SPACE OWLS: BACKGROUND AND FOUNDING
The Space Owls Chapter, or the ‘Sova Noctis’ as the warriors of that chapter often refer to themselves, are a non-codex compliant Chapter of space marines. Inheriting the Gene-Seed of the Raven Guard’s Primarch, Corvus Corax, the Space Owls are naturally stealthy warriors who excel in stalking their prey and unleashing sudden ambushes and devastating close quarter assaults. Formed in the wake of the ruinous events of the Reign of Blood and Age of Apostasy, they are suspected to be one of the few shadowed Astartes Foundings of this Era, utilizing founding members from the Raptors Veteran Company to raise the new Space Owls Chapter. Like many Chapters formed in this period, the Space Owls diverge from the structured tenets of the Codex Astartes, relying upon the older ‘Axioms’ of the Raven Guards Primarch, and the pragmatic insurgency tactics learned by their Raptors progenitors. Coordinating the Semi-independent Battle Companies or ‘Flights’ of the Sova Noctis is a council called the ‘Conventa’ of the company Captains and Specialists across the chapter’s Chaplains, Techmarines, Librarians and Apothecaries. Each ‘Flight’ contains its own independent Commander and Veteran Cadres, Battle-line Squads, and Recon Forces but must petition the Conventa for the services of the centralized Reclusium, Forge, Librarius, and Apothecaria to support their continued operations. At times when the Chapter must act as a singular force, the Conventa elects a singular Space Owls hero to lead them as their ‘War Leader’, their equivalent of a Chapter Master.
The chapter maintains an ancient Dark Age orbital space facility above the Feral World of Umbra Minor, dubbed the ‘Hollow’, as its Fortress Monastery and base of operations. This was originally created as a Prison-Mining Colony by a pre-Strife Era Human Demi-Empire, and was used to house the prison-labour force to extract Umbra Minor’s mineral resources. However, after the cataclysmic events of the Age of Strife the facility and its inmates were isolated as that interstellar human society, and so many other such empires, collapsed into anarchy. Rediscovered many centuries later during the Great Crusade, it would be the Raven Guard Legion under the command of Corvus Corax who would learn of the fate of those trapped in the Stolas System. Upon breaking the outer containment seals of the Orbital Station, the sons of Corax discovered a nightmarish charnel house inhabited by the degenerate cannibalistic descendants of the facility’s original inmates and overseers, who had failed to escape to Umbra’s surface before the automated emergency lock-down measures initiated. Faced with this scene of horror Corax was greatly tormented, as this situation ever became a dark mirror to his own prison-upbringing upon Deliverance. Initial thoughts and strategies to rehabilitate or cure the deranged peoples of the Orbital Station are dashed by the hyper-violent bestial insanity and increasingly obvious mutation spread throughout their population. Faced with this impossible dilemma, Corax decides that it is necessary to end these people’s nightmare and grant them the mercy of death or reform as servitors to continue to serve the Emperor and the Great Crusade.
SPACE OWLS: RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING
When the warriors of the ‘Sova Noctis’ were established during the aftermath of the Reign of Blood, their initial founders sought out that same ancient now vacant Prison-Facility in a little remembered part of the galaxy on the edge of the troubled Imperium. Recalling the Axioms of their Gene-Sire, and his upbringing amongst the indentured prison-labour force of Deliverance before their liberation from their enslavers, they would take a tithe of prospective recruits from across the Imperium’s jails, prisons and penal colonies. These criminals would then be forced to undergo the Astartes Trails and become the first true marines of the Space Owls. Transported to the newly re-named ‘Hollow’ Orbital Fortress Monastery of the Chapter, these young criminals included thieves, robbers, and murderers whose experiences numbered the use of subterfuge, misdirection, and stealth in their crimes. These attributes would be tested to the extreme in the often-unwilling recruits, from enforced incarceration with limited resources locked within the facility with other desperate inmates, as well as extended periods of survival on the surface of the dark world Umbra, its hazardous fauna, and feral tribal peoples. Only after showing the recruitment masters of the Space Owls that they possessed all the necessary skills and innate abilities that the ‘Sova Noctis’ utilise in the service of the Emperor could they be remade in the form of his transhuman Angels of Death.
Below the ‘Hollow’ Orbital Fortress Monastery turns the shadowed world of Umbra Minor, a feral desolate place scarred by a long history of abuse by Humanity. Due to the unique orbitally locked position of the moon and its distance from the parent gas giant of Umbra Major, the majority of Umbra Minor’s surface experiences a constant solar eclipse, never feeling the full warming light of old Stolas. Due to this celestial oddity when Umbra Minor undergoes its daytime rotation it experiences a divided day of a gloomy twilight of the morning and evenings penumbra, with an extended regular mid-day eclipse as Umbra Major fully obscures the system's star. As expected, the early terraformed life on Umbra Minor, done using the mysterious marvels from Humanity’s technological Dark Age, adapted to these extremes in remarkable ways. Of the flora introduced to the world, the windswept highlands and upland plains were colonized by vast swathes of dark brown silicone-ladened brush, bracken and ferns, whilst the colder poles saw the expansive growth of deep diamond-hard pine forests. Of the fauna introduced, a variety of verminous species such as super-sized pale-termites, herbivorous herds of rodents and rat-like predators. At the apex of the system were giant species of predatory owl-like avians, including cooperative hunting flocks of Stryx-Raptors, flightless hulking Megastryx-Bear scavengers, and the dreaded solitary Umbral Cavern-Phantoms.
The early pre-Strife Age humans who came to Umbra Minor were the prison-laborers from the orbiting prison-colony of what would later be renamed the ‘Hollow’ by the warriors of the Space Owls Chapter. Generations of mining would scar the surface of that dark moon with deep valleys, mega-gorges, and titanic boreholes deep into the interior of the newly terraformed world. When the cataclysm of Old Night came to the Stolas system, and the breakdown of its governing system, supply, and technologies, those humans lucky enough to escape being trapped upon the ‘Hollow’ would devolve into warring tribes of feral peoples. Infesting the relative safety of the tight shadowed canyons and subterranean mine works, the wonders of past sciences were lost to but a few of the deep-dwelling techno-barbarian tribes, the majority surviving in wandering caravans of hunter-gatherers with their ‘rodent’ cattle-beasts of burden. These Sova Tribes would survive by virtue of their ability to move silently and quietly through the world’s dark places, or else be hunted by Umbra Minor’s now dominant and monstrous Stryx predators, as well as other violent tribes and the blind deep dwelling techno-barbarians.
The Astartes of the Space Owls Chapter use this feral hard world as their training ground, putting into practice the innate abilities and lessons of their Raven Guard and Raptors forebears, testing their skills of stealth and subterfuge against Umbra Minor’s keenly adapted and dangerous predators, and its hostile tribal peoples. In particular, the early recruits and founding members of the ‘Sova Noctis’ would take the emblem of the owl as their Chapter insignia, in honour of the moon's intelligent and completely silent Stryx-Raptors. To the feral tribes of Umbra Minor the warriors of the Space Owls are feared and venerated by them as they do for the other silent avian predators of their worlds gloomy waterfall filled valleys, canyons, and impenetrably dark caverns. They refer to the Astartes as the ‘Krsnyx’, those even greater hunters of the many Stryx predators, appearing as both men and monsters in equal measure, whether they are the more detectable human-faced neophyte recruits undergoing their survival training or the rarely seen beaked iron-giants of the Chapters truly post-human warriors.
SPACE OWLS: APPEARANCE AND WAR DOCTRINE
As the Space Owls are a successor chapter of the Raven Guard they naturally specialize in silent and stealthy covert operations against enemy forces, including reconnaissance sabotage, and assassination missions of that force’s commanding hierarchy of enemy generals. Though they are adept in all of the tactics employed by the Emperor of Mankind’s Angels of Death, they excel in precisely timed surprise close quarters assaults, often swooping down with jump packs and modified grav-chutes from the shadows and darkest recesses of the night. Many an unsuspecting enemy has become prey to the covert warriors of the ‘Sova Noctis’, as their heads are silently crushed or severed by the custom made Stryx-Talons attached to the feet of the Space Owls elite veterans, appearing to many as unsettlingly reminiscent to those employed by the traitorous astartes assault specialists known as ‘Chaos Raptors’ and ‘Warp Talons’ – though these should not be confused with the noble loyalist Raptors Chapter from whom the Space Owls Gene-Seed is suspected to be created from.
Originally the founding members of the Space Owls Chapter were supplied with older forms of power armour and wargear, due to the widespread lack of supplies of newer Mark VIII patterned armour, caused by the anarchy and strife rampant throughout the Age of Apostasy. More recently the chapter has favoured the use of newly patterned Phobos armour, along with camo cloaks and special ‘Nocti’ patterned jump packs. These feature two baffled exhaust ports on each jump jet, which muffles the sound of the jump packs thrusters. In addition, their combat blades and chainswords are smaller in size due to the similar sound cancelling exhausts inserted into them but also for maximum efficiency for use in densely confined urban, boreal and subterranean environments. However, though newer armour patterns are made available to the Space Owls, they show preference to the ‘Corvus’ pattern helmets of Mark VI plate, going as far as to modify newer helmet patterns with additional ‘blunted’ beaks containing an array of highly sensitive and numerous auxiliary auto-senses and ‘prey-sight’ optical filters.
In a similar manner to the camouflaged colours of the Raptors Chapter, who favoured this use over the midnight black of their Raven Guard parent Legion, the Space Owls equally use the earthy browns, greys, whites, and burnt oranges of their dark homeworld as their heraldic chapter colour. These colours are often favoured by the many owl-like avian predators of Umbra Minor, and equally work well in other such gloomy twilight surrounds of other wild and boreal planets. In particular the varieties of burnt oranges used by the chapter are representative of the many species of ferns and mosses which line the interiors of Umbra Minor’s canyons and valleys, as well as the sacred colours used by its feral tribes, in a likely unconscious race-memory of the orange prison fatigues worn by their ancient prison-labouring ancestors. Battle-line brothers will usually wear the earthy brown for their armour and helmet, with a muted white shoulder guard sporting grey trim and accents, the chapter icon of the ‘Sova Noctis’ owl is shown in black on the left shoulder guard. Usually the face of the marine, that part below the burnt orange eye-lenses, which features the characteristic Corvus ‘beak’ is coloured the same muted white as the shoulder guard. Unlike their Raven Guard forebears, the Space Owls do not display their company colours on their shoulder guard trims, stead choosing small pictographic emblems to display each of the nine semi-independent Chapter ‘Flight’ Companies. These emblems are usually displayed on the left knee-guard plate. Veteran Squad members of the Space Owls will usually render their whole helmet muted white or grey, and also render the right knee-guard in this colour when displaying any earned campaign badges or other honour markings. In addition, such veterans will also equip themselves with numerous cloaks, shrouds and mantles made from micro-weave camouflage-fibres or the feathered or furred pelts of many ‘trophy’ hunts as honorifics, alongside the present Oath Papers. Chapter Commanders will often accent further areas and markings in burnt orange, such as the orange head stripes and other secretive ‘Stryx’ scratch-marks.
SPACE OWLS: ORGANISATION AND SPECIALIST CHAMBERS
The Space Owls diverge from the structured tenets of the Codex Astartes, relying upon the older ‘Axioms’ of the Raven Guards Primarch, and the pragmatic insurgency learned by their Raptors progenitors. This is best exemplified by the Chapter’s semi-independent Battle Companies or ‘Flights’ of the Sova Noctis with each Flight containing its own independent Commander and Veteran Cadres, Battle-line Squads, and Recon Forces. The Chapter is commanded by a governing council called the ‘Conventa’ of the company Captains and Specialists across the chapter’s Chaplains, Techmarines, Librarians and Apothecaries. Though each Flight maintains a certain degree of autonomy each of these decentralized forces must petition the Conventa for the services of the centralized Chambers of the Reclusium, Forge, Librarius, and Apothecaria to support their continued operations. At times when the Chapter must act as a singular force, the Conventa elects a singular Space Owls hero to lead them as their ‘War Leader’, their equivalent of a Chapter Master. The Specialist Chambers of the Space Owls, its Chaplains, Apothecaries, Techmarines and Librarians, will always be designated in the respective black, white, red, and blue colour patterns, though these are often more muted and lower contrast versions of those colours sported by other Astartes Chapters. Finally, when the ‘Conventa’ council meets to elect a War Leader for when many ‘Flight’ Companies are deployed into a singular action, they will ritually recolour that champions armour to a completely muted white and grey heraldry, symbolizing the recognized strength, cunning and skill of the elected War Leader – comparing their abilities to those of the similarly coloured Stryx-Raptor flock-alpha.
The final deviation from the tenants of the Adeptus Astartes is the Space Owls solitary assassins known as ‘Phantoms’. Usually other codex-compliant Astartes Chapter companies will nominate a singular individual, the company's finest swordsman, to become a Company Champion. It is these individuals who engage the warlords and champions of the foe in single combat, leaving the company Captain free to conduct the wider battle, rather than engage in a series of personal combats. Such Company Champions serve key roles in the rituals and ceremonies of their Chapter, representing their Battle-Brothers in rites, rituals and mysteries just as they do in war. However, within the ranks of the Sova Noctis, they consider this position a curse rather than an honour, for the Space Owls ‘Phantoms’ are cold blooded murders and assassins with a legacy which stretches back to the Shadow Killers of the Raven Guard’s past. Each Flight Company has a ‘Phantom’, that member who excels in the arts of stealth and ambush even by the standards of the Space Owls, who shadows the Flight’s operations. The Phantom operates in complete isolation to his brothers, ensuring that his actions are not compromised by their battlefield communications, whilst he stalks the leaders of the enemy command structure. When the right opportunity presents itself, they strike, calling upon the totemic abilities of the leopard-like Cavern Phantoms that they ritualistically emulate.
Edited by MECHFACE, 30 November 2021 - 09:52 PM.