The War of The Beast
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
The War of the Beast is the focus of the The Beast Arises series and is one of the major events in 40k history in which the Imperium received the biggest buttfucking it would ever get in-between the Horus Heresy and the tremendous dumpster fire that is the late 41st millennium. The series serves as a reminder that the Orks represent serious business and, goofy moments aside, they can be as cruel, hateful and threatening as any other enemy of the Imperium.
- 1 The Imperium at the time
- 2 The Catastrophe: Slaughter at Ardamantua
- 3 Galaxy-Spanning Threat
- 4 Battle for Port Sanctus
- 5 Terra under threat and the Proletarian Crusade
- 6 The Last Wall, a Legion reunified
- 7 The Imperium Strikes Back
- 8 The Destruction of Prax (aka "So that thing about Chaos? Orks are Way Worse.")
- 9 The new regime
- 10 Attack on the Beast
- 11 The Deathwatch is born, the Sisters of Silence return
- 12 The Fist of the Imperium
- 13 Aftermath
- 14 Major revelations
The Imperium at the time
Believe it or not, during the years prior to the biggest WAAAGH! that has ever been, the Imperium was living in a time one might call peaceful. Yes, there were silly little wars here and there such as the first Black Crusade, the first battle of Cadia, the Battle of the Fang, multiple traitor Primarchs fucking over many worlds, and Daemon cults popping up everywhere, but if we ignore all of those 'minor' events/chaos invasions we're left with a few others which basically consisted of the Imperials wiping out some xenos races. The Astartes were dying out because the author forgot the other shit that happened; the Imperial Fists, for example, hadn't left Terra for centuries and it was said nearly none of its battle brothers had had real battle experience in any substantial terms. The Emperor's Herd had grown complacent.
The Catastrophe: Slaughter at Ardamantua
For the first time in centuries, the Imperial Fists left their role as praetorians of the throneworld and went to slaughter alien scum known as the Chromes who were considered little better than non-sentient vermin. They looked like Tyranids, but were able to planet jump without ships. Later on it would be found out that this was because they were piggybacking on the Ork tellyporta technology.
The Fists were surprised by strange gravitational hazards which started chewing up the landscape and causing their starships to fail and crash, and were dealt severe losses. The High Lords of Terra, reluctant to lend their own aid to the Fists on what they considered a trivial matter of fighting pests, allowed the remaining Fists who were guarding the throneworld to deploy to Ardamantua along with a contingent of Guard forces commanded by the Lord Commander Militant Heth.
When the counterattack commenced, an ENTIRE MOON materialized in the system; the process by which it was traveling had been messing up the planet's gravity, practically destroying it, while causing navigational hazards that scattered the fleets in orbit around Ardamantua, crushing them.
Then appeared the WAAAGH! Beast. This was no mindless rabble of Orks. These were Uruk-hai. Their armour is thick and their shields broad. It was said that its Boyz were as strong as and bigger than Space Marines, and quite cunning to boot. Their Nobs were quite massive as well (think Boyz the size of Nobs and Nobs the size of Warbosses). However, its biggest threat was the Ork Warboss: The Beast (who will bring much) Slaughter. The Beast was a leader of unprecedented tactical acumen and sophistication for an Ork, and thus managed to turn his WAAAGH into a cohesive fighting force that used actual battlefield tactics and even diplomacy.
Lord Commander Militant Heth died and his forces were slaughtered right after warning the Imperium of the greatest threat they had ever faced before. The Imperial Fists were slaughtered to a man. Only three survivors remained: two which were killed by the Adeptus Mechanicus by mistake and Captain Slaughter Koorland, the future Chapter Master of the Imperial Fists and then-Lord Commander of the Imperium.
The WAAAGH! Beast threatened to engulf the whole galaxy: the Guard was bogged down on many fronts, and the Space Marine chapters were mostly tied down trying to fight the invading Orks. The Ultramarines had two of their worlds invaded and had been forced to bring in successor reinforcements. Many chapters were annihilated as they struggled to fend off an enemy the likes of which they hadn't ever faced. Worst of all was the fact that the Orks were DEVELOPING technology, with things like gravitational whips and massive teleporters capable of teleporting whole armadas in the blink of an eye.
The Imperium couldn't help but lose ground as Lord High Admiral Lansung - leader of the Imperial Navy and main topdog of the High Lords - focused more on deploying his fleets to gain favours from other High Lords and protect his own interests rather than ferrying the Imperial Guard and fighting the Ork fleets. The rest of the Lords were about as incompetent, barring one man: Drakan Vangorich, the infamous Grand Master of Assassins who would later stage The Beheading. The man was a patriot and tried his best to get the Imperials to move their damn fat asses. The payoff took a while, but it was noticeable.
Battle for Port Sanctus
After a lot of political manoeuvring and tug-o-war, Lansung decided to move his fat ass and fight the Orks (mainly because one of his admirals had broken his orders and he didn't want to lose face) for the shipyards of Port Sanctus. It went horribly at the beginning: the Ork attack moon's gravity whip was so powerful that BATTLESHIPS were torn apart by it, and the moon's WAAAGH! gate brought in constant reinforcements to fend off the Imperial Navy as thousands of boarding ships and small cruisers sent boarding parties to the Imperial vessels, even with the void shields up and the Gellar fields on.
Lansung decided he couldn't take any more of this shit, and for the first time in two whole novels of total incompetence he went and got shit done by leading a suicidal assault towards the moon. Dozens of battlecruisers and battleships were lost to the Imperium, but the void shields of the gargantuan construct were drained by the energy consumption and the Imperial Navy was able to obliterate the threat.
Terra under threat and the Proletarian Crusade
But all wasn't well. Yes the Navy had, at great cost, destroyed the Attack Moon and closed its WAAAGH! Gate, but the Orks had more of those buggers around - and one of them had recently popped out right by Terra itself. At that moment the Navy assets were on Port Sanctus and the massive network of star forts was still in construction, leaving the throne world was under threat with nothing to defend them. At that time, Lansung's power was lost as many of his political allies turned from him, with a new figure taking his place: Juskina Tull.
Tull, evidently a rather attractive woman whose "decorative" wardrobe is described in some detail in the novel, represented the chartist captains and had a "brilliant idea" (read suicidal and stupid) to lead a crusade from the very bottom: a "Proletarian Crusade" made up of the ordinary citizenry of the Imperium. The idea was to take the massive merchant fleet available in Sol and load it chock full with people, guardsmen and civilian alike. Literally billions were ferried into ships that ranged from massive mass conveyors to tiny shuttles in a massive tide of steel. The Ork defence forces shot down a great number (if not the majority) of the vessels, but the Imperials still managed to land millions of troops and hundreds of vehicles.
There they frigging zerg rushed and beat the crap of the Ork forces on the surfaces - only for the Orks to manipulate the surface of the moon and shift the mountains close to a door to the moon's interior. Trapped between the stones, the Imperial Forces were crushed by the master-crafted trap the Orks laid, the effect of which looked like the Ork Moon winking at Terra. Still, that the citizens did so well is extremely impressive and goes to show just how vast the Imperium’s manpower truly is.
Thus ended the last ditch effort of the Proletarian Crusade, with a single survivor: a female Adeptus Arbite.
Oh, and the Eldar show up in the Imperial Palace trying to warn the humans not to let the Orks distract them from Chaos, cuz, you know, Chaos has to be your #1 priority even though the Imperium is being torn apart by killer Ork death stars. This cryptic crap achieves absolutely nothing other than getting the hard-line Inquisitors into a frenzy of saying "I told you so" to anyone who will listen, particularly considering that the Eldar almost got to the throne room by slaughtering hundreds of the Lucifer Blacks (IG tasked with guarding the palace) and at least a few Custodes.
The Last Wall, a Legion reunified
Dorn had envisioned the possibility of something BIG happening, so he ordered his sons that, should the need arise, they reunite at Phall, where the Heresy began for the Imperial Fists. There they would unify into a single legion and fight as one again, albeit keeping their traditional heraldry. The note was sent with not much time in advance, but the majority of the second founding chapters managed to be present. There, Koorland revealed to the utter shock of his fellow chapter masters from the Black Templars, Crimson Fists, Excoriators and the Fists Exemplar that he was the last Imperial Fist alive. The truth was almost too much for them to process, but in the end they got over it and banded together. Over 3000 Astartes and 50 ships went into Terra and led a glorious assault to neutralize the attack moon.
The fleet was joined by the Iron Knights chapter and succeeded in destroying the WAAAGH gate at the heart of the moon and rescuing the remaining human prisoners (including the aforementioned female Arbitrator) but unfortunately left the moon intact while also suffering substantial casualties; amongst them was Chapter Master Malfons of the Iron Knights, who sacrificed himself to save Koorland from an Ork Warboss the size of a Dreadnought.
The Imperium Strikes Back
After the battle of Terra and the blockade of the attack moon, the Last Wall (the new name for the Fist Legion) was praised by The Lord Guilliman (aka Lord Commander of the Imperium, aka Warmaster, aka your boss) Udin Macht Udo (a fellow more useless than Abaddon) who wanted to make a show of having five chapters bow to him and invited them to a party. He also wanted to keep the loss of the Imperial Fists chapter a secret for public relations and ordered the successors to play dress up and give Koorland an honour guard. Udo would also show himself "gracious" enough to ratify Koorlands's position as Chapter Master since according to rules lawyers, the successors aren't allowed to do that.
The Fists were explicitly ordered NOT to destroy the attack moon that remained in orbit, because the Adeptus Mechanicus wanted the Ork technology for themselves. The Fists were also disgusted by the constant power playing between the high lords and were happy enough to leave. Suffice to say, the space marines consider them all dicks.
The Destruction of Prax (aka "So that thing about Chaos? Orks are Way Worse.")
Chaos were also getting their asses kicked by Orks. The Iron Warriors were getting their ass beat while also being hunted by some Black Templars with a grudge. Realizing that the fight wouldn’t end well, they decided to join forces temporarily (yes, out of ALL the Marine chapters, the ones headed by Dorn and Perturabo), but even with this ultimate show of desperation they still couldn’t overcome the Orks and just barely managed to survive. When a relief force of Fists Exemplar showed up to pull them out, the Orks used their gravity based weapons to SPAWN A FREAKIN' BLACK HOLE, destroying nearly the entire star system. The Imperial fleet escaped by scattering into the warp, with one ship turning up on Prax along with the Iron Warriors.
Prax, as it turns out, was a key world in the new "Ork Empire" and the unlikely allies soon discovered that the Orks had been evolving much faster than anticipated. Where previously they were considered to be little more than savages who could hammer bits of technology together and make it work, they now had their own society and specialists: “Bloody Axes", "Leering Moons" and so forth. They actively conquered and enslaved humans, feeding them steroids and farming them like cattle while some "lucky ones" got their teeth punched out and were shaved, branded, and pushed into battle as auxilia cannon fodder. The combined Fists and Iron Warriors destroyed the planet rather than let the Orks keep it.
Back on Terra, Vangorich manoeuvred Koorland into taking the top job of Lord Guilliman from Udo, who seemed to think it business as usual despite the Ork threat still signalling imminent doom. The Imperial Fists marched right into the Senatorium and denounced him. Udo tried to order their arrest but failed to notice that everyone bar the Ecclesiarch (who was experiencing serious sanity slippage) and the Fabricator-General (who was pretty much a walking stereotype of the "Knowledge at any cost" tech-priest) had switched sides and actually wanted someone competent to take command.
The new regime
With Koorland in charge, Vangorich brought him evidence of the Mechanicum withholding vital information to the war effort because of their fanatical need to hoard knowledge and abscond with any new Ork tech. Koorland's first act was to land military troops on Mars and bluff the Mechanicum into stepping into line. After a brief "incident" which was totally not a micro-civil war, the Fabricator General finally started singing the Imperial national anthem and revealed that the Orks were coming from Ullanor, which had sunk into ancient legend because of its significance to the Great Crusade.
Deciding the Imperium needed its own legend, they went looking for Vulkan since the Inquisition conveniently knew where he was. Gathering a fleet, they went to the backwater volcanic planet and found Vulkan singlehandedly defending it against MILLIONS of Orks. Their arrival turned the tide, scattering and slaughtering the Ork invasion force and even managing to destroy the attack moon being constructed in orbit. GOOD JOB IMPERIUM.
Attack on the Beast
With Vulkan on board and confirming Koorland's position, the Imperium launched an assault against the Beast Capital. Upon coming to Ullanor, the Imperial Fleet found massive resistance and were forced to adopt a suicide approach in order to allow troops to disembark.
Once landed, the armies of the Imperium stormed The Beast's main citadel, and after a brutal raid a killteam composed of the Primarch himself and a bunch of chapter masters found the Beast, initially believing it to be a humongous statue. The Beast soon revealed its power, reducing the Smurf Chapter Master to a bloody pulp and killing most of the Imperial forces in a few minutes. Vulkan ordered the survivors to pull back while he dueled the Beast.
Vulkan then went full martyr by using his own might to refocus the Waaagh! psychic energy to blow both himself and the Beast up, though Vulkan's status as a perpetual likely made his new martyr status only a temporary one. The Imperial armies retreated from the planet thinking the Beast slain at the cost of a Primarch; upon reaching Terra, they discovered to their horror that the Beast had somehow survived the confrontation.
The Deathwatch is born, the Sisters of Silence return
With the Imperium getting overrun, Koorland and Vangorich envisioned the creation of the Deathwatch. Knowing that this would not be enough the Imperials, helped by Inquisitor Veritus, managed to get the Sisters of Silence back from their self-imposed exile.
Koorland ordered a new assault on Ullanor, this time using the brand new Deathwatch and the Sisters to assassinate The Beast. Sadly, they only managed to get a shadow of the former forces thrown into the assault, as the High Nutheads of Terra argued they couldn't leave Segmentum Solar undefended or something. Still Koorland managed to punch through the Ork defenses once more and this time, with the help of the Sisters and an Ork psyker getting used as a Waaagh! chain-reaction bomb, he managed to kill the Beast. Except it turns out it wasn't the Beast, but a Beast, one of six 'Prime-Orks'. The mightiest of the Beasts, the one that had fought Vulkan and survived, appeared and proceeded to kill Koorland and destroy his progenoids, effectively destroying the Imperial Fists.
The Fist of the Imperium
The Imperium had mere weeks of life left, with their entire galactic military on the verge of annihilation and thousands of worlds being overrun by an unending tide of Orks. Meanwhile on Inwit, Maximus Thane, Chapter Master of the Fists Exemplar, presided over a farewell ceremony for the last Imperial Fist, which took the form of the Feast of Blades.
While competing (and subsequently winning) the Feast, he got an idea: the Last Wall protocol was active, right? That means technically the Imperial Fists legion was back, riiiiight? So they could just say they were Imperial Fists too. After some agreement with the successor chapters they pooled up and reformed the Imperial Fists, to avoid the catastrophic damage to Imperial morale that the Defenders of Terra eating shit and dying would cause (in-universe), and to maintain the status quo (out-of-universe).
He returned and asked the High Lords what they thought about it; some of them didn't get it and refused to cooperate, so Thane, teaming up with Vangorich, got them in line at gunpoint (finally) and forced them to unleash everything they got in a last ditch assault against Ullanor - everything! Regiments of Astra Militarum, Skitarii macroclades, Legio Titanica formations, Mechanicus and Imperial Navy fleets were sent to Ullanor Prime, virtually emptying the remaining reserves of Solar Segmentum in a do-or-die plan: a military force not seen since the Great Crusade, now pitted against the apex predators of the galaxy.
On top of all this, the Imperial Fists decided to take note of the Orks' tactics, retaliating by unleashing asteroids against the Ork Capital, filled with the entire newly reformed Imperial Fists chapter and the remaining Sisters of Silence (problem, greenskins?) - and it worked!
With the combination of a chain of asteroid drops, a suicide massed naval assault unleashing a point-blank orbital bombardment, a planetary level invasion and a Chapter-sized spearhead, they forced a breach into the Beast's stronghold of Gorkogrod. After a charge where the Imperial Fists killed hundreds of Warboss-sized incoming Orks they used the last remaining captured Ork psykers to finally kill the main Beast, the other Beasts and all nearby Orks, ultimately cleaning Ullanor of Ork presence and finally breaking the back of the greenskins' unified galactic assault.
The planet would have then been subjected to Exterminatus in order to ensure the greenskin threat was over, but the AdMech instead teleported the planet elsewhere so they could loot the Ork technology for themselves. Thanks to the Imperium's shitty recordkeeping and a "special" retcon, Ullanor's and legacy would be lost in time until the planet took on another name: Armageddon.
The Imperium was saved! Chapter Master Thane and the Imperial Fists had defeated the Ork menace but the Imperium's flaws had not been fixed, and in light of the Adeptus Mechanicus' blatant disregard for how close the Orks had been to wiping out Terra, Vangorich decided it was time to fix things forever.
Interestingly, killing most of the High Lords of Terra actually wasn't as bad as the one-sentence timeline entry seemed to think. For the first few decades, Vangorich's single-handedly ruling the Imperium while Thane was busy recovering all the territories lost to the Orks seemed to work. Sadly, the fear that future High Lords could screw things up caused Vangorich to go mad - like, Konrad Curze-tier mad - and he established a reign of terror brutal even by the standards of the Imperium on Terra.
In the end, Thane went back and stormed the Throneworld to kill Vangorich (by this point you may be wondering why Failbaddon, Imotekh or the Tyranids find this so hard).
Vangorich unleashed the killing talents of the combined Assassin Temples on the liberating forces. His final stronghold was home to 100 Eversors, and if you watched that video made by Karl the Deranged from the Alfa Legion then you may imagine how bad it went for Thane. Fortunately, the final assassin was an ex-operative of Vangorich forcefully converted into a WRRYYY! who fought against his psycho-conditioning and gave Thane the opening to kill Vangorich. The erstwhile Grandmaster's final words were "Wanna know how Konrad Curze died?"
The rest is history. Hey, this series was cool, and unlike the Horus Heresy, it actually went somewhere, don't you agree? *BLAM*
Here come some major spoilers!
The series has revealed many events which have previously only been hinted at or not really touched on at all:
- The Imperial Fists were completely wiped out during the war; it took the combined effort of the successor chapters to bring them back. If one wants to be a purist for direct lines of decent then the 'real' OG Imperial Fists Chapter ended there. This was partially retconned by GW when they later revealed that before he disappeared, Dorn had sent aspirants to Cawl's vaults to become the first Imperial Fists Primaris Marines (see Lieutenant Calder), who then later re-joined the chapter during the Indomitus Crusade. Furthermore, Thane was later changed from a Successor Captain to a 7th Legion Horus Heresy veteran. So a living Legion veteran refounded the Fists and there were Imperial Fists Primaris sleeping on Cawl's ship the entire time. So the Fists today are legit as ever, making this a narrative cul-de-sac because GeeDubs can't keep its fluff straight.
- It was Captain Koorland who came up with the idea of creating the Deathwatch from the marines who have survived the first months of the war.
- Drakan Vangorich was actually quite a cool guy, and it was only a century after The Beheading that he went mad and had to be removed.
- The novel series gives an excellent idea of the state of the human colonies during the Age of Strife when there wasn't an Imperium to defend mankind from the alien threat and why surrendering to xenos was a very bad idea.
- That inquisitor named Veritus? None other than Kyril Sindermann, formerly the Luna Wolves' Iterator and one of the founders of both the Imperial Creed and the Inquisition. This explains how he knew so much about, well, everything, and he came with the idea of the Ordo Malleus and the Ordo Xenos as separate defined branches, making him the grand-daddy of the modern Inquisition.
- Chapter Master Janus from the Grey Knights makes a cameo.
- Vulkan was still alive (and of course will still be due being a perpetual), but it was good to have him back for a while. Also, he hints that Rogal Dorn may be still alive too.
- After the defeat of the Beast the Mechanicus faked destroying the planet of Ullanor by teleporting it to another solar system. It has become well known in the 41st millennium by the name of Armageddon. Yes, THAT Armageddon.
- All the remaining Sisters of Silence (from that specific convent, at least) were killed during the final battle against the Beast, the last one sacrificing herself to destroy the Ork-Prime. However it seems they too were later formally re-established (if not as well-funded and numerous) by M41, as they arrived on Luna to stop Magnus from mopping the floor with Guilliman.
- Eldrad had a hand helping the Imperium to stop the Orks and during the final passages of the last book it was revealed to him that Mankind and Eldar fates are irrevocably intertwined.
- Throughout the siege of Terra, the Orks taunted the defenders with transmissions from orbit across all vox-channels in their own tongue: the name of their commander, a phrase roughly translating as "Beast", "I am Slaughter", or "Lord Who Brings Great Slaughter". It is revealed in the final passages of the last book that, in Orkish, this phrase is "Mag Uruk Thraka". Granted, Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka has nothing on the Beast... at least, not yet.
- Orks can be eradicated in mass through the use of the Pariah Gene and Weirdboyz, but only if the WAAAGH energies reach a certain critical mass first. Unfortunately this is when they are also at their strongest, Pariahs with enough power to pull it off are a rarity themselves, and it requires the Pariah's death.