- "Battles are won by the application of superior force; wars are won by the application of superior resources."
- — The Principia Belicos of Terra, Imperial Commentaries
The First Battle of Paramar was a major campaign fought during the opening days of the Horus Heresy in 006.M31 that saw the invasion of the vitally strategic Imperial world of Paramar V and the eventual conquest of the Paramar System by the Traitor Astartes of the Alpha Legion and the forces of the Warmaster Horus. Typical of the Alpha Legion's tactics, the conflict on Paramar V was a cold, calculated campaign both intricate in its complexity and ruthless in its execution.
The Paramar System lies at the outer northern edge of the Segmentum Solar, and Paramar was a vital staging post and supply terminus for Imperial Expeditionary Fleets, vital to the outward expansion of the Great Crusade. Paramar lies in almost direct conjunction between the Istvaan System and Terra. Before the blood spilled in such great effusion in the Dropsite Massacre of Istvaan V had even cooled, Horus' generals viewed Paramar V and the vast stockpiles of military supplies cached there with covetous eyes, and drew their plans against it.
Comprising an unusual trinary star system, Paramar had the particular advantages of possessing vast (if difficult to access) mineral wealth and thirty-seven recorded main planets. Additionally, the system was located in an unusually stable Warp-synchronous location in space. Identified and entered into the Carta Imperialis by the Rogue Trader Hel DeAniasie in 803.M30, it quickly became a waypoint for the Imperium's early expansion. What was originally little more than a navigational marker would grow over time into first a largely automated Mechanicum outpost and finally, as the Great Crusade moved into the Segmentum Obscurus, was further developed into a major supply base and fuelling station for the Imperial Expeditionary Fleets. With no native population extant, and colonisation by normal means of the system's handful of habitable and semi-habitable worlds rendered undesirable by the prevalence of intermittently hazardous conditions from the fury of Paramar's three stars, it remained a strictly military possession, rather than becoming a governed star system of the Imperium in it own right. Military penal colonies were established on Paramar VIII and Paramar XIX, with subsurface prison-hives constructed for the workers, while a minor moon of the gas giant Paramar XXI was converted to a fully independent void station and fleet anchorage of the Armada Imperialis. Known as the Pharaeon of Paramar, this station importantly housed the largest Astrotelepathic Choir of the northern Segmentum Solar and formed a vital hub for communications between Terra and the Segmentum Obscurus. It was further protected by a cordon of dependant gun-bastions orbiting in the near-void around the Pharaeon which carried the combined firepower of an entire naval battle group, making it all but unassailable to assault.
Of equal, if not greater, strategic value to the Great Crusade was Paramar V. An anomalous planet, whose structure has suggested to some scholars artificial engineering in its composition sometime in the unknown and distant past, Paramar V had clearly once been a fully life-sustaining world whose topology bore clear signs of having been covered in oceans, and whose vast untapped geological reserves of hydrocarbons indicate that it once was home to a plethora of life. Reduced for many Terran millennia to an arid, radiation-swept wasteland scoured by solar winds, with a thin oxygen atmosphere breathable only with artificial aid and wildly differing temperature extremes during its slow day/night cycle, Paramar V nevertheless was a perfect choice to use as a military cache and supply base for the Great Crusade. This was principally as Promethium could be refined there in vast quantities and the Dead World's extensive cave systems could be readily transformed into armoured sub-surface bunkers for secure storage of arms and munitions running into a multi-gigaton capacity.
Given into the satrapy of the Mechanicum to administer, Paramar V's investment was done with great dispatch, with overall control of the planet being centralised from a primary starport terminus near its southern polar region, designated as the Paramar Nexus. Paramar V and its facilities were later granted, in particular, as a vassal domain of the distant Forge World of Gryphonne IV by the word of the Emperor as part of the rewards made to the Forge Lords of Gryphonne for their great service and sacrifices during the Crisis of the Hungering Gyre in 891.M30. As well as serving to add greatly to the prestige and power of Gryphonne IV and its Magi -- a factor known to have caused some acrimony with Mars -- Paramar V's defences gained further from this union, becoming a sub-bastion and outer forge of the Legio Gryphonicus, further adding to its importance and breadth of facilities. By the outbreak of the Heresy, Paramar was a strategic locale the Warmaster Horus could not readily choose to ignore, but one that circumstance and the tide of the Great Crusade had put outside of his sphere of influence.
The Traitor's Die is CastEdit
It cannot be known whether the plan to invade Paramar was hatched long before the attempted purging of the Traitor Legions' ranks on Istvaan III, or if it came later as a result of the Warmaster's rapidly shifting plans following the uncovering of his treachery and the resultant slaughter of the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V, although the latter is more likely. It speaks to the genius in strategic planning that was one of the key factors in Horus' elevation to the office of Imperial Warmaster that the Traitors were able to re-spin their plans for war so quickly once their ruse at Istvaan III had been exposed. Greatest of these unfortunate plans was the deadly trap at Istvaan V, but allied to this were a thousand other, smaller attacks, misdirections, raids and usurpations which spread like wildfire across the Imperium, throwing all into confusion and the chaos of civil war. Many of these attacks can be categorised as attempts to seize control of vital strategic assets before the Imperium realised the true danger and scope of the civil war that was unfolding, and the invasion of Paramar can be seen to epitomise this tactic. For the Warmaster, Paramar was a prize to be taken whole, not savaged or destroyed, and quickly, for its potential use as a stepping stone on the way to Terra was extremely valuable to his cause.
This in itself can be seen in retrospect to have posed a quandary; what forces to assign to the invasion? The need for speed and a controlled attack with potentially overwhelming forces, set against Horus' desire not to expend the host at his command needlessly in besieging worlds which were already heavily fortified and on the alert against attack, nor moving too quickly with his main strength against the Segmentum Solar. It should be remembered that in this time of genesis, for the great conflict to come much was uncertain and untested for both sides in the civil war, not least of all the loyalties of those who had rallied to the banners of Traitor or Loyalist, and so caution yet may have reigned paramount in Horus' mind. Paramar was a dangerous target, defended heavily by both the Armada Imperialis and the Mechanicum, and to send too minor a force would be to court disaster, while to strike with the full weight of the Traitors' power would risk committing to full-scale engagement with the forces of the Segmentum Solar if matters went awry or a shock assault transformed into a protracted siege. With customary dispatch and conviction, Horus made his decision; the taking of Paramar would fall to the Alpha Legion.
The Coils of the HydraEdit
Of all the weapons in Horus' arsenal, none were obviously more suited to the invasion of Paramar than the Alpha Legion. The task required a degree of subtlety and control that few of the Space Marine Legions that had sided with Horus could readily muster, save for his own Sons of Horus perhaps -- certainly not Angron's savages (the World Eaters) or Konrad Curze's own flock of murderers ( the Night Lords Legion). Perhaps Fulgrim's vaunted warriors (the Emperor's Children) would have once fit the bill, but already stark and terrible changes were befalling the IIIrd Legion that were rendering them quixotic and alien to what had come before. It has been suggested, also by some apocryphal sources, including testimony gathered from the supposition of others within the Traitor faction, that there was another motive for the Warmaster's selection of the Alpha Legion alone of his Space Marine forces for this task. That reason was as a demonstration of their loyalty and as an overt blooding of their hands in his cause. It had been noted in diverse sources and conjectures that of all those who cast their lot in with Horus, the motivations and fealty of Alpharius and his Legion were, from the beginning, the most uncertain and the most obscure. Although it is indicated in many extant sources from the late Great Crusade era that Horus maintained perhaps the best relationship with the sinister and mysterious Primarch of the Alpha Legion, it was true that even here there was little true trust or fellowship between them. In short, no-one trusted the Alpha Legion, not even the Warmaster who had wielded them often as a weapon in the final campaigns of the Great Crusade and knew their uses well. It is also the case that many believe the Alpha Legion's involvement in the Drop Site Massacre to have been -- if not guarded -- then certainly on their own terms, and their commitment to the attack limited to victims purely of their own choosing, and seldom at risk to themselves. At Paramar, the Alpha Legion would have to prove their commitment to Horus, not simply with the blood of his enemies but, inevitably, with blood of their own.
It is not known with what grace or eagerness Alpharius and his Legion received their orders to take Paramar, but the serpent-sly Primarch no doubt well knew their import, the risks of the deadly mission and Horus' motives in steering the Alpha Legion for the task. Even as the last Loyalist voidships were fighting desperately for their survival in the wreckage-strewn void around Istvaan V and fires raged on the blasted dropsite below, the azure and smoke-hulled warships of the Alpha Legion began to depart the system in large numbers, leaving only a token force to bear witness to the triumphs of the Warmaster in the Drop Site Massacre's aftermath. While numerous vessels departed alone on missions unknown and inscrutable—some to raise havoc on far-flung Imperial worlds, others to carry discord and falsehood to far corners of the Imperium—a powerful core of warships, perhaps fully a half of the Alpha Legion's fleet, made speed for Paramar. Following in their wake came a second armada of Dark Mechanicum barques and mass-arks drawn from forces loyal to Horus.
The False FlagEdit
Although speed was of the essence, what was to follow was not a headlong rush to attack, for that was not the Alpha Legion's way of war, but a cold, calculated campaign both intricate in its complexity and ruthless in its execution. Like jackals in the night, the Alpha Legion first surrounded their prey and observed its movements, gauging its strengths and weaknesses. The Alpha Legion fleet had broken beyond the range of the vast trinary star system's limits, relying on their own expertise in such matters as well as the fury of the three stars of Paramar's own radiant emissions to mask their slow and silent approach. Their arrival undetected, they encircled their targets with a predator's patience, finding it as expected: already in a state of heightened alert. What followed was a dangerous game of brinkmanship and timing. The longer they delayed their attack, the greater the risk of both discovery and that the news of the Drop Site Massacre -- and the Alpha Legion's part in it -- would reach Paramar, despite the rising Warp Storms and the murderous blockade and waiting ambushes the Legion had established in several nearby systems, silencing the approaches and isolating Paramar from immediate aid as much as was possible given the vagaries of the Warp. Conversely, the longer the Alpha Legion waited, the more perfect their attack strategy could be formed, the closer their spectral warships stalked and the deeper their hidden fangs sank into the system unbeknownst to its defenders, their paralysing venom already taking effect.
Swiftly, several scheduled transport ships and patrol vessels had been hijacked and suborned en route to Paramar by the Alpha Legion and used as a vector to poison the system's outer defences with its mortal and Astartes operatives and gather further detailed intelligence. Individuals, particularly on the Phaeraeon of Paramar, more readily accessible than Paramar V to the Legion's Spartoí operatives, had been marked for assassination, while sabotage devices were sown in the system's defence grid in preparation for the attack. The system's prison hives were of little immediate concern, being far from the twin primary objectives of the assault, and also the easiest dealt with as time-released toxins and bacteriological contaminants were introduced into the heavily-centralised water supplies of each, ready to create havoc when triggered. An unseen chronograph counted down to the appointed hour with inexorable motion as the labyrinthine plans of the Alpha Legion converged and configured, until the sands of time ran out for Paramar. The honourable role it had played in the Great Crusade's dream of Mankind's future was crushed in the coils of the hydra.
The Blade from the DarkEdit
At 019-17 sidereal/local time, approximately thirty-eight days Terran standard after the conclusion of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V, a fleet of eleven Legiones Astartes warships of the Alpha Legion broke realspace on the edge of the Paramar System in proximity to the standard ingress coordinates for Imperial shipping en route from Terra. The lead vessel, a Basileus-class Battle Barge designated Sigma-Pythonus in the Astra Imperialis records, made direct communication with the Pharaeon of Paramar's central command, invoking the seal and orders of Rogal Dorn, Praetorian of Terra. Demanding rights under these orders of immediate and urgent resupply and aid, the Alpha Legion detachment claimed to have been swept off course by the turbulence of the Warp and separated from the punitive Imperial taskforce sent to Istvaan V, and its intent was to resume its mission at the swiftest possible dispatch. Its authority accepted, the Sigma-Pythonus and its Escorts approached the Pharaeon of Paramar with the apparent intent to make temporary repairs at the fleet anchorage, while a single Bellerophon-class Heavy Assault Cruiser, designated Anax-Rho, detached from the Alpha Legion fleet and proceeded to Paramar V to requisition additional supplies. No suspicion was raised and no alarms were sounded, as under the flags of brother-in-arms against a common foe, the Alpha Legion approached their targets, their blades naked in their hands. In the dark at the edge of the light of Paramar's three suns, their brothers waited.
The Iron PilgrimEdit
No plan, no matter how well formulated or executed, escapes the hand of fate in the unravelling of its design. So it was that as the Sigma-Pythonus and its brethren were making their final approach through the Pharaeon of Paramar's defensive corridor, under the shadow of the guns of the colossal void-bastions that surrounded it, and the Anax-Rho itself was within light-minutes of Paramar V, reality ripped open once more, disgorging more vessels into the void around Paramar. These vessels were not of the Alpha Legion and not part of their plan. It is not difficult to imagine the consternation and fear of discovery within the Alpha Legion's ranks at this moment, but even as long-range Auspex readings approximated that these were Legiones Astartes warships, five in number, including a capital-class vessel, the Alpha Legion's Astartes held fast to their plan. They did not break ranks, or attempt to flee from the shadow of the firepower that surrounded them, but instead pressed on as if nothing was awry, merely issuing the standard Vox-challenges that such a sudden meeting naturally called for. Pict-images from long-range occular-scopes resolved to display the unknown voidships as slab-sided hulking monstrosities of black-seared steel, the silhouettes of the Imperial pattern hulls barely recognisable beneath layer upon layer of improvised ablative armour plating and flanks studded with fifteen-metre-long adamantium anti-boarding spines. The Alpha Legion's Vox challenge was at last answered with something like indifference. The lead warship identified itself as the Tyche's Lament, flagship of the 77th Grand Battalion of the Iron Warriors Legion, and its master, Kyr Vhalen, responded that he cared not under what orders the Alpha Legion flew, only his own.
A Light ExtinguishedEdit
The identity of the incoming warships was entirely unexpected. Though like the Alpha Legion, the Iron Warriors and their brutal Primarch Perturabo had sided with Horus at Istvaan V to the ruination of those Loyalists sent to bring the Traitors to heel, no love had been lost between the two brother-Legions in the past and their presence at Paramar at this time was entirely unpredicted. Likely this unforeseen turn of events, coming at such a crucial juncture, was itself a dangerous complication for the Alpha Legion's plans. Had the Iron Warriors been sent on the same mission as they by Horus in his distrust, and then if this was the case, had they come as aid or as watchdog to see that the Warmaster's wishes were carried out? Or were they simply a rogue element to be dealt with as proved necessary? Were these five ships all, or were there more in waiting, just as the Alpha Legion waited? Ultimately, it did not matter, the plan was too far gone to be stopped; events had taken on a momentum of their own.
Like silent actors in a vast shadow play of gods and monsters against the backdrop of the cold stars, the colossal warships of blackened steel and ghostly azure moved across the void, each to their journeys' end. With equal silence, aboard the Alpha Legion's serpent-scaled vessels, Legionaries in full battle gear and armed for war waited in utter stillness for the order to be given, and shielded capacitors, their caged lightning hidden utterly from the prying auguries of the Pharaeon which automatically blindly swept over them, waited to fire their apocalyptic weapons into sudden life. Through the cyclopean floating chain-cables of the gun bastions the Alpha Legion ships passed; their leader towards the Phaeraeon itself and its escorts towards the protected fleet anchorage platforms, their progress patient and measured.
As the Sigma-Pythonus came to rest in her appointed position mere kilometres away from the Pharaeon of Paramar's outer docking bays, and well within the radius and protection of the battle station's bastion-fortresses, a single unescorted amaranthine-hued Thunderhawk gunship departed her cavernous launch bays and made over to the Pharaeon bearing the Alpha Legion's delegation. The figure which descended the gunship's ramp to meet the shocked deck officers and Magi who awaited it towered over them, a pale spear was held like a staff of office in its hand, its ornately worked armour glittered like a shimmering sea, the scaled cloak that coursed behind it writhing as if it had a serpentine life of its own. "Alpharius..." went the stunned whisper before him, "It is Alpharius, a Primarch is here among us!" The towering figure demanded to be taken to the Master of the Pharaeon immediately, and it was obeyed. On the deck of the main control Orrey of the Pharaeon of Paramar was the silent Primarch received by the Commodore-Intendant and his command staff, and with them was the Magos-Shipmaster of the fleet achorage and the Preceptor of Astropaths, indeed no dignitary of the Pharaeon dared decline the honour of such a dread meeting. It was as they were kneeling in obeisance before this son of the Emperor incarnate that the first alarm-claxons began to sound across the Pharaeon. Before even the first mumbled words of surprise and apology could fall from the Commodore-Intendant's lips for the interruption, Alpharius made red ruin of them all.
The guns of the Sigma-Pythonus spoke, and too late the Pharaeon of Paramar discovered it had taken a clutch of vipers to its breast. In seconds the battle station's close-range defences and Void Shield generators were blasted, breaches punched clean through vital systems and the roar of boarding craft and the howl of teleporter shockwaves sounded throughout the beleaguered Pharaeon. At the anchorage platforms, the other Alpha Legion warships too woke to murderous life, their batteries blazing at point blank range as Caestus Assault Rams and Dreadclaws spat from their launch bays into the flanks of the helpless ships of the Imperial Fleet moored nearby. Confusion reigned as control systems failed; all over the outer defence network, orders were blocked, power systems suddenly died, and targeting data was garbled so that defence batteries refused to lock on to their brothers or spent their ordnance fruitlessly into the empty void. Anarchy reigned on the Pharaeon voidstation as menials looked to their masters only to find many of their officers dead, murdered at their posts or poisoned in their quarters. Against the azure-armoured giants that crashed now through the Pharaeon's confined corridors, what little resistance that could be rallied was hopeless and savagely crushed. In under a solar hour all that remained was the bloody work of suppression and takeover. As for the line of drifting gun-bastions in the near-void around the Pharaeon, they could do little more than look on helplessly as the station and its anchorages both were systematically taken, their own primary weapons useless against the attackers in their midst, set as they were outward against attack from without not within. The Pharaeon of Paramar belonged to the Alpha Legion.
Above Paramar V, however, all did not go according to plan. In geo-synchronous orbit of Paramar Nexus, the Tyche's Lament and the Anax-Rho vied for position, each determined that the station below should receive their emissaries and meet their demands first, neither backing down. The Mechanicum, for their part, kept cold neutrality as they always did in matters between the Legiones Astartes, and merely awaited the outcome. To the Alpha Legion's dismay, the realisation dawned that the Iron Warriors contingent knew nothing of the Drop Site Massacre or even of their IV Legion's siding with Horus. The 77th Grand Company, it transpired, had been operating under its own aegis for more than four standard decades, conducting a seemingly unending campaign of suppression of the Therikon Wastes region which they had been left to garrison against the numerous xenos species that had made the trackless nebula of the wastes their home. Vhalen, the Iron Warriors commander, had returned to Paramar for resupply as he had done many times before. He was utterly ignorant that his Legion had turned against the Emperor and would not be denied his rights now. Events, however, would not wait for the impasse between the two Legion warships to be resolved.
The Hydra StrikesEdit
The captain of the Anax-Rho had waited too long. Auspex returns on Paramar V had begun to pick up the echo-flashes of heavy weapons fire at the Pharaeon, and the Alpha Legion's hand was forced. The Anax-Rho ended the argument with the Tyche's Lament by unleashing a spread of fusion-warheaded torpedoes at their unsuspecting rivals, before turning their attentions on the Nexus below. As atomic fire blossomed across the prow of the Iron Warriors' Battleship, the Anax-Rho's assault bays launched a wave of heavy Kharybdis Assault Claws at the Nexus primary terminal, the barbed lancing craft burning like comets as they streaked groundward. The Mechanicum outpost reacted to the fury unleashed above them with preternatural speed, but it was not fast enough; the terminal's Void Shield coursed to crackling life in the skies between the two, but too late to stop the meteoric descent of the Assault Claw wave which tore through the still-forming shields with flashes of pyrokenetic lightning as they streaked groundward, the Void Shields slowly sealing shut above them. The Kharybdis Assault Claws, wreathed in the flames of their descent and trailing behind them streamers of torn lightning-plasma form the half-formed Void Shields, slammed into the upper towers of the Terminus Panopticon, their blade grapples smashing into hardened ferrocrete like murderous talons as they began to burn their way within.
Far above, the Anax-Rho pressed its attack. While its dorsal Lances fired on the Iron Warriors' escort, scattering them, its main armament was turned groundwards. Built for close-range orbital assault, the Anax-Rho's macro-bombardment cannon began to rain down shell after titanic shell on the still-powering-up defence shields, while its torpedo bays frantically reloaded with cluster warheads to press the onslaught further and overwhelm the Terminus by brute force now that subtlety had been denied them. A second assault wave, already prepared, awaited to exploit any failing in the shield, no matter how brief -- the Terminus could still be taken and Paramar V could yet fall with a single blow if this was so.
The Tyche's Lament, reeling and shrouded in a molten cloud of burning debris from its forequarters, began to turn under its own power. It had expected not battle, its gun ports closed and its weapon-capacitors empty when the treacherous foe had struck the mighty Battleship, but even without its own shields fully powered, it had been far from defenceless. Metre upon metre of ablative armour plating added to the hulking warship by her bitter-hearted master had been splashed into jetting plasma by the fusion torpedo strikes, but the armoured core beneath it, fashioned in the forges of Olympia's orbital shipyards, had been built to withstand worse, and that had barely been scorched. The colossal engines of the Iron Warriors Battleship roared into sun-white fury and the Tyche's Lament leapt forward with brutal acceleration, its tortured superstructure screaming in protest at those on board.
Extant records show that though his ship's targeting Auspexes had been blinded and the bridge flamed around him, it was Warsmith Kyr Vhalen himself who threw aside his steersman and triggered the main drives at maximum power, shouting black and profane oaths aloud as the seven-kilometre-long warship hurled like a burning spear at the Anax-Rho. Locked into firing solutions against the planet and the wounded escorts, the Anax-Rho could not recover itself in the short moments that the Tyche's Lament devoured the distance between the two huge warships, and when its own main drives triggered to manoeuvre, it was already too late. The blunt-bladed prow of the Tyche's Lament struck the Anax-Rho amidships from directly below, shattering its Void Shields and smashing it aside in a storm of broken debris and venting atmosphere. The heavy assault cruiser -- itself forged to endure terrible damage, had survived the devastating impact -- barely, but now it spun out of control, its own engine-thrust carrying it out of orbit in order to escape the scarred monster which was already beginning to turn again for another attack run.
The Battle of the PanopticonEdit
Within the Panopticon far below, the Mechanicum were being torn apart. Shimmering azure-coloured Terminators smashed through one barricade and bulkhead after another, Power Fists crushing the life out of any of the Machine God's servants who dared resist their progress, Bolter shells and plasma blasts scything down Tech-thralls at their work stations as they blindly carried out their tasks heedless of the invaders, and pounding automated defence guns to shrapnel in their wake. The Alpha Legion strike force pressed on relentlessly, their goal the Panopticon Narthex chamber from which not simply the Terminus but the entire Nexus facility could be roused to war -- or pacified as its controller wished.
What the invaders had found within the Terminus Panopticon's armoured walls, however, had matched nothing their intelligence or experience had led them to expect and corresponded to no known standard schematic template. They had entered instead a true demesne of the Mechanicum, intended neither for the eyes or footfall of any not sworn to the Machine God's inner mysteries. It was a labyrinth, a machine in and of itself, intricate and complex beyond belief whose structure shifted and changed as it functioned. It was the brainchild of the Master of the Paramar Terminus, the Archmagos Suyria Nihhon and it was her will that now turned to destroy the invaders. The Panopticon began to respond as a living body responds when invaded by a hostile microbe, sluggishly at first but with increasing, indefatigable force. As one, the thralls of the Panopticon disconnected themselves from their machine umbilicals and began to throw themselves against the Alpha Legion attackers, heedless of their fates as they died by the hundreds, but by their deaths swarming the impregnable, Terminator Armour-clad Legionaries, slowing them down and making them expend time and ammunition to deal with the onrushing horde. The walls and bulkheads also began to slide and re-arrange themselves, not randomly but with malign intent, forcing squads of Alpha Legionaries apart, or trapping them in pockets and improvised prisons which had to be rent open with Chainfist and Power Claw. Consoles and power junctions overloaded and exploded as they came near, metallic deck plates became charged with crackling lightning, snakelike mechanical tendrils shot out to ensnare them, companionways collapsed and deadfalls opened up beneath them, plunging them down sudden shafts into the cavernous darkness below. Slowly, the Alpha Legion began to die. It is testament to the intelligence and ruthlessness of Alpharius' sons that they saw this attack for what it was and fought to counter it, linking together and seeing their path clear through the shifting maze that confronted them. Alone it was unlikely that this attack would have stopped them, but it was merely the prelude to the Mechanicum's true assault. Awoken from the darkness deep below the Panopticon, beasts of steel rose up to meet their prey.
Castellax-class and Vorax-class Battle-automata appeared as if from nowhere amid the invaders, hidden bulkheads opening to disgorge them directly into battle, roaring binary war-cant in the distorted voices of the damned. Servo-clawed arms with the strength to pulverise tank armour hammered down to smash their foes or seized Terminators and rent them slowly limb form limb as their motorised sinews howled in protest. Bolt Cannon and Plasma Blasters blazed a firestorm at point-blank range, and Power Claws slashed through ceramite, severing sparking machine limbs and toppling the hulking engines of destruction even as the dauntless Terminators of the Alpha Legion fell before their onslaught. The attack degenerated into a score of desperate and savage melees and the Panopticon shook to the thunder of tortured metal and superhuman violence, blood and machine-fluids running in rivers through its vaunted chambers. Slowly, inexorably, the Mechanicum's Battle-automata began to gain the upper hand. A fresh engine of destruction rising up to replace each that fell while the Alpha Legion strike force, once more than two hundred Terminators strong, dwindled by the minute, though each life was brought dearly in its taking. The Traitor assault force, at first contained, was slowly being crushed.
Paramar V had also fully woken to the danger it faced, slumbering no more. In the burning skies above, the two great wounded beasts -- the Anax Rho and the Tyche's Lament -- now circled each other, trading sporadic fire in search of weakness, the other badly damaged Iron Warriors escort ships circling out of range of the lethal Lance fire of the Anax-Rho, waiting for the opportunity to strike. That opportunity would never come, however, as without warning, a dozen burning lances of hellish light struck up from the planet below and pierced the Anax-Rho's azure hull. For a fleeting moment the Alpha Legion warship become a burning star in the heavens, and then was no more. The first attack of the Traitors on Paramar V had been foiled, but there was little cause to celebrate either from the Mechanicum or the Iron Warriors, for their long-range Auguries clearly detected the burning drive-signature of hundreds of new vessels now on a direct course for the world.
The Fury from the StarsEdit
The full-scale invasion of Paramar V was now an inescapable fact for the Alpha Legion, roused as the planet was for war; all that now was left to be decided upon was the methodology. The relentless slog of siegecraft and the bloody game of attrition was anathema to them in these circumstances, and furthermore it would play into the defenders' hands, allowing them to bring more of the planet's vast stockpiles of munitions and war machines -- currently inert in storage -- to bear on their attackers. The apocalyptic conflict that would likely ensue from this approach would also inevitably make the idea of taking Paramar V intact as a prize for the Traitors an impossibility, and such a failure the Alpha Legion would not countenance. Even at the distances which now separated the second attack wave of Alpha Legion warships and Paramar V, their auguries and occularis scopes could witness the Mechanicum's preparations for war turn with clockwork precision. They could see the corposant blooms of kilometre-spanning Void Shields springing up to defend scores of separate facilities across the planet's surface, and could detect the thunderous heartbeat of Titan reactors striding forth from their deep forge-fanes concealed inside the mountainous mesas of the southern polar region. They had doubtless detected also the mass deployment of the Iron Warriors' 77th Grand Battalion to the Paramar Nexus, before their damaged voidships had fled the system, and knew well the speed and skill with which Perturabo's sons could render this Mechanicum fortress yet more impregnable to assault.
Speed then was of the essence, and the fleet's commander, known to the extant records as the Alpha Legion Harrowmaster Armillus Dynat, ordered his closest vessels to burn their drives well beyond safe thrust tolerances in order to press the attack as fast as possible. Where the great barques of his Mechanicum allies could not keep pace with the faster Legiones Astartes strike vessels, he had his own ships grapple and drag them, acting like improvised tugs and booster rockets to overcome their mass. This dangerous ploy was enacted to the damage and loss of several mighty warships, but Dynat cared not for its cost. So was the gap between the Alpha Legion's second wave and its chosen prey closed with frightening speed. Their attack began without preamble, the first torpedo salvos launched even as the assault fleet was decelerating into orbit and unleashed in continuous waves as they closed. Defence Lasers were loosed from planetside in blistering arcs and counter-missiles were launched from scores of hidden silos across the surface to meet the attack.
Soon the skies above Paramar were ablaze will kaleidoscopic fire, as all but a handful of the spent ordnance was intercepted before it could even pierce the planet's stratosphere. But the barrage firestorm accomplished its purpose nevertheless; it blinded the world and its defenders to the exact disposition of the Alpha Legion's attack. The attacking fleet now closed and added the weight of its batteries and Lance arrays to the onslaught. The barrage reached fever pitch and, amid the covering blaze of fire, a wing of three Alpha Legion strike frigates swept in unthinkably low and rent through the storm, plunging deep into the planet's thin atmosphere, the friction of the three-kilometre-long ships' passing setting the air around them ablaze. Skimming the arid ground scant hundreds of metres above, weaponry meant for the cataclysmic interplay of void combat was unleashed to torture and shatter the earth in atomic holocaust as they targeted defence laser emplacements and ground installations in a great slashing arc near the southern polar region, ripping them from the ground like the hand of a wrathful god. Defences intended to strike at targets tens of thousands kilometres distant struggled in vain to acquire these three meteoric harbingers of death, but the tortuous stress of what these warships were attempting took its own toll. The first fell from the skies even as its kin plunged on their murderous course, its weapons still firing as it came apart, its superstructure disintegrating under the hideous gravitational forces with which it fought. A second toppled backwards as it tried to break back into orbit, its engines giving out and shattering a mountain where it fell. Only one of the strike frigates escaped back through the firestorm into the void, bleeding debris and plasma from its riven hull, but the vessels had achieved what the suicidal mission had set as its goal; a gap had been slashed brutally into the coverage of the planet's ground defences, a gap some forty kilometres to the south of the Paramar Nexus, and it was here that the true attack would fall.
Bombardment and counter-bombardment between Paramar V and the Traitor ships in orbit continued unabated, but now for the Alpha Legion it served a different purpose; it held open the way for their ground invasion. Heavy Argo-class assault landers, Stormbird carriers and Thunderhawk transporters paved the way, deploying hundreds of Alpha Legion tanks onto the rocky desert soil. Following them came the gigantic shapes of the mass conveyors of the Legio Fureans, blotting out the three suns, the ground shuddering with the impact as the massive portals fell open and the Titans of the Tiger Eyes, hungry for battle, thundered forth. Behind them from the cavernous recesses of the mass conveyors streamed the beetle-backed hovering carryalls of the Taghmata Satarael, their Battle-automata and the other arcane war machines of the Warmaster's Mechanicum hung in complex iron latticework cages beneath them. This was to be no siege campaign but an armoured spearhead assault, and the Alpha Legion Harrowmaster was resting the chances of victory or defeat on a single throw of the dice; an all-out attack, holding back no reserves and digging in no defences to fall back to if repulsed. The Traitor assault force was fully mechanised and with nigh-preternatural speed and organisation it formed up and moved without pause. Executing a complicated dance of destructive force and intricate interlocking movement, it rumbled and roared across the vivid red desert land.
The amber and sable Titans of the Tiger Eyes led the way, striding forward at flank speed, contemptuous of any ally who might get underfoot in their headlong charge. Behind them, taking advantage of the shadow of the Titans' Void Shields came two vast strung-out echelons of Alpha Legion strike armour: Predators and Sicaran Battle Tanks and the deadly new Scorpius Whirlwinds. Behind these came the columns of super-heavies: Fellblades and Glaives for the most, chosen for their speed as well as firepower, and behind them the dispersed squadrons of Land Raiders and Spartan Assault Tanks, in which the infantry strength of the attack was carried, a hundred tanks strong. Above flew gunships and speeders in close air support, a hazardous task given the choking air. Further back from this vast conglomeration of apocalyptic armoured might, came the sinister and strange forces of the Taghmata Satarael, creating their own spider-like formation, the air around them shimmering with the distortion of a mobile power field generator mounted on a hovering Ordinatus class platform at the centre of the mass of arcane war engines. Alongside the Taghmata came the bronze and crimson Knight walkers of House Perdaxia and the ghost-grey Knights of House Rajha, answering the deafening war sirens of the Titans with kindred answering cries of their own. Rearing up a vast swath of dust behind it like an oncoming hurricane, the army of the Traitor Legion and its Dark Mechanicum allies thundered towards the Paramar Nexus.
The Plain of FireEdit
It was the weapons of the Titans that spoke first, for they had found former brothers waiting for them. The War Griffons, the Titans of the Legio Gryphonicus, had stationed themselves in a five kilometre-wide cordon across the vast ferrocrete-paved Landing Zone Secundus of the Paramar Nexus complex guarding the main approach across the open desert. With their own terrible war siren cries, they answered the bellowed challenges of the Tiger Eyes and marched forth to engage the Traitor Titans on the open expanse, their great adamantium-shod feet shattering ferrocrete and sending up grey plumes of dust to shroud their pale granite carapaces. Across the confined distance between the two phalanxes of Titans such a cataclysmic eruption of firepower was unleashed than had seldom been seen, even in the battles of the Great Crusade. Destructive force equal to levelling a city in a single sweep crashed and screamed as the very air between the two walls of rushing Titans was annihilated in a pulse of blinding, tortured light visible from orbit. Void Shields split with shockwave thunder and collapsed, rock and stone boiled and vaporised and Ceramite armour proof against atomic fire crumbled like chalk. The Tiger Eyes' Warlord-class Titan Lyakarri simply ceased to exist, its reactor core rupturing in a hell-storm of plasma which blew the Warhound Blood Thunder which loped beside it into a spill of burning cinders, while the War Griffons' Reaver-class Titan Southron Shield came apart in a fury of las-blasts like a carcass on a butcher's block. These were but the first of many God-Machines to die that day.
The two lines of Titans unleashing destruction against each other on an incomprehensible scale quickly formed a no-man's land to the fore of the Nexus complex that no man or machine could hope to cross and survive. This factor had already been taken into account by the Alpha Legion's attack plan, and the echelon forces of their strike armour divided in two behind the Tiger Eyes and streamed round the hell zone the Titan battle had created at maximum speed; one striking towards the main landing and provender complex to the southwest of the Terminus, while the other took the longer elliptical route to strike at the Terminus itself from the southeast. While these striking arms raced ahead, already coming under fire from the defenders, the following columns of super-heavy tanks and mechanised infantry also bifurcated in turn, while minor detachments struck out independently for other targets of opportunity or areas of higher ground in which to deploy support weapons. What was to follow was to be direct and pitiless battle, that were it not overshadowed by the calamity and slaughter of the Drop Site Massacre that had occurred so soon before, it would have gone down more infamously as some of the most intense fighting in the Imperium's history to that date. The battlefield was largely open, with little or no cover to be had, and without respite the hammer of the Alpha Legion's armour struck the anvil of the Mechanicum's fortifications, bolstered greatly, particularly around the Terminus complex, by the rapidly constructed Castellan Strongholds of the Loyalist Iron Warriors of the 77th Grand Battalion.
By the third hour of the battle the duelling Titan Legions warred on, but their numbers had been savagely reduced and much of the vast landing zones where they had fought was obscured by a pall of dense smoke and radioactive fallout from the wreckage of the God-Engines that had already fallen in battle. The Provender and supply complexes to the southwest had already fallen to the Alpha Legion, and here they had secured their swiftest and surest victory, Armillus Dynat himself having led the attacking spur here by extant record. Now the ruins of the complex were being used as a firebase from which to attack the Terminus itself, and Alpha Legion Headhunter Squads were now scouring the area, purging it of survivors and seeking ingress to the subterranean complexes known to lie beneath. Across on the far side of the Titan battle, the attackers had suffered a major reversal of fortune, when a large detachment of Iron Warriors super-heavy armour, supported by several talons of Dreadnoughts, had attacked from positions of concealment in underground macro-silos, effectively cutting the western attack spur in half. The Iron Warriors super-heavies, primarily Stormblades, Falchions and Typhon Heavy Siege Tanks, had devoted the bulk of their firepower against the lighter Alpha Legion strike armour from the rear and the result had been carnage. At the same time, the Iron Warriors' Dreadnought talons, reinforced by Legio Gryphonicus Battle-automata, had charged into the Alpha Legion super-heavies to attack them at close quarters. While many of these machines had been destroyed in the charge before they could reach their targets, once they got amongst the lumbering war machines they wreaked havoc, attacking in hand-to-hand combat and tearing open the enemy tanks where the primary weapons of the super-heavies could not engage them. Both sides had finally been thrown back with heavy casualties when repeated energy blasts from a squadron of Glaive super-heavies' Volkite Carronades had accidentally penetrated deeply buried underground fuel lines, drowning the area in an eruption of burning Promethium and for a time splitting the battle line apart.
The Nexus FallsEdit
By the fifth hour of the battle, the speed and overwhelming force of the Alpha Legion's attack had taken its toll and the battle was swinging full force in the Traitor's favour. Although the cost in tanks and Legionaries had been heavy, bastion after bastion, defence line after defence line had fallen to the invaders' onslaught and now only the Terminus remained to resist them. It had been the Siege-automata of the Taghmata Satarael, shielded by the pressing bulwark of the Patraxis Cerastus-Lander Knights that had finally broken the Iron Warriors' cordon of Castellum Strongholds that guarded it. Even with their walls shattered, the grim Legionaries of the IVth Legion would not retreat, raining their last supplies of grenades down upon the Thallax who overwhelmed their position before they at last fell back. Their Warsmith, Kyr Vhalen, his body smashed, was finally dragged from the rubble by his Apothecaries still spitting his hate and invective at the foe, as the towering figures of the dozen surviving battle-worthy Titans of the Legio Fureans loomed out of the black fog of war to seal the doom of the Terminus.
What followed was the simple mathematics of force. Against the massed firepower of the Tiger Eyes' Titans, the Terminus could not stand. Armillus Dynat stood impassively atop the broken wreckage of his own Legion's Fellblades and looked on in silence as the Myrmidons of the Taghmata Satarael sundered the gates of the Panopticon and exterminated everything within, without mercy. But of the surviving Iron Warriors that retreated within, their wounded master, or the Archmagos Suyria Nihhon whose domain this had been, there was no sign found save the echoing darkness below. To the Alpha Legion, however, such things did not have real importance, for their primary objective had been achieved; the Paramar Nexus had fallen and with it Paramar V belonged to Horus, its stockpiles and industry intact.
The Devil is not MockedEdit
When news reached Horus of the conquest of Paramar V, it came not as a report of an unalloyed victory, but as a barbed gift. Swiftly following on the heels of the news of the Alpha Legion's success came fresh entreaties for aid and reinforcement from the Traitor Mechanicum forces which now garrisoned it. The Alpha Legion had departed seemingly as swiftly as they had come, but not before taking what they had wished from Paramar's stockpiles for their own. The Taghmata Satarael protested it did not have the manpower alone to hold the star system, and feared both revolt by the menials of their new possession, and attacks by escaped Loyalist elements which had not yet been found, notwithstanding any threat of a Loyalist counterattack to reclaim the system. The Warmaster then was in turn forced to divert additional forces to Paramar to hold the system, forces which he had desired to use elsewhere, as having gained this great prize he could not afford for his enemies to regain it. This fear would be proved accurate as the system would see an attempted but failed Loyalist counter-invasion two solar years later (Second Battle of Paramar in 008.M31) and further catastrophic warfare during the dark years of the Great Scouring (Third Battle of Paramar in 019.M31).
As a further addendum to this account, there exists an entirely unsubstantiated report of Horus' barely suppressed fury with the Alpha Legion and their Primarch following the events at Paramar. He is said to have sent Alpharius a missive demanding an explanation for his actions. By this account the Primarch of the Alpha Legion offered a response in two parts: the first open, stating that he and his Legion had done all that had been asked of them to the letter of their order; they had been ordered to take Paramar, never to garrison it. The second was said to have been encrypted in the substance of the first, and took the form of an ancient Terran proverb in a tongue many millennia dead; Malekara Nul Kay'a Jay or in the modern form "The Devil is not Mocked."
Order of Battle of the First Battle of ParamarEdit
Forces of the Imperium (Loyalist)Edit
- Castellan-Archmagos Suyria Nihhon (Taghmata Paramar)
- Princeps-Master Chartain Baldur (Legio Gryphonicus)
- Warsmith Kyr Vhalen (Iron Warriors 77th Grand Company) and reinforcing elements (formerly of the Therikon Suppression Taskforce)
Paramar Nexus MechanicumEdit
- Taghmata Paramar - Paramar defensive garrison comprised of various Mechanicum retainer forces of the following approximate strength:
- 1 armoured brigade (Autokratorii)
- 2 Battle-automata cohorts
- 4 interceptor squadrons (Basilikon Detachment)
- various Auxillia and Adsecularis* units equivalent to a Deka-class heavy infantry regiment (approx. 5,000 alpha through gamma grade combatants); as a result of environmental hostility, these units were confined to prepared and shielded positions
- Legio Gryphonicus
Iron Warriors (Loyalist)Edit
- 77th Grand Battalion and reinforcing elements (formerly of the Therikon Suppression Taskforce)
- 2,800 Legiones Astartes of the Iron Warriors (approximate),
- Iron Warriors Legion Khalekaorus super-heavy tank company
- 1 Demi-Cohort of Battle-automata of Iron Warriors Legion indenture
Forces of the Warmaster (Traitor) - Paramar Invasion ForceEdit
- Alpharius - Primarch of the Alpha Legion
- Harrowmaster Armillus Dynat
- Archmagos Inar Satarael (Taghmata Satarael)
- Blood Princeps Nistru (Legio Fureans)
Forces of the Warmaster (Traitor) - Alpha LegionEdit
- The Alpha Legion - Unknown strike force size, upwards of 18,000 Legiones Astartes, committed to the Paramar Nexus attack, with extensive additional heavy support elements drawn from the Legion's armourium in evidence.
Forces of the Warmaster (Traitor) - Dark MechanicumEdit
- Legio Fureans - Sub-Legio (estimated to comprise 8-10 maniples of Traitor Titans of various classes)
- Taghmata Satarael - Conquest and occupation force amalgamated from Mechanicum units loyal to the Warmaster Horus. Estimated strength:
- 1 armoured demi-regiment (Autokratorii)
- 4 Thallaxii Cohort Pentex
- 3 Battle-automata cohorts (Skirnavac Covenant forces)
- 3 Knight Questoris Households (House Perdaxia and Rajha)
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination, by Alan Bligh, pp. 18-31