Battle of Tallarn
The Battle of Tallarn was a major conflict of the Horus Heresy, which saw the desolation of the Imperial world of Tallarn, and the birth of the famed Tallarn Desert Raiders regiments of the Imperial Guard. It was one of several planets that came under attack by the Iron Warriors after they had joined Horus in his rebellion against the Emperor.
After being abandoned by their Emperor's Children allies within the Eye of Terror, the Iron Warriors managed to leave, but the events of their escape dramatically altered the perceptions of their navigators. Once arriving at Tallarn, Perturabo was made aware of the Black Oculus hidden beneath the planet, and he immediately drew up plans to invade and secure the Cursus.
Initially, Perturabo destroyed all orbital and surface defense installations before virus bombing the surface, and he believed that he had obliterated the defenders. However, many tank regiments were hidden in shelters beneath the surface scattered across the planet, and they ventured into the poisonous world to attack those Iron Warriors who had landed. This led to a protracted battle that initially went in the Iron Warriors' favor until loyalist reinforcements arrived. Eventually, the Iron Warriors were able to capture, with the secret aid of the Alpha Legion agents, the shelter beneath the Sapphire City and use it as a secure staging ground upon the surface.
The Iron Warriors flooded the planet with troops and tanks, and their expected easy victory instead turned into a protracted war at a great cost to both sides of the conflict. Through the actions of the emissary of the Warmaster Argonis, the Alpha Legion agents, and Imperial Infocyte agent Iaeo, the Iron Warriors search for the Black Oculus was exposed, and they were forced to withdraw from the planet. Although the planet's surface was destroyed and many resources were lost in the defense, the battle was regarded as an important Imperial victory during the Horus Heresy.
Following Fulgrim's ascension to daemonhood, the Emperor's Children abandoned the Iron Warriors upon the crone world Iydris within the Eye of Terror. Perturabo knew that a black hole would claim the planet, so he led his surviving men back to their ships. Once in orbit aboard the Iron Blood, he watched the end of the planet; it turned from pristine to black, and all structures were ruined by earthquakes. The planet was previously able to resist the power of the warp, but Fulgrim's actions made that impossible to continue. Although most capital ships were able to escape the black hole, smaller vessels were not. However, even the larger vessels were being dragged towards the black hole, and the navigators were unable to find the path that first brought them to the planet.
Perturabo watched the destruction, coming to terms with the new fact that he could trust no one but Horus and all the others would betray them. Forrix requested orders from his primarch, and Perturabo responded that they would only move forward, not back; as Fulgrim had revealed that they would eventually met again, the Iron Warriors would survive the journey. Although the the Iron Warriors were able to escape the Eye of Terror, the events of their escape dramatically altered the perceptions of their navigators, including that of the Navigator Prime of the Iron Blood. The singularity, a black star, revealed to them the chaos gods and altered the physics within the ships, causing panic and necessitated that the navigators be placed into an artificial sleep.
The Iron Warrior fleet arrived at Tallarn with over 1,000 ships disoriented from the warp. This caused ships to be lost, including the Purity of Fire which was destroyed when it struck the Iron Blood. The first shot came from the Hammerfall, a nova shell that destroyed the northern orbital defense station above the plains of Kadir and the northern capital city of Ormas. The remainder of the orbital defense network was able to destroy some Iron Warrior ships before they were obliterated. An Imperial Fist strike vessel Light of Inwit attempted to flee the planet after being unable to warn Marshal Lycus on the surface of the attack, but was destroyed. The same fate befell any surface weapon installations the Iron Warriors discovered.[4a]
Before launching their invasion, the Iron Warriors bombarded the planet with virus bombs, turning the once-verdant world into a barren desert, and wiping out the majority of its population. Citizens trying to flee Crescent City were trapped in their transports and killed by the virus attack. Ten million people died in ten minutes, and the entire surface population was dead within the hour.[4a] The only survivors were those humans who managed to hide in underground eco-shelters. Yet when the Iron Warriors launched their attack, the resistance they encountered was fierce and unrelenting. The few survivors emerged and refused to concede the planet. Because of the deadly radiation on the surface, infantry combat was virtually impossible for both sides, and the war on Tallarn was primarily a series of armoured clashes.
Many tank regiments were kept in mostly-empty underground shelters, including one beneath the Sapphire City that had over ten complexes beneath it. One of those complex housed two regiments, the Jurnian 701st and the Chalcisorian 1002nd Mechanised, and gear from old campaigns. They were mostly left alone for three years without orders even though they heard that the Horus Heresy was taking place, and they kept busy practicing and drilling. After the bombs hit, tanks began to perform reconnaissance missions on the surface, risking the poisonous atmosphere.[4a]
Alpha Legion operative Jalen regularly met with Akil Sulan, commander over much of the Sapphire City, and after one such meeting an important dataslate was stolen from Sulan's person immediately before the Iron Warrior's attack. After the attack, Akil became a scout for the Imperial forces, and on one such mission his unit ran into some of the first Iron Warrior tanks among the ruins of the Sapphire City, destroying the traitors. The Iron Warriors spent weeks on the surface following the bombardment; as they believed there were no survivors, they were taken by surprise when they started suffering losses. This provoked the Iron Warriors to send more equipment to the surface, and many of those in the shelters said that it would be best to hide in place and wait until the Iron Warriors left.[4a]
Soon after, the Tallarn natives spread the idea of "Ithak-ja": vengeance, the call to volunteer in defence of their planet. They were taught how to use the Imperial tanks, and they filled the ranks of the defenders' army. This allowed the Imperials to last until others came to their aid. The first reinforcement came from the Lesson of Ages, which the Iron Warriors thought was a trade or transport ship. The ship repeatedly broadcast "traitor-death" as it drove straight into the Iron Warrior fleet. Soon after, the Lament of Caliban, Beastslayer, and many others arrived for the purpose of waging war upon the Iron Warriors.[4b]
Both sides fought above the planet and poured more tanks and equipment upon the surface; eventually, Titans joined the armoured units in the ground war. While Imperial reinforcements came in sufficient numbers to deny the Iron Warriors a swift victory, they were made up of different units and legion strike forces, hampering the loyalist war effort. Admiral Phoroc seized control over the north and supplied the Cobalack shelter while Legio Gryphonicus landed on the Khedive Plains. Eventually, thousands of tanks filled the vast shelters, including the one beneath the Sapphire City, which even housed members of the White Scars.[4b]
Upon arriving in the shelter beneath the Sapphire City, Akil was taken by force to meet with Jalen and other Alpha Legion agents. Akil threatened Jalen, but Jalen revealed that they had nothing to do with the Iron Warriors attack. Instead, they planned to take the planet without bloodshed. Jalen made Akil a bargain: he would protect Akil's daughters, who he said still lived, and, in return, Akil would allow infiltrators to pass behind the imperial lines. The Imperials soon left the shelter in force to meet the Iron Warrior attack in the city above, which resulted in a massive battle with many casualties on both sides. Eventually, the actions of Akil and at least eight others who survived the battle, and others who did not, allowed Iron Warrior tanks to slip behind the defenders' lines and end the battle. After the Iron Warriors took the shelter and established a base on the surface, Alpha Legion assets discussed among themselves the certainty that Horus would send an emissary to intervene.[4b]
197 days, 10 hours, and 17 minutes into the battle, 3 recon squads of the Imperial Fists (Command Squad Gamus, Theophon and Arcad) infiltrated the macro-transporter Eagle's Talon and caused it to crash during a major battle taking place on the southern continent. The battle, if won by either side, would have allowed for a decisive victory for the whole battle, and the macro-transport would have brought reinforcements for the Iron Warrior's forces. The ship's destruction caused a blast over three hundred kilometres in diameter, with winds over 100km an hour, and spread nuclear fallout across an already destroyed world. All of the Imperial Fists were lost. Six days later, the winds died enough to allow daylight to begin returning. Warsmith Koparnos of the Iron Warriors managed to survive the blast in his Rhino but had to find new shelter due to the poisons on the surface infiltrating his systems. Venturing out, he managed to work his way to the Warlord Titan Ostentio Contritio, enter it, and restart the systems. After tricking the paralyzed Imperial princeps, he managed to bind her to the titan and rig a new system of controls before he ventured out to battle any other survivors of the blast.
Emissary of Horus Arrives
The Sons of Horus emissary, Argonis, was dispatched by Maloghurst on behalf of Horus, and he travelled on the storm eagle Sickle Blade. He was accompanied by Prophesius the astropath and Sota-Nul of the Dark Mechanicum, and he sought audience with Perturabo on the Iron Blood to demand why he invaded Tallarn. Perturabo, after revealing his irritation, stated that Tallarn was a valuable route to Terra. Argonis was dismissed, but he did not trust the primarch's word and contacted the Alpha Legion to investigate. After 12 days, the Alpha Legion agent and psyker, Jalen, posed as a serf and met with Argonis. Jalen stated that he did not know why the Iron Warriors were present at Tallarn, but he admitted that the Alpha Legion was on the planet before they arrived. Argonis leaves for the Sightless Warren, not trusting the Alpha Legion forces. During this time, Imperial Infocyte agent Iaeo, of Clade Vanus, follows Argonis and the Alpha Legion agents, interfering when she can to set Horus's forces against each other.[5a]
The Imperial forces tried to assault the Iron Warrior stronghold, the Sightless Warren, three times. The Sightless Warren was once the shelter beneath the Sapphire City, but it was transformed with a network of tunnels that connected it with other shelters that the Iron Warriors captured. It was massive in size and extended to the Crescent Ocean. The third assault failed like the others, with orbital bombardments unable to penetrate the shelter. The Iron Warriors tried to destroy the crushed Imperial assault force, but the Imperial grand cruiser Memloch sacrificed itself to fend off orbital attacks. Following the attack, Imperial forces experienced more setbacks: 400 war machines were inexplicably lost from Cobalack Shelter, the Cassildian Mountains bunker fell due to atmospheric contamination, and the newly arrived Legio Krytos was able to land Titans and Knights from House Caesarean onto the southern hemisphere.[5a]
When the battle turned into a protracted conflict, both the Traitors and the Imperium poured war material to their respective allies on Tallarn, neither willing to admit defeat. The Imperial Fists and Iron Hands dispatched forces to the planet, and their Predators proved instrumental in combating traitor tanks. Over a million armoured vehicles fought across the desert, which stands as the largest tank confrontation in Imperial history. The Tallarns learned quickly that they could not match the Traitor Marines in open combat, so they became proficient at hit-and-run strikes and flanking maneuvers, eventually wearing down the Iron Warriors and routing them from the planet.
Golden Fleet Arrives
Following the failed third assault on the Sightless Warren, a massive storm covered the land and began to change everything. The Tallarn named the new land "Yathan," which means "land of lost pilgrims." After the change, the Golden Fleet arrived, being led by the Eagle Claw. The fleet was led by Rogue Trader Sangrea and once travelled ahead of the Great Crusade. It was made up of mercenaries and ships gained through conquest, including the Sacristan Geneo-het warriors, Knights of House Klaze and 300 Ultramarines. The fleet arrived back in Tallarn 10 years after it left the planet to explore the Morai Veil. Once entering the system the Golden Fleet sent word to the Iron Warrior ships that they were allies to Horus before taking them by surprise. Upon reaching the planet, the Golden Fleet refused any messages from the Imperials and instead launched attacks on any attempt to land supplies and troops upon the surface. Battlecruisers with nova cannons were brought forward, running down fueling ships and set the sky on fire with their attack, an act that would later be known as "The Inferno Tide." With that, the Golden fleet left, leaving the planet free from orbital interference.[5b]
Perturabo sent the Contemptor Dreadnought Hrend with the corrupted navigator Hes-Thal and a strike force to search for the Black Occulus on the surface of the planet. At the same time, Argonis was getting nowhere in the Sightless Warren, and he called upon Volk, Iron Warrior Commander of Core Reach One, the Sightless Warren, who he served with before at Carmeline and Reddus Cluster. The interview was cut short without any new information being retrieved when the surface above the shelter began to be bombarded in preparation for an attack. Argonis broke from the Iron Warrior's guards and made his way to the data stacks of the shelter where Sota-Nul discovered the name Black Oculus. The group made their way to a new location Sota-Nul found, and Argonis was forced to kill an Iron Warrior. At their destination, they found many bound and sedated navigators. Reviving one, she explained their transformation within the Eye of Terror and the gateway of the Black Oculus. Upon leaving the chamber, alarms went off and the group was soon captured and imprisoned.[5b]
Governor Militant Dellasarius kept the forces united and pushed them to attack. Forces on both sides continued to pour into the system, and the battle was ultimately a stalemate. His strategy the "the depth of cutting edge," the belief that one great attack could overwhelm the Iron Warriors and drive them from the planet.[5a] However, Dellasarius was killed right after the Inferno Tide ceased; after traveling with a convoy from the Rachab to the Crescent Shelter, an assassin fired on his baneblade from one of the company's Vanquishers as they approached the Khedive Plaines.[5b] The forces were fractured until General Gorn seized command and said that their only strategy to victory is to attack. Eventually, the Imperial forces launched an all out strike at the Khedive Plains, drawing Iron Warriors out of the Sightless Warrens for an all out battle. The battle began with a fight in space, with Iron Warrior positions above the Sightless Warren smashed by long-range torpedo strikes and followed by a massive attack by Strike Force Indomitable. This gave them time to launch a strike on the service before a counter attack could be made.[5c]
It was revealed by the work of Alpha Legion spies, including their operative Jalen, that Perturabo invaded Tallarn in search of the Black Oculus to gain some unknown advantage over his brothers. In space, the Alpha Legion freed Horus's emissary, Argonis, in order to force Perturabo to stop his pursuit of power. Argonis killed the Alpha Legion operatives because they were keeping secrets then demanded audience with Perturabo aboard the Iron Blood. At the same time Hrend discovered that the Black Oculus was a portal that would allow the Iron Warriors to make a pact with daemons and gain power. Perturabo had told the dreadnought that the portal was also called the Cursus of Alganar, and that it existed long before humanity. Asking what the object would do, Hrend was told that it would transform the Iron Warriors and grant them power to destroy any who oppose them. Hrend found the location gate, but he was joined by Alpha Legionares, of which Hrend and his fellows were able to kill but left only Hrend barely surviving. He ordered his servitors to kill his navigator, and used them as a dig team, tunneling to the Black Oculus and meeting with a daemon at the gate.[5c]
Once Argonis was admitted to the primarch's presence, Argonis fruitlessly demanded that the Iron Warriors abandon their campaign before being forced to released the bindings upon the altered astropath Prophesius, a metatron. Once unbound, warp smoke filtered out of the astropath's body and manifested as Horus, who threatened and chastised the wayward Iron Warriors. Horus ordered Perturabo to kneel before him then withdraw from the Tallarn campaign. Hrend failed in his mission; he did not give into the daemon's temptation. Instead, he set himself to self-destruct, and the Black Oculus was buried from sight. Iaeo used the last of her strength to ensure that no transmissions from the location made their way to others to protect the site from discovery.[5c]
Following the conflict, designated Governor-Militant Susada Syn travelled across the planet in the last Titan. He was accompanied by Kalikgol of the White Scars and General Gorn. When the poisonous clouds pulled back, they were able to witness a massive amount of destroyed tanks and machinery of all kinds strewn across the Khedive, left from the final battle that took place. For their part, the Iron Warriors experienced heavy losses and Perturabo was forced to enact a mass recruitment program to replace their casualties.
The Battle left a lasting impression on Imperial history; Tallarn has remained a barren desert since the time of the Heresy, and its people have remained hardy and pragmatic. The Imperial Guard Regiments recruited from Tallarn are known as the Desert Raiders, and are masters of desert warfare and lightning-strike raids, as well as some of the finest tank experts in the Guard.
- 1: Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 17
- 2: Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pg. 173
- 3: Index Astartes: Predators — Chapter Organisation
- 4: Tallarn: Executioner (Novella):
- 5: Tallarn: Ironclad (Novel):
- 6: Tallarn: Witness (Short Story)
- 7: The Eagle's Talon (Audio Drama)
- 8: Iron Corpses (Audio Drama)
- 9: Angel Exterminatus (Novel), Chapter 27
- 10: Black Oculus (Short Story)
- 11: Campaigns of the Age of Darkness: The Siege of Cthonia, pg. 9