The Shell Case Shorts 4 – Honourable Mention

The third post for the Shell Case Shorts 4 is for the honourable mention. This entry was by no means poor or a poor second, it was just pipped at the post. The entry belongs to none other than Lee of The Chaps. Having lovingly built his loyalist Emperor’s Children he used the Shell Case Shorts 4 as an excuse to put down the background he’d always carried around in his head. I think you’ll agree that it’s a good entry. The only thing that stopped it from hitting a top spot was its reliance on existing canon rather than a straight up new chapter. But still very good. And he’ll still receive a signed copy of Back from the Dead by Nick Kyme.

So I give you the honourable mention – Loyalist Emperor’s Children

HISTORY

The Emperors Children are known as a Traitor Legion, forever tainted by the moment of weakness displayed by their Primarch, Fulgrim.

When the galaxy stood on brink of achieving the Emperor’s grand vision, instead the most grievous betrayal in the history of humanity was allowed to be realised. Doubts had been raised over Horus’ actions and Fulgrim was had been warned of Horus turning against the Emperor by the Eldar Farseer, Eldrad Ulthuan, during an ill-fated meeting on an Eldar Maiden world, although by this time it was too late.  The daemon bound within a sword he had captured during the Cleansing of Laeran had been fighting for control over his soul and Fulgrim was close to completely falling under its sway. The meeting descended into bloodshed between the escorts of Eldrad and Fulgrim, the Emperor’s Children fortunate to escape the planet with their lives. Fulgrim killed the wraithlord, Khirean Goldhelm, before reinforcements emerged from the Warp Gate Eldrad has chosen as the setting for his greeting.  Forced to kill an Avatar with his bare hands, Fulgrim suffered severe burns but enabled he and his captains to escape the surface.  After these events, Fulgrim met with Horus for answers to the questions over his intent, but rather than hold true to his faith, he put the friendship he shared with his Warmaster before his duty to the Emperor and condemned his legion to bear the stain of the traitor.

After Fulgrim had been convinced by Horus to turn from the Emperors light, it took little effort for him to subvert his senior commanders to follow his lead.  The corruption spread throughout the Legion, Captain to Sergeant, Sergeant to Marine, the once proud warriors sliding inexorably into damnation. The pride they held in their perfection too strong to relinquish its grasp on their actions, their arrogance blinding them to their fate.

Not all followed this change in character so readily, but whereas some voiced their opinions, others judged that to show dissent was to invite unwanted attention. Captains Solomon Demeter and Saul Tarvitz of the 2nd and 10th Companies respectively, were the most senior individuals known to have resisted the taint along with scant few others scattered amongst the Legion.  Lord Commander Vespasian had tried in vain to reason with Fulgrim over the Legions fall from grace but was killed for his efforts by the Primarch under the influence of the daemon bound sword he now favoured over the ‘Fireblade’, crafted for him by his closest brother, Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands.  Fulgrim would come to slay Ferrus with this weapon in the Battle of Isstvan V.

When the first of the Traitor Legions comprising of Horus’ Lunar Wolves, Angron’s World Eaters, Mortarion’s Death Guard and Fulgrim’s Emperors Children gathered together at the now infamous Isstvan system, they enacted a plan to purge all those who had not yet given themselves over to Horus’ designs.  Under the pre-tense of removing the planetary governor who had revolted against the Imperium, the four legions arranged for all those whose loyalties could not be counted on to make planet fall on the Capital of Isstvan III, Choral City, in a drop pod assault. Lines of communication were severed and the planet then virus bombed from orbit, annihilating the 12 billion inhabitants and resulting in a psychic death scream so powerful it overshadowed the Astronomican.  Those loyal marines planet side would have surely shared that fate had Captain Tarvitz, not escaped the fleet in a Thunderhawk and carried warning, giving precious little time to find suitable cover in bunkers and other fortifications. Many were unable to find shelter before the bombs fell and were engulfed in the ensuing fire storm that scoured the planet of life.  Captain Tarvitz was supposed to be present on the surface having irked the Primarch on many occasions with his actions, but sensing something was amiss, had managed to remain with the fleet.

Once it emerged that not all the Loyalist forces had been destroyed by the virus bombs, Angron launched an immediate assault with his World Eaters. This forced Hours’ hand into sending detachments from all the Traitor Legions in a show of force to ensure the demise of the Loyalists.  Despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered, the Loyalists managed to organise themselves into a cohesive force and mounted a ferocious defence in the ruins of Choral City. Under the command of a hand full of Captains from the various Legions, including Captain Tarvitz, the Loyalists held out for three months and inflicted massive casualties on the Traitor Legions.  Eventually defeated through yet more betrayal and an orbital bombardment of the city, the victorious traitors then began the systematic extermination of all loyalist survivors hiding in the ruins.

Horus could now count on the absolute fealty of every soldier within his core Legions but it wasn’t without its price.  The ruins of the capital had been turned into a city of death by the staunch Loyalists, the dead and dying covered every corner of the once beautiful gardens and promenades, only to be smashed to atoms under the massive batteries of the Traitor Fleet. The many casualties sustained represented a significant proportion of the forces at Horus’ disposal and ultimate victory over the Emperor was no longer assured.

This is where the story should have ended for those that upheld the honour of the Emperors Children, hunted to extinction by their former friends and brothers.  Yet somehow a scattered few emerged from the ruins of the city, a few of the bunkers having withstood the terrible pounding inflicted on the surface above. Despite their best efforts in leaving nothing alive on Isstvan III, Horus and his fleet were forced to proceed with the next stage in his plan and departed for Isstvan V, allowing the few remaining Loyalists to escape their attentions.  Gradually the prolonged silence encouraged them to break cover and they could no longer see the fleet in stationary orbit above the ruined planet. Evaluating their situation stranded on a ruined planet, who knew how long it would be before they would be found, and even then, how would they be viewed. Banding together for support with most seriously wounded, they had little to do but wait for either death or salvation.

It was only some years later when the Imperium had began picking up the pieces of a galaxy shattered by the conflict did vessels begin to return to the Isstvan system and investigate the events that lead to the Heresy. It did not take long to detect the faint signs of life clustered amongst the devastation of Choral City.  The wreckage of several Legions lay twisted within the ruins and this had provided the Loyalists enough materials and supplies to endure the passing years. The few score of survivors were rounded up and treated with the utmost suspicion before being handed over to the now established Inquisition.  Subjected to many years of interrogations, tests and trials, the Inquisition could find no proof that the taint was endemic to their Geneseed and deemed that the Emperors Children were instead led into damnation by Fulgrim and his Commanders.

The Emperors Children pleaded with their interrogators to be given the opportunity to redeem their honour by fighting for the Imperium once more and help chase down their traitorous former comrades into the Eye of Terror.  Deliberations were lengthy and difficult, with many wishing for an end to their name. The fact that one of the founding members of the Inquisition was none other than Captain Nathaniel Garro, a former member of the Death Guard Traitor Legion who had escaped the Scouring of Isstvan III himself, appeared to carry their argument and stay the executioner’s hand.

Granted their wish, the Loyalist Emperors Children, as they were now officially known, were tasked with helping the Inquisition to locate the planet Fulgrim was thought to have retreated to within the Eye of Terror. After achieving Daemonhood, his chosen world is now twisted into an almost alien realm of indulgence and excess which both the Inquisition and Traitor alike have sought for the last 10,000 years.  They weren’t given free reign by any means, instead attached to a force of Grey Knights operating within the Eye.  Seen as expendable, they were used to absorb casualties and divert the enemy, enabling the Grey Knights limited numbers to carry out their most crucial of missions, while sparing them from the full horror of a Daemonic incursion and the risk of corruption – the life of a single Grey Knight viewed as being infinitely more valuable than that of a former Traitor Legionnaire. As almost all those who come into contact with the Grey Knights either have their minds wiped or do not live beyond the encounter, word of a force of Emperors Children still operating in pre-Heresy livery and their exploits has not spread beyond the Inquisition  – any suggestion of a sighting reported as a case of mistaken identity.

RECRUITMENT

Whether by design or accident, their role with the Grey Knights has meant that the now ‘Chapter’ has struggled to grow in number.  Barely a company could be scraped together when they were first given the Battle Barge ‘Forlorn Hope’ as their new base of operations and attached to the Grey Knights, and in the long millenia since have only managed to double that number.  The attrition of endless conflict and downright brutality of the engagements has meant for painfully slow progress. The marines themselves bear terrible wounds from the many battles, almost all having at least some body part augmented or completely replaced by bionics in order to speed their recovery and sent back into the fray.

The Chapter is longer responsible for its own Geneseed and recruitment, the Inquisition do not yet trust them fully and prefer to retain as much control as possible. Recruits are delivered directly and without information on their origins – their minds wiped to ensure secrecy.  Rumours circulate that in lieu of their destroyed home world they derive from Terra itself, as it was for the original Legion before the Heresy, but none could ever be sure. Apothecaries are worryingly absent from their formations, those marines suffering serious injury must trust in their brothers to succeed before being recovered for treatment.  Those that pay the ultimate price are stripped of their equipment and taken by the Inquisition for Geneseed recovery. Nothing is known of these events and no communication forthcoming, their brothers can only hope the fallen receive the honour they deserve.

Whether the Inquisition will one day loosen the grip they keep over them is unknown, but it will be many more years before the possibility would even be considered.  Perhaps one day they may even be granted a home world of their own to replace Chemos, which was destroyed by the Inquisition and placed under quarantine following the end of the Heresy, its location unknown to anyone outside the Ordos.

COMBAT DOCTRINE

They Loyalist Emperors Children possess precious little in the way of heavy armour despite the forges on the ‘Forlorn Hope’ working day and night to constantly repair the non-stop procession of damaged vehicles cycling through the workshops. However, the Chapter is one of the few who retain the knowledge of building Dreadnoughts. This combined with the endless casualties the Chapter sustains giving ample candidates for internment, has lead to the Emperors Children fielding more Dreadnoughts than most other Chapters, despite their relatively small size. Of those currently active, some are truly ancient and have witnessed death on a scale unimaginable.  These do not enjoy the long slumbers as is traditional for such heroes, they are relied upon time and again to bolster the lines with their formidable abilities and serve as the spear heads for the rest to follow.  One such Dreadnought, Rylanor, was pulled from the rubble of Choral City some 700 years after the conflict ended.  Almost shorn into two when a towering spire had collapsed upon him, his life support had gone into a mode of extended shutdown, but was somehow still functioning when his battered purple sarcophagus was unearthed from the tonnes of rubble that had buried him.  After he was repaired and slowly awakened from his state, he was informed of the events that had taken place during the Heresy. On hearing of Fulgrim’s decent into depravity and the Emperors grievous wounding at the hands of Horus, he flew into a terrible rage, destroying anything he could, believing it all to be tainted with their deeds.  Most feared he would not be able to continue in his service so terrible was his anger, but gradually he began to acknowledge what his new brothers were endeavouring to achieve.  He is now a common sight on the battlefields graced by the Emperors Children, his timeless rage unleashed upon his enemies, he show’s no mercy in his prosecution of the Emperors will.

Pre-Heresy, the Emperors Children were strict adherents to approved combat doctrine. They put much effort into preparation and used templates for each combat situation, detailing the appropriate use of available forces to overcome the enemy.  The Chapter has now had to radically change its tactical philosophy, primarily due to the equipment and manpower restraints it currently operates under. Their formations are now focussed around bringing about large concentrations fire at close range. Tactical squads are mounted in lightly armoured Rhino’s and Razorbacks which deploy them swiftly into cover, supported by their advancing Dreadnoughts. Landspeeder’s and Assault marines provide fast moving flanking forces to keep the enemy off balance while an endless wave of fire keeps them pinned in place. Having not forgotten the lessons learnt in the ruins of Choral City, they excel in defence and possess a vast wealth of strategic and tactical knowledge.  The bare handful of marines who manage to keep themselves free of any augmentation either through supreme ability or divine fate are formed into units of elite Honour Guard who accompany the current Chapter Master into battle, although only in the most dire of circumstances,  their numbers being few to point of extinction . The rank of Chapter Master is merely an honorary title held by the most senior Captain, as there is no need for such a position when the amount of warriors to lead is so few. In truth, a Master of the Forge is just as likely to put in command as his abilities in repairing bionic components and tending to the many Dreadnoughts are of great importance to the Chapters survival.

NOTABLE ENGAGEMENTS

The cleansing of Laeran should have a victory remembered by all the Imperium as a monument to the marines fighting ability.  The Administratum on Terra had feared the technologically advanced Laer would take over 10 years to be brought to compliance and even suggested the xenos be made a protectorate of Imperium to spare the resources necessary to bring about their defeat.  Fulgrim was disgusted by this opinion, and he and the Emperors Children set about cleansing the entire planet in only a month. Laeran consisted of many atolls floating above an ocean that covered the entire surface of the planet, their altitude maintained by mysterious energy columns.  Bridge heads were established by assault forces and then used as staging posts for defeating the next platform in quick succession.  On finding a temple at the heart of the atoll deemed as the focus of their civilisation, Fulgrim recovered a shimmering silver blade.  Unbeknownst to him, it contained the bound essence of a Daemon Price and the Laer temple was dedicated to Slaanesh, corrupting everyone who entered it without their knowledge.  With the sword now in the possession of Fulgrim, it began to whisper thoughts to him, masquerading as his conscience and manipulating his decisions.  In so doing, it engineered his siding with Horus over the Emperor, a fact Horus himself was ignorant of until he met with Fulgrim after the Battle of Isstvan V and was presented with the head of Ferrus Manus as a gift.

As a species, the Laer combined a serpentine lower body with four arms on an armoured torso, and an insect like head with large multifaceted eyes. They wielded a pair of swords in their arms which easily defeated a marine’s armour, as did the energy gauntlets on the second set of limbs.  These gauntlets spat a green energy which no protection was proof against, and combined with the creature’s tremendous speed, reaped a terrible toll upon the Astartes.  At the end of the war, 700 Emperors Children had lost their lives and over 4,000 had been admitted as casualties, in exchange for the entire Laer species.

As for the silver sword, devoid of the entity which now resided with him, Fulgrim gifted it to Lucius, former Captain of the 13th Company following the events on Isstvan V.  He is now known to be the Slaaneshi Champion, Lucius the Eternal.

Since their attachment to the Grey Knights, all records of their exploits within the Eye of Terror are sealed under order of the Inquisition.

MISSION

It was one of the greatest tragedies of the Heresy that the Emperors Children succumbed to Slaanesh. During their founding, an unexplained accident led to almost all of their Geneseed being destroyed and so they began their service with barely 200 marines to call to arms. The Emperor bestowed upon them his name and gave them his symbol of the Imperial Eagle to wear on their armour – the only Legion given this highest of honours. And so they dedicated every victory, every glory to his name.  They strove for perfection in every aspect of warfare in order to serve him better, none could claim to be more devoted to the Emperor than they. The brothers who now make up the Chapter’s 200 or so able marines are fully aware of their history and see themselves in a similar position as those first courageous crusaders. Each battle brother still strives for perfection in his duties, but it is without the taint of arrogance displayed by their forbears.  They hope that by achieving this they can progress as a Chapter, increase their numbers and one day take their place amongst the other Chapters as true defenders of the Imperium.  They fight on to reclaim the name of their Chapter from those who have kept it as an insult to its honour. Fate has not been kind but still they toil, never allowing doubt in their cause to enter their thoughts.

The Shell Case Short 4 – Winner 2

The second winner is David Bartley (@mephistonag ) for his outstanding piece on the history of the Falkland Island Squadron of the Britannian Navy from Dystopian Wars. Just to be clear David is not 2nd but an equal and worthy winner alongside Chris. David will be receiving his signed copy of Salamander by Nick Kyme very soon.

An extract from:-  A review of the Kingdom of Britannia Naval Armada, 1870 by Charles Aubrey.

The Falkland Island Squadron

HISTORY

Little did Her Majesty’s government realise how important the decision to colonise the remote and windswept Falkland Islands was to become in later years. The ever-growing need for resources highlighted the need for a deep water port in the South Atlantic, and the Falkland Islands were the perfect choice. Captain James Onslow and the cruiser Clio were ordered to restate the Britannia claim to the islands, and evict any illegal colonies they found. They soon displaced a settlement founded by the United Provinces of the River Plate and set about surveying the islands for both military and civilian use.

Onslow rapidly determined that the best military real estate would be the coasts either side of Falkland Sound. With the deep water of the sound allowing for even the largest of vessels a safe protected anchorage.  Turning San Carlos bay into a fully functional naval base would be a trivial taks for her majesties engineers. As more ships and workers began to arrive Onslow was ordered to oversee both the establishment of a base ashore, and to survey the islands in as much detail as he was able. By the middle of the year the first buildings had been erected and a functional port created at San Carlos.

Civilian prospectors were sent to survey the islands and they reported little of real importance on the islands itself, however as a hub of both fishing and seal hunting the islands would be of use. To this end they were directed to plan for the establishment of a colony on the islands and selected the Berkley Sound area as the most suitable. In 1831 they began initial work on the settlement of Port Stanley on the eastern most coast of the islands. By 1835 the town and port were established and the first Governor was able to take seat in Government House.

The military had not been idle during these years. Port San Carlos was now a fully developed permanent naval base, with a port capable of servicing ships as large as battleships. The permanent garrison was made up of a small contingent of the Land Armada, name Naval Party 8901, drawn from the contingents of ships docked for repair at the time. With most of Britannia’s military resources engaged in operations in other theatres, the threat to the islands was judged to be too low to require further resources.

When the then Federated States expanded its sphere of influence by annexing Mexico the Britannia government began to realise the true strategic nature of its colony in the South Atlantic. Bills were quickly passed in parliament and the admiralty ordered to raise a standing force in the Falkland Islands, formally named the Falkland Island Squadron (FIS). This force was to include a permanent company of soldiers from the 34th Sheffield (Sea) Regiment to form Naval Party 8901, a squadron of attack and fighter aircraft from the Air Armada, and a small force of frigates and cruisers from the Navy. This was in place by late 1839, under the command of Commodore Wynstanley, whose permanent headquarters were established at Port San Carlos.

Wynstanley saw that the current dispositions of forces on the island would never be sufficient should the US ever push further south and begin to harass British holdings to the south of the continent. Lacking both the resources, military and financial backing after the establishment of the permanent base, he set about the task of preparing the ground work for expansion of both San Carlos and potential bases on West Falkland. Using the cover of manoeuvres and exercises by both land and air armada large areas around Port Howard and Fox bay were bombed and assaulted repeatedly, leaving them suitably disrupted that the engineers had little trouble moving in and clearing the land ready for future exploitation.  By the time Wynstanley was recalled from his command in shame, he had done much to prepare the Islands for their future crucial role. However the admiralty considered his wanton use of valuable ordinance needed elsewhere on manoeuvres in a passive province to be both wasteful and underhand. He was never placed in a position of command again and retired a year later from the service.

When Lord Sturgeon arrived at Port Stanley in late 1844, to take on final provisions before embarking on his historic expedition, little was thought of the endeavour that would forever change our world. Backed by all nations no military escort of the ships was allowed and they passed beyond patrol boarders of the Falkland Island Squadrons into the frozen wastes of Antarctica. The few that had ventured onto that vast continent spoke of ice and rock as far as they could see, with little cover to the constant shifting weather. In truth no one on the Islands ever expected to see any of the explorers again when they left Port Stanley. How wrong they were.

The next 12 years were a prosperous time for the Falkland Islands. As the exploration and expansion of the frontier settlements took hold on Antarctica, more and more ships and people passed through the island. Port Stanley grew in size and stature as the money these travellers brought was invested in the Island. Despite its rugged and harsh environment, familiar at once to any inhabitant of Exmoor or the Scottish Highlands, the island was a green and fertile land compared to the harsh conditions of those early years of the expedition. Many workers came to the island to rest and recuperate, spending even more as they did. The FIS during this time did not enjoy such a similar rise to prominence. The posting as Officer commanding was never seen as a career enhancing one, and a string of competent, yet uninspiring, commanders followed in the wake of Wynstanley. Many times the ships and crews sent south were both on the verge of retirement, and many saw their tour as one that had to be endured, spending as much time as possible enduring it in the pleasures that Port Stanley had grown to provide.

The shockwave of Lord Sturgeon’s announcement of the formation of the Covenant of Antarctica was felt as keenly in Port Stanley as it was in the corridors of power back in London. Many feared that a war would be declared and they would become the focus of any reprisals by the newly created nation. The inhabitants of the Falklands knew full well that the innovations that had been released to the world were only the tip of the iceberg as to what could be lurking in the depths of the mythical Vault. While many of the rumours and tales that had escaped the frozen outpost sounded too fanciful even for the amazing modern world we live in some had more than a grain of truth in them. The Britannia government, after much bluster and rhetoric from the back benches, eventually came to realise that a military response was not an option, and dispatched an Ambassador to the Covenant, thereby formally recognising its legitimacy as an independent nation. To not do so was consider too large a risk, without the technological marvels that the scientist had let out into the world over the previous decase the Kingdom would run the risk of other nations gaining an unacceptable advantage.

While her majesty’s government was forced to accept this turn of events, the admiralty turned its thoughts to what would be required if war was ever declared on this new world power.  It was quickly realised that the prominence and capabilities of the FIS and its bases on the islands had to be reviewed and increased with all alacrity. To this end Admiral Shaftsbury was dispatched to assume command of the FIS, the first officer of flag rank ever to hold the post, and indicating to all in the service that the FIS was no longer to be viewed as a second-rate arm of the Naval Armada. Shaftsbury at first appeared as an odd choice to a public demanding the turncoat Sturgeon be taken to task. His commands at sea had been uninspiring. He had not been involved in any major actions, his career one of steady promotion without the headline catching prominence of more hawkish colleagues.

While Shaftsbury may not have been the ideal candidate to launch an invasion of the Antarctic, he was the perfect man to plan and organise the build up of forces in the FIS, and the infrastructure needed to support them. When his flag was raised at his HQ in San Carlos in 1858 he quickly came to realise what a god send the ground work that Wynstanley had covertly laid was. With two areas all ready cleared, effectively ready for the construction,  plans for 2 permanent bases could be put into action immediately. With a new commander came a new flagship, and for the first time ever a battleship was permanently part of the FIS. Its arrival was to highlight that even the naval base at San Carlos would require a massive overhaul to bring it up to the standard to maintain and support the modern fleet that the FIS would have to become.

Admiral Shaftsbury spent an unprecedented period of 10 years as the commander of the FIS. During this time the area either side of Falkland sound was changed beyond recognition. He oversaw the construction of permanent bases for the Air Armada and Land forces assigned to the FIS, with additional staging areas built and provisioned should either need to be enlarged for operations in the South Atlantic. The port facilities were also been massively upgraded in both size and capability. Capable of handling even the brutish Majesty class dreadnoughts and Avenger fleet carriers separate and secret facilities were constructed to support the Vanguard submarines coming into service with the fleet.

As the facilities grew so did the compliment of ships and personnel assigned to the FIS.  No longer were obsolete ships assigned with each new class of ship finding its way south early in their lives with the Navy. Shaftsbury’s insistence on this was founded that the conditions found in the seas around Antarctica were unlike any other, and ships designed and tested to operate in the North Atlantic may prove unserviceable in the endless southern ocean.  It is a great credit to the ingenuity and skill of the ship building engineers of Britannia that no class of ship has ever proven to be unsuited to deployment in the southern ocean.

During the 10 years of growth no major engagements between ships occurred despite the FIS beginning to actively patrol Britannia’s territorial waters around the Falklands, and further afield into international waters. It was not until 1865 that ships bearing the flag of the Covenant were encountered in international waters, and began making visits to Port Stanley. Tensions continued to rise as ships of both fleets encountered each other more frequently out in open waters.

It was not until November 1868 that ships from the FIS and Covenant exchanged fire. The cruiser Lion was on patrol with the frigates Undaunted and Endymoin in international waters off the coast of Antarctica. A ship roughly the size of a cruiser, but of an unknown design, was observed approaching rapidly. The ship hailed the FIS squadron and claimed they were sailing in Covenant waters and demand they depart North at full speed. Captain Bellows replied that he was sailing legally in international waters and the ship should change course or he would have no choice but to declare it as hostile, and take action as his orders dictated. The Covenant vessel refused to change course, and for reasons that are to this day hotly debated, Bellows gave the order to launch a full spread of torpedoes from his foreword tubes while he began to manoeuvre his ships into position to finish the task. The battle was brief and somewhat one-sided with the Covenant ship sunk after inflicting minor damage to Lion and Undaunted. Diplomatic exchanges following this incident were long and heated. After some months, where war seemed a distinct possibility a treaty was agreed and territorial waters surrounding both the Falkland Islands and Covenant of Antarctica were agreed. No warships of either side would enter the others waters without prior agreement and escort. Trade between the Covenant and Falkland Islands were resumed, much to the relief of the civilians on the island who had began to feel the financial pinch of the isolation.

The political fallout of this engagement was felt far and wide within both the government and admiralty. It became obvious that Captain Bellows felt he was operating under clear orders that he was able to defend his ship against any threat with deadly force. However no such standing orders could be found to cover the FIS. Indeed the existence of the Covenant was not acknowledged in the standing orders. While Shaftsbury was the perfect commander to oversee the building of the fleet, it quickly became apparent that his focus had remained on planning and logistics, and that the FIS was operating under the rules of engagement that had existed over a decade ago. It was time that a greater military mind was in command lest such encounters between ships become common and escalated out of control of either government.

The appointment of the current Commanding officer, Admiral Moorhouse, in March 1869 was to cause much muttering and disquiet within the admiralty. On paper he does indeed look to be an odd choice to command such a vital part of the naval armada. Many point to his limited experience in command of capital class vessels. Indeed, Moorhouse has only one command of such a ship, the battleship Resolution of the Mediterranean fleet. Moorhouse has spent most of his career working in the silent service, the submarine arm of the naval armada. His previous appointment was a commander of submarines for the Mediterranean fleet and many expected him to assume this post within the home fleet. He is widely acknowledged as the foremost expert in submersible operations. At the end of his first full year in command all those that have visited the Falklands and seen the men and ships of the FIS operate have reported favourable on them. Admiral Moorhouse has replaced the old rules of engagement with ones suitable to the conditions that now prevail in the South Atlantic. Not only is the growth of military prowess of the Covenant a concern, but the purchase of land in Argentina by the Empire of the blazing sun, and the resultant military build up have once again proved the worth of this small outpost of the empire to all in the home island.

THE FLEET

The modern FIS is, in truth, as powerful and capable as any of the other fleets in the Naval Armada. Many in the admiralty have lobbied to change the name to reflect the military power of the command, yet this has been resisted largely on political grounds. Many feel that to formally acknowledge the military build up in the Falkland Islands could cause protests from the Covenant’s government and whatever the military reality the ability to pass the formation off as a mere squadron is politically expedient.

Admiral Moorhouse’s flagship is currently the Majesty class dreadnought Howe. Though he spends more time ashore Moorhouse’s ship is rarely in port. It is often out in the ocean undergoing exercises at both ship and squadron level as command of Alpha squadron. The ruler class battleship Conqueror is the lead ship for Bravo squadron. While the two squadrons are permanent structures ships within the fleet are assigned as required, with ships moving between the two often. Such a flexible arrangement is a foreign concept to most commanders, but Admiral Moorhouse quickly came to realise that both the remote location, and harshness of conditions found in the South Atlantic required such measures. Ships require far more maintenance in these unforgiving conditions and as such spend more time in port, on average, than any others in the Britannia navy.

The surface compliment is made up of 6 Tribal class cruisers, 6 Orion class destroyers, 12 Attack class frigates and 12 Bastion class escorts. The avenger class fleet carrier Hermes is nominally attached to the fleet. However it rarely operates with the fleet in the waters between the islands and Antarctica. The sea conditions commonly found there have made flight operations off its deck impossible much of the time and it is normally found patrolling the area to the north, escorting ships being sold to the Socialist Union of South America into their ports.

The one real anomaly with the FIS is that a larger than expected number of Vanguard class submarines operate as part of the fleet. While the exact number was not revealed to the author it can be assumed that there are more than 10 available to Admiral Moorhouse at any given time. While at first it may seem ridiculous to have so many of these valuable ships assigned to one fleet further consideration makes their deployment a master stroke of planning on Moorhouse’s part. These ships can operate for long periods without the need to surface, and are therefore not subjected to the harsh sea conditions that the surface ships have to endure. There rugged hulls designed to smash opponents hulls in too are equally suitable for dealing with the ice flows found around the border waters between Britannia and Covenant territory.  One must also consider the potential for a submarine to go places undiscovered and undertake operations that other ships just could not. In these uncertain times we live in the author takes comfort that such ships are out in the South Atlantic, learning all they can of the abilities of the Covenant forces. Without their brave crews and commander the world would indeed be a much more dangerous place.

In summary the Falkland Island Squadron has grown rapidly in both power and prominence since its inception in 1839. It is impossible to believe that it will ever again be left to drift as it did in its early years. What threat to the sovereignty of Britannia the Covenant of Antarctica may ultimately prove will become known over the coming years. That there will be conflict between the fleets in the South Atlantic seems increasingly likely, and the appearance of Empire of the blazing suns fleet assets of the coast of Argentina will only further inflame the situation. This author is encouraged by what he saw of the FIS, and has total confidence that Admiral Moorhouse is the man to lead it.

The Shell Case Shorts 4 – Winner 1

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.

FOUNDING:

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.

HOMEWORLD:

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.

GENESEED:

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.

BELIEFS:

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.

BATTLECRY:

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.

Origins

I thought, to help get some creative juices flowing, and because I really wish I could enter my own competition this month, I’d share with an example of an origins piece written by me for this month’s Shell Case Shorts. It’s, unsurprisingly, about a Space Marine Chapter called the Void Stalkers.

Space Marine via Bolter & Chainsword’s Space Marine Painter

FOUNDING

The exact date of the Void Stalkers founding is somewhat unclear within the records of the Adeptus Terra. Archives indicate that the first confirmed sighting of this little known chapter was during the Uribe Uprising 588-592 M39. After 4 years of grinding attrition that cost countless lives, and all but decimated the once plush garden world, the Imperial forces had driven the secessionist back to the walls of the Governor’s Palace. The Governor himself had been executed a decade before by his council of advisor’s who had turned from the Emperor’s light and embraced the foul whisperings of Chaos. The Kabal of Rebirth, as they dubbed themselves had locked down the palace and ordered their followers to fight to the last.

The palace defences were such that not even siege cannons could breach its walls and all attempts to infiltrate the palace had been met with utter disaster. After 6 months of siege the ground between the Imperial liberation force and the palace was a plague choked quagmire of shell holes, razor wire and the bloated remains of thousands of soldiers, from both sides of the conflict. On the eve of the final push that would send tens of thousands of men and hundreds of tanks into the teeth of the palaces defences, in the hope of breaching the walls, a single jet black Thunderhawk gunship streaked through the leaden sky. Bearing a white dagger agaisnt a field of midnight blue, it failed to respond to any vox hails and when the order was given to shoot it down, the air defence batteries failed to register anything was in the sky at all.

The Thunderhawk touched down just long enough to disgorge a single ten-man squad of Space Marines. Equally coloured in black with midnight blue pauldrons, and bearing the winged skull of the Imperium on their chests, the Void Stalkers moved through the crowds of gawping Imperial Guardsmen and officers without word or noise; the usual hum and mechanical clunking surrounding powered armour ominously absent.

The Space Marines stood a top the trench network that ran like veins through the ground they stared intently at the setting suns of Uribe, their green eye lenses glinting with the last rays of the day. As darkness bled across the world the Void Stalkers walked into no-man’s land.

As the suns rose the following morning there was no sign of the Space Marines but the palace gates now laid wide open. A scouting force was immediately dispatched. As the two Chimeras bounced over the ruined terrain every soul aboard expected to be blasted to pieces by artillery fire, yet they made it to the gates unhindered. Moving through the gates the Imperial Guardsmen were met with a charnel house. Bodies littered the walls, bunkers, gun emplacements, barracks, corridors and chambers. Every one of the traitors had been killed by bladed weapons of some description. It was only hours later when more units had been brought in to search the palace did the Imperial Forces find the ten traitorous members of the Kabal impaled to the walls of the throne room by exquisitely crafted combat that could only belong to that of the Astartes.

The Void Stalkers’ reputation follows a very similar track through the 2,000 years since. The Void Stalkers arrive unannounced, often in small numbers, vanish within moments of arriving and rarely resurface but wherever they tread death follows them. Not only do the Void Stalkers have a flare for terror inducing wide-spread and bloody slaughter, they have a skill or more surgical operations, performing services to the Imperium that even the Departmento Assassinorum would balk at. Countless traitors & heretics have fallen at the hands of suspected Void Stalker intervention before their heretical ways could contaminate others.

The brutality with which they carry out these executions and terror campaigns has been met with sanction from the High Lords and the Inquisition but if the Void Stalkers are aware they certainly show no interest.

Beyond these low-level interventions there has only ever been 4 recorded instances of the Void Stalkers deploying in greater than company strength. The most recent was the Ork invasion of Ulgren 3, 811.M41, a planet populated with pre-industrial human tribes inhabiting the western continent. Located on the border between Segementums Tempestus & Solar it was of little strategic value yet 3 full battle companies met the Ork invasion and crushed it utterly. Only intercepted astropathic signals from the Void Stalker fleet to an indeterminate location gave the Imperium any indication that there was an Ork incursion at all. How the Void Stalkers knew of the threat and why they responded with such overwhelming force remains a mystery to this day.

Beyond these scattered, and often second-hand, reports little is known about the Void Stalkers beyond their current Chapter Master is Vivos Finem, the third Astartes to hold that title in the Chapter’s history and this is only because Chapter Masters are required to attend the High Lords of Terra to renew the Chapter’s vows of loylty to the Imperium. It’s founding master was formerly the 5th company captain of the Raven Guard, Shinji Dasvaan. He served as master for eight hundred years before vanishing without a trace mid operations in the Uluhis Sector. Not even the Void Stalkers know where he went. Some believe he returned to his brother Raven Guard, others that he transcended. A few believe that he left the Silent Intent, the Void Stalker’s single battlebarge, in search of the last great kill.

HOMEWORLD

If the Void Stalkers have a homeworld there is no record of it although there are reports of small installations with the Void Stalker livery dotted across the entire Imperium. No one has thus far been brave enough or foolish enough to attempt to break into one to determine its contents but military experts hypothesise that they are resupply stations with capacity for no more than 10 Astartes at a time.

Sightings of Void Stalker ships in orbit over various worlds for extended periods with no obvious sign of resupply or conflict has led to speculation regarding recruitment words but there is no indication of training grounds, temples or a fortress monastery. The only parallels that can be drawn from these suspected worlds is that they all posses pre-industrial civilisations, all are nomadic and all prefer skirmish and hit and run tactics rather than waging all out war against one another.

Sharing geneseed with the Raven Guard, their ancestral home remains Deliverance and Void Stalkers periodically make pilgrimages their to walk amongst their kin and share tactics and intelligence. It is the one and only time that a Void Stalker will willingly remove their battle helms and walk and converse with beings other than their own battle brothers. The Void Stalkers hold the Raven Guard in awe and with the utmost respect. Every undertaking made by the Void Stalkers is measured against the achievements of the Raven Guards 10 millennia long history.

Indeed, the day that Corax liberated Deliverance is the Void Stalkers’ most sacred day and where possible as much of the Void Stalker fleet gathers and a day of thanks giving is declared. It is a day of intense mediation, and purification at the end of which the entire Chapter, or at least as much as is feasible to gather, feasts in the great hall of the Silent Intent to represent Corax’s triumph and the birth of the 19th Legion.

Much like other ‘crusading’ Chapters, the Void Stalker’s possess a large fleet, however, where they differ is that overwhelmingly their fleet leans towards smaller vessels; frigates and destroyers, allowing them to quickly and quietly disperse kill teams all over the Imperium, where they move from warzone to warzone doing the most good before moving onto the next. The only time, outside of Deliverance Day, that the Silent Intent will see one of its sister ships is for resupply or on those exceptionally rare occasions that decisive force is required. And such a feat of co-ordination is only achieved by a truly prodigious number of astropaths on board each of the Void Stalker’s ships. How such a feat came about is a mystery but can have only come about through extraordinary ties of kinship between the Void Stalkers and the Psykana Telepathica.

DOCTRINE & ORGANISATION

The Void Stalkers, like their Raven Guard cousins, follow the Codex Astartes organisational structure in so much as there are 10 companies, each with 10 squads. However, where they differ is that the Void Stalkers do not use reserve companies in the convention sense, nor do they utilise devastator squads, preferring to utilise a greater number of assault marines. Even the 10th, Scout, company being divided between weapons and close combat specialists. Devastator Squads are considered too inflexible and slow-moving for the Void Stalker’s chosen style of combat and as such train tactical squads extensively in the use of special weapons allowing a balance between maximum hitting power and manoeuvrability.

Their chosen style of combat is overwhelmingly geared towards low-level surgical strikes and assassinations. It is said that a Void Stalker can move so silently that one could loom over you and you’d never know it until it was too late. Eye witnesses describe the Void Stalkers as like living shadows. One minute they are there and the next they’re not, as if they slip into your blind spot. Even sentries struggle to remember seeing Void Stalkers despite the Astartes having no choice but to pass through their checkpoint.

Although the Void Stalkers have and will take to the field in conventional warfare they much prefer to root out decay before the rot sets in. Five out of the Eight battle companies are seeded across the galaxy, each squad operating independently of their company. Squads themselves are often broken down into one or two men teams to infiltrate a world, seek out the alien, the traitor or the deamonic and destroy it.

Due to this solitary style of combat Void Stalkers are trained to be incredibly independent and resourceful. Most have customised their armour in some way or carry additional equipment that will allow a Void Stalker to operate in the field for extended periods of time. In fact there has been numerous instances of supply officers catching Void Stalkers scouring Imperial Guard supply dumps for items or in workshops concocting bespoke pressure bombs and other such devices. A Void Stalker doesn’t reach this level of resourcefulness by accident.

Aspirants and (for those that survive) initiates spend much of their time alone on Death Worlds required to survive the predation of an entire planet for months on end. It teaches aspirants two things – initiative and the art of the hunt. It is no coincidence that the worlds the scouts find themselves on have some of the most efficient hunters in the galaxy. The message is simple; be better or die. In reality, Void Stalkers do not stay scouts for long as the nature of their combat operations requires them to be afforded maximum protection that only the advanced stealth systems of the Void Stalker power armour provides.

Company captains of the five Interrogation companies rarely deploy in operations unless a company strength response is required. Instead they stay aboard the company Frigate and use the retro-fitted communication and sensorum equipment to monitor the progress of their battle brothers and arrange for rapid redeployment as needed.

Should a threat prove too great or the cancer of heresy too deep for one Void Stalker to cope with they call upon the aid of the three reserve, or Purification, companies to bring ruination to the enemies of the Emperor. As one would expect demand on these three companies is great and elements of the 1st company are relied on heavily as the Purification companies are often divided in half to tackle multiple threats.

When Purification does come to a world their tactics on the field of war are reflective of their more clandestine opreations; strike, contain and eliminate. Stormravens and drop pods deploy elements with such overwhelming force that the enemy are crushed before they can react.

This style of warfare, however, presents two majors problems for the Void Stalkers. The first being that it is impossible to determine the actual number of Void Stalkers active in the field as they can drop out of contact for decades at a time which requires the Void Stalkers to keep a far larger scout company than the Codex Astartes dictates or the Inquisition would prefer. The second is that the Void Stalker fleet is too widely dispersed to lent any real military support when called upon. Combined with their singular approach to war and the high number of smaller craft, they are more often seen slinking away from naval engagements rather than lending support, much to the consternation of the Imperial Navy. The knock on effect of this is that the fleet is sometimes unable to round up its operatives immediately often forcing them to make their own way home. This is, needless to say, a tremendous waste of a valuable resource.

The Void Stalker’s achievements are legion but few are public knowledge as most prevent the outbreak of war before they start. The only evidence ever left behind after a Void Stalker has completed his hunt is the ceremonial dagger required to make the kill. The stylised eagle talon handle carved from ivory, to give the impression of an Aquila clutching a blade, is a potent symbol the Imperium over as the cost of betrayal. The excessive nature of the Void Stalker’s purifications, both in scale and brutality, as well as their penchant of terror tactics has made many in the upper echelons of Terra and the Inquisition extremely nervous of the Void Stalkers and where the dark and solitary path they tread may truly be leading them.

BELIEFS

As with all Space Marine Chapters, the Void Stalkers revere their Primarch and the Emperor. They also have a special admiration for the Raven Guard and follow their exploits intently, using them as exemplars. In many ways this veneration is tinged with a competitive streak as the Void Stalkers attempt to hone their stealth skills to beyond that of their cousins.

At the core of the Void Stalkers belief system is that the Imperium of man is salvageable, but only through rooting out the rot that eats away at minds of the powerful and the weak. The Void Stalkers possess a wide and far-reaching intelligence network made up of clerks, Imperial officers, bounty hunters, gangers and even planetary governors. No one is beneath their notice and no lead too flimsy to follow-up. Often a Marine’s deployment will be as much as about observation – sometimes for years – as it is about dispatching an enemy of the Imperium. And sometimes, just rumour that a Void Stalker is at large on a planet is enough to quell the early stages of heresy, lest the instigators be made a violent and bloody example of the price of betrayal.

This intelligence gathering earns them many favours across the realm of man, if not out of gratitude then fear of what the Void Stalkers know. Although they are quick to share information that can benefit brother chapters, the Departmento Munitorum or the Machine Cult of Mars they are viewed with suspicion and are tolerated rather than trusted. Favours usually extend to transportation when the Void Stalker’s own fleets are stretched too thin, or resupply and medical attention. The Void Stalkers are careful never to take too much less their allies become too resentful of the imposition.

The Void Stalkers possess an almost preternatural awareness of their environment to the point that their reflexes are viper quick even by Raven Guard standards and excel in close combat to the extent that 70% of the Void Stalker’s 1st company are vanguard. This sixth sense is especially acute for the Chapter Librarians picking up on the slightest change in a battle brother’s aura, or even a shift in body language. So acute is this connection that the Librarians double as Chaplains and wander the galaxy on their own recognisances, arriving at the side of a stricken Void Stalker at just the right moment to either give them council or lend them martial aide.

The Inquisition is deeply suspicious of this bond, have demanded numerous investigations and openly rail against those touched by the warp offering spiritual guidance to the Chapter but all objections have been ignored by the Chapter’s upper echelons, understanding, only as they can, the profound importance the shared connection is amongst a Chapter that works in almost complete isolation.

GENESEED

The Void Stalker’s geneseed is taken from that of the scions of Corax. However, where the Raven Guard suffer loss of pigmentation ot their skin over time, it afflicts the Void Stalkers almost immediately, giving their skin an eerie, translucent, quality. Equally their eyes become inky pools and it profoundly disturbing for non-Astartes to look upon an un-helmeted Void Stalker for more than a few moments. Not that any living mortal has been given the opportunity to do so.

Also, as with all sons of Corax, the Void Stalkers do not have the Mucranoid or the Betcher’s Gland.

BATTLE CRY

The Void Stalkers operate independently for months at a time and when unified it is to bring swift vengeance upon the foes of the Emperor, a duty they undertake with utter seriousness so a battle cry, to the Void Stalkers would be trivialising their duty to their father and the Emperor.

Squad to squad communications are clipped and precise, and all missions are undertaken with the utmost discipline. This means the Void Stalkers lack the comradary and vainglorious bragging found amongst the rank and file of other chapters to the extent that on those rare occasions when they have been forced to fight alongside other chapters, they are largely ignored. Which suits the Void Stalkers just fine.

Shell Case Shorts 4

Yes, we’re in to the forth short story competition. And this month we take a look at origins. This can be the origins of whatever you like; a Space Marine chapter, a fantasy regiment, a warband in Mordheim or a horde in…er…Hordes.

Remember it has to be a force/chaapter/regiment of your own devising. You couldn’t write about the Ultramarines, for example.

This month’s prize is courtesy of the awesome and legendary Nick Kyme and because he’s been so legendary and, dare I say it, awesome, there will now be TWO prizes. One prize for the best ‘goody’ and a prize of the best ‘baddy’. And those prizes are signed copies of the Fall of Damnos & Salamander. And there may could possibly be a runners up prize. But only if you all work very hard!

All it needs to be is based on an existing wargaming IP of any stripe and be written in a historical style. Consider breaking the piece down in to the following:

Founding, Homeworld/Homeland, Combat Doctrine, Force Organisation, Beliefs, Significant/Defining Moment, Battle Cry

If you’re doing Space Marine remember to include something about their geneseed.

And yes you can include a picture of colour scheme or iconography if you want to.

Rules are as follows:

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke a sense of history and grandeur about thier chosen regiment/chapter/legion/company etc.

Word limit is 3,000 words (+/- 10%).

All entries must be received by midday Monday 30th April 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to phil@theshellcase.com

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include at the top of the first page; the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!