The Glastheim Rifts are an area of space by the borders of Segmenta Sol and Obscurus that consists of several, broiling, unending warp storms, spread over numerous sub-sectors. Though their borders have changed frequently, the ferocity of the wild, undying storms have never once abated since the days of the Horus Heresy.
Surrounding the Glastheim Rifts are several systems, most of which are frequently afflicted by warp storms of their own, though none with the same magnitude as the more infamous Rifts themselves.
The Glastheim Rifts are commonly beset by xeno incursions, raids by rebels and pirates, and occasionally even warbands of traitor Chaos Space Marines.
Reports seem to indicate the Rifts were created during the Horus Heresy, but with little initial effect other than limiting mobility around the area. However, over time more and more xeno and heretic activity around the Glastheim Rifts caught the attention of the Inquisition, and eventually word of these enemy actions were reported to the High Lords of Terra. By this point, precious few worlds around the Rifts were still in the hands of the Imperium.
Imperial Guard regiments were mustered and sent to the Glastheim Rifts, along with supplementary forces of the Imperial Navy.
After much effort and a long, gruelling campaign, the traitors and aliens were driven from the area, and the Imperium was able to call the Glastheim Rifts part of it's dominion.
For then, the heretics attacked. Pouring from the Glastheim Rifts themselves, again and again, striking each world around the Rifts with increasing viciousness, hate and force. Regiments were overrun and swept aside like leaves in a hurricane, and in less than half the time it had taken to reclaim the Glastheim Rifts, they once again went entirely dark.
But the Imperium has a long memory for vengeance, and many tools with which to enact it.
At the time of the Tenth Founding, The High Lords of Terra sanctioned, amongst other things, the deployment of two new Space Marine Chapters to the Glastheim Rifts.
They proved the equal of the traitor hordes, and were able to drive them back into the Rifts, for a time.
However, Chaos is an insidious foe, one that oft wages a more subtle war. One of the two Chapters became enamoured of the powers that Chaos could gift them, and sought to tame the might of Chaos for their own use. The other Chapter cautioned against it, but in the end could not stop their brothers from falling into the thrall of the Dark Gods.
They fought, with the animosity that can only come from betrayal and righteous vengeance. Such was their wrath that each entirely destroyed the other: Their destruction was so complete that not even their names were left for the history books to remember.
Despite this, the Imperium was not yet ready to give up on the Glastheim Rifts. Centuries later, amidst wild rumours that the Rifts harboured some kind of link to the Eye of Terror, or other hellish places, the Eighteenth Founding came to pass. Four Chapters of Space Marines were comissioned, with a single, unified mission to uphold:
"Reclaim the Glastheim Rifts. Safeguard against all workings of the Great Enemy that might threaten them. Watch over each other. Remember always The Emperor and The Imperium you are sworn to protect."
The Chapters, known collectively as The Circle of Iron, took up stations around the Glastheim Rifts, each taking a homeworld and beginning their war against heresy. To this day, each Chapter typically works alongside it's brother Chapters of the Circle of Iron on most missions - for one of these Chapters to act alone is actually a surprisingly rare occurrence.
Upon their Founding, Each Chapter of the Circle was issued with a copy of a stasis-locked decree, signed by the High Lords of Terra themselves, allowing them sufficient autonomy to co-operate closely in their protection of the Glastheim Rifts. This document has sometimes been all that has come between the Circle of Iron and accusations of empire-building or power-mongering by zealous Inquisitors; who sometimes perceive the close co-operation of the Circle as a neat way to bypass the Codex-sanctioned limit on a Chapter's numbers.
The Glastheim Rifts are in a near-constant state of conflict. Sometimes traitor or heretic forces from outside the Rifts will seek entry, or xeno raiders will try to plunder the worlds surrounding them. Far more worrying are those rare occasions where the forces of Chaos march forth from the Rifts themselves, an army of myriad warbands and cults seeking to plunder and ruin all they can in the name of their depraved Gods.
Even amongst this background of unending war, a few campaigns in the area are famous or infamous enough that their names are known far beyond the Glastheim Rifts: The Battle of Arnath, the Prontera Crusade, and the Fall of King Ioloch are amongst the best examples of the power of the Circle of Iron.
Despite the myriad differences between the Chapters of the Circle, there are a few traits they all share.
The Chapters generally eschew the use of their Chapter symbols on Battle-Brothers, instead either leaving one pauldron undecorated or settling for a simple grey circle denoting their membership of the Circle of Iron.
Chapter symbols are normally reserved for use on vehicles and banners, or in some cases only displayed in the Chapter's Fortress Monastery.
There is, officially, no Chapter responsible for overall leadership of the Circle. However, each Chapter privately feels they have a duty to lead, if not openly, then by example.
Perhaps the best-known of the Chapters of the Circle to outsiders, the White Hawks have taken part in several famous battles away from the Glastheim Rifts, such as the breaking of Waaagh Bludburna, the brutally intense battle to reclaim the lost forgeworld Novos Brexis, and more recently the First Company's fateful campaign in the Lauss Rift and the battle for Transcendence.
The White Hawks are at their best when fighting monstrous foes - The Chapter is typically able to quickly and keenly evaluate the capabilities of organic enemies and identify weak points, even on hitherto unidentified enemies. However, since the White Hawks are focused so heavily on anti-infantry or anti-monster melee tactics as standard, they sometimes encounter difficulty when faced with a largely mechanised enemy force - tanks generally have fewer spots where application of blades and bolters prove sufficient to cause lasting damage.
The White Hawks also have a lack of interest in prolonged planning, or grand strategy, instead preferring to take each fight as it comes. While this mind-set would normally spell disaster on longer campaigns, the White Hawks are usually advised in this regard by emissaries from their brother Chapters of the Iron Circle.
The White Hawks are also helped in battle by their simply phenomenal endurance. Even by the standards of other Space Marines, the White Hawks seldom seem to tire, and have a notably high tolerance for pain and injury - almost anything short of a fatal blow is treated as a mere inconvenience by most Hawks.
By far the greatest flaw of the White Hawks, however, is their pride. The White Hawks fervently believe themselves to be the equal of the greatest Chapters in the Imperium. They picture themselves as heroes, fighting a war against an unending horde of nightmares for the good of those who cannot fight for themselves. Any inference that the White Hawks are anything less than paragons of virtue and noble harbingers of The Emperor's Inevitable Victory is likely to cause tempers to flare.
In spite of their somewhat arrogant nature and hyper-aggressive combat tactics, the White Hawks are quick to recognize and praise courage on the battlefield, which has fostered strong bonds with allies in some unlikely places. This is especially true amongst the regiments of the Imperial Guard, who in their line of work must routinely face down the worst monsters in the galaxy without the inbuilt fearlessness or high-quality armaments of the Space Marine, a feat that the White Hawks consider worthy of genuine respect.
"On Talhon they have six words for 'honour'. Four of those words also mean 'to fight', and the other two can also translate as 'to destroy'. - Edran Vain, Imperial Scholar, in his report to Inquisitor Ping
The White Hawks claimed as their homeworld the mountainous, feudal world of Talhon. Populated by a myriad of deadly, horrendously powerful beasts, the human settlements are few and far between. Cities ringed by thick stone walls shelter an eclectic mix of stone buildings, crude huts and even some simple hide tents in the poorer districts. Task forces of skilled hunters are sent into the wild lands beyond to hunt for food, or larger groups can be assembled to raid the lands of other cities. When required, these hunters will band together to stave off attacks by the many large monsters that roam Talhon. Everyone is taught how to fight from a young age - monsters have no concept of honour and will take easy targets as meals.
Those who show promise are trained from youth as monster hunters, a necessary but extremely difficult profession for humanity's survival on Talhon. It is from these youths that the White Hawks draw their recruits, and the use of hunting great beasts (Talhonic or otherwise) to test potential recruits is a tradition as old as the White Hawks themselves.
Talhonic culture is multi-faceted and complicated. At one time before the Imperium claimed Talhon as it's own, the world was home to a rich, sophisticated culture, with rigidly-ordered class systems and lavish mansions for the nobility. However, time and monster attacks have buried much of that culture under a more primitive, warrior-focused society. Indeed, warriors are thought highly of by most cities of Talhon, for the strength, skill and cunning of their hunters are all that keep the monsters from devouring their settlements. Most Talhonic cities are lead by either their most fearsome warriors, or former monster hunters, rich with experience of battle.
Imperial Scholars posit that the old Talhonic stories of the Solar Emperor and his chosen warriors - his 'War-sons' in the stories, refer to the days of the Great Crusade claiming Talhon for the Imperium, and that Talhon's reverence of warriors stems in part from reverence for the Emperor, or in more modern times, perhaps reverence for the Chapter that watches over them.
In many Talhonic folk stories, the hero fights his sworn enemy with enough ferocity to break his sword on them. Depictions of broken swords are thus commonplace on Talhon, most commonly used as a warning. The use of this symbol extends into the Chapter; individual marines often bear a broken sword emblem, and actual broken weapons are sometimes attached to the sides of vehicles as decoration.
In terms of logistics, in spite of the monster attacks, Talhon sports a large, hardy stock of recruits for the White Hawks, and as such the Chapter seldom finds itself under-strength for any significant length of time.
"On Macragge they train their youths to fight other men, and by doing so make soldiers. On Talhon we teach our young how to slay monsters, and by doing so we create heroes." - Captain Ambrose, White Hawks 1st Company
The White Hawks see themselves as a further, necessary evolution of Talhon's monster hunters, tasked with slaying the most merciless, horrific enemies of mankind and shielding not just one world, but the whole Imperium against those which would consume it.
The Hawks perceive The Emperor as the pinnacle of humanity's wisdom, strength and courage. They also venerate their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, and believe themselves to be the equal of the mighty Ultramarines whose lineage and heritage they share.
Much of the Chapter's beliefs are influenced by Talhonic tradition - they wear white armour as white is considered The Emperor's colour on Talhon, and bear personalised heraldry as they earn the right through great deeds as the nobles of Talhon once did.
Many battle-brothers adorn their armour with scales, hides, fangs or horns taken from the great monsters they have slain in ordained trials as they progress through the Chapter. On Talhon, the taking of trophies is considered a warrior's right, and symbolises him taking on the strength of the defeated creature. This belief persists amongst the more superstitious of the Chapter, but is not widely spread. Instead, these trophies are displayed as a visual warning, as if to say "If I can slay these creatures, what chance do you stand?" It is a stated goal of the Chapter to teach the enemies of mankind how to experience fear, and their savage appearance, coupled with their aggression on the battlefield, can certainly make a strong impression.
The White Hawks largely consider themselves to be the first amongst equals amongst their brother Chapters of the Circle, although this is largely due to the simple fact the White Hawks are generally the only Chapter to consistently stay at or close to full strength.
"I'm not saying our way is better than the hallowed Primarch's, but I am saying it's not worse." - Sergeant Enduro, White Hawks 9th Company
While the White Hawks treat the Codex Astartes with the greatest reverence, they have, over time, adjusted it's organisational doctrine to better suit the deeply-ingrained culture of their homeworld.
Though they are careful not to exceed the recommended numbers advised by the Codex, the White Hawks' First Company is not the Veteran Company. Since the Veteran Company almost never fights as a unified force, they are considered not to be a proper 'whole' company. In accordance with Talhonic culture, the 'whole' companies - in this case the Battle Companies and Reserve Companies - are numbered first, before the 'fractured' Veteran and Scout Companies. Thus, the Battle Companies range from the First to the Fourth, then Reserve Companies from the Fifth to the Eighth, then the Veteran Ninth Company, and finally the Tenth Scout Company.
Like the other Chapters of the Iron Circle, the White Hawks have small squads set aside for the purpose of serving alongside their brother Chapters and monitoring their behaviour. Service in these emissary squads for a time is mandatory before admittance to the Veteran Ninth Company, so that the prospective veteran gains a wider understanding of the strength granted by the unity of the Circle of Iron.
"Any fool can kill monsters with a tank, but it takes guts and skill to slay one with a knife." - Captain Jahan, White Hawks Fourth Company
The White Hawks are very aggressive in their prosecution of warfare. They favour simplistic tactics when applicable, and prefer to engage infantry at close range, feeling it more honourable (and heroic) to slay enemies in close combat than to simply shoot them dead. They are prone to roaring challenges at enemies, laughing and boasting as they engage in brutal melee combat, even in battles where the Hawks themselves are faring badly.
Though the Hawks' zeal and love of battle sometimes gets the better of them, this is not to say the White Hawks are not a flexible combat force when they are required to be - the majority of their battles sees them operating in much the same way as any other Codex Chapter, applying cunning and wisdom as much as raw, brute strength and endurance.
The Prontera Crusade could be considered the most triumphant example of the White Hawks' tireless might. Working alongside the Second Company of the Warminds Chapter, the First, Third and Fourth Companies of the White Hawks launched a retaliatory campaign against a tide of daemonic and heretical forces besieging the world of Prontera. Whenever the Warminds' anti-daemon capabilities could not be relied on to win the day, the Hawks held the line magnificently, never taking a single step back even in the face of the nightmarish onslaught. Infamously, the First Company spent a whole month holding what was intended to be a temporary barricade, to the point where attacking heretics and daemons had to scramble over a hill of their own dead to reach the Hawks, who had long since run dry of ammunition and yet still refused to yield their ground.
The White Hawks are scions of Guilliman's line. Their geneseed is entirely functional, with no noticeable malfunctions. There are a handful of extremely minor mutations, and at present it is still uncertain whether the White Hawks' heightened resilience is tied to these mutations or whether it is part of Talhonic physiology.
"We Hunt Nightmares!"
Noble, shrewd and calculating, the Champions of Athlum are benevolent yet distant sentinels watching over the Glastheim Rifts. The Champions are more aloof than their Circle-brothers, preferring when possible to remain apart from other Imperial forces, and mostly operate as smaller task forces, to subtly tip the scales of larger battles in the Imperium's favour.
In part, the Champions' preference for smaller forces is a necessity. Though their geneseed comes from the line of the Ultramarines, it suffers from a greatly heightened rate of attrition when implanted in aspirants, limiting the Champions' ability to recover from heavy losses. The most commonly used size for the Chapter's task forces is the demi-company, combining a high level of firepower with minimal risk of catastrophic losses. Combined with their inclination to remain apart from other Imperial armies, the Chapter's heavy reliance on smaller forces often sees them badly outnumbered, sometimes to the point where no amount of wargear will spare them from defeat.
On the subject of wargear, The Champions of Athlum are very gifted artisans and craftsmen, able to produce and maintain enough potent and varied wargear that their Battle Companies can boast a spectacularly wide range of esoteric equipment. From specialised anti-greenskin ammunition to helmet-linked adjustable-zoom bolter sights, to augmented auspexes and customised, specially reinforced armour plating for man and machine alike, the Champions of Athlum have at their disposal a plethora of rare tools for fighting the enemies of mankind.
This vast armoury is coupled with an almost intuitive grasp of wider strategy - the Champions teach their battle-brothers to consider carefully the consequences of their attacks, and how even small targets can be vital in crippling an enemy's greater strategy. It is not uncommon for the Champions to deploy forces as small as a single squad to harass and wear down enemy forces or damage their supply lines long before the real battles begin just to place opponents at a severe disadvantage. Once an enemy is weakened, they are exposed to the full might of the Champions' Battle Companies, and crushed thoroughly.
"Athlum teaches patience. Only those who have patience and skill in equal parts can thrive there." - Chaplain Arthelion, Eighth Company of the Champions of Athlum
Athlum is a magnificently beautiful world, resplendent with vast, ancient forests, towering mountains, deep lakes and flowing rivers. For all it's beauty, however, it conceals innumerable threats - children on Athlum learn at a young age that their world is a labyrinth of deadly plants and animals, entirely unforgiving. From packs of dirgewolves in the high forests to isolated, massive winged wyverns on the open savannahs, every environment has it's alpha predators, all keen to feed on unwary humans.
Humans mostly live in small villages, where possible concealing their dwellings from potential predators. In the forests, humans live amongst the tops of Athlum's gigantic trees. In the mountains, caves secured with fortified gates are the dwelling of choice. A small few make a living as bands of nomads, living life on the move. The people of Athlum primarily hunt for food by setting traps instead of pursuing prey, meaning most Athlumi hunter-gatherers are patient, well-versed in the ways and habits of their targets, and capable of assembling reliable, useful hunting equipment - all traits that seem to influence the habits and inclinations of the Champions.
The Champions of Athlum take their recruits from all over Athlum, putting them through a series of increasingly difficult tests in their fortress monastery, atop the highest mountain range. Known as the Spire of Champions, the gleaming white fortress can be seen from almost half a continent away, a proud, powerful statement of the Chapter's strength.
"There is as much art in warfare as any other craft. " - Marchwarden Tammorn Elethir, Fifth Company of the Champions of Athlum
The Champions of Athlum believe fervently in the superiority of the Space Marine over all other beings, although they do not perhaps honour this belief in the expected way. According to the Champions of Athlum, Space Marines were intended as the finest of The Emperor's creations, and in his time of greatest need proved to be fallible and unworthy, with half of His Legions turning against Him and the other half proving insufficient to protect Him.
As such, the burden Space Marines must bear is to ever strive for improvement, to shake off the chains of ancient failure and finally prove themselves to be worthy of His ideals. Space Marines are not merely a living weapon. They are supposed to be a reflection of the Emperor's glory, and so must drive themselves to excel in all regards.
Aside from weapons and armour, the Champions of Athlum are known to create art and music as part of their ritual meditations, and the comparison of such acts to the correct planning and execution of warfare is highly encouraged amongst the Chapter.
Alongside the high physical and mental standards all Champions of Athlum must adhere to, all Champions are also raised to be the very model of sophisticated nobility as they understand it - proud, quiet, and despite seeming aloof they are ever-watchful of those around them.
The Chapter puts great emphasis on patience, and striking an enemy at the right time. There is a great deal of difference between patience and hesitance: Hesitance comes from uncertainty, while patience comes from always knowing exactly what the correct move is, and exactly when to execute it for maximum effect.
The Champions of Athlum consider themselves the foremost Chapter of the Circle of Iron, for their grasp of strategy, leadership and noble bearing are unmatched even by their brother Chapters.
"To counter an enemy's strengths, you must first understand your own." - Athlumi Proverb
The Champions of Athlum largely follow the organisational tenets of the Codex Astartes, with only a handful of minor deviations.
The Scout Company is split into two, designated the Tenth and Eleventh Companies, each consisting of roughly fifty men. This is in part to get recruits more quickly accustomed to functioning within a demi-company, and in part to better maintain a more diverse intelligence network when required.
The Captain of the First Company is given the title 'Marquis of Athlum' and is tasked with drawing two squads together - one from members of the Battle Companies and one from members of the Reserve Companies - for the safeguarding of the Chapter's homeworld. He is also tasked with overseeing the maintenance and development of the Fortress Monastery should either be required.
Each company also bears with them a 'Marchwarden', a warrior chosen by the Company Captain. Typically the most skilled fighter in the Company, a Marchwarden's role in battle is to seek out and engage the strongest enemy warriors in combat, preventing them from engaging other Champions of Athlum and keeping them from applying their precision tactics. When a Company deploys as two Demi-Companies, one half is generally assigned to the command of the Marchwarden, and the position is as such often used to put aspiring Captains to the test.
"A Space Marine should be the sabre's edge of the Imperium, not merely another crude bludgeon." - Captain Gilledran, Third Company of the Champions of Athlum
The Champions of Athlum are, at their best, a highly efficient Chapter. They pick their battles according to greater strategic impact, arm themselves with a potent array of deadly weapons, and keep their tactics flexible enough to impede or negate counter-attacks or traps, allowing them to perform deadly assaults on their terms, then withdraw, goading the enemy into foolish actions.
To a Champion of Athlum there is no greater joy than successfully completing a pivotal action in a campaign, allowing the warriors of the Chapter to either exert their full might against a suddenly weakened and off-balance foe, or leave the floundering enemy to face the inexorable advance of other Imperial forces.
Every combat should, to a true Champion, be a microcosm of the Chapter's greater tactical and strategic mastery. Even in the thick of melee, a Champion of Athlum will typically refrain from using pure brute force to win, and is instead more likely to use esoteric techniques to catch their foe off-guard and unbalance them before striking a merciless killing blow.
In situations where greater numbers are absolutely required, the Champions of Athlum will usually call for aid from one of it's brother Chapters when possible, although on very rare occasions stubborn pride will see Companies committed to hopeless battles alone and unaided.
The Champions of Athlum famously won the day in the Battle of Arnath, pitting a hundred Space Marines against a rampaging Ork horde estimated at over eight hundred thousand greenskins. First, one demi-company of Champions launched daring raids against the ork horde, provoking packs of greenskins into chasing the Champions away from the main horde, where the pursuers could easily be picked off by the cunning and wily Space Marines. While this happened, the other demi-company set up traps to further stall and damage the main body of the rampaging greenskins. Furthermore, Chapter Serfs were sent to rally the native farmers and lead them south into the hills, where the natives hastily constructed a fortified bastion to make their last stand in.
When the time came for the final stand, the Champions appeared to retreat to the native's fortress, but in actuality used the cover of the hills to circle around and attack the ork horde in it's left flank. Though hopelessly outnumbered, the Champions' careful deployment and rapid adjustment of their positions and tactics, coupled with their use of flame and melta weapons, gave them sufficient striking power to cut through the ork horde.
As mentioned earlier, the Geneseed of the Champions of Athlum, despite coming from noble Ultramarine stock, suffers from a disturbingly increased rate of attrition in aspirants. On top of this, the Melanchromic Organ bears a small mutation that frequently causes the hair of marines to become silvery-white in appearance. Many Champions of Athlum sport long hair, giving their commanders and ambassadors to other Chapters a very distinctive look.
Several times the Chapter has considered simply requesting fresh Ultramarine geneseed from the Adeptus Mechanicus, but their pride in themselves has so far kept the Champions from doing so.
"For Athlum and the Emperor!"
Of all the Chapters of the Iron Circle, perhaps both the most and least fortunate are the Warminds, sons of the great Primarch Corax and his Raven Guard. The Raven Guard's geneseed is notably unstable, with several malfunctioning organs. Often Raven Guard successors experience further difficulties as their geneseed degrades or otherwise adjusts and changes from that of their parent Chapter. Perhaps, then, it is of little surprise that exposure to the constant warpstorms of the Glastheim Rifts caused great changes to manifest in the geneseed of the Warminds.
Originally, the Warminds recruited from several worlds, and planned to remain fleet-based to allow for greater manoeuvrability. But the Warminds were plagued, even as a young Chapter, by marines suddenly suffering from catastrophic organ failures, which almost invariably ended in death. Fearing extinction, the apothecarion tried to study the cause of this ailment, and quickly realised that none of the recruits taken from the world of Geffen were suffering from this problem. Furthermore, from the surviving recruits taken from Geffen, almost twenty percent of them were found to have some kind of latent psychic prowess by the Chapter's Librarium.
The Warminds promptly changed their plans, relocating to Geffen and establishing a permanent Fortress Monastery, to safeguard their future as best they could. Recruits would still suffer the attrition rates common to Raven Guard successors, but the new recruits proved as resistant to organ failure as their previously enlisted brethren.
As time went on, it was found that the Warminds' geneseed and the Geffenic population reacted in very unexpected ways.
A substantial portion of the Chapter have access to psychic power of one sort or another, albeit often in limited form. Nevertheless, as a result of this the Warminds boast a large, powerful Librarium. It is not unheard of for psychic powers to suddenly awaken even in battle-brothers who have previously shown no psychic potential for centuries at a time, meaning a Warmind Librarian must always watch over his brothers.
Furthermore, having these powers and controlling them are two very different things - some Warminds eventually lose control of their powers, causing random, destructive effects to manifest around them. These Warminds can be temporarily subdued by a sufficiently skilled Librarian - afterwards they are subjected to a complicated ritual surgery by the Apothecarion, which renders them essentially void of both emotion and psychic potential. Known as the Quelled, these battle-brothers are most often found serving as pilots for the Chapter's vehicles, or in Devastator Squads.
Some Warminds also exhibit the curious ability to detect the taint of Chaos upon objects or locations. The strength of this ability is dependent on both the number of Warminds present and proximity to the Glastheim Rifts, with Companies near the Rifts having a much stronger sense for the corruption of Chaos than those further away.
Perhaps the Chapter's most infamous ability, however, is what they call 'Warplight'. It has been observed on numerous occasions that the presence of Warminds whose psychic potential has been unlocked can be disorientating or even temporarily blinding to Daemons, giving the Warminds a keen advantage over these supernatural foes. However, this ability is also strongly tied to proximity to the Glastheim Rifts and the number of psychic Warminds nearby, limiting it's usefulness.
The Chapter has also observed that their vaunted Psychic power seems to have greatly decreased effect against wielders of Sorcery, something that the entire Chapter finds deeply troubling.
"When your whole life is a struggle to survive, war holds few surprises." - Captain Farandor of Gaiodia, Warminds Ninth Company
Geffen is a struggling agri-world. Frequent attacks by corsair raiders and xenos have left large swathes of the world utterly barren and lifeless.
There are dozens of towns and cities, each one it's own little empire, each one fighting constantly to secure more fertile land for it's people. The citizens of Geffen follow a strict naming convention, whereby the city you are from takes the place of your last name when talking to outsiders. This use of city-names extends into the Chapter, being re-taught to Battle-Brothers after their initiation wipes away the memories of their previous life.
The Warminds built their Fortress-Monastery in the very centre of the darkest, most dangerous wastelands. In part this was to remind themselves of the barren future that awaits should Geffen ever be taken from them, and in part to present would-be aspirants with their first trial - simply reaching the monastery is an arduous, difficult task in and of itself.
"There are few greater shames than to die with strength yet unspent, or potential yet unmastered." - Chancellor-Epistolary Geminus of Kalut, 10th Order
The Warminds believe that they are an anomaly. They should have been doomed to fail, deemed unworthy by Corax or by The Emperor. However, they were given a second chance, purely by their proximity to Geffen. Whether intended by Primarch and Emperor or not, they are determined to make the most of this second chance while they have it, knowing that there will not be a third. The Warminds are convinced that their line will eventually fail, but have no intention of fading away quietly or easily.
The Chapter has one primary goal: To master the power bequeathed to them by their geneseed, and use it to eradicate as many of the Great Enemy as possible before extinction finally claims them. Thus, the Quelled are looked down upon by other Warminds, for failing to master their innate gifts.
The Quelled are themselves highly unusual for Space Marines. The surgery used to Quell a marine places various technological implants into the brain that serve to entirely nullify the recipient's psychic potential. Only thanks to the resilient physiology of a Space Marine can such surgery even be endured, but it does come at a price - the Quelled become almost mindless as a result, lacking almost entirely in initiative, emotion and ambition. They remain as strong or swift as other marines, but must be supervised on the field of battle for optimal effectiveness.
The Warminds doubt they will ever be truly worthy of their Primarch or their Emperor, but still strive to be the very best that they can be. Though they appear pessimistic about it, this endeavour is born of the deep-seated hope they will one day attain enough worth in their ancestors' eyes to save themselves from their perceived doom. Due to their aspirations to worthiness, the Warminds are also the most studiously moral of the Chapters of the Iron Circle, placing a high value on human life and doing what they can to both support their brother Chapters and ensure they remain dedicated to The Emperor.
Given the particular foibles and egos of their brother Chapters, the Warminds sometimes feel they are the only thing keeping the Circle of Iron true and loyal to it's cause of serving Emperor and Imperium.
"All servants of the darkness will burn in our light!" - Epistolary Irou of Junus, 9th Order
When working alone, the Warminds follow in the footsteps of their Raven Guard ancestors, tailoring their approach to combat to better suit their lower numbers. Often striking from concealment, or at unexpected targets, the Warminds triumph through a mixture of guile and careful application of overwhelming force. When co-operating with other Chapters, however, the Warminds are unafraid to fight boldly alongside their brothers when required, and are often the first to get to grips with an enemy.
Although the Warminds are familiar with and traditionally use Codex-approved doctrines in battle, perhaps the trait that most sets the Warminds apart from the other Chapters of the Circle is the Warminds' increased reliance on psychic might. Veteran Squads usually contain at least one psychically-active member, allowing them to either supplement their squads' offensive potential or help safeguard against other psychic attacks.
The Warminds are unquestionably the best suited of the Circle of Iron Chapters for facing Daemonic foes, thanks to their 'Warplight' ability which can briefly blind Daemons who look upon the Warminds. It must be noted, however, that Greater Daemons are largely unaffected by this ability, and Daemons in close proximity to users of Sorcery recover from the effects of Warplight much more quickly.
The Warminds' prowess against the Daemonic was showcased during the Prontera Crusade, in which the Second Company of the Warminds lead three companies of the White Hawks to victory against a vast host of heretics and daemons looking to claim the Imperial world of Prontera for their own. The White Hawks fought with courage against the heretical armies, but it was only the Warminds, with their dual gifts of the Warplight and their undeniable psychic power, that could truly strike back and secure victories against the daemonic incursion.
"They do have us outnumbered, but not nearly outnumbered enough." - Sergeant Akarius of Junus, Warminds First Company
The Warminds are close adherents to the Codex Astartes with regards to their organisation.
Most of their Companies are chronically understrength thanks to the limited rate at which their geneseed accepts recruits, but the Chapter stubbornly maintains all ten of their Companies, their histories and heritages. The Quelled never function alone, instead being placed in squads under the command of psychically adept Battle-Brothers. In this way, they also serve as a constant grim reminder of what happens to those who lose control of their gifts.
One difference to standard Codex organisation is that the Warminds boast a significantly inflated Librarium. With this comes a more complex hierarchy featuring almost a dozen ranks, generally referred to within the Chapter as 'Orders'. The Chief Librarian, the sole member of the Eleventh Order, is known formally as the High Chancellor, and is treated with almost the same reverence and respect as the Chapter Master.
The Geneseed of the Warminds comes from the line of Corax. It has further degraded and mutated, often granting great powers but at the price of only working with recruits taken from the world of Geffen.
Attempts by the Chapter to replenish their stock with fresh Raven Guard geneseed have all failed - any fresh geneseed delivered by the Adeptus Mechanicus seems to quickly suffer from the same issues as the Chapter's own, an issue which perplexes both the Chapter and the Adeptus Mechanicus.
The Warminds do not have a single, formal battlecry. However, the Geffenic phrase "Tyr Vos Varol", meaning roughly "Prepare For War", is the Chapter's motto, and has been used as a battle shout on numerous occasions.
When studying the sons of Sanguinius, it can be safely said that most scions of the IX Legion temper the dark aspects of their heritage with their Primarch's nobility, grace, and artistic flair. The Brotherhood of Crows, then, stand in stark contrast to their kindred, having little inclination for art or high-flown concepts such as honour or heroism.
Victory comes first. To achieve objectives by any means necessary - this is the role of a Space Marine in the eyes of the Brotherhood. All other concerns are secondary at best. The Brotherhood of Crows seldom show mercy or empathy in theatres of war, and will not hesitate to take actions that put civilian lives at risk if that is what it takes to win. The Brotherhood's history is punctuated by tales of cities levelled to prevent heretics from seeking shelter in them, or civilians being caught in crossfires with enemy forces.
The Brotherhood also managed to make enemies of the Adeptus Mechanicus in their early years by showing, in the eyes of the Mechanicus, 'callous disregard' for their vehicles and hallowed armour, treating them as 'simple tools of war' instead of honoured and ancient treasures.
The effects of this emnity are numerous and long-lasting. Local Forgeworlds will all but openly refuse to resupply the Brotherhood, forcing the Chapter to resort to more subtle approaches to acquiring their weapons of war.
Firstly, the Brotherhood of Crows are quite willing to work as bodyguards or mercenaries for any Imperial force prepared to pay them - Inquisitors, Rogue Traders, members of the Eccelsiarchy - the Chapter has seen service in the employ of many over the centuries. Outright buying equipment from the Adeptus Mechanicus - often through third parties such as Rogue Traders, Inquisitors or their brother Chapters of the Circle - is how the Brotherhood mostly resupplies itself.
Secondly, the Brotherhood have become highly inclined to loot slain enemies for usable equipment, for the purpose of selling or trading said equipment to other Imperial factions. Alongside their Techmarines, the Brotherhood maintains a specialised unit called the Reclaimers, whose primary purpose is to cleanse, sanctify and re-calibrate looted or salvaged gear. Each company also contains a squad whose role during a battle is to acquire useful weapons, armour and other resources from defeated enemies before it can be lost or damaged.
And Thirdly, the Brotherhood's Techmarines are often trained discreetly by the other Chapters of the Circle of Iron, since most agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus gall at the thought of sharing the wisdom of Mars with the Brotherhood of Crows.
There is one other noteworthy aspect of the Brotherhood of Crows. Though they suffer from the Red Thirst and Black Rage, like other sons of Sanguinius, they also have a unique condition whereby the Thirst and Rage gradually become harder and harder for Battle-Brothers to resist without taking time to hibernate in specially modified regenerative Sarcophagi. Each of these Sarcophagi is said to contain part of an ancient relic of the Blood Angels which stills the dark within for a time, although details on exactly which relic these shards are from is are scarce and sometimes contradictory.
"We built our fortress over the bones of those who failed. We will not make their mistakes!" - Sergeant Culletarius
Drakon Primus, the homeworld of the Brotherhood of Crows, is one of the few worlds with the distinction of being homeworld to two different Chapters at different times.
During the Tenth Founding, one of the two Chapters assigned to the Glastheim Rifts took Drakon Primus as a homeworld, using the population of the busy Hive World to keep their Chapter alive.
Eventually, however, the Chapter was destroyed, their monastery obliterated and their homeworld burnt and ruined. Few people survived the attack, and they were all too keen to forget the Chapter who had failed them in their darkest hour.
History forgets the name of the Chapter who had settled there during the Tenth Founding, and even whether or not it was they who fell to the temptations of Chaos, long ago.
But the Brotherhood of Crows took Drakon Primus as a homeworld to make a statement: Here we will have victory for the Imperium, even where those before us failed. Now a wasteland shrouded by near-permanent fog and darkness, humans shelter in the gaunt, twisted ruins of their once-magnificent cities, and resources are scarce. Much of Drakon Primus is dominated by crime gangs of one form or another, and their wars for more territory are endless. Life in the gangs is exceedingly tough, with youths conscripted to act as child soldiers for their endless battles. It is largely from these youths that the Brotherhood draws its recruits.
"War is the only constant, victory the only goal." - Captain Galar Vadren
The Brotherhood of Crows venerate the Emperor, as do many Space Marine Chapters, but their view on Sanguinius is slightly more jaded - they feel that for all his heroism and nobility, their gene-sire bore a great darkness within, made manifest after his death by the curses his sons bear.
The aforementioned merciless nature of the Brotherhood and their willingness to use morally questionable tactics to win battles is tied somewhat to this - they do not consider themselves angels of death, instead seeing themselves as mere weapons of war, tools to achieve Imperial victory as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The Brotherhood's view on their Death Company is slightly atypical, also. Though they consider giving in to the curses to be a great shame, and a sign of weakness, the Brotherhood also feel it is better by far to fall to the Black Rage than to die - the dead cannot win further battles, but the Death Company certainly can.
Being the sole Chapter of the Circle of Iron willing to put aside all notions of honour and nobility for the sake of achieving absolute victory gives the Brotherhood of Crows the mind-set that they are the foremost Chapter of the Circle - the ones closest to the true ideal of the Space Marine.
"The unexpected attack is the hardest to defend against." - Captain Dravon Gorgata
The Brotherhood of Crows are utterly ruthless in battle. Though the specifics obviously vary from battle to battle, the overarching theme of their battle plans is to destroy the enemy's weakest forces with frightening suddenness before assaulting their stronger forces from multiple directions, catching them in a hail of destruction.
Generally, the Brotherhood eschews the flashy aerial assaults common amongst their kin, instead favouring using other forces as decoys to lure out key enemy targets before launching brutal ambushes.
The Fall of King Ioloch, the self-proclaimed 'Chosen of Terra', highlights the ruthless nature of the Brotherhood of Crows. Ioloch, ruler of the world of Shrikon, had indoctrinated his people into believing he was The Emperor's appointed successor, and had provoked Inquisitors into daring to 'challenge his right to rule', expecting them to back down against his army of zealots. Instead, three regiments of Imperial Guard besieged Shrikon and it's fortress-moon, Boln. The battle was fairly evenly-matched until, seemingly for no reason, all rebel communications from Boln ceased entirely. It was later revealed that squads from the Brotherhood of Crows had detonated a series of bombs that had collapsed entire sections of the fortress-moon. Although this had the negative side-effect of inflicting significant casualties to the Imperial forces there, it also completely removed any orbital defence that would have prevented the Brotherhood from bombarding Ioloch's capital with drop-pods, which is exactly what happened next. There were less than two hours between the Brotherhood landing on Shrikon and King Ioloch's formal execution for heresy, held in front of what little remained of his loyal defenders.
"When something isn't broke, what need is there to fix it?" - Reclaimer Mulhern
The Brotherhood of Crows are a largely codex-adherent Chapter. Their most notable divergences from the Codex are minor changes, such as the inclusion of the office of the Reclaimers, or designating one tactical squad to prioritise battlefield salvage over other concerns.
The Fourth and Fifth Battle Companies are the two Companies that are most commonly hired by outside forces. Space Marines, though dedicated to the protection of Imperial territory, cannot be everywhere at once, and local planetary governors or wealthy generals sometimes vie for the guaranteed defence that a hired Company can provide. Equally, the Brotherhood sometimes find themselves escorting Rogue Traders looking for opportunity in dangerous lands, or working with Inquisitors tasked with handling high-risk assignments.
The geneseed of the Brotherhood of Crows comes from the Blood Angels, proud sons of Sanguinius. It suffers from a slight mutation that intensifies the urge to give in to the Red Thirst and Black Rage over time without the use of the Chapter's specially built regenerative Sarcophogai.
Officially, the story is that the Brotherhood's early Techmarines and Reclaimers built the Sarcophagi, but the truth is that the first dozen or so were found buried deep on Drakon Primus, under the ruins of what was the previous occupier's Fortress Monastery. For what purpose they were used, none can say, but their mere presence was enough to diminish the pull of the Black Rage and Red Thirst.
Though the Brotherhood largely shun ornamentation elsewhere, the sarcophagi are all beautifully embellished, carved to look like great wings folded around the occupant, and richly adorned with Imperial sigils.
"Only War! Only Victory!"
"If all Space Marines are heroes, how inspiring must their heroes be?" - Inquisitor Ivan Ping
Space Marines are by definition capable of superhuman feats. But as with any other Chapter, even among the superhumans there are some whose exploits are the stuff of legend. Perhaps the ones that stand out most, however, are those bound up in the Tale of the White Sword.
-= Talevin Mithros, First Marchwarden of Athlum =-
The tale of Talevin Mithros is well-known to the worlds around the Glastheim Rifts. Entirely given over to the study and application of close combat techniques, Brother Mithros would routinely seek out the strongest enemies he could find in an effort to test his knowledge and skill. At first Mithros was mocked for focusing so exclusively on melee combat, but when Captain Gilledran was brutally injured by the Ork Warboss Gorbitz, it was Talevin Mithros who leapt to his Captain's defence, sword drawn, and cut down not only the Warboss, but three of his toughest bodyguards and over a dozen other greenskins before leading a counter-charge that quickly became an inexorable, emphatic victory.
Captain Gilledran, impressed by Mithros' skill and daring, would henceforth institute a new rank in his company, with the title of Marchwarden. Where a Company Champion's role is mostly to fight alongside his Captain and the standard-bearer, the Marchwarden would function instead as the tip of the spear, tasked with being the first into combat and the one to seek out and eliminate the most dangerous enemies.
Over the course of his life, Talevin Mithros proved so successful in this role that all other Companies of the Champions of Athlum adopted the same role, reserved for Space Marines who showed exceptional valour and skill at arms. The office is still extant today, and Talevin Mithros remains a prominent figure in the Chapter's history.
-= Captain Obran Whiteblade of the White Hawks =-
There is a longstanding tradition in the White Hawks that only those possessed of unmatchable marksmanship can wield bolters with white casings. White is seen as The Emperor's colour on Talhon, and to declare your aim to be worthy of The Emperor himself is a boast that should not be made lightly.
Perhaps, then, it says something of Obran's confidence in his strength that he would forge a White Sword.
Made of a rare, lightweight Talhonic alloy called Oridecon, Obran would gain infamy upon infamy within the Chapter by virtue of seeking out and destroying utterly any enemy leader that dared cross his path, usually single-handedly and with apparently little effort. His list of victories was lengthy, and his skill and strength considered unmatchable.
Stories about Obran would abound within the Chapter, about how he'd fearlessly climbed aboard a charging Squiggoth and duelled with a Warboss as the beast rampaged precariously across the edge of a ravine, or about how he'd slain a murderous, twisted Chaos Lord in a single strike. The Chaos Lord then transformed into a six-armed daemon, which Obran then slew by carving it's arms off one by one before striking the final blow. Obran, for his part, claimed that not only were these stories all true, but that any marine worthy of wielding the White Sword would be capable of such great deeds. He even took on the description of the sword - Whiteblade - as part of his name.
In typical White Hawk fashion, if there was one thing Obran Whiteblade could not tolerate, it was any implication that he or his Chapter were anything less than the very best. And as a contemporary of Talevin Mithros of the Champions of Athlum, it was perhaps inevitable the two would cross blades one day.
That clash came at the Trial of Iron; an event held by the White Hawks every two centuries which features as it's centrepiece a tournament featuring the greatest fighters of the Circle of Iron. The final round saw the two master swordsmen pitted against each other; Obran's strength and tenacity against Talevin's agility and cunning. The two fought evenly for over three hours, until Obran's frustration got the best of him. Though Whiteblade increased the ferocity of his attack, Talevin managed to use Obran's own momentum against him in order to score a decisive strike across the Captain's midsection. This was enough to qualify Marchwarden Mithros for the victory.
Obran was at first unaware he'd been bested, and was perplexed and angry when referees halted the combat. He stormed away and returned with his famous white sword in hand, demanding that Talevin return and face him once more. When Talevin returned, Obran marched up to him and, de-activating the sword's power field, handed the prized blade to his opponent, promising the surprised Mithros that he would rightfully beat him and take it back at the next Trial of Iron.
However, the two would never meet again - Captain Obran was killed in action a hundred years later in a defiant last stand against heretics in the distant Rothwin system. Worth noting is that even until the end, Obran consistently pushed himself further and further, becoming more and more skilled and nuanced in the arts of combat. To this day, whether or not Captain Obran Whiteblade would have won the rematch against Marchwarden Mithros is a hotly debated topic between the two Chapters.
-= Captain Galar Vadren of the Brotherhood of Crows =-
A shrewd, ruthless warrior of great ambition, Galar Vadren first rose to prominence after eradicating a xeno species called the Retuvi. The Retuvi were large, six-legged insect-like beings with advanced laser weaponry, and a squad of them were a dangerous proposition to face even for a Space Marine. Galar solved the Retuvi issue by, instead of targeting the deadly xeno army directly, destroying their highly-guarded but poorly-armoured food-complexes with fire, artillery and poisons. It did not take long for panic and hunger to set in across the Retuvi worlds, and the Brotherhood of Crows simply waited while they tore themselves apart with in-fighting and desperation before picking off the remnants.
Vadren's name remains spoken aloud, however, for his later deeds - notably, it was Captain Vadren who first bested Marchwarden Mithros in a duel. The two met in the finals of the next Trial of Iron; where Marchwarden Mithros had promised to give the White Sword he had received from Obran Whiteblade to the victor. Captain Vadren longed to claim ownership of the prized blade, and resolved to do so no matter the cost. In the midst of the battle, Vadren waited until the two had locked swords, then pulled out a concealed knife from his tunic and viciously slashed Mithros across the hands, causing his grip to weaken and Vadren to knock the Marchwarden to the floor with ease.
Though the other Chapters were outraged, Vadren and his kin stood their ground - real warfare has no rules, after all. Mithros, without a single word, and against the protests of his Chapter, gave the White Sword to Vadren, and walked away in silence.
Vadren's Company would be constantly besieged by requests to return the sword to the Champions of Athlum from the other Chapters of the Circle of Iron, but Vadren always refused with the same terse reply:
"Never while I draw breath shall I give up my prize."
Then, many years later, came the Battle of Bayalan, where Vadren's Third Company fought alongside the First Company of the Warminds Chapter to halt the advance of Waaagh Spikeblasta. With both companies hard-pressed by the sheer magnitude of the ork horde, Vadren began to feel certain in his mind the Warminds were planning to betray him and his Company to the greenskins so they could claim the white sword for themselves.
And so, as the Warminds closed once more with the advancing greenskin army, and the fighting became as fierce and destructive as a wildfire, the Brotherhood of Crows made ready to abandon the fight on Captain Vadren's orders. Though many of his Company were furious with the decision and highly reluctant to leave, they were all ready to obey the command of their Captain, save for one.
Brother Jotred, a member of the Third Company's assault squad, confronted Captain Vadren over his paranoia and implored his Captain not to forsake their duty for the sake of a mere trinket.
His face alight with livid rage, Captain Vadren cast Jotred to the ground with a single mighty blow. Raising the sword above his stunned comrade-in-arms for the kill, Vadren stopped as though himself struck, faced with the sudden, harsh realisation of what his own greed had done to him.
Faced with this knowledge, Vadren led his men back into the fray, in time to change the course of the battle. Pausing only to hand the white sword to the Warminds' High Chancellor, Vadren took up a chainsword and charged the orks.
Afer the battle, the body of Captain Galar Vadren was found impaled on Warboss Spikeblasta's Power Klaw, the repentant Captain's chainsword buried into the head of the slain Ork leader.
Captain Vadren's story is often used as a lesson for Brotherhood initiates; even great marines can be flawed. Nobody is above errors. Greed and desire for power have no place in duty.
-= Olorin of Garunix, Warmind High Chancellor =-
Before the Battle of Bayalan, High Chancellor Olorin of Garunix was already a famous name amongst the Circle of Iron. Stories abounded of his psychic aptitude and power, claiming he could purge daemons with comet-like bursts of blinding flame, or summon a vortex of crackling light that would burn those blighted by the touch of Chaos.
At the Battle of Bayalan, Olorin saw the Brotherhood of Crows order the retreat. When Captain Bruvio of the First Company fell in battle with the orks, it was Olorin who held the remaining Warminds together, urging them to fight on.
When Captain Vadren returned to battle, it was Olorin who was handed the white sword. And at the conclusion of the battle, with less than thirty marines from both the Brotherhood and the Warminds left alive, it was Olorin who was faced with the decision of what to do next.
Keeping the White Sword would be the wrong choice; further strain on the relations between the Circle of Iron could fracture them once and for all. Returning the sword to the White Hawks, Champions of Athlum or Brotherhood of Crows would also escalate tensions - all three sides believed the blade was theirs by right.
Perceiving it to be his only remaining option, Olorin shattered the White Sword. Calling representatives from the rest of the Circle of Iron, he also spread the tale that the sword had shattered of it's own accord on Captain Vadren's death.
Though a dishonest choice, Olorin's words had the desired effect. The White Hawks were keen to attribute the sword's breaking to it changing ownership without having been 'earned' through battle. The Brotherhood attributed it to a sign of mourning for Vadren's noble last stand, and the Champions of Athlum thought it a symbolic act of balance for the sword having been stolen from them.
Olorin then called for the shards of the White Sword to be reforged, but not as a weapon. Instead, the remaining Oridecon was used to create a magnificent banner pole, from which would hang an ornate banner, wrought in part by all four Chapters of the Circle of Iron. A symbol not of war, but of unity.
Olorin's decision was warmly welcomed by the Circle, and after much painstaking work the White Sword was born again as the White Banner.
To this day, victory in the Trial of Iron gives the winner's Chapter the right to bear the White Banner in their Fortress-Monastery. Now held every hundred years, the Trial is always a spectacular event, held in a purpose-built arena on the empty moon of Aldin. Overlooking the arena are four masterfully-crafted statues representing Captain Obran Whiteblade, Marchwarden Talevin Mithros, Captain Galar Vadren, and High Chancellor Olorin of Garunix.
Updated a fair bit of the article, changed the Warminds' colours and added a Notable Characters section for the Liber Challenge.
Edited by Ace Debonair, 29 April 2016 - 10:28 PM.