Index Astartes: Charnel Guard
'They're black-armoured, black-hearted, stasis-crypt-using murderers; walking corpses that have countless blood rituals they don’t tell anyone about. And don't let no-one tell you otherwise, kin. These Space Marines ain't your saviours; they're the stuff of nightmares. If I find any of you praying to angels, I'll soon whip it out of you.'
[//Optrup Fiegel Janstein, Recruitment Officer, Broddiwelt 14th Dragoons+]
In the later history of the Imperium, the Charnel Guard would come to be shrouded in mystery and suspicion, and even in the younger years of the chapter, secrecy and isolationism would mark many of their actions. One thing that has long been suspected: the Charnel Guard bear a particularly marked form of rumoured gene-curse that haunts the line of Sanguinius. For all their dark nobility, there is a blood-thirsty savagery to many of the Great Angel’s heirs, and the Charnel Guard are no exception.
|[/Brethren of Fifth Ostire Charnel Guard, during operations on Oblitus Vega, Sector Morqub+]|
Warcry Redemption through example; peace through the grave
Cognomen Dwellers; Star-treaders; Wardens Pacific (rare)
Founding Third [//001.M32+]
Successor Chapters Angels Moritary,
Chapter Master Stanizar Gorn [//epithetVAL=TRUE: ''Stapan"+]
Homeworld During the War of the False Primarch, the Dead World of Môrmant acted as the nomadic Charnel Guard's sovereign domain. Like many previously, it was abandoned soon afterwards; the Chapter leaving nothing but dust in their wake.
Fortress-Monastery The Tower of Grôapa-Blytlan operational headquarters upon the battle-barge Fugatrix
Appearance Tower of Orlando on Baal holds the great Carta Nota, a holy relic to the Blood Angels which records their successors and scions. The Charnel Guard are listed as part of the Second Great Host – that is, those Chapters formed from the Blood Angels and their direct Successors in the Third Founding – immediately after the Death Wardens. Here, the Charnel Guard heraldry is noted as 'Gloss-black, unto obsidian; gore-red'. In this, the Charnel Guard's heraldry is akin to many of their lineage.
They hold a great number of their peculiar chapter thralls, referred to obliquely as sclav-morda by the Astartes. Always heavily shrouded and cowled, the thralls are rarely seen by outsiders, and their faces and flesh are never witnessed beneath the cloying layers of fabric in which they are draped. Shambling and unsteady, they are clearly nevertheless exceptionally well trained in armour-mongering. As such, the panoply of each Charnel Guard is often highly personalised and embellished with anachronistic decoration.
Alongside artificer quality metalwork, the ceramite skins of the Charnel Guard often bear badges of previous and current campaigns. When the Pentarchy of Blood was convened, all chapters were presented with the Rose of the Pentarchy. It was the symbol of the High Lords’ will and was vigorously adopted by the Charnel Guard, although in their usual idiosyncratic fashion. Many warriors wore the original pentagonal field as inlaid ivory, but many more ordered their armoury thralls to incorporate a five-petalled crimson rose.
In addition to these campaign badges, a number of ciphers and insignia denote rank and company, although squad number does not seem to be commonly shown. The markings are often so individualised and only loosely tied to Codex tenets that an outsider has little hope of interpreting their meaning.
Shrouded in myth, and untied to any living world that might record their actions with some degree of objectivity, the Charnel Guard's origins are sketchy. Beyond the bare fact that they were born of Blood Angels’ stock at the dawn of the 32nd Millennium, created to ply the stars as a void-faring chapter within the realms of the Imperium, little is known with certainty.
Autonomy and aloofness characterise many cultures of the Adeptus Astartes, but from their very inception the Charnel Guard chose to remove themselves from the view of the wider Imperium, maintaining only select ties with other Blood Angel successor chapters, including the ill-starred Blood Eagles, and – allegedly – particular posts of the Senatorum Imperialis, including a number of past and present High Lords of Terra. This secrecy has obscured much of the Charnel Guard’s history, especially that of their first millennium abroad amongst the stars.
One of the few confirmed events in this period is their participation in the War of the Beast. Whilst far away from the coreworlds of Segmentum Solar, the chapter spent several years in repeated and vicious boarding engagements with Ork voidfarers. Only half the chapter would wade out of these staggeringly violent battles alive, with so much of their fleet destroyed or damaged that it was only fully restored a scant few decades before the War of the False Primarch. Despite this loss of manpower and materiel, the Charnel Guard would somehow maintain an armoury of weapons and vehicles that were considered nigh unique in the latter years of the 33rd millennium, including a colossal stock of armour and super-heavy armour.
During the eighty-year war, the Charnel Guard would share battlefields with all four of their Pentarchy brethren on at least a few occasions. It seems that relationships with the Carcharodons and Death Eagles were always terse and tolerated out of a mutual respect for the grim duty these warriors had been assigned. It has even been asserted that the Death Eagles refused to aid the Charnel Guard in the defence of Moreaumunda when they had the means to do so.
According to Inquisitorial records, officers of the Red Talons and Charnel Guard nearly came to blows early in the war, at Morgant, over a doctrinal disagreement. This has been disputed by both chapters, but it is still evident that many who fought for the Orthodoxy alongside the Charnel Guard had qualms about their procedure in both battle and mediation. Indeed, it has been confirmed that allegations against the chapter of cannibalism and malevolent collateral damage on Croesus were a flashpoint for the mutiny within the Solar Auxilia 555th Cohort.
Of all the alliances they held in this period, the strongest lay with the Flesh Eaters. This is unsurprising, for the two chapters share a founding, genetic heritage and several darkly rumoured customs. These heirs of Sanguinius shared dozens of operations throughout the war, functioning almost as one chapter during the Pentarchy’s hardest days, after the true extent of Volnoscere’s forces became clear. When the Diet of Fools authorised a temporary suspension of Codex recruitment strictures, both chapters grew in a way that enabled them to operate more independently, and as the actions of Commander Velghor become more unpredictable, meetings between officer cadres became rarer.
One other ally of note, shrouded in conspiracy, is that of the High Lords of Terra. There is no definitive proof that the chapter has special ties with the High Lords, though a few events have no doubt contributed to the rumour. That they were selected to perform their role in the Pentarchy of Blood suggests some sort of favour from the High Lords, or perhaps even a debt owed to them by the chapter. The fact that some records state the Charnel Guard were specifically approached by the Inquisitor Master Aramis Enoch throws further suspicion over the nature of their relationship with the High Lords, and instead suggests a possible bond with Inquisitorial elements. Whether there is truth to any of these possibilities, it certainly seems paradoxical that such an isolationist chapter would have such close connections to some of the most persistent Imperial institutions.
Organisation and idiosyncracies
|[//identquery: Nero, Dirijor of the Fifth Ostire+]|
Ostensibly adherent to the Codex Astartes, the Librarium Magna Bodleia on Terra reveals that the Charnel Guard’s structure has changed notably several times over the course of their history. Fleet-based from the outset, the Chapter's nomadic travails differ from most migratory Chapters by establishing short-lived homeworlds and fastnesses on Dead Worlds that they encounter. What occurs in these beyond the broadest strokes is unknown, the Chapter fleet jealously flocking about such planets and aggressively chasing away nearby ships. Remnants of great towers that stretch for kilometres both up into the Dead Worlds' skies and plunge deep into the spare soil have been recovered by Ordo Astartes Inquisitors, but little of worth beyond this.
|[//Dark rumours of blood rituals haunt many records of the Charnel Guard+]|
The most unprecedented alterations to the chapter’s organisation all occurred during the War of the False Primarch and its aftermath. The Charnel Guard entered the war as a recently renewed force; able to field perhaps 870 battle brothers, but even this proved to be too little to match the scale of the foe within the occluded zone of the conflict. To this end, the High Lords granted the Chapter many weapons with which to fight the Abomination and his Partisans; perhaps the most gratefully received by the Charnel Guard would be the Diet of Fools – a temporary suspension of Codex strictures that would allow the chapter to grow to the enormity of the task before it.
Amongst the Sons of Sanguinius, the Charnel Guard are highly unusual in that they are, to all appearances, devoted followers of the Imperial Creed, apparently subscribing wholeheartedly to the belief in the Emperor's Divinity. In contrast to more common Ecclesiarchical doctrine, Charnel Guard express their faith not as zealous crusaders, but instead walk a far darker, and more morbid path.
At the heart of the Chapter's creed is a Mortuary Cult obsessed with death and sacrifice. The Charnel Guard believe that all life is finite, and that death is both inevitable and the fundamental truth of existence. Rather than something to be feared, it is considered something to be celebrated. Only in death did the Emperor ascend to god-hood, and only his sacrifice that saved humanity from the darkness that threatened to consume it. As a result, to die in service to the Emperor is believed be the highest ideal that his servants can aspire to, with a noble death in battle considered the very pinnacle of their faith. After all, Sanguinius, the Charnel Guard's own gene-father, knowingly sacrificed his own life rather than turn from the Emperor's light.
|[//Warfare on Feretory+]|
In practice these beliefs translate in various ways. The warships of the Charnel Guard are, in effect, vast mobile shrines, whose very infrastructure is inlaid with the bones of the fallen. Macabre relics, skull iconography and death masks are commonplace, often adorning the armour and wargear of the Chapter's warriors. However, it is on the battlefield that the true consequences of this belief system can be seen. No matter their opponents, the Charnel Guard fight with cold, calculated fury and an almost complete disregard for their own safety, throwing themselves into each battle as though it will be their last. Whilst the Blood Angels maintain their so called Death Companies, bands of warriors who fight with a suicidal disregard for their own lives, it can be justifiably said that the entire Charnel Guard fight in the same frenzied manner. As a result, casualty rates are exceptionally high, and only high levels of constant recruitment enable the Chapter to remain operational. This callous indifference to life also extends to the Imperial citizens they are called upon to protect, and is perhaps the true reason for the Charnel Guard's savage reputation and the extreme collateral damage they so often inflict.
There is some speculation that the fervent beliefs of the Mortuary Cult may have been the main reason behind the Chapter's involvement in the War of the False Primarch. The Charnel Guard believe without question that the Emperor and all of his loyal sons are deceased, their lives sacrificed for the good of humanity. For them, the Abomination known as Volnoscere could only be, at best, a fraud or imposter; at worst a monster and deceiver of the most heinous kind. As a result, the High Lords of Terra were completely assured of the Charnel Guard's loyalty, making them a perfect choice to join the Pentarchy of Blood.
It is widely known that the brethren of the Charnel Guard regularly slumber in Stasis Crypts between their deployments. The exact reason for this is undisclosed, but it is suspected that the flaws that afflict all Sons of Sanguinius are especially acute amongst this particular Chapter, and that sealing themselves away in the enforced peace of a stasis field is simply another method of controlling the curse within their bloodline. Thus for many brothers of the Charnel Guard, particularly older warriors and veterans, their existence consists solely of battle, punctuated by timeless periods of unconsciousness in stasis. For such warriors, the horrors of war are literally all they ever experience, which may account for their renowned and relentless brutality on the battlefield. It has also been theorised that the Chapters gene-seed may be cursed with an over active or defective Catalepsean Node, making it impossible for them to truly sleep. Even the gene-forged post humans of the Adeptus Astartes are not immune from the necessity of sleep, and thus the Stasis Crypts may be the only way that the Chapter's brethren can stave off, or at least delay, an otherwise unavoidable descent into madness.
However, there are also several logistical advantages to this practice, particularly for a fleet-based chapter which often operates far outside the usual Imperial supply chains. Whilst in stasis, a warrior does not need to eat or even breathe, allowing the Charnel Guard to conserve their resources until they are actually on campaign. Nor do such warriors need to constantly train or hone their skills, as the timelessness of stasis does not erode their abilities in the same way as other periods of inactivity. Of course, such skills need to be acquired in the first place, which is presumably why the youngest members of the Chapter, most noticeably those of the Reserve and Tenth Companies, are least likely to enter the Stasis Crypts.
Another curious side effect of this unusual reliance on stasis technology is that the warriors of the Charnel Guard are both physically young but existentially ancient, often enduring for countless centuries. With so much of their time spent in stasis, their lives have been known to span millennia. Thus at the start of the War, many veterans were heroes from aeons past, with several officers originating in the earliest days of the Chapter's history. Were it not for the constant attrition which their brutal methods of war inevitably produce, the Charnel Guard would almost certainly be considered the oldest and most venerable members of the Adeptus Astartes.
Amongst the brethren of the Charnel Guard are a group known, amongst their other titles, as the Custodi Sepulcrum, or Grave Wardens. Both enforcers and executioners, these officers dispense judgement upon the weak and unrighteous. In addition to their other duties, the Grave Wardens also serve as the custodians of the Chapter's stasis crypts, watching over their brethren as they slumber between wars. Only the most disciplined and steadfast individuals are chosen for this onorous and lonely task, for they must be able to constantly resist the twin curses rumoured to infect the Charnel Guard's bloodline.
|[//'Grave Warden' – nominal UNKNOWN+]|
High ranking members of the Chapter's mortuary cult, each Grave Warden bears a chained copy of the Tome of the Lost, a complete record of every battle brother who has fallen victim to the Flaw. They are also charged with administering the Emperor's Peace to those unfortunates who succumb to the so-called Unquiet Sleep, the curse unique to the Charnel Guard bloodline, and adding both names and deeds to the Tome so that their memory may live on.
Unlike other Judiciars, the Grave Wardens favour the use of broad bladed war axes or cruciform swords that resemble the Charnel Guard's icon. In battle they are fast, deadly opponents bedecked in the skulls of their enemies, yet are perhaps most feared by their own brothers, for they represent the fate which ultimately awaits every member of the Chapter.
Of all the practices of the Charnel Guard during the War of the False Primarch, it is their use of combat thralls that would prove the most controversial and disquieting. With many Chapters, failed aspirants are not necessarily discarded, but instead continue to serve as serfs, artificers or, for the most unfortunate, servitors. Such appears to be the case with the Charnel Guard, but given the peculiar nature of the shrouded and shambling sclav-morda – their anonymous and silent demeanour and presence on airless moons and void operations alike – little can be said for certain.
What can be widely authentiated beyond the Chapter is that the Charnel Guard began to field what appeared to be failed aspirants. Initially tentatively identifed as 'Combat Thralls' or 'Ecclesiarchical Flagellants' by allied Adeptus Mechanicus during the battles on the Corewards Front of Morqub, two corpses of these combat thralls were later recovered by the Ordo Astartes during clearances in the system of Strabo's Star.
Blotchy-skinned and slack-mouthed, these combatants bore the tell-tale signs of surgery and Astartes bulking. Brought before Inquisitor Xiao (later killed by the Star Wardens during the events on Dardanus IV), studies revealed that these unfortunates had seemingly been mind-wiped and surgically altered with primitive bionics. Later presumed as field-treatment of injuries suffered during their trials, these strange warriorshad been turned them into rudimentary living weapons for deployment.
Xiao brought his findings before Enoch, who demanded an explanation from the Charnel Guard. Pointedly ignoring the order, the Charnel Guard departed Strabo's Star, but were pursued by Xiao and a force of Vigilants. After three weeks had passed, Xiao swiftly redeployed to Heliopolis, but fragments of his report were later incepted by the Astropathic Choirs on Oblitus Primary, and passed to Enoch.
[...] before being placed in stasis to await their deployment. When their allotted time arrives, these so-called Naluca are awakened like [...]jected with a massive and lethal dose of combat stimulants and then unleashed upon the Chapter's enemies in small squads, with the expectation that they will inflict as much carnage as possible before [...].
Naluca are not expected to survive beyond their first depl[...]n fact the Charnel Guard ruthlessly cull and retrieve any who somehow remain standing at the end of the battle. [...] to note that the Chapter does not usually view this fate as a punishment, but instead as a reward, bestowed upon those who showed promise, even if they ultimately failed their trials.[...]
[//Attr. Inquisitor Xiao (frag. record)+]
It was during the War of the False Primarch that the use of these units reached its zenith. As the Chapter's numbers grew due to the Diet of Fools, so too did the numbers of Naluca waiting to be deployed. In addition, as the War escalated and both sides became more desperate, there is evidence that the Charnel Guard began capturing large numbers of Partisans with the morbid intent of raising an army of these creations.
|[//PICTcapture retrieveref:spoolspoolspool: WARZONE KRELL+]|
The most infamous example of this practice came during the Siege of Krell, when the Charnel Guard Second Ostire assaulted the planet's northern polar hive. This is recorded in a separate infofile.
Actions during the War
Always slow to respond to requests for information from allies, most reports of the Charnel Guard during the war came second-hand from nominal allies serving alongside them; or from the dozens of Inquisitors and agents that Enoch sent in their wake. Whether their reporting was slow owing to reluctance or stubbornness; or due to some quirk of their record-keeping or ability to communicate is – like so much of the mysterious force – unknown and unrecorded.
That the Charnel Guard operated far and wide during the War is clear. Secondary reports have them fighting in a number of key theatres during the second stage of the War; not least the worlds of the Delphurnean League and the broader Corewards Front – including Feretory, Krell, Forbearance, the Oblitus pair and, of course, Ishim itself.
'Whisper quietly and huddle full close, child-mine. The night is dark, and full of terrors. Stray not beyond the firelight tonight; for the strigoi is come.'