The Battle of Cthonis was an engagement between the Imperium of Man and a large force of Orks in 999.M41, on the Forge World of Cthonis. The Orks -Having been instigated by Abaddon the Despoiler to invade- were planning to seize control of the planet's valuable Warlord-class Titans, and use them to conquer other nearby Imperial worlds. Abaddon had secretly planned to betray the Orks at the last moment when they had seized the Titans, and claim the war machines for himself, avoiding direct assaults onto the Forge World as he did not want to postpone his imminent Black Crusade, which required all available troops of his.
The planet was at first reinforced by a company from the Howling Gryphons under Demerov Alexian, but they proved insufficient and were soon trapped onto the planet, which was swiftly taken by the greenskins. A second relief force of Crimson Fists Space Marines under captain Stefanos Van Alessian, subsequently was able to overcome the odds -Later with help from newly arriving Carcharodons- and kill the Warboss leading the attack, unknowingly foiling Abaddon's plot, and saving the Forge World from destruction and preventing the capture of the Titans.
The battle is also the story revolving around Rise to Glory - I: The Titan.
Prelude - Ork Invasion and Crimson Fists relief plan
Although the Crimson Fists had yet to fully recover from their losses on the Battle of Rynn's World, they nonetheless actively engaged the enemies of the Imperium on countless fronts in whatever numbers they could spare and when practical. By 999.M41, the 500-strong Chapter was deemed once again ready to commit to large scale operations, and immediately the Crimson Fists deployed their active Companies into many battles, with one such engagement being on Cthonis.
A Forge World of valuable import, Cthonis had been overrun by Orks acting under the behest of Abaddon the Despoiler, who wished to use the Orks as a distraction to mask his true intentions for the world and its valuable Titans without attracting attention from the Imperium. This plan worked well, as when the Crimson Fists arrived to relieve the planet, they assumed this was merely an ambitious Ork invasion. The planet had previously been totally overwhelmed; the Cthonis PDF forces were wiped out, and the Howling Gryphons reinforcements were pinned down under heavy fire at the Unshaken Bridge, with all their vehicles destroyed as well. With no other combat units nearby, the Crimson Fists under the esteemed Captain Stefanos Van Alessian prepared to do Planetfall, devising a careful stratagem to eliminate the Ork defenses.
First, the bulk of the Crimson Fists 5th Company forces would drop down to a heavily fortified system of trenches and bunkers long since taken by the Orks, and would fight their way to the Planetary Defense Canon, and use it to eliminate the much larger Ork fleet blockading Cthonis and preventing support. Van Alessian would then in person lead the last two squads of Astartes to the Unshaken Bridge to relieve the Howling Gryphons, under Captain Demerov Alexian, who were by now low on ammo and numbers. The 5th Company's attached Scout Squad would sabotage Ork defenses and pit the disparate tribes making the invasion against one another by destroying their totems and insignia in a matter that seemed like other Orks had done it.
Cthonis Planetary Defense Forces
- Several Independent Regiments, the amount of which constantly changed over time as Cthonis never kept a truly permanent standing army, instead its regiments would be occasionally "reformed" for training excersizes, and only a few were constantly active. This resulted in the CPDF being poorly prepared for the Ork invasion.
- The planet had a powerful Defense Canon, which could destroy most capital ships or warships with 1-3 shots, its shells the size of large trucks and its power matched only by the weapons of the Warlord-Titans on Cthonis.
- There were six Warlord-class Titans on Cthonis, which were part of a newly formed Legiones Titanicus but they were unable to release in time from the Manufactorum to partake in repelling the first waves of Ork attackers.
- The Howling Gryphons reached the planet shortly before the invasion began, with their 4th Company under Demerov Alexian in charge. The Company was returning from a recruitment run, and had recently been brought back up to full strength with 100 Astartes, as well as its designated armored vehicles; 10 Rhino APC's and 2 Predator battle-tanks.
- The 5th Company of the Crimson Fists was the only Imperial unit that at first received the distress signal from Cthonis, which was still understrength and was less than 80 Astartes in number, with only two APC's and a single Predator to call upon from the armory. Nonetheless, the importance of the Forge World was critical, and Captain Van Alessian -The Crimson Fists commander- deemed it worth the risk to go an save Cthonis.
- The Crimson Fists also brought with them a single Strike Cruiser, the Temperatam Laminas, under Lord-Captain Estabo Qhunaria, a loyal and experiened officer in the Imperial Navy. Although outclassing most of its Ork counterparts, the single ship was unlikely to prevail at all against the large Ork fleet, and thus would not seek to confront them openly.
The Ground Forces
- The exact size of Ork armies has rarely ever been determined, and the same goes for this army as well, which was a seperate warband from the Bad Moons clan. The Orks had tens, if not hundreds of thousands of warriors, easily outnumbering the Imperial defenders who were also badly prepared for the invasion, and were caught offguard by the size and brutality of the Ork fighting force. The name of their Warboss is unknown, even among Imperial records.
- The Ork army was also unusually small, seen from their fleet of just 34 warships, which were nonetheless of fairly good quality and fighting capacity. They were all scavenged Imperial Navy vessels, heavily upgraded with more weapons, but stripped of armor, but this did not adversely effect the power of the larger vessles, especially the looted Emperor-class warship which was the Ork flagship.
The Battle - Planetfall and Manufactorum Assault
The Astartes were able to safely make Planetfall by using Cthonis' moon as cover for their Drop Pods, and each strike force landed without mishap at their targets. Although the Orks were great in numbers and fought fiercely, the Crimson Fists were able to build up enough momentum to break through their lines and begin a cleansweep of any of their defenses they had taken from the Imperials earlier. Lead by Chaplain Endymiar Targomai, the Fists attacking the trenches cleared a brutal path of destruction to the doors of the Planetary Defense Canon, whilst Van Alessian and his squads successfully relieved the Howling Gryphons with strong air support from three Thunderhawk gunships, which also delivered the Astartes forces armored vehicles to help storm and retake the Manufactorum holding the Warlord-class Titans.
Although on the ground the operations had thus far gone well, in space the Orks had accidentally discovered the hidden Imperial warship behind Cthonis' moon when two more converted Imperial ships jumped from the Warp and attacked the Strike Cruiser under Lord-Captain Qhunaria. Although successful in destroying both lightly armored ships with the Bombardment Canon, their cover was now blown, and Van Alessian ordered them to evacuate the system and get reinforcements themselves should Imperial aid not arrive in time or if it seemed their mission to retake the Canon would fail. Grudingly, Qhunaria complied and waited for the Astartes to recapture the canon.
Van Alessian and Alexian meanwhile were able to clear a path to the Manufactorum after a dificult urban struggle in which their small column of men was constantly harassed by Orks. They survived the brutal close-quarters fighting, only to emerge at the courtyard of the Manufactorum which held a small army's worth of Orks. Steeling themselves for the battle to come, Van Alessian ordered his Astartes to fire, and the united Space Marines cut down swaths of Orks who were supported by many Killa Kans as well. After great struggle, the Astartes were able to butcher their way to the Manufactorum gates, and gain entry into the facility which was now swarming with Orks. At the same time, Chaplain Targomai recaptured the Planetary Defense Canon, and the Astartes were able to turn its powerful gun onto the Ork fleet, and began to lay waste to it at once, allowing the Strike Cruiser of Qhunaria to move in and engage. With the Orks now on the run, the Space Marines pressed their attack.
Van Alessian ordered his vehicles and a part of his Tactical and Devastator Marines to stay at the Manufactorum gates and prevent Orks from outflanking them, who were still swarming the facility's courtyard in their hundreds. The Crimson Fists and Howling Gryphons were able to press through the shocked and decimated Ork ranks into the Manufactorum's Titan holding chambers, where they discovered that all of the Warlord-class Titans had fully sealed themselves to prevent the Orks from gaining any form of access to them for a time at least. Relieved to see the sight of Astartes coming to their aid, the Princeps of the Titan forces contacted them and instructed the Astartes to release the clamps preventing the Titans from leaving. As the Imperial forces battled through swarms of Orks, Qhunaria received surprising news in orbit.
The Battle - Carcharodons arrival and final assault
Qhunaria himself saw several Imperial warships exit the Warp and engage the Ork vessels along with his Strike Cruiser and the Planetary Defense Canon. After contacting them, it was confirmed that the reinforcements were the notoriously brutal Carcharodons, in the form of their 4th Company under Captain Tyrias Achilean. Achilean then lead his company on a lightining strike against the Orks, dropping into hot-zones where the Crimson Fists and Howling Gryphons were holding off the Orks and relieving pressure off them. Achilean himself, along with his elite Terminator squad, landed on the Manufactorum's rooftop where he advanced into the vast complex himself and began to butcher his way past the Orks in the hallways. Hearing of the newly arrived reinforcements, Van Alessian left off to personally meet them, whilst ordering his troops to finish clearing the Orks around the Titans and get the war machines into the open.
Achilean and his Terminators soon discovered that the Warboss leading the horde was himself at the Manufactorum, located in a vacant chamber which the Warboss had cleared out purposefully for duels and luring enemies into it for combats. The aggressive and blood-thirsty Terminators attacked the Warboss at once, alerting Van Alessian that they had located and engaged him. Although the Warboss fought fiercely and killed one of the veteran Terminators, it ultimately was overcome by the wrathful spirit of the Carcharodons and the Crimson Fists Captain who arrived, and eventually it was slain after a mighty duel, resulting in the remaining Orks becoming scattered and confused as they were driven insane by the death of their leader, and the Orks began to tear each other to pieces as much as the Imperials were wiping them out. On top of this, the Space Marines were able to release the Warlord-class Titans inside the Manufactorum, which brought swift death to large pockets of Orks: the battle had been won.
Despite heavy Imperial losses especially to the Cthonis PDF and Mechanicum -Which were totally wiped out- the battle was decisive for the Imperium and the planet would in due time recover its original powerful production capacities, with plans to further enhance its defenses in the future to prevent situations like the Ork invasion from occurring again. The Howling Gryphons 4th Company lost approx. 80% of its Astartes, and many Crimson Fists and Carcharodons alike had also fallen, and it would take many months before the companies of these Chapters would fully recover, but recover they would. The battle also established Captain Van Alessian as a skilled and prominent leader, and was noted for overcoming the vastly superior odds stacked against him by the large Ork hordes.
The Imperials also -Unknowningly- prevented Abaddon from gaining access to the Titans himself which he would have added to his arsennal otherwise. By the time he learned of the Ork defeat, the Titans had been shipped offworld and the planet had lost its value to him, leading to the conclusion he had not expected any Imperial forces to be near enough to help Cthonis' defenders in time. As a result, he created a burning hatred for the Crimson Fists for meddling in his affairs, and especially Van Alessian, culminating in Abaddon going to great lengths to elimiante him from his list of rivals and enemies.