Deep under the soil of Holy Terra the Salamanders sacrificed themselves to end a mortal threat to the fledgling Imperium.
Assault on the Tempest Galleries
One of the last battles of the Unification Wars, the battle took place in the Caucasus against the mutated eugenicist warlords of the Ethnarchy. While few in number compared to other remaining anti-Imperial factions, the Ethnarchy’s forces were based on scores of relic-technologies and terrible weapons from the Dark Age of Technology. They also deployed an army genetically augmented warriors known as the Ur-Khasis, roughly analogous to the Emperor‘s own Thunder Warriors.
Hold up in strongholds deep in hollowed-out mountains and shielded by Power field generators, the attempt by Imperial forces to take the Ethnarchy’s strongholds earlier in the war had met with disaster. 10,000 Thunder Warriors and more than a million other troops were lost. Now in his hour of vengeance, the Emperor deployed forces from six proto-Space Marine Legions for the operation along with the Custodian Guard (led by the Emperor himself), and other tributary armies. Of all of these, the Emperor trusted the 20,000-strong XVIIIth Legion with the most important duty, leading the assault on the Ethnarchy’s power generators in Termite burrowing vehicles. Known as the Tempest Galleries, these generators were located deep underground.
Almost four-fifths of the task force managed to survive the dangerous underground journey to their objective, but there were confronted by ancient automated sentry guards dating back to the Dark Age of Technology. Incredibly strong and built to withstand volcanic firestorms, thousands of these automatons deployed against the XVIIIth. Worse still, their armor could not be penetrated by Bolters, Meltaguns, or Plasma guns. The only massive kinetic force applied at close range against their joints caused any damage. Against these terrifying foes, the XVIIIth held out with a mixture of stoic resistance and suicidal fury.
The XVIIIth survived by fighting from gallery to gallery, collapsing tunnels as they went. The Legionaries were able to gather weapons and spare parts from downed enemy robots and soon learned where to rip out these sentries command systems. Soon a stalemate had been achieved, but less than a third of the XVIIIth original number remained, but the sentries were still reproducing via automated factories. Realizing they needed a quick solution, the remainder of the Legion made one final desperate attack to cripple the central power transmission node.
The first division attacked other locations to confuse the enemy, while the second would launch an attack on the central power node itself. It was estimated that few would survive from the second assault force, and its members were selected by lottery. When the assault began, the Legionaries swept forward with improvised melee weapons.
The fighting was savage, but the XVIIIth plan was working and after slow torturous fighting the second assault force found its way to the central power node but a vast beast-machine appeared. The greatest of all the automatons of the Tempest Galleries, it dwarfed even an Imperial Titan. Faced with what was now certain death, the day was saved when the distraction assault group managed to gain control of one of the enemies tunneling-spheres and crashed it into the gigantic monstrosity, sacrificing their lives to destroy it. The ensuing explosion destroyed the central power node, destroying the governing Machine Spirit controlling the automated sentries.
By this point, days had passed since the assault began, and on the surface, few Imperial commanders believed the XVIIIth had survived. But the Emperor stubbornly insisted that his sons had not failed him. Soon enough the power fields around the Ethnarchy’s strongholds failed and the full force of the Emperor’s wrath fell upon them. However while victorious, in the aftermath of the campaign only 1,000 of the original 20,000 XVIII Legion remained.
~This would be only the first time the selfless noble Legion would sacrifice themselves almost unto death, only to return to full strength in time.