Title: The Imperial Knight House of Rakham
Household Rank: Primaris
Patent: Autonomous, Warrant of Ancient Domain and Arms (recognised 937.M31, ratified 949.M31)
Warden Domain: Formerly the Velthame Collegiate: Post-Vremalkyr Incursion the Piraeus System, granted by authority of Icarion Anasem and Governor Nalhem Ferthas
Cognomen: The Velthame Warders, the Reforged
Allegiance: Traitoris Perditas
A House of long-held renown, House Rakham endured cruel trials and rose again to even greater strength. Yet in that resurgence they were dealt a cruel hand, tied by fealty to the Harbingers and ultimately led down the road to damnation. Once an exemplar of Knightly honour, they would in time be twisted by unspeakable powers until nothing remained of their former grandeur.
Unlike some of their kin, House Rakham persevered through the trials of Old Night with a strong industrial base to maintain their strength. Making their home on Ilkayla and serving a small alliance of systems in the galactic south, they became the lynchpin of the Velthame Collegiate which rose up from the agonies of Old Night. This region prospered, for their relative isolation shielded them from much of the Age of Strife’s horrors. However, those forces that did brave the daunting Warp channels that led to Ilkayla and its neighbours were inevitably possessed of great strength, and Rakham’s Knights fought many a valiant defence against these interlopers. In this they were abetted by Navigators whose knowledge of the crooked channels was unrivalled, using this to intercept invading enemies or to swiftly marshal their forces on whatever planet might be threatened.
In the waning centuries of the 30th Millenium, the turbulence in the aether began to diminish, and the hosts of enemies grew larger, battering at the borders Rakham patrolled. However, there was something else at work, though only the most perceptive of the Collegiate’s scryers and tacticians saw it at first. Something to the north was rapidly laying claim to vast tracts of territory, and such was its power that alien empires, centuries old, were buckling or fleeing before it. One thing that might have been expected was lacking, however; human refugees. Rakham’s lords took council, torn between hope and fear, and resolved to discover the oncoming force rather than be discovered by it.
Duke Grastus Celot led the small fleet that set course from Ilkayla. Trusting to their Navigators’ mastery of the Warp passages, they slipped past the borders of hostile powers which still lurked at the Collegiate’s edge. Finding and establishing astropathic contact with a flotilla of the newcomers, he arranged to meet their leader. In the dark between stars, Celot alighted on the massive husk of a long-derelict Dark Age construct, known only to his House. Here they received the other party’s embassy, led by a giant who named himself as Gwalchavad, general of the Imperium of Man, master of the XIIth Legion.
The Primarch was honest in explaining his purpose, for it was his solemn duty to bring all men to his father’s banner. Yet it was never his way to achieve this by conquest if another way was possible, and in Celot he saw the nobility and duty that characterised the best Knight Houses. Prudently, he had brought with him several scions of House Vyronii, who affirmed his words and ultimately witnessed the Primarch’s oath: if the forces of the Collegiate would join the Imperium in destroying the alien powers that lay between them, they would be welcomed into the fold as worthy defenders of Mankind, with all their existing rights guaranteed.
Six months later, the armies of the Collegiate sallied forth to conquer for the first time in centuries, forming a great pincer with Gwalchavad’s 11th Expeditionary Fleet and thereafter fighting alongside them as thirty systems were swept clean of their xenos masters. Glory and renown came to them swiftly, and with the campaign’s end in 936.M30 they took their place in the Great Crusade, striking out for distant warfronts. In the following decades, Knights of Rakham variously served with the Lightning Bearers, Eagle Warriors and Godslayers, as well as a plethora of Imperial Army fleets. Their position seemed unshakeable.
But then even the Imperium itself was not immune to reversals, as the terrible days of the Rangdan Xenocides and the early onslaught of the Qarith make clear. Twenty two years after Rakham formally joined the Imperium’s hosts, a xenos race of fiendish strength and malevolence made itself known at the Galaxy’s southern edge. The Vremalkyr styled themselves as deities, few in number but possessed of truly godlike power both physical and psychic. Billions of humans lived in thralldom, worshipping these towering figures of horn and stone scale, raising up vast engines of conquest that rivalled the mightiest Titans of the Imperium. These juggernauts, and the host of lesser machines with which the Vremalkyr made war, were invested with bestial minds crafted by the god-pretenders through the sacrifice of millions.
It is theorised that some ancient device or power may have contained the Vremalkyr, or that they came from the fathomless dark between galaxies. The concrete facts can tell us only that they overran one world, then a dozen and then fifty after that before they could even be slowed. Worlds thought to be invulnerable were consumed. Psychic fire licked at the edges of Yamatar, threatening to spill over and consume even Iona and Obsailes. The Imperium’s armies closed ranks and stood firm against the terror - records suggest that an unknown Primarch broke an invasion force at Sondheim, slaying one of the Vremalkyr - but they bled for every victory.
Redactions such as the above Primarch’s identity, make it difficult to ascertain the full scale of the war, but Legiones Astartes Chapters are recorded as being shattered and hastily recombined, and the Legio Destructor are known to have sacrificed two full war maniples at Ghidor and Mori. The Scions Hospitalier and Fire Keepers, led respectively by Seventh Captain Glaucus and Chief Shaltak, took charge of the defences across forty worlds west of Sondheim, but the full weight of the xenos attack was yet to fall. No relief would come soon enough, it seemed, to prevent the southern sectors of Tempestus from being crushed.
At this time, the bulk of House Rakhan was serving either with the Ist Legion or dispersed elsewhere in the Imperium’s uncounted campaigns, with only two hundred Knights stationed in the Collegiate under Grastus Celot, now Castellan of Ilkayla. Owing to the maze of Warp passages, which had remained difficult even for Imperial Navigators to traverse, they had been spared the initial wave of slaughter. Now they saw an opportunity to strike at the adversary’s soft underbelly, one they must take lest their inaction doom billions more - and indeed themselves in time. One hundred and fifty Knights boarded the warships that would take them into enemy space, joined by six million men at arms. Once more, Duke Celot assumed command and once more the crooked paths served to deliver them unseen to a world where a number of the Vremalkyr were performing one of their abhorrent rituals, slaving and devouring the minds of the population to raise a new horde against the Imperium.
What we know of that battle comes from the final astropathic messages sent by the fleet and pict-logs from fallen machines, retrieved years later. Their target was identifiable to every psyker aboard the fleet, a swell of aether of energies like a building storm. It called for the swiftest response and so Celot’s attack was nothing short of suicidal, ships sacrificing themselves simply so that their comrades could sell their lives soon afterwards. The other ships turned their guns on the surface to the exclusion of all else, administering the Emperor’s Peace to the captive souls below. Then, as the cruisers and battleships were overcome, transport craft spilled out into the void and shot down to the surface.
The Knights and their allies descended to a world already wracked by orbital bombardment and found three of the Vremalkyr. They were wounded, having poured much of their power into the ritual only to be cheated by the bombardment, yet much of their dread vigour remained. They towered over the greatest of Rakham’s sacred armours, and for every wound they were dealt Knights fell, hewed down or simply unmade by psychic energies. Fallen mortal soldiers carpeted the blasted landscape, bodies broken or minds destroyed. Through it all, however, Celot’s Knights were uncowed, slashing and blasting away at the Vremalkyr. The first of the aliens fell, then a second, though it took Celot’s death to achieve it, his Paladin gutted with stone claws. With only eleven Knights remaining, the final Vremalkyr was dragged down and slain, the last survivors dying under the blades of its frenzied slaves.
Such an awful cost might seem sufficient for a victory as great as this, but House Rakham had an even greater price to pay. The Vremalkyr were overcome with rage at the death of their kindred, and broke off their invasion of the main body of Segmentum Tempestus to seek out the upstart mortals who had lain their brethren low. The rigours of the Warp passage mattered nothing in their wrath, and it is likely that they sacrificed considerable amounts of materiel and thrall-soldiers in reaching their target. Velthame perished in fire and blood, leaving only bare rock where the proud scions of Rakham had stood vigil for so long.
Whether by design or chance, the destruction of the Collegiate had bought the Imperium time to rally and launch their own attack. The Emperor Himself, with Icarion, Yucahu and Koschei at His side, led an armada that threw back the Vremalkyr and put every one of the god-pretenders and their thralls to the sword in a year of brutal warfare. Among the host were those Knights assigned to fight with the Lightning Bearers, who waged war with desolate fury. Lost to their grief and anger, when the foe was finally cast down they were forced to reckon with the loss of their home and an uncertain future. Icarion made an overture as soon as it was decent to do so, offering them a domain in the Madrigal Sphere and, implicitly, the prospect of an alliance with Akira.
The offer was accepted soon enough, with House Rakham installed on Piraeus and arrangements made with the Akiran Mechanicum. Their strength returned gradually as that mighty Forge World and its colonies crafted new sacred armours, and their renown waxed even greater than before. As far as anyone could tell, the House had defied cruel fortune. However, from this moment the fate of Rakham was tied to Akira and, by extension, Madrigal. Their lords would follow Icarion down the bloodstained road to rebellion, conducting purges and readying themselves to make war upon former allies. When the renamed Harbingers began to descend on Loyalist worlds, the Knights of Rakham were beside them. Like their allies, corruption would in time twist them until all memory of the House’s former honour was blotted out.
Several decades drawing on the bounties of the Madrigal Sphere - to say nothing of Icarion's efforts to bolster forces loyal to him - ensured that House Rakham entered the Insurrection as one of the mightiest Houses in the Imperium. Over five hundred Knights stood ready in their vaults, putting them comfortably within the Primaris grade. At least a hundred more were acquired from other sources, most likely the Kyorek tech-enclaves in the low central reaches below the Galactic plane, to judge by fallen armours recovered at Plinos in 46.M31.
House Rakham boasted an impressive range as well as number of sacred armours, with esoteric weapons such as volkite and arc guns supplied by the forges of Akira. Such diverse and rare patterns as the Styrix, Porphyrion and Atrapos were unusually common, though never truly frequent, among their Households. The Households themselves were increasingly assigned to Maniples of the Lightning Bearers and similar bodies among the Legio Telesto, although only the latter pacts were ever explicitly ratified.
Incorporation into the Akiran line of battle ensured a bountiful supply of battle-automata to aid Rakham in battle, while they drew on Piraeus for retainer troops which took the place of their old Collegiate allies. Icarion saw to it that some measure of independence was preserved for the House, and they were equipped with a number of barques and non-transport ships, ranging from destroyers to a handful of powerful strike cruisers. In practice, however, Rakham’s ships were as much a part of the Stormborn’s fleets as their Knights were a part of his armies, and unquestionably accepted the commands of Ist Legion voidmasters.