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Librarium

The Eorta Crusade

An Imperial attempt to expand the Hesiod subsector in the early years of M37, the Eorta Crusade revealed the extent to which the ork menace had swollen, and led to the reinstatement of the Imperial Great Purges, which had fallen out of favour following the disastrous results of the Third Great Cull in the 34th Millennium.

Prior to the Crusade, orkspace had contented itself with internal conflict for many centuries. Assaults on Imperial territory out of orkspace were rare, the greenskins finding better warfare amongst themselves than in picking over the myriad worlds burning during the Age of Apostasy. Morgoth changed all this when he emerged on the border world known to the Imperium as Carabas, in the Eorta system. Nestled perilously close to the Hesiod-Siculus subsector, Morogth rose to ignominy through his wolf-like preying on Imperial shipping. As he and his tribe, the Ghostfaced Murderers, grew bolder in their assaults on the worlds of the Hesiod-Siculus subsector, dire portents and prognostications began to spread throughout Antona Australis. On Sedna Minor, the statue of Merciful Death began to weep blood. Hyppos Rusicade suffered earth tremors that disrupted the Hall of Heroes. The famed Witches of Nonehead fell upon one another, raving and weeping as they frothed and died. The Imperial tarot revealed terror falling upon the sector as a whole should Morgoth succeed in uniting the warring orks of the Scallop Stars. 

Against all this, the Imperium was stymied in the civil war, mistrust and corruption of the Age of Apostasy and the events of the Hesiod Romantic Rebellion. None of the Imperial Governors of the border systems being preyed upon by Morgoth could raise sufficient force to counter the xenos threat; and none were prepared to send troops to a coalition for fear that the army would be used against them. With the Imperium unable to respond, the time was ripe for Morgoth's murderer's to strike. Having conquered his homeworld in a welter of blood, the Warlord turned his newly-expansionist eye towards the Imperium. Morgoth's spies and opportunistic fifth columnist humans knew that the worlds of Indrine had been struggling to pay their tithe as trade was strangled, and were forced to send their fighting men and women in their place.Laughed at by other orks, who regarded the humans as weak and poor sport, Morgoth saw his opportunity when a tithe fleet departed the Indrine system, laden down with an unusually high number of fighting troops. 

The Ghostfaced Murderers, blooded on the easy prey of the system defence monitors, fell upon Halcyon, Qarmanac and Indrine itself. The worlds burned, and the system capital, Fair Indrine, fell to the invaders. The triumphant Morgoth renamed the planet Culkutta and quickly fell to the construction of ever-larger engines of war. Other greenskin eyes began to turn towards Hesiod. Was Morgoth right? Were the humans going to provide good warfare?

It was at this point that Badam Kaur came to prominence on Iocaste in the nearby Helswall system. Seemingly marked by the Emperor, she had been born terribly malformed; without ears or eyes; but could – miraculously – see and hear clearly. Venerated by the local Ecclesiarchy, the Crone of Iocaste, as she was then known, began to preach of impending peril from a white-haired monster of myth. All this could still have come to naught, but the Crone's words reached the ears of Sector Ecclesiarch Martial VI. Still cementing his seat of power after the turbulence of the Hesiod Epidemic, Martial VI was intrigued by Badam Kaur's words, and saw within them a means to begin to reunite the fractured Imperial worlds of the sector. His machiavellian mind began to see the Crone as a catalyst.

Issuing an Ecclesiarchical Bull, Martial VI invested the Crone with huge military power, and took the great risk of gifting her with his personal boyguard – the famed Antonian Whiteblades. Martial VI championed Badam Kaur, insisting that her cause provided an opportunity for the Imperium to leave their internecine warfare behind them and unite against a greater menace – the orks. Other Imperial factions began to send their support. Gradually, and then in greater and greater numbers, the Crone's army swelled with pilgrims, troops and armoured vehicles from across the Sector. Some were sent by idealistic Planetary Governors who took the Ecclesiarch at his word; others had more base or cynical motives. Still others simply followed the clear tide of feeling. As the army built, hope began to spread across the sector, and the internal conflicts began to die down.

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Badam Kaur, invested with the symbolic title of Warmaster, led her forces against Morgoth at the dawn of M37.616, striking Indrine like a bolt from the blue. Despite fierce opposition from the Ghostfaced Murderers and their allies, the orks were driven off both Halcyon and Qarmanac. It was at this point that Morgoth proved more dangerous than even the most pessimistic soothsayer could have predicted. He summoned pernicious Eldar allies to spirit him away, detonating the atomic stacks of the ruined hives of Culkutta as he did so to spite the Crone. Millions of besieging Imperial troops died in the nuclear fires – as did many orks, but this was of no concern to the ruthless Morgoth. Falling back to his homeworld of Carabas, he was received as a prophet of Waaagh by the astonished greenskins of orkspace. Hundreds of warbands flocked to his banners, and the of Morgoth name became synonymous with the ork folk hero Gorkuleez da Godcrusha, who was as famed for his spiteful exploits and cunning revenge strategies as for his more conventional strength and power.

Imperial opinion on the best course of action was divided. Pursuing Morgoth with the tattered remnants of the army risked defeat and ignominy, while to wait for reinforcements would make the Ecclesiarchy appear weak – a political impossibility that risked Martial VI's house of cards collapsing and spreading disorder through the sector. It was at this point that the Astartes came to the Ecclesiarchy's aid. Previously unwilling to join the Crusade, for fear of destabilising the nascent alliance, the Chapter Masters of the Hammers of the Emperor, the Chapter Castellan and the Ishilites pledged their support. While their complement was small – a mere 200 Space Marines in combination – the symbolic gesture was unmistakeable. Martial VI had successfully reunited the arms of the Imperium. Buoyed by this, the Crone led her forces against the Eorta system. Unfortunately, Morgoth had grown too influential, and his forces too strong to be defeated, particularly on home territory. The Crusade became bogged down, gradually becoming worn thin against continual ork assaults. Communication grew thin, and the pleas for reinforcement came weekly, then daily to Martial VI. 

The Ecclesiarch was not by nature callous. He was, however, pragmatic. He saw no advantage in feeding a trickle of forces into the meatgrinder, for scant and uncertain goals. On the other hand, turning the Crusaders into martyrs would serve the Emperor well. It would provide a symbolic keystone to the dearly-bought Imperial unity that had swept across the sector. The petty wars had all but died out. The Crone and her followers had served her purpose; so the Ecclesiarch turned the offers of support aside; encouraging fervent Imperial Commanders to turn resources inwards to the spiritual – and military – health of their worlds for a time.

Morgoth, however, had to die. A kill team from the Officio Assassinorum was dispatched. It is the testimony of House Vindicare that provides the only eyewitness account of the final days of the Crusade. Despite their lack of reinforcement and supply, the Crusaders were driven by righteous zeal, and fought like madmen to kill Morgoth. While his power and influence was vast, Morgoth's own army was pitifully depleted by the March from Culkutta, and he was forced to rely more and more upon mercenaries and his sinister Eldar allies to keep the pressure on the Crone. Morgoth met his final end at the Battle of Cruel Moor, when he personally led a sally against the Crone's vanguard.

As it is reported, the Assassin was not required. As he moved into place to execute the ork, the assassin was stunned to see the Eldar turn their sleek craft back, stranding Morgoth and his remaining Ghostfaced Murderers on Cruel Moor. Reportedly foaming with rage, Morgoth turned back to attack the Eldar, and found himself caught between the Crusaders and his treacherous former allies. Not even such a famously powerful ork could escape the clutches of fate, and ork folk myth relates that 'the reincarnated Gorkuleez was found on a pile of dead a hundred high'.

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The Crusaders had won a questionable victory, whose only certainty was its pyrrhic nature. With Morgoth dead, the threat of ork unification abated; but they had brought the eye of the greenskins deep in orkspace to the Imperial border area of the Scallop Stars. Sending word of their victory back to the Ecclesiarch, Martial VI ordered them to drive ever ownwards – unwilling to brook the potential threat the Crone of Iocaste might prove to his own position should she return. Ever obedient, she led the tattered remnants of the Crusade forward and disappeared from history until the terrible events of the Invasion of Port Cassian nearly four thousand years later...

Martial VI had successfully reunited Imperial power in the sector, but at what cost? He had earned the suspicion of three Astartes Chapters as their pledged brethren failed to return. The alliance he had created was still nascent and fragile. Most critically, the greenskins had proven to be far more powerful than any had predicted, and they were even now gathering on the frontiers. Only the lack of a single leader prevented the threat reaching a head.

After much meditation and communion in prayer, Martial VI emerged to announce his intention to reinstate official Ecclesiarchical support of the Great Culls abandoned nearly two thousand years earlier. While it took many decades to build to a point that the Purge Fleets were united under Lord Commander Ultima Yves Abattol, the scale of the undertaking was unmatched in sectorial history. The resultant Fourth Great Cull would prove to be decisive in cementing Imperial  trust and cooperation in a new Golden Age for Imperial politics, or the brittle peace would shatter under the fist of the ork.