Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Index Astartes: Creatures of Prometheus

"All men are drawn to the beauty of flame, but the guilty man fears its touch while the pious man welcomes it."

Like many Space Marine chapters, the origins of the renegades known as the Creatures of Prometheus are largely lost to the depths of tie and obscure records buried deep inside the Imperium's vaults. It is not, for example, entirely certain to which chapter they are a successor to; official records credit them as one of the rare descendents of the Salamanders, but if so they are a true miracle of the Magos Biologus, as they do not bear the signature pitch-black skin that marks that chapter's geneseed, nor any other recognizable flaw in the Black Carapace. Some speculation credits them as a successor to the Black Templars, but this is similarly improbable based on their religious fervor, martial bent, and ritualistic organization, but this ignores the chapter's reverence for (and indeed, even the existence of) its Librarians as well as the wide-spread appearances of psychic talent across its members. More credible reports name them as a Blood Angels division that has somehow managed to transmute, if not eliminate, the Curse of Sanguinous. This seems plausible, given that the Lamenters claimed similar success, but raises another question: why, amongst all the Angels of Death, would they alone deny any connection to their parent chapter? The Blood Angels and their host of successors are highly protective of each other, though perhaps no more than some other families of Marines, but the Creatures of Prometheus (and, indeed, the Blood Angels themselves) have shown no special connection whatsoever with each other even under the direst of circumstances, rarely even interacting.

It is thus that we are forced to accept that whatever genetic stock the chapter was drawn from, it has little bearing on their future now. Their formation is easier to date than it is to trace- official records list them as a part of the 24th founding, and military and civilian sources seem to corroborate this, as their first recorded activities begin during M38 and seem to grow more common from there. As a late-founding chapter, their supplies of many of the nigh-irreproducible artifacts of the Imperium's early days were in short supply- fewer than two dozen suits of Terminator armor, half a dozen Dreadnoughts and not a single Land Raider were numbered around their original armaments. For this reason, they have always been fiercely protective of what relics of the past they did hold, something that may have contributed to their unusual mindset and chapter practices.

Fire, Fury, and Faith
From the very beginning the Creatures of Prometheus, though nominally a codex chapter, were organized in a somewhat unusual fashion. Not for them the careful consideration of Guilleman's battle strategies, but rather a burning religious fervor and zealotry more reminiscent of the peasantry of the Imperium than most Marine chapters. The chapter had not a single Captain to its name, instead naming members of the Recclusiam as the leaders of its battle companies (which, at the time at least, numbered the standard ten) and tasking its Speakers of Flame with tasks more equivalent to those of traditional Chaplains. The upper hierarchy of the chapter was universal in its peculiar dedication to the Emperor as not just the scion of mankind and savior of the Imperium, but also as a figure of divine wrath and supernatural blessings, descended quite literally from the stars ("Born of the purest flame," as their lore puts it) to protect humanity from threats external and internet.

On the surface their religious script is little different from that of other chapters; it has a strong symbology rooted in the concept of fire as a purifier, but that in and of itself is hardly remarkable, as other chapters have not dissimilar motifs and virtually every one of them has idiosyncracies of its own, amongst which the Creatures hardly stood out. That advancement in the chapter was synonymous with proving oneself "pure" in the eyes of one's brothers (and thus worthy to command them) was more unusual, and occasionally made them the subject of Inquisitional scrutiny, but presumably the agents of that organization never found anything drastic enough to warrant further probes.

Over the next three millenia the Creatures of Prometheus served the Imperium with distinction, including actions during both the 11th and 12th Black Crusades and at Belis Corona during the interim. They were, however, censured several times for "excessive collateral damage" to the populations and planets and allied Imperial Guard forces; though hardly as bad as such notorious agents as the Flesh Tearers, there were still numerous reports of them incinerating populations they deemed impure and even putting regiments of Guardsmen- and on one occasion a detachment of Space Wolves- to the sword when they believed them to be tainted. This earned them very few allies, but the chapter, for their part, seemed to little care, keeping itself isolated from Imperial politics.

Against the Imperium
It was in late M40 that tensions with other organizations within the Imperium came to a head. Distrust of the Creatures within the Inquisition seemed to be growing as a result of not only the several initial probings into their affairs, but also a an expanding body of evidence that their practices were verging on heresy- and in many cases blatantly verging over. Several commanders had reported seeing Marines wreathed in flames during battles- an accusation that had previously been leveled against them, but as the chapter Librarians had shown an aptitude for cloaking their allies in such coronas, no investigation was made. However, more and more often allied forces were reporting members of the chapter spontaneously- or, more worryingly, in the presence of one of their preachers- bursting into supernatural flame. With the memory of the Flame Falcons still lingering in the minds of many, such reports were taken very seriously indeed.

What occurred next is not entirely clear, in large part due to the erratic nature of warp travel in the Imperium. Three major events were known to closely coincide, but the exact sequence is lost to the vagaries of speculation by historians and each reader's own personal interpretation; arguments and counter-arguments have been thrown back and forth in defense of each potential interpretation, but it's likely that only the individuals involved themselves know for sure know the who, what, and why.

The events themselves, however, are known with a reasonable degree of certainty. One of them was that a conclave of the entirely of the Creatures of Prometheus was called on their Battle Barge, the Heart of the Sun. The reason for this conclave and what was discussed there is, of course, unknown to outsiders, but such conclaves were only called by the chapter in the past under dire circumstances, as it required recalling every Marine from active campaign for some time in order that they arrive via the warp. A second event was the interception by the Heart of the Sun of a small Inquisition battlefleet and its Imperial Navy accompaniment. Though there were no survivors of the fleet, subsequent investigation and messages from its Astropaths indicate that after perfunctory negotiations, the Heart opened fire, vaporizing the escort ships before their Void Shields could be raised and quickly disabling and boarding the Inquisitorial vessel. Thirdly, an Adeptus Mechanicus monitoring station (and later a forge world) was rescued, then promptly invaded, pillaged, and destroyed, by a task force from the Creatures on its way either to or from the conclave.

Two major competing views of these events emerged in their wake; the Creatures of Prometheus themselves were damningly silent in response to the accusations. One version roughly followed the above order of events- that is, the chapter held a conclave where they plotted treason against the Empire, ambushed the Inquisition that came to investigate them, and then claimed the Mechanicus factories to fuel their ambition. Another, less popular, explanation was more forgiving: the chapter came to the aid of the Mechanicus (as they had come under attack by an Ork armada), fended them off, and stopped for replenish themselves before finding something dire within that caused them to raze the factories and withdraw the whole of their numbers for discussion before being interrupted by the Inquisition, who provoked them into a fight. Such a version appealed to the sensibilities of many other chapters of Marines, as the meddling of the Inquisition in their affairs was commonplace and never well-regarded; that an Inquisitor would insult the Chapter Master and demand obescience to the point that he might open fire on him was hardly beyond consideration.

However, the events that followed proved to be more than even the chapter's staunchest defenders could interpret as anything but pure defiance of the Imperium; having overtaken the orbital manufacturing compound that was one of the few capable of making not only Sutr-pattern plasma technologies but also the Terminator armors that were originally used to maintain and manufacture such technology, they pillaged every scrap of useful material from the station and razed it to the ground, going so far as to utterly annihilate by means of a Vortex Missile the solar observatory that stood nearby. And still, despite all entreaties, they maintained their silence.

Almost immediately, the Inquisition declared them Excommunicate Traitoris and called for their destruction, but the chapter had not wasted an instant since the days of the fateful events; already, their Chapter Monastary was evacuated, their fleet mobilized, and additional support ships captured or conscripted into service in order to make long-term deployment to deep space an option. Whatever their reasons, the Creatures of Prometheus had cut ties to all formal hierarchy of the Imperium and struck out on their own.

Interestingly, despite accusations of corruption, they have made no move to head towards the Eye of Terror and, indeed, have changed their behaviors surprisingly little since going renegade. They still answer the calls of Imperial planets in need and in fact still consider themselves defenders of the Imperium- the only true defenders of the Imperium, it seems, as they regularly purge planets they have saved of "heresy," with city- or continent-wide infernos. While they have occasionally been sighted fighting alongside desperate or ignorant Imperial forces, more commonly such crossings of path result in bloodshed on both sides.

Home World
Since breaking their ties with the Imperium at large, the Creatures of Prometheus no longer have a specific recruiting world and now operate as a chapter-based fleet, which they seem to be acclimating to without undue difficulty. Their flotilla is somewhat ramshackle in nature, being that it has been pieced together from whatever vessels they can capture or salvage, but its heart- their battle barge and attendant strike cruisers- is still a devastatingly effective force. All their recruitment in the four centuries since breaking away have been from civilians taken aboard, almost always as volunteers, to undergo the brutal testing process required to become a Space Marine.

Unlike most chapters, however, they have adopted additional forms of recruitment. Captured loyalist Space Marines are, on rare occasions, offered the chance to be indoctrinated into the chapter as full members- after an exceptionally grueling series of tests of their faith and loyalty, of course. This is rarely done and only when the potential recruit is from a chapter whose inclinations run similar to the Creatures' own beliefs, such as their nominal parent chapter the Salamanders or other religiously-affiliated legions. Acceptance of such an offer is even more rare, as most other Marines see them as nothing but the worst kind of traitors, already started on the path to damnation. It is thus that their second, more terrible, method of recruitment comes into play- extraction of the geneseed of their fallen enemies. Though it is unknown whether they have been successful in implanting any such stolen treasures into their own recruits without the special processes known only to the Marines' original chapters, the thought of such attempts alone is enough to strike a terrible pang of fear deep into the heart of even a veteran Space Marine, for there is no blasphemy more odious than the desecration of one's geneseed.

Chapter symbol of the Creatures

Before their defection, the Creatures of Prometheus were nominally a codex chapter, albeit one with several fairly significant divergences. As already mentioned, their leadership was organized quite differently. Additionally, their focus on so many short-range weapons means that Assault Squads make up a much greater percentage of their forces than in a standard codex chapter- officially the division of each battle company was 4/4/2 between Tactical, Assault, and Devastator squads, but like the Blood Angels, the rate of volunteers for Assault Marine duty is practically unending, resulting in them virtually always maintaining full strength, even when other components of the company are faltering.

In current times, however, their organization has shifted drastically. The chapter maintains a force of approximately seven battle companies worth of Marines, with some additional elements operating alongside these companies. Rank within the chapter is concurrent with one's position within the battle companies- a member of the 3rd company is presumed to be superior to a member of the 6th company, unless the latter happens to hold some unusual position within that company. Even more strangely, the company a Marine is assigned to is only marginally related to his experience and time with the chapter; instead, it is seen as a reflection of his spiritual and physical purity, so it may be that some rare recruits are brought directly into the 1st company upon joining. All seven of the normal companies operate with a contingent of what other chapters would term Scout Marines, lightly-armored and -armed forces composed of new members of the chapter, fighting alongside their brethren to master their new abilities.

Of the seven standard battle companies, the 1st company is primarily the veterans of the chapter, a holdover from earlier days; it is only the members of this elite, ultra-faithful group that are allowed to bring the newly-acquired (or captured) suits of Terminator armor into the field as well as to wield plasma weaponry, which is seen as the embodiment of the divine fire that is the Emperor's gift to mankind. (Members of the Recclusiam and other special organizations are likewise considered to have proved themselves worthy of these honors, although many abstain it to show solidarity with the members of the company they fight alongside.) The 2nd and 3rd companies are those Marines who have proved themselves through acts of extraordinary faith and valor and are allowed to wield melta-class weaponry: holy tools of divine fire, but less "clean" than scouring plasma. The 4th company is an oddity, acting as a fast response group and mounted largely on bikes or in transports; of the battle companies, they are the only ones to mix weaponry types and bring both melta and flamer weapons to the field. The 5th through 7th companies are those members who, while noble, still lack the singularity of spirit to reach towards true purity and eventual ascension to the Emperor's side, but even they can still wield the testing fire of promethium flamer weapons.

Membership in an Assault Squad is generally seen as being the greatest honor available, as these squads are given the most opportunities to prove themselves in tooth-and-nail combat with the enemy where the chapter excels. Tactical squads, while not dismissed, are seen by many members as a less prizeworthy assignment, though one with certain joys of its own. Until recently, a place in a Devastator squad was regarded as out-and-out punishment for a Marine who was slipping in his ways and in danger of losing his position in the battle company to be displaced to a lower-ranking one. This was mainly due to the supplies of weapons available to the chapter- being more recent, they were mostly forced to suffice with commonly-available heavy weapons such as the ubiquitous Missile Launcher and Heavy Bolter which, whatever their battlefield merits, were ill-regarded by the battle brothers in the Creatures of Prometheus. However, since having raided the forges of Sutr, a variety of newer (or, perhaps one should say "older") weapons have been acquired, including Multimeltas, Plasma Cannons, and even more exotic arms such as the Plasma Cyclone and Conversion Beamer, all of which suit the chapter's odd hierarchy of weaponry much better than their old equipment did. Thus membership in the support segments of the companies is no longer seen as the arduous duty it once was, at least for those lucky enough to be considered deserving of such devices.

Standing apart from the seven battle companies are the Flameblessed, whose presence first brought reports of strangeness and heresy to the Inquisition's attention. Seemingly at random, some members of the chapter will be "blessed" with what their brothers believe is divine fire- a flame that seems to hark to their will, but never harms them. The flame not only shields them, incinerating any force which might seek to harm their form, but also lends a terrible power to their blows, making every strike as cutting as a blowtorch and as fast as a wildfire racing across a plain. However, in this possessed state (and, indeed, possessed they may very well be, though banishment rituals have so far had no effect on them) their thoughts turn to a singular end: to cleanse, to purify, to make the whole world bright and ashen and perfect. Some men never leave the state; they are forever more avatars of wrath and examples to their brethren, showing what gifts true purity can bring; others slip from their fugues days, weeks, months, or years later for reasons unknown, their memories of the time merely a haze of flickering images. Only the legendary Homme du Feu, the "Man of Fire," retained the clarity of mind to remain communicative while blessed by the holy flames, though even he was only able to speak in cryptic passages of holy writ.

Alongside its battle companies and the Flameblessed, the Creatures of Prometheus maintain most of the normal trappings of a marine chapter. The Speakers of the Flame fulfill most of the usual duties of both the Apothecary and the Reclusiarchy, maintaining the purity of the geneseed and preaching to their brothers to keep morale. The Recclusiam itself stands as the leaders and judges of the chapter, along with the Librarius- only a member of one of these two organizations can pick out a Marine for advancement to a new ranking. The chapter's armory and fleet command remain effectively unchanged from their days serving the Imperium, at least as far as any outsider can determine; of course, with no exchanges with Mars to train Techmarines nor volunteers from the Navigator Houses and Adeptus Astra Telepathica, one must wonder how their ranks remain filled, but the fact that their fleet and armories do maintain themselves indicates that some sort of heretical alternative must have been found.

Combat Doctrine
Due to their unique methods of organization, it is unheard of for a battle company from the Creatures of Prometheus to take the field as a whole- such a force would be woefully equipped to fight an actual battle, with all its members armed with the same few weapons. Instead, strike forces will virtually always contain a mixing off at least two, and more commonly three or more, of the active battle companies.

Whether the chapter's combat preferences drove their weapon choices or vice versa is unknown, but for quite a long time it has specialized almost to the exclusion of all else in close-in assaults and melee engagements, trading blow for bloody blow with the enemy. In this respect, the use of such short-range weapons as the Meltagun and Flamer is hardly a disadvantage at all and the fiery words of the attendant Speakers of the Flame can rile their charges to heights of fury normally known in only the most savage individuals and chapters across the Imperium. These tactics, along with a lack of heavy support materiel such as Land Raiders and Vindicators, have resulted in a fast-moving assault force that operates entirely by jump pack, armored transport, or teleporter. Fortifications and emplacements are disdained and even normally-static elements such as Devastators are expected to keep pace with their speedy forward elements by use of Rhinos and Razorbacks, constantly shifting positions to strike at the enemy harder and harder again. Scouts play a vital role in this fast-moving force, pinpointing enemy weak points and performing sabotage in the backfield. For this reason, however, their neophytes are rarely seen on the battlefield proper, not because they are protected, but because they are expected to be able to operate with absolute independence from the rest of the force. Their presence is felt in ruined bridges, assassinated command structures and lightning raids on supply depots, not in the thick of combat- such honors are reserved for the true battle brothers who have proved themselves already.

Perhaps as part of their history of inadequate equipment compared to most Marine chapters, the Creatures take a view of peculiar reverence towards any machine or relic of particular age; in particular, the blessed machine spirits of other Marines' gear are often treated with the greatest of care- as they are taken off the battlefield and into the chapter's own armories for purification. Some are found worthy and are inducted directly into use with the chapter- this is especially true for complex and powerful spirits, such as those of full suits of armor or tanks. Others are found wanting and are subject to "rites of purification," which usually involve melting the offending item down into its component parts and re-forging them. It is not only the battle brothers of a defeated chapter that need fear being blasphemed and corrupted.

First and foremost, every battle brother from newest to oldest believes fervently in the divinity of the Emperor of Mankind and that He is not only still living, but in fact simply biding his time while his plans and schemes come to fruition across the galaxy. The chapter's High Gothic motto says it best: "Our creator holds the works of the great wheel (i.e. the galaxy) by means of secret arts." To the chosen few who understand His plans, the Emperor's blazing glory is made plain; to all others, it is a flame before a blind man, painful and confusing but untouchable.

The Emperor is regarded as the brightest flame in the universe not only metaphorically but literally- after all, is it not His light that shines through even the evil sea of the warp, showing the way for his many children to cross in relative peace? To the Creatures of Prometheus, he is named many things- Star-child, First Light, the Lathe of Heaven, and other, more secret ones, but all of his works and names can be made known to one who walks with the proper faith. Some lights, some secrets, can only be seen by those who have learned the proper ways to look, and so it is thus that even after indoctrination into the chapter that many things are still withheld from a marine until he advances to the proper rank. Each of the companies has its own secret litanies and histories that a newly-placed brother will learn as he progresses, and for the rare and chosen few the Speakers of Flame, Recclusiam, and Librarius have secrets all their own.

Whatever the geneseed of the chapter may be, it bears no obvious defects like many chapters; of course, of the exact details of whether there were any signs of corruption or abnormality only the Inquisition is privy, but even today the Creatures seem to have little difficulty implanting new recruits, so there must be at least some truth to their claims of purity of lineage. Of course, their tales of geneseed being touched by the Emperor himself are entirely delusional, but it is certainly possible that the chapter's stock was drawn from one of the more stable progenitors, such as the Ultramarines or one of their successors.

Battle Cry
"Behold the flame!"

Follow us on Facebook!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...