Okay, the Battle of Thermo Pylon E is going to be rewritten to be part of the pogroms and reprisals against the Reapers.
What I've got thus far of the Zarath Strand Reprisals:
893.M41 - 945.M41: The Zarath Strand Reprisal
The Zarath Strand is a dense arm of stars and nebulae in the galactic east. Although largely unexplored, due to the hazards of navigation the closely-packed stars and gas clouds present, several major shipping lanes pass through the Strand bringing foodstuffs, supplies and, most importantly, troops and munitions for the endless wars on the Imperium's borders.
The Zarath Strand Reprisal was begun by Chapter Master Zeuxis of the Thousand Swords after Ork pirates began to endanger shipping along the Zarath Strand. The Strand, located between two heavily industrialised planets within the Eckea Sector, is a vital supply route - one that could not be allowed to fall. When the Thousand Swords investigated, it soon became clear that the Orks actually belonged to two different Ork Leaders, Overboss Smashgrot and Warchief Krumskull. Ordinarily, such internicine affairs would not be worth the attentions of the Astartes, but the fallout from the war was endangering the flow of shipping along the Strand, leading to a drop in production. Ships were being boarded by one Klan and used as weapons against the other.
The Fourth Company of the Thousand Swords under Captain Barca, already known for their skill at fighting the Ork menace, were the first to be dispatched and spent several years attempting to safeguard the shipping lanes. However, after an Ordo Xenos investigation revealed the true scale of the two empires, both encompassing almost a dozen worlds, it was decided that more troops were needed if the Orks were to be culled at the very least, and exterminated if at all possible. The call for troops went out, a call that was answered by the Castigators and the Judicators
A minor point would be to perhaps give two different titles to the Ork Warbosses. Something like "Warchief Smashgrot" and "Boss Krumskull", to give a feeling of two different forces. If you name them both Warboss, it could perhaps sound a bit too similar, and while it's common for Orks to fight amongst themselves for really no reason, making it from two different clanz could give a simple, subtle explanation (Dem uvva gits iz weedy!) as well as letting us fight two completely different groups of the same species. You may be fighting some Cyboar-riding Snakebites and the stolen Imperial weaponry of some Deffskullz, so it adds a little spice to the campaign.
I think the boarding of an Ork Hulk would be an awesome climax to the campaign. A Hulk is sent from one Ork world toward the other, but looks like it's going to be making a drop-off by one of the Industrial worlds on the Zarath Strand. The Marines board it, and turn the Hulk against one of the Ork planets, sending the ship slamming into the planet's surface and causing massive structural plate damage. This would allow the Marines to focus their attacks on the other Ork world (I would imagine having two different enemies fighting them would prove to be difficult), eventually purifying it to the extent of satisfaction to the commanding Captain/Master of the campaign.
I imagine the war would start first by securing the two industrial worlds, then once they are in relatively safe hands, the Marines could begin moving against the Orks themselves. Most of the fighting, I assume, would happen in space as landing on an Ork world would be suicide even if the three full Chapters landed on the surface. Space Marines are the Emperor's Finest, but there are limits.
Ground fighting would probably occur on the industrial worlds themselves, as they secure the planets and purge them of invaders. Then strive to recapture/scuttle any space vessels in the Ork fleet to hinder their ability to close the Zarath Strand's supply chain to the Imperium, slam a Hulk into one Ork world, then set about purging the other (Exterminatus?) once a perimeter around the planet can be maintained.
Need to kind of balance everyone's need to have their Chapter seem awesome, too. Perhaps mention three big actions where each Chapter did something awesome, or work together for one really awesome action that shows off all three.
That's a good idea. I'm thinking of detailing four engagements. One for each of the three Chapters, and one cooperative attack on the final stronghold of the final boss.
Notes for Purity of Spirit:The following is more representative of the evolving train of thought as Molly and I hashed over the concept, rather than a more definitive outline or summary of the Chapter.
Although he now wore the white livery and bloodied hand symbol of the First Company, he maintained all the trophies and heraldry he had earned as Captain of the Fourth fighting the brutal Orks in the Zarath Strand Reprisals. A massive steel jaw was bolted to his gorget, caging his face behind vicious teeth, and a long pair of horns, torn from the head of the same Warboss who had given him the crater-like scar across his forehead, jutted out above his head. Orkish icons, crude glyphs representing death, veterancy and marital prowess dangled from the horns and were inscribed on his greaves. It was little wonder how he'd earned his appellation "Ork-Killer".
Purity of Spirit == Zarathustra. The Chapter is the bridge and guardian between mortal man (beast) and the Emperor/Emperor's Vision (enlightenment).
Maybe not so much that they are actively enlightening humanity, but they keep humans (and each other) from straying from the correct path. They're like wardens, if the Imperium is a prison and they keep mankind from hurting itself and others while they "serve their time" and are ready to be released, enlightened. In order to serve mankind, they cease to be a part of it. While that's true for all Marines, the Spirit Chapter takes it further, changing their very souls/spirits to something more and also less than human, just as they do their bodies.
'Spirit' means their soul, I think. It is not flesh that makes a man a man, it is his soul. Therein lives emotion, desires and ambitions, the good things and the bad things that seperate man from beast. The Spirit Chapter, in order to remain pure and safeguard mankind (whether he wants it or not) cut out that part of themselves as they would a broken limb and replace it with something cold and pure. A bionic hand for the flesh, and the unflinching, unyielding "steel" of the Chapter cult.
I'm trying to draw links between what his done to a human's body to make him into a Space Marine and what this Chapter does to his soul. Perhaps the Iron Hands "flesh/soul is weak" idea isn't a good one. Instead of eradicating it, they raise it somehow, clean it of the trappings of humanity and change it to suit. Perhaps they are something like the old description of angels. They might look human, but they are not. They do not act or think or feel like humans, and they are terrifying for it.Apotheosis
With the Blood Angels, and really with most Space Marines, they retain their humanity. They're super-human and genetically engineered, yes, but they still think, feel and act like humans. I don't think I'm explaining myself very well, but I'm looking for something different. Were you to look upon one of these Marines, only the form would be human, but inside was something...else. Not a Vulcan or a machine, but something that is no longer human. Something wiped clean of humanity and replaced with a messenger of God(-Emperor) who doesn't think like you or feel like you or even understand what it is to be you. Terrifying, utterly driven and completely alien, but there to protect you and guide you in the Emperor's light, whether you want it or not. Wardens in the prison that is unevolved humanity, overseeing your rehabilitation into something else, something that will no longer require them.
Gav Thorpe:'Space Marines forsake their humanity to preserve the humanity of others. This means that they only vaguely remember what it was like to feel the cold, or be upset, or tired, or feel pain, or be scared. They are aware that humans suffer from these frailties, but will often forget that humans are simply not capable of performing deeds that are second nature to their battlebrothers.'
I think that mental and spiritual apotheosis from human to Astartes is probably the direction I'd like to push. Right now I'm think that they've been so "purified" that they now some terrible, Lovecraftian Other. Not Lovecraftian in the tentacles sense, but in that they are just...Other. Like descriptions I've read of Old Testament angels.
Oh, or this, from War of the Worlds, maybe:"Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic"How do they relate to other Astartes?
I'm not sure. Not disdainful or arrogant, I think. They would accept other Astartes as brethren and comrades-in-arms, all fighting to the same end, if in different ways. So long as that stays true, the Chapter is, if not friendly, then honourable. Hence their involvement in the Vocates (especially since it would have begun before these transformations were really taking place). A league of Astartes dedicated to purity would appeal to them.
But alongside that, I see them as being functionally, or at least perceived as, sociopaths, moreso perhaps than Marines in general. They effectively have no internal, or at least recognizable, morality or code of ethics, taking everything from the Emperor and trusting nothing that comes from within (themselves or others). That which comes from inside is suspect and not to be trusted. Only the spirit of the Emperor is truly pure. The Primarchs would be next to the Emperor in purity of soul, hence what comes from them can be trusted (mostly). Masters and Captains, because they draw from the Primarchs (who draw from the Emperor) and because they have been the most purified (or they would not be commanders) can also be trusted (but not as much as the Primarchs). Thus it passes downwards, so that they rawest recruit can do nothing but what he's told, while a Chapter Master can act with impunity, more or less.
Perhaps the mirror cultists believe that when they fight alongside other Marines, they're showing them what they could be. In effect, they are the reflection, and it's up to the other Chapter to face the truth and follow their shining example.'What Comes from Within'?
Every thought, every feeling, every impulse, everything that comes from the brain, basically. Or the soul. Each recruit would be wiped clean in some manner, so that they are basically automata, but as they age and build up that purity in their souls, since it is no longer coming from within... They turn their souls from lamps into mirrors. The light they generate is not their own, but a reflection of the Emperor shining through them.
Men fail, weaken, turn against each other and die. The Emperor succeeds, lives on enternally and is the salvation of mankind. Thus, these Marines seek to cease to be men, but to be a fraction of the Emperor, reflecting him from within themselves. They are not the sun itself, but rays of sunlight, made of and sent by the Emperor. Because they turn themselves into such, they can do no wrong, though they can fail from weakness of spirit. A cracked mirror reflects imperfectly.
The Emperor lives in and works through all men, but this Chapter seeks to purify and purge away the humanity to let the Emperor shine through more clearly? Cleaning away the mud to reveal the diamond within. The end product is perhaps somewhat similar in classification, but is something completely Other in effect.I think that idea of a mirror, both internal and external, each reflecting and showing the other, is something that expresses the theme I'm groping at. I think I'll drop the Lovecraftian Other extreme, as it doesn't really properly fit, except in those who are the most Pure. They would always be striving for their internal mirror to reflect the Emperor, and their external, literal, mirror to show the ideals of the Chapter, that apotheosis.
Perhaps the 'Other' could work for the Librarians: otherkin, communing with the Emperor (like the Angelic Choirs - like the Metatron - you can't converse directly with God, the Angels speak for Him); emphasises the eldritch in the Librarians. They would be something Else entirely. Not even really Astartes, but pure conduits both revered and utterly feared. I think they would have less of a prominence than in other Chapters, being guardians of purity (and themselves very well guarded) while the Chaplains and Captains are the active leaders in matters martial and spiritual.
Chaplains would be almost like commissars, constantly watching and guaging the purity of the brethren. Once a mirror is cracked it cannot be repaired.
Librarians are the gargoyles that line the path to purity; mirror-helmed and faceless, crackling with a nimbus of ethereal light, they reflect only the viewer's true self.
Captains, avatars of ascending purity and apotheosis lead the way and reflect down the light of the Emperor that the brethren may receive it and be filled and purified.
Techmarines, with their divided loyalties and devotion to the Machine God are excluded from the Mirror-Cult and are heavily segregated from the rest of the Chapter. Though they can never truly attain Purity of Spirit, the Techmarines have blended the worship of the Emperor-as-Omnissiah with the Mirror-Cult and, as the Mirror-Cultists seek to reflect the Emperor within as they already do without, the Techmarines seek to mirror the Omnissiah without as they do within. Indeed, they seek mechanisation at a rate beyond the obsessive dedication of the Magos' themselves.
Every one opts for the Rite of Pure Thought, wherein the entire right hemisphere of the brain is replaced with a cogitator engine linked directly with the left hemisphere, and most have entirely replaced their faces with that of the machine at the minimum. Thus they do give up their own identity to be subsumed into the Emperor-Omnissiah.Also, how does it tie into the mirror-cult? That's perhaps the most important element.
Well, the Marines seek to mirror the Warrior-Emperor, the Savior-Emperor. So the Techmarines seek to mirror the Omnissiah-Emperor. For the Marines, they external, fleshy mirroring is done as part of the transition from human to Astartes, and they must make a mirror of their souls. For the Techmarines, the internal mirroring is done though the Rite of Pure Thought and their indoctrination into the Cult of the Omnissiah, so they must mirror the Omnissiah-Emperor in their flesh.
What if, in their murals and decorations, they replaced the images of the Emperor with mirrors that are somehow psychicly laden? Only the perfectly pure could look upon that reflection without great discomfort or even insanity.