|Battle Cry||"Cold and fast."|
|Successors of||Imperial Fists (officially)|
|Primarch||Unknown (originally thought to be Rogal Dorn, but that was proven false)|
|Strength||Four lost in the Warp, presumed dead. Rest actually dead.|
|Specialty||Assault, boarding actions|
|Allegiance||The Emperor and Imperial citizens, not the High Lords of Terra|
|Colours||Purple and gold|
"Why are we honored with so many privileges, the place of honor, meat, cups of wine? Why do all honor us as Gods? Why do we enjoy a large allocation of land (témenos méga)? … Is it not our duty, in view of this, to fight in the first rank so that it will be said of us ‘Our Kings are not men without glory…, but valiant men who fight in the first rank’?"
- – Sarpedon, King of Lycia
The Soul Drinkers were a chapter of Space Marines descended from the Imperial Fists (officially). They are the subject of Ben Counter's Soul Drinkers novel series. They are unique among the Space Marines because unlike Imperial or Chaos Space Marines, the Soul Drinkers serve neither the Imperium of Man or Chaos, but rather fight for the Emperor's ideals. If it sounds weird, the reality is much more complex. Perhaps some explanation is in order.
Officially, according to the Imperium's Index Astartes, the Soul Drinkers are a successor Chapter of the Imperial Fists Legion. When Rogal Dorn was forced to break up the VII Legion under the dictates of the Codex Astartes, he was left with
five six Chapters' worth of marines: the veterans would remain with him as the Imperial Fists, the youngest and least-experienced neophytes would be heralded as the Fists Exemplar, the most zealous would serve under Sigismund as the Black Templars, the most tactically flexible would serve under Alexis Polux as the Crimson Fists, the most masochistic would serve under Demetrius Katalfaque as the Excoriators, and the boarding specialists would become the Soul Drinkers. During the war of the Beast, the other sucessor chapters - less than 2000 years after the heresy - thought of them as related. There has been some evidence that both disputes and proves that this is accurate, but we'll get to that later.
One of those Soul Drinkers was Daenyathos, who became a Space Marine sometime during the Age of Apostasy. Daenyathos was a sensitive soul and he didn't relish having to invade Terra. Over a few hundred years, he came to the conclusion that the Imperium was corrupt and inefficient, and that ordinary humans were nothing more than cattle. However, Daenyathos believed that humanity could be made better through extreme bloodshed and suffering. He decided that the Soul Drinkers would be that agent of suffering, laying the seeds for them to turn against the Imperium within the Catechisms Martial, a spiritual treatise on the purpose and nature of the Soul Drinkers and their tactical Bible. At the same time, he co-opted the Chaplaincy and turned them into his agents in fomenting a contempt of the Imperium within the Soul Drinkers now and forever. When Daenyathos was struck down by a heretic, his loyal servants interred him within a haunted Dreadnought and he ascended to being the Soul Drinkers' Spiritual Liege, second only to Rogal Dorn and the God-Emperor.
Fast forward some 5,000 years. It's the close of the 41st millennium, and the Soul Drinkers receive word that one of their sacred artifacts, the Soulspear, has been discovered by a ne'er-do-well family owning a star fort. The Administratum, already eager to take control of the fort and its revenue, assembles a task force to occupy the station while a kill team under Captain Caeson and Librarian Sarpedon go in for the Soulspear. Caeson is killed (somehow poisoned, despite his oolitic kidney), but Sarpedon manages to locate the Soulspear. Just as the Soul Drinkers claim it, the Adeptus Mechanicus element of the Imperial task force teleport in and steal the Soulspear, immediately sending it to a Forge World so that the Administratum would lose jurisdiction. The Soul Drinkers demand the Soulspear returned and hold the star fort for a siege. During this time, they meet a mutant preacher named Ysir who worships the Emperor in his aspect as the Architect of Fate, and begin listening to his tales about the Imperium's corruption. The AdMech makes things actually worse by attacking the fort, believing the Soul Drinkers would stand down. Instead, the Soul Drinkers fight off the Skitarii and destroy the fort before fleeing on their fleet. After five months of evading the Imperium, the Inquisition finally shows up. The Inquisitor orders the Soul Drinkers to stand down, regarding this as little more than a simple case of them suddenly rebelling against the Imperium. When they refuse he declares the Chapter Excommunicate Traitoris. Eventually, the rest of the Soul Drinkers fleet arrives, and Chapter Master Gorgoleon challenges Sarpedon to combat. Sarpedon is about to lose when he spontaneously develops spider legs and kills Gorgoleon. Believing his mutations to be a gift from the Emperor, the Chapter veterans acclaim Sarpedon as Chapter Master, but the younger marines and novitiates reject Sarpedon as a mutant. This leads to the First Chapter War, resulting in many of the younger members being killed off, while many of the veterans also gain mutations, though less extreme than Sarpedon. As of this, the Soul Drinkers officially break with the Imperium.
Around this time, Sarpedon realizes that a fleet would be too much of a waste of resources for the Chapter to effectively move around. Finding a massive Space Hulk dubbed the Brokenback, the Soul Drinkers scuttle their fleet and use the Brokenback as their fortress-monastery, with Techmarine Lygris, de facto Master of the Forge, able to bring the vessel under their technological control. After cleansing the hulk of the usual hangers on (Genestealers, Daemons, the usual) the Soul Drinkers react to visions Ysir was having. They find a Daemon World ruled by Ve'Meth, a Daemon Prince of Nurgle. Though taking horrible losses, the Soul Drinkers ultimately defeat Ve'Meth. Mere moments after they're back on the Brokenback, however, they're confronted by Abraxes, a Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, who was the real cause of Ysir's visions and their mutations. Having acquired the Soulspear (and indirectly killing the ArchMagos responsible for its theft), Abraxes offers Sarpedon the chance to serve Tzeentch. Sarpedon replies that the Soul Drinkers belong to no one and stabs Abraxes through the heart with the Soulspear. Now knowing that they can serve neither the Imperium or Chaos, Sarpedon instead advocates a policy of doing "the Emperor's work": instead of fighting threats as designated by the Adeptus Terra, the chapter would work to protect the people of the Imperium so frequently forgotten by the Adepta.
Unfortunately, just because they rejected Chaos didn't mean that Tzeentch stopped offering up mutations. With their gene-seed rapidly becoming unstable, the Soul Drinkers review a previous mission where they intervened in an Eldar attack on an Adeptus Mechanicus facility that was attempting to develop measures to halt or reverse mutations. Unfortunately, the Eldar attack ended up releasing the very thing it tried to prevent: one of the test subjects, a mutant psyker with delusions of godhood by the name of Teturact, resulting in the mutant becoming a Champion of Nurgle without realizing it. Finally locating where the facility was, on Stratix Luminae, the Soul Drinkers sent in the entire chapter to retrieve the genetic data. Unfortunately, they got caught in a three way battle with Teturact's forces and the Inquisitorial force sent to eliminate the Soul Drinkers under a new Inquisitor, Thaddeus. Sarpedon and Thaddeus reluctantly worked together to kill Teturact, and the Soul Drinkers were able to escape with the genetic data.
Chief Apothecary Pallas was able to stabilize the mutations, and the Soul Drinkers began recruiting aspirants into their ranks again with stabilized gene-seed, to be trained under the leadership of Captain Karraidan, one of the Soul Drinkers last Terminators. Unlike previous generations of Soul Drinkers, however, they were not subjected to hypnotic-indoctrination, so that they could have free minds like the rest of the Chapter. This would come back to bite the Chapter in the ass, but we'll get to that later. Unfortunately, one group of marines under Assault Sergeant Tellos was left behind when the Soul Drinkers retreated from Stratix Luminae. Already suffering over aggression after mutations to his body caused him to have bullets pass through his skin, fell to Khorne and began tearing through the unsuspecting Imperium. Sarpedon made tracking him one of their top priorities, since he had been mucking about in the depths of the Brokenback and knew its secrets. Eventually finding one of his men, the Soul Drinkers learned that Tellos and his marines were on Entymion IV, a planet fighting off a Slaaneshi incursion. What the Soul Drinkers discovered was that the Slaaneshi cultists were fighting for a Dark Eldar Kabal that had willingly embraced Slaanesh. Even worse, they weren't the only Astartes on the planet: the Crimson Fists under Force Commander Reinez were also there. With both Chapters descended from the Imperial Fists during the Second Founding, Reinez broke off from the main Imperial force and made eliminating the Soul Drinkers their priority. Squad Eumenes, one of Karraidan's new Scout Squads, managed to steal the Fists Company Banner, dishonoring Reinez and making an enemy of him. Using it as an offering, the Soul Drinkers were able to meet with the Archon, Kadheros. Sarpedon and Kadheros agreed to an alliance, both planning to betray the other. Unfortunately, Kadheros betrayed the Soul Drinkers first, revealing his plan to turn Entymion IV into a Daemon World with himself as a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. Using the deteriorating situation to their advantage, the Soul Drinkers sent the Crimson Fists against the Dark Eldar, while Sarpedon managed to defeat Tellos. However, Tellos survived the battle, only to be killed when the Inquisition subjected Entymion IV to Exterminatus.
However, things were happening within the Chapter under Sarpedon's notice. This whole time, Iktinos, the sole remaining Chaplain and de facto Master of Sanctity, was carrying out the secret orders Daenyathos had laid down millennia ago to bring about his ultimate plan. As part of this, when the 13th Black Crusade opened up, Iktinos convinced Sarpedon to help the people of the planet Vanqualis, one of the planets Daenyathos had seeded myths about in the Soul Drinkers, there known as "the Black Chalice". Vanqualis was undergoing an Ork invasion, and had fallen through the cracks with the recent focus on Cadia. However, Eumenes, now a Sergeant and full brother, instead advocated that they take the opportunity to attack Terra and block out the Astronomican. Sarpedon challenged Eumenes to trial by First Blood, and Sarpedon won, in the process realizing that he had made a major mistake by not using the hypnotic-indoctrination. Going to Vanqualis, Luko (now promoted to Captain) made contact for Sarpedon with the Penal Legion the Imperial Guard sent. The war with the Orks was going well until half the Chapter, mostly novitiates, but including a few veterans like Pallas, ended up turning on the Chapter and freeing Eumenes, killing Captain Karraidan in the process. Worse, the people of Vanqualis had an old alliance with the Howling Griffons, a chapter known for its exceeding obsession with fulfilling its oaths beyond the point of Warhammer 40,000's loose definition of sanity. With the Vanqualis PDF believing that Soul Drinkers were the Black Chalice, the Howling Griffons focused their attention on Sarpedon's loyalists while Eumenes traitors were able to escape to the Brokenback. However, Lygris was able to sabotage the Brokenback and prevent them from escaping, while Iktinos (after acquiring the information he needed on Daenyathos) linked up with Sarpedon and Luko. Finally, Librarian Gresk, one of the traitors, deliberately allowed Sarpedon's group to escape. In addition, Inquisitor Thaddeus had joined the Howling Griffons, having learned about several other legends involving cups and chalices on planets the Soul Drinkers never visited, though he was soon killed by Merceano, Chief Librarian of the Howling Griffons. Forced into a stalemate, Sarpedon agreed to lay down command if Eumenes would get his Marines off Vanqualis. Fighting off the Howling Griffons boarding the Brokenback, Eumenes killed Merceano, while Luko allowed the Howling Griffons access to their cogitators, proving that they were not the Black Chalice. Eumenes prepared to take command when Sarpedon broke out of his restraints, then challenged Eumenes, pointing out that he broke his word first. Sarpedon quickly killed Eumenes, but allowed anyone who wanted to leave the right to do so. Most of the Scouts and new Marines ended up leaving, with the Soul Drinkers reduced to 250 marines.
Fleeing to the Veiled Regions at the suggestion of Chaplain Iktinos, the Soul Drinkers ran into an AdMech explorator fleet probing the region. Managing to escape the AdMech, the Soul Drinkers began finding evidence of human life in the region, but had been mysteriously wiped out. The answer soon presented itself: Necrons. What's worse, these Necrons hadn't suffered villain decay like the Tabletop Necrons at the time and were a legitimately frightening threat. Learning of human holdouts at Ravenia, the Soul Drinkers learned that the Ravenians were part of the Selaccan Empire, a human empire who had been cut off from the Imperium for a long, long time. With the Brokenback running out of fuel, the Soul Drinkers made a deal with the AdMech to take to Selacca, where the Necrons were based, and work together to destroy the Necron Overlord leading them. After a bitter struggle, the Soul Drinkers managed to destroy the Necron Overlord, but at the price of Techmarine Lygris, who sacrificed himself to destroy its consciousness. Things soon turned for the worse when the AdMech double crossed the Soul Drinkers and revealed that they had called in the Imperial Fists to take care of them. First Captain Darnath Lysander challenged Sarpedon to single combat, and Sarpedon accepted, ordering Luko to carry out his orders to stand down if he fell. For all of Sarpedon's speed, it was Lysander he was facing, and was quickly overpowered.
Instead of immediately executing the Soul Drinkers, Chapter Master Vladimir Pugh decided to put them on trial for treason, with himself serving as Lord Justice and Lysander as Chief Bailiff. Representatives from all over the Imperium arrived at the Phalanax for the trial, including familiar faces such as Captain Borganor of the Howling Griffons (who lost a leg to Sarpedon) Reinez, who was now an exile and appointed Prosecutor, Lord Inquisitor Kolgo (Thaddeus' former superior), and Bernice Aescarion of the Sisters of Battle (Thaddeus' former bodyguard). New faces included Librarian Varnica from the Silver Skulls, Captain N'Kalo from the Iron Knights (another Imperial Fists successor, and the only person to defend the Soul Drinkers) and Commander Gethsemar of the Angels Sanguine. The trial was anything but dignified, with Reinez and Borganor constantly crying for the Soul Drinkers immediate execution, but Lysander was able to keep them in line. During the course of the trial, startling information came to light: not only did Imperial Fists Scouts discover Daenyathos in a Dreadnought buried beneath Selacca, but Commander Gethsemar revealed that the Sanguinary Priests had conducted tests on one of the young Soul Drinkers who was presumed dead during the First Chapter War, and revealed that Rogal Dorn was not the Soul Drinkers Primarch. After Varnica revealed the role of Abraxes, Pugh concluded that the Soul Drinkers were to be sentenced to death. However, the Blind Eye, a cult Daenyathos had seeded millennia earlier, freed the Soul Drinkers and kidnapped N'Kalo, where part of Daenyathos' plan was revealed: use Dorn's blood to open a Warp portal he had sealed during the Great Scouring, bringing forth none other than Abraxes. The prospect of taking the Phalanx was too appealing, and pretty soon the four Chaos Gods had worked out a miniature cease-fire among themselves to allow some of their own Greater Daemons into the vessel. Daenyathos intended Abraxes to take the Phalanx on a Daemonic rampage through the galaxy, causing suffering and bloodshed unseen since the Horus Heresy, from which a new, stronger Imperium would emerge, with himself as its ruler.
While Iktinos and his flock joined Abraxes, the rest of the Soul Drinkers refused to be anyone's pawn and joined the assembled Imperial forces in repelling Abraxes' Daemon army. During the course of the battle, Sarpedon managed to cut Daenyathos out of his Dreadnought with the Soulspear, while Varnica was able to close the Warp portal using the blood of Reinez, who had already gone over the deep end in his desire for vengeance, and Luko, was able to keep Abraxes pinned long enough for the Warp portal to cut the Daemon in half. However, only Sarpedon, Luko, Sergeant Graevus, and Daenyathos survived the battle among the Soul Drinkers. Knowing that there was no other place for them in this galaxy, the three loyalist Soul Drinkers instead chose to walk into the Warp, urging the Imperial Fists to stop being the agent of humanity's repression and start being the agent of its salvation. With that, the three loyalists walked into the Warp, with Sarpedon dragging Daenyathos in as well, who began screaming hysterically like a little bitch at the prospect (though given that he was going to be at the tender lack of mercies of the Chaos Gods, he had pretty good reason to be scared). Now convinced that the Soul Drinkers were indeed loyal, if unorthodox, servants of the Emperor of Mankind, the Imperial Fists inscribed a column in their Apothecarion as a memorial to the fallen Chapter, ensuring that the galaxy would not forget the tale--or the idea-- of the Soul Drinkers.
Noted Soul Drinkers
While Sarpedon and Daenyathos have featured heavily in the aforementioned chapter history, there are a number of Soul Drinkers worth noting:
- Luko: Tactical Sergeant, later Captain, who was part of the star fort kill team. He became Sarpedon's second-in-command, serving as Sarpedon's face for the Imperium (Sarpedon being unable to act in much with the larger galaxy, given his mutations), and remained one of Sarpedon's loyalist Marines. He possesses a pair of Lighting Claws for close combat. While maintaining an image of enjoying war for the sake of it, in reality Luko believes war is fail and longs for nothing but peace. The only people he revealed this to were Sarpedon, Eumenes, and Salk. He and Graevus chose to walk into the Warp together, ready to face whatever awaited on the other side.
- Graevus: Assault Sergeant and part of the star fort kill team. Suffered a mutation where his right hand grew to an enormous size, allowing him to "wield" his "Power Axe" one handed (so that's what they're calling it now). His leg was cut off by Abraxes during the battle of the Phalanx, but he survived the battle and was helped by Luko to walk into the Warp.
- Salk: A Tactical Sergeant and stalwart Marine and part of the star fort kill team. He suffered some weird metabolic mutation that he didn't really understand. He is killed during the battle of the Phalanx by Iktinos' flock.
- Tellos: Assault Sergeant who lost both his hands in the star fort mission, he suffered mutations that caused his healing abilities to go into overdrive, allowing bullets to pass through him. Unable to receive augmetics for his lost hands, he instead decides to jam sharpened fan blades into the stubs and walk around shirtless. (Yes, but how? The fuk do you break and sharpen blades without hands? Much less attach them...) This in turn resulted in him becoming a little too aggressive for Sarpedon's liking, so it was no surprise that he fell to Khorne at Stratx Luminae. He was killed when Entymion IV was subjected to Exterminatus, his last thoughts being "more blood for the Blood God."
- Pallas: The Apothecary assigned to the star fort kill team, and later Chief Apothecary of the Soul Drinkers. He suffered mutations where scales started developing across his skin. Seeing the constant loss of marines caused him to side with Eumenes against Sarpedon, but he was pardoned and allowed to resume his duties. He was killed during the battle of the Phalanx when Abraxes sliced him in half.
- Lygris: The Techmarine assigned to the star fort kill team, and later de facto Master of the Forge and commander of the Brokenback. He manages to bring the troublesome Space Hulk under the Soul Drinkers' control, and later starts sabotaging it when Eumenes takes over. He makes mental contact with the Necron Overlord of Selacca, which ends up mind raping him. He in turn sacrifices his life to destroy the Necron Overlord's consciousness, saving the Soul Drinkers.
- Iktinos: The last Chaplain of the Soul Drinkers, and de facto Master of Sanctity for the Chapter. When Sarpedon breaks from the Imperium, he realizes that the time to reawaken Daenyathos has come, and subtly begins working as his agent, using the Soul Drinkers who come to him for leadership when their sergeants are killed. Iktinos faces down Sarpedon on the Phalanx, and is defeated through Sarpedon's "the Hell" psychic attack, showing the Space Marine Daenyathos as a Chaos God, utterly breaking the Chaplain. Sarpedon then throws his mindless body out an airlock.
- Tyrendian: One of three Librarians in the Soul Drinkers Librarium, Tyrendian often played the role of Devil's advocate, arguing against Sarpedon's chosen course of action. This philosophy won him few friends, but they were true friends indeed. Probably the most powerful Librarian among the Soul Drinkers, he was capable of gathering up psychic energy and projecting it as lightning, serving less as a Librarian and more as a walking artillery gun. Tyrendian was killed on the battle of the Phalanx by allowing a Great Unclean One to swallow him, then absorbing enough psychic energy to detonate with such force that it killed the Greater Daemon.
- Karraidin: A Captain who possessed one of the few suits of Terminator armor in the Chapter. When the Soul Drinkers started recruiting again, Karraidin was made Master of Novitiates, and ended up being a harder taskmaster than Sarpedon had anticipated. Though Sarpedon ultimately believed that the scouts would follow Karraidin into the Eye of Terror, Karraidin was one of the first killed during the Second Chapter War, where the new Marines had to effectively saw off his limbs with bolter fire and he still kept walking toward them.