Bite-sized Backstory 34: The Fortuna Plummet (Destiny)
The Hildian Campaign
There’s one segment of the Reef Wars we just don’t know a whole lot about. During the long siege of Pallas occurred what was a perhaps an almost equally long search for Skolas called The Hildian Campaign. Armada Paladins Abra Zire and Kamala Rior were sent into the Hildian asteroid field to try and find Skolas and his chief strategist Beltrik, the Veiled, but this campaign was largely a failure. While there may have been small scrapes and skirmishes, for the most part the Reef’s forces came up empty in their search.
The Hildians are a dense group of over 1,000 asteroids and smaller objects that share an odd orbital arrangement with Jupiter. They orbit the sun a little slower than Jupiter so at times they are on opposite sides of the solar system as the gas giant while at other times they come close to approaching it. At their closest point, however, the Hildians never quite reach Jupiter’s orbit and soon they are back on their way away from Jupiter again. This animation from Wikipedia shows the orbits pretty well:
The brief description of the Hildian Seeker Jumpship says:
Nimble starfighters designed by the Reef to navigate dense asteroid fields.
So we know the Reef’s forces considered the Hildians a dense, trickle place to maneuver through. One would think that the Reef’s pilots would be experts with flying through tight space, what with the Reef’s confusing layout and all, so this must have been quite difficult indeed. It’s no wonder they weren’t able to find Skolas or Beltrik, in that case!
While the Reef’s forces failed to find their targets during the Hildian Campaign, it can’t really be said that the campaign was a total failure. Two things happened there that would become decisive towards the end of the Reef Wars.
First, Paladin Abra Zire had time to work out her anger over the Battle of False Tidings. We don’t have any confirmation of what this battle was, but my guess is it is a another name for the razing of Amethyst and the battle against Parixas that Paladin Zire was tricked into. The months or years of searching for Skolas among the Hildian asteroids are said to have cooled Zire’s anger into an icy resolve.
Second, Petra Venj, whose family had been killed when the Wolves attacked Amethyst, seems to have first cut her teeth as a Corsair serving under Paladin Zire during the Hildian Campaign. We’ll be talking about Petra a lot both now and in the future.
After the Reef defeated Pirsis and freed Pallas from its long siege, Skolas’ forces were likely starting to run thin. Likewise, hiding out in the Hildians for what could have been multiple years seems to have depleted the supplies of his chief strategist Beltrik, the Veiled.
Beltrik moves his forces out of the dense Hildians and forms a defensive screen around the large, 225km wide asteroid 19 Fortuna. There, he moves his ships one at a time into a resupply position where they mine ether while the other ships hold their positions in a formation that we are lead to believe made them fairly impervious to attack. By this point it seems pretty clear that the Wolves have a pretty large advantage in numbers and firepower over the Reef, and the Reef has only won battles because of things things like the Queen’s Harbingers or luring the Wolves into bad positions.
Unfortunately for Beltrik, his opponent was Paladin Zire. This time, she refused to be led into any sort of trap, and instead devised a way to break through Beltrik’s defensive deployment. After the earlier success of luring Drevis’ Ketch into the path of 324 Bamberga, the Reef began looking for a way to repeat that smashing success, and at some point during the long siege of Pallas they developed Carybdis, a gravity weapon capable of pushing asteroids off course.
After apparently proving herself during the Hildian Campaign, Petra Venj was given command of a significant portion of Paladin Zire’s fleet and ordered to harass Beltrik’s entrenched position in an effort to make it look like she was attacking without actually suffering the massive losses that a true attack against that kind of defensive positioning would entail. Petra’s main goal was to serve as a distraction while Paladin Zire stealthily moved the remainder of her forces to the much smaller 21km wide asteroid 687 Tinette. You can see the actual orders sent by Paladin Zire in Ghost Fragment: The Reef 3
It turns out that Tinette was apparently on a natural close approach with Fortuna at the time, so Beltrik’s forces were probably expecting it to slide on by as they continued their resupply operations. What they didn’t expect was Abra Zire’s forces to use their new Carybdis weapon to alter Tinette’s orbit, causing it to crash through their defensive screen and directly into Fortuna. The massive collision that resulted shattered both asteroids and caused massive damage to Beltrik’s fleet. Beltrik was easily captured in the ensuing confusion, and for the first time in the Reef Wars, Skolas was deprived of his brilliant strategist. This entire battle, as well as the remains of the two asteroids would soon become known as the Fortuna Plummet.
Not long after this, we’re told that Prince Uldren’s Crows, which seem to be his mysterious force of pilots and spies, receive a message from an Eliksni named Variks who claims to be from the House of Judgment. The contents of this message would lead to the final battle of the Reef Wars and the defeat of Skolas and the House of Wolves…
…but there’s a lot to unpack there, so we’ll look at it next time. :)
Previous: 33: The Long Siege of Pallas
Next: 35: Betrayal at Cybele
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