The Unabated Storm
Chapter lore has it that the Broken Arrows, as successors to the White Scars, were founded with the purpose of hunting the ancestral enemies of all the Great Khan's sons: the Dark Eldar. Elusive though the quarry was, the Chapter’s oldest stories recount a successful campaign of detecting, repelling, and running the xenos raiding parties to ground from system to system, until the hunt brought them to a nexus of their foes' activity on the world of Lacrum.
Orbital observations depicted a world with a single jaggedly mountainous super continent carved out by complex river systems and surprisingly fierce winds, unexpectedly hosting the dilapidated remains of a pre-Imperial human cityscape near its center. Almost as remarkable was the presence of a sizable human population, spread thin across the land mass at what appeared a curiously deliberate distance from the long dead city.
The story of first contact with Lacrum’s Tribes is an account of the highest reverence among the Arrows, and the first memorized by every aspiring initiate.
‘Our first brothers were amazed to find the Tribes alive on a world of our enemies. They asked to know our names. At that time, our title had two meanings. One was written in our birth, when we first stood one thousand strong. We took the name as a symbol of all the Great Khan's sons. We are incomplete so long as the dishonor done to us by the Dark Eldar in the old times remains- they separated the Great Khan's warriors from his guiding wisdom, no different from an arrow without a shaft from head to nock.
As we took to the hunt, we saw the truth of things. No matter the dedication or the will, our task is impossible. We can never kill enough. We can never restore what was taken from us along with the Great Khan. We could kill every last one of the xenos, but the hole left in our souls by that shame is bottomless. We knew then another meaning of a broken arrow. It is ill fortune, a promise of failure the moment it is pulled from the quiver.
We told the Tribes our name, but nothing more. They nodded and smiled, as if they saw something else in the words. They did not explain, but instead told us of the ruins, and how the Tribes hid and wandered the mountains to avoid notice by the shadow things that called the dead city home. Our arrival was a threat to that. The hungry shadows would not ignore our trespass.
The devils came that first night on shrieking wings and screaming airboats, and the Tribes' fears seemed vindicated. They fought beside us, using bows crafted from the bone and sinew of Mother Lacrum’s beasts. They loosed arrows into our Mother's breath, and she spat them into the hearts of the devils. Our heavier guns of blessed metals met their tally tenfold. By the night’s end, the xenos fled back to the ruins. The Tribes tended to their fallen and wept for those less fortunate, those dragged off to the devils’ home. Some among those still standing regarded us with venomous glares and whispered curses for the disaster we brought down on them. Others solemnly repeated our name to the weeping, as though it was medicine.
The hunt had to continue, and anger lent a sharpened edge to our duty. We set off for the ruins, and the bravest of the Tribes were allowed to fly with us. They guided us to the quarry's haven, and we walked side by side into the ruins and the caves beneath. The aliens burst forth from their ghostdoors to defend their foothold, and the Tribes fought with us to put them into the ground for their trouble. With the devils in retreat, we prepared to crush the tunnels and seal their foothold away. The Tribes stayed our hand, wearing that strange smile they wore when we first met.
"Are you not as you claim to be?" they asked us. "Are you not broken arrows?"
We saw the final truth in our name then. If your enemy breaks your arrow, he has handed you a dagger. To be a broken arrow is to find victory in the face of failure. It is to turn ill fortune on itself. It is to meet doom and beat victory out of it. If there is nothing left of us but blood and hate, we drown our enemy in both until they are spent.
We are the Broken Arrows, a single title for three truths. Our honor is forever slighted by a failing long passed. We can never hope for absolution. And still we fight, from our second birth to our second death.
It is why we live in these tunnels now. We live in our foe’s former lair, we make hunters of their former prey, and we await them with smiles and blades. We took their own fortress, their pathway into our galaxy, and turned it into a bulwark against their return. Our home is a testament and a challenge: there is nothing we cannot turn and wield against our enemies.'
The narrative is archetypical form for the Arrows’ oral traditions. Its historical precision is questionable at best. But more importantly, it teaches that the Chapter's union with Lacrum and her Tribes was predestined, that all three are of a single purpose: unyielding retribution for the uncountable sins of the Dark Eldar.
In recent centuries, the Arrows have witnessed an unnerving trend within their protectorate.
The first signs came from Lacrum’s immediately adjacent systems. The worlds of Taravar, Simul and Raa were attacked within the span of a single year. The Guard and PDF forces stationed on Taravar sent urgent distress calls, and were found days later crippled and disordered in the aftermath of a lightning raid the Dark Eldar. Civilians on the agri-world of Raa were discovered horrifically mutilated across their fields and homes, flayed, butchered, dismembered and violated in unspeakable ways to form terrible alien sigils and symbols. Simul’s population rose up in panicked revolt when they heard the news of their sister worlds’ fates, before suffering a costly attack of their own.
The attacks became a pattern. The regularity of the raids steadily increased, pulling the Arrows farther and farther from their home. When a foothold was discovered and purged, raiders would emerge from yet another as yet unseen. Moments that should have provided periods of respite and reorganization were punctuated with revolutions and crumbling governments born by the terror the dark menace left in its wake.
Not a single company aside from the reserve forces stationed in the Howlhalls remains within a year’s travel to Lacrum now. A hundred marines and less than a thousand serfs are all that stand guard within its tunnels.
The dark claws of sneering shadows scratch at the walls of the Howlhalls. They probe for purchase and weakness, lending lamenting wails and pained moans to the breaths that thrum through its arteries.
The challenge made six thousand years hence is answered.
Unlike most Chapters, the Arrows have a familiarity and rapport with their mortal kin, and unlike most mortals the Tribes know some truth of the galaxy's hostility. With mutual respect and frequency of contact, it is little wonder then that local customs and the Chapter’s customs have gradually come to mirror one another. Bone whistles and tokens of feathers created from their home world’s most revered and spiritually significant fauna are common fetishes among the Arrows. Iconography and symbols adorning the Arrows’ armor and flesh are echoes of the tattoos seen among the Tribes. Even preferred methodologies and tactics are loosely analogous to the fundamental strategies of hunting that Arrows learn as humans.
The Broken Arrows believe their identity lies in a philosophy of relentless determination in the face of the impossible. The Chapter’s core mission- the eradication of the Dark Eldar- is ultimately unachievable. The Imperium which they are sworn to defend is indisputably in its twilight years. For every enemy of man put to the sword, a dozen more wait to fill its place. It is the knowledge of these truths that lends honor to the Arrows’ resolve. By their measure, only fools, unthinking zealots, and the delusional need to know that victory is guaranteed before taking up arms.
But regardless of motivation and belief, humans who die without blood on their hands are wasted lives. Station and place within the hierarchy of the Imperium, training and background, the weapons and armor available, all are seen as irrelevant. If an opportunity to fight in defense of the Emperor’s domain is presented, the Arrows accept no excuse to do otherwise. Even as child savages, the Arrows learn that life is won by taking it from others. Those who cower in the face of such a reality are left to the terminal rewards of their own inaction.
Such an uncompromising credo has led to ‘diplomatic issues’ on more than one occasion. The Arrows have a particularly notorious tradition with which to browbeat allies that they find wanting, rooted in another piece of Chapter lore pertaining to a war waged alongside a brother Chapter, the Throneguard, against an Ork incursion.
‘They failed. The Throneguard were honored with a chance for glory when we crafted our strategy, and they did not seize it. Were the shame their own to bear, that would be enough. But in failing, victory was jeopardized.
Our Master, Cayowakan the Stonesoul, to be Cayowakan the Openhand in soon coming days, approached them at the battle’s end. He sought their Champion, and threw dispersion and curses at the Throneguard, each one with a piece from his holy bolter. He named them cowards, weak and unworthy of the Emperor, until he stood with nothing but his weapon's splintered stock in his fist. When their Champion accepted the challenge, Cayowakan speared it through his skull.
Shamed by themselves and by our lord, Cayowakan offered them redemption. A final assault, with not a step backward, until either they or the Orks were dead. They accepted, and we saluted with pride over their dead in the days that came.
And so we make the same offer to all those that forget their purpose. We teach them of the broken arrow in honorable combat. If shame does not find their spines for them, then let them fall dead in graves where He does not see them. We do not share the glory of the hunt with those who will not earn it.’
Official Imperial records of the battle recount how the contingent of Throneguard, numbering only 30, was unable to join the battle as planned when their Drop Pods drifted several kilometers from their designated landing sites.
Similar circumstances throughout the Arrows’ history have invariably been met with an honor duel challenge, with more than a few champions and generals killed by shattered weapons, detritus from the battlefield, and on one particularly infamous occasion the victim’s own discarded rations tin.
Lacrum (or 'Mother Lacrum' to its inhabitants) is an inhospitable planet, but not of the caliber of a true Deathworld. Fourth from the suns
The Broken Arrows’ fortress monastery, the Howlhalls, resides under the wind scoured remains of Lacrum’s ancient civilization, and atop the Dark Eldar webway portals that first brought the Chapter to their home world. The ruins themselves were pilfered, eroded and crumbled into empty husks long before the Broken Arrows’ arrival. The labyrinthine tunnel complex underneath them, dug by unknown hands (and subtly reinforced into a formidable fortification by the Arrows), has proven a useful home for the Chapter. The winding, miles long tunnels exit out from dozens of cave mouths peppering the neighboring mountains’ rock faces, each guarded by the impaled skulls of Dark Eldar champions facing inward: a spiteful ritual leaving the dead fiends to stare upon their failures into eternity.
The subterranean fortress earned its title from the otherworldly howl it emits, which echos through the adjacent mountain ranges for dozens of miles. The wailing's pitch, volume and duration change with Lacrum’s mercurial air currents. In essence, the complex of caves serves as an enormous wind instrument, creating a constant dull vibration throughout the center holds before building to a deafening howl at the exits. The Arrows regard the phenomenon as a manner of communion with Lacrum, interpreting their world’s wills, omens, and portents by its breath passing through their home.
Lacrum's wildlife is predominantly avian or reptilian. Faunal adaptation to the planet's turbulent winds typically follows two directions: either bulk and strength to resist the currents, or grace and nimbleness to flow with them. These creatures, made up of diverse species such as the centipede-like Whipbird and the immense Mammogoth, supply the majority of the raw materials Lacrum's natives use to survive; bone, pelt, sinew, meat, scales and feathers.
The human population has adapted over the millennia in a subtler manner, a combination of the smallest of mutations lending them an evolutionary edge known colloquially as Lacrum’s Whisper. Primarily a product of an altered inner ear, a slightly enlarged nasal cavity, and a general heightened sensory sensitivity, the Whisper has allowed Lacrum’s natives to effectively function in the turbulent environment. Specifically, the population shares an abnormally acute sense of physical balance and sensitivity to temperature and barometric pressures. Using these talents, the Tribes have what looks outwardly like an unnatural gift for utilizing Lacrum’s winds in their marksmanship, employing a combination of advanced fletching techniques and the natural sensitivities of the Whisper to curve shots along every sort of turbulence imaginable. Among the Tribes, even an average hunter's arrow may change course several times in flight before striking its target.
The natives consider this evolution a spiritual matter, given the lack of scientific measures or incentives to understand the phenomenon as a product of natural selection. It is known as the Whisper because Lacrum’s people, particularly the hunters, are taught from childhood to focus on the subtlest sensations to effectively utilize their higher level sense perception. Or, in native terms, to listen for Lacrum’s Whisper.
The Broken Arrows' organization is adherent to Codex guidelines in the broadest sense, ordering the Chapter into ten Companies of roughly one hundred Marines. There are however some significant differences unique to the Arrows. Firstly, the Arrows employ a smaller than average number of aircraft and Landspeeders. Flying in Lacrum's unpredictable skies is a daunting, nearly prohibitive challenge, but those whom manage to perfect the art regardless make for pilots of exceptional caliber. The Arrows do not, however, share the White Scars's affinity for bikes. Lacrum lacks both the beasts of burden and the hospitable plains of Chogoris, and so sons of Lacrum do not carry a love of riding from their first lives into their second.
The exceptional divergences are known as the Lodges. These are formalized cliques of Arrows with peculiar dispositions, led to pursue fixed careers as shock troopers or heavy weapon experts. After arduous trials, Arrows of the former variety are adopted into the Lodge of the Talons, and form the Arrows relatively small reflection of an Assault company. The latter form the Lodge of the Long Bows, likewise serving as the Chapter’s Devastator company. The Talons’ reputation is one of brutal, barely restrained savagery, while the Long Bows are known for intransigent stubbornness and a coldly analytic demeanor second only to (or sometimes even including) the Techmarines. While unorthodox personalities guide Arrows into these cliques, the Lodges encourage their members to nurture those features, to better fulfill their new roles.
The Lodges are not strictly analogous to Devastator and Assault companies of other Chapters. Rather, they are amorphous bodies, distributing small kinships across the Arrows’ other companies as they and the Arrows’ leadership sees fit: sometimes as dedicated units, and sometimes as individual veterans charged with training brothers serving their due years as Assault and Devastator troopers. Fraternities in their own right, the Lodges hone and pass on their cumulative knowledge and specialties to new generations of Talons and Long Bows, with beliefs, structures, ranks and rituals of their own. Both factions even have appointed representatives among the Arrows’ leadership, lending voices of fervor and detachment to balance the guidance of the Chapter.
Although most Arrows revere the ubiquitous bolter as the weapon above all others, none question the value of the Lodges’ presence on the battlefield.
The most unique divergence from Codex organization comes in the form of individuals known as the Whisperkin. These Marines are the rare few for whom the gene-seed does not override, but rather interacts with the evolutionary anomalies collectively known as Lacrum’s Whisper. The phenomenon, known as the Whisper’s Ghost, never quite expresses itself the same way, though generally the subject’s senses, dexterity, coordination and balance are heightened by varying extremes to a state superior even to fellow Astartes.
These rare individuals form a corps d’elite within the Arrows, entirely autonomous but for direct commands of the Chapter’s highest ranks. Given the variance in effect of the phenomenon, the Whisperkin almost never work in tandem as a singular unit, but rather play to their individual strengths. Some may exhibit extraordinary reflexes and situational awareness, and choose to follow the path of an assault specialist or master pilot. Others demonstrate remarkable intuition and synchronicity with environmental conditions, making for marksmen of incomparable caliber which may perform duties as anything from a scout sniper to a heavy weapons expert. Regardless of specialty, they typically choose to deploy alongside the rank and file of their brothers, joining units of their choosing and acting as force multipliers and icons of the Chapter. There have never been more than thirty at any one time, and service alongside a Whisperkin is viewed as a great privilege.
The Arrows utilize tactics not far removed from the hunting traditions of their home world, expanded to accommodate tools not available in their former lives among the Tribes. Typically, this revolves around precise rapid deployment, before digging into largely static, mutually supportive firebases. In essence, it is no different among Lacrum’s mountains- mobility is limited on such harsh terrain, and so hunts are coordinated efforts between carefully positioned, stationary archers.
The most common tactic is one of dividing the enemy forces, as a huntsman or predator would scatter a herd to pick off prey at leisure. In the most ideal circumstances, airstrikes and deep striking assaults as well as inserted Scout squads are normally given the role of dissecting enemy formations, creating disorder and chaos. Outriders typically in the form of aerial support funnel any panicked or separated targets into kill zones, where they are bracketed by the ranged firepower of Longbows and Tactical squads.
When on the defensive, the Arrows will often employ forward elements which remain hidden until in the midst of an advancing enemy, springing ambushes to cripple the enemies’ momentum and target the highest priority enemy assets while reserve forces attack from without to exploit the confusion. It is a dangerous tactic, and creating an escape route for the advance elements by weight of fire is as high a priority as elimination of the enemy. The Arrows will also employ deep striking Assault squads when available after a trap is sprung, landing far from the entrenched forces to increase the disruption and confusion before falling back to friendly lines.
Under any circumstance, it is an extraordinary event when a Broken Arrow commander deems a situation a lost cause. Unless there is an immediate and far superior use for their resources elsewhere, the Arrows are loathe to quit the field of battle while the enemy remains. This is not simply a matter of pathological stubbornness. Commanders avoid retreat at all costs not to just sell their lives dearly, but because the Arrows consider it an obligation to practice what they preach to allies- that duty as a human of any sort or station demands ill fortune be met with firmly planted feet and ready fists.
Although the Arrows are meticulous in the application of force, war is an inexact science. Squad leaders are expected to take individual initiatives when circumstances demand it, whether by advancing on targets of opportunity or moving to buttress weakened lines. However, the Broken Arrows are loathe to admit when a cause is lost, and so only the most dire circumstances or strategic breakdowns permit withdrawal.
The Broken Arrows’ gene-seed is relatively stable, with only the slight degradation to be expected after hundreds of generations of recipients. The one exception, being the mutation responsible for the Whisper’s Ghost, is neither strictly a product of Lacrum’s genetic pool or the gene-seed itself. After millennia of study and limited coordination with the White Scars, a theory has been developed among the Apothecaries. It posits that the Great Khan’s gene-seed may be prone to internalizing a host’s traits to a larger than normal degree, and thus lays a platform for interaction with deeply rooted genetic tendencies. This theory presents a danger then, in that the effect of Lacrum’s Whisper on gene-seed could potentially be cumulative, increasing the chance of the Whisper’s Ghost with each new host.
Due to the unique biochemistry involved, the Whisper’s Ghost over adapts gene-seed to the individual’s physiology, leaving it unsuitable for implantation in a successor. As a result, Whisperkin strive to utilize their gifts to the fullest, performing acts of insane bravery and prowess, driven by the determination to gain in the Chapter’s legends the legacy they are denied in flesh.
If the Whisper’s Ghost is indeed more likely to appear with each new generation of the gene-seed, it could effectively render the Chapter incapable of reproduction, given enough time. Though there are on average more Whisperkin within the Chapter than its earlier years, the rate of their appearance is still low enough as to not put any significant strain on the Chapter’s stock of progenoid glands.
For now, the Whisperkin are a much greater boon than they are a burden, and so no research into a preventative measure during gene-seed implantation has been pursued.
When going into battle, the Broken Arrows hoot, shout, and howl, just as Lacrum's hunters do to flush out and scatter a quarry. Through the voxgrills of their Power Armor, these cries are given a brutal mechanical edge, and develop a deafening, almost concussive force.
Edited by Firepower, 20 October 2014 - 06:51 PM.