At the direct request of the Karthan Satrap, Tanit Koenix, the Fire Hawks chapter agreed to investigate the disappearance of Karthan shipping in the areas to the galactic south of the Golgothan wastes which border the northern reaches of the Maelstrom.
The fleet-based chapter had used the vast orbital dockyards of the Karthan capital world Sidon Ultra for resupply. They had been invited by the Karthan’s to enact judgement on wayward planets and minor xenos threats within the sector, and it was on this relationship that the Karthans relied on a favorable hearing. The volatile nature of the Fire Hawks was also widely known, and is likely that this also figured into the Karthan planning in making her request them directly.
The Fire Hawks began conducting search and destroy operaitons in the Gologothan Wastes, and the chapter agreed to dispatch several ships into the northern Maelstrom. One vessel, the Red Harbringer, entered the Endymion Cluster, which contains human colonies inhabited for many millenia, and which at this time had long fallen under the stewardship of the Mantis Warriors chapter.
The Harbringer was intercepted and surrounded in the Galen system by Mantic strike craft. Refusing to stand down, the Mantis Warriors opened fire on the Fire Hawk vessel, crippling it.
Thus the full-scale conflict between the Space Marine chapters that was to follow ignited with this single act. The Mantis Warriors boarded the Harbringer, and though the fighting was fierce and no Hawk willingly surrendered, several were captured while the rest killed. Their struggles bought time for an Astropathic message to be dispatched to their chapter… warning of their fate and who they fought.
Upon learning of the taking of the Harbringer, the Fire Hawks chapter flew into a rage and withdrew from their operations already under way. The entire chapter fleet of the Fire Hawks was ordered to make best speed under warp for the Maelstrom Zone.
Things escalated further when a Fire Hawks battle group was met by both Mantis Warriors and Astral Claws warships. After a tense standoff during which the captives were returned and both sides traded threats, the Fire Hawks withdrew to await the arrival of their full force, led by the massive flagship the Raptorus Rex, a massive pre imperial star-fortress of incredible power.
Upon arriving at Sagan, and aided by the Karthan Fleet, the Fire Hawks launch a series of probing attacks and recon missions towards the Badab Sector and the Endymion Cluster, but in doing so do little other than to stir Huron and his allies.
The Tyrant and his allies had long been preparing for this moment and were battle-hardened as well as intimately familiar with the territory that was being fought over. The Mantis Warriors proved all but impossible to pin down, their ships appearing and disappearing in the asteroid shoals and nebulae fields of the Endymion Cluster at will, while any force that targeted Badab found an impenetrable array of defences set against them.
While the Fire Hawks were busy fighting at the edge of the Endymion Cluster, attacking civillian targets and burning crops and agri-worlds to try and bait the Mantis Warriors into battle, the Astral Claws and Lamenter chapters descended upon the Sagan System. The administratum controlled Sagan system with its attendant fleet and Astropathic relay were regarded as the gateway to the Maelstrom Zone.
They were also not prepared for this direct assault. Sagan fell in days as all of its defenses were circumvented. The Fire Hawks and the Karthan forces were stranded on operations within the Maelstrom and were cut off from supply.
Mauled, the Fire Hawks withdrew from the Iblis system. It did not take long for the remainder of the Karthan forces to slowly fall to the Tyrant’s forces. One by one, other space marine chapters came to Huron’s call, and little by little the Fire Hawks and the Karthans lost system by system.
For now, six weeks before the real war began – the Maelstrom Zone belonged fully to Lugft Huron.