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During Operation Newfound, the second phase of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, a combined force of Imperial Guard and the Collegia Titanica set out to reclaim the world, as part of Warmaster Slaydo's advance to the stronghold world of Balhaut.
The Imperial force, commanded by Marshal Blackwood, encountered the bizarre war machines created by the Chaos commander, Heritor Asphodel. Blackwood petitioned Slaydo for Titan reinforcements, pleading that no matter how many men he had under his command, they would be shredded by the Heritor's "woe machines" like so much chaff.
The Collegia were initially reluctant to deploy their precious Titans, but Slaydo cunningly shared intelligence on the Ashek conflict with the senior Magi — including the rumour started by Narmenian Colonel Mazzen that Asphodel's talents suggested a past link with the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Adepts were so affronted that they immediately agreed to help expunge the Chaos presence.
The battle between the Titans and Asphodel's machines raged for three months, and several Guardsmen who witnessed it were more traumatised by the spectacle than by any wounds they had taken. Asphodel escaped Ashek II, and would not be encountered again until Balhaut. Nevertheless, the confrontation established his reputation among the Imperial forces as one of the most formidable of Archon Nadzybar's lieutenants.
Following the destruction of the Heritor's woe machines, there was brutal fighting between the Guard's infantry (including the young Commissar Ibram Gaunt) and the Chaos forces. After three months, the Chaotic armies had finally been purged from the planet's hives, but Imperial Tacticians warned that Ashek II's lava hills would make excellent hiding places for Chaos reinforcements. The Imperial Guard fortified the hives and braced for a massive counterattack, but none came. Eventually it was determined that the Chaos forces had died to the last man defending the hives.
The battle left a graveyard of destroyed hulks, which the Adeptus Mechanicus scoured as part of the planet's reconstruction effort. Several of Asphodel's woe machines were only dormant, rather than dead, causing additional casualties.
- 1: The Sabbat Worlds Crusade (Background Book) by Dan Abnett, pg. 23
- 2: Honour Guard (Novel) — Gaunt's Ghosts: The Saint (Omnibus) by Dan Abnett, Chapter Eleven, pgs. 181–182
- 3: The Headstone and the Hammerstone Kings (Short Story) by Matthew Farrer