- "Blessed are those who died in service of the God-Emperor. May their sacrifices never be forgotten. May their names live on forever."
- —Inscription of the New Korinthos Crusade Memorial
Officially known as the Cancridrae Reclamation Crusade, this great campaign was launched in an effort to stem the advances of the hostile xenos known as the Amphra and reclaim the territories lost to their predations. Over the course of four Terran years only slight advances were made, as extreme casualties on both sides of the conflict resulted in a hard-fought stalemate that lasts to this day.
Korinthos in Flames
- "By order of the Senatorium Imperialis, all active military forces (including but not limited to the Astra Militarum) within the direct vicinity of the Sub-Sector Cancridrae are henceforth ordered to cease any current activities and/or engagements and rendezvous at the attached coordinates..."
- —Exerpt from Imperial Edict of Assemblage, circa 002.M40
In the aftermath of the bloodbath that would later become known as the Siege of Korinthos, local Imperial forces were sent reeling in the face of such catastrophic losses. So great was the Korinthos' plight that word eventually reached the ears of the High Lords of Terra, who, in the interest of securing the safety of the greater Segmentum, authorized the formation of an Imperial Crusade. This Crusade would have one goal: to utterly eradicate the Amphra Matriarchy and every single one of its xenos inhabitants.
To this end, the High Lords anointed the former Astra Militarum General Aloysius van Dragen with the position of Warmaster. A native of the Cancridrae Sub-Sector, Dragen had led a long and glorious career as commander of the venerable Mazul Primus-Guard, but age and near-ceaseless warfare eventually forced him into an early retirement. Though he hadn't seen active combat in almost fifty standard years, he was the only individual with the proper military experience and pedigree necessary for such a lofty position, and there was simply no time for a more proper selection process. Like many throughout the course of the Xenocide, Aloysius van Dragen was conscripted into service, much to the displeasure of several other, younger, active-duty officers who would eventually form his council of Lord Marshals.
But though he may very well have been an armchair general, Warmaster van Dragen was nothing if not decisive in his efforts. He struck out against the Amphra even as he forces still gathered at the borders of the Matriarchy, ordering the proud warships of Battlefleet Medici into the breach to secure access beachheads into which the rest of the Crusades' forces would follow. Led by the now-Lord Admiral Salian Amarante, the Medicians shattered Amphra naval cordons surrounding the broken world of Korinthos in a series of brutal hit-and-run strikes. Outmaneuvered by superior Imperial warships, the Amphra could only watch as the might of the Imperium began to pour into their newly-gained territory.
Having secured Korinthos, the Crusade advanced cautiously, probing further ahead into Amphra-controlled territory. Newly-dispatched Inquisitorial liaisons from the Ordo Xenos scoured the nearby star systems a uncovered disturbing intelligence: the forces they faced were not nearly as fractious as they had originally thought. By this time the Clutches' military assets had all been rallied under the banner of one singular commander. Her name was Rkliir of Clutch Bluemaw, and by order of Matriarch Llssaa she had been appointed supreme leader of all Matriarchy Drays, until such a time that the "soft-fleshed invaders" had been successfully repulsed. Now naming herself Ghan'Ghash-Dray (literally "first among firstborn"), Rkliir had ordered a defensive strategy in the face of the Imperial advances, fortifying Amphra-Held worlds and withdrawing fleet elements to serve as protective blockades.
This proved to be a effective strategy, stonewalling the Crusade's forces before they gained further momentum. Several advances were made against these fortified worlds, all of which failed before the Imperial Guard could even make planetfall. The Amphra vessels may have not been able to outmaneuver the Imperials in the open void, but they were quite adept at soaking up firepower and retaliating en masse, much to the dismay of Battlefleet Medici.
Once again, the Ordo Xenos acted, this time by employing the skills of the infamous Deathwatch. Kill-Teams were covertly dispatched to several of these contested world, some of whom enjoyed degrees of success in sabotaging the Matriarchy's defenses. Most notably, Kill-Team Echelon successfully managed infiltrate the Amphra-held Hive World of Tanib Zeta and access it's planetary defensive network, using the Amphra's own surface-to-orbit munitions to cripple the blockade surrounding the planet. In the wake of the fleet's destruction, Imperial Battlegroup Alpha was en route to secure the planet, attacking in full force. The brave Guardsmen of the 1st Adrine Regiment particularly distinguished themselves during what would later become known as the Tanib Zeta Persecution, as they were the first into the fray.
The Persecution would also bring to light many of the Matriarchy's more horrifying aspects, such as their "unique' means of foodstuff production. Guardsmen regiments, have penetrated the Amphra's outer ring of defenses, quickly uncovered grotesque facilities in which entire generations of Tanibites were kept in rows upon rows of sealed pens, restrained and intravenously fed nutrients until their pale, bloated forms barely resembled anything human. They were men made livestock, lethargic and simple-minded, bred solely for the purpose of the sustaining the Amphra's ravenous hunger for human flesh. When word of this reached Warmaster van Dragen's ears, he personally ordered the destruction of any and all of these disgusting structures on sight, and that all their semi-human inhabitants be granted the Emperor's Mercy. These orders were acted upon with fervor, and fires raged throughout the Tanibite mega-districts for many months after the planet's re-capture.
During this event, the Inquisition was quick to declare the Amphra species Xenos Horrificus, an action that would only garner further support for the Xenocide.
- "...and in the face of the tides most foul, the Deep-Beasts claws a-clacking and maws a-gaping, Brynjar, son of Hrothgar, Jarl of the Ragged Hounds, went to meet the Thunder King with a song on his lips and an axe in his hand..."
- —From the Saga of the Unbowed
The sweet taste of victory would soon turn bitter in the face of the Amphra's retalitory actions. Mere weeks after the Imperial banner been raised over the reclaimed Tanibite Hive-Spires, a Clutch Bluemaw strikeforce bludgeoned its way through the plantary blockade and began to rain death upon the Guardsmen below. Fearful of losing their only beachhead within the Matriarchy's expanse, Battlefleet Medici was deployed en masse to stave off this sudden assault, unaware of the hidden danger.
Clutch Bluemaw's suicidal attack was little more than an elaborate feint. Unbeknownst to the Imperials, Rkliir had expended considerable resources in an attempt to strike off the head of the Imperial war machine. Even as an entire Klorri warfleet burned in the skies of Tanib Zeta, an squadron of elite Lusca-Class Scoutships slipped past the now-distracted Imperial navy, their advanced sublight engines burning bright trails through the void towards their target; Korinthos.
Early on in the Xenocide the Imperium had claimed the Dead World as their forward base of operations. Adeptus Mechanicus labor-teams had descended onto its charred surface to construct a fortress worthy of directing such an grand endeavor, and they did not disappoint. Designated Augustus Base, it was a veritable cathedral to wartime operations, built into the rocky face of a now-unearthed undersea mountain range. Its adimantium ramparts bristled with automated defenses, boasting both a domed void shield and a spire-like communications away capable of sending and receiving sector-wide astropathic communications. At the time Warmaster van Dragen and several of the Crusade's senior command staff had gathered within Augustus Base, including Jarl Brynjar of the Einherjars, who was considered an authority on Amphra tactics, and Major Roan Holden of the Olea 22nd, who's infamous "Stonewalls" ran security for Augustus Base.
The first signs of an incursion came when the Olean perimeter patrols suddenly began to fall silent, one after the other, their vox-channels filled with static and garbled screams. Then, without warning, the base's primary and secondary shield generators were destroyed, causing the void shield to flicker out of existence. The alarms were sounded and Warmaster van Dragen was shepherded into the Augustus Base saferoom, while the Stonewalls took up defensive positions, and Brynjar and his Thanes readied their blades from the coming onslaught.
An onslaught it was, led by a cadre of Greyspine Skulkers, the elite ambuscade units of the Amphra Matriarchy. Blowing down the main doors with strategically-placed Oscillation Charges, the Skulkers rushed forwards through the breach, only to be met with a hail of concentrated lasfire. The Stonewalls were nothing if not effective, their pinpoint accuracy and interlocking firing positions piercing the Amphra's mottled carapaces and searing the soft flesh beneath, cutting down the Skulkers in droves. However, the Drays of Clutch Greyspine were only a prelude to the true threat.
The bulk of the strike force sent to Korinthos was made up of Tidal Claws, a primordial Amphra phenotype renowned for their strength and ferocity. Standing taller than the largest Dray and armored in chitin thicker than Terminator plate, the Tidal Claws trod over the corpses of their fallen brethren and smashed into the massed Olean lines like a typhoon, massive Virboclaws snapping and rending, Barbcannons and Electrolas batteries spitting death.
Faced with an overwhelming offensive the Stonewalls were forced to withdraw to the inner sanctum, putting as many reinforced blast doors between them and the enemy as they possibly could. The Olean combat engineers attempted to activate the Base's auto-defenses but to no avail, somehow their controls had been sabotaged as well. Tarantula Sentry Guns and Combat-Servitors alike remained inactive even as the Tidal Claws lumbered past them, tearing their way through bulkhead after bulkhead.
Yet in even in so dismal a situation, one hope still remained. Augustus Base's astropathic relay was still fully operational. If a distress signal was sent out then the Imperial naval cordon stationed near Riga Binary could arrive with reinforcements within an hours' time. The only complication: whomever had sabotaged the base's auto-defenses had also disabled all inter-station comms. In order to send a signal, one would have to transverse meters of hallway now swarming with Amphra in order to access the manual control hub located at within the uppermost levels of Augustus Base. With little time and dwindling options, Jarl Byrnjar took charge of the situation. He, his loyal Thanes, and a squad of Olean Stonewalls would sally forth in hopes of activating the astropathic relay. Major Holden and the remainder of his men would stay behind to guard the saferoom.
Brynjar and his ramshackle force set out only to be met be significant resistance. Surviving Greyspines lurked around every corner, their chameleonic shells blending into the gunmetal expanse of the corridors, chipping away at the Guardsmen's numbers with every sudden strike. Those Tidal Claws not focused on breaching the inner sanctum were quick to react to the sounds of conflict, and soon Bryjar's sojourn became a desperate game of cat-and-mouse, his men so harried that soon only a handful remained. All the while the bulk of the Amphra force drew closer and closer to the Warmaster's position.
Slowly but surely, those brave few reached the entrance to the astropathic command hub, only to be met by a trio of marauding Tidal Claws. Brynjar ordered his men into one final charge; they would reach the hub or die trying. It is said that in their final moments Olean and Ymirfolk alike fought like men possessed, the Jarl himself managing to dispatch one of the monstrous Amphra singlehandedly armed with nothing but a chainaxe, before finally succumbing to his wounds.
Meanwhile, the Amphra had finally managed to breach the sanctum doors and poured forth to meet Major Holden and his Stonewalls. The Olea 22nd Infantry poured everything they had into their defense of the Warmaster: meltaguns and rocket launchers were fired point blank into the ranks of their enemies, improvised mines of plastic explosive and detcord littered the floors outside the main entrance, and any of those few Amphra who managed to survive the cacophony of detonations were picked off with precision las-fire. The sheer weight of the combined firepower soon began choking the entrance with the bodies of dead Amphra. Minutes ticked past, and soon ammunition began to run dry, and the Tidal Claws continued to advance. Combat knives and multitools were readied, and Major Holden and his men prepared to meet their fate...
Suddenly, the Amphra were cut down from behind by a hail of bolt-shots. Purple-armored Space Marines rushed through the breach, chainblades revving, making short work of the wounded xenos. Brynjar had succeed. Reinforcements had been summoned, in the form of the Adeptus Astartes of the Iron Praetorians. Upon receiving Augustus Base's distress signal, the Strike Cruiser Aquillon had warped in-system and set course for Korinthos immediately. Even now, Praetorian Tactical Squads roamed the halls and systematically purged them of the remaining Amphra threat.
In the wake of what would later be known as the Second Siege of Korinthos, awards and reparations were dolled out posthaste. Major Roan Holden was promoted to the rank of Colonel for his outstanding bravery, and placed in command of the remnants of the Olea 22nd Infanry, who would come to form the bulk of the Warmaster's personal bodyguard unit. Jarl Brynjar's body was recovered and upon request was sent back to Ymir, so that the brave Einherjar would be given a proper burial alongside his ancestors. His only surviving Thane, Skandr, would be made Jarl of the Ragged Hounds in his stead. Surprisingly, none amongst the Homestead challenged him for his position for the remainder of the campaign.
Augustus Base was scrapped, never to be utilized again, and for his own safety Warmaster van Dragen was rotated from battleship to battleship on a bi-weekly basis, surrounded by Guardsmen at nearly all times. Though the Amphra's preemptive strike had been successfully repulsed, disturbing questions began to haunt Imperial High Command. How had the Amphra learned of the Base's existence? Who had sabotaged it's defenses? Were there traitors in their midst, and if so, where would they strike next?
War by Other Means
As the Xenocide entered its second year, the Imperium began to regain some of its former momentum. Having lost a sizable amount of elite forces in the failed attempt on Warmaster van Dragen's life, the Ghan'Ghash-Dray ordered a tactical withdrawal from the Cancridrae-Mazul border. Crusade Battlegroups were quick to claim the outlying worlds abandoned by the Matriarchy, establishing new staging grounds on worlds such as Entrassi, Huroc IV, and Vion Minor. Marshaling their respective armies, both sides of the conflict prepared for yet another massive offensive.
Yet in the midst of these preparations, a very different sort of conflict was brewing behind Imperial lines. For months now the Cancridrean High Conclave had been orchestrating a massive investigation into the events of the Second Siege of Korinthos. Working in tandem with both Logistics and Naval intelligence, the agents of the Ordo Xenos analyzed and cross-referenced every nook and cranny of the now-derelict Augustus Base, determined to identify the source of the sabotage that had nearly cost the lives of the Base's denizens. Every single working part was dismantled, scanned, and re-scanned, until eventually the Inquisition stumbled upon a name: the Caebolg Merchant Fleet.
With the Cancridrae Sub-Sector being so divorced from Imperial space and thereby far from any viable Forge or Industrial Worlds, it was a well-known fact that the Crusade relied almost exclusively on local Merchant Fleets in order to sustain its ceaseless demand for fresh rations, weaponry, and other materiel. The Caebolg Merchant Fleet was one such supplier, run by a trading dynasty of the same name whom had plied the stars around the Imperium's fringes for nearly five generations. Their interest piqued, the Inquisition focused their considerable resources into observing and investigating the business ventures of the venerable merchant clan. What they uncovered was alarming to say the least.
The Caebolg family apparently had deep-seated connections to a clandestine network of Cold Traders known as the Shellheads, who specialized in the illegal smuggling and sale of Amphra technologies. Many of the Caebolg's mercantile voyages were but a front for the Shellheads' operations, covertly transporting xenotech to black market auctions held within the Mazul System and beyond, from which they received a generous cut of the profits. Probing deeper, the Cancridrean High Conclave managed to identify one of the key ringleaders of the criminal conspiracy; a Chartist Captain and rumored xenophile by the name of Gendry Caebolg.
In light of these recent discoveries, the forces of the Inquisition mobilized with their trademark efficiency. Lord Inquisitor Beyale invoked ancient pacts between the Ordo Xenos and the Emperor's Chosen Chapter in order to secure the temporary services of their void combat-oriented 5th Company. Per his orders their venerable Battle-Barge, the Fire Upon the Walls, intercepted Gendry Caebolg's own vessel, the Ambition-Class Cruiser Maelor Gawr, just outside of contested space. From there a handpicked strike team of shield-wielding Astartes Breaching Squads boarded the Gawr, supported by a cohort of Inquisitorial Storm Troopers. Led by Beyale himself, the strike team sallied forth into unknown dangers with the goal of capturing the Chartist Ship's captain alive, though not undamaged.
It was aboard that cursed starship that the full extent of the Caebolg's corruption was revealed. The strike team encountered all manner of lavish halls full to the brim with xenos trinkets and artifacts, underdeck bestiaries playing host to all manner of aquatic alien megafauna, and even a miniaturized "breeding pens" akin to those found on Tanib Zeta, in which squirmed rows upon rows of pallid subhumans. It seemed the Caebolgs had adopted many Amphra customs, including their appetite for human flesh. Even the household guards who dogged their advances at every turn had been modified with extensive Amphra bionics, transforming them into grotesque hybridized cyborgs.
Worst of all was their master, Captain Gendry himself, his frame made massive by his augmented armature of Exoplating, teeth filed to points, chitinous growths breaking through his skin as some unknown xenotech slowly corroded his very DNA. He cackled like a madman as Apollyon and his forces rushed into the bridge, gunning down man and Space Marine alike in a barrage of sonic waves and las-bolts that blasted forth from his arsenal of implanted Autosystem weaponry. In the end it took the combined efforts both Inquisitor Beyale and two Emperor's Chosen Sergeants to finally beat the former Chartist Captain into unconsciousness. Dragging Gendry's augmented bulk back to the Battle-Barge, the remnants of the strike force watched with righteous vindication in their hearts as their vessel's guns reduced the scuttled Maelor Gawr to ashes.
Gendry Caebolg was transported to the Inquisitorial Blacksite Ironrest, near the Riga Binary Star Cluster, where he endured the ministrations of the Conclave's most skilled Interrogators for almost a full week before finally breaking. From his babbled confessions the Inquisition learned yet another name: Clutch Gloomdepth. According to Gendry, his contacts within the Shellheads hadn't just been looting Amphra technologies, they had been actively trading with the enigmatic Amphra Clutch. He himself had even been visited by Gloomdepth dignitaries, and in return for choice bits of information they had gifted him with all manner of strange and wondrous devices.
With this final testimony all the puzzle pieces fell into place. The Shellhead network and by extension the Caebolg family were all but puppets of the Matriarchy, with Clutch Gloomdepth holding their strings. Through them they had learned of the Imperial supply chains directing the construction of Augustus Base and therefore learned of its location and weaknesses, no doubt wreaking all manner of sabotage through their human agents, and God-Emperor knew how many other locations they had infiltrated. After promptly executing Gendry and shooting his tainted remains into the nearest star, Beyale went straight to Warmaster van Dragen with his findings. Together, the two organized a retaliatory strategy, codenamed Operation Privateer.
The goal of Operation Privateer was simple: covertly eradicate the Shellheads, the Caebolg family, and any others who might dance at the whims of the Amphra Matriarchy. The forces of the Ordo Xenos were given extravagant support; the Deathwatch rallied to its side, Officio Assassinorum Execution Teams were flown in from Terra itself, the only prerequisite being that the Conclave could not under any circumstances implicate Crusade forces in the matter, for knowledge of traitors seeded throughout their ranks could prove devastating for morale. So did the Emperor's Inquisition wage a shadow war from within, even as the war without reached a critical stage...
The Doom of M’Kresh
- "There shall be no respite. We push ever onwards, or we die."
- —Attributed to Clan Elder Rhegar Ka'Vaal
With the Xenocide having already claimed a swath of once Amphra-held worlds, the forces of the Imperium slowly but surely began to close in on one of the Crusade's primary objectives: the recapture of the Mining World of M'Kresh, a dismal, barren planet that orbited just barely out of reach of a supermassive singularity known as the Astral Chasm. The planet's main value laid in the very nature of the intense gravitational forces that held it, which caused all manner of rare minerals to form underneath its crust. Before the Matriarchy had invaded, M'Kresh had supplied raw ores to Forge Worlds across the sector. Now it was a fully-fledged foundry in its own right, the Amphra having claimed its subterranean wealth to fuel their own war efforts.
The stragtegic importance of retaking M'Kresh was twofold. Imperial Logistics theorized that M'Kresh alone must supply at least a third of the Matriarchy's materiel, and thus its recapture would no doubt severly cripple their combat effectiveness. The second reason, however, was far more pressing. Across the Sub-Sector the Crusade's advances were once again grinding to a halt in the face of the Matriarchy's new offenses, and with their own supply lines under intense scrutiny (largely thanks to Operation Privateer), the Crusade was beginning to run on fumes. It needed a local resource to draw on, before the entire campaign collapsed under the weight of its own demands.
M'Kresh, however, was hardly the most vulnerable of locations. Its proximity to the Chasm made any attempt at planetfall extremely hazardous, as the conflicting gravities were likely to tear it into scrap metal before landing preparations could even be begun. As such, the only way on or off of M'Kresh were the massive pillar-like installations known as the Chuteworks, masterworks of pre-Dark Age origin designed to transport personal and mined materials into their sub-orbital dockyards to be safely processed and shipped offworld. Over time these industrial monoliths had been further altered by their Imperial inhabitants, and soon each Chutework was akin to a labyrinthian hive-district in structure, serving as both mining installation, dockyards, and living quarters for their thousands-strong worker population. Most if not all of the Chuteworks would need to be re-caputred if the Crusade was to secure its much-needed input of fresh resources.
Another complication was the temporal distortion; the Astral Chasm's gravitational pull being so great that not even time itself could escape its grasp. On M'Kresh, the passage of time slowed to a crawl while events taking place in the rest of the galaxy sped by. If any force was sent to claim the planet, that force could potentially become "missing in action" for years, even decades before finally returning to the fray, which was time the Crusade simply did not have at this stage.
Nevertheless, in the face of rapidly depleting supplies, Imperial High Command had no choice but to greenlight a direct attack. Due to the unique nature of their target, a highly specialized formation was assembled, crafted from handpicked units drawn from throughout the Imperial offensive. The Space Marines of Clan Topór were among the first to muster, nearly one-hundred sons of the Gorgon answering the call to arms, led by none other than their own Clan Elder Rhegar Ka'Vaal. Alongside them marched two full Heavy Infantry Regiments of the rust-armored Lenaphant Guard and the proud hill-warriors of the Khazamga 7th Infantry, hailing from the far-off Tricamerate Pact. Numbering just shy of four thousand in total, this small army quickly mobilized, speeding towards the unknown dangers of M'Kresh.
The plan for the preliminary insertion was relatively simple. The Imperial starships would rendezvous to Chutework Lambada, the largest of the Mining World's towering installations, their approach spearheaded by the Astartes Battle-Barge Black Hand. Once the venerable had annihilated whatever void-borne defenses the Amphra had erected around Lambada's docking stations, the Children of the Anvil would deploy via boarding pods, breaching and clearing the upper levels to make way for the deployment of the Imperial Guardsmen. Or at least, that was the plan.
Due to the temporal anomalies surrounding M'Kresh, Imperial High Command had been unable to glean any solid intelligence regarding the strength and disposition of the Matriarchy forces stationed there. None would have known that the Amphra of Clutch Bloodwake, preferring their meat raw and screaming, had repurposed Lambada's main void-docking bay into their principal larder and feeding area so that they might feast upon deliveries of "fresh livestock". None would have expected that, after disembarking from their still-smoking pods with Chainaxes barred, the Adeptus Astartes would rush headfirst into fifteen-score Bloodwake Drays partaking in a midday meal.
What followed has was a truly titanic struggle as opposing waves of Astartes and Amphra crashed into each other with bone-shattering force. Chainteeth revved against chitin, vibroclaws pierced ceramite, and bolters and barbcannons discharged point-blank. The space the combatants occupied became so claustrophobic that there was barely even room to swing a weapon; one could only press forward or die. The deckplating beneath their feet became so slick with gore that all footing became unstable, and all those who fell were often unknowingly trampled to death by their fellows. What had started as a tactical shock-and-awe advance had morphed into a veritable war of attrition..
By the time the Imperial Guard complement arrived to reinforce, of the fifty Children of the Anvil who had originally been sent in, twelve remained, while the Drays had either retreated further into the facility, or lay on the floor in bloodstained piles. Nevertheless, the strike force had completed its first objective, and as reinforcements slowly filtered in, the Space Marines licked their wounds and the Guardsmen set about reinforcing the Chutework docking bay, preparing for the next assault.
That assault would never occur. Whether by coicidence or simply bad luck, the Imperial vanguard had arrived on M'Kresh just as the Astral Chasm's event horizon began to expand exponentially. Caught up in a seething wave of gravitic force, the Black Hand was forced to initiate an emergency warp-jump in order to avoid being ripped asunder by the conflux. All forces present on the Mining World, both Amphra and Imperial alike, were left stranded, separated from the rest of the galaxy by the time-bending properties of gravitational relativity.
It was perhaps a testament to the callous nature of warfare that neither side noticed their absence until it was too late.
Struggling Ever Onwards
The Cancridrae Xenocide was entering its third year, and far as Crusade Command was concerned, The M'Kresh offensive had failed, quashing whatever scant hopes their might have been for the production fresh materiel to revitalize the campaign. At this point even Warmaster van Dragen himself felt to continue this "Reclamation Crusade" any further would be pure folly. They had already recaptured many of the star systems from the clutches of the Matriarchy; better to cut their losses and consolidate their hold on the Sub-Sector than pursue the Amphra into uncharted space with limited resources and little chance of reinforcement.
Segmentum Command disagreed vehemently with the Warmaster's viewpoint, for in their eyes, to cede even the slightest bit of reprieve to such vile xenos was tantamount to heresy. Thus the Crusade plodded onwards into the great unknown, though not nearly as efficiently as beforehand. Yet the starved and harried Imperial offensive found itself on equal footing with a similarly disorganized Matriarchy, years of ceaseless combat having strained already unstable inter-Clutch relations to the breaking point. Carefully coordinated stratagems on both sides devolved into a seemingly endless series of sporadic attacks and counter-attacks, like two underhive pit-fighters beaten bloodily to the cusp of complete exhaustion, slugging it out to the bitter end.
Most of the fighting was relegated to a veritable no-man’s land of frontier worlds later named the Ka-Terra Front (literally “Soul of Terra”), a chain of diverse yet surprisingly verdant planets, slowly but surely rendered desolate as all manner of engagements played out across their surfaces.
In the Alera Spiral star system, as Medici Destroyers and Clutch Bloodwake war-frigates burned overhead, the Khazamga 1st Rough Riders clashed against Amphra armored divisions on the ashen plains of Alera B-33. Having grown tired of futilely chasing down the fleet-footed horsemen, Bloodwake Ghash-Dray Krriik took to the field herself, she and her retinue each astride a blood-maddened Leviathan. The chitinous behemoths scythed through the Rough Rider’s formations, trampling the Khazamga into the dirt. Doubtless the day would have been lost, if not for one Havildar Rawalputra Singh who, urging his Chevandiran steed into a charge, deftly maneuvered between the pincer-like legs of Krriik’s mount and pierced the Leviathan’s vulnerable underbelly with his lance. With the beast’s organs spilling out in a titanic gush of viscera, Krriik topped to the ground, only to be pierced by a dozen Khazamga War Lances before she could even sit upright. With their commander’s death the Amphra routed and Singh was later awarded the Ribbon Intrinsic for his heroic feat, though unfortunately his faithful horse did not live to see the Imperium victorious, its heart having ruptured from the strain.
On the icy planet Jairutra, a Departmento Munitorum convoy was delayed by a sudden snowstorm, only to be ambushed by Amphra. Field Enforcement Officer Raphael Ennis took charge of the situation, utilizing the convoy's own materiel to maintain communication and provide mobile fire support as he and his staff kept the cargo vehicles moving under heavy fire. Luckily for the Munitorium adepts, the weather proved to be both a blessing and a curse, as neither side could see the other, and thus the untrained clerks and laborers managed to hold out just long enough for Battlegroup Gamma to a scramble an Avenger Squadron to the convoy's aid. This same Avenger Squadron, nicknamed “The Seventy Daggers” supported Imperial forays into Amphra-held coastal regions on the continents Jairutra Minoris and Jairuta Tercius, in what would later come to be known as the Jaitura Swamp Wars.
Elsewhere, Northwatch Bastion, so named for its northward facing location on the Southern branch of the Shekrelli river, was established as a holdfast by the Nerushimi Ironclad regiments making landfall on the Amphra World Ch'Okk. However, their advance quickly stalled as the forces of Clutch Greyspine converged against them. In order to preserve the campaign's momentum the Iron Praetorians 6th Shock Company surged forth to assist the besieged guardsmen, wading through the waist-deep waters of the Shekrelli River at full flood, unaware or perhaps uncaring of the Greyspines' propensity for surprise attacks. As soon as the Astartes battlegroup was fully mired down within the massive waterway, flocks of lamprey-mouthed Squidbats exploded from the watery depths, goaded into a frenzy by discreet ultrasonic emitters planted within the riverbed. Greyspine Drays fired into the churning waters from the relative safety of the opposing shoreline, coruscating particle blasts frying the sodden Space Marines in their own Power Armor, even as brave battle-brothers were dragged underwater by screeching Squidbats. Outmaneuvered and with their numbers severely depleted, Centurion Draxus quickly ordered his company into a retreat, dashing any hopes of reinforcement and leading to a swift victory for the Amphra.
Hoping to circumvent Amphra Klorri patrolling the Ch'Okk star-system, Battlegroup Gamma fleet elements risked circumnavigating the stellar tides of the Crowfoot Nebula, only to look on in confusion at a spectacular sight. Two entire Amphra warfleets raged against each other within the nebula's murky depths, electrolaser blasts and sublight reactor meltdowns sending up nova-bright flares of iridescence within the inky void. This incident of inter-clutch warfare would later be recorded as the Crowfoot Nebula Incident, and would be seen by many as a blessing straight from the hands of the God-Emperor, as it allowed Battlegroup Gamma to slip by unharmed and deposit five whole artillery-companies of Tirone Thunderers on the contested surface of Ch'Okk. Obliterating entire war-broods with their pinpoint bombardments, the Thunderers' arrival sadly did not win the day, but it did keep Ch'Okk's beleaguered Imperial forces alive for a few more desperate months.
Battle of the Alera Spiral
- "The end comes for the soft prey. Gather to Llssaa, First Daughter of the Tides, Brood-Mother to the Clutch of Blood-Trailed Wake. Gather to her the finest craft of your War-Artisans, and swim the Gleaming Oceans in the shadow of her Palace. The end comes..."
- —Intercepted Amphra Broadcast (Translated from Krrlsk)
As the pace of the war effort slowly but surely ground to a halt, both sides of the conflict clamored for one last decisive strike to finally break the seemingly endless stalemate. Matriach Llssaa, on the advice of her Ghan’Ghash-Dray, flew out to the warfront herself aboard the Arkship Kssaa Lrri in order to muster a massive warfleet from those clutches who still remained loyal to her. This massive conglomeration of Amphra starships, christened the Ssrr’Klorri (roughly translates to “Endfleet”), set a direct course for Imperial space, determined to sell themselves dearly in the name of the Matriarch.
Of course, a fleet movement of that size did not go unnoticed, Imperial intelligencers and astronavigators detected the burning wake of the Amphra’s fusion engines light-years away. When the matter was brought before Warmaster van Dragen, he and his increasing estranged council of Lord Marshalls could only agree on one course of action; if the campaign was to survive, this unstoppable force would have to be met with an immovable object. Thus Battlefleet Medici, battered and depleted from years of near-ceaseless void combat, was once again called upon to spearhead one more last Imperial assault.
Lord-Admiral Amarante once again opted to use the Imperial vessels’ greater speed to its fullest advantage, intercepting the Ssrr’Klorri within the astral tempest of the Alera Spiral via coordinated warp-jump. The Medician ships were arranged into a specialized triple wedge formation, Destroyers leading the charge, Battleships and Cruisers forming the solid core of the advance, and Escorts covering the flanks. Not wasting a second, the Imperial fleet released a veritable horde of attack fighters and bombers, occupying the Amphra’s long range cannons and lances just long enough for their main force to close ranks, lacerating the Endfleet’s exposed flank like a trio of arrows. Engines were overclocked to ramming speed and eagle-stamped prows sheared through those hieroglyph-inscribed bulkheads that had not already been split open by macrocannons and plasma batteries fired at point-blank range.
The Imperium had seized the initiative, but the Lord-Admiral, observing the carnage firsthand from the bridge of the Mars-Class Battlecrusier Renault, had made a critical error. He had underestimated the Amphra’s resolve, a resolve that was only amplified by the presence of their Matriarch. The formation of support vessels ringed in concentric circles around the Kssaa Lrri did not hold their position, but rather uncoiled and struck out like an Amphr seawyrm, cutting off the Medicians’ withdrawal. Now the Imperial warships were playing the Amphra's game; a battle of space-borne attrition their assault craft were ill-equipped to handle. The Destroyers Luccerza and Moltino were corralled and crippled under the sheer weight of enemy fire. The Light Cruiser Milite di Verrico attempted to plot an escape course only to be ripped apart from bow to stern by a pair of Tursas Dreadnoughts. An ill-timed photonic lance struck the Frigate Passero, striking it amidships and rupturing its Warp Drive, resulting in a titanic explosion that scuttled its nearby sister-vessel, the Morante.
Battlefleet vox-channels were flooded with static-laced chatter; damage reports, pleas for assistance, even tearful prayers to the God-Emperor begging for absolution in the next life. The Lord-Admiral stared at numbly from his Command Throne, watching the casualties mount as the Ssrr’Klorri slowly but surely advanced. With their cohesion gone and the element of surprise lost, Amarante stood ready to order his ships into a fighting retreat, when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. An Amphra Corvette bearing the glyph-markings of Clutch Bloodwake was reversing its course, its engines flaring star-bright as it ponderously built momentum, burning faster and faster until it crashed directly into the Kssaa Lrri, the Arkship's embossed finery spinning off into the void in a hailstorm of precious metal. From the ruined wreckage of the traitorous vessel, Clan Elder Rhegar Ka'Vaal emerged, raising his chainaxe and sounding the charge as some 200 Guardsmen and Astartes plunged into the depths of Llssaa's floating fortress.
The Astral Chasm's entropic might had devoured the flow of time even as it devoured M'Kresh, and thus what had been nearly two years for the rest of the galaxy had been mere minutes for the Children of the Anvil and their mortal compatriots. With the Battle-Barge Black Hand having informed him of the approaching doom, the ever-pragmatic Rhegar chose to live to fight another day, ordering his remaining forces into commandeering one of the few remaining Amphra warships docked at Chutework Lambada. They escaped only by the skin of their teeth, with many brave comrades perishing as they fought through waves of Bloodwake Drays that were just as eager to flee as they. Not long after their depature the stolen ship's sensors picked up the Matriarch's call to arms, and the survivors lept at the chance to avenge themselves upon the hated xenos.
Now, Space Marine, Lenaphant enforcer, and Khazamga hillsman alike raced through the Arkship's opulent halls with near-suicidal abandon. They had no goal, no plan, their only desire was to wreak as much havoc as possible before death claimed them, and wreak havoc they did, so much so that the Endfleet itself began to loose cohesion as Amphra vessels scrambled to react to this sudden turn of events. Meanwhile, Amarante thanked the Emperor and every Saint he knew of for this glorious opportunity and ordered his fellow Medicians back into the fray.
Back aboard the Arkship, whether by happenstance or deliberate intent, the rampaging Strike Force remnants found themselves within a truly cavernous chamber. The floor-tiling alternated between gold and marble, bedecked at intervals with abstract statuary of sculpted coral, the domed ceiling one massive mural of gemstone and seashell, depicting ruby-wrought crimson Amphra ascending to stars of diamond upon waves of solid aquamarine. At the center of it all lay a massive circular depression filled to the brim with frothing seawater, in which lay the largest Amphra any of the assembled Imperials had ever seen. So massive was its girth that folds of pale, flabby flesh protruded between the plates of a carapace so gilded it was more ornamentation than chitin. Here lay Llssaa, Matriarch of the Amphra, Birth-Mother of Clutch Bloodwake, Favored of the Aamrr, and between her and them lay her Ghash-Guard.
The firstborn of the Matriarch were a fearsome sight indeed, their endoplated shells scarred and sutured from battle and bionic enhancement. No gold for these warriors; their blood-red chitin was instead inlaid with iron and adimantium torn from the corpses of the Imperial soldiers they had slaughtered. Dead-white skulls and ribcages, gnawed clean of flesh and tied together with ropes of dried seaweed, were slung across shoulder and chest plates. As one the Firstborn screeched and charged, vibroblades thrumming with ultrasonic force, and Rhegar and his men, now barely fifty strong, met them head on.
Meanwhile, outside the void once again raged with macromunitions as the Medicians pounced upon the now-disorganized Endfleet. Calling upon the lessons learned at Riga Binary, the Lord-Admiral had his vessel’s fire upon the Amphra at a distance, crippling them from afar even as he saved the greatest of targets for himself. The Renault’s mighty Novacannon released shell after shell of super-accelerated adimantium into the Kssa Lrri’s baroque hide. Great chunks of its superstructure began to peel off, floating off into the starlit darkness, the impacts reverberating throughout the hull. Ka’Vaal felt them even as his allies, mortal and battle-brother alike, were reduced to pulped flesh and powdered bone. The Ghash-Guard were relentless in their protection of their brood-mother, even as Llssaa continued to screech and scream at the closeness of the danger, her huge bulk’s convulsions frothing the water around her.
With his power armor sundered, one augmetic arm torn from its socket, and his chainaxe clogged with shards of chitin, Rhegar Ka’Vaal, Clan Elder of Clan Topór, son of Ferrus Manus, raised his weapon for one final charge… just as a fortunately-aimed Novacannon blast cored the arkship’s atomic reactor. The entire vessel detonated in a spectacular display of ionic energies, the blast wave reducing even several nearby Bloodwake escorts to their component atoms. The bridge of the Renault exploded with cheers as the bridge crew celebrated their snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat, even as the Lord-Admiral fell to his knees in relief, tracing the sign of the Aquilla over his chest.
As for the Rhegar and his valiant comrades, the blast had utterly vaporized their remains, alongside that of the Matriarch and her fanatical children. Their victory would forever remain unchronicled, even as the Battlefleet’s was lauded.
Though the Battle of the Alera Spiral may have been a glorious triumph in the moment, it was ultimately a pyrrhic one. The Amphra Matriarchy may have been repulsed, broken even, but so too was Battlefleet Medici. Four long years as the Crusade’s sole offensive naval element had not been kind to the starships, or the men crewing them. Now with the fleet barely capable of staying aloft in the void piling on top of all the Crusade’s now myriad complication, the Cancridrae Xenocide had well and truly been knocked off of its last legs. In 459.006.M40, Warmaster van Dragen officially abdicated his position, and the rest of the Crusade command was disbanded soon after. To the disappointment and resentment of many, the Cancridrae Reclamation Crusade shuddered to a complete standstill.
Throughout the centuries following, Imperial historians often find themselves divided in their determination of who was the most responsible for the Xenocide’s failure, but draw some small catharsis in the fact that the Amphra fared no better. After the near-destruction of Clutch Bloodwake and the death of the Matriarch, the Clutches warred amongst themselves for a time until eventually a new power rose to prominence: Clutch Bluemaw. The former “first among firstborn” Rkllir became first among all Amphra as their new Matriarch, and the power has remained firmly grasped within Bluemaw’s pincers ever since. However, Rkllir gained dominion over a queendom of ashes, as the Crusade had so depleted the Amphra’s numbers that even to this day they refer to the disastrous conflict as the War of Broken Shells. Even over the course a millennium of rebuilding and repopulation they have never once attempted another large-scale attack upon the Imperium, such is the devastation that humanity wrought upon their species.
Meanwhile, as the Matriarchy reconsolidated so too did the Imperium, the re-captured star systems reorganized into a sort of pseudo-sector dubbed the Cancridrean Periphery. While this stretch of xeno-haunted frontier space is hardly the glorious bastion of humanity once envisioned, its inhabitants still cling fiercely to it.
Order of Battle
In comparison to similar military endeavors, the Cancridrae Xenocide was a relatively small operation, and thus its overall command hierarchy and structure were both basic and somewhat improvised in many regards. Overall command still laid in the hands of Warmaster, but his council of Lord Marshals each oversaw individual Battlegroups, each one consisting of various mixed Imperial Guard/Imperial Navy forces, as well as attached Adeptus Mechanicus support staff, Logistics staff, etc.
Regimental command still laid in the hands of said Regiment's commanding Colonel (and/or similar corresponding rank), though all were obligated to report to their Battlegroup's commanding Lord Marshal, as was protocol. The individual Battlegroups consisted of the following:
|1st Adrine Regiment||Infantry||75000||1||Colonel Mikus Wran|
|23rd Bastion-Born||Armored||1000||1||Marshal Nikia Esannon|
|Aegina Prestige||Heavy Infantry||1000||10||Corps-Major Winrich Bessen|
|Einherjars of Ymir||Mechanized||11000||2|| Jarl Brynjar "The Unbowed"
|Garlatan Drop Legion||Drop||900||2||Colonel Hugh Riker|
|Ionian Dragoons||Cavalry||10000||10||Colonel Helena Mordino|
|Mazul Primus-Guard||Mechanized Infantry||1200||3||Colonel Thal Merrog|
|Khazamga 1st Rough Riders||Cavalry||779||1||Karnala Advik Faiyaz|
|Khazamga 7th Infantry||Mechanized||1600||1||Karnala Neerav Singh|
|19th Zeynus Infantry "Dagger Dogs"||Infantry||12000||1||Regiment Commander Nokai|
|Lenaphant Guard||Heavy Infantry||1960||2|| Colonel Luger Hepheim
Colonel Lothar Carsten
|Olea 22nd Infantry||Heavy Infantry||1200||1||Colonel Roan Holden|
|Outremar Artillery Auxilla||Artillery||800||4||Colonel Ulric Haverson|
|Oberon Armored||Armored||1000||2||Colonel Klade Crotwell|
|14th Jopall Indentured Squadron||Light Infantry||100||1||Major Carro Grimmel|
|Grenadier Guards of Alsace||Infantry||4000||4||Chef de Bataillon Larue Lagoutte|
|Heliothrix Combine||Mechanized||6500||7||Colonel Rolf Viet|
|Nerushimi Ironclad||Mechanized||4000||4|| Colonel Nikita Engalychev
Colonel Grigory Preobrazhensky Colonel Yury Yegorov.
|Polax Shock Regiments||Heavy Infantry||200||2||Major Edythe Seiger|
|Rusveld Tread Riders||Armored||2000||6||Major Fennias|
|Tirone Thunderers||Artillery||750||5||Colonel Zakariah Brankovich|
Notoriously independent, those Space Marine Chapter's who did answer Warmaster van Dragen's call to arms respected his rank if nothing else, but kept their own council. Having come equipped with their own designated fleet and support elements, they were later organized into the Imperial battle plan as "Strike Forces", one per each individual Chapter. Throughout the course of the Xenocide they mostly participated in surgical strike operations or provided support to the Imperial Guard Battlegroups as the situation demanded. The individual Strike Forces consisted of:
|Strike Force Trion (Iron Praetorians)|
|1st, 6th, and 9th|| Iron Chariot (Battlecruiser)
Aquillon (Strike Cruiser)
|Strike Force Chrysion (Emperor's Chosen)|
|2nd, 5th, and 8th|| Fire Upon the Walls (Battle Barge)
Scabbard (Strike Cruiser)
|300||Captain Ekeb Garver|
|Strike Force Incudon (Children of the Anvil)|
|Clan Topór (Clan Company)||Black Hand (Battle Barge)||150||Clan Elder Rhegar Ka'Vaal|
Battlefleet Medici was deployed in full force during the entire span of the Xenocide, the Medicians eager to avenge the losses the Amphra inflicted upon them in years long past. Their warships proved instrumental in both countering the Amphra's own fleet elements and in transporting Imperial Guardsmen from battle to battle.
The followers of the Machine God mainly played a largely supportive role during the Xenocide. Their priesthood was tasked with the rebuilding and redevelopment of Imperial worlds liberated from the Amphra or conquered by the Imperium. As such, entire armies worth of Mechanicus Artisans, Engiseers, and servitor labor-forces trailed in the wake of the main Battlegroups.
Many members of the Missionarus Galaxia also trailed in the wake of the Xenocide's military forces, to ensure the proper veneration and proliferation of the Imperial Creed within re-conquered worlds. Other than that however, the Ecclesiarchy had a fairly limited influence on the affairs of the campaign.
In light of the discovery of the Amphra Matriarchy, a conclave of Inquisitors was brought together under the aegis of one Wolfram Beyale, Lord Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos. Known as the Cancridrean High Conclave, the main objective of this "intelligence force" was the analysis of the Amphra as a species. Through many undisclosed means the Inquisitors gained precious insight into the physiology, behaviors, and culture of the Amphra, information that would prove invaluable to the campaign's high command.
- Warmaster Aloysious van Dragen - A veteran of the venerated Mazul Primus-Guard, and the descendant of a ancient pre-Unification bloodline, Aloysious van Dragen was considered to be the most qualified to lead the Cancridrae Reclamation Crusade by all but himself. When he was called to the front he did so out of duty, not out of choice, having already sacrificed so much in both mind and body for the Imperium of Man. Though Imperial propagandists tend to paint him as a bold, heroic conqueror, those who knew him personally described him as a bitter, foul-tempered individual, with a noticeable fondness for strong drink that was eventually the end of him.
- Lord-Admiral Salian Amarante III - Having fought and clawed his way out of the shadow of the highly influential Amador family, Salian Amarante III eventually rose to command the entirety of Battlefleet Medici, becoming the first non-Amador to ever ascend to the vaunted rank of Lord-Admiral, a feat he was notoriously proud of. Commanding from the Mars-Class Battlecruiser Renault, Amarante spearheaded a number of naval victories against the Amphra Klorri warfleets, culminating in the Battle of The Alera Spiral.
- Lord Inquisitor Wolfram Beyale - Wolfram Beyale headed the Inquisitorial Cancridrean High Conclave, and served as the Ordo Xenos' official liaison to Crusade Command. A somewhat controversial figure, Beyale was infamous in both inquisitorial and political circles, with notable ties to the van Dragen dynasty. Many historians ponder whether his support of the Xenocide was in fact a matter of bureaucratic maneuvering rather than duty, though none have ever gathered any conclusive evidence of this, and the Lord Inquisitor's descendants remain tight-lipped.
- Jarl Brynjar of Ymir - Brynjar was never expected to rise to prominence amongst such "civilized" men of war, as he and his Einherjars were regarded as little more than a necessary evil, a throwback to a more barbaric era of mankind. But despite all expectations, this "savage" was revealed to be the noblest of them all. The blood he and his homestead shed on Korinthos paved the way for further victories against the Amphra Matriarchy. After his heroic sacrifice during the Second Siege of Korinthos, he was personally awarded the Honorifica Imperialis by Warmaster van Dragen, and his remains shipped home to Ymir for a warrior's funeral.
- Colonel Roan Holden - A third generation soldier of the Olea 22nd “Stonewalls", placed in indefinite acting command for the duration of the Xenocide due to the death of his commander during the Second Siege of Korinthos. He survived the Crusade as the personal bodyguard and confidant of Warmaster van Dragen, only to die of lung cancer twenty years later thanks to his love of Lho Sticks. Known as a stalwart and reliable commander of men, the Oleans still celebrate his memory even to this day.
- Clan Elder Rhegar Ka'Vaal - Leader of Clan Topór, the infamous "Hatchet Men", Rhegar Ka'Vaal legendary persistence would lead to him becoming perhaps the greatest of the Xenocide's many unsung heroes. After narrowly escaping the celestial deathtrap that was the Astral Chasm super-singularity, Ka'Vaal's timely intervention during the Battle of the Alera Spiral turned the tide of the entire battle, though none would be able to thank him for it. He, along with all those remaining under his command, perished with the destruction of the Proteus-Class Arkship Kssa Lrri.
- Magos Dominus Titus Antiochus Rho-16 - Magos Antiochus was the leader of the Adeptus Mechanicus delegation sent to support the Xenocide's reconquest. He and Skitarii Cohort played the role of the rearguard for the breadth of the campaign, overseeing the reconstruction of dozens of captured worlds ravaged by war. After the Crusade finally concluded, Antiochus claimed dominion over the mineral-rich world of Gilgamesh, founding the Cancridrean Periphery's first Forge World.
- Ghan'Ghash-Dray Rklliir - The opportunistic Ghash-Dray of Clutch Bluemaw, Rklliir was the last in Amphra history to claim the antiquated rank of Ghan'Ghash-Dray, commander of the Matriarchy's united forces. Yet despite her apparent audacity, she proved to be a canny and effective strategist, forcing the otherwise Imperium's otherwise superior military might into stalemate after stalemate. After the death of Matriarch Llssaa during the Battle for the Alera Spiral, Rkklliir would once again make an ambitious power grab by proclaiming herself the new Matriarch, and her descendants have clung to power ever since.
- Matriarch Llssaa - In modern times this much-reviled Matriarch is referred to by her former subjects as Llssaa Krrnik Hggsh, or Llssaa the Prey-Feeder. Even to this day the Amphra still harbor resentment over their catastrophic losses against the "soft prey" and name her solely responsible for their defeat. Declared unworthy of joining the ranks of the venerated Amrr ancestor-gods, throughout Matriarchy the Llssaa's name is synonymous with failure on a massive scale.