|Battle Cry||"Extinction is our gift!"|
|Successors of||Imperial Fists|
|Chapter Master||Artor Amhrad|
|Homeworld||Obsidia (Later given to the Sable Swords|
|Strength||772, all but a few veterans and trainees nobly sacrificed (AKA Deadsies)|
|Specialty||Unknown (It may be dying in a badass way, who knows?)|
|Allegiance||Imperium of Man|
|Colours||Silver and dark blue|
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
"Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods."
- – Lord Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses
The Astral Knights were an Astartes chapter that went out WITH A FUCKING BANG!! At the time of their "demise", their Chapter Master was a guy named Artor Amhrad, an awesome motherfucker, whose replacement was a Dreadnought named Brother Thade. Major spoilers for Ben Counter's The World Engine ahead.
Little is known of the Astral Knights' early history, but evidence suggests they were founded fairly early on; they have extremely old relics in the form of the Battleship Tempestus (with a machine-spirit from the Dark Age of Technology that is highly hinted at as being a true AI), the ancient gunship Maxentius and an entire armoury of incredibly ancient and potent gear, so ancient and potent they are only allowed to the current chapter master and he is only allowed to have one at once. We do know they participated in a purging of Varvenkast, a hive world in the Varv system, and the destruction of the Necron world-ship Borsis (AKA The World Engine) in the same system many years later.
The Purging of Varvenkast
On order of the Inquisition, a small strike-force of Astral Knights was sent to the world of Varvenkast in the Varv system. They were tasked with eliminating a cult on the planet that had so infested the hive that an entire section had to be purged. This turned out to be a ruse, however, by the then current chapter master, Derelhaan. Derelhaan had made up the corruption story to have an excuse to destroy the last remnants of a rival house from their home planet of Obsidia. Amhrad (then a captain) found out and with the help of Chaplain Masayak and Librarian Hyalhi defeated Derelhaan, became chapter master, and made an oath to always protect Varvenkast. This was all covered up, of course.
The World Engine
Many years after the Varvenkast incident, Varvenkast was again threatened. This time the world destroying Necron death star, Borsis, was on a direct path past it and destroying everything in its way. The massive assembled fleet consisting of dozens of Imperial Navy ships and space marine chapters (including the Ultramarines, the Red Consuls, and the Invaders) couldn't penetrate the powerful shields protecting the World Engine and so made ready to abandon the system and the 21 billion souls on Varvenkast to their fate. However, chapter master Amhrad decided he would be awesome that day. He told the collective chapters to go fuck themselves and outlined his amazingly complex plan that would save billions. They would ram the Tempestus into the World Engine and deploy their ENTIRE chapter to the surface in an effort to destroy it. Fuck yes. The assembled chapters called him an idiot but since Amhrad had the biggest and bestest ship he technically led the liberation force and he had final say. The Imperial Fleet retreated to a safe distance while Amhrad enacted his plan...
Needless to say, it worked perfectly. The shields were no match for an ENTIRE kilometers long battleship and while the crash killed every human on the ship and many battle-brothers, most of the chapter made it to the surface. They immediately sent out scouting parties to figure out what the hell was going on. These parties came back with freed slaves and tales of fighting Necrons. From the slaves, Amhrad found out about the Overlord of Borsis (as the Necrons called the World Engine), Heqiroth. He dispatched a team led by captain Zahiros to assassinate the Overlord, but they failed due to many of the slaves being sleeper agents planted by the Necrons. In the meantime, Hyalhi, now Chief Librarian, took an honor guard into the depths of Borsis to find what they could find. After fighting some flayed ones, a mortally wounded brother by the name of Ghazin allowed himself to be fatally probed by a mass of brains hooked to a computer. It was here that Hyalhi learned of Yggra'nya, the being that powered the World Engine. The Astral Knights also discovered that Borsis was making a bee-line to Mars, presumably to free the Void Dragon.
After a failed alliance with the former overlord of Borsis and an ambush that killed a ton of Astral Knights, Amhrad knew there was only one option remaining. Devastator-Captain Khabyar led an attack utilizing the entire chapter against the seat of Heqiroth's power. This was only a distraction, however, and Amhrad himself led an elite force of five brothers (plus himself) to Yggra'nya's prison. Yggra'nya had spoken to Hyalhi and revealed itself as the C'tan known as The Worldbuilder. It promised to destroy Borsis and leave the galaxy (in its words to find a people more ready to accept its "benevolent" rule) if freed. Using their lives and a bunch of melta bombs, Amhrad's force managed to free Yggra'nya with only Hyalhi surviving. Hyalhi watched from the wreckage of the Tempestus as Yggra'nya utterly destroyed Heqiroth and powered down Borsis' shields, allowing the Navy to finish the job. Hyalhi entered a savior pod and died, but not before locking the memories of the battle in his mind for the Inquisition to find.
With the World Engine destroyed and Hyalhi's memories fully in the Inquisition's hands, the Astral Knights accomplished far more than saving Varvenkast. The information in Hyalhi's head gave the Inquisition a new understanding into Necron culture and battle and gave them knowledge of the Star Gods (Hyalhi swore to Yggra'nya that the Imperium would hunt it down). In addition, they saved the entirety of the Imperium by stopping Borsis before it got to Mars and Terra. It is said that a small force of Veterans and trainees remained on Obsidia, but the Inquisitor making the comment follows that up by saying they are not nearly enough to rebuild the chapter. The remains of the Tempestus (which were flung away when the World Engine exploded) were salvaged to be used to repair other ships of the same class.
Finally, to not let their Fortress-monastery go to waste, the Sable Swords were founded just to take care of the thing. You know that you are a badass of the umpteenth degree if they found an ENTIRE CHAPTER OF SPACE MARINES just to look after your crib after you kick the bucket. This creates an interesting clash of the canon however, since the Sable Swords were around during The Beheading, nearly 9400 years prior. Of course, it's also likely that the Sable Swords also lost their own home world through some means or just took it because they had to admire these fucking badasses.
...However, there is one thing to be mentioned of the replacement chapter- the remaining Astral Knights could not have said "Fuck that shit!" any harder. Thade, irate at the fact that his chapter was being handed over to what were- in his techno-prosthetic eyes -the greenest Space Marines since the Salamanders, was positively livid. It didn't matter that this replacement Chapter was full strength- the Astral Knights were descended from the Imperial Fists, and you know how they (and their descendants) are...
Now, logically, after the Sable Swords arrived to take over things, what should've happened next was a civil war that would see the Astral Knights ground to dust, but not before the Sable Swords 1st Captain (one Captain Daegan) had his head squished like a grape (courtesy of Thade's crusher arms on his Dreadnought). In fact, it almost did happen. Thade went so far as to deliver the Space Marine equivalent of calling the Sable Swords dickless, when Daegan basically told Thade to gather what was left of the Chapter and go on (what was basically) a suicide crusade. What happened afterwards is best left up to the imagination of the readers.
The Astral Knights recruited from the world of Obsidia. Obsidia is a world with a heavily divided caste system of nobles and peasants. Unlike some planets that make the marines into legend, the people of Obsidia are fully aware of the Space Marines in their midst and the nobles strive to join them. Every so often, the chapter finds a noble truly deserving and takes them into their ranks, usually already having their path picked out for them (for example, Techmarine Sarakos was told he was going to be a techmarine even before he was recruited). Peasants have no chance of being recruited and any peasant parent's dream is that their children will somehow rise to the ranks of nobility.
Note that the marines of the Astral Knights seem divided on one main point. Many of the marines still cling to their lives as nobles and strive to keep that nobility alive while the rest of the marines become the typical "we don't care about our past" type.
- Dreadnought Thade: The last "Chapter Master" (more of an Acting Commander, really, but nobody would've challenged the guy for it, so...) of the Astral Knights, Thade was something of an angry old man of a lord watching over a destroyed kingdom. Life handed him a rough hand when the Sable Swords took over. What happened to the guy and the last thirty of the Knights under his command is left to people's imaginations, but he either led his remaining troops into a suicide "Crusade", got them all killed by flipping out and attacking their replacements, or anything in between. Wherever the Astral Knights are, know that the hearts of all who worship badasses go with them... Here's looking at you, Chapter Master Thade.
- Chapter Master Lord Artor Amhrad: The chapter master of the Astral Knights during the battle for Borsis. Amhrad discovered the previous chapter master's treachery and became chapter master after Hyalhi and Masayak helped him kill the traitor. He then made an oath to the people of Varvenkast that they would come back and save them in a time of dire need and he sticks to this oath to the very end. He dual-wields a matched pair of one-handed power axes due to his training with a saber and swordbreaker as a noble (not that that makes any sense since the two fighting styles would be radically different). Amhrad dies blowing up Yggra-nya's prison after being mortally wounded by the baddest Lychguard on Borsis, the Judicator.
- Chaplain Masayak: A chaplain of the Astral Knights who strictly follows the Codex Astartes. He has an interesting theory that even if a battle seems impossible to win, as long as he and his brothers believe hard enough, they can make the impossible possible. He was with Amhrad when the latter accused chapter master Derelhaan of treachery and delivered the killing blow while Derelhaan was distracted with Hyalhi (specifically he buried half his crozius into the back of Derelhaan's head). He was the last man standing with Amhrad before getting his head unceremoniously scissored off by the Judicator as he went to help his chapter master up.
- Chief Librarian Hyalhi: Chief librarian of the Astral Knights, and a powerful one at that. He is rare among librarians in that he has an unparalleled mastery of divination and sees the threads of fate much like Eldar Farseers do. This sets him apart from his brothers even more than usual. He has a hand-picked honor guard that he specifically chooses for their attitudes and thoughts as opposed to pure martial skill, reasoning that he needs advisers more than yes-men. Using his skill at dodging due to seeing the strands of fate, he distracted former chapter master Derelhaan long enough for Masayak to deal the killing blow. Hyalhi survives Borsis long enough to get to a savior pod with the memories of the chapter locked in his head for the Inquisition to find (making the novel somewhat of a flashback seen through different eyes but told from the same source).
- Techmarine Sarakos: The techmarine who first discovered Yggra'nya when a scarab interfaced with his data-port ifyouknowwhatimean. He was somewhat disliked by his brothers for his lack of emotion and humor. Due to his exposure to Yggra'nya and his tech-expertise (not to mention the plasma cutter in his servo harness), he was chosen to be part of Amhrad's five-man group to free the C'tan. He died by being overwhelmed while using a Lychguard as a living shield to deflect his fellow's blows.
- Captain Sheherz, Master of the Fleet: The Astral Knights' Master of the Fleet and (literal) captain of the Tempestus. He calms the machine-spirit of the mighty ship to prepare it for its final task and is killed by a Necron warrior after being incapacitated in the crash.
- Assault-Captain Zahiros: Probably the third best example of an Astral Knight who can't let his past go, Captain Zahrios was the leader of the force sent to assassinate Heqiroth near the beginning of the campaign. The Necrons knew they were coming, however, and he was killed (in a duel with the Judicator) along with his entire force. However, he did manage to destroy an extremely important artifact before his death.
- Captain Ifriqi: Ifriqi led the assault on one of Heqiroth's strongholds. However, it was a trap and Heqiroth unleashed millions of scarabs on the Knights. Ifriqi died with most of the others after being drowned in a sea of metal pincers.
- Devastator-Captain Khabyar: The captain who led the final assault on Heqiroth as a distraction for Amhrad. He reaped a terrible toll but was eventually killed in battle.
- Codicier Valqash: The brother who accidentally discovered Yggra'nya's prison. He is one of Amhrad's five and leads the others to the tomb before being killed while guarding the others. He is the complete opposite of Hyalhi, being aggressive and using extremely aggressive psykic powers.
- Scout Sergeant Faraji: Faraji was the sergeant of the scout squad who initially discovered that Borsis was headed to Mars. As such, Amhrad took Faraji with him when he went to free Yggra'nya. Faraji was killed before he even managed to prime his meltabombs by praetorians who cut his legs off and then blasted his chest and head into ash. But seriously, he was just a scout sergeant, what did Amhrad expect?
- Brother Ghavin: A member of Hyalhi's honor guard who was mortally wounded in a battle with flayed ones. He volunteered to interface with a strange machine covered in brains and in doing so managed to communicate Yggra'nya's name before dying.
- Brother Kodelos: A former prince of Obsidia who loved flying and the second best example of an Astral Knight tied to his past. He was the pilot of the gunship Maxentius and managed to survive its crash landing. He ends up having a personal crisis of sorts, as he was supposed to nobly die in the sky, not on the ground like a commoner. He is saved by Khabyar's forces and joins them in their desperate attack. In his depression he realizes that key members of the chapter are missing and he puts together that the whole attack is a distraction. This proves to him that he can still be useful and he is reinvigorated and spurs his brothers on to fight harder. He is killed in the final stages of the battle when a Triarch Stalker sheers him in half with its gauss weaponry. He is the winner of the least Space Marine Space Marine contest, as he cannot drop his past and when denied a glorious death he starts to question everything (not to the extent that it affects his performance, but he mentions that everything his body is doing is automatic). Kodelos had an interesting quirk where the other brothers who couldn't drop their past called him "prince" mockingly, to which he would respond that they were peasants.
- Former Chapter Master Derelhaan: The previous chapter master of the Astral Knights, Derelhaan was the scion of a house which totally destroyed a rebel house back in the day and the best example of an Astral Knight who just couldn't let his past go. He found out about some survivors of the house on Varvenkast and had the entire section of the hive they were in purged, just in case. Amhrad calls him on his bullshit and Derelhaan throws the captain into a wall. Before he can deal the killing blow, however, Librarian Hyalhi steps between them and distracts him long enough for Chaplain Masayak to embed his crozius in his head. This incident caused the Astral Knights who knew of the treachery to swear an oath to protect Varvenkrast in its time of extreme need. Note that only a few brothers know of this incident. Officially, Derelhaan died to insidious booby traps and the chapter's purge was totally justified.