Tallarn is a harsh Desert World in the Segmentum Tempestus that is the homeworld of the famed Tallarn Desert Raiders Regiments of the Imperial Guard. When it was first discovered by human settlers in the 29th Millennium it was classified as a verdant Agri-World. However, during the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion -- intending to destroy all potential resistance before landing -- virus-bombed the planet from space, rendering it an inhospitable desert. Only then did the Chaos Space Marines land. Tallarn's few survivors emerged from their underground bunkers to stop the Iron Warriors' invasion. Soon, reinforcements from both sides arrived. It became clear to the Imperial forces the futility of fighting over a destroyed planet, but by then there was no turning back. Although it could not be guessed at the time, the Traitor Legion was motivated to attack the world beyond their mere appetite for destruction, for Tallarn was home to a potent Chaotic artefact. Since the poisoned environment made it impossible for infantry to operate outside of protective shelter, the only available option for battle was that of armoured tank warfare. The largest tank battle in human history erupted on the surface of Tallarn, involving some 10 million armoured vehicles. By the end of it, the Iron Warriors were defeated, and the wreckage of over a million tanks littered the sands.
Approximately twenty years after the Battle of Tallarn, the official Tallarn Desert Raiders Regiments of the Imperial Guard were formed. These regiments specialised in desert fighting and highly mobile armoured warfare, and were highly adept at ambushing enemy forces in the desert. The Tallarn Desert Raiders continued the Imperium of Man's attack on various worlds which had turned to Chaos until sometime during the later 31st Millennium, when they were recalled to their homeworld. The Cursus of Alganar, an ancient Chaos relic of black stone that served as a gateway between the Warp and the physical universe which had led the Iron Warriors to Tallarn in the first place, was discovered deep under the desert sands. Immediately after finding this relic, both the Eldar of the Biel-Tan Craftworld and the Iron Warriors spilled from the sky once more to claim this relic, even as the daemons of Chaos emerged from the Warp when the artefact activated. After months of fighting in a conflict that is known in Imperial records as the Cursus War, the Eldar and Tallarn Desert Raiders formed an alliance and destroyed the Chaos forces. After their combined victory over the Chaos hordes, both races exchanged rare promises of friendship, before the Eldar departed in peace. The people of Tallarn re-entombed the Chaos relic beneath the sulphurous sands of their world and turned their backs on it.
The Battle of Tallarn
In a devastating surprise attack at the time of the Horus Heresy (circa 010-012.M31), the Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines struck the fertile Agri-World of Tallarn. Thousands of virus-bombs rained down on Tallarn and the people ran to their enviro-shelters, deep beneath the surface. As they hid, safe from the devastating bio-infestation, the deadly coils of DNA mutated as they were programmed to do. Animals, plants, even insects died as the virus did its work, destroying the planet's ecosystem and leaving an empty shell devoid of life. After seven weeks of isolation, the virus had run its course and the remaining people of Tallarn emerged upon the surface. They found a world covered with the acrid slime of plants and corpses not yet decayed - for the world was completely sterile, without even bacteria to aid the decomposition of its dead. The stench was strong, and more than one person died from it. The Iron Warriors sent their task-force to repossess the world for the Chaos Gods. From underground bunkers the Tallarn's defenders emerged to do battle with the invaders. Soon, reinforcements from both sides arrived, rival space fleets bringing vast armies to fight over the worthless remnants of the dead planet. The Battle of Tallarn raged for many months and was the largest armoured conflict of the Horus Heresy. Outbreaks of viral infection from rogue viral DNA residue made it almost impossible for infantry to operate outside their protective shelters or the environmentally sealed compartments of their tanks. The battle was finally decided by the vast armies of tanks deployed by the Traitor and Loyalist forces. When the fighting ended, the empty, putrid desert wastes of Tallarn were littered with the wreckage of more than a million shattered vehicles.
A Hollow Victory
The Forces of Chaos were driven from the world of Tallarn at great cost at the end of the Horus Heresy, yet for all the millions that had died, there seemed to be little gained from the fight. The planet was destroyed and rendered useless for large-scale habitation, industry or agriculture. The armies of the Imperium might well have given up Tallarn had their commanders realized the extent of the devastation, but once the armies were in motion there was no going back. At the time, the Chaos attack made little sense. It seemed insane that even the fickle Chaos Gods should expend such energy and precious resources fighting over a devastated world of no particular strategic significance. But in the aftermath of the Horus Heresy there were few left to ponder such questions. Amongst the many evils of the time it was just another demonstration of the random destruction created by Chaos.
Within a thousand years of the Horus Heresy's end, Tallarn evolved into a very different world from the prosperous civilised planet of former times. Deserts of sulphurous sand stretched from pole to pole and all water disappeared except for a thin residue remaining as vapour in the atmosphere. No vegetation remained on the surface to be exposed to the blistering, wind-blown sands. All that grew was the carefully husbanded crops of the Tallarn themselves, sheltered in their protective horticultural domes. The surviving Tallarn now lived in domed towns or in natural caverns hollowed out in the planet's rock. Fierce winds drove the Tallarn into their shelters, corrosive sulphur storms made all surface travel risky, and eventually a system of tunnels was built to facilitate travel beneath the surface. Above their settlements the Tallarn built vapour traps to catch evaporated water from the thin atmosphere. These tall towers still stand above the domes of Tallarn to this day, and all the water they use is caught by these cunning devices and channelled into subterranean holding tanks.
A Secret Uncovered
During the construction of an arterial tunnel, Tallarn miners struck an outcrop of hard black rock. They were unable to break through this strange substance which was quite unlike any other they had encountered. After some days. they decided to divert their tunnel to go around it. As they did so they discovered something very strange. At first, the black wall seemed like a natural formation, but soon they realized they had uncovered a deliberate construction. The initial excavations revealed a huge wall of strange black rock carved over its entire surface with weird entwined figures. The figures were human-sized yet not entirely human, possessing a grace and beauty which rendered their grotesquely inscribed cavorting all the more perverse. Giant earth movers were brought in to dig out the layer of sulphur sand in which the wall was buried, and bit by bit it was slowly and painstakingly exposed to the daylight. The Tallarn soon discovered the wall was not straight but curved, in fact part of a huge, subterranean circle. Carefully their most skilled technicians worked to uncover the entire object, a huge, ring-shaped mound almost half a mile across.
The Danger Awakes
It was not until the whole circle was exposed that the true disaster happened. With a blast of arcane power, the circle screamed and writhed, its inert form turned suddenly to moaning flesh. Where before there had been carvings now there were the creatures themselves, beings shaped like Eldar, yet twisted with an uncanny evil, locked together by some sorcerous bond into a sickening embrace of depraved passion. Within the circle itself, blackness boiled and stars wheeled - stars that belonged in another part of the galaxy altogether.
The Black Library
In the Black Library of the Eldar, a custodian shivered as he felt an unaccustomed surge of psychic power. Adrift from time and space his mind searched the endless strands of probabilities and found the thread that led to Tallarn. After so long it had been discovered: the Cursus of Alganar, an artefact of evil from before the Fall of the Eldar, a Warp vortex of unimaginable power, one of the three mythical Gateways of the Gods. His mind shifted into synchronicity with the Farseers of his race, tracing the paths that linked his mind to the Craftworlds of the Eldar. When that knowledge touched the Farseers, the Avatars of Khaine would wake. And Khaine would recognise the work of his ancient destroyer Slaanesh - Bane of the Eldar, the Prince of Chaos.
The Eldar Attack and the Cursus War Begins
The Eldar strike force sent by the Biel-Tan Craftworld emerged from the Webway above Tallarn and struck from the skies without warning or explanation. To the Tallarn it was an unwarranted act of xenos aggression. Little could they imagine that the fate of the entire Eldar race was bound up with their strange discovery. To the Eldar there was no time for explanation or discussion. They could not know whether the humans of Tallarn were in league with Chaos or whether the fierce desert people were unwitting pawns in the Dark Gods' Great Game. As far as the Eldar knew, the only option was to attack, to destroy the Cursus if they could before it was too late. The Tallarn fought back with their characteristic ferocity. Years of living upon the burning sulphur deserts had honed them into resilient fighters. To the Eldar the deserts were an unknown quantity. Even the hardy Eldar Aspect Warriors died under the heat of the sun, whilst the common Eldar Guardians fell to the lightning raids of the human warriors. But the Eldar did not give up. They could not afford to abandon their attack. The survival of the galaxy and their species depended on it.
The Dark Gods Awake
But it was already too late. The powerful Warp gateway projected by the Cursus grew in power by the minute. The screams and wails of the damned souls of Chaos filled the desert as the dark light brightened and fluxed within its core. Lights and stars swirled and clashed, fountains of spinning incandescence spat into the night sky. The laughter of the Dark Gods rebounded across the sulphur dunes and Eldar and humans alike shuddered in terror. From the Cursus poured the daemonic minions of Chaos even as the warbands of the Iron Warriors returned to the world once more, called through the Warp from the Eye of Terror by the siren song of the now-active artefact. What emerged from the Cursus were entities indescribable to men. Things that awakened primal terrors in Eldar hearts - horrors of slime and flame that cackled and bounded into battle, transparent bodies of pure energy dividing and reuniting in a cascade of colours, vile fleshy things that pulsed with inner power and sucked at the air with poisonous lips. Long-legged abominations carried slender and elegant creatures, the feared Daemonettes of Slaanesh, upon their backs, beautiful and yet sickening to look upon. It was as if all the daemons of Hell had fallen upon Tallarn.
The Battle for the Cursus
The human commander of the Tallarn Desert Raiders called a truce with the xenos and hurried to the Eldar lines where the alien Seers sat waiting. Knowledge drawn from the Warp had finally opened their eyes. The runestones lay cast upon the desert floor. Hope in union was predicted. Division would lead to damnation, darkness and death. With their fates so clearly predicted, the Eldar and the humans of Tallarn joined forces. The two allied races fell back before the Chaos onslaught. Many were caught and destroyed in the early confusion, but the Chaos advance was slowed by the merciless hit-and-run tactics of the Desert Raiders. Humans led Eldar jet-bike riders into the attack, and soon the Tallarn and the Eldar were able to regroup. As the daemon hordes advanced beyond the boundaries of the Cursus, their power waned, as if they were dependent upon its proximity for their power. And so it was, for the tendrils of Chaos, though long, are very tenuous in the physical universe beyond the boundaries of the Warp, and only blood-letting and victory can sustain the link between the Chaos Gods and their daemonic minions.
With skill and cunning the Tallarn drew out the Forces of Chaos' battle lines. Choosing their targets carefully, the Tallarn launched one attack after another, always retreating before the Chaos hordes could turn to meet their fire. It was a tactic calculated to drain the power of the horde, and it worked better than even the wily sons of the sulphur desert could have hoped. The Eldar Seers saw the runes change, saw the opportunity develop. The daemons were fading from reality fast, their glittering bodies growing ever more transparent, their cries ever weaker. Now was the time to hit them hard. With a furious charge the Eldar and Tallarn threw their remaining strength against the gibbering horde. It was a last effort that would result in absolute victory or utter defeat. The Chaos hordes shuddered and the bodies of the daemons seemed to fade and dull. The crackle of energy died and the spark of life vaporised into the oily air. Many lay dead, human and Eldar warriors alike, gored by monstrous claws, crushed by the sensual caress of a poisoned tongue, or torn apart by razor sharp teeth. Many Eldar Waystones were collected from the field, and many Tallarn taken back to their domes to surrender the water from their bodies to the hydrotanks. But it was victory nonetheless.
The Cursus Buried
Once the Eldar had departed Tallarn in peace, and the people of both races had exchanged their promises of friendship, the Tallarn returned to the Cursus. They found the black stone of the terrible gateway cold and lifeless once more, just as it had been when they had first uncovered it. However, they knew now that the stone was not dead but merely sleeping, awaiting its time again, waiting for the call of its evil masters. The Tallarn buried the Cursus beneath the sulphur sands once more and placed within its circle the mysterious devices that the Eldar had given them to keep the cursed artefact inactive. Then they sealed the surface with plascrete and turned their backs upon it.
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 17
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pp. 22, 25, 30, 46, 58
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 1st Codex), pg. 19
- Codex: Imperial Guard (2nd Edition), pp. 15-16, 37
- Desert Raiders (Novel) by Lucien Soulban, pp.14, 15, 16, 18
- Imperial Armour: Volume One - Imperial Guard & Imperial Navy, pp. 34, 39, 58, 76, 85, 109, 115
- Imperial Armour: Volume Three - Taros Campaign, pp. 38-39, 45, 55-60, 64, 66-71, 86-91, 120, 128-129, 140, 142, 146, 148-149, 223-224, 228-229, 232, 256-263, 280, 298, 303, 307
- Medusa V World Wide Campaign
- Only War: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 54-55
- Only War: Final Testament (RPG), pp. 11, 14-15, 50, 58, 62, 75, 101, 104, 121, 130-132
- Only War: Hammer of the Emperor (RPG), pg. 54
- White Dwarf 185 (UK), "Tallarn Desert Raiders: Imperial Guard," pp. 41-44
- Blood and Thunder (Graphic Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Desert Raiders (Novel) by Lucien Soulban, pp. 14-16, 18
- The Traitor's Hand (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell
- Realm of Inisfail - The Imperial Archives (Dead Link)