Perhaps I should have started this as a debate topic instead, but even so, this format might spur fruitful debate. I have been curious for some time about the idea of a DA successor who chooses to refrain from the hunt. What sequence of events might lead a chapter toward this decision? Here is one suggestion.
Oath Keepers Tactical Marine Battle Brother (The Chapter does not indicate company colour).
Oath Keepers Assault Marine
Primarch: Lion El'Jonson
Founding Chapter: Angels of Absolution
Founding: Third Founding
War cry: For the Imperium! or In the name of the Emperor!
Homeworld: Fleet-based chapter until the latter years of M41
Current Grand Master: None - the last was named Timoleon the Stern
Number: Less than 100
Speciality: Boarding actions
Chapter bade: A gauntleted fist grasping a purity seal
The Oath Keepers were an Adeptus Astartes chapter, hailing from the Third Founding.
The gene-seed of this brotherhood was drawn from the venerated stock of the First Legion. Their blood line stems from the Angels of Absolution - Second Founding sons of the Dark Angels. Like their redoubtable parents, the order does not carry the title of Unforgiven. Instead, they consider themselves absolved for the same reasons as the Angels of Absolution. Likewise, they have nevertheless shouldered the burden of delivering retribution to the Fallen. Even so, the order struck out on a uncharted path that has dragged them to the edge of extinction. Following events circa 500M39 the chapter’s leadership elected to forsake the hunt for the Fallen.
The Great Scouring saw the birth and first actions of the Oath Keepers. At first the chapter fought alongside their parents against xenos bastions, seized while the Imperium bled from the Heresy. Soon, however, the Angels of Absolution were petitioned by their brothers from the Angels of Vengeance. Support was needed in actions within the Pacificus, against Chaos factions. Since they could not abandon their current obligations, the Oath Keepers were dispatched instead - honoured with an opportunity to uphold the legacy of their founders. At this time, a subtle (and unacknowledged) degree of ill-feeling still existing between the Unforgiven and those who considered themselves absolved. Fortunately, the selfless devotion and skill of the Oath Keepers eventually gained respect from the Angels of Vengeance (if not from other Unforgiven chapters with whom they had not yet made contact).
Fighting alongside three full companies of the Angels of Vengeance, the Oath Keepers formed a task force that ventured deep into the Segmentum Pacificus - there to battle against Chaos tainted hosts of traitor Guardsmen. Here, the brotherhood won renown for their acuity in void warfare and swift boarding actions, destroying or disabling key components of opposing vessels before withdrawing.
It was also during these operations that the two brotherhoods captured an orbital Adeptus Mechanicus shipyard. Concealed within a vast asteroid field, this marvel of a past age had floated undisturbed since the Great Crusade. The Mechanicus had abandoned it at the start of the Horus Heresy for reasons unknown. All data banks had been wiped prior to evacuation. Mountains of mysterious equipment had been destroyed within its vast holds. One valuable asset remained. Within its decaying bowers lay a vast battle barge, of a class approaching that of the Eternal Crusader. The Angels of Vengeance agreed that the Oath Keepers should take it as their new flagship. The first Techmarine to enter it, declared that the vessel's machine spirit had named itself The Act of Conscience. Since then the Keepers have remained a fleet-based chapter (that is, until their recent tragedy).
As was the case during void combat, planet-side warfare saw the two chapters (the Angels and the Keepers) pooling and deploying their combined resources with a strategic acumen that prevailed over the entrenched resistance of four sectors within half a century. The Keepers continued in this fashion for seven centuries, displaying the trademark resilience of the scions of El’Jonson. Loyally the chapter committed its forces to the hunt for the Fallen. When the time came, the two brotherhoods took leave with mutual admiration.
Being a fleet-based chapter, the Oath Keepers set about securing recruitment rights over a number of suitable worlds, mainly on the borders between the Segmentums Pacificus and Obscurus. The order showed a preference for feral worlds - believing that these would deliver recruits of pure minds and souls, and strengthened by the hardships of a brutal existence. On three such worlds, Techmarines uncovered evidence of ancient human civilisations. The feral inhabitants of each planet possessed no knowledge of these once-great cities, the ruins of which dotted the polar caps, isolated islands or subterranean caverns. Research suggested that the three worlds had once enjoyed contact with each other, and indicated that each of these technologically advanced civilisations pre-dated the Imperium by many millenia. Uncovering three such planets had a dual influence on the Oath Keepers. On one level, it further invigorated a sense of the Imperium's superiority - a line of thought that was zealously preached by the Chaplaincy. Yet the memory of the Scouring and the Heresy remained raw. Thus, the discovery also instilled in the brotherhood a sense that - for all its greatness - the Imperium was clearly vulnerable. It was magnificent but not invincible. That, after all, had been the motive for the creation of the Adeptus Astartes.
In the light of subsequent events, it is feasibly that this exerted a prominent influence on the Keepers' chapter cult. It further invigorated a desire to locate and shield the Imperium against any threat. Many of the vast tapestries and murals adorning the great halls and training spaces within the Act of Conscience portrayed approximations of what these ancients civilisations might have looked like. Dominating the far right of every scene was the visage of the Emperor. He looked on in dismay, for he carried full knowledge of their shortcomings. And perched on his shoulder was the image of a lion, looking in the same direction, symbolising the Primarch of the Oath Keepers - as yet unborn, and yet always already within the mind of the Emperor.
The chapter's first opportunity to incarcerate one of the Fallen arose in M33. A long-planned and carefully nurtured uprising had been nursed by small warbands from what was initially believed to be the Alpha Legion. Entire Imperial Guard regiments had been turned, from the subsector Purgatio. Bribes, threats and other methods of subterfuge had delayed the Administratum from noticing a steady reduction in tithes. When the extent of the treachery was finally revealed, it seemed that the entire subsector had fortified itself against retribution. The Oath Keepers responded. A powerful crusade was dispatched, working in close concert with the Invaders chapter - a successor chapter from the proud lineage of the Imperial Fists, of an uncertain founding.
From the beginning the hidden leaders of the uprising sought to avoid set-piece battles. The Oath Keepers and the Invaders divided their forces in order to first quell the worlds at the top of their priority list. But once their combined planetary bombardments lifted from the sprawling fortresses, and the Adepts made planet-fall, it was clear that all static defences only boasted token resistance. Instead, the enemy had withrdrawn to mountains, jungles, swamps and subterranean mines. The conflict became a prolonged and bloody war of attrition, as the two Adeptus Astartes chapters learned to adapt their tactics. When a set battle was eventually forced upon the world of Purgatia, the Oath Keepers' highest ranking officers were met with a chilling surprise.
Reconnaissance showed hundreds of traitor Guardsmen bearing great banners depicting the face of Luther. In truth, and as the Keepers eventually learned, none of the Guardsmen had an inkling of the significance of this image. They had been ordered to paint and display it by the agents of one of the Fallen. Similarly, the majority of the Oath Keepers could not fathom this practice either. Most assumed that it was the face of some self-obsessed traitor general. But representatives of the Inner Cirlce were perturbed. The danger of exposure increased when Scouts from the Invaders made the same observations and reported this to their own commanders. A hasty decision was made. Veterans from the Oath Keepers boasted of their prowess to the Invaders, stating that they no longer needed their assistance. The Invaders were outraged. Many demanded an honour dual, but instead a decision was made to immediately withdraw all support from the campaign. The chapters parted company in disgust. Among the lower ranking brothers of the Oath Keepers many silently criticised the dishounrable conduct of their veterans. Nothing was said openly.
The Fallen Angel who had been at the heart of the uprising was eventually captured when his last fortress was razed. This would be the first of only three members of the Fallen that the Oath Keepers would ever capture despite their many years of service.
Relations between the Oath Keepers and the Invaders were never repaired.
During the years of M39 the demands of the Hunt, and the recurring sacrifice of other duties to the Imperium began to tell. More than ever before in its illustrious history, this millennium demanded that the Oath Keepers abandon Imperial citizens, Guardsmen, and Imperial Navy fleets to the predations of Orks, Eldar, Dark Eldar and Necrons, in order to pursue whispers of the Fallen. More often than not, these rumours proved insubstantial and worthless. Even when the chapter managed to trap and capture a member of these ancient traitors, they never succeeded in killing or incarcerating more than one at a time. Moreover, the time and resources devoted to the pursuit demanded overlooking immense suffering elsewhere.
Entire planetary systems fell to other foes while the Keepers hunted shadows. Space Marine chapters, fighting in the name of other Primarchs, stepped into the breach. And thus the marines of the Oath Keepers felt the burn of shame. Slowly they became aware that they had garnered a reputation as faithless allies among nearly all branches of the Imperial war machine. Operating at the outer edges of the Segmentum Pacificus, the chapter was also isolated from fellow orders from the Unforgiven. As such, they were bereft of the solace of fellow bearers of the old burden. Tensions between warriors at different levels mounted. Members of the order who were not initiated into its concealed histories found it increasingly burdensome to contain their outrage at permitting xenos, mutants and heretics to go unpunished - with little explanation to salve their indignation. The ever-growing slight to their collective honour, and the weight of betrayed vows to safeguard the Emperor’s once mighty realm ground on the nerves of these brothers. Anger and indignation festered between the first and second companies and the rest of the chapter. The battle companies, in particular, grew restless - for tasks assigned to them would suddenly be given to the first and second whenever the possibility of Fallen presence grew.
The spiritual malaise of the brotherhood became even more taxing when they returned to a world named Hecat. One standard year earlier the Oath Keepers had responded to urgent calls for aid against a Chaos-inspired rebellion. But the chapter had abandoned the world in the fruitless pursuit of a Fallen psyker. When its brothers returned to Hecat, the Red Talons chapter (Second Founding successors of the Iron Hands) had already bludgeoned the rebellion into submission. Although undoubtedly efficient, the severe cost in lives, raw materials and industry among the loyal citizens of Hecat appalled the Keepers, adding to extant tensions.
Shortly thereafter an opportunity arose to regain the chapter's tarnished honour. A new rebellion had been sparked in a neighbouring sub-sector. Since the Red Talons had already withdrawn, the Oath Keepers were the closest Imperial force of sufficient strength. Again, Chaos instigators were suspected. Since the rebellion threatened a vital ring of Forge and Hive worlds - the loss of which would cripple the sub-sector's production capacity - a powerful response was mounted, and the chapter was eager for the contest. Hardly had the Oath Keepers deployed when news reached them that another Chaos force was also active on the borders of the same region. Initial signs pointed to warbands from the Alpha Legion. The chapter understood that these foes should not be underestimated, but in addition, some evidence hinted at the presence of the Fallen. Again this would require the Oath Keepers to divert attention from their initial objectives. So, the current Grand Master and his council devised a strategy that would honour both duties. Mobilising the entire veteran first company as well as the second company, he struck at the Alpha Legion strongholds, located on the periphery of the sub-sector, hoping to punch hard before the enemy could consolidate their position. At the same time, the remaining three battle companies (at full strength) were tasked with subduing the main cluster of rebellions worlds (all reserve companies barring the 10th were assigned to defence duties against other threats). The battle companies prosecuted the war with commendable fervour and tenacity, bordering on the fanatical as they vented caged frustration and rejoiced as their sacred purpose.
Then, from the Librarians assigned to them, the Chaplains received word that the Grand Master had successfully beaten the Alpha Legionnaires. However, his forces had been ambushed by warbands from the Night Lords. Not a single member of the Fallen had been discovered. With their Lord and Master under threat, the Oath Keepers immediately withdrew two battle companies, dispatching them as a relief force. Although five worlds still remained in the Chaos rebels' hands (barring local loyalist resistance movements), the Keepers trusted in the remaining battle company to successfully divide its forces between the opposing armies.
However, when the relief force arrived on the borders of the sub-sector, the Grand Master and his entire force had been annihilated by a combined Alpha Legion and Night Lords assault. A fierce battle to regain the chapter's relics erupted. Ownership of the terminator plate of the first company, the equipment of the second company, and many other relics hung in the balance. Although the Oath Keepers eventually prevailed, morale was at an all time low; for once the the battle had been won, word reached them than an Inquisitorial force had ordered the judgement of Exterminatus upon three of the remaining rebellious worlds, despite the protest of the battle company assigned to quell them. To the Oath Keepers, this was tantamount to another failure. For they had intended to preserve Imperial lives as a means of absolving past neglect.
The few surviving members of the Inner Circle instructed the remaining Chaplains to contain the deepening morale problem. At the same time, a chapter summit was called, recalling all companies from current duries. During a series of lengthy and closed conclaves, the Keepers of the ancient secret discovered that they were inclined to share the shame and frustration of the younger warriors. One by one members of the Inner Circle began to voice their consternation, drawing strength from the unexpected accord and fellow-feeling of their brothers. They were, the argument went, allowing cracks to grow and spread across the fraying edges of the Imperium, many of which had broken into far-sweeping catastrophes that were only barely contained by the sacrifice and bloodshed of other Adeptus Astartes chapters and Imperial forces. On the one hand, this negligence had forever marred the chapter’s honour. Yet, despite unanimous agreement, abstaining from the hunt would amount to treachery. These conclaves also occurred during a time when a series of warp storms locked the entire chapter fleet in enforced idleness. Their collective unease grew as they contemplated what might transpire during their absence from the wars beyond.
When the Oath Keepers once again exploded into combat, the Inner Cirlce had abandoned the hunt, swearing that as a penance for this choice they would wreak havoc upon all other threats to the Emperor’s demesne. Unleashing a pent-up aggression (and, among the Inner Circle, a nagging sense of betrayal) the chapter exhibited a fervour that enemies from across the Segmentums Pacificus and Obscurus soon learned to dread. During operations in the Halo Stars, three battle and two reserve companies happened upon a crusade by the Black Templars. Finding a likeness in temperament and devotion, the two forces co-operated for many years. At the closure of this joint operation, these companies of the Oath Keepers had adopted a faith in the Emperor as a god - a faith that its Chaplains quickly spread to the remainder. Thus, while the Inner Circle continued to pass the secrets of Caliban and betrayal of Luther on to new generations, they also preached the conviction that Emperor had selected them for a different vocation than the Unforgiven. Brothers outside the circle, of course, remained unaware of the course their leaders had set for them.
The Oath Keepers never made an official report of their decisions to the Rock. The failure to respond to demands to join the hunt, however, eventually resulted in the deployment of the Angels of Vengeance to investigate.
Sometime around 800M41, the Oath Keepers intercepted warning signs of an approaching tau fleet in the galactic south of the Segmentum Tempestus. The numbers of this armada, and the skillful manipulation of the water caste that always preceded outright invasion, persuaded the Keeper's leadership to mobilise the entire chapter strength, including their mighty flagship, The Act of Conscience.
Although still heavily outnumbered, the order fought mercilessly and with great tactical flexibility. Overall strategy saw them avoiding tau strongholds and punching hard into exposed lines, encircling and destroying elite cadres when circumstances developed in their favour. The tau eventually retreated with heavily losses, bloodied but armed with experience and new wisdom. Reinforcements had already been dispatched and a new fleet was ready within three standard months. The Oath Keepers were waiting with commensurate zeal. However, while the first conflict had raged, another faction had been active. Chaos cultists had spread demonic corruption on nearby worlds, usurping the rebellions patiently prepared by the water caste. Before the tau and Astartes fleets could engage each other, both found their supply lines assaulted by ravening mutants. The numbers arrayed against them were overwhelming. The fleets did not co-operate and did not co-ordinate a mutual defence, and thus were steadily, implacably overcome. Astrophatic choirs sang for succour, but when warriors from the Angels of Vengeance arrived, the Oath Keepers had been annihilated, and the order's flagship floated in ruin among the stars.
After months of fighting, the Angels of Vengeance cleansed what remained of the Oath Keepers' battered ships from the still powerful mutant horde. In the process, they recovered the gene-seed, armour and relics, as well as the hulk of the Oath Keepers' ancient flagship.
The Libators chapter (Second Founding Ultramarine Successors) also arrived to aid in defeating the mutant plague. When they had finally destroyed the Chaos cult at its heart, the Libators were banned from approaching the wrecked ships of the Oath Keepers. Interpreting this behaviour as a sign of the Angels’ mourning at the loss of so many brothers from the same lineage, the Libators respectfully avoided all material of the Keepers. For a short while, Navigators among the Libators pointed to data which suggested that the Angels of Vengeance had not responded to the Keepers’ call as swiftly as they were able. Such rumours, however, were quickly dismissed. Surely there was some honourable explanation. For the Angels of Vengeance and the Oath Keepers were brothers after all.
A small crew of surviving Oath Keepers, less than 100, had escaped the ruin aboard a damaged sword class Frigate. They arrived on their nearest recruitment world (Redemption Secundus), to discover that forces from the Angels of Vengeance were waiting, having tracked them through psychic means. The future of the chapter is unknown. Doubtless, the Angels have received a full report of the chapter's history. Only a single member of the Oath Keepers' Inner Circle had survived to explain the order's choices. Understandably, the Angels of Vengeance were deeply suspicious. On the one hand, they suspected that the Oath Keepers may have been manipulated by the Fallen. On the other hand, even if their story was true, the Oath Keepers constituted a dire risk to the secrecy of the Unforgiven. The Angels of Vengeance were in a superior position, for they still held all the relics, equipment and gene-seed of the Oath Keepers. Their Chaplains interviewed all the surviving brothers separately, hunting for the truth. Since all these Astartes bore no knowledge of events on Caliban, they could not fathom the suspicion and hostility of their gene-brothers.
At some point during the deliberations, elements from the Angels of Absolution arrived. Once they had been appraised of all that had happened, the delegation stepped to the fore, to speak on behalf of their successors. The Angels of Absolution announced that they should take ultimate responsibility for the actions of the Oath Keepers, claiming that their original teachings may have inclined the Keepers to abandon the Hunt. Although barely a feasible argument, it was designed to allow a compromise. Claiming ultimate guilt, the Angels of Absolution proposed to the Angels of Vengeance that they would oversee the rebuilding of the chapter. Moreover, they would insist that from that day onward, a Chaplain from the Angels of Absolution would accompany every task force of the Oath Keepers. Each Chaplain would watch for signs of corruption and treachery.
Eventually, it was determined that the Rock should announce the final judgment. Whether the Oath Keepers will be allowed to rebuild has yet to be decided.
Ultimately, it was decreed that the brothers from the Oath Keepers would be incorporated into the Angels of Absolution (there to be closely watched). Since all but one were uninitiated in the ancient secrets of Caliban, it was determined that these brothers would simply be told that the Oath Keepers' numbers were too low to make rebuilding possible.
Edited by Welcheren, 14 April 2015 - 06:52 AM.