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“A tragedy, and not only for the subsector economy; I pity the Generals who have to keep the Strayvian Regiments in line after this. The northern plateaus were very beautiful, once.” – Travel Diaries of Lucius di Firro, 578.M41
Strayvia was once a small backwater agricultural planet in a little-visited corner of Subsector Primus. Its reconquest by the Prosperitas Crusade in the early 100s.M41 passed without incident; the planetary government capitulated wholesale to Durovera’s forces, and for most on the pleasant, temperate world, life changed very little from one day to the next. A productive agri-world with a comfortable level of technological advancement supporting vast continent-spanning fields of bio-engineered wheat variants, it played host to a modest population in the low billions. Most civilians were employed in the arable zones, with a few million migratory workers following the annual harvest cycles to labour in shipping and packing factories in the urban spaceports at the poles. The planet was quiet and largely peaceful, with a small local Planetary Defence Force recruited mostly for show and to keep the youth out of trouble.
Everything changed in the late 560s. During Arch-Militant Voss’ highly successful Persephonian Gambit, a number of elite regiments from the Primus-Tenebris border area around the Strayvian Gateway had been retasked to combat the Waaagh! threatening the Sector’s exposed Spinwards flank. The new Warmaster, Ilyenós, determined to plug the holes in the subsector’s defensive line against the ever-present threat from the Tenebris subsector, implemented a programme of aggressive recruitment from border worlds. Thus were born the Strayvian Skirmishers, a new founding of Guard regiments conscripted from across the planet and sent to fight the Enemy far from home.
Initial recruitment was highly successful, with huge numbers of enthusiastic young men and women, enchanted by propaganda holo-vids of heroic Guard slaughtering the Enemies of Humankind, volunteering for service. Patriotic fervour swept the planet, and every village and farmstead was soon adorned with banners and prayer-screeds extolling the heroic names of their boys and girls at the front.
The quality of the Regiments’ commanders, however, was as haphazard as that of their troops; with most of the top-quality officers fighting the Waaagh! in the Galactic East, the border defence command was left to younger Scions looking for glory, washed-out and jaded armchair generals and bean-counting staff officers promoted far beyond their competence. Under their arrogant and panicky leadership the character of the Strayvian forces was soon to change. They threw their troops at the contested border planets in human-wave attacks and hopeless charges, resulting in huge casualties and very little strategic effect. Most of the experienced officers transferred into the Regiments’ unit and sub-unit commands from elsewhere in the Guard were killed in the first six months, resulting in a surfeit of field promotions from among the native Strayvians; soon, any young man or woman who showed the faintest hint of leadership or charisma could be found wearing an officer’s pips.
A Commissariat investigation and the execution of a great part of the senior staff for flagrant misuse of resources followed, but the damage was already done. Hardened and bitter, what remained of the Strayvian Regiments were resentful and distrustful of outsiders, low on morale, and borderline-mutinous. After a decade of fighting and horrific losses, their patriotic frenzy had dissipated, and the now experienced and battle-hardened soldiers were greatly in need of rotation home on leave.
At home, however, all was not well. With the flower of Strayvian youth taken away to fight, the remaining population struggled to fill Administratum harvest quotas – once reasonable, but now punishing. The Censors and tithe authorities paid no heed to the increasingly desperate pleas of the planetary government to lower production quotas. Failure was met with increasingly harsh retribution upon the lowest-producing farmsteads, prompting a cycle of despair and privation; in the midst of thousands of acres of edible crops, families starved, or “stole” food from their own farmland and were mercilessly hunted as outlaws.
A series of increasingly violent protests followed, as angry youths too young for the Guard quota and ageing farmsteaders expressed their anger by smashing Administratum tithe-houses and attacking government institutions armed with little more than billhooks and stones. Each protest was met with violent suppression from the Defence Force and the Arbites; the survivors returned to their homes, defeated and furious.
The reports on what happened next are classified CONSIGNATUS OBSCURUS and inaccessible to most casual historians, but it seems apparent that the population turned to dark and terrible means to help them in their hour of need. A series of Administratum teams sent to the surface to investigate the sudden halt in food shipments disappeared without trace. As the Strayvian regiments were finally rotated off the front line and preparing to return home for training and recuperation, the Inquisition were already taking notice of the planet. Terrible rumours of wheat-fields glowing with a foul luminescence, nameless pustulent tentacular masses bursting forth from the ocean to drown low-flying shuttle transports, and isolated farmsteads simply vanishing from the map to be replaced by… something else… began to filter back to the Sector hierarchy.
By the time intervention came, the planet had gone too far to be saved. The same Navy transports designated to collect the Strayvian regiments from the front and bring them home were retasked to conduct Exterminatus Extremis upon Strayvia. The planet’s surface was virus-bombed in 577.M41, with no recorded survivors.
Strayvia today is a ruined planet. It has huge strategic significance at the heart of the Strayvian Gateway, the first line of defence against the denizens of the Tenebris Subsector warp-storm for the vulnerable core worlds of Subsector Primus. Under Warmaster Ilyenós’ vision, Battlegroup Hesperidus under Admiral Ridea Holz has its centre of gravity in the area around the planet, though the lingering effects of the virus-bombs and the planet’s interdiction means that no surface landings are permitted by Inquisitorial decree.
The Strayvian regiments remain committed to Battlegroup Hesperidus, and are a notoriously difficult to command; bitter, angry and frequently insubordinate after the loss of their homeworld, they are nevertheless battle-hardened and highly competent soldiers who are often selected for the most demanding missions requiring strike forces of fast-moving and self-sufficient light role infantry.