|=== The Witchlight Marauders ===
Inheritor Chapter of the Sons of Storm
The history of the Witchlight Marauders truly begins with the Sons of Storm, from which the founders of the Marauders hailed. Here then, is the beginning:
The Sons of Storm were a loyalist chapter in the Imperium during what would come to be called the Age of Apostasy. They were part of the infamous 21st Founding, and shared the genetic aberrations that plagued those chapters. However, the minds of the Sons were the only sign of the malignancy. The aberration was very similar to the First Founding legions, and only seemed to benefit the Imperium. The Sons had more psykers than any other chapter, and had a more fundamental understanding of their power; the Sons had a potency and discipline that surpassed anything the Imperium could teach them. The Chapter Masters and great men of the Sons were all part of the Order of Librarians. This did not disturb the Imperium as much as it should have, though as it happened, they would not have had time to deal with it properly.
The Imperium was gripped by civil war, erupting all across the segmentum. The Eastern Fringe was an important battleground for the war, and the Sons proved themselves in this conflict, forging their destiny in ways they could not have foreseen. Their home world Astrax was not a target of the war due to its lack of strategic importance, so the Sons left to help free a system under the control of a coalition of rebel Imperial Guard forces. Arriving in the heart of the insurrection, they helped their fellow brothers of the Flame Falcons chapter in destroying the main fleet of ships defending the planet. Carsus Demal, chapter master of the Sons, led his warriors in a surprise attack on the surface, catching the corrupted planetary governor by his heel and crushing the demoralized forces of the planet. The remains of the fleet burned in the sky as the palace of the capital was stormed by Demal.
It was on the surface that Demal found something which changed the Sons of Storm forever. In the final bunker of the rebel forces, surrounded by the corpses of several psykers whose minds had been destroyed by the onslaught of the Sons, sat a book on a pedestal. Demal was first into the chamber, and sensed the potency of the artifact, allowing no one else to enter. The urge to take the book was too great, the whispers of secrets and untold power echoing through the mind of the powerful psyker. He placed it in a stasis field and returned to the surface, emerging with an aura that affected the entire force. Several of the Sons wanted to know what the book was, but Demal silenced them with a glance and ordered a withdrawal of his forces to the fleet waiting above. The Sons left the world with their prize; Demal sat within his chambers and listened to the ancient litany of untold billions of souls, absorbed by the Dark Gods and enslaved to do their bidding.
On Astrax, Demal sequestered the most intelligent and powerful men that served the Sons, and began research on the tome. Called the 'Eramos Lacesis' the book contained the history of the Dark Gods, and their relationship with the universe and mankind. But more than that, it explained how the warp really worked, and what it was. There was no indication of who wrote it, although sections alternated between ancient gothic and Eldar. The utmost secrecy was maintained for as long as possible, but could not hold out for long. Astrax became a subject of great interest for the Inquisition as word of the research spread across the Imperium. The Sons came under a lot of scrutiny as their destiny approached in the ships of the Exterminatus.
A century from the return of Demal and the book, the fleet of the Imperium swiftly approached Astrax. Demal saw them coming through the warp and made a decision that would permanently change the Sons. Giving the order to abandon the planet, Demal sent half his fleet to engage the Imperium as it approached. All the other ships, containing both the Sons and their people, entered the warp and disappeared. Astrax exploded minutes later, preventing the Imperium from ever discovering the mystery of the Son. The fleet that confronted the Exterminatus was destroyed, sacrificing themselves to preserve the secrets of the 'Eramos Locesis'. Even as their ships burned in space, the remaining Sons sent one final prayer to their brothers in the warp, chanting litanies unheard in the universe for thousands of years, save one place.
Demal's inner circle had created a device to traverse the warp without the need of the Astronomicon, and had done so. But the device was not perfect, or perhaps worked too well, and lost the Sons in both time and space. They emerged some time later, at least by their estimation, deep within the Eye of Terror. What they did not realize was that they were in the past, two thousand years before the Heresy took place. It was only when trying to restore power to their ships and get their bearings that they spied a scout ship belonging to the Imperium adrift in space. The ship identified itself as the 'Redemptor,' and wished to know how to get out. Grinning sardonically, Demal freed them from the Eye and from all other things. After going through the wreckage, they discovered their displacement and took advantage of it.
They were in dire need of supplies and set down on a nearby planet called Teletrix by Demal. Teletrix had been a ruined world since their populace fell victim to a deadly strain of anaerobic bacteria, but only some areas were still dangerous. Many of the cities, vacant for millennia, were claimed by the Sons. The old capital of the world was restored and became Demal's personal shrine to the research of the Sons; Demal was still convinced that the book held more secrets, and that those secrets would lead to the Sons taking their rightful place in the universe at the center of reality.
Centuries passed as the Sons of Storm isolated themselves on Teletrix. Several forces in the Eye came to claim the planet for their own, as the Sons had before, but could not defeat the sorcerous powers of the chapter. It wasn't until after the Horus Heresy that the Sons came under a serious threat from outside. A band of World Eaters invaded Teletrix and crashed in the polar regions. The berzerkers used the icy region as a staging ground to attack the cities of Teletrix. Two cities fell before the berzerkers faced utter slaughter at the city of Five Fens. They were driven back into the polar regions and isolated from the rest of the world. Demal led the route himself, earning the fear and respect of the blood-driven warriors of the World Eaters.
The only other major force to encounter the Sons, before contemporary times, were the Thousand Sons. Several ships came as scouts to the planet. They were sent there by a lord of considerable power named Phaleg Doombringer. What they found on Teletrix was disturbing; a fully developed society of sorcerers and marines stretched from east to west, an empire teeming with power and forbidden knowledge. At the head of this empire was a young lord named Byleth Gorefist, a warrior who had fought his way to the throne. He did not possess the psychic power of his comrades, but was respected all the same. It was this man that Phaleg approached with overtures to an alliance. Byleth was hesitant at first, knowing full well that any servant of the Changer of Ways was a traitor at heart. However, confident in himself and the power of the Sons of Storm, he began to negotiate.
Of course, the temptation of all the knowledge that the Sons had gathered was too much for Phaleg, and he betrayed Byleth. With a troop of his soulless warriors, he stormed Byleth's flagship, the Infernal Answer, to seize what he could and flee before Byleth realized what was going on. Phaleg found the ship deserted, the sound of his footsteps echoing loudly in the empty halls of the ship. His focus changed as, through a large port window on the ship, he watched his own ships detonate and explode. As the full realization reached him, a fleet came around from the other side of the planet and surrounded the flagship. The Thousand Sons were outnumbered ten to one as Byleth teleported onto the Infernal Answer. The battle was quick and ugly; Phaleg lost his warriors and was mortally wounded. Phaleg was reduced to being a mere bondsman of the young lord, and Byleth kept him on a very short leash.
Rumours of the Sons' superior strategy and power traveled to many places in the Eye. The Black Legion became aware of them, bringing Abaddon and his fleet to the enigmatic planet of Teletrix. Byleth met with him on board the Infernal Answer and immediately swore allegiance to the Warmaster, recognizing the strength and history of a man which had not yet done the things that Byleth knew he would. Since then, Abaddon has used the Sons as advisors, a secret council that knew the secrets of the Imperium and beyond. Most recently, Abaddon assigned Byleth to hunt down Fabius Bile in the Agrippa Sector for transgressions against the Warmaster.
Teletrix, the homeworld of the Sons, is a sprawling world in the Eye of Terror. Cities have developed so far that they choke it's surface, similar to the Hive worlds. The difference between the two being that the atmosphere is not poisonous. Towers and temples make up perhaps half of those cities, teeming with rogue scholars and cultists. Power for the cities comes from huge spires that tower above them, generators which capture the ionic warp energy that bombards the planet. This method has turned the atmosphere into a tempest; constant winds, rain, and frequently cold temperatures have turned most of the land into a bracken wasteland, sometimes flooding certain areas completely.
The only place on the planet which remains much the same are the deadly polar regions. However, as inhospitable as they are, much still persists in the arctic wastes. Roaming packs of Khornate demons dwell there, a reminder of the invasion by the World Eaters. The Sons capture and torment the daemons from time to time, trying to worm the secrets of the Blood God from them. They also throw the daemons cultists whose leanings toward Khorne become too strong. From this practice, a significant number of berzerker tribes live among the caves and peaks, fighting and killing to survive. It is not unusual for the lords of the cities to bring the best warriors from the tribes to train as bodyguards. They are also used for mining the ore of Teletrix' only moon, the Star of Xelus.
The Star of Xelus, a large hunk of obsidian, is mined heavily by the nearby planet. It is from this place that material is gathered to shape the awful spires and fortresses which the Sons of Storm maintain. It has a poisonous sulphur atmosphere that only conscripts would mine. Luckily, the Sons have learned to steal outside help from other places in the Eye to plumb the resources of the Star. Many wanderers in the deadly warpspace have ended their lives on Teletrix as laborers, much to the relief of the indigenous population. But there are worse fates than that on Teletrix.
As a post-Heresy chapter, originally, the Sons of Storm had ten standard companies. Four of these companies, the fourth, seventh, eighth, and tenth were destroyed while buying time for the escape f the rest of the fleet during the purging. However, the ranks of the Sons have been replaced over the millennia, using forbidden cloning techniques discovered in the 'Eramos Lacesis,' and developed by the apothecaries of the chapter. Several brothers gave up their lives to the chapter in the form of their geneseed; Carsus Demal was the first to volunteer, recognizing his own purity. While it is true that his powers were considerable, his desire to volunteer was treated with great suspicion.
The Sons' choice of leaders is the only real difference in organization. Throughout their history, only three non-psychic warriors have risen to the rank of Chapter Master. And of those, only one has been able to hold onto his power for any reasonable length of time. It is difficult to maintain, but makes those leaders somewhat more capable than their psychically-endowed compatriots: they have had to fight twice as hard to for the respect of their warriors. Byleth is the latest in the line of non-psykers, and they regard him with nearly the same respect as their primogenitor, Carsus Demal.
The Sons of Storm have been warped in their pursuit of knowledge in the 11,000 years of their existence. They believe that the suppression of psykers by the Imperium is a fight against evolution, a hopeless attempt to quell the rising numbers of wyrds, adepts, and other powers in the universe. From this belief, they still have respect for the Emperor, but not the fools who pretend to know his wishes. The Emperor's passing into the warp is, to them, a sign that all human development eventually leads to states of existence beyond the material.
Therefore, they see the Imperium's repression and attempt to erase their existence as an affront to the blessing given in their geneseed:
"Why do you fear us and declare us unclean? We are the result of human perfection...we are what was meant to be. The Emperor was one of us, not one of you..." -Carsus Demal, first Chapter Master and primogenitor of the Sons of Storm, at the battle of the Five Fens.
The geneseed of the Sons of Storm did not have a severe mutation like those of the other chapters of the 21st founding. It is suspected that the geneseed passed on a predisposition to psychic ability, latent or otherwise. This may be the reason why the mutation was not as horrendous as the others; psychic energy may have stabilized it, rather than promoting it. As a result, their was no erratic behavior in the chapter, and their leaders were almost always psykers.
The Exterminatus, however, saw the mutation as a definite threat to the Imperium. The idea of thousands of powerful psykers walking around with a probable chance of heretical behavior was not a chance they could take. It turned out that they were right, but not for the right reason. The only danger to the Sons' existence is their prejudice towards non-psykers. Even in their own circles, the more power the sorcerers have, the less useful anyone else becomes to them.
Part 2: The Agrippa Sector, and the Scylla Crusade
During the final battle of the Scylla Crusade in the Agrippa Sector, Byleth Gorefist was mortally wounded and betrayed by one of his lieutenants, a sorcerer named Phaleg. The Sons of Storm themselves were betrayed by their allies from House Schwartzchilde in the last moments of the massive conflict, and were forced to retreat in their last cruiser, the infernal Answer, carrying their Chapter Master back towards the Eastern Fringe. Gorefist did not make it back to Teletrix, and his geneseed was taken by his legion in the hopes that it could be used to strengthen his successor. However, they did not have long to complete their rites of succession before Abaddon the Despoiler caught up with the legion, and demanded that they pay for their failure to bring in the criminal Fabius Bile.
After repeated attempts to bring the Sons in, Abaddon sent the Night Lords to destroy them, which they very nearly did. Only one hundred of the original Sons remained after a bloody battle on the Eastern fringe in which they fought both the Night Lords and the Ultramarines in the Nebula they call the Purple Rose. The survivors escaped into the nearby Maelstrom, taking with them the geneseed of their warmaster, and disappeared. Masterless and desperate, the Sons agreed to disband as a legion, and conceal their origins until a proper successor could be found, and the Sons would live again. Passing themselves off as traitors from other legions, they struck out for nearby planets to look for their next leader.
It would not be long before one among them, a warrior named Chara, decided to seize the power for himself, and stole the warmaster’s geneseed, taking it within his own body. Unwilling to destroy Chara, the rest of the Sons watched as the warrior writhed in agony for months as the genetic inheritance of Byleth Gorefist worked its way through Chara’s system, changing him in terrible, wracking throes of agony. At the end of seven months, Chara rose to greet his brothers again, but he was not the same…
Chara’s eyes flared, and the eldritch mutation of the Sons’ seed burned brightly, a blighted torch to light the way for the Sons’ return. However, Chara had different plans. He gathered his brothers, and told them that the soul of the Sons of Storm had died with Gorefist, and that he was what remained; they were no longer the Sons of Storm…they were the Witchlight Marauders. None could challenge the truth of his words, for, at that moment, new energies surged through them, and, at last, they were whole again. Hailing Chara as their new master, the Marauders began to gather forces, taking in all of the wayward traitors that they could find, and binding them to their cause.
The Witchlight Marauders
Part 3: The Birth of the Hellchilde
Under the leadership of Lord Chara, the Marauders prospered. They found many traitors in the Maelstrom to rally to them, and even made deals with Huron Blackheart of the Red Corsairs to take a planet for their own. The planet, called Bale, was an inhospitable hell world dominated by windswept steppes and towering mountain ranges, whose only indigenous life were crimson-coloured bloodbats, natural feeders that bred, killed and preyed only on themselves. The Marauders built many fortresses on the planet’s surface, and even built a shrine to Khorne in the north, which was the god that Chara himself had come to worship. Although many of the old guard remembered the warnings of their deceased warmaster, they were not willing to challenge the growing power of Chara, for he was a cunning warrior.
The fame of the Marauders spread to many places in the galaxy, and their conquests were beginning to cause stirrings even in the held planets of the Eye of Terror. On one of those planets, the long forgotten traitor, Phaleg Doombringer, late of the Thousand Sons, watchdog sent by Abaddon to aid Byleth Gorefist, traitor in extremis, himself watched the Witchlight Marauders, and began to suspect their origins. Phaleg had become powerful in exile as well, a sorcerer-lord with a large army at his disposal. He decided that it was time to rid himself of his old allies before they came to him, well-armed and seeking revenge.
Phaleg struck as the planet was recovering from building the fleet to carry the Marauders forward into the Eastern sector of the Imperium. He destroyed several of the fleet’s ships as they sat in orbit. It was when Phaleg had began to bombard the planet that he realized his fatal error…from around the planet came Huron Blackheart and his Corsairs, carrying Lord Chara and his personal vanguard. There was no time to mount a counterattack as scores of barges loaded with Corsairs and Marauders boarded Phaleg’s flagship, the Magnus, and clashed with Phaleg’s forces.
Chara caught up with Phaleg in the massive engine room of the Magnus, alone and cornered by enemy forces the sorcerer had no choice but to turn and confront Chara…
The air was very still in the great chamber as the two lords faced each other. The engines themselves had stopped, damaged by the beam weapons of the combined enemy fleets, and the ship listed dangerously. Both lords paced the room, sizing each other up. On one end, Phaleg Doombringer, dressed in his power-armour and sorcerer’s robes, drew the power- sword that he wielded in the last battle of Agrippa, and pointed it at the other lord. Lord Chara, seeing it, frowned as a ghost of memory flitted across his mind.
“Do you recognize this, child, hmm? I think you do, if you are who they say you are,” said Phaleg, smirking and jeering, “perhaps dying by its stroke once wasn’t enough?”
Chara kept pace with the sorcerer, ignoring the muling of the traitor. The fury of the Blood God was upon him now, and nothing would stop him from rending the sorcerer apart; the voices, so persistent in his head, pleaded with him to grant the dog his death. The lightning claws at the end of arms glowed redly with the coming promise of slaughter.
“Ahh…I sense within you the taint of the Blood God, the taint of frenzy and madness,” the sorcerer chided, “you are a far cry from the man I slew!”
“I am not him, fool!” cried Chara striking out in fury at Phaleg.
Phaleg blocked Chara’s claws with his sword, and held them as they faced off. The sounds of battle could still be heard, and the ship itself was beginning to break apart from the destruction being inflicted upon it.
“You are not, that much I am sure,” Phaleg said, trying to slide his sword under Chara’s guard, “but you will die all the same!”
Power lashed out from Phaleg’s fingertips, and the lightning of the warp hit Chara in the chest, and threw him across the room. Chara shook himself off, but as he tried to raise himself, Phaleg’s sword caught him across the shoulders, and he fell back. The sorcerer stood over him, gloating at the grievous wound that he had dealt. Chara felt the coiled anger of the Blood God surge through him, giving him strength.
“It’s not that you’re weak, my lord,” said Phaleg, raising his blade over his head, “you just chose the wrong god!”
Phaleg’s blade fell, cutting downward in an ugly stroke towards Chara. It would have struck, had not the claws of Chara reached up and impaled the sorcerer, gleaming as red as the forges of hell itself. The sorcerer gasped as the claws bit into him. Chara raised himself, and hauled Phaleg up for one final blow.
“No…” Phaleg moaned, mustering his energies.
The soul of the sorcerer exploded from his body, enveloping them both in a coruscation of warp fire, burning and transforming everything it touched. Chara roared in anguish as his body changed according to the whims of chaos…in his final throes of death, Phaleg shuddered at what he had done…while his own body withered from the release of its energies, Chara’s had fed off of those energies, working a terrible, stark image upon the lord. Where Chara had stood, a taller being now loomed, armour made ornate crimson and baroque, leathery, pale wings extending mightily in the air, arms strong and deadly, claws fused to the bones, a head pale and striking in contrast to the dark, bloody armour, crowned with horns that belonged on a daemon. What opened its eyes now was called Charabon, and it was no longer amused by the sorceror’s antics. Picking up the sorcerer with one hand, Charabon threw the corpse against the wall, and it landed in a sickly broken heap on the floor.
Screaming in triumph, the daemon-lord strode over to the wall, and clawed it’s way out into space, where it soared from enemy ship to enemy ship, satiating it’s need for slaughter…
From that point onward, Charubon became one of the most feared lords in the galaxy, an icon for slaughter and red shadows. With the Witchlight Marauders at his command, he began to gather his power for one, final crusade against the galaxy itself…||