<<Chapter Badge: Two-head Viper forming a V, coiled around a combat knife>>
The Dune Vipers Space Marines Chapter
In Jacurutu, the Fortress Monastery of the Dune Vipers, the chapter’s Librarium records that the chapter was part of the 5th Founding, established to protect an area of the Ultima Segmentum near the Ghoul Stars known as the Histnaar Expanse. However, this contradicts official Adeptus Administratum accounts, which show the chapter as having been established in a later founding, almost a millennia later. Furthermore, the Histnaar Expanse was never named as such in Administratum records until much later, when the Chapter’s use of the term was codified and adopted. Furthermore, in defiance of both, local records from the worlds of the Histnaar Expanse and surrounding sectors reference a chapter matching the Dune Vipers’ description as early as late M32.
Regardless of this discrepancy, it is well recorded that the Dune Vipers have a long and storied history in defense of the galactic northeast. The Histnaar Expanse was a part of the Pnoabsterix sub-sector that had been plagued by Xenos raiders and insurrection since time immemorial, and the chaos of the War of the Beast had further damaged the stability of the Imperium in the region. Being so far from the light of terra, mankind’s hold on the region following the Scouring was often tenuous. Warp lanes were particularly preyed upon, and the Imperium was often forced to reroute supplies and manpower around the tumultuous Expanse, which could add months or years to the time for such arrivals to make their destinations. As a result, the Dune Vipers early history is replete with battles in the void, clearing those threatened warp lanes.
Victories such as the eradication of the Dlarinx Raiders of Yhestin Δ908-2F, the campaign against Yorg Hornmaw’s Freebootas, and the destruction of the space hulk known as “The Terror from the Ghouls” were just some of the many victories claimed by the Dune Vipers in their earliest archives. Within centuries, the Dune Vipers had eliminated many threats that had terrorized the Histnaar Expanse since the waning days of the Great Crusade. The Vipers began deploying on the surface of Imperium worlds, working with local defense forces and the Imperial Guard to eradicate insurrections that had gripped hives, continents, and some whole worlds for generations. Several traitorous governors were executed, and the ruthlessness of the Dune Vipers become a fear-inspiring legend across the Expanse. On one world, an entire traitorous hive was put to death by the Vipers, who triggered a collapse in the upper portions of the structure which caused a chain-reaction that buried the hungry rebels in the rubble. Afterwards, the threat of such vindictive action allowed the Planetary Defense Force of that world to easily regain control of other hives. The chapter brought a relative calm to the Expanse millennia before the “Pax Pnoabsterix”, and this allowed the chapter to begin deploying outside their domain.
The Terror from the Ghouls
A mounsterous blot in the night sky, this space hulk had been a herald of death and destruction in the Histnaar Expanse for longer than the Imperium had records. Erupting from the warp with no warning, the Terror of the Ghouls would sit dormant above a world for some time, making no overt attack or deploying any forces. But with the setting sun, the world would be ravaged by unknown attackers, sweeping across the world with the shadows of night. After some time, the space hulk would depart as suddenly as it had arrived, and with it, the attacks would cease, leaving the survivors to pick up and rebuild the devastation caused by the unexplainable foe. When the Dune Vipers managed to board and clear the Space Hulk, they wouldn’t report what they found to any outside soul, and locked the details of their assault away from prying eyes. What is known is with the destruction of the Terror from the Ghouls, these mysterious attacks ceased.
A test of the chapter’s resolve came when they faced defeat at the Grivun-Primus Shipyards. A renegade warband had taken advantage of a chain of Chaos uprisings known as the Trentian Purges to attack the strategically important shipyards. The Dune Vipers responded to calls for aid, leaving the Histnaar Expanse for the first time in their records and deploying several companies, the most the young chapter had committed to a single action. They found themselves combatting not just the heretics and traitors of Trentia, but the renegade warband “The Exquisite Symphony.” The Heretic Astartes were behind the fall of Trentia and the attack on the shipyards of Grivun-Primus. The Dune Vipers tried to focus on defeating their fallen counterparts, but the hateful renegades refused to meet the Space Marines in battle. Understanding that they were being tricked into chasing a foe that wanted to pull them from the defense of the shipyards, the chapter reluctantly abandoned their pursuit and deployed against the hordes of mutants and traitor guardsmen overwhelming the Imperium’s defenders. The chapter’s experience in the void was beneficial and they were able to capture individual victories, but the battle was lost against an overwhelming and insidious foe.
The orbital shipyards were destroyed, their defenses being overwhelmed from traitors within and the renegades were able to sabotage the platforms. The shipyards plummeted down to the planet’s surface, causing an Exterminatus-level event that left the world lifeless. The Dune Vipers losses were high, and almost an entire company had been lost when the shipyards fell. In the aftermath, the surviving Astartes returned to Sikarra to nurse their wounds, leading to a reduction in the number of campaigns for nearly a century. Hunting parties were sent out to find hints of “The Exquisite Symphony”, so that the chapter could enact their revenge, but no signs of the renegades were ever found. Eventually, the chapter was forced to set aside their thirst for vengeance and return to protecting the worlds of the Imperium.
The chapter’s legend grew as it brought the Emperor’s wrath to humanity’s foes across the Ultima Segmentum. By the dawn of the 41st millennia, the Dune Viper’s had taken part in a great many campaigns and had the battle record to show it. From space hulk clearing to putting down insurrections to taking part in crusades to conquer new worlds or retake lost ones, the sons of Sikarra were regarded across the sector as exemplars of the Imperium and true sons of the Emperor.
The Dune Vipers played a vital role in the Wars of the Mega-Tyrant, the tumultuous and devastating conflicts that emerged as WAAAGH! Tortoof swept over Pnoabsterix. The chapter took a major leadership role for the forces of the Imperium, lending not just their might but also their super-human minds to the organization of the sub-sector’s defense. Though they were not able to halt the tide of greenskins on the holy plains of Othellum or prevent the forges of Alecondre from being looted, the Dune Vipers were vital in slowing the advance of the Mega-Tyrant across the stars. Ultimately, the Astartes of Sikarra led the assault on Tortoof’s Space Hulk, the Peaceful Serenity, that resulted in the fall of the Ork Warlord.
The Imperium’s hard fought and pyrrhic victory over the Mega-Tyrant was short lived. The Cicatrix Maledictum tore the galaxy in half, and in an instant the Histnaar Expanse found itself cast into the darkness of the Imperium Nihilus. The Dune Vipers were forced to fall back to the Expanse, as warp travel and communication grew near impossible in the aftermath of the Great Rift. As distant as Sikarra was from the galactic center, the unnatural light of the Great Rift managed to stain it’s skies, a small but vibrant scar across the heavens. The Histnaar Expanse came under fresh assault as the enemies of the Imperium took advantage of humanity’s blind and deaf empire. Outnumbered and cut off from the light of Holy Terra, the Dune Vipers find themselves waging a new war close to home.
Sikarra is a war-ravaged Death World, marked as “unrecoverable” during the Scouring. During the Great Crusade, the world had been brought into compliance by the 4th Legion, a relatively easy campaign that didn’t see much destruction brought to the world. The Imperium quickly learned the value of Sikarra when the world began to export the products of the medicinal plant Malengium, capable of being refined into a powerful healing accelerant for Nartheciums and first aid.
When the fires of the Horus Heresy began to burn the galaxy, Sikarra was an early casualty. It is unknown which side sought to prevent their opponent from benefiting from the Malengium, but a Legion fleet appeared in the heavens above Sikarra and virus bombed the world. All life above the surface died immediately, but an unexpected reaction caused the long-term death of the world. Malengium absorbed the virus and was changed by it on a genetic level, resulting in the plant producing a toxic gas. Even after the last of the virus disappeared, the once-healing plant poisoned the air, rendering much of the planet inhospitable to human life.
Only one landmass managed to avoid the poisonous gas. Sikarra was made up of one mega-continent and several smaller ones scattered across the oceans. This mega-continent, Neekarra, is unnatural, ringed by mountains on all sides, with only three passes leading opening up from the crags. It is unknown what ancient, possibly alien power had formed this landmass, but the result was a desert untouched by rain. Before the bombing, it had been irrigated to provide food for the world. Now, it was the last bastion of humanity. Long gone are the farms and irrigation systems of a once prosperous and industrious people.
All that remains are are descendants of those agri-serfs that had been forced underground when the virus bombs came. They had emerged to find their farms destroyed, and the sands reclaiming the desert on the wind. They found they couldn’t venture too close to the mountain ring, where the air became more toxic the close they were to the ocean. And they discovered, to their horror, how little water they had available.
Over time, these people became the tribes of Sikarra, the emaciated wretches clingy to life on a world that wants no part of humanity. The tribes are communes of survivalists who are forced to conserve every drop of water they have available. There are no rivers cutting across Neekarra and no rain has ever managed to penetrate the mountain ring. The only fresh water available to the tribes is in the form of the moisture collectors on the edges of the desert. These are remnants of the irrigation systems of the old world, maintained by the tribes who keep their locations a tightly held secret. The collectors can only be drawn from during a specific time of year, when the coastal winds shift and the air becomes breathable, for at least a short time. Each tribe prepares for this season, making this an annual pilgrimage. With land-haulers, waterskins, and bodies, the tribes will make the dangerous journey across the dunes to collect that vital resource of life.
But not all tribes have a moisture collector they can trek to. Whether made up of outcasts, or having simply lost their moisture collector due to mechanical failure or even losing the location, these tribes are forced to raid for their water. When tribes battle, the goal is always the same: capture the enemy and take their bodies water. The water in a person’s body is a vital form of conservation, and it belongs to the tribe, not the individual. Tribes do maintain underground reservoirs where they can store excess water, but it’s never enough for a whole tribe to survive. They are forced to maintain the water conservation suits they’ve inherited or scavenged, that recycle their water to prevent a tribe from burning through their precious life-blood before the next pilgrimage.
Besides water, food and the scavenged resources of the past agriculture are vital to the survival of the tribe. Many small rodent-like creatures hid in the rocky outcroppings and dune, and these can provide some sustenance. Large, much more dangerous creatures will burrow beneath the sands, requiring hunting parties to flush them out so they can be harvested. Many tribes will also harvest some underground funguses. And after a tribesman dies, their body will be harvested by the tribe’s Butcher-Priests, returning the body’s water to the tribe, and preparing the dried meat for consumption. The Dune Vipers keep this from prying Imperial forces, who might overlook the necessity of the act.
Shifting sands sometimes reveal long buried agricultural equipment, resulting in fierce battles for the spoils. These scavenged goods are key to tribes maintaining their moisture collectors, underground agriculture, and water conservation, and usually result in the deadliest conflicts. Another source of old-world goods is done every century or so, when major weather shifts allows air to be breathable in the old, coastal cities. Many tribes will band together to make these journeys, as toxic mutants and even more dangerous beasts infest the former jewels of humanity. Unknown to the tribes of Neekarra, this is controlled by the Dune Vipers.
Using the ancient weather-control and agricultural monitoring systems, the Dune Vipers maintain a constant eye on each of the tribes, looking for worthy candidates. The chapter doesn’t rely on a regular test or trial for their recruitment, instead retrieving a candidate whenever one is found. In exchange, the Astartes gift water to the tribe, to replace what is lost. Because this is always a far greater amount that the candidate held, being chosen for ascension is a great gift to the tribe.
An Intercessor of the 5th Company
When a desert dweller of Neekarra is chosen for ascension, the first step is to free them from their previous life. The candidate is brought to a pristine aquifer, deep beneath the Dune Vipers’ fortress-monastery, to see a body of water far greater than they could have ever imagined. For one of the children of Sikarra, the sight is beautiful and terrible, a vast reservoir of that precious life-blood that they, their tribe, their ancestors, and their tribe’s ancestors had struggled and fought for since time immemorial. They are then drowned in it. The candidates that are able to be revived are taught that water must not have a hold of their soul. This is the beginnings of the psycho-indoctrination a Dune Viper undergoes, to turn a half-starved, desiccated desert survivalist into an Angel of Death.
Not all tribal qualities are lost, however. The chapter replaces and even enhances the communal structure of a tribe with the brotherhood of the Space Marines. The chapter is known to be exceedingly fervent in the importance they place on retrieval of geneseed, above and beyond the average chapter. It is believed by some scholars that the losses suffered at the Grivun-Primaris Shipyards so early in the chapter’s development have caused the water-fixation of the tribesmen to be replaced by a heightened focus on never leaving the body of a fallen battle-brother behind. Indeed, the chapter has deployed overwhelming forces to retrieve their fallen before, even against the edicts of the Codex Astartes. As a by-product, the chapter boasts a much higher Dreadnought count than average, as it would seem not all their retrieved comrades are dead.
As with many tribal societies across the galaxy, the people of Neekarra and the Dune Vipers believe in leadership by the strong. Both the leaders of the tribes and the Chapter Master are chosen by ritual combat, where the strongest warriors pit themselves against one another for the right to lead. More interestingly, this predilection for prowess also colors the chapter’s approach to war. They seem to prefer combatting enemies in the ascension as opposed to finishing a defeated foe, and have shown a respect for qualities of their foes, such as strength and toughness of the Orks or the graceful mastery of the Aeldari. The Dune Vipers have also shown contempt for allies that showcase a refusal to go on the offensive, or leaders that hide from battle.
Knowledge and speed characterize the preferred combat doctrine of the Dune Vipers. Portraying a dichotomy of warfare, the Vipers rely on long periods of reconnaissance and scouting before committing to a plan predicated on speed and decisive action. No matter if by stealth or drop pod assault, mechanized warfare, or hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, once the chapter takes to the battlefield, they execute their long researched and thoroughly vetted battleplan with great haste and precision. Once they have completed their objectives, the Vipers will quickly redeploy their forces, often out of active engagements, leaving the enemy devastated.
Owing to this, the chapter’s long history is full of short campaigns, where the Dune Vipers will quickly leave a warzone for another one, feeling they have completed their duty. This has left some Imperial forces feeling as though they have been abandoned, wrongly assuming the Space Marines would be involved in the campaign long-term. Such complaints often fall on deaf ears, as the storied history and honors of the chapter speak for themselves, but there have been Imperial commanders who have refused to work with the Dune Vipers.
The Regent of Sikarra
The Chapter Master of the Dune Vipers is chosen by ritual combat, where the chapter’s greatest warriors will battle for the right to lead their brothers. While this does mean the single best combatant is made Chapter Master, it has often meant the best strategist and tactician is not. In M35, several centuries of relatively sub-par leadership left the chapter reeling, as inexperienced or poor leaders took the position of Chapter Master and squandered the chapter’s resources. Recognizing that this had to end, Atraul Patreid, upon winning the position of Chapter Master, promoted the 1st company captain to the new position of Regent of Sikarra. Patreid declared that the Regent would act with all the authority and duties of the Chapter Master, making himself a chapter master in name only. Within a generation, the chapter had emerged from their mediocrity, and the Regent of Sikarra would continue to be appointed by each new Chapter Master.
The Dune Vipers have made no major organizational changes to what is dictated by the Codex Astartes. The chapter does have a large Apothecarium, which allows for many more of its members to be deployed on the battlefield, where they can quickly resuscitate fallen battle-brothers or retrieve their geneseed. Most companies have nearly twice as many Apothecaries as the typical chapter, and many captains have served as combat medics.
With the coming of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the chapter has begun incorporating Primaris marines into their ranks. The Dune Vipers have moved to creating only this second generation of marines, leading to the 10th company to be solely made up of Primaris. Because of this, when situations dictate the use of marines in scout armor, full battle-brothers of the first generation will don the wargear and perform the duties that were formerly the responsibilities of their newest recruits.
Despite readily embracing Primaris, the chapter’s leadership has chosen to organize them into their own companies, instead of dispersing them. This is often just for organizational purposes, as the many warfronts of the Imperium Nihilus will necessitate engaging what forces are available, and both Primaris and their forerunners will deploy alongside one another. Only the 1st company is free from this segregation, made up of the veterans of the chapter, no matter how they were created.
The Dune Vipers claim to be of Roboute Guilliman’s geneseed. However, the adepts of Mars claim they are of Jaghatai Khan’s stock, which is what was supplied to the chapter when they were given the secrets to crafting Primaris Marines. To further obfuscate the truth, the local Adeptus Administratum records that the chapter founded on Sikarra was a Raven Guard Successor, while the Forgeworld of Alecondre, which outfitted the chapter in its earliest days, claims the chapter as descended from the Iron Hands.
Outside the uncertainty of their primogeniture, the geneseed of the Dune Vipers has never shown any irregularities or impurities.
Theme: A chapter that recruits from a people based on the Fremen from Dune.
This is a project that has been a long time coming. I think I first shared my idea of Fremen-as-Space-Marines on 40kforums (RIP) in the first few years after joining the hobby, so 2003-2005. Many chapters recruit from hardened survivalists living on Death Worlds, which is probably another inspiration 40k borrows from the works of Frank Herbert. Finally, I’ve decided to embark on this project. My goal is to make something deep and uniquely mine. This is v.1, a rough draft, and I wanted it to be something some will read in one sitting, so I’m trying to only put the best, most interesting bits in, as opposed to everything I’ve thought of. As I expand on this, I plan to do research into the real-life cultures Herbert used for the Fremen, and use that to expand on what I’ve already got, writing a longer, non-IA article for them in the future. First, an IA.
A few of the notes I already have: It’s very rough. I’ve got a ton of ideas, but I wanted to go with something smaller and simpler for the beginnings; I think I may have gone too deep on the Homeworld. It is the thing I’ve probably put the most thought into, so even cutting a bunch of it out, it’s pretty long. Please, tell me what is most interesting and should stay. I know I don’t need every detail on how the people of Neekarra survive, but I don’t know what should be cut. Also, I’ve always loved ambiguity in the setting, hence why I’ve left some things unexplained or confused. I might have overdone it, but that’s just because I figure in 7,000+ years, this kind of stuff should be more or less legend.