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"I will see the God-Emperor's domain extended to the farthest reaches. To the places where the light of stars and moons shines on ruin and casts only shadows, and the unclean walk unpunished. I will see those that have turned away at the tip of the sword, and the defilers beneath the hammer. I will see my own blood run out before I turn from this path."

—From the oath of Tiber Achilus, taken at the commencement of the Achilus Crusade into the Jericho Reach


The Achilus Crusade is an ongoing Imperial Crusade that began in 777.M41 to bring the Jericho Reach in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy back into the dominion of the God-Emperor of Mankind. It has been waged for over four solar decades, and in that time, it has consumed millions of lives and seen the destruction of dozens of worlds. Its possible end is lost in a blood-soaked future that none now living may see.

The crusade began because of the discovery of a stable Warp Gate linking the Jericho Reach and the eastern Halo Stars in the Segmentum Ultima to the far-off Calixis Sector of the Segmentum Obscurus half a galaxy away. The first stage of the crusade was launched through the Warp Gate within only years of its discovery.

The Achilus Crusade represented a bold attempt to retake the Jericho Reach quickly and use it as a staging point from which a greater re-conquest of lost areas of the Eastern Fringe could begin. From there, the Imperium could start a second front against the encroaching designs of the expanding T'au Empire.

At first, the forces of Lord Militant Tiber Achilus enjoyed rapid success, taking several worlds and establishing a core of star systems to act as the basis for further conquests. Since these early victories, however, the crusade has seen the death of its leader and his replacement by Solomon Tetrarchus, the division of its armies to fight wars on many fronts, and the bleeding dry of its forces by attrition and the onslaught of deadly enemies with unexpected numbers and strength.

In the heart of the Jericho Reach, the forces of Chaos -- entrenched in the millennia-long dark ages since the ancient Jericho Sector fell -- have battled the crusade to a corpse-choked standstill. Here, amid these worlds of horror, death, and iron, the slaves of the Dark Gods have drowned entire armies in their own blood. 

Yet this has not been the extent of the crusade's woes. The expansionist forces of the T'au have also made inroads into parts of the region and clashed head-on with the crusade's outer edges in a war for control of inhabitable planets and the resources needed to fuel their war effort.

Pirates, raiders, and hostile aliens have proven far more numerous and troublesome than many of the crusade's high command had believed possible.

So the situation has stood for several solar decades, but worse was to come. A new threat, perhaps greater than any other, now casts its long shadow from the lifeless voids towards the galactic rim, and this war teeters on the edge of disaster.

In that rising tide brought by the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Dagon, whole worlds have died, naval battlegroups have been lost to the howling dark, and a smothering cloud has spread across the Warp

It is a war begun in secret, waged in darkness, and without mercy or quarter. Yet the truth is that the carnage seen so far is only the beginning.

History

The Warp Gate

The catalyst for the launching of the Achilus Crusade was the unexpected discovery of an active Warp Gate in the turbulent margins of the Halos Stars close to the border of the Calixis Sector in the Segmentum Obscurus.

This ancient and vastly cyclopean alien device of unknown age proved to be both active and stable, with a corresponding gate-aperture into realspace on the other side of the galactic core at the edge of the Jericho Reach.

Though the Jericho Reach had at one time been under Imperial control, the existence of this gate within its boundaries had never been discovered; a further mystery that has never been solved. The Warp Gate and the possibilities it offered only came to light in 755.M41, when the Navigator of the Imperial flag-frigate Spear of Tarsus sensed something causing a localised area of calm in the great Warp Storm border through which she was steering passage.

Dropping out of the Warp close to the source of this tranquil sea, the frigate found itself in the presence of a vast Warp Gate of xenos design, placed in the cold blackness of interstellar space far from the orbit of any star; a gate that, though undoubtedly ancient, had been activated (or re-activated at any rate) in the recent past.

With this discovery, a chain of events were set in motion that would cause the Achilus Cursade to be launched across the stars.

Once the Spear of Tarsus had returned to Imperial space bearing news of its discovery, it was not long until a secret expedition was launched to discover the nature of the gate and where it led. Ships serving the Adeptus Mechanicus Explorators and the Ordo Xenos sent scouting ships through, crewed with their most able agents and experienced Navigators.

Their swift return not only told of another gate, also hanging in the empty void far from any star, but also of the certain truth that this other gate lay in the Eastern Fringe of the Segmentum Ultima, near the Jericho Reach all the way on the other side of the galaxy.

With this realisation, a plan was born within the minds of the great lords of the Imperium: the possibility of using the gate to launch a crusade into the Jericho Reach and reclaim it for the Imperium as a stepping stone to other conquests. The idea found favour with the High Lords of Terra, who gave it their blessing, and so the idea of a most singular crusade grew in possibility in the minds of the great until Lord Militant Tiber Achilus was given mandate to make it a reality.

The High Lords were mindful, however, that the existence of the gate and what it portended offered dire peril as well as possibility, and decreed that the crusade was to be launched from a staging point far from the territory it intended to conquer under a shroud of deepest secrecy.

But, like so many other great campaigns launched in the millennia that the Imperium has stood, it was intended to bring swift victory and to use the light of the God-Emperor to drive back the darkness.

On the eave of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension in 777.M41, countless millions of Astra Militarum, thousands of Adepta Sororitas, and as many as a dozen Space Marine Chapters advanced to conquer the worlds of the Jericho Reach in the shadow of Battle Titans and to the thunder of the guns of the Imperial Navy. It was a bold and fiery beginning.

The Death of Achilus

Lord Militant Tiber Achilus was a war-forged veteran of many campaigns before the Aquila, primarily against Orks and other alien threats such as the Khrave and the Ylarian Collective in the Formorian Sector wars where he had earned his fame. He was also stubborn, blunt, and somewhat cautious in nature, favouring a tried and tested strategy of 'attack, pacify and fortify' over great sweeping advances.

Acting on the best intelligence he possessed, he had also badly underestimated just how entrenched or dangerous "native" resistance to the crusade was as a whole.

His core belief was that the crusade had been launched primarily to open a new front against the alien T'au, and laid his plans to this long term goal, perhaps to the detriment of the crusade as a whole. Whether or not he was correct in his assumptions, he would not live long enough to know, as Achilus did not survive to see the end of the first solar decade of his crusade.

While travelling to review the progress of the primary forward battlegroups aboard the grand cruiser Proclamation of Wrath in 786.M41, the ship suffered a catastrophic Gellar Field failure and was lost with all hands. The Lord Militant and his command staff were among those drowned in the raw energies of the Warp.

Until his death, Achilus had pursued a strategy that focused on securing a stable, fortified base of operations near the Warp Gate; a careful campaign to bring the Reach under his heel, followed by a drive by the crusade directly against the T'au expansion and perhaps beyond.

His hope was to swiftly secure the coreward swathe of the Reach and continue to press mercilessly on, but aside from an initial string of successes, the Crusade forces (often parcelled out piecemeal) met with repeated delays and, in some theatres, outright defeat at the hands of the vile and heretical inhabitants of the Reach's core worlds.

Meanwhile, the T'au appeared to press the matter by their incursions into the region. The crusade had begun to stall dangerously, its forces slowly declining from hundreds of minor engagements, while Achilus' intransigence caused discontent with his Space Marine and Mechanicus allies who pressed for more decisive action.

His successor to the mantle of Lord Militant was a very different man. Solomon Tetrarchus was also an Astra Militarum veteran, but one with a reputation for bold strategy, charismatic leadership and a practice of delegating many strategic decisions to the commanders beneath him.

Within a Terran year of his ascension to the Lord Militancy, Tetrarchus had replaced or sidelined most of the "old guard" generals who had served Achilus. In their stead, he brought up new officers who possessed the independent dynamism he valued.

He then commanded that the crusade forces be split into three army groups, committed most of the reserves his predecessor had hoarded to the front, and pressed the attack, predicting the fall of the Reach within a solar decade.

The largest of these newly created crusade forces would drive towards the core of the Jericho Reach and crush the native resistance, while the other two would move swiftly through the sparsely inhabited rimward worlds, encircling the former Imperial sector's core.

The existing slow drive towards the worlds disputed by the T'au expansion would become but one barb of the trident that would drive through the corrupted flesh of the Jericho Reach and make it once more the dominion of the God-Emperor of Mankind.

The three salients were designated Canis, Acheros and Orpheus respectively, and regardless of the relative wisdom of his strategy, the war still continues three solar decades later in the early decades of the ninth century of the 41st Millennium. The Jericho Reach and the fate of the crusade now hang in the balance.

Crusade Timeline

  • The Achilus Crusade Begins (777.M41) - With the discovery of the stable Jericho-Maw Warp Gate from the Calixis Sector across the galaxy to the Jericho Reach, the possibility of using it to launch an Imperial Crusade into the Jericho Reach and reclaim this formerly great realm for the Imperium quickly finds favour with the High Lords of Terra. A plan was hatched under the command of Lord Militant Tiber Achilus to undertake this singular military campaign, and under his command were mustered forces ranging from the Astra Militarum, the Adeptus Astartes and Adepta Sororitas, and scores of Imperial Navy warships to enact the Imperium’s will. The High Lords were mindful, however, that the existence of the gate and what it portended offered dire peril as well as possibility, and decreed that the Achilus Crusade was to be launched from a staging point far from the territory it intended to conquer, and under a shroud of the deepest secrecy, with the complicity of the masters of both the Calixis Sector and the Departmento Munitorum. The crusade would prove to be a bloody, grinding conflict fraught with reversals of fortune and beset by enemies both unexpected and nightmarish. As for the Lord Militant Achilus, he would not live to see out its first solar decade.
  • The Greyhell Front (785.M41) - The Canis Salient is launched against the T'au-controlled domains of the Velk'Han Sept in the Black Reef area of the Jericho Reach, reinforcing armies already fighting against the highly organised and sophisticated alien forces across the so-called Greyhell Front previously dispatched by Lord Militant Achilus. The fighting is particularly bitter. Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave, the Imperial salient commander, gains a swift reputation for barbarous and unorthodox tactics.
  • The Banner has Fallen (786.M41) - The death of Lord Militant Tiber Achilus occurs when his flaghship, the Proclamation of Wrath, suffers a catastrophic Geller Field failure. Afterwards, Solomon Tetrarchus ascends to the position of Lord Militant commanding the Achilus Crusade into the Jericho Reach.
  • The Council of Ashes (786.M41) - Lord Militant Tetrachus summons all senior crusade command staff to the Fortress World of Alphos. Also present are senior members of many of the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes present in the crusade at that time, as well as members of the Ecclesiarchy, Adeptus Mechanicus, and the Inquisition. The gathering is a grand war council at the commencement of which fifty senior officers formerly favoured by the late Lord Militant are withdrawn from command or shifted into more junior roles. A council of new advisors and the crusade's officer elite is formed and begins a dramatic reorganization of Crusade forces and strategy.
  • Against the Tides of Hell (786.M41) -The Acheros Salient is launched towards the centre of the Jericho Reach, there to give battle to the degenerate worshippers of Chaos and their foul allies, and retake the core worlds of what was once the Jericho Sector. The resistance they meet is unexpectedly high, particularly in the daemon-haunted Cellebos Warzone and casualties incurred by the Imperial forces are massive, blocking the salient’s progress and transforming the conflict into a bloody war of attrition.
  • The Achilus Crusade Conquers (787.M41) - The Orpheus Salient is launched to reclaim worlds lying along the Rimward portion of the Jericho Reach. Here, progress is relatively rapid and successful, with scores of worlds returned to Imperial control.
  • The Loss of the Margin Crusade (788.M41) - Elsewhere in the Imperium, contact is finally lost with the Imperial forces of the troubled Margin Crusade. From this point on, the Margin Crusade exists as a lie, and is used to garner greater tithes and musters of troops and materiel for the Achilus Crusade from the distant Scarus, Ixaniad, and Calixis Sectors via the Warp Gate to replace heavy and ongoing losses.
  • The Return of Castobel to the Imperial Fold (789.M41) - Battlegroup Santos of the Achilus Crusade reaches the Castobel System and finds that it has stayed loyal to the Imperium through four millennia of shadow and isolation. A hundred-day festival of celebration is declared. At its end, the first regiment of tithed Astra Militarum (the 1st Castobel Reborn) are lifted off the planet. The 1st Reborn will be the first in a series of Astra Militarum regiments tithed from the planet.
  • The Seriphos Sanction (789.M41) - Covert operations by the Deathwatch disrupt diplomatic talks between the technologically advanced but Renegade Human world of Seriphos Secundus and the emissaries of the T'au. Deathwatch Kill-teams assassinate both T'au Ethereal Caste dignitaries and representatives of the Seriphon Unity, plunging the two factions -- Renegade Human and xenos -- into open warfare.
  • The Liberation of Colhep (789.M41) - Battlegroup Venicus, together with a company of Storm Wardens Space Marines, breaks the alien enslavement of the Colhep Systems. A daring in-system translation from the Warp and surgical strikes against key enemy holdings in overwhelming force return the human population to Imperial rule in a single week of fighting.
  • The Conquest of Eleusis (805.M41) - Warp Storms abate around the Eleusis System. Achilus Crusade forces find the once sacred world has fallen to the worship of false gods under the tyranny of a priest caste called the Charnel Oracles. It is cleansed of their dark taint by the forces of Battlegroup Argo under the personal command of General Curas in a brutal extermination campaign against the blood-glutted abominations that much of the planet’s population have devolved into. After their priests are isolated and slain, the mutants, despite their monstrous distortions of body and inhuman savagery, lack the intelligence or cohesion to mount an organised defence, thus freeing the scattered few who have remained fully human from their torment. Following the swift and merciless victory, a thousand-day re-hallowing and sanctification of the former Shrine World begins by the faithful servants of the Ecclesiarchy.
  • The Destruction of the Crimson Harvest (805.M41) - A vast space hulk designated the Crimson Harvest and forged from the fused and twisted remains of xenos star vessels and artefacts of unknown origin appears on the edge of the Hadex Anomaly. Ships bearing the blasphemous sigils of Chaos take flight from the Dark Forge World of Samech and make their way to rendezvous with the craft, sparking a deadly series of running battles between the servants of the Ruinous Powers and attack ships from the Achilus Crusade forces operating in the Acheros Salient and the Deathwatch. The Deathwatch Kill-team under Brother-Sergeant Hurak of the Iron Hands sacrifices itself in order to plunge the Crimson Harvest into the heart of a dying star, thus denying the pawns of Chaos their prize.
  • The Conquest of Vanir (807.M41) - The war against the Secessionist systems of the self-proclaimed Kingdom of Vanir is broken by a daring strike at the Hive World of Vanir by Achilus Crusade forces of the Orpheus Salient.
  • The Lament of Goln (810.M41) - Six Deathwatch Kill-teams under the command of Lexicanium Raphael break the attack by the forces of Chaos on the recently conquered world of Goln. The Deathwatch attack crippled the Chaos leadership in the process of recovering a psyactive xenos artefact from the Chaotic war host's commanding cabal. Fearing that they will be overwhelmed by a second counterattack, General Saiden, the commander of the Achilus Crusade forces occupying Goln, orders the Kill-teams to redeploy against the remaining Chaos forces. The Deathwatch forces withdraw without acknowledging the general's "order." Goln falls three solar days later to a second Chaos assault.
  • The Shadow of the Warp Descends on Jericho (812.M41) - Astropathic communication between parts of the Achilus Crusade and the re-conquered portions of the Jericho Reach is lost without warning. Particularly affected is the Orpheus Salient which disappears behind a crawling shadow of Warp interference.
  • The Great Devourer Comes to the Jericho Reach (814.M41) - The Deathwatch warship Thunder's Word enters the Freya System to investigate the silence of an astropathic relay. It finds no trace of the relay and indeed no trace of any life in the Freya System. Preparing to leave the star system, the Thunder’s Word encounters two Tyranid drone ships. Its hull scored and pitted with acid and its magazines nearly exhausted, the Thunder’s Word arrives at Watch Fortress Erioch bringing the dark news that the Great Devourer has come to the Jericho Reach.
  • Death in the Void (814.M41) - The Imperial deep range cruiser Admiral Ishmael goes missing after attempting to make contact with the lead elements of the Achilus Crusade's Orpheus Salient. All across the northern (rimward) portion of the Jericho Reach worlds are swallowed by darkness and horror, and the vaunted Battlegroup Argo is lost, presenting a severe blow to the forces of the Achilus Crusade.
  • Hive Fleet Dagon (814.M41) - The name of the Tyranid attack into the Jericho Reach is officially designated as Hive Fleet Dagon, a possible splinter of the much larger Hive Fleet Behemoth defeated by the Imperium during the First Tyrannic War solar decades before, and identified as the greatest single extant threat to the success of the Achilus Crusade, and indeed the lives of every living being in the Jericho Reach. The Deathwatch remains fully engaged in facing this dire threat.
  • An Era of Peril in the Jericho Reach (817.M41) - The Omega Vault of Watch Fortress Erioch is becoming increasingly active, and threats of a scale unprecedented in their scope, diversity and sheer portent stalk the stars and shadowed worlds of the Jericho Reach, leading many within the Inquisition to draw the conclusion that a great turning point in the fate of the region, perhaps of the Imperium itself, is coming to pass here in the Jericho Reach for good or ill. The Long Watch continues, and the watchers stand ready for all that is to come...

The Orpheus Salient

"In ancient times it is said that men prayed to keep the monsters of the seas from rising from the black depths. Now I look out at the darkness between these stars and I feel the same prayers coming unbidden to my lips."

—Captain Ahabron to his first officer on the deep range crusier Admiral Ishmael, missing in Action 814.M41
Orpheus Salient

Departmento Cartographicae stellar map depicting the Orpheus Salient of the Achilus Crusade in the Jericho Reach.

The Orpheus Salient is the rimward-most advanced of the Achilus Crusade's penetration into the Jericho Reach. Intended by Lord Militant Tetrarchus to advance swiftly through what were largely uncontested and barren star systems, the Orpheus Salient was once the most successful of the Achilus Crusade, gaining ground rapidly ahead of the others and bringing more than sixty systems under the crusade's control.

These successes are no more, and its forces are now shattered and scattered, while the majority of its commanders are lost and likely dead.

The doom that came upon the Orpheus Salient very recently has come out of the distant void like a surging tide sweeping away all past gains in a welter of confusion and death. In four standard years, the all-devouring xenos-horror known as the Tyranids has come to besiege and consume all before it.

Unprepared for its fury, the salient's crusade forces have crumbled into bloody shambles. Only a few worlds are known to be holding out for certain against the onslaught of the Great Devourer, and dozens are believed to have perished.

Others yet may be desperately fighting the enemy, their plight unknown, or huddling ignorant and fearful in the silent dark, not knowing that the jaws of a monstrous enemy are fastening around them.

The possibility of complete disaster now looms, as only one thing is certain: what has happened so far is only the beginning.

Victory and Disaster

The Orpheus Salient was launched a Terran year after Solomon Tetrarchus ascended to the position of Lord Militant commanding the crusade into the Jericho Reach. At that time, intelligence possessed by the crusade's high command strongly suggested that the systems running to the rimward of the Reach were made up of sparsely populated Frontier Worlds and a few formally Imperial worlds.

These planets, while much regressed, had kept faith with the Imperial Creed and carried on in much the same way as they had before the loss of the Jericho Reach to its millennia old era its people called the "Age of Shadow." Some had even maintained very haphazard contact with the Imperium and provided the crusade's scouting forces with aid and intelligence.

It was felt that if these and other nearby worlds could be quickly brought back into Imperial control, they could both provide valuable resources to the crusade and act as the staging point to open a second front against the forces of the Archenemy that were already exacting a heavy toll on the forces of the Acheros Salient.

Command of the Orpheus Salient was given to General Mikal Curas, the youngest and most dynamic of Tetrarchus' senior command, seen by many as his favoured protegee. Some privately doubted that the young Curas had the experience to drive the swift advance demanded by his commander.

Their doubts proved to be in error, however, as the Orpheus Salient swiftly went forward, destroying the petty empires of secessionists and bringing loyal worlds back into the light of the Emperor.

As Curas' forces progressed, they maintained a steady stream of intelligence and assistance to the allied Space Marine and Deathwatch forces, identifying suitable targets for attack. In a solar decade and a half, the lead elements of the Orpheus Salient had penetrated further into the Jericho Reach than any of the crusade's other forces.

The progress of the Orpheus Salient was so successful that Lord Militant Tetrarchus began to peel elements away from it, increasing the stream of reinforcements to the cauldron of death around the Cellebos Warzone.

Then on 999.812.M41, astropathic communications between the various worlds and battlegroups of the Orpheus Salient began to blink out, and what limited messages did get through were sporadic, sinister, and barely intelligible.

Astropaths and other Sanctioned Psykers across the length of the Salient awoke screaming from dreams filled with an endless darkness and a thousand rustling whispers. Some took their own lives and many others were reduced to babbling phrases about "the rising tide," the "hungering depths," or similarly doom-laden ravings.

Thanks to the communications blackout, no one in the high command knew the disposition or activity of forces along the salient, nor could they exert any cohesive control over them, while the Adeptus Astartes grew withdrawn, keeping their own grim counsel on the matter.

Snatches of information that emerged over the coming solar months seemed to indicate that some elements of the salient's forces had been lost, and that previously secure worlds had come under siege. It was as if a creeping shadow had enveloped the salient, within which terrible events had begun to unfold.

The doom of the Orpheus Salient -- and perhaps the entire Achilus Crusade -- was given a name only from a rare open communication from the mysterious Deathwatch. The Tyranids of Hive Fleet Dagon had come to the Jericho Reach.

Since that time, the crusade forces along the Orpheus Salient have been brutally hammered and now are estimated to muster at less than fifty percent of their prior effective combat strength.

Their leadership is fractured and their morale severely, perhaps fatally, compromised, while the vital Fortress World of Hethgard has now come under siege from a massive Tyranid assault. 

The Deathwatch estimates that at least nine formerly inhabited worlds have already been completely overrun by the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Dagon. Six more are under immediate threat or are already engaged in fighting, while the fate of at least twenty other systems, lost under the umbra of the Great Devourer's Shadow in the Warp, remains unknown.

Fall of Eleusis

The battle for Eleusis was the most significant success of the Orpheus Salient. When the "Age of Shadows" descended upon the Jericho Reach, the Shrine World of Eleusis was changed in a way most foul. The priests and attendants of the world slowly began to change the tone of their sermons. Where once they spoke of the golden light of the God-Emperor, they now only spoke of that glow dimming with another flare becoming brighter.

This, they said, was obvious to anyone who looked to the sky. The bright glow of red light from the far-off Hadex Anomaly was plain to see, while the astropaths brought no more messages from the Imperium. This was clearly a portent that a greater power would rise to guide the people of Eleusis to new glory and prosperity.

With clever words, superstition, and likely help from beyond, the priests of Eleusis slowly began to turn the populace to the worship of the Dark Gods of Chaos. Those that gratefully began the worship of their new saviours were given special assignments to remake the temples of the Shrine World into a new and more fitting tribute to their masters. Those that remained pure to the Emperor were hunted down.

Many were used as sacrifices to appease the Dark Gods, while others were used as slaves to rebuild the temples and create new ones. So did darkness come to Eleusis.

Upon the cessation of the Warp Storms that had hidden Eleusis from discovery, General Curas deemed that the reconquest of the Shrine World would be his most glorious victory. Not only was the planet of strategic value to his overall plans, but it carried with it the possibility of being a great moral victory for his troops.

They would be able to see firsthand that the cause to which they dedicated themselves was righteous and good. Assisting Curas with his plans were his three most senior advisors: Lord Commissar Vance Theren, General Derian Arkelius, and Lord Admiral Anastasia Arkelius.

Together with Curas they represented the greatest tactical minds within the Orpheus Salient. Additionally, General Arkelius and his sister Anastasia Arkelius had been able to use their highly-placed family connections to speed up requisition requests for their respective battlegroups.

This allowed their forces to be equipped with the best possible gear and kept their general supplies at maximum capacity. For seven solar days, the four officers met in strategic planning sessions. They did not leave the suite, as General Curas had decreed that they would not return to their normal duties until a plan to retake Eleusis was formulated.

On the seventh day, General Arkelius proposed Operation Onslaught. Within moments of hearing the proposal, General Curas declared that they were finished. This was the plan that would retake the fallen Shrine World.

Operation Onslaught

Operation Onslaught's order of battle called for a prolonged bombardment of the capital by Lord Admiral Arkelius' naval fleet. After precisely seventeen hours and thirty four solar minutes of orbital bombardment, a spearhead would land on the planet's surface.

This spearhead would be composed of the 3rd Company of the Templars of Blood, including Scout Marines from the 10th Company mounted on Assault Bikes. The Space Marines had three key objectives.

First, they were to disable the capital's communications centre. This would prevent the Traitors from calling for reinforcements. The second objective was to disable the spaceport defences. This would allow the Astra Militarum to land in sufficient strength to establish a firm beachhead on the planet's surface.

The final objective was for the Space Marines to act as a disruptive force once the Astra Militarum had landed. This would cause massive problems for the enemy supply lines, as well as causing the entrenched Heretics to panic as they would never be able to guess from which direction they would receive righteous retribution.

The second phase of Operation Onslaught called for General Curas to lead a total of thirty Imperial Guard regiments to Eleusis' surface. The main thrust of this attack was comprised mostly of infantry regiments, but would be supported by an armoured column of two thousand main battle tanks.

Should the second objective of phase one be unsuccessful, General Curas was to hold in orbit while the Imperial Navy resumed bombardment targeted at the spaceport. Once on planet, the primary objective of the second phase was the capture and control of any military installations remaining.

Agents of the Commissariat would be deployed to townships to rouse the citizens to throw off their shackles and join the liberators in fighting off the vile oppressors of the Chaos priesthood. Should the citizens prove unwilling, artillery fire from the Gunmetallican 13th Armoured Regiment would destroy all habitations that could not be brought to compliance.

Phase three of Operation Onslaught was to see the Scintillan 84th Grenadiers, under the direct command of General Arkelius, deploy to the surface and claim the planet's capital. Once they had landed, they were to push through any remaining defenders and seize the city.

The Gunmetallican 13th would be available for close fire support, as well as light cruisers of the Imperial Navy for punching through any extreme resistance. This was the plan as drawn up by General Arkelius. The orbital barrage from the Imperial Navy began at precisely 0900 hours ship time, and ended at 2134.

Lord Admiral Arkelius called a stop to the bombardment five solar hours earlier than planned, as her sensor operators informed her that all significant structures and defences had been destroyed. The 3rd Company of the Templars of Blood launched from their Strike Cruiser at the cessation of the barrage. Upon making planetfall, they immediately fell under attack by fifteen full regiments of Chaos Cultists.

Brother-Captain Kristoff ordered his Space Marines to abandon the first objective and proceed in force to the spaceport, as securing a landing zone for General Curas was a higher priority in his mind. His squads fought their way through the throng of cultists until they had formed a defensive perimeter around the spaceport.

Tritus Squad, one of the Assault Squads, took to the air to get over the spaceport's walls and began their demolition efforts on the defences surrounding the landing pads. Once the planned beachhead was secure, Captain Kristoff signalled to General Curas that it was time to begin the second phase of the assault.

General Curas' force landed soon after and squadrons of Chimera troop transports began pouring from the landing craft, with General Curas himself on the lead transport. Seeing that the original plan needed to be adjusted, General Curas asked Captain Kristoff to take his men and drive a wedge through the heart of the enemy.

He also ordered the artillery regiments to begin setting up and to fire for effect as soon as they had targets. He ordered a spotter to follow the Space Marines closely to provide accurate targeting data once there were friendlies within the zone of bombardment.

The next order was to the Gunmetallican 13th that was even now still unloading. They were to take their heavy vehicles and begin circling around the enemy to the left flank. General Curas would take his infantry regiments to the right flank and clean up anything that the Space Marines had missed.

When General Arkelius landed, he found that the Templars of Blood had left no Traitor alive as they cleared the way to the capital. On the left flank, the Gunmetallican 13th had met with similar success and was even now pushing into the main thoroughfares. On the right flank, General Curas had led his men to a stunning victory.

As his command Chimera pulled up to the main capital building, General Arkelius had enough time to climb to the top of the rubble before he saw General Curas summarily execute the High Priest of Eleusis and plant the Imperial Aquila standard in front of the Grand Temple.

Command of the Orpheus Salient

As the planets began to fall for General Curas, portions of his task force started to redeploy to different salients. Lord Militant Tetrarchus felt that they would be put to better use in the more hostile zones of the crusade. This was to be a costly miscalculation on the part of the Lord Militant. On 999.812.M41, astropathic communications began to flicker in and out.

The salient's Sanctioned Psykers and astropaths began receiving strange dreams of terrible creatures devouring all they saw. Hearing of this unknown shadow that was interfering with his communications, General Curas transferred his command to Battlegroup Argo and immediately ordered them into the heart of the shadow.

Six solar months had gone by without any word from Battlegroup Argo when a stray picket ship was found floating in space by Lord Admiral Arkelius. Taking the ship into the hold, she recovered the ship's logs and discovered the grim fate of Battlegroup Argo.

After plunging his group into the location of the disruption in the Warp, General Curas discovered that the disruption was a previously unknown force of Tyranids, a numberless fleet of massive bio-ships and ravening alien organisms. The very presence of these terrible creatures created a Shadow in the Warp that disrupted all communications.

All of the ships within his battlegroup had been destroyed, and the general himself was killed when his vessel was boarded by the Tyranids. Knowing the damage that this information could do to the crusade's morale, Lord Admiral Arkelius sealed the logs and made all haste to meet up with the late general's senior advisors.

In orbit around the Fortress World of Hethgard, General Derian Arkelius, Lord Admiral Anastasia Arkelius, and Lord Commissar Vance Theren met aboard the general's flagship to discuss what should be done.

The Great Deception

During their closed meeting, the remaining senior members of the Orpheus Salient command structure began discussing what should be done about General Curas' death. Within solar minutes it devolved into petty bickering between the general and the admiral over who would take command. Lord Commissar Theren allowed this to go on for approximately thirty seconds before he fired his Bolt Pistol into the ceiling.

Warning that the next round would go into the head of the first person to interrupt him, he outlined a plan for the command structure that was bold to say the least. Theren's plan was to inform the other salient commanders of General Curas' death at the hands of the Tyranids, but with communication blackouts he knew that it could take Terran years for such a message to be received and years beyond that for a response to be sent back.

During this period no one beyond the three of them and the crusade's High Command was to know of the death of General Curas until a replacement had been sent. In the meantime, and to keep the discipline and morale of the Orpheus Salient at workable levels, Theren proposed that a "Triumvirate" be formed to command the salient.

General Arkelius would be in command of all ground operations, Admiral Arkelius would be in command of all naval actions, and Lord Commissar Theren would play the mediator, as well as having final say over any disagreements that cropped up.

Now commanding from the flagship of Battlegroup Cerberus, Lord Commissar Theren is able to effectively deceive the rest of the ranking members of the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy by combining his authority with that of either one of the Arkelius siblings. The word of a Lord Commissar backed up by either a lord admiral or a general is something no lower-ranking officer would dare question.

Notable Orpheus Salient Worlds

Notable Orpheus Space Stations

The Acheros Salient

"In war, nothing is certain save that the price of victory is always paid in blood, both yours and your enemies."

—The Tactica Imperialis
Acheros Salient

Departmento Cartographicae stellar map depicting the Acheros Salient of the Achilus Crusade in the Jericho Reach.

The Acheros Salient is the central arm of the advancing Achilus Crusade. Ever since the launch of the three salients by the Lord Militant Tetrarchus, it has been bogged down in blood and infamy.

It has shown the least progress in terms of worlds captured and, even given the recent massive losses suffered by the Orpheus Salient, has consumed the greatest amount of Imperial lives and war materiel on the pyre of battle.

Assigned the majority of the crusade's heavy line regiments, the Acheros Salient was given the task of driving directly into the heart of the inhabited core of the Jericho Reach. 

This area was known to be plagued by Warp-worshipping human Renegades and xenos slavers. It was home to several petty stellar empires, and dominated astrographically by the Hadex Anomaly, a Warp-realspace distortion known to have swallowed the former sector capital within its vortex a thousand standard years previously.

From the beginning, the crusade's assault into the region that had once been the Cellebos Sub-sector of the Jericho Reach ran into trouble. Tetrarchus' plan disregarded intelligence dossiers -- in part based on data provided by the Deathwatch -- compiled by former adjutants of Lord Militant Achilus as "exaggerated and over-cautious."

The Lord Militant called for a dispersed assault on several fronts. He believed this plan would allow the crusade to make steady progress and "flush out" serious resistance. The new Lord Militant was soon proved correct in this assessment, but the scale of that resistance was far greater than anything the most pessimistic projections had warned of.

The crusade was confronted by a massive, well-organised enemy counterattack. Although the crusade was expecting smaller, Warp-capable raider vessels, this new foe also possessed deadly space hulks and several cruiser-class capital ships, some of which were known to be in the hands of the dread Chaos Space Marines of the Traitor Legions.

The Acheros Salient's Imperial Navy fleet assets operated in a dispersed formation across more than twenty sub-battlegroups. Faced with such opposition, the result was an unmitigated disaster. Dozens of naval ships were isolated and destroyed, while troop convoys with woefully inadequate escorts were hunted down and systematically ravaged. In these assaults, thousands of Imperial Guardsmen, who would not live long enough to fire a shot in the crusade's service, were slain in the cold vacuum of space.

Only the bravery and skill of the Acheros Salient fleet's naval commanders and the resolute skill of the Space Marine contingent assigned to the crusade forces prevented the sudden, savage losses from turning the salient into a disorganized rout.

These determined survivors organised a fighting withdrawal back to the security of Karlack and the Iron Collar. Losses were heavy, rated afterward at over 160,000 troops and ancillary personnel in less than six weeks Terran standard.

The majority of these casualties were killed either inside their transport ships or cut off on the world of Khazant, itself a former crusade conquest when it was overrun by the forces of the enemy in an orgy of slaughter.

In addition, more than a dozen ships of the line were either lost outright or captured by the enemy. The most grievous loss was that of the Storm Wardens Chapter's Battle Barge Warchilde, whose lifeless hulk was left drifting in orbit amid the radiation-swept storm zone of the Magog binary pulsar.

Notable Acheros Salient Worlds

Notable Acheros Salient Watch Stations

Cellebos Warzone

"These stars and planets have been the sights of battles such as I had never dreamed of in my darkest nightmares. Yet I fear for all the nightmares that have passed, there is worse to come."

—From the private Journals of Colonel Havius Blan, Landrian 202nd Light Infantry, Officer Commanding, Cellebos Warzone, 443.817.M41
Since the Acheros Salient's appalling reversal of fortune, Lord Militant Tetrarchus has resumed his assault on the region, pouring all the reinforcements he can muster into what has become a war of bloody grinding attrition spanning over fifty star systems and twenty-five Terran years of struggle.

The war has focused around the control of key systems in what is now referred to as the Cellebos Warzone, most notably Khazant, Vanity, and the Blood Trinity. Solid Imperial gains have been few and hard-fought, with the Heretic forces giving ground in some areas, but control of others remaining elusive or outright impossible.

Meanwhile, the baleful influence of whatever unnatural powers reside in the Charon Stars and the Hadex Anomaly have become ever more apparent as time progresses.

Despite these difficulties, the Acheros Salient was at last beginning to show slow signs of progress, with fresh Imperial reinforcements channeled in from the Calixis Sector and stripped from the other crusade salients adding to its power.

However all this ended thanks to the recent disasters on the Orpheus Salient and the coming of the Tyranid menace. This has led to a retrenchment in the face of a possible onslaught on a second front and could cause the collapse of the entire Orpheus arm, threatening the very existence of the Achilus Crusade.

In these last years of tribulation, the character of Solomon Tetrarchus himself has changed, and while he remains a charismatic leader, he has become subject to paranoia about "traitors" in the ranks, a paranoia perhaps well justified, given the nature of the enemies he faces, but a very dangerous behaviour for a man with a Lord Militant's unbridled authority.

Deserter's Coil

The battles against the T'au and the Tyranids in the Canis Salient produce plenty of refugees and deserters from the Astra Militarum and the Imperial Navy.

There are no punishments for desertion in the Imperial military other than death, so such deserters are keen to find somewhere to hide from Imperial authorities, or even somewhere that would welcome such desperate yet capable men.

Many deserters choose to follow the rumours of the Deserter's Coil, a region of the Canis Salient hemmed in by nebulae and gravity wells, and one which Imperial forces are too thinly-stretched to control.

There, it is said, colonies of free-minded men and women can live demanding but ultimately free lives among untouched alien worlds. Rumours claim that these worlds have been abandoned, leaving whole cities untouched save for their lack of inhabitants.

Riches lie undisturbed and a new life waits for anyone who can make it to these flawed but free planets. Some Renegades in the Imperial Navy can offer safe passage along the hidden routes to the Coil, as long as they are handsomely paid.

All of these rumours, however, are lies. The truth is infinitely more malevolent. The Deserter's Coil is real, but it is ruled by emissaries of the Dark Gods from the Cellebos Warzone, who have set up their petty kingdoms among these benighted planets.

These Chaos Cult leaders hope to appease their masters by forging insane armies from those lured to the Deserter's Coil, then launching attacks on the Canis Salient to further divert Imperial forces from the Cellebos Warzone.

The worlds and settlements in the Deserter's Coil are places of cruelty and nightmare, ruled over by petty tyrants who grow closer to true Champions of Chaos with every passing day.

Notable Cellebos Warzone Worlds

Notable Hadex Anomaly Worlds

The Canis Salient

"Don't tell me we don't have the manpower! Don't tell me it can't be done! Tell me how many heads are spiked on our battlements! Tell me how deep the mass graves must now be dug!"

—Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave
Canis Salient

Departmento Cartographicae stellar map depicting the Canis Salient of the Achilus Crusade in the Jericho Reach.

The Canis Salient is the largest and oldest warzone in the Jericho Reach. Lying on the coreward side of the Reach, its first battles were fought in a crusade to liberate dozens of human-inhabited worlds from T'au expansion.

All did not go well, however, for the Imperial Crusade became the target of a very different, but equally malevolent, xenos species: the Tyranids. A splinter of Hive Fleet Dagon slammed into the Imperial line of advance and only terrible sacrifices stopped the aliens from invading and stripping life from every world in the salient and beyond.

Under Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave, Imperial forces in the Canis Salient fight a war on two fronts. Regiments of the Astra Militarum fight endless conventional battles against the T'au and their auxiliaries, hoping for the foothold that will let them push on to the Sept capital.

The second front is a bloody defensive action to stem the Tyranid tide. Imperial forces are stretched thin, fighting both wars at once, and few truly believe that the Tyranids can be held at bay forever.

With the T'au fomenting rebellion and desertion on Imperial worlds and in Imperial forces through their Water Caste ambassadors, it is surely only a matter of time before the Imperial lines break and an alien tide pours over Fortress Spite and into Imperial space.

Without some master plan to break the stalemate, the millions of Imperial lives sacrificed in the Canis Salient will be for nought.

The Madness of Lord Commander Ebongrave

"The purges shall continue until their loyalty is total. While just one of them doubts, they are nothing but a nest of traitors."

—Lord Commander Ebongrave prior to his second purging of the Canis Salient General Staff
The Canis Salient is a vast swathe of Imperium-occupied space over which Lord Commander Ebongrave casts his eye with ever-increasing bitterness and desperation.

Across the Salient, several primary themes have come to dominate—those of Ebongrave's brutal and paranoid (but necessary) repression, T'au infiltration, the Tyranid invasion, and the activities of the Deathwatch. The core worlds of the Salient are ruled with a vice-like grip, while total war tears the Greyhell Front apart.

The agents of the T'au attempt to penetrate ever deeper, as the leading edges of Hive Fleet Dagon threaten to overwhelm all.

While Ebongrave rules over the battles of the Canis Salient from his command bunker beneath Fortress Spite, internal security issues are the purview of a range of bodies occupying the bastions of the Fortress World of Wrath.

The so-called "Eyes of Wrath" (as the populace terms the myriad divisions of enforcers, purgation details, and purity patrols) see everywhere, from the scented arbours of Carmyn to the musty catacombs beneath Bekrin.

It is said that the average subject has but to walk from his barracks to his place of work to be observed by upwards of a thousand spy-drones.

Many believe that potent psykers are used to scry the dreams of the populace as they slumber after a long work shift, sifting through the nightmares for the slightest hint of sedition or treachery. Few would be surprised to learn that such rumours are true, but in truth they are the least of the concerns that a subject suspected of treachery should be troubled with.

Those accused of sedition or any one of a thousand different forms of treachery are taken away to one of the many gulags to be found on every world under Lord Commander Ebongrave's control. The fortunate are then consigned to service in one of the newly raised Penal Legions, to suffer a quick death at the hands of the Tyranids.

Those less fortunate are dragged screaming to an excoriation chamber, to confess whatever sins they have committed and, in an effort to avert the dreadful attentions of their interrogators, many they have not.

As all-seeing as the Eyes of Wrath are, the paranoid Lord Commander Ebongrave would be horrified to learn that they have in fact been compromised by an outside agency. Fortunately for the Imperium, that agency is not the Tau (not yet at least), but the servants of the Ordo Xenos, and through them, the Deathwatch.

Unknown to Ebongrave, the Inquisition has long utilised the Eyes of Wrath as a means of gathering information on both the populace and those enemies who would seek to infiltrate it.

To date, dozens of Tau agents have been intercepted by the Ordo Xenos or neutralised by Deathwatch Kill-teams long before the authorities have become aware of them. Better Lord Commander Ebongrave remains ignorant of the infiltration of the Eyes of Wrath, for were he to discover it, he would no doubt descend to yet greater depths of paranoia and bitterness.

Notable Canis Salient Worlds

Notable Canis Space Stations

Quarantined Worlds

Lord Commander Ebongrave is aggressive, some say fanatical, in rooting out the T'au influence on the Imperial worlds of the Canis Salient. Three such worlds -- Argoth, Kaggeran and Rheelas -- were deemed by Ebongrave so riddled with T'au emissaries and sympathisers that they were beyond hope.

Under his infamous General Order 169 Ebongrave had the worlds quarantined, meaning that no voidcraft were allowed in or out. Fragmented vox and astropathic transmissions from these planets, which are clustered close to Fortress Spite, paint a picture of mass starvation, riots and apocalyptic cult activity.

Ebongrave has not permitted any cargo to reach the planets, fearing that moral threats will escape on returning transports, and has said on many occasions that he would call down the fleet to bomb their cities into oblivion if he could. To many, the horrible fates of the quarantined worlds are the starkest evidence of Ebongrave's madness.

Black Reef

Much of the T'au world of Tsua'Malor's suitability as the Velk'Han Sept capital planet comes from the Black Reef, a stellar phenomenon that protects it from most angles of approach. The reef is a series of gravitational anomalies that few but the bravest human pilots and the fastest voidships could hope to navigate.

Hundreds of planets and millions of asteroids are caught in the Black Reef, endlessly dancing through the contorted orbits as the fluctuating gravities pull them apart. Some of these planets were once inhabited, long before the Age of the Imperium, and the tormented ruins of ancient cities can just be glimpsed on slabs of planetary crust as they float through the reef's currents.

The Black Reef's reflection in the Warp is an impassable mass of positive and negative energies constantly colliding and annihilating one another, in a dance of destruction that no Navigator would conscience sailing through.

The presence of the Black Reef makes it much easier for the T'au fleets to watch over the approaches to Tsua'Malor. This does not satisfy the Mal'caor Shi, however, and several cadres of T'au auxiliary species well suited to space exploration have been dispatched to explore the Black Reef and chart any possible routes through it.

These xenos suffer a high attrition rate, even though they can survive conditions that would kill a T'au or Human. The information they are bringing back is worth their sacrifice, however, for along with charts of the Reef they are bringing back glimpses of a catastrophe that created the Reef and the beings that once inhabited it before the cataclysm.

The Main Advance

"He who claims victory claims right. Those who are left have no rightful claim to anything."

—Lord Commander Ebongrave to an aide at the Fourth Conclave of Wrath
The main advance of the Canis Salient runs in a line between the Fortress Worlds of Spite in the Iron Collar, and Hex on the verges of the Greyhell Front, following the course of the Arethusa Flux Warp conduit.

The worlds between these two mighty bastion systems are largely under Ebongrave's heel, though T'au-inspired insurrection, Tyranid incursion, and localised rebellion mean that the Imperium's control is far from absolute and no world is entirely untouched by war.

Nevertheless, Ebongrave's forces rule these worlds with a vicelike grip, squeezing them of every resource that can be turned towards the ongoing war against the Velk'Han Sept. Life for the average subject within the Canis Salient is brutal and often short, with forced labour the only toil most will ever know.

Those unwilling to accept their fate may turn towards the T'au, but in so doing condemn themselves to a painful death at the hands of Ebongrave's ruthless enforcers.

Those who so much as slacken the pace of their toil are dragged screaming from their workstations and shipped off to one of Ebongrave's many gulags, and soon after assigned to one of the Penal Legions raised to defend against the creeping menace of Hive Fleet Dagon.

Like the warzones of the other two salients, the most strategically important worlds in the Canis Salient are those that lie along the axis of its major Warp routes. The worlds occupying these vital nodes may not be of any great significance themselves, but their positions along those routes make it vital they remain under the Imperium's control.

Thus, the most important systems in the main axis of the Canis Salient are Spite, Bellom and Themiskon Point, simply because of their locations. Many other worlds are to be found in the salient however, and each has its part to play in the ceaseless war against the enemy.

Greyhell Front

One of the two main battlezones where Imperial forces are concentrated alongside the Celebos Warzone of the Acheros Salient, the Greyhell Front is a belt of worlds where the Astra Militarum and Imperial Navy are struggling to establish footholds closer to T'au space.

They are opposed in this by some T'au auxiliaries, but most of all by Fire Warrior cadres. Chief among the auxiliaries are armies of Kroot, who are well suited to the lush Jungle Worlds especially common along the front. The Kroot's capacity to rapidly evolve according to the genetic material they absorb has led to the development of many new strains of Kroot along the Greyhell Front.

Human armies are also fighting here under orders from the T'au, leading to a paranoid atmosphere where any soldier's squadmate could be an infiltrator sent by the other side. Ebongrave's purges are most frequent on the Greyhell Front and an Imperial Guardsman is almost as likely to be executed by their own side as they are to be killed by the xenos.

Life is no better for the Gue'la auxiliaries, who are wont to be abandoned by their T'au overlords or betrayed by Imperial intelligence officers who have worked their way into the the T'au ranks.

The Greyhell Front is regarded as a meat grinder by the troops serving there, but Lord Commander Ebongrave is adamant that only by forcing through the front and reaching T'au space can the crusade push on into a direct assault on the Velk'Han Sept.

In spite of the thinly stretched nature of Imperial forces in the Canis Salient, Ebongrave refuses any suggestion that Imperial forces should withdraw from the Greyhell Front.

Notable Greyhell Front Worlds

Epsilon Warzone

Hive Fleet Dagon crashed into the Canis Salient with such force that the Imperial Crusade was taken completely by surprise.

After all, the main tendrils of the hive fleet first appeared on the other side of the Reach in the Orpheus Salient. The presence of Tyranids in the Canis Salient has caused the feeling of enormous jaws beginning to close upon the Jericho Reach, jaws that are only held at bay for now by the crusade forces.

Dozens of Astra Militarum regiments, preparing for a major offensive to flank the Velk'Han Sept, were evacuated from worlds that suddenly fell into shadow as Tyranid fleet organisms massed overhead.

Some regiments were cut off and were left to die as the Tyranids descended on one world after another, stripping them of biomass and dissolving every living thing in nutrient oceans to fuel the hive fleet with biomass for its advance.

Only great sacrifices halted the Tyranids. An Imperial Navy fleet was shattered at the Battle of Themiskos Point, but the Tyranid victory cost the hive fleet huge amounts of biomass.

Meanwhile the Imperial Guard launched counterattacks to bring the Tyranids to battle over the worlds they were invading, forcing them to commit more and more biomass in the form of warrior-organisms.

Until the hive fleet recovers the biomass it lost at Themiskos Point, it cannot continue its advance into the Canis Salient, and to do that, its organisms must devour the worlds the Imperial Guard are defending in their millions.

The Tyranid objectives in the Canis Salient are obscure. Some strategists maintain the xenos are there to draw off Imperial forces and prevent them from opposing the hive fleet's main thrust in other areas of the Reach.

Others insist that the hive fleet does not possess the tactical competence for such a scheme, and that the Canis Salient is being attacked by a wayward splinter of the hive fleet that is assaulting the Jericho Reach.

Lord Commander Ebongrave's primary concern is the T'au and he cares only that the Tyranids are held in check while the "real" enemy is destroyed by an invasion of the Velk'Han Sept. Some close to him insist that the Tyranids are the greater or equal threat, but he rarely suffers such dissenters for long.

Angevin Line

The Angevin Line is drawn on stellar maps of the Canis Salient, beyond which no Tyranid organism can be suffered to reach. Beyond this line are the untouched Imperial worlds of the Canis Salient, including Fortress Wrath and several Industrial and Hive Worlds essential to the war effort in the Jericho Reach.

Imperial Navy ships aggressively patrol this line and skirmishes with vanguard fleet-organisms are a daily reality. Few naval ships can gain any reputation in the Jericho Reach without having served on the Angevin Line; its constant action creates battle-hardened crews and xenocidal officers. On the Line, a ship either gathers victory laurels rapidly, or it is lost.

The Xenocide

The Tyranid assault on the Canis Salient did not hit the Velk'Han Sept head on, but the hive fleet's advance is now threatening one flank of T'au space. This area, where the T'au and the Tyranids do battle, is gleefully known to Imperial officers as "the Xenocide." Most battles here are fought in space, with T'au warships fighting fleet organisms.

The ground battles are fought mainly by the T'au forces, but also include small armies raised from the Sept's Human populations. The soldiers on the ground are told that their sacrifice is essential for the Greater Good, but in truth they are merely buying time for the Air Caste captains to bring Tyranid fleet organisms to battle.

A few rare Imperial officers have suggested that the Imperium might assist the T'au in the Xenocide, to force the Tyranids to fight on two equally costly fronts. Such suggestions are dangerously close to xenophilia and few voice them openly.

Others take the opposite view, believing that the Imperium should sabotage the T'au forces in the Xenocide so that the hive fleet will run rampant through the space of the Velk'Han Sept.

Opponents of this view point out that the Imperium is unlikely to hold the Canis Salient against a Tyranid foe strengthened by the biomass it would reap from the sept's worlds. For now the Imperium is content to let two of its alien foes battle one another.

Crusade Command Structure

The Achilus Crusade is a vast military operation pushing forward against multiple foes on scores of worlds across a front line measured in light years. To command, coordinate and control such an operation takes the kind of vast resources and byzantine power structures of which only the Imperium is capable.

Gathered together under the leadership of the Lord Militant, each division of the crusade's forces represented within the Jericho Reach has its own chain of command and localised leadership, which then form an intricate web of alliance, obligation and favour to other organisations, linking Inquisition to Deathwatch, Deathwatch to Adeptus Astartes and so forth.

Quite often, however, each organisation within the crusade operates independently of the others, following its own agendas and commanders, making the crusade seem at times more like a grand alliance than the will of single galaxy spanning empire.

Adeptus Administratum

The Imperium would not exist without the billions of scribes, adepts and bureaucrats of the Adeptus Administratum to oversee it. This is as true for the Jericho Reach and the Achilus Crusade as it is for the rest of the galaxy; wise generals know their troops and materiel march to war to the sound of a million scratching autoquills.

Commanding the legions of Administratum personal accompanying the crusade is the Prefectus Primus of the Adeptus Terra, Hors Knepp. An ancient wizened man, Knepp is rumoured to know more about the crusade and its soldiers than anyone else alive, including the Lord Militant himself.

In theory this makes Knepp an immensely powerful man, easily the equal of (if not greater than) the leaders of the other Adepta, and one with considerable political clout.

However it is a power Knepp only uses to complete his countless tasks, having no desire to concern himself with the machinations of his peers as long as his legers balance and everything and everyone can be accounted for and neatly catalogued away.

Solomon Tetrarchus learnt long ago to leave Knepp to his own devices, not least because of his vital role within the crusade, but also because Knepp was neither willing or interested in becoming involved in affairs outside his world of numbers and tallies, either to side with the Lord Militant or work against him.

Adeptus Arbites

As soon as the crusade conquered its first worlds within the Jericho Reach, the Adeptus Arbites began the process of imposing Imperial law. Led by High Judge Vor Halbastan, the Arbites maintain numerous precinct-fortresses and several vessels within the region, their headquarters based in the Bastion of Judgement on Karlack.

In addition to maintaining the law across the sector it also falls to Halbastan and his Arbitrators to train local enforcers to maintain control of their citizen populations.

The largest of these operations is currently taking place on Spite, where Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave, paranoid of T'au sympathizers and seditionists has increased local enforcer presence threefold in the last couple of years.

Vast training camps dot the cities of Spite, miniature fortresses where the Arbites elite train and equip the enforcers and aid them in dispensing justice or hunting down rogue elements of the population.

Such is the Arbites' presence on Spite that they have earned a bloody reputation with the locals, often referred to as the "Ebon Cosh," or just "the Cosh" after the much reviled general who has put them into action.

High Judge Halbastan and his Arbitrators do not normally take a direct role in the fighting of the crusade, and as such are largely excluded from the political wrangling of its officers. However they are used frequently by the Inquisition when operating on worlds either wholly or marginally under the control of the Imperium.

A new development however may see the Arbites taking part in the pacification of what have become known as the Quarantined Worlds: Rheelas, Argoth and Kaggeran.

The Adeptus Arbites have deployed large numbers of Judges and Arbitrators to these worlds in order to keep them pacified. These efforts have met with growing success, although the process is likely to take some time.

Adeptus Astartes, Deathwatch and Inquisition

Unlike the other major Imperial organisations of the Achilus Crusade, the Adeptus Astartes, Deathwatch and Inquisition do not fall neatly under a single commander or a single well-defined military role.

They are truly independent formations which work with, rather than for, the Lord Militant, often pursuing their own goals and agendas within the scope of the crusade.

The Adeptus Astartes especially have little in the way of centralised command, each Chapter falling under the direct control of its Chapter Masters, or its captains or company field commanders.

These commanders do convene on occasion to discuss issues of importance to the Adeptus Astartes as a whole in the region, but do not bow to the will of the greater Imperium.

This means that even when working alongside elements of the Astra Militarum or the Imperial Navy, an Adeptus Astartes force will always retain its own independent leadership, and while they may take "orders" from Imperial officers, Space Marines will never slavishly follow them, altering their tactics and strategy as battlefield conditions change or even withdrawing or assaulting a new target should their own commanders see fit to do so.

The Inquisition is even more independent than the Space Marines, each Inquisitor representing a power unto themselves and operating completely outside of the crusade's chain of command.

Usually an Inquisitor will work alongside Imperial forces as long as it matches their own plans, however Inquisitors frequently do as they please, completely disregarding the Imperial military structure and even commandeering troops or supplies to complete their own personal missions.

Finally the Deathwatch rest somewhere between the Inquisition and the Adeptus Astartes when it comes to their relation to the crusade; while they often fight alongside the Astra Militarum to liberate worlds or vanquish foes, they ultimately answer only to the Watch Captains of Watch Fortress Erioch.

Adeptus Mechanicus

The Adeptus Mechanicus has had a significant presence in the crusade since the first discovery of the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate. Like the Administratum they are a fundamental part of the running of the Imperium and a vital component of the crusade's armed forces.

Without them, the ships of the battlefleets and the tanks of the Astra Militarum could not be maintained, nor would the billions of tons of new weapons and munitions continue to flow into the sector each month. Representing the Mechanicus' interests in the Jericho Reach is Fabricator Tovos, a faithful servant of the Omnissiah.

Much like Cardinal Dis Annalas (whom he despises), Tovos spends much of his time on Karlack, close to both the Lord Militant and the crusade's primary shipyards. From here he directs the Mechanicus' military formations, as well as its connection to vital Forge Worlds (such as the Lathes in the Calixis Sector) via the Warp Gate.

This gives him considerable power as he can choose what kind and in what amount certain weapons and munitions are made available, even favouring certain salients and their commanders by choosing weapons suited to their purposes.

Tovos is not overly interested in the politics of the high command or the backroom dealings of Tetrarchus, however he is interested in increasing the Mechanicus' foothold within the region and laying claim to key worlds uncovered by the Explorator fleets. To this end, he plays the high command off against each other to further his cause in the cold calculating way that only a magos of his extreme age and augmentation could.

Two other members of the Adeptus Mechanicus play an important role within the crusade and the Reach itself. The first is Explorator Magos Halvor, whose fleets catalogue and survey worlds as well as conduct research into newly encountered species and indigenous life of all kinds.

The second is Titan Princeps Korban, commander of the Jericho Reach Adeptus Titanicus Legio Venator (operating three battle maniples and two scout maniples) and master of the Imperator-class Titan Hammer of Truth.

Both men have risen to the notice of the high command, and been courted by ambitious officers for their influence; Halvor for his control over advancement into newly explored regions as well as his access to sensitive knowledge about the Reach's inhabitants and Korban for the power the Titans can lend to an invasion and the support they attract when deployed to a warzone.

Of the two it is Halvor who has attracted attention from not just the high command but also the Inquisition and the Deathwatch. The Watch Captains of Watch Fortress Erioch especially believe that Halvor's explorations, including the recent incident on Sagacity, have uncovered matters which pertain directly to the Deathwatch.

It is a delicate matter however as the Deathwatch and Inquisition have no direct power over the Mechanicus and cannot choose where and when the Explorator fleets go. One way or another however it is likely the Deathwatch will cross paths with Halvor and his Explorators, but whether it is as allies or adversaries remains to be seen.

Adeptus Ministorum and Adepta Sororitas

Where the light of the Imperium falls so too does the might and influence of the Adeptus Ministorum. Part of the crusade since its inception, the Ministorum has had a role in every planetary invasion and every new world the Achilus Crusade has brought back into the fold of the Imperium.

In the early years of the crusade, much of the Ministorum's influence on matters within the Jericho Reach came from the Calixis Sector Synod, by virtue of their proximity to the Warp Gate. Cardinal Fortis oversaw the movement of Confessors, Preachers and other Ecclesiarchy personal through the sector and into the gate.

He even visited the Reach a few times aboard his vessel, the Pax Calixis, to personally report to the synod on the progress of its worlds. After the establishment of the Iron Collar, the Ministorum took a more permanent role in the sector and appointed Cardinal Dis Annalan as the first cardinal of the newly reborn Jericho Sector Synod.

From the Ivory Cathedral on Karlack, Annalan has ensured the Ministorum has a hand in the day to day affairs of the crusade, and has made close ties to the Lord Militant (one of the reasons she chose to site her church on Karlack).

Annalan is quietly suspicious of Lord Militant Tetrarchus, and has opened a clandestine investigation into the circumstances of his ascension. She is already considering how she might use such knowledge to the church's advantage and increase its influence on the crusade.

Under Annalan's direct control, and the instruments of her will, are Grand Missionary Agnar Clavan and Canoness Olya Valon. Together Clavan and Sister Valon command the expeditionary and fighting arms of the Ministorum, millions of pious men and women as well as several missions of elite Adepta Sororitas.

Utterly loyal to their cardinal, they act independently of the Astra Militarum and Imperial Navy (the Ministorum maintains several of its own vessels) and therefore largely outside the control of the Lord Militant.

Mindful of Tetrarchus' favour, however, Annalan makes a big show of "lending" the Lord Militant's forces the church's support and aiding his military plans.

For his part, Tetrarchus plays the game, knowing full well that he needs not just the troops the Ministorum provides but also its political support, support that becomes even more apparent when a world has been conquered and the Militarum and Imperial Navy move on, while the church stays behind to ensure its devotion to the Emperor.

Astra Militarum

By far the lion's share of the crusade's struggle to liberate the Jericho Reach falls to the Astra Militarum. Present in every theatre of war and consisting of millions of troops and hundreds of different regiments, the Hammer of the Emperor is the front line against the Stigmartus, T'au Empire and Tyranids.

In direct control of these forces is Lord Militant Tetrarchus, himself risen from the Astra Militiarum's high command and still having operational leadership of its forces. Directly beneath him are Lord Commander Ebongrave, Lord General Magratha von Karlack, and General Mikal Curas commanding the Canis, Acheros and Orpheus Salients respectively.

More than any other arm of the crusade, Tetrarchus has great influence and hands-on control over the Astra Militarum, directing its troop deployments and observing and adjusting its overall strategy.

Direct control of the front lines however remains with the salient commanders; though they are wise enough to bow to pressure from the Lord Militant should it be forthcoming.

The other major influence in the control and command of the Astra Militarum is Lord Commissar Salos Gygarus, who as a chief political officer ostensibly exists outside the normal chain of command.

Gygarus takes his role and the role of the Commissariat within the crusade very seriously and has on more than one occasion complicated matters for Tetrarchus and his three salient commanders by either opposing their plans or exerting control over regiments via his commissars.

This has mostly arisen because of orders issued by the high command which he views as "cowardly," prompting him to have commissars assume command to keep troops fighting or abort retreats from combat zones.

The end result is usually costly in terms of lives, though Gygarus is committed to the crusade's effort and the morale of the troops, both of which he feels the salient commanders (and many of their generals) might have lost sight of.

Regardless of the righteousness of his position, the time is rapidly approaching when Tetrarchus and Gygarus will come into direct conflict over leadership on the front lines -- a confrontation which will doubtless prove far more costly for the average Imperial trooper than for the high command.

Imperial Navy

Just like the Astra Militarum, the Imperial Navy is a vital and integral part of the Achilus Crusade. The Navy transports the millions of soldiers of the Astra Militarum across the void and drops them into the warzones while defending them from enemy fleets and offering orbital fire support.

The Navy is also the first line of defence against attacks on Imperial worlds, holding the line against enemy ships and hunting down raiders and pirates.

The current commander of the combined Jericho battlefleets is Solar Admiral Ram Thoen, a veteran of the Scarus Battlefleet and old friend of Achilus himself having served with the old man during his wars along the galactic rim.

Thoen is a dour and serious man and has little love for Tetrarchus and his cronies (as he considers the Salient commanders). These feelings were reinforced after the Council of Ashes (see above) when Theon saw many of his peers sidelined or retired in favour of the new Lord Militant's supporters, a fate he avoided only through his naval connections and high rank.

This rift between the commander of the Imperial Navy and the Astra Militarum (i.e. Tetrarchus) has had a far reaching effect on the crusade, and added to the existing distrust the two organisations traditionally have for each other. It is a festering wound built on much bad blood.

While it is not true that all Militarum officers or Naval captains feel this way about each other, many have become infected with the feelings of their supreme commanders. As long as Tetrarchus remains Lord Militant, it is unlikely to change.

Imperial Order of Battle

Previously all Imperial forces were commanded by Lord Militant Tiber Achilus (MIA). Following his loss, the crusade is currently commanded by Lord Militant Solomon Tetrarchus.

Adepta Sororitas

Adeptus Astartes

Adeptus Mechanicus

Astra Militarum

Departmento Munitorum

  • Administratum Assay Corps: 1 Corps
  • Field Enforcement Corps: 2 Regiments
  • Labour Corps: 4 Battalions
  • Pioneer Corps: 3 Regiments

Imperial Navy

Notable Battlegroups

Notable Starships

Inquisition

Officio Assassinorum

---Classified---

Miscellaneous

The vassals of Rogue Trader Kazandus Lan:

  • 5 ships of the line, equivalent to 3 Regiments Militant

Chaos Order of Battle

Chaos Space Marines

Lost and the Damned

Congregational Fleet

T'au Order of Battle

Led by the Ethereal Aun'El Basel'kyth, the T'au who comprise the Mal'caor Shi High Command -- collectively called "the Transcendence" -- are as follows: Aun'O Tsualal, Shas'O M'yen, Aun'Ui Kol'denh, and Kor'O Volescur.

Sub-Command Level Formations: Battle of Kavaal

  • Air Caste Interdiction Fleet, Amenophis (with twenty Fire Caste Cadres assigned as marine boarding task forces)
  • Air Caste Total Exclusion Implementation Fleet, Ea (further details unknown)
  • Earth Caste Astro/Biosphere Research and Suppression Initiative (with twenty-two Fire Caste cadres converting to Rapid Reaction phase of Arms Cycle)
  • Earth Caste Resource Re-deployment Force, Innana
  • Earth Caste Recoding Initiative, Jaya (with seven attached Fire Caste Second Line Contingency Cadres)
  • Joint Fire/Earth Caste Planetary Exploitation Task Group, Ag'Ni
  • Joint Fire/Water Caste Suppression Mission, Zurcon (including three veteran Residency Protection Cadres)
  • Water Caste Indigenous Inhabitants Contact Initiative, Va'Jiya (with eighty three First Line Fire Caste Cadres co-aligned for crisis Force Protection measures)

Tyranid Order of Battle

Notable Persons

Aeldari

Chaos

Imperium

Necron

T'au

Tyranid

Sources

  • Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 331-349, 354, 380
  • Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 83, 85, 88, 94, 123
  • Deathwatch: Game Master's Kit (RPG), pp. 9, 25
  • Deathwatch: Honour the Chapter (RPG), pg. 92
  • Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pp. 24-26, 41-43, 86-87, 101, 104-105, 107-109, 113
  • Deathwatch: The Emperor Protects (RPG), pg. 17
  • Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pp. 13, 16, 64, 120-123
  • Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pp. 251-252, 239-240, 243
  • Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 6, 82
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