As promised with April’s Shell Case Shorts, and entirely due to the generosity of Nick Kyme I was able to offer 3 prizes. The top spots receive signed copies of the Fall of Damnos and Salamander. The honourable mention gets a signed copy of the thinner but no less awesome Back from the Dead. All three entries deserve get posts so there will be three separate ones, so hold on to your butts.
There were some great entries but sadly some couldn’t be considered as they were written as stories rather than histories which was the point of the origins emphasis. However, as it seems to have sparked the imagination of so many of you I will be holding a second Origins based Shell Case Shorts during the summer.
The first winning entry is Chris Spurgeon (@Chris_S_79) for his rather compelling piece on the Space Marines Chapter known as the Storm Crows.
The so-called ‘Cursed Founding’ – the Twenty First Founding of the Adeptus Astartes – did not earn the name by accident. The Chapters created during that founding in M36 seem have all, in their own way led histories marked by misfortune or infamy. Most Chapters of the Cursed Founding fell victim to genetic instability and mutation, many to a degree that far exceeded the tolerance of the Imperial authorities. Some were corrupted by the lure of the Ruinous Powers. Others are merely blighted by misfortune and ill-providence. One Chapter of the Cursed Founding that has thus far avoided annihilation, but has still led a history blighted by suspicion and betrayal are the Storm Crows, founded from the gene line of the Primarch Corax on the world of Felsenmeer.
The Twenty First Founding was defined by the attempts of the gene-adepts of the Mechanicus to refine the geneseed of the Astartes and eliminate known flaws and deficiencies in the existing genestocks. With the geneseed of the Storm Crows, the Mechanicus were able to restore full functionality to the Melanochrome and Mucranoid organs (but not to the Betcher’s Gland). At first the geneseed seemed stable and the improvements were hailed as a success. The Storm Crows performed admirably in their first engagements, acting in support of a combined force of Raptors and Black Guard fighting against a Hrud incursion in the Atalanta Sector.
However, gradually Imperial authorities began to note an unusually high pattern of incidences of extremely strong psychic mutation. The Chapter had developed an unusually large cadre of extremely powerful Librarians, significantly larger than other Chapters founded using Raven Guard geneseed. Furthermore, the Storm Crows had also sustained significant mortality rates amongst their aspirants due to the sudden manifestation of uncontrolled psychic abilities during the transformation from mortal into Astartes. In addition, many battle brothers who had been hitherto considered normal were struck by unexpected episodes of belated latent psychic activation, bringing with them crippling seizures, madness or even death. These difficulties meant that the fledgling Chapter was struggling to increase its numbers of line Astartes to levels that would be sustainable in a prolonged conflict.
The Chapter fell under the scrutiny of not only the Inquisition but also the magos biologis of the Mechanicus. After a long investigation, the Mechanicus was forced to admit that the modification of the geneseed – in particular the splicing in of uncorrupted genetic material in order to reactivate the defective Raven Guard implants had created a genetic combination likely to activate even the smallest spark of latent psionic ability within an implanted aspirant. Voices that had already begun to mutter about the wisdom and righteousness of tampering with the genetic codes of the Emperors Astartes were now raised in outrage. An outrage that would only grow as other Chapters of the Twenty First Founding began to demonstrate even greater mutations and abnormalities.
The Inquisitorial screening was more exacting still, though eventually the representatives of the Ordos concluded that there was as yet there was no evidence of taint or heretical transgression. Though all agreed that the Storm Crows must continue to be monitored closely.
As a result of their troubled genesis, the Storm Crows, have ever-after been regarded with some suspicion, particularly by Imperial organisations with a particularly strong distrust of the psyker. In many theatres of war the arrival of the warriors of Felsenmeer is almost as unwelcome as the native bird of ill omen for which the Chapter was named. The Inquisition maintain their scrutiny of the Chapter’s activities and their geneseed is subject to the most exhaustive checks and analysis possible. The Storm Crows have little choice but to accept this fate with stoicism, hoping that at some point in their future they may yet earn the trust of the Imperium as a whole.
Safe from the immediate threat of Imperial Sanction, the Storm Crows were permitted to return to service. However, their next campaign would nearly end in disaster.
On the world of Darien Secondus, the Storm Crows were summoned to fight alongside the Copperhead Space Marine Chapter and several regiments of Carthusian Grenadiers against a rebellion backed by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. It would be the prescience of the Storm Crow Librarians that saved the Chapter from massacre when the Copperhead Astartes turned upon them, revealing their true allegiance to the Dark Gods.
Guided by their Librarians, the Storm Crows survived the initial ambush by their treacherous former allies and circumvented many of the traps that the Traitors had painstakingly set for them. After two days, the Storm Crows were able to regroup and ultimately go on the counter-offensive. Despite their fortune, the Storm Crows still took grievous losses. Nearly half of the Chapter’s battle brothers were slain, and Chapter Master Aethestan and his senior staff, including the Reclusiarch, were also murdered in cold blood by their opposite numbers in the opening minutes of the betrayal. The Carthusian Grenadiers however, were butchered by the traitorous Copperheads, only a handful of companies surviving by virtue of being attached to Storm Crow detachments who had avoided destruction.
The surviving Storm Crows and loyalist guardsmen fought a prolonged guerrilla campaign against the numerically superior traitors and cultists. The Storm Crows struck from the shadows, in the finest tradition of the scions of Corax. Eventually a relief force, spearheaded by a drop assault drawn from the Comets Space Marine Chapter answered the distress call that the surviving Storm Crow Librarians had combined their might to channel out to the wider Imperium. The Copperheads fell back and ultimately fled before the loyal forces of the Emperor and the remaining cultists were soon put to the sword. Second Captain Aedwin, who had taken command following the death of the Chapter Master, was sworn in as his successor. Following his reorganisation of the Chapter, Aedwin resolved that in time the Copperheads would be made to pay for their betrayal.
Although not considered a death world, Felsenmeer is still a harsh and unforgiving world. It is a world of storms, of long nights and bitter winters. It is also home to a diverse number of avian predators, such as the steel kite and the rock hawk, as well as the ominous storm crow for which the Chapter is named. The hardy folk of this world have learned how to survive in adverse conditions, a quality vital for any space marine. Furthermore, the eruptions of inter-clan warfare have also taught the natives how to fight, also a vital quality for any Astartes.
The techno-barbarian clans of Felsemeer each control an area of the many island chains and archipelagos that make up the world’s landmass. When they go to war, it may be on land or on the seas, depending on what enemy they face or which of their interests are threatened. Making war in the perilous environmental conditions has forced the population to learn how to exploit both the weather and the lie of the land in order to maximise their chances of success.
Felsenmeer is designated a ‘techno-barbarian’ world by the Imperium. Being possessed of technology approaching the average level of many Imperial worlds despite the social and cultural regression into a world of warring clansmen. An Imperial Overseer monitors the clan activity from the stronghold of Black Lion Mount and intervenes should any clan appear to be neglecting their greater obligations to the Emperor. Aside from warriors, Felsenmeer’s other contributions to the Imperium are the mineral wealth of its mountains and the bounty of its seas, both of which help to feed the demands of the Forgeworld of Archangelus, and no clan wishes to risk the wrath of the Emperors servants by falling behind with their tithes. The scoured lands of the Blasted Isle serve as a reminder of the fate of those who fail in their obligations.
The tenants of the Imperial Creed have been assimilated into the culture of Felsenmeer, albeit synthesised with the native shamanistic traditions. The shamans and wise men are important figures in clan society and leaders are taught to be ever wary of omens, signs and portents. The native traditions of prognostication and the interpretation of signs are maintained by many of the Storm Crow Librarians.
The Storm Crows maintain a Chapter Keep known as Thunderbolt Spire, located amidst the forbidding peaks of the Charlemagne mountains. Periodically, each clan is summoned to present their finest young warriors for evaluation as potential aspirants to the Chapter. Potential candidates are subject to days of physical, mental and spiritual challenges before a final vetting by the Chaplains, Apothecaries and Librarians of the Tenth Company. Only then will the Master of Recruits announce his verdict on who has been judged worthy. As with all Astartes Chapters, recruits are expected to forswear all allegiances from their own lives and pledge their loyalty and service to the Emperor. The Master of Recruits accepts their oath and the Chapter insignia is branded into the flesh of each aspirant as a sign of the covenant they have made.
DOCTRINE AND ORGANISATION:
The first Chapter Master of the Storm Crows was Silas Tillion, former Third Captain of the Raptors Astartes Chapter. Tillion, along with a cadre of his most experienced veteran sergeants were chosen as the most ideal candidates to train and direct the fledgling forces of a newly founded Chapter. The Raptors, though adhering to the Codex Astartes in principle, are notorious for their inventive interpretations of its wisdom. The Storm Crows have in many respects inherited this tradition of seeing the Codex as guidelines rather than inviolable dogma. The intense scrutiny the Chapter has come under since its formation however has encouraged them to conform rather more than their parent Chapter and the Storm Crows try to present an outward appearance of conformity and to cultivate a reputation for showing the Codex the proper respect. Even those aspects in which the Storms Crows do clearly stray from the Codex are rooted in the millennia long traditions of the Raven Guard and their successors.
The Storm Crows maintain the tactical and strategic traditions passed down from their predecessors from the Raptors and ultimately from the Raven Guard and the Primarch Corvus Corax. They have mastered the techniques of stealth and covert warfare, infiltration, hit and run attacks and prolonged guerrilla campaigns. Without such skills, the Chapter may never have survived the betrayal on Darian. The Storm Crows are masters of using both terrain and weather conditions to their advantage. Indeed, some say that the Librarians of the Chapter have learned to control the weather to better aid the Chapters ambushes and sorties, allowing the Chapter’s warriors to strike out from storm and darkness to assault the unprepared or summoning thunder and wind to support assaults when shock and awe is called for.
The Chapter possesses a significantly larger Librarium than other Chapters of equivalent size. The Librarians of the Chapter are subject to the most rigorous scrutiny both internally and externally from the Inquisition. Aspirants to the Chapter are rigorously screened for any potential psionic ability and all battle brothers are monitored for any signs of latent psychic ability manifesting itself. The Librarians of the Storm Crows are trained in using their abilities for the purposes of concealment and misdirection, though the Librarians of the Chapter also have a gift for prognostication and the interpretation of signs and portents.
In addition, the Storm Crows possess an enlarged Apothecarian, which works in concert with the Librarium to carry out the vigorous screen of all the Chapter’s aspirants, firstly to identify any potential trace of psychic potential, even in its most latent form and also to prevent any further genetic anomalies entering the Chapter’s genetic code. Together the Apothecaries and Librarians work to limit the damage of the Chapter’s volatile genetic quirks.
Following the betrayal on Darien Secondus however the Chapter was reorganised on somewhat unconventional lines. The prolonged guerrilla warfare had demonstrated the need for flexibility and the ability to react to any situation. The Chapter’s reserve companies had suffered the greatest during the fighting, being reduced to barely a handful of squads. Taking his cue from the traditions of the Raven Guard and the Raptors, but also inspired by the example of Chapters such as the White Scars and the Space Wolves the Storms Crows were reorganised into ten Brotherhoods, each possessing a near identical cross-section of the Chapters equipment. The First Brotherhood remains home to the Chapters most senior veterans and along with four further Brotherhoods are supported by the four reserve Brotherhoods and the Scout Brotherhood. This organisational pattern maximises the Chapters flexibility but reducing the Chapter’s total number of available specialist Devastator and Assault squads.
The reorganisation of the Chapter has left the Storm Crows with a reduced reserve of heavy weapon support as they no longer have a full Devastator company to call upon. Therefore, land speeders and attack bikes are used for additional support, frequently employed in flanking strikes to eliminate enemy armour before it can threaten the main body of the Storm Crows’ forces. When they do employ their own armour support, the Storm Crows invariably resort to the more mobile Predator tanks rather than the heavier Land Raiders or Vindicators, which are reserved for the rare occasions when full on frontal assault is called for.
The Storm Crows favoured tactics mean that they rarely fight directly alongside other imperial forces, a fact that has not helped the Chapter in dispelling the slightly sinister reputation they have suffered from. They have on occasion however still fought in the main line of battle. Most famously during the siege of St Sebastian Hive, where they held the Macharius Bridge for sixteen hours, twice as long as they were expected to hold, stalling the Ork advance on that front so completely that the Orks were subsequently flanked, isolated and destroyed by a mechanised counter-attack. The Brazen Angels, Rooks and Frost Giants who also fought in that bloody campaign can be counted amongst the Storm Crows’ few true allies.
The Storm Crows are descended from the Raven Guard gene line. However their gene seed was modified by the Mechanicus to – at least partially – correct existing flaws within the genetic template. Though the modifications have restored implant functionality – all implants except the Betchers Gland now function correctly, they dramatically increased the rate with which the gene seed triggers the activation of psychic abilities upon implantation. Combined with the relatively high latent psychic potential of the recruiting world of Felsenmeer this has created a highly psychic Chapter, regarded with suspicion by the Inquisition and many other Astartes.
The geneseed of all Chapters of the Twenty First Founding is embargoed by decree of the High Lords of Terra and as such will never be used to kindle new Chapters of Space Marines. The Storm Crows therefore will never be able to pass their unique genetic advantages on to a successor Chapter. Although the Crows continue to prove themselves both loyal to the Throne and free of Taint, all know that any potential future Chapter may not prove so resilient to the possibilities for corruption their high psychic potential represents.
I the early years of the Chapter, the Storm Crows suffered high mortality rates amongst their aspirants as young initiates failed to survive the activation of their latest psychic abilities. In more recent years the combined efforts of the Apothecaries and Librarians have drastically reduced these loses. Improved screening methods have also reduced the number of incidents of belated psychic activation that have cost the lives or sanity of many more experienced Battle Brothers. Regular in-depth screening is used to identify potential cases, who are sequestered by the Librarians and drilled in preventative mental techniques. Unfortunately some Storm Crows still meet their ends screaming as their minds collapse, washed away by the flood of visions and portents from beyond the veil.
Given the intense scrutiny the Storm Crows have come under throughout their history, their beliefs have inevitably come under examination by the Imperium’s most able forensic theologians.
Although the religious traditions of Felsenmeer are shamanistic, the core doctrine is surprisingly orthodox. Evidence of millennia if diligence by the Overseer in keeping the populous in their charge on the path of the God Emperor.
The Chaplains of the Storm Crows have long debated the question of the Emperor’s divinity and at present they speak of the Emperor’s ascension as an apotheosis. The transformation of the wisest and mightiest of men into a god. Such a doctrinal compromise is considered acceptable by the ecclesiarch of the Imperium.
The Storm Crows rituals reflect the shamanistic traditions of their home world, but mediated by the more practical traditions of the Astartes. A potent wine known as Sangraal is central to many of their most important rites – most especially the initiation of a full battle brother.
Another curiosity of the Storm Crows is the fashioning of honour badges from the feathers of the deadly steel kite of. Felsenmeer. These are worn on ceremonial occasions, most especially the Chapter’s founding feast and the Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension.
The Storm crows generally operate by stealth and subterfuge, situations where the use of a battle cry would be counterproductive at the very least. Moreover, on those occasions when the Chapter does commit to all out frontal assault, they prefer to do so under the cover of a thundering tempest summoned by the Chapter’s librarians that would drown out any voices.
At other times however the Storm Crows adopt the call and response motto “We are the Shadow. We are the Storm.” During the now infamous infiltration of the Traitor stronghold on Francisca Prima, the Storm Crows suborned the fortress’ internal vox network to broadcast this motto constantly for the eighteen hours it took to systematically eliminate the garrison. The demoralising and disorienting effect on the traitor PDF helped drastically reduce the resistance they could offer to the Emperor’s warriors.