Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Background to the Bloodstone Knights and their home world, Ardeal

Home World: Ardeal
Typical conditions: Mainly forest, outwardly verdant but home to many predators, including infestations of orks.
Galaxy Location: Ultima Segmentum on the eastern fringe, Sagittarius arm bordering the realm of Ultramar and the Tau Empire.

Ardeal is a largely tribal planet, and the Knights seek to retain this way of life for its inhabitants as the regular territorial conflicts breed a tough, resilient and warlike people. This natural way of life has been reinforced following the adoption of the planet by the Knights as their homeworld, due to the infestation of the forests with tribes of the orks who arrived as a result of one of their earliest crusades that threatened the very existence of the chapter. These orks constantly raid what settlements the human tribes can establish, and many new recruits are drawn from the survivors of such raids.

The Knight’s base of operations is called the Ultra Silvam (literally speaking, beyond the forest) and is the central hub of a ring of defensive fortresses known as the Seven Saxons hollowed out of the Apuseni mountains and reinforced with massive orbital and ground defences. Located within the Covasna region of the planet, which is largely barren high ground home to many glaciers and conditions that make life impossible for the unaltered or unprotected, the Ultra Silvam is not only a fortress but a symbol of the Bloodstone Knights’ elevation beyond mere mortals. As is common with many chapters of space marines, the local tribes often consider the Knights to be Gods who dwell in the high places of the world, watching the affairs of ordinary men with dispassionate eyes and occasionally selecting the most promising warriors to fight the eternal battle in the heavens.

The Knights have a strong martial tradition and due to the native conditions of their homeworld and their continual exposure to wars against the greenskins, the Bloodstone way of war concentrates largely on close range conflict. As a result of this, the Knights have only a limited access to heavy, long ranged weaponry, and devastator squads are a rare sight within their ranks. What heavy firepower they do bring to the fight however tends to be mounted on vehicles, and they make extensive use of tank-busting squadrons of land speeders, fast moving vindicators, heavily modified to retain their accuracy at a sufficiently high speed to not be left behind by their other support units.

The Bloodstone Knights geneseed, as far as historical records can tell, appears to have been an attempt to cure the curse of the blood angels by splicing it with that of the Imperial Fists to instill the discipline of Dorn’s heritage to control the black rage. Unfortunately, it failed to have the desired effect, and it seems that the legendary zeal of the Black Templars has surfaced, actually increasing the regularity with which the black rage strikes, only tempering it to some extent in its final stages. As a result, the Knights are susceptible to violent episodes whereby they seek to close with their enemy, looking for solace in the violence of close combat.

Fewer of their number however succumb to the red thirst at this time than is usual within the ranks of the blood angels and their pure successors, their blood lust seemingly sated at the last through extended periods of combat. The martial pride of the Knights is stung by such losses of control however, and where they occur, the warrior’s name is struck from the Chapter records, and all Bloodstone Knights heraldry is removed from their armour. The armour is then repainted onyx, with bone-coloured trims, only the symbolic blood red saltires and stylised blood drops representing the wounds of Sanguinius give any colour. The warrior is no longer considered to be a Bloodstone Knight, but becomes one of the Soarta.

Commonly referred to as the Wyrdkin, this company is formed from those warriors whose fate is upon them, destined to die in the most bloody and brutal conflicts. These warriors are detained by the Chapter’s apothecaries. With their sus-an membranes artificially triggered they are kept in a comatose state until their skills and savagery are required on the battlefield. The Soarta often therefore form the vanguard of any battleplan, dropped into the thickest of fighting to disrupt the enemy strategy, or simply to strike the head from the serpent. Such warriors only rarely survive these encounters, their rage burning them from the inside until they fall to overwhelming numbers of their foes, but occasionally such a warrior will overcome all, defeating the rage within. These warriors are respected and feared in equal measure, and in an unusual practice, are interred within a dreadnought sarcophagus despite not always having severe enough wounds to demand such incarceration.

 The knights are proud of their twin heritage, and extol the knightly virtues exemplified by the Black Templars, often sending their warriors out on crusades into enemy held territories. These crusades are normally dispatched to Charadon, as a reaction to and fuelling the bitter hatred the chapter holds for all greenskins. The first of these crusades in the chapter’s early history resulted in a retaliatory Waaagh descending on Ardeal, and only the intervention of Chief Librarian Tigurius of the Ultramarines prevented the planet from being completely overrun. It was in response to this, and the destruction of their original fortress, that the seven Saxons were constructed. The Chapter Master vowed that never again would they be threatened with destruction should one fortress fall. Ever since this day, the crusades have adapted their philosophy, and will strike at a specific target and withdraw whilst in the ascendancy rather than punishing their foe until they are forced to fall back through high casualties or overextension of their supply lines. This tactic ensures that the knights do not fall back from a battle, and they are rarely pursued for long as they retain their strength by minimising casualties.