Hey everyone. As part of the 2016 Hobby Progress Challenge I've written an Index Astartes article for my army: members of the Deathwatch Watch Fortress Fort Excalibris. I'm looking for some feedback on this, in particular the believability of what I've laid out here. In the past I've mentioned that I dislike "special snowflakes" (being someone that absolutely has to feel special, usually by violating some core tenet of whatever project they are participating in) and that continues to this day. In 40k, being a special snowflake tends to manifest itself in things like, "Oh, he's the only Grey Knight who's ever turned to Chaos" (despite background stating that NO Grey Knight has ever turned to Chaos). I'm concerned that I might have gone a little too far in some of the things I've described here so I'd like some other people to take a look at it and tell me if that's the case. I'm also a little... I guess "scared" is the term, seeing as I've taken two actual GW places/Chapters and given them a history of my own (Fort Excalibris and the Imperial Stars).
Please let me know what you think.
Index Astartes: Fort Excalibris
The facility that would eventually become Fort Excalibris was founded in the 34th Millennium as a joint venture between the alien-hunting branch of the Inquisition, the Ordo Xenos, and the Adeptus Mechanicus to capture and study the tools of the alien. The Ordo Xenos provided a complement of Deathwatch Kill Teams to investigate alien activity and retrieve xeno-artefacts whilst the Adeptus Mechanicus pledged a cadre of Tech Priests and their servants to study anything captured, as well as the space station Er Kontor that would be their base of operations. Non-military members of the Ordo Xenos would oversee the running of the facility and provide additional aid to help the Adeptus Mechanicus in their research.
Less than a century after the establishing of Er Kontor, the Fabricator-General of the relatively-nearby Forge world of Mezoa discovered the pro-xenos leanings of the Tech Priests doing research there and declared them Hereteks. Unable to directly assault them for fear of reprisal from the Inquisition, Mezoa engaged in a secret cold war with the unknowing space station.
Whilst Er Kontor’s initial research was extremely promising, over time as their resources dwindled and former allies removed their support they produced fewer and fewer usable results to the point that the Ordo Xenos was prepared to scrap the project altogether. But, on the cusp of victory, Mezoa tipped their hand and accidentally exposed their actions to the Inquisition, who were swift to take action.
Cold war exploded into open warfare. With all pretence of subterfuge gone, the Basilikon Astra of Mezoa was despatched to blow Er Kontor out of the stars. The Ordo Xenos responded in kind, sending a flotilla of Imperial Navy ships to defend the research facility. The flotilla arrived just in time to intercept the Adeptus Mechanicus ships bearing down on the space station. Massed rows of torpedoes flew across the ever-decreasing gap between the fleets before slamming into their targets in blossoms of red and yellow. Weapons batteries on both sides blazed white hot as they spewed their fiery payload upon their enemies. Lance fire sliced open ship hulls, exposing their innards to the void of space.
As the Imperial Navy flotilla drew closer, the Adeptus Mechanicus fleet attempted to outmanoeuvre them in the hopes of accomplishing their assignment then retreating without paying too heavy a toll in destroyed vessels. But the ships loyal to the Inquisition managed to draw close and launched boarding actions against almost the entirety of the Mechanicus vessels. Few of the Legiones Skitarii had been deployed to the fleet and soon their ships started to become overrun with troops of the Ordo Xenos.
In a last ditch effort to succeed in their mission the Adeptus Mechanicus’s flagship, a Retribution class battleship whose name has been lost to history, fired its final complement of torpedoes at the station before signalling the withdrawal of their fleet. The deadly missiles closed the distance with Er Kontor, the salvo large enough to obliterate the already-damaged facility. At the last moment, a Sword-class frigate named Excalibris flew headlong into the spread of torpedoes. The Excalibris was utterly destroyed, ripped asunder by a full half-dozen of the plasma warheads igniting as they impacted its hull. The remaining torpedoes continued on their path and hit Er Kontor, crippling the station as secondary explosions rippled throughout its structure.
As the Adeptus Mechanicus fleet limped home to Mezoa, it was clear that their gambit had failed. Er Kontor, though crippled and listing in space, was still whole; the noble sacrifice of the Excalibris and her crew had saved the station from the majority of the torpedoes at the dear cost of the ship and their lives.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Inquisition censured the forge world of Mezoa. Assuring them that the Adeptus Mechanicus personnel aboard the station had been wiped out in the explosions caused by the final torpedo impacts, the Ordo Xenos claimed the research facility as being solely theirs, renaming it Fort Excalibris in honour of the vessel that had sacrificed itself. Mezoa gladly let the Inquisition claim the facility, knowing it was a small price to pay and that they could have been forced to repay far more.
As with all Deathwatch Watch Fortresses, Fort Excalibris does not recruit new Space Marines but instead draws from the best xenos killers amongst the Adeptus Astartes.
Fort Excalibris itself is a sprawling complex located in the eastern portion of Segmentum Obscuris, almost on the border with Ultima Segmentum. The initial space station has been built upon numerous times into a multi-hulled space fortress, surrounded by innumerable minefields and other defence emplacements.
Whilst the basic goal of the venture of Fort Excalibris hasn’t changed over the millennia, the contingent of Deathwatch Kill Teams initially stationed there has evolved over time into being a fully fledged Watch Fortress. The research portion of the facility, initially staffed by the Adeptus Mechanicus, is now fully crewed by the Ordo Xenos and their servants.
As one of the few Watch Fortresses to have a facility exclusively dedicated to xeno-tech research, Fort Excalibris has a reputation within certain circles for being at the forefront of Imperial research into alien technology. As a result of this, Kill Teams from all over the Imperium deliver numerous pieces of xeno-tech to the experts at Fort Excalibris in the hope that some vital information can be gleaned for use in the future.
Deep within the depths of Fort Excalibris lie a great many relics and articles of war, some of which are so dangerous they cannot be used lest they annihilate all life on a planet’s surface. The Black Vault of Fort Excalibris is one of the most diverse in the Deathwatch, allowing its castellans to be armed with the deadliest weapons known to the enemies of Man.
As befits a research centre such as Fort Excalibris, its Kill Teams are usually armed with the best equipment available to the Deathwatch. In some cases this means brand new, barely-post-testing weapons whilst in others this means ancient artefacts dating from before the Horus Heresy.
The Kill Teams of Fort Excalibris are well-armed and equipped to face any foe on the battlefield. Whilst capable of making quick insertions into hostile territory, they are also fully able to wage war on a longer term basis, particularly in circumstances where xeno-tech acquisition is highly likely. In such cases specially adapted Corvus Blackstars and Thunderhawk Gunships are used to airdrop varying forms of forward command posts including Aegis Defence Lines, Imperial Bastions, and even Skyshield Landing Pads to allow the Deathwatch to maintain a mobile front line.
The armoury of Fort Excalibris contains some of the rarest vehicles deployed by the Adeptus Astartes. Amongst other things, the Watch Commanders of Fort Excalibris can call upon the aid of motorised behemoths such as Legion Fellblades and Typhon Heavy Siege Tanks. The Cerberus Heavy Tank Destroyer is a particularly useful and oft-requisitioned vehicle, as it allows the Deathwatch the ability to take down alien Titans at long range; many such massive engines of war have been salvaged as a result of this war machine.
Like most other Watch Fortresses of the Deathwatch, Fort Excalibris follows the standard format of a strategium staff and an armoury supporting five Watch Companies, each consisting of a Watch Captain and four Kill Teams. Due to the nature of Fort Excalibris, historically the Watch Commander has been an Ordo Xenos Inquisitor as often as it has been a Deathwatch Watch Master. In addition to his usual duties, the Watch Commander is also the overall head of the research and development facilities, though a Deathwatch Watch Master holding the post usually delegates that responsibility to a senior member of the Ordo Xenos.
The current Watch Commander of Fort Excalibris is Watch Master Arcturus. Originally from the Imperial Stars, a Codex Chapter whose Astartes are all curiously named after the celestial bodies the Chapter is named for, he has dedicated himself towards the extermination of the Enemy Without through a lifetime of dedicated service to the Deathwatch.
Arcturus eschews the traditional Guardian Spear wielded by a Marine of his station, instead taking the field with an ornate and ancient Relic Blade of great length and power. The more superstitious members of the Deathwatch whisper rumours that suggest this Relic Blade may have once been wielded by the Emperor himself and that the merest hint of His divine essence still resides within it.
The Watch Captain of Fort Excalibris’s Watch Company Tertius is Magnus Blackwolf of the Space Wolves. Recruited from Engir Krakendoom’s Wolf Guard for his part in masterminding and leading an attack on an Ork-infested space hulk, Magnus has served in the Deathwatch with distinction for a great number of years.
Distrusted by many within his own Chapter due to inadvertently choosing the name of the Space Wolves’ archenemy as his own following the Test of Morkai, Magnus finds himself more at home amongst his brethren in the Deathwatch than he ever felt in The Fang, the fortress monastery of the Space Wolves. Comfortable with using the wide variety of weapons and wargear afforded him by his station, Magnus leads his Watch Company from the front with a feral grin on his lips.
The highest ranking non-Deathwatch member of the Ordo Xenos at Fort Excalibris is Inquisitor Ambrosius Grax. An ageing puritan of the Monodominant philosophy, since being assigned to Fort Excalibris he has tempered his methodology and now freely embraces the idea of using the weapons of the alien against them.
Despite nominally having nothing but a desk job, Inquisitor Grax often assigns himself to Deathwatch Kill Teams on their expeditions to retrieve xeno-tech. When asked why, he smirks and replies, “Rank hath its privileges.” Requests from members of his support staff to stop doing so usually end up with said support staff temporarily reassigned to scourge the environmental duct systems of dust, debris, and vermin.
Due to Kill Teams from all over the galaxy guarding and delivering new materiel to the researchers, Fort Excalibris is often host to Astartes from other Watch Fortresses, including such famous names as Watch Captain Artemis of Talasa Prime and Ortan Cassius, Chaplain of the Ultramarines. On rare occasions, these outsider members of the Deathwatch are conscripted into Excalibris’s Kill Teams and sent on missions by Watch Master Arcturus. Whilst technically an abuse of power, these actions are usually excused as the experience gained by fighting alongside Deathwatch members from other Watch Fortresses is seen as extremely valuable and are often “overlooked” by those who could do something about it.
The establishing of Fort Excalibris as a centre of research has led to the Deathwatch Marines stationed there embracing the use of refitted xeno-weaponry readily. Likewise the majority of their Ordo Xenos personnel have at least a slightly radical bent, as any position within the Watch Fortress is naturally attractive to individuals who would prefer to use the tools of the alien against them.
The portion of the Adeptus Mechanicus who formed the initial alliance with the Inquisition followed a set of beliefs counter to those of the majority of their associates. Their interpretation of the Xenos Testamenta, one of the Mechanicus’s Sixteen Universal Laws, meant they believed that even though the knowledge found within alien technology had been corrupted from the pure thought of the Machine God, it could still be salvaged for the Quest for Knowledge. As a result, Fort Excalibris has become something of a pilgrimage site for members of the Adeptus Mechanicus who follow similar pro-xenos beliefs, though those who do visit often do so in disguise so as not to be identified.
Like all other Watch Fortresses across the Imperium, the Deathwatch is composed of Space Marines from a number of different Chapters, with a variety of nearly identical to little-to-no similarity in their gene-seed.
The exact composition of Fort Excalibris’s Deathwatch Marines varies over time, but currently includes members of the Ultramarines, Dark Angels, Crimson Fists, Liberators, and Howling Griffins. There is a slightly higher than average number of Astartes from the Silver Skulls Chapter, likely due to Fort Excalibris’s proximity to their homeworld of Versavia.
Raising his sword towards the heavens, the leader of a given Deathwatch Kill Team or army calls out, “FOR EXCALIBRIS!” which is echoed in turn by his comrades.
Watch Fortress Icon
Author's Notes and Trivia
The major driving force of the background was justifying certain model choices in-universe. This includes:
- Wanting to convert the original limited edition Emperor's Champion into my Watch Master,
- Including a Lord of War and a Fortification choice as per the CAD in a Quarter part of the Hobby Progress Challenge,
- Wanting to include the Deathwatch special characters Watch Captain Artemis, Venerable Dreadnought Nihilus, and Kill Team Cassius in my army as themselves, and,
- Wanting to include a Puritan Inquisitor with a roguish streak.
For anyone paying attention, there are a number of references here. In particular, there are 5 specific references to Arthurian legend (excluding the fact that the name of the Watch Fortress is "Excalibris" (which is where I took the inspiration from) since that's what GW called it) and 1 Star Trek reference (which kind of doubles up to 2 if you look at it in the right light). Bonus points are available for anyone who finds them all