Servants of the Senatorum Imperialis:
The Pentarchy of Blood
Behold, I come with five thousand of his angels at my back, to execute judgment on all traitors; and to convict all the apostate of all their subversive deeds that they have committed in such a subversive way; and of all the subversive things that such sinners have spoken against Him.
Master Aramis Enoch, Inquisitor
What is the Pentarchy of Blood?
Drenched in duty and horror alike, the Five Chapters of the Pentarchy of Blood were those tasked with bringing sanction to a so-called Primarch and four Chapters that had fallen under his sway. That a mere Five Chapters were deployed is both a measure of the High Lords' confidence in a swift and total victory, and a demonstration of the strictures under which the Imperium of Man operates, even at a time of relative plenty.
In fairness to the assessors of the Senatorum Imperialis, the most current intelligence marked the rebel Inheritors Chapter as hugely depleted and reeling from ongoing wars with xenos. While the Red Fish were understood to be at full strength, both the Void Barons and Star Wardens were known to be scattered and unlikely to coalesce, allowing them – in the eyes of assessors – to be defeated in detail through ambush and isolation tactics. Most damningly, the belief was that the slaying of the figure claiming to be a Primarch would instantly undermine the rebel's beliefs, allowing the Imperium to welcome the rebel Chapters back into the fold – pending penance and punishment, of course.
|[//Charnel Guard during the battle of Moreaumunda; a rare defensive action undertaken by the Chapter in the middle of the war.+]|
To this end, five renowned Chapters – both in terms of fame and infamy – were deemed sufficient to the task. A series of surgical strikes was deemed the most appropriate approach. As events were to tell, however, this was swiftly proven mistaken: and woefully so.
Alerting them to their task, a formal Bull by writ of the Senatorum Imperialis was issued to the Flesh Eaters and Charnel Guard, delivered personally by Master Enoch, while the Red Talons were contacted through the intermediaries of Nero-Gollos, the Fabricator General. The famously evasive Carcharadons were the last to be contacted – and then only by the intercession of the Speaker for the Chartist Captains. Besides these four august armies were the Death Eagles – a most peculiar bicephalous Chapter, whose involvement in the war requires further explanation in a separate missive.
All served for the entirety of the conflict, but none were unaffected by the actions taken therein; and all emerged bearing the scars and fell fallout left by the war. To this day, what scanty records of the conflict remain in the highly-redacted Chapter libraries are sequestered and classified; but the bruises and malady of the war were borne by all.
The wargear and weapons borne by the courageous warriors of the Pentarchy at the time continue to hold a strange fascination – at once attractive and repulsive for its mystery – for the current Astartes of the Chapters.
The Rose of the Pentarchy
As symbol of their oaths, the Chapters of the Pentarchy were granted the right to display a unique honorific; that all might recognise the bearers as the embodiment of the dread will of the High Lords themselves. Styled as a simple pentagonal field surmounted with the enhaloed I device of the Senatorum Imperialis; each of the Chapters adapted and displayed it according to their own Chapter cultures. The Death Eagles, for example, frequently bore a simplified form of the device on their helms; while the Charnel Guard applied it as per Codex tenets – though heavily adorned and decorated; frequently developing the pentagonal shape into that of a five-petalled flower; the halo into the stamen. This stylisation became commonplace early on.
|[//Unidentified Tactical Marine, Flesh Eaters Chapter. |
Note Rose of the Pentarchy on pauldron+]
As envisioned by Preceptor Boros Ilyich of the Ancient and Worshipful Oneiromancers, each face was said to represent one of the selected Chapters, and each point represented a weapon turned outwards. The enclosed icon of the High Lords thus became simultaneously a symbol held in reverence for preservation, and a mark of the pure will of the Emperor in support of his warriors. This utopian vision for the honorific was to become clouded when the populace of Croesus, a densely-populated but largely peaceable Civilised World on the outskirts of the Inamorata Cluster, declared for the Primarch.
In one of its opening campaigns, the ruthless and unrelenting assault set the tone for the first part of the broader war. Diverting the Fifth company of the Charnel Guard into orbit alongside elements of the Flesh Eaters and Carcharadons, a series of lightning assaults over the course of three days saw the Imperial Governor and the majority of his High Command captured and publicly executed.
With resistance decapitated before the planet's defence forces could respond, three-fifths of the planet's hives surrendered. The surrendering soldiers were immediately pressed into service as penal legions to attack those holding out; the subsequent warfare taking a dreadful toll on both the military and civilian populace of the world. With the death toll spiralling, the Astartes forces plunged back into the fray.
Rumours of torture and carnage perpetrated by the Charnel Guard and their allies began to spread amongst the populace of Croesus – and, owing to the highly-connected spaceports, far beyond. Across the neighbouring sectors, the diaspora of fleeing merchants and terrified refugees spread word of the bearers of the 'Rose of Terra'; and the honorific began to take on a dark tarnish. Far from altering their course, the Charnel Guard quickly seized upon and exploited the fear to further destabilise the population of nearby Morgant as part of an organised campaign of psychological warfare.
In the wake of the successful Morgant campaign, the Five Chapters were keen to seize upon any edge that they might capitalise upon and effectively weaponised the Rose of the Pentarchy. This was to a greater or lesser degree, according to the whim of the Chapters' Masters – a chilling demonstration of how even honour and duty were forced to turn to black ends in the dark days of the War of the False Primarch.
As the war progressed, two things became apparent to the High Lords. Firstly, the five Chapters sent to apprehend and decapitate the rebel group were woefully understrength – even given their huge advantage in naval and Imperial Guard assets. For such a force to defeat four entrenched Chapters Astartes was a difficult task; for them to stem eleven – and a potentially Legion-strength foe led by what increasingly appeared to be a being of Primarch-quality insight, to boot – was an impossibility.
The debate hung around one critical question – with multiple Chapters turning away from the orthodoxy, would reinforcements remain loyal, or tack their own banners to the Silver Star? In short, would the deployment of new Chapters Astartes resolve or exacerbate the rebellion?
Determining at last – and after fierce debate – that secrecy was the watchword, the High Lords opted to close a cloak of shadow around the affair; mobilising two dozen further Chapters to prevent shipping and transit in and out of the region, but allowing even their Masters no insight into the true manner of the affair they were shielding.
|[//Carcharodons: unknown Company – events of the Shield World Offensive+]|
Within the occluded zone, a temporary suspension of Codex procedures was authorised – indeed, pressed upon the Chapters of the Pentarchy in the so-called Diet of Fools. Each Chapter reacted in a different manner, but with restrictions lifted, all five began to expand at a startling rate.
Supported by the full weight of the Adeptus Terra's genevaults, the Adeptus Mechanicus' forges and other, more esoteric patronages afforded by the High Lords, each Chapter expanded its base of initiates from dozens to hundreds within a matter of months. Notably, the entirety of the Flesh Eaters' Scout Company was advanced to full battle brother status almost immediately by Lord Velghor; the famed Sorrow of Carphathia demanding his armoury be swollen by the latest advancements in Astartes plate in order to field his warriors immeidately. Despite harrowing losses during the conflict, such was the speed and success of the Flesh Eaters' recruitment in the early years of the war that reports of members of companies numbering up to the 17th were current more than a century later.
Not all of the Pentarchy took such a route. The Carcharodons, typically occluded, remained insular and difficult to contact. That their numbers swelled immediately after the Diet was undoubted – though given the scale of loss in the Venture's End Conflict, it is difficult to say how large the Chapter became. The Red Talons took a still more esoteric and technomantic route to reinforcement, their methods remaining pointedly hidden behind the terms outlined in the Diet's own declaration; their commandery citing 'by any and all means necessary and feasible' in order to avoid the scrutiny of the High Lords.
Whatever the idiosyncracies of their procedure, the result was simple: each of the Five Chapters swelled hugely in number. In concert with their allies in the Imperial Navy, Imperial Guard and specialists such as the Solar Auxilia, Silent Sisterhood, the Vigilants and Legio Validus, the Pentarchy of Blood had every right to expect victory to be total, if not swift.
|[//The Red Talons' deployment on Morgant led to a relatively bloodless surrender – ignoring, of course, the initial strike.+]|
Weighed against them, of course, were eleven Chapters. Even depleted, even without a singular leader, such a challenge would be daunting. It is testament to the courage, capability and confidence of the Chapter Masters of the Pentarchy of Blood that they remained undaunted. Over the black skies of Teo Sentimental, they met. Here they swore a great and binding oath between each other: that conflict would be total; that quarter would be neither sought, nor given; and that their war would be waged as though overseen by their own Primarchs.