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"The Emperor protects. Kill every last one."
— Attributed to Ezekyle Abaddon, Ullanor Crusade, M31

The Ullanor Crusade was a vast Imperial assault on the Ork Empire of the Greenskin Overlord Urrlak Urruk during the Great Crusade of the late 30th Millennium in ca. 000.M30. Ullanor Prime, the capital world of this empire, and the site of the final assault, lay in the Ullanor System of the galaxy's Ullanor Sector. The Crusade included the deployment of 100,000 Space Marines, 8,000,000 Imperial Army troops, and six hundred Imperial starships of the Imperialis Armada and their support personnel. The Ullanor Crusade marked the high point of the Great Crusade's vast effort to reunite the scattered colony worlds of humanity. The Orks of Ullanor represented the largest concentration of Orks ever defeated by the military forces of the Imperium of Man before the War of the Beast fought in the mid-32nd Millennium and the Third War for Armageddon in the late 41st Millennium.

Following the defeat of the Orks of Ullanor, the Emperor of Mankind returned to Terra to begin work on His great, secret project to open up the Aeldari Webway for humanity's use. In His place to command the vast forces of the Great Crusade He left the Primarch Horus. Horus was raised to the rank of Imperial Warmaster and given command authority over all of his fellow Primarchs and every Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade. But the Primarchs never came to terms with the Emperor's absence. Their hurt feelings over his seeming abandonment of the Great Crusade to pursue a secret project whose purpose he chose not to reveal to his genetic sons laid the seeds of corruption that would ultimately blossom into the Horus Heresy.

History

Battle of Ullanor

The Ullanor Sector was ruled over by the Ork Overlord Urrlak Urruk from the world of the same name. The central foundation of his empire was a dozen planets, originally inhabited by humans, which had been conquered and enslaved by the Orks. Horus, a strategic genius even among the Primarchs, employed the use of his now-famous "Speartip" tactic to destroy the Ork Empire by removing its head so that the body would collapse under its own weight.

The White Scars and Ultramarines Space Marine Legions, supported by the Excertus Imperialis and other forces such as the Legio Titanicus of the Mechanicum, attacked the outer planets of the Ullanor System. This offensive was a decoy to draw the majority of the Orks forces away from Ullanor Prime, though it proved quite effective. Many of the Orks' starships rushed to prevent the attacks on the outer planets of their home system, leaving the central planet dangerously vulnerable and exposed to the waiting main body of the Imperial forces, led by the Astartes of the Luna Wolves Legion. The Luna Wolves Legion fleet headed straight for this central world and more specifically for Urlakk's fortress-palace, the very heart of his empire.

The main attack force dedicated to capturing the capital planet of the Ullanor System consisted of the entire Luna Wolves Legion, over 2 million Imperial Army soldiers, and one hundred Titans of the Collegia Titanica, all drawn from the infamous Legio Mortis. All of these forces were later joined by the human slaves liberated from the Orks' labour camps by the invading Imperial troops. This force was led overall by the Emperor Himself; though Imperial records do not indicate what role He played in this action. Little is known regarding the actual makeup of the defending Ork forces. However, they outnumbered the Imperial troops by a 5-to-1 ratio.

Ignoring the Greenskin masses, Horus and his Legion struck directly at the Overlord and his command coterie of Ork Nobz and Ogryns, intending to leave the enemy headless and without direction. The attack took place by Drop Pod, with heavy gunships deploying Imperial armoured vehicles to the battle zone. This force attacked the perimeter defences of the Ork fortress-palace. Horus then teleported to the base of Urrlak's great central keep, the Tower of Ullanor, accompanied by all of the Terminators from the elite 1st Company of the Luna Wolves. Whilst most of the Terminators held off the Greenskin horde, which was rushing back to the tower to defend its master, Horus fought his way up to the pinnacle of that great edifice, accompanied by only the 10 Terminators who were the members of the Justaerin Squad of First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon.

At the summit of the Tower of Ullanor was a vast throne chamber where Horus found the Ork Overlord surrounded by 40 of his biggest Nobz. Horus immediately stormed into battle, utilising the twin Lightning Claws of his Power Armour to rip apart the enemy in close combat. The Terminators were unwilling to fire into this melee, lest they hit their beloved Primarch. The Terminators therefore immediately fell upon the Orks with their own close-combat weapons.

Eventually, Horus hacked his way through the Overlord's bodyguard, until he came face-to-face with Urrlak, a truly gargantuan Ork Warlord. Despite the fact that Urrlak was an immense, towering, green-skinned brute, Horus managed to cripple the Ork leader in the following duel. Horus then held aloft the Ork Overlord above his head and carried him to the battlements of the Tower of Ullanor. Horus threw the screaming, bloody form of the Ork Overlord down to the ground, ending the reign of Urrlak Urruk with a green-blooded splat. When Horus returned to the throne chamber he found all the Luna Wolves Terminators and Orks dead...apart from one. The sole survivor was none other than the gore-drenched Captain of the 1st Company, Ezekyle Abaddon. He was surrounded by a great pile of broken Ork bodies.

With the death of their leader, the Ork forces surro8nding the fortress-palace collapsed into infighting as was their wont. The battle for Ullanor Prime soon became a massacre, as the remaining Orks found themselves trapped between the two forces of the Luna Wolves, including the remaining Luna Wolves Terminators at the base of the great central Tower of Ullanor and those who had breached the perimeter walls of the tower complex. The Luna Wolves slaughtered the Orks in the fortress-palace complex to the last Greenskin.

The remainder of the Ork worlds in the Ullanor Sector were subdued by the forces of the Great Crusade and returned to Imperial rule within a Terran year of the death of Urrlak, as his Ork empire completely fragmented when its troops learned of their master's death. The various Nobz immediately declared themselves the new Warlords of the empire and fought each other for control, allowing the Imperial forces to carry out a simple divide and conquer strategy. With Urrlak's termination, the nascent Ork empire self-destructed, and the xenos that were not hounded into the mud of Ullanor's vast battlegrounds by the Legiones Astartes were hunted down across hundreds of star systems, all the way to Chondax, the Kayvas Belt and beyond.

Triumph of Ullanor

"You are like a son and together we have all but conquered the galaxy. Now the time has come for me to retire to Terra. My work as a soldier is done and now passes to you for I have great tasks to perform in my earthly sanctum. I name you Warmaster and from this day forth all of my armies and generals shall take orders from you as if the words came from mine own mouth. But words of caution I have for you, for your brother Primarchs are strong of will, of thought and of action. Do not seek to change them, but use their particular strengths well. You have much work to do for there are still many worlds to liberate, many peoples to rescue. My trust is with you. Hail Horus! Hail the Warmaster!"
—The Emperor of Mankind, the Triumph of Ullanor
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The Triumph at Ullanor, an ancient mural portraying the gathering of the brother Primarchs; from left-to-right: Sanguinius, Mortarion, Magnus, Angron, Jaghatai Khan, Lorgar, Rogal Dorn, Horus and Fulgrim

With the greatest victory of the Imperium to that date sealed in blood and iron, the call to an Imperial triumph was sounded, to recognise this highpoint of the Great Crusade and to honour all the warriors of the Ullanor Crusade, mortals and Astartes alike, for their extraordinary valour and service to humanity's cause. By the Emperor's command, Ullanor was remade as a trophy world, designated Mundus Tropaeum on all galactic maps and records of the Imperial Tithe.

It would be a site of glory and spectacle to cement not only this single conquest over the forces ranged against Mankind, but a greater symbol of the Great Crusade itself. For two hundred Terran years the Emperor's mighty endeavour had moved across the face of the galaxy to bring unity and illumination to the lost daughter-worlds of Old Earth. It had pushed back the night, reforged old links between human civilisations, battled alien threats -- and with regret, it had often punished those who refused to return to the Imperial fold.

A change was coming, though, a change that found its fulcrum on Ullanor. None who walked upon that world knew that the echo of that Triumph would sound for solar decades, for Terran centuries, for millennia. The glory of this triumphant spectacle as so many of the Imperium's scattered military forces gathered in one place for the first time in centuries was to remain in the mind of every Astartes as the high-point of the great endeavour that they had been engaged upon. It would prove to be a bright memory to recall in the dark days of the Horus Heresy after Astartes had turned against Astartes and Primarch against Primarch.

To prepare the world for the Triumph of Ullanor, geoformer platoons from the Mechanicum brought world engines and mobile stone-burners to cut a massive swath across the broken landscape left in the battle's wake. Orkish dead were buried by the millions within their savage ruins, interred beneath transplanted rocks and the heads of crushed mountains. The Mechanicum eradicated every last remaining trace of the enemy and paved over them with a giant boulevard, a parade stage as wide as the footprint of some entire Imperial cities. They built a highway and allowed only one structure to stand besides the great platform -- an ornamental pavilion of black marble and heavy granite that had been built piecemeal on Terra and then shipped across the void by special envoy. Marker posts decorated with the skulls of Ork commanders paced out the length of the road, and behind them great bowls of smokeless Promethium burned brightly, endlessly lighting the highway with their blue-white fire.

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The Titans march during the Triumph of Ullanor.

When the Mechanicum had finished their work, the honoured came to pay homage to the battle won, the Great Crusade's ideal of human unity and the Emperor who was father to all Mankind. The Imperial Army and the Titan Legions bracketed the gathering. Human troops were ranked in uncountable numbers, their host so wide they became a sea of battle armour and dress uniforms. Every common man and woman who stood on Ullanor Prime's soil that day had been selected for their valour and conduct, and until the day they died each would have the singular honour of wearing the onyx-and-gold Ullanor Triumph Bar upon their uniforms. The award was forged from Bolter shells recovered from the field and melted down. Ranged around them, the great war machines of the Legio Titanica towered towards a sky cut to ribbons by the contrails of a thousand aerospace fighters; and above those, high over the thin white cirrus clouds of Ullanor Prime's day, Imperial warships moved as slow as they dared through the upper atmosphere, washes of interface heat rolling off their Void Shields as they showed their flanks in a gesture of renewed fealty.

A full fourteen of the eighteen active duty Space Marine Legions stood represented at the Ullanor Triumph, and with them came nine beings of superhuman power and majesty. Nine gods and angels made flesh, the Primarchs of the greatest armies ever created by human hands. Mortarion, the reaper of men and master of the Death Guard, cowled and lethal in aspect, matched by the warrior-guardians of his Deathshroud honour guard. The Phoenician, Fulgrim, resplendent in his finery and handsome in aspect, lit by the reflection of gold and platinum. Magnus the Red, the Crimson King of the Thousand Sons, the lord of the unknown, his soul as much a mystery to the common world as the workings of the Warp and the ghosts within it. Lorgar Aurelian, the quiet and brooding zealot of the Word Bearers who burned with such intensity and buried it all deep in his heart, saying little and standing watchful, already long a Traitor to the Emperor's cause.

His polar opposite was Angron of the World Eaters, the gladiator-lord and son of grief, never able to settle or moderate his seething, endless fury, always on the verge of outburst and violence. Rogal Dorn, the stalwart man of stone, the Imperial Fist with his unswerving manner and unbreakable focus, the one who would always obey, would always be ready for duty. Jaghatai Khan, his fur-trimmed robes and ornate armour detailed with a thousand narratives of the White Scars Legion, his every step across the land a challenge to the galaxy.

Then Sanguinius of the Blood Angels, flanked by the gold-armoured honour detail of the Sanguinary Guard, his mighty wings folded back across his battle-plate, his face turned to the sky to welcome the impossible, majestic sight before him. Then, finally, came Horus of the Luna Wolves, the Hero of Ullanor, liberator and first among equals. Horus, who was to be given the new honour of an Imperial title above and beyond any that had been bestowed before; a title, it could be said, that would forever carry the echo of his name. After declaring Horus as Imperial Warmaster and the new supreme commander of the Great Crusade, the Emperor to the shock of those assembled announced his own intention to return to Terra to pursue a secret project intended to benefit all Mankind. He would not say more, and his announcement immediately drew great concern among the Primarchs -- and not a little bit of resentment.

It was this resentment, combined with each Primarchs' own flaws and hidden jealousies, that the Chaos Gods would use to worm their way into the hearts of nine of their number, turning them in time against the Emperor and unleashing a civil war that would scar the galaxy for millennia. The Triumph of Ullanor represented the high point of the Emperor's dream to reunite Mankind -- and also the beginning of its end.

Aftermath

Following victory in the Ullanor Crusade, the Imperium believed that the Ork race had been forever broken and would never again prsent a credible threat to humanity. Though scattered groups of Orks would periodically attack the Imperial frontier, they were regarded as little more than troublesome pests for over a thousand years following the end of the Horus Heresy. This complacency would be shown for arrogance when the War of the Beast brought the Orks to Terra itself and decimated the Imperium's entire military when that conflict began in 544.M32. The great Ork Warlord known as The Beast would establish his new Ork empire on Ullanor Prime once more, creating the most technologically and culturally sophisticated Greenskin civilisation ever encountered in the galaxy before or since.

Several high-ranking Orks of the The Beast's WAAAGH! later incorporated pieces of the Luna Wolves' Mark II Crusade Pattern Power Armour scavenged from the prior Ullanor Prime battlefield into their own, both for protection and as marks of their elite status.

Trivia

The Triumph of Ullanor resembles the great triumph Julius Caesar held in Rome following his successful consolidation of power in 49 B.C. as the Roman Republic's dictator-for-life, following the defeat of all his rivals for power. Like Caesar's triumph, the Triumph of Ullanor represented the peak of the Emperor's power and glory shortly before the catastrophe of the Horus Heresy beset his empire and destroyed his vision of a better future for Mankind.

Sources

  • Index Astartes IV, "Sons of Horus - The Black Legion Space Marine Legion"
  • Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett
  • Fear to Tread (Novel) by James Swallow
  • I Am Slaughter (Novel) by Dan Abnett, Ch. 30
  • Echoes of the Long War (Novel) by David Guymer, Ch. 7