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The Asperos Astra Chapter The Only Law Origins As the site of the violent birth of the Great Rift, the Eye of Terror has become a greater source of devastation for the Imperium than ever before, vomiting forth a new and endless tide of fiends and traitors. Forces in surrounding sectors have been drawn in close to quell the horrors pouring from the great warp sore. As much to maintain strength in those now less defended sectors as to bolster those forces providing a shield against the warp-born, two chapters of the Ultima Founding were sent to the region north of the Eye as reinforcements. One of these was the Asperos Astra, gene sons of [who, for real]. Both chapters vied for the opportunity to join the defense around the Eye, but Imperial resources in the area would only support one. The two chapters agreed to a simple, direct challenge between champions, the winner taking the place of greater glory in combating the tide from the Eye. The champion of the Asperos Astra...lost. Though it was an honorable contest, the sting of failure, of disgrace, was still felt throughout the chapter. They turned toward their new home with little enthusiasm and found comparatively quiet sectors. It seemed that the harrowing emergence of the Rift had drawn all the most significant players towards it. There were still threats to counter; scavengers and opportunists hoping to plunder from a distracted Imperium, but they were of little challenge for Astartes. Upon learning of an expedition destined for the unknowns of the Halo Stars, the Asperos saw an opportunity for real glory and challenges worthy of their station. The Explorators had made a general request for escorts through the barely navigable warp storms, noting that they expected to find human colonies on the other side, cut off and in need of the Emperors light, work for which the Mechanium had no interest. The Asperos answered the call. Homeworld Eludos City Precinct Fortress He said something was comin', Warden, whispered the investigator anxiously, Called it a war of liberation. The tower of ceramite grunted, stepping closer to the screen replaying the events at the outskirts. Liberation. Yessir. We werent sure what to make of it. The barons might've chafed at signin the treaty back then, but theres been no sign of any real malcontent since. But theres also no one else could cause a war, save the florans, and sure as dust on my boots he wasnt talkin to them. Dyou think a baron uprising could happen? Eventus stultorum magister, rumbled the Warden, eyes not moving from the screen. Uh, sir? They learned the foolishness of such notions for themselves. Whatever this pale preacher speaks of the Warden squinted as he watched the finesse with which the figure on the screen wielded its pistols, It comes from something else. The Cicatrix Maledictum has changed everything, shaken the Imperium to its core, shifted the balance of powers across the galaxy. At the behest of Roboute Guilliman, the Imperium pursues many new and unusual avenues for securing the future of mankind. Armies of curators and scribes have delved anew into records of the Imperiums past, searching for every viable new source of strength and lifeblood. One of the many potential leads that surfaced found its source not in an archive, but an ancient, derelict vessel found only a few years before the birth of the Great Rift by a Navy patrol in the far western reaches of Segmentum Obscurus. At first the ship was believed to have been regurgitated from the Eye of Terror, but a thorough, albeit cautious, investigation revealed otherwise. The ship had come from the north, from the Halo Stars. It bore records that, once translated, suggested that human colonies still survived in the region. The find prompted further investigation, and the accounts on the abandoned vessel were eventually matched with ancient records of a pair of major colonial expeditions made thousands of years ago to that unexplored wilderness. The fleets were noted as lost, their fates unknown, and the Halo Stars maintained their reputation as malevolent and remained unexplored. This vessels recovery has lit a spark of hope that the mysterious region could be an untapped resource for the Imperium. Among several measures taken, a new explorator fleet was dispatched to breach the frontier, led by two Explorators: Magos-Commodore Lorus Ferrarius and Archmagos Paritori Wyssian. The Asperos Astra, seeking glory and the opportunity to prove their worth, joined the expedition. Their first test came at the attempted passage into the Halo Stars. Using survey, scout, and exploration data centuries in gathering, a new passage was attempted through a long-standing gap known then as the Mouth of Lemhi. Mustering the fleet at the edge of the storms, and calling litanies in unison, they entered the warp. The journey was harrowing, and not without losses. The pressure exerted on the gellar fields within the fleet was extreme, and there were breaches, both among the explorator vessels and the astartes, breaches that invariably cost ships. The most tragic of these losses was the strike cruiser Reilios, with the entirety of the 6th company. Their final sounds of battle were recorded and preserved in a place of honor within the Chapters records. Those sacrifices proved worthwhile as, after months of journeying, the fleet emerged among the Halo Stars. The explorators immediately constructed a way station to begin modeling and charting their course through the warp, defining what would eventually become the Lemhi Pass, while the bulk of the fleet set out on its chartered task: drawing back the curtains on the Halo Stars. It was difficult going; at the first star the fleet reached, they found what would become a constant threat to Imperial interests in the region: the Nonaveridis. Sinewy, plant-like beings that dwell near stars and seem to grow their technology in a manner similar to the Eldar. In the time since, their bioweaponry has been determined to be somewhat less effective than that of the Tyranids, but the florans themselves demonstrate greater resilience and cunning than the Swarm. After a series of short, tense battles; each probing the others strength and regrouping to attack from another angle; a small fleet of well-worn Imperial ships of familiar but unusual design emerged from the warp and joined combat against the biofleet, turning the tide and forcing the florans to flee. With the fleet secure, the explorators and astartes established contact with the unfamiliar ships, and the human inhabitants of the Halo Stars, for the first time. The native humans led the explorators and their escort to a nearby world, a long-standing colony called Aurumilio. The planet had been home to humans for many thousands of years, and their oldest records loosely aligned with those pulled from the vessel that had originated the charter; they were, at least in part, descendants of that ancient mission. The world was barely developed, though; much of its population remained concentrated around a handful of space elevators connected to ramshackle orbital docks. The reason for the stagnation, according to the patchy history they maintained, was the loss of most of their supply ships and a not insignificant amount of the colonists during the crossing. The original fleet had become separated, survivors scattered to the void. Several of the worlds they had ended up on had eventually been able to reconnect, some as recently as in the last hundred years. It was never quite clear how many survived. While the explorators liaised with the natives to the extent that it concerned their own objectives, they had little interest in stalling their journey to bring these forgotten worlds thousands of years up to date technologically. They quickly made preparations to continue deeper into the reaches beyond, already referring to them as the Manifest Frontier, the most promising source for the future of the Imperium. The Asperos, on the other hand, viewed the protection of all the Frontiers humans as their responsibility. To honor their arrangement with the explorators, the 3rd company was tasked with continuing to accompany them. The remainder of the Chapter, after coordinating with the locals, began establishing itself on the planet and sending envoys to the other scattered worlds to which humanity had clung through those many centuries. In only a few decades, and outfitted with some appointments provided by the grateful explorators, the Asperos built a formidable monastery, Shanborn Fortress, named for a librarian who sacrificed himself on the journey to prevent a disastrous gellar field breach. With that, the Asperos Astra cemented their place in the Halo Stars and began their work in the Emperors name. Familiar Whispers Some years after establishing themselves in the Frontier, the members of the Asperos fleet began to receive garbled messages using the Chapters own verification codes. For the most part the message couldnt be translated or understood, but after several transmissions, a clue was discovered in some of them. The Lore Keepers, librarians of the Chapter, matched parts of the audio with recordings kept in the Chapters archives...recordings of the final moments of the 6th Company. The transmissions have persisted ever since, occasionally interrupting void communications and sometimes lasting for days at a time. For years, no source could identified, until during one patrol a flotilla of rangers encountered a derelict outlaw vessel bearing the livery of the 6th. The ship ignored hails, and made no response to their approach. When the scouts boarded it, they found the crew dead; shriveled and husk-like, mummified by the ships climate system. They appeared to have made attempts to escape the ship, despite the rangers finding no indication that its bulkheads had ever been sealed. More significantly, the ships cogitator was broadcasting the looping messages. The rangers reported explicitly that they disabled the transmissions and scuttled the ship by way of its reactor, and for a time the transmissions stopped. But not long after, they began again, and the ships of the Asperos Astra continue to receive them. Recruitment Humanity clings to only a handful of worlds in the Frontier, each of them for the most part wind-blown and barren. The more fertile worlds, including verdant jungle planets known as grove worlds, are invariably under the control of the Nonaveridis. Though the humans have harangued the florans for resources lacking on their own worlds, they have never had the strength to face them head on, and while the Nonaveridis have made frequent raids on the human worlds, they dont seem to consider the humans enough of a danger for an extermination. The conflict between them has produced hardy potential recruits, particularly the many orphans of battle. Some have taken gladly to the arrival of the Astartes among them, recognizing their potence as a ward against the xenos and against the lawless human elements that had enjoyed free reign for so long. Others, all too familiar with how easily those with power can take advantage of the weak, view the new arrivals with suspicion. In an effort to garnish support without spilling human blood, the Asperos only take recruits from the willing. While it hasnt displaced all suspicion, it has reduced some of the hostility from all but the most willful and obstinate detractors. The trials of the aspirants predominantly center around challenges of marksmanship and survival, tested in harsh conditions on a variety of different planets and moons. The tests pit recruits against natural threats as well as against cadres from the scout company, all before ever receiving any implanted organs. Over the course of implantation, neophytes fill escort roles for vital supplies moving between the Frontier colonies until they are deemed ready to become full battle brothers. Combat Doctrine Battle of Fort Robidoux The defenders could hear the continuous, discordant ringing, even over the crackling reports of rifles and thunderous boom of cannons. Whatever it was they were calling, the florans made sure it was heard. As beams of solar energy lanced overhead and pocked the forts walls, Sergeant Doreal rallied the defenders in his quarter, Come on, men! Whos done being reasonable with this xenos filth? Roars of affirmation answered him, and the fusillade redoubled. Ranged combat is the primary forte of the Asperos, punishing their enemies at a distance with fusillades of fire power of every caliber. Using a favorable, and ideally fortified, position, the Asperos stall advances and pin enemies with long range fire, while a hammer force rides in on their flanks to crush them against the anvil. While air support facilitates this approach, multiple encounters with floran spore mines have encouraged alternatives, and the preferred method of the Asperos is to use more personal approaches, primarily Inceptor squads, bikes, and powerful ranging beasts called Steda. The animals were originally found and domesticated on Aurumilio and now see use in numerous roles on several human worlds. Extremely sure footed, able to bear immense loads, and nearly unflinching in danger, evaluating their suitability as steeds was one of the first successful experiments the Asperos undertook when they arrived, granting forces isolated from mechanized support more flexibility on the field. When available, the Chapter prefers to use their complement of Apolus-pattern bikes, modified specifically to accommodate the differences in size and armor configuration among Primaris Astartes. This approach to battle works well for the Asperos in both pitched warfare and sieges, for which they have prepared the human worlds (and several in between) with sturdy fortress keeps to use as strongholds against the largest incursions. Primarily of simple, squat construction, these Chapter forts bristle with meticulously maintained weaponry prepared for any type of threat. Many have been raised on the edges of settlements, serving as shelter for the inhabitants during conflicts. Besides making formidable bastions for defense, they are vital staging grounds for planetary mobilizations. On the macro scale of the Frontier in general, the Chapter does not usually instigate conflicts, rarely having the numbers to make new conquests. Their priority is defending the holdings humanity currently possesses. Once drawn into battle, however, they will attack until their enemies are broken, making it clear that despite being relative newcomers to the region, they are not to be trifled with. On those occasions when the humans do seek to expand, or that the Explorators have designated a hostile world as a site of special interest, the Chapter is always willing to assist, but the prerogative to identify and claim new territory remains with the settlers themselves. Once a planet is brought under control, the Asperos set about fortifying it for its new inhabitants, often constructing a new keep from which to secure the planet. In recognition for their aid in crossing into the Halo Stars and their ongoing relationship, forces from the Explorators often supplement the Asperos in battle. Their various Mars-pattern weapons and armor, the Apolus bike in particular, perform remarkably well in the environs of the Frontier. Over the years a number of the more eccentric Tech-priests have taken up permanent stations on several of the human worlds and outposts to refine and maintain the armaments in use by both the Astartes and the settlers. It doesnt hurt matters that the weapons used by the humans are often relics of an age past that are almost as intriguing to the Mechanicus operatives as potential new tech. A less welcome auxiliary among the citizen defenders of the Frontier are the Dustwalkers, a killclade composed of a pair of Rustwalker Princeps ostensibly led by a Sicarian Infiltrator. While lethally efficient on the battlefield, the have a propensity for appearing casually in the vicinity where battle will take place days or weeks before it happens, and lingering afterwards to mutilate fallen enemies, making them particularly unsettling anomalies among the locals. Moreover, they dont appear to be beholden to anyone; no Tech-priests of any rank have asserted any claim over them or expressed any interest in corralling them. To their credit, they have proved invaluable on several occasions, usually by eliminating high-priority targets and allowing the Astartes and volunteer forces to mop up weakened and disorganized enemy lines. The Green Dawn The largest conflict that the Chapter has faced since resolving the barony wars began as an effort to colonize a new world. Several of the human worlds mustered a fleet to attempt the first full scale invasion of one of the grove worlds. Verdant beyond reckoning, the successful colonization of just one of these worlds would secure lifeblood resources, food, water, raw materials and more for the humans of the Frontier for ages to come. Upwards of three quarters of the Asperos Astra joined the invasion. The targeted world, called Araboros by the humans, was caught unawares. Only a token Nonaveridis fleet guarded the orbit of the world, which was expected given the minute scale of previous human raids on such worlds. The meager fleet was quickly smashed aside by the invasion forces, and landfall was made. Scorching landing sites with orbital weaponry, the Asperos led the way in securing footholds for the rest of the invasion, but the humans advance was almost immediately stalled. They became confined to these sites, as veritable walls of floran organisms that had previously ignored raiders and been believed to be in the same low-threat class as servitors swarmed the invaders, bodies choking the ground around the human fortifications as they assaulted in endless waves. The very world around them seemed to be straining to dislodge the would-be colonists. At each staging ground the human forces were pinned down, until Nonaveridis fleet reinforcements arrived, threatening to cut them off. The humans were forced to retreat, and their fleet limped away. At first it seemed that there would be no response. The florans gave no immediate pursuit, and though the returning humans braced themselves for weeks after, there was no sign of retaliation. Then, contact was lost with the planet Ulm. Before an investigation could be launched, the hammer fell. In a single, well-coordinated maneuver, Nonaveridis fleets of unprecedented size fell on the three worlds closest to both Ulm and Araboros, striking each planets largest population centers in the early morning on each world. Massive Lunaria carriers disgorged clouds of floret fighters that blotted out the daylight, while pod-dropped infantry stalks ran amok between the great seeking tentacles of titanic Mirabilis hulks. Though the casualties were astronomical, the citizen defenders of the Frontier were far from helpless, and held their own for days until Asperos strike forces and troops from neighboring planets arrived to relieve them. Two of the besieged worlds hosted keeps that the Astartes had established, both of which were instrumental in grinding down the enemys advance long enough for reinforcements to reach them. It was nearly a month of ceaseless battle before the Nonaveridis were finally dislodged. What the humans lacked in war machines found in the wider Imperium, they made up for in tenacity and ingenuity, traits that were pushed to their limits over the course of the campaign. The turning point only came when Archmagos Paritori Wyssians own ship and escort arrived, adding their strength to that of the humans and their Astartes protectors. After a fierce climax, the Nonaveridis were forced to withdraw. When Frontier forces were finally able to reach Ulm, they found the world no more than a cindered husk, burned of all life. In the decades since this conflict, both sides have markedly increased their border defenses, and skirmishes with the florans have become far more bitter than they have been in all the Frontiers history. Organization Since taking stewardship over the Frontier, the Asperos have restructured somewhat to accommodate for the needs of the region, and to prevent losses like that of the 6th Company. Warp storms are known to rise suddenly and blow through several sectors, greatly imperilling warp travel, making it preferable to risk smaller formations. Though the companies still exist on records, they each have functionally been split in half, with the exception of the still-replenishing 6th Company. Each of these troops is referred to as a corps. Half of the corps, commonly known as the Dust Corps, are responsible for manning the keeps. The other half, called the Sky Corps, operate as patrol forces, ranging across the wild space at the edges of human territory to ward off threats. They are supported in part by an informal navy of the outdated ships that the original colonists brought with them, along with a number of cruder vessels of the colonists own making, but the general lack of fleet power has led the Asperos to be more involved in ship combat than is typical of their kind. While assignment to a corps is permanent, marines spend regular duty tours serving in their counterpart corps to develop experience in every form of warfare in which the Chapter engages. These rotations, one to three years in duration, happen on a squad by squad basis. Each of the Dust Corps is under the day-to-day command of a Shore Reeve, effectively the equivalent of a captain among standard chapters, while the Sky Corps are led by Star Reeves. In joint operations, leadership is usually simply determined by seniority. Each corps is assigned a Warden of Souls, one of the brothers who composes the Chaplaincy, which in turn is led and administered by the Warden Vigilant. In rotating assignment to the corps are an unknown number of Lore Keepers of the Librarium. Their master, the Lore Seer, remains on Aurumilio, carefully tending the Chapters records and providing counsel to the leadership of the humans as they seek to plot the likely course of other colonization ships and lost tech that would help strengthen humanitys tenuous grip on the Frontier. Like the other companies, the scout company was also divided into two corps; the Dust Rangers and Sky Rangers. The rest of the Chapter relies heavily on intelligence from the Ranger corps to coordinate its efforts, and while they spend a great deal of time isolated on the furthest edges of the Frontier, they also have the most interaction with other corps as they relay their findings. More than mere scouts, the Rangers are figures of great repute and honor to their brothers, and the subject of awe and legend among the Frontiers citizens. At the Chapters head is the Marshal, a figure that has quickly entered into the mythos of the Frontiers citizens. The Marshal is unnamed, even to the other leaders within the Chapter, driven to embody his role as an avatar of the Emperors justice. Any flaws or weaknesses he fails to overcome cannot be reflected on his own name, but instead stain his very office, and so he must meet the highest standards and ideals of the Asperos Astra. One trait that has already become attributed to the Marshal is a certain restlessness, causing him to arrive unexpectedly in the midst of the most intense battles, or right before them. The Asperos are still led by their first Marshal, but their rites of succession make clear that only Reeves qualify as successors, the decision made by a council of Wardens and Lore Keepers. The chosen Reeve abandons his name, and is listed in Chapter records as killed in action, and given due honors. A Dark Return As the Asperos approached a century in the Frontier, the region was enjoying a greater degree of stability than they had ever known. To such hard bitten people as called the Frontier home, this was not a comfort. Indeed, on many worlds, there prevailed a sense of apprehension, a deep unease, a feeling that something was coming. As if to confirm their suspicions, word began to spread of a strange individual visiting outlying cities and settlements, proclaiming some sort of afterlife wherever he went. He spoke of no gods or doctrines, just this second life, and its imminent arrival. Some ignored it, dismissing the words as mad ravings. Others, more disconcerted, drove the stranger away from their settlements. Still others seemed to sense something dire in the message, and reported killing the herald outright, though no investigation of these instances ever seemed to produce a body. Regardless of the means by which this preacher departed, illness seemed to follow in his wake. Much of it escaped notice, being comparatively mild, but a few dozen citizens at each settlement were laid up with fever and coughs. A handful died, but most were on their feet again a few days later with no ill effects. Then they began to disappear. The issue came to the Asperos attention as several enforcers among the Arbites they had appointed, as well as a planetary baron, were counted among the missing. As preparations were being made to launch a thorough investigation, the vanished returned...as the shambling, withered front line of a Chaos warband the likes of which the people of Frontier had never seen. But the Asperos had. Though the armor was cracked, corroded, and dented and the banners threadbare and faded, there was no mistaking the 6th Company. New marks and symbols corrupted their original heraldry, marking them for all to see as servants of Nurgle. The horde that went before them seemed mindless, giving no reaction to pleading or surrender, or even to their own injuries. It was not uncommon on any of the worlds where they struck for citizens to recognize dead family and comrades among their attackers. And always dancing somewhere in the midst of the tide of undead was the preacher, killing with a gun in one hand, and raising a book in the other, proclaiming the arrival of the Pallid Procession, and the gift of the second life. Striking quickly, often with no apparent goal other than to kill and claim corpses, the Procession retreated back into the Empyrean to an unknown origin from which they have continued to raid the Frontier. Beliefs Argentalbun City, New Sarum Mm eheh, Frontier life is hard, is it not, brothers and sisters? croaked the rail thin stranger, gloved fingers clenching the fence in front of him, But dont despair, for as difficult as this life is, another awaits. A second life, free of worry, sorrow, or pain, heheh, he gesticulated wildly at the sky at this, What is it your, eheheh, Lawbringers say? The end is never the end, the last ride is never the last. Eheheh, truer than even they know. The second life is true liberation. In the shadow beneath the brim of his hat, the only thing they could make out was the cracked smile, which grew as his incessant chuckles grew into full throated laughter. His sermon seemingly at an end, he turned and walked out of the city, laughing all the while. Uneasy silence prevailed among the settlers in his wake, broken only by a handful of nervous coughs. Isolated as the Manifest Frontier has been for so many hundreds, thousands of years, the notion of the Imperium is somewhat distant to the citizens who live there. With the passage between the Halo Stars and the rest of the Imperium still tenuous at best, and the new era of war roiling along the Great Rift, coordinated efforts to reintegrate the Frontier will be a long time coming, and so their own continued struggle to survive will continue much the same as it has. The brothers of the Asperos Astra do not presume to rule; their innate predisposition to protecting humanity, together with a foundational belief that the Emperor intended his citizens to govern, rather than his super soldiers, has germinated a simple self-perception for the Chapter. They are stewards of humanity in the Frontier, securing the future its leaders aspire to. Their priority is warding away threats to the population, giving them the opportunity to do more than survive, but to flourish. Make no mistake, the Asperos offer counsel and occasional pointed guidance, as appropriate for those with the engineered mindset of warriors, but they generally avoid taking any hand in matters of politics or governance. The exception, and their primary contribution to society in the Frontier outside of war, is the establishment and enforcement of peace agreements between several of the regions dominant factions. Arriving in the Frontier they found a number of the colonized worlds in bloody gridlock over resources at the whim of bickering barons, some of whom laid claim to whole planets. While they fought among themselves, their worlds were still beset by outlaw raiders, floran encroachment, and occasional, but growing, Chaos activity. The Asperos united the barons with a minimal, but chillingly effective application of force, and since then, strictly enforce the rule of law with the assistance of the small independent groups that were once the local law. These, too, were unified into an evenly distributed force with a similar structure to the Adeptus Arbites. Many young citizens of the Frontier, whose families had been part of the barony conflicts for generations, were astonished at how easily the Astartes restored order, and praise for these Lawbringers and the prosperity they brought was instrumental in coaxing some of the more obstinate systems into the fold. The moniker has prevailed ever since, with most of the citizen population knowing the Chapter as the Lawbringers. Having seen how effective this word-of-mouth has been at unifying the citizenry, the Chapter has made no effort to correct the people. Young as they are, the Asperos Chapter cult is still slowly developing beyond the simple tenet of protecting their wards. Some of that development is naturally the result of recruiting Frontier natives into their ranks. One notion that has taken root is the value of experience, not only to the individual, but to all, and it is common at any gathering of Asperos brothers to hear the chatter of tales of glory, heroism, failure, and sacrifice being related, particularly directed at the youngest members of the company. Even the ordinary citizens of the Frontier who interface with the Chapter are often subjected to anecdotes from which lessons are supposed to be learned. A common saying from the elder to the younger is where the ceramite is scarred, there is a story worth telling. With no other significant Imperial forces in the Frontier besides the often-out-of-reach explorators, the Asperos has also developed a keen conviction for the value of every brothers life. Self-sacrifice, laudable though it is, is something seen only as a very last resort, for a dead marine is one who can no longer defend his Emperors people. There are occasional noble last stands, but they are always born of absolute necessity, and a fighting retreat that ensures brothers will live to fight again is much preferred. This belief is extended on to those the Asperos protect as well, who the Astartes view as seeds from which the Imperiums presence in the Halo Stars will grow. This particular idea serves as a strong motivator for the Chapter; assured that the Frontier will one day join the larger Imperium, they want to know that they have something of consequence to show for their time spent fighting and laboring there. While the Mechanicus and its Explorators are sure that the answer to the Imperiums ills will come in the form of lost tech, the Asperos believes it will come from its people. The most commendable traits to strive for among the Asperos are precision and decisiveness, both on and off the battlefield, and they dedicate much of their time outside of combat to refining marksmanship. Particularly impressive feats of accuracy; targets hit at great distance, ricocheted rounds, shots through the slightest opening, are all stories often shared to extol the value of finesse and practice. Among the most well-known and revered of these tales comes from a battlefield on the planet Codai, shortly following the war of the Green Dawn: For years after, floran raids came with terrible force, each new attack feeling like the threat of another Ulm. That was, until Codai. A floran assault began while the 5th Dust Corps was enroute to its new destination on a nearby world. Diverting to defend Codai, the 5th made planetfall and took charge of the militia forces. During the fighting, Veteran Sergeant Wylam Tero broke from formation on his Steda, and rode out among the flailing limbs of the Mirabilis bio-titan leading the floran attack. As the creature discharged a solar blast at the lines of the defenders, Tero fired a single shot into its underside. Striking an opening that couldnt have been larger than a handspan on a moving target over a hundred meters above him, Teros bolt entered a biological vent opened only briefly by the creatures attack and detonated the highly reactive organ from which the floran drew its energy. The Mirabilis annihilated itself and a third of its supporting force as Wylam Tero rode free of the blast. This was the first and only known instance of such a precise engine kill on one of these creatures, and it led to a precipitous decline in floran raids and secured Wild Wylam a place in legend both within the Chapter and without. A keep bearing his name is now present on Codai. The revelation of the 6th companys fate has left an indelible mark on the Chapters psyche. Their honors have been stricken from the Chapters records, and there are always Lore Keepers tasked with trying to locate this Pallid Procession and its next target. The Wardens of the Asperos now work closely with their brethren to eradicate the seed of doubt that has been planted in each of their hearts. Whether they are willing to acknowledge it openly or not, each battle brother among the Asperos has since asked himself if he would have submitted to the Ruinous Powers and turned against everything he stood for, and what could have been worth such a price. To some, it would seem better not to know, while to others, the why and how of the 6th Companys fall are of vital importance to answer. The existential threat of the Pallid Procession extends past the Chapter and on to their wards, as well; the Processions disturbing preference for using the peoples dead against them has led to efforts by the citizens and the Astartes to secure their fallen against the corrupting influence of the heretics. While settlements are defended as would be expected, the great grave fields that the Frontier citizens have maintained throughout their history have now also begun to be heavily fortified, as much to keep the dead in as to keep them out. The grave fortresses remain the only predictable targets for the Processions attacks, and the battles fought around them have been among the fiercest. This never ending conflict has only reinforced the value of life within the Chapter and the citizenry of the Frontier. Gene-seed The Asperos Astra are gene-sons of Guilliman, and have dependably stable genetic material. Until a more reliable route through the Lemhi Pass is established, they have secured their gene-seed tithes in Shanborn Fortress. Instead of sending the tithes, emissaries are dispatched to update Mars on their circumstances. Until now, the Mechanicus has accepted this substitute, encouraged by further endorsement from the Frontier Explorators. With each journey, most successful, some not, the pass becomes better understood and safer to navigate, and soon the Chapter should be able to dutifully submit its tithes, as well as receive extra gene-seed in the event of a disaster. War Cry Taken up as a chant: Dust, blood, guts, and glory! Chapter Tactic Deadeye Prowess Masters of ranged combat, the Lawbringers are frighteningly accurate marksman, seeming to account for every variable with each placed shot. Enemies who thought themselves safely out of range often pay the ultimate price for underestimating the accuracy of Asperos battle brothers. Increase the range of all ranged weapons by 3" and reroll to-hit rolls of 1 for any bolter weapons. Battle Brother Arnton of the Sixth Company, painted by Ace Debonair
The Pallid Procession The Grave and the Cradle Origins[/skullheaderhalf] Something you learn after enough time seeding Grandfathers garden...not every infection births disease. Anything can become an infection and bear worthy fruits. It still begins small, but feeds on its environment, grows, spreads, until at last it consumes its host. Not their body, but their mind and soul. Every emotion, like an open wound, is fertile ground for infection as potent as any disease. Fear. Pride. Hatred. Failure. Calvera, Warden of the Damned Failure. Like a hissing insect that appears without fail to disturb moments of peace. That finds its way into the slightest chink in the armor and bites and stings, getting further in the more one reaches for it. That, in the very moment when it seems to have finally died, begins its fevered attack once more. To hear the living among The Procession tell it, the Chaos scourge of the Halo Stars owes its existence to the failure of one man: Johin Mahlur. The chosen Champion of the Asperos Astra, Mahlur had been given the chance to earn his Chapter glory, and had brought them only shame, which shame had led them to risk everything and cost them dearly. As the Chapter took its fateful journey through the treacherous pass leading into the Halo Stars, it was buffeted and shaken by the turbulence of the warp. After more than a month withstanding the storm, near the heart of the fleet, the strike cruiser Reilios, home of the 6th company, began to list out of formation. Within its hull, disarray. The ships Gellar Field was failing and the Immaterium was claiming it. Surfaces of the decks and bulkheads warped and bubbled, crumbled and cracked, changing material in an eyeblink. Bodies were transfigured and twisted. Entities of the Empyrean stalked the corridors. Amid the screams, coughs, and sounds of battle against apparating demonic entities, there were also murmurs of pledged loyalty, and while most stood and fought, there were some that bent the knee. The rest of the fleet continued receiving horrific transmission from the Reilios for hours, until at last it was pulled from its course and violently ejected from the warp stream, pulling a smaller vessel from the Explorators fleet with it, both presumed destroyed. But they survived. The two ships emerged from the Warp together, far from their destination, but mostly intact. Functional, but not unmarked. Both ships bore what appeared to be the accumulated wear and corrosion of centuries in the void without maintenance. The emblems and icons of the Chapter and the Imperium that had adorned the cruiser had crumbled or burned away, replaced instead with symbols of a different allegiance; the trio of circles that represent the Plague Lord, Nurgle. Every living soul aboard both vessels had been changed; a price paid for survival, and for Johin Mahlurs failure. Homeworld[/skullheaderhalf] Captains Quarters aboard the Pursuer Sickly green light pulsed above the unpowered holoprojector. A lone figure kneels before it, head bowed, the vile emblems on his armor dancing with their own shadows in the ghastly glow. This work, hell-fired worthy though it is, would go faster if you gave us more, the figure pleads in a deep rasp. The green rent in reality vibrated with the slow, layered, near-whisper that answered Is your power over death insufficient, Calvera? Or your will so weak? Would the Plaguefather be better served by another Champion? Not power, master. Knowledge. Assurance that this artifact exists! That our toils have meaning. The Materium hides secrets from us as the Immaterium obscures them from you. Had I more...insight...into the objects location, you would have it. Continue your searches. Have patience. Time is on our side. And Calvera? If you lay such doubt upon me again, there will be consequences. Spat out of the Warp under no power of their own, the castoff survivors from the fleet found themselves at the edge of a barren star system somewhere deep among the Halo Stars. Before them were a handful of worlds that were little more than pitted rocks, orbiting a baleful and turbulent star. At first the newly converted children of decay thought that they were meant for these stricken worlds, but as they approached, they found something else. Orbiting the entire star, like a single wisp of gray hair clinging tenuously to a pale head, was an unbroken chain of ships. Wreckage, both ancient and modern, pursuing a silent, ceaseless convoy around the star. From the whisper of Nurgles emissaries they learned its name: The Processional of the Damned. The numberless derelict vessels carried all that the Plaguefathers disciples would need to fulfill his will. From it they would take their name, and their mission. Composed of everything from scout vessels and pleasure yachts all the way up to battleships and space hulks, there are more weapons, artifacts, and secrets in the Processional than on some of the oldest hives of the Imperium. The orbiting vessels come from every age and beyond, and from civilizations human and xenos alike. There is far more hidden among these ships than the emerging warband can hope to uncover on its own. The Reilios and the Demittor, the Mechanicus forge-barque that had succumbed with them, moved to orbit alongside the Processional, only to see the ships surrounding them to part of their own accord, leaving room for both heretic vessels. Entering orbit, the heretics began their explorations. To further reflect the changes to themselves and their ship, the heretic Astartes renamed their corrupted Strike Cruiser Pursuer of the End. Over the course of years and decades that followed, the corrupted survivors explored and cannibalized the surrounding ships, while the tainted Mechanicus dragged multiple vessels together to build a dark, floating forge. The Astartes and their subjects refitted and repaired a handful of other ships, and began to launch scouting missions into the dark corners of the Halo Stars and towards the Asperos Astras original destination. When at last they found the Manifest Frontier, the loyalists newfound home, they set about watching them, dispatching agents into their midst to observe, and planting new seeds of corruption in the hearts of their wards. A handful of the choicest recruits were spirited away back to the Processional, where they joined the ceaseless salvage and restoration effort on the various wrecks. Others are outfitted with scout ships and sent into the darkest corners of the Frontier, pursuing secret objectives. The Processional now has pockets of activity throughout its orbit, some ships having been returned to full functionality to serve the heretics' naval and transport needs, while others have little more than flickering engines and lights full of whispers, some new and some ancient. The bulk of the work done in the Processional is carried out by undead, whose living masters push them ever harder to prepare the ships for their destiny. Still less than a fraction of its potential has been uncovered. The secrets and power it contains are of extreme importance to certain members of the Immaterium. And what is important to them is important to the Pallid Procession. Recruitment[/skullheaderhalf] There are few living Astartes in the Procession compared to many warbands, most of these being the original members of the 6th Company that made pacts with the Plaguefather in exchange for their lives and their power. Due to Nurgles gifts, none of these traitors has yet tasted death. The rest of the 6th company, however, was not lost...or more accurately, not wasted. With the powers of the Empyrean, the traitors raised the dead of the 6th, binding them to their cruel will. These undead Astartes are now the Processions deadliest shock troopers, and though some have been destroyed, their reanimated nature makes them extremely difficult to destroy, and many of them continue to serve. The bulk of the warband is composed of the surviving crew from the Pursuer and the Demittor, who command zealots and cultists that have been spirited away from the colony worlds of the Manifest Frontier. Supplementing their lack of numbers are great hordes of undead, raised by means of pestilent sorcery. While the Procession exercises its powers quite liberally to cull and harass the colonists, it is also very cautious in its approach to tempting away other Marines of the Asperos Astra. It is rarely worth the risk to commit substantial forces against the Chapters established defenses, but probing strikes against convoys and isolated outposts can sometimes yield new recruits. With great care, the Procession has slowly and subtly grown, and they continue their implacable advance with all the inevitability Nurgles children are known for. Advancement among the Astartes within the Procession is at the sole discretion of the Black Warden, Calvera, and hinges on much the same kinds of deeds expected of the mundane mortals in their service: providing information. As the Procession scours the Manifest Frontier from its heaviest fortifications to its darkest unexplored corners in search of the hidden power they desire, the favor of their master is reserved for those who provide the most valuable intelligence. Combat Doctrine[/skullheaderhalf] The Fall of Fort Belknod The flames created disturbing echoes in the halls of the fortress, seeming to give voices to the contorting shadows cast on the walls. Striding through the flames came a tall figure clad in eroded black ceramite, approaching a heavy door that had been smashed from its frame. Another, smaller figure wearing leathers stood by the open portal, and nodded to the armored giant, taking a step forward at the approach. The charts? Growled the armored one, stopping at the door. Inside, my Auger. Untouched, as ordered. Tell the troops. No survivors. The short one nodded, and ran, picking their way through flames. After a pause, the armored one entered the open room. It was small; room for less than a dozen people. The walls were lined with shelves, but directly across from the ruined door was a skull-topped shrine, inside of which was a tall, ornate scroll case. As the giant reached out, his helmet appeared to crack, disintegrate and at last dissolve into dust, drifting away from his head. Wide, milky eyes stared from a gaunt, pale face. A ceramite fist plucked the case from the shrine, lifting it to eye level, and the heretics thin lips curled into a humorless smile. Warfare as conducted by the Procession is a strange contradiction, a matter of subtlety executed by brute force, where a success will leave the enemy wondering why they came under attack at all. Lacking the numbers of elite (or even particularly coordinated) troops found among the Asperos Astra and the colonist militias, the warband compensates using waves of undead chaff to draw enemy attention and absorb fire. These hordes are composed of both simple reanimated dead, as well as more robust zombies created with an iteration of the Walking Pox known in the Frontier as the Withering Pox. The walkers created by the Withering Pox often appear shriveled and emaciated, rather than the typical swollen and pustule ridden form of pox walkers, but are still possessed of a frightening density that makes them deceptively hardy. While the pox walkers are usually gathered into their own hordes, it is not unusual for some to be mixed among the simpler plague zombies, where they are difficult to pick out until they are already upon the foe and their unexpected strength and ferocity is too late to stop. With the tide of undead at the front, the Processions firepower, borne primarily by the undead members of the 6th, can then be brought to bear with minimal interference. Their focused fire is used to target perceived weak points in their targets defences, creating greater opportunity for the hordes to break through and overwhelm defenders. More entrenched enemies are ideally faced with too many shambling corpses to be able to contribute meaningfully to the battle. Using the frontal assault as a distraction, the sorcerer leading the force will take advantage of the chaos sown by the pressing hordes to slip through a vulnerability in the enemy defence, whether discovered or pre-prepared, to accomplish the Processions main objective, or to fall upon an unsuspecting enemy flank with psychic fury, taking them off balance and leaving them all the more exposed. The Procession are especially dangerous in the void, where they take full advantage of the endless supply of gutted and abandoned vessels bestowed on them by their master. Fireships and ramming leave wide openings for boarding, both in direct assaults with their massed hordes and by stealthy insertions of sorcerers and their champions. To date, only moderately sized vessels, no larger than the Pursuer have seen use in actions against their enemies. [skullheaderhalf=333333]Organization Most operations attributed to the Procession are carried out by short-lived cults, whose leadership have very little communication with the true body of the warband. Their value is generally measured simply by the corpses they supply, but occasionally they provide information useful to the warbands larger aims. Delivering such information is usually the only means by which such zealots can hope to rise into the true ranks of the Procession, or earn any reward beyond knowing their zombified corpse will one day be a weapon for the warband. The humans with real standing in the Procession are more often than not spared from brutal combat service; they are far more valuable to the warband as information gatherers and fomenters of dissent. These select and faithful few operate primarily as solitary agents, searching the Frontier for whispers of the power the Procession seeks, while laying the foundation for new cults. Above most humans, but somewhat distinct from the structure of the Procession are the acolytes and magi of the Demittor, who have combined the gifts and knowledge of their patron with their existing technological prowess in order to keep the Procession equipped with arms and ammunition. As is typical of their kind, most of them would rather spend their time uncovering the secrets and archaeotech in the treasure trove that is the Processional, but they can be relied upon to outfit the warband according to its needs, and occasionally even take to the battlefield. Of the heretic astartes themselves, they are loosely divided into thirteen strike teams, each led by one of the original traitors from the Pursuer. These bands organize themselves largely as they see fit, and carry out the missions specifically given them in furtherance of the Processions goals. Their leaders, referred to as Augers by their lessers, each have varying degrees of influence over the powers of the Warp, due mostly to pacts struck during the fall of the Reilios. The more proactive among them have begun to approach the power of true sorcerers, but all have potent gifts they may bring to bear. Commanding the warbands operations on the material plane is the grim figure known as Calvera, the Black Warden. It is unknown what his exact involvement was in the fall of the 6th Company, but he was the most senior among those who turned, to say nothing of his authority as a Warden of Souls. What had once been an indomitable will as a Warden of the Asperos Astra has now turned toward the dark, entropic designs of the Plaguefather. Under his direction the Procession has harried both the Asperos and the Nonaveridis across the length and breadth of the Manifest Frontier, striking almost without consequence at places thought impervious to assault. Calvera himself takes counsel from none, save the greater daemon that relays the Plaguefathers wishes. Only a handful of the original heretics are privy to this entitys nature, but it is known to be the creator of the Withering Pox. To those of the material plane, the being is named The Graywhisper, and is one of the unifying subjects of worship among the various plague cults birthed by the Procession. And then, somewhere at the edge of the Processions structure is the enigmatic figure known most commonly among them Pallid Preacher. Even within the warband, no one can confidently claim understanding of this creatures nature. He often appears at settlements a few days, or sometimes mere hours before the arrival of warband hordes, raving abstractly to the inhabitants about the merits of death and the waiting afterlife. On more than one occasion the preachers unsettling sermons have been answered with bullets. While in some places he escapes, in others he, or at least something like him, has been reported killed. Still he appears on the frontlines, heedless of any number of deaths. [skullheaderhalf=333333]Beliefs Bridge of the Pursuer And this pleases the Graywhisper? The heretic marine, somehow both hulking and dessicated, leaned forward, laying a weathered metal chest at the foot of the throne. You need to learn the difference between progress, and success, Arikoraa, Calvera growled from beneath his hood, Progress is a lie, a trick, a false sense of security. It forestalls failure, but it is not success. In progress, there is nothing to be pleased. That weak thinking is why the Asperos settled for this...wasteland. When we succeed...when the Processional takes to the stars, the stain of the Asperos has been scoured, and we ride on the Imperium itself...then, the Graywhisper will be pleased. The Procession doesnt display the joviality found among some followers of Nurgle, though they do exhibit a grim pleasure in their work. The traitors from the Asperos Astra are a somber group, clad in the corrupted remains of their armor. Uncharacteristic for plague marines, the heretics of the Procession are gaunt, emaciated and parched rather than bloated and gangrenous. Even their ceramite appears more like a hardened, flaked husk than intentionally crafted armor. Instead of the cloying mist of disease that clings to most plague marines, the astartes of the Procession, both living and undead, are followed by dark, dry, clouds of noxious dust that bear the Withering Pox and other deadly pathogens. Though they delight in the suffering of the Frontiers colonists and any killing and torturing they can exact on the Asperos, the Procession are generally a callous and rigid warband, with a single-mindedness toward their objectives and very little tolerance for failure of any kind. They are committed to the mission given them, which to them will bring vindication against the weak and deferential Asperos Astra, and the Imperium that rejected their strength and denied their glory. Through their cults and, to a lesser degree the mad ministrations of the Preacher, the warband spreads its belief in death as the greatest gift, a liberation from the worry and pain of life. An afterlife awaits the worthy, a second life, which in reality is no more than being revived by one of the zombie plagues to further spread the word. Among the cults of the Procession, there is no greater aspiration, and the sorcerers within the warband are honest in delivering this gift to their disciples upon death. Nurgles purpose for the Procession among the Halo Stars is known only to the heretic Astartes and a select few of their most devoted followers. Under the daemons guidance, they are convinced that somewhere in the Frontier is an artifact capable of animating the entire Processional of the Damned. If found, it would create a fleet the likes of which the Imperium has seldom seen. One which could visit death and devastation upon an entire Segmentum. [skullheaderhalf=333333]Gene-seed They share the lineage of the Asperos, but their gene-seed is naturally highly corrupted. Very little of that gene-seed is viable for implantation. Only five successful implantations have occurred since the Processions birth, but each of these new plague marines has been increasingly more powerful than the last. Most of the failed implantations have at least resulted in mutants useful enough to be unleashed as disposable shock troops. [skullheaderhalf=333333]War Cry Call: Every step closer! Answer: Closer to the grave!