Index Astartes: The Gryphon Guard
Defiant in the face of the void
he core of every Astartes' being lies in their genetic heritage, descended from their own Primarch and therefore the Emperor himself. From this link, they draw not only their beyond-superhuman abilities but the very meaning of their existence. Geneseed has attained a mythical and holy quantity in both the eyes of the majority of Astartes but also the Adeptus Mechanicus, the guardians of technology. Through millennia of ritual and superstition, the Emperor's hard-won gene knowledge has been lost, forgotten or even twisted. Due to this disgrace, degenerations have beset the sons of the Emperor. From the whispered of flaws of Sanguinius' line to the almost accepted deviances of Russ' only sons, few chapters have been spared. Although these cases are perhaps more prominent, the lesser known damage of the Raven Guard geneseed has meant that fewer and fewer chapters from Corax's line are raised and those that are born often suffer from their genetic inheritance.
However, in the birth of the modern Imperium, such flaws were yet to emerge to their full devastating effect or some still claimed enough knowledge to believe themselves worthy of tampering. So it was in the Third Founding that the Gryphon Guard was born of Corax's geneseed, drawing upon the scions of the Revilers Chapter to lead the new chapter into war. Their silver and purple heraldry soon became a much longed-for sight by the Imperial citizens of the galactic south-east as the chapter established itself upon the deathworld of Girant and pushed back the influence of the xenos and the heretic. Over the millennia, such famous campaigns and victories such as the Dhargasian Purge, the Routing of Waagh Grimtuf and the ill-fated Vureess-6 Explorator Expedition saw the chapter's name become engraved in the annals of the Imperium. And yet, from the very source of their power and success would come the flaw that has crippled the chapter and leaves it defiantly facing death.
Despite the best efforts of the chapter's Apothecaries and the gene-artificers of Mars, the Gryphon Guard's geneseed has become less and less viable with each passing millennia. The chapter's numbers have decreased slowly yet steadily since its inception, condemning the chapter to a prolonged death. Despite their inevitable extinction, the Astartes of the chapter serve the Emperor with increased fervour, determined that the chapter's name remain unblemished. The foolhardy blaze of glory taken by some lesser minded chapters is not for them. Instead, the chapter seeks to strike where the smallest amount of force will have the greatest impact, spending the remaining lifeblood of the chapter wisely. Even as the number of full battle-brothers in the chapter falls beneath four full companies-worth, the Gryphon Guard continue to ravage the enemies of the Emperor from the shadows as they proudly march towards the eternal void.
The Retiring of the Fourth Company
The last crimson rays of the sun shone through the coloured glass of the chapel's windows, bathing the assembled Astartes in the hue of blood. It appeared that they had stood at parade drill perfection for millennia and would continue to do so, until the very mountain from which the chapel was hewn fell into the sea. Into this stillness strode twenty marines, a mere tenth of the size of the frozen horde around them. Between the ordered ranks they continued until they reached the head of the chapel where the Reclusiarch and Chapter Master stood in front of the banners of the chapter. The Captain Raa'frert of the Fourth Company stepped forward onto the dais as his companions paused, the banner of his company held stiffly in his hands. His two superiors each saluted him, his remaining company and the emblem of the Fourth with a crash of fist upon chest. Presenting the Reclusiarch with the company banner, he returned the salute before rejoining the rest of the motionless chapter as the Chapter Master prepared to speak.
"The Fourth is retired, with full glory and honours to its name," spoke Chapter Master Tolo'vom into the reverent silence, "The service given by the company shall not be forgotten as long as the Imperium endures."
From two hundred-odd throats, a guttural battle hymn swelled as the remaining Astartes honoured those that had gone before and the deeds of the Company that they had served as the Fourth Company's banner took the place of honour over the altar where the Chapter banner had stood.
Drifting upwards through the darkness, Rart'eb muzzily opened his eyes. His instincts called to him to flee but he controlled himself. He was in the caves of the angels, no harm could come to him. As he sat upright, an angel entered, clad in white unlike the others he had caught glimpses of. He sat still, overawed by its presence. When it spoke, it was with a voice of thunder and in the tongue of the jungle.
"The land you stand upon is Lisu'arue, that belonging to the gryphon. Son of the jungle, if you prove worthy you will become of the gryphon clan. Many trials await you but if you survive, you will hunt the enemies of the eagle among the stars. Our blood will be yours and your blood will be ours. As from now, your previous life means naught. Already, you are marked as one of us."
Rart'eb turned to look sideways into a pool of silver metal. A powerful youth stared back at him, skin unblemished bar scars and missing all his proper tribal tattoos. There still remained one new and unremembered tattoo. A giant beast of claws, fur, wings and beak reared around his right eye, matching the one emblazoned upon the angel's shoulder. He touched it reverentially, struggling to comprehend how his life had changed.
irant lies in the galactic south-east, the sole inhabitable planet in the Latub system. Classified as a deathworld by the Imperium, the surface of the world is predominantly covered by subtropical forest. Among this deadly landscape and under the perpetually stormy sky, the long barbarised ancestors of human settlers struggle to survive the dangerously light days and nights lit only by lightning. Many chapters would believe these savages a more than satisfactory source of recruits but the chapter introduced further elements to increase the suitability. The tribal legends talk of when angels walked the planet and spread word of how only those that had proved themselves worthy by killing another man would be admitted to the side of the eagle. From this the practise of ritual combat at full moons started, often involving young children as their parents seek to ensure they will join them in the afterlife.
From this stock, the chapter draws its members. Taking the pragmatic and tribal mindset of the natives, the chapter's hypnotherapy shears the potential recruits of their superstitions and fears, replacing them with knowledge and duty. A brother of the Gryphon Guard is capable of total analytical thought and yet tempers this with the ties of their chapter, company and squad. Knowledge is not for knowledge's sake in their eyes but for use as a weapon for the Emperor's cause. It is this dichotomy between the savage tribesman and the intellectual master that is part of the chapter's very soul. Every measure and step taken in the chapter's long existence has been determined by the outcome of this internal conflict. The chapter's impending demise is examined by each Astartes both analytically and primitively tribally as possible, emotionlessly calculating the small odds of survival or the amount of enemies able to be killed as the chapter dies while also thinking of the glory of the chapter's name and raging against the eternal blackness of death.
Although the chapter strips away much of culture's mental identification as weaknesses, it has adopted a number of native practises in its long existence. The best example is in the use of the guttural Girantian tongue as a battle language and is also used for less formal or spiritual occasions. Jealously guarded from outsiders, its value increased dramatically as the chapter was forced by lower numbers to switch to more covert methods of warfare. The other major example is of the chapter's use of tattoos, mirroring that of the tribesmen of the jungle. These abstract markings reflect the life of the marine, detailing his rank, achievements and victories. Made from the coltgavu vine's dye, the intricate tattoos are spread over the marine's entire body by the honoured master tattooists within the chapter serfs. Other ceremonies practised by the natives such as ritual combat and various religious celebrations are vigorously excoriated from recruits and chapter serfs, decried as superstitious activities that serve no purpose for the chapter.
fflicted with the original Raven Guard flaws of the mutated Melanchromic Organ, missing Mucranoid and lacking Betcher's Gland, the Gryphon Guard's geneseed has continued to degenerate. Although no further organs have been lost, the geneseed's viability in creating new Astartes has slowly degraded. This has led to a much lower recruitment rate as a greater proportion of recruits fail to become full Astartes and the process of implantation has become even slower and preciser. The Apothecarian has devoted itself wholly to the issue since its emergence in the 37th millennium. Despite consultation with other descendants of Corax, examinations by the Genetor Magosii of Mars and rumoured contact with the sons of Sanguinius, no cure has been found. Measures to slow the rate and alleviate the severity of degeneration have been discovered in this research but still Company after Company retires from lack of Astartes. Indeed, many within the Apothecarian have abandoned the quest for a genetic cure and concentrate merely on improving the implantation success rate to augment the chapter's numbers.
Many knowledgeable outsiders have considered the possibility of substituting Raven Guard geneseed from Mars as a method of abating or even halting the chapter's slow demise. For its own inscrutable reasons, the chapter has not undertaken this radical course of action. Some suggest that for any chapter to utilise another's, even from the same primogenitor, would be sacrilege of the utmost kind and dishonour all who had bore the chapter's heraldry before them. However, others point to the relatively unsuperstitious attitude of the Gryphon Guard and whisper of far darker reasons for the chapter not trying this course of salvation. Rumours swirl of a rift between the Mechanicus and the Gryphon Guard still existing after the disastrous conclusion of the Vureess-6 Explorator expedition, millennia ago. Even grimmer speculation is barely dared to be breathed, that the Raven Guard themselves require all the geneseed stock to stop their own degeneration into monsters.
The origins of the geneseed flaw is fully understood by the Chapter. Every recruit is taught of the actions of Corax during the last days of the Horus Heresy and how this has left seemingly irreparable damage upon all of his sons. The vast majority of marines accept his actions as necessary and even justified as the fledgling Imperium emerged from the anarchy of the Heresy. However, Corax is not revered within the chapter as many primarchs are within their legion's descendants. Although he is honoured for the hard choices he made, he is also despised for his weakness in leaving his sons and the Imperium with his duty unfulfilled. This pull of hatred against love and devotion makes Corax's place in the chapter's beliefs difficult to comprehend for any outsider. It is seemingly no surprise that the Emperor is honoured further than normal given this spiritual conflict.
Chapter Name Origins
It was during the quelling of the Paln Uprising that the chapter was baptised in the harsh flames of war. Against the heretic rebels, the newborn chapter defended the Governor and what remained of his government. The back of the rebellion was broken during the siege of the Governor's Palace, where fully half the currently unnamed chapter manned the walls while the remainder crushed the traitors against the gate during the last days of the month long siege. As the sun set on the carnage, the only objects left standing were the Astartes and the proud gryphon statues atop the walls.
lthough the chapter has nominally followed the Codex throughout its existence, individual squads are far more autonomous than within the average codex chapter. This degree of freedom has expanded further as the number of Astartes fell and each squad became a vital resource. Indeed, currently the normal campaign deployment for the chapter is either one or two squads. This has led to the role of Captain becoming more concerned with deploying his squads across warzones and indirectly supervising their actions rather than the traditional responsibility of co-ordinating and controlling his company for a single campaign. The number of captains has also dropped as Companies are retired from lack of Astartes to man them. The specialised companies of the First and Tenth were retired in M40, with the veterans of the chapter joining the Chapter Master's Household and the scouts being distributed among the companies. Indeed, as each viable recruit became more precious, the final Black Carapace implant is given at the end of the implantation process and after further training, the novice is awarded his power armour with its much improved protection. It is only then that he is allowed upon the chapter's battlefields to serve his apprenticeship among the Tactical squads of the chapter.
As the geneseed curse has depleted the amount of full Astartes, the chapter serfs of the chapter have risen to play a more prominent role in the chapter. This includes in such specialised places as the Armoury and the Apothecarian, where a number of important positions are held by serfs. Within the Reclusiam, the cult of the master tattooists has always been filled by chapter serfs from the beginning of the practise. Even on the battlefield, the mortal servants of the chapter serve alongside their masters in their own formations. Made up of failed recruits and those hereditarily born into servitude, the serfs of the chapter receive much more respect from the Astartes compared to many chapters where they are treated as little more than servitors. This bond only drives their fanatical tribal devotion to their masters further and any serf would think nothing of sacrificing himself and his squad so that a precious Astarte life may be saved.
he Gryphon Guard have always preferred to seek situations where a carefully deployed squad will tip the balance of a battle rather than using the brutal sledgehammer of a full company to smash asunder the enemy. The tenets of the chapter's style of warfare has always been stealth, flexibility and pinpoint placement of force. The fall in the chapter's numbers has only exaggerated this tactical tendency as the chapter aims to spend its lifeblood as efficiently as possible. The operations of the chapter now consist of covert operations and deploying as a spearhead for other organisations such as the Imperial Guard. With this approach, the risk of losing men is slightly more minimised than the more frontal displays of force normally favoured by the Astartes. It also allows the chapter to have an strategic impact well beyond their numbers. In the chapter's recent history, only the most serious of threats has caused more than a company to deploy on the same battlefield.
The chapter's further expansion into covert warfare has only increased the chapter's deadliness. Campaign reports tell of hives' defences falling to a mere squad of Gryphon Guard infiltrated within the city with a number of chapter serf squads. Such reports often praise the Astartes uncanny ability to attack precisely the weakest point in the enemy's defences. This has been attributed to the chapter's greater care and planning when deploying its marines. However, others have claimed, though never for long, of the chapter operating its own network of intelligence gathering and pro-Imperial sleeper cells across the sector. Such accusations would indeed explain much of the Gryphon Guard's exceptional record of success while its numbers dwindled. If these claims were to contain a hint of truth, the Inquisition would be rightfully extremely concerned.
early every Astartes has sadly accepted the chapter's impending extinction. A few Apothecaries still fervently seek a solution but the rest of the chapter prepares to sell their lives as dearly as possible. As it draws nearer, a greater sense of melancholy has spread among the marines. This sadness has not inhibited combat performance, if anything it has merely spurred the chapter on as it fights for the past and to ensure its proud combat record remains unsullied instead of fighting for the future. The chapter has no illusions about the reality of death and no chaplain preaches such follies as eternal feasts at the side of the Emperor to their brethren. The only thing left to push the Astartes on is their duty to the chapter, each other and the Emperor, in the hope that the Imperium will survive long enough for its creator to walk the galaxy again. Every Astartes death is mourned and every new recruit welcomed with pride and yet also sorrow. It is a brave and proud stand the chapter makes as it spends the last of its lifeblood in the defence of mankind and its future, knowing that it has none itself.
And there we have it. The result of not studying in university exam block and realising that I should really get one of my chapters somewhere within 100 light years of Librarium quality
Very happy to have finished an IA for these guys, they started back in June 2006 so it's taken a while and a fair bit of evolution to get them up to scratch (see Ydalir, you have nothing on my slackness
). It's a bit of a rough read as it was written in a week but I hope it was an enjoyable read. Please be as
mercilessly critical of it as I have been to your IAs in the past!
Many thanks to Ferrata for his help back in the Ye Olden Days when I first started in the Liber with the cliched mess that was the first drafts of these guys, Barret for his help a similarly long time ago and Lysimachus for giving me a few ideas in the last brainstorming topic for this chapter
For further tales of the Gryphon Guard, have a read of the Lay of Larot
Edited by Sigismund Himself, 18 November 2010 - 11:59 AM.