|[//Charnel Guard, tentatively identified as 13th Ostire members, advance through inhabited areas towards Red Fish stockades.+]|
'Some thought us to be abandoning the Imperium. This was not so. As the actions of the Pentarchy of Blood came to demonstrate, the corruption of the High Lords' government had long diverged from what Imperium once stood for. The events of Krell hammered home that following Volnoscere was far from a questionable decision. It was the only possible route, for men of honour.'
'Krell cemented our determination, and more than any other conflict, welded together the Partisans into a cohesive force.'
[//Captain Dius of the Fourth, Argent Heralds Chapter+]
As the Charnel Guard's numbers grew due to the Diet of Fools, so too did the numbers of Naluca –the aberrant combat servitors seemingly created with dangerously accelerated stocks of geneseed – waiting to be deployed. As the War escalated in the wake of Operation Gauntlet, both sides became more desperate, and there is evidence that the Charnel Guard began capturing large numbers of Partisans with the morbid intent of raising an army of these creations.
The most infamous example of the use of these repellent creations was during the Siege of Krell, when the Charnel Guard Second Ostire spearheaded an assault on the planet's northern polar hive. Well-defended by a large force from the Red Fish with a small auxiliary of Argent Heralds, the hive sheltered a large proportion of the ice world's surviving population. Heavily fortified, and with enough supplies to last the polar winter, Orthodoxy strategists estimated the siege would last at least six months. This was a time scale the Charnel Guard were not prepared to accept.
As conventional reinforcements from the 11th and 13th Ostires arrived to relieve the pressure in the tropics and allow the existing Charnel Guard to redeploy, over four hundred Revenants – as the Partisans came to call the Naluca – were deployed as a huge assault wave. The Partisans were utterly unprepared for the sudden attack, and the half-Astartes monsters breached the outer defences in a single day.
For the Red Fish defenders, it is debatable which was more disturbing: the horde of frenzied cybernetic killers throwing themselves at their trench lines, or the fact that almost all of them still bore the distinctive facial tattoos of Ishim, the Chapter's devastated homeworld. Captured from the refugee ships fleeing the ruins of Ishim, the Charnel Guard had seemingly created a small army of Combat Thralls to field against their former protectors.
While not true Astartes, the creations bore many of the same enhancements – not least their resistance to injury and fearsome superhuman strength.The human defenders of the hive were no match for the Revenants, and as they penetrated deeper into the warrens and corridors of the hive, they proved impossible for the Guard to isolate and destroy. The Red Fish – their familiarity key to the morale of the Imperial Guard defenders – could not be spared from the frontline while the Charnel Guard Astartes were poised to attack, and the Revenants thus rampaged through the hive while the small number of Argent Heralds were tasked with hunting them down.
Alas for the Partisans, with so few standing against so many, the last Herald perished within two days, the hunt incomplete, and the Red Fish Captain reluctantly deployed their scant reserves to the task. As the Red Fish were forced to kill their own people in a vain attempt to protect those remaining under their stewardship, the Charnel Guard themselves took full advantage of the consternation their Combat Thralls had created. In the wake of the Revenant's assault, and striking at night, the combined Charnel Guard assault began.
|[//Red Fish defenders – note the unusual graviton gun, perhaps cources from the .+]|
With the defenders demoralised and debilitated by the horrors unleashed upon them, the Ice Hive was all but lost within two weeks. The surviving Red Fish Astartes were forced to fall back, and eventually abandon the region in order to preserve their numbers – though not before a number of their famously flexible and disciplined warriors had disobeyed orders to continue prosecuting the invaders. This ill-discipline would foreshadow the Red Fish's eventual destruction as a Chapter; with Krell serving in microcosm the defeat in detail they would suffer. In seeking to fight fire with fire, the depleted numbers of the Partisans played into the hands of the Pentarchy.
|[//A Red Fish column reluctantly falls back from the overwhelming numbers of the Charnel Guard+]|
When word reached the still-rebuilding Ishim, the Chapter – quite uncharacteristically – made a bellicose vow of vengeance against the Charnel Guard, singling out their leadership like Captain Cantemir of the newly-founded 11th Ostire. This marked a clear turning point for the Chapter, as after this point the conflicting drive to protect the largely-wrecked Delphurnean League warred with their desire to attack the Pentarchy more directly and offensively. The Chapter became increasingly splintered from this point on, turning more and more towards the Silver Stars and Wormwood Sons in search of weapons that they would formerly have rejected as beyond the pale.
'The challenges you face as we step beyond old bounds are murky and indistinct. Discipline remains your watchword. Monstrous actions are oft excused by claims of angelic intent. Be sure your eyes and mind remain clear for the distinction, lest you lose your balance.'
[//Pre-battle address: Chapter Master Gorn of the Charnel Guard+]