The Grave Wardens were a chapter of the 18th Founding with gene stock drawn from tithes collected from the Black Templars. For all intents and purposes, the Black Templars placed in charge of the infant chapter considered their charges worthy and formidable additions to the Imperium’s forces, noting in particular a relentlessly violent streak the young marines seemed to manifest exponentially through prolonged combat. The exact reason why a chapter as puritanical as the Black Templars would not regard this as a dangerous mutation is hotly debated. Some accuse the Templars of seeing the genetic idiosyncrasy as a boon on the battlefield and particularly akin to their most commonly employed tactics, while others say the Templars were merely incapable of telling apart the perpetual battle rage from the chapter’s deeply instilled righteous fury on the battlefield. Regardless, once satisfied with their charges’ performance after several crusades, they were granted autonomy and immediately began their own crusade.
It was not long after gaining their independence that the young chapter’s crusade took them to a system known as Pergatum. The system was not uncharted by any means, but several thousand years of tumultuous warp storms appearing on and off had left the worlds within largely isolated from the Imperium. Determined to bring them back into the fold, the marines made planetfall on the world showing the largest population density, a once prosperous industrial world named Galora.
Almost immediately after landing, the marines found themselves under attack by roaming war bands of mutants and madmen wielding scavenged, poorly maintained weapons that upon closer inspection were believed by the techmarines to date far back into the Imperium’s history, possibly to the Great Crusade itself. The attackers were quickly dispatched by sword and axe, only to be followed moments later by yet another band drawn by the sounds of battle. And so it continued, one wave after another of the mindless and the mad threw themselves unto the blades of the marines as they fought their way into what remained of the planet’s singular, dilapidated metropolis. The battle fervor that had been observed as a boon by their parent chapter grew gradually into wild rage with each brother that fell to the ramshackle weaponry and mutated claws of their assailants.
Their rage was at its zenith when an unexpected attack suddenly blasted apart the brothers at the head of the advance. A vast, towering structure ahead of the marines had opened fire with an automated defense system, adding lascannon and missile salvos to the already taxing threats faced by the marines. Furious, the remaining marines sprinted towards the massive, baroque doors of the structure and tore it down with meltabombs and power fists. Once inside, they took to slaying anything that moved, lost to rage and grief from their endeavor. In their fury they didn’t notice the important changes around them; the way in which the automated defense system switched to targeting their foes as they tried to pursue into the structure from behind, the way in which the people inside rarely raised weapons to defend themselves, nor the intricate and lovingly maintained artwork around them that was now blasted apart by stray bolt shells and rent by stray chainsword swings. It was only when the central chamber had been cleared and the marines’ surviving quarry escaped deeper into the complex that the marines found a moment of piece to gather themselves. The survivors fleeing through the catacombs, already terrified, froze in fear at the roars of pure anguish that echoed down the halls from behind them.
The marines fell to their knees in the grand chamber of the Fortress Mausoleum, looking about themselves in horror at the incredible atrocity they had just committed. The structure was nothing less than a grand memorial to the marines, millennia hence, that had once claimed the world in the name of the Emperor. The bodies laying in pieces around them, men, women, and children, were draped in scriptures and symbols of the Imperium. Every statue, fresco, and mural they could see had clearly been lovingly maintained, only to be blasted apart by the recent battle. Worst of all, on the central altar, stood a sarcophagus not unlike that of a dreadnought, though worked directly into the wall with a vast array of mechanisms, a single hole smoldering from a stray shot in its center that oozed the life sustaining preservatives from within. In a world filled with madmen and monstrosities, the marines had found a single, surviving flicker of the Emperor’s light: and nearly snuffed it out in their rage.
The crestfallen marines gathered themselves and set about looking for the survivors of their assault. Weapons hanging at their sides, they approached the terrified survivors and urged them from their holes, gathering up those they could find back into the central chamber still fresh with the coppery scent of their families’ blood. From what the marines could gather, the inhabitants were the only thing even resembling loyalist Imperials on the planet, with some rudimentary understanding of the technology that kept their bastion running. The interred marine, now dying in his damaged sarcophagus, served both as a living techno-management system for the Mausoleum and a holy guide to the humans that depended on him for their survival.
As an amends to their folly, the marines took up the fallen bodies around them and sought out one of the complex’s many burial chambers, entombing them alongside the long dead marines as a testament to their bravery and courage over the long years since. The eldest of the marines, Marshal Vambrent, volunteered to take the place of the dying interred marine that allowed the fortress to function for so long, and even focused the fortress’ fire upon the marines’ pursuers as they poured into the building. Finally, the marines took upon themselves the mantle of Grave Wardens, vowing to live up to the example of the brave people that tended to the holy sight. When the Wardens pushed out from the Fortress Mausoleum to cleanse what remained of the genetic filth beyond, the survivors fought alongside them, purging the monsters that haunted their existence since before their grandparents were children. After the world was cleansed, those who wished it were taken into the chapter as aspirants, forgoing the usual trials due to their courage and commitment in taking back their homeworld. Overtime, Galora’s population has grown to flourish again, and now sits as the central pillar in the space conquered by the Wardens’ unending crusades.
Galora is the closest thing to a homeworld the Grave Wardens have, but as a crusading chapter it does not serve the same purpose as those of codex chapters. Galora is home to the largest and most ancient Fortress Mausoleum [dubbed the Bastion of the Glorious Fallen] under the Warden’s protection, and as such serves as a central hub for the constantly growing sector of space being brought into the Emperor’s graces. It is also boasts the largest population by a sizable margin amongst the Mausoleum worlds, meaning it provides the largest percentage of recruits.
Geographically, Galora is a world in recovery. The environment suffered badly under its former role as an industrial world in the Imperium’s early history, leaving much of the worlds water supply tainted with chemicals and radiation. When Galora was severed from the Imperium, the industrial sectors quickly fell into anarchy, and very few were left operational for any length of time. Over the thousands of years that followed, the environmental damage subsided considerably, but still remains a danger in some regions. Since the return of the Emperor’s light, the world has grown as a site of pilgrimage, with cathedrals, monastaries, and monuments sprouting from the ashes of the decaying factories that dot the ash gray landscape. Originally, food could only be grown in artificial facilities, and only those brave or desperate enough to hunt the mutated beasts of the ash-wastes could look forward to a full belly in their lifetime. Since the Wardens’ arrival, several large and relatively clean tracts of land were devoted to agriculture and Grox livestock, which have allowed the population to grow exponentially over the centuries.
The Grave Wardens’ way of war is almost fully in line with their parent chapter. They prefer to meet their foes in hand to hand combat and rarely employ serious long ranged firepower for anything other than cracking open a formidable fortification or crippling enemy armored columns. The most common tactics employed are the trademark Drop Pod assaults of the Adeptus Astartes into the heart of the enemy lines, heavy armored spearheads with mid to close range firepower, and head on rushes of massed infantry flanked by bikers and Landspeeders.
If there is any significant diversion in tactics from the Wardens’ parent chapter, it is their emphasis on speed and efficiency. The Wardens have grown to understand their inherent genetic flaw as something that grows more dangerous with prolonged combat. Although they learn to control and harness this rage as they gain experience as marines, even the eldest Wardens risk losing their control if left in combat indefinitely. As such, they generally embrace tactics that end the given threat as quickly as possible, allowing them to temporarily phase out marines left in combat for too long when they move to mop up any remaining enemies later. If such tactics are not an option, it is not unknown for the Wardens to attack enemy positions far outside the range of allied assistance, preferring to face far greater risk in battle to ensure that they do not bring harm to their allies as the battle rage inexorably grows into fervor.
Once a world is declared cleansed and victory is attained, a small contingent of Techmarines and the chapter’s architect serfs stay behind to oversee the construction of a new Fortress Mausoleum. Normally, these buildings are erected on battlefields where the Wardens took the majority of their casualties during the campaign, however sometimes they are located purely to exploit possible forging resources or a more tactical position. On those rare occasions when the world is no longer habitable after a war’s end, the Wardens have been known to construct space stations in the planet’s orbit that fulfill roughly the same purpose as a normal Mausoleum.
The Grave Wardens’ organization has, over time, grown to stand apart from its parent chapter. As the Wardens’ protectorate spread outward from Galora, they recognized a growing lack in central authority and organization throughout the many individual crusades. Worse still, as crusades grew further apart, it became harder to assemble any formidable defense network in the Warp Storm prone region of space under their jurisdiction. Eventually, seven Mausoleum worlds, including Galora, were made into central points of authority for the chapter, based on size, tactical significance, and resources. The Bastion of the Glorious Fallen remains the supreme authority in this organization, though all seven worlds have control over a full fleet of the Wardens equivalent to a normal crusade. Together, these seven worlds are regarded as the Grand Chambers, while all others were assigned the title Lesser Chambers. The Lesser Chambers do not serve as a central hub for any one of the seven crusades, but are often employed as resupply stations, and can themselves petition the Grand Chambers for new crusades. The Lesser Chambers also contribute to the considerable amount of raw recruits brought into the Grave Wardens, but only the Grand Chambers have the technical and medicinal resources to put aspirants through the regiment that transforms them into true space marines.
The Grave Wardens themselves run each Mausoleum alongside civilians of the local population. Every Mausoleum has a trinity of interred marines which will manage the station’s defense systems, particularly important prayer services, and assessment of new recruits in alternation every century, ensuring their peace and longevity for as long as possible. A handful of Chaplains and high ranking Wardens deal with the rest of the Wardens’ duties on each world, ensuring peace and prosperity as well as proper reverence for the Emperor among the population. Civilians chosen most often for valor in combat or notable piety by the Wardens fulfill the role of governor, managing the world’s political affairs and assignment of resources. Together, the interred, marines, and civilians are known as a Curator Assembly, and to date have worked well enough as to never have a single case of open revolt among a world under the Grave Warden’s protection. Quite to the opposite, on those rare occasions when an enemy force has assaulted a Mausoleum world, the populations have tended to fight with all the ferocity and rage of their protectors. This is hardly much of a surprise though, as most civilians on the Mausoleum worlds spend at least some portion of their lives as Caretakers, mimicking the example of the Galora survivors by tending to every nook and cranny of the vast structures with worshipping care and learning the lore of the Wardens’ long history.
The crusades themselves are organized not unlike the Black Templars, though instead of households marines often tend to congregate into groups particular to their Chamber of origin. They have no scout company, preferring instead to keep new marines under close watch as to better guide and train them in harnessing the dangerous fury instilled by their gene seed. It is also every full Battle Brother’s grim duty, should the need arise, to execute an aspiring young marine should he lose himself and turn against anyone but the enemy: as central as it was to the chapter’s structure, the Shame of Galora will not be repeated. At the head of each crusade is a small group functioning as the Wardens’ First Company, trained in using Tactical Dreadnaught Armor and carrying the honorific title of Soul Shepherds.
Considering their history, the Wardens are an unusually open chapter as far as most Adeptus AStartes go. They make no effort to cover or conceal the Shame of Galora which shaped the chapter to its current form. Nor do they go through any great lengths to conceal their history: in fact, that very topic is often a subject of contemplation and study amongst the civilian populations which congregate at the Wardens’ many Mausoleums. The reasoning for this behavior is rooted in the most central of the Wardens’ belief structure: even though they’re stronger, older, better armed, and often smarter than a normal human, they exist purely to serve their needs. The Wardens are a chapter of sacrifice, often interjecting themselves between enemy forces and tactically insignificant locations purely to ensure the protection of non-combatants within. The shame of Galora is an open wound that every Warden carries with a strange pride, as it taught them the ease with which one can slip into heresy and betrayal. That memory serves to remind them with every waking moment that while superior in almost every way to the humans they once were, purity and piety are measurable only in their deeds.
The other notable peculiarity of the Grave Wardens’ beliefs is their relationship to the dead. Marines dead for thousands of years were all the inspiration that humans needed in the blasted ash wastes of Galora to keep their faith true. It is that example that every Warden strives for. The courage and piety of the countless generations that survived in the Bastion of the Glorious Fallen are the model for the Wardens in life, but the legend and reputation that inspired those same generations is what each strives for in death. Every Warden dies proud, knowing that by his example others might walk a pure path, and that while any of their brothers live their example will not be forgotten. Those granted the honor of internment in a sarcophagus, be it in a Dreadnaught or a Mausoleum, are counted among the most blessed, for their lives were deemed exemplary to such an extent as to deny death itself, for a time.
The Grave Wardens’ gene seed is derived from tithes acquired from the Black Templars. The seed has been flawed from the beginning, leading to heightened aggression and eventually rage under heavy stress and stimuli. However, the Wardens’ apothecaries believe the seed has continued to degenerate slowly but steadily over thousands of years, leading to a much higher attrition rate among new recruits. Those freshly implanted with the Wardens’ gene seed are prone to fits of rage with very little provocation, and as such are kept in isolated cells for a number of years learning the chapter’s lore and dogma between sparring sessions with Chaplains overseeing their development. During this probationary period, those with enough willpower to control themselves to some degree are eventually assigned to a Crusader squad for further training in live combat, while those incapable of overcoming their aggression are euthanized. The Wardens’ show these fallen neophytes the same burial respects as a fallen battle brother: each marine knows the rage within themselves all too well, and simply by undergoing the implantation procedure an individual has proven himself willing to sacrifice all for humanity’s survival. As a Warden ages, the rage becomes more familiar and even a useful tool on the battlefield, though they are ever watchful of themselves and their brothers for any sign of weakness.
Disturbingly, the Grave Wardens’ apothecaries have made no efforts to cure the genetic flaw. They do everything they can to slow the progressive mutation of the gene seed, but the whole chapter regards the flaw as an important source of spiritual and physical strength. Simply put, the constant threat of damnation and madness makes sure only the strongest are found among the Wardens’ ranks, while ensuring an important (but not entirely forgiving) sympathy for those they are sworn to protect.
So, that's what I have so far. In case you made it this far without figuring it out, that weird black mess in the skull's forehead on the Chapter Badge is a keyhole. I have no photoediting/MS art skills . Still Haven't come up with a battlecry i like yet, but for some reason i feel "No rest for the wicked!" is appropriate in a twisted sort of way.
Thanks for all the help to get me this far, and thanks in anticipation of all the C&C yet to come!
Edited by Firepower, 05 January 2010 - 11:47 PM.