Astral Wardens

From 1d4chan
Astral Wardens
Battle Cry "Fear Not!"
Number V
Founding First Founding
Successor Chapters Homeguard, Starlight Crusaders, Cataphract Crashers
Chapter Master Erasmus Cain
Primarch Calael Bishop
Homeworld Providence
Specialty Rapid Deployment, Psychic Supremacy, Void Superiority
Allegiance Seperatist
Colours Periwinkle

This page details people, events, and organisations from Warmasters Triumvirate, a fan re-working of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. See the Warmasters Triumvirate page for more information on the Alternate Universe.

" “Long venture we from our void-borne home / Charting a course through the black unknown. / Ward-shields in hand brothers march as one / For the King of our forefathers' distant Sun. / Though the stars grow dim and the darkness roars / We'll carry His light to benighted shores.” "

– -Traditional Shanty of the Vth Legion

The Vth Legiones Astartes were known as the Astral Wardens, lead by the Primarch Calael Bishop. The twin icons of this Legion were the burning haloes that crowned their heads, and the towering Storm Shields that each marine carried, a symbol of their absolute dedication to their squadmates and the Crusade. Never the most numerous Legion, the Wardens relied on strong inter-squad bonds and immaculate psychic coordination to keep their limited supply of Marines alive even when deep striking into enemy territory.


Founding History and the Beginning of the Great Crusade[edit]

The Vth Legion, commonly referred to at the time as the Greenboots, was one of the Emperor's twenty Founding Legions. Much like their peers, they were largely Terran-born in the beginning, primarily culled from the low orbitals that clung tenaciously to survival through the horros of Old Night. However in contrast to their largely land-born cousins, they performed poorly prior to the discovery of their Primarch. This was due to two fundamental causes: A far slower-than-average uptake of the geneseed and related organs, and a subtle but damning flaw that made most Marines unable to fully absorb hypno-indoctrination once the trans-human process was completed. The Vth suffered greatly in the early days of the crusade due to these flaws, as they resulted in the Marines keeping much of their pre-Astartes personas and predilections, and thus taking up the Space Marine's skill-set far slower than in comparison to other legions' recruits.

The then-Legion Master, Raddicus Bronzwyn, was eager to contribute to the Crusade and was unwilling to hold his men back until they had achieved the same level of competence as those of other Legions. As a result, the Greenboots were pushed into combat with little more training than the average Imperial conscript, and had to lean heavily on their implants to carry the burden of warfare. Because of this, the Vth quickly gained a reputation for poor discipline and black luck, with some of their cousin Legions claiming the battlefields they took to were inevitably haunted by the keening souls of fallen Greenboots. Imperial Command soon settled on the opinion that the loss of one of these trans-humans was akin to losing a handful of conscripts and thus it did not represent as significant a tactical loss as a fully-trained marine from another more-capable legion.

This founding reputation led to the legion being usually regulated to reinforce their more successful cousins in their endeavors. A reserve role that resulted in the legion filling in lines where more successful legions began to flag, this commonly due to campaigns that had bogged down to higher-than-expected levels in intensity of combat. The result of this, and Browzwyn's ever-more-desperate efforts to have his legion prove their worth as Space Marines, was the legion being thrown into combat in piecemeal units as supporting elements and rarely as a coordinated force of its own. With little opportunity to develop at a legion, ostracism by their cousins due to their skill gap and discipline issue, and the constant attrition of the few marines to survive and learn from combat due to their usage as stopgap materiel, the legion rapidly lost morale, resulting in a downward spiral in terms of legion identity and capability levels.

Reunion with their Gene-Sire[edit]

By the time they met their Primarch, Calael Bishop, the Vth had become a sullen and beaten-down group, and yet the rapport with their gene-sire was instant. Bishop saw a kinship in this barely-trained mob of military castaways, and was swift to adopt them as though they were recent arrivals on his home-station of Providence. Harking back to the traditions of his adoptive home, one of this first actions was to see to the elevation of the Hellbenders to half-Astartes, and though all among the Vth could see that these men were not the transhuman demigods that even the greenest marine was, their skill and discipline by comparison was beyond reproach. In the months to come, these men became the unbreakable spearhead that led the Vth to their first unqualified victories. His methodology proven by the sudden and considerable turnaround in the legion's martial capability, Bishop's demand for the other heroes of Providence's Warden corps to be elevated to half-Astartes status was quickly granted, and the Primarch set them among the stunned, if now hopeful, rabble of the Vth to teach them the way of the Shield, the Line, and of Brotherhood.

The organization of the Vth Legio Astartes soon came to resemble the Wardens of Providence more than their cousin legions structures, but their unorthodox doctrine found success in boarding actions, void combat, and the tight confines of hives, where the solid wall of shields often left the enemy incapable of doing much beyond dying in droves under the tightly-commanded volleys of boarding shotgun shell fire and carefully interlocking swings and stabs of blades. With these successes, the straggling legion finally found purpose in their existence, and a firm brotherhood in their half-brothers of Providence that they had lacked when serving with their cousin legions. In addition, while access to their Primarch's genetic code did not remove their geneseed's issues, it substantially reduced the negative effects, allowing the legion to at least grow incrementally even during campaigns, for the first time since before their founding. While the Vth would always remain a small legion, slow to grow and slow to recover from catastrophe, their methodology and philosophy ensured was a reliable core for whom such losses were extremely rare, and thus the legion would never again risk the risk of disbandment due to low numbers. The Greenboots were no more- the Vth Legion had been reborn as the Astral Wardens, heirs to the Breachers' code of Providence.

The Awakening[edit]

The Casperian Rebellion marked the beginning of the Legion's psychic awakening, as in its quelling they saw the first manifestations of Ghost-Martyrs among fallen Wardens. The strong bonds of fellowship between psychically-gifted members of shield crews resulted in a mind-linking that would come to be known as the Weave, allowing the souls of their dead brothers to briefly remain manifested on the battlefield after death. Following this event, the Legion began its training as psykers in earnest, with much help from the scholarly Lambach Kropor and his Chosen of Hecate. As the Astral Wardens' power grew they one by one began manifesting halos of their own, echoing the silvery crown bestowed upon their gene-sire.

As the Crusade progressed, Bishop became eager to emulate some of his more charismatic brothers, who demonstrated that excessive force was not always necessary to bring an intractable world into Imperial compliance and so the Primarch's approach was again to fall back on the history of his adopted home. The Astral Wardens would arrive in a sector and immediately begin carefully scouting in considerable force for a location for a main operating base. Often, this was a orbital station complex, a single hive structure, or in some rarer cases, an errant Space Hulk. Fortifying this base, but not to the point where its loss would cripple the local Crusade, the legion would return to scouting-in-force, looking for further locations to seize and fortify. Well-escorted supply lines would be established between these 'settlements', and as these expanded in number, would carve up the sector's volume into pockets. Pockets that would then be assaulted from all sides, herding what enemies into a ever-decreasing volume of space, where eventually they could be driven into extinction. Providence's culture of accepting survivors yet being constantly wary of genestealer intrusions manifested in a friendly-if-aloof demeanor with the conquered populations, where those that reciprocated aid given were slowly indoctrinated into the Providence way of life and those that proved to be traitors were mercilessly hounded unto death.

With the development of the Astral Wardens' 'miraculous' powers and increasingly-divine appearances, sub-Crusades often found that populations had split into warring pro- and anti-Warden factions, often purely on the strength of rumor alone and well before a single marine would set foot on those population's home soil. This, at times, could greatly aid or hinder (or in some cases both) the Warden campaigns, yet Bishop was careful to instill in the conquered populations the awareness that the godly image of his Wardens was but an illusion, that they were not harbingers of a god, and that the Emperor was not a god as a result, and so kept his legion from any open accusation of violation of the Imperial Truth. An odd result of this effect was that conscription was rarely needed to raise new or replacement troops for the Auxilia unit, volunteers often filling quotas by themselves, even if those recruits had a worrying tendency for heroics and the willingness to die for their fellow squadmates.


Following the Edict of Nikaea, the Astral Wardens had their power armor fitted with inhibitor collars to prevent the use of their psychic abilities. For the first time since the Casperian Rebellion, the once-luminous Legion was without their haloes. Primarch Bishop acquiesced to bear a collar as a show of solidarity with his sons, and the Vth fell back on the traditional breaching strategies used in their infancy as Wardens. The Legion's losses rose substantially during this time, particularly among the Luminary Corps, and there was much unrest in the ranks over the Edict. Privately, the Primarch too felt betrayed, but publicly urged his sons to carry on through this hardship, trusting that the Emperor, a psyker in his own right, could not intend for the Edict to last forever.

When the Emperor fell on Ullanor, plans changed. Malcador appointed the Warmasters Triumvirate to carry on the Great Crusade, assigning Bishop to operate under Marduk Engur's direction. Bishop had long felt unease around Marduk, and though the dire psychic haze he felt around the man was no longer readable through the inhibitor collar, Bishop's own gut feeling remained. The Vth would remain cautious in all operations assigned by the Warmaster. As the years went by, the Wardens slowly and quietly withdrew from Imperial space.

By the time the Brotherwar had properly begun, the Astral Wardens had already removed themselves from the Imperium, retreating to Providence to escape the increasing sanctions placed upon the Psyker legions and the psychically-inclined in general. The growing influence of the increasingly-unstable Kinnevail Kincaid, now calling himself the "Burned Prophet," was doubtless also a factor. Warmaster Jon-Frederic Aristide is known to have predicted the Astral Wardens' secession, and interdicted the Primarch's withdrawal at an outpost near the Maelstrom in an attempt to prevent it. It seems that despite his intentions, the encounter convinced Aristide of the virtue of secession- he would later go on to be the founder and formal leader of the Union Astartes.


In the fitful birth of the Union Astartes, Providence has found itself the training grounds for the many Psykers needed for each city-state, and the Wardens its vigilant guardians. The Collegium Astra endeavors to teach the warp-sensitive, young and old, to control their gifts, with the use of the relatively stable environment provided by the Blackstone Spire's shadow.

Given the natural redoubt that is the Maelstrom, and the Vth's great animus for the forces in control of the post-Brotherwar Imperium, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Wardens have taken upon themselves to vigorously defend the Union's Imperium-facing borders and to conduct regular raids into Imperial space. These raids most often focus on interfering with the operation of the Inquisition, and particularly with interdiction of the Black Ships, laden as they are with Psykers destined for dark fates.

A Primaris Astral Warden Crewman


Providence is not exactly a world, but it is nonetheless where the soldiers of the Vth hang their hats. It is an ancient Space Hulk of unknown provenance, suspended amid a Warp storm in an "eye" of peculiar (and, some speculate unnatural) calm. Wayward craft, lost in the Empyrean, often drift to this curious location, and the rare survivors of such mishaps become the shipwrecked inhabitants of this strange and perilous place... should they survive the journey to one of the colonies sheltering within its mass.

These colonies, or "Wards" as they are locally known, rely on three primary services for their continued survival in addition to the typical maintinence duties associated with life in the Void. First are the aptly named Warders, shield-wielding mercenaries who will block the corridors in times of strife, protecting the colonies from the hulk's less agreeable inhabitants, such as Genestealers, Orks and bandit groups. Second, the Breachers, who have adopted those same ward-shields in service of a more adventurous lifestyle, braving unexplored areas and newly-arrived derelicts for salvage and goods. Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, are the Oracles. These individuals wield their Psyker gifts to glean hints of the future, forewarning their communities against coming calamity and providing Breachers with clues as to where they may find their next big score. Their powers are also helpful in keeping the Wards fed, psychically coaxing crops to grow when the decrepit hydroponics fail. Oracles hold the highest honor of any group in Providence, and the hulk's denizens thus regard psykers in general with high esteem.

Being a hodgepodge of shipwreck survivors, Providence's cultural patchwork varies greatly from region to region. One touchstone that remains fairly consistent across the hulk is veneration of the “Martyrs,” the Providence title for those who did not survive the journey to their starbound home, or the “Saints” who fell to one of the wreck's many perils in defense of its people. The more overtly religious believe the Martyrs remain in Providence as guardian spirits, granting visions to the Oracles and protecting the living against the formless antagonist of the Void, the hungering darkness beyond the sheltering bulkheads of the hulk. It is not uncommon to hear a local swear by “the breath of the martyrs” or a variation thereof.

The glyphic patterns which adorn good-luck charms and the breach-shields of mercenaries are in fact typically prayers to the Martyrs or tales of their exploits, both of which are equally claimed to draw the favor of the spirits. These patterns are also intended to confound the baleful eye of the Void, and it is for this reason that those who take these beliefs seriously never use meaningless symbols- a proper protective glyph must have purpose and meaning, for a chaotic mess will instead draw the attention of the Void.

Legion Doctrine[edit]

Well-chosen is the shield that makes the Astral Warden's sigil, for it embodies the legion's core tenet. Astartes of the Vth legion are charged to put the lives of his allies, particularly his squadmates, before the pursuit of the enemy's demise. Indeed, a member of the Astral Wardens stands with the same squad of battle-brothers from the day he is initiated to the day he dies, with only very rare exceptions. These squads drill together, eat together and fight together until they know exactly how their brothers tick, down the to the last quirk and idiosynchronicity. This is crucial, because the core of the Legion's strategy- indeed, the key to survival on their home of Providence - is the shield-wall. Unless all members can be relied upon to hold the line and work in perfect harmony, the shield is as good as a leaden weight, but when the squad fights as one they may as well be an adamantine bulwark.

To compliment their phalanx, the legion favors one-handed chain weapons and combat shotguns, enhancing their ability to clear the corridors of any structure, landbound or spaceborne. Individual squads may choose to modify these tactics, and other weapons are not unheard of, but no matter what, the shield remains, a symbol of the legion's unbending will against any foe. Because of their small squad size, the Wardens deploy quickly, and are frequently employed to provide mobile cover to flagging allies or cover fleeing civilians in pitched battlefields. None arrive faster than the Terminator squads, teleporting with the precision only psychic prognostication can provide and forming a wall of steel exactly when and where it's needed.

Their psychic might was not something the Legion realized until some time after their Primarch arrived, and it manifests in some unexpected ways. The most visible is the halo of starlight that crowns a psychically awakened Warden, but the most tactically significant is born from the bonds of brotherhood amid the squads. When a Marine dies in battle, his spirit refuses to leave his squadmates with a broken line, and rises again as a psychic projection to carry his shield until the danger has passed. The most talented of the legion learn to exploit their powers in more overt ways, calling punishing rays of light from the heavens, casting forth twinkling star-motes that explode with furious energy, or rushing to meet the foe shield-first with a space-twisting burst of speed.

Legion Culture & Personality[edit]

Having not been very hypno-indoctrinated, the Astral Wardens are very protective of their home and their ways, and though many of their cousins in other legions find them a bit crass and inglorious for Astartes the Vth have a sort of blue-collar spacer's pride in their work. They're tight-knit, loyal to their comrades to a fault – it's said among their enemies that the best way to kill a squad is to cripple one man, since his brothers will stand by him to the last.

They're also more than a little superstitious, a trait they get from Providence's culture. The trinkets that cover their armor are easily mistaken for trophies, but in fact almost all of them will originate from the Vth's homeland, where there is a long-standing tradition of creating amulets, fetishes and general good-luck charms to be worn by Breachers on their difficult and dangerous jobs. Before the Emperor's coming these charms were usually bought, but since the Legion's arrival they're generally created by the populace of the space hulk and given as a show of appreciation to their superhuman protectors. The geometric patterns painted on the Vth's armor are similarly meant as a ward against the evil eye- on Providence , these were traditionally painted by oracles, or failing that simply by the luckiest guy handy, but there's no shortage of psykers in the Astral Wardens so each squad usually designates a specific marine to paint their wards. Marines who distinguish themselves may get the Primarch himself to do them up a special glyph-ward.

The Vth have little disdain for mutants and xenos compared to most legions, given that they themselves are psykers and Providence is home to a motley assortment of residents, but they have a great and burning hatred for genestealers and eventually their Tyranid masters.

Squads are expected to mess together, and at least one member of the squad is traditionally meant to prepare the meal. This means squads can vary even down to their staple rations, but it's a semi-sacred tradition within the Wardens, so it stays. The Vth may be seen by the more traditional legions as cowards for their ubiquitous use of shields and their refusal to fight alone. Indeed, faced with a challenge to duel, any member of the Vth would simply call his brothers, harry the challenger away from his support, and methodically cut him down. Glorious duels are typically viewed by the Vth with incredulity and even scorn.

Gene-seed flaws[edit]

Tend to expel hypno-indoctrination, making them slow-learning compared to other legions. Their numbers stay small all throughout their existence and recover slowly from major disasters.

Legion Organization[edit]

The smallest unit of the conventional Wardens force is officially called a "Decade," as it is composed of ten men, but more typically it is simply referred to as a "Crew," and its members Crewmen, led by a Crew Captain. Decades coordinate internally through a psychic bond known as the Weave, as well as through more conventional methods and traditional Providence hand signs.

Ten Decades form a Century, with the most senior Crew Captain appointed as Centurion, broadly overseeing joint operations and relaying orders from command. At the top of the chain of command is, of course, Primarch Calael Bishop, officially given the title of "Lodestar," the Legion's guiding light.

Outside of the typical Legion structure are the Endlings, Astartes who have lost their comrades and become too mentally scarred to join a new squad or retire. These are the only men of the Vth to entirely eschew the Ward-Shield, and the only men who are deployed to act alone- selfless berserkers who seek to spend their lives pursuing only vengeance for their fallen brothers.

The Luminary Corps are mortal auxilia tasked with seeing to the Vth's vehicular needs and other support roles. Luminary units are generally led by a Polestar, a Psyker unable to be initiated as a Warden, who will form a low-level Weave among their crew members.

Special units[edit]

The Hellbenders: As Calael Bishop first came to grips with his new position as Primarch of the Vth Legion, he was faced with the herculean task of re-educating thousands of men to fight in a fashion completely unfamiliar to them, without the help of hypno-indoctrination to speed the process along. His answer to this dilemma was the Hellbenders, his Breacher squad from Providence, and his closest comrades-in-arms. The fighting portion of the Hellbenders was conveniently all male and close enough to human, and so at Bishop's request were swiftly granted the gene-augmentation necessary to become Half-Astartes, the closest an adult man could be to one of the Emperor's Angels. Each of the nine fighting Hellbenders was granted a ninth of the Legion to train in the year Bishop was given to settle his affairs on Providence before joining the Crusade, with Bishop, the tenth, overseeing the affair. In the years that followed, the Hellbenders became Calael's honor guard. Their numbers dwindled throughout the Crusade, and full Astartes filled their positions, one by one. Only Endeavor Jones survived into the 41st millennium, haggard and scarred but determined to keep the Primarch's vision for the Vth alive even after Calael's demise.

Luminary Corps: Due to the Vth Legion's small numbers and heavy focus on ten-man squads, a robust mortal auxilia corps is required to fill in the roles the Astartes cannot afford to take. Human soldiers take on the majority of duties in vehicular support, and they draw upon much of the same philosophy as their Astartes comrades-in-arms.

Unique among the Luminary Corps is the position of "Polestar." Aspirants with psychic potential who fail to meet the qualifications to become Astartes often volunteer for this position, and each mortal crew will have one or more Polestars whose task it is to establish a Weave amongst the group, giving them a faint echo of the psychic rapport that makes the Vth so deadly. This practice affords the Luminary Corps great precision, and the ultra-agile Odonata-pattern Aerovoid Fighter was developed specifically to exploit this advantage, almost being more of a stunt craft than a weapon of war.

Endlings: The psychic bond of the Weave is a tremendous boon for the Wardens, but it is a double-edged blade. To be linked in mind to your brothers-in-arms, to feel what they feel and to communicate without a spoken word, comes with the unspoken knowledge- should they die, that death will be felt as keenly as if it was your own.

The loss of a squad member is a traumatic event, mollified only by the final goodbye afforded by the psychic shadows a fallen Warden leaves behind- but for those unfortunate few fated to survive where all their brothers perish, the guilt is often too much to bear. Members of the Vth's mortal Luminary support corps, and even some Marines, are often left so broken by these experiences they are unable to integrate with a new squad, their minds instinctively rejecting any psychic touch as a beaten dog flinches from a raised hand.

These individuals are known as Endlings among the Vth, and are usually given the option of a quiet retirement, an offer that most mortals accept. However, even with the lessened hypno-indoctrination, a Marine's mind grieves differently than a mortal's. Some Endling Astartes submit to have their Geneseed harvested and retire for their remaining years, but many instead follow another path, exemplified by the first recognized as one of their kind- the Legion Champion, Finnavius Taggart. These men cast aside their shields and repaint their armor in the simple colors of the Greenboots who came before the Primarch's discovery. They are counted among the dead, and seek to take as many foes as possible into that good night before they are reunited with their fallen brothers.

Endlings are deployed to the field primarily as linebreakers, one-man armies given great discretion with their choice of armament and prosecution of their objectives. These men do not fear death, having already tasted of it- they fight with abandon and welcome the void as an old friend.

Special equipment[edit]

Ward-Shield: The signature item of the Vth legion, the Ward-Shield resembles tower-style Storm Shields, but is forged of a psycho-reactive alloy, letting it serve as a potent focus for any Psyker to hold it. Marines decorate their shields with lucky trinkets and gewgaws, and paint geometric glyph-wards on the shield's face to confound the Void's gaze. Studies begun by Remembrancer Lainne show that when the shields of a crew are placed together in the order their phalanx uses in battle, the glyph-wards often appear contiguous from one shield to the next, forming a greater pattern in ten parts. Military historians of the Union see this as proof of the subtle power of the Weave.

Gravitic Anchor: Inspired by the belaying chains and grapnels used by Providence's Breachers for dangerous spacewalks, the Gravitic Anchor was designed as a way for the Vth to achieve additional mobility, particularly in zero-G environments. A magnetically-accelerated chain fired from the Astartes' gauntlet affixes itself to any target via a small-if-powerful gravitic plate at the tip. This simple piece of gear gained popularity amongst the legion following a battle where the Primarch, denied his psychic power by a xenos null field and and depleted of shotgun shells, found himself and his personal guard bunched up in a corner, safe behind their shields but under constant fire. Knowing that it was just a matter or time before heavier firepower could be assembled that would pierce their shield-wall, Bishop quickly re-purposed a malfunctioning Thunder Hammer into what was functionally a grapnel-and-chain. Swiftly sketching out a set of tactics for his men to follow, he used his superhuman strength to throw the anchor towards an wall a distance away, and then to pull himself overtop of the enemy command, briefly flanking them. As the enemy now between him and his men reacted to this threat, his men charged out of their redoubt, forcing them enemy to again re-orient on a more pressing foe. Bishop's next action was to throw the anchor to a point above and midway between himself and the enemy champion, then swinging across, descended upon the now-hapless foe shield-first, crushing the enemy champion beneath his feet and decapitating three of the champion's bodyguards with a powerful edge-first swing of his shield. Since then, the Gravatic Anchor has been further refined by the legion's techmarines and many among the Vth test their skill in games of sport centered around creative use of this device and strive to find unusual ways to employ it on the battlefield. It has been rumored that even dreadnoughts have been equipped with a version of this device, and while it is unlikely that even an admantium chain will bear the weight of such a machine, the target would hypothetically be far more likely to be moved to the awaiting claws of the dreadnought than the reverse; the innovation and refinement of such a device would likely be questionable in the eyes of some Mechanicus, so if it does exist, those worthy near-dead so interred in dreadnoughts would probably be advised to not show-boat with it (especially shouting out commands to the enemy if used you yoink someone or something closer...)

Naval Assets[edit]

The Prodigal Sun: Primarch Bishop's personal Gloriana-Class Battleship, and the Astral Wardens' home away from home. The Sun is configured as a mobile base of operations, with an increased complement of docking bays and crew hubs allowing it to refuel and repair friendly vessels, or even perform preliminary refits on captured enemy craft. Crewmen frequently bring their families with them during tours of service, and the areas of the ship less frequented by the brass can sometimes resemble a bustling civilian city more than a vessel of war, with clotheslines strung up across the vast corridors and vendors hawking wares from booths nestled in any alcove they can find. In battle, the Sun's strategy contrasts with the aggressive, high-speed style employed by the majority of the fleet, hanging back to provide long-range support with its immense Lance broadsides. The Sun largely eschews close-range weaponry, relying on its massive supply of fighters for point defense and interception- and those fighters can be sure they will have a place to repair and refuel between runs even in the fiercest of melees.

Odonata-Pattern Aerovoid Superiority Fighter: The pride and joy of the Luminary Corps, the Odonata is a fighter craft designed specifically for maximum agility and formation flying, ideal for escort and interception roles both in and out of atmosphere. The earliest models of this craft were single-seat affairs, streamlined to the maximum degrees the Mechanicum could manage, armed only with a twin-linked lascannon and a single rack of air-to-air missiles dependent on mission role. The Odonata's stunning speed earned it a good reputation, until early encounters with the Dark Eldar, whose craft, superior in the realm the Odonata was previously thought untouchable in, harried and picked apart entire formations with ease. Understanding the limitations of human engineering at the time, the choice was made to sacrifice some of the first model's speed, leading to the MKII Odonata. Equipped with a rear-facing ball-turreted lascannon and a dedicated tailgunner, the MKII builds on the philosophy of the Astartes they support- when a squadron flies in formation, there is no safe angle for an enemy craft to attack them. The turret provides additional flexibility to the craft's role, allowing it to provide better fire support while strafing and more easily shoot down incoming munitions.

Stiletto-Pattern Missile: The Odonata is not a payload-delivery craft, and typically packs only a small complement of explosives for use in dogfighting. Ever-resourceful, the techmarines of the Astral Wardens developed the Stiletto Missile as a way for their most agile craft to better assist in engagements with capital vessels. Incorporating a Dusk Phantoms-discovered improbability drive that renders it slightly out of phase with the local space-time, the Stiletto attempts to slip past void shields and deliver a powerful hybrid melta/plasma charge directly to the target's hull. When successful, this leaves a relatively small but deep wound- and, more importantly, paints the area with a radiological signal, allowing heavier craft to target the newly-created weak point with supreme accuracy. An Odonata can typically only carry a single one of these missles, requiring the fighter to return to the mothership after every run. Still, with a ten-fighter formation each delivering a Stiletto, odds are good at least one will get through.

The Shroud of Heaven: Perhaps the most esoteric item in the arsenal of the Vth's fleet, the so-called Shroud of Heaven is an archaeotech device recovered in the compliance of Elytra Secundus. Originally designated to be integrated by the Smoke Stalkers, Elytra Secundus proved impossible for the Stalkers to crack due to incredibly potent Void Shield surrounding the planet, which admitted only friendly craft. Calling upon the Astral Wardens' skill in voidcraft to capture vessels of the planetary defense fleet, the Stalkers were able to infiltrate the world's unbreakable defense and lay its defenders low in record time. Out of gratitude for their part in the conquest, Isheko the Unseen awarded the Vth with the STC found in the ruins of the planetary shield generator.

The device they now call the Shroud of Heaven is too large to be deployed conveniently in a fleet-based setting, but the Wardens have found a use for it. Always loath to enact Exterminatus, the Shroud is Calael Bishop's compromise to the Imperium's omega option. If a world proves so intractable it calls for total elimination, the Vth consults with elements of the Sisterhood of Silence- and, should the Sisters agree that the world is a viable candidate, the Shroud of Heaven is unleashed, surrounding the offending world with an impenetrable barrier. The planet becomes an inescapable prison, containing whatever dangerous elements it may host so that they can never again trouble the Imperium.

Notable Members[edit]

Finnaevius Taggart, Legion Champion: Taggart was the sole survivor of his squad, which was massacred in the Legion's first encounter with the forces of Chaos, before the truth of these "Warp-Xenos" was fully understood. Taggart returned without his shield, and has since refused to accept a new one- or indeed to join a new squad. He has seemingly undertaken a vow of silence, and his brothers have honored it, seeing it as his way of grieving for the fallen. However, this does not mean Taggart stays behind when the Astral Wardens ride to battle. Indeed, he descends upon the battlefield like grim death, chainblade in one hand and shotgun in the other. Rushing headlong into battle with preturnatural speed to break the enemy line, many say he's seeking the doom that eluded him on that fateful day. It might find him an easier mark if he didn't fight with a mad strength and uncanny ferocity, ripping into the foe with blade and gun and even his bare fists. Taggart has never manifested the signature Vth legion psychic halo, and seemingly none of the typical abilities. It's suspected any power he possesses is instead being channeled into pure physical might. His excellence as a one-man army saw him appointed the Legion Champion, largely out of expediency for inter-Crusade politics, and there is certainly no denying he is the foremost practitioner of single combat among the Wardens, with the (possible) exception of the Primarch himself. While the Legion has always disdained the notion of dueling, they greatly respect their brother, and they're paradoxically big fans of Taggart's matches, showing up to hoot like hooligans. As the Legion's most accomplished solo combatant, Taggart has been Calael's consistent pick for the Great Jousts, but the man has little apparent passion for the event. His continual failure to rein in his brutal style has seen him repeatedly disqualified, though he never seems disappointed when he loses- while the Wardens love watching him fight, the champions sent by other legions are rarely eager to face the man who has no love for the sport. Only once did Taggart pass the initial stages of the Joust- following a feud with the Knights Stellaris, whose champion was the favorite to win that year's competition, Calael took Taggart aside and instructed him in clear terms to carry the Vth's pride at the Joust and make Solomon Tyrus's champion eat dirt. In the end, the crownless Warden took home the prize, but the sheer brutality and lack of elegance in the match has led the Knights to contest the validity of the result ever since, and Solomon's champion bears the scars Taggart gave him as proof of the Wardens' insult. The grim warrior was last seen with his Legion at the Sanction of Zharr-Hadad, fighting knee-deep in the dead as the endless tide of Daemons overtook him. Some say that, against all odds, he survived that lethal ordeal and even now fights a tireless war on the very shores of Hell.

Endeavor Jones - One of the original Hellbenders, and initially one of the most resistant to Cal's growing influence within the Breacher crew, Endeavor Jones eventually became one of his biggest supporters as the young Primarch proved his worth. Always ready with a sardonic wisecrack or a dubious tall tale, Jones lacks much of the attitude expected of an Astartes- but, as he'll cheerfully remind you, he's only half-astartes. Jones spent time as a bandit before becoming a Breacher and still hides concerns that the whole Space Marine thing takes a better quality of man than he's cut out for, but hides it well. Despite his imperfect self-confidence, his confidence in his Primarch is rock solid, and he remains a big help when Bishop is having second thoughts.

Constance Lainne – An educated lady from one of the nicer sections of Providence who, in the latter days of the Hellbenders, became their sort of home base manager and accountant, as well as vouching for Bishop to get him into the biggest library on the hulk. Following induction into the Imperium, she puts her mathematical and analytical acumen to work managing the Vth's ever-growing fleet. While reserved and proper, particularly in her older years during the Crusade, Constance is something of a Hellbender fangirl and has been compiling the most complete history of them and later the Vth legion that she can. When she is appointed the chief Remembrancer for the Wardens, it is a dream come true.

Olsen White - Grandson of the late leader of the Hellbenders. A taciturn man, and the first recruit to Bishop's Hellbenders younger than he. Connor lacks his forbear's charisma but none of his skill. May be an enthusiastic fan of Taggart's style and thus be targeted by Atreus to draw out Taggart.

Perceval Jackson – A onetime wealthy heir from the same colony as Constance, disowned for some youthful affront, Perceval was a preturnaturally tall and lithe man with a high-set brow and oddly-shaped ears. After wandering the hulk proving his worth as a mercenary, he eventually wound up as the most sophisticated and learned of the OG Hellbender crew, and the most skilled in close combat, always wearing a dueling sabre in addition to his breaching gear, which he wielded with a grace and speed some deemed superhuman. He quickly took to the new melee weapons introduced by the coming of the Imperium and adopted a stylish power foil as his signature weapon. May be the one who finds Horus' sword on Laer during the diplomatic mission and gets all corrupt and Isekho the Unseen shows up to kill him.

Adrian Bibbowski – Huge Hellbender, slow but good-natured. The first to die as a half-astartes, his soul becomes the subject of Lambach Kropor's experimental Ichabod-Pattern Dreadnought, intended to more permanently house the ephemeral spirits of fallen Wardens. When the project is nixed by higher-ups, Cal is forced to say farewell to his friend and pull the plug, promising to meet Bibbo on the other side. Bibbo says not to be in too much of a hurry.

Erasmus Cochrane – Legion Master of the Vth circa 40k. Large, one-eyed, much more stern than Cal. Born on an Imperial world that suffered a major Chaotic incursion, young Erasmus narrowly escaped being sacrificed to the Dark Gods, only to fall into the hands of the Imperial forces purging the planet, minus an eye. Identified to have great psychic potential and miraculously free of taint, he was promptly shuffled aboard the nearest Black Ship and sent on his way. He surely would have met his fate as dinner for the Emperor if said Black Ship hadn't happened to be the target of a raid by the Vth Legion. Cochrane was among those rescued, and proved compatible with the Space Marine program. Despite his considerable power he had difficulty bonding with others among the Vth, shuffling between shield-crews without ever finding a good fit. He lacked the easy camaraderie the Wardens were known for, and though he would joke and laugh in the heat of battle, when the smoke cleared and the day was won he kept to himself, unwilling or unable to lower his defenses. His wry wit and gallows humor won him friends, but his light was always distant in the Weave, no matter who he fought alongside. Cochrane would not rise in prominence until a fateful encounter with the Devilsharkz. With the Orks pressing their assault on the Sun's reliquary chamber, Cochrane took up the Solais blade within and fought the Kommodork to a standstill, drove the invaders back and quelled the raid. The battle cost him an arm, but it also cost the Commodork an eye, a slight the creature has not forgotten. No previous Warden had successfully grasped the Primarch's ethereal blade, and so it was taken as a sign from their Bishop himself that Cochrane was destined to lead. Cochrane's style of leadership was much different from what the Wardens had come to expect. Being inducted after the passing of the Primarch, his views had little in common with those of his genefather. He was a harder, more pragmatic man, and given his childhood it came as no surprise that he regarded the Imperium with the same contempt he held for Chaos. Indeed, he was no more likely to stay his hand facing the Golden Mountains -once counted among the Vth's closest allies- than he was the Loxodontii or the Death's Heads, their ancient rivals. This led to a great deal of strain early in his rule, particularly among the elder Marines who remembered the Primarch and his ideals. Endeavor Jones, last surviving Hellbender, eventually took it upon himself to serve as Cochrane's advisor, tempering the new Chapter Master's harsher inclinations. The most notable change under Cochrane's tenure was a massive expansion of the Black Ship raiding parties. The new Chapter Master quickly moved to reinforce bonds with the Corsairs Gallant, renegotiating highly favorable trading partnerships in exchange for the most accurate and quickly-delivered information on the Inquisition's doings and the itineraries of the Black Ships. Under Cochrane's leadership, the Wardens escalated to an unprecedented level of interference and outright aggression against the Imperium's affairs. On the battlefield, Cochrane is instantly recognizable, if not by his masterwork Terminator armor then certainly by the fact that he carries no shield, the Solais blade slung across his back. His spellwork has a violent, jagged cast to it- more lightning than fire- and the power he brings to bear is peerless within the Materium, but his particular vice is a love for unusual and unwieldy firearms. Indeed, the reason he carries no shield, preferring to manifest one from the Empyrean when needed, is simply because he likes to have both hands free to use the biggest gun he can find. Though he sports an augmetic arm and leg, he has never had the missing eye replaced- curious, given his predilection for firearms, but as he glibly observes, “You don't need depth perception if everything down range is a casualty.”


In the Chains of Morpheus[edit]

Badrukk was not a happy Ork. Granted, the recent fighting was certainly getting the ol' fungal blood moving, but even a Nob like him could see that they were losing, and not even losing in a propa' manner either! In the beginning, the sparkly marines would show up suddenly, shields interlocked as a solid wall. He and his boys, after a moment of surprise, would charge out expecting a solid fight. Shoota firing wildly, and choppas swinging in expectations of a krumpin', Badrukk's boys got really close at first. Close enough that even lost in the waves of the Waaaugh surging over him, that Badrukk faintly questioned the lack of bolter-fire in response to his boys' charge. It was about at that point that the wall of marines stopped just being somewhat glowey and instead with a slight shifting of shields, erupted into a incandescent hedge of bright explosions and thunderous noise. At first, Badrukk was overjoyed! 'ere the humies were playing propa music for a fight! The flash! The bang! The WAAAUGH! he threw his head back and howled with the utter Orkiness of it all!

And then the shotgun slug took half his jaw away, mostly attempting the 'ard way; that being through the back of his skull. But a Boss' skull ain't the flimsy thing a marine's is, and he was dead 'ard to boot. Which is why once he regained consciousness, the survivors of his crew explained, while prying the remains of the slug visibly protruding from his face, that the charge had more or less stopped in place under the weight of the concentrated volley of shotgun slug fire.

They had rallied _almost_ immediately, because they knew he wasn't dead ("Because they checked, yes they had!") and that he'd be very disappointed if they didn't carry along. Weathering under heavy volley fire, they surged ahead as an unstoppable green tide, but then a curious thing had 'appened. The marines suddenly vanished in a flash, and his boys were left milling about with no fight.

Since his boys hadn't anything to show for their Orky recovery, Badrukk had to show his disappointment. However, Badrukk found the explanation believable on later reflection, and the Dok confirmed as much as he was patching his face up courtesy of a donation from one of his 'so-disappointin' boys.

Fingers-deep in the boss' nostrils while ork-handling the mandible back into its socket, the Dok recounted how he had been checking on his Boss' condition when he had looked up at the marine-wall, having heard a high pitched sound coming from them. A single clear note, much like slaves are wont to do if they're 'ungry and had a bit of recent slappin'. Singing it was, but just one clarion note. On that signal, the wall stopped firing and settled suddenly into a somewhat fixed, enclosed stance, and then with a flash of light, vanished.

"Teleporta'd, most likely", Badrukk's token Mekboy chimed in with, while assembling a cobbled-together cyber-eye for his Boss.

What a mess. What a right mess. No fight. No spoils. A bunch of his boys dead, him with a new jaw, half his previous pocket money so re-inserted into it, and a poundin' headache as well.

That was a moon or more ago. Badrukk had lost track, especially after the Mekboy found out that his brand-new 'Telly-shield' needed perhaps a mite more testing before battlefield use. Granted, it HAD been the Mekboy's repurposed mining laser that had blown through the marine and his shield in one strike, but the humies had tellyporta'd away with the corpse and if it hadn't been for the three dead Orks lying on the dropped shield, likely would have gotten away with it as well.

So giving it to the Mekboy to fiddle with had seemed reasonable, especially since otherwise his new eye tended to see through walls after a few days of not being 'kalibrated'. Engaging at first, but there's only so many times you can talk to your Dok's frontal lobes rather than his face before it all gets a bit old. On the other fist, it DID make finding in which bulkhead the Mek's toolkit was embedded in a lot easier, even if he did have to sit down for a few minutes after laughing himself into a headache once he found the bulkhead with the other half of the Meyboy's face in it; What a kidder, that boy had been, to pull such a face while fused inside a wall!

That had been the last propa' guffaw Badrukk had had since. The marines had kept showing back up, tellyporta'd in and usually at the worst moments too. Oh, not when he was 'alone', or any other time they had had traps or ambushes so cunningly set up. No, it was during a leadership discussion, when he was fist-deep in someone's chest, and while it was a big, dumb objects he was swinging around in the end, he'dve preferred his choppa to his 'most-recently-disappointin' adjutant. *POP*, there they were. "WAAAUGH", his boys would yell and charge. *BOOM* went the shield-wall, and the deck would spatter chunky-green. Just as they were about to get to the fun, "sweat and bad-breath" part, that stupid chime would sing and *POP*, they'd vanish again.

They'd tried all the good plans too! Flankin' and they'd find a wall of shields blocking the tunnel they needed. Dropping stuff from above, and they'd find a roof of shields bouncing everything thrown at them. They even tried buryin' a whole lotta Orks beneath the deckplating, and waited. Waited for a week straight! He had been right proud of his chosen Kommando boys, staying stuck under that floor for that entire week while the rest camped above. Not a single complaint about the tightness, the lack of a fight (let alone room to swing a fist), or the various smells of cooking squig (or dripping liquids) that would filter down to them.

Having the Dok bolt their mouths shut and dipping them in purple paint might have helped in that, but it was still right propa' in the respect they showed their boss! They didn't even make any noise when the really-big marines tellyporta'd in and the floor gave way beneath those heavy feet as one massive sheet of crushing metal. So much for the big Home game. Rained out, he supposed.

Badrukk was a little disappointed that they hadn't found the right time to come up through the floor, or now that he was reflecting on it through the haze of the headache, hadn't come up at all since. Zoddin bastards, he thought, wiping the rust-rain away from his empty eye socket, nice and warm and out of the drizzle.

He shook his head, trying to clear the constant buzzing from his mind as it crested and fell away in the rather un-Orky still pool that was his mind. He was still right 'ard, even if his brain was maybe softer than normal. Still, he knew he was missing things. The not-fights all seems to blur into one long ever-teasing, ever-frustrating repeating sequence, like a spring squid that no matter how often you threw out the door, kept coming back.

He was losing boys. Mostly in not-fights, a few to disappointin situations and other Orky cultural happenstances, but lately, more and more of them just vanish in the night. They'd copied the marines in the end, making little open-topped forts of scavenged deck-plating housing a mob or two of Orks, scattered about what was left of the Hulk's room's deck but close enough to each other that if the marines tellyporta'd in, they'd rapidly be surrounded by more than one mob.

It'd worked too! They'd gotten a few more of the humies that way, once quite a few in quick succession after they managed to get ahold of a dead marine before the other vanished. By Gork, the next days were almost right, because those marines kept coming back near where the body and armour had been passed about. But soon enough, the what was left of the marine and his loot had been collected by the humies, and the old pattern came back. Long dull bits, with flashes of fun.

Which summed up Badrukk's life right now. Between the headaches and the malfunctioning cybereye, Badrukk found release only by nappin'. His boys were prolly figuring he'd gone soft, so he'd had to learn to awake swinging after the first few discussion interrupted his sleep. In the end, his little fort had him, his Dok, and a few Nobs he knew he could trust (and the preventative medicine the Dok had given had nothing to do with it, he was sure).

The rest, well they could just stay out in their little forts if they didn't like it. By Mork, any of his boys around him could leave and join another group, and some certainly had, the zoddin' traitors must have snuck off on that last rest. Gone now, leaving just the trusty-ones. Trust goes both ways, right? He trusts them, and they trust him. That they felt comfortable enough to nap around him proved that, right? And that was fine, that nappin'!

The Dok made it clear after the most recent 'sergery' that a Ork healin' from such innovative work needed a few days of rest, although Badrukk's still wasn't sure what to call the most recent patient. He had provisionally decided to call everything left of the seam "Deez", and the bit right "Dumz", but he wasn't too sure which name to use when he was looking into both their eyes at the same time. Maybe just 'DeeDee', although 'Dumdeez' seemed right most days, because he thought this Ork wasn't on the smart side of the racial divide, regardless of its recent union. Maybe the Dok had run out of squig during the brain operation?

Still, so far they had been mostly reliable, his Dok and his handful of Orks. Never complaining about taking watch, and no funny 'disappointin' either! Like clockwork, after nappin' and a meal, he'd stand on watch for hours, and whenever the marines showed up, would howl long and clear. Better than an alarm squig, him!

Seated, Badrukk rested his head against the cool metal behind him and tried to focus on clearing his head. The heavy, metal chestplate interfered with his attempts to regulate his breathing, but the other option was waking up not breathing due to a sucking chest wound, so the armour stayed on for the time being.

The time being, oh yeah, the humies were showing up less now, and in fewer numbers, heh heh heh. When the day came when it was just one, he'd show his appreciation for all the recent fun, and start with the toes. They always had the most chew to them, and he wanted to take a very long time on the meal. To savour it. In the static-laden sea of his mind's eye, he could see the future banquet. He could savour it.

But he had to live to see it, so he opened his eye, tensing and ready to swing, and finding nothing. just a circle of half-dozing, armour-clad Orks and a single sentry. Relaxing, Badrukk reflected. He'd HAD a right-propa WAAAUGH going! Dozens of Orks for every marine that would show up. Then it because a "Waaaugh!", then a "Waaugh". Now it was more of a "waug?" A few small forts, a couple dozen of Orks at most, his own boys, DeeDee the Alarmork, and a Dok. What a right mess.

Speaking of which, where did the Dok go? He was nappin next to the Badrukk when he'd rested his eyes, and here he was, gone! Badrukk glared at DeeDee, and growled to get its attention, "Where's da Dok," he slurred questioningly. DeeDee stared back, silent. Badrukk pondered resetting his disappointing alarmork, when it shrugged, and pointed off to one side, over the fort-wall.

Badrukk really wanted his old body, since you can hardly roll a repurposed pic-taker in lieu of eyes, but there was no point in discussing the issue with DeeDee. Dok was likely out rustling up food, or parts (or, considering that, what was both at the same time), and the headache was coming back too. Badrukk decided he was going to send one of the boys out to find him after another nap, if the Dok hadn't returned by then. Leaning back against the cold metal, he closed his eye again.

His cybereye beeped softly as it came back online suddenly, as he 'opened' it in response to...sumthin'. Checking his fist in mid-swing, he changed the move into studied stretch and a wide-mouthed yawn, looking about all casual-like. Nothing seemed to be wrong. Still no Dok, had it been long though?

Badrukk wasn't sure, but he did note that two of his boys weren't around now too. Looking at DeeDee, he growled, then waited for the message to bridge the Ork's mental gap, engage muscles and turn the body around. "Where's Dok," Badrukk grumbled, pointed at the empty seats nearby, "and where's those two gotten off to then?" Again, he waited. And waited. Badrukk was pondering painting the Ork with his own blood, if only to see if it'd respond faster, when DeeDee jerkingly raised an arm and again pointed over the wall in the direction he'd previously indicated.

Well, Badrukk though, he was going to send them out to find Dok anyways, so it was a good sign they'd worked that out on their own. Propa boys, they were. They'd need a reward. Maybe something nice for a meal. Maybe DeeDee? Augh, Mork, Gork, both and either, can you NOT fix this headache, Badrukk thought through the returning haze. Forcing a deep breath in the confines of his armour, he closed his eye to focus on quelling the headache.

Once the headache was defeated, pretty much the only fight he'd won recently, Badrukk reflected upon his current situation as he looked about, though this time he didn't even begin to swing as he awoke. Somehow, it just seemed...pointless. He looked about the confines of the ramshackle fort, noting the absence of the two other Orks now too. Bastards likely ran away.

Would explain why Dok wasn't back either. Soddin' nutter always was an out-and-out Bad Moon to the core. He should have taken the chance a moon ago and opened him up to confirm his suspicions, but right now, it just seemed so...pointless. What a state of affairs. Badrukk looked about his domain. Count: One fort, small, spare, fit for maybe a single Nob on the very low end of the social strata. One Ork (or possibly two? Hard to tell with DeeDee), useful in very limited ways which included alarm system and emergency rations, but likely not in a fight. One boss, with one eye (well, camera), one brain, two fists, and hopefully no more than the necessary number of internal organs after the last operation, currently moping about. Inventory finished.

Woo, what an empire. Hey, wait, don't be sad, you should be angry about it. Mind you, anger brings on the headaches, but right now, does that really matter? You're an Ork. Not just an Ork, but a Boss. A Boss! Bosses SHOULD be angry. Like, really angry. Angry. Yeah, THAT'S the paper-punchy thing! Just look at that modern marvel of Ork medicine! It's not angry about its situation. It SHOULD be angry about its situation! That's Gork-well un-Orky, which is VERY angering. By Mork, what harm has anger even done to an Ork! Being angry means being fighty! That zoddin' Dok, a right fight heals up an Ork, this is HIS fault, thought Badrukk as he staggered to his feet, I'm fixing this.

Glaring at the silently-watching Ork, Badrukk growled with slowly simmering rage, "Listen. You ain't right. I ain't right. But a good fight will make us right. So you're going to fight, or you're gonna be breakfast. I'm the Boss, I say so. You unnerstan'?" Perhaps, in the depths of DeeDee's twinned eyes as Badrukk glared into them, he saw something wake up. Some sort of internal alarm ringing. Was that movement from DeeDee? Was that a shaky nod? By Gork, it was! The Ork (or Orks?) was getting it!

A right fight, and then by Gork, this zoddin' headache, we're gonna krump, then we're going to find the others and Dok, and have some more tea and krumpins, and then we're goign to find the others, and krump some more, find those zoddin' marines, and THEN, Badrukk thought, THEN it was time for a proper meal! With all the right kind of chewing! But first, as Badrukk squinted his cybereye closed as a wave of pain rolled over him he thought, Imma going to fight this zoddin headache!

With a dexterity that belied the massive hands that oh-so-carefully reeled in the chain, it made not a rattle or a clink as it slowly drew up. Hand over hand, they moved, slowly, inevitably, gripping the chain bare-handed, and silently handing it off to another, gauntleted, hand which taking it up, fed it methodically into the internal reservoir of a contraption firmly welded to the vambrace of the owner's other arm.

Five human eyes (and one well-made implant) looked down through the massed camo-netting, hanging in thick folds down from where it had been quick-sealed to the ceiling, to the dangling Ork. There a faint intake of breath, as one might do before speaking, but the words are never said as a the tip of a short, broad-tipped battle spear waved slightly. Even if the power-field wasn't on at that moment, by the faint gleam from the edge of the blade, it was abundantly clear by that motion that the owner though that it had the power to cut words away from deeds and silence from sound. Fingers and hands moved in short, stilted conversation, as battle-sign flashed back and forth between the three figures.

{Silence. Sentry. Active.}

{Confirm report?}


Fingers danced in an elaborate, punctuated manner, spelling out letters, {W-H-A-T}

{Yes. Silence. Ready strike.}

{Ready strike.}

For it's part, the Ork seemed to be oblivious to what was happening to it. Its head moved back and forth, almost like clockwork, scanning the floor below. It was aware. But only of what was before it. Apparently not of the chain nor the grav-head anchored firmly to the back of its armour. Or of the camo-netting, or the three marines behind that. Seemingly, no of its currently increasing altitude. Certainly not of the spear, as its wielder smoothly pulled it back into a striking position. Slowly, as silently as the chain was moving, the Ork looked back and forth across the floor below, aware of it an it only.

Well, one must presume in the end, of the speartip, and it lashes out, harpooning the Ork through the back of the head, twisting ever to slightly, then much more slowly withdrawing. That chain, too, kept moving steadily, drawing the now dead Ork up past the folds of the camo-netting and into the small space carved out of the roof of the room. A space torched carefully out of the intra-deck space, made small by the three marines in full armour.

The marine handling the chain arises from his crouch as the last few lengths of chain pass through his hands, one hand dropping the chain with a faint chime of links, to grab the Orc by the scruff of its neck and hold the body in place while the chain's owner smoothly detaches the grav-head and returns it back to its weapon-housing. The spear-wielder waves a free hand, gaining attention, and signs something. In reply, the Ork-holder peers down through the folds of the netting, then nodding in a rather happy fashion, says "Clear. All targets down."

A wide smile appears on the speaker's face, as he continues, "And you thought we couldn't get all of them, Arrun. I told you, patience."

Nonplussed, the spear-wielder replies with an affected tone, "Oh, noooo, Arrun, the Orks are far too tired and stupid to notice. We're the Emperor's finest. We'll get them all. I, Davvynd so say. You cocky bastard."

The grin changes into a smirk, "Well I was right," said Davvynd, "They were too out of it to notice. And I was right about"

The three marines pause to look the Ork over, the ugly metal staples holding the seam connecting the two halves together barely glinting in the low glow of the third marine's helmet optics. "That is...different," says the third marine, a small auspex head flipping up over a shoulder to scan the Ork in full, "I would advise to return it to Humanity Ascendant so the Apothecary Majoris could look at it, but I feel that would lead to questions about how we ended up with it." After a short pause, he continues, "I do not want to be asked by the Forge Lord Majoris on this matter. I counselled otherwise, Davvynd, this was too stupid to work."

"No, Theodus, I may not remember Chapter 5 through 25 of the Codex..."

Arrun chimes in, "No one remembers those chapters, Davvynd."

Davvynd glares briefly at the spear-wielder, then continues, "...I may not remember 'those chapters-Arrun' but I do recall, Theodus, that you said this was, and I quote, 'overly risky and prone to failure' and cited a lack of cover from any fire from below." Davvynd moves the Ork around, looking into the differently-coloured eyes, "You also said that this one would sound an alert. I was right that something was wrong with it, that it was only ever responding to what it could see, and only if it was a marine. So, if it didn't see us..."

Arrun chimes in again with a exaggerated sigh, " wouldn't howl, yes, yes, you were right, we were wrong, so says the great hunter. By the Emperor, you only got more insufferable post-Rapture. You wouldn't hunt like the rest of us, you couldn't swim worth a damn, but those stupid traps..."

"Always kept his family fed, Arrun," says the techmarine, reaching over with his servo-arm to take the corpse from Davvynd. "The choice cut to the successful huntsmaster, Arrun, our praise so to Davvynd. Half a score of Orks, their champion included, no losses and no further material expenditure. The Forge Lord Majoris will praise you well, Davvynd. Arrun, clean your blade, you affront its spirit."

Stung, Arrun thumbs a button momentarily and the blade flashes with a puff of smoke into having a bright blue halo as the power field vapourizes the remains of the Ork clinging to it. The brief glare illuminates the space, reducing the cramped space additionally as it reveals the corpses of several Orks skewered onto the walls by the grace of a spike through the head; light reflecting off the dull lens of a repurposed pic-taker in the process. Servo-arm whining softly, Theodus spikes the Ork corpse onto the makeshift hook jutting from the wall's torn surface.

"Well then," says Davvynd, "we should head back and report."

Arrun grouses, "And how are you going to explain this to the Captain then? Just gloss over the plan, the manner, and the results?"

"It's worked before."

"Because he likes you. I know as much, he's said as much, you remind him of his younger brother apparently. Alright, how?"

"We didn't use our shotguns or other weapons, so no charges expended. Our armour was turned down to minimal settings, so no power use consistent with combat."

Theodus adds in with, "Sensors were not on combat setting, so no recordings beyond basic retained."

"And with us NOT taking the Ork-Medical-Mistake with us, no other evidence. We were on an extended recon patrol."

"Fine then, but we're well past the standard recon time period for this sort of campaign, Davvynd. Are you going to tell him that we were camped out some place? Resting? Chasing women? I don't know," Arrun says, then glancing at Theodus, "blessing every enginarium we came across on our patrol?"

"The light of the Omnissiah illuminates the mind's progress on the path of Humanity to its final ascendance, Arrun. Snark me again about my duties, and I will unscrew your head and look about inside to see the state of YOUR progress. And that is presuming you have a mind to start with."

"Ah, Arrum, my ever-snarly berark, I have an answer to that as well. We adhered as closely as we could to the daily rituals. Granted, we couldn't carry out the specifics; no practice cages here, but we certainly practiced our scouting techniques and tactical planning skills. Remember, this is the Captain we're talking about. If your report is direct enough, yet obviously nonsensical at points, he'll know something happened and more importantly, he'll know not to ask."

"You're going to tell him we spent the entire patrol playing neonate games?"

"Not at all! Scouting techniques! Tactical planning. Proper planning. That and yours is not nonsensical enough."

"You're going to tell him we spent the entire patrol planning to play neonate games?"

"No, erstwhile testing of capabilities through extended use of skills and careful time management. Extended recon when so tasked. Extended sentry when so tasked. All aspects of the daily ritual, efficiently grouped and acquitted to Chapter standard."

Arrun stared at Davvynd for a long moment, before raising one fist and saying, "I am going to punch you, you know this. Stop dancing about with words, and state plainly. THIS is why the Huntsmaster hated having you along, you know, you lippy pterrasquirrel."

"Pace, pace, Arrun," says Davvynd, holding up his hands in a warding manner. "You have to admit we DID do what I said."

"And this bit?"

"Free time."

"...? Free time. Fourty-five minutes of free time."

"Fourty-two, thirteen seconds to last kill."

"Shut up, Theo. Fourty-five minutes of free time, Davvynd. As what? Hunting? Kilt-chasing? He'll want to know what!"

Davvynd laughs lightly as he moves past Arrun towards a gap in the wall. "Not hunting. He would ask about what we found. No kilt-chasing. He'd want to know who we found. And if they were still available. No, something else."

Arrun falls quiet, obviously thinking. Davvynd steps into the passage beyond and out of sight, with Theodus following shortly behind.

"Fine," says Arrun in the direction of the gap, "What are you going to tell him that we did for fourty-two minutes and thirteen second in free time?"

The reply comes from the gap, slightly resonating in the confirms of the space, "Fishing."

Immobile, Arrun stands. Then reaching up with gauntleted hands, he removes his helmet, and cradling it in one hand, briefly pinches the bridge of his nose between two fingers. "I am going to punch him." Moving the helmet around in both hands, he stares into the lifeless optic sockets for a moment, then with a sigh, turns it around again and prepares to don it. "And here I know the Apothecary Majoris says we can't get headaches anymore," he mutters as slides the helm over his head.

Firefly Down[edit]

Emilia Pneumen, ace airman and Polestar for the renowned Firefly Squadron, sat by the fuselage of her crashed fighter, silently seething at the vagaries of fate. Five meters away, tailgunner Marcus Rex turned the atmosphere blue with muffled cursing as he rooted through their Odonata's undercarriage in his sixth attempt to restore power and get them airborne. He had strictly forbidden Emilia from helping- crackerjack airman though she might be, her mechanical skills were, according to Marcus, nothing short of lethal- and with a battle raging a short ways down the hillside and no good cause to attract undue attention to her squadron, she had nothing better to do than stew with her thoughts.

Not ten hours ago, she had boasted to a Lightning pilot that the Fireflies would all make it through the battle, and he had agreed. He called them “Mosquito Squadron,” laughing as he told her that Odonata were nothing more than stunt craft, fluttering across the zone mortalis without making any sort of impact on who won the day. It was the heavy-duty craft like his own, the workhorses delivering payloads and putting feet on the ground, who won battles. Incensed, she had retorted the Fireflies would return from battle with nary a scratch on their paint, and she would bet money his beloved Lightning would have more holes in it than Thiepvalan cheese if it came back at all.

And now here she sat on the cold ground next to her beloved Odonata. About a third of the squadron had managed to guide their failing craft to a less-than-graceful landing at this ruined air field, and the rest of them had slowly trickled in from their crash sites following their Polestar's call through the Weave. Sydon Tong had taken up a guard position, watching the battlefield in case of trouble, Jinneil Robenko was trying to coax any sound out of the vox other than static, Jane Cobson was working out their position relative to the fleet, and Ramius Oasun had set up an abbreviated medical station for the benefit of those who hadn't landed so gracefully. It seemed everyone else had found something useful to do.

Well, everyone except poor Adrian Wright and his gunner Marian Lee, the only Fireflies missing from the assembly. Emilia had to assume whatever bizarre weapon the traitors had deployed to disable the Odonata had also affected Adrian' augmetics. While the rest of the squadron had managed to land their beleaguered craft with varying degrees of success, those two had gone down in the nearby mountain range. Emilia hadn't felt them in the Weave at all since then- she muttered a quick prayer to the Martyrs that they were only unconscious.


Emilia flinched at the sudden expletive, and again as her copilot's autotorque whirred past her head. Marcus emerged from the fuselage sweating, red-faced and visibly frustrated. “Maybe the cogboys aren't groxdropping about their 'machine spirits,' 'cos I've checked every connection, tightened every fuel line and hammered on the engine box until my arm got tired. There's not a Martyr blessed thing wrong with it but it won't drokking turn over.”

She sighed, resting her chin in her hands. “Figures. Who knows what the traitors did to it? If there's one thing you can count on traitors for, it's surprises.”

Hearing her tone, Marcus studied her for a moment, some of the color leaving his face as she felt his annoyance slowly shift to amusement. “Sore over your little bet with that barge-driver, Em?”

Emilia turned away, further annoyed at having been read so easily. The psychic bond had its drawbacks, and for a brief selfish moment she was tempted to withdraw her mind from the Weave entirely. “It's not that, it's just- I'm useless down here, Marc. If I'm not in the air, I'm not doing any good.”

Marcus snorted, instantly earning a heated look. “Em, you're our Polestar. None of us got the Oracle's knack but you. All you gotta do is sit there and keep the Weave going and you're doin' plenty good.” He paused, seeing her glare intensify, and tried a different tack. “Besides. It's like the boss says, right? The Vth Legion's not just the Astartes. Providence needs airmen as much as it needs tank crews, space marines, helmsmen... and even barge-drivers.”

Marcus dodged the half-eaten ration she winged at him and retreated back behind the fuselage, chuckling. Still, Emilia did feel a little better- Polestars were the element that set the Vth legion's auxilia apart from those of their brother states. Providence produced many psykers, but few proved compatible with the Astartes program. Half the population was ruled out at birth, after all, a fact that Emilia had been dismayed to learn as a child, but those individuals could still serve in the Luminary corps, lending their empyrean abilities to forge stronger bonds among squads. Emilia's own psykic ability was infinitesimal, but it was enough to maintain the low-level gestalt that an Odonata squadron required for peak coordination, and for that she was always grateful. She touched the small shield-shaped badge on her flight suit's breast, marked with the Legion's star. It was a tiny reflection of the storm shields that were the Astral Wardens' signature, and Emilia smiled slightly at their Primarch's affirmation of her role, however indirect.

She felt Tong's mind vanish from the Weave before she heard the gunshot.

Marcus stood again from behind the fuselage, concern on his face- and then toppled backwards, a crimson hole blooming in his chest as a second shot split the air. Emilia spun toward the source and found a nightmare rising above the edge of the landing field.

Emilia had seen Astartes before, of course. In the Union, the towering supermen were not an uncommon sight, often serving as honored statesmen when not called to battle, and she had brushed shoulders with many in the Vth Legion's canteens. The creature that strode towards her with slow, purposeful steps had much of a Space Marine's form, much of their bearing, but amplified and twisted, an enormous brass-clad beast with burning, smoking eyes. This creature had a bristling panoply of gun barrels where its right hand should be, a yawning cannon-mouth for the left. For a moment, she wondered if this might be one of the Emperor's Custodians spoken of in legend, come to take vengeance on those who dared oppose the Imperial Creed.

Then, she reached for her stubber.

Other Fireflies had been quicker on the draw. Many of them had already taken up firing positions, unloading their sidearms at the approaching monstrosity. Emilia vaulted over her craft to take cover, landing next to her stricken tailgunner's heaving form, and squeezed off a trio of rounds in the direction of their assailant. She cheered with the rest of her crew as Jinneil landed a slug in the thing's eye, sending a plume of burning liquid jetting from its helm- but the cry died in her throat as the creature laconically raised an arm in his direction. Jinneil, his Odonata and the three other Fireflies who had taken up position behind it vanished in a plume of flame.

With the squadron halved, the remaining Fireflies redoubled their efforts, unloading their stubbers with a frenzied fervor, but no matter how well-placed their shots the hulk never flinched, never faltered in its march. Another casual wave of its arm, and Sydon fell dead. Jane bolted from cover and met a hail of bullets. One by one the monstrosity cut Emilia's squadron down as it strode ever forward.

She met Marco's eyes as he lay in the dirt beside her. His fingers flexed weakly, his mouth moved soundlessly, but for a weak, rattling breath. Through the Weave, she felt a faint goodbye, and he was gone.

For the first time in years, Emilia was truly alone.

The emptiness stunned her for a moment, crouching in the shadow of her fighter's fuselage. The warm, welcoming buzz of her crew's minds was simply gone, its absence an aching hole in her psyche. The Weave was undone. Save for the steady, rhythmic stomping of slowly-approaching feet and the distant sounds of battle, everything was silent.




Into that deafening silence came another revelation, equally terrible in its magnitude- the creature had been afforded every opportunity to kill Emilia. She had sat in plain view when it shot Marco, and even after she took cover it effortlessly destroyed Jinneil sheltering behind his Odonata.

It wanted her alive.




Emilia quickly checked her stubber. Finding it empty, she scrambled for Marcus', freeing it with panicked speed from his unopened holster.




Emilia pressed Marco's stubber to her chin, whispered a prayer to the martyrs, and closed her eyes.

“Firefly Squadron, this is Radiant Dawn. What's your status?”

Her eyes snapped open. The familiar voice of the mothership's comms officer crackling over the Odonata's vox stopped her short, finger trembling just above the trigger. Her sense of duty found itself at odds, the need to report to her superiors clashing with the desperate desire to join her crew. Everyone had heard what fate awaited captives of the Fallen Legions.

“Radiant Dawn to Firefly Squadron, please respond.”

“Dead.” She murmured. “They're all dead.”

“Captain Pneumen? Is that you? We read you going down in the Antarean Range before we lost vox contact. Can you confirm your position?”




She shook her head, trying to clear it, and clambered into the cockpit to reply. “Traitors deployed some new weapon. Our Odonata failed. Brought them down as best we could. We were in an airfield. Some... thing found us. Gunned the squadron down like...”

“Your position, Pneumen. Coordinates.”




Saints' eyes, Emilia, position!”

She closed her eyes. “We came down in an abandoned airfield, and the zone of engagement is to the north... I can see the Antares range beyond them-” Abruptly, she thought of Jane huddled over her charts, and a sequence of numbers faintly rang in her mind as though echoing from a great distance. “27842.42 by 76422.1?”




For a split second, Emilia thought the creature stalking her had changed its mind and decided to kill her after all, but the thundercrack was followed by a rallying cry, ten-strong. Steeling herself, she risked a peek over the cockpit.

Ten Astral Wardens stood arrayed between her and the encroaching foe, clad in hulking Terminator plate and crowned with silver starfire. The creature bellowed a challenge -less the roar of a living thing than the report of an artillery battery- and finally abandoned its steady gait, lurching into a long, loping stride that closed distance at a rate belying its enormous frame. It leveled its cannon-arm at the phalanx of Wardens.

In response, the ten men gave a synchronized shout, pounding the base of their shields against the tarmac in unison. An ethereal wall sprang to life before them, a shimmering aurora of ghostly hands, palms forward as if to deny their foe. The monster's cannon fire splashed a great gout of flame against the phantasmal wall, but went no farther. Undeterred, it loosed another blast, and this time the barrier flickered. A third shot saw the wall puff into nonexistence like a vapor trail in a stiff wind, and the fireball continued through, smashing into a Warden's storm shield. The force of the blast drove the man back ten paces, but still he stood, and his brothers quickly closed rank to protect their stricken comrade. One of them shouted an order, and the men leveled their armaments- plasma pistols?- at the creature, returning fire en masse. Their foe reacted as little to the plasma as it had to the Fireflies' stubbers, but the effects were much more evident, punching holes in its massive armor that poured forth the same gouts of molten metal that Jinneil's miraculous shot had drawn from its eye.

Behind a wall of brothers, the wounded Warden made an exploratory motion with his damaged arm, then unstrapped the storm shield and let the arm dangle limply by his side. He turned towards the Odonata, and, spotting Emilia peeking over the top, raised his good hand.

“Captain Pneumen?” he called, his powerful voice booming over the din. “Crewman Robern Tilliam, Astral Wardens 305. This the only unit you've engaged?”

Emilia nodded, blinking away entirely unprofessional tears, and glanced at the battle raging mere meters away- the monster seemed to finally be slowing under the hail of plasma fire, and the Wardens stood fast against its fusillade.

“What... is that thing, Crewman?”

“Obliterator's what the cogboys call 'em. Void-taken things, astartes changed by some sort of Forge Lord warp-virus into a walking pile of guns and hate. Our boys have been dealing with them on the main front for a while, but I'll be a landling if I know why this one came after your squad.”

Emilia swallowed the lump rising in her throat and risked another glance. The Astartes line seemed to be holding, but the Obliterator was nearly upon them. As she watched, one of the Obliterator's wild hail of slugs slipped past the shield wall and staggered another marine, whose brothers quickly moved to cover him as they had Tilliam. She looked to Tilliam, mouth open to alert him, and saw he had already turned back towards the fight, his good hand moving in bizarre patterns at the end of his arm. At first she thought something was wrong- could Astartes go into shock? - but then she noticed the faint trails of light left by his fingertips, trails that grew ever brighter. He was... drawing glyphs in the air.

So intent was she on the mesmerizing shapes of light that even amid the sounds of battle and gunfire she startled when he called out.

“Best stand back, Captain. Terminator plate's a treasure, but it ain't got the best range of movement, and this is gonna take elbow grease more than finesse.”

Obligingly she ducked back behind her Odonata as Tilliam advanced back to his brothers' line, his hand now clenched in a fist raised above his head. They parted to let him through, pausing their fire, and Emilia got a brief, terrifying view of the metal monster lunging into melee range, swinging its cannon arm the instant it spotted the opening in their line. For a moment, adrenaline and sheer terror slowed time to a standstill, the Obliterator reaching to annihilate the mild-mannered Marine.

The shield line's haloes dimmed, Tilliam's halo flared, his fist swept down as if tearing a star from the sky, and a pillar of silver fire lanced from the heavens to swallow his foe.

The thing didn't die, not immediately. The beam struck it from the air, but even awash in empyrean flame it pushed itself to its knees. The daemon struggled towards the Marine, who held his pose, fist to the ground. The Obliterator opened its mouth, silently screaming its hate, and re-leveled its cannon. Roger's halo flickered fitfully, and his arm trembled... and then all at once it was over.

Whatever spiteful will animated the daemon-thing finally gave out. The armor collapsed, and instantly the creature's shape decohered, pouring from its twisted plate in a wave of molten metal. Still Tilliam held the ethereal beam steady until the last runnels and rivulets of the Obliterator's being had trickled through the cracks in the tarmac. Only then did he finally slump to his knees, allowing the heavenly ray to evaporate into tiny motes of light. Another marine- the crew leader? -walked over to give him an encouraging slap on the back, then turned to Emilia.

“Hail, Captain. Bosun Okama, Astral Wardens 305th. I regret we couldn't meet under better circumstances.”

Emilia nodded numbly. She circled the hull of her fighter to join the Astartes, sparing one last mournful glance at poor Marcus.

“I've called in pickup. We'll be getting you back to the Dawn before we re-engage.” Okama grimaced, following her gaze. “A team will be along to collect your crewmates as soon as they can. They'll get a farewell befitting martyrs of Providence.” He threw an abbreviated salute, then gestured at his men, and they took up some distance away, surveying the battlefield below.

Tilliam hadn't joined them. He remained slouched where he'd finished the Obliterator, and even his halo seemed to gutter. Carefully, Emilia approached the marine, and as if sensing her presence he straightened up.

“Crewman Tilliam?”

He smiled, though it seemed slightly forced, the skin around his eyes taut. “I'm fine, and thank you for askin'.”

“What you did... it was incredible. One person controlling that kind of energy... I can't imagine what that's like.”

“Well, I had help. Whole squad chipped in for that Sidereal Lance, I just played the job of release valve. Takes a toll on a fella, to be sure, but those things won't stay dead unless you really bring down the hammer. Nothin' wrong with me won't be fixed with a stiff drink and a long nap.”

Emilia shook her head. “Your arm?”

His face fell, and he winced as if only just remembering, glancing at his limp gauntlet. “Oh. Aye, I reckon that's mostly bone shards and meat pulp. The cogboys are gonna be getting me to test drive one of their new augmetics, more like than not.”

Emilia nodded, then froze. Augmetics... “Adrian.” Tilliam cocked an eyebrow, but Emilia's mind was suddenly racing. In the horror she'd forgotten. “Adrian and Marian. They went down in the Antares range. Separate from our squad. They might...” She blinked back tears, and forced herself to continue. “They might still be alive. I haven't felt them in the Weave, but...”

Tilliam gently placed an enormous mailed hand on her shoulder. “We'll check it out. I'll let the boss know we got us a mission once we drop you off.”

Emilia startled. “Is that a joke, Crewman? Surely you should stay shipside, you're in no condition...”

Tilliam chuckled wistfully. “Still got a shield arm, don't I? 'sides, you can't heal properly while you're worrying about your crew. Common knowledge. We'll get it done, Captain, of that you can be sure. No man left behind, that's the 305th's motto.”

He turned to rejoin his brothers. Emilia watched him go, briefly frozen with indecision- then she gathered up Marcus' stubber and raced to match strides with the superhuman. Tilliam passed her a questioning glance as she drew up beside him, but her gaze was fixed firmly on the other Wardens at the edge of the tarmac.

“I need to come with you. Adrian and Marian are my crew. If they're still alive...” she swallowed the lump in her throat and tried again, a hint of defiance rising in her voice. “We're connected through the Weave. If they're in one piece I'll be able to find them faster than you will. You need me.”

Tilliam examined her in silence for a moment, then chuckled. “You're Wardens material, Captain Pneumen, no mistake about it. Welcome to the crew.”

Pages of the Warmasters Triumvirate Project
Loyalist Legions: Death's Heads - Doomsingers - Golden Mountains
Knights Stellaris - Silver Blades - The Sentinels - Titan Marchers
Traitor Legions: Chosen of Hecate - Forge Lords - Gunslingers
Leviathan Host - Loxodontii - Smoke Stalkers - Soaring Host
Seperatist Legions: Astral Wardens - Corsairs Gallant - Dusk Phantoms
Emperor's Dragoons - Iron Guard - Pale Hounds - Ussaran Liberators
Primarchs Marduk Engur - Pacha the Earthquake - Deshain Kane - Linares
Calael Bishop - Einchurt - Elsu Eyanosa - Lambach Kropor - Je'She of the Watch
Isekho the Unseen - Kinnévail Kincaid - Zelbezis Dyestes - Ashur of Banipal
Jon-Frederic Aristide - Gyahdred - Valorn Adras - Raj Vokar - Solomon Tyrus
Piter Karomonov - Mot Hadad - Rahman Keita'mansa
Related Pages: Warmaster's Triumvirate Timeline