- "Omah shedah, Korah nedah. Omah Kenta, Nofor entodah."
- — The opening verse to the Keepers' Tome of Shadow, translation: "We See, In the Darkness. We Keep, The Rift of Shadow."
The Rift Keepers are a strange and enigmatic Chapter of Space Marines rarely seen in the Galaxy at large. The Chapter is wholly (some would say fanatically) dedicated to guarding a small but highly dangerous Warp Storm known as Badak's Rift, located on the very edge of the Astonomicon in the farthest edges of the Ultima Segmentum. It is a dark and sinister place, named after the fool Rogue Trader that first ventured into it, never to return. Few if any ever venture near that area of empty space, yet the Rift Keepers will defend this dark place to their last with a will that is unlike anything seen, even in Space Marines.
None may enter Badak's Rift without first enacting an ancient code, known only to a scant few in the upper echelons of the Imperium. This is part of the pact that apparently bonded the Chapter to its infernal territory, the Writ of Rift. The Writ is supposedly an ancient document, signed by a powerful conclave of Lord Inquisitors, one of each Ordo Majoris, giving the Rift Keepers unprecedented authority within the realm of the Rift and its immediate surroundings. Nothing may enter or leave the Rift without the Chapters explicit permission or the code, those who do not comply to their so-called "Emperor-Given" authority will do worse than die.
Much of the Rift Keepers' history is unknown, not for any lack of record keeping, but due to the Chapters highly secretive nature. Few know any certain facts about the Chapter, though they are clearly ancient and have weathered much ensuring that Badak's Rift remains secure.
Though the Chapters founding remains unknown, it is often speculated that they are of the 8th founding, as many chapters of that era were created to safeguard the dark areas of the Galaxy.
Battle of the Black Tomb
In M37 a force of Night Lords raided the Ultramarine held Star Fort, Hand of Guiliman, and absconded with an ancient relic blade taken by the Primarch of the Ultramarines himself during the Great Crusade. Little did the Ultrmarines realize that the weapon was merely a key. The Night Lords found their way to Badak's Rift, and assumed the way to be unguarded. They were immediately hailed by vox, the message read as: "You enter the boundaries of the Rift, speak the code of the Writ, or turn back." The Traitors responded with this vox intercept: "Hide while you can loyalist dogs! WE ARE COMING FOR YOU!" At this a fleet of twenty Vengeance-Class Heavy Cruisers and the Battlebarge Sinister Blade materialized before the Night Lords as the Rift Keepers Darksiders lowered their illusion field. Before the first shot was fired the Night Lords received this final message: "Omah shedah, nocastra, malah, mo shidanah...Komah hish."
Translation: "We see, cowards, heretics, and traitors... Embrace death."
Within minutes the Rift Keepers had boarded the Night Lords flagship, there their elite Terminator armored Dominaters cut their way through the Night Lords and slew their Chaos Lord... yet the relic was not aboard the flagship anymore.
The Night Lords were scattered by the suddenness of the assault, but of those that fought and those many that slipped away, unwilling to die for their cause, three corvettes slipped through. These corvettes, led by a Raptor Cult Champion, found the world they were looking for, a dead and barren world known to the Rift Keepers as Black Tomb, one of the various worlds that the Chapter buried and commemorated their dead. The Night Lords managed to make planet fall, but little did they know the world was garrisoned by an elite force of Fellwings, led by the Darksider, Shen. The Night Lords Raptors and Legionaries were assaulted from all sides, while Shen conjured up images of death and terror in the minds of the Night Lords and summoned a thick bank of fog to blind the Traitors. The Raptors and Fellwings did battle in the mist, and in the end the loyalists emerged victorious.
But the battle was not over, the Ultramarines arrived, having been in hot pursuit of the Night Lords ever since the theft of the relic. They found, not traitors, but a massive fleet of unknown Space Marines. The Ultramarines demanded that the Rift Keepers return the relic the Night Lords stole, only to be denied in a rather dramatic fashion. The Ultramarines were allowed to send Company representatives, including the Captain himself, to board a Rift Keepers vessel. The Ultramarines believed that the Rift Keepers would negotiate the terms of the relics return, only to have the Rift Keepers representative, Shen, present them with a battle damaged Ultramarines helm, a trophy taken from a much earlier conflict in which the sons of Guilliman had attempted to force their way into the Rift. The message was clear, not even the Ultramarines were welcome and the relic would stay in the hands of the Rift Keepers.
Since this day, the Ultramarines have despised the Rift Keepers, even attempting to levy charges of heresy upon them. But as the Writ of Rift states, the Rift Keepers are allowed near total authority in their charge... even if that means they must slay loyal servants of the Emperor.
In M.39, a contingent of the Dark Angels Deathwing had cornered one of the Fallen, Bileum Nightbringer, near Badak's Rift.
Badak's Rift is, like most Warp Storms, a hellish and terror inspiring realm. Here, xenos beasts and unmentionable daemonic forces constantly clash with each other the Rift Keepers in their frantic attempts to escape their imprisonment and sew ruin and death across the Galaxy. The myriad evils of the Rift are impossible to count and only the Rift Keepers and a select few Inquisitors have any exact knowledge on the creatures that sulk there.
Rift Keepers are considered a strange anomaly by the various Biologis who have had the rare chance to study samples of the Rift Keepers Gene-Seed, as the Chapter maintains its own Gene-Banks as per the Writ of Rift. What little the Adeptus Mechanicus gleaned from these scant specimens only raised more questions than answers.
The Rift Keeper Gene-Seed, though pure at first glance, has various Warp-Reactive properties. Space Marines implanted with this Gene-Seed gain a power similar to Witch Sight, known as "Rift Vision". It is believed that Rift Vision is why the Rift Keepers have an uncanny knack for hunting down prey and detecting daemonic entries. Rift Keepers see both the Materium and the Warp folded over each other, seeing both and yet not truly viewing either in their purest form. Thus they are not driven mad by this near constant filter of the Warp superimposed on reality, but it dose seem to be the root of their haunted and detached demeanor. Rift Vision is the result of untold millienia of guarding the Rift and containing the unmentionable evils within, the Rift Keepers see things as they truly are, see the evil in the hearts of other beings, and can identify daemons instantly. Rift Keepers often see life forms with an aura of energy surrounding them, thus they can see them even while they hide in fog or foliage, even through light cover. However, the Rift Vision can also show a being for what it truly is, Dark Eldar for example, appear not as lithe and arguably attractive xenos, but as hideous, twisted beasts to foul for mortal imagining. Most Rift Keepers have managed to control their power so that their "True Sight" (the seeing of a beings form based upon its soul) is suppressed, as they can tell intention from the aura alone, however to know someones very being, True Sight is the only tool that the Rift Keepers can rely on. Rift Keepers see soulless beings such as Necrons and Pariahs as merely shadowy silhouette, empty and disturbing. Rift Vision alone cannot penetrate the psychic shielding of a particularly skilled or powerful pyker.
The horrors the witness daily are made all the more terrifying when they rest, Rift Keepers dream of unmentionable evils and terrors that would drive mortals mad. Rift Keepers have no control over their Rift Vision, it is how they see the world until the day death takes them.
Rift Keepers have also been noted to be highly resistant to the touch of Chaos and Warp related attacks and curses, and can sense agents of the Ruinous Powers if they are near. Pykers of this Chapter have also been noted to have a unnatural skill in the psychic discipline of Telepathy, turning these tools into deadly weapons of discord and fear in battle as they rip the enemy's mind asunder.
The Gene-Seed also has no identifiable markers of any other Loyalist or Traitor Legions, meaning that the Rift Keepers forbears cannot be identified. Of all possible matches, the Rift Keepers Gene-Seed most closely represents a linage indicative of the Dark Angels, but this "trace" is so faint that it is impossible to say with absolute certainty that the Rift Keepers are related to the Dark Angels and their Unforgiven. It has also been rumored that the Rift Keepers are of the Raven Guard line by way of the Space Sharks, or that the Space Sharks are descended from the Rift Keepers. (However, this is unlikely, as the Rift Keepers have full function of their Betcher's Gland)
Rift Keepers have been noted to speak with a hauntingly dry and whisper-like tone, this is due to the fact that, thanks to the Rift Vision, Rift Keeper aspirants scream themselves permanently horse due to the horrors they are subjected to during their transformation.
Rift Keepers Gene-Seed tends to increase the chances of an individual developing psychic powers, as the Rift Keepers have sizable cadres of psykers. (Known as Darksiders)
The Rift Keepers specialize in terror tactics and psychological warfare, wearing down the enemy's will to fight and survive. They strike without warning and then just as swiftly vanish. However, Rift Keepers are also capable of brutal protracted skirmishes and, if the situation calls for it, all out battle. Rift Keepers often have weapons that instill terror and fear, as well as bring about a brutal and painful demise.
A sonic weapon unique to the Rift Keepers, the Rift Cannon is not unlike the ones used by the dreaded Noise Marines in function. A tool of immeasurable misery and pain, the Rift Cannon can rip Astartes asunder and liquefy entire squads of light infantry with but a single blast. This heavy weapon is wielded exclusively by the Chapters Breakers and Dominaters.
A Sonic Pistol, identical to the Rift Cannon in all but size and range, the Harmonic Pistol is a common side arm amongst the Chapters elite.
These non-lethal grenades spray a caustic black fluid that completely coats the foe, getting into the eyes and covering any eyepieces on their helmets. While only a minor irritant a best, it dose give the Rift Keepers an advantage in battle.
A standard Rocket Launcher to the eyes of the uninitiated, the Terror Launcher creates a horrid wail as it fires, instilling fear and disorganizing the enemy.
A modified Autocannon that produces a violent scream while being fired, the Terror Cannon is a staple amongst the Breakers. The weapon achieves its soul wrenching scream via specialized vents built into the main barrel of the cannon, venting gas and heat from firing in such a way as to produce its carrion call.
Holdovers from a long begotten age, as the Rift Keepers are only resupplied by specifically designated Mechanicus Exploritor fleets and Inquisitorial supply barges, the Chapter has had to make do with various forms of antiquated weaponry. However, the Reaper Autocannon is one of the more lauded weapons that the Chapter makes due with. Just as deadly as the days of the Great Crusade, the Reaper Autocannon is seen both in the hands of the Breakers and Dominaters as a weapon of choice for its reliability and versatile killing power.
Astartes Pattern Grenade Launcher
A versatile and deadly weapon, few Chapters make such liberal use of the Astartes Pattern Grenade Launcher as the Rift Keepers, with nearly one Rifter of every Rifter Squad being armed with this weapon.
Flamers are common weapons amongst the Rifters, and often two or more Battle-Brothers in a squad will be armed with these painful weapons.
Similar to a heavy flamer in scale and function, the Firebolt Cannon is a strange and terrifying weapon. By firing globules of chemically concentrated fire, the Firebolt Cannon can manage the range of a conventional heavy bolter. Once the glob of flame slams into the target, it sticks and burns violently, and given its viscous nature, can splash onto groups of targets as well. Also, due to the arcing nature of these blobs of fire, the Firebolt's rounds can be fired over and or around cover.
Screamer Bolts are modified bolter rounds that produce a high pitched wail as they sail through the air to their targets. While not affecting the leathality of the bolt round in any way, it certainly unnerves and disorients enemies.
Mantel of the Rift
A form of marking amongst the most veteran and elite of the Rift Keepers, the Mantels of the Rift are identical to the Iron Halo
It is unknown where the Rift Keepers get their recruits, though rumors abound. As much of the area surrounding the Rift of Shadow is unexplored, (more due to the Rift Keepers themselves than any other deterrent) it is thought that they recruit from the various untainted worlds that circle the Rift. This is supported by the fact that the Rift Keepers clearly have cultural aspects, such as the "Riften Toung" they speak in, that could not have come about without them adopting the traits of another people. However, other speculations claim that the Rift Keepers grow recruits via gene-vats and vita-wombs, or that they are all clones.
The initiation an Asperiant undergoes is one of great hardship and horror, first enduring the nightmares and horrid visions of the Rift Vision, and then is sent with his fellow would-be Astartes into the howling maw of Badak's Rift. If any of the Asperiants return they are made into full Space Marines, those who do not return are given the Rift Keepers most honored ceremony and their names are added to the Wall of the Lost.
Few have ever seen Rift Keepers in battle, and even fewer have seen them unmasked. They are said to be fair skinned, with an ashen grey hue and burning orange eyes. Often they are completely hairless, though if they do have hair it is black as the void and grows in a vast main and is often worn in a topknot. Rift Keepers all have pointed, serrated teeth, much like a Terran sharks. Rift Keepers are known to have gaunt and thin features, combined with their orange eyes and sharp teeth, many see Rift Keepers as ghoulish and unnervingly fearsome.
Rift Keepers shun baubles and ornaments, preferring to have their armor as plain and bare as possible. This is due to their style of combat, in which the many bright colored and flashy emblems can give them away in the shadows.
Like most things associated with the Rift Keepers, their culture is a dark and poorly understood one. It is known that as a Chapter the Rift Keepers are cold, quiet, and greatly detached. Some have gone so far as to call them emotionless, as if drained by the constant horrors they endure. But those fellow Space Marines who have fought beside them know them to be extremely dependable, even amongst the die-hard ranks of the Space Marines, few are so driven to complete their goals. Rift Keepers will die without question to defend even a mere hab-center, and will sacrifice themselves to ensure mission success without any hesitation whatsoever. They are known for their sheer amount of discipline and self control, often to the point where they seem more akin to servitors than Space Marines, but when pushed to the utmost edge, can erupt in displays of savagery that are both horrifying and awe inspiring.
The Rift Keepers speak their own language, known as the Riften Tongue. Though its origins are completely unknown, Riften is a language befitting the chapter, its haunting and unearthly tones mixing with the bleached voices of the Rift Keepers to create an ominous sound. In battle, Rift Keepers often screech and shout Riften war litanies at their foe, or if they are stalking them, will whisper them to the wind. This latter tactic, known as the "Web of Litanies" is terrifying, especially on the fog laden and starlit worlds of the Rift, as what sounds like thousands of alien voices surround and envelop the foe.
Rift Keepers masterfully utilize terror tactics and psychological warfare in ways that few loyalists ever would. This is due to the Chapters mission, they must ensure that no one ever trespasses into Badak's Rift, and fear is a time honored deterrent.
Rift Keepers believe firmly in the Emperors mortality, and vehemently say that he was a man, the greatest man to ever live, yes, but still a man. This causes them to chafe slightly when forced to fight alongside Chapters and other Imperial factions who hold the Emperor is divine, though one would not know, as the Rift Keepers keep to themselves, especially when they are amongst their fellow Astartes. In spite of this, they are still reverently devout to the Emperors linage and his teachings, and thus cover their bodies and armor in scripture taken from the Tome of Shadow.
The Tome of Shadow is the Rift Keepers tactical guide, organisational guideline, and spiritual manifesto. The Tome teaches the way of war, the war of Shadows. It teaches that to guard the Rift they must be as fearsome as the horrors that dwell within, they must be savage, cruel, and stout hearted. They must manifest the darkness that surrounds and envelops them, and become it. Yet they must also transcend the evil, they must become its master, they must be a paragon of order amdist the chaos, a beacon of light amidst the sea of darkness. The Tome teaches something close to the ancient and long forgotten Impeiral Creed, that only logic and reason can defeat the madness and chaos that inhabits the Rift and dark places beyond. Thus one must be cold, unaffected by the horrors around them, unbowed by the grim darkness that is war.
The Rift Keepers fight by the tactical doctrine of the Tome of Shadow. By the order of the tome, the Chapter is led by a Master Keeper, who hold the same status as a Chapter Master. The Chapter is divided into one hundred man groups known as Watches, which are lead by a Supreme Watcher, who operates with and amount of authority equal to a codex Captain. This ancient tome of tactical methods and organisational dogma is clearly based of the Codex Astartes, as the Rift Keepers have been known to designate Battle-Brothers in classes similar to Tacticals, Devastators, and Assault Marines. Though these are known as:
Rifters are the rank and file Battle-Brothers of the Chapter, fulfilling the role of a Tactical Marine. They are known as Rifters due to the fact that they are the rank and file Space Marines of the chapter and its main force against the horrors of Badak's Rift. Rifters are amongst the most ruthless and cold killers in the whole of the Adeptus Astartes, and are famed for a relentless drive like no other. Favored weapons are the standard bolter, combat knife, and smoke and frag grenades. However, flamers, shotguns, and grenade launchers are all common weapons within a Rifter squad.
Rifters are often cold and detached, and have been often likened to machines in terms of social skills. They are often literal, and unfailingly grim minded. However, there is more humanity in them than one would expect, tales of Rifters fighting to defend allies they recently met or sacrificing themselves to rescue fellow Astartes from other Chapters are well noted. Such is the determination of a Rifter
Breakers are the Rift Keepers heavy weapons specialists, utilizing everything from Heavy Bolters and Terror Launchers, to Rift Cannons, and aged Reaper Autocannons. They ensure the foe cannot hide in their armored tanks and behind their fortifications, and that none withstand the whirlwind of death and carnage that is the Rift Keepers. Of all the Rift Keepers the Breakers are the most iron willed and disciplined, displaying tenacity and courage that is outstanding even by the lofty standards of the Adeptus Astartes.
Breakers are usually spiteful and bitter, and famously ill-tempered. They are often described as stubborn or bull-headed, unwilling to ever give in to outside pressures, be they a Lord General shouting for a retreat, or Tyranid swarm clawing its way through their heavy bolter rounds. However, this also makes them bastions of valor and perhaps the most selfless marines of the Chapter. They will gladly die if it means the horrors of the Rift do not escape or if their allies are bought more time on their lives, they will drag scores of foes down with them, such is the fury of a Breaker.
Fellwings are the Chapters equivalent to the Codex Assault Marines, the primary difference being that the Fellwings are some of the best overall warriors of the entire Chapter, each a veteran in his own right. This is due to the training that one undergoes to become a Fellwing, they are taught to harness the darkness, to become terror incarnate, and yet to master their most basic instincts to a level that is remarkable even for a Space Marine. Fellwings scream into battle on their specialized jump packs that transform the roar of the engines into a soul wrenching wail. They often wield lighting claws similar to the Heresy pattern in design, chainswords, and harmonic pistols. They are often decorated in death iconography and grizzly trophies. Fellwings share a disturbing number of similarities to Chaos Raptors, however, while they may be alike in purpose, in behavior they are worlds apart. Where Raptors are cruel and cowardly, Fellwings are valorous and merciful. They may torment their foes before the end, but never do they prolong the enemies suffering, always delivering a quick (if painful) death.
Fellwings harness terror because they must to ensure that none attempt to venture into Badak's Rift, not because they enjoy inflicting it. Thus while fearsome and terrifying in the extreme, they are often melancholy and grief ridden, constantly wrestling with the reality of what they have had to become to ensure their duty is carried out. Such is the purpose of a Fellwing.
Darksiders are the Space Marines that make up the Chapters Librarium. They are well versed in the discipline of Telepathy and can use it as an instrument of unbridled cruelty and malice, but also as a power of inspiration and protection. Darksiders can create a wide array of illusions, from conjuring thick blankets of unnatural fog and cloaking their allies, (even a small fleet if enough of them work in concert) to summoning up beasts and horrors unimaginable and unleashing them upon their foes psyche. They can also use their powers to attack outright, taking control of foes like macabre puppets and even causing brain hemorrhaging or death through sheer terror. However, they can also use their powers for more benevolent means, they can erase all doubt in the minds of their allies, or focus them on a goal or target amdist the chaos of war, they can banish daemons and the false images of other Telepaths.
In spite of the good they do, all Darksiders feel the most guilt for what they have become, not for what they do to the enemies of man, but for the fact that they use the weapons of their enemies, fear, terror, and trickery. Thus they are often repentant, and the most withdrawn. Such is the station of a Darksiders
Blacksmiths are the Chapters few and highly capable Techmarines, trained by the few roving Exploritors who are sent to Badak's Rift by order of the Adpetus Mechanicus through the will of the Inquisition. Blacksmiths are adept at repairing and manufacturing the Chapters Wargear, and are also deadly combatants in battle. Blacksmiths often have their mecha-denrite arms kitted out with various arc-casters and buzz-saws, not to mention the occasional cutting-torch or hydraulic clamp. These can be just as good at disassembling foes as they are assembling weapons and vehicles. Blacksmiths are also armed with Shotguns, Flamers, or a Storm Bolter if they so choose...and they often choose so.
Blacksmiths are cold and logic driven, due to both their dedication to the Omnimessiah and their Chapters culture, thus they are methodical and supremely calculating. They often wrack their minds on how to solve the Chapters various problems and are plagued by guilt when their countermeasures inevitably fail. Thus they are often obsessive and mournful, such is the practice of the Blacksmith.
Morticians are the Rift Keepers morbid version of the Apothecary. These stoic and mournful Battle-Brothers exist to prolong the suffering of their brothers, so that they may continue to experience the horrors of Badak's Rift and their own tortured minds. While other Apothecaries see their duty as one of good and mercy, Morticians see it as one of torture and grief. Yet still the preform it admirably and mercifully, they preserve their brother bodies until they cannot go on, and then they preserve his legacy, so that the Rift forever remains locked away. Such is the essence of a Mortician.
The Endurer is the honored title of the Chapters Dreadnoughts, Battle-Brothers whos suffering has been prolonged for the good of mankind. The procedure is only undertaken when a Battle-Brother approves it beforehand, often these are the most iron willed and selfless brothers of the Rift Keepers. Though as they stand, resting eternal until called to war or to educate their brothers on an ancient evil, they are still the paragons they were in life, exemplars to the selfless duty all Rift Keepers preform.
In battle Endurers are storms of steel and awesome might, rending the foe with power claws or pulverizing them with venerable Reaper Autocannons. Endurers grieve, not for themselves, but for those who suffer now and those precious brothers they have left behind, such is the eternal vigil of the Endurer.
Dominators are the Chapter most elite warriors, clad in mighty Terminator armor, mostly of the Indomitus pattern, and brandishing Rift Cannons, Heavy Flamers, Assault Cannons, Storm Bolters, and any number of melee weapons, these Battle Brothers stride from the shadows and fog, weapons ablaze and vox casters blaring horrifying litanies. Dominators also make frequent use of smoke grenades and Ink grenades, often blinding the foe before striding into the open to crush them. Dominators are rarely called upon during planetary campaigns, only when the foe is to resilient or well protected to be destroyed by other, less straightforward means. However, they see frequent action during Space Battles, where their bulk and firepower make them nigh unstoppable in the enclosed corridors of a warship.
Dominators are the most tormented of all the Rift Keepers, for theirs is a life of destruction, they exist to obliterate, decimate, and destroy. Thus they are often forced to relive the terrors of war as they are distorted in their dreams, their foes becoming innocent beings, their victories made hollow and and cruel mockeries of what they truly were. Such is the pain of the Dominaters.
Contrary to what one may think if they knew of the Rift Keepers and their ways, they are known to serve in the Deathwatch, albeit in sparse numbers. Due to their Rift Vision and style of warfare, Rift Keepers are well suited for the Long Watch and the covert missions that it entails. However, as they are extremely antisocial and secretive, they rarely form close bonds with the members of their Kill-Team.
- "They know a lot about scaring the shit out of people, which isn't necessarily a bad thing."
- — Battle-Brother Saxonis of the Star Reapers
- "I appreciate what they do, really! But is an entire Chapter of Astartes really the tool for the job here? Couldn't you just point a few heavily armed ships at the big, scary space-hole and just keep the Keepers on emergency standby? Who came up with this plan, is this really the best damned allocation of my tithe?"
- "Anybody who disses the Ultramarines is okay by me, even if they do take spooky and morbid to stunning new heights - even for Space Marines."
- "I'm not even going to try and supply them, I mean, selling corpses would look bad. Even for me."