Notable Military Force

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Transcription datum +++ Wed, 2017-06-07 09:18

The Kings Martial

Space Marine Chapter
Notable Military Force

Homeworld: Astalac

Lineage: Ultramarines – Primaris

Colloquial name: the Beggar Kings of Astalac

Chapter Master: Phethek Ekeneth

Battle-cry: “Our turn”

The first chapter of Primaris marines to be assigned to the Antona Australis sector, the Kings Martial have swiftly won a name for themselves for their methodical and exacting way of war. Shortly after its arrival, the chapter detected a distress signal from a Missionarus Galaxia expedition on the savagely beautiful world of Astalac. Following a brief but bloody purge to excise the malign influence of a pleasure-cult swollen to grotesque proportions and the defeat of the daemonic legion led by Par’sekrai, one of the Dark Prince’s most exalted Keeper of Secrets, the Kings Martial claimed Astalac as their prize by right of conquest and consolidated their victory by imposing harsh laws, remodelling the twin tribes’ society into one of Spartan discipline and simplicity.

In recognition of the disaster that nearly befell their adopted world, when the Kings Martial partake of mortal foodstuffs they reject anything richer than nutrient-laced gruel and wear sack-cloth vestments rather than the fine robes worn by other chapters when out of their holy plate. Each year, 10 battle brothers are made to wander across Astalac dressed as the lowest of beggars, their great bulk disguised with prosthetics, making them appear hunched-back and disfigured. None can refuse a beggar a night’s lodging and board and these astartes use this tradition to the full, assessing the citizenry for corruption and identifying potential aspirants – often selecting quick-witted orphans from the slums, regardless of their malnourished and scrawny frames. Hypno-indoctrination makes learning cheap, while the wonders wrought by a demi-god’s legacy make physical strength less of a concern than the will, wit and wisdom to use it upon ascension.

The purple that dominates livery of the Kings Martial is made from the cheapest dye to be found on Astalac, which is refined from the plankton responsible for the hue of the planet’s violet seas, while the jade and gold that adorns their armour are so commonplace on their homeworld that only the poor would use them to adorn their person. However, given that this livery was theirs before they set foot upon their homeworld, some historians (those yet to be euthanised for their own good or in possession of Ultima Grade security clearance), speculate that their livery is a deliberate insult to one of Lord Guilliman’s greatest foes, citing a line of dubious provenance: “None fell as far as my Father’s Children. Let these, my new sons, redeem their colours and stand forever as a rebuke to he who laid me low.”

Proponents of this dubious theory highlight the battle of Saskar VIII, where three whole companies of the Kings Marital launched a drop-pod assault to relieve the citizens of Corsol Hive from the depredations of “The takers of what is given”, an Emperor’s Children warband infamous for their compulsion to heap all manner of perversions on densely populated worlds – as though endlessly compelled to recreate the great debaucheries performed on Terra at the cost of countless lives and the Warmaster’s favour. Scattered eye-witness reports indicate that when the Kings Martial burst from their pods, their debased counterparts hesitated as if starring into a mirror that reflected time as well as light. That moment of hesitation was the fulcrum on which the battle turned, switching from a duel of near-equals to a righteous slaughter.

Fighting the Kings Martial is like being in a vice. Every stratagem is remorselessly countered, every tactical option stripped away with crushing speed and thoroughness. Their battle doctrine focuses on removing an enemy’s ability to manoeuvre, provoking them to anger and exploiting tactical errors created by frustration.

The Beggar Kings have a liking for devastating counterattacks launched immediately following the defeat of enemy offensives and other actions designed to erode the morale of enemy commanders, as part of their philosophy of war, known as Cromjavar  – ‘stealing the enemy’s soul’. That is not to say that they are incapable of traditional Astartes shock-tactics. Rather, they prefer to strike when their foes are over-extended.
This approach extends even to their combat training – the martial art taught to all initiates, Savkhdan Na Rossk – ‘taking that which is given’ – stresses the use of crippling blocks to break bones and the enemy's resolve.

As a consequence, one of the most brutal tests used to sift through packs of adolescents for the rare few who possess the will and determination to become one of the Angels of Death, is for them to be made to attack an unarmoured battle-brother with their bare hands. Many give up after the first block breaks their arm. Only those that keep attacking until they can stand no more are offered the possibility of ascension, despite the weeks of convalescence that might follow such an ordeal.

As primaris marines, the Kings Martial are still establishing their own traditions. While they venerate the Emperor, their devotion to their Primarch is much less than many chapters. For them, he is a man of flesh and blood, not a lost ancestor-figure to revere.

In their brief history, there have been several occasions where the Kings Martial have fought alongside Lord Guilliman and the Ultramarines and the battle-brothers still celebrate the Siege of Antioc, when the primarch appeared to them in their own purple and bone livery, leading the descent into the fell catacombs beneath that cursed city, the Emperor’s Sword lighting the way. The horrors that were faced that day are acid-etched into the chapter’s memory and part of the chapter’s sacred duty is to watch over those haunted worlds which might host similar nightmares from the half-forgotten days of the Dark Age of Technology.

Much of the chapter’s outlook has been shaped by its Chapter Master, Phethek Ekeneth, who has led it since its founding. Ekeneth has inherited the Primarch’s mental acuity and ambition to an atypical extent. As such, his hunger for knowledge and ability to multi-task are seemingly without limit. It is his ambition to remodel the Clausentum sub-sector into the mirror of the 500 Worlds. To this end, Ekeneth has commissioned an orbital plate and enlisted the aid of Forgeworld Bezoa to better exploit Astalac’s incredible mineral resources. 

This alliance, once tentative has grown strong, in part due to the unusual relationship between Ekeneth and Magos Prime Zerliah Krol. In recent years, the communications intrastructure between Astalac and Bezoa has had to be significantly augmented to cater for the terrabytes of data flowing between the two worlds, a significant and growing fraction of which is the two leaders’ correspondence. Even though both beings are post-human and supposedly beyond such human foibles, their subordinates have noticed a surprisingly amount of warmth within their exchanges, which often include binaric puns, together with puzzles and riddles of incredible complexity.

Given that the veil between the realm of flesh and the realm of spirit is thin on Astalac, it is not surprising that the ‘Beggar Kings’ have a significantly larger number of apothecaries and librarians than most other chapters. The former are needed to screen out genetic deviancy – there are whispers that part of their duties include the surgical removal or correction of mutations from their brothers. One other consequence of their world’s connection to the sea of souls, is that the Kings Martial have a knack for fighting in adverse environmental conditions and tend not to suffer from over-confidence. This is because every time they fight off world, they do so without the full extent of their abilities, except for occasions where the empyreal winds blow as strongly as they do across their homeworld. While rare, these have become more common since the birth of the Cicatrix Maledictum and any gains in strength they confer are largely countered by the odds of facing the neverborn.

The librarians or Sar-Keth-Vandar – ‘they who walk the paths between worlds‘, as they are colloquially known, are feared for the ease at which they wield their power, which is bought at great cost for the initiation rite into their ranks is dangerous indeed. Many would-be codiciers fail to return from the quest to ascend Krakithkral – the highest peak of the Umflethar, where the soul is laid bare to all the gods of the empyrean. The ascent is difficult and perilous even for a post-human, thanks to pockets where the rules of physics are bent beyond all comprehension and beasts swollen with unnatural power. There are whisperings that some of the new-found strength among the outcast tribes has come from accepting those that fail the test into their ranks.

Because of their methodical approach to war, the Kings Martial have won considerable renown for their successful participation in large-scale theatres, working in smooth conjunction with regiments of the Astra Militarum, often keeping their presence hidden until the enemy launches a major offensive. However, while the Chapter has won the respect and admiration of many a regiment, there are some that resent them for turning up and stealing all the glory, leaving the sacrifice of entire regiments forgotten in their wake.Such bitterness is rare to be found among the lower ranks – rare is the soldier not stirred by the sudden appearance of the Kings Martial in all their splendour or the sound of post-human voices singing in harmony even as they cut a swathe through the enemy’s ranks.

Song is one of the Kings Martial’s most distinctive traditions. Aspirants are taught the brotherhood’s hymms of war alongside the most basic firing rites. From the earliest point in their training, they are taught to sing alongside their brothers even in the fiercest of firefights. The tradition, instituted by Chaplain Gnerak, does two things: it forces the Astartes to regulate their breathing and therefore their humours, reducing their risk of succumbing to passion or becoming blood-drunk on the field of battle; and secondly its psychological impact on many foes can be a weapon in its own right.
Over the many occasions where the Kings Martial have had to fight alongside the Legio Kerberos, the two factions have developed an unhealthy dislike of each other. Part of the issue is that there is something about the Legio’s customs that reminds the 'Beggar Kings' of the time before the coming of the God Emperor’s servants to Astalac and of the foulness that was only put to an end when the Chapter claimed the world as its home. The princeps, moderati and tech priests of Legio Kerberos on the other hand, typically find the Kings Martial to be painfully conservative company, all too focused on consolidating their positions when they could be rushing forward.

Astalac – homeworld of the Kings Martial
Astalac is a jewel in the filament of space, one that continually draws the covetous gaze of enemies both within and without. At the equator lies vast rolling plains, ringed by two almost unbroken circles of jagged mountains, “the Umflethar” – ‘the fangs that gnaw the world-sky’. The few mountain passes capable of allowing an army to pass through are narrow and treacherous affairs made all the more so by the impossible abominations that descend from the shimmering mountain peaks when the moons are right. At high altitudes, the air shimmers and strange voices can be heard on the wind. The mountain-dwelling folk that revere the God-Emperor are hardy and resourceful types, toughened by a life of constant warfare against beasts, hunger and the elements. Despite this, their close proximity to the tears in the fabric of reality found at the tips of the Umflethar means that it is rare to find those untouched by stigmata or some minor mutation.

The men of the mountains brave these perils for good reason – only at these altitudes do the Rarsk’vey – the great two-headed eagles – make their nests, gorging themselves on warp energies as much as they subsist on flesh and blood. When the tides of the empyrean abate, the Rarsk’vey fly far from their nests in their hunger, bringing great woe to psyker and daemon alike.

Their bizarre anatomy and unique feeding habits have birthed countless rumours about their origins. Some say that Astalac was once the secret retreat of a great peer of the Imperium and that on their death, their collection of vat-grown psyber-eagles escaped, somehow flourishing despite their deformity. Others whisper that they are part of a great scheme woven by the Fleshless, a champion of Tzeentch exiled from his own flesh and cursed to possess body after body. They say that this sorcerer created the Rarsk’vey to lure the great and good of the Imperium to a world perfectly suited to their corruption. Still more claim the Rarsk’vey are the reincarnated souls of Imperial saints and this belief has led to a small but growing stream of pilgrims, while in dimly light corners, some whisper of the many strange wonders that were wrought during the Dark Age of Technology.

Regardless of their origins, demand for tame Rarsk’vey is insatiable and continues to grow as their legend spreads throughout the sector. However, rare is the world that can saite their hunger, limiting their off-world appeal to witchfinders callous enough to let them dine on the psykers they capture. Despite being living icons of the Imperium, the Rarsk’vey’s droppings – typically a dark green paste – are laden with fell energies and are consequently much sought after by sorcerers and daemon summoners to aid in their unholy rites and rituals.

Towards the north and south poles, the ring created by the mountain ranges is broken by the world’s two purple seas, the Sas-Jah-Nar in the North and the Ost-Jak-Mar in the South.

Beyond the mountains the terrain becomes varied, with dense pine forests to the north, fetid swamps to the East, scorching deserts to the south, and burning mercurial lands to the West.

It is here that the descendants of the tribes cast out by the Aesthir and the Valdanthai dwell, eking out a sullen, jealous, existence and ceaselessly plotting to one day reclaim their ancestral hunting grounds. Fortunately, their hate for the twin tribes often pales into comparison to the web of feuds and vendettas between them. However, full scale war between the outcasts is rare for the Vakanarl, the devoted of Khaneth – “The drinker of blood” – and the Sissphjarl, who worship Sarlash, the great dream-serpent, are separated from one another by the Umflethar and the plains beyond them. The same holds true for the Viramor, the tribe known for eking out a bitter morbid existence in the great swamplands in the East and dedicating their fallen to Morith, God of suffering and morality, and their polar opposites, the Sasklzar – “the Star blessed” – who raise shimmering towers made of ice and fire in the lands of the setting sun.