Index Astartes: The Nephilim
The Angels walked through the halls of Hell;
Across their path grim shadows fell
Of many a writhing, nameless shape-
Monsters with dripping jaws agape.
The darkness shuddered with scream and yell
When the Angels stalked through the halls of Hell
- The Fallen Ones, ancient Dominite tome
The 33rd Millennium was a time of spiritual transformation for the Imperium of Man. The Adeptus Ministorum, referred to by most as the Ecclesiarchy, had just been established as the official state church. Wars of Faith were declared almost immediately, not only to wipe out any trace of competing creeds, but to expand the influence of the Ministorum. It was an undertaking that was both spiritual and military in nature. It is no coincidence that multiple chapters of Adeptus Astartes were founded at the beginning of what would become the centuries-long War of the Confessor.
The Heralds of Sanguinius were one such chapter. Founded in the opening years of M33, the High Lords of Terra decreed the Heralds were to be a crusading chapter, tasked with bringing the Emperor's light to the far reaches of the galaxy. To that end, the High Lords and the Mechanicus bestowed upon the fledgling chapter a sizable battlefleet, centered around the Exorcist-class Grand Cruiser, Wings of Wrath.
During their millennia-long crusade, the Heralds established a reputation as effective assault troops. In their crimson armor, the Heralds were the epitome of noble sons of Sanguinius. Imperial commanders were often overjoyed when the Heralds responded to requests for aid, as they were known for being relatively diplomatic when dealing with the un-augmented Imperial forces.
In the closing years of M38, the High Lords of Terra charged the Heralds, along with four other chapters of Adeptus Astartes, to wage war on the heretical Malagant Sector of the Segmentum Tempestus. Collectively called the Manus Irae, the five chapters were commanded to "spare none and set a bloody, fearful example to the realm of Mankind." During the 21-year long campaign, known as the Great Malagantine Purge, the wrath of almost 5,000 Astartes was unleashed. Either by bolter and blade, or the dreaded Exterminatus, entire planetary systems were cleansed and untold billions were slain. Veterans of countless campaigns, the widespread nature of the heresy in the sector necessitated a level a bloodshed the chapter had never experienced.
The chapter emerged from the campaign fundamentally changed. Where they were once open and unguarded with their allies, they were now taciturn and grim. Rumor has it that a record number of Astartes succumbed to the genetic flaw inherited by all the sons of Sanguinius. Paragons of nobility had descended to the level of bloodthirsty savages during two decades of brutal warfare. Despite being awarded a homeworld by the Lords of Terra for their part in the campaign, what should have been a crowning achievement turned into a black stain on the chapter's history.
While not physically defeated, the chapter was spiritually broken. Despite their high intentions, they had fallen far short of being the exemplars they had built themselves up to be. They had denied the monster within their blood for almost five millennia, only to have it violently thrust into their faces. Heads hung in shame, the Heralds set out for their new world on the edge of the Segmentum Tempestus.
It would be over 300 years before the chapter once again appeared in the records of the Imperium. Only what rose from the volcanic wastelands of their new homeward bore scant resemblance to the Heralds of Sanguinius.
They were dark and brutal killers. They were fallen angels, the Nephilim.
Their descent into savage bloodlust during the Great Purge highlighted an error in the Heralds' basic beliefs. They had thought themselves above the flaw buried in their blood, only to fall into darkness of the rage at a staggering rate. The transformation of the Heralds of Light into the Nephilim was more than just a change of name. Where the Heralds held tightly to the tenets of the Codex Astartes, the Nephilim eschew the sacred tome entirely. Their old doctrine and dogma crumbling beneath them, the warriors of the chapter were heavily influenced by the philosophies and lifestyle of the natives of their new homeward.
Instead of companies, the Nephilim are organized into seven Clans. Named after mythical creatures in Dominite lore, the Clans are largely autonomous, maintaining their own armouries and responsible for recruiting their own aspirants. Each led by a Scourge, the Clans range throughout the segmentum, periodically returning to refit and recruit new aspirants.
Hearkening to the days of the Great Crusade and the original Blood Angels Legion, the Nephilim refer to the leaders of their creed as Wardens. The Wardens are responsible for the spiritual well-being of the battle-brothers under their charge. They oversee the branding rituals and mentor their comrades on calming the savagery running through their veins. Their most important task, though, is keeping watch over the battle-brothers of the chapter's Revenants. Only the Wardens have what it takes to control those lost to the Black Rage.
Battle-brothers who exhibit latent psychic ability are trained as Augurs. As their name would suggest, the Nephilim's librarian focuses heavily on divining the future. With this knowledge they are able to counsel the Harbinger on where the chapter's path should lead. The eldest of the Augurs are amongst the longest-lived battle-brothers in the chapter. Their sage advice is often sought by warriors of the line, as they have controlled the urges of the flaw for centuries.
The homeworld of the Nephilim is the only planet in a binary star system known as the Dominus System, located on the rimward edge of the Segmentum Tempestus. Dominus Prime, known colloquially in the Administratum as Dominion, is a brutal, inhospitable world that teeters on the edge of being classified as a death world.
Dominion's tectonic plates are in near-constant upheaval, and it's surface is dominated by vast chains of volcanoes. When areas of tectonic stability coincide with a water source, a veritable oasis can spring up in the ash wastelands. It is around these water sources that feral tribes fight for survival and control of the limited resources the planet has to offer.
The creatures that inhabit Dominion are, by necessity, aggressive and savage - they fight for the same resources as the tribes. The planet's apex predators are known as the khoshekim, or Dark Ones. Vaguely humanoid and sinewy, these ebon-skinned abominations prowl the ash wastes, using their teeth and claws to bring down prey.
The harsh living conditions, combined with a higher than average gravity, have turned the tribal people of Dominion into prime candidates for service as battle-brothers in the chapter. From their mountain-top fortress monestary, known simply as the Throne, the Nephilim keep watch over their planet and the surrounding sectors.
Much like the barbaric tribes they recruit from, the Nephilim value strength of will, physical power, and skill at arms above all else. While the chapter will work alongside other chapters of Adeptus Astartes or the Imperial Army, they are loathe to risk battle-brothers and resources protecting those with neither the means or desire to protect themselves. The Nephilim believe their Emperor-given duty to actively prosecute a war against the enemies of Man, not to sit in defense of the un-augmented masses of humanity.
The chapter's cult is deeply rooted in the religious practices of the Dominite natives. The tribes worship the Emperor as an elemental force, his power expressed through the natural forces that ravage the surface of their planet and control the course of their lives. Dominite warriors will ritually brand words and symbols of devotion on their bodies, or use ash to inscribe terror markings on their faces, in hopes to earn the Emperor's favor. So too will brothers of the Nephilim brand their skin and mark their armour and weapons.
In contrast to other sons of Sanguinius, the Nephilim seek not to cure the curse of their geneseed, but to wield it as a weapon on the battlefield. The original masters of the chapter sought to temper the brute savagery flowing through their veins with an intense focus on self control.
The chapter has come to view pain as a tool to focus the mind, to control the rage. The ceremonial brands have a dual purpose; they act as marks of devotion and the pain of searing their own flesh brings a certain clarity to a battle-brother's mind. In the same vein, the chapter's many gladiatorial pits give battle-brothers a highly ritualized outlet for their emotions while honing their considerable skills in close combat. If the abuse their body receives in the cages helps to focus their mind, so much the better.
Where other scions of The Angel are known to master their emotions through artistic endeavors, the Nephilim devote themselves wholly to the idea of enforcing control over their base savagery. The chapter believes in controlling the flaw so strongly, members of the Revenants who survive a battle are not executed outright. Instead, they are sequestered in the deepest levels of the Throne, where, between battles the chapter's spiritual leaders will exhaust every effort to reach the clouded minds of their lost brethren. In the entirety of the chapter's history, only a handful of battle-brothers have found their way back from the bloody abyss that is the Black Rage.
Dominion is a harsh world, inhabited by dangerous, malicious creatures. In order to survive, the planet's natives have responded with a savage brutality of their own. Only the strong survive, and physical power is the only thing the tribes respect - as that is the only thing ensuring they live where others perish. The only time the disparate tribes unite in purpose is Dominion's winter season. This time of darkness brings the tribes together in khoshek'karam, a war of survival against the Dark Ones, who venture further from their lairs in search of prey during the cold twilight. This is when the Nephilim descend from their mountain fastness to recruit the next generation of Astartes.
Tribal youths who exhibit uncommon valor and strength are plucked from the battlefield to be trained as Aspirants in the chapter. From the beginning, they are immersed in the bloody, barbaric rituals of the Nephilim. They are taught the price of letting mastery of their emotions slip, even for a moment. If they survive the initial training and testing, they earn the honor of being infused with the blood of Sanguinius and beginning the transformation into one of the Emperor's Angels of Death.
Before they earn the black carapace and their own suit of power armor, the Aspirants must succeed in the Trial of Ash. Unarmed and unarmoured, the Aspirants must survive a trek through the Angelus Line, Dominion's largest volcanic chain. Home to all manner of dangerous creatures, only the strongest emerge to make their way back to the Throne.
The first brand on Initiate's new gene-enhanced body, given to them when they are presented their armour in front of the assembled clan, is the winged blood drop of the chapter's insignia on the inside of their right forearm.
Where some Astartes could be described as fluid and graceful in close combat, battle-brothers of the Nephilim have adopted a quick, effective and unabashedly brutal style of hand to hand combat. They have translated that style into a form of maneuver warfare tailored to their strengths. Heroic pitched battles and glorious, headlong rushes into the teeth of the enemy are not for the Nephilim. Instead, the chapter prefers to execute savage lightning strikes targeted on their enemies' weaknesses, taking them apart piecemeal.
When the time comes to close with the enemy, battle-brothers of the chapter display a cold brutality. Instead of giving in wholly to the hot bloodlust flowing through their veins, the Nephilim are detached, systematic killers. Many a heretic and traitor have met their doom at the hands of the Nephilim, their last sight a warrior in blood-stained alabaster armor methodically tearing through their comrades.
It is believed by some that the geneseed of the Nephilim descends from that of the Flesh Tearers. This would help explain the high number of brothers who succumbed to the Black Rage and Red Thirst during the Malagantine Purge and the severity of the chapter's fall from grace. Regardless of their direct lineage, it is clear they are sons of The Angel, Sanguinius. The only flaw in the geneseed is the curse encoded in their very blood by the death of their Primarch.
On a curious note, the chapter's geneseed seems to have an unusual interaction with the blood of the barbarian tribes they recruit from. All of the Dominite battle brothers have a dusky complexion and jet-black hair.
As the Heralds of Light, the chapter's original colour scheme was a deep crimson. After their arrival on Dominion, and their transformation to the Nephilim, the chapter painted their power armour ghost white with black trim on the shoulder pads. Members of the chapter's Death Company have their armour painted a dark, ashen gray.
The chapter badge of the Nephilim is a dark blue blood drop surmounted by black angel wings.
Edited by LongGone, 01 August 2014 - 05:06 PM.