“The Orks plague the galaxy from end to end with their ceaseless warring and strife. They are a race rooted so deeply in war that peace is utterly incomprehensible to them. They cannot be bargained with or bought save with weapons that they will inevitable turn against those who tried to bribe them. I pray with all my faith that some great catastrophe will annihilate them but I fear that ultimately it is they, not we, who shall rule the galaxy.“—Xanthius, High Lord of Terra.
The Tide Turns
As dawn broke on the second day of fighting, the second trench line was piled six deep in carcasses, but at least 80,000 orks still were striving for a breakthrough. The defense of the city hung in the balance.
Yet the line held. At Redoubt #94, a hastily organized company of grenadier squads were thrown forward to reinforce the shattered remains of the redoubt’s defenders, while the nearby 116th Scion Regiment maneuvered against the flank of the ork attack and annihilated scores of greenskins with their hot-shot lasguns.
Farther west, the 23rd Battle Maniple, its Skitarii supported by a squadron of Onagers, took on six Deff Dread walkers that had broken through the inner trenches—and threatened to open a hole in the lines. Such a breakthrough could have shattered the Imperial defenses.
Only two kilometers away, the 728th Cadian Regiment gathered ever ogryn in the regiment and sent them forward to challenge what appeared to be an ork warlord, a four-meter-tall monster surrounded by larger-than-average greenskins. The ogryns, every bit as tough as the xenos, died in the fighting, but they managed to bring down the warlord, and the ork attack appeared to lose momentum in the hours that followed.
Even the most threatened part of the line, the center, held. A heroic stand by the Praetorian Guard XVI Regiment was shattered by a massive ork mob, called Urtag’s Bloodboyz, but, before they were overwhelmed, the highly disciplined Praetorians used effective volleys to slow the greenskins and provide time for Imperial reinforcements to turn the tide.
Astartes Join the Fight
At 16:00, the Imperials launched a major counterattack. The 116th Scion Regiment, supported by the 3rd Mechanized Armored Company, struck at Warhog’s Warriors. As the scions pinned down the orks with volleys, the 3rd Company’s Lemon Russ Battle Tanks slammed into the greenskin flank and forced them back.
As Imperial regiments began to press all along the line, the High Command struck with its most potent weapon. After waiting impatiently as the last Imperial reserve, the 4th Company of the Knights entered the fray. Thunderhawks and jetpack-equipped Assault Squads dropped behind the center of the ork forces and struck hard. As the orks reeled from this blow, two squads of Terminators teleported deep amidst the disorganized greenskins.
For the next hour, the fighting was intense—and up close. Boltguns tore through the greenskins, while chainswords and power swords cut down the xenos by the hundreds. Power fists wielded by the Terminators smashed the orks’ armored vehicles and shattered the skulls of any greenskin leaders who attempted to challenge the veterans of the First Company.
With Imperial troops attacking from the front, rear, and amongst them, the ork fury finally broke. Exhausted, their bloodlust sated for a time, even the xenos’ enthusiasm for mayhem collapsed, and the legions of greenskins began to withdraw.
As the orks began to flee, the 4th Company’s commander, Captain Marius Nevarre, was in a blood fury and ready to pursues. But Brother-Chaplain Arnaud Sévin stopped him. Space Marines are capable of great feats of endurance, the chaplain acknowledged, but ammunition was low, and the life of a Knight was too precious to be spent simply on slaughter. Soon enough, every Space Marine would be needed for more strategically important battles in the weeks ahead.
Such wise counsel could not be ignored. Reluctantly, Nevarre ordered his Knights to fall back into the city and allow fresh units of Imperial Guard and PDF troops to advance and take control of the abandoned trenches and begin repairs. Huge bonfires were lit to incinerate the gory remains of both human and ork.
It took weeks to determine the butcher’s bill. At least 130,000 Imperial soldiers fell, and even the Knights of Altair paid a price, with six dead and 14 receiving serious enough injuries that they had to be evacuated to the medical facilities aboard an orbiting Strike Cruiser.
The orks also paid a high price: nearly 170,000 corpses were found on the battlefield.
Still, the first major assault on Susa City in nearly two years had been repulsed. The defenses surrounding Susa City returned to an uneasy calm, marked by the rumble of artillery fire that never seemed to stop.
Of course, no one expected the calm to last.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.