Battle of Sotha
The Battle of Sotha was a minor battle of the Horus Heresy, in which the forces of the Night Lords Traitor Legion attempted to assume control of the Pharos beacon on the planet Sotha. As the Pharos beacon was the key instrument in maintaining the cohesion of Imperium Secundus, the battle on the periphery of Ultima Segmentum turned into a strategically important struggle for the future of Imperium Secundus.
The planet Sotha was discovered by exploration fleets from Ultramar during the Great Crusade. After its discovery, it was planned to colonize it but these plans were put on hold; instead, a small agri-colony was established together with a survey expedition of archaeologists and xenoculturists. One company of the Ultramarines Legion, the 199th, was assigned permanently to Sotha as a protective detail.[1a]
After the start of Horus Heresy, Primarch Roboute Guilliman himself assigned the loyalist Warsmith Barabas Dantioch of the Iron Warriors to direct and oversee exploration of the Pharos beacon machine in order to use it to benefit Ultramar and Imperium Secundus. Later, Captain Alexis Polux of the Imperial Fists volunteered to help Dantioch[1b], for despite their respective Legions' animosity they developed a strong comradeship.[Needs Citation]
Unbeknownst to Dantioch, Polux, or 199th company's commander, Captain Adallus, a blind spot near a local Mandeville Point was designated as the rendezvous for Night Lords fleet elements during the Thramas Crusade. After their fleet was scattered following their defeat by the Dark Angels, several vessels (including the Umber Prince, Dominus Noctem and Shadow Blow) used this rendezvous point to regroup and repair battle damage. At the time of the Pharos' activation, only Umber Prince under command of Claw-master Gendor Skraivok of the 45th Company remained on station, but some time later a Night Lords fleet translated into the Sothan System. This fleet was commanded by Captain Krukesh of 103rd Company, a member of the Kyroptera. Witnessing the activation of the beacon, Krukesh decided to invade the system in order to secure it and determine its function.
The Night Lords' invasion of the Sothan System consisted of two main phases. In the first phase, the wreckage of strike cruiser Nycton was sent on a collision course with Sotha.[3a] The drifting wreck was intercepted by the Venom-class destroyer Probity commanded by Sergeant Lethicus and, after a short investigation, it was destroyed by repeated torpedo strikes. Following this, Lethicus decided to inform system command about the interception and ordered Probity to set a course for Relay Station Seven. However, aboard this station, there was a force of thirty-two Night Lords legionaries under Skraivok's command that had boarded two weeks prior.[3b] A short but intense close-quarters fight erupted when Lethicus began to suspect there was an enemy presence aboard the vox-relay station and led fifteen warriors of his squad in a counter-attack against the Night Lords.[3c] However, he was ambushed and Skraivok's troops, even after sustaining significant losses, captured the Probity.[3d]
Battle of Aegida Platform
The second phase of the invasion consisted of the use of the captured destroyer to neutralize Ultramarine forces aboard an orbital station called Aegida Platform. Probity approached the station; after vox contact was established one of its crew members, under torture, was forced to mislead Captain Adallus into allowing Probity to dock. Once a boarding force, again under the command of Skraivok, gained entry to Aegida Platform, the presence of the Night Lords fleet was revealed. Skraivok managed to quickly overwhelm the defences aboard the orbital station, captured Adallus, and killed or captured half of the 199th Company.[3g] Only the 55th Neophyte Scout Squad of 199th Company's Scout Cohort managed to escape[3e] using a Thunderhawk gunship, landing on Sotha where they started to harass Night Lords forces.[3i]
Planetary Assault and Fight for Planetary Supremacy
While the battle raged aboard Aegida Platform, the remaining forces under Krukesh's command performed a combat landing on Sotha without much opposition: the Night Lords deployed the majority of 20,000 legionaries from at least seven companies with siege tanks and support vehicles.[3g] This force quickly overran the 199th Company's planetside castellum and killed all but approximately a hundred Ultramarines.[3g] Their second target was the city of Sothopolis, where the Night Lords massacred much of the city's population, capturing some civilians and subjecting them to torture. Some of the city's inhabitants were evacuated into the safety of Mount Pharos by soldiers of the Sothan First Auxilia.[3f]
After this, at least seven Night Lord companies (7th, 19th, 23rd, 45th, 89th, 103rd and 104th)[3j] launched an all-out attack on Mount Pharos. The Pharos facility's defences were designed by Dantioch himself and commanded by Captain Polux, who had at his disposal 120 legionaries comprised of survivors of 199th Company and members of his own Imperial Fists Lightkeepers.[3g] The defenders used several blind cave ploys to lure the Night Lords into launching assaults on well defended positions, inflicting heavy losses[3h], while the Sothan First Auxilia units and Aegida Company's Scouts conducted reconnaissance patrols and launched ambushes from more concealed positions higher on the slopes of the mountain.[3i]
Due to heavy anti-aircraft fire from Mount Pharos's fortification, Emperor's Watch, and the interference of Pharos's beam, an aerial or teleport assault on the Pharos facility was impossible.[3j] However, a daemon, using the body of Librarian Berenon of the Night Lords's 45th Company, managed to strike a deal with Skraivok. In exchange for possession of Skraivok's body, the daemon revealed a means to gain a teleport lock inside Mount Pharos, breaking the stalemate.[3j]
Without revealing the source of his information, Skraivok shared this knowledge with Krukesh, who decided to lead an immediate teleportation assault accompanied by his company's Terminator Claw. Simultaneously, Skraivok rejoined the ground assault that finally succeeded in gaining access inside the Mount Pharos facility, capturing both Dantioch and Polux in the process.[3k]
Defence of Sothopolis
The Night Lords also struck at Sotha's main city of Sothopolis. The initial attack was led by the Claw Master Zaar Siakaar, whose forces overwhelmed the Aegida Company. Centurion Vieron Ekarr then found himself to be the last Ultramarine officer left in the city and he rallied any surviving Ultramarines to his side. The Centurion sought to give those who escaped as much time as he could to reach the Legion's Castellum and made his stand in front of a statue of the Ultramarines' Primarch Guilliman. The Ultramarines' disciplined shieldwall, along with the Deredeo Dreadnoughts Menarrio and Argan, met the brawling and murderess attacks of the Night Lords. Once the his forces superior numbers had weakened the Ultramarines enough, though, Claw Master Siakaar decided it was time for him to strike and claim an easy victory. He ordered his Spartan to crash through the Ultramarines, where it killed both the Loyalists and his own forces, who Siakaar considered to be expendable. The Claw Master's attack created an opening that allowed the Night Lords to pour past the Ultramarines' shieldwall and they began to overwhelm the Loyalists. One of Siakaar's Atramentar then attacked Centurion Ekarr and as they duelled, the Claw Master stabbed the Ultramarine from behind with his Lightning Claws. The attack destroyed Ekarr's hearts, which then allowed the Atramentar to behead the Centurion with his Nostraman Chainglaive. The now leaderless Ultramarines were all killed soon afterwards.
Relief Force and Conclusion of Battle
Once Guilliman was made aware of the situation via Pharos' communication beam, he ordered Dantioch to contact Captain Lucretius Corvo, the hero of Astagar and commander of 90th 'Nova' Company, who was nearby in the Beremin system with two and a half Ultramarines companies and a Dark Angels demi-company, to move with his forces to Sotha. Per Guilliman's orders, he was to launch diversionary attacks to slow down the Night Lords' advance, to buy more time to Mount Pharos' defenders, and also to allow a larger relief force under Guilliman's personal command to arrive.[3g] Corvo and his squadron left the Beremin system immediately after receiving his orders and set a course for the Sothan System using the Pharos beam to guide his course through the Ruinstorm. When Pharos was captured by Night Lords' final assault, Corvo's squadron experienced a sudden drop of speed and he ordered immediate activation of their warp drive to enact emergency translation into realspace. All of his vessels were damaged by the emergency re-entry into realspace and one ship, Spear of Hermia, was destroyed after her reactor detonated. However, the squadron was only nine hours from Sotha.[3k]
Corvo ordered his ships to launch a salvo of torpedoes and missiles. Thanks to having translated out of the immaterium with high residual velocity, this caught the Night Lords fleet by surprise. Several Night Lords vessels were damaged and others were provoked into pursuing the Ultramarines vessels. This created a window of opportunity for Corvo's flagship, the Glorius Nova, and for the Dark Angels vessel the Watcher. While Watcher engaged the remaining Night Lords ships and was destroyed in the process, Corvo led a strike force of a hundred and twenty-six of his legionaries to relieve Mount Pharos. On Sotha's surface, Corvo's strike force linked up with the Sothan First Auxilia soldiers and the 55th Scouts of 199th Company. The Scouts led the strike force into the caverns under Mount Pharos while the Sothan First Auxilia engaged a Night Lords pursuit force, delaying them at the cost of their own lives.[3l]
Not knowing that the relief force was only a few hours from rescuing him, Dantioch located the Gloriana-class battleship Nightfall, the flagship of the Night Lords legion, after being tortured and blackmailed by threats against Polux. Krukesh, knowing that his forces above the planet were hopelessly outgunned by Ultramarines vessels, decided to use Pharos and transport himself and Skraivok aboard the Nightfall. Dantioch used this opportunity to overload the Pharos beacon, killing most of the Night Lords legionaries in Primary Location Alpha and disabled the majority of shipboard systems and power armour on the planet and in orbit above it. Thus he turned the tide against the traitors and enabled an Ultramarines victory with the sacrifice of his life.[3m]
The last light of Pharos' beacon enabled Guilliman's relief force to translate directly into the Sothan System. This fleet reinforced Corvo's forces and hunted down the last of the Night Lords vessels in the system. Guilliman himself posthumously awarded Dantioch the title of "Hero of the Imperium," inducted the neophytes who survived the battle into the Ultramarines legion, and promoting their leader to the rank of Reconnaissance Squad Sergeant. Under Polux's guidance, the Pharos beacon was partially restored and Guilliman announced the construction of a larger fortress to guard Mount Pharos. The 199th Aegida Company was awarded an emblem of two crossed scythes, which would eventually form their basis to become the Scythes of the Emperor chapter after the implementation of the Codex Astartes.[3n]
However, Krukesh and Skraivok were successfully transported to the Nightfall, which then fled the Sothan System.[Needs Citation]
Unknown to all involved, the Battle of Sotha would have grave consequences for the galaxy, as the overloading of the Pharos alerted the Tyranids, then drifting in the intergalactic void, to the galaxy.[3p] Ten thousand years later, Sotha would later be invaded by a splinter of Hive Fleet Leviathan, resulting in the destruction of the world and the near-annihilation of the Scythes of the Emperor Space Marine Chapter, which had made Sotha its homeworld.
- 1: The Unremembered Empire (Novel):
- 2: A Safe and Shadowed Place — Death and Defiance (Anthology)
- 3: Pharos (Novel):
- 4: Orphans of the Kraken (Short Story)
- 5: Warhammer Community: Launch a Daring Strike Into the Heart of Ultramar With the Night Lords (Posted on 04/10/2021) - The Defense of Sotha: Aegida's Lament PDF, pgs. 2-4 (Last accessed on 4 October 2021)