Though the Azure Blades know when to take advantage of the shadows and when to stand out and fight in the light, some of the greatest trials the chapter had ever faced were against those who had embraced the darkness completely.
The world of Hardelis had seceded from the Imperium a few decades into the fifth century of the 41st Millenium. As a hub for trade and manufacturing in its subsector, the loss of the world could hardly be ignored by the Administratum, and as such it was vital to take it back. A task force composed of several regiments of the Imperial Guard, such as the Philippan 17th, the Grenubian Fusiliers, Karaban Mechanized, was assembled as quickly as the bureaucratic inertia of the Administratum allowed. Requests were sent to the leaders of nearby Astartes Chapters for aid, but no reply was forthcoming by the time the task force set out from its mustering point on the fortress world of Kurdiz.
In the year since the Hardelis Campaign had officially begun the Imperial forces had managed to reclaim more than half of the planet’s industrial centers from the recidivists, and while it was bogged down in trying to dislodge the rebels in several key cities strategic estimates indicate that Hardelis would be once more under Imperial control in less than a decade, some worrying events had began to make themselves apparent. Supply columns far from the front lines were being ambushed by unknown attackers, and in many cases convoys simply vanished without a trace. When a survivor of one of these attacks reported the presence of what seemed to be Astartes amongst the ambushers these worries turned into genuine alarm. The supreme commander of the Imperial Guard on-planet, War Marshall Linus Lopez, once more sent out a request for aid to any loyalist Astartes Chapters in the area, with an addendum that there were Traitor Astartes threatening to disrupt the campaign.
More than a month went without a reply. In that time the Imperial offensive had nearly ground to a halt as the ambushes perpetrated by the enemy Space Marines–now positively identified as elements of the renegade Night Stalkers Chapter–escalated, even as more and more soldiers had to be pulled from the front lines in order to defend the vital supply convoys. Things were turning for the worst, but as the task force’s command seriously begun to consider requesting for more regiments to be sent, it received an unexpected and encrypted communique. It was short and terse, but gave the war marshall some reason to hope.
As for the communique, its contents were as follows:
“The Azure Blades have come. Engaging renegades. Proceed with campaign as normal.”
The strike force, based in the Strike Cruiser Cynod’s Saber and under the command of Brother-Captain Caldo Ramirez of the 2nd Company, wasted no time in prosecuting its hunt for the traitors who were disrupting the reclamation of the world. Squads of scouts and Veterans of the 1st Company were discretely dropped behind contested territory, while the bulk of the Azure Blades forces deployed in the ruins of a manufactorium complex not far from the front lines. There they waited for the reports of the strike force’s advanced squads, who had been tasked to find all traces of their Renegade brethren, and track the traitors back to their stronghold.
They didn’t have to wait long. A week later scouts reported in that they had found where the Renegades were dug in: the twin cities of Umbra and Galefor, ruined and thought abandoned since the start of the campaign. Brother-Captain Ramirez quickly mobilized his battle-brothers, and descended upon the ruined cities. In what would become known in the Chapter’s records as the War in the Shadows, the marines of the Azure Blades proceeded to root out and destroy their quarry. A deadly cat-and-mouse game erupted between Loyalist and Renegade, as each tried to get the better of the other in countless silent alleyways. Through guile and cunning the Brother-Captain’s forces drove the Night Stalkers back, until the Azure Blades finally forced the renegades into a full retreat after their leader was ambushed and slain by a squad of veterans.
Although the Azure Blades had lost more than fifty of its battle-brothers during the protracted operation, it was judged a complete success. As it retrieved its wounded and its fallen, the strike force left the hive world as quietly as it had arrived, with one final message to War Marshall Lopez: