The Mortarchs Serpentia are a Loyalist Space Marine Chapter of unknown Founding and origin. These frightful and cryptic marines are not the proud, mythic figures that the Imperium idolises as the Adeptus Astartes, but rather a more horrifying, nightmarish force of power armour-clad spectres. Clad in midnight black and polished bone, they stalk from the darkness and the obscure, their death-rattle cry the only warning the enemy will receive before they are cut down by bolt and blade. Wounds that would lay even the mightiest ogryn low are shrugged off and ignored, the only reaction the enemy receives will be the hollow rattle of the wounded marine, as he continues to crunch forward despite grievous injury.
When, where, how and why the Mortarchs Serpentia were brought into being is a question long unanswered by Imperial scholars, who hold no records of the creation of these mysterious warriors. Only scattered excerpts of their battles, as told by traumatised and mad survivors of their vicious attacks, and even these unconfirmed reports are unclear, for if all are in fact true, it would mean that the Mortarchs have been crusading in the Emperors name for over 8 Millennia.
M33.589: The Serpent Rises
An Imperial fleet returning to friendly space to resupply and repair, is ambushed by xenos pirates. The beleaguered and depleted Imperial forces are swiftly overpowered, and enchained to be taken away to some horrific fate. However, when the xenos return to their ships with their prizes, they find the decks deserted, thick smoke obscuring all and shadows dancing in the light lost gloom. Then it came, softly at first, distant, like a noise you think you heard but then can't seem to affirm, but then louder, and louder, a dry, bone chilling rattle, echoing from everywhere and nowhere. Shadows begin to form in the smoke, but when the Xenos open fire, nothing is there but swirling mist. It was then, as the Xenos began to turn on one another in fear and desperation, that they struck. Stalking from the darkness, bolt guns booming and chainswords roaring, and all the while, the deathly rattle echoed around, the only sound made by those horrific marines. Within hours, every Xenos pirate lay dead, and their prey was released. Those survivors told of marines in armour as black as the abyss, with trim like a sun-bleached bone, though of any chapter markings none were seen through the smoke. The Marines left without a word, and the smoke left with them.
M35.298: The Dead Feel No Pain
The Nova Terra Interregnum created much strife within the Imperium, and many systems outright declared independence from both the Ur-Council and Terra. One such system was the Harod System, whose ambitious planetary governor had more surety than sense, and declared that they would have nothing to do with the civil war and ideologies of either regime. The Mortarchs Serpentia would make them pay dearly for this transgression. No ship signals were detected, no demand for surrender was issued, and no landing craft were seen landing. All that was seen, was the fog. Thick and blinding, it rolled down upon the forces of the Planetary Defence Force, smothering their fortresses and blanketing their assets. It was then from the haze that the Mortarchs appeared, like the ghosts of a horror long forgotten, then strode ponderously towards the PDF lines, their death rattle cries carrying on the wind to chill the guardsmens' bones to ice. Overwhelming barrages of fire were blasted at the Mortarchs, but blows that would usually fell even mighty space marines seemed to hardly slow these indomitable marines. They strode forward, ignoring missing limbs and rent torsos, making not a sound but their hollow death rattle battle cry. Believing their foes to be invincible, many laid down their arms out of sheer terror, others frantically fled before the nightmarish marines that marched before them. But none were spared. Retreat meant nothing to the Mortarchs and neither did surrender or mercy. Every last soldier was put to the sword, and within a year, the planetary capital fell from within, as desperate soldiers offered up their traitorous governor in the vain hope they would be spared. They were not. Young boys from the local population were tithed as penance for their sins, and the civilians were left to rebuild how they saw fit, the Mortarchs disappearing as swiftly as they arrived.
M36:902: From the Darkness
In the wake of the Reign of Blood and the Plague of Unbelief, Chaos Cult sects rose up across the Imperium. On the Cardinal World of Karra II, Ecclesiarchy Cardinal, Potur Kray the illuminator, descends into the depravity of pleasure, and succumbs to the will of Slaanesh. For over eighty years he poisoned the minds of his subjects and population, culminating in all-out rebellion and hedonism as the world erupts in an orgy of ecstasy and violence. However, amid the chaos, the shadows begin to deepen, and grey, smoke like fog begins to form amidst the fires and incense. This fog grows, and deepens, until cities are blanketed in a thick layer of impenetrable smoke. The screams rise -- not the screams of pain and pleasure, but screams of fear -- mixed with a hollow, bone chilling rattle. Within weeks, the screams come to an end, and nothing but silence haunts the deserted cardinal cities. The smoke recedes, revealing the once sanctified constructs now hideously disfigured with chaotic depravity, and littered, from the highest tower to the lowest sewer, with the bodies of slaughtered heretics. Imperial forces that respond to the supposed threat arrives to find not a soul alive on the surface of the world, and the Cardinal's sins exposed to the light. Of the attackers, no sign was found, save for a single, solitary mark, carved into the wall above the butchered, mutated body of the heretic cardinal. A frightening symbol in the shape of a coiled, skeletal serpent.
M41.940: Never Sleeping, Ever Hungry
Red Corsairs returning from a raid on an Imperial shipping lane are ambushed as they make warp transition just outside of the Maelstrom. The ink black and ivory cruiser appearing from the void of space as if expecting the incoming traitor's arrival. A fierce fire fight erupts between the vessels and the Corsairs launch boarding craft in the hopes of securing another prize for Lord Blackheart's fleet. However, once aboard, the Corsairs find a very different battleground before them. The adamantium corridors and sealed bulkheads are left wide open allowing the traitor marines free access into the ships structure, but filling each corridor and room, is a thick, grey fog that obscures all vision. As the pirates spread throughout the ship, never once encountering enemy forces, they become more and more lost in the winding labyrinthine passageways of the vessel's structure, as all vox and auspex tools are jammed by an unknown frequency. As the puzzled traitors move to secure the ship as best they can through the lifted cursed fog, it began -- a distant, hollow rattling. As one, the Mortarchs descend upon the trespassers, appearing from the gloom like revenant ghosts. What garbled cries are heard through the jamming static indicate the situation aboard -- the ship was still very much in the hands of the Loyalist Mortarchs -- and the raiding party was being slaughtered to a man. In a last ditch effort to destroy the enemy, the Red Corsairs vessel begins to fire upon the ship again, only to be blindsided by the titanic arsenal of the Mortarchs Mechanicus Ark Jormugundr. Within seconds, the Corsair ship is annihilated, and all trace of the heretics removed from the galaxy. The Mortarchs Serpentia follow suit and disappear without a trace.
M41.994: What Is Dead May Never Die
The Planet of Nimbosa, having seen some of the bloodiest and most ruthless Tau engagements, to the point where the xenos Commander, Brightsword, is censured and returned to Tau, once again fell into the hands of the crusading xenos. Powerful defence batteries and fortifications are swiftly erected in an attempt to secure the planet for the Greater Good. Imperial resistance is still present on the ground, but the tide has been steadily swayed in the Tau's favour. As all hope for the Imperial resistance seems to be dwindling, a strange storm formation builds in the planet's northern mountains, and a thick fog rolls down its slopes in a wave of grey smoke. Tau entrenchments are soon blanketed in the thick layer of mist, destroying vision and leaving night vision tech all but useless. It was then that advanced target-finder systems employed by the Tau began to sound. Multiple units were appearing, and disappearing in the radar augur, with no sign of actual foes appearing from the mist. As Earth Cast engineers frantically try to fix what they believe to be faulty tech, it began -- the rattling, chilling noise that seemed to echo not just from within the mist, but from the very walls themselves. The Fire Caste warriors, already on edge, is only kept in line by the stern guidance of the present Ethereals. After days of echoing bone rattle cries, they came, stalking from the gloom like unearthly spectres. Space Marines in black and bone plate, walking without urgency or fear. Tau gun batteries opened fire in a fusillade of deadly ion and pulse, but the advancing marines seemed hardly to slow. Shots would strike true what was thought to be a foe, only for the image to shimmer away as only a shadow in the gloom. Even those blows that struck home seemed to hardly faze the indomitable marines. Limbs were blown from bodies and rending holes blasted in the torsos of these Astartes, but the jubilant Fire Warriors would only have a moment to celebrate before the assumed dead marine would simply shrug off the wound and continue forward. Tau forces could not halt the implacable march of the shrouded marines, and within days, a full scale retreat was sounded. Though ultimately the planet would change hands several times in the future, forevermore, that Fire Warrior cadre has feared the coming of the fog.
Culture and Beliefs:
The nomadic and mysterious Marines of the Mortarchs Serpentia are as inscrutable off the field of battle as they are on it. When they deign to communicate with other loyalist forces, they speak little and only ever in riddles and metaphor, their meaning and messages as indecipherable as their battle tactics. In actual fact, the culture of these esoteric marines is rather simple. They are incapable of feeling pain, and this has shaped them as a Chapter more than anything else. They believe that the Emperor has revoked their sense of touch so that they may better shrug off the blows of the enemy and the temptations of Chaos. In reality, it is a mutation of their Biscopea, an organ that enhances a Space Marine's physical combat ability and survivability to superhuman levels. Although it functions normally in its role of building and strengthening skeletal-muscular mass and density, it also damages and degenerates nerve endings in the muscles. While this leaves them invulnerable to pain, it also renders them prone to clumsiness and self damage. As such, much of their culture when not in battle revolves around powerful self-control and physical awareness of not only their body and its location in space, but minutely fine motor control practice. This culminates in the challenge of the Maze of Needles. A rearrangeable labyrinth of corridors armed with powerful las beams that will slice a marine open without any resistance. Marines must pass this test at least once in order to ascend to the elite First Company, and again before Captaincy and Chaplaincy. The marine is given a minute to memorize the maze's path, and the locations of the las beams, before he is blindfolded and sent into the maze. With no sense of sight or touch, the marine must navigate the maze without dismembering themselves on the powerful beams, relying solely on their eidetic memory, and their masterful control and awareness of their bodily position.
While the Mortarchs have repeatedly ignored demands for gene-seed tithe submissions to the Adeptus Mechanicus, this Chapter has rarely, if ever, complied with such requests. What scant samples the Mechanicus Biologis is able to collect from battlefields and hearsay, is that the gene-seed of the Mortarchs is, for the most part, pure, with no obvious degenerations or mutations being present within the Chapter's organs. The only trait the Magos Biologis have ever been able to single out is the degenerated sensory nerve tissue within the musculature system. This however, is not the most alarming trait of the Mortarchs' gene-seed, for the most concerning factor is that the gene-seed Primogenetor markers do not match any of the Founding Legions the Adeptus Mechanicus possesses access to. This troubling revelation has led to much speculation over the Mortarchs history and inception, and in what manner they were created. Nothing has ever been proven either way, nor has any formal charges been brought against them. The Mortarchs, on their part, remain silent on the matter, only ever muttering, "The prodigal son tells not of his journey, but the loyal father judges not. Lost to time and lost in name, lost in the baby's cot."
Exactly how, and in what manner, the Chapter organises itself is mostly unknown to the galaxy at large. Their insular and paranoid mentality along with their inscrutable, riddle-like speech means that little to no solid information can be received from them at any given time. What is known is that they are a nomadic, space-borne Chapter without a homeworld, recruiting potential initiates from those planets they pass by, and that they adhere to a bizarre, Librarius-centric system of command.
The Mortarchs Serpentia recruit from worlds which they pass by on their long, nomadic crusade path, meaning that Marines amongst the Chapter are as varied and individual as the worlds they hail from. However, this deviance is only in physical appearances alone. Every initiate undergoes extreme psycho-indoctrination and deep-core mind scouring in order to wipe clean the initiates' past and any preconceived ideals, memories and feelings. These initiates are then harshly trained and instructed in the teachings of the Mortarchs' Chapter cult, which are as mysterious and unknown as the Marines will come to be. Taught to trust no one beyond the Chapter, they are ingrained in a labyrinthine, metaphor-fuelled manner of speech, that to any one beyond the Chapter becomes nothing but half-explained puzzles and pointless riddles. The resulting Marines are faultlessly loyal to their Chapter, and nigh on physically unable to divulge its secrets.
Over the myriad of worlds the Mortarchs recruit from, no factor appears to remain constant within the recruits. They are as likely to approach Schola-Progenium masters as they are to parley with Underhive gangs, pirate fleets and vicious tribal warbands. Those that are singled out however by the Mortarchs, have little say over their future fate. Failure to provide these young boys to the Chapter will often result in the Aspirants being taken by force, and such force is rarely non-lethal. The true reason these hand-plucked Aspirants are so viciously fought for, is not in truth for the Aspirants' physical or mental prowess, but rather that the numerous Librarians of the Chapter single out these individuals due to their psychic signature. It is due to this direct approach to acquiring psychically-gifted Marines that the Mortarchs maintain such a large and bountiful Librarius. However, like all other recruits, these initiates have their previous identities and personas erased to an even more extreme extent than their fellow Aspirants, lest the subtle taint of Chaos leech into the Mortarchs' ranks.
Due to the well above average number of Librarians within the chapter, they are often deployed en-masse as either a Librarius conclave formation, or attached to various squads within a company. Companies one, two, three and four always have enough Librarians for every squad to have at least an attached codicer. The only other company that rivals this is the scout company, whose librarians oversee the future recruits of the chapter, and monitor those recruits that may one day join the Librarius. Most other Companies will have a half dozen librarians at most. These Librarians hold no actual hierarchy power over their attached sergeants and act only as advisers and squad support, not command. These psychic Marines bolster their squads prowess in a myriad of ways, from hurling bolts of fire and energy at the enemy, to shielding his brothers with kinetic shields and prophetic foresight. However, their greatest battlefield role is to summon forth the impenetrable fog that precedes the Mortarchs, and maintain its suffocating presence.
Chief Librarian Chorqa Mer'Venso:
Mer'Venso seems out of place even amongst such an esoteric brotherhood as the Mortarchs Serpentia, his skin adorned with all manner of twisting, winding tattoos and his armour cloaked in rough hewn-cloaks of black and brown. More akin to some wandering savage than a noble Astartes, the Chief Librarian is all but unreadable, even to the other members of the Librarius, which are many and manifold amongst the Mortarchs Serpentia. Few know his origins, and fewer still know the full range of his abilities. What is known is Mer'Venso's seeming invulnerability. Even outside of his artificer Power Armour blows that would fell even a mighty Space Marine seem to simply...fail. Duelists strikes fall just short of their blow, marksmen's shots seem to unnervingly miss, and devastating blasts and explosions always somehow leave him mysteriously unharmed. Leading his brethren forward in complete silence, his Force Axe hews through his foes in great bursts of blood and psychic light, an invincible force of destruction and psychic obliteration.
Epistolery Umin Rhoghnar:
Epistolery Rhoghar is second only to the Chief Librarian in rank and power, and has no qualms about displaying it. Once the deadly fog has rolled over the foe, a sound like rumbling thunder will follow, the ground shaking with its approach. Out of the smoke, barreling down with enough force to crack a bunker, will come Rhoghar, astride his Astartes Assault Bike, leading his bike-mounted command squad. Armed with the Force Hammer Fulgar Phantasma, and a master-crafted meltagun, his skills at precognition and scrying the fates allows him and his entourage to direct their fire into the weakest points of enemy armour, and pounding them with vicious melta fire and shattering hammer blows from his warriors' thunder hammers.
This Master crafted Force stave has been in the Mortarchs possession as long as records of them have existed. Its distinctive barbed, blazing skull head the last sight of many hundreds of thousands heretics and Xenos. Its ancient technologies incorporate a energy field system akin to a thunder hammer in power and design, but rather than powered by a energy core, its destructive capabilities are powered by the wielders psychic power. Such is the power channelled, that even a relatively weak or unskilled Librarian would be capable of striking lame a Landraider with a single blow. In the hands of a skilled and powerful psyker, it possesses the power to fell Imperial knights and small Titans.
The Terminator armour known as the Onus Tempus, is a dark and foreboding relic even amongst the Mortarchs Serpentia. The Armour it is claimed is cursed to endure for eternity, and that those interred within it are doomed to walk the scarred paths of war forever. None who have ever worn the armour have fallen in battle, the armours thick plasteel and ceramite plates scratched and chipped from over 8000 years of war, but never has the armour broken, and never has it needed repairs. Inside the armours thick exoskeleton is a powerful shield generator, providing a power field more powerful than that of a storm shield, and a implacable, and deeply insane, machine spirit. The only danger, is that in over 8000 years of war, not a single marine has been able to maintain his sanity for more than a few decades after donning the suit, their minds filled with dark haunting images of betrayal and destruction. As such, the armour is sealed away, and only brought to bear when the need is most dire.
Few are the relics of the Adeptus Astartes that are not directly correlated to war, but they exist, though few and far between. The Serpent is one such relic, its importance and relevance lost to time and the Mortarchs riddling nature. It takes the shape of a huge, immense, serpents skeleton, so large that its twisting body constricts the whole Chamber of Relics, all one thousand square feet of it. One could mistake the Serpent as being crafted of stone or ceramite, but closer inspection would reveal the horrifying truth that it is very much a structure of pure, alabaster bone. What creature it once was, what possible way the Mortarchs procured it, and why they revere it with a respect second only to the Emperor, are all questions lost in the mists of time. However, none who lay eyes upon it can deny, that the giant fanged maw, and its hollow, empty eyes, seem to follow any and all, who dare enter its chamber of relics.
This space-borne Chapter has, over the millennia, amassed a substantial fleet of truly momentous size, capable of ploughing through even the staunchest of enemy fleets and blockades. But its greatest strength lies not in the weapons that line their ships' hulls, but the living weapons that reside within. Adept at boarding and close-quarter battle, the Mortarchs make the most of their powerful fleet to board and slaughter, emptying ships of foes before either scuttling them, or stripping them for parts and materials within the confines of the Mechanicus ark, Jormugundr.
- Jormugundr (Mechanicus Ark) - This immense, titanic ship is almost exclusively found in the hands of Mechanicum explorator fleets, and quite how the Mortarchs came to possess it is a puzzle long since unanswered. Its powerful weapon batteries and forge capabilities have been heavily retrofitted over the millennia to accommodate Astartes use, with it sporting far more capabilities for drop pod and boarding craft than would usually be available on such a class of ship. Similarly, its productive capabilities have been turned over to the creation of Astartes arms and armour, supplying the chapter so that it rarely has to barter with the cult mechanicus.
- Domina Mortem (Battle-Barge) - This ancient Battlebarge is by all accounts, the chapters original flagship, and is still prized above all others bar the Jormugundr, and to this day holds their Reclusiam and Relics. Imperial scholars believe it is to this ship that the marines refer when they utter a phrase along the lines of, "The sonorous Lady of reapers black".
- Gladium Tormentium (Battle-Barge) - A much later acquisition of the Mortarchs, it is believed that the ship once belonged to another chapter, that Imperial scholars have never been able to identify but that the Mortarchs refer to as "Our brothers tormented now lain to nights rest."
- Kiedi's Vengeance (Strike Cruiser)
- Verum Mendacium (Strike Cruiser)
- Soul of the Nebula (Strike Cruiser)
- Velata Iudex (Vanguard Cruiser)
- Aenigma (Vanguard Cruiser)
- Expiravit (Vanguard Cruiser)
Feel free to add your own
- "Water, sky and earth below the beast of bones cannot them slow. Striking free of truth and pain, a cloud of ash, all that remain. Long it waits, yet longer still, to sate the hunger, never will it fill."
- —Unknown Mortarchs Marine
Feel free to add your own
- "I’akuha, akuhi umakha, akuyakurhu, i’akua-rhui. i’o ki?"
- — A Star Reapers' Nui-ta, the text roughly translates to, "With eyes I cover eyes, but cannot see without sight, what am I?"
- "Though the methods of these Vipers Mortis are strange, and their culture is a complete mystery to me, but as long as they fight as allies of the Imperium and bring destruction to the foes of mankind, there's no one else I'd rather fight alongside or ally with."
- — First Captain Than Mortane, Murdering Sons Chapter
- "Hmm? A riddle? My my little snake, you seem to have gravely misunderstood to whom you are speaking. I am one with the Warp, fused with the very fabric of Chaos. There are no secrets you hold I do not already possess."
- — Valkyura Warpschild, mid-duel with a Mortarchs Champion.
- "I see that you like riddles.. But next time, if you want to inform me of enemy activity, SPEAK IN STRAIGHT LOW GOTHIC!!"
- —Akhmad Ventrion Fascul of the Laughing Skull Salkhiny Ord
- "You know... you know what's going to happen, don't you...? Please... he can't. The Chapter is already a husk... let us die with dignity..."
- —Reportedly attributed to Chapter Master Cleonae of the White Lions
- "Snakes and skeletons - is it possible to get any creepier? I don't think so."
- "As it happens I speak fluent inscrutable. I had a long conversation with a Mortarch Librarian once, Emperor only knows what about, but I got the last word."