The basic idea is that they are not-Warhounds Primaris based on a greek-ish Deathworld on the Great Rift.
The discussion beween Guilliman and Cawl regarding traitor geneseed was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting passages in Dark Imperium, and a concept I wanted to dip my feet into.
However, I will try to make sure that the Chapter stands on his own, having developed an original identity and culture under the influence of its homeworld.
Feedbacks, comments and tips are always welcome.
Thanks for looking!
[EDIT: I'll update this post as the Index takes shape. Origins section added]
Index Apocripha: the Wardens of Hades (Archontopouloi)
“New blood mends old wounds.
By the future is the past redeemed”
Chapter name: The Wardens of Hades
Primogenitor: Rogal Dorn [disputed]
Homeworld: Aides - Imperium Nihilus
Fortress monastery: The Nekromanteion
Specialization: Void war, close-ranged combat
The impossible simply happened. The Imperium had ceased to exist.
Thus came the hour of triumph for the xeno, the heretic, the mutant and the traitor. The enemies of mankind, bloodily kept at bay for a hundred centuries, could finally rage unpunished on its planets.
It was in this situation that the reborn Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines, assumed command of the Imperium and put into action a contingency plan ten thousand years in the making. The Ultima Founding, as it was named, saw the creation of many new Space Marine Chapters, whose geneseed had been tirelessly refined and improved by Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl. These new transhuman warriors -the Primaris Astartes- were bigger, stronger and possessed faster reaction times than their original counteparts. The order of the Primarch had been given during the dark days of the Horus Heresy, and the warriors he commissioned had been perfected by the adepts of Mars for the ten thousand years that followed. Finally, with the Imperium on the brink of failure, these new soldiers abandoned their stasis cells to overthrow the impending fate of the galaxy.
The holy events of the Defence of Terra, the Indomitus Crusade and the many battles fought to repel the tainted hordes tirelessly vomited out of the Great Rift are narrated elsewhere, although in this age of crisis even the last century of history is already falling into legend.
This brief account, insufficient as it may be, is nevertheless necessary to contextualise the birth of the Wardens of Hades, a Chapter among many of those awakened from the cripts of Mars. Unfortunately, their name is rarely listed on the rotuli honorem of the Crusade, and the most malignant voices whisper of voluntary data-purges conducted in the Imperial archives by some inimical -or favourable- force towards the Chapter. The meaning of such rumors will become clearer during this account. For the moment, it is enough to list another relevant fact for their understanding: the constant presence of Mechanicus forces directly related to Archmagos Cawl reinforcing -or monitoring- the Wardens of Hades in their few confirmed deployments.
Towards the end of the Indomitus Crusade, it became common practice to assign homeworlds on the edge of the Rift to the newborn Primaris Chapters. These planets, now on the frontline in the war against Chaos, would become the base of operations and the main recruitment pool for the new forces of the Imperium.
The Wardens of Hades -simply known at the time as AACP1021, or «specimen 12»- received their own soon after the Liberation of Baal, in the Imperium Nihilus. It was, in fact, from their new home that these warriors would get their name, and were reshaped by their assigned planet as much as their arrival would change its existence.
Aides, or Hades in low gothic, welcomed its new warriors as angels of salvation. The Cicatrix had turned it in a frontier world on the abyss, tortured and devastated by unending daemonic incursions and even traitor Astartes. That this planet, whose technological level was akin to the pre-industrial eras of Holy Terra, could endure such punishment is a testimony to the strenght that made its sons a perfect stock for the Space Marines. Although Aides had once been an agri-world of modest importance, the flesh and blood of its people were now everything it could offer to the Imperium in exchange for salvation. Thus flesh and blood were, and still are, offered without respite.
Since this alliance was born, the Wardens have been waging a constant war of attrition against the madness gnawing at the edge of the Imperium Nihilus, far from the light of the Emperor and cut off from the realms of men. They stand on the very gate to Hell, on the crumbling periphery of the Empire. Stretched thin and ultimately insufficient for the defence of a whole sector of space, cut off from the rest of the galaxy along with their homeworld, they fight alone and forgotten.
The same malignant voices mentioned above speak, in this case, of a planned isolation enacted to avoid close scrutiny. A less paranoid explanation, though, is offered by the presence in the Aides Sector of a minor gap in the Warp, a narrow passage that could run through the Cicatrix and connect the pars Nihilus with Imperial space. This path, called «Cariddi's Throat», is currently considered unnavigable, and every known craft that attempted this jurney has been regurgitated from the Throat, added to a graveyard of broken hulks floating before its entrance as a grim warning to the next madmen who would try such route. Still, should the intensity of the Warp storm ever decrease by a percentage considered plausible by the magii of Mars, this passage could become practicable, restoring communication with Imperial space and becoming a strategic route of supreme importance. This is the only hope for the future of Aides and its warriors, a hope they cling to as they continue their daily struggle against the forces of the Archenemy. In the meantime, the Cicatrix looks at them from on high, a wound in the sky ever present above their heads, looking like a grin of amusement for their delusion.
For more than a century, Aides has been the anvil upon which the hammer of false gods has struck and struck again. It was by such strikes that its people and Chapter were forged, bringing them together in a fashion rarely seen on other Astartes homeworlds. Although a hundred years may look like the blink of an eye in the wider context of Imperial history, one should not forget that entire mortal lives begun and ended in such a timespan. We are talking about a century of isolation and constant war, during which Aides could rely exclusively on its Chapter, and the latter on the tenacity of its people. Everything that the current generation knows is this neverending and pervasive war of attrition; a collective effort for survival where everyone -demigod and mortal; man, woman and child- must play their part to see another day. This century of almost exclusive collaboration has created an incredibly strong sense of cohesion and identification between the Chapter and its people. The Astartes are the pride of their mortals, but the mortals are the pride of the Astartes, and from many a standpoint they seem to think and behave themselves as a sole force.
It is from local mythology that the Marines adopted their symbol, a hound charged with guarding the gates of the Otherworld, and it is the name assigned to them in the local tongue that they use more frequently: oi Archontopouloi, «the Noble Sons». It should not come as a surprise, considering its specific situation, that a Chapter so young would develop such a strong identity.
In the current days, war against Chaos has been an existential condition for most of the Wardens since before their recruitment in the Chapter. The situation is not favourable for survival, yet those strong enough to endure in this storm of insensate violence quickly gain a lifetime's amount of experience.
A century of constant war against renegade Astartes has made them experts of such a fratricide war, but the butcher's bill cannot be stated to be anything different than horrendous. The mortality rate among the Wardens of Hades is so high that – could His Angels know such a feeling- it would send a shiver down the spine of another Chapter's Master, presenting him with a repetitive list of numbers that could individually threathen his brotherhood's existence. If the Archontopouloi can sustain such an attrition is solely because of two facts. The first is an extremely fertile population, providing an endless stream of young warriors forged by Aides' daily struggle. The second is an incredibly stable geneseed, with an acceptance rate far above average.
It is, in fact, the doubts about its geneseed that make this Chapter, which would otherwise be relatively unremarkable to the wider Imperium, the object of sinister rumors. Not everyone accepts the endogenous birth of the Wardens' heraldry, nor are they quelled by the official statement that counts them among the sons of Rogal Dorn. According to these rumors, the origins of the «specimen 12» project would sink towards far darker depths, and the choice of their isolation would be more than an unfortunate necessity. Of the Archontopouloi's geneseed we shall talk in greater detail elsewhere, but should such hearsay be believed, theirs would be a secret better kept in Nihilus.
Aides is located in the pars Nihilus, coordinates NH.49324//4493 Ultima Segmentum, Eusinian Sector. In every possible 2d map rendering, its position overlaps with the edge of the Great Rift. This is ultimately the reason why it became a Space Marine homerworld and, as a consequence, the Sector's acting capital planet. Aides wasn't the most advanced planet in its own region, nor the richest, and not even the most strategically valuable before the Cicatrix exploded in the galaxy. The tragedy marked, in fact, a dramatic shift in all but every aspect of the planet's role in the Imperium, turning it from a marginal agri-world to the closest bastion to Cariddi's Throat - a potential asset to be protected at all cost. This implied a heavy and hastened militarization, for which the planet had, truth be told, a favourable disposition: its pugnaceous -if retrograde- people, as well as some, until then, misunderstood relics of the Age of Technology, proved a fertile ground for such evolution.
It should come to no surprise that, like many other planets near the Rift, this started a new era in Aidian chronological accounts, which adopted a localized datation system that uses the Great Opening as its year 0. It was that brutal event that brough forth every change that followed, and rendered everything that came before it meaningless.
Above the skies of Aides, and in the space that separates it from the rest of the System, the ships of the Archontopouloi keep their scattered patrols, stretched thin but ever vigilant of the eternal storm. Such area is saturated with semi-automatic orbital stations and weapon-satellytes, ready to obliterate or at least slow down any invader, signalling their presence to the Chapter. It is said that no one can fly in the Archontopouloi's space without a cannon pointed to their ship.
Should a visitor survive these defences and be allowed to set foot on Aides, he would be met by a blue planet, with a multitude of tiny islands becoming distinctly clearer on its surface. As he approaches from afar, he would then see the mighty station Thàlassa, a hulking brute of metal locked in geo-stationary orbit above the ocean. Shipyard, forge, and devastating gun platform, the Thàlassa was the Imperium's last gift to Aides before it was left to its own defence, providing the Wardens with an invaluable asset for the survival and upkeep of their armoury.
In striking dissonance to this sky fortress, barely a century old, is the monumental Nekromanteion. The fortress of the Chapter is built upon what was discovered to be an impressive monument from the Age of Technology, improved and refortified according to the precepts of Primarch Rogal Dorn. The most impressive part of this complex is the so-called Theodosian Wall, a whole network of trenches, traps and fortifications supported by an ancient and revered multi-layered void shield which, to this day, has never been breached by the enemy. This is indeed a fortunate thing, for should it be destroyed, it would be all but impossible to restore, the secret of its construction being just another among many victims of time and superstition. It is this shield, many believe, that can be identified as the «wall» that gave name to the rest of the network, although the identity of its original builder, Theodosius [?], didn't survive the First Age of Strife.
The rest of the planet, though, is deeply different, and what an average Imperial citizen would find remarkable in this account stops here - except, perhaps, if he had an interest in the cultural anthropology of ancient terran societies. He would otherwise find these people retrograde and superstitious, as well as less than pious. Indeed, an inquisitive mind could say that the Imperial Cult is just a patina upon their polytheistic beliefs. Before the Imperium established stable contact, they had a multitude of very human divinities, related to practical matters such as war, farming and trade, echoing the protopagan Illenic beliefs of ancient Terra. They later identified the God-Emperor with the highest divinity of their pantheon, father and king of every other god -which is to say, in some interpretation of these mythologies, the Primarchs. From this point of view, the Chapter, educated on Mars and Terra, will hopefully be more orthodox and function as an example for its people, but with the attrition and recruitment rates of the Archontopouloi, the opposite may well be true. In other times, this would have attracted immediate attention from the Inquisition, but now, at the end of history and civilization, contact is impossible – and one could go so far to say that, to the new ruler of the Imperium, religious orthodoxy matters infinitely less than strategic importance.
Aidian mythology is no less erratic, and deeply populates the imaginary and forma mentis of its people. The most important feature, that should be signalled in this essay, is the costant presence of what an Imperial scholar would identify as beastmen – harpies, syrens, centaurs, gorgons – and monsters populating the deeps of the oceans of the world. One can only speculate about what passed on Aides during the Long Night, but strange and enormous marine species have indeed been observed, and in these days of Darkness returned, the endless tides of deamons that besiege the planet have brought new truth to these legends. It is not to be excluded -and nothing will shake this convinction from a native Aidian- that some of these beastmen still survive in the darkest corners the planet. Many are the legendary heroes fighting these monsters in the lore – and in the long and ever growing oral mythology of Aides more are being added every day, since the Astartes have been inserted in their ancient canons as the demigods of legends finally returned.
On Aides, there are almost as many cities and kingdoms as there are islands -and each of them is proud, intractable, untrusting and with its own version of legends and history. They mainly used to farm and wage war against their neighbours, but since the opening of the Rift a perpetual league has been formed. The respect of the treaty is granted by the Chapter's presence – but even more, by the never ending need to collaborate and fight the monsters at the door.
Despite all of this, it would be wrong to call Aidian culture on the whole as unrefined or primitive. A citizen of Hades would undoubtedly look down on a native of Fenris or Chogoris, which would normally be put in his same cathegory by a different Imperial observer. Indeed, an Aidian would consider himself far superior to those uncultured barbaroi. It must be admitted that, if Imperial thought and technology haven't found a deeper way in the planet's culture, it is because of its inhabitants endemic traditionalism, campanilistic attitude and general mistrust of anything external – if a city can despise its closest neighbour in the same fashion of the old Athenai and Lakedaimonios, what can be said for the wider Imperium?
Despite all of this, the Aidian presumption cannot be completely dismissed. Not only does the planet have an incredible, if obsolete, overall martial culture, but also a widespread ethos of outside-the-box thinking and inventiveness. Problem-solving, creativity and originality are prized qualities – this is certainly true in battle, but it also reflects on crafts such as sculpture or ceramic production, with items that have been, at least before the Rift, highly prized by some circles of Imperial collectionists of artworks and curiosities. In the Imperial archives there is also mention of an Aidian inventor who was starting to build mechanical constructs, but was stopped by the Adeptus Mechanicus. Altough this latest rumor is unsubstantiated, it must be conceded that for their actual technological level, the Aidians are remarkably inventive. They are, predictably, very proud of this ability to look after themselves -be it in war, farming or even fields such as medicine, which only goes to reinforce their already disproportionate campanilistic pride. Cut off from the rest of the Imperium, their vaunted ability to make do has now become a necessity.
For all of this, it would have been impossibile for Hades to remain totally unchanged and closed in its old culture after the Great Rift and the adoption of its Noble Sons. The past, albeit slowly, is giving way to the future, and Imperial technology was, according to the latest available reports, starting to spread top-down from the Chapter. The Wardens are generally happy to leave Aidian culture as it is: objectively, it constitutes a good recruitment pool for the same reasons why the people of Fenris or Cretacia are left unchanged. The reality of war, though, is uncompromising, and natural selection imposes to adapt or perish. Altough sword and spear, with their symbolism as old as man, work well against the Nephila, the assaults of void pirates and heretic Astartes have increasingly led to the use of augmentation, flak armour and lasguns. Ever proud, the élite mortal phalanxes still march to war with their traditional panoply, updated for a new kind of war: the artisans of the Chapter have reinforced their hoplitic armour with ceramite, provided their shields with sustainsable energy fields and added disruptive generators to the tips of their spears. Altough such a warrior couldn't individually stand a chance against a traitor Astartes, a shieldwall of them could hold long enough for the Archontopouloi to turn the tide: so the new and the old fight as one for survival, in a peculiar but functional concert.
In a world such as Aides, where isolation is a constant and the foe can take the infinite forms of the daemon, the ability to quickly adapt to the changing situation, to rapidly contextualize and re-contextualize every detail, and to make do with what few resources one has available on the moment -in one word, what the people of Aides call Phronesis- is the foundation of survival. Indeed, the Wardens value such virtue in a recruit just as much as they look for physical strength and the potential to survive the Primaris implantation process.
At the moment, the Aidian System is the only known recruitment source for the Archontopouloi, and nothing different could be expected given their particular circumstances. It is not known whether they would recruit from a different population should they ever fight a protracted campaign far from their home-system, although Phronesis would surely call for them to do it. This vision would be hard to reconcile with their intrinsic campanilism, but an answer may come from the way recruits from the rest of the system are treated: they are welcome to the Chapter, but they are expected to behave like blank slates, abandoning their barbaric customs to fully embrace Aidian culture.
Aides provides, after all, everything the Wardens need in their recruits. Since their first breath, the homeworld's children are plunged into a daily struggle for survival. When they are seven years of age, they are taken from home and inducted into one of Aides' many armies, where they are forged by the planet's proud military tradition, manufactured by a hundred years of conflict against pirates, daemons and worse. This education forces the boys to fight, to adapt, to overcome fear and starvation -and should one of them excel, he would be sent to one of the planet's traditional élite phalanxes. Here, he will be «adopted» by a veteran warrior, who will be responsible for the young man's military education and refinement. It is alongside these soldiers that the Archontopouloi fight to protect their planet, and it the most promising of their novices that they take for their own recruitment. It is these young promises of battle that will become the planet's most noble sons.
The first can be attributed to the nature of their homeworld. Since Aides is a sea world, its surface scattered with islands, participation in naval operation is a given in any of its inhabitant's life. Upon ascension, an Astartes substitutes the wooden ships and the sea for the metal walls of a spaceship and the blackness of the void, but his drill remains fundamentally unchanged, and is refined by a tireless and endless patrol of the skies under the Rift. The Wardens have thus developed a particular efficiency for fast and brutal boarding assaults against intruders, which they seek to intercept and neutralize as soon as they translate in their system.
The second point, adaptability, should come to no surprise at this point of the account. In Aides' situation, the law of the frontier prevails, and the Chapter does whatever is needed to endure, as unorthodox as it may be. Most notably, is it not uncommon for the Chapter to requisition resources as needed from the system, and to intervene quite heavily in political affairs as it fits their wider scheme of survival. While this behavior would undoubtedly be met with censorship in Imperium Sanctus, it is far from uncommon in pars Nihilus, where contact with the wider Imperium may have been lost -like in this case- for more than a century.
As previously stated, it is undoubtedly this isolation -alongside the unrelenting attrition/recruitment rate- that made a Chapter as young as the Wardens so susceptible to penetration from its homerworld's culture. The adoption of Phronesis as a cardinal doctrine is but one among its many consequences. The Archontopouloi have to be self sufficient by force, being cut off and under constant siege, and one could say that they turned a necessity into a virtue. Their flexibility serves them well against a foe as unpredictable as the Nephilla, and cunning is considered one of a warrior's most valuable qualities. Indeed, the Aidian canon contains as many stories about wits as it does about strength, courage or honor.
This focus on self-sufficiency, problem solving and personal initiative has repercussions on the Chapter's command structure, which appears to be heavily based on personal bonds, trust and a commander's personal fame more than rank per se. A leader will command as much respect as his strategic history can grant him, and a lower ranking Astartes that doesn't trust in his superior's plan may well behave in a fashion that some would see as undisciplined, if not outright insubordinate. This is why a battleplan is often openly discussed beforehand with all of the ranking officers, dissecting and analyzing it before consensus is reached. Although such a procedure would seem inconvenient and inefficient -to say the least- to most Astartes Chapters, the Archontopouloi strongly maintain that this improves the quality of the plan and the battleforce's cohesion. Indeed, only the most successful and respected commanders can bypass such a process, an action which would otherwise be seen as outright disrespect by his warriors.
The third pillar of the Warden's doctrine is close combat. The Chapter has significant aggressive tendencies, and it's a collective opinion that true glory is to be found in melee, where the Emperor can witness their prowess and remember their name.
This focus on close combat can be explained in a multitude of ways. Worthy of note is the mention of a Black Templars training cadre assigned to the awakened Chapter during the Indomitus Crusade, on the basis of their lack of actual experience and the officially common belonging to the line of Dorn. Another reason is the society from which the aspirants are prelevated, whose material culture is heavily tied to pre-industrial weaponry -we have mentioned the traditionalism of the phalanxes- and whose mind is filled with stories of heroes facing the darkness with the strength of their arms.
Aides' martial tradition focuses heavily on brotherhood, but also on individual glory, and although the Archontopouloi are as well coordinated and tightly knit as any other Chapter, their ultimate aspiration on the battlefield is to physically break the enemy in front of their brothers, so that their name may be remembered and their warrior legend spread.
One can speculate that this desire for remembrance -and, on the opposite side of the coin, «fear» of oblivion- is itself due to the Chapter's isolation from the wider Imperium. Mankind shall never know the names of the heroes of Aides, nor shall the Bell of Lost Souls ever toll for one of them. As long as the Rift keeps them cut off from the realm of men, their brothers and their people will be the only ones to remember them - they, and the Immortal Emperor on his Golden Throne, regarded by the Archontopouloi as the ultimate witness and judge for their actions.
Whatever the truth may be, the warriors of the Archontopouloi rush into battle with nothing less than joy, thirsty for personal glory in the eyes of the Emperor and their peers. When they engage the enemy a brutal fury is unleashed, with peaks of violence that echo the darkest rumors on the Chapter's origins.
Edited by The_Bloody, Yesterday, 05:17 PM.