Into the Heart of Darkness
History - Foundation of the 312th Fleet
The Ouroboros Constellation
Of the distant history of the Ouroboros Constellation little now remain known to us, and no tale or legend amongst the natives of that region speaks of when or how humanity first settled there in the distant Dark Age of Technology. The region of space today known as the Ouroboros Constellation lies far rimwards along the edge of the Segmentum Tempestus, at the very border of the Veiled Regions. Corewards, towards the galactic north, it bordered the Imperial domains of the Gadam sector across the Ophidian Gulf. Encompassing an area of space roughly equivalent to an imperial sector the Constellation derives its name from two roughly circular collections of stars held in place by a as of yet ill understood celestial phenomenon. It is a hazardous expanse of wild space, much plagued by tendrils of inexplicable gravity fluctuations and astral obstructions which made long-range study difficult. Most prominent of these is a vast nebulae in the far rimwards reaches of the region, named the Phrygian Depths for its wild and warlike patterns. The empyrean too quickly proved troubled in the Ouroboros, few warp routes remaining stable for long periods and sudden squalls a frequent and deadly hazard.
Yet for all its hazards initial contact suggested that several human domains had developed and come to thrive within the Constellation. They existed as small, fractured stellar domains locked both in frequent spats of warfare and in an intricate web of shifting alliances. Culturally they were diverse, as so often seen during the great reunification, and some had even evolved away from the pure form of man. In some cases, they had fallen under the domain of the xenos, in others joined with them in alliance and cooperation. But most often the xeno realms within the Constellation made war upon man, in particular the barbaric orcs which thrived in the region.
Unlike the regions laying coreward in the Segmentum Tempestus such as the Madragoran cluster, which were quickly brought to compliance, the petty human domains of the Ouroboros Constellation remained unvisited by both exploration fleets and imperial emissaries. It was at the time believed little would be gained from exploring the Veiled Region, and as such no contact was made between the young Imperium and the domains of Ouroboros save by a few daring Rogue Traders. Following the conquest of nearby Galaspar in 853.M30 records suggest an envoy of the Yilderin Dynasty arrived to request compliance together with the Lords of Gadam and many other domains of that region, yet nothing was heard from them since.
It was not until the return of Rogue Trader de Winter from across the dark void of the Ophidian Gulf that the Ouroboros Constellation would come to the attention of the imperial strategists.
The Al’Badir Mission and the 312th Expeditionary Fleet
In 976.M30 the rimward worlds of the Gadam Sector came under sudden and sustained attack from an unexpected quarter. In less than a year a score of worlds, two of them fully-fledged hives, were brutally sacked with countless kidnapped and vast resources carried off. The slaughter was great amongst the Imperial Army garrisons, haggard survivors speaking of hordes of shambling men little more than corpses, bizarre machines which spewed lightning and horrid, lithe xeno warriors never before encountered. The raids came as an apparent shock to the leadership of the Gadam Sector whose initial response was to withdraw and fortify. But they had been warned, for as a crow before the storm had come the three ships of the Rogue Trader de Winter. His words had not been heeded, but in the aftermath of the raids the Lord Captain was swiftly included in the delegation sent before the Imperial War Council. The delegation from Gadam arrived in early 977.M30 at Chiros in the Uhulis Sector, where the Primarch Fulgrim, Imperial envoy Idriss Al’Badir representative of the Sigillite, and Lord Militant Shinken Taro of Uhulis heard them at the behest of the War Council.
To these men the Rogue Trader de Winter spoke of the great expanses of the Ouroboros Constellation, its many dangers and difficult tides. He spoke of the beasts that lurked therein, of the savage Orcs and insidious Lotus Eaters, of the silent tombs on Mershada and the horror of the arachnids. Worlds like giant machines he claimed to have encountered, and worlds were cruel xeno masters worked their human slaves as chattel. But most of all he stressed the presence of several worlds inhabited by humanity, their diverse domains, manifold cultures and ceaseless toils.
The Council decreed a new expeditionary fleet to be assembled, to bring the Imperial Truth to the far-flung constellation and to safeguard Imperial Domains from further incursions. The Primarch Fulgrim’s own III legion would form the backbone of the fleet, strengthened by detachments from the IV and XIV legions with their associated support elements. Further, Imperial Army regiments would be raised from the worlds of Gadam and fleet assets ceded from the Segmentum reserve at Bakka. The Mechanicum too would provide a force, initially made up of a contingent hailing from distant Mezoa. Finally a diplomatic corps was assembled under the leadership of Imperial envoy Idriss Al’Badir, supported and carried by the Rogue Trader de Winter.
The amassing of forces on this scale by necessity took several years, great stockpiles of all the necessary munitions and supplies having to be gathered at the expedition’s initial base on Tanazi in rimwards Gadam. Finally, in late 981.M30, the lead elements of the 312th Expeditionary Fleet started across the long darkness of the Ophidian Gulf headed for the Northern Marches. In the Vanguard came a large contingent of the Emperors Children together with the majority of the Death Guard detachment. A contingent of newly arrived marines from the freshly founded Alpha Legion also joined the first crossing, despite having arrived mere months before. Preceding them were the ships of Rogue Trader de Winter, carrying the envoy Al’Badir to offer compliance and peace, white doves before the storm that followed.