The Imperium was ascendant, victory had been attained at the Battle of Mendorus Grove, and with that success, Operation Gray Jewel saw the Orks' subsequent disorderly withdraw from Fortress Behras. In the exclusion zone east of Kula; Imperial Guard assets coupled with pinpoint raids by the Sons of Medusa had crippled the aliens' forward defenses, leaving Kulan Cohorts to sweep into the Xenos cities and begin the process of burning the greenskins out of the marshlands. In the mountains, the Skitarii of Prima Jama marched to liberate the cities and infrastructure in the shadow of their forge hold, which had been under the dominion of the Ork since the beginning of the war.
In the north, the routing aliens were pushed into the Ctre valley proper, placing them far enough from important civilian and military facilities to sanction large-scale orbital bombardment, and indiscriminate bombing campaigns by atmospheric flyers launched from Altheri Hive. The heightened pace of the campaign spurred occasional lapses of decontamination protocols for aircraft fighting in the operations area. While most Imperial Navy airframes are resistant to biological or chemical contaminations, the local PDF aircraft from Altheri do not possess this style of standardized construction, necessitating rigorous checks by maintenance and ecclessiarchal crews. This lapse in protocol would prove incredibly dangerous. An immense amount of Orkoid spores, released by the millions of dead greenskins drifted in yellowish clouds around the Ctre Valley and foothills regions of the Guffmans-Platz administrative area, these spores found purchase within the airframes of PDF aircraft while they refitted at improvised airfields. When these airframes returned from the combat front to their home fields, ground crews skipped their decontamination checks, pushing the aircraft immediately to basic maintenance bays crewed by servitors and menial laborers. In short order snotlings, the lowest level of Orkoid life form, pryed their way from these aircraft and set about turning the disused corners of the maintenance hangers into breeding pits for more complex forms of their malign race.
It was at the beginning of the spring combat season that airfield 2C in Altheri Hive was suddenly attacked by several dozen Ork warriors and droves of gretchin wielding improvised weapons. The surprise of the attack was such, that many of the pilots and ground crew fled the facility in confusion rather than combat the attackers. With a great deal of ordinance and heavy weapons now lying around undefended on various aircraft, the Orks immediately set about crafting these into dangerously effective emplacements. Arbites, in conjunction with reorganized aircrews and crowds of lightly armed militia, attempted to recapture 2C several times over the course of the day but suffered severe casualties. Instead, these forces opted to quarantine the field and wait for more Astra Militarum assistance. This breakout may well have been crushed before it spread any further outside of the airfield if it were not for an event which would shape the dynamic of the War for Jornath for years to come.
In the Exclusion zone to the West of Kula hive, Imperial Guard and Astartes strike teams had spent much of the previous year neutralizing the warbosses and various commander beasts of the Orks nestled in the Scrap cities. They had been brutally effective in this endeavor leaving the majority of the Ork "nobility" fighting each other for control of dwindling resources and ever-shrinking territory. Amid this confusion, a pseudo-religious psyker cult emerged under a Weirdboy called Bonebeard Blakkstaff. Blakkstaff rallied control of a half-dozen Snakebite warbands whose leadership had been assassinated by actions from the Dreadmare Companions and the Sons of Medusa. What made Blakkstaff's force called the Kult of Da Blak WAAGGHH dangerous was due to Blakkstaff's own psychic abilities, which seemingly allowed the xenos witch the ability to give life to slain greenskins and halt death in the grievously wounded. Biding his time, the Ork weirdboy sheltered his forces during the day when Imperial raids would be conducted to neutralize HVT's and strategic locations. In the evening the Kult would emerge from its hiding places and resurrect the fallen warbosses and boyz, wrangling the undead ork's into underground squig pens. The first real intelligence Imperial command had of the Kult's activities came from vanguard PDF forces from the Kula Conservator Cohort, noting that the bodies of orks killed in the previous day's action had been removed in the night en mass.
It was men from the Precpian Air Cavalry's 20 Brigade 9 Co, fighting in the Totemkrash suburbs which engaged the Kult in direct combat for the first time. 9 Co was engaged in particularly lengthy fighting against Deffskull warbands defending a large refueling depot, in the evening of the second day, the Precpians set out a distress call citing that their forces were now totally surrounded by unidentified Xenos lifeforms. This alarm immediately warranted the deployment of a tactical squad from the Mortifactors, when this squad arrived they found a charnel house, filled with the crashed wrecks of the companies valkyries and heaps of Precpian dead, seemingly placed in ritualistic positions. Of the Ork dead, there was no sign. Tactical Squad Redala, signaled its findings and continued to move to 9 Co's primary objective. Upon entering the refueling depot, Redala encountered trailing elements of the Kult, these "Black Orks" were reportedly able to sustain multiple bolt rounds before succumbing and were possessed with unnaturally elevated strength. Upon destroying the refueling depot, Squad Redala reported its findings and immediately set about coordinating with other nearby ground forces to give chase and eliminate this new threat.
In the next few hours, Scout and Reiver squads in the exclusion zone redirected themselves to harass the Kult as it withdrew, these teams neutralized several pockets of Black Orks and Snakebite fighters in small subterranean outposts below the Scrap cities. But were unable to locate the primary leadership of the Kult. Realizing that much of this new forces' infrastructure was located underground, Navy forces began deep seismic scans of the area. They discovered layers of underground tunnels built in concentric circles which progressed deeper into the crust of the planet. Larger caverns and portions of the Rokk's punctured these tunnels in hundreds of places, creating a lattice of Xenos mine works.
It was as these readings were being transmitted to the Astartes Operations command, that 2C was taken in Altheri Hive, slowing down direct responses to both situations by a handful of hours, as effective strike plans were created. At sundown over the battlespace, just as PDF and Astartes forces were launching to neutralize both threats the Emerald Scream occurred.
A massive surge of warp energy pulsed forth from the core of the subterranean latticework, totally shutting down vox communications, and driving hundreds of astropaths into a fit of blind rage, their eyes glowing a bright green as they attacked their minders or ripped one another apart with their bare hands. The energy pulse traveled past the Navy blockade and through the debris of the early ork fleet, smashing into the Mechanicus controlled moon of Ankou in the systems outer limits. All communication was lost with facilities on the moon, save for an errant signal on loop, a piercing guttural scream of rage which could be detected all across the sub-sector.
As the Imperium worked to understand what had just occurred, dozens of warp signatures were detected at the fringes of the system. Orks from across the sub-sector were reacting to the call of the Emerald Scream and moving to Jornath to aid their kin in battle or for their own sport. While these newly arrived Ork vessels lacked any command structure, it was only a matter of time before the Kaptians of the greenskin navy came to a conclusion as to who was the toughest and turned their attention to the conflict on Jornath's surface. Where Ork warbands on the ground were in possession of deep space sensory equipment, such as the newly seized 2C airfield or in installations in the north around Usmilplatz or Valeri Pesh, they set up signals to call on the new arrivals to join in the fighting.
Tactica Command Jornath and the Astartes Operational Command immediately set to work to counter these new arrivals, putting out a priority call to all Imperial assets across the sector, which was answered by numerous Imperial Guard regiments, the Imperial Dragoons Marine Chapter and even a mighty Watch Fortress of the Deathwatch. On the ground Task Force Crimson Pendant was organized, a combination of veteran militarum special forces, and scout squads from every marine chapter present in the Battle Space, this task force's sole objective was to move into the Stabheelz area of the Exclusion zone, the core of the underground lattice, find and destroy every vestige of the Kult of the Black Waaggh. Ground Operations in Usamiljen and the central conflict zone were permitted to continue as Tactica command felt that these were still progressing favorably. Oakenzid and other previously unengaged Hive cities, as well as nations across Jornath which have remained unmolested thus far by the war, began preparations to receive the new Ork fleet, conscript formations were raised in their hundreds and miles of trenches were dug to bolster the defenses of as many towns as possible. In space, the fleet split itself into two formations, one would remain in high orbit above Jornath to act as a close support and command asset to ground operations. The other would travel to Ankou to hopefully end the Emerald Scream, and harass the new Ork fleet while Imperial reinforcement arrived from other systems.
Stay Tuned for more major lore updates this year for the War on Jornath as things heat up on a fearsome new second front and the situation on the ground gets ever more desperate. Be sure to check on the Jornath [40k] tab at the top of the page to catch up on all the previous Jornath lore, battles, units and posts from other Jornath Bloggers!
-Your Favorite Madman-