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Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 16 (2003), p5-7 — The Spreading Plague

As if answering some unspoken signal, the destruction of Urthwart coincided precisely with the emergence of Typhus' Plaguefleet, the fiend himself in command at the helm of his flagship, Terminus Est. The fleet was immense, accompanied most alarmingly by two Blackstone fortresses (relics of Abaddon's previous incursions into the Gothic sector) though now hideously altered so as to appear artefacts of Chaos rather than the ancient bastions they once were.

If a stand was to be made, it was now. The Imperial fleet amassed at Ormantep, within the boundaries of a vast asteroid belt known as the Ilithrium Belt. It was here that the forces of the Imperium and those of the Dark Gods at last came face to face. The disruptive effect of the asteroid belt forced the fleets into brutally close range combat. Hordes of Chaos attack craft and torpedoes unleashed at close range where their accuracy was highest decimated the Imperial fleet. Even the fleet flagship, Honour and Duty, under the command of Admiral Pulaski, fell prey to the hungry guns of Chaos and was vaporised as its internal damage got the better of the ancient vessel.

While strength of numbers and sheer firepower may have been advantages that lay squarely in the hands of Chaos, unbreakable faith and courage remained as ever the epitome of the Imperial Navy. If victory could not be gained at Ilithrium, defeat would at least be stalled. Captain Agenager, adopting control of the fleet after Pulaski's demise, ordered the fleet into a cross formation, arranging their broadsides against the Chaos fleet where vessels could defend one another with massed firepower and turrets, fending off enemy attack craft and creating a vicious zone of crossfire to their port and starboard. The immobility of the formation left Agenager with little hope of escape, but would at least stall the Chaos advance. With his decision made, Agenager and his fleet steeled themselves for the battle, praying only that their sacrifice would not be in vain.

In the event, the sacrifice was not to be asked of them. As the Chaos fleet found itself stubbed by the unbreakable cross formation arrayed against them, its flanks first buckled then collapsed utterly as the mighty Battlefleet Agripinaa arrived to unleash its fury upon the traitors. It was immediately apparent to Admiral Quarren, arriving at the head of Battlefleet Agripinaa, that a final victory could not be achieved. Instead, his reinforcements could provide only respite and the chance of escape to their comrades - a chance which all the assembled Imperial Navy vessels gladly took, departing at once for the relative safety of port at Deimos Binary.

The Imperial retreat, while undoubtedly successful in saving dozens of Imperial warships, allowed the rapidly separating remnants of the Chaos fleet to spread throughout the Agripinaa sector at will. With the imperial fleet not yet able to stage a rapid counter attack, the worlds of the sector rapidly fell prey to the followers of Chaos. Instead, Quarren returned speedily to Cadia, hoping that the fleet could regroup there, before the Chaos onslaught reached that most crucial of worlds. Quarren deployed the fleet in a blockade around Cadia, and there made a most valiant of stands, but ultimately it was useless. The Imperial fleet was now too little and too damaged to survive the onslaught of Chaos from all sides. Quarren and his fleet held out for three long days, yet all the while the tide of Traitor vessels rolled on relentless. In time, their defences were breached and Quarren was left with no option but to retreat and preserve what he could of the fleet. Cadia's fate, the Admiral reluctantly admitted, would be decided on its own blooded soil, not in the cold vacuum of space about it...