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Battle of Shrike

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The Battle of Shrike was a conflict that took place towards the end of the Great Crusade on Ark Reach Secundus. It was the final military action in the Imperial effort to bring the Ark Reach Cluster into compliance. It is notable for the deployment of forces from three Space Marine Legions, led by their Primarchs - the Word Bearers, the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons - and for seeing the return of the flesh-change in the Thousand Sons legion at the close of the battle.[1]


The Ark Reach Cluster was discovered by the 47th Expedition Fleet, made up principally of Word Bearers forces. Lorgar, their Primarch, and Kor Phaeron, his deputy, met with the Phoenix Court, the governing body of the various worlds and systems of the Cluster, to invite peaceful compliance. While records of this meeting were subsequently lost, it is at least clear that the leaders of the Ark Reach Cluster rejected unification with the Imperium. Thus, military action ensued.[1a]

The Word Bearers were not alone in prosecuting this action; the Space Wolves soon joined the Imperial forces. Together, these two legions conquered four of the six systems of the Cluster over the course of two years. The last two systems, however, appeared formidable even for main forces from two legions.[1a]

Thus it was decided that greater Imperial force was required to ensure a successful compliance. To this end, Leman Russ decided to summon aid from his brother, Magnus the Red. A deputation of the Space Wolves 5th company, led by their Jarl, Amlodhi Skarssen Skarssensson was sent to demand the presence of the Thousand Sons. Bridling at the cursory and demanding manner that the Russ' deputation requested the reinforcement, Magnus held off in responding for some short time;[1b] long enough in fact, for his forces (and those of the Space Wolves' 5th company) to become embroiled in the Battle of the Mountain on Aghoru. At the conclusion of this battle, Magnus finally assented to the Wolf King's summons. The Thousand Sons made best speed to the Ark Reach Cluster.[1c]


Upon their arrival, the Thousand Sons found themselves deployed at a more frantic pace than they were accustomed to in combat; the war pace of the Space Wolves was swift. The six-month campaign was noted to be draining for the psychic warriors, and uncomfortable for their attached Imperial Army unit, the Prosperine Spireguard, who had to be issued with cold-weather gear specifically tailored for the sub-zero temperatures of the battle zone. Additionally, all troops in the combat zones came under incessant attack from the equally varied and equally hostile airborne creatures that made the battlegrounds their home. These attacks were so incessant and vicious that Imperial vehicles had to be modified with point-defence weapons to clear the skies around them, and the human soldiery, more exposed to the beasts, began to dread their attacks. It was these deadly beasts of the air that resulted in the common Imperial term for the theatre; Shrike.[1a]

Despite the punishing pace of the conflict wearying their warriors, the Thousand Sons were reckoned instrumental in the final defeat of the Avenians (as the inhabitants of the Cluster were known). Their individual actions in the Battle of Shrike - such as the taking of the objective named Raven's Aerie 93 - were won in matters of hours, and with little loss to themselves. The foresight abilities of their Corvidae members meant that the legion warriors took a fearsome toll on the defenders, effectively slaughtering them. At the aforementioned Raven's Aerie 93, for example, the Thousand Sons deployed three hundred Legionaries and killed five thousand Avenian solders, with the loss to themselves in any terms significant only amongst the supporting Spireguard unit. By this time in the campaign, it was reckoned by some in the legion that they had killed around three million of the defenders. [1a]

With the reinforcement of the Thousand Sons, the final eradication of the Avenians - whose surviving leaders and military had retreated to their capital world, Heliosa - was thorough. With the Corvidae able to determine the location of the enemy forces, the Space Wolves savaged their warriors, and the Word Bearers burned their fortresses to ash. Some in the Thousand Sons considered the wholesale slaughter a waste of lives, but had little answer when it was pointed out to them that the Avenians were apparently an unrepentant, degenerate society.[1a]


Tensions between the Space Wolves and Thousand Sons would boil over in the aftermath of the battle. During the battle for Shrike's capital city, Phoenix Crag, Magnus became disgusted by the Wolves blatant destruction and near-genocide of the local population. Magnus set his forces to protecting the Great Library of the Phoenix Crag, and a tense showdown with Leman Russ and the Wolves began. Russ declared the planet his to do with what he saw fit, and his forces charged the Thousand Sons. The Thousand Sons slew several Fenrisian Wolves and used their psychic abilities to disable the bodies of the Wolves, but disaster struck when one of the Thousand Sons Astartes, Hastar, succumb to the Legion's flesh-changing mutation. Panic and mutation spread through the Thousand Sons ranks until Russ executed Hastar, and as he and Magnus charged at one another total war seemed imminent. However the intervention of Lorgar managed to calm the situation, but Russ took a blood vow that he would settle the score for Magnus one day.[1d]