A renegade chapter operating secretly in the thinly settled Podomos Reach with the tacit support of a few merchant chartists, frontier governors and an equally secretive Mechanicus sect.
Originally the Flame Falcons the Brethren are one of the hard luck 21st Founding Chapters. Towards the end of their first century of existence a strange new ability appeared among the Falcons; in the heat of battle some of them would burst into shimmering white flames that left the Marine unharmed but sometimes reduced his opponent to ashes. The Chapter took this as a sign of the Emperor's favor. The Inquisition thought differently. Several Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus descended upon the Chapter's homeworld of Lethe supported by a few Grey Knights in a surprise attack on the unsuspecting Flame Falcons who put up a respectable defense lasting several weeks. The Grey Knights, rather than calling in more of their own drew additional support from the White Consuls Chapter which terminated the matter. The fortress-monastery of the Falcons was completely destroyed and the Chapter declared perditus. Unknown to their enemies the full Battle Brothers of the Chapter had sacrificed themselves to cover the escape of the Scout Company and a cadre of Apothecaries and Techmarines bearing the precious geneseed, and the Chief Librarian with his most promising acolytes.
The suriving Flame Falcons landed on Zode II, a frontier agri-world of the Podromos Reach, in a hijacked cargo ship with nothing but their armor, personal weapons and the geneseed. They numbered six squads of young Scouts each headed by an experienced Sergeant, 10th company's Chaplain and Apothecary, four other Apothecaries and an equal number of Techmarines carrying the rescued geneseed, the Chapter's sole Librarian Epistolary and three young Lexicani, all under the command of Captain Markus Kronus. They discovered that Zode II and its neighboring systems had been suffering raids from the Craftworlds of Dylath-Leen and Ilek-Vad for several decades. Repeated appeals to the sub-Sector Governor on Thraan had gone unanswered and the advent of a company of Astartes - even in the Flame Falcon's state - was greeted as a miracle direct from the Emperor.
Captain Kronus took command of the ad-hoc force of militia and a few cheap mercenary bands who'd been trying to protect the six frontier worlds and laid an ambush for the raiders that had them retreating in bloodied confusion the next time they came and followed it up with a strike on Dylath-Leen, the nearest of the two craftworlds. Tricked into believing a counter-attack by a full company of Astartes was on its way Dylath-Leen and her ally Ilek-Vad retreated into the inter-arm void leaving the handful of Frontier systems in peace.
No explanations were offered or asked but the leaders of the six worlds clearly realized that the Flame Falcons were running from something and made a tacit offer of refuge which Falcons accepted. However they chose to settle on Zode II's dead twin to avoid bringing down retribution on their mortal friends should the Grey Knights or Inquisition ever catch up with them.
The Flame Falcons assumed a new name, The Phoenix Brethren, symbolic of their fiery rebirth. As several millenia passed they began to feel secure in their back-system fastness even occasionally making forays beyond the Reach but for the most part they dedicated themselves to defending the Reach's coreward Frontier from the Eldar of Dylath-Leen and Ilek-Vad and from the stranger, darker things luking in the burnt out systems and dead worlds of the inter-arm void.
The Brethren excavated a fortress monastery they called their Eyrie beneath a jagged range of low mountains near Zode I's equator. It grew gradually over a span of five thousand years from a company sized bunker to a maze of barracks, storage magazines and Thunderhawk bays capable of housing a standard sized Chapter of Marines with a support colony of Chapter Servants. The Phoenix Brethren have drawn their recruits and supplies chiefly from Zode II but the other six systems also contribute. For generations the Brethren made do with carapace armor and smuggled weapons, their few treasured suits of power armor reserved for the Chapter Master, company captains and chief sergeants until an alliance with the secretive and heterodox Mechanicus Mission on Sarnath enabled them to obtain more power armor - though only enough or the first five companies - and a sufficiency of power and plasma weapons, along with more than a few new enemies to fight.
The Frontier governors welcomed having an Astartes Chapter among them and were not inclined to ask embarrassing questions. The Administratum on Thraan tranquilly ignored the Brethren's existence as it was not registered in their data banks. The Sub-sector Governor and the Imperial Naval and Guard commanders on Hlanith deliberately hid this very useful resource from the Sector Governor, and most especially from the official Astartes Chapters.
Black Sun Crusade
Current State of the Chapter
Participation in the Black Sun Crusade put paid to the Brethren's secrecy. By the time Medrengard had been forced back into Chaos where it belonged everybody knew about their presence in the Reach and their 'sanctifying flame'. The White Consul proconsul made the obvious deduction but sympathetic members of the Alirian Conclave were quick to point that there was no proof of a connection between the Brethren and the Flame Falcons and managed to delay action long enough for the Brethren to make a quick and quiet exit on their new Battle Barge the Phoenix Ascendant, formerly the Lion's Roar, received from the Dark Angels' successor chapter the Lions Triumphant in exchange for the Brethren's monastery fortress on Zode II.
As a successor Chapter of the Raven Guard the Phoenix Brethren share their progenitors' prediliction for carefully coordinated small unit strikes on targets selected through painstaking intelligence gathering. Unlike the Raven Guard the Brethren do engage in frontal assault relying on the shock and awe inherent in being attacked by ten foot armored giants on fire!
Like the Raven Guard they deploy as a heavy infantry force. As Renegades they have no access to Marine specific vehicles such as Predators or Land Raiders, and of course no Dreadnoughts. They managed to obtain jump-packs, land speeders and attack bikes as well as standard weaponry through smugglers but it was not until they made their alliance the Adeptus Mechanicus on Sarnath that they were able to build up a fleet of thunderhawks and armored rhinos. The Chapter had no warp capable ships and relied on a few friendly Chartist Captains for interstellar transport.
Predictably the Brethren go in for flamers and plasma weapons in a big way. You might say setting things on fire is their signature tactic. Their Mechanicus allies were able to supply them with some power armor - though not enough for the full chapter. These were suits of the ancient Corvus design and even included a few sets of Terminator Dreadnought armor. Where and how the Mechanicus had procured them was a question the Brethren prefered not to ask.
His Divine Majesty's Inquisition
The Grey Knights
The White Consuls
This deviant Mechanicus cultus is the Brethren's most important ally as they are dependent on them for mechanical support.
The Mechanicus Explorator Mission was established on the Dead World of Sarnath a few decades after its discovery in the 19th c. of M39. The planet proved a treasure trove of xenos archaeotech a temptation that has led the members of the mission pretty far from orthodox Mechanicus doctrine though they have successfully hidden the fact from their superiors. The Cultists believe they have successfully appeased the distressed xeno machine spirits and so can make safe use of some of the ancient technology but the planet is also Chaos tainted hence the importance of the Cult's alliance with the Phoenix Brethren. As the Podromos Reach was a warzone during the Great Crusade the Cult has found a great deal of early Imperial technology as well, including a shipment of Astartes power armor apparently never delivered to the intended recipient much of which has been passed on to the Phoenix Brethren over the last two thousand years.
This somewhat unsavory but extremely successful Rogue Trader has been supplying the Brethren with top of the line flamers, plasma weapons and other goodies for a number of years now. They have some difficulty meeting his prices but the goods are worth it. Also supplies from him don't carry the kind of baggage logistical support from the Cult of Sarnath carries.
The Lions Triumphant
The Brethren rather unexpectedly bonded with this fleet based Dark Angels Successor Chapter during the Crusade. The good connections between them led to the Lions handing over one of their two Battle Barges in return for the Eyrie on Zode II and stepping into the Brethren's role as defenders of the Podromos Reach. They remain in communication, the Lions using their remaining ships to transport recruits and material to the Brethren.
This doomed warband of Astartes escaped from the Eye of Terror is the Brethren's new ally in their war against Harakhte Dynasty in the Mandragoran Stars on the fringes of the Empire.
The Phoenix Brethren are one of the rare Astartes Chapters to worship the Emperor as God, not just venerate him as the epitome of Humanity, reasoning that their 'gift' of the 'Sanctifying Flame' could only have been bestowed by God. The mutation that causes Brethren to burst into white flames, harmless to themselves but fatal to the Chaos tainted, remains a mystery. It does NOT seem to be a psyker talent as it appears in Brethren testably lacking the curse. It seems in short to be closer to the miraculous feats wrought by Sisters Millitant through Faith than to warpcraft. The Gift normally manifests itself only after a Marine has served for some decades. Usually the first occurence is in the heat of battle but there have been cases of Brothers bursting into flame for the first time while rapt in devotion.
- "If the Emperor is with us, who can be against us?"
- —Former Chapter Master Markus Kronus
- "Heretics my eye! The Brethren are a flame of hope in this Grim Dark galaxy! The Emperor himself sent them to us."
- —Governor Aloys Firkin of Zode System