The Black Templar roared onto the scene with a phalanx of Land Raiders and Vindicators, guided by a sickly, green glow of their objectives beyond the hearty polar forests and broken rubble. Sadly, they arrived only to find that the Guard forces were distorted and corrupted by the fell influence of Tzeench!
Without shame, Grimaldus prayed to the God Emperor for a miracle victory against this dread foe.
As grim hope all but faded, the darkling polar day was lit by a the hot glow from the heavens.
Four burning drop pods slammed into the icy ground between the Black Templar and the forces of Tzeench, cracks spidering out for meters in all directions.
The Star Eagles' III Company had arrived along with a contingent of VII Company, VI Company, and a single squad of enraged VIII Company Assault Marines. As he disembarked from the vanguard drop pod, Sergeant Chane bellowed, "Justice for the honored dead!" and thirty-nine other marines replied, "JUSTICE!"
Each Tactical Squad broke into two Combat Squads. In the front, the Sergeants with their Combi-meltas were accompanied by a Melta-wielding marine. The other combat squads fell back to pick up the emerald-glowing stone shards which lay exposed in little craters above the permafrost. When they picked up these shards, all of the men in the unit were energized with a sudden rush of power and a feeling of invincibility!
As if from nowhere, Librarian Abdu jumped into the backfield. Although he knew better than to trust the Black Templars fully, they were fellow Astartes and he was under orders. One of them picked up a Shard, glowing with emerald power.
Although their bravado was never in question, the Land Raiders seemed to surge with greater gusto over the snow-swept terrain. The staccato of Assault Cannon roared and Melta lanced into the enemy. The boom of the Vindicators' cannon were matched only by that of the enemy artillery.
With pistols and Flamers, Sergeant Taia's Mbizi'tai dispatched a squad of unrepentant traitors!
The Star Eagle vanguard poured Melta into both the Baneblade and the clanking machine of Chaos, but it was, in the end, the burning hatred from Grimaldus' Land Raider which finally brought the monster down, sending a screaming mushroom cloud into the sky.
The Traitors' artillery was unrelenting, pounding into the ranks of the brave Astartes with Heavy Mortars and Medeusas. With the mighty Be'lakor flying in their midst, the armies of Chaos had little to fear from even the Emperor's avenging angels.
Casualties in the VIII were heavy, though their fate had been written before they'd even mounted their Drop Pod. No Apothecary would arrive in the nick of time to revive the stricken warriors of the VIII Company.
After the traitors burned great gouges in Grimaldus' Land Raider, exposing the commander and his Terminators inside, a whine began to fill the valley. The scream of the Shadowsword's Volcano Cannon soon pierced even the protected ears of the power-armored Astartes. In one moment, the Terminators were clambering out of the Land Raider, and in another, they were ash on the battlefield, blown away by the wind. No sign could be seen of Grimaldus.
There were light casualties among the Sergeant Masud's squad of VI Co. Marines took light casualties, though their Drop Pods wielding the mighty Deathwind Missile Launchers were both destroyed by the enemy.
The warriors of the Star Eagle vanguard were fearless in the face of their blue-clad enemies.
With a puff of ozone stench, the first Kivuli squad popped into existence beside the Baneblade with their flamers pointed directly at the traitorous Xorn troops.
Vanguard Cruiser Giza Madhumuni's advanced sensors had been able to pinpoint the exact locations of the two superheavy tanks engaged in the battle raging below and, along with the added guidance of their Tempral Teleport Relays, the remaining three Kivuli Squads arrived with their Chapter Master as if from out of nowhere. Deadly Melta and Plasma were already primed for the kill.
Chapter Master Chui certainly harbored no love for the Black Templars. Indeed, if he had his druthers, he'd turn on the bastards immediately after eradicating the Chaos threat. However, he was under direct orders from the Adeptus Terra to execute war against the Chaos forces which threatened to take the valuable Xorn worlds and the strange artifacts which had recently been discovered here.
It had simply been bad luck that the Star Eagles' Third Justice Crusade had found its way into the region at the exact time war broke out on the moons of Xorn IV.
Screaming bloody fury at the apparent loss of their commander, sixteen angry Astartes leapt from their roaring Land Raider at their enemy.
Another Black Templar Land Raider and Vindicator pressed at the enemy's right flank while the remaining uninjured members of the Star Eagles' vanguard moved into assault position against the enemy daemons.
Although Be'lakor had summoned a dark shadow to obscure the tainted Shadowsword, it was of no consequence to the advanced sensors of I Company's Kivuli Armor. With Melta and Multimelta, they managed to cook off the pressurized plasma canisters deep within the Shadowsword. The beastly machine bucked into the air as if a thing possessed and died in a flash of retina-scarring light. The nearby guardsmen who did not die in the explosion were flash-baked and lost most of their hair.
On the other flank, the Baneblade was also obliterated by the combined fire of the Star Eagle vanguard, the Vindicators, and the pintle-mounted Multimeltas on the surviving Land Raiders.
The remaining Chaos forces made an attempt to decimate the ragged remains of the Star Eagle tactical squads, the exposed Black Templar troops, and the tanks, but it was too little too late. The damage had been done.
Chapter Master Chui broke off from his Kivuli Honor Guard and appeared in a puff of ozone before the traitorous Xorn Guard commander. The commander, distorted with daemonic "gifts" roared at the space marine. "Put aside your sidearm and fight me like a man and show me your worth!"
Chapter Master Chui said nothing. He simply blasted a hole in the man's chest with his plasma pistol.
Even as the VII Company Tactical squad finally arrived on the scene, intent on executing their own battle plan to take a Shard which had made its way behind the enemy's broken lines, they were beset upon by Be'lakor himself. In a fugue, screaming with rage at his inability to control his own actions, Sergeant Kunguru loosed a hearty blast of Graviton fire into his battle brothers of the other VII combat squad, killing one Astartes outright, leaving his armor a burnt husk.
The Kivuli of I Company began their methodical advance towards the action, effortlessly cleaning out enemy troops as they did. Meanwhile, on the other flank, Librarian Abdu faced the full might of Be'lakor and was cut down for his efforts.
When their Land Raider was obliterated by the rampaging Be'lakor, Helbrecht and his guard faced great peril at the hands of the enemy's late-arriving Heldrake, though they actually weathered the conflagration quite well. In response, a I Company Storm Talon screamed onto the scene and spat deadly Assault Cannon fire into the engine ports of the Heldrake, ripping it into flaming bits which rained harmlessly onto the snow below.
The fickle hand of Tzeench brought reinforcements late. When Ahriman arrived, he found their defenses crushed. Although he brought with him another Heldrake, another gibbering squad of Pink Horrors and two squads of Obliterators. By now, though, little could be done to turn this battle and Ahriman knew it. As the last blows against him were struck, he disappeared in an acrid puff of reality.
Be'lakor roared with rage, as he made one last effort to destroy his foes, but he was dispatched with a fusillade of combined weapons fire. The remaining clean-up was swift.
Even as Helbrecht marched across the battlefield towards him, Chapter Master Chui was ordering the Storm Raven flying cap with their Apothecary to extract the wounded.
Helbrecht extended an arm, "Thank you, brother. Your presence is most..."
Chui held up a single finger while directing further orders to Sergeant Chane. "Yes. Send a message to the Giza. We need two Thunderhawks to transport us back."
Helbrecht's arm lowered. "So," he said, "You are leaving."
Chui unlocked his helmet and regarded the pale Astartes with coal-dark eyes. Helbrecht could almost see a kindling fire of hatred there. For what reason, he could not fathom. What was worse, the Star Eagle's words were genial, almost friendly, "Not to worry, Brother. We are wasted on open terrain. We have no tanks at our disposal, you see." He smiled.
Helbrecht noted that the smile was altogether without mirth. "Are you... well, Chapter Master?"
"I have dispatched many of the enemies of the Imperium today, High Marshall. I can feel no greater joy."
There was truth in the Chapter Master's words, but there was also a hint of sarcasm. Helbrecht was taken aback. "So we can expect you to join us in future engagements in this system," it was a statement.
"Indeed. We'll be in the region. Expect us when the need is greatest. Not before. Also, I'll be ordering my men to hand over the Shards they collected. We have no desire for such treasures. Besides," he allowed a grim chuckle in spite of himself, "Administratum did not see fit to tell us what these shards are supposed to do. Invariably, you'll have better luck with them," and with a scowl, he slid his helmet back on. "You'd best see to your Chaplain. He's not dead. Almost, but not quite."
Helbrecht turned towards the nearly-obliterated wreckage of Grimaldus' Land Raider, "Impossible..."
As he was walking away, Chapter Master Chui called back, "Not if you hurry."
Cursing under his breath at the swaggering impudence of the other commander, Helbrecht voxed for the Apothecary to meet him at the destroyed Land Raider.
He also made a mental note to keep an eye on the movements of the Star Eagles. Something was just not right about them.
~ * ~
Thus ends Chapter 2 of the Campaign.