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Warhammer 40,000: Stronghold Assault (2013) — The Fellguard Incident

When the fortress world of Kelthorn voiced its allegiance to Chaos in 452999.M41, dozens of Imperial Guard regiments were sent to crush the traitors. However, the enemy held the planet's fortifications, defences that the Imperium itself had built to withstand alien invasion, and the war devolved into a planet-wide siege.

The Siege of Fellguard

Lacking adequate air cover, armour or artillery support, the task of rooting out the traitors fell to the Imperial Guard's infantry regiments. Amongst these were the Cadian 39th under the command of Castellan Blakov, hero of the Perides Crusade. The 39th had earned a reputation after taking Helvane Stronghold with a frontal assault, and when orders came to storm the planetary capital, Fellguard, they led the vanguard in an attack that would define the war.

Fellguard's defences were the sternest the Cadians had yet encountered. Networks of defence lines, tank traps, bunkers and bastions surrounded the capital, every approach guarded with weapon emplacements. Despite this, the 39th's first push captured the outer perimeter in short order, Cadians swarming over defence lines with lasguns firing, bayonets pinning the few survivors against the walls.

These defence lines were produced on the shrine world of Arabella's Hope, and the presence of Chaos within their hallowed grounds would not be abided by the pious men of the Cadian 39th. As soon as the trace of Chaos was purged, the walls were re-consecrated by regimental priests so that the souls of the martyrs whose bones were built within their foundations would again know peace.

The Taking of Bastion Beta-3

Buoyed by this success, Blakov ordered his men to assault Fellguard's next defence, Bastion Beta-3. However, whilst the outer perimeter was poorly manned, this edifice was not. The 39th leapt over their re-sanctified barricades and charged headlong into no-man's land, the Bastion standing like a vast tombstone over a war-torn grave. Dozens of Guardsmen fell to enemy fire, but forwards still the 39th ran, the shouts of their Commissars urging them on. Thunderous barrages landed amidst the Cadian forces; fire, mud and bodies were blasted skywards by the force of the explosions. More Cadians were knocked off their feet; ears ringing and senses numbed, they stumbled into the teeth of the enemy's guns. After only a few minutes, the dead and dying lay spread across the quagmire between the Imperium's lines and the Bastion ahead, but still the 39th kept running.

Castellan Blakov was amongst the first to reach the bastion, throwing himself flat against its wall beside the remnants of 8th Squad. Blakov paused only a second to catch his breath before priming a grenade and throwing it through one of the Bastion's vision slits. The defenders' guns fell silent as cries of alarm went up, only to be replaced a second later by booming detonations and the screams of the dying. To Blakov's right, a flamer-armed Guardsman poured sheets of fire through the building, turning the remaining occupants into charred corpses. 8th Squad's melta bomb breached the Bastion's bulkhead an instant later, and the Cadians were in. The interior was a charnel house. The 39th wasted no time; weapon systems were reactivated and burnt cadavers were kicked away from firing slits as the new owners manned the fire ports, guns levelled towards the enemy's lines as they awaited the inevitable counter-attack.

A Forlorn Hope

The Cadians didn't have to wait long before a wave of screaming Cultists bore down upon their position. Automated bolters were already spitting death into the approaching horde and, from the battlements, came the distinctive crack of las-sniper fire, every shot sending another Cultist spinning into the muck. A few autoguns barked and bullets pattered against the bastion's walls. In reply, the Cadians' first volley of lasfire tore through the Cultists' front ranks. The second caused their charge to falter, and the third sent them reeling back towards their own lines.

A lone figure emerged through the haze of gunfire, its eyes blazing with an unholy light. With a gesture, lightning leaped from its hands and engulfed the Cadians on the battlements, and the Guardsmen beside Blakov muttered a single word under their breath - 'Psyker'. Another bolt of lightning struck the bastion, the blast dislodging a support beam that fell and crushed trooper Irvan. Another scream followed, but this time from outside the Bastion. Blakov peered through a hatch to see the sorcerer on his knees, hands clutched to his head. The sky blackened, even though there wasn't a cloud for miles, and the psyker began to burn with an incandescent light in the gathering dark. His scream was violently cut short as he exploded, showering the battlefield with a fountain of gore that hissed and ate into the ground where it fell. For an instant, Blakov thought the danger was over - then the true nightmare began.

The Hour of Hell

Wherever the psyker's remains stained the ground, disease-caked figures clambered up from beneath the mud, whilst red-skinned terrors emerged from the pools of crimson blood. The Cultists, witnessing this dark miracle, left the shelter of their own bunkers and swept forwards to slay the Cadians besides the daemonic allies they believed had been sent to them by the Chaos Gods. They were sorely mistaken, and their cries of praise and joy turned to shrieks of disbelief and terror as the Daemons tore into them, rusted swords and ebony blades carving through flesh with abandon. In the face of such horror, Blakov knew the 39th could not hold the Bastion and so he reluctantly ordered his men to fall back to Fellguard's outer perimeter. All but 8th Squad retreated, the survivors vowing to hold Beta-3 for as long as possible to buy their comrades time. Blakov saluted their courage and left to regroup his regiment.

When Blakov reached friendly lines, he turned to see a giant, plague-bloated Daemon stride towards the bastion. Heavy weapons tore chunks of diseased flesh from its body, but the Daemon just chuckled before vomiting a stream of bile through the Bastion's fire port, drowning 8th Squad in filth. Ducking back, Blakov touched one of the skulls built into the defence line, its surface inscribed with the sigil of the Ecclesiarchy, and he whispered a prayer to the Emperor. With his resolve and sense of duty restored, Blakov ordered his men to make ready.

The Might of Martyrs

The Daemons butchered the Cultists occupying Fellguard, slaughtering their so-called allies to a man before turning their gaze towards the Cadian 39th. As they advanced, volleys of bright las-rounds lit up the gloom, gouging deep burns into Warp flesh wherever they hit. At the head of the daemonic horde strode the Great Unclean One that had slain 8th Squad. Its phlegm-riddled voice urged its minions onwards, and at its command they bounded over the Imperium's defence lines, heedless of the number that fell to the clattering fire of autocannons as they charged.

The Daemons recoiled as their clawed feet touched the hallowed ground of the Wall of Martyrs. Though they faltered for only a second, it was enough for the Cadians to cut the first invaders down with point-blank bursts of lasfire. Flamers scoured those trenches that were overrun, and soon hellish screams and the smell of burning meat filled the air. But the Daemons came on still, falling upon the Cadians with sweeping arcs of their blades, which separated heads and opened bellies with every cut. The fighting grew desperate, but the Cadians refused to give ground, willing to die rather than allow the Daemons to taint the holy bulwark.

It was then that the Daemon warlord loomed over Blakov, its sword sweeping down in an arc that would have killed him had a Commissar not pushed him aside at the last moment. The rusted blade carved through the Commissar, a tide of maggots spilling from his two halves as his innards instantly putrefied. Blakov, who had been knocked to the ground, lost his weapon and frantically searched the corpse of a nearby Guardsman as the Great Unclean One grabbed hold of him. Blakov's grip had just tightened on a handle when pain wracked him, his bones breaking beneath the Daemon's iron grip as he was lifted up. The smell of the creature's foetid breath made Blakov gag, but as he was drawn towards the Daemon's maw to be eaten alive he saw, through a ragged gash in its chest, the black lump of flesh it had for a heart. Blakov twisted the primer on the melta bomb clutched in his hand and, with one last effort, thrust it into the wound. In an instant, Blakov and the Daemon were vaporised. The Daemon army roared in unison, their forms dissolving as their grip on the mortal plane was suddenly severed. As swiftly as the nightmare had begun, it ended.

The survivors of the Cadian 39th retook the now unguarded Fellguard without further incident, but no records exist of their actions, all knowledge of their deeds placed under an Inquisitorial seal. All that remains of the 39th's sacrifice is a thrice-blessed silver skull, the perfect replica of Castellan Blakov's, placed by his troops alongside the mortal remains of the other martyrs that still throng Fellguard's defences.