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War of the Beast

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War of the Beast
Koorland.jpg
Imperial Fists Captain Koorland battles on Ardamantua
Date 544-546.M32
Location Galaxy-wide
Outcome Imperial Pyrrhic victory
Combatants
Imperium
Iron Warriors
Orks
Commanders
Primarch Vulkan(MIA)
Lord Commander Udin Macht Udo
Lord Commander Koorland(KIA)
Lord High Admiral Lansung
Grand Master Drakan Vangorich
Inquisitor Wienand
Lord Inquisitor Veritus
Lord Commander Militant Heth(KIA)
Lord Commander Militant Verreault
Fabricator-General Kubik
Ecclesiarch Mesring(d)
Grand Provost Marshal Vernor Zeck
Juskina Tull
Chapter Master Cassus Mirhen(KIA)
High Marshal Bohemond
Marshal Magneric(KIA)
Chapter Master Odaenathus(KIA)
Chapter Master Alameda (KIA)
Chapter Master Maximus Thane
Chapter Master Quesadra(KIA)
Chapter Master Cuarrion
Chapter Master Vorkogun
Wolf Lord Asger Warfist
Chapter Master Malfons(KIA)
Chapter Master Issachar
Chapter Master Euclydeas
First Captain Verpall
Grand Master Sachael
Magos Gerg Zhokuv
Knight Abyssal Kavalanera Brassanas
Warsmith Kalkator
The Beast(KIA)
Strength
Imperial Guard
Imperial Navy
Space Marines
Mechanicum
Frateris Templar
Sisters of Silence
Grand Company
Majority of the Ork race[1]
Losses/Survivors
Billions[3a]
Heavy for the Adeptus Astartes[1]
Extremely heavy

The War of the Beast, also known as Waaagh! The Beast was an enormous Ork Waaagh! first encountered by the Imperium in 544.M32. Waged by the Warboss known only as The Beast after he succeeded in uniting much of the Ork race, his Waaagh! was the largest the Galaxy has ever seen and rampaged across the Imperium, eclipsing even the one Horus defeated during the Ullanor Crusade which earned him the title of Warmaster. The largest war fought by the Imperium since the Horus Heresy, humanity only halted his advance at great cost and desperate measure, devastating the Adeptus Astartes.[1]

Overview

The Beast Arises

By mid-M32, the Imperium was in a state of relative peace and prosperity. Having recovered from the devastating Horus Heresy, the Traitor Legions were still reeling from their defeat inside the Eye of Terror, Xenos were relegated to the frontiers of Imperial space, and the stagnation and decay that would define the Imperium millennia later had not yet set in. Confident that humanity had endured its greatest challenge, the Orks in particular were underestimated and judged to have been removed as a threat since the Ullanor Crusade. Under the powerful Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy Lansung most of the Imperial Fleet was dispatched to humanity's borders, far from Terra.[2a]

This underestimation of the greenskins would prove to be disastrous upon the world of Ardamantua in Segmentum Solar, just an estimated six weeks Warp travel from Terra. There, the entire Imperial Fists Shield Company battled the Chromes, insectoid aliens seemingly in flight of another, worse threat. The planet soon became wracked by gravitational storms and geological disturbances as the Chromes made their last desperate attack on the Imperial lines. The Imperial Fists were soon decimated, their fleet lost, and Chapter Master Cassus Mirhen died at the hand of the Chromes in a desperate battle.[2b] Realizing the disaster facing Terra, a rescue operation led by Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard Heth and the remaining Imperial Fists Chapter, including the 50 Wall Brothers, was dispatched.[2c] The source of the disturbances became clear when an enormous Ork planetoid began to materialize into Ardamantua's orbit, laying waste to the reinforcement fleet.[2d] On Ardamantua, the surviving Fists under First Captain Algerin, Second Captain Koorland/Slaughter, and Captain Sauber/Severance, with a handful of Guardsmen allies, waged a desperate struggle against the panicked Chromes and escalating gravity anomalies as the Greenskin planetoid seemed to phase in and out of reality as it drew closer to full materialization. Soon after, massive Orks began to land on the planet and killed the remaining Imperial forces, which had somehow arrived from what the Imperials would dub "Subspace".[2e] After dispatching a message that the Imperium faced a threat like none before, Heth's fleet was destroyed along with seemingly the entire Imperial Fists Chapter. The Imperium estimated that the Attack Moon would next move on Terra itself.[2f]

Disaster

In the months that followed, it became apparent that more than a single Ork Attack Moon existed. They spread swarms of unusually large and vicious Greenskins across Segmentum Solar, swallowing up at first entire Systems. Soon entire Sub-sectors, and then finally entire Sectors were overrun by the Greenskins and billions upon billions perished.[3a] The gravitational and psychic storms given off by the Waaagh! and their attack moons drove millions to madness, while other humans founded cults dedicated to worshiping the Beast himself, though in the end this did not save them.[3a] Faced with this unstoppable tide, the High Lords of Terra bickered among themselves and provided no leadership during the crisis. Lansung refused to cooperate with the Imperial Guard and instead gathered most of his fleet at the Glaucasian Gulf for an unknown reason.[3c] As the Grand Master of Assassins Drakan Vangorich attempted to counter High Admiral Lansung's influence in the Senatorum Imperialis and discover what the Mechanicum was hiding about the Greenskins, Black Templars Marshal Bohemond was undertaking a quest to reunite the scattered Successor Chapters of the Imperial Fists.[3b] Koorland, the last surviving Imperial Fist, ultimately enacted the "Last Wall" protocol which sought to reunite the Successor Chapters of the Fists into a Legion once more should Terra itself come under threat. This would be undertaken despite the wishes of the High Lords. This plan was solidified during a meeting in the Phall System between Koorland, the Black Templars, Crimson Fists, Fists Exemplar and Excoriators.[4a] The Iron Knights also responded to the call, while the Soul Drinkers could not be contacted.[6]

The Battle of Port Sanctus

Meanwhile, the High Lords infighting continued to hamper the war effort. Inquisitorial Representative Wienand ultimately forced Lord High Admiral Lansung to take action by having her agents exploit the rivalry between Admirals Price and Acharya. Exploiting the latter's lust for glory, Wienand's agents were somehow able to convince the latter to attempt to take his portion of Lansung's fleet anchored at Lepidus Prime to attempt to relieve the Ork siege of Port Sanctus. Not wishing to display an inability to command his own forces, Lansung departed with a segment of Battlefleet Solar to personally lead the attack.[4b] However after Lansung left, the Puritan Lord Inquisitor Veritus was able to launch a political coup within the Inquisition, forcing Wienand to fake her death and go into hiding. Becoming the new Inquisitorial Representative, Veritus became determined to force the High Lords into a subordinate role to the Inquisition. Despite a seeming conflicting agenda, Drakan Vangorich speculates that Veritus and Lansung are in league.[4c]

At Port Sanctus, elements amounting to half a Segmentum Fleet rallied around Admirals Lansung, Acharya, and Price, launching a desperate attack against the Ork Attack Moon and accompanying fleet besieging the shipyards. After weeks of smashing through Ork asteroid forts and raiding craft ringing the Sanctus System, it became clear that the Imperial fleet was outmatched and would ultimately be defeated in a pitched battle. In particular, the Ork ability to have small raider-sized vessels rapidly teleport warriors aboard Imperial vessels even when they still had their Void Shields up proved troublesome. However, perhaps from a lack of discipline, the Greenskin fleet began to dissipate to pursue individual elements of the Imperial Navy. Sensing an opportunity to destroy the Attack Moon or die trying, the Imperial fleet launched a desperate final charge at the station.[4d]

The near-suicidal charge against the Ork Attack Moon proved costly for the Imperial fleet, the station's Gravity Whip in particular destroying whole squadrons of Cruisers and Battleships with each volley. However, the repeated firing of the weapon degraded the Attack Moon's Void Shields, allowing for the Imperials to combine their firepower in conjunction with a suicidal run by Attack Craft directly inside the station. When the Moon's gravitic generators were destroyed, the entire structure exploded, though it took many of the surviving Imperial vessels with it. The siege of Port Sanctus was lifted and the first of the Ork Attack Moons was destroyed.[4e]

Lansung returned to Terra to a triumphant parade, but his victory was short lived as another Ork Attack Moon materialized directly over the capital of humanity.[4e]

The Proletarian Crusade

At the same time, the Orks expanded their campaign onto a galactic scale. Every Segmentum of the Imperium saw heavy fighting. Prandium and Quintarn in Ultramar were invaded, forcing the Ultramarines and several of their Successor Chapters into a defensive role. While the Iron Hands sent three Companies towards Terra, the Space Wolves, Salamanders and Raven Guard all became too bogged down in fighting their own campaigns to come to aid. The Blood Angels were able to successfully destroy an Ork Attack Moon. The Ork attack even spread beyond the borders of the Imperium, the Iron Warriors world of Klostra near the Maelstrom was also assailed.[5a]

Meanwhile on Terra, following the arrival of an Ork Attack Moon, panic erupted across the throneworld. All contact with Mars ceased as Fabricator-General Kubik refused to give Holy Terra any aid. The Adeptus Arbites struggled to contain the wave of riots, anarchy and disorder and thousands died. The High Lords had to be barricaded into secure areas of the Imperial Palace. With the majority of Battlefleet Solar deployed elsewhere or destroyed in the Battle of Port Sanctus, Terra was virtually defenseless and Lansung was disgraced and fell from power. In this moment, a joint plan by Speaker for the Chartist Captains Juskina Tull and Ecclesiarch Mesring was proposed. Announcing a "Proletarian Crusade", millions of Frateris Militia and civilian volunteers were to be transported by Tull's Merchant Fleet to the orbiting Attack Moon in a massive boarding operation. The largest civilian mobilization in Imperial history, the volunteers were to be supported by relatively small numbers of Imperial Guard and Arbites. Many of the High Lords, Vangorich, Veritus and Lansung included, all condemned the plan as madness but were overruled by the ascendant Tull and Mesring.[5a]

The Crusade commenced shortly after its announcement due to the very small amount of planning that went into it. Thousands of civilian craft from massive Mass Conveyors to tiny shuttles rushed towards the Attack Moon, carrying millions of crusaders, guardsmen and Arbites. Ork fighters and boarding parties took a heavy toll on the makeshift fleet, but due to its immense size many of the vessels got through. The Imperials were able to land millions of troops and even 100 Leman Russ Battle Tanks and 50 Chimeras and Hellhounds onto the surface of the moon, where they engaged in vicious battle with Ork mobs. In a part-tank part-melee battle, the Imperials were able to drive back the Orks through sheer numbers and brutal hand-to-hand fighting. However, as they were approaching a gate into the interior of the moon, the Orks manipulated the planetoid's surface and the entire invading army was crushed by enclosing mountains.[5b]

Following the disastrous Proletarian Crusade, Terra seemed out of options. An astonishing incident took place where a surviving Crusade ship landed on Terra, carrying three Orks including an "ambassador". Identified as an entirely new sub-species of the hyper-evolving Beast Orks, the ambassador spoke Gothic and was able to arrange a meeting with the High Lords thanks to Vangorich and the disbelief of the Palace guards. The Ork ambassador, identifying himself as Bezhrak, demanded the surrender of Terra or face death. The High Lords were speechless, unable to give any coherent response. Disgusted by their cowardice and lack of resolve, the Ork ambassador left just as Eldar vessels appeared over the Imperial Palace.[5c]

Battle for Terra

Chaos further gripped the Imperial Palace as a small force of seven Harlequins led by Shadowseer Lhaerial Rey infiltrated the complex. The Eldar maintained that they had come in peace at the behest of Farseer Eldrad Ulthran, but massacred any who tried to stop their advance towards the Golden Throne. After brushing past Lucifer Blacks security, the xenos managed to reach the Inner Palace where they encountered hundreds of furious Custodes. In the end, the xenos attempt to reach the Emperor's throneroom failed and the last surviving Harlequin, Lhaerial, was captured by Custodes at the foot of the Eternity Gate. Though Captain-General Beyreuth ordered the execution of the Shadowseer, Grand Master of Assassins Drakan Vangorich and Inquisitorial Representative Veritus arrived and urged the Custodian to transfer the Eldar to their care for interrogation. Reluctantly, Beyreuth complied. After interrogation at the Inquisitorial Fortress of Terra, Lhaerial revealed that Eldrad had dispatched her on a mission to personally deliver a message to the Emperor himself. As proof of her message of peace, she revealed the tooth of a Nocturne drake that Vulkan had supposedly given Eldrad. Lhaerial went on to state that Ulthwe had managed to calm the Warp around Terra to aid the Imperial war effort against the Orks, but that the true threat was gathering.[6]

Shortly after the Eldar raid on Terra, the "Last Wall", the combined force of Imperial Fists Successors, finally arrived in the Sol System. 20 Battle Barges and Strike Cruisers carrying 2,800 Battle-Brothers from the Black Templars, Crimson Fists, Fists Exemplar and Excoriators emerged over the Ork Attack Moon plaguing Terra. They were led by High Marshal Bohemond and the last surviving Imperial Fist, Koorland. The Astartes were finally able to wrangle aid from Mars and Fabricator-General Kubik agreed to donate the fleet of the Basilikon Astra, 5 Skitarii Regiments and 7 Cybernetica cohorts.[6a]

The Astartes and their Mechanicum allies struck at the Attack Moon, using Cyclonic Torpedos to disable most of its surface weapons stations. However, the station's gravitic whip was still active, and it inflicted heavy losses on the Imperial forces. Meanwhile, a massive landing operation was launched, hundreds of Terminators backed by Thunderhawk-borne battle tanks touched down on the moon alongside Skitarii and Battle-Automata, battling thousands upon thousands of Orks. The battle in space was slowly swinging in favor of the Orks thanks to the Moon's devastating gravitic whip, but the timely arrival of the Iron Knights turned the tide. Ultimately, the Astartes were successful in disabling the Moon's portal to prevent new reinforcements from emerging and, with two thirds of the moon's surface destroyed, the exhausted Imperials withdrew. In the closing stages of the battle, the Iron Knights Chapter Master Malfons died covering their escape against a massive Ork Warboss the size of a Dreadnought.[6a]

In the aftermath of the battle, massive victory celebrations were broadcasted over the beleaguered Terra, and the High Lords led by Lord Commander Udin Macht Udo took credit for the victory. In a private meeting with the leaders of the Last Wall, (High Marshal Bohemond and Chapter Masters Quesadra, Koorland, Verpall, Maximus Thane and Issachar), Lord Commander Udo scolded the Astartes. He dubbed the unification of the Imperial Fists Successors borderline heretical, condemned them for arriving over Terra without warning, ordered their fleets be broken up immediately and demanded that the destruction of the Imperial Fists be kept from the public. Most ominous at all, he forbade any further fleet action against the heavily damaged Ork attack moon as Mechanicum Fabricator-General Kubik demanded it intact for an unknown purpose. Though the Astartes Masters were furious, Koorland ultimately swayed them to maintain the Emperor's vision and listen to the Chairman of the Senatorum.[6b]

Meanwhile, on Dzelenic IV, Black Templars led by Marshal Magneric and Warsmith Kalkator came to an uneasy truce in the face of a mutual Ork threat. For the first time in 1,500 years, sons of Rogal Dorn and Perturabo fought side by side.[6b]

Ultimately, it became apparent to Koorland that the High Lords, Lord Commander Udo in particular, were proving too ineffectual to see victory. After Lord Commander Udo tried to ban the Inquisition from the Senatorum Imperialis, Koorland led a political coup with the cooperation of Drakan Vangorich, Veritus, Wienand and Vernor Zeck. Seeing the writing on the wall, all the other High Lords came to support Koorland and declared him the new Lord Commander of the Imperium.[7]

Standoff with the Mechanicum

In his first move as Lord Commander, Koorland moved to curtail the scheming of the Martian Mechanicum. The Mechanicum had recently detained the Tech-Priest Eldon Urquidex, who had knowledge of the Beast's origins, and massacred an Officio Assassinorum investigation team under Vanus Assassin Clementina Yendl. The Assassin team had discovered the Mechanicum's secret experimentation with Ork technology to potentially teleport Mars from the Sol System. Under Koorland's orders a force of Fists Exemplar under Chapter Master Thane was dispatched to Mars to take Urquidex into custody, but upon landing on the planet's surface was confronted by a large force of Skitarii, Electro-Priests, and Legio Cybernetica under Argus Van Auken. The two sides engaged in a tense standoff as Thane continued to advance towards Urquidex's position on Pavonis Mons, being careful to not fire on the Mechanicum forces. Not wanting an armed conflict either, Auken attempted to physically block the Marines with his own Skitarii and ordered that they leave Mars at once.[8a]

However, disaster struck when a warning shot from a Mechanicum Onager Dunecrawler accidentally hit an incoming Exemplar Drop Pod. Almost immediately after, both sides exchanged fire in a brief but vicious battle. It was only thanks to the efforts of Fabricator-General Kubik on Terra that complete disaster was averted. Moved by Koorland's pleas for unity in the face of the Green Menace, Kubik sent a unilateral ceasefire order to a panicked Van Auken on Mars, who quickly complied. The Fists Exemplar were able to take Urquidex into custody, and Kubik revealed the extent of his experimentation with Ork teleportation technology, which was able to teleport Phobos from one sides of Mars' orbit to the other. With the knowledge gained from the now half-Servitor Urquidex, Koorland and his allies discovered that The Beast's homeworld was Ullanor and immediately dispatched a call to allies across the Imperium to gather at Terra for a massive counteroffensive towards the mythical planet and finally deal with the crippled Attack Moon over humanity's throneworld. The Ultramarines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels and Space Wolves all answered the call and headed towards Terra.[8a]

The Return of Vulkan

Koorland then received perhaps even more important information from Inquisitorial Representative Veritus, learning that the lost Primarch Vulkan had been spotted fighting openly on the Ork besieged world of Caldera. Koorland rushed a scattered force of combined Last Wall, Imperial Guard (primarily Lucifer Blacks but also Jupiter Storms, Orion Watch, and Granite Myrmidons), Imperial Navy, and Mechanicum forces from Terra to Caldera, knowing that recruiting a Primarch could be the key to victory. On Caldera, the task force found Vulkan holding back the Ork invasion almost single-handedly. With his regenerative capabilities and powerful new weapon Doomtremor, Vulkan would appear at firefights across the planet, massacring thousands of Orks and causing those remaining to pursue him instead of the Imperial defenders.[8b]

The Imperial task force discovered that despite the Primarch's best efforts, Caldera was ultimately doomed. The Orks were literally draining the planet's surface and core into orbit with a gravitic generator on the surface, creating a new Attack Moon. Koorland and his allies were able to finally meet Vulkan on the surface of Caldera, where the Primarch revealed that he had no interest in immediately withdrawing back to Terra. The Primarch had long ago pledged a vow to protect Caldera and would not leave until it was saved from the Greenskins. Forced to either leave in failure or battle to save the planet, Koorland chose the latter and, with the Primarch, they moved on the gravity generator as the Imperial Navy desperately sought to fend off the Ork vessels in orbit.[8b]

The Imperial combined force of Space Marines, Guardsmen and Skitarii were able to reach the complex after a fierce battle but their advance began to falter at the gates of the generator in the face of Greenskin numbers and devastating weaponry. Ultimately, Vulkan threw himself in the gravitic beam draining the planet. While any other being would have been smashed into atoms by the force of the beam, Vulkan was able to endure long enough to throw his hammer into the generator's epicenter. Both the planet-side base and infant Attack Moon in orbit exploded. Vulkan reappeared shortly after, having fully regenerated.[8b]

With Caldera saved, Vulkan journeyed with Koorland back to Terra. He found the Imperial host that will march on Ullanor waiting for him. Despite scolding the High Lords, Vulkan did not purge them for the sake of unity. He proclaimed that he would lead the might of the Imperium to Ullanor and slay The Beast once and for all.[8c]

Counterattack Ullanor

With Vulkan at the forefront, the massive force that had now assembled at Terra set a path for Ullanor. A coalition of Black Templars, Crimson Fists, Fists Exemplar, Excoriators, Iron Knights, Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Dark Angels made up the Space Marine contingent. They were accompanied by a sizable force of Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy as well as a Mechanicum force of Skitarii, Legio Cybernetica, House Taranis Knights and Titans of the Legio Ultima. While Vulkan remained the nominal commander of the force, he shut himself away inside the Fists Exemplar Battle Barge and acting Imperial command ship Alcazar Remembered and offered little advice. It was left to Lord Commander Koorland and Magos Dominus Gerg Zhokuv to oversee the specifics of the campaign. Through a communion of several Librarians that led to some becoming possessed by the Waagh spirit and having to be put down as they turned on their companions, it was deduced that the Beasts lair was in the "capital" of Ullanor, the city of Gorkogrod. At the center of Gorkogrod at the exact spot where the Emperor and Primarchs had assembled 1,500 years previous during the Ullanor Triumph, the Beast had his temple-palace. Meanwhile, Grand Master of Assassins Vangorich deployed Esad Wire on a secret mission to find and eliminate The Beast.[9a]

When the Imperial fleet arrived at Ullanor, they found the planet heavily colonized and covered almost completely by ramshackle but surprisingly organized Ork urban settlements. After the Blood Angels and Black Templars brushed past the thankfully lacking orbital defenses, the Mechanicum made their initial landings. As Gorkogrod was protected by an immense energy shield and fielded many surface-to-orbit missile batteries, orbital bombardment was largely ineffective and ground forces needed to move in directly. Though an Ork electromagnetic weapon decimated the first wave of Mechanicus ships, all the Imperial commanders were concerned by the disorganized and weak Ork resistance.[9b] The Imperials quickly pushed to the outer defenses of Gorkogrod and it was here that The Beast unleashed his first real resistance. The surface of Ullanor itself moved and it became clear that the Greenskins had converted the world into an "Attack Planet". Using the terrain to their advantage and drawing the Imperials into urban kill-zones, disciplined Orks put up tenacious resistance that took an atrociously heavy toll on the Imperial attackers. Exotic Ork weapons both gravitic and psychic in nature decimated waves of Imperial warriors. Seemingly endless numbers of Ork Gargants finally appeared, trading blows with Imperial Titans. Guard casualties approached 50% while one in every three Astartes warriors was lost in the drive into Gorkogrod. Nonetheless, through sheer attrition and determination and the direct intervention of Vulkan, the Imperials slowly advanced.[9b]

Meanwhile, Imperial Assassin Esad Wire managed to infiltrate the immense temple of Gork and Mork at the center of Gorkogrod believed to be The Beast's palace. Once inside, he found tens of thousands of Warboss-sized Mega Armoured Orks accompanied by a Mega Gargant being held in reserve. Esad Wire realized he could never get to The Beast with this force in the way, and perhaps more importantly had to warn the Imperials that they were falling into a trap. Wire managed to hijack an Ork flyer and reach Imperial lines, warning of what he had saw. With Vulkan's approval, Koorland ordered that the Imperials would instead strike at the Ork supply depots. The Orks in Gorkogrod were already experiencing food shortages and had started eating human slaves, Gretchin and even each other. The Imperials believed that with their remaining food storehouses in jeopardy, The Beast and his elite guard would be drawn out.[9c]

The Imperial attack on the storehouses largely fulfilled their intended purposes. The center of Gorkogrod shook as it opened up and spat forth waves of massive Greenskins and Gargants. The Imperials managed to endure the attack, thanks in part to a hastily created Mechanicum Ordinatus assembled from a wrecked Capitol Imperialis and the Plasma Accelerator of a downed starship. However, as they finally reached the temple-palace of Ullanor, the massive structure came to life and revealed itself to be a Gargant beyond classification. The structure emitted psychic energy from its "eyes", raining death on the Imperials. Though the Imperials stood little chance against this superweapon, Vulkan led the last 3,000 Space Marines in a final airborne attack on it in hopes of reaching The Beast and slaying him once and for all. The Imperials were able to penetrate the temple-gargant's surface and reach the interior, finding Stompas inside defending it. The Astartes continued their advance before coming to a central chamber containing a power generator and a ten meter high metal statue of an Ork. When the statue began to move, the Space Marines realized that this was no mere idol but rather The Beast himself, entirely clad in a suit of armor.[9d]

The Beast was a foe beyond any that the Astartes could face and it fell to Vulkan to confront him. After Crimson Fists and Ultramarines Chapter Masters Quesadra and Odaenathus were quickly killed and Blood Angels Captain Valefor was swatted away by The Beast like an insect, Koorland saw how little they could do against him. He then came to the realization that Vulkan intended to sacrifice himself to slay this creature. Despite the objections of Black Templars High Marshal Bohemond, Koorland led the Astartes in a retreat from the citadel as Vulkan fought The Beast alone. The ten meter high Warboss revealed he spoke perfect Imperial Gothic, gloating that humanity was on its knees and he would be its end. Vulkan tackled the Warboss and they both fell into the temple-gargant's power generator, where the Primarch became imbued with massive amounts of Waaagh! energies. Rather than be consumed by the energies as so many other men had, Vulkan used his primal and savage essence to become one with it and launch one last attack. He slammed Doomtremor into The Beast's face and detonated the generator, causing a chain reaction that shattered the temple-gargant and seemingly obliterating them both.[9d]

With The Beast apparently dead, Ork resistance on Ullanor crumbled and the mauled Imperial expedition limped back to Terra. However, once they reached orbit over the throneworld, the Orkish chant "I am Slaughter! I am Slaughter! I am Slaughter" echoed across all their communications systems.[9d]

Rise of the Deathwatch

The Ork chanting dominated all communication systems for weeks, and it became apparent to Koorland that The Beast was not dead, or at the very least a new Warboss had taken control of his Waaagh!. With his forces too bled from the fighting on Ullanor and agreeing with Drakan Vangorich that a new change of tactic was apt, Koorland instead proposed forming elite Kill-Teams of Astartes to track down and eliminate the Ork leadership as well as key strategic targets. When Koorland revealed to the High Lords that these Kill-Teams would be drawn from multiple Chapters, exist purely under his command, and exist even after The Beast was defeated, he met bitter opposition led by Tobris Ekharth, who stated that it went against the foundations of the Post-Heresy Imperium and rulings of Roboute Guilliman, and and Mesring, who repeatedly declared such actions as blasphemy in a manner that uneased the others. In the first Senatorum Election to create Koorland's new force, only Drakan Vangorich voted yes while Kubik and Veritus abstained.[10a]

However the situation soon changed dramatically when the Ork Attack Moon over Terra, long since thought derelict, reactivated. With its Sub-Space gate seemingly repaired, massive Ork reinforcements swarmed in to reinforce the Moon as The Beast himself announced on all frequencies that he would bring slaughter to humanity. Faced with this new threat, Koorland was able to convince most of the High Lords to approve the formation of his Kill-Teams. In the second vote, only Mesring voted no though Kubik and Veritus again abstained. Koorland quickly deployed his new force, 3 small squads of black-armored Space Marines drawn from multiple Chapters. They were dubbed the Deathwatch in memory of the fallen brothers of Ullanor.[10a]

As the Deathwatch boarded the Attack Moon, the Imperial Navy desperately sought to hold back the new Ork fleet that were swarming from the vessel. They were able to hold the line enough for the Deathwatch to plant Mechanicum beacons reverse-engineered from Ork subspace technology onto the moon. The Imperials planned to teleport the entire Attack Moon out of the Sol System, but the Mechanicum was unable to master the potent Ork technologies. As a result, half the moon simply vanished while the other half shattered and blanketed Terra in a storm of debris. In the ensuing disaster, hundreds of millions died and much of the Imperial Palace itself was damaged.[10b]

Undeterred, Koorland planned his next move on The Beast. Realizing that they needed a counter to the potent Ork psychics, the Deathwatch followed a lead by Veritus to find the last remaining bastion of the Sisters of Silence. Koorland himself led the expedition to the far reaches of Segmentum Pacificus to try and find these lost Sisters, dealing with Ork forces along the way that were also hunting the psyker-killers out of fear. On Nadiries, the Deathwatch found the Sister's fortress under siege from an Ork army led by a massive Gargant. Koorland led the effort to lift the siege, and once inside was able to convince the reluctant Sisters to join him after revealing that he had the blessing of Vulkan himself.[10b]

Return to Ullanor

With the Sisters of Silence in hand, Koorland devised a new plan to eliminate the Beast. They would capture an Ork psyker and using the anti-psychic nature of the Sisters of Silence, create a reverse Waaagh! effect through the Ork psyche. After Deathwatch efforts to capture Orks psykers on Plaeos, Eidolica, and Valhalla Koorland was able to successfully conduct a experiment of this plan on the world of Incus Maximal, devastating a localized Ork force.[!1a]

After the success on Incus Maximal, Koorland declared his intent to launch a second invasion of Ullanor to slay the Beast using his new weapon. As resources were exhausted from the first battle, the force invading Ullanor proved large but far smaller. It consisted of battered units of Space Marines from several Chapters (The Fists Exemplar, Iron Knights, Excoriators, Crimson Fists, Black Templars, Dark Angels, Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Aurora Chapter, Iron Snakes, Raven Guard, Storm Lords, Brazen Claws, and Space Wolves), the Deathwatch, Imperial Guard Regiments consisting of many veterans of the first campaign, Frateris Templar, Skitarii and Legio Cybernetica cohorts, Knights, several dozen Sisters of Silence, Inquisitorial Stormtroopers, and the remaining Titans of the Legio Ultima which consisted of only one Warlord Class and a Warhound Class. As the Imperial Navy was spread thin, much of the force was transported by Inquisitorial Black Ships provided by Wienand, who became the co-commander of the invasion phase of the plan alongside Maximus Thane. Meanwhile, Koorland prepared to personally lead an elite assassination force to find and slay the Beast. This unit consisted of himself, Black Templars High Marshal Bohemond, Chapter Master of the Deathwatch Asger Warfist, a Death Watch Kill-Team of 6 Marines led by Tyris, the Officio Assassinorum agent Beast Krule, the Skitarii Ranger Alpha 13-Jzzal, a squad of six Sisters of Silence led by Kavalanera Brassanas, Commissar Heliad Goss, and two Ogryns. Also accompanying the force were the Magi Phaeton Laurentis and Eldon Urquidex and four Servitors who escorted the bound Ork Psyker intended to be used as a sacrifice to slay the Beast.[11b]

The second invasion of Ullanor began with the sacrifice of several damaged Imperial warships manned by skeleton crews, which plunged into the Ork energy shield protecting the worlds "capital" of Gorkogrod. Using this moment of opportunity, Koorland's assassination force was able to teleport into Gorkogrod's central palace. However as the Imperials landed, they met sparse resistance and it became apparent that the Beast was already aware to the Imperial plan, quickly reactivating the energy shield and diverting his forces towards the palace. In space, a large ork fleet suddenly appeared and ambushed the orbiting Imperial vessels. The Beast's trap had been set, but Koorland was desperate to succeed where Vulkan had failed.[11b]

As the Imperial invaders fought for their lives, Koorland's force was eventually able to reach the Beast's throneroom. Inside were six thrones, six statues, and six banners. Seated in one of the thrones was a massive armored Ork nearer in size to a walker vehicle than any Greenskin. The Imperial assassins then became surrounded by an elite greenskin guard of massive hulking Orks and an army of Gargants all larger than a Reaver Titan. As the other members of the assassination party held off the Greenskin "Adeptus Custodes", Koorland and the Space Marines engaged The Beast, who was equipped with a gauntlet of two Battlecannons supplemented with Missile Launchers, Autocannons, Flamers, and other weapons. The Space Marines proved no match for the massive Ork creature, but they were able to hold him off long enough for Laurentis, Urquidex, and the Sisters of Silence to activate their ritual. Thanks to the Sisters of Silence's Pariah effect the Ork Psyker imploded, spreading a reverse-Waaagh! effect through the greenskin horde that swept across Ullanor. While the Beast's guards and vehicles were disabled, the Warboss himself was only momentarily disabled. This allowed for a desperate final attack by Koorland and the others that narrowly slew the creature.[11c]

The Imperial victory however was short lived. A second, even larger Warboss entered the throneroom as soon as the first died. Koorland recognized it as the creature that had fought Vulkan in the first invasion, realizing at once that there was never a single Beast. looking across the throneroom, he realized that there were six "Prime-Orks", each a commander of a Greenskin "Legion". This new Beast and his reinforcements swept aside the Imperial assassins before he personally stomped on Koorland, killing the last son of Dorn. Faced with the death of their Lord Commander, the Imperials fled the planet with Koorland's body.[11c]

One Final Effort

In the aftermath of the death of Lord Commander Koorland, the High Lords of Terra stood indecisive. The coreworlds of Segmentum Solar were hit with a wave of renewed Ork attacks. The majority of Battlefleet Solar, paralyzed from a lack of orders, was annihilated by a Greenskin fleet of Space Hulks. Before his death the crazed Ecclesiarch Mesring had dispatched a message that worlds should throw their gates open to The Beast. This resulted in many Cardinal Worlds peacefully surrendering themselves, only to have their populations butchered. Drawn by some primal urge, the Space Wolves returned to Fenris while the Ultramarines and their successors became bogged down trying to defend key regions of Ultima Segmentum. With its leader dead, the Greenskins were ravaging the Imperium with impunity.[12]

It was in this context that Chapter Master of the Fists Exemplar, Maximus Thane, decided to take decisive action while attending Koorland's funeral and the Feast of Blades on Inwit. Unlike Koorland and Vulkan, Thane had no intent to try and work with the High Lords and instead gathered key competent individuals around himself. Allying with Grand Master of Assassins Drakan Vangorich and Fabricator-General Kubik, Thane conspired a third push on Ullanor to try and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The first phase of his plan involved having the Chapter's of the Last Wall to each contribute a portion of their remaining strength to reestablish the Imperial Fists, which had been wiped out with the death of Koorland. Soon enough, 1,000 Battle-Brothers in Imperial Fists armor stood ready and Thane took their place as the new Chapter Master. The destruction of the original Imperial Fists was kept secret, and the citizens of Terra rejoiced to see their defenders on parade in full strength. However, the High Lords knew the truth and grew suspicious.

Using Vangorich to intimidate Imperial Guard Lord Commander Militant Verreault and Lord High Admiral Lansung into contributing resources to a renewed push on Ullanor, Thane intended to repeat the strategy Koorland devised to use a captured Ork Psyker in conjunction with the Sisters of Silence to create a reverse-Waaagh! effect to slay The Beast.[12]

The third Imperial offensive on Ullanor differed in its unconventional tactics. Using Mechanicum technology, Thane redirected a wave of asteroids into the world, which was now teeming with trillions of Orks. However while the majority of the asteroids devastated the planet, its orbital defenses, or were intercepted, the bulk of Imperial troops landed aboard the modified rock 44 Thoosa. The controlled landing of the asteroid was nonetheless a devastating impact, wiping out much of Ullanor's capital of Gorkogrod. The Imperial invaders operated in five attack groups: the main strike force of the new Imperial Fists and Sisters of Silence led by Thane, a Mechanicum army led by Magos Gerg Zhokuv, a Last Wall army led by High Marshal Bohemond, the Deathwatch under Watch Commander Asger Warfist and Inquisitor Wienand, and the last operating in space. This was led by the Phalanx itself, manned by the 10th Company and two demi-Companies of Imperial Fists.[12a]

With much of the Ork settlements on Ullanor annihilated by the Imperial asteroid attack, the invaders faced a more straight forward but nonetheless desperate battle against massive Ork hordes. However the purpose of four of the five attack groups was to simply keep the Orks from overrunning the last led by Thane which was driving on The Beast's Gargant-palace at the center of Gorkogrod. The Imperial fists had three remaining captured Ork psykers, one of which was used to annihilate the Ork hordes remaining around the palace and another being lost during a firefight. In space, the Imperial forces also took heavy losses, and the Phalanx itself was boarded by Greenskins.[12a]

After heavy fighting by long-exhausted units, Thane's forces were again able to penetrate the Palace and fight to its central throneroom, decorated with the thrones of the Six Beast Warbosses. Thane and the others were confronted by one of these monsters, which was speculated to be "The Beast of Beasts". After a desperate battle, the ritual on the final captured Ork Psyker led by Knight-Abyssal Kavalanera Brassanas succeeded in wiping out the Greenskins within the Gargant-Palace. The head of The Beast of Beasts exploded, just before it was about to kill Thane.[12a]

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the final effort on Ullanor, the Beast's Waaagh collapsed but thousands of systems remained under threat. Thane and his new Imperial Fists returned to Terra to give their final orders, setting the stage of the Fourth Founding of Space Marines. He named Drakan Vangorich Lord Protector of the Imperium before returning to the Phalanx to engage in a preemptive Crusade against the enemies of mankind for the next century. However after learning that the Mechanicum had disobeyed their order to enact Exterminatus on Ullanor in hopes of acquiring Greenskin technology, Vangorich had decided that the incompetent High Lords represented too severe a threat to the survival of mankind to be left to their own devices.[13]

Thus the most immediate effect of the war was The Beheading, which saw Vangorich launch a coup that eliminated all of the High Lords save Wienand. For the next hundred years Vangorich ruled the Imperium as a tyrant, but one who was fairly effective in his role. Terra was refortified, new Space Marine chapters founded, and the last remnants of The Beast were swept away. However after 80 years of stable rule Vangorich began to go mad, which eventually forced Thane to lead a coalition of Space Marine Chapters to put him down.[13]

Many other structural reforms accompanied the end of the war. The Inquisition created the Ordo Xenos and Ordo Malleus, the Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes joined the High Lords, and the position of Lord Commander of the Imperium abolished. The Imperial Fists no longer remained on Terra, instead committing themselves to a never-ending Crusade against the enemies of Man.[13]

Sources