The history of the Silver Skulls stretches back many millennia, all the way to the dark aftermath of the Horus Heresy. The Skulls are one of the many Second Founding Primogenitors of the Ultramarines Legion, their name and heraldry inspired by a world of feral headhunters the Legion once recruited from. These headhunters' rituals of plating their enemies' heads in silver, and displaying them as trophies and warnings for all who stands against them to see, have been adopted by the Chapter. Outsiders do not understand their motives and question their reclusive nature, but the Skulls stand adamantly by the sovereignty of the Adeptus Astartes and fight according to a personal code of honor.
In their never ending battle for Humanity, the Silver Skulls rely on their Librarians and their ability to divine the Emperor's Tarot to determine their next course of action. They believe that the holy word of the Emperor Himself is sent through the Immaterium and channeled through their Librarians. Time flows differently in the Warp and with their skills of prognostication, the Skulls can potentially predict the birth of a great threats. On several occasions have the Skulls arrived at the scene of a battle well before others can respond, and when the Skulls commit to a battle, they do so fully, gathering all available elements of the Chapter to ensure victory. So have they done throughout the Age of the Imperium, and as the Time of Ending draws near, the Silver Skulls have doubled their efforts, racing from one edge of the galaxy to another, fighting in some of the most hard fought conflicts Humanity has ever faced.
The Silver Skulls' homeworld is the small planet Varsavia, in the northern reaches of Segmentum Ultima, close to the border of Segmentum Obscurus. Once a temperate, civilized world with a stable atmosphere, capable of sustaining life, Varsavia is now a dead, cold and unfriendly place. It bears the ancient scars of a battle long lost to Imperial history; city wide craters and the ruins of an extinct civilization. The system is of little strategic importance and provides no recruits for the Chapter, but the Skulls still took it as their home, honoring an oath they made millenia ago.
In early M.32, the Ecclesiarchy became the official religion of the Imperium, and all other cults were either absorbed or destroyed by the growing Imperial Church. At this time, Varsavia was a peaceful safe-haven for Imperial citizens, and many of its inhabitants were engineers, scientists and philosophers. It had been one of the greatest examples of the Great Crusade's accomplishments, but when the missionaries of the Ecclesiarchy arrived, preaching about the divinity of the Emperor, they were coldly dismissed, as the Varsavians stubbornly adhered to their own belief system, the Orthodoxy of Varsavia. Outraged, the fanatical zealots of the Imperial Church, along with a handful local regiments of the Imperial Guard and a small fleet of the Navy, arrogantly launched a hasted attack to subdue the planet. They were surprised when the population turned out to be more than capable of fending off the assault, with both impressive firepower and technology.
The Adeptus Astartes rarely involve themselves with the Imperial Church, as they follow their own sets of beliefs. But when the Imperial forces in the Varsavian system declared the population as heretics, and the planet a threat to Humanity, the Silver Skulls felt compelled to answer the call for help. The Skulls quickly deployed where the fighting was thickest, securing landing zones for the Imperials to evacuate from. With everyone retreated, the zealots of the Ecclesiarchy demanded that the world should be bombed, for Varsavia itself was a disgrace to the Imperium. The Skulls obeyed, and turned their mighty Battle Barge towards the planet, and bombed it to oblivion.
After the dust had settled and the forces of the Imperium were gone, the Silver Skulls investigated the ruins, as several Brother Marines had commented on the advanced technology they witnessed during the battle. The Skulls were overcome with shame when they discovered the true nature of the Varsavian people. They had not turned from the Emperor, far from it, they adhered to the very ideals that He had fought for. They lived in a society free of corruption and superstition, and when faced with the Imperial Creed, they staunchly refused to turn away from what they believed to be the will of the Emperor. The incident struck a cord with the Silver Skulls, as they had willingly killed innocent humans, who had even shared the same beliefs as the Astartes themselves. They had been deceived by the Ecclesiarchy, trusting them even after witnessing the Imperium's slow fall from grace ever since the Horus Heresy. It was decided on that day that the Silver Skulls would never again trust anyone but themselves, and they would only fight for the Emperor directly. This declaration was turned into a manifest called the Varsavian Script, which all members of the Chapter must swear an oath to, if they are to be allowed to join.
Now the Fortress-Monastery, Pheonix Argentum, stands in stark contrast to the dark ruins that surrounds it. Here the Silver Skulls made their home, in remembrance of the people who lived there, and Varsvavia has served the Chapter a base of operations ever since. Recruits are found elsewhere, and although they take them from wherever they can whenever they need to, the Chapter chiefly recruits from nearby Feral Worlds. Of these, Garanda II has become the most popular source during the last millenia. The population of Garanda II are tribal in nature and provide a hardy stock of potential Marines. But statistics also point to a high percentage of Garandian recruits developing psychic powers, a trait which is more than welcomed by the Silver Skulls.
''Victory does not always rest with the big guns: But, if we rest in front of them, we shall be lost.'' - Commander Argentius
As dictated by the Varsavian Script, the Silver Skulls go to war only when portents demands it. Most of the time the Chapter is spread widely throughout the Galaxy, fighting as small strike teams. These teams can be anything from a few squads to a Company in strength, but are always administrated by the respective Captain and his officers. Every move individual strike teams make is by the council of an attached Librarian, who through augury, visions and the interpretation of the Emperor's Tarot, guide his brothers and seek out threats to Humanity. Understanding the cryptic signs and messages they receive is not an easy task, and the Skulls are often led to many different places in search of more signs and the hope of better understanding their purpose. A vision might lead a strike team to a place of great importance, or maybe they discover new clues that points to another area that needs to be examined; sometimes they are even led to dead ends. Either way, the Librarians have to physically travel to these locations to determine what should be done, and this need to investigate clues and signs at many different places at the same time is why they operate in numerous smaller teams.
If a Librarian, after consulting with his superiors in the Librarium, predicts a brewing threat to Humanity, the Skulls will gather all available elements of the Chapter and focus all their efforts on this one threat, as these decisions are viewed as holy orders from the Emperor Himself. This means that the Silver Skulls fight at Chapter strength more often than what is usual for most Chapters, and many have been surprised by the unexpected arrival of the Chapter's entire fleet. The Silver Skulls' doctrine has affected their relationship with their allies, as requests and pleads for their aid have on multiple occasions gone unanswered. Unless a considerable amount of innocent lives are at stake, the Skulls will always follow their own agenda. This mercurial behavior does not sit well with some, but victory is seen as an ample compensation by most allies.
On the battlefield, the Silver Skulls fight with cold logic and tactical genius, worthy of their Primarch. Librarians are more than just advisers, as their psychic talent is used to its fullest in combat. Particularly powerful psykers can even use their powers to predict the movements of their enemies, an advantage that undoubtedly has contributed to their long record of glorious victories. The Skulls value the Codex Astartes message of flexibility above all else, and they embrace methods that other Chapters might look down on, like the use of stealth. They argue that the greatest honor is victory itself, not how the victory was achieved. However, they do not practice victory at all costs, viewing the deaths of innocent humans as highly disrespectful of Humanity and what the Emperor fought for. They are not afraid of falling back if it is tactically justified.
The Silver Skulls maintain a strong fleet, consisting of three Battlebarges, nine Strike Cruisers and a large number of rapid strike vessels (including several of the controversial Nova Class Frigate), a result of both their status as a Second Founding Chapter and their Combat Doctrine. The Imperial Navy have in the past expressed its concerns, not only because of the unusual large number of ships of a non-fleet based Chapter, but also because of the unconventional use of the fleet. Many times have the Skulls engaged in full space combat, often with their entire fleet, operations which the vessels of the Adeptus Astartes are not designed to perform. The Skulls spend little time arguing any claims of stepping beyond their mandate, and point only to their long record of victory and loyalty to the Emperor to justify their actions.
The Silver Skulls Librarium is larger then the norm, and is arguably the most important part of the Chapter, as every decision made by Commander Argentius is by the council of the Chief Librarian. This is possible because of the Skulls reverence of their Librarians, treating them with a great deal of trust, an uncommon trait amongst other Chapters. While the Librarium is still an independent part of the Chapter, the Skulls have a special position within each Company Command Squad. Called a Prognosticar, this Marine is a permanently attached Librarian, responsible for advising the Captain about any Company level operations and consulting his superiors in the Librarium if their attention is needed.
Loyalty to the Emperor is the foundation of the Silver Skulls' cult. They regard Him as the greatest man to ever live, the savior of Mankind, and believe that His vision of the Imperium is the only true vision, free of superstition and corruption. Without the guidance of the Emperor, humans lack the strength to find the right path, and the Imperium will slowly rot from within and be crushed from without. Humanity cannot be trusted, but must be protected, and so they fight for the Emperor, and only for Him, until the day He returns and His vision can be restored. These beliefs are what fuels their reclusive nature; rarely do they cooperate with other Imperial forces and never do they explain their own actions. This behavior is somewhat diminished when fighting alongside other Space Marine Chapters, particularly those of their own gene-line, who they can trust are fighting for the right reasons.
After the fall of Varsavia and the creation of the Script, the Silver Skulls turned to their psychic brethren to determine their purpose. Over time, Librarians gained much respect and reverence, which eventually turned into trust. Now, the Skulls rarely act without the consent of the Librarium, and the Librarians are viewed as the pinnacle of what Astartes can become; living examples of Humanity's psychic potential, prophets of the Emperor's word. They are blessed not only by their genes, but also by their connection to Him through the Immaterium. These views might be looked down upon by many other Chapters, but the Skulls are still very much aware of the burden the psykers carry, and the risk involved. The Astartes go out of their way to ensure that only the purest and most strong minded recruits are given the chance to develop their psychic powers. The Librarium also work in close tandem with the Reclusiam, the Chaplains ensuring the spiritual purity of the Librarians.
The Silver Skulls, for all their lack of superstition, still have limited understanding of the dark secrets of technology, and they are very much dependent of their Techmarines to create and maintain the more complex equipment and machinery. This dependency does not sit well with most Skulls, as the split loyalty of the Techmarines are viewed as dangerous at best. Any Marines returning from their training on Mars are required to re-swear their oath to the Varsavian Script, and acknowledge their loyalty to the Emperor. The Skulls know that they must uphold the pacts between the Adeptus Astartes and the Mechanicus, and that survival depends on this relationship, but there is still a number of Marines who outright hate their techpriests. It's a delicate balance kept in check only by the focus on their mission before anything else.
Many Chapters handle their Gene-seed in a religious manner; the implementation procedures steeped in rituals and only partly understood from a medical or scientific view. The Silver Skulls' Apothecaries on the other hand are ever vigilant keepers of the ancient knowledge of this most important aspect of a Chapter's survival. They know what to look for in a recruit, physically and mentally, and what might go wrong during his many surgeries. It is by this diligence that the genetic material of the Skulls remain exceptionally pure and stable, supporting their claim of being descendants of the Ultramarine Legion.
The Chapter continuously create detailed reports concerning the processes of recruitment and induction, storing them in the vast archives of the Apothecarion, and these reports are often sent alongside their tithes to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Of all the sections of the Pheonix Argentum, the Apothecarion is one of the most heavily guarded. Indeed, several Inquisitors have noted the extraordinary security when touring the Fortress Monastery, especially near the Gene-seed vault. The Silver Skulls might seem strangely open to such inspections and overly helpful with providing such information to outsiders, but for them it is nothing more than upholding ancient pacts of honor to anyone who is not the Emperor, and to keep the eyes of suspicion off their backs, as they continue to fight on their own accord only.
''Never forget, never forgive''
I've long toyed with the idea of fleshing out a GW created Chapter with little fluff. And although I tried to do that with the Sons of Antaeus, I wasn't happy with the result. Now I'set my eyes on the Silver Skulls, one of the most intriguing Chapters of Legend in my opinion.
First off this isn't my Chapter, it's GW's, and therefore it kinda belongs to everyone. So even though this is mainly my interpretation of them, I would greatly appreciate any thoughts on how you guys view the skulls.
From what little we know about the Silver Skulls, the most important thing is that they believe the emperor guides their purpose and that they only take to the battlefield when portents demand it, and this will be the focus on the article. Another thing that I want to capture is the sense of mystery surrounding the Chapter and room for speculation (wild speculation even). Everything else is my personal interpretation of the small amounts of info on them. This thread is one of my main sources of information: Silver Skulls Index Astartes Thread Here are my initial thoughts on the Chapter.
Edited by Codex Grey, 02 August 2010 - 07:05 AM.