The First Battle of Cryvan
The Imperial planet Cryvan was an isolated, industrialised world. Its location on the edge of the Cryvan Expanse and position in a region cluttered with stellar phenomenon left it ignored by the tides of galactic conflict. Its orbital manufactoriums produced some advanced auspex systems but as a whole, its production did not justify anything more than a token defence force.
As is often the case, this left them hopelessly unprepared when the aliens struck. An Eldar warband of unprecedented size shattered their system defence networks and swept their stations from the sky. An full invasion was prevented by the strength of the PDF which, using the products of domestic industry, had successfully held near-space against the invaders. The pirates imposed a blockade and began probing the remaining defences to identify weak points. The desperate defenders called on the sector fleet to assist.
The Imperial force dispatched to break the blockade was composed of all available ships in the 3rd Reserve Fleet. The name is misleading in that these were not untested ships, the crews had been blooded in earlier conflicts in M40.993 and M40. 997. These missions had included clashes with the Eldar. Admiral Caid’s flagship had survived two major fleet engagements against the xeno in the last campaign.In the centre of the fleet, the Bellerophon, Retribution-class battleship. On its rear starboard quarter, the Righteous Zeal, Overlord-class battlecruiser. On its rear port quarter, the Faith, Mars-class battlecruiser. The orange vessel was the Furious, a Dominator-class cruiser. And from the left of the pict, a squadron of three Tyrant-class cruisers, two Dictator cruisers and two Lunar cruisers.
A rare pict of the entire bandit force. In a bid to undermine morale, their advance on the system defence stations was contemptuously direct. Fleet Intelligence suggests that the fleet is composed of distinct two pirate warbands. The Burning Stars have operated in the region for decade and Prince Jari’s Void Stalker battleship, Thunderchild, can be seen in the centre of the fleet. The Hammers of Vaul under Lord Harohn are also spotted as his personal Eclipse-class carrier can be seen to its rear (in blue). Two Shadow cruisers can be seen, in white and blue. From the six o’clock position clock-wise, multiple squadrons of escorts. They consist of three Hemlocks, three Aconites, three Aconites, two Hellebores, three Nightshades, three Aconites, three Hemlocks, three Nightshades, three Hellebores.
The battle began with the Imperial fleet succeeding in that rarest of achievements, catching the Eldar unawares. They broke from the gas clouds and asteroids, intending to move into open space and eliminate the smaller element of the bandit force before the larger element could intervene.
The Thunderchild and her fleet were conducting patrols nearby. The reports of an Imperial counter-attack came as a complete surprise and caught them out of position.
The smaller pirate warband was orbiting the planet, launching strikes against Imperial ground installations and attempting to crack the net of defences thrown into low orbit.
Lord Harohn, commander of the smaller fleet, realised that an engagement around Cryvan itself would be the end of him. He moved to mirror his counterpart and they began a classic pincer movement.
Prince Jari, overall commander, was rightly hesitant to drive straight into the Imperial flank and risk those broadsides. His ships began to using an nearby asteroid field to screen their approach into the rear of the enemy taskforce.
Although surprised, Eldar helmsmen and gunnery teams remain unmatched, they reacted quickly and carefully. The Imperial advance had to be delayed or diverted to buy time, a split second decision was made and several waves of torpedoes were launched into the path of the Retribution class battleship.
Admiral Caid and his captains were rocked by the speed of the Eldar. They launched fighters to engage the torpedoes but far too late. The Bellerophon attempted to evade but it proved too unwieldly to adjust course quickly. Four torpedos crashed into its port batteries causing minor damage.
With the Eldar withdrawing after the torpedo strike, the Imperials found their guns out of range. The Furious fired its nova cannon into the heart of Harohn’s fleet, causing no damage. But the near miss buffeted several ships and alarmed the bandits. They closed on the distinctive vessel in a bid to destroy it and regain the range advantage.
The Overlord class battle-cruiser had proven deadly against similar pirates in the past. Its long range guns would lay down enough fire to scare any class of Eldar vessel and it is hoped its presence would deter strikes on the Furious.
However, the Eldar were as brave as they were malicious. Three squadrons swept into combat range. Their massed lance fire and torpedoes left the Furious on the verge of breaking apart. With no hope of continuing the fight, it cartwheeled towards the gas cloud and shut down all engines in a successful bid to disengage from the battle.
Prince Jari continued to race against time as his fleet charged into position. The Imperial rearguard began to look increasingly outmatched. But the asteroid field acted to hide the danger.
Having driven off the Furious, Prince Harohn’s ships pulled back out of range to limit the Imperial response.
Although the Eldar remained outside the range of the cruisers, the Imperial battleship and battlecruisers laid down huge swathes of fire at extreme range. The Eldar evade most of the incoming rounds but lucky shots blasted two escorts into kindling.
Admiral Caid ordered all fighters to form a screen behind the fleet. This veteran of several clashes with the Eldar knew that the disappearance of the larger enemy fleet would undoubtedly precede an ambush or surprise attack. The fighters awaited whatever threat the Eldar could bring to bear.
Prince Harohn’s fleet diverted crews to damage control in a bid to prevent the smaller Imperial ordance from crippling their vessels, but this reduced their firepower as the crew were diverted from the gunnery and targeting stations.
Prince Harohn ordered his Eclipse to disengage and withdraw. His command crew protested the loss of dozens of veteran pilots currently on attack runs. Coollectively, they had over ten millennia of combat experience. Harohn is rumoured to have stated “It only makes my sacrifice of their lives all the more noble.”
Rounding the asteroid field, Prince Jari, faces a wall of Imperial Thunderbolts. His favoured tactics, massed torpedoes into the enemy rear, will be ineffective against this tactic. The fighters will simply detonate the volleys as they close. Adapting quickly, he moves his fleet across the Imperial stern to attempt to link up with the abandoned crews and extract those escort squadrons from their predicament.
One ship, the infamous Overlord battlecruiser, blocks the escape route and several Eldar squadrons target it. The Righteous Zeal takes several hits but damage crews contain the fires and make patchwork repairs. Its guns continue to prevent a breakout.
Having failed to break the blockade and seeing his erstwhile ally quit the field, Prince Jari decided that the day was lost. Seeking to preserve his own fleet, he ordered his ships to turn and evade contact.
With their enemy abandoned by all allies, the Imperials closed into firing range and prepared to deliver the final blow. The gas cloud provided some cover but would not impede the upcoming storm of fire.
Abandoned and outnumbered, the Eldar pilots prove their true calibre. Their ships roll through massed clouds of incoming rounds with minimal losses as they press their engines to the limit. Non-critical systems are smashed as they push their craft beyond even the limits of wraithbone.
Taking advantage of a relative lull in fire, they made a final bid to destroy the Righteous Zeal and ease their escape. But the battle damage has taken its toll on the small craft and their guns fail to reap their expected harvest of Imperial lives.
To rejoin Jari’s fleet, they have to brave the full broadsides of the Imperial fleets. Praying to their fickle false gods, the Eldar choose to run ahead of the Imperial ships and attempt to outpace their vengeance.
Jari’s fleet rounded the asteroid belt in the exact inverse of their earlier lunge and made for open space.
Like a shark into a shoal of fish, the Overlords lunged through its prey, bringing both broadsides to bear at point-blank range.
The remaining squadrons suffer heavy losses and only a trio of ships succeed in escaping the guns of the Imperium, scattering into the outer reaches of the system.
With the Imperial fleet broadcasting their victory, the Furious engages its remaining plasma drive and limps into formation as the fleet stations itself above Cryvan.
Prince Harohn’s fleet gathered in a nearby asteroid field to conduct repairs and re-arm. As survivors straggled in, tales of his callousness provoked a near-mutiny.
Prince Jari declared the region lost to the lesser races and departed for safer hunting grounds.