Caliban (Warhammer 40,000)

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what a loverly planet, shame if something were to happen to it
Oh dear...
Well that's not good...

Caliban was the homeworld of the Primarch Lion El'Jonson and, from its admittance into the Imperium of Man until the Horus Heresy, the primary recruiting world of the Dark Angels Legion of Space Marines. It is likely named for the barbaric savage of the same name in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Well, it's either that or because the name sounds cool and the royalties were cheap at the time. Caliban was a death world, meaning that it was one of those places where only the most violently cunning techno-barbarians survived. These settlements were distinctly feudal, with the Lords at the top, the peasants at the bottom and the Knights in the middle making a fat pile of cash out of both. These warrior orders were the obvious choice for First Legion candidates. The remnants of their martial codes of chivalry linger on in the modern Dark Angels, over 10,000 years later.


"'I am a Terran, but I spent time on Caliban, and that is all you need to do, to understand this Legion. On that world, the darkness is always creeping back. You torch the forest and it comes back. You cut the trees down, and they rise to smother you again. So they ride out, again and again, striking down into the defiles, hunting for the worst beast in the worst brake. They slay it, and then they may have an hour, or a day, or a week. But something will come back again. So you are always riding. You do not expect thanks. You do not think of it as duty. It is life, and to live it is the source of all honour.'"
Bretonnia in SPEHSS!

It was the time of Old Night when Warp storms and general fuckery made it impossible to travel between the stars and each human world was left to fend for itself. Five thousand years Caliban was left in isolation from the rest of humanity: time enough for the people of Caliban to develop their own fuedel culture. Caliban was a world of trees, with its surface being almost entirely covered by dense forrest.

The forests of Caliban teemed with predators, not to mention all manner of other hazards. All life that called this world home was capable of killing a man, one way or another. Carnivorous animals, poisonous flowers, venomous insects: the creatures of this world only know one law and that is "kill or be killed". Even the trees could kill: these iron-hard trees flowed with deadly poison, with sap like acid, and their spear-sharp leaves could slice an unarmored man to ribbons; whilst the brambles, with thorns like knives, wrapped themselves around necks in order to drag men down into the dark mud. There were beasts at the roots of the world, curled fast around its snaggling tendrils in the ancient soil, too massive to move, too bloated to breathe. You could never kill them all, even if you had an eternity to spare. A few must always linger, poisoning the black earth. A tainted world whose corruption ran deep, its unnatural taint pulsed through every living thing, corrupting them like a cancer-- a cancer that seethed with awful, otherworldly sentience. Caliban was rotten to its core, but the true extent of this corruption would not truly come to light until much later.

When the infant Lion landed on Caliban, it was a densely forested Death World home to several orders of Knights who protected the commoners from the dangers of the forest. These knightly orders were formed among the nobility to create warriors of exemplary skill and ability, armed to the highest standards, and trained to protect human society against the worst predations of these monsters. They were aided in this by the persistence of certain traditions in the making of weapons and armor. Most of their technology had been brought with them to Caliban: the knowledge of how to repair and maintain pistols and explosive bolts, swords with motorized blades, and armor that boosted a warrior’s strength and power had been preserved. Granted, they were relatively primitive versions and they lacked the reliability of the more powerful models later brought to Caliban by the Imperials, but they were effective all the same. though they had no motor vehicles, so the knights of Caliban rode to war on the backs of destriers – enormous warhorses selectively bred over thousands of years from the equine bloodstock brought to their world by its first settlers; according to 'First of the fallen' they used to have devices allowing a war horsey to actually "talk". It had previously been traditional for knights to be recruited strictly and solely from among the nobility, but the Order (known simply as "the Order") broke with accepted practice to recruit from all layers of society. So long as an individual could prove by his deeds and his character that he was worthy of knighthood, the Order did not care whether they were a noble or a commoner; on Caliban both men and women were expected to pull their own weight, with women being just as likely to be a knight as their male counterparts.

  • "Crusade" and "Luther, first of the Fallen" tell us that those knights that could not become Space Marines for whatever reason were instead given every other sort of bio and tech enhancements available to the Imperium, bringing them almost to the same level as an Astartes. These individuals were put in high positions amongst the non-Astartes elements of the legion, like leading the mortal imperial soldiers attached to the legion. It wouldn't be to hard to use Sisters of Battle models to represent these former female knights on the table top.

The ruling caste on Caliban were those who knew the secrets of how to construct and build the great walled fortresses. The secret knowledge was born from hidden STC's that they jealously guarded.

What people didn't know was the planet's proximity (in a galactic sense) to the Eye of Terror had left the planet Warp-tainted, resulting in various Chaos mutants known as "Great Beasts". And thanks to Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2, we now also have some better idea of just how close Caliban actually was to the Eye of Terror, with the answer being disturbingly close indeed; insofar as the term can be applied to galactic distances, the Caliban and Eidolan systems are practically next door neighbors, which is like having a leprous pedophile Joseph Stalin one apartment down from yours. Certainly goes a long way to explaining the infusion of warp and/or chaos [and the distinction is an important one] taint on the world, which always seemed to act as if a chemical pollutant or harmful radiation flowing downstream and contaminating the wildlife. The Great Beasts of Caliban were chimerical monsters, combining the worst aspects of several different species of animal into one foul body. Each great beast of Caliban was as different from its fellows as a sword is different from a lance. Each creature represented the only example of its kind, a species of one. Their diversity was extraordinary. An individual beast might appear to be modeled after a reptile, or a mammal, or an insect, or else combine the features of all of them taken together in chaotic collaboration. One might attack with tooth and claw, another with beak and tentacle, another using horns and hooves, while yet another might spit corrosive poison or bleed acid in place of blood. If they had one dominant feature, it was that every one of them appeared to be crafted directly from the stuff of nightmares.

Apart from the Great Beasts Caliban was also home to many more vile and deadly creatures, among them:

  • Reaver worms-- massive armored worms that were as swift as a tree viper but as thick as a Space Marine's upper arm, with hundreds of chitin-sheathed legs and a broad head set with a half-dozen compound eyes. They could lift a Marine off the ground with ease, their curved mandibles capable of cracking even power armor. Larger examples such as a worm queen could dissect a Marine with ease. Within the creature's mouth was a long, needle-pointed spike of bone, sheathed in a powerful bundle of muscle that propelled it forward with the force of a bullet, a hollow channel within the bony needle pulsing with foul venom. The worms would wrap themselves around their victim's neck, driving their stinger into the prey's spine and injecting it with a tremendous amount of neurotoxin. The venom destroyed higher brain functions, leaving the autonomic functions intact and making the victim's nervous system hyper-conductive. Still attached to the victim, the worm then secreted enzymes into the prey's spinal chord that gave it rudimentary control of its motor functions. The worm would then literally drive the prey back to its communal nest, where the still-living victim would be injected with eggs by the nest's queen. They were a menace to human settlements all over Caliban, transforming small animals and livestock into living incubators for their eggs. Occasionally the worms would find their way into fresh human graves and try to make off with the corpse, much to the horror of the deceased’s relatives.
  • Probably the most infamous creature outside of the Great Beasts was the Calibanite lion. A massive and impossibly quick monstrosity, its body was wide and powerful, with a mane of blade-like spines growing from behind its armored head. Each of its limbs was sheathed in glistening plates of natural armor that had the quality of rock, yet the pliability of flesh. These armored plates slithered across their body, causing sparks to fly as entire bolter rounds bounced off without effect. Even when wounded the wounds would close almost as soon as they had accrued, the lion's sticky, acidic blood capable of eating through even the thick armor worn by the knight. Claws like knives extended from its front paws; each one of them could tear open Astartes battle plate like a tin can. Twin fangs like the mightiest cavalry sabres protruded from its upper jaw. Their eyes were serpentine and colored a vivid orange with black slits at their centers. There is something loathsome, almost leprous about the Calibanite lion; they are surrounded by a sickly scent of decay, as though the creature's inherent vileness is transmitting itself into every object in its vicinity. Its mere presence is like a cancer, the beast's aura of foulness seeping through even power armor.
  • Daemons, or as they were known on Caliban, Nephilim, were also known to have infested the darkest depths of the woods.
I see one apex monster and it is NOT the creature in the background.

Lion's adoptive father Luther was a member of one of these knightly groups known as "the Order", and El'Jonson was raised by the Order, eventually rising all the way to the top. El'Jonson then united the planet and killed all of the Great Beasts. When the Emperor came to bring the planet into the fledgling Imperium and place El'Jonson in charge of the First Legion of Space Marines, these orders were quickly folded into the renamed Dark Angels.

Lion left with most of the Legion, later sending Luther and around five hundred others back to run the fortress-monastery of Aldurukh after the Sarosh Compliance. Luther and his companions were notably put out by being left on the sidelines of the Great Crusade, but started the busywork of training new Space Marines and sending them off in their places, refining the process so that it only took two years to generate a fully trained Astartes warrior, and were capable of raising around five thousand of them in each training cycle.

Unfortunately, the Great Beasts that the Lion killed were also helping to siphon off excess Caliban's Chaotic energies, and keeping humans away from the worst of it, and in their absence the... thing that lived in the planet's core was ready to wake up. Naturally, its first target was Luther and the other Dark Angels on garrison duty. Luther started reading into all of the accumulated Chaos lore that had been collected by the Knights of Lupus, who were one of the knightly factions who opposed the Lion originally. That, coupled with domestic problems at home meant that he soon put a stop to sending those Astartes on the Crusade and kept them in the system and declared martial law.

Shit started going south and people's lack of understanding of warp and chaos phenomena meant that no-one really knew what was the cause. Coupled with attempted interventions from the Imperium such as, Imperal "cultists" trying to seal away Caliban's daemonic forces but inadvertently looking like they were trying to summon it instead, and a Knights-Errant investigation which accidentally killed someone could only ramp up the paranoia even further and make things look worse.

The state of alarm, combined with some of the First Legion members own resentment at being left behind meant that there was soon an Astartes uprising on the planet who tried to claim the Astropath tower and get a message out, only to be betrayed and imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Aldurukh.

Luther then decided to cast off the Imperium and make Caliban independent. Things came to a head when a Dark Angels Legion ship came out of the blue to claim the missing warriors that Luther had failed to send, but those Dark Angels were also betrayed and had their ships claimed for the Luther's own fleet, which started expanding outwards and conquering nearby systems under the name of "The Order"..

Typhus of the Death Guard also showed up, and since Luther had already turned his back on the Imperium, he figured he'd make friends with their enemies and give them somewhere to berth and make repairs.

Fall of Caliban[edit]

After the Heresy, the Lion and the Dark Angels showed up, after having not heard from Caliban for over a decade and none-the-wiser about what had been happening at home. They were fired upon when their ships entered Caliban orbit, and they quickly determined that Luther and his Dark Angels had fallen to Chaos. The orbiting Dark Angels responded by sending Lion to confront Luther while their ships opened up with an orbital bombardment.

Either way, the bombardment, compounded by a miniature Warp storm unleashed due to third-party time-travel shenanigans from the 41st millennium from various factions including the Death Guard, Fallen Angels and the Dark Angels themselves caused Caliban to break apart; the largest piece was that which contained the fortress-monastery whose reinforcement meant that it withstood the attack and shielded the surrounding rock, which the Dark Angels re-captured and used as their headquarters, calling it The Rock.

The Angels on the surface were scattered through the Warp and became the Fallen Angels. Many became full Chaos Space Marines, though many more become thoroughly disgusted by both Chaos and the Imperium and went renegade (disgusted by Chaos for being demonic and disgusted with the Imperium because...umm...just...because the writer said so, I guess).

As of 8th Edition, it's revealed that a continent-sized chunk of Caliban survived relatively unscathed and escaped the system somehow, and is housing a small legion's worth of Fallen. Though precisely what they're doing on it is anyone's guess.

The Planets, Systems, Regions and Sectors of the Galaxy
Imperial Homeworlds: Holy Terra - Sacred Mars
Primarch Homeworlds: Baal - Barbarus - Caliban - Chemos - Chogoris - Colchis
Cthonia - Deliverance - Fenris - Inwit - Medusa - Nostramo
Nocturne - Nuceria - Olympia - Prospero - Macragge
Notable Imperial Worlds: Armageddon - Bakka - Cadia - Catachan - Cretacia - Ganymede
Hydraphur - Necromunda - Krieg - Kronus - Phyrr - Pythos - Sacris
Sanctuary 101 - Scelus - Scintilla - Tanith - Tartarus - Titan - Vigilus
Vraks - Zayth - 108/Beta-Kalapus-9.2
Daemon Worlds: Bathamor - Black Marble - Fleshworld - Glass Moon
Medrengard - Plague Planet - Sortiarius - Sicarus
Systems and Regions: Ghoul Stars - Halo Zone - Jericho Reach
Kaurava System - Solar System - Stygius Sector
T'au Septs - Taelus System - Ultramar
Types of Worlds: Agri-World - Craftworld - Daemon World - Death World - Eldar World
Forge World - Fortress World - Hive World - Civilised World - Tomb World