Index Malleus: Barret's Privateers
Oh, I was told we'd sail the warp for Imperial gold,
We'd fire our guns, shed their blood!
Now I'm a broken man in an Inquisitor's cell,
The last of Barret's Privateers...
--Excerpt from "Privateer's Lament", suppressed 999.M41 by Inquisitorial Edict
What is known about the origins of Elcid Barret, Captain of the dread ship Morrigan's Revenge and Reaver of the Eastern Marches, was that he was a hero of some renown before his fall. He had achieved the rank of Captain in his Chapter and was admired as a charismatic and skilled warrior, though one prone to bravado and deeds of insane risk. His men followed him with fanatical devotion, for they always heaped themselves with glory following him though many of them fell in the process. It was barely a secret that he coveted the position of Chapter Master for himself, and this loft position was continually denied him. Between this apparent apogee of his career as a loyal servant of the Emperor and the infamous actions on Outport Station VI there is little record, but it can be assumed that he eventually went too far and was banished from his Chapter, or escaped death at the hands of his fellows or, perhaps, he was the only survivor of a horrible catastrophe. Whatever the reason, seven years after the conclusion of the Badab War, Elcid Barret and the so-called "Barret's Privateers" were to arrive in the Eastern Fringes and begin a reign of terror and blood that has lasted almost a century.
In 919.M41, seven years after the final defeat of the Astral Claws and Lufgt Huron's assumption of the moniker "Blackheart", the Imperial Navy ship "Morrigan's Revenge", an aging Dauntless Class Light Cruiser assigned to the Eastern Fringes, put in for repair and resupply at the backwater Outport Station VI. It had been there three days before a boisterous crew, nigh-uncontrollable after years away from port, turned from revelry to outright riots and, after the first few executions, mutiny. Most of the officer cadre were quickly murdered before the Captain opened the armouries, armed those who remained loyal and turned the mutiny into a slaughter. Meanwhile, the mutineers came under the command of the rebellious Lieutenant Hornigold and seized many of the ship's critical systems. The fighting dragged into a stalemate for several days, the better-armed loyalists unable to overcome the entrenched and numerous mutineers. It was then that Elcid Barret arrived on the station by means unknown and threw in with the mutiny. The Captain and his crewmen, armed only with shotcannons and other boarding weapons, could not resist the fury of even a single Astartes leading a horde of enraged ratings, and Barret cut out the Captain's heart personally, baptizing his new ship in blood. Barret declared himself master of the ship and Lieutenant Hornigold the new captain. The mutineers' loyalty was quickly won with the promises of plunder and freedom from the Navy's oppressive discipline. The Morrigan's Revenge disappeared into the warp, and when the Navy finally responded to the distress call a week later they found Outport Station VI a cloud of dust.
After the destruction of Outport Station VI, the Morrigan's Revenge and her crew were not seen for several months, and the Navy officers tasked with recovering or destroying the ship began to conclude that the renegades had torn themselves apart in a power struggle, as was not uncommon with mutinous crews. However, their hopes were dashed when a ship matching the description of the Morrigan's Revenge began attacking and pillaging private shipping in the Eastern Marches. At first Barret and his crew were able to use their appearance of a Navy ship to sidle up to their unsuspecting victims before boarding, but the regional Lord Admiral was quick to ensure all captains in the area were aware of the threat, and Barret turned to ambushing ships at regulation warp entry points and amongst the many nebulae and asteroid fields that dot that area of space. The threat was largely ignored at first as the Morrigan's Revenge only attacked private convoys and retreated in the face of Naval escorts. However, two incidents brought the seemingly small threat under the full wrath of the sector fleet.
In 935.M41, the Morrigan's Revenge attacked and destroyed the Asperios, a private cargo ship belonging to a Rogue Trader named Issac Donnell. The ship's entire cargo, a shipment of arms and equipment destined for a minor warzone in the sector, was stolen and reappeared soon after in the hands of a dissident Chaos cult, and the Rogue Trader himself was murdered and left aboard the burnt-out hulk of his ship in several gory pieces. Following that, in 939.M41, the prominent Essenmar merchant family began reporting losses to a pirate ship matching the description of the Morrigan's Revenge, which culminated in the capture of the family's flagship, the Bullhowser, its entire cargo of 800 colonists and half a cubic kilometer of colony supplies. The youngest scion of the family was commanding the ship and his body, like Donnell's, was horribly defiled. With this financial and political disaster, the Essenmars applied their formidable influence on the sector Imperial authorities to hunt down and destroy Barret and his pirates. A Navy squadron of three cruisers, tasked with the destruction of the Morrigan's Revenge, tracked the ship to an asteroid field and engaged, confident of victory through well-disciplined crews and superior firepower. Barret, however, had fought on hundreds of battlefields for centuries, and laid a cunning trap. He lured the squadron into the dangerously dense asteroid field, where mines and explosives demolished whole asteroids and crushed two of the Navy ships in a hellstorm of debris. The lead ship, the Imperial Anne, managed to escape with only minor damage when the captain powered his ship forwards on all engines, a risky, but successful, gambit in a dense field of floating rocks. The Morrigan's Revenge, expecting her foes to be all destroyed, was caught off guard by the first salvo and sustained damage to her prow. However, the powerful torpedo batteries and thick frontal armour of a Dauntless-class Cruiser are not to be underestimated, and they punished the Imperial Anne, knocking out her forward and topside shields in a single salvo. Before the reeling Navy ship could react, the Morrigan's Revenge pushed forward and launched a wave of boarding torpedoes from her flank torpedo tubes. The initial fight was a brutal affair fought between the screaming reavers and the Imperial Anne's well-drilled security troopers. However, a second wave of boarding craft, forcing entry through the ship's hanger decks and led by Barret in person, quickly turned the stalemate into a massacre. The battle was lost from the moment the renegade Astartes set foot on the Imperial Anne, but the crew held out gallantly for a further twelve hours before Barret forced entry to the bridge and slaughtered the command staff.
The capture and looting of the isolated mining station designated INE-391-Beta is remarkable in the history of the actions of Elcid Barret for a number of reasons, especially the skill and tactical precision with which it was executed, as well as its completely bloodless resolution.
The world of Hermius I is a small, blasted orb in close orbit of its star. Geologically unstable and with no axial rotation, Hermius I hides a vast wealth of precious stones and metals in its crust. To mine these ores, however, is a dangerous and costly process, as the worlds proximity to a star has left one half of the planet a blasted and burning hell, and the other in eternal night and wipped by raging windstorms. The principal mining station is located on the nightside, nestled among a collection of mostly dormant volcanoes as a shield against the heat, radiation and storms. The station is guarded by several listening posts and defended emplacements on the peaks of these volcanoes which combine with the natural hazards to make any attack on such a tempting target a daunting prospect. Nonetheless, Barret tried and succeeded in plundering the mines' riches in a most spectacular fashion.
Utilizing the radiation of the star and the planets' bulk as a shield, he brought the Morrigan's Revenge into dangerously low orbit on the dayside before approaching the mine. When the mighty ship suddenly appeared overhead and threatened destruction, the station had little choice but to surrender. Barret and his crew spent two days filling the hold of the Morrigan's Revenge with precious metals and gems. During this time, the logs and journals of the station workers report being held under close guard, but not mistreated or harmed. After the Morrigan's Revenge left and Imperial forces responded to the station's belated distress calls, the foremen and overseer were executed for allowing their payload to be stolen, and a program set in place to vastly improve the installation's defense.
One observer dryly called the whole event an overwhelming victory for the pirates, as they not only made off with a hugely valuable cargo which would otherwise have enriched a sector governor, but they also forced the Imperium to expand more time and resources into the mine than the planet would yield in decades of mining.
Finally, as the closing decade of M41 began, Barret and his cruel fleet apparently vanished from the galactic east. It is now known that he had caught wind of the coming Black Crusade and had set course for Segmentum Obscuras to take advantage of the chaos that would soon be reigning there, but Imperial analysts concluded at the time that he had been lost to the warp, some Xenos aggressor, or simply to a mutiny within his lawless crew.
Barret and his scabrous mutineers joined the conflict around Abaddon's Thirteenth Black Crusade early in the fighting, intending to take advantage of the chaos and a distracted navy to plunder and pillage the supplies and shipping heading towards the Cadian Gate. This was a grave mistake on the part of the pirates, as the Imperial warmachine, already struggling against the scrofulous tides of the damned, was not prepared to suffer the predations of Barret on their desperately needed supplies. After the Morrigan's Revenge and the Imperial Anne struck but twice a Naval squadron was tasked with their destruction, led by newly minted Captain Maynard of the Lyme and accompanied by the line cruisers Ranger and Pearl. Maynard's small fleet first engaged the pirates over the ruins of a supply convoy, striking while the renegades were glutted with plunder and slaughter. The Morrigan's Revenge and Imperial Anne returned desultory fire at the superior force before fleeing to the galactic north, around the perimeter of the Eye of Terror. Maynard pursued hard, determined not to lose his quarry into the violent warp storms.
After several days of searching, Maynard found Barret lurking in St Francis' Reach, a small inlet of stable space into the fury of the Eye. He blockaded the entrance to the Reach, but was unwilling to enter and face down the waiting guns of both renegade ships with no room to maneuver. As he pondered what to do, an Astartes Strike Cruiser, the Servant of Guilliman, approached, identifying itself as part of the Praetors of Orpheus Chapter and carrying a contingent of their First Company, commanded by Venerable Brother Giurescu, long entombed within a dreadnought sarcophagus. Giurescu, after being told of the situation by Maynard, agreed to lead the attack. The Imperial Anne and the Morrigan's Revenge were caught in their own trap. Without any room to manuever or escape, they were helpless before the full fury of a Strike Cruiser and the wrath of the Praetors. The Imperial Anne was completely disabled by a full salvo from the Servant, and the crew later surrendered to Maynard and were handed over to the Inquisition. The Morrigan's Revenge unleashed all her guns on the Strike Cruiser, and managed to batter down their dorsal shields. Taking advantage of the momentarily stunned Servant, the Morrigan's Revenge attempted a dash for open space, but was stymied by Maynard and his fleet. Caught between the Servant of Guilliman and the hard line of the Navy ships, the Morrigan's Revenge was quickly boarded by the Praetors. Giurescu himself ramapaged through the lower decks, crushing renegades and mutineers beneath his armoured body. Hornigold attempted a last ditch defense of the engine room, but died in the attempt. Barret counterattacked against the Praetors and killed several, but his bitterness and fury were no match for the cold hate of the loyal Marines, and he was carried away by his desperate crew. Giurescu turned his guns on the warp engine, and the Praetors of Orpheus made a swift retreat back to the waiting Thunderhawks. The Morrigan's Revenge, burning badly and with an unstable warp core, was sucked into the Eye and disappeared.
Barret's defeat and assumed death were celebrated, briefly, as a small victory in the overwhelming darkness of Abaddon's onslaught, but the end of so minor a threat was largely overlooked. Unfortunately for the Imperium, Barret would prove not so easy to kill.
After the events at Medusa V, reports began to filter in about apparently random attacks on isolated Imperial settlements and installations along the Eastern Marches in the galactic north-east. At first, they were assumed to be more of the usual raiding behaviour typical of the heretics, xenos and renegades that inhabit that dangerous frontier. It was only after a few Inquisitors began collating those reports that a pattern emerged, and it was concluded that a single force was responsible for all the attacks. An Inquisitorial task force was dispatched, under the purview of Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor Arameus, to investigate and, if possible, halt these vicious raids.
Arameus followed the trail of destruction, appalled at the carnage left behind; great mounds of corpses, many impaled on great spikes or with their viscera pulled out and in greasy piles. However, he began to notice that these were more than simple mass murders. Everywhere this mysterious villain struck, the supplies needed to fuel a war machine were taken, and he concluded that the horrific slaughter left behind was a secondary mission at worst, an attempt at misdirection at best. Whatever the reasons, Arameus concluded that whoever was behind these attacks was a bitter enemy of the Imperium and a taint that had to be expunged. Calculating the next likely target for the reaver, Arameus laid a trap.
The despair and rage that must have driven Barret, who previously spurned bending his knee to anyone, to submit to the will of Blackheart can only be imagined, and are likely the cause for the vicious slaughter he has been inflicting across the Eastern Marches since his return. Where before plunder and glory were his goals, now he lives to inflict pain and death upon the Imperium that rejected him and seeks his death. That he now holds command over a score or more renegade Astartes of the Red Corsairs has made him all the more of a threat, one the Ordo Hereticus seeks to end, and quickly.
Little is known of what lies within the Maelstorm, save that it is home to several pirate and Ork empires, including the domain of the Red Corsairs. It is assumed that Barret and the Morrigan's Revenge make use of facilities held by the Corsairs within the vast warp storm, but seem to spend as little time there as possible. Doubtless Barret has little want to be reminded of the fact that he is now someone else's minion, a fact that must chafe against his endless ambition.
Because the majority of the forces at Barret's command are comprised of human renegades and corsairs with a small minority of rebel Astartes, the Marines are typically divided up and each command an assault group of human pirates. A Marine will usually command enough pirates to fill anywhere from a wave of boarding torpedoes to a whole wing of assault craft. Thus, these formations of Marines and humans are referred to within the crew as "storm brigades" or just "storms". Similarly to how loyalist Astartes mark squads for easy identification in the heat of battle, each commanding Astartes has his own personal flag or emblem that is displayed proudly in battle so that the corsairs can more easily rally around and follow their commander. These flags almost invariably displays images of death, favoured weaponry or motifs signifying a lack of time or mercy offered to those under attack. When Barret and his fellow renegade Marines do take to the field as a strictly Astartes force, these massed banners are both impressive and fearsome to behold.
Regardless of this, Barret and his crew seem to take great delight in terrifying and demoralizing their prey with horrifying blasphemies and refutations of the Emperor, screaming them in battle and blanketing the vox channels with them as they strike. One particularly loathsome pirate captured during the defense of an Imperial listening post had every inch of his flesh tattooed with crude renderings of the Emperor and all the Saints in lascivious and vile congress with daemons and the Chaos Gods themselves.
In any case, once the Morrigan's Revenge has sidled up close to the chosen target, torpedoes and prow batteries are used to batter down enemy shields, followed by a massed launch of boarding torpedoes and assault craft, carrying hundreds of vicious corsairs, renegade Marines and, in the forefront of every attack, Elcid Barret himself. Once the pirates are aboard a ship, it is only the most well-trained, determined and heavily armed crew that can stymie their assault. Resistance to the pirates is, especially in the case of Navy ships, frequently hampered by spontaneous mutinies by oppressed crewmen eager to take part in the relative freedom of a pirate under Barret's command, short and brutal as such a life usually is. Where once Barret sometimes allowed particularly gallant or surrendering crews to live, now he leaves every ship and every base a gore-slicked abattoir, monuments to hate and slaughter to horrify those who come after. He has perfected a number of particularly savage methods of execution he reserves for Captains and other senior officers, one of them involving a man's ribcage, a large cargo hook and a heavy object.
No longer do Barret and his renegades content themselves with capturing and looting ships. He has attacked and razed several Imperial installations, typically isolated listening posts or resupply depots, but a handful of colonies and settlements have felt his wrath, too. Because of their predilection for preying on those weaker than themselves, some have accused the crew of the Morrigan's Revenge of being cowards and little more than bullies. This is not entirely a fair conclusion, as has been shown in the surviving records of their attacks on fixed defenses. Because these attacks are meant to capture supplies and material for further use and not just to wreak destruction, Barret is unable and unwilling to use the power of his ship, or even most conventional armour, to reduce his enemies and must instead rely on the strength and fury of his renegades to overpower often formidable and determined defenses in close actions. Thus, far from being cowards and bullies, every man on the Morrigan's Revenge is a hard-bitten and hard-biting veteran of more conflicts and brutal fights after a few years than many Imperial Guardsmen see in their entire careers.
For all of this, a disturbing rumour circulates around Barret's actions. It is whispered that where his subordinate Astartes, or those loyalists they manage to overcome in battle, have fallen, their progenoid glands have been crudely removed and spirited away. If there is any truth to these rumours, it could indicate that either Huron or Barret has secured or is seeking the means to create new Marines, not outcasts and rejects, but fully-fledged heretics born into darkness. That facility in the hands of either of these bitter renegades is a frightening prospect, indeed.
Edited by Barret, 19 December 2007 - 10:47 PM.