THE CLANS
Post-Tukayyid


  • The Refusal War
  • Battle of Coventry
  • Operation Bulldog


  • The Refusal War

    In the years following the Truce of Tukayyid, tensions continued to grow within the Clans. The so-called Crusaders increased their calls for a repudiation of the truce and a resumption of the Inner Sphere invasion, while the Warden faction continued to counsel cooperation with the Inner Sphere powers. This conflict set Clan against Clan, and warrior against warrior within each Clan. The emergence of new generations of MechWarriors within the Clans fueled these tensions further. Most of these new warriors had come of age during the invasion of the Inner Sphere and had dreamed of winning glory in the battle for Terra. The truce had dashed those visions, however, and left these young warriors frustrated and bitter. Understandably, many became ardent supporters of the Crusaders' call for a renewed invasion. Such sentiments were strongest among the Wolf Clan's young members, because the Clan's low casualties on Tukayyid left few Bloodnames open to these new warriors and virtually denied them any opportunity to win glory or advancement. As a result, a number of Wolf "supremists" emerged. These warriors remained fiercely loyal to their Clan, but displayed barely contained hostility toward the Wolf Clan's Warden Khans.

    Crusaders within the Wolf Clan carefully noted these growing sentiments, recognizing in them an opportunity to wrest control of the Clan from its Warden leaders and force the ilKhan to resume the invasion of the Inner Sphere. On June 10, 3057, these elements made their move. The Wolves' Crusader Loremaster, Dalk Carns, formally accused ilKhan Ulric Kerensky of high treason. The charges stemmed from an internal investigation instigated by the leader of the young Wolf supremists, Star Captain Vlad. According to the charges, ilKhan Ulric had colluded with ComStar leaders to engineer the defeat of the Clan forces on Tukayyid. That defeat led to the Truce of Tukayyid, which in turn would allow the Inner Sphere to rebuild their military forces and erect defenses before the invasion resumed.

    Additionally, the ilKhan's accusers claimed that Ulric had elevated a known Inner Sphere agent - his bondsman and later ally, Phelan Ward - to the position of saKhan of the Wolf Clan. They claimed that Phelan had provided the ilKhan with inside information about Inner Sphere defenses that led to the Wolves' successes during the invasion. In return, the ilKhan had given Phelan a chance for a Bloodname and supported him in his bid to become a khan.

    When the Wolf Clan Council met a month later to hear the charges, ilKhan Ulric denounced the accusations as groundless. He had been accused of collusion with ComStar before, he explained, and the Clan Grand Council had exonerated him. As for the charge regarding Khan Phelan, the ilKhan noted that Phelan had been taken as a bondsman in battle, just as many of those gathered in the council had been. Furthermore, Phelan had won his Bloodname in combat trials according to Clan tradition and his elevation to the position of saKhan had been approved by the Grand Council. The ilKhan seemed on the verge of convincing the Clan Council to drop the charges against him when Loremaster Carns challenged Ulric to answer a third charge - that he had willingly entered into a conspiracy to destroy a Clan's genetic heritage.

    This surprise accusation sent a murmur of disbelief through the gathering. The destruction of genetic materials was the single most horrific crime that a Clan or Clansman could commit. Only once before in the Clans' history had such an accusation been raised, leading to the annihilation of an entire Clan. The ilKhan remained speechless for a moment, and Khan Phelan immediately demanded that the Loremaster explain himself or face a Trial of Refusal. Seeing that his bombshell would snatch victory from what had seemed certain defeat, the Loremaster cleared his throat and answered.

    "Because of the Truce, we will have three generations of warriors who know nothing of warfare beyond exercises and the occasional raid. When the Truce ends, our command structure will be full of untested, untried, and inexperienced warriors. They will lead our young into combat and, as Ulric intends, they will die. They will perish, and the way of the Clans with them."

    IlKhan Ulric's next action stunned his supporters, opponents, and the entire council. He directed the Loremaster to forward the charge to the Grand Council of all the Clans, and agreed to answer it at a formal hearing in one month. In hindsight, it is apparent that Ulric took this action for two reasons. First, transferring the proceedings to the Grand Council ensured that the charges would not split the Wolf Clan. Second, the transfer would gain him valuable time. Knowing that the charge would go to the Grand Council anyway, where his Crusader enemies held sway, the ilKhan used the intervening month to form his own plans and set them in motion.

    Answering the Charges

    On August 8, 3057, the Grand Council held session on the planet Tamar to hear charges of genocide against ilKhan Ulric Kerensky. All the gathered Khans knew the charges, and most had already decided on their verdict.

    Khan Elias Crichell of Clan Jade Falcon claimed the right of prosecution. The most powerful of the ardent Crusader Clans, the Jade Falcons had established sufficient control on the worlds they occupied to let them shore up their forces in preparation for a swift drive toward Terra once the Truce of Tukayyid collapsed. While the other Clans contended with Inner Sphere raids and planetary rebellions, the Falcons quietly stockpiled munitions and equipment on the planet Quarell in preparation for renewed war. The Falcon Khans believed their warriors could slice through the troubled Federated Commonwealth and take Terra in less than a year, ensuring that Clan Jade Falcon would become the ilKlan. To achieve all this, the Jade Falcon Khans needed to ensure that Ulric Kerensky would be found guilty and the Truce of Tukayyid repudiated.

    In pursuit of this goal, Khan Crichell painted a damning - though inaccurate - portrait of a vast, sinister conspiracy between Ulric, Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht of ComStar, and the two Wolf Clan Khans to re-establish a tainted version of the Star League with Victor Steiner-Davion of the Federated Commonwealth as its First Lord. He claimed that the Clans, including the young Crusaders who made up much of Clan Wolf, had been betrayed by Ulric, who intended to destroy them and the entire Clan way of life. Several Council members believed Crichell's wild speculations, and Khan Phelan Ward's attempt to refute them proved fruitless. Nineteen Khans declared Ulric guilty of treason; fifteen declared him innocent. The Council stripped him of his rank of ilKhan, demoting him to the rank of Star Colonel. In response, Ulric demanded a Trial of Refusal against Clan Jade Falcon.

    The Falcons had anticipated any response but this. They had won a vital political victory and assumed that Ulric would not contest the verdict. The Falcons were posed to resume the invasion of the Inner Sphere, and the last thing they wanted was to squander warriors and BattleMechs on inter-Clan strife. Their initial reluctance to fight, however, evaporated at Ulric's insinuation that the Falcons wished to avoid a trial because they feared that they would lose. At this, the Falcons angrily agreed to face the Wolves in the bitter conflict that came to be known as the Refusal War.

    The Great Crusade

    After the Grand Council adjourned, Ulric Kerensky retreated to his command center on Tamar along with Wolf Khans Natasha Kerensky and Phelan Ward. Though they had lost one battle, they had a Trial of Refusal to win. As they planned their strategies for defeating the Jade Falcons, Ulric revealed his own scheme to use the Trial as a means of crippling the Crusaders' power, while ensuring the long-term survival of the Wardens whom he considered the best and truest members of the Wolf Clan.

    From the moment the charge of treason was brought against him, Ulric had known that the Crusaders among the Clans would find him guilty and repudiate the Truce of Tukayyid. The only way left to safeguard the Inner Sphere from a Crusader-led Clan onslaught was to break the Crusaders' power by forcing their strongest Clan to squander its fighting strength in inter-Clan warfare. At best, the Jade Falcons could only win a pyrrhic victory in the Refusal War; the swath of destruction cut through their ranks by Clan Wolf would cost them all hope of spearheading a renewed invasion of the Inner Sphere. The other Crusader Clans, beset by rebellions on occupied worlds and lacking the Falcons' military acumen, could do the Inner Sphere less harm. By virtually destroying the Jade Falcons and the Wolf Clan Crusaders, Ulric hoped to tear out the heart of the Crusader faction and protect the Inner Sphere, as he believed the Clans had been created to do.

    To ensure Clan Wolf's long-term survival, Ulric ordered saKhan Phelan to lead the bulk of the Clan's Warden faction, along with Clan Wolf's genetic legacy and a third of its equipment, to a safe haven in the Inner Sphere. If the Trial of Refusal ended up destroying the rest of Clan Wolf along with Clan Jade Falcon, Khan Phelan was to rebuild the Wolf Clan and keep its glorious heritage alive. Though he preferred to fight alongside the two leaders he so deeply respected, Khan Phelan accepted his role. His forces would take part in a few early battles, then strike out toward the relative safety of the Kell Hounds' stronghold on Arc-Royal. Ulric also made one last, secret plan to ensure that his Clan would outlive him. To Star Captain Vlad, leader of the Wolf Supremists and a brilliant warrior, Ulric would entrust the welfare of any Wolf Crusaders who survived the Refusal War. Should Phelan be killed and his forces destroyed along with what they carried, Vlad was to rebuild Clan Wolf so that it could once again take its place among the children of Kerensky.

    For their own parts, Natasha and Ulric planned a two-pronged assault on the Jade Falcons that would force them to split their strength. Ulric intended to bleed the Jade Falcons of troops and materiel on world after world, weakening them so that his final assault on the Falcon stronghold of Wotan would have the best possible chance of success. Ulric meant to kill the Jade Falcon Khans on Wotan and destroy enough Falcon warriors to effectively prevent the Clans from resuming the Inner Sphere invasion.

    Their plans laid, the Wolf and Jade Falcon Clans prepared for the first battle of the war that would decide their ultimate fates.

    The Battles

    Colmar, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 24 September 3057

    Elias Crichell, Khan of Clan Jade Falcon, paced angrily. His meeting with the Wolf Clan on Tamar had not gone as he had expected. First he had been forced to pass through a gauntlet of hostile Wolf Clan warriors. Then the Wolf Khan Natasha Kerensky further humiliated and enraged Crichell by forcing him to perform the batchall with the traitor, Ulric Kerensky. According to tradition, Khans of the Clans negotiated the terms of battle only with their peers, never with warriors of lesser rank. This practice was observed most stringently when bidding for an important battle, and few battles held as much import for a Clansman as a Trial of Refusal and he, Khan Elias Crichell of Clan Jade Falcon, had found himself negotiating with a mere Star Colonel.

    Crichell's greatest shock, however, came when he learned the Wolves' choice of battlefield for the Trial. Ulric declared the Wolves would engage the Jade Falcons on Comar, as expected - and at Dompaire, Sudeten, Zoetermeer, and other worlds of the Falcon occupation zone. The Wolves had also bid all their troops to do so.

    "Ulric and his band of misfits seek to anger you, so that we will make a mistake and provide the Wolves an opportunity to claim a victory in the Trial," saKhan Vandervahn Chistu told Crichell. "The traitor's plan will backfire - I will make sure of that. We will turn this Trial of Refusal into a Trial of Absorption. After we have smashed the Galaxies of Wolves, we will claim all their properties, and the Jade Falcons will become the greatest and most powerful Clan ever!"

    "I will leave it to you, then, saKhan Chistu, to develop our battle strategies," Crichell said. "And once we have defeated the treacherous Wolves and I am elected ilKhan, we will march toward Terra."

    The bitter rivalry between the Wolves and Jade Falcons fueled fierce fighting in the battle on Colmar, a battle that set the tone for the entire Refusal War.

    The first shots were fired in the Marakaa Valley. Using the dry river bed for cover, the 352nd Wolf Assault Cluster had marched through the valley to the Jade Falcon position at Bright Basin. The steep walls of the valley forced the Falcon aerospace fighters to make their strafing runs directly into the front of the Wolf 'Mech column. As a result, the fighters had little effect and soon broke off their attacks rather than face fire from the Wolf 'Mechs.

    The fleeing fighters left the BattleMechs of the 12th Falcon Regulars Cluster with no fighter cover when they appeared on the ridge line to the south. As the Falcons descended the steep slope to enter their weapons' firing range, they bunched up, presenting easy targets for the 352nd.

    When the dust cleared, the 12th Falcon Regulars were no more. A scant 10 percent of the 12th's personnel survived, among them only six aerospace fighters. By comparison, the 352nd suffered only 17 percent casualties. Unfortunately, the Falcons managed to destroy half of the 352nd's aerospace fighters and Elementals and two-thirds of the Cluster's 'Mechs. The Wolves took no bondsmen from the survivors but did lay claim to all battlefield salvage. The fighting had been fierce and many of the 352nd's 'Mechs would never see battle again, but at long last the Wolf pups had cut their teeth.

    After the battle, the remaining members of the 352nd formed up with the Wolf Spiders and marched on Doren, the capital of Colmar. There, Khan Natasha Kerensky's Elementals opened the planet's armories and armed the population. She declared the Colmar system free of the Jade Falcons and told the gathering crowds that she would take their grievances to the Jade Falcon Khan personally.

    Sudeten, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 27 September 3057

    Khan Elias Crichell stalked around the briefing room. The news of the Wolf victory on Colmar rocked him to the core. As the new figures from the fighting on Sudeten scrolled across the holographic display in front of him, he cursed aloud. Ulric had hit Dompaire just two days ago and looked ready to strike at Zoetermeer within the week. Sweat began to bead on Crichell's forehead. The Wolves were cutting his forces to ribbons. Soon they would make their way to Wotan and Khan Crichell.

    "Khan Crichell, do you wish me to send for a medic?" saKhan Vahn Chistu asked.

    "No, saKhan, I do not want a medic," Crichell snapped. "I want answers. Why is your plan not working? Why are the Wolves slicing through our units as if they were not there? Answers, saKhan Chistu, I want answers - now!"

    "Calm down, Khan Crichell. Everything is going as planned," Chistu replied. "The Wolves have achieved these victories against mere garrison troops. I will continue to litter their path with second-line and solahma units. This will force Natasha and Ulric to expend their front-line forces in a vain effort to weaken us. I will skin the Wolves layer by layer until I have cut them to the bone. Only then will they face our front-line forces and taste the true fury of the Falcon. You may rest easy, Khan Crichell. We are in no danger from the Wolves. Wotan is their unreachable star."

    To bolster the bluff that all of the Wolf forces would be attacking the Falcons, saKhan Phelan and his Delta Galaxy needed to attack at least one system in the Jade Falcon Occupation Zone before jumping for the Inner Sphere. That system was Sudeten.

    The Falcons had beefed up their garrison on the planet to slow the Wolf advance, and so Khan Phelan's forces would be outnumbered almost two to one on the killing fields of the grassy world.

    Khan Phelan compensated for his disadvantage by splitting his forces into two separate units. His lighter, faster 'Mechs laid an ambush for the Falcon defenders along the grassy, tree-covered hills of Sudeten's western plains, on the continent of Dargoth. The remaining Wolf 'Mechs headed toward the port city of Webster to harass the garrison forces stationed there and buy time for the trap to be set. Once those units were 100 kilometers outside of the city, Khan Phelan called in aerospace fighter support from his DropShips. Most of the fighting took place around the Webster magna-rail station, just outside the city limits.

    After engaging the Falcon garrison at Webster, Khan Phelan ordered his attack force to retreat to the Dargoth Plains. Under the cover of Wolf aerospace fighters, Khan Phelan's 'Mechs continued to fire on the pursuing Falcon defenders and destroyed many of the Falcons' heavy and assault 'Mechs before they reached the plains. When the surviving Falcon units crested the first hills on Dargoth's grassy plains, they saw what appeared to be a disorganized army desperately trying to escape to their DropShips some fifteen miles away.

    When suddenly, the hidden Wolf 'Mechs emerged from their hiding places on the tree-covered hills and the Falcons found themselves surrounded by enemy 'Mechs. Waves of Wolf aerospace fighters dropped their remaining bombs on the trapped Falcons. Battered by the bombing runs, the Falcon 'Mechs made easy targets for the fresh Wolf BattleMechs.

    In the end, Khan Phelan's forces scored an impressive victory over the Falcons. Khan Phelan Ward and his forces killed or captured some 100 Falcon 'Mechs, nearly all that had been on the planet. Eighty-five percent of the Falcon MechWarriors and pilots were killed, the remainder injured. Meanwhile, the Wolves lost only 35 units.

    After returning to the Wolf fleet, Khan Phelan attempted to persuade Khan Natasha to include his forces in further battles, using his victory to bolster his arguments. Despite his protests, Khan Natasha remained adamant that Khan Phelan follow Ulric's original plan and lead Delta Galaxy into the Inner Sphere. On October 5, 3057, Khan Phelan's JumpShip Werewolf left Clan space with a very special cargo - the complete genetic heritage and future of the Wolf Clan.

    Zoetermeer, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 30 September 3057

    "The crusaders may be your philosophical kin, but they are not Wolves. You hate the Inner Sphere because of our teachings. We are told that they are below us, yet on every front they have adapted and are now a match for most of the Clans. Perhaps before we assault them again we should study their ways of war, lest we run the risk of being defeated just as the Falcons - your philosophical leaders - were."
    -- Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky, addressing the 11th Wolf Regulars before the drop to Zoetermeer.

    "Bravo Star is encountering resistance along its western flank, Star Captain." Vlad scanned his Timber Wolf's tactical display, and smiled grimly. Like the cowards they were, the stravag Jade Falcons were disappearing into the narrow alleys between the warehouses near Nalon Spaceport. Apparently they believed a few flimsy buildings would protect them from the wrath of the Wolf. Vlad and his unit intended to teach them otherwise.

    As if to prove his point, Vlad lined up his sights on a fleeing Jade Falcon 'Mech and fired his pulse laser into the back of the machine, just as it reached the dubious shelter of a large warehouse. The enemy 'Mech shuddered and collapsed, bringing down the building's walls. A huge fireball erupted into the air as the explosion of the dying 'Mech set off the building's highly combustible contents. Vlad's smile disappeared. Cursing, he turned his Timber Wolf toward the enemy and barked out orders over his commlink. "Recon in force to coordinates 007-9a. Engage all Falcon units, but do not pursue the enemy into the warehouses. I repeat, do not pursue. If they want us dead, my Wolves, they will have to come and get us!"

    On September 30, 3057, Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky led his newly created Tau Galaxy in an assault on the Jade Falcon planet of Zoetermeer. All of the young and impressionable warriors in Tau Galaxy were Crusaders by inclination, but they were also Wolves by blood, and were therefore bound by Clan honor and tradition to follow their former ilKhan in a fight to the death against their fellow Crusaders in Clan Jade Falcon. Star Captain Vladimir, a prominent Crusader chosen as Ulric's second-in-command, challenged the legitimacy of Ulric's orders along with many other young Wolves, but to no avail. Ulric had acted within his rights as a Star Colonel in placing the Wolf Crusaders under his own command and transferring warriors with Warden sympathies to the command of saKhan Phelan Ward. By setting Crusader against Crusader, Ulric hoped not cripple not only the Jade Falcon enemy, but the entire Crusader movement within the Clans.

    Ulric chose his first target well. A week before the beginning of the Trial of Refusal, he had discovered that the Falcons were converting one of Zoetermeer's orbital chemical engineering facilities into a small factory for DropShip parts. An orbital repair facility so close to the truce line would allow the Falcons to attack deep inside the Inner Sphere without being hamstrung by a long wait for replacement DropShip parts from the Clan home worlds. The Falcons' 10th Provisional Garrison, assigned to defend the factory against Inner Sphere raiding parties, had stationed the bulk of its forces near the Nalon Spaceport in the seaside city of Salyn. A single Star of 'Mechs and two aerospace Stars remained to defend the orbital facility. Ulric planned a strategy that would allow him to destroy both the facility and the 10th Garrison Cluster.

    Before opening the bidding for the Zoetermeer assault, Ulric ordered Star Commodore Radick to issue a batchall to the forces defending the orbital facility once the Wolf forces bid to attack the planet itself were engaged in battle. With the bulk of the Falcon forces fighting the Wolves, the troops defending the orbital facility would be left without reinforcements, and would prove easy pickings for Radick's warriors.

    It took three elementals to life the ferro-steel girder that had trapped MechWarrior Bozarth's Viper. The MechWarrior was unconscious inside the partly crushed cockpit, but Bozarth had been lucky. He survived his first test by fire and would soon be able to pilot a BattleMech once again. Almost a third of the 11th Wolf Regulars had not fared so well.

    The Wolves had won the day, but at a staggering cost. The 11th Regulars had lost more than 40 percent of their 'Mechs, the 21st Battle Cluster had suffered 32 percent casualties, and the 4th Striker Cluster had lost 39 percent of its troops. The technicians would need at least two weeks of constant work to bring the units back to an acceptable 70 percent readiness level. Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky's victory on the southern continent had proved less costly; the 2nd Wolf Cavaliers sustained only 15 percent equipment losses and 3 percent casualties.

    The assault on the orbital facility was another Wolf victory. Star Commodore Radick's batchall took the 10th's commander completely by surprise. He had not included the facility in the original bidding because he had believed that the 10th itself was the Wolves' sole target. This oversight cost the Falcon commander his chance to reinforce the facility, and Radick's forces swiftly overwhelmed the three defending Falcon Stars.

    Baker 3, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 9 October 3057

    Outside the cockpit of Star Colonel Ramon Sender's Gargoyle, the waters of Baker 3's hot springs bubbled, but he did not notice. Other things occupied his mind - like the rising heat in his 'Mech, the precarious footing provided by the hardened layers of mud and lime underfoot, and the odd branches of petrified wood that broke off the long-submerged trees as the 341st Assault Cluster marched along the Baker River. Sender checked his heat display again. The computer painted a solid line that ran from green through yellow and just into the red area of the computer's screen. Sender cleared his mind. One way or another, none of it would matter in a minute.

    Sender looked over to his left, where Khan Natasha Kerensky's Dire Wolf kept up with his Gargoyle stride for stride. Sender could no help but grin to himself as his 'Mech's cockpit broke the surface of the river. It wasn't just the thought of being out of the boiling river that brought the smile to his unshaven face. It was the anticipation of combat and the adrenaline it sent pumping through his veins. In the distance he spotted the communications dish of the Falcon command center. In his excitement he almost missed the Falcon Kit Fox that had wheeled and stood watching as the 341st Assault Cluster began to rise out of the river, the hot metal skins of their 'Mechs emitting clouds of steam. Without thinking, Sender raised the Gargoyle's right arm. A bright blue flash arced from the 'Mech's arm and the head of the Kit Fox exploded. Then Sender opened a channel to Natasha. "You know he has broadcast a warning."

    Natasha Kerensky answered the Star Colonel's concern by firing her Widow Maker's autocannon at a Falcon Adder that had just emerged from a clump of trees. The depleted uranium shells tore into the smaller 'Mech's torso, cut through its myomer muscle bundles, twisted and blackened the internal structure and fusion engine and neatly opened its back before splintering an oak tree that stood thirty meters behind the Adder. "I want them to come," Khan Natasha said. "I want all of them to feel how cold hell can be."

    For years, Baker 3's hot springs and lush forests had made it a favorite recreation spot for merchants traveling through the area. These same geographical features that had been a source of pleasure for many would spell death for the Jade Falcons' Jade Eyrie Cluster, thanks to Khan Natasha Kerensky's daring battle plan.

    The Wolf 341st Assault Cluster landed 60 miles south of the Falcon command center, at the edge of Lowa, Baker 3's southern continent. With the purple Ylrebmik Ocean at their backs, the Wolves split up. Half of the force made its way into Lowa's dense forest to seek out and destroy Jade Falcon patrols. Meanwhile, the remaining Wolf 'Mechs entered the hotspring fed waters of the Baker River and began a slow march along its bottom. With the super-heated water of the river masking the 'Mechs' heat signatures, Khan Natasha hoped to outflank the Falcons and surprise them.

    The battle on Baker 3 proved yet another stunning success for the Wolf Clan. In the end, the Wolf forces suffered only 21 percent losses, while the Jade Falcons suffered 98 percent losses. Unfortunately for the Wolves, the Mechwarriors of every lost Wolf BattleMech were killed.

    For the Falcons, the battle seemed lost almost from the start. Star Colonel Buhallin sent numerous patrols from the Falcon's 305th Assault Cluster to destroy the Wolf 'Mechs in Lowa's forest, but none had any discernible success against the Wolves, who employed hit-and-run tactics to great effect. The forest's dense vegetation severely limited the Falcons' ability to target the Wolves, and eventually the 'Mechs of the 305th - armed almost exclusively with ballistic weapons - found themselves low on ammunition. In growing frustration, Buhallin sent aerospace fighters after the Wolf 'Mechs, as well as more Falcon BattleMechs, until his forces were stretched across the continent and his command center woefully underdefended.

    At that point, the second Wolf force emerged from points along the Baker River and struck at the Falcon command center and the undefended flank of the 305th. Fifty Falcon OmniMechs and twenty-seven fighters were destroyed by the Wolves that day. Only two Points of Falcon Elementals managed to make it back to their landing zone for extraction.

    Devin, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 17 October 3057

    "How can you believe the Wolves will attempt another attack? Look out your canopy. Even now our Elementals are rounding up their MechWarriors to be used as bondsmen. We have won, Star Captain. Let us return to the command center to report our victory to Star Colonel Hoyt."

    Star Captain Matthew Von Jankmon stared into the swirling sandstorm. It was true that the Wolves had lost many BattleMechs to the Falcons' Charlie Trinary, but something felt wrong. The fighting had been fierce at first; then the Wolves seemed to lose their taste for combat. Some of their 'Mechs actually ran from the field. Yes, something was definitely wrong.

    "Star Commander Trevor, you will take your Star to the northwest quadrant and post a watch for any enemy 'Mechs. Alert me before engaging any opposition," Von Jankmon ordered.

    "I will follow your orders, Star Captain, but you are overestimating the danger here. I am certain that our other units have achieved similar successes."

    Von Jankmon was about to rebuke Trevor for this insubordination when a brilliant orange explosion filled his view-screen. He quickly glanced down at his radar display but saw only the same meaningless interference that had filled it since the electrical storms began. He looked up just in time to see a line of Wolf OmniMechs emerging from the swirling sands blowing around him. Von Jankmon thumbed the red button on his right joystick. A wave of heat filled his cockpit and set alarms screaming as all the weapons on his 'Mech fired in unison. The Timber Wolf in front of him staggered and crumpled under the onslaught, but Von Jankmon calculated that the heat in his 'Mech would not permit him to fire his weapons again for a full four seconds.

    Pushing the machine's throttle forward, he twisted the 'Mech toward the north and set it running. Blue bolts of artificial lightning singed its left arm and opened a gaping wound in its rear right torso, and the Star Captain instinctively thrust the controls to the left. A flight of LRMs flashed past his cockpit and he turned to see the tattered and smoking Timberwolf approaching him. He triggered the red button once more, watching as twin blue means carved into the 'Mech's torso and set off a blinding explosion.

    When Khan Natasha Kerensky reached the Devin system, she reported her total losses so far at just under 32 percent for 'Mechs and equipment and 8 percent for personnel, but these figures did not reflect the true toll the campaign had taken on her forces. Many of the seriously injured had been sent to the Inner Sphere with saKhan Phelan Ward, and only battlefield salvage kept many of her 'Mechs operational. Moreover, the fighting of the past month had left many of her more experienced units severely fatigued.

    Still, several of her Clusters had not seen action yet and remained anxious to join the fray. The battle on Devin would provide ample opportunities for fighting - and dying. The Falcons had garrisoned the planet with the 2nd Falcon Jaegers and 1st Striker Cluster, both battle-tested, veteran units. Even the weather seemed to challenge MechWarriors. Severe electrical storms and high winds ravaged the desert planet, conditions that would render sensors almost useless. Shortly after the Wolf JumpShips entered the Devin system, a malfunctioning sail array delayed the attack force for three days, an omen that seemed to bode ill for the Wolves.

    The sting of sand blowing against his face awoke Star Commander Trevor. His eyes shut tight against the abrasive grit, he felt along the outer edges of his neurohelmet. The viewplate had been smashed. He then remembered his head striking his BattleMech's instrument array. Reaching down to his chin, he unfastened the heavy headpiece and removed it. Sand ran like water down the sides of his face, and the MechWarrior realized he might have drowned in sand had he not awakened when he did.

    As it dawned on the Star Commander that he could not feel his legs, he wondered whether such a death might have been desirable. Invalids were not much use in battle, and Clan society relegated such unfortunates to its lower castes. After a moment, the MechWarrior took a deep breath, shielded his eyes from the sand and looked down. The entire lower section of his cockpit was filled with sand. Beautiful black sand.

    After bailing sand for twenty minutes, his blood began to circulate freely through his legs again, and the Star Commander was able to free himself from his command couch restraints. As he began to crawl from the downed 'Mech, he saw the remains of what had once been Charlie Trinary. Twisted, blackened BattleMechs and Elementals littered O'Tsung Plain. Thirty meters away lay a smoldering hulk he recognized as the remains of Star Captain Von Jankmon's Warhawk. At the edge of the wreckage, Trevor spotted the Star Captain's body, blistered with burns. Activating his distress beacon, Trevor began walking towards the north.

    When he rejoined the Falcon forces, he learned they had won the battle on Devin. The Wolves had lost 47 percent of their 'Mechs and equipment and 22 percent of their personnel. Trevor found little to savor in the victory.

    Evciler, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 17 October 3057

    Heavy, wet snow covered the head and shoulders of every BattleMech in Star Commander Tomas's command. Hours ago, he and his MechWarriors had used their energy weapons to chisel waist-deep holes into the ice, in which their 'Mechs could hide. The blizzard had done the rest of the work, concealing the Falcon BattleMechs from even the sharpest eyes.

    To keep himself alert, Tomas watched ice form intricate patterns on his 'Mechs cockpit screens. He had last spoken with Trinary Command seven hours ago, when they reported the Wolf vanguard five hours from his position. An hour's delay in such dreadful weather was to be expected, but as the second hour crawled by Tomas found himself vacillating between boredom and apprehension. Tomas bit his lip in frustration, desperately hoping that the enemy would show. Success in this operation would guarantee him a chance at a Bloodname; to gain that opportunity, he would wait until hell froze over if necessary.

    Suddenly a red light blinked to life on the comm panel. Tomas flicked the comm switch. "This is Star Commander Tomas - report."

    The reply made all traces of Thomas's boredom melt like snow near a bonfire. "Star Commander, I have detected a single BattleMech, currently three kilometers due south and approaching our position at 108 kilometers per hour. I have no visual, and my mag-scan cannot identify the machine."

    A BattleMech moving that fast in a blizzard meant the MechWarrior was either brilliant or crazy. More than likely it was a scout for the main body of Wolf Clan forces. Tomas ordered his Star to power up and engage the enemy.

    Angered by an unbroken string of Wolf Clan victories, saKhan Vandervahn Chistu had determined that the world of Evciler become a graveyard for Ulric Kerensky and the Wolves' Tau Galaxy. To meet the Wolf Clan forces, Chistu deployed the 73rd Striker Cluster, the 6th Provisional Assault Garrison, and the 51st and 9th Garrisons. If such an overwhelming array did not succeed in destroying the Wolves, it would at least bleed them dry.

    The southern polar continent of Messian was in the middle of its twilight months, and saKhan Chisty used the half-light and wintry landscape to his forces' advantage. In preparation for the battle, Chistu ordered his troops to paint all their 'Mechs and Elemental armor a dirty blue-white that the Wolves would find almost impossible to see. To avoid ammunition-resupply problems, Chistu ordered all units configured to use energy weapons, supplemented only by long-range and short-range missiles. Finally, he ordered the Falcon forces to dig trenches and 'Mech pits in which to ensnare the advancing enemy. This time, saKhan Chistu was taking no chances.

    Clan Wolf's forces dropped onto Evciler's southern continent in the light of a ghostly dawn. The shadowed terrain played tricks on the warriors' eyes, and the southern pole's intense magnetic field rendered most of their BattleMechs' electronic equipment useless. Not even their holographic infrared displays could help the Wolf MechWarriors much in finding their prey; the constant eruptions of volcanoes and geysers through the snow and ice confused infrared sensors. Against such odds, the Wolves could only hope that fortune would favor them.

    The Jade Falcons' ambush at Semore Chasm took the Wolves by surprise. The hidden Falcon 'Mechs opened fire on the badly rattled Wolves from all sides, costing them several 'Mechs. Victory eluded the Falcons, however; the shallow pits in which they had hidden weakened the ice on which they stood. The heat of weapons fire melted the ice and snow, weakening it further until it cracked and sent several Falcon 'Mechs into the river below. The Falcons' sudden confusion gave the Wolf forces time to rally and mount a counterattack. Several Wolf MechWarriors began to fire at the ice near the pits, sending even more Jade Falcon BattleMechs and Elementals plunging into the icy river. The Star of Falcon 'Mechs still on its feet retreated southgward, pursued by the surviving 'Mechs of the 1st Wolf Cavalry.

    The battle ended after another twenty minutes of heated fighting. Two Stars of Jade Falcon BattleMechs and four Points of Elementals littered the frozen landscape. The Wolves had lost eight 'Mechs in the ambush, but only the Jade Falcons' misfortune had kept the cost from rising higher. None of the Jade Falcon units that fell through the ice re-emerged from the river, prompting one Wolf MechWarrior to comment that some fates are worse than death.

    Twycross, Steel Viper Occupation Zone, 7 December 3057

    Star Colonel Ravill Pryde was an ugly man by any standard. His close-cropped hair exaggerated the ungainly appearance of his abnormally large head, and his high, sharp cheekbones formed two hollows that held a pair of small black eyes. The Star Colonel's large smile revealed a few extra teeth most humans do not possess, but Ravill Pryde's gaunt body remained the most striking element of his looks. Thick green-blue veins bulged under the skin of his long, bony arms, and it seemed as if a heavy wind could carry him off the ground. Thick tufts of black hair covered his pale white skin and protruded from every opening of his coolant vest. Yet despite his almost sickly appearance, the Falcon Guards commander possessed an inner strength and cunning unmatched in his Clan.

    Pryde was determined to use all that strength and cunning to ensure a Falcon victory on Twycross. The planet held a special place of contempt in the hearts of all Jade Falcons, and it remained a source of special disgrace for the Falcon Guards. The warriors of the original Falcon Guards had been bested on the desert planet by a single Inner Sphere soldier; their own arrogance and hunger for glory had led them to ignore danger and embrace death here. Ravill Pryde did not fear death, but he did not desire it either. He was ordered to engage and destroy the Wolf Clan forces, and he intended to do just that. His forces would give no quarter and expect none in return. The bodies of Wolves would litter the sand of Twycross this time, and the Falcon Guards would finally shed their disgrace.

    As expected, the fighting on Denizli had taken a heavy toll on Khan Natasha Kerensky's forces. The Wolf Khan had set a near-inhuman pace for her warriors, and they had begun to show signs of fatigue. The Black Widow chose her next target in an attempt to speed the achievement of her overarching goal - destroying as many Falcon units as possible. By targeting Twycross, site of the Falcons' most humiliating defeat, Khan Natasha hoped to goad Falcon saKhan Chistu into committing a large force of front-line troops to battle.

    However, Chistu refused to fall victim to her scheme. In a show of disdain for the aging Wolf Khan, he assigned the Fifth Talon, Sixth Provisional Garrison, and the 18th Falcon Regulars - all inexperienced garrison units - to Twycross. Chistu wante to do more than insult Natasha; he wanted to humiliate his opponent, and so he added the Falcon Guards to the list of troops. Their mere presence would show Khan Kerensky the seething contempt he held for her, and the shame of their predecessors' defeat might spur the Falcon Guards on to great success.

    The battle on Twycross began on the Plain of Curtains, where fierce winds swept the shifting red sands and forced the Falcon and Wolf 'Mechs into close combat. The Wolves set up in a diamond formation, at the edge of the plain in front of the Great Gash. The 341st Assault Cluster stood in the front of the formation, the 3rd Battle Clyster and the 352nd Assault Cluster formed the sides, and Khan Natasha's 13th Wolf Guards formed the rear.

    When the Falcon 6th Provision Garrison Cluster struck at the Wolves, the 341st quickly fell back, as instructed. That maneuver drew the pursuing 6th Provo into the diamond, and the 3rd Battle Cluster and the 352nd opened fire on the enemy's flanks, decimating the surprised Falcons. The Falcon's 5th Talon and the 18th Regulars approached more cautiously, however. As those units engaged the 341st, the Falcon Guards advanced to reinforce the attack. Heavy fighting ensued, and both sides took extensive casualties. Then the 341st broke off from the battle and passed into the Great Gash, quickly followed by the 3rd Battle Cluster and the 352nd. Meanwhile, the 13th Wolf Guards slowly retreated until they stood at the mouth of the Gash.

    Khan Natasha had hoped to draw the Falcons into the Gash. She stationed the 11th Battle Cluster along the sides of the Gash and planned to ambush the Falcon 'Mechs as they marched into the valley. The Falcons did not fall for the bait, however. At that point, Khan Natasha ordered the Wolf units to evacuate Twycross, and she remained behind to challenge the Falcon commanders to individual combat.

    And so on December 7, 3057, Khan Natasha Kerensky of the Wolf Clan, the infamous Black Widow, died amid the blood-red sands of Twycross.

    Wotan, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 10 December 3057

    Aboard the DropShip Lobo Negro, Ulric Kerensky began the batchall against saKhan Chistu of the Jade Falcons. "I see that our arrival surprises you, Vandervahn Chistu. Perhaps you should concede the planet now and save yourself the shame of defeat."

    For a moment, Chistu looked at the holographic display in silence. Although the Falcon saKhan's countenance revealed little, Ulric thought he detected surprise - and perhaps even a touch of fear - behind Chistu's cold gray eyes. Then suddenly the saKhan's confidence seemed to return.

    "Your threats are empty, old man," Chistu replied. "Not even the remnants of the dead Black Widow's pathetic forces can make you a match for my units on Wotan. You have inconvenienced me somewhat, mo more."

    Ulric laughed. "We are five hours from planetfall, saKhan. I have a full Galaxy of BattleMechs and I intend to use every one of them to kill every Falcon I see. Can you match my bid, or must I slash my forces to meet whatever smattering of units you can scrape together?"

    "I will meet you with an equal force, Ulric," Chistu growled. "And I want to see the fear on your face when you die - I challenge you to combat in a Circle of Equals!"

    Ulric raised an eyebrow, momentarily caught off-guard. "As you will, Vahn. I accept your challenge."

    "You will address me as saKhan Vandervahn Chistu, Star Colonel!" Chistu shouted at Ulric's holographic image. "I am your genetic superior by two generations, I am Falcon, and I outrank you. I challenge you only to ensure personally that the taint of your genes be removed from Our Founder's name. You and your kind are an abomination, Ulric Kerensky, and I will see you dead!"

    "A wise woman told me a secret once," Ulric replied. "She said that old age and experience will beat youth and ignorance every time. Today we put her words to the test, qiuaff?"

    With a savage gesture, Chistu cut off the communication link. Safe from Ulric's sharp eyes, he sat back in his chair and smiled grimly. He had shown Ulric the enraged, shrieking Falcon that the Wolf commander had expected to see. If Ulric was foolish enough to believe the performance, the treacherous Wolf would pay dearly for his mistake.

    Borealtown - Wotan, Part 1

    On December 10, 3057, Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky and the Tau Battle Group entered the Butler system. Many Wolf officers - and their Falcon counterparts, undoubtedly - were taken by surprise when the attack force then made a second jump to Wotan, where the Falcon Khans had made their headquarters.

    An hour after the vanguard of the Wolf Clan Battle Group reached the Wotan system, the remnants of Khan Natasha Kerensky's units joined them. The combined strength of both groups gave Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky a little more than a Galxy of frontline 'Mechs with aerospace and Elemental support.

    The Falcons fielded approximately the same number of units. These forces had taken fortified positions in Wotan's capital city, Borealtown, where they awaited the Wolf attackers.

    The Battle for Borealtown proved one of the costliest engagements of the Refusal War for both the Wolf Clan and the Jade Falcon Clan. Although the sides were roughly even in terms of numbers, the Falcon defenders consisted of fresh, frontline troops, as opposed to the second-line and garrison units that had engaged the Wolves in most of the earlier fighting. Additionally, the Falcons had created numerous fortifications both outside and in the city of Borealtown itself. These proud Falcon MechWarriors were eager to avenge the humiliating losses the Wolves had inflicted on the Jade Falcon Clan in the earlier battles of the war. Additionally, the Falcon commanders were determined to defend the headquarters of the Jade Falcon Occupation Zone.

    However, the battle-weary units of the Wolf attack force were highly motivated as well. Many sensed that the very future of their Clan might hinge on this battle, and they fought accordingly.

    In the end the Falcons held Borealtown, but neither side could truly claim victory. Both had suffered upwards of 80 percent casualties in he fierce urban combat, and many units that fought there would never recover.

    Despite these devastating losses, the most important skirmish of the battle occurred on a much smaller scale. For even as the battle raged, Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky led a lone Star of Wolf OmniMechs into the heart of the city in search of Vandervahn Chistu, saKhan of Clan Jade Falcon.

    Final Showdown - Wotan, Part 2

    SaKhan Vandervahn Chistu listened as the Falcon scouts reported the progress of Ulric and his Star. Everything was in place. Ulric seemed to have fallen for the trap and now nothing would be able to stop Chistu's plans. He thought back to the conversation he had with Khan Crichell just over an hour ago. Crichell thought that challenging Ulric had been a mistake. If Chistu were defeated, the Wolves would win the Trial of Refusal and everything the Falcons had fought for would be for naught, the aging Falcon Khan had said. The Grand Council might even elect a Wolf as ilKhan, Crichell had raved. As usual, Chistu calmed the older Khan and assured him that every precaution had been taken to ensure that Ulric could not win.

    Chistu was shaken from his thoughts when a scout reported that Ulric's Star was making its way into the Magistracy's area. He quickly punched the buttons to the left of his communication console and focused his attention on the small monitor screen above his Executioner's instrument array. The monitor showed the running fights that were so common during urban engagements. 'Mechs darted in and out of streets and buildings, leaving destruction in their paths. He watched intently as the Wolf Star entered view. Ulric was as good a MechWarrior as the Clans produced - perhaps one of the best, but precautions had been taken. Precautions that would ensure victory for the Falcons.

    Yes, soon the Refusal War would end and saKhan Vandervahn Chistu of the Jade Falcons would emerge as the ultimate victor. He would kill Ulric Kerensky, leader of the Wolf Clan, leader of the Wardens, architect of the Truce of Tukayyid. All the glory Kerensky had gained would fall to Vandervahn Chistu, and the saKhan would become the logical choice to lead the Clans to victory on Terra.

    As Wolf OmniFighters streaked out of their DropShips toward the city of Borealtown, the city seemed to come to life. Beams of ruby, emerald, and sapphire light stabbed into the sky, and soon the sound of explosions rocked the night. Within minutes small spots of bright orange flame appeared in the darkened city streets, marking the spots where the fighters' bombs had struck. In the rolling hills outside the darkened city, waves of Wolf DropShips landed and unleashed their cargo of 'Mechs.

    Within minutes Wolf OmniMechs had reached the city and began to slug it out with the Falcon 'Mechs that hid behind the empty buildings and darted through the narrow avenues. In the middle of the chaos, a Star of Wolf 'Mechs circled one of their own and made their way into Borealtown.

    The group of 'Mechs met little resistance as they made their way to the heart of the city. The area was built on the highest point in the city and provided a spectacular view of the once thriving metropolis, but the MechWarriors did not notice. Then they reached a ring of buildings and encountered a lone Jade Falcon Executioner. They had found their prey.

    After performing the batchall with Ulric Kerensky, Chistu prepared his ambush. First, he separated two Stars of OmniMechs from the Clusters he had stationed on Borealtown. Then, Falcon techs reconfigured the 'Mechs for use as missile batteries. The 'Mechs took positions in a plaza three blocks behind the Magistracy area where the two MechWarriors planned to duel. As soon as Ulric and the Wolf 'Mechs appeared, Chistu fed the hidden Falcon Stars telemetry on Ulric's position. Before the Wolves recognized Chistu's treachery, the hidden Falcon 'Mechs sent flights of LRM missiles at Ulric's Gargoyle, destroying the 'Mech and the adjacent Wolf 'Mechs. Then Chistu finished off the remaining Wolf 'Mechs.

    Morges, Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, 13 December 3057

    "War is never really won by anyone who participates in it. War simply rearranges the way things were and steals the promise of tomorrow from each side. To succeed at war you have to lose a part of your humanity. After you win enough wars, you have no humanity left because you lost a piece of it each time you killed someone."
    -- Excerpt from the private diary of Major Leon James of the Kell Hounds.

    Inside his Wolfhound, saKhan Phelan Ward of the Wolf Clan watched the early morning sky lighten over Icegrief Pass. Howling winds buffeted his 'Mech, blowing clouds of snow and ice before them, but the knife-edged cold could not penetrate the cockpit. Soon the sun would rise and strike a thousand sparks from the snow-covered ground. The Jade Falcons would land before too much longer, and then battle must be joined.

    A harsh voice crackled over Phelan's comm channel. "This is Star Colonel Angeline Mattlov of Clan Jade Falcon. I have a message for the freebirth called Phelan Ward."

    Phelan flicked a switch and answered. "Have you come to your senses, Star Colonel, and decided to withdraw your forces without a fight? Such wisdom deserves mercy. I will allow you and your warriors to leave this system - without your 'Mechs, of course."

    "Bold words, freebirth - but worth little. I have the honor to announce the death of the traitor, Star Colonel Ulric Kerensky. He died on Wotan, in a Circle of Equals, at the hands of our saKhan Vandervahn Chistu."

    Suddenly cold, Phelan could muster no reply. After a moment of silence, Mattlov's gloating voice continued. "After the traitor's death, our forces destroyed the Wolves' command and control units. The few Wolf warriors who fled their utter defeat on Wotan will not reach you in time to reinforce your meager strength. You and your Wolves are lost, Phelan. Without the Black Widow and the Gray Wolf,bsp;      Natasha and Ulric. Both dead. Only I am left. Phelan closed his eyes and pushed his grief to the back of his mind. He suddenly wanted to laugh his defiance in Mattlov's face. She expected her bombshell to demoralize him and his troops. Instead, the knowledge of Ulric's sacrifice had the opposite effect. Unconsciously straightening in his command couch, Phelan answered the only way he could.

    "Wrong as usual, old woman," he said. "We revere the spirits of Ulric and Natasha even more with their passing. So much did they trust in us that they gladly risked death to ensure that we could destroy you here. Once again you have underestimated us - and your Galaxy will pay the price for your folly."

    Initial Contact - Morges, Part 1

    On December 5, 3057, the Jade Falcon Omicron and Peregrine Galaxies arrived in the Morges system to exterminate the remaining warriors of the Wolf Clan. Much to their surprise, they found themselves facing not the two Wolf Galaxies they had expected, but one Wolf Galaxy and two regiments of the Kell Hounds, the famed Inner Sphere mercenary unit. Khan Phelan also bid his Sixteenth Battle Cluster and chose the southern polar continent of Morges as the site of the battle.

    Furious at being forced to fight "a gang of dirty freebirths," Star Colonel Angeline Mattlov bid all the forces at her disposal: five front-line Clusters, five garrison Clusters, and even a solahma unit. The Jade Falcons dropped onto Morges on 13 December, into the teeth of Khan Phelan's fortified and entrenched combined-arms forces. The frozen landscape of Icegrief Pass became the first of many battlegrounds in a conflict that would decide the fate of Clans Wolf and Jade Falcon.

    The Kell Hounds pounded the Falcons at Icegrief Pass, thanks to a concerted effort by the mercenaries that cost the Falcons the entire 4th Talon Cluster. During the savage fighting, several Falcon Mechwarriors ejected from their 'Mechs, only to be caught in a barrage of laser fire from their Inner Sphere opponents. Once again, the Hounds showed the Jade Falcons the folly of underestimating the MechWarriors of the Inner Sphere.

    Broken Hope - Morges, Part 2

    Khan Phelan Ward glanced down at the map displayed on his Nova's secondary monitor. According to the map, he and the 4th Wolf Guards were practically on top of the Jade Falcons, though he could see nothing through the raging blizzard outside. Chill, 70-kph winds buffeted his 'Mech and tossed clouds of snow and ice into the frigid air. Phelan took some comfort in the knowledge that the Falcons would find it just as hard to spot the Wolf 'Mechs.

    "All units, begin magnetic-resonance scanning," Phelan ordered his troops. "And remember, we can make the cold work for us. At these temperatures, you can run hotter than normal, so when you see the enemy, keep shooting."

    Suddenly, Phelan's MRI scanners registered a vaguely humanoid shape ahead. His targeting computer identified the object as a Hellhound. Phelan lined up the crosshairs on it and fired, vaporizing the armor covering the Falcon 'Mech's left torso. He grinned as he prepared to fire again. With a little luck, the Jade Falcons' stockpile of munitions and spare parts would soon belong to the Wolf Clan.

    After their defeat at Icegrief Pass, the Jade Falcons fought all the harder against their Wolf Clan enemies. After several long days of conflict, the concerted effort of the 4th Falcon Velites, the 89th Striker cluster, and the Peregrine Eyrie Cluster drove the Wolves' 279th and 16th Battle Clusters from their positions at Carson Rift. Intent on obliterating the Wolf forces, the Falcons had configured their 'Mechs to use ballistic instead of energy weapons for maximum destructive effect; this decision gave the Wolf forces one chance to turn the tables.

    The beleaguered Wolf 'Mechs slowly pulled back through the raging blizzard to their second-line defensive positions. As they did so, they forced the Falcons to expend as much ammunition as possible so that they would have to resupply from their landing base at Broken Hope. When the Kell Hounds intercepted Star Colonel Angeline Mattlov's order to form a resupply convoy between Broken Hope and Carson Rift, Khan Phelan and his 4th Wolf Guards swung into action. They raced to take Broken Hope and cut off the Falcons' resupply line, thereby leaving the Falcon units easy targets for the rest of the Wolf Clan forces. Only a single garrison Cluster from Peregrine Galaxy stood in their way.

    The Wolf assault on Broken Hope caught the Jade Falcon defenders by surprise. Although they fought well, the second-line Falcon garrison troops proved no match for the Wolf attackers. As soon as the garrison commander realized this, he called Star Colonel Mattlov for reinforcements.

    The Star Colonel dispatched the Falcon Velites and 4th Striker Clusters to relieve the garrison then ordered the rest of her troops to pull back from their current positions at Carson Rift and regroup at the Bay of Broken Hope, six kilometers away from the supply depot. Realizing that her forces would soon be outgunned, Angeline Mattlov had chosen to make her last stand on the shore of the icy bay. Mattlov knew the Wolves might drive the Falcons from Morges, but she was determined to make them pay a very high price for any victory.

    Final Battle - Morges, Part 3

    I am not particularly proud of what happened at Broken Hope on that cold morning. I do not think that any of our pilots, MechWarriors, or commanders are proud either. And none of us expressed any happiness at our victory - for the deaths of warriors is never a cause for celebration. Certainly, we were relieved that the threat to Clan Wolf had been eliminated. But none of the usual high spirits that usually accompany a victory were present that day. Instead, a sense of weariness, a sense of loss, seemed to hang over our victory.

    The outcome of the battle was far from certain as our forces gathered among the rolling, windswept hills twenty kilometers east of the Bay of Broken Hope. Ice and snow lay undisturbed on the mammoth green hulls of the Jade Falcon DropShips, and Khan Phelan must have realized that the battered force had no intention of withdrawing. He must have realized that the Falcons were determined that the fate of the Wolf Clan would be decided in the frozen, forgotten wastelands of Morges. I believe that is why he gave the orders that he did.
    -- Excerpt from the diary of Pilot Vyktor, Clan Wolf.

    Ten days of fighting in the frozen wastes of Australarctica had taken a heavy toll on both the Jade Falcons and the Wolves. Two Galaxies of Falcons had dropped onto the planet - five front-line Clusters and four garrison Clusters. Now only three front-line Clusters and two of the Falcons' garrison Clusters remained operational. Additionally, severe ammunition shortages had reduced the effectiveness of all Falcon combat units and left two of the Falcon Clusters operating at half their capability, but the fighting had significantly weakened the Wolf forces, also. Six Stars of 'Mechs had been destroyed or rendered inoperable, and three Elemental points had perished as well. The Kell Hounds had lost five BattleMech lances.

    Despite their losses, both sides remained fully capable of destroying one another, and neither side could afford to pull out of the battle. The Falcon forces represented that Clan's only intact units remaining - and the Jade Falcons' only hope for destroying the Wolves on the battlefield. For the Wolves, the stakes were even higher. Khan Phelan's forces carried the genetic legacy of the Wolf Clan, and so a defeat could spell the permanent end of the Clan.

    Both commanders realized that the fighting would leave one of the forces destroyed, and quite possibly both. For a brief period, an uneasy calm fell over the battlefield, as if both commanders were reluctant to resume the battle. Then the roar of aerospace fighters broke the stillness.

    As the MechWarriors of Clan Wolf watched from their protected positions in the hills. Wolf aerospace fighters swarmed through the frigid air. Using missiles, lasers, and PPCs, the fighters unleashed a hellish rain of death down onto the Falcon forces. Flight after flight of Falcon aerospace fighters scrambled from their DropShips to defend the Falcon 'Mechs, but almost immediately they ran into waves of Kell Hound fighters. Within minutes, a tangled mass of fighters filled the skies over Broken Hope, twisting and turning amid the angry, stabbing beams of PPCs and lasers and the burning dots of tracers. As the Falcon fighters tried in vain to destroy the mercenary fighters, the Wolf aerospace wings continued their strafing runs, streaking over the Falcon command center then disappearing into the jagged hills, then returning to inflict further damage on their targets. Soon large clouds of steam, smoke, flame, and shrapnel filled the air, creating a black fog that obscured the Falcon positions. Open commlink channels crackled with the terse commands of aerospace pilots and the cries of wounded and dying MechWarriors.

    When the last Falcon aerospace fighter fell from the sky, the Wolf fighters ceased their onslaught and Khan Phelan led the 'Mechs of the Wolves and Kell Hounds toward the Falcon positions. There they found a scene of overwhelming devastation. The twisted forms of blackened 'Mechs littered the ground, and small fires seemed to burn everywhere, attracting small groups of Falcon MechWarriors huddling against the cold.

    It was ended. The Jade Falcons, who had come to Morges to destroy the Wolves, had themselves been destroyed. The brutal campaign called the Refusal War was over, and the Wolf Clan had triumphed.

    [<<] [<] [>] [>>]

    Coventry

    The Truce of Tukayyid brought the Clan invasion to an abrupt halt and deprived a new generation of Clan warriors of the chance to prove themselves in battle. Clan Jade Falcon's drive through the Lyran Alliance toward the planet Coventry was Falcon Khan Marthe Pryde's means of blooding her fledgling warriors and proving the Falcons' viability to the other Clans in the wake of the devastating Refusal War.

    The Jade Falcon attack also galvanized an important series of events among the Houses of the Inner Sphere. In response to the Clan incursion, Katherine Steiner-Davion (also called Katrina Steiner) authorized a defense force to battle the Falcons on Coventry. When Clan Jade Falcon soundly defeated the Coventry Expedition Force (CEF), Katrina deployed the Coventry Relief Force, which she had initially assembled to defend Tharkad. The Relief Force was joined by a multi-House and mercenary force, led by Prince Victor Steiner-Davion. Together the two armies successfully kept control of Coventry. Katrina had hoped to take advantage of the Clan attack to discredit her brother; instead, the successful defense solidified Victor's position as a skilled politician and military leader and encouraged him to pursue his plan to mount an Inner Sphere attack on the Clan homeworlds.

    Seeds Of Invasion

    In December of 3057, the Clans met on Wotan to elect a new ilKhan. Because Clan Jade Falcon had brought the charges of genocide against former ilKhan Ulric Kerensky that had sparked the Trial of Refusal and led to Kerensky's death, the Falcons assumed that the next ilKhan would come from their ranks. Khan Vandervahn Chistu, believed to have slain Ulric honorably in battle, seemed the odds-on favorite.

    The tide turned against the Falcons, however, when Vlad of the Wolves emerged from the rubble of a collapsed building three days after the battle on Wotan and revealed that Chistu had defeated ilKhan Kerensky in a treacherous and unClanlike missile strike. Vlad challenged Khan Chistu to a Trial of Refusal in an attempt to undo the Falcon's Absorption of the Wolves; against the wishes of the Falcons' senior Khan, Elias Crichell, Chistu accepted. In a brief, one-sided battle, Vlad killed Chistu on Government Hill - the same spot where the Falcon Khan had killed Ulric Kerensky.

    The outcome of this Trial overturned the Falcon's questionable Absorption of the Wolves. Desperate to retain a remnant of his Clan's tarnished honor Khan Elias Crichell created a Clan he called Jade Wolf, releasing to this new group all the Wolves who had been absorbed into Clan Jade Falcon. Vlad, however, was intent on preserving the Wolf Clan. He charged Crichell with complicity in Ulric's death and challenged the Khan to a second Trial of Refusal. Skillfully manipulating the Clans' complicated system of ritual, trials and honor, Vlad outmaneuvered Crichell into accepting the challenge. He also denied the Khan the right to name a second and easily killed the aging Falcon leader in combat. Vlad of the Wolves then rejected the Jade Wolf name and declared that he would form a new Wolf Clan.

    Though Clan Jade Falcon survived the deaths of its leaders, the losses of Chistu and Crichell dramatically weakened the Clan, which had not yet begun to recover from the brutal Refusal War against the Wolves. To keep her shaky Clan alive, newly elected Falcon Khan Marthe Pryde immediately began devising a plan to demonstrate that the Jade Falcons remained a force to be reckoned with.

    Proving Grounds

    On 30 January 3058, Clan Jade Falcon forces crossed into the Lyran Alliance. In a series of lightning attacks, the invaders struck Engadine, Wilunga, Neerabup and Bucklands. Though the Lyran defenders stood little chance against the technologically superior Jade Falcons, they force the attackers into fierce, bloody battles for each world. Some, like the Bucklands Militia (which was little more than a social club for retired veterans), had no 'Mechs at all and cobbled together a fighting force by fighting heavy machine guns and sheets of armor plate to AgroMechs. These jury-rigged 'Mechs did little to slow the Clan juggernaut.

    In an omission strangely out of character, Archon Katrina Steiner did not make a realm-wide broadcast to her people in response to this outrageous incursion into the recently christened Lyran Alliance. In fact, following a plan known only to her closest advisors, the Archon had traveled to the Clan Occupation Zone just before the Falcon advance. There, she intended to meet with representatives of Clan Smoke Jaguar and forge a Lyran/Jaguar alliance to help her defend her secessionist realm against Davion and Wolf forces.

    Katrina never reached her would-be allies, however. On 12 February 3058, her JumpShip - the Boadicea - arrived at a jump point above the Smoke Jaguar-held world of Kiamba at precisely the same moment that a Clan Wolf planetary assault force was returning to Wolf JumpShips stationed at the same point. The Wolf Clan forces easily captured the Boadicea and took Katrina as a bondswoman to Clan Wolf. In a skillful accommodation to these unforeseen circumstances, Katrina demanded an audience with the Wolf Khan, Vlad Ward, to whom she proposed a Lyran/Wolf military alliance against their mutual enemies.

    Back in the Lyran Alliance, General Nondi Steiner and Mandrinn Tormano Liao, acting for the absent Katrina, made an unprecedented political move. In an effort to keep Victor from learning the true extent of the difficulties in the Alliance, they imposed a total news blackout, shutting down the flow of information from the Falcon invasion zone. Liao and Steiner both feared that if Archon Prince Victor discovered that the Falcons had again invaded what he still viewed as Fed Com territory, he would launch a major military effort aimed at pushing the Falcons out of Lyran space. Any success on his part would weaken Katrina Steiner's position in the Alliance and strength Victor's claim to be the rightful ruler of the realm that had once been part of the Federated Commonwealth.

    Acting quickly, Liao and Steiner placed House units on alert along the Falcons' line of advanced and opened negotiations with several mercenary units in anticipation of placing them in strategic defensive positions. Extrapolating from the Falcon attacks already launched, the Mandrinn and the general accurately predicted the Clan's ultimate target - the planet Coventry.

    Coventry

    In early March, Clan Jade Falcon proved Mandrinn Liao's prediction true. Three Star Lord Class JumpShips phased in at one of Coventry's so-called pirate points, from which Overlord-C and Lion Class DropShips detached and began in-system runs before the last transport dropped out of hyperspace.

    The first blow of the campaign fell on Port St. William spaceport. DropShips belonging to the Second Falcon Jaegers Cluster made a high-speed pass over Coventry's main port and disgorged their cargo of OmniMechs and Elementals in a clear area north of the city. This unopposed combat drop benefited the Falcon troops inexperienced in such maneuvers, at the cost of precious minutes spent organizing their forces and moving toward the spaceport. The defending Third Battalion of the Tenth Skye Rangers, under Kommandant Heinrich Oheler, used that time to move into position in and around the spaceport. As the Falcons advanced, Kommandant Oheler quickly realized he faced a numerically superior force; he called desperately for air support to even the odds but received a curt refusal.

    Oheler then switched frequencies and managed to contact Battery A of the Rangers' First Artillery Support Company just as the gunners were setting up their weapons. The Kommandant ordered the First to fire a defensive rolling barrage against the advancing Clanners. Forty seconds later, the opening shots of the Coventry campaign struck-but they didn't hit their intended targets. Either the rattled Kommandant had called in the wrong coordinates or the fire director relayed them incorrectly to his gun crews, but the first spotting rounds dropped short by more than a hundred meters, landing in the streets adjacent to the spaceport. One 125-millimeter shell crashed through the roof of a warehouse that held drums of high-grade petrochemicals. The resulting explosion destroyed the building and shattered windows for several blocks. Ironically, twenty-two of the thirty-eight civilian casualties of this engagement were a direct result of this one, off-target spotting round.

    Unable to see the fall of artillery from his position at the center of his battalion, Kommandant Oheler sent a mechanized infantry platoon, under Senior Corporal Michael Doss, well forward of the Lyran lines to direct the artillery fire. Doss established his observation post on the roof of a spaceport hotel and quickly called in adjustments, choosing to request fire-for-effect rather than wasting precious time on additional spotting rounds. Within seconds, five Long Tom shells shrieked over Port St. William and burst above the Clan lines, showering the advancing OmniMechs with improved conventional-munitions bomblets. The bombs annihilated two light 'Mechs and nearly a full Star of Elementals. However, the Falcons barely paused in their advance.

    Doss and his platoon continued to radio in adjustments until a Koshi belonging to Falcon Trinary Bravo detected the spotter's electronic signature and began pumping short-range missiles into the building. Several infantrymen were wounded, including Senior Corporal Doss. The platoon leader passed command of his unit to his second, Corporal Janice Vree, and ordered them to withdraw. Doss, along with radioman Private First Class Sigisimund Cole, remained behind, directing the artillery until his observation post was destroyed around him.

    Despite the valiant efforts of the infantry, the Falcons managed to push the Lyran defenders out of the spaceport. Kommandant Oheler ordered his troops to make a fighting withdrawal and regroup northeast of the city.

    Growing Up Fast

    Even as the Falcon Jaegers began their assault on Port St. William, the second arm of the Coventry invasion force was dropping onto its objective, the Coventry Military Academy, The invaders assigned the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster to capture the academy. One infantryman of the Lyran Alliance Armed Forces (LAAF) quipped bitterly that the battle resembled nothing so much as a brawl between schoolchildren led by assassins.

    The fighting on the academy grounds was spirited, erratic and bloody. Rather than moving on to new targets, academy cadets continued to hammer defeated Falcon 'Mechs into junk. Unblooded Falcon warriors engaged in close-quarters melees with their opponents, rather than taking advantage of their 'Mechs' superior range and firepower. Meanwhile, experienced warriors from both sides, who normally served as instructors and unit leaders, waged a deadly battle of precise long-range fire and unforgiving 'Mech-to-'Mech ambushes.

    In the end, Clan technology and training defeated the academy cadets. Kommandant Luther Rohorson ordered the Cadet Cadre to break off fighting and withdraw to a pre-designated rally point five kilometers east of the academy, and the cadets left the burning college in the Falcons' hands. Most of the buildings, including the administration and science centers, took heavy damage or were destroyed. Analysis of battleroms indicates that the cadets deliberately destroyed the science and administration buildings to keep vital records out of enemy hands.

    A handful of exhausted trainees, some wounded and in shock, apparently misunderstood Rohorson's order and withdrew westward into Port St. William. There, the shaken cadets blundered into the victorious Falcon Jaegers and fought a series of wild, savage melees. Beaten but unbroken, the cadets destroyed one damaged Ryoken and crippled a light Uller, though they paid dearly for this final act of defiance. Six cadet 'Mechs and thirty-two infantrymen retreated into Port St. William; by the time the survivors surrendered to the Jade Falcons, four of the 'Mechs had been destroyed and nineteen infantrymen killed, most while launching an unsuccessful "kneecapping" attack against an Uller C armed with an A-pod. The Falcon Jaegers took the surviving cadets as bondsmen.

    A Valuable Objective

    The third prong of the Jade Falcon invasion of Coventry thrust directly at the single most valuable prize on the planet: the Coventry Metal Works main processing plant. Some of the most desperate, savage and bloody fighting of the campaign too place in this battle. Khan Marthe Pryde assigned the task of capturing the plant to Star Colonel Devin Buhallin's Gyrfalcon Eyrie Cluster. Like the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster, Buhallin's assault force was made up of green, unblooded warriors. For many, the invasion would serve as their Trial of Position. Pryde and Buhallin planned to insert the Gyrfalcons by grounding the Cluster's DropShip just outside the factory complex, rather than risking the raw trainees in a combat drop into the broken, boulder-strewn terrain surrounding the installation.

    The full strength of the Coventry Aerospace Defense Force (CADF) was dedicated to defending the Coventry Metal Works. As Clan DropShips filled the morning sky with fire and smoke, aerospace fighters of the CADF's Gamma Flight swept in to stop them. In their first pass, the defending fighters claimed a Clan Broadsword Class DropShip. The Gyrfalcons launched their own interceptors in response, and missiles, fiery explosions and shattered aerospace craft soon filled the rainy sky over the processing plant. Reluctant to conduct landing and offloading operations under fire, Star Colonel Buhallin ordered his DropShip pilots to land at an alternate LZ more than two kilometers west of the plant; this change delayed his scheduled attack by nearly half an hour.

    On the ground below, Kommandant Claudia Peyman, a semi-retired veteran of the Clan War commanding the Second Coventry Donegal March Militia, took advantage of the slight delay and moved her troops into blocking position between the Clan landing zone and the Metal Works. Informed of the strength of the approaching Clan force by one of the surviving Gamma Flight fighters, Peyman ordered her troops to hunker down in their prepared positions. She knew that her militia company, made up of green reservists and retired veterans piloting outdated 3025-model 'Mechs, was no match for Clan OmniMechs. Peyman didn't know that the bulk of the enemy force was made up of second-line 'Mechs, led by a handful of OmniMechs piloted by the Star commanders.

    As the Gyrfalcons closed on the militia's position, Gamma Flight's fighters returned. Several strafing runs and point strikes put two of the advancing Clan 'Mechs out of action before they laid eyes on Peyman's 'Mechs, and Gamma Flight might have turned the tide of battle if the Falcons' tighter support had not returned to drive off the defending aerospace assets. When the invaders moved within three hundred meters of her front-line units, Kommandant Peyman gave the order to open fire. Several Clan 'Mechs staggered under the rain of destruction, including a Peregrine that collapsed under the sheer destructive power of four PPC bolts.

    In response to the defenders' all-out barrage, the Clan warriors broke up into small groups and charged each militia position individually. Star Colonel Buhallin's Man O' War A and Kommandant Peyman's Banshee-S traded shots and physical blows for three long minutes. The savage brawl was interrupted when a militia Firestarter, piloted by MechWarrior Randal Fetsko, Jr., attacked Buhallin from the rear. Spraying the Star Colonel's 'Mech with burning napalm, Fetsko caused the Man O' Wars heat to spike up so sharply that the Clan officer was forced to eject from his burning 'Mech. Consumed with battle lust, the green MechWarrior made no attempt to capture Buhallin. Instead, Fetsko turned his Firestarters heavy machine guns on the dismounted Clan officer.

    Fetsko had no time to rejoice in his first kill, nor had Kommandant Peyman time to berate the reservist for his wanton slaughter of a helpless opponent. At that moment, a Clan variant Lucifer fighter strafed the militia lines, destroying the Firestarter and killing its pilot outright. The same attack breached the cockpit armor of Kommandant Peyman's Banshee. Badly wounded and knocked senseless, Peyman slowly bled to death in her toppled 'Mech.

    Buhallin's and Peyman's deaths symbolized the bitter struggle for the refinery. Rather than one large, pitched battle, the fighting occurred in a series of two- and four-'Mech skirmishes, with victory going to the most brutal combatants. In the end the Gyrfalcons won a Pyrrhic victory; they forced the militia to withdraw, but sustained more than 65 percent casualties.

    As the defenders of Port St. William, the Coventry Academy and the Metal Works withdrew in a strategic retreat, several Jade Falcon commanders attempted to run down and destroy the surviving Inner Sphere forces. While many of these attempts failed, a few search-and-destroy parties located and easily defeated their demoralized enemy, though a few commanders stalled the Clan attackers long enough for their forces to slip away into Coventry's hinterlands.

    Guerrilla Warfare

    After the initial attack on Coventry, the fighting tapered off sharply. The Inner Sphere defenders were too badly shot up to mount an effective counterattack, and the Jade Falcons were busy ferrying in new troops to replace their substantial losses. Those defending forces not engaged during the first few days of fighting quickly set about waging guerrilla war against the invaders. The most successful of these 'Mech-equipped guerrilla units was the Second Company of the Tenth Skye Rangers' First Battalion, led by Hauptmann Caradoc Trevena.

    When the Jade Falcons arrived, the First Battalion, including Trevena's Second Company, was on detached duty at McKenzy Molecular Smelter, more than 100 kilometers from the Rangers' home base at Port St. William. As soon as word reached the battalion command post that the Falcons had landed in his operational area, the First Battalion's politically connected but incompetent commander, Kommandant Horst Sarz, got roaring drunk. Trevena immediately assumed command of the battalion; he led the unit away from the smelter and into the complex of caves, mine tunnels and deep canyons that lace Coventry's Cross-Divide Mountains. From this warren, Trevena led the battalion in a series of daring raids against the Clan invaders. These hit-and-run actions forced the Jade Falcons to assign increasing numbers of combat units to the hunt for the elusive raiders.

    The First Battalion's guerrilla campaign culminated in a daring two-pronged attack against a Falcon supply base near Collivette, which was garrisoned by elements of the Fifth Battle Cluster and a column of second-line 'Mechs from the same Cluster.

    Led by Leftenant Isobel Murdoch, the first Ranger raiding party smashed aside the tiny force of light second-line 'Mechs and Elementals guarding the supply depot. They swiftly gathered up several truckloads of supplies and ran for the tunnels before Clan reinforcements could arrive. At the same time, Trevena led two full 'Mech lances into a narrow pass and, smashed a force of second-line Falcon 'Mechs that he had lured into the trap with false sensor readings.

    When the First Battalion regrouped in its subterranean, headquarters, Murdoch told Trevena that the Clan warriors, seemed to be pulling back at the supply base. To Trevena's way of thinking, this indicated one of two things. Either the Jade Falcons had decided to abandon Coventry, or the Fifth Battle Cluster was regrouping to face a more capable opponent. When Trevena glimpsed the fiery streaks of DropShips burning, their way through Coventry's outer atmosphere, he realized that his second guess was correct. A relief force had arrived.

    Relief At Last

    Unknown to the Jade Falcons or the beleaguered defenders of Coventry, the bitter struggle for possession of the planet was about to take another twist. Mandrinn Tormano Liao, acting in Archon Katrina's name, had summoned Wolf's Dragoons' Delta and Gamma Regiments, along with the Eridani Light Horse's First Regiment, to the Lyran capital of Tharkad. Under Liao's plan, the mercenary groups would spearhead a Lyran attack on Coventry, if circumstances permitted. If the Jade Falcons conquered that planet and began moving on Tharkad, the mercenaries would help defend the capital.

    As a hedge against failure, Liao also hired Waco's Rangers to safeguard Tharkad, despite the Rangers' hatred of the Dragoons. The former commander of Waco's Rangers, Wayne Waco, had sworn to kill any Dragoon his unit captured in revenge for the death of his son, John, at the hands of a Dragoon MechWarrior. Consequently, anti-Dragoon sentiments still ran high among the mercenaries. Mandrinn Liao, confident of the Rangers' personal loyalty to him, chose to rely on the unit to spirit him safely away from Tharkad should the operation fail and the Archon lay the blame on his head.

    After abruptly returning from her secret mission in Clan space, Katrina approved of Liao's plans but insisted that Waco's Rangers accompany the relief force. On 10 April, the newly christened Coventry Expeditionary Force (CEF) launched its first effort to drive the Jade Falcons from Coventry.

    The First Light Horse Regiment was the first relief unit to land. Using the same pirate point that the Falcons had used during their initial assault, the Light Horse's JumpShips Falkirk and Bosworth arrived in-system, released their DropShips and jumped out-system in a textbook example of the fast-insertion pass. The mercenaries' fast-moving Overlord and Leopard Class DropShips encountered no opposition until Falcon defensive fighters engaged them as they slowed for their high-altitude drops.

    The Falcon defenders struck too late to prevent the landing, however. Elements of the First Falcon Striker Cluster engaged the mercenaries in a seesaw battle but withdrew shortly before 1600 hours, when the last Light Horse DropShip grounded in the city of Lietnerton.

    Runaway

    About the time things were winding down in the Light Horse's drop zone, Wolf's Dragoons were beginning their landing. In an uncharacteristically brazen maneuver, Colonel Shelly Brubaker of the Dragoons' Delta Regiment broadcast a batchall to the Falcon defenders. The Dragoon officer declared herself to the Jade Falcons and announced her intention to attack and destroy the spaceport at Port St. William using only one of her three battalions.

    Moments later, Star Colonel Creed Mattlov accepted Brubaker's challenge and announced that two Trinaries of the Twelfth Falcon Regulars Cluster would meet the Dragoon unit on the flatlands east of the city. Demonstrating the strict adherence to Clan battlefield protocol typical of the Jade Falcons, Mattlov allowed the Dragoon DropShip Bayard to land uncontested. Leaving her Second and Third Battalions in place to guard the landing zone, Brubaker led her First Battalion toward the spaceport.

    The First Battalion's forward 'Mechs easily handled the light and medium OmniMechs awaiting them outside the spaceport. Then they charged into the facility. For nearly fifteen minutes the Dragoon 'Mechs ran rampant through the spaceport, burning supplies, destroying equipment and repair facilities and generally wreaking havoc. Then the balance of the Clan force arrived and destroyed three Dragoons 'Mechs with its opening volley. A brutal, close-quarters battle ensued. Falcon and Dragoon 'Mechs lashed out with missile, cannon and laser fire and battered one another using pieces of broken girders as monstrous clubs. Most historians agree that the melee at Port St. William spaceport was the most brutal fighting of the entire Coventry campaign. Observers speculate that the Falcons' long-standing hatred of the Wolf Clan in general, and the Dragoons in particular, led to the sheer ferocity of their attack.

    Less than twenty minutes later, Colonel Brubaker called for reinforcements. That action freed Star Colonel Mattlov from his original bid, and he immediately called for reinforcements also. Within minutes, both commanders began calling in air and artillery support as the battle escalated. Soon more than one hundred fifty BattleMechs and a similar number of armored and unarmored infantry were engaged in a grisly, merciless struggle for the spaceport.

    In the end, the Dragoons withdrew. Though the First Battalion took serious losses, they had achieved their objective by destroying enough of the spaceport to deny the Falcons its use. Star Colonel Mattlov also claimed victory because his Falcons had forced the Dragoons to break their bid and withdraw.

    Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights were the last task force units to land on Coventry. The CEF Command's decision that the Rangers and the Eights should make DropShip landings, rather than the more glamorous but dangerous combat drops, created some tension between Rangers' Commander Wayne Rogers and the Dragoons' Brubaker until the Light Horse's General Adriana Winston managed to calm things down. Shortly after 1125 hours on 10 April 3058, the Rangers and the Eights forced their way on planet. During their hotly contested approach and landing, the Rangers destroyed eight Falcon OmniFighters and five front-line OmniMechs. The Crazy Eights destroyed two more OmniMechs and an unknown number of Elementals.

    Probing The Defenses

    Several small skirmishes developed between the Jade Falcons and the Inner Sphere forces in the week after the arrival of the CEF, as mercenaries and Clan troops tested one another's strength. The CEF sent a task force to help the remains of the Skye Rangers, Coventry Academy cadets and Coventry Militia break out of a pocket around the town of Whitting.

    In the gray predawn hours of April 15, Private Regina Walford of the Tenth Skye Rangers met up with a Waco's Rangers scout lance. For the past several days, Hauptmann Trevena of the Tenth Skye's First Battalion had been moving his battered unit through Falcon-occupied territory, intent on joining the reinforced defenders. When Waltord's Jenner loomed up out of the dim, rain-soaked twilight, Lieutenant Donna de la Kalb of Waco's Rangers mistook the battle-scarred machine for a Clan Fire Falcon, a relatively new model seen sporadically among the Jade Falcons. Fortunately for the Skye Rangers, the alarmed shout of de la Kalb's assistant lance leader, Sergeant Dale Freize, kept de la Kalb from ordering her troops to fire as the Skye 'Mechs materialized out of the thin drizzle.

    With the arrival of Trevena's First Battalion, the majority of Coventry's defenders were concentrated in Lietnerton. After some deliberation, the CEF command staff decided to launch a three-pronged attack against the Falcons at Port St. William. The battle plan called for the Dragoons and the Eridani Light Horse to make a direct attack against the Jade Falcons defending the spaceport city. The remnants of the Coventry Militia, the Academy cadets and the Skye Rangers would swing westward, screening the mercenary column from a possible flank attack by the more mobile Clan formations, The third arm of the operation would be a strike behind enemy lines. Formed around Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights, this arm would move through the wild, hilly region known locally as the Dales. Once in position, the task force would launch a surprise attack on the Clan rear. The unenviable job of guiding the Rangers through the rough hills fell to Caradoc Trevena and his recon company. The Waco's Rangers' phase of the operation would be carried out quietly, with no engagement of enemy forces until the Dragoons/Light Horse attack was well under way.

    Unknown to the Inner Sphere planners, however, the Jade Falcons had laid plans of their own. Clan intelligence suggested that Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights had been left behind in Lietnerton to guard the CEF base. Star Colonel Arimas Malthus found this highly questionable, considering the well-known hatred between the Dragoons and the Rangers. He reasoned that the reports of the Rangers' presence in Lietnerton must be incorrect and speculated that the Rangers were actually moving through the Dales to attack the Falcons from behind.

    To counter this threat, Falcon commanders skimmed 'Mechs and Elementals from each of the three Galaxies protecting Port St. William and formed these units into two Clusters. The first, code named the Harrier group, was made up of light OmniMechs. Heavy and assault elements comprised the second Cluster, christened the Red Tail group. The two groups laid an ambush according to a plan devised by Star Colonel Malthus. Though the plan stretched the strict definitions of Clan honor, Khan Pryde recognized its tactical soundness and allowed it to go ahead. However, she forbade the Falcons to use such deceptive tactics in any future engagements.

    The deadly effectiveness of Star Colonel Malthus's plan became apparent in the early hours of April 21. As the Dragoons/Light Horse column struck at the main Jade Falcon lines, the Falcons' Harrier group engaged the Rangers/Eights column near the Dales, drawing the mercenaries into a large grassy field between Port St. William and the Dales. Once the last Ranger 'Mech had entered the clearing, the OmniMechs of Red Tail group unleashed a barrage of missile fire from their positions behind the aspens surrounding the field. That initial strike destroyed five Ranger machines, and the advancing Falcon 'Mechs battered the remaining mercenaries. Only a delaying action fought by Hauptmann Trevena's Tenth Skye Rangers, which had been assigned to perform reconnaissance duties for the mercenaries, along with the timely arrival of the Dragoons' Delta Regiment, prevented the annihilation of Waco's Rangers and the Crazy Eights. In the end, the Falcon ambush destroyed 85 percent of the Rangers' and Eights' 'Mechs.

    Siege And Relief

    The loss of the Waco Rangers column, along with the disruption of the main Dragoons/Light Horse attack and the Falcon success against the Coventry Militia's pinning force, prompted the CEF commanders to abandon their attempts to recapture Port St. William and pull their troops back to Leitnerton.

    For several weeks, the Jade Falcons kept up the pressure on Lietnerton's embattled defenders with frequent small, probing attacks. Then on May 8, the Jade Falcons launched an all-out attempt to drive the CEF from Coventry. Elements of the Jade Falcon Eyrie Cluster, which had made a quiet night march through a heavy thunderstorm to reach the defenders' positions, open ended the renewed assault on Leitnerton with a strike at the exhausted Coventry Militia and Skye Rangers just after 0630 hours. Despite the massive Falcon attack, the worn-out defenders refused to abandon their posts. Kommandant Jasper Greer called in artillery from the Rangers' one remaining Thumper battery, which rained an uneven mixture of high explosive, ICM submunitions and FASCAM rounds on the Clanners. The ragged barrages slowed down the Falcon 'Mechs, but the Clan advance continued. Realizing that the Coventry Militia's front was about to collapse, General Winston dispatched a flight of aerospace fighters to support the shaken troops. Eventually, the combined artillery and air strikes prompted the Falcons to withdraw. The fighting had lasted four hours and claimed the lives of nearly one hundred soldiers on both sides, yet the battle lines remained unchanged.

    On May 9 the Falcons again attacked, striking at the Eridani Light Horse along the southern edge of the town. This time, they preceded their attack with an artillery barrage of their own. Clan artillery spotters proved unfamiliar with the proper procedures for laying down protective fire, however, and they failed to provide accurate coordinates and fire corrections to the Falcon artillery units. Consequently, most of the Clan artillery barrage sailed over the Light Horse revetments and fell among the deserted houses and apartments of Lietnerton's suburbs.

    The Light Horse gunners made no such mistakes, however. First, they hit the advancing Trinary Alpha of 305th Assault Cluster with a volley of long-range missiles. Several OmniMechs staggered under the missile strike, but the Falcons pressed onward. Moments later, under the direction of Colonel Sandra Barclay, artillery rounds began dropping among the charging Falcons. Some of the Falcon batteries realized that their assault force was in danger and began firing on the Light Horse artillery units. In response, Barclay quickly ordered the First Support Company's artillery units to redirect fire at the Clan gunners. Leftenant Rodney Mullenix's gun crews quickly bracketed the Falcon's artillery units. Within moments, the experienced artillery crews had destroyed three mobile Long Toms that the Falcons had captured from the Tenth Skye Rangers' main base and forced the remaining Falcon fire-support assets to withdraw.

    To replace the lost artillery support, Star Colonel Arimas Malthus ordered Star Captain Janice Folkner's aerospace fighters of Trinary Echo to provide close air-support for his advancing 'Mechs. Already on station, Folkner immediately rolled her Sulla into a steep dive and unleashed a volley of laser and PPC fire that destroyed the Guillotine of Trooper E. M. Catanese. (Miraculously, Catanese survived with only a small rip in the shoulder of his cooling vest.) Barclay responded to this new threat by summoning the Light Horse's own aerospace fighters. Before long, a pitched, close-quarters battle developed. Five hours later, the surviving Falcon warriors limped back across the smoldering, wreckage-strewn field. Once again, the Clan had thrown its best troops against the CEF line, and the Inner Sphere forces had beaten them back. As before, both sides suffered heavy casualties.

    Foiled By Fate

    Anticipating a third Falcon attack against the Dragoons in the center of the CEF line, General Judith Niemyer of the Coventry Militia and General Winston planned a massive preemptive air strike against the Clan rear area for the morning of May 10. The commanders reasoned that a major attack against the marshaling areas just behind the Falcons' defensive perimeter would disrupt any new Clan offensive against the encircled town. The original plan called for Wolt's Dragoons to launch a ground assault as soon as the fighters were off-station.

    No sooner had the last bomb- and missile-laden fighters staggered into the air, however, than an unexpected storm front closed in. Despite the threatening weather, the desperate CEF commanders ordered the fighters to carry out the mission as planned. Then Fate played its second card of the day. Even as the first bombs fell on the Clan positions, an undetected OmniFighter patrol swooped in to intercept the attacking Dragoon aerospace craft. Alerted to the presence of the enemy, the CEF fighters turned to face the Falcons, quickly downing two Clan interceptors and scattering the rest. During the momentary respite, the CEF aerospace units scrambled all their remaining fighters, some with half-full fuel tanks or partially expended magazines. Within minutes, Jade Falcon, Skye Ranger and Coventry Militia fighters filled the sky in a confused, swirling dogfight reminiscent of the mass fighter engagements of twentieth-century Terra. The stiff Jade Falcon resistance forced many Inner Sphere fighters to drop their air-to-ground ordinance for the sake of increased maneuverability, effectively spoiling the planned CEF air strike. Consequently, the CEF command staff called off their ground assault, and the siege of Lietnerton wore on.

    A Strange Alliance

    As the battle for Coventry ground down to a stalemate, the military leaders of the Lyran Alliance and Federated Commonwealth took additional measures to neutralize the Clan threat. In response to Archon Katrina Steiner's requests for help against the Clan incursion, Thomas Marik and Sun-Tzu Liao had sent the Knights of the Inner Sphere and the Harloc Raiders to aid in the defense of Tharkad. Now Katrina sent these 'Mech units, along with the Eleventh Lyran Guards and three more Wolf's Dragoons regiments, to Coventry to relieve the CEF.

    At the same time, the Archon requested help from her brother, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion of the Federated Commonwealth. Apparently, Katrina purposefully understated the strength of the Falcon forces on Coventry in the hope that assume control of the entire Commonwealth.

    Conveniently, Victor was attending a ComStar-hosted war game exercise on Tukayyid, along with other Inner Sphere leaders, when the fighting broke out on Coventry. He and his fellow rulers had followed the reports of the fighting closely; when he received Katrina's request, the units on Tukayyid-the First Genyosha, the First St. Ives Lancers and ComStar's Invader Galaxy- agreed to join the Davion Heavy Guards under Victor's command. Along with two Kell Hounds regiments from Arc-Royal, the relief force comprised six full BattleMech regiments.

    Several historians have noted the unusual nature of the relief force. Many believe that Victor's ability to mobilize such a large and varied force illustrates the statesmanship his critics had long claimed he did not possess. Indeed, some of the warriors in that force had been trying to kill one another only a few years earlier, and a few commentators speculated that the willingness of the participants to set aside past quarrels augured good things to come. However, a few critics, mostly Lyran separatists, saw the assembly of the diverse relief force as Victor's attempt to fashion himself First Lord of a new Star League.

    Whitting

    The final military strike of the Coventry campaign was a small-unit action at the mountain village of Whitting, on 30 May 3058.

    This final battle stemmed from a plan devised by Hauptmann Trevena, who proposed that a small force of CEF 'Mechs and infantry pass through the mine tunnels under the Cross-Divide Mountains and raid the Falcons' rear command area at Whitting. (According to Trevena, the Falcons had not located all the tunnels.) Simultaneous frontal and flanking attacks on the main Falcon line would distract the Clanners and pin them in place, thus enhancing the CEF's chance of success. The raiders would kill or capture as much of the Clan command staff as possible and gather intelligence. The simple, clear plan had attainable objectives, and the CEF commander cautiously approved it.

    With the CEF's supplies running low and no relief in sight, the Whitting operation would likely have been the last offensive the defenders could have mustered. But even as CEF command was discussing the raid, the defenders received another boost to their sagging morale when Leftenant Ricardo Copley, the former quartermaster of the Tenth Skye Rangers, was located among a group of refugees picked up by Dragoon security patrols. For unknown reasons, Copley had secreted a cache of ammunition, spare parts, field rations and medical supplies in one of the caves that Trevena's battalion had been using to harass the enemy during the early days of the invasion. The sudden influx of materiel gave the battered Inner Sphere troops a measure of renewed hope.

    With rejuvenated spirits, the CEF launched its attack on Whitting shortly after dawn on May 30. Under the overall command of Colonel Brubaker, the under strength Dragoons Delta Regiment, the remnants of Trevena's recon company and a "tactical-response unit" of dismounted MechWarriors and infantrymen made their way under the Cross-Divides. At the appointed time, Brubaker launched an all-out attack against Whitting's defenders and drew them off to the north, while Trevena's smaller, more mobile force slipped into the city from the south.

    The attack went off better than planned. Most of the Jade Falcon garrison pursued Brubaker's troops into the field, leaving only a handful of 'Mechs and Elementals behind to defend the town. Trevena's troops easily brushed aside this light force, swept straight up to the town hall and ransacked the Falcon headquarters. Less than forty minutes later, the raid was over. The attack yielded a wealth of information concerning the Falcons' purposes for launching their assault on Lyran worlds, as well as an important prisoner-Star Colonel Arimas Malthus, the Clan officer who planned the ambush of Waco's Rangers.

    End Game

    After the Whitting raid, the CEF debated how to carry on the fight despite their dwindling numbers, short supplies and slim chance of victory. Eventually, the CEF chose to break up into small guerrilla bands, withdraw into the mountains and harass the enemy until a relief force arrived.

    The issue became moot on June 5, when Prince Victor Davion arrived with a coalition task force under the nominal command of ComStar Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht (the coalition members rightly believed that Focht's status as victor of Tukayyid would help the force project an image of strength to the Falcons). On the recommendation of exiled Wolf Clan warrior Ragnar, the former Prince of the Rasalhague Republic, Victor deferred his opening batchall bid and invoked safcon for the Inner Sphere force in his official capacity as second-in-command. The tradition-bound Falcon leaders had little choice but to respect the request. Khan Pryde granted the arriving forces permission to ground their DropShips unmolested in the vicinity of Lietnerton, and the two leaders agreed to meet at Whitting four days later to conduct a formal batchall. Then, just before breaking off communications, Khan Pryde declared her intention to defend Coventry with everything at her disposal.

    After exchanging force reports with the Falcons per Clan tradition, Victor began to formulate his counter-bid. He realized that the coalition force and the Falcon units on Coventry were evenly matched, and both faced a long and bloody campaign if the coalition tried to wrest the planet away from the Falcons in battle. However, if the coalition force merely rescued the shattered remnants of Coventry's defenders, it would be acknowledging defeat-a defeat that would be just as devastating to the Federated Commonwealth, the Inner Sphere, and himself as if he had fought the Jade Falcons and lost. Katrina would use his withdrawal in the face of the enemy as a political tool against him. The tenuous bonds between the Federated Commonwealth and the Draconis Combine would evaporate, as anti-Davion agitators rose up against Coordinator-designate Hohiro Kurita for his seeming alliance with the Combine's age-old enemy. Capellan Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao would take the pullout as a sign of weakness, and would likely use his strengthened ties with Captain-General Thomas Marik of the Free Worlds League to recapture the neighboring St. Ives Compact. Even ComStar would not escape the firestorm. ComStar's rivals, the fanatical Word of Blake, would trumpet Focht's role in what would likely be called a failed attempt to make Victor First Lord. And even if the coalition force defeated the Falcons, the fighting would undoubtedly decimate the force and leave the Inner Sphere vulnerable to attacks from other Clans. Unable to withdraw and facing a bloody, protracted campaign whose outcome was far from assured, Victor struggled to formulate a strategy.

    Ironically, Victor had no way of knowing that Khan Marthe Pryde was facing a similar dilemma. Shortly after the arrival of the coalition task force, Khan Pryde received a message from Clan Wolf's Khan Vladimir Ward, who congratulated the Jade Falcons on their impressive drive into Lyran space and casually informed Pryde that he was moving Wolf Clan troops into position to strike at Falcon-held worlds in the Clan Occupation Zone. If Khan Pryde kept her troops on Coventry to face the Inner Sphere force, the Wolf Clan would surely defeat the small Falcon garrisons on the threatened Occupation Zone worlds and capture them-a development that would cost the Falcons prestige among their fellow Clans. If she transferred the Falcon troops from Coventry to bolster the defenses of the threatened planets, she would leave Coventry to the coalition without a fight-which would undoubtedly leave Pryde and the entire Jade Falcon Clan dezgra; disgraced among the Clans.

    Uncertainty and apprehension hung over both sides of the battle line during the following days and reached a feverish pitch when Victor entered the battle-ravaged town of Whitting to meet with the Jade Falcon Khan. Then Victor did what no Clan warrior had ever expected from an Inner Sphere barbarian-he offered the Jade Falcons hegira, the traditional right of a defeated enemy to leave a battlefield with his forces and honor intact. For a long moment, the Falcon Khan stared unseeingly into the distance; then, with supreme dignity, she accepted the offer. In that moment, the campaign for Coventry came to an end.

    Aftermath

    In accordance with Clan custom, all prisoners were exchanged following the Falcons' acceptance of hegira. The bondsmen returned by the Clan included Colonel Wayne Rogers and a number of his mercenaries presumed to have died in the ambush of Waco's Rangers. Hauptmann Trevena, the misfit commander of the equally misfit First Battalion, was offered a position with Wolf's Dragoons. However, he respectfully declined it when Prince Victor Steiner-Davion offered him the rank of Leftenant General in the Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth and the job of reviewing all future operations of the Inner Sphere's anti-Clan coalition task force.

    The acceptance of hegira gave Khan Marthe Pryde a face-saving excuse to pull her troops back within the Jade Falcon occupation zone, thereby effectively forestalling Wolf Khan Vlad Ward's threatened assault on Falcon holdings. This retreat, seemingly so out of character for such an ardent Crusader Clan, immediately set off a round of intense speculation among Inner Sphere observers as to the Jade Falcons' real motives and ultimate intent. So far, however, none of the wildly swirling rumors appears to have any substance. Whatever the Falcons are up to remains a well-kept secret.

    On Tharkad, Katrina Steiner's reaction to the bloodless victory was less than joyful. Victor had survived; indeed, he had never been at risk. Furthermore, his offer of hegira made him the peacemaker, a role that Katrina coveted for herself.

    Perhaps most important, the success of the Inner Sphere coalition on Coventry demonstrated that old enemies could be brought together as allies. The lessons of Coventry prompted Victor to lay new plans to carry the fight to the Clan enemy.

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    Operation Bulldog

    In 3058, fresh from its devastating war with longtime rival, Clan Wolf, Clan Jade Falcon invaded the Lyran Alliance in a show of strength intended to dissuade any opponents who might have hoped to take advantage of the weakened Falcon Clan. After penetrating two hundred light years into Lyran space, the invaders dug in on the world of Coventry, just short of the Tukkayid Truce line, and challenged the Inner Sphere to send its best troops against them.

    In response, the Great House of the Inner Sphere formed a joint task force - the first time military commanders from every Great House had joined to fight side by side against a common foe since the fall of the Star League. Under the command of ComStar's Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht and Prince Victor Steiner-Davion of the Federated Commonwealth, the task force offered the Falcons hegira - the opportunity to withdraw with honor - which the invaders accepted. In the wake of the bloodless victory, Steiner-Davion proposed that the Inner Sphere powers assemble a united force and take the war to the Clans.

    The leaders of the Inner Sphere greeted this proposal enthusiastically and, on 3 October 3058, the leaders of every Inner Sphere power assembled on the world of Tharkad to formally discuss the matter. During that meeting, Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht proposed that the leaders form a united front to face the Clans by creating a unified political body and a coalition military force.

    The assembled leaders agreed and took the historic step of drafting a new Star League Constitution. Sun-Tzu Liao, Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation, was appointed to the ceremonial post of First Lord. His selection symbolically raised him to equal status with the leaders of the larger and more powerful Great Houses, and served as a strong show of Inner Sphere solidarity.

    Almost immediately, the House leaders and their strategists began to devise an ambitious plan to claim the offensive in the war against the Clans. Thus was born Operation Bulldog, one of the largest military operation undertaken in the history of mankind - and perhaps the greatest victory ever achieved by the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere.

    Taking the War to the Enemy

    The Great Houses chose to launch their campaign against the Clans with an assault on Clan Smoke Jaguar, because the war between Clans Jade Falcon and Wolf had made the Jaguars the strongest Crusader Clan force in Inner Sphere space. By striking at the Jaguars, the House leaders hoped to show all the Clans that the armies of the Inner Sphere could stand united against them and match or exceed them in martial prowess.

    The Inner Sphere leaders also targeted the Jaguars because that Clan had concentrated its conquests and forces in Draconis Combine space, meaning that the coalition force could use the Combine's strict control of news media to more easily prevent news of its plans from leaking to the Clans' intelligence network. Furthermore, Combine Coordinator Theodore Kurita correctly believed that the coalition could persuade Clan Nova Cat - who held Inner Sphere planets in the same corridor occupied by Smoke Jaguar and considered Clan Smoke Jaguar its mortal enemy - to deny aid to the Jaguars and thereby help the Inner Sphere cause.

    The coalition's military planners planned to begin the offensive against the Jaguars by inserting small guerrilla units on Jaguar-held worlds to distract the Jaguars from the coalition's preparations and persuade the Clan to reassign frontline units to deal with the insurgents. The newly formed SLDF would launch all five waves of the main offensive - code named Operation Bulldog - in the space of eight months in order to keep the Smoke Jaguars off-balance. Conservative estimates put the conclusion of the first wave at five months, just before the fourth wave launch, and the conclusion of the second wave a year after the start of the invasion. A large reserve force, under the command of Morgan Hasek-Davion, would move into the Combine as the invasion began, prepared to blunt any Jaguar attempt at a counteroffensive.

    Unlikely Allies

    Initially, the other Inner Sphere leaders met with hostility Coordinator Theodore Kurita's proposal that the coalition exploit the Nova Cats' disdain for the Jaguars by enlisting the Nova Cats as allies in the offensive. Theodore managed to persuade them, however, by pointing out that Clan Nova Cat need not be made a part of the coalition force; the alliance he envisioned would require no more than a certain minimal cooperation between the Nova Cats and the Inner Sphere. He correctly guessed that the Nova Cats could be persuaded to aid the coalition by simply offering token resistance against coalition forces on worlds in the Nova Cat occupation zones, rather than weakening the Inner Sphere army with all-out fights.

    The Nova Cats responded to the Coordinator's initial overtures with an immediate level of cooperation that suggested knowledge of Theodore Kurita's plans. Nova Cat commanders voluntarily revealed the numbers and quality of their "defending" troops by issuing preemptive batchalls to DCMS forces, and in several cases bargained down their forces to the point where no actual fighting took place. This indirect aid enabled the coalition to concentrate its forces against the Jaguars and reduced the burden of administering liberated worlds after the offensive.

    Reportedly, Theodore Kurita's attempts to persuade the Nova Cats were greatly aided by the visions of a Nova Cat Khan in which a dragon severely mauled a nova cat, and in which a nova cat and a dragon together killed a smoke jaguar.

    The Dragon Roars

    In one of the largest military campaigns ever launched, the Inner Sphere coalition force rolled over Smoke Jaguar positions in just under four months. The campaign took place in two phases: an advance guerrilla campaign code-named Operation Bird Dog, and an all-out assault code-named Operation Bulldog.

    Operation Bird Dog

    On 13 May 3059, the Precentor Martial and Prince Victor Steiner-Davion agreed that all was in place for the assault. The word went out that day to launch Operation Bird Dog, the prelude to the main assault. Small, company-strength commands - mostly ad hoc provisional units formed from the large regimental commands of the Lyran Alliance, Federated Commonwealth and Draconis Combine - jumped to pirate points at nine worlds behind the Smoke Jaguar front. Armed with Clan and Combine-designed OmniMechs, these units waged guerilla campaigns against the Smoke Jaguar forces on the targeted worlds until the main invasion force reached them.

    The operation was a resounding success. The advance troops disrupted Clan operations on the targeted worlds and misled the Smoke Jaguars into thinking that the coalition offensive was limited in scope and strength. The guerrilla units also tested the Jaguars' defenses and provided accurate intelligence for the main force, and crippled the Jaguars' ability to meet a large-scale assault by raiding Jaguar stockpiles and causing Clan commanders to scatter their forces across a wide area of space. Perhaps most important, the advance units prevented Smoke Jaguar garrison troops from reinforcing their comrades on planets targeted in the first wave of the invasion.

    According to all observations, the Smoke Jaguars were neither expecting nor prepared for the full-scale assault that hit them just a few weeks after the guerrilla campaign had begun.

    Operation Bulldog

    Spearheaded by the tenacious regimental commands of the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery. the coalition force advanced rapidly into the Smoke Jaguar occupation zone, capturing world after world with amazing speed. Confounding early estimates that put Wave One at five months' duration, the first wave of Operation Bulldog lasted just more than five days. Consequently, the coalition forces launched Waves Two, Three and Four months ahead of schedule and managed to achieve its objectives in a matter of weeks. Indeed, the offensive proved so effective that Inner Sphere commanders deemed the planned Wave Five unnecessary. The coalition wrapped up the entire campaign in just under four months - far less time than computer simulations had suggested the task would require.

    Wave One: The Katana Falls

    On 20 May 3059, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion and Precentor Martial Focht dispatched messages to fifteen worlds along the Smoke Jaguar occupation zone border. Every message was different, but each contained the key words that would send more than forty regiments against their primary invasion targets. Seventeen of the regiments, which had been holding at their home-system jump points, carefully timed their jumps and arrived at the pirate points around the five targeted Smoke Jaguar wolds within the space of five hours. The assault came as such a surprise to the Jaguars that on four worlds, the new Star League Defense Forces landed uncontested.

    On the planet Hyner, the Third Jaguar Cavaliers paraded out for battle, straight into the arms of the waiting SLDF. By the time the Smoke Jaguars began staging defensive actions, they had already lost the battle. Though the Draconis Combines Second Sword of Light took moderate losses, the battle for Hyner was wrapped up in less than three days.

    The SLDF won another impressive victory on the world of Port Arthur. Initially, SLDF commanders believed the planet was defended only by a small garrison unit of Smoke Jaguar bondsmen piloting captured Inner Sphere 'mechs. The SLDF's plan was to quickly eliminate these defending forces and prepare Port Arthur as a staging area for three DCMS regiments slated to participate in the second wave of the invasion. Acting on their most recent intelligence, the SLDF sent the First Battalion of the First Davion Guards into Port Arthur as part of Operation Bird Dog, the prelude to the main assault on Smoke Jaguar-held worlds. Expecting only light resistance, the Guards were almost overwhelmed when the defending Clan bondsmen fought well above the attackers' initial expectations. Knowing that no reinforcements would arrive for almost two weeks, the Guards set up a methodical plan that would leave them in control of Port Arthur.

    The hard-fought, days-long battle was nearing its conclusion when the Guards suddenly came under fierce fire from Clan 'Mechs sporting Jaguar colors. Far from being poorly defended, Port Arthur was currently occupied by the Jaguar's 168th Garrison Cluster, which had been stationed on the planet's southern continent and which had arrived at the battle site to force the Inner Sphere invaders off-world. But, even as the 168th began to engage the Davion Guards, Inner Sphere reinforcements arrived - three DCMS regiments that vastly outnumbered the Jaguar force. The arriving regiments shattered the Clan Cluster, finishing it as an effective fighting force before nightfall. Survivors unable to flee the planet were hunted down over the next two days. Those who did escape became unwitting participants in the naval battle that followed.

    On the worlds of Kiamba and Asgard, the Smoke Jaguar commanders reacted too late to effectively deploy their aerospace forces. Faced with overwhelming odds - each frontline Cluster facing four SLDF regiments - the Jaguar units were swept aside by the SLDF coalition forces, which suffered minimal losses.

    The planet Tarazed's defenders were more alert than their luckless fellows, but made the fatal mistake of granting their attackers safcon in response to Kai Allard-Liao's batchall, recalling their aerospace forces and allowing the SLDF DropShips to land unmolested. The Seventh Jaguar Dragoons chose the Krychek Mountains as the place of battle. Unfortunately, the Dragoons did not comprehend the size of the forces arrayed against them, and so their chosen site proved disastrous. As the Seventh moved through a network of canyons, the SLDF regiments cut them off and decimated them. The battle, and with it the first wave of Operation Bulldog, ended after just five days.

    The SLDF, bringing an overwhelming force against an unprepared enemy, found the resulting fight as swift and deadly as a well-placed blow from a katana. In less than one week, the SLDF forces had achieved objectives that their tacticians had predicted would take five months to attain. The Jaguars had their victories, to be sure, but these were too minor to reverse the momentum of the Inner Sphere's assault. And the astounding SLDF victory in the first wave allowed Victor Steiner-Davion to begin allocating supplies for the third wave early, moving up the entire assault timetable by months.

    The SLDF also targeted nine Nova Cat worlds during the first wave, each to be taken by a DCMS regiment backed up by one or two supporting regiments. None of these supporting units needed to land, however, as the Nova Cats held to their preemptive batchalls. True to their agreement with the Inner Sphere coalition, they effectively surrendered the worlds to the DCMS units in order to aid the SLDF effort against the Cats' longtime rival and enemy.

    On the worlds of Kanowit and Avon, actual battles were fought to preserve honor on both sides. These two worlds, sitting on the leading edge of Clan conquests in Inner Sphere space, demanded a show of serious contention. But on worlds farther from the front lines, the Nova Cats demanded less in the way of combat. Indeed, on Sawyer, the farthest away world targeted in the first wave, the Third Night Stalkers' wing commander won the planet by defeating the Nova Cat garrison commander in a aerospace fighter simulator.

    By the end of the first wave the Jaguars had lost every border world they possessed save for Avon, which was close enough to Luthien, with its massive defenses, that the SLDF considered it an unlikely staging area for a Smoke Jaguar counterattack. The Nova Cat worlds filled in the rest of the gaps, creating an unbroken line of SLDF-controlled worlds through which the Smoke Jaguars would have to pass to reach Combine worlds for a counterattack. The difficulty of defeating such overwhelming opposition while fighting an invasion force delayed the Smoke Jaguars counter attack until just before the third invasion wave.

    Wave Two: Driving Forward

    Despite the phenomenal success of the first invasion wave, the second wave commenced only a few days ahead of schedule on 26 June 3059. Troop movements and supply routes for the various waves had been set months before the assault began, and Prince Victor Steiner-Davion felt that changing them at the last moment might severely disrupt the entire assault. However, he added three more targeted worlds to the second wave, bringing the total to eleven Jaguar-held worlds. By targeting more than twice the number of worlds taken in the first wave, Prince Victor hoped to bring further shock and demoralize the new SLDF's Clan opponents.

    The planets of Turtle Bay and Almunge stood undefended, and so fell to the SLDF without any loss of lives or materiel. In a gesture he hoped would in some small way atone for their loss, Victor Steiner-Davion assigned the Legions of Vega to retake Turtle Bay, the unit that had lost the world to the Jaguars nearly ten years earlier. the Eleventh, Sixteenth and elements of the Second Legion all took part in the planet's liberation.

    The Nova Cat halves of Avon and Caripare had been taken during the first wave, and now SLDF forces and Nova Cat Clusters used the Nova Cat-controlled areas as staging bases from which to hit Jaguar forces on those worlds. Faced with apparent collaboration between the Nova Cats and the Inner Sphere, the Smoke Jaguar commanders did not fight to the death, but instead pulled back to worlds deeper in the Smoke Jaguar occupation zone.

    Similarly, on Byesville and Hanover, Smoke Jaguar commanders managed to salvage at least part of their commands and fell back to nearby worlds not currently under attack. The Byesville garrison Cluster was able to bring itself nearly back to full strength. The Hanover forces were less lucky. Mauled by an impressive array of SLDF regiments, they barely escaped with two Trinaries and meager Elemental and aerospace support.

    No Smoke Jaguar warriors escaped the worlds of Yamarovka, Virentofta, Nykvarn or Labrea The fighting on the first two worlds - especially Yamarovka - were fierce and costly. On that world, Smoke Jaguars fought to the last warrior in defense of vital facilities. The fighting on Labrea was no less fierce, but only involved six warriors, as Phelan Kell's exiled Clan Wolf forces used traditional Clan combat tactics to capture an entire front-line Cluster.

    Though the world of Luzerne boasted few resources and virtually no military industry, the world became the site of one of the stiffest challenges the SLDF faced during the entire assault. A disastrous approach resulted in a WarShip battle, only half the assault force made it to the planet's surface. Expecting to meet a single garrison Cluster, the SLDF force found itself facing a newly formed front-line Cluster as well. The Jaguars scattered the SLDF units across the face of the planet, and only two battalions managed to form any kind of cohesive force to face the Jaguars. Within hours it seemed Luzerne would become the final graveyard for two good regiments.

    As the battles raged for all the Jaguar worlds, Clan Nova Cat continued to offer token fights than enable the DCMS to retake Nova Cat worlds and claim Nova Cat warriors as bondsmen. Actual 'mech combat between the DCMS and Nova Cat forces took place only on the world of Mualang. On the other five targeted Nova Cat worlds, DCMS forces prevailed with personal combat or token challenges. On the world of Bjarred, the confrontation was settled with a single coin toss. Tai-Sa Katherine Oltion allowed Star Colonel Olivia Drummond to make the call, and was apparently struck speechless when the Star Colonel called out,"Edge." Before leaving the Nova Cats as the new DCMS garrison on Bjarred, Oltion had the opportunity to ask Star Colonel Drummond about her choice. Drummond's reply was concise and eloquent. "Imagine the victory," she said, "if I had won."

    By 7 July 3059, the Draconis Combine had reclaimed all of the targeted worlds lost to Clan Nova Cat, and organized hostilities had ceased on all targeted Smoke Jaguar worlds save for Luzerne. On Luzerne, the beleaguered SLDF forces had barricaded themselves into defensible positions, from which they engaged in minor skirmishes with their Jaguar opponents. This pattern would remain intact until the start of the invasion's third wave.

    Smoke Jaguar Counterattack

    Victor Steiner-Davion and Anastasius Focht had expected and planned for a Smoke Jaguar counteroffensive - but in retaliation for the first wave, not in anticipation of the third.

    On July 27, as the initial reports of the Jaguar attacks first passed through the HPG network to the planet Wolcott, Prince Victor grew concerned that this unexpected offensive indicated a stronger Smoke Jaguar presence than the resistance encountered during the first two waves had suggested. ComStar's intelligence network and Khan Phelan Kell's analysis of the situation quickly laid those concerns to rest. The SLDF commanders then began examining the counterattack, trying to determine how it could affect the imminent third invasion wave and what it would take to meet the new threat.

    They concluded that the Smoke Jaguar offensive was a weak attempt to match the success of the first SLDF assault. The Clan had not committed nearly enough forces to achieve any lasting victory, and even if the Jaguar forces successfully captured the targeted SLDF supply bases, the third invasion wave could proceed as planned because the third wave forces had already been fully supplied. At worst, a successful Jaguar counterattack could push back the fourth wave a few months. But unless the Smoke Jaguars brought in heavy reinforcements, the garrison forces on all five targeted Combine worlds could handily defeat the attacking Jaguars or be easily reinforced from nearby planets. In the end, these SLDF predictions proved accurate.

    The Smoke Jaguar's Delta Galaxy Command led the newly formed Third Assault Cluster in a desperate bid to capture the important world of Pesht. The Jaguars' chances of victory were slim from the start, however, and Jaguar aerospace assets abandoned the Clan's ground forces soon after their combat drop. Encountering civilian resistance, the Jaguars began scorched-earth tactics, savaging the world as they fought a running battle with the SLDF forces that lasted several days.

    From intercepted 'Mech comm traffic, SLDF analysts later determined that the assault Cluster had expected to meet the Seventh Sword of Light, Ryuken-san, and the First Kell Hounds, but not the Second Wolf Legion that smashed in from their flank to annihilate the Galaxy Command Trinary. Left to their own devices, the warriors of the Third Assault Cluster threw themselves at the Kell Hounds, thinking the mercenaries would break. Instead, the Hounds became the anvil on which the Seventh Sword and Ryuken shattered the Clan force. Within a few days, the SLDF forces had hunted down the last remaining Jaguar Stars.

    On McAlister, the Smoke Jaguars managed to damage several SLDF supply bases. In fact, the Jaguar garrison Cluster caused so much damage in so short a time that Victor Steiner-Davion reminded the SLDF forces not to become complacent no matter how well the invasion was going. Eventually, however, the Jaguar troops succumbed to an overwhelming SLDF presence.

    The battles for the worlds of Matamoras and Meinacos proceeded similarly. On both planets, front-line Jaguar Clusters struck with enormous force, but the Inner Sphere defenders managed to hold on until reinforcements from nearby worlds arrived. On Matamoras, civilians valiantly helped the two garrison regiments thwart the Nineteenth Striker Cluster's offensive. Frustrated at every turn by effective civilian countermeasures, the Nineteenth was forced to group its units together for protection. Later, the Ryuken-yon regiment staged a night-time combat drop into the Jaguar-controlled area and managed to break the Jaguars' back in a coordinated offensive movement with Matamoras's two garrison regiments.

    The SLDF got luckier on the world of Lonaconing. With no reinforcements readily available, Victor Steiner-Davion expected the defending SLDF units to take heavy losses. But the Clan commander opted to use feints and diversionary maneuvers rather than a direct assault against the planet's defenders. This tactical miscalculation enabled Lonaconing's SLDF garrison troops to severely damage several Jaguar targets while avoiding large-scale engagements with the enemy.

    Finally, on 13 August 3059, the Jaguar commanders abandoned their counterattack and recalled their forces. Nearly 99 percent of the Lonaconing attack force managed to withdraw from battle, but only half the Meinacos and a handful of Jaguar units on Matamoras managed to escape. Though the Jaguars preserved most of their aerospace assets, recovered many damaged OmniMechs and hit a few SLDF supply bases, the counteroffensive was ultimately too little, too late.

    Wave Three: Bringing Down the Jaguar

    Victor Steiner-Davion and Anastasius Focht had hoped to gain the element of surprise with eight assaults planned during the Smoke Jaguar counterattack in the summer of 3059. However, because some Smoke Jaguar commanders put little faith in the feasibility of the Jaguar counterassault, they reserved their strength for fighting further battles with the SLDF and so were well prepared for the first time since the beginning of the invasion. Much of the credit for this readiness must go to Alpha Galaxy Commander Brendon Corbett, who was named in-theater commander after the SLDF drove Beta Galaxy Command off Avon; many other Jaguar commander who might have been considered for the position had been killed or irredeemably disgraced in the previous invasion waves.

    The first evidence of the Jaguar's new battle readiness appeared when then Ryuken-roku encountered heavy resistance at Luzerne. As reinforcements arrived, however, the battle quickly shifted in favor of the SLDF. Still, the Smoke Jaguars fought with determination and refused to relinquish the world. The battle for Luzerne officially ended on August 8, only a few days before the Clan aborted its counteroffensive.

    The Jaguars' Alpha Galaxy Command and the Ninth Jaguar Cavaliers made a similar showing on the planet Marshdale. The Galaxy Command Trinary, operating as an elite tactical strike force, severely damaged the Fusiliers of the Oriente and managed to decimate a full company of the Ryuken-ni. But the Ninth Cavaliers could not stand up to the main force of the assault and on August 12 the Clan unit began to collapse under relentless pressure of the Ryuken-ni and the Ninth Com Guard Division.

    The Smoke Jaguar forces on Bangor and Schuyler also put up strong defenses, but never stood a chance against the SLDF regiments arrayed against them. With Prince Victor Steiner-Davion leading his "Dream Team" against Schuyler, Bangor was forced to contend with the Second Dieron, First Wolf Legion and the Capellan House Daidachi.

    The remnants of Beta Galaxy Command Trinary and the First Jaguar Guards ended up trapped on Outer Volta, having sent their ships to support the 267th Battle Clusters assault on Meinacos. Beset by the Izanagi Warriors and the Eighth Sword of Light, supported by the Com Guard Thirty-Ninth Division, the Clan forces were crushed in five days.

    The Smoke Jaguars offered only token resistance on the worlds of Rockland, Coudoux, Garstedt and Schwartz. On-planet SLDF commanders all expected a massive counterattack that never came.

    No one foresaw how the third wave - and the main thrust of the SLDF assault against the Clan occupation zone - would end. The Smoke Jaguars fought defensive battles for the most part, using liberal rules of engagement and staging several delaying actions. They seemed to be waiting for something, but exactly what remains unclear. In hindsight, some analysts believe Galaxy Commander Corbett wished to test the strength of the new SLDF and Jaguar defensive strategies during the third assault wave.

    In any case, Smoke Jaguar leaders effectively abandoned the Inner Sphere on August 13, ordering their forces to evacuate the occupation zone and return to Clan space aboard any available ship. No one knows at this time whether the recall was ordered by Khan Lincoln Osis or Galaxy Commander Corbett.

    This decision enabled more than half of the Clan's forces stationed on third-wave target worlds, was well as counterassault forces, to escape intact, along with at complete commands from at least two garrisoned worlds left undisturbed by battle.

    Wave Four: Clean-up

    With the Smoke Jaguars in flight, Victor Steiner-Davion and Anastasius Focht realized that the main assault was over and the Inner Sphere had won a resounding victory. Always wary of being overconfident, however, Prince Victory kept the SLDF forces battle-ready while planning a final sweep to remove all traces of the Smoke Jaguars military forces from the Inner Sphere. As Victor led several units into the Periphery to follow the fleeing Smoke Jaguars, Phelan Kell command the final few battles that took place in the Draconis Combine.

    On the worlds of Savinsville and Staplefield, garrison Clusters of Kappa Galaxy fought long enough to satisfy their honor. With no hope of escape, the garrison Cluster commanders finally negotiated Trials of Possession with their SLDF counterparts. The bidding was similar to the Nova Cat preemptive batchalls fought earlier in the invasion; the Smoke Jaguars knew they would lose and so planned to save face before succumbing. On Savinsville, the Jaguar forces were officially captured by the Fourth Wolf Guards Assault Cluster, while on Staplefield the First Amphigean Light Assault Group claimed the defeated forces.

    The garrison Cluster left behind to defend Kabah held out much longer before agreeing to Trials of Possession. Staging several delaying actions, the garrison troops hoped to hold out until ships returned from Matamoras to pull them off-world. Only when the Twenty-second Dieron finally convinced the Cluster commander that no rescue was forthcoming did the Cluster initiate Trials of Possession. The challenges were split almost evenly between the Dieron Regulars and the supporting Nova Cat Cluster.

    On Jeronimo and Albiero, however, the Smoke Jaguars fought to the death. The SLDF forces on each planet claimed some salvage and a few prisoners, but little else. Only the Capellan Confederation's House Daidachi warriors managed to claim any worthwhile assets, capturing a Jaguar storage depot full of supplies and technicians. Though all the on-planet SLDF forces split the supplies between them per regulations, the technician prisoners elected to become bondsmen to Daidachi.

    When the invasion's fourth wave officially wrapped up on 18 September 3059, every Smoke Jaguar world in the former occupation world was pacified by an SLDF garrison. All Nova Cat-occupied worlds were under SLDF administration, but out of respect for their unlikely ally, the SLDF posted military forces on very few of those planets. The exceptions were worlds along the Ghost Bear occupation zone border, where hostilities were considered likely.

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