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Index Astartes The Basilisks Chapter “To know that our eyes are upon them must cause our enemies to be paralyzed with fear, to acknowledge the immediacy of their mortal lives. To look upon our silent gaze, they must know death, swift and sure!”-Asmodeus, 1st Serpent Lord Origins Meeting of Inquisitor Moisei and Master Kalis “Many eyes have pried into the cloying shadows of that founding, Inquisitor. Few have found what they sought. Fewer still have emerged unscathed.” The Inquisitor scoffed, but had no reply. The power armored giant chuckled again. “Don’t let my words deter you. We have the utmost interest in your…findings” Of the many Chapters birthed from the darkness of the 21st founding, few proved successful, and many were even driven swiftly to extinction. Among the enduring 'Cursed' Chapters are the Basilisks. If they were created with a specific purpose, it remains unknown. Official observers have concluded that the Basilisks are of Iron Hands descent, attested to by their doctrine, and a timely submission of gene-seed tithes. Since the time they emerged from the void no records have followed to confirm this, or give any other clues regarding their origins…which isn’t to say that no one is looking. Multiple factions within the Imperium have, in the past, questioned both the legitimacy of the Chapter’s genetic material, and its loyalty to the Emperor. Some still do. The Basilisks have, with great effort, evaded most unwanted attention, though they are still dogged from sector to sector by one Inquisitor Moisei, who has long doubted how such ‘purity’ could have emerged from the 21st Founding. The Chapter avoids as much contact with these and other Imperial Forces as possible, remaining tight-lipped under whatever scrutiny the Inquisition attempts to pursue…which has done nothing to dissuade their detractors. The Fleet Final audiolog from the pirate frigate Sorento “Is that a cruiser!? An Astartes cruiser!? You said the frigate was a Trader! Get us back to the fleet, now! Damn it all, is that another? Brace for im----” To the knowledge of the Imperium and even the Basilisks themselves, they had no world of origin. Since they were first sighted plowing through the void, no marine has set foot planetside except to do battle. The fleet is extensive, and continually grows with the addition of captured ships. These include a startlingly high concentration of Battle Barges, which despite being of a younger and smaller caliber than the venerable vessels of the Heresy, are able to give significant body to the otherwise thinly spread Basilisk fleet. The Monastery Battle Barge Serpent's Tongue and its escort are found at the heart of the fleet, where they are best able to support any engagement, while the rest of the fleet is spread in a loose, coiling line across a vast stretch of space on either side and there is no consistent course or predictability to the fleet’s movements. Constant communication is maintained from one end of the fleet to the other with as much accuracy as possible in an effort to allow fleet elements to redeploy for support as quickly as possible. The Chapter’s more frequent enemies, traitor fleets and pirates both human and xenos, have learned to attack or flee at the first sign of a Basilisk ship, as reinforcements are never far behind. In turn, the Basilisks have developed an expertise in rapid boarding actions as well as improved methods of defending smaller patrol fleets. Recruitment Survivors The Apothecary’s expression was impassive as he dressed the recruit’s wounds, stemming the open flow of blood issuing from his arm and side, while the man lay still on the table. His eyes stared straight up, unmoving. He would survive his wounds, but whether or not hypnotherapy and conditioning could get him past the mental trauma remained to be seen. The Chaplain stood looking silently on for a long time, but finally revealed his purpose. “Can you describe what you saw?” The recruit flinched; the Chaplain had undone all his effort thus far to bury the last eight hours, but he did not change his gaze. Eventually, he slowly shook his head. The Chaplain appeared to be satisfied, and turned and began walking from the room. “One final test awaits you,” The Chaplain stopped at the doorway, “Steel yourself. You will return to that ship again before your trial is over. If you are not ready, you will become what you now fear. To become one of us, you must know no fear.” The neophyte sat bolt upright, heading snapping to the doorway, but the Chaplain had gone. Falling slowly back to the table as the Apothecary grumbled at replacing the newly torn wrappings. The recruit’s gaze returned to the ceiling. Back to the ship. One more time. Like most Chapters of the Cursed Founding, the greatest challenge of the Basilisks is not victory in battle, but propagation. In order to maintain a flow of successful initiates, the Chapter takes suitable candidates en masse from liberated worlds. For the inhabitants of such worlds, it is the price paid for freedom, as the green clad Astartes move among them, claiming the choicest of their youth. No word of explanation is ever given and often the Basilisks leave a liberated world without the planet's inhabitants even knowing who they are. Few worlds visited by the Basilisks understand anything more about their visitation other than that they are purged of whatever heresy plagues them in return for however many children the marines choose to spirit away. The trials faced by recruits are among the most lethal of tests employed by Space Marines, and despite taking large numbers of prospective initiates there are very few survivors. While the exact nature of the trials is unknown, the bodies of most failed neophytes are unceremoniously jettisoned into the void, and their occasional recovery by Inquisitor Moisei has long fueled his obsessive investigation. Some of these corpses appear to have been pierced by the fangs of some great maw, others torn by man made weapons, and still others show signs of both. These aren’t unusual fates among Astartes recruits, but they do indicate that the Basilisks house some sort of creature for these trials, though no one has ever observed the Basilisks collecting any such specimens. The Chapter keeps a fairly large body of serfs, but they are maintained at a distant arms length, usually assigned to the support of ships in the fleet rather than working with battle brothers. This is the most fortunate fate to befall unfit recruits, while the dregs are augmented or turned into servitors to assist the Techmarines in their considerable work. Combat Doctrine Day 16 of the Wailing Portent Campaign For two days the rangers of Iybraesil had lain in wait, assured by the Farseer that the humans would pass this way with minimal support. While Ynarana’s banshees were too important to set aside for days at a time, they would arrive in time to mop up. Mendor and his squad were beginning to shift into ready positions as the appointed time came close, sliding the barrels of their long rifles over ledges amid the debris of the ruins, sighting down the only clear path through the area. Minutes passed, then hours. Mendor began to stretch, and sniffed as a strange scent reached his nose. He had turned part way toward the source when he felt his muscles seize up, his eyes catching sight of a small canister on the ground nearby. He couldn’t move. The ground crunched heavily beside him, but he couldn’t turn to look. What came into view first was Ynarana’s head, jaw slack, eyes sightlessly staring, hair caught in the gauntleted fist of a Space Marine. The green armored figure crouched down. “Expecting someone, witch-kin?” Issued the voice from the helmet, then the figure straightened up and Mendor saw the free hand reach for him and felt the grip on the back of his neck, pulling him easily off his feet, “Worry not. We will keep you company. We can discuss the location of your webway gates.” AAll of the Basilisks most significant actions have either been ship to ship boarding maneuvers, or targeted at planetside orbital defenses, usually aimed at creating a beachhead for other Imperial forces. The Basilisks don’t wait for support, and the forces these beacheads are intended for are usually days or even weeks behind. The Chapter has become adept at creating large, defensible groundside footholds, and loyalist forces descending on a world visited by the Basilisks will often find well stocked defenses waiting for them, though the Chapter itself is frequently gone by then. The Basilisks are extremely well suited to fighting in the cold confines of dying capital ships, as well as the shadow-pocked, rubble strewn, urban battlefields of hive worlds. Indeed, they seem to prefer such restrictive environments. On a larger scale, the fleet of the Basilisks feels like an omnipresent threat to enemies of the Chapter or the Imperium, for wherever there is one ship there are not only several more close at hand, but virtually half the fleet can redeploy to an engagement before within short order of the commencement of hostilities. In fleet engagements, their ships seek to close quickly to boarding distance, from multiple angles if possible, in order to disable and capture enemy vessels before they can react, after which said ships are usually used against the very planet or fleet they had defended. One favored tactic involves covertly introducing a paralytic nerve agent into an enemy vessel’s environmental systems, leaving entire crews helplessly at the Basilisk's mercy, which is, at best a quick shot to the head and at worst a one-way trip to the airlock. Basilisk attacks can be quick, or prolonged, according to the adaptability of the Codex and tactics inspired by the creature for which the Chapter is named. The initial strike of any Basilisk force is aimed at forcing the enemy to dig in, whether by pinning them with hails of ranged fire or holding them in place with bloody assaults. If this fails the strike force will fall back, regroup, and repeat the attempt until successful. As soon as the Basilisk force has ‘caught hold’ of the enemy, they move to surround them. Usually this is done by drop pod assault into the enemy’s rear rather than redeployment of ground forces, but fast moving tactical units have effectively fenced in target forces on many occasions. Once surrounded, the Basilisks either grind the foe into oblivion with steady and unrelenting fire, supported by assault units that flush out entrenched targets, or the Chapter may employ an orbital bombardment, destroying everything within their grip. If said grip should be broken, or the enemy can’t be held down long enough to surround, the Basilisk force will withdraw, usually to make an attempt from another angle. The Chapter does not move or fight with such fluidity on an open battleground, and their tactics are far less effective in pitched battle situations. At these times the Basilisks are more likely to break off the attack and seek to engage the enemy in an area more of their choosing, or to bleed them with endless hit-and-run attacks that drain the enemy of vitality each time. What few Scouts they employ are adepts of sabotage, especially using poisons. Where this proves ineffective, such as against the multi-filtered nervous and digestive system of other marines, more direct means are used, such as explosives. Sabotage like that is usually aimed at enemy ammunition supplies and armor. In more urgent situations, or especially if striking at a port or manufactorum, the enemy may be shelled using the same gaseous nerve agent employed in their boarding actions in an effort to minimize damage to salvageable assets. The tactic is often looked down on as cowardice by other Astartes, but the Basilisks are either oblivious to the stigma or simply don't care. Individually, most Basilisk marines favor close combat, and most of their extensive bionics are optimized for it. While the majority of these enhancements and prosthetics are still covered by armor, some Basilisks make frequent use of digital weapons and so sacrifice armor to better facilitate cooling. Veterans invariably possess the most bionic replacements. Organization Despite the size of its recruitment pool, it appears the Chapter has never grown far beyond six hundred marines in strength. Even so they have proved on multiple occasions to be willing to commit up to three hundred marines to an engagement without hesitation, and within a reasonably short space of time. These marines usually come from the three nearly full strength only Battle Companies, spaced roughly evenly throughout the fleet. Their remaining marines are distributed across six half sized Reserve Companies, usually lingering near the Monastery Barge. The Basilisks are, despite their numbers, fairly Codex adherent, with only a few variations in their naming conventions. The Chapter Master is known as the Serpent Lord, and no other power in the Chapter, individual or group, is equal to his. As in any other Astartes Chapter, he is indisputably the strongest marine among them, physically and mentally, perhaps even more so considering how long the Serpent Lords tend to live. At the turn of each generation thus far, caused each time by the death of the Master in battle, the Chapter disappears and is lost even to the unclosing eye of the Inquisition. When it next appears, usually not for decades, the Chapter is markedly weaker for a time. Twice they have fallen to less than two hundred marines. This too usually lasts a few decades. The cause for this decline is also a mystery. The current Chapter Master is Serpent Lord Sicariss, who has been the head of the Basilisks for well over three and a half centuries. The Basilisks have not looked favorably on the Ultima Founding. When they were called upon to augment their ranks with Primaris marines, they responded with silence, and seem to avoid joining with Primaris chapters on the battlefield. The Head Transfusion The doors to the Serpent Lord’s chambers sealed with a hiss, leaving the black and gilded casket sitting in the center of the darkened room. After several moments of silenced, a whirring and hum of power announced the activation of a pair of servitors recessed into a wall. One, some sort of surgical servitor, approached the casket, while the other, which appeared to be a Historitor, moved toward the bank of screens and monitors that dominated the wall across from the casket. Deft mechanical appendages keyed several panels, deactivating and reactivating several screens, and moving subtly hidden levers and switches. A few seconds later the wall split and opened, revealing an alcove, softly lit by the glow of the translucent screens still suspended in front of it. The light fell on a whispering, shifting form, a humanoid bound and connected to the wall behind it by cables and chains, all sallow skin and exposed circuitry. The historitor reached out to a plinth over which this hidden servitor was held, metal digits skittering across it. The sound of sparks and buzzing current came from the mess of cables and cords, and the figure twitched and jerked briefly, before its unintelligible burbles and whispers were replaced with a single, low hum, almost musical to hear. At this, the historitor settle back on mechanical haunches and quieted, waiting. Behind it, the surgical servitor had unsealed and opened the casket, and with drills, saws and scalpels was peeling back layers of skin, muscle and bone on the figure within. It worked methodically, ceaselessly, slowly extricating wires and circuitry from the now faceless cranium. Eventually, whether hours or days later, the continuous monotone of the hidden servitor pitched up for a moment and then went silent, at which the historitor stirred and straightened, eyes abnormally attentive. A rasping, modulated voice issued from the hanging form. “Report.” The response came from the historitor, but the voice and cadence was not that of a lobotomized servant. “Scitalis has expired on the battlefield of Pharsalia, my lord. The Basilisks are entering dormancy.” “The Chain Node?” The supposed historitor turned to look at the surgical servitor, which stood in active over the casket, a mesh of fine wires and organic components held in one claw. Turning back, the strange servant answered. “Intact.” “Well done, Li-Char. We will begin preparing potential successors,” the voice answered, “Rendezvous coordinates forthcoming. To the coming of the True Omnissiah.” “To the coming of the True Omnissiah.” Beliefs Volcanic Deathworld Cerregra The feed from the servo-skull was spotty, marred by static bursts and light flares from the lava below. A group of Astartes stood beside the molten river, several of them gesturing upstream, while one was kneeling by a device on the bank. Presently, they stood and trotted off further downstream. Moisei did not send the skull to follow immediately, but as the visual began to shudder, he realized he should have. The drone turned to see some sort of detonation erupt on the side of the ashmount, and the lava flow immediately swelled, doubling, and then tripling in size, until a veritable wave of lava was rolling down the mountainside. There was a heatbloom in the feed as the skull tried to escape, and then the connection was lost. Moisei sighed, pushing away from the monitor in frustration. What were they after on this hellscape, these supposed sons of the Gorgon? And how many servo-skulls was it going to take to find out. There appear to be two tiers to the belief system of the Basilisks. The first echoes the Iron Hands mantra of Purge the Weak, with a slightly more progressive approach: a doctrine known as Shed the Weak. According to the Basilisks, the transformation familiar to Iron Hands and their successors for millennia is a natural order of evolution prompted by the very first advent of technology. They believe that humanity may ‘grow into’ this changed and improved form over time, which progression is based on merit. The first thing shed by every Basilisk upon initiation is his given name, and after induction, the traditional right hand of Manus’ sons. From then on, augmentations and bionic replacements are earned. Should a marine suffer a wound or lose a limb on the battlefield without having proven his worth, he will not be saved except for his invaluable geneseed, and is considered as shed weakness. This much is known because the Basilisks have, in the past, allowed Imperial agents unrestricted access to their regular rites in an attempt to dissuade Inquisitorial attention, and these rites clearly suggest another level of doctrine among the Basilisks. This other ‘tier’ of beliefs is repeatedly mentioned during regular rites, in the oratories of their Chaplains. What this second tier is exactly is unknown to any but the brothers of the Chapter, and is referred to simply as The Quest. Every marine seems to be aware of its meaning since both Initiates and Veterans are present when the Chaplains are relaying its urgency and significance, and all those who are present respond with equal fervor. This suggests that the knowledge is planted along with the 19 organs, during hypnotherapy, and this process has always been strictly prohibited from outside view. The truth of The Quest is surprisingly simple, something of an evolution of a belief common among the Gorgon’s sons, that one day the Primarch may return. The Basilisks don’t espouse this exact belief, but rather they believe that the bearers of the Iron Hands legacy must become as their Primarch, believing that to do so requires not only mastery of the mechanical, but the literal hands of Ferrus Manus. The Quest, in essence, is a search for the spawn of Asirnoth, which the Basilisks are convinced exists somewhere in the galaxy, and can grant them the power of the Primarch, or in other words, return His power to the Imperium. Where this belief originated is unclear, but it accounts for the haste with which they answer any call from a world with remotely volcanic activity, which has been the only pattern ever detected in their fleet movements. Though he has little to no support among other Inquisitors, Moisei has long investigated the Basilisks because of these strange beliefs coupled with rumors of the Basilisks attacking and destroying young Chapters under the banner of perceived Chaos influence, only to claim the remaining fleet assets for their Quest. The most substantiated occasion involved a newly gathered Ork invasion which sprung up in the Heltoez system, only a subsector from the volcanic homeworld of the young Ash Eagles Chapter. Though the Greenskin invasion saw to it that surviving records were scarce, sources suggested that when the Basilisks ‘answered’ the call for help, their ships orbited the planet, guns and launch bays still, for two and a half weeks while the Ash Eagles scoured wave after wave of Greenskin hordes, and were ultimately ground down to less than half a company. After the Basilisks joined battle, the conflict was decisively ended, but the Eagles were lost while the Basilisks left with all the fledgling Chapter’s fleet elements. For Moisei, the mere possibility that this transpired is more than enough evidence that the Chapter has turned from the Emperor’s light, while others, who he derides as ‘charmed by the snake’ question how or why the Eagles wouldn’t have conveyed such damning evidence of treachery to anyone. The appearance of the Cicatrix Maledictum seems to have fueled the urgency of the Basilisk’s quest, and they now traverse the Dark Imperium erratically, smashing aside resistance of any form as they scour sector after sector for clues to the location of Asirnoth’s kin. New rumors have risen about the Imperial costs of the Basilisk’s campaign; supplies and materiel that has been more raided than commandeered, PDFs abandoned in the middle of battle with chaos forces, and worse. Gene-seed The genetic material of the Basilisks is severely mutated, the cause of their thin numbers and low rate of implantation success. Extensive genetic manipulation during the gene-seed’s growth would have been required to arrive at the functionality of an average Basilisk marine, and the fact that they display any genetic stability at all is a testament to Mechanicus handiwork and not the simple passage of time. For any other founding of marines, this would be great cause for alarm, but among the marines of the Cursed Founding, signs of deliberate mutation among essential Space Marine organs is more the rule than the exception. The first significant change is in the Occulobe. Basilisks do not have the hypersensitive eye-sight of other Adeptus Astartes, nor can they see as clearly at range. However, Basilisk marines can make use of frighteningly accurate vision on the thermal spectrum without the use of a filter of any kind, making them especially lethal urban hunters. Their second mutation is of the Neuroglittis which has been so overcharged that a marine need only open his mouth to taste what is before him. With chemical injector augmentations, usually one of the first received by most Basilisks, the Neuroglittis can be used to track scents at an alarming distance, when eyes might fail. The final mutation is of the Mucranoid, which produces a thicker, tougher than usual covering, allowing marines to last longer than usual in the vacuum, as well as decreasing the effects of harsh elements. Basilisk marines customarily force the Mucranoid covering to form after each augmentation, only removing it to replace a broken layer, or at the time of the next shedding. The layer formed is almost completely covering, and requires the placing of a rebreather as well as spacers and seals over the eyes and ears, though these are fairly simple to integrate. Such advanced mutation would attract Mechanicus attention were it not for the campaign of carefully spread rumors by Chapter serfs, exaggerating the staggeringly low success rate of implantation, the weakened Occulobe and insinuating a completely absent Neuroglittis. Once perpetuated, these rumors left the Adeptus Mechanicus with little interest in digging deeper, content to simply receive the Chapter’s tithe. The misinformation has not, however, dissuaded the Basilisk’s “resident” Inquisitor. There is no official knowledge of any further mutation among the Basilisks, despite the ample opportunities to study them, as their fallen marines are so frequently left on the battlefield. Even those suitable for dreadnought interment are rarely saved. The damning truth is that the Basilisks are far more genetically unstable, only very skilled at hiding it. The Chapter’s progenoids mature normally enough, and so tithes of it have not betrayed them yet. Pinning down the source of the mutation has proved impossible, but in most cases the full complement of organs together causes aspirants to grow well beyond standard Astartes size, turning them into voracious and cannibalistic predators. The engineered enhancements appearing in normal Basilisk marines are greatly intensified in these monsters, giving them hides which have been seen stopping bolter rounds, and supernal hunting senses. If the Chapter were ever forced to subject to true Inquisitorial investigation, discovery would be likely be immediate. In an effort to cull these aberrations, one ship out of the fleet is designated for the implantation process. Fortifying the medbay into a bunker, and equipped with a trap door, each aspirant that succumbs to the mutation is dropped into a lower chamber and released into the ship. It is this same vessel where recruits face their trials: to outhunt and destroy these nameless beasts. Survivors learn what it really is that they defeated after successfully receiving the last organ, and from then on are sworn to silence. Battle-cry The Basilisks offer no call or outwardly audible sound at all when in battle .