Coraline Briar was born in the city of Iron Harbor on Olea in the year 599.M41. The city is a major fishing port to this day and so she grew up in a family that worked in one of the many processing plants within the city.
They were never wealthy but far from destitute but that would change when she lost her father to an industrial accident and she needed to enter the workforce at age fourteen, taking her father's place. She did so to support her mother and her three invalid brothers, all of whom had seen Imperial Guard service and had returned home wounded. She would later note that the job gave her
"A lifelong skill with knives and taught me more about fish than I ever wanted to know."
She would lose her remaining family to a house fire in her twentieth year and she would scatter their ashes at sea per their final wish.
With work scarce and still needing to support herself despite her almost crippling grief she returned to work, remaining there for another seven years. Finally after thirteen years at a job she hated she left it behind to sign aboard one of the fishing fleets where she met and married a fellow deckhand named Simon Garnett after a brief courtship.
Their relationship turned rocky very quickly, Garnett received news that his nephew, the only son of his already deceased brother had been killed offworld, sending him into a deep depression. He turned to alcohol to numb his pain, causing him to frequently miss work shifts and causing him violent mood swings.
He resented the fact that she was caring for them both and became consumed by the thought of revenge. Depite her efforts to hold their marriage together he would leave her shortly after the birth of their daughter Gretchen in 626 and was killed less than two weeks into Imperial Guard service. She would never remarry- convinced that doing so would only bring her more pain. For the next eighteen years she would remain onboard the fishing ships or in the processing plants, doing her best to care for Gretchen.
Imperial Guard service
- "You should focus on you. Repay my efforts in raising you by living your own life."
- — her reply to her daughter’s officer to join the guard and send her money home.
Women were already taking charge of Olea at this time and by the 640s there were already discussions in the higher echelons of power about forming all female regiments. Gretchen considered joining herself, discussing the matter with her mother.
Coraline was against this- telling her to focus on herself, she was young and had too much to live for. Prompted by her daughter's decision and feeling that Olea had nothing more to offer her she joined the Imperial Guard instead and like Mama Cass of the "Ragged Angels" she was assigned command of a new regiment when she gathered recruits herself.
Gretchen went against her wishes, joining the Imperial Guard, being assigned as her mother's XO when she requested an assignment where she could stay close to her. Though unhappy about this turn of events there was little that she could do about it.
One of Coraline Briar's friends had remarked how where once she had been a rose her hard life had made her more of "A beautiful thorn". The nickname stuck, becoming the name for her new regiment. While inexperienced in warfare and especially command she carefully studied various tactical manuals, and spoke at length to men who had served in the Olea Imperial Guard, adopting, adapting, or discarding their tactics as needed.
While the male Olea soldiers were initially unsure and almost afraid to fight alongside female soldiers they were proven wrong. While the Ork WAAAGH was large it was also slow so the heavier units better suited to standing and fighting did so while the Light Infantry tried to slow it down further by targeting its leaders and vehicles.
With the arrival of Battlefleet Medici and descent of the WAAAGH into infighting they used their speed and mobility to assassinate aspiring Warbosses and keep them fighting. With the completion of the campaign they were sent to other battlefields against other foes.
Her concerns about her daughter proved well founded during this battle, it saw the "Beautiful Thorns" victorious over a numerically superior enemy force made up of Chaos Undivided Cultists but also saw Gretchen Briar critically wounded, losing her right eye, right ear and several fingers on her right hand when a bomb from an friendly Marauder went off course.
She did not blame the crew but the cultists who the bombing run necessary and ordered that the regiment take no prisoners. She would be forced to defend her actions to the Inquisitor who arrived several days later and he admitted he would have done the same thing.
Their wounded were well cared for by the grateful citizens of the city they had saved and Gretchen Birch would survive against all odds. As to Coraline- she had no choice but to continue onward, serving the Imperium for the rest of her days, leading her regiment to victory after victory and mourning her defeats. Gretchen stayed on Hathor, eventually marrying and giving her mother a grandchild, delivering the good news via a letter Coraline received shortly before her death.
She died in 659 at age sixty in transit to yet another battlefield, while her life had been hard she found peace at last, dying in her sleep, survived by her daughter and first grandchild.
Personality and appearance
In her youth she was something of a beauty with thick black curls,however age and stress drained the color from her hair turning it gray. Her hard life left her without much of a sense of humor leaving her a very focused but still caring individual. She thought of both her own daughter and the women under her command as her children, if not in blood then in spirit.
As such she was an incredibly careful commander, always weighing the risks and not committing her command to a fight unless the risks were worth the rewards and mourning those who died under her command.
- ◾Olea Ishtar pattern flak armor with officer surcoat
- ◾Olea Combat Shotgun
- ◾Olea "Frostbite" Pattern Fighting knife
- Baldric- she was something of a knife collector carrying various blades, both trophies and purchases in a baldric slung over one shoulder.
- Winter coat- a leather coat that she had held on for years, as much a nostalgic keepsake as a means of warmth, it had been repaired many times over the years despite it being almost worn through she refused to get rid of it, holding it together with patches and crude stitch work.
"Do I worry? Of course I worry. Every mother does. Do I want Gretchen in my unit? No. I don't want to see her hurt or worse but what can I do? If something happens to me I'll finally have found peace. if something happens to her I'll be at the Emperor's side right behind her."
"No matter how beautiful the Thorn it can and WILL draw blood. tread lightly, choose wisely or it may just draw yours."
"Don't ever mistake my kindness for weakness. Just because I try to be a light and source of warmth in a cold dark universe doesn't mean I don't know how to handle myself in a fight."
- "While the Women of our world do not fight we understand that the women of other worlds do. Does Colonel Briar have any less reason? She too has a home and a family in those she leads. may the Emperor protect her and all of Olea's warriors:man or woman."
- —A Khazamga infantryman
- "''I'll admit this- I've been worried about trusting my life to a woman. I've never been more wrong nor more happy to be so. this Briar- tough old bird. she's been through a lot..."
- —Sgt Jasper Hollis Olea 22nd Infantry