivated his ship's weapons. He then demanded an honourable discourse between brothers take place. The Loyalist forces faced a tense stand-off, coming to the brink of warring amongst themselves, but Mir'san was successful in forcing both sides to stand down. He then negotiated the Sons of Medusa's departure and the Executioners' ceasefire, bringing the Night Hag with Kane aboard, under the Salamanders' own personal flag of safety to formal parlay with the Loyalist command. Though shadowed with the Warp-echoes of prowling Carcharodons warships en route to Crow's World, they were not attacked.
Many on the Loyalist side had a mind to arrest or even slay the Executioners on sight, but the voice of Pellas Mir'san, a respected representative of his 1st Founding Chapter was not so easily dismissed, nor were the likely consequences should blood be shed dishonourably at this time. Seeing the strategic wisdom of being able to remove a dangerous and unpredictable Chapter bloodlessly from the war, Lord High Commander Culln acquiesced to Mir'san's proposals in regards to the Executioners. But the Magister Militum added a few caveats of his own. The terms of honourable armistice stated that the Executioners would end all hostilities and quit the region of the Maelstrom Zone entirely, never to return. The bulk of their surviving forces were then to travel to their distant home system under oath to remain there until full judgement could later be passed on their actions by a full Consistorial Court of inquiry. The acting Executioners commander, Thulsa Kane, his chosen honour guard and crew, along with the Night Hag voluntarily gave themselves over to the Salamanders' custody and were interned at the Salamanders' Chapter homeworld of Nocturne until the end of the war. From this point on the Salamanders Chapter stood as guarantor of the Executioners' compliance and conduct, although there remained those on the Loyalist side who, though bound to obedience in the matter, would never forget the bad blood between them.
Breaking the Ring of Steel (913.M41)
- "Though my guards may sleep and my ships may lay at anchor, our foes know full well that the big guns never tire."
- — Lufgt Huron, the Tyrant of Badab, ca. 909.M41
The Loyalists were now ready at last to begin the final siege of Badab. Their forces had been greatly augmented by the arrival of the grim Star Phantoms' Chapter, whose fleet carried a powerful force ten companies strong, as well as a maniple of battle Titans of the Legio Crucius (the Warmongers) brought in by the intervention of the Adeptus Mechanicus of Angstrom, and several heavy warships such as the Sword of Ordon which had been brought back into full operation. The initial attack itself would not be easy as the Loyalists first had to sunder the infamous 'Ring of Steel' which held sufficient firepower to hold off almost any fleet of attackers, turning the void between its planets into a deadly maze of minefields and interlocking fire-zones. But the Loyalist high command had come up with an unorthodox plan to counter this threat with minimal losses which would allow for an immediate planetary assault. The key to this plan was twofold and it relied both on the arcane arts of the Magos of Angstrom and the effects of the Tyrant's own growing paranoia.
The greatest vulnerability of the 'Ring of Steel' was that it was largely static. The positions of its various minefields and massively armed star forts were predictable, and what few defence ships and armed vessels of any size Badab possessed were insufficient to turn the tide against a concerted localised attack. The heavily defended star fortress orbiting Sigma (Badab VI) was the cornerstone of the outer system's defence. Loyalist spies had discovered here, at Sentinel-Sigma, was the primary node of control, which had been placed under the control of one of the few subordinates the Tyrant still trusted, the infamous Astral Claws Captain Corien Sumatris. This was done so that the control of the star forts and minefields wouldn't be controlled autonomously by scores of commanders the Tyrant thought unreliable. Taking Sentinel-Sigma intact would silence the legendary 'big guns' of the Badab System.
The Loyalist assault armada entered Realspace in the Badab system on 317.913.M41, high up on the vertical plain of the planetary system, directly on an attack course for Badab VI. The armada consisted of no fewer than 6 Space Marine battle barges and 9 strike cruisers, along with 6 other Imperial Navy ships of the line, an Adeptus Mechanicus War Caravel and 84 escorts and strike vessels of various classes. At its vanguard was the Raptorus Rex, behind which, thanks to the artisanship of the Magos of Angstrom, was towed a burning stellar core fragment torn bodily from the Bale Cascade. As the war machines of Badab sprang to life in response to the threat, it was already too late to prevent what was to happen next. Swiftly reaching terminal velocity, the ponderous cyclopean bulk of the Raptorus Rex engaged its main drive at maximum power to alter course, straining against inertia to allow the hellish fire of the stellar fragment to pass it by on its collision course with the Sentinel-Sigma battle station, while the Loyalist armada fell into a spearhead formation a safe distance behind.
Unable to escape the path of the rogue star fragment, soon every weapon on the defence line within range and resolution was trained on the tumbling fireball. Blinded by the by the light of this new and terrible star careening towards them, the weapons of the 'Ring of Steel' could not clearly see, let alone target the oncoming armada. This caused the legions of mines and weapon platforms targeter-arrays to set upon each other, setting off waves of atomic detonations through the void. Only at near point-blank range did the defence lasers and arc-cannon of the star forts have any affect on the burning matter, causing the fragment to be rent apart in a great wave of energy which washed over Sentinel-Sigma, painting its failing void shields with lambent flame and burning through defence ships and fighters in a torrent of destruction. Hard on the wake of the energy storm came the Angels of Death in unrelenting fury as boarding torpedoes and assault rams smashed into the reeling Sentinel-Sigma, carrying with them the might of the Sons of Medusa and Exorcists Chapters. Soon they were met in deadly combat amid the station's vaults and corridors by battle servitors and the suicidal fury of the vaunted Astral Claws 2nd Company and their master, the arch-swordsman Corien Sumatris.
As the boarding action raged the battle barges Sword of Ordon and the Star Phantoms' Memento Mori led a wing of strike cruisers to assault the burned and blinded star fort network at point-blank range, taking one after the other intact in a series of brutal boarding assaults which left none they found within alive. Meanwhile the Minotaurs carried out strikes upon the system's other inhabited spheres Badab Secundus and Rigeal with brutal efficiency. The darkly famed master of the Minotaurs, Lord Asterion Moloc, hurled the members of Secundus' ruling satrapy from the spire of its oratory-cathedral. This he did after impaling the Astral Claws Chaplain Varna Sabin to the front of his personal Land Raider transport as an example to traitors of the fate that awaited them.
Standing atop a mound of broken bodies, Vaylund Cal, Iron Thane of the Sons of Medusa communicated to Loyalist high command that Sentinel-Sigma was theirs. He was joined via teleporter by the Mechanicus Lords of Angstrom. They did what Lufgt Huron and his court had considered unthinkable; within hours the Loyalists had subjugated the station's Silica Animus (Artificial Intelligence), and with it accessed the many machine spirits and weapons slaved to it. Incontrovertible override and destruct signals were sent out across the void. This function was only possible because of the possessive paranoia of the Tyrant in his effort to control a system so large. In response to the command the outer Badab System became a sea of fire. The 'Ring of Steel' had been shattered, and only Badab Primaris and the defences that encircled it remained.
The Final Assault (913.M41)
With the star system now under Loyalist control, deployments of the Exorcists Chapter along with the Imperial Navy detachments were put into place to blockade the star system to ensure none would escape what was to come. Meanwhile surviving defence ships were quickly put into place to surround and besiege Badab Primaris. Initially, the Raptorous Rex was to spearhead the assault, but that was no longer possible due to the strain of the core fragment attack which caused significant structural damage which destabilised the engines of the vast craft making close-orbital operations impossible. Though the guns of Badab Primaris were still greatly feared, the Star Phantoms asked for and had been granted the glory of leading the first assault wave. It was their ancient battle barge Memento Mori which would be the spearhead of the attack, braving the guns of Badab.
A hastily revised plan of attack called for a three-pronged offensive, for further hazard to the Loyalist assault was presented in the form of the High Guard orbital station which had been initially used as the Astral Claws fortress-monastery before Lugft Huron had descended to take over the Palace of Thorns on the surface of Badab Primaris below. Two companies of Star Phantoms Space Marines would form the first axis of attack, assaulting the High Guard orbital fortress in concert with the smaller Fire Haws and Sons of Medusa contingents. The second would be led by the Carcharodons as they would descend in full force to the surface of Badab Primaris' hives to crush any opposition. The third and most vital attack force would be formed by the bulwark of the Star Phantoms, consisting of seven full companies and assisted by heavy assault elements drawn from across the Loyalist Chapters and Inquisitorial Storm Troopers companies. This would enable the Loyalists to take the battle to the heart of the foe and besiege the Palace of Thorns itself.
Heralding the attack was a wave of orbital bombardment and hurled debris from orbit sent to sow havoc below as weapons fire split the sky above Badab Primaris. The sable coloured Memento Mori led the attack as it breached the upper atmosphere, rocked by explosions from the planet's surface weapon emplacements. The Star Phantoms battle barge answered in kind with its roaring cannons and vortex missiles, ripping great craters in the planet's surface. Behind the dauntless battle barge dozens of other warships swept low releasing their deadly payloads. The skies darkened as wave after wave of midnight black and cold grey painted drop pods rained down in precisely executed assaults. Blazing bright lances of energy pierced upwards, futilely trying to stave off the attackers. The Carcharodons' relic-flagship Nicor unleashed a devastating blast from its vast Plasma Destructor weapon concealed in its belly, burning a great trench in Badab's surface and sundering the bastion wall of Badab Primaris' main city, Hive Dominar. Soon after, Thunderhawk gunships and Cestus Assault Rams spiraled down to exploit the breach. The burning pall of smoke, swirling cinder ash and choking dust blackened the sky, causing night to fall over Badab's northern continent as the siege assault raged.
A full hour had passed since the opening of the Loyalists' assault, and though the defence batteries had not yet been fully silenced, many were now choked off or destroyed. Descending perilously through the storm of smoke and fire were troop ships and Thunderhawks, ferrying their reinforcements and heavy armour down to the chaos of the ground assault. As the approach was deemed safe, the colossal landing craft of the Legio Crucius fell to earth outside Hive Dominar, the tremor-shock of their impact shaking the ground, bringing even more of the breached bastion wall tumbling down. Titans now walked on Badab, immediately setting out to do the Emperor's work. Vast armoured doors opened and slammed buildings flat as the Titans' sirens echoing across the battlefield, bellowing their clarion call of doom for the beleaguered world.
Hive Dominar soon became a city of death as the assault moved into its second and then third hour without any sign of relenting. The Tyrant's Legion fought an insane and desperate battle against the grey giants of the Carcharodons that walked amongst them. There were no means of escaping their gruesome fate as transit junctions became clogged with burning vehicles and shattered rubble, trapping the wretched civilians within the doomed hive. There was nothing but terror and death. The soldiers of the Auxilia bitterly fought on as best as they could, faced with the choice of surrender or survival. But the unstoppable grey-red tide of the Carcharodons fell upon them with nightmarish fury, savagely hacking through their defence lines, leaving nothing but torn bodies and shattered war machines in their wake. Command and control quickly broke down within the ranks of the Tyrant's Legion as their vox-sets uttered nothing but screams and unanswered pleas for mercy. Soon the carnage only worsened as fire began to spread and rage out of control. Those Auxilia that had managed to survive began shelling indiscriminately into the shadows of buildings in a vain hope of stopping the savage assault of Carcharodons. But their efforts were for naught.
The Palace of Thorns (913.M41)
To the north-east of Hive Dominar lay the Palace of Thorns. Built into a mountainous volcanic plateau that rose high above the level of the hive city, it comprised a hulking, ornate citadel surrounded by wide statue-lined plazas and minaret-capped gun towers studded with defence lasers and flak batteries. This was the heart of the Astral Claws' domain and the lair of the Tyrant of Badab. Above the Palace complex's centre an actinic-bright lighting shield rippled and clashed in the air; a vast charged power-field that disintegrated anything it touched and shrugged off even the firepower of the warships above. The plazas and weapons batteries that spread out beyond the Palace were not so impervious however, and it was into them the Star Phantoms descended with unmatched precision and timing, their drop pods smashing down through the ornate sepulchres and toppling needle-thin auspex-masts as they descended.
Despite the hail of fire that had greeted the Star Phantoms, over 500 Battle-Brothers out of the 700 strong force managed to survive to make planetfall, and now they set about besieging the heavily protected Palace of Thorns. The combat was fierce as the Star Phantoms encountered cunning death-traps and heavily defended gun positions. Brutal close range engagements were fought against Astral Claws Assault squads who counter-attacked from concealed sally-ports, making the Loyalists pay in blood for every advance. Land Raiders and Predators spilled forth from underground bunkers in defence of the citadel's shield wall. But they were matched by the equaling devastating firepower of the Star Phantoms' Devastator squads and Dreadnoughts firing from the shattered towers they had already stormed. The wide-open plazas that ringed the citadel became lethal killing grounds, grinding the siege down into a bloody meat-grinder of attrition, for they offered very little cover to both attackers and defenders alike. The bloody siege began to tip in the Loyalists' favour as the Storm Trooper regiments made their way up the volcanic ridges and joined the fray allowing the Star Phantoms to press the attack. Loyalist Terminator squads locked on the Star Phantoms' teleport homers and were soon despatched down to the surface. But despite the massive force brought to bear against it the citadel still held. The Palace of Thorn's lightning field remained unbreached, and multiple Loyalist attacks were hurled away from the citadel as the Astral Claws rained down deadly fire from the high walls in murderous counter-attacks. Even with the advent of the Reaver-class Titans of the Legio Crucius alongside the Sons of Medusa detachments, the Loyalists could not force the issue. The siege of the Palace of Thorns was at a lethal impasse.
The fighting and killing reigned unabated as true night fell over Hive Dominar and the Palace of Thorns. Soon the fighting spread out to the planet's sub-hives and industrial zones. The pall of smoke from the burning cities thickened the night to an umbral black that fogged the auspexes of the ships in orbit. Titans stalked the ruined cityscapes, crushing any hint of resistance they encountered and systematically smashed the manufactora and habitation blocks, driving refugees and routed Tyrant's Legion troopers before them in a disordered swarm. During this long night of destruction little can be said for certain of Lufgt Huron's actions. Some reports have the Tyrant sighted almost everywhere in the defence of the Palace, hurling back the rent and shattered bodies of his enemies, roaring his defiance, while other tales place him alone and silent in the throne chamber, impassively watching the destruction of all he had wrought in the flickering light of his hole-sphere. Regardless of the truth, what can be accurately said is that no Astral Claw surrendered to their fate. Each fought to the end, whether at the Palace of Thorns, in the hive cities of Badab or in defence of the High Guard orbital station, the Astral Claws sold their lives in a blaze of fury and spite.
At dawn of the second day of the assault, the Carcharodons took matters in their own hands to bring about the end. Assigned by Lord High Commander Carab Culln the task of attacking the planet's infrastructure and preventing an organised defence from taking root, they had devised their own plan for doing so, and set their own deadly measure to the extremes to which they would go. Having already ravaged the Tyrant's Legion forces defending the cities and setting the hives ablaze, they continued the final state of their plan and despatched strike teams deep into the hive's sub-surface. The Carcharodons sabotaged the ancient atomic and geo-thermal reactors which powered the world's hive cities and fed its hungry planetary defence batteries with energy. Across Badab Primaris power failed or suddenly spiked adding to the chaos, and slowly, the hives began to quake and the towers of Badab toppled over. This resulted in a planetary tectonic upheaval, with entire hive city sectors collapsing into yawning chasms that opened up in the ground beneath them, replaced by seas of molten lava. Silently and in good order, the Carcharodons began to withdraw from the surface, the fatal blow struck, for the God Emperor's judgement had been delivered on treacherous Badab.
The sudden destabilisation of power offered the Loyalists a much needed opening in which to strike. As the lightning field and the citadel's other defences flickered for a moment, allowing a Star Phantoms assault force to breach the lower level bunker network and catacombs before the citadel could draw power again from their own reactors. With Captain Zhrukal Androcles at the fore, his Assault Marines and Terminators forced their way into the citadel and the heart of the enemy. The Star Phantoms assault was brutal and relentless, its passage blasted through by thunder hammer rent bulkheads and charge-blown walls, while the Astral Claws that fought against them were the most fanatical and hate-filled of their breed -their crimson-splattered armour devoid of any sign of their former service as defenders of the Imperium. As massive upheaval in the planet's sub-hive structures radiated out across the ancient geological fault lines, spewing molten magma and radioactive ash up from the earth. Badab Primaris began to die.
At the Palace of Thorns, the bastion wall was finally breached, collapsing the lightning shield. The Star Phantoms stormed the rubble-strewn remnants of the citadel. As dark fate would have it, Androcles' own detachment encountered none other than Lugft Huron and his elite bodyguard endeavouring to make their escape from their homeworld through these subterranean passages. It is likely Huron's party were attempting to flee to a concealed escape craft via the sub-surface. The battle that followed was swift and bloody, and the Star Phantoms' force was wiped out to an Astartes, but data recovered from the Power Armour of the slain Star Phantoms and Astral Claws in the combat's aftermath revealed that Captain Androcles was struck down by the Tyrant in the confrontation, who in his arrogance strode over the fallen hero believing him dead.
As his life bled from him, with his dying strength the grimly determined Captain Androcles managed to unleash a melta-blast at point blank range into the Tyrant of Badab, dealing him a mortal blow. The melta-blast struck the arcane lighting claw the Tyrant habitually wore which catastrophically exploded unleashing a baleful pulse of energy. This blast incinerated the Tyrant's arm and much of his right side, and the remnants of his burning armour collapsing to the ground was the last image recorded by the fallen captain's autosenses. Soon afterward, when a second Star Phantoms squad entered the vault, they found the bloody remains of the melee, along with shrapnel and organic detritus later identified by the Magos Biologis of the Consistorial Court as belonging to the Tyrant. The bulk of Lufgt Huron's body however was not found, nor were any remains that could be later identified as belonging to the Astral Claws Master of the Forge, Armenneus Valthex, who had also been present in the combat. Further investigation of the matter or deeper exploration of the lower levels of the Palace of Thorns proved impossible however as the wider situation on Badab Primaris began to deteriorate rapidly.
Beneath the hives of Badab Primaris, the cascading destruction of the reactor cores took its toll. The tectonic shocks and volcanic eruptions increased at an exponential rate, causing the campaign of purgation and conquest on Badab to quickly devolve into an anarchic retreat. Many were caught in the path of destruction. Vessels of any and all kinds were commandeered by both Loyalist and Secessionists alike in a desperate effort to flee. In the anarchy and ruin that followed the hive cities, the majority of the planet's population was estimated to have been exterminated in a manner of days. As confusion reigned in the wreckage-strewn system, several Loyalist transports were also shot down by the Loyalist blockade ships. It is believed that at least one small Warp-capable privateer vessel managed to escape the Badab system into the Warp. Later intelligence reports suggest that less than 200 Astral Claws were aboard, led by Armenneus Valthex and carrying their master's broken body. The Badab War was finally over.
Trial and Punishment (913.M41)
In the aftermath of the death of Badab Primaris, the remaining Secessionists from the Astral Claws, Executioners, Mantis Warriors and Lamenters Chapters were put on trial before a specially convened Consistorial Court of their peers with their very existence at stake. Despite the attempts of the Legate-Inquisitor Frain to have the matter placed fully under Inquisitorial remit, a conclave of five Space Marine Chapter Masters whose forces were not part of the conflict were convened in judgement in accordance with Astartes tradition. Representatives of those that fought on both sides went on to give evidence to the court. Particularly noteworthy was the testimony of Captain Mir'san of the Salamanders, speaking out in eloquent and moving defence of the Executioner Chapter's honour, if not their actions. Also heard at great length was the now near-dead Master of the Fire Hawks, Stibor Lazaerek, and his bitter calls to eradicate the vanquished foe without exception garnered some sympathy from the tribunal. The last to testify was the Legate-Inquisitor Frain himself, whose impassioned and wise words called on the assembled Chapter Masters to weigh both the deeds of men and the will of the Emperor, and heed the judgement of history on them.
A unanimous verdict was reached by the tribunal that the Astral Claws were judged to be traitors most foul and that they were to be declared Excommunicate Traitoris. They were guilty of taking up arms against the Imperium and deceitfully causing their brethren to do likewise. The Consistorial Court also found that all of those Chapters who had taken part in the Badab Secession was guilty in breaking with both the Codex Astartes and the ancient covenant with the Emperor that it represented. In punishment, all the Astral Claws in Imperial custody were blindfolded and shackled in dishonour and then put to the sword. It was further judged that the other surviving Secessionist Chapters would have to each undertake a 100 year penitent crusade to atone for their transgressions, and would have to do so without the right to recruit new brethren to replace their losses during this time of punishment. Their future survival would therefore, be left in their own hands and by the grace and benevolence of the Holy Emperor.
In addition, the Mantis Warriors would henceforth lose all rights to their ancient domains in the Endymion Cluster, with their goods and chattels given over to the Fire Hawks in perpetuity, and likewise the Lamenters Chapter were condemned to surrender reparations in ships and wargear to the Minotaurs Chapter (this in essence being no more than a rubber-stamp approval of actions that had already taken place). The Executioners Chapter in contrast were granted a measure of comparable clemency, and their twin Chapter worlds were given over in trust to the Salamanders Chapter and their own successors rather than forfeited entirely, to be returned to them should they endure their hundred year act of contrition and survive.
As to the men and women of the Maelstrom Zone, caught up in a decade of calamity and bloodshed, their lives now belonged to the Administratum. Alongside them were the Adeptus Mechanicus and Inquisition, both of which had their own interests to serve and all would have their due.
The Star Phantom's Prize (913.M41)
In recognition for their efforts in the war's brutal final assault, the badly mauled Star Phantoms Chapter were given the somewhat Pyrrhic reward of dominion over the once proud Badab Sector, along with the task of policing its survivors by edict of the Inquisitor Legate. Though the Star Phantoms were now reduced to less than a third of its former strength, ruling over a kingdom of ashes, they had long been a fleet-based Chapter after having lost their former homeworld centuries before. They eagerly grasped this laurel of victory as their just and long-laboured reward. With the pick of the sector's worlds for their choosing, the Star Phantoms brought their severely damaged battle-barge Memento Mori down to the surface of the Ice World of Jahga in the Archaea System to serve as their core for a new Fortress-Monastery and slowly began the process of rebuilding their Chapter.
The Sorrow of Tranquility (913.M41)
With the arrival of a fresh Imperial Navy task force redeployed to be based at Vyaniah, and Adminstratum auditors emplaced on Sagan, the other Loyalist Space Marine forces having completed their operations in the Maelstrom Zone, began to depart for their Chapter worlds and wars afresh. The care of the Maelstrom Zone was now in other hands and the province of new masters. It was only when the Sword of Ordon, the last of the Loyalist battle barges, was taking leave to depart Vyaniah on the long voyage back to Zabeaus Minoris, that news reached the system of a dark fate that had befallen the Tranquility system.
Before departing the Maelstrom Zone, the Carcharodons Chapter fleet returned to the Endymion Cluster. There, with the agreement of the Fire Hawks, they struck at the Tranquility System, whose worlds were once the primary recruiting and training grounds of the Mantis Warriors Chapter. From these worlds they harvested an entire generation to renew their own losses, forcing those selected to fight to the death to prove their worth in order to survive in the Carcharodons brethren. Thus paid in blood, the Carcharodons fleet departed, the last known sighting of them made by an Explorator augery-beacon, which marked them tacking course through the Warp, ascending the galactic plane into the blackness of the outer void once more.
On returning to Holy Terra, and with his last act before he discharged his legatine authority, Inquisitor Jarndyce Frain ordered an Edict of Obliteration to be carried out under the auspices of the Adeptus Terra in regards to the Astral Claws, the Tiger Claws and their master Lugft Huron. The task therefore began of wiping their accursed name and their sins from the pages of Imperial history. Sanitised and altered versions of the events of the war began to enter the official record, distorting nomenclature and reference as the first stage of eventual total purgation, while an Inquisition enforced data-pogrom to unmake extraneous or morally unworthy facts concerning the Badab War was conducted. The eye of the Imperium moved on.
The Rise of Huron Blackheart (927.M41)
- "Are we, Mankind, then doomed to be always the father of our own torment, the genesis of our own destruction, time and time again? God Emperor help us - ever has it been so."
- — Ordo Hereticus secret-report, Author Unknown
Though badly maimed by a Multi-Melta blast, the Tyrant yet lived, though one side of his body was entirely reconstructed with bionics, the Techmarines and Apothecaries of his former Chapter standing long vigil over him. On the eighth day, the Tyrant could speak again and ordered his fleet to seek a new to world to conquer. By the twelfth day Huron could stand and don his power armour once more. His fanatical followers hailed his recovery as a miracle, but if it was any kind of miracle, it was a dark one.
Huron's limited forces easily overwhelmed the first pirate stronghold they found, slaughtering all the corsairs within. The survivors swore allegiance to the Tyrant and became his slaves, soon learning to fear his fury. Lufgt Huron had been reborn as Huron Blackheart - Master of the Red Corsairs, Lord of the Maelstrom, the Blood Reaver. Now that he had acquire more ships and men, the Blackheart embarked upon building an empire worthy of his rule. Soon Huron forged a potent Chaotic empire, rivaling that of the Eye of Terror, as his power spread quickly throughout the realm.
His dreaded Astral Claws followers then became the Red Corsairs, after the blood-red colour they used to obliterate their old Imperial iconography and symbols, becoming a corsair Renegade Warband of Chaos Space Marines that established a potent Chaotic empire within the Maelstrom to rival that of the Eye of Terror. To this day, many of those few Space Marines who have tragically fallen to the lure of Chaos are inevitably found within the ranks of the Red Corsairs, embittered and twisted by the evil power of Chaos that reigns supreme within this hellish realm. The artifice chosen by his followers pleased Huron greatly and all of the renegade Space Marines who have since joined him have taken these colours as their own to show their new allegiance.
By early 927.M41, the first reports reached Imperial authorities of attacks from corsair forces operating in and around the Maelstrom which had worsened considerably, although other than the Pale Stars region, the rest of the Maelstrom Zone largely (and it appeared deliberately) remained unaffected. Vessels and agents sent into the region began to uncover rumours of a powerful new corsair lord operating within the Maelstrom, leading a warband of crimson-daubed Renegade Space Marines seeming to owe no allegiance to any prior known faction and operating with extraordinary ferocity and tactical discipline. The corsair lord was said to style himself 'Huron Blackheart.'
Select Order of Battle of the Badab War
- Jarndyce Frain - Inquisitor-Legate and Chief Prosecutor of the Badabian Tyranicide (Badab War)
- Carab Culln - Lord High Commander (Chapter Master), Red Scorpions Space Marine Chapter. After the Red Scorpions' former Lord High Commander Ortys was slain upon the world of Grief, Culln was almost unanimously elected to replace him as the Loyalist forces' Magister Militum, the overall commander of the Loyalist forces.
- Verant Ortys - Former Lord High Commander (Chapter Master) of the Red Scorpions and Magister Millitum and overall commander of the Loyalist forces during the Badab War. Ortys was slain when the Red Scorpions were betrayed by the deceitful Lufgt Huron and his Renegade Astral Claws Chapter on the world of Grief. While both sides were under a flag of truce, the Astral Claws launched a surprise attack against the Red Scorpions and Ortys was slain in the melee.
- Stibor Lazaerek - Knight-Commander Lazaerek was Grand Master (Chapter Master) Fire Hawks Space Marine Chapter
- Lias Issodon, "The Grim" - Chapter Master of the Raptors Space Marine Chapter
- Asterion Moloc - "Master of the Minotaurs" - Chapter Master of the Minotaurs Space Marine Chapter
- Omadon Tiresias - Chapter Master of the Star Phantoms Space Marine Chapter
- Tyberos "The Red Wake" - Chapter Master of the Carcharodons Space Marine Chapter
- Uriaens - Consul-Master (Chapter Master) of the Fire Angels Space Marine Chapter
- Silas Alberec "Wielder of the Hellslayer" - Captain of the 3rd Company, Exorcists Space Marine Chapter
- Mordacai Blaylock "The Stormbreaker" - Captain of the 1st Company, Novamarines Space Marine Chapter
- Vaylund Cal - Iron Thane of the Atropos War Clan, High Artificer of the Sons of Medusa Space Marine Chapter
- Pellas Mir'san - Captain of the 2nd Company, Salamanders Space Marine Chapter
- Anton Narvaez - Lieutenant Commander Narvaez is the Commander (Captain) of the 4th Company, Marines Errant Space Marine Chapter
- Armand Titus - Dreadnought Confessor, Howling Griffons Space Marine Chapter
Loyalist Adeptus Astartes Chapters
- Carcharodons, entire Chapter deployed
- Exorcists, entire Chapter deployed
- Fire Angels, 7 Companies
- Fire Hawks, entire Chapter deployed
- Howling Griffons, entire Chapter deployed
- Marines Errant, entire Chapter deployed
- Minotaurs, entire Chapter deployed
- Novamarines, entire Chapter deployed
- Raptors, 4 companies
- Red Scorpions, 8 companies
- Salamanders, 1 company
- Sons of Medusa, 5-6 companies
- Star Phantoms, entire Chapter deployed
Imperial Guard Regiments
- Karthan Regiment (Regiment tithed to the Inquisition)
Adeptus Mechanicus Forces
- Legio Crucius, 3 Maniples
- Lufgt Huron, "The Tyrant of Badab" - Chapter Master Astral Claws Space Marine Chapter
- Yarvan Sartaq - Former Chapter Master of the Mantis Warriors Space Marine Chapter who was slain in 906.M41 during the opening stages of the Badab War.
- Khoisan Neotera - Former Chapter Master of the Mantis Warriors Space Marine Chapter during the Badab War who replaced Yarvan Sartaq after his death in 906.M41 until the end of the conflict; he was permanently imprisoned by the Inquisition for his role in the Chapter's rebellion in the Imperial prison Penitentiacon in isolation for the rest of his life.
- Ahazra Redth, "Dust Prophet" - Chief Librarian Mantis Warriors Space Marine Chapter. He became the de facto Chapter Master of the Mantis Warriors during the final days of the Badab War.
- Thulsa Kane - Reclusiarch (High Chaplain) of the Executioners Space Marine Chapter. Commanded Executioners contingent deployed in the Badab War.
- Malakim Phoros "Lord of Ruin" - Chapter Master Lamenters Space Marine Chapter
Secessionist Adeptus Astartes Chapters
- Apocalypse (Rulebook), pg. 171
- Apocalypse Reload (Rulebook), pg. 56
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition), pg. 23
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 56-57
- Cities of Death (4th Edition), "The Palace of Thorns", pp. 58-59
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 1-208
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 1-208
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium (1st Edition), "The Badab War" by Rick Priestley, pp. 33-35
- White Dwarf 303 (UK) "Index Astartes: Rogue Sons" by Andy Hoare
- White Dwarf 101 (UK) "Index Astartes: The Badab Uprising" by Rick Priestley, pp. 71-73
- Blood Reaver (Novel), by Aaron Demski-Bowden, pp. 64, 120
- Heroes of the Space Marines (Anthology), "The Skull Harvest" (Story) by Graham McNeill, pp. 9-21
- Into The Maelstrom (Anthology), "Into The Maelstrom" (Story) by Chris Pramas
- The Gildar Rift (Novel), by Sarah Cawkwell, pg. 199