'How could we not serve him? You wouldn't know, Inquisitor. We are gene-forged. His presence makes our hearts sing.'
'Your question betrays your ignorance. We could deny our fealty to him with the same ease that you could deny the stars in the firmament, or the soil beneath your feet.'
|[//Star Wardens Chapter Icon+]|
Warcry “Ad mortem ti!” [//trans.lit: ‘Unto your death!’/+]
Founding Third [+//001.M32/+]
Gene-Seed [+INCERTO. prob./XIIIroboute_g/nominative; ABNOTE:generune inconsistencies+]
Successor Chapters Blood Disciples [//dataruneval: suprressed//excommunicatus profugis+]
Chapter Master Argo Jext’ar [//honorifval=TRUE: 'Lord-Harrower'+]
Homeworld Fleet-based, the Star Wardens have no true planetary Fortress-Monastery, although they claim an extra-sectorial system of their own, spinwards of the Heliopolis Sector. Little more than a bolthole and gathering point for the Chapter, the system is a solar-blasted ruin. Here, ash-choked worlds bereft of human settlements orbit a sickly star. Many of the worlds are dwarf planets; of no consequential size, and all but lacking in moisture. These hellish worlds were claimed by the earliest elements of the chapter soon after their founding. With no official Imperial designation, the Qybura worlds are known only by the few who travelled there – predominantly officers of the Star Wardens and their respective cadres. This half-abandoned system was never completely charted and documented by Inquisitorial assets or other servants of the throne.
|[//Early in the Star Wardens' service, the Chapter seemed to strip away personal heraldry, perhaps in imitation of the Silver Stars' lack thereof+]|
Where fabrics, seals and the like were used, they tended to be a pallid sea-green, frequently decorated with the Chapter's idiosyncratic script. Weapon casings varied a great deal in colour, and were occasionally used to designate a warrior belonging to a particular Cadre. Crimson, ochre, black and gunmetal are all attested.
Indeed, the Star Wardens showed a great deal of variation between Cadres, according to the whim of the Headsmen and Harrowers that led it. While some favoured a sinister stripped-back appearance, others decorated the armour with skulls, bones and similar memento mori artefacts in order to intimidate their foes. This was fairly common across the Adeptus Astartes, but the Star Wardens added a particular horrible grandeur to the practice by contrasting it with the equally-common aesthetic of haloes, particularly after their alliance with the Silver Stars. Gore-dripping spiked haloes and Caputmori became particularly common in the Second Cadre, with nearly all members bearing one on their backpack.
Organisation and structure
The Star Wardens were members of the 'Steel of Heliopolis', an informal enclave of the Astartes in Sector Heliopolis. Given the venturesome, exploratory or simply aloof attitudes of the region's Chapter Masters, however, the league's existence was more nominal than practical. The title 'Steel of Heliopolis' suggested an organisation of close-knit comrades-at-arms, forever lending help and support to one another. In truth, it was a label that served largely to throw unwarranted emphasis on joint ventures between its members.
The actions of the Steel of Heliopolis Chapters were recorded and distributed for agitprop purposes within the largely wealthy and civilised Heliopolis Sector; pulp presses distributing pamphlets with 'tales of excitement and derring-do' in order to inspire and reassure the populace. In this way, the Imperium gave its citizens and serfs a distorted – and perhaps unwarranted – image of the Astartes as a single monolithic entity; both shield and sword for its vulnerable worlds.
The existence of the Steel of Heliopolis did have one unexpected benefit for the archaeo-histographer: the office of Carto Iatopia, a small centralised bureau tasked with licensing and distributing the core tales of the actions of the Steel of Heliopolis Chapters. Its output provides much of the root primary material presented here, which has allowed the Ordo Astartes to reconstruct some knowledge of the Star Wardens.
|[//Designate: Wicked Void; led by Headsman Aponius (right of centre)+]|
Nevertheless, much of the information has been lost, unlikely ever to be recovered. Of the Chapters' early history, for example, nothing is known – although given the information here gathered, it is likely that the Chapter's origins were occluded even to its members.
As example of the material recovered from the Carto Iatopia's deadvault, the following is a codified house style for scribes making reference to the Star Wardens' fighting details.
[...]ted upon closer inspection of remaining Chapter datascreed upon a number of sub-cognomens used amongst the Chapter and its auxiliary forces; titles and rank, particular and divers; and also formations used and called among the Wardens most singular in their implications. Heed! Note! Mark!
- Headsmen, See; Captain, or commander.
- Harrower, See; Veteran, Sergeant, Vanguard.
- Rampager, See; Breacher-Trooper, Assault-Trooper.
- Bloodbrother, See; Battle-brother.
- Nychterida, Unofficial officer lodge, formed around the Headsmen of Chapter-Cadres.
- Cadre, Similar in function to Codex Astartes companies, Cadres however have a markedly fluid structure, having no set maximum or minimum strength.
- Dread-Squad, See; Tactical Squad, Support Squad, Seeker Squad.
The extract highlights a number of unusual naming conventions within the Chapter. Other evidence, however, indicates the Chapter was broadly adherent to the Codex in structure. That statement must be borne with the proviso that the Star Wardens' structures included a number of attested eccentricities that rather strain Codex limits, including their officer lodge and peculiar Company-analogue structure; frequently quite beyond the nominal limit of 100 (either much smaller or larger). Headsman Vanek's Cadre, for example, was estimated at 300 strong during the conflict on Lark's Opus, while the Cadre to which Jericho belonged was enumerated at just 67 on Rybal.
The Star Wardens are noted as having an extensive Librarius, and their Chaplaincy – known with typical bombast as 'Dread-Chaplains' – were noted for their common presence in-field, too. Indeed, the reputation of High Chaplain Kruger was such that he often acted as de facto leader of the Chapter when Argo was indisposed. Ultimately, an investigator must make their own judgement on whether to treat the Star Wardens as a Codex Chapter or not.
|[//Rohaan, the Erisor; Bringer of Discord and Strife; the Murder of Urkan-Mag, the Mourn-Caller of Hadrexes, Dread-Chaplain of the Star Wardens Vth Cadre+]|
Perhaps as a result of their nomadic actions, the Wardens were noted as keen employers of aerial transport assets; Stormbirds, Thunderhawks, and javelin attack speeders. The use of these transports was a tried-and-tested method of deploying Star Warden 'Dread Squads' to the battlefield; and one that proved difficult for enemies to plan for or deploy countermeasures against.
Contrasting this rapid deployment of their infantry, the Wardens were also known to use a variety of tanks in heavy support roles, moving them in subsequent to the a foothold being made. The use of rapid deployment of brutal melee and close-range skirmish units, quickly followed by the aerial deployment of ‘big gun’-configured armour made Warden tactics predictable in some theatres of war.
Beyond this, the varied structure of each of the Chapter's ‘Cadres’, as well as their seemingly competitive nature makes identifying a distinctive Chapter Tactic difficult. Occasional references within the Iatopia's deadvault indicate that the Star Wardens' habitual informality of formation led to occasional difficulties in maintaining strategic consistency, battlefield communication, and battleline integrity – to the point that friendly fire between (and within) rival Cadres was not unheard of.
Although the Wardens excelled in many theatres of war, their wilful and ill-tempered tendencies outside of combat are quickly apparent to anyone willing to examine their combat records with any level of thoroughness.
|[//Come, let our blades speak. Perhaps at the last one of us will know the truth…+]|
Of all extent records, only two describe the Wardens as using anything other than total, brutal and decisive force to achieve their goals. Their service records – unfortunately truncated and largely lost – suggest the Star Wardens having a reputation as an efficient, humourless force, possessing the fanatical thoroughness of witch hunters, and with an unexpected streak of depraved cruelty. These attributes were not necessarily unwelcome in the Astartes, and Inquisitor Ganymede Ux, who lived to join the Partisans himself, noted that:
'[N]o finer tool than the weaponised and controlled cruelty of the Wardens could be found for the ever-mounting hordes of traitor, xeno, and mutant.'
[//Commentary of Ux, vol II+]
All this is not, however, to suggest that the Wardens were blood-drunk berserkers. Indeed, just two years prior to the coming of the 'Primarch', the Wardens' officers were lauded in a surviving Steel of Heliopolis Gazette and Herald pamphlet for their ice-cold control over their warriors. As the journalist put it for his (doubtless wide-eyed) audience:
Such examples of mercy are rare, but were relatively well-documented of the Chapter. Indeed, the Red Talons' records of the War of the False Primarch include the peculiar events of Operation Elder's Fall, where the sarcophagus of Brother-Ancient Bjothon was found by a Talons recovery team, surrounded by devotional tokens and ephemera.
'Such danger, of course, the Star Wardens reserve for the enemies of mankind. Their discipline is rigorous, their officer corps clear-sighted and just. [...] The orgy of savage violence [the Headsman] had unleashed on the orks ceased at a second simple twitch of the Headsman’s hand [...]'
“This is Captain Ausallus Phinnic, Thirty-First rearguard battalion, station eighteen, Tertiary moon of Principal Forgeworld Neo Jove. The Red Talons advanced further into Partisan territory this evening – they’re approximately ten clicks from our current position. We’ve yet to see any Partisan activity in our monitoring sector-.“
[//INTERFERENCE//][//DEAD-AIR-CULL // 72.5 MINUTES//]
“This is Headsman Aldon Curr, your Thirty-First are gone. Death unto the Pentarchy.”
'Initial findings suggest the geneseed bears no visible evidence of mutation, beyond the physical abnormality of their eyes and skin. [spec: <This became even>?] more prevalent with the introduction of the genetic material of the foul people from the void.'
[//Genetor-magos Stüllo, Octos Forge+]
Alas, the fragmentary nature of the record leaves little beyond this tantalising hint. Few other records mention anything extraordinary, or indeed unusual, about the Star Wardens 'eyes and skin'. The few extant pict-captures recovered from the deadvault have largely been manipulated (a common occurrence in order to airbrush out Imperial casualties or emphasise xenos loss), and are thus less than reliable. Consideration ought also to be given to the phenotype of Octos Forge, where the vast majority of the population was exceedingly dark-skinned and green-eyed (at birth, at least – in common with most Forgeworlds, bionic or augmetic alteration to physical characteristics renders such sweeping generalisations largely meaningless).
Nevertheless, that Stüllo refers to the Wardens' skin and eyes as unusual perhaps indicates a failing in the melanchrome, a minor defect common in successors to the Raven Guard or Salamanders, and less markedly, the Dark Angels. From context and battlefield evidence we might suppose the Chapter bore unusually pale skin and dark eyes – but this must necessarily be a guess. Indeed, Stüllo's statement might be less a physical description as a metaphor for a particularly haunted look.
If it were a phenotypic defect, however, it is worth noting that melanchromic override was vanishingly rare in those possessed of Ultramarines' geneseed – the Red Fish are a local example of an Ultramarine-derived Chapter whose members sport a broad range of phenotypes that are utterly unaffected by the melanchrome's normal operation. The peculiarity, therefore, might be no failing of the geneseed, but rather a result of the Chapter's recruitment practices. This theory is supported by Stüllo's note on the Wardens' habit of recruiting from voidborn populations; commonly pallid-skinned and slight, owing to the habitual lack of sunlight aboard ship.
The Star Wardens themselves certainly recognised some form of variance or lack – indeed, it was held up as evidence by Argo that the Star Wardens had long been deceived: far from being scions of Guilliman, they were the sons of a lost and forgotten father: the Last True Son.
Dark in soul: spiritual flaws
Regardless of the physical variation demonstrated by the Star Wardens, the truly characteristic trait of the Wardens’ geneseed might be a psychological fault. Numerous records indicate a tendency for paranoia and self-destructive behaviour displayed by many amongst the Chapter.
Their use of psychological warfare and fear tactics are also perhaps indicative of some form of instability – though the commonplace brutality of the Chapters Astartes should also be weighed against this. While the Star Wardens perhaps showed a marked preference for terror tactics, similar strategies were commonly used by other Chapters – not least those of the Pentarchy in the early days of the War of the False Primarch.
|[//Grav-weaponry was in high demand during the later part of the war, as it allowed for materiel to be retrieved without undue kinetic damage.+]|
Nevertheless, there was clearly some peculiarity of their geneseed. The records of the Iron Guard include this intriguing note from a mid-war debrief between two Chapter officers, the one reporting to the other his experiences with the Star Wardens:
[Those whose] ‘seed is strongest’ have undergone painful seizures in which they experience visions, usually oblique, of the near-future. I disregarded such chicanery – until I witnessed those self-same Wardens demonstrate eerie abilities in combat to cheat death; swaying under killing blows, or jinking away from well-pl[aced gunf]ire.
|[//Star Warden with armour supplemented by fresh supplies from Coldforge.+]|
An absent father
The truth, as with so much of the War of the False Primarch, will likely never now be known. For their part, the Star Wardens clearly recognised some unfulfilled or problematic aspects of their geneseed. While their idiomatic script-legend was only partially recovered prior to the destruction of the Triage at Dawn, HUD-logs taken from looted Star Warden armorial records provide a largely unfiltered view of the scrawlings and glyphic markings that covered the ship's internals.
From this – admittedly tenuous – evidence, it is regarded as likely that the Star Wardens saw Volnoscere not merely as a great commander and heir to the Imperium, but their own returned genefather; one that would rectify the flaws in the Chapter. His failure – as they saw it – to engage with them prior to events catching up with him led to the Chapter's disillusionment and despair.
Disposition during the War of the False Primarch
|[//Bloodbrother Yvain, showing the gilded left arm. Note that his right arm retains a traditional red tint – such variety within a cadre was far from unusual.+]|
|[//The Star Wardens' typically operated far beyond the Heliopolitan Void, beyond the Sector proper. Their arrival prior to the war brought them in on the Corewards extent of the Abraxas Subsector.+]|
Hennox and the Gilded Hand
War of Broken Bones
|[//Battered and damaged following the Neo-Jove campaign, the Star Wardens were swift to get back into action, keen to fight besides their adopted gene-father+]|
Heroes of Coldforge
Breakout and breakdown
[//BEGIN-PLAYBACK/+]“Serf, Set this message to repeat. The Red Fleet is emerging from transit. Ident.Cogitators have been engaged, report spooling.| Lamentus | Grand Iconoclast | Intemperate Divinity | Abyssal Choir | Obfuscator | Silent Disregard |Throne, how many ships? We were made aware of the Warden’s presence here, but this? Attention, Helepolian vanguard fleet – Lord Autek Mor – Our outerlines are woefully thin, we must re-Power to shields, warm dorsal cannons! Feth- She’s coming alongside us! Brac-[//END-PLAYBACK-REPEAT-INSTANCE-00531/+]