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  1. FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN: THE STONE HEARTS "Throughout humanity's history, stone has served. Stone has been a weapon. Stone has been a fortress. Mankind has built with stone, and stone has built mankind. Let us remember this, and take it to our hearts. Let our hearts be like stone - ready to serve humanity, and the Imperium of Man. For when all else has failed, stone will still serve." - Chapter Master Cambrius Vulk, The Book of the First" Origins ”Men of Cathe, oh stand ye steady It cannot be ever said ye For the battle were not ready Stand and never yield.” -Cathian hymn The Stone Hearts are products of the Sixth Founding. Upon their formal activation as a Chapter they journeyed to the home world which had been assigned to them, the tiny planet of Cathe in the galactic north-west, on the border between Segmentum Obscurus and Segmentum Pacificus. Cathe was a grey, rocky world, whose hereditary Duke had recently died, leaving no legitimate heir. The planet was relatively underdeveloped, and it's only city of any size was the capital, which housed the planet's only space port (which consisted only of a well-packed dirt field and a Naval fuel depot). The Chapter took the ducal castle as their fortress monastery, expanding and refitting until it (and the dungeons beneath it) were a fortress worthy of the Space Marines. Most of Cathe's population were hardy clansmen, accustomed to fighting for goods, honor, and land, and these doughty warriors made excellent recruits for the Chapter. There was one small problem with Cathe. Much of Cathe's populace resented the transition to Space Marine rule, and a number of the local nobles had nursed this resentment in hopes of somehow rebelling and taking control of the planet for themselves. This resistance had coalesced behind the person of young Tyrion Cathek, the Duke's bastard son, despite his personal apathy toward the rebellion. His support among the population was significant enough to make planet-wide revolt a distinct possibility, and rebellion would mean that the Stone Hearts must either leave or suppress this challenge to their authority, greatly damaging the planet's capacity as a base. Neither option was acceptable to Chapter Master Cambrius Vulk, who chose a third course of action. Stone Hearts Marine in Standard Heraldry Vulk offered to use his influence within the Imperium to help Tyrion obtain a Rogue Trader license. The brash and foppish young Tyrion was more than willing to trade his claims at ducal office for the chance to explore new worlds and stars - especially when Vulk offered to provide a company of troops as a perpetual escort for Cathek and his heirs. Tyrion left Cathe for the stars, and the Third Company went with him as his bodyguards – and to watch him closely. Ever since, one of the Stone Heart Battle Companies has escorted whichever scion of the Cathek family currently holds the commission to trade in the region, each mustering out upon the death of their charge. The Catheks have only rarely returned to Cathe, though the population still holds the memory of the Dukes closely in their hearts. With Cathek gone and the Stone Hearts demonstrating their martial prowess through combat exercises across the planet, the murmurs of rebellion faded away. The Stone Hearts and the people of Cathe each settled into the routines of their lives, slowly becoming accustomed to the new order. Precious Stones ”Vulk, I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” – Tyrion Cathek Of course, a new order only ever lasts long enough for its collapse to be surprising. A few brief decades later, the Chapter was on the brink of disintegration. Relations with the Adeptus Mechanicus had become strained when an irate Vulk explained to a senior Magos that the Techmarines of the Stone Hearts would be Stone Hearts first, and Adepts of Mars second. While most members of the Chapter Armoury personally agreed, the Tech-Priests took the alarming step of refusing to train further Techmarines. In itself, this was only a minor problem as the Chapter’s own Techmarines were willing and able to train others in the technical arts. However, at the same time, shipments of supplies to the Chapter dwindled to nearly nothing, with bureaucratic entanglements, piratical activity and production defects being only a few of the myriad excuses provided by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Stone Hearts were being slowly starved of needed materials, their limited manufactory facilities simply unable to keep up with the demands of a full chapter. Vulk concluded that the Stone Hearts would have to turn outside the traditional methods of the Adeptus Astartes in order to survive. He consulted with Tyrion Cathek, whose foppishness and brash nature had grown into an appreciation for the arts of trading and commerce and an equal willingness to enforce the dictates of the Emperor. Vulk had expected that Tyrion would recommend some alternate sources for materiel and equipment which would sustain the Chapter until Vulk could determine some method of restoring the Mechanicus' favor. What Vulk got was a prolonged dissertation on the commercial possibilities of the surrounding sectors, and an equally long list of potential sources for starship parts, weapons, munitions, cogitators, and the sort of goods that would be wanted in trade. The stunned Chapter Master could only watch as Cathek sketched out a comprehensive plan by which the existing resources and assets of the Stone Hearts could be parlayed into formidable wealth – wealth sufficient to ensure that the Stone Hearts could be ever-ready to enforce the Emperor's will. Cathek's advice well-reflected the character of a Rogue Trader, but Vulk felt that whatever it might lack in orthodoxy, it compensated for with sheer practicality. It also allowed him a chance to keep the Chapter free from the influence of Mars, which appealed both to Vulk's pride and to his sense of caution – any pretense of reconciliation the Tech-Priests might concede in the future could hardly be trusted when it came. Better for the Stone Hearts to seek their own way, even if it might be an unfamiliar one. With Tyrion by his side, Vulk set out to seize the Chapter's future. Reiving Master Vulk was not the only one to find methods of dealing with the Chapter's logistical difficulties. Fiach Welf, then Captain of the Third Company, found himself far from Cathe, low on supplies, and equally low on prospects. He settled these difficulties by finding the nearest Space Marine Chapter and asking politely for aid. When his request was declined, Welf challenged his opposite number to a duel for the equipment he had requested. He triumphed, and the Company finished their patrol and returned to Cathe. Though the practice was not institutionalized (both Vulk and Welf agreeing that adopting such practices on a large scale seemed a good way to bring down the ire of other Chapters upon the Stone Hearts), various other Captains through the Chapter's history have indulged in the practice when necessary (or when so inclined), though modern duels rely less on insulting the opponent until they consent to fight and more on the wagering of trade concessions, resources, or debts of honor. Few are the Space Marine Captains who would decline such a challenge, and even some Imperial Guard commanders have been more than willing to test a dozen of their finest Guardsmen against a Space Marine. Most duels are non-lethal, and even when the Chapter loses they gain in knowledge. Though only a few duels are fought every decade, each one is seen as a mark of the warrior spirit of the Stone Hearts. Over the next few months, Vulk and Cathek moved from system to system in the region – and on each world, Cathek whispered golden promises to all who would hear. On Drak-Dum, they made contact with a Brotherhood of the Demiurg – and in exchange for cleansing several nests of Orks as well as the concession of mineral rights on Cathe's barren antarctic continent, they secured a steady stream of processed ores, munitions, and technical advice from the Brotherhood's wisest craftsmen. Through the gilded, pirate-wracked worlds of the Faroe Nebula they spread word of the safety of the vaults of a Space Marine Chapter, and the reasonable price of that safety. At Este, they offered the Grand Duke shares in future properties seized from heretics and traitors in exchange for favorable trade status and export rights for the famous Estian smokewood. The High Archon of Blackmere gave a half-share of the stellar mines around the dying red dwarf Micturic in exchange for the promise of Space Marine protection for the delicate mining platforms. The wealth of dozens of worlds twisted around the words of Cathek and the imposing presence of Vulk, and soon a web of contracts, trade routes and commercial interests stretched across several sectors – with the Stone Hearts at its center. Home World ”Call them to account, you say? The Stone Hearts own this sector. Their men guard half the palaces, their merchants buy the output of nearly all the worlds, and their fleets keep the pirates in check. Their failure is no longer an option.” – Inquisitor Tesseract D’Apothete The domain of the Stone Hearts stretches widely now. Commercial routes, trading enclaves, mining concerns, exotic manufactoria, and Chapter bases dot the systems and sectors surrounding Cathe. Nonetheless, the core of their realm remains Cathe and its people. Cathe is a rocky world, peopled mostly by hardy feudal tribespeople. The hereditary Duke and his attendant nobles each controlled vast tracts of the planet, and most of the population were members of various clans and tribes – with many nobles being clansmen and many tribesmen being nobility. Cathian society was usually embroiled in some form of low-intensity warfare, with clan obligations and feudal duties conflicting and interweaving in such ways that only the individual Cathian knew where his loyalties could truly be said to lie. Vicious skirmishes over land, cattle, honor, women, gold, and weapons were all common, and the allies of one battle were the enemies of the next. ”Tancred and Tyria” Though the bond between the Cathek family and the Stone Hearts remained strong for many millenia, the most recent scion of the family strained the relationship nearly to its breaking point. In his later years, Tyrel Cathek was best described as a madman, even by the standards of the Imperium. While the targets of his wrath had always suffered consequences disproportionate to offenses, his growing tendency to indiscriminately slaughter those who opposed him offended the Stone Hearts' sense of restraint, as did his lamentable personal habits and tendency to jump at shadows. The Fourth Company was his bodyguard, and sworn to his service, but even the relatively hot-blooded Captain Tancred Kintyre had often felt his hackles rise at the measures used by Cathek. But the Stone Hearts were nothing if not patient, and were content to bide their time until Cathek died and was replaced by his far more reasonable daughter. Tyria had obviously been unaffected by her father's insanity, and was a shrewd and dangerous young woman, dedicated to the Imperium. Tancred, one of her childhoold friends, had discussed her father's obvious flaws with her, and they had both agreed that waiting was the only prudent thing to do – if only to avoid explaining what had happened to Tyrel to the Inquisition. Tyria, as her father's favorite retainer, would handle much of her father's business, so that his madness might affect the Imperium as little as possible, and Tancred would do his best to ensure that when Cathek did force his soldiers into action, their targets would be deserving. However, Tyrel's twisted mind had other ideas. In 993.M41 the world of Tyrhennius failed to provide an agreed upon cargo of Mandrovian dates. Tyrel declared this to be a sign of heresy and rebellion against the Imperium, and ordered the Stone Hearts to destroy planet. Tancred stepped forward, and declared in ringing tones that "The Emperor's subjects are the charges of the Adeptus Astartes and the High Lords of Terra. To strike them undeserving is to strike at the heart of the Imperium itself." Tyrel was even more surprised when Tyria announced her agreement with the Captain, and invoked her authority as commander of her father's ship to have him confined to his quarters, "for his own protection". It was seen as a great tragedy when Tyrel hung himself later that day (or so said the notification to the High Lords). Tyria Cathek contacted the recalcitrant world and explained the tragedy, and the catastrophe which had narrowly been averted. The shipment was delivered on time. It was an unusual break with tradition when Tyria requested the continued services of the Fourth Company, but Chapter Master Adhemar was happy to acquiesce. Ever since, relations between the Catheks and the Stone Hearts have continued in their old vein of friendship and respect. The Duke and his capital at Longford were the only truly civilized parts of the world, and even there Imperial influence was relatively weak. The arrival of the Stone Hearts did little to change that initially, but with the Chapter's ventures into commerce Cathe has been transformed. The spaceport now hums with activity, the goods of dozens of worlds flowing in and out in the holds of ships from any number of ports. To facilitate mining and other undertakings in more remote regions of the planet, a system of roads now stretches across the glens and mountains, bringing all of Cathe into reach of the capital. Most clans, instead of spending their energies fighting each other, hire their men out as mercenaries offplanet, preferring a steady income and less risk to the cut and thrust of Cathian politics. Close to the capital clans have fallen away altogether, replaced by the far more important considerations of wealth and debt. Where once Cathe was barren, harsh and quiet, now it rumbles with the noise of commerce and trade. The Fortress-Monastery of the Stone Hearts, now known as the Golden Hall, serves as the center of the Chapter's extensive commercial empire in addition to its military duties. The original ducal castle has been much expanded to accommodate this, both above and below ground, and its counting houses, vaults, warehouses and offices now rival the fortress proper in size and scope. At any hour of the day or night, the clink of coins and the murmur of negotiations echo through the Chapter's halls. The people of Cathe, even as they revel in their new prosperity, long for the old ways. The loss of opportunity for raiding and skirmishing has been something of a disappointment to many, and it is common for young bravos to exhort each other with tales of the glorious golden age of warfare and honor which the crudities of trade and money have taken from the people. Though many on Cathe have come to rely more than they know on the peace and prosperity brought by the Stone Heart's commercial interests, this longing for conflict and honor still drives many Cathians to seek their fortunes off-planet as mercenaries, or even as pirates. The Stone Hearts view these tendencies as necessary to maintaining the population's viability as recruits, and so allow such excursions – though those foolish enough to turn to piracy are dealt with appropriately when they are encountered. The population’s military tendencies are also maintained by the various Chapter Keeps which dot the highlands of Cathe. There, grizzled veteran mercenaries and Battle-Brothers long past their prime teach those youths of Cathe who wish to learn skills at arms and the discipline needed to turn a warrior into a soldier. The cities of Cathe may smelt, mine and sell, but the people of Cathe’s uplands still know the ways of sword and axe. The fire of the Cathians may be less bright now, but it has not gone out, and it burns within the Stone Hearts as it always has. Beliefs "Cowardice is holding back when you could win. Practicality is holding back so they will lose." - Chaplain Duriel Hawker Above all, the Stone Hearts are practical. Their brush with starvation and dissolution early in their history has made them cautious in ways that most Space Marines are not – they are keenly aware that even Space Marines can be defeated, albeit not necessarily on the battlefield. They seldom take rash courses of action, and adopt well-balanced strategies which use the minimum force and equipment necessary to accomplish their objectives. This has on occasion resulted in disaster when an enemy or situation was underestimated, but it has generally served the Chapter well. Even the Chaplains of the Stone Hearts are relatively sedate compared to those of other chapters, and have somehow contrived to preach a more temperate zealotry. Of course, the headstrong character of the Cathian population still rears its head in the Chapter. Every Stone Heart, despite his practicality, dreams of glory and ferocious hand-to-hand battles like those of old. Every so often the Stone Hearts will give in to their natural ferocity and charge headlong into a frontal engagement with the foe. It is a testament to the abilities of Space Marines how rarely this results in disaster. ”We get up in the black, down the warrior's road And we hike along the track, as the dropships load And we'll kiss our wives and sons, though we never will look back For we'll not see them again, down the warrior's road We hear the Chapter call, down the warrior's road And we take our swords and all, as the dropships load In the pods we then will drop, 'til there's nowhere else to fall And we'll leave the stars behind us, down the warrior's road Around another sun, down the warrior's road We'll fight with sword and gun, as the dropships load When extraction finally comes, we're so thankful to be gone That we'll fight again tomorrow, down the warrior's road.” Cathian Ballad The Stone Hearts recognize that their embracement of trade and their dealings with the Demiurg might bring scrutiny upon them from some other, more orthodox, Imperial organizations. They are sure that any doubt that might be raised will be easily quashed by their record of service, and failing that, by pointed words and equally pointed blades. Combat Doctrine ”Conserve your resources. Hold back your forces. No one has ever won a war by spending his strength in the first battle.” – Captain Archimedes Frasier of the Third Company In the millennia since their arrival on Cathe, the Stone Hearts have continued to battle against the enemies of Mankind. On worlds across the Imperium they have faced down the ever-present threats of Orks, Eldar raiders, and heretical uprisings. The Chapter has also on occasion sent Battle Companies south to fight alongside their brother Astartes in the Chaos-wracked sectors around the Eye of Terror, and dispatched expeditions to the galactic north, along the rim of Imperial territory, where the light of the Astronomican can barely be felt. The Stone Hearts favor using the minimum force required in a situation – a legacy both of their lean early years and of their increasingly mercantile nature. They have even been known to attempt to find diplomatic solutions (though often only as a cover for military preparations), or to buy off enemy armies and turn them to the service of the Imperium. Often the Chapter will settle for a somewhat prolonged engagement which takes less casualties, using fortifications and terrain to limit their casualties and ensure the destruction of the enemy. This minimal approach has sometimes resulted in temporary defeat, but the Stone Hearts always simply reevaluate the situation and react accordingly. Like many Chapters, the Stone Hearts use equipment suited to the conditions on their home world – they favor rugged vehicles which can deal with a variety of terrain and the use of heavy firepower. They shy away from aerospace assets – in the mountains of Cathe, the only support you can trust is that on the ground with you. The Chapter's co-operation with the Drak-Dum Brotherhood has also brought them expertise in tunnel fighting and a penchant for some of the obscure artillery pieces often deployed by these aliens. This firepower is often emplaced in a strongpoint close to enemy positions, from which it rains down death until the enemy is either destroyed or moves to react – at which point more mobile Chapter forces move in. While the Chapter's commercial network has brought them impressive wealth, many of their purchased armaments are simply not equal in quality to those of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and their domestically produced weapons are generally simpler in nature – the Chapter Techmarines did not possess the skills to allow reverse-engineering and production of items such as plasma weaponry or assault cannons. The Stone Hearts thus favor easy-to-procure and easy-to-repair weaponry, and their stores of arcane items like plasma weapons and Terminator armor are quite limited compared to other Chapters of similar age and experience. Rogue Trader Tyria Cathek and Captain Tancred Kintyre of the Fourth Company Organisation "They made one mistake. They put their fortress where we could reach it." – Captain Tancred Kintyre The Stone Hearts adhere to the Codex Astartes, though each company is permitted to retain any unusual equipment they come across in their travels (after any necessary purification rituals have been undertaken). When combined with the Chapter's occasional practice of duelling for equipment with other forces, this has lead to some companies being rather eclectic in their armaments. However, the Chapter's formations remain entirely Codex, if only because (in keeping with their practical nature), there has not yet been any need to do otherwise. While the Chapter remains able to produce many minor items, and supplement their production with a variety of other sources, many Astartes products are simply unavailable to them. While this has somewhat restricted their equipment, their difficulties do not seem as pronounced as one might initially expect. It is suspected by several Inquisitors that the Stone Hearts maintain surreptitious trade links with several other Chapters, which are kept concealed through layers of middlemen and staged accidents or honor duels. Many Inquisitors have speculated that the Chapter’s occasional reivings are really artfully staged trade deals, and several Chapters which have ‘suffered’ a loss to the Stone Hearts have been noted to have been more than recompensed through fortunate discoveries of ‘lost cargo’ or ‘forgotten land grants’. Gene-seed "Those who say we have lost our way and compromised our security by allowing merchants to roam our halls have evidently never tried to reach our gene-seed vault." - Apothecary Taran Koga The Stone Hearts are scions of Guilleman's genetic line. Their geneseed remains pure and undegraded. The Chapter's seed is stored beneath even the banking vaults in their monastery, behind triple-secured passages which no visitor ever sees. The Stone Hearts take great care to ensure the purity of their tithes to the Adeptus Mechanicus – they will offer the Priests of Mars no excuse to cause them trouble. The Priesthood of Mars, conversely, simply cannot be bothered to return the Chapter's enmity - though they remain obdurate on the subject of Techmarines, the Stone Hearts stopped remitting their supply requests millenia ago, and it is very possible that the incident has faded from the Mechanicus' collective memory. This apathy has resulted in the Stone Hearts' tithes being accepted without complaint on every occasion. Battlecry Melior quam media. - Chapter Motto "Stone in heart! Stone in will!" * * * Opinions and criticism welcome. I think I've been moderately successful in updating in response to the last round of thoughts, but I'm not sure. smile.png Suggestions for quote subjects would be very welcome. Updated again to include revisions prompted by Shinzaren, Hrvat, Lysimachus, Ecritter and Cambrius. Edited one more time to add in Greyall's beautiful illustrations.
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