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Heavy Weapon Horse

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Location  Imperium of Man

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Heavy Weapon Horse

In the grim darkness of the far future, ignorance informs imagination.

Behold! The Imperium of Man. The defender of our species. An empire of a million worlds and countless voidholms, the Imperium of Holy Terra and Mars stretches thin across the galaxy. Besieged by aliens and monsters, it is beset from within by rebels and worse. For ten thousand years has this rotting edifice of human limitations endured, in the name of a silent Emperor.

For all the resilience and rebounding might of the beleaguered Imperium, the true state of human affairs in the Age of Imperium is not to be sought amid heroics and brilliant deeds, nor among miracles and lives of bottomless faith. Nay, instead let us brush aside the propaganda and the stories Imperials tell themselves, to look instead with open eyes on what the Imperium is, and what it can never become.

The Age of Imperium for humanity is characterized first and foremost by wasted potential. The golden pinnacles of cunning knowledge and plenty that was the Dark Age of Technology came crashing down in a calamity that nigh on wiped the human species from the stars. Its scattered remnants for the large part persisted as utter savages among the ruins, in the shape of cannibal tribes ferociously raiding each other and looting the scraps left over from the failed promises of better times. Man slew man, and woman harrowed woman, and child strangled child during the fathomless desperation of Old Night. And all was fell.

The Imperium began as a promise of rebirth, an iron fist crushing all opposition to both establish cruel unity and grasp for a better future. Yet the renaissance brought about by the Emperor of Man and His all-conquering Legions was but a gasp of a few centuries. Dazzling were their conquests, and impressive was their restoration of human fortunes across the Milky Way galaxy. Yet for all the shining works, recovered knowledge and real hope of the early Imperium, this ruthless colossus of war and subjugation sowed the seeds of human doom. Granted, the gargantuan civil war of the Horus Heresy destroyed much precious tech-lore and scarred the Imperium forever, yet even the fratricidal rage and maniac killing during the Horus Heresy paled in comparison to the smaller wars of greater consequence that the infighting Legions had already waged during the Great Crusade.

For the early Imperium did not only bring feral survivors and scavengers into the Terran fold, but it did also brook no competition. In the long run, the worst crimes of the Great Crusade was the brutal annihilation of all alternative sources of human regrowth, gathering all future paths for humanity across the stars to converge on the one road leading from Terra unto damnation. Such advanced human civilizations as the Interex, the Olamic Quietude, the Diasporex and the Auretian Technocracy were all stamped out by His Legionnaires. The seeds of these interstellar cultures were never allowed to grow and spread and shape the fate of mankind across the galaxy in competing power blocs. Thus was the destiny of all humanity bound to that of resurgent Terra by strangling her daughters in the cradle.

The immense physical might and quantity of forces available to the High Lords of Holy Terra should not be allowed to mislead us from the real state of affairs of mankind, for the truth of the matter is that the children of Old Earth during the Age of Imperium has sunk into an irreversible death spiral, where quests for knowledge mean only digging up the technological fossils of brighter ancestors, and never the toil and ingenuity of innovation and discovery. In this morass of ever-worsening demechanization, suffocating bureaucracy, frothing fanaticism and schreeching inefficiency, dysfunctionality is king, and the worsening of all mankind is his command.

Here, in a fortified madhouse straddling the stars, the last strong guardian of humanity is also its insane captor and hostage-taker. Here, in a demented cosmic realm worshipping human primacy, human power in the Milky Way galaxy has undergone a baleful decline through fivehundred generations of wasted development on a million worlds and innumerable voidholms, all under the aegis of the Adeptus Terra. Here, in the monstrous tyranny and bane of innovation and scientific rediscovery known as the Imperium of Man, will you be able to find every self-deprecating absurdity imaginable to mortals, as the fundamental mood of the human species has soured to a dull bitterness spiked with hatred, even as its faculties has boiled over in a fever pitch of savage zealotry and self-righteous bloodletting.

And so blessed machines designed by clever ancients will fail, and eventually no one will remain who can repair or build the lost machines anew. Where machines fail, flesh and will must pick up the slack. Where machines break down, men and beasts must heave and pull for all that they are worth. The Imperium can never become a pinnacle of human achievement and genius invention in the fields of science and technology, for it has shunned that which makes man truly great in the world, clinging instead to parochial superstition and the wreckage of bygone makers.

One example of this demechanization and reliance on throwing bodies on a problem can be glimpsed on the planet of Astro-Ungaria, where a peculiar solution to a lack of mobile heavy firepower has seen parody become reality, in the form of heavy weapon horse teams.

Let us glance on Astro-Ungaria, a civilized human world of majestic rivers, great mountain ranges and an endless tide of squabbling tribes and sects. Predominantly of a Catholodox persuasion within the Cult Imperialis, this world of misery and splendour is ruled by the mediocre potentate titled the Duarch, a Planetary Governor of an ancient dynasty who reigns over the Imperial and Royal domains of Astro-Ungaria for the sake of the dear homeworld and Holy Terra alike. The Duarchy is characterized by internal strife held together by ancestral loyalty to the ruling house, and faith in His Divine Majesty. All of the Astro-Ungarian military is chronically underfunded, and has gained a reputation for widespread incompetence, constant shortages, stulted leadership and screeching dysfunctionality, all of which is barely held together by a mass of manpower, solid infantry marksmanship and excellent artillery.

The aristocratic officers of the Astro-Ungarian military are renowned for their splendid banquets and parties, with fine chocolates and waltzes accompanying wonderful dresses and uniforms seen gliding over polished dance floors. Indeed, a great many Astro-Ungarian officers tend to act like characters out of operettas, putting great stock in their lineage and standing among peers as well as in their physical appearance and pleasant conduct at social events, while paying less attention to the operational arts of militaria. Do you suppose that the Astro-Ungarians will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? A sinspeech whisper joke that refuse to die continues to claim that Astro-Ungarian colonels will be more concerned with winning the next card game than the next battle on the frontline. Likewise, other banned jokes remark upon the ability of officers to always acquire fine liquour, no matter the dire straits of shortage or encirclement by the foe. The officer's mess cannot be allowed to disgrace the honour of the homeworld, even when Astro-Ungarian soldiers have to dig up old mass graves to scavenge uniforms off the rotting corpses of their fallen comrades.

The logistical malperformance and organizational chaos of most Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Imperial Guard tend to be matched by their wasteful and rigid approach to war, carried aloft at bayonet point by an unbreakably optimistic spirit, faith in the offensive and the dreams of grand sweeping battle plans hatched by a noble general staff that does not possess the equipment and trained forces necessary to carry out their overly ambitious visions of glorious offensives. Indeed, the Astro-Ungarian Planetary Defence Force and Imperial Guard could very well have been strong armies, if given sufficient funding and vastly increased mechanized forces. Instead, the haphazard force structure of Astro-Ungarian units tend to revolve around massed infantry, a love of cavalry and a good artillery corps which often end up carrying the rest of the Astro-Ungarian army on its back.

The better trained soldiers of the Death Korps of Krieg have repeatedly concluded that fighting alongside Astro-Ungaria is akin to being chained to a corpse. It is an overly harsh judgement, but nevertheless an exaggeration built upon truth. The corruption, ineptitude and lacklustre performance of Astro-Ungarian regiments within the Astra Militarum has been repeatedly noted by the Departmento Munitorum, yet ultimately Astro-Ungaria provides plenty of loyal and valiant manpower, while the shoddy combat record of its Imperial Guard forces is nothing out of the ordinary compared to a majority of Imperial worlds and voidholms, once the facade of Imperial invincibility is seen for what it is. And so the farce that is Astro-Ungaria at war continues to waltz on, to the tune of great bombardment.

The underfunded nature of Astro-Ungaria's soldiery means that they will be fine for parades, with military orchestras of the highest calibre, yet their more sophisticated equipment will always be sorely lacking. One example of an attempted solution can be seen in the crude arrangement known as the heavy weapon horse teams, which combines a love of horses with an undying military optimism ill suited for the reality of advanced warfare.

The phenomenon of heavy weapon horse is not just that of one or more pack-horses carrying a disassembled piece of heavy weaponry. It is instead a seemingly logical evolution of pack horses carrying around heavy weapons, which grants mobility in the field and makes away with the trouble of unloading and assembling the heavy weapon by instead attaching it fully assembled to the horse, to be fired virtually on the move if so desired. The use of heavy weapon horse teams originated in cavalry heavy stubber units after the Age of Apostasy in order to make up for a lack of light vehicles, but has long since spread to a fair number of infantry and dragoon regiments.

There is something to be said for horses, no matter their innumerable drawbacks compared to machines. The horse is an organic walker adapted for rough terrain. Such equine transport requires no fuel, and in lush landscapes the beasts of burden may prove self-feeding. Even so, the tradition of using horses as hooved weapon platforms amounts to a maladaptation, even a blunder, yet such crude fixes through rudimentary means are only growing more common across His astral dominion.

The horses used for carrying heavy weapons will usually be immensely strong Ungarian draft horses, descended from small breeds favoured by feral steppe nomads during the Age of Strife. The Ungarian draft horse is not a gorgeous and agile Viepizzaner breed by any means, but a stout workhorse favoured by agri-serfs and robotniks in mountainous regions. No matter the continent and region from which they hail, all Astro-Ungarians take pride in their horses, and their regiment tend to sport a great number of horses for logistic duties.

Heavy weapon horse teams will invariably sport spare horses to allow for shifts of rest by switching over the heavy weapons between horses, and likewise there will be pack-horses to carry ammunition and spare parts. A lack of horses for spares and ammunition transport will result in officers arranging for conscripts and press-ganged menial civilian thralls to pick up the burden usually shouldered by strong horses, thus producing the sight of flocks of human porters lugging around heavy weapons adapted for equines to carry.

Hard to hide, heavy weapon horses are trained to lie down on command, and they are likewise drilled to walk into a hail of fire when prodded. It is rarely worthwhile to armour the horses, given the heavy loads that they already carry, and thus the fine beasts will be completely exposed to all the lethal dangers of the battlefield. Heavy weapon horses are trained to be accustomed to the noise of battle, and they often turn deaf from the din, and sometimes they turn more or less blind by flashes from energy weapons. Crafty crew may occasionally fashion blinders and dampeners for the eyes and ears of their horses, yet such kit for creature comfort is not regulation standard within the Guard.

Some Astro-Ungarian units sport strange, alien mounts and draft animals, all of which are used alongside horses for heavy weapon carrying duties. Aside from horses, other Terran-derived beasts of burden include mules and camels.

Many Astro-Ungarian regiments have seen their Sentinel scout units replaced by unwieldy heavy weapon horse, in a dysfunctional cutback which makes sense on paper. After all, both cavalry and Sentinel walkers are used as scouts since horses are fast, right? And the Sentinel is armed with a heavy weapon, correct? Thus, a horse with a heavy weapon equals the function of a Sentinel in an Imperial Guard order of battle, but has the advantage of being much cheaper, being able to replenish its own numbers to some extent and being able to feed off many kinds of vegetation for refueling. Therefore, a heavy weapon horse can fill a Sentinel's role, according to certain myopic bean-counters in the Deptartmento Munitorum, who will wave off the problem of the heavy weaponry burden considerably slowing down the horse.

Occasionally, heavy bolters with their short barrels will shoot off the reins of the carrying horse, to speak nothing of bloody accidents involving heavy bolters and scared horses throwing their heads into the line of fire.

Horse mortars, on the other hand, tend to sport flimsy support legs to save the horse from the worst excesses of recoil, but the tight requirements for ease of mass manufacture and the ever-worsening Imperial tendency for retardation of equipment quality means that mortar horses will invariably suffer horrendous back injuries, unless the crew take rare pity on their loyal beast and goes through the trouble of unloading the mortar to be fired on the ground instead of from horseback. Such kindness is extremely hard to find amid the traumatized cruelty that reigns supreme across all human cultures in the Age of Imperium, for evil begets evil. A rare few mortar horses will be fortunate enough to have bionics implanted into their spines and legs, yet such enhancements through technology is usually seen as an unnecessary extravagant lavishment upon a mass of meat that will soon be consumed in the flames of war anyway, just like the rank and file soldiers who will soon need to be replaced due to heavy attrition. Better be frugal instead.

The use of heavy weapon horse teams in the field have proven an inefficient employment of resources, yet even flawed approaches may sometimes yield results no matter how underperforming, and sometimes the weakness of a doctrine may be hidden among the titanic casualties in offensives that cost hundreds of millions of lives. What is one more waste of life and material amid a mountain of corpses and vehicle wrecks? And with so many outlandish regiments with wildly varying combat doctrines and equipment, why should the heavy weapon horse be singled out as particularly problematic when other regiments charge into battle wielding dual swords?

Ultimately, heavy weapon horse teams have for the most part proven a debilitating and atavistic part of warfare across the Milky Way galaxy. Sometimes, such as in forested terrain with the element of surprise being on the Imperial side, heavy weapon horse has bitten hard and kicked well, yet more often than not their contribution to battle may be found in the rotting cadavers of equines, the scrap remains of equipment and the torn corpses of soldiers strewn across battlefields under strange skies. Yet to their callous overlords and dominas, Imperial subjects and horses are nothing but faceless numbers in a broken equation of increased input to feed the meatgrinder. It may be abominable, yes, but who will even care?

And so ever-more primitive solutions will be found for problems caused by the senility and sclerosis of a demented interstellar civilization that amounts to a sinking ship. Where machines have decreased, the increased use of warm bodies must compensate for the loss of mechanical capabilities. Thus the heavy weapon horse phenomenon is just one of endless other examples of technological regression and debasement of knowledge, that slowly grinds away all the wonder that ancient man ever achieved across the stars in his time of power and wisdom. Eventually, his degenerate descendants will succumb to their retrograde ways, for the etiolation of technology has robbed mankind of any chance whatsoever to survive the overwhelming tide of horrors about to drag our species into oblivion.

Man may be a creature of unbounded potential, yet the cosmic dominion that he has fashioned in the name of an undying god has effectively drained all potential dry, leaving nothing but a crumbling husk where once ancient man boldly reached for the stars and stood on the cusp of unlocking the secrets of creation self. All that is left, is inept rage.

And so the heinous cruelty that man is capable of in the Age of Imperium is matched only by the dilapidation of knowledge and technology, upon which all of man's future hopes rest.

Such is the depravity of our species, on the brink of doom.

Such is the fate of mankind, in a time beyond salvation.

Such is the end that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only shortcoming.


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See here for converted miniature examples of heavy weapon horse teams.
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yeetmaster72's avatar

cadian general: what in the god emperors name is this abomination have you savages not heard of a lascanon.

austro ungarian officer: forgive me herr general but our shipment of lascanons got destroyed mid atmosphere drop.

cadian officer: when’s your next shipment of war gear.

austro ungarian officer: 9.999999 warp travels But good news is we the shipment of mortars chimeras and heavy bolters are in great condition.