We war with daemons of the warp.
With the failures of the weak.
With the Xenos.
With the unrelenting voice spreading the taint of Chaos.
But we are warriors of the Imperium, and one thing will always be certain.
We will be victorious!
-Lord Ambisagrus, Master of the Storm Stalkers
As part of an effort to reaffirm Imperial rule within Segmentum Ultima, valiant Battle-Brothers of the Executioners were granted the honor of training a new generation of warriors. The resultant Chapter's duty would be to reclaim and safeguard the Keldara Sector, far to the galactic north, exterminate the rampant Ork infestations, crush rebellious populations, and reestablish Imperial law. Based on the frontier world Galawai, a blasted desert planet on the Keldaran fringe, the fledgling Storm Stalkers grew to strength and joined the strained Imperial efforts, waging more than three centuries of bloody warfare which saw the sector return to the Imperial fold once more.
Over five thousand years have passed since that time, during which the Storm Stalkers have continued to dispense the Emperor's wrath on Mankind's enemies. They have seen countless victories over ungratefully rebellious governments and ancient traitorous enemies. They have seen the burning of Ork-infested worlds, the punishment of Eldar raiders, and the slaughter of countless other Xenos species. They have even seen that which none would have ever imagined to see in the darkest of nightmares. None of this prepared the Chapter for what it beheld in the early tenth century of the forty-first millennium. Indeed, nothing could have adequately prepared the Storm Stalkers to bear witness as the Imperium declared their forebears, the mighty Executioners, Excommunicate Traitoris. Even though the declaration was repealed in later years, the Storm Stalkers have since grown ever more reclusive and increasingly hesitant to commit forces in great quantity. It is difficult to be certain why a Chapter once known for its unbridled ferocity would shy from battle, though cautious tongues whisper that the sins of the fathers may have had greater effect than any have foreseen...
On Galawai where thunder rolls
And warriors are made,
Beware ye all, bedeviled souls
Of righteous storm and blade
The people of this world call themselves Ful'a'tori, loosely translated as "those who dance amid the lightning," and are a hardy, superstitious and embittered people. The natives exist in twelve massive tribes, long since grown into scattered nations, at constant war against the elements and one another for the right to simply survive. Daily life on the planet occurs within the walls of self-contained townships called Sulas. Inside these ramshackle communes, ancient recycling machines filter the thin air and reclaim evaporated moisture while insulating material and conductor rods ward the inhabitants from deadly lightning. Life on the desert world is not kind to the human physiology and most tribesmen have lost the vigor and health to survive outside by the age of thirty, at which point they assume duties maintaining the Sula and caring for the tribe's youth. Criminals, the infirm, and those otherwise unable to contribute to the common good are given a choice of death or exile, lest they waste precious resources the tribe cannot afford. Young Ful'a'tori are trained in the ways of the Findsman, usually joining a roving band by the celebrated age of twelve. It is these brave individuals on whom the rest truly depend, for they venture forth into the wastes swathed in robes and rebreather apparatus to patrol the tribe's territory, hunt deadly desert beasts, and raid the other tribes for slaves and supplies.
Imperial surveyors also maintain a presence on Galawai, bartering with the nearest tribes for protection while their servitors and indentured criminals unearth the resources contained in the millennia-old mining tunnels underlying the surface. The work crews rely heavily on native assistance, as surface landings are only possible when the planet's fearsome storms allow. This has led to a significant degree of local culture insinuating itself into the prison population. As fascination with Ful'a'tori honor duels and tribal wars has spread, a dark underground of illicit and brutal pit fights between inmates has arisen: a trend that has been encouraged by the penal guards. Since most prisoners will never leave the mines, their lives are staked against one another in bloody, no-holds-barred death matches. Some participants even compete willingly for, if they win enough respect and fame, there is a chance that a successful fighter will be granted solitary confinement and a chance to avoid the rampant crush, beatings, and murder that plague the under-tunnels.
Amid the lightning-fraught tracts of a region known as the Pale of Wrath, deep in the treacherous canyon called the Guardians' Walkway, an ancient edifice is carved into the rock. This is Donner Tor, the Thunder Gate: fortress-monastery of the Storm Stalkers. This deceptively massive complex spans kilometers beneath the sands in every direction, housing all the facilities required by the Emperor's Space Marines. Multiple hidden entrances and launch bays are spread across the surface, allowing the Storm Stalkers to come and go as unpredictably as the lightning strikes. This suits the Chapter well, as it chooses to remain largely detached from the indigenous population. The Storm Stalkers instead allow the harsh environment and the violent cultural atmosphere to develop worthy aspirants. Knowledge of the Chapter among the native population is no more than a blend of carefully crafted legend and wild speculation.
We brothers, we warriors, we bringers of death stride amongst the endless tide of our enemies undaunted, adorned with the flames of righteous hatred, ablaze with the vengeance of our ancestors, alight with the blinding illumination of our Emperor's truth. By the luminescence of our fiery vestment may our foes find us and, in so doing, find their path through the gates of oblivion.
-Veteran Sergeant Aillen
When matters affecting the entire Chapter arise, the Storm Stalkers call upon the Council of Twelve, the Fomoraig, consisting of the Chapter Master, Lord Speaker of the Dead, company Captains, and the Master of the Apothecarion. The Chief Librarian and Master of the Forge are invariably in attendance, availing the Council of their wisdom and expertise, but traditionally fulfill the roles of impartial advisors. Also stationed in the fortress are the Council's honor guard, twelve warriors of legendary skill and long experience charged with the defence of the Chapter homeworld. As the companies are seldom long at home, these trusted soldiers additionally bear the administrative duties usually attributed to Captains, such as Master of the Fleet, Master of the Arsenal, and so forth.
Your enemy may not harm what he cannot see. He cannot see if he is dead. The solution is obvious.
-Scout Sergeant Thalian, explaining battle theory to recruits
The truest expression of the Storm Stalker way of war can be seen in close combat. When facing a numerically superior foe, a frequent eventuality for Space Marines, Battle Brothers draw themselves inward and turn their backs to one another, eliminating rear exposure and reducing the possibility of division. What follows has been described by observers as "a storm of death". Using rigorous training and their enhanced senses, the warriors whirl and strike as one with little to no space between their own bodies. As one strikes high, another low. A sword will cut through a space occupied only milliseconds prior by an ally to split an enemy in twain. They move and twist and slay as if preternaturally connected to one another, though such feats are simply the product of brutally ingrained reflex fused with technology and bio-engineering.
Adding to their ferocious countenance, the Chapter's Marines often enter battle bearing tokens and symbols of alacrity and might adorning their armor. Favorites among the Battle-Brothers include feathers from the chameleonic Galawai wraithhawk, storm-related icons, and runes of power from the ancient tribal scripts. These tokens are often stained in the humours of foes slain in bloody melee, a grim testament to the fate of any who behold such a sight. Proud and practical warriors, the Storm Stalkers are also prone to claim trophies from particularly powerful or respected enemies, most often taking the form of a weapon or piece of armor. Occasionally though, especially in cases of extreme hatred, a warrior will take the ears (or other aural sensor) of his rival and carry them with him, that the slain foe will forever hear the sound of thunder and find no peace in death.
Though unflinchingly loyal to the Golden Throne, the Storm Stalkers have a well-deserved reputation for ruthless savagery. Brutally efficient, the Storm Stalkers care little for avoidance of collateral damage and see destruction of the enemy as the primary goal, regardless of superfluous casualties. The Marines of Galawai also eschew coordination with external forces and tend to evaporate from the scene of battle as soon as their mission is completed. Because of their isolationist practices and their tendency toward chaotic, unforeseeable action, the Storm Stalkers are widely regarded as an unpredictable ally at best or, at worst, a heavy price to pay for victory.
I am indwelt by the line of my fathers all the way back to mighty Dorn and the immortal Emperor himself. Their vision guides me. Their strength bolsters my own. They grant me power beyond the ken of mortals. I stand today a Lord of the Fomoraig, a leader of my Chapter, and the bane of all my enemies.
-Storm Stalker induction cant for newly anointed Council members
Due to the ethereal nature of their powers and the prominence of shamanism in the native culture, Brother-psykers are often seen as a gateway to the ancestors. While still standing apart from their brethren, Librarians of the Chapter bear few of the typical stigmas normally associated with psychic aptitude and are regarded with reverence and respect.
Like many scions of Dorn, the Marines indulge in intense self-castigation for perceived failure. Anything less than peak performance is unpalatable for a Storm Stalker and deserving of severe punishment. Their chosen implement of penance on such occasions is a chamber whose interior is lined with multitudes of electrical nodes. It is called the Judgement of the Twelve: purging failure and self-doubt with searing azure currents of energy.
Many Storm Stalkers comport themselves with an externally icy demeanor which stems from their long-learned abhorrence of weakness. In their eyes, strength of arm, sharpness of mind, firm discipline, and fierce obedience have created a force rivalled by few and molded a civilization that has survived for millennia. Skill and courage are readily admired by all, but those who appear weak or cowardly are often dismissed out of hand, including Imperial officials regardless of rank. The brotherhood's leaders are superb commanders and masters of combat in all its forms. He who earns primacy of the Chapter is a reputable strategist and an unparalleled warrior with centuries of victory and bloodshed on which he has built his legend. Aspiring to such glories themselves, each Marine carries his own weight and far more. So it is that there is little sympathy in their hearts for those who drain the Imperium with their decadence and foolishness. On Galawai, there is only one truth. There are no innocents and there are no heroes. There are only the weak...and the strong.
Stop circling around waiting for an opening that may not come. Strike! Strike, damn you, or I shall kill you myself!
- Scout Sergeant Thalian
The Masters of the Storm Stalkers are exacting and the tests of purity extremely unforgiving. After it is determined that an aspirant's body is free of taint and capable of accepting the Chapter's gene-seed, the youth is subjected to the Twelve Trials of Fate: a series of tests designed to measure the physical fortitude, strength of will, skill at arms, and willingness to persevere. All of the tests are extremely dangerous and the result of failure is almost always death, for the weak have no place in the service of the Emperor. If the aspirant survives the ordeal having performed sufficiently, he is inducted into the Scout company and trained in the ways of the Astartes. But there is one last test that awaits him before he may ever be called Battle-Brother. Once the young Scout is deemed ready to become a fully-fledged Space Marine he is cast into the desert, bearing neither arms nor armour, to seek out and slay a meters-long Balu serpent in its mountainous lair. If the warrior returns bearing his slain quarry, he is ceremoniously granted a suit of ancient power armour, the stiletto fangs of the fallen beast symbolically coated in adamantium and mounted on the left gauntlet, and the coveted title: Brother of the Storm.
For all the care and thoroughness of their processes, the adepts of the Apothecarion have discovered something amiss within the ranks. Rumours abound of Marines simply falling, dead where they stood, unwounded by the enemy in the midst of battle. At first, the scattered incidents were conjectured to be some form of heinous enemy sorcery. In recent years, however, the occurrences have increased in frequency. Even after meticulous examination of the bodies, Apothecaries have been unable to determine a cause of death. Realizing that this could spell catastrophe for the Chapter, the Master of the Apothecarion quickly reported his findings to the Council. After much deliberation, it was determined that this unspeakable phenomenon (thenceforth dubbed "the Stillness") must be sequestered until a cure could be found. Every healer of the Apothecarion was sworn to secrecy: the sole keepers of this grave knowledge beyond the Council. Each successive case was carefully explained away in the autopsy, often manifesting as a previously undiscovered wound beneath the armor or traces of a potently toxic gas in the lungs.
In a Chapter normally bound so closely by discipline and duty, this terrible mystery has caused major rifts to form amongst the Battle-Brothers. The Council of Twelve meets far more often than in past years, and always in seclusion. The now-reclusive Marines of the Apothecarion have become the unofficial guardians of the secret, with the abominable responsibility to silence overly inquisitive tongues by any means necessary. Those Brothers possessed of too much curiosity occasionally find themselves the victims of an unfortunate training incident. Their more prudent brethren whisper of conspiracy, corruption...and of the Heralds' suspiciously increasing ubiquity.
One: The Thunder calls!
All: And we bring the Lightning! We are the Storm!
Edited by InquisitorHayn, 31 May 2012 - 11:40 AM.