Al-Sherar Sector War
|Al-Sherar Sector War|
|Status||Decisive Imperial Victory|
|Amatteir (Xenos)||Fifth Legion|
|Commanders and Leaders|
|The Council of Primates||Gaspard Lumey|
|multiple army groups, at least a dozen cruisers and scores of escorts||Thousands of Fifth Legion Astartes (including Neophytes)|
one demi-maniple Legio Cataegis
2 Markian Corps
one Army Ciban Chassuers
three Armies Ciban Fusiliers
unknown numbers of irregular and partisan formations
|Near-total destruction.||Dozens of Astartes, significant Auxilia losses.|
|Al-Sherar Sector brought into Compliance with the Imperial Truth. Remnants of the Amatteir splinter off into pirate bands, but the species is annihilated as an organised force.|
In 857.M30, the Fifth Legion fought a sector-wide conflict against the Xenos Empire of the Amatteir. While Gaspard Lumey's Space Marines were sorely tested, they emerged victorious with the aid of allies old and new. The addition of the Forge World Al-Sherar to the Imperium helped to spur on the Great Crusade.
I was somewhat taken aback by the Committee's proposal to resettle CH-3 and name it after me. There is no reason to be ashamed of our victory there, but I cannot escape the feeling that we are becoming too proud - and that our pride will bring disaster sooner or later.
- Marshal Jean-Davide d'Orléans, journals
Following the Pacification of the Chwiorydd Hardd, Gaspard Lumey returned to Ciban IV to prepare for the conquest of the Al-Sherar Sector. His foremost concern was the slaves liberated from CH-3 and CH-4. The Primarch saw to it that these unfortunates were settled on Ciban and made personal visits to the new citizens. Lumey's concern for the Amatteir's victims was real, but he was also keen to glean insights into his Xenos enemy.
Meanwhile, the officers of Fifth Legion were tasked with mobilising up the military resources of Markian sub-sector. If Lumey was still waiting impatiently for his first cadres of new Space Marines to complete their training, he had reason to smile on the efforts of his auxilia. The lessons learned in the recent campaign were integrated into the nascent Ciban Chasseurs and the moral effect of the conflict was electrifying the Markian Pact.
Light-years away the Amatteir's lotus-eating rulers were drawing plans of their own. Although slow to respond to the loss of their colonies at Chwiorydd Hardd, the Xenos eventually concluded that they were the victims of an attack originating on Ciban IV. Much of the delay had been caused by the puzzle of how a people they'd encountered only two centuries prior had leapt from feudal idiocy to the kind of sophistication required for the Chwiorydd Hardd operation. Once the evidence become incontrovertible, the Council of Primates planned a strike to eliminate Ciban IV before it became a real threat. A dozen cruisers and scores of escort warships were gathered to support army-scale landings on the human world's most heavily-populated regions.
Invasion of Ciban IV
This is Nadine Dufort for the SVCR. Saint-Vercy is still mostly in our hands. Fusiliers and Militia are holding up the invaders all along the Sequana. The Committee instructs every citizen to stay resolute: a free people cannot be conquered against their will.
- radio transmission on the third day of the invasion
Only Ténacité, an old Lunar-class cruiser gifted to the Fifth Legion by the Steel Marshals, and her escorts were present to defy the Amatteir warships that warped into the Ciban system. A terse discussion between Joso Nikolić on the Ténacité and his genefather on Ciban IV's surface saw the Imperial squadron withdraw before making contact with the invaders. Nikolić travelled to Ghalhal to ensure that the Fifth Legion's allies would be aware of the budding calamity.
Unopposed in space, the invaders began their planetary assault. The attack focused on Arcadia, Ciban IV's more heavily-populated populated continent and the site of both its temporary government at Saint-Vercy and the foundations of the new planetary capital, Ciban City. Records indicate that the Xenos landed several army groups, with between two and four million soldiers committed to Arcadia and perhaps half as many to the smaller continent of Jolof. This division of forces pitted the Amatteir's main strength against the Ciban Chasseurs and second-line Ciban Fusiliers, while Gaspard Lumey's Space Marines would face a much weaker force across the waves.
Early Operations on Arcadia
An Amatteir airstrike killed Jean-Davide d'Orléans and much of his command staff on the first day of the invasion, leaving Marie Fayolle in command. Unable to resist the invaders' airpower, Fayolle immediately ordered his mobile forces - the Ciban Chasseurs - to only move by night. This may have saved the Chasseurs, but it exposed the second-line Ciban Fusiliers guarding Arcadia's strongpoints and cities.
Xenos landings over-ran the second-class spaceport outside Saint-Vercy, but the Amatteir were stalled when they attempted to move into the city itself. Commandant Drouet Sainte-Menehould's Fusiliers had been joined by an immense turnout of irregulars, many of them armed with the black powder arms that had overthrown the Gallian monarchy a generation ago. Although the invaders had superior firepower and command of the skies, the stubborn courage of the Cibanese denied them access to Saint-Vercy's narrow streets.
If the Ciban Fusiliers were not as successful across Arcadia, the general pattern held good. Contrary to the Amatteir's expectations, their human foes, including many civilians, were not intimidated. Most of the continent's great cities remained at least partly in Cibanese hands and the Xenos had paid dearly for their gains. Even in the few cities that were completely overrun, the militias quickly transformed themselves into partisan bands and set to harassing the invaders.
Despite their limited gains on Arcadia, developments on Jolof soon compelled the Amatteir to redeploy forces to the southern continent.
The Fifth Legion was still a very small force by the standards of its star-going brethren. In a contrast to most of their campaigns, the Fifth's records of the fighting on Ciban IV are terribly incomplete, an indication of the bitter fighting that took place. However, it is known that Antoine Antonelle's cadre of a few hundred Astartes were joined in the field by their first class of recruits, bringing their numbers up to perhaps five thousand. Given the invaders' numbers, Gaspard Lumey initially refused battle and went to ground, letting the Amatteir seize control of Jolof's cities. In contrast to their Arcadian brethren, the ordinary citizens did not form up in militias - but partisans sprang up and started picking off sentries and sabotaging the occupiers' equipment.
Initial Amatteir bombing raids on the Fifth Legion's Collegium Majoris in the interior of Jolof were an utter failure. The fortress was impervious to their weaponry and its own armament took a toll on the Xenos aircraft. A major strategic error was made in the wake of this setback. The Council of Primates wrote off the Collegium Majoris as too distant from the campaign's strategic objectives to act as a base of operations and scrapped plans to storm or besiege it. This left Remus Alsara and the scratch forces defending the Fifth Legion's base unmolested, while the tireless Space Marines were more than capable of the long marches to and from their fortress.
Three task groups, really nothing more than a superhuman interpretation of the guerilla bands from Ciban's Revolutionary Wars, were formed on Jolof and operated in close collaboration with the newly-formed partisan bands. Lumey himself roamed the northern desert like a nomad chieftain, his warriors running more swiftly than the fastest horse. Fabrice Diallo, in the west, prowled the savannah with his two-legged lions. And in the south, Antoine Antonelle's men moved through the swamps and rivers, more silent and deadly than the crocodile. In all three theatres, the Fifth Legion launched sudden and unpredictable assaults on Amatteir strongpoints, inflicting massive damage and fading away into the wilderness. The endurance of the Astartes allowed them to raid and move nearly constantly, giving the impression of an enormous and deadly army.
The Partisan Problem
If the Space Marines presented the more immediate threat, the civilian resistance had a severe effect on the Amatteir legions. The Xenos warrior caste was used to dealing with humans as slaves, or as disorganised feudal or primitive peoples with little ability or stomach for resisting their raids. Finding the Cibanese soldiers organised and resilient had been disturbing, but the sight of armed civilians - including the elderly and children - shook the worldview of the Amatteir warriors. Many began to fear for their families at home, surrounded by human slaves. Others simply despaired, seeing the whole foundation of their species' way of life eroded. Drug abuse and suicide rates sharply increased among the units on Arcadia. The redeployment of these compromised units to Jolof spread the rot and the Amatteir morale slumped towards collapse.
Beyond their moral effect, the partisans were busy sabotaging equipment and destroying supply dumps. Ambushes greatly reduced the Amatteir mobility on land, forcing them to rely on airborne redeployment. Use of dropships to ferry troops around Jolof was ended by Uli Dreier's slaughter of disembarking troops at Trois Rivieres in the south of the continent. Psychologically strained and under severe material test, the invaders were reaching the limits of their endurance.
Legio Cataegis arrives
The crisis on Ciban IV was catalysed by the arrival of an Imperial fleet. Ténacité and Joso Nikolić reclaimed their honour by leading the reinforcements. The whole of the Fifth Legion's naval assets had arrived from Kerstes VI, and alongside them warships from the Forge World Ghalhal. In the train were transports bearing the warhost of the techpriests, including a maniple of their mighty Titan Legion, Legio Cataegis. The Amatteir naval crews fought a long running battle across the system, attempting to disrupt the Imperial landings and, when that failed, to keep open the possibility of an evacuation.
On Arcadia, the Xenos legions broke under the impact of Ghalhal's Titans and supporting Tech-Guard. Their scattered remnants were run down and slaughtered by the resurgent Ciban Chasseurs. Rani Stolarz's IVth Corps was particularly notable in the Imperial counter-attack. At the same time, Gaspard Lumey's Space Marines asserted their strength on Jolof, shifting from attacking the invader's weak links to direct attacks on strongpoints. For all the heroism of the Amatteir sailors, scarcely one in ten of the warriors who had invaded Ciban IV escaped alive.
Interlude: the Hero Planet Ciban IV
Following the withdrawal of Amatteir forces from the Ciban system, the Imperial leaders took stock of the situation. Gaspard Lumey saluted the courage of the civilians of Ciban IV and, in lieu of decorating individuals, awarded the entire planet with the Markian Star. The presentation ceremony would be cut and re-cut into propaganda broadcasts; some played up Ciban IV's martial prowess to shame proud warrior cultures, others focused on the civilian sacrifice to play on the heartstrings of more civilized folk. However the message was spread, the Hero Planet Ciban IV ended on the lips of hundreds of billions across the growing Imperium.
In the Al-Sherar sector, the Imperials were more concerned with their next move. Gaspard Lumey argued, with his trademark fierceness, for a maximum counter-offensive. Senior Princeps Uthman Al-Farsi was reluctant to agree, believing that the Fifth Legion had barely held onto its homeworld until aid had arrived. No compromise was achieved. The Legio Cataegis maniple would remain on Ciban IV to protect the population, but its commander could neither persuade Lumey to hold his position nor join the Fifth Legion's offensive.
Fifth Legion's enemies had their own difficulties. Ironically, the disaster at Ciban IV would have been more bearable had the invasion force been completely lost. As it was, the survivors spread talk of the new defiant spirit of the humans. The warrior caste became edgy, with outbreaks of outright hysteria ranging from mass suicides to the slaughter of human slaves. Even more surprising was the response of the Amatteir noble caste, who roused themselves from their pleasure-parlours and donned their panoply of old.
The Strymon Offensive
Why are you taking prisoners? These aliens just attempted to conquer our homeworld - to add Ciban IV's billions to their slave pens! If you lack the stomach to execute these vermin, hand them over to the people you've just liberated.
- Rani Stolarz, as reported in New World
Gaspard Lumey was disappointed by Al-Farsi's decision but he still deemed the timing too good not to counter-attack. Fifth Legion's planners had spent considerable time identifying the Amatteir's holdings and building up a picture of their defences based on the reports of Rogue Traders in the Al-Sherar Sector. Although Lumey had planned to await further classes of Astartes before starting a war with the Xenos, the Amatteir's losses on Ciban IV had been severe - and revealing. The new Imperial plan aimed to use the same tactics of guerilla and insurrection that had shattered the Amatteir invasion to wrest the entire sector from them, gambling that the many human slaves on the Xenos worlds could be brought into the fight.
Fifth Legion's counter-offensive started immediately, but almost silently. Teams of Astartes, mainly the "graduates" of the fighting on Ciban IV led by Terran-born veterans, were delivered to the first-wave targets by the Warp Runner Aventurier. Once the infiltrators had verified their intelligence, they sought out labour camps and began freeing enslaved humans. Although arms for the liberated slaves were in short supply, the Space Marines found no shortage of would-be warriors - especially with the Amatteir warrior caste increasingly unstable.
Perhaps surprisingly, Fabrice Diallo was chosen for overall command of the operation. Antoine Antonelle's absence was no mystery. He had departed for the worlds of the Markian Pact, intent on summoning fresh hosts to the battle. But the Primarch Gaspard Lumey was on a secret mission. Astropaths aboard Aventurier had sensed a great accumulation of human thought behind Amatteir space. The character of the thoughts suggested that these men and women were not slaves, but ruled themselves. Reasoning that any heavily-populated planet would be technologically advanced, Lumey set out to make contact in the hopes of finding allies against the Amatteir - or failing that, discovering people who would need the Fifth Legion's protection against the Xenos.
Diallo's offensive was delivered by mixed forces of Ciban Chasseurs and Astartes, backed up by the Fifth Legion's warships and strike fighters. On the worlds of Egaleco, Fratecon, and Libero, Space Marines spearheaded the landings but they were too few to carry the weight of the fighting. Once landing zones were secured, the Chasseurs rolled out. Unlike the miserable campaign on their homeworld, the sons and daughters of Ciban now enjoyed air superiority. They were also able to link up with liberated slaves prepared and led by Fifth Legion infiltrators, creating a curious image of high-tech mechanized soldiers fighting shoulder to shoulder with half-naked warriors clutching cold steel.
The fighting on Libero went well for the Cibanese. Rani Stolarz's battle-hardened IV Corps was at the centre of the Chasseurs' force and the demoralised Amatteir warriors facing them were a poor match. When second-line Ciban Fusiliers arrived as reinforcements one month after the initial landings, there were only a handful of Amatteir left alive on the planet. Unwilling to have her men idle, Stolarz commandeered the Fusiliers' transports and shipped IV Corps out.
Based on reports from infiltrators, Fratecon was judged a tougher nut to crack. The slave rebellions there were met with a co-ordinated and efficient response, led by the revitalised Amatteir nobility. Fabrice Diallo chose to lead in person, showing his trademark boldness by being the first warrior of the invasion force to set foot on the planet. Perhaps due to the commander's presence, the fighting on Fratecon was more dominated by the Astartes than the other two targets. A precision strike by teams of Marines borne on mighty Storm Eagle gunships eliminated the Amatteir headquarters, turning a previously motivated and organised force into an increasingly desperate rabble. Not for the last time, vid-caps of Diallo hewing the enemy with his chainsword became the fearsome image of the Fifth Legion at war.
Only on Egaleco did the Imperial forces stumble. A zealous Amatteir commander immediately counter-attacked the landing zones, killing the Space Marine commander Unai Garrastazu and capturing a whole Corps of Ciban Chasseurs in their landing ships. The campaign was only salvaged by the intervention of the young Marine Mai Dac Kien, who had infiltrated the world weeks ahead of the main operation. He led a force of freed slaves in a night attack on the prison-camp holding the Chasseurs and succeeded in liberating the Cibanese soldiers. Despite his youth and inexperience, Mai Dac Kien led his ad-hoc command superbly, linking up with other Imperial forces and establishing a beach-head for reinforcements. Following the transfer of Rani Stolarz and IV Corps from Libero, Amatteir resistance on Egaleco was put to an end.
While his subordinates waged war against the Amatteir, Gaspard Lumey had travelled through the Warp to the Al-Sherar system. Aventurier glided through space towards the Forge World, all but invisible even to the most sophisticated sensor arrays. As the Primarch's ship neared its destination, analysis of communications traffic confirmed the astropathic prediction: Al-Sherar was home to billions of humans. But more than that, the binary cant used in these data transfers was recognised by Aventurier's Transmechanics as a variant of the language of Mars. The world they were approaching was a lost Forge World, and judging by its population and the space vessels present in system it was a mighty one.
Lest their actions be interpreted as hostile by the secretive tech priests, Lumey ordered his ship to withdraw to the edge of the system and begin a broadcast of friendly greetings. After some wrangling to find a common metric for discussion, Aventurier began to exchange signals with the Forge World Al-Sherar, explaining the possibilities of the Great Crusade and offering the tech priests a place in the community of mankind. For the Kazi who made up Al-Sherar's ruling Diyanet, the most important question was warp travel. Would the Imperium grant them warp ships, navigators, access to the galaxy? Translators aboard Aventurier made it clear to Lumey that that Forge World asked nothing else and expected no less in return for even a temporary pact. Although alarmed by the apparent ambitions of the Kazi, the Primarch exercised his authority and made a pact in the Emperor's name. This decision would greatly complicate future relations between Al-Sherar and Mars in the long term, but in the short term it gave the Fifth Legion an ally with enormous resources.
War to the End
While Fifth Legion seized their first-wave targets and made contact with Al-Sherar, the Council of Primates drew up hasty plans for an all-out war. Many colonies were abandoned, the largest concentrations of human slaves were slaughtered, and booby traps were left behind for the invading Imperials. The Xenos' main strength was concentrated at their homeworld, Llysfam Annuwiol. Consequently, when Space Marines began infiltrating ahead of the Ciban Chasseurs, they found no resistance, only human abattoirs and scattered bands of terrified survivors. In response to these reports, Fabrice Diallo moved up the timetable of landings and set the Legion's auxilia to the task of providing civilians with aid and shelter.
Occupying the Amatteir colonies ahead of schedule cost Fifth Legion some small casualties, but these were more than made good by reinforcements from Al-Sherar. Even though the Forge World's mighty Titan Legion could not be transported on the Fifth's cruisers, detachments of Taghmata began to relieve the Ciban Chasseurs from front-line service. The initial assault of Llysfam Annuwiol would be composed of roughly equal forces from Ciban and Al-Sherar, with subsequent waves tipping the balance in favour of the Tech Priests.
And of course, in favour of the Imperium. Though the Amatteir defended their homeworld with a fanatical devotion, the scales had tipped decisively against them. As the great cities of Llysfam Annuwiol began to fall, many of the warrior caste fell into despair or madness, dissolving as a fighting force. Others fled the system, dissipating into pirate bands. For the majority, however, their fate was to be slain by vengeful Cibanese or pitiless tech priests.
No doubt we have won a great victory, but I fear that tying our destiny to Al-Sherar will have dreadful consequences.
- Antoine Antonelle, private correspondence.
With the fall of Llysfam Annuwiol, the Amatteir mastery of the Al-Sherar Sector ended. Although a relatively small conquest compared to the achievements of other Legions, the Fifth secured the space around their homeworld and established an alliance with one of the great Forge Worlds of the Segmentum. On those worlds that received word of the victory, officials responded with rapture. Gaspard Lumey and Ciban IV received high praise in most quarters - but not on Mars. The Martian Parliament protested at the Primarch conducting diplomacy with a Forge World above their heads and dispatched envoys to receive Al-Sherar's submission to the rule of the Red Planet. The refusal of the Kazi to bow to Mars set the stage for a theological and political dispute that raged on and off for centuries.
Greater developments occurred in the Al-Sherar Sector. Military tribunals were held on the old Amatteir worlds to pass judgment on the occupiers. Although death sentences were summarily passed for all of the Xenos themselves, their human cronies and assistants were given some leniency for extenuating circumstances. Those who had not joined in the revolt were typically sentenced to a life of hard labour. The late-comers to the human cause received the dubious reward of a Warrant of Trade and an aging Cruiser, soon renamed The Weatherman by now-Captain Visant Le Gall. With the matter of drumhead justice settled, Gaspard Lumey turned to diplomacy. He swiftly brokered a treaty between Al-Sherar, Ciban IV, and the worlds of the Markian Pact for the division of the former Amatteir worlds. Colonisation picked up soon after the end of the war, establishing a cluster of Civilised Worlds (settled by Cibanese and Markians) and Industrial Worlds (drawn from the teeming stock of Al-Sherar and Ghalhal). Disputes among the interested parties were settled in the Al-Sherar Sector Tribunal, in which Al-Sherar, Ciban IV, Ghalhal, the Markian Pact, and the Fifth Legion all had equal say.
Finally, Gaspard Lumey organised the victors of the Al-Sherar Sector War into the 25th Expedition Fleet under his personal command. This force would be the Fifth Legion's main contribution to the Great Crusade for some time to come.