|Number||Unknown, but probably ~1000|
|Founding||Most recently 926.M41 (originally 4th)|
|Allegiance||Imperium of Man|
|Colours||Black with white aquila, poleyns, and trim|
The Sable Swords are an Astartes chapter founded most recently in 926.M41 as a replacement for one of the most badass chapters to ever grace the galaxy with their existence. Fitting, for the original Sable Swords were no less badass. The second incarnation of the chapter proudly upholds the legacies of their illustrious forebears.
The Sable Swords are a total bitch to research, as GW is too busy churning out book after book about Robert Girlyman and his superhuman band of Ultrasmurfs to give a rat's ass about the less popular chapters. More recently, the Sable Swords have been featured in the short story Obsidian by Graham McNeill. While not a full-length book, it does flesh out their background and attempts to explain the canon conflict (see below). McNeill seems to have adopted the Sable Swords, who subsequently feature in his novella Knights of the Imperium.
The original Sable Swords were a Fourth Founding Chapter, founded in the aftermath of The War of The Beast (sometime after 546.M32).
The Sable Swords participated in the Crusades to recover the imperial territories lost during The War of The Beast. Just a hundred years later, the Sable Swords were considered worthy enough to be one of the two chapters (the other being the Halo Bretheren) to accompany the Imperial Fists to Terra and remove the mad Vangorich from power.
As Lord Commander Maximus Thane believed his personal guilt over Vangorich's rise had compromised his decision making, leadership of the Astartes strike force fell to the Sable Swords chapter master Qublicus Amar. Problematically, Thane found Amar and the Sable Swords Captain Ethratan too deferential.
There is a possible hint that the Sable Swords were founded using Imperial Fists geneseed. Thane believed that the Swords would not be as deferential if they knew the present-day Fists were originally Astartes from the Fists successors. However, the deference can also be read as general respect the later foundings had for a 'First Founding' chapter (if not respect for the heroic Thane himself).
In an anticlimatic turn of events, Amar was the first Astartes to fall in battle (implied to be the work of a Vindicare assassin) and Thane had to assume leadership of the mission. While Thane was the lone survivor of the hundred Astartes (including the Sable Swords) who assaulted Vangorich at the Eversor temple, the battle outside was more straightforward. Altogether, a hundred Astartes survived the mission, including presumably members of the Sable Swords.
The Sable Swords chapter was eventually lost to the Imperium sometime before 926.M41. Apparently, the old fluff had them losing over eight-hundred marines during the battle, possibly to the point of irreversible decline. In contrast, the new fluff has the Astartes strike force at four hundred marines: two companies of the Fists, and one each from the Sable Swords and the Halo Bretheren. In any case, it is clear that the original chapter was lost by M41.
In the later half of M41, notorious Necron Tet Guevara hijacked an entire fucking planet and started driving it around the Vidar Subsector like a sports car, hit and running a few agri worlds here and there. The Imperium decided to shut Guevara's murderous rampage before it got out of hand, ordering the local sector fleet as well as 15 Space Marine chapters including the aforementioned Ultramarines and Astral Knights to get right on that.
Unfortunately, the task force ran into a little problem when it turned out that a protective shield prevented the World Engine from being damaged. Luckily, the Astral Knights were on hand to save the day, and long story short they rammed their battle-barge into the shield and drop podded in to kick some Necron ass. Almost the entire chapter was destroyed by this incredible act of bravery, and a new chapter had to be founded to fill the void left by the Astral Knights. The resulting Sable Swords took over the old Fortress Monastery of the Astral Knights on Obsidia, and the ownership of said planet.
Upon arriving in Obsidia to take over from the Astral Knights, the second iteration of the Sable Swords were confronted by the last surviving members of the now 'fallen' chapter. The Sable Swords 1st Company Captain Daegan faced down the Astral Knights Dreadnought, Brother Thade, who was understandably miffed at his chapter being given up for dead by the Imperium. Worse, the Knights were to be dispossessed in favour of a new, yet untested chapter.
Eventually, Daegan convinced the remaining Knights to go out in a blaze of glory, not unlike Amhrad and his badasses. Daegan: "Take a ship from here and ply the stars as the Astral Knights once did, before they set down roots in stone and iron...Fight on in the Emperor's name until you can fight no more, and when that day comes, know that in death your duty has ended."
Not long after their founding, the Sable Swords have proved themselves worthy of their illustrious forebears. Their honours include a series of decisive victories over the Tau Empire, liberating Augura, a planet which had been an important strategic point for Tau forces during their Third Sphere Expansion.
The Sable Swords have continued the proud traditions of their Astral Knight predecessors, facing the Necrons on the tomb world of Eldritch, and carrying out an exterminatus.
A Sable Swords company led by Captain Daegan helped defend the Forge Word Vondrak Prime from Hive Fleet Hydra, fighting the Tyranids alongside the Imperial Knights of Houses Cadmus and Hawkshroud.
Bros with the Novamarines
When the Space Elves started acting up on Larical's Folly, the Sable Swords had to go deal with that. Naturally, they took their entire chapter with them to fight a mid-level threat from a dying race, leaving Obisidia virtually undefended except for the local PDF (who famously can't defend shit). This leaves Obisidia open to attack from a horde of Chaos mutants.
The Sable Swords don't receive word of the attack in time to turn around and defend Obsidia, so they prepare to watch as their home world and her people are literally consumed by the invaders. But, due to a stroke of uncharacteristically good fortune, the Novamarines happen to be nearby and intervene just in time, saving Obsidia. Out of extreme gratitude to the saviours of their homeworld, the Sable Swords swore an oath of eternal debt.
The saga of Captain Noiran
Once again finding themselves fighting the Eldar, which they seem to do a lot (despite being known for their extreme hatred of the Weaboo Space Communists), the Sable Swords track a group of mildly annoying Eldar space pirates to the Augran Nebula. While ultimately successful, the task force ends up losing a key member. Captain Noiran, the leader of the task force gets all turned around somewhere in the Nebula and gets kidnapped by the pointy eared bastards, who make it known that the Captain is alive and well. To this day, the Sable Swords continue to search for the lost Captain, who the rest of the galaxy assumes is dead but Codificier Sundic insists is totally alive somewhere out there.
The Sable Swords are a planet based chapter with a Fortress Monastery on Obsidia (which they inherited from their predecessors, the Astral Knights). The Sable Swords follow the Codex's guidelines with few exceptions, and generally see no point to going to all the work of developing your own chapter specific organization system.
Interestingly, the Sable Swords are not thrilled about being handed Obsidia as their new homeworld. Apothecary Kaas, a member of the force sent to take possession of the Astral Knights monastery, thinks it is inauspicious for new chapters to associate themselves with fallen ones: "New beginnings should not start with death, no matter how nobly won it was." His captain, Daegan, agrees with the sentiment, but does not voice it aloud. Well, then.
On the other hand, the 1st Company Champion Carden is unquestionably bros with Manly Marine types.
Notable Members of the Sable Swords
- Qublicus Amar - Chapter Master and overall commander of the Astartes strike force that removed Vangorich from power. Fell at the start of the battle.
- Ethratan - Second Captain of the Sable Swords.
- Daegan - Captain of the First Company. Fought against Hive Fleet Hydra on Vondrak Prime.
- Kaas - Apothecary.
- Carden - Daegan's equerry and personal champion.
- Noiran - Captain, MIA after a battle with Eldar pirates.
- Sundic - Codificier.
Although some sources state that the Sable Swords were founded in 926.M41 (like the Codex Space Marines 5th ed), the Sable Swords also are referenced in M32 during the slaying of the tyrant Drakan Vangorich (WH 40k 5th Edition Rulebook).
There are various theories attempting to explain why this Canon Conflict exists, the most likely of which are (now explained, see below):
- There have been two chapters with the name "Sable Swords" (yes)
- The Imperium's record keeping is shit (Definitely yes)
- Games Workshop is incompetent and can't keep track of its own damn canon (yes)
An online reviewer notes that Graham McNeill has explained the canon conflict in Obsidian (short story from the anthology Space Marines: Angels of Death). The Sable Swords of M41 are indeed the second chapter to bear that name.
GW seems to have attempted to retcon continuity errors, which also plague the Star Phantoms. Said to have been founded during the Sentinel Founding in M38 (according to Forge World's Imperial Armour and GW's Space Marines 5th ed), the Star Phantoms nevertheless appear in Black Library fiction about the Flesh Tearers set in M31.
Interestingly, the FFG Deathwatch RPG mentions that the Fire Angels were founded in M40 (Honour the Chapter supplement), but apparently not the first chapter to bear that name or their heraldry. Since both the name and heraldry are reused, it is possible that the Imperium honours certain lost chapters by maintaining their symbols and traditions etc. The original Sable Swords did help take down Vangorich. The chapter master Qublicus Amar personally led the Sable Swords contingent, and originally in command of the Astartes strike force before falling in battle.
That the second Sable Swords could have been a nod to the original might be possibly confirmed in Obsidian, but the online reviewer does not give the specifics, and the anthology is not worth getting just to verify lore that should have been made damn well obvious to begin with in the core fluff pieces.
That bitching about GW neglecting less well-known chapters, making them difficult to research? Totally justified. Apparently, McNeill wrote Obsidian as a bonus for the anthology release of stories originally appearing on the program of the 'Space Marine assault on Games Day UK 2013'. Obviously, not everyone is going to buy every piece of lore, and GW would have done well to have the canon conflict clarified in a more prominent source. Even the Black Library authors seem (possibly) to have had difficulty reconciling the canon conflicts. In the Beast Arises novel The Beheading (2016), Guy Haley seems to have followed the 5th ed Rulebook in making Sable Swords a Fourth Founding (M32) chapter that helped take down Vangorich. Meanwhile, McNeill had published Obsidian in 2013 (!!!!!!!!!!!).
To be fair, another interpretation of the ambiguity might be a retrospective attempt to play the continuity errors as a deliberate trope about the Imperium's shitty record keeping and lost histories (as listed above as a possibility). For example, the Sable Swords also took over the heraldry of the Astral Knights, and it might be presumed the Imperium is not actually aware that the name itself has been in use before (perhaps the records were lost during the Age of Apostasy?). Yet against this, there is the fact that BOTH the heraldry and the name of the original Fire Angels survived to be reused, suggesting that the Imperium has successfully kept records of lost chapters. In addition, the online review of Obsidian seems to suggest that the re-use of the Sable Swords name is known in-universe.
So until someone forks out $25 dollars for the anthology and confirms, the situation likely seems to have been that Well, got the clarification. See the very end of this page:
- Originally, GW couldn't keep track of its own damn canon
- Someone finally noticed, and McNeill was tasked with providing a respectable recton of the mistake in Obsidian
- The Imperium
(probably)honours lost chapters by reusing their name and heraldry (e.g. the Astral Knights heraldry and the Sable Swords name for the second Sable Swords) OR (less likely) the canon conflicts were rectonned as a trope about the Imperium's shitty record keeping and lost histories
- GW's fail means that not even its authors (Guy Haley) for the Black Library are up-to-date with the lore and followed one of the contradictory sources OR Haley was aware and decided to name drop the original Sable Swords as a participant in one of the most infamous events in Imperial history (a context for their illustrious memory)
- Ultimately the confusion stems from the fact that very few people seem to have read Obsidian (hilariously, the hardback cover for the anthology proudly mentions "Only 1500 copies printed worldwide"
The ambiguity might be welcome to some who prefer a sandbox, but not necessarily grounds for plausible speculations (even in that hazy everything-is-canon sort of way). For example, it is quite possible that the canon conflict for the Star Phantoms (see their page) is just GW's inability to maintain their canon across a wide range of divisions and materials. Nevertheless, based on in-universe speculations about the Star Phantoms being a possible Dark Angels successor chapter (otherwise unknown geneseed), there are theories that the Phantoms were, in fact, founded during the Second Founding in M31 and
their 'official founding' date is Dark Angels up to their usual shenanigans *BLAM* WHAT SHENANIGANS??? THE DARK ANGELS ARE THE LOYALEST AND MOST DUTIFUL CHAPTER.
Ahem, if someone who has access to Obsidian can just confirm whats up, that would be great. FOR EXAMPLE THAT THERE ARE CHAPTERS NAMED IN HONOUR OF LOST CHAPTERS MAKING IT UNLIKELY THAT STAR PHANTOMS ARE OF THE DARK ANGELS LINE AND THAT THERE ARE NO DARK ANGELS SHENANIGANS.
PS - THIS UPDATE IS NOT TO BE CONNECTED IN ANY WAY WITH THE STAR PHANTOMS WHO ARE NOT OF THE DARK ANGELS LINE AND WHO ARE BUSY CRUSADING AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF THE IMPERIUM! THE EMPEROR PROTECTS!
Okay - Finally managed to clarify what exactly happens in Obsidian. The online reviewer seems to have a bit too effusive about the 'clarification' of the canon conflict. It is an interpretation (admittedly, justifiable ) based on some vague monologues (of course, we all are guilty of this). What McNeill actually says is that the Sable Swords were not the first chapter to bear the twin-crossed swords heraldry: "a badge of honour that was yet new and felt ancient at the same time. They were not the first to bear this device, but they would do it honour."
So, no outright clarification that the Sable Swords name had been named in honour of an earlier chapter with said name. There are two possible ways of reading all this:
- The Sable Swords twin-crossed swords are an inverted version of the Astral Knights twin-crossed swords heraldry, making the latter the 'first chapter' to bear that symbol. GW, McNeill, Haley, EVERYONE, remain ignorant of the damn canon conflict
- The Sable Swords twin-crossed swords are inverted and thus different from the Astral Knights twin-crossed swords. Ergo, the Sable Swords bear the symbol of another chapter with an original inverted twin-crossed swords
- Shitty record keeping. Eternal obscurity for the original chapter, for all their services to the Emperor and the Imperium
- The Imperium honours certain lost chapters by reissuing their names and or heraldry (fellow Astartes did honour the memory of the Astral Knights)