- "There are but two answers to the question of Humanity's survival in the face of a hostile cosmos; overwhelming force and the will to use it."
The Astral Claws were a Space Marine Chapter created during the mid-35th Millennium's 10th Founding from an unknown genetic origin. The Astral Claws were founded specifically to defend the Eastern Fringes of the Imperium of Man from any Chaos threats spawned by the massive Warp rift called the Maelstrom in the region of the Ultima Segmentum appropriately called the Maelstrom Zone by Imperial astrocartographers. For centuries the Astral Claws served as members of the alliance of Space Marine Chapters known as the Maelstrom Warders who protected the people of the Maelstrom Zone.
The Astral Claws eventually turned Renegade against the Imperium and initiated the major rebellion and attempt at secession from the Imperium by the Badab Sector appropriately called the Badab War in the late 41st Millennium. Upon losing this conflict to Loyalist Imperial forces, including several other Space Marine Chapters, the surviving Astral Claws were corrupted by Chaos and fled into the Maelstrom. They are currently the leaders of a powerful band of Chaotic pirates and Renegade Astartes called the Red Corsairs who present a major threat to Imperial commerce and Imperial worlds in the region.
For much of the Chapter's history, the Astral Claws operated as a fleet-based, crusading force, though still older records suggested that they may have occupied one or more Chapter worlds in the earliest years of service. In the 5th century of the 41st Millennium, the Chapter was assigned along with several others to the force known as the Maelstrom Warders, a group of Chapters charged with defending the sectors surrounding the massive Warp anomaly known as the Maelstrom from the numerous outcasts, pirates and xenos raiders that lurked within. The Astral Claws received the signal honour of appointment as the masters of the Maelstrom Warders, the Chapter’s commander having ultimate power over the entire formation. Though the Astral Claws continued to maintain a powerful fleet capacity, they spent the next several centuries fortifying their new home system of Badab, creating in the process a bastion considered by all that have witnessed it to be unbreakable.
In most regards, the Astral Claws were always considered adherents of Roboute Guilliman’s Codex Astartes. However, in the decades before the outbreak of the Badab War, the Chapter underwent a secret shift in its outlook and organisation, a change that accelerated once Lufgt Huron was appointed as Chapter Master. Over those decades, the Astral Claws elevated themselves from the foremost defenders of the Maelstrom Zone, to its absolute masters in all but name. The Chapter established itself at the apex of a potent military force comprising not just its own assets, but those of the other Chapters of the Maelstrom Warders.
The Astral Claws had direct control over a vast body of locally raised troops, numbering, it is estimated, in the many millions of warriors. Far more serious, however, was that the Astral Claws secretly transgressed one of the core proscriptions of the Codex Astartes, namely that which restricts the size of a Chapter to around a thousand Battle-Brothers. The true extent of the Astral Claws' heresy would only become clear once the terrible internecine conflict known as the Badab War was unleashed, a conflict that ultimately led Space Marine to fight Space Marine once more, and the Astral Claws to final damnation.
The Astral Claws is a name that is vilified within the Imperium, synonymous now with infamy and treachery, and in time perhaps a name that will eventually be wiped from history altogether, but it was not always so. For more than five thousand years, the Astral Claws Space Marine Chapter stood shoulder to shoulder with the finest of the Imperium's warriors, their deeds were legendary and their honour unquestioned. It was their glorious record of exemplary service that won them the singular honor of the overall command of the Maelstrom Warder force when they were assigned to the Badab Sector in 587.M41. Lufgt Huron rose to prominence and the leadership of his Chapter in 697.M41. It is remarkable to Imperial scholars today that one man, even one as extraordinary as Lufgt Huron could bring so mighty and loyal a force over to the brink of heresy and rebellion, yet he managed to do so. Some argue that Huron was no more than the result of the Chapter's overweening arrogance and self-importance, and that a man like Lufgt Huron would never have been allowed to rise to command in another Chapter, nor would any other Chapter so carelessly and knowingly have followed him into damnation.
The Astral Claws is believed to have been part of the 10th Founding although some sources differ on this. Created amid the dark times of the Nova Terra Interregnum, few records remain surrounding this Founding, which was believed to have been initiated to counteract the rapid erosion and contraction of the Imperium's borders during this period. The few such records that survive relating to the Astral Claws in this period paint them as a Crusading Chapter, dispatched from warzone to warzone in order to battle Mankind's enemies. Evidence of their presence can be found in Departmento Munitorum records relating to the Perfidian Wars and anti-Ork purges of Lord Solar Jurastis Macro, while further traces of their exploits can also be found on battle shrines relating to the later battles against Nova Terran forces during the Cataclysm of Souls. One of their most acclaimed victories occurred during the defence of Cadia from the 5th Black Crusade, for which their Chapter's standard was taken for display in the halls of the Eternity Gate in the Palace of Holy Terra itself.
For much of the 37th and the early 38th Millennium, the Astral Claws appear to have confined their range of operations to the Segmentum Obscurus. Their deeds are mentioned repeatedly in the Apocrypha Kaali, a valuable historical resource compiled by, and still held in the great Scholastica Corpus on Cypra Mundi, which details the turbulent events of the Occlusiad War and its aftermath. The Apocrypha further mentions the Astral Claws as having "three sons" which most likely implies that three Successor Chapters had been drawn from their ranks, which would be a remarkable number if true, given their relative youth as a Chapter at the time, and if so, a testament to the high regard in which they were held. Matters seem to have taken a darker turn for the Chapter in early M38 however, as the Astral Claws are recorded as being destroyed in action during the Altid Crusade while fighting alongside the Dark Angels in 288.M38. It is not until the fall of the Gorgon Pentarchy nearly eighteen centuries later that the Astral Claws are reported again fighting at full strength, with some mention of them undertaking a penitent crusade in-between. Their war record for the 39th and 40th Millennia records that the Astral Claws were a fleet-based crusading Chapter, ranging within the Segmentum Solar and the Segmentum Tempestus, responding to emergencies and adding their strength to ongoing conflicts, often tipping them in the Imperium's favour. Although some commentators at the time accused the Chapter of a greater lust for glory than the rewards of duty. One action by the Astral Claws which was to have unforeseen repercussions later, was the relief of the besieged Executioners Chapter at Stygia-Aquilon. The battle engendered a blood-debt between the two Space Marine forces that Lufgt Huron would later call on to gain the Executioners' aid during the Badab War.
The Maelstrom Warders
It was in recognition of their service that the High Lords named them to the Maelstrom Warders and entrusted them with the overall leadership of the force. During this time at Badab Primaris, the Chapter thrived, taking to the overlordship of the Badab sector with skill and diligence. They used their new homeworld's production capacity and connection to the isolated forge world of Angstrom to further augment their abilities and increase their capacity to wage war.
The Tiger Claws
In 680.M41, far distant from the Maelstrom Zone, a sequence of events was later to prove to have dreadful ramifications for the Astral Claws Chapter. The Bakasurra, a strike cruiser belonging to the Tiger Claws, reappeared on the edge of the Segmentum Pacificus, containing over a hundred battle-brothers of a Chapter declared destroyed over fourteen centuries before. The ship appeared to have been subject to severe time distortion in the Warp, and for those on board no more than a few months had elapsed. After making contact with the Storm Wings Space Marine strike force and aiding them in battle against Eldar slavers, the Tiger Claws were resupplied and made their way back to the location of their fortress-monastery on Krodha. There they found that in their long absence their ancient sun had expanded and rendered their world a lifeless, irradiated husk, and that their Chapter was nothing more than an all but forgotten legend. Captain Vetala of the Tiger Claws, now the de facto master of what was effectively a dead Chapter, travelled to Holy Terra to petition for the release of the Chapter's gene-seed and the right and title to rebuild the Tiger Claws. Captain Vetala disappeared without a trace while awaiting his petition's hearing and as a result his suit was summarily dismissed. Rumours in inquisitorial circles darkly hinted that the lost Chapter was considered tainted by some, and was part of the so-called 'Cursed Founding' better left dead. The Bakasurra, last seen conducting operations in the region of their Chapter's dead home world could not be located by ships sent to the area to track them down.
Centuries later, the Astral Claws' hubris resulted in their Chapter secretly absorbing the remnants of their long-lost Successor Chapter, the Tiger Claws, into their ranks and ultimately led to Lufgt Huron's dreams of expanding his Chapter into a force with the strength of one of the Space Marine Legions of antiquity, in order to pacify the Maelstrom permanently and crush Mankind's enemies. Some Imperial scholars contend that when the last remaining Tiger Claws survivors were taken into the Astral Claws midst, these once-loyal brothers grasped a poisonous viper to their hearts, thus causing them to eventually cause them to fall from grace.
- 5th Black Crusade (723.M36) - When Abaddon the Despoiler led a large Chaos incursion into Imperial space as the 5th Black Crusade, the Astral Claws were there to help defend Cadia. For their valiant efforts, the Chapter was awarded one of the greatest accolades a Space Marine Chapter could receive by having their Chapter standard taken for display in the Hallway of Heroes before the Eternity Gate of the Imperial Palace on Terra.
- Taninim Crusade (678.M37-714.M37) - Following the aftermath of the Occlusiad War, the Taninim Crusade was a Crusade undertaken by the Imperium of Man to regain control of several regions lost along the northwestern fringe of the Segmentum Obscurus. No fewer than 11 Crusading Space Marine Chapters were sent into the forbidding region known as the Taninim Expanse that extends past the outer edge of known space. They were sent into the vast, alien-haunted realm of the Taninim Expanse in order to identify, target and destroy any emerging threats that might be found there. Some of the Chapters sent into the Expanse never returned, while one, the Storm Callers, infamously became corrupted by Chaos and fell into civil war within its own ranks. Over time, some of the Chapters that were sent to fight in the Taninim Crusade never returned. The Astral Claws, however, was one of the few Chapters able to Crusade throughout the Expanse for more than four decades and return relatively unscathed by the experience. Upon returning to the Imperium, the Astral Claws were awarded a Sceptre of Victory at the Segmentum capital world of Cypra Mundi in recognition of their deeds and a temple to the Emperor in their honour (now deconsecrated following the Chapter's corruption by Chaos during the Badab War) was raised on the Shrine World of Pycentos to commemorate their actions.
- Siege of Darkenvault (Unknown Date.M39) - In what is now a largely forgotten episode of the Imperium's history, the southern fringe of the Segmentum Tempestus was assailed by wave after wave of Ork nomad fleets, xenoform migrations and strange psychic phenomenon which themselves caused a near epidemic of Witch Cults, alien infestations and daemonic incursions. Seen now by some sources within the Ordo Xenos as a precursor to the coming of the Tyranids, these events were largely unrecognised at the time as forming a pattern, as the eyes of the Imperium were focused on threats elsewhere. Suffering severe attrition in a series of campaigns defending the Imperium's borders against invading Orks, Enslaver outbreaks and worse, the Executioners Chapter had been reduced to less than 300 Battle-Brothers when their own twin Chapter worlds of Stygia-Aquilon came under siege. The attackers were a nightmarish xenos species of worm-ridden, writhing charnel-feasters never before encountered by Mankind. Again and again they struck without warning, their strange disk-like ships all but undetectable to the defences of the Executioners' fortress-monastery, Darkenvault, until the last moment of their attack when their ghostly energy rays seared through tens of metres of ferrous asteroid mass in an instant to spill a tide of horror into the fortress' lower levels. The resulting battles in the catacombs at the heart of the Executioners' fortress-monastery were unceasing and terrible, and in a short span of time few Space Marines remained to defend the inner sanctum and the Chapter stood on the brink of extinction. It was the Astral Claws, supported by the Cruisers of Battlefleet Tempestus, that broke the siege of Darkenvault; their arrival came just as the last of the Executioners were gathering for a final stand. Many Astral Claws died in breaking the siege, and among their losses they counted their Chapter Master, Acas Seneca. The handful of Executioners that endured owed a blood debt to the Astral Claws for the salvation of their Chapter, and swore that should the Astral Claws ever be so threatened they would respond in kind. It would be almost a century and a half before the Executioners returned again to full strength as a Chapter, and they would never forget their oath. When the time came over two thousand standard years later, they would heed Lufgt Huron's call, siding with the Tyrant of Badab and the Secessionists during the infamous Badab War.
- Scourge Campaign (640.M41-651.M41) - The Scourge Campaign was the greatest operation of its time conducted within the Maelstrom Zone. The Astral Claws and their Astartes allies from the Maelstrom Warders conducted a series of major combat operations, striking deep into the heart of the Maelstrom itself to take the battle to the foe, the first Imperial forces in centuries to do so. The Warders' strike force managed to pinpoint and destroy dozens of enemy strongholds and root out the hiding places of many infamous Renegades during the campaign. Despite the Warders' successes, their efforts were curtailed when the Charnel Guard Chapter was abruptly withdrawn from the Maelstrom Zone entirely and their ties severed with the Warders in order to campaign elsewhere. This sudden loss, which cut the Warders' forces by a quarter, effectively ended the campaign.
- Lycanthos Drift Campaign (780.M41) - In the aftermath of the long-running and infamous Fourth Quadrant Rebellion, the Astral Claws answered a general call to arms among the Astartes of the region and despatched a powerful force under the direct personal command of Lufgt Huron in 780.M41, undertaking the Lycanthos Drift Campaign against one of the last major stronghold systems of the revolt located to the galactic south of the Maelstrom Zone. Lufgt Huron was elected battle leader of a number of Astartes contingents by common consent, comprising companies from the Astral Claws, Fire Hawks, White Scars and Celestian Guard Chapters, backed by Krieg and Cal-Sec Imperial Guard Regiments and the Titans of Legio Venator. The Fire Hawks' Chapter Master Stibor Lazaerek was bitter that he was not given command of the campaign, and is known to have born a grudge against the Astral Claws from this time forward. Under Huron's inspired command the taskforce ruthlessly purged the heavily fortified system of traitor and Chaos forces in under a year. This conflict confirmed Lufgt Huron's reputation as a masterful strategist among Space Marine commanders.
- Crusade of Wrath (869.M41) - At the instigation of Chapter Master Lufgt Huron, the Black Templars Chapter declared a Crusade of Wrath into the Maelstrom, assaulting it from its eastward marches. Meanwhile the Astral Claws, Lamenters and Mantis Warriors launched their own assaults into the pathways of the great storm from its southern and north-eastern approaches. Due to Huron's strategic planning as well as the mettle of the Chapters involved, no fewer than 23 alien or heretic stronghold worlds were purged, including several on the Maelstrom's fringes that had fallen into the hands of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion and their apostate followers. At the height of the campaign, having made inroads deeper yet than any recorded Imperial fleet had attempted, the Astral Claws and Mantis Warriors directed their massed assault to smash the subhuman flesh-haunters of the Howling Gyre. At the culmination of the battle against the flesh-haunters, the Astral Claws' 1st Company led by Lufgt Huron fought their way deep within the foul creatures' carcass vaults before unleashing the life-eater virus upon the abominations. By this single act, they had ended a threat that had plagued the Imperium since before the Age of Apostasy, affording a great and lauded victory. But once again, wider events intervened, putting a premature end to the Astral Claws plans, as the Black Templars were suddenly called away to aid the beleaguered realm of Ultramar in the wake of the Tyrannic War. Having sustained substantial losses, and with readings from the Emperor's Tarot portending oncoming doom, the Warder Chapters were forced to withdraw from the Maelstrom unable to complete their objectives much to Huron's fury.
- Badab War (901.M41 - 912.M41) - The Astral Claws were, ironically, founded during the 35th Millennium to guard against the numerous daemonic and alien threats emerging from the Maelstrom. Under the leadership of their Chapter Master, Lufgt Huron, the "Tyrant of Badab," in the late 41st Millennium, the Astral Claws sought to have the Badab Sector secede from the Imperium of Man in protest against the Imperium's continued attempts to use the resources of the Badab Sector outside the region rather than dedicating them fully to the defeat of the Chaotic and xenos threats that emerged constantly from the Maelstrom Zone. The Astral Claws and the Tyrant of Badab were able to convince several other Astartes Chapters also dedicated to the protection of the Maelstrom Zone, including the Executioners, Lamenters, and the Mantis Warriors to stand with them against the Imperium in what they believed to be a just cause and an attempt to maintain the traditional autonomy of the Adeptus Astartes in the face of unwarranted interference from the Imperial nobility, economic interests and the often hated Inquisition. Unfortunately, Lufgt Huron had slowly been corrupted by his desire for power into the service of Chaos, and eventually the Imperium was forced to respond to the Secessionists in the Maelstrom Zone by unleashing the full might of the Imperium in the terrible civil conflict that became known in the Imperial record, before the Inquisition ordered before the Inquisition laid down an Order of Obliteration that sought to remove all records of the Astral Claws' existence from Imperial history, as the Badab War. This conflict was fought between 901.M41 and 913.M41 and ended in the complete destruction of the Astral Claws' defences and the devastation of their Chapter homeworld of Badab Primaris. Only 200 Astral Claws survived the final Imperial assault, and these Astartes, all corrupted by Chaos, fled with the maimed body of their leader into the Maelstrom, where they founded a new Chaotic empire. In the aftermath of the death of Badab Primaris, the remaining Secessionists from the Astral Claws, Executioners, Mantis Warriors and Lamenters were put on trial before a specially convened Consistorial Court of their peers with their very existence at stake. The Consistorial Court found all of those Chapters who had taken part in the Badab Secession guilty in breaking with both the Codex Astartes and the ancient covenant it represented. In punishment, all the Astral Claws in custody were blindfolded and shackled in dishonour and then put to the sword. The other Astartes Chapters who had served the Secessionist cause were eventually forgiven by the Imperium since they had only been misguided and not corrupted, in return for launching themselves upon a series of penitent Crusades. But Lufgt Huron swore his soul and the souls of his remaining Astral Claws to the eternal service of the Ruinous Powers in return for the restoration of his health and the power needed to make war upon the Imperium that he believed had betrayed him and his fellow Astral Claws. Replacing the ravaged portions of his body with bionic augmetics, Lufgt Huron, now calling himself Huron Blackheart, ironically led his corrupt Astartes, now calling themselves the Red Corsairs, back into the Maelstrom Zone to become the piratical raiders that he had so long fought against. In time, the Red Corsairs became the leaders of a vast Chaotic pirate force of Renegades and Traitors that represents a major continuing threat to the Imperium in the Ultima Segmentum.
While still a crusading Chapter, and during the opening centuries of their Chapter's deployment to the Maelstrom Zone, the Astral Claws maintained an organisational structure very close to that of the Codex Astartes with its standard division of ten companies, Chapter command, Apothecarion and forge armouries.
Lufgt Huron, as newly appointed Chapter Master, started a significant re-organisation and shift of focus for the Chapter that would eventually lead to outright heresy. First, he fully exploited the economic power of the Badab Sector to his Chapter's advantage, massively increasing the Astral Claws' stockpiles of arms and equipment far beyond the possible operational needs of a single Space Marine Chapter. Badab's advanced manufacturing capacity to fabricate enabled the Astral Claws to easily fabricate less exotic materials such as Rhino STC pattern vehicles and bolt weapons. As a result, such things became almost disposable to the Chapter, and were distributed to the other Warder Chapters, further binding them to Huron's debt. Though thankfully, they were unable to readily produce some items of wargear such as Terminator Armour or Land Raiders because of the meticulous requirements of certain rare resources and lost techno-arcane arts.
As the Badab Schism worsened in the lead-up to the war, and later as the secession gathered pace, the Astral Claws Chapter changed, expanding dramatically beyond the limits set down within the Codex Astartes. Slowly but with gathering speed they became something more akin in structure to an ancient Space Marine Legion. As part of this transformation an entire additional chapter-sized force of battle companies was raised, with a heavy emphasis on the use of concentrated firepower and fighting close boarding action inherent in their makeup, and seeded throughout the Chapter fleet.
The Tyrant's Legion
Further to this, another force, totaling well over a thousand additional Battle-Brothers was dispersed widely throughout what was known as the Tyrant's Legion. This force was a series of mixed armies comprising human Defence Auxilia troops (along the lines of the Astra Militarum) formed around a specialised core of Astral Claws Space Marines, whose task it was to secure the Badab Sector from any who would dare to invade. It was the creation of the Tyrant's Legion that was the most egregious offence against the Emperor committed by Lufgt Huron, let alone his massive expansion in the ranks of the Space Marines he commanded in violation of the Codex Astartes. The Tyrant's Legion specialised in using their "inferiors" as disposable cannon fodder and as living shields to maximise their own effectiveness in battle.
The Tyrant's Legion was also created to be a force that Huron could trust to be loyal above all else, and while it relied on the military nobility of the Badab Sector for its field officers, it was always the Astral Claws themselves who had absolute final authority, and any Tyrant's Legion detachment of any real size in the war was assigned its own Centurion. Each Centurion was an Astral Claws Veteran who could be entrusted with both tactical command and to make bloody examples to shirkers, cowards and those that failed their masters. To the human ranks below them, these armoured giants were literally seen as Angels of Death, and were figures both of holy awe and terror.
Found only within the ranks of the Astral Claws were a number of non-Codex Astartes specialist positions of Huron's own design:
- Corpse-Takers - Appearing only in the final days of the Badab War, the Corpse Takers were specially-tasked Apothecaries who specialised in harvesting gene-seed from fallen Space Marines -- from both friend and enemy alike. When this final betrayal of their fellow Astartes by the Astral Claws was revealed, it proved to be one blasphemy too much and guaranteed the bitter hatred and enmity of any Loyalist Astartes the Astral Claws fought in open battle. It also ensured that no prisoners were taken on either side.
- Legion Centurions - The Centurions were Veteran Astral Claws chosen to both command and if need be punish the human Auxilia of the Tyrant's Legion. They were selected for their might of arms and utter devotion to Huron's cause. They were objects of religious awe and genuine terror by those they commanded, and also served as the eyes and ears of the Tyrant across his fledgling pocket empire.
- Legion Iron Hunter Squads - Having a long tradition of maintaining highly adept Biker units in its Battle Companies stretching back for millennia, Huron employed rapidly moving Astartes Bike Squadrons known as Iron Hunters. They were utilised principally in harrowing and running down a broken or scattered foe, and to counter-assault against flanking attacks or breakthroughs by numerically superior enemies in the field. As the secret expansion of the Chapter got underway, Huron increased the number of Iron Hunter Squads at his disposal, deploying them to the Tyrant's Legion in sizable numbers and providing the Legion's often unwieldy ranks with a hard-hitting and rapid moving strike force.
- Legion Retaliator Squads - Retaliator Squads were special units of Astartes created to exert the Astral Claws' control directly where needed, and they were drawn initially from the Astral Claws Reserve Assault Company which had long specialised in close-quarters assaults and space-borne boarding actions. Retaliator Squads were given leave to sow terror and enforce loyalty amongst the Chapter's Auxilia by bloody example. With the advent of the Tyrant's Legion, these Retaliator Squads were expanded, forming a feared spearhead strike force, freeing the Chapter's assault reserve to fulfill its tactical duties in the wider conflict.
- Legion Space Marine Cohort - These specialty units were drawn from the expanding Chapter who hid its illegally increasing numbers amongst the sector's human defence corps in the guise of training and field command. Huron deployed and organised these Cohorts along the lines of the Space Marine Legions of old, with reconquering the Maelstrom in the name of the Emperor as his long-term goal. Even after that dream was to wither and he was to set himself and his Chapter against the Imperium, the Cohort deployments persisted as the brutal and irresistible killing hand of the Tyrant's Legion forces.
- Retaliators - The Retaliators were hand-picked Space Marines assault troops, selected for their brutality and unquestioning obedience to Huron who served as line breakers in battle and as the bloody hand of the Tyrant's will inside his own realm, conducting punitive extermination missions against political "dissidents" when needed.
The Tyrant kept his use of outside and irregular forces a secret even from his closest allies right up until the end of the war. Displaying a highly unusual grasp and even enjoyment of intrigue and espionage for a Space Marine Chapter Master, Huron had long cultivated contacts and agents amongst those Imperial recidivists, outsiders and Renegades in the Maelstrom Zone that it was both his sworn duty and passion to hunt and kill. It was intelligence gathered from these channels that contributed to many of the Maelstrom Warders' successes before the Badab War, and as the conflict worsened for the Secessionists, Huron turned to many of his erstwhile agents and through a mixture of fear, blackmail and bribery brought them to fight directly in aid of his cause, although they seldom did so willingly.
While in service to the Deathwatch before the outbreak of the Badab War, the Battle-Brothers of the Astral Claws always possessed about them an air of superiority bordering on the disdainful, an attitude that often extended even to members of other Adeptus Astartes Chapters. This demeanour might be the main reason the Chapter only rarely submitted brethren to stand the Long Vigil. Perhaps another reason lay in the fact that service in the Deathwatch was likely to bring a Battle Brother into close contact with senior members of the Inquisition, perhaps precipitating the asking of questions the Chapter had no desire to see answered.
Chapter Combat Doctrines
When the Astral Claws were still a Crusading Chapter, they maintained a strong fleet and favored rapid strike missions and boarding actions, and as such fielded strong additional auxiliary contingents of assault bikers and Dreadnoughts in its armouries. Rapid speed and relentless attack were the cornerstones of the Astral Claws' combat tactics, although their pride in their prowess occasionally led them into overconfidence, and to assaulting superior forces or failing to retreat when a more rationally governed Space Marine Chapter might have otherwise regrouped or withdrawn. The Astral Claws themselves saw no folly in this - there was no foe they would not challenge, and they were proud to fight and proud to die if needs be in the Imperium's great cause, and the graver the odds the greater the chance for glory.
When Lufgt Huron took over mastery of the Chapter, the Astral Claws' grip on the Badab Sector grew measurably and rapidly tighter. As the sector's direct rulers and defenders, this very much fed into the existing psychology of the Chapter, who had always been proud and imperious, much enamoured of martial glory and the veneration of the heroes of the past. They saw themselves as the inheritors of the Emperor's will and sworn to his task of reuniting all of Humanity under the Space Marines' protection. While it cannot be doubted that in the past they saw themselves as first and foremost as Mankind's defenders, they also believed Space Marines to be set above those they ruled and worthy of subservience, even reverence by the common citizenry. Under Huron's command, the fervour and degree in which this belief was held strengthened greatly, as did their Chapter's conviction in their own superiority over other agencies of power within the Imperium, along with a growing resentment of what they saw as outside interference in the Chapter's holy mission.
To Huron and the Astral Claws, Humanity was to be preserved at all costs, believing that individual human lives mattered little. As far as the daily lives of those that toiled in the Maelstrom Zone was concerned, the authority of sacrificing millions, even billions of lives was not invested in the Tyrant's hands but in the hands of the High Lords of Terra - a fact he soon came to resent. It was such presumptions as these, embraced by the Astral Claws Chapter as they were, that lay at the heart of the secession and the Badab War.
The source of the Astral Claws' gene-seed remains suppressed, and speculation has it that its provenance ranges from basic Ultramarines stock, to that of the Dark Angels, pointing to the supposed un-degraded quality of their gene-seed as well as certain factors of temperament and style of warfare that were common between the two Chapters. But due to the Edict of Obliteration passed by the High Lords of Terra during the Badab War which called for the eradication of all records related to the Chapter and the Astral Claws' own systematic destruction of their archives by their own hands during the final bitter battles of the siege of Badab Primaris, no records or personnel now survive who know the full story of their arrogance and sin. The truth of whom their genetic forebears were will more than likely never be known.
Notable Astral Claws
- Chapter Master Lufgt Huron, Master of the Astral Claws, Scourge of the Maelstrom, The Tyrant of Badab (known as Huron Blackheart following the Badab War) - Huron was the brilliant, ambitious and power-hungry Chapter Master of the Astral Claws, whose hubris led to the bloody internecine conflict known as the Badab War and his Chapter's eventual fall from grace. It was originally assumed that he had died during the final assault on Badab Primaris during the closing days of the Badab War after taking a melta-gun blast to the whole right side of his body. But Imperial authorities were unable to confirm this as his body was never found.
- Acas Seneca - Former Chapter Master of the Astral Claws, he met his end at the close of the 39th Millennium when the Executioners' twin Chapter worlds of Stygia and Aquilon came under siege from a nightmarish xenos species never before encountered. Having already been reduced to 300 battle-brothers from the constant attacks by invading Orks and Enslaver outbreaks, the resulting battle in the catacombs of the Executioners' fortress-monastery of Darkenvault reduced the number of Space Marines within the Chapter, until they stood on the brink of extinction. Only through the timely intervention of the Astral Claws, supported by the cruisers of Battlefleet Tempestus, were they able to break the siege, just in time as the last of the Executioners prepared to sell their lives dearly in a final stand. Many Astral Claws died breaking the siege, including Chapter Master Acas Seneca. The handful of Executioners that endured owed a blood debt to the Astral Claws for the salvation of their Chapter, and would pay this debt a thousand years or more later, when they heeded Lufgt Huron's call.
- Ancient Kleitor, Venerable Dreadnought of the Tabernacle of the Old Ones - A venerable dreadnought of the Astral Claws, Kleitor was a former Captain of the Astral Claws 5th Battle Company prior to internment.
- Captain Corien Sumatris, The Tyrant's Champion, Warden of Piraeus - Corien Sumatris was the Captain of the Astral Claws 2nd Company. A mysterious figure, even within his own Chapter, amber-eyed and grey of countenance, Sumatris rose swiftly to prominence first as one of Huron's Honour Guard. His fierce savagery paved his way up the ranks, and by the outbreak of the Badab War, he had not only been made Captain of the 2nd Battle Company but had also gained the wardenship of the world of Piraeus within the Tyrant's demesne. He also won the coveted title of "Tyrant's Champion," slaying the Chapter's 1st Company Captain in order to attain the honour in ritual combat. He came to be one of Huron's most trusted officers. This favoritism was distrusted by some within the Chapter who believed him a "lost son," which is to say a scion of the Tiger Claws Chapter given a new identity and concealed in the Astral Claws' ranks prior to the war. Sumatris was believed to have been killed in action leading the defence of the fortress station of Sentinel-Sigma on the edge of the Badab System just before the final siege of Badab Primaris, although his body was never conclusively identified afterward by the Inquisitorial forensic conclave.
- Armenneus Valthex, The Alchemancer, Honoured Patriarch of the Forges of the Astral Claws - Valthex was the Astral Claws' Master of the Forge, the chief Techmarine, and so an individual of great importance to the Chapter during the Badab War as Lufgt Huron's chief Armourer and most loyal servant. Valthex's skills as a crafter of poisons and chemical weaponry were as infamous as his abilities as a forge-wright and tech-smith were famed. During the Badab War, Valthex fought as a field commander and as the Astral Claws' chief siege engineer, and it was believed that it was he that carried away his fallen lord's body into the Maelstrom after the apocalyptic final battle for the Palace of Thorns during the Loyalists' final assault on Badab Primaris.
- Garreon, "The Corpsemaster" (Chief Apothecary) – Garreon was one of the Veteran Battle-Brothers of the former Astral Claws Chapter that survived the final assault on Badab Primaris during the closing days of the Badab War. The Red Corsairs now call Chief Apothecary Garreon "The Corpsemaster," not because he harboured any desire to see the dead walk, but because he took a pathological interest in the biology of the dying and the dead among the Astartes, both of whom provided him with a harvest of precious gene-seed. He believed, as had many Apothecaries throughout the history of the Adeptus Astartes, that the future of their brotherhood lay in a better understanding of human genetics and xenobiology. He performed regular dissections on enemy Space Marines and his fellow Red Corsairs both—in some cases whilst his subjects were still living. He could keep his victims alive for a phenomenal length of time, reducing them to skeletal, still-living things that begged for a release that was an eternity in coming.
- Glaucus - Formerly a sergeant of the Astral Claws 9th Company and a veteran of the Ionian Interventions, Brother Glaucus is remembered more for the manner of his death than the specifics of his service to the Deathwatch. He died as any Devastator Battle-Brother would wish, lending fire support to his brethren and allowing them to fight on towards their ultimate objective. However, accounts of the events leading up to the defeat of the Lord of Lightning rarely fail to mention that Brother Glaucus was observed to remain firing his Heavy Bolter for some time after he had been overwhelmed by the power of multiple lightning strikes. This assertion is reportedly confirmed by data retrieved from the sensorium cores of several of the Devastator’s brethren as well as the testimony of Watch Captain Aesalon himself.
- Carnac Commodus, Arch-Centurion - A Veteran warrior of the Astral Claws and commander of the strike cruiser Hyrcania. Following the destruction of his home base on the world of Shaprias by a Loyalist strike force, he craved vengeance and a chance to make up for his failings in the eyes of his lord. Seeking assistance from his Secessionist allies, he found an unexpected ally in the Phaeton's Wrath, the flagship battle barge of the Executioners Chapter, and her accompanying Gladius class frigate escorts. The combined battlegroup attacked the Loyalist vessels, disabling the Salamanders battle barge Pyre of Glory after a surprise attack at the warp-transfer point near Calah. They forced the mighty Space Marine ship's surrender. The Astral Claws set about attempting to massacre their prisoners and harvest their gene-seed, but the Executioners would not countenance this vile action. They renounced their alliance with the Tyrant of Badab, saying that the blood oath binding them had been violated. The Executioners freed the captives and turned on the Astral Claws, taking more than 200 heads from their former allies in a single hour of furious conflict known as 'The Red Hour.' From this point onward, the Executioners Chapter became a rogue element in the conflict. High Mortiurge (High Chaplain) Thulsa Kane came alone before the Salamanders' commander, Captain Pellas Mir'san and presented a single gory object which rolled at Mir'san's feet—the head of the Arch-Centurion Commodus.
- Watch Captain Andar Scarion - Andar Scarion arrived at Watch Fortress Erioch in 782.M41, which was met with much controversy due to the Astral Claws' actions in recent decades. Nevertheless, Scarion was allowed to commence his Vigil with the Deathwatch and served for over five decades with honour, achieving the rank of Watch Captain. Like his Chapter Master, Scarion was a proud and ruthless warrior with a keen grasp of strategy and military politics, and had proven himself to be a valuable asset in liaising with the Achilus Crusades' officers. He expected the Kill-teams under his command to perform to the most exacting of standards and did not tolerate laxity, weakness or failure. As is common to many of his Chapter, Scarion regarded non-Astartes with a mixture of scorn and pity, holding that the Astartes ideal is fundamentally superior to the frailty of humanity. He masked this well in times of politics, but discarded the façade when amongst other Astartes, seeing little issue with collateral damage amongst human allies and regarding them as expendable.
- Chimeric Talons - This set of Lightning Claws is as old as the Astral Claws Chapter itself, a work of forgotten forgecraft beyond the reach of more recent artisans. The power fields incorporate a unique phase disruption envelope designed to tear apart protective fields, making a mockery of even the most advanced defences. It is told how neither psychic fields, relics of technology, or even the unnatural flesh of daemons can resist the Chimeric Talons.
- Ghost Razors - The Ghost Razors is the name given to a heavily armoured gauntlet that housed a number of articulated blades. Fragmentary evidence suggests the relic was gifted to Chapter Master Lufgt Huron by the remnants of the Tiger Claws Chapter in gratitude to their saviour. In close combat, the Ghost Razors was an all but unmatched weapon, the unidentified phase-frequency disruption fields imparted to their cutting edges proved able to slice though solid matter at a sub-molecular level, parting ceramite and adamantine plate effortlessly and sundering any energy fields or force barriers they encountered. The Heavy Flamer incorporated into the Ghost Razors is commonly used as a squad support weapon by Terminator units deployed into closely confined battle zones. The use of such a weapon by a Space Marine commander is an unorthodox choice, but one that clearly reflected Lufgt Huron's preference for participating at the forefront of battle and heavy assaults. The Heavy Flamer's specific pattern remained unknown, and it was likely a direct creation of Armenneus Valthex in his capacity as the Tyrant's personal armourer and weaponsmith.
The fleet assets of the Astral Claws were considerable, and included two powerful Battle Barges, and an ancient Cardinal-class heavy cruiser, recaptured as a wreck in the Maelstrom and brought back into service, as well as seven Strike Cruisers and over thirty Escort vessels of various classes. The exact number of Escorts the Chapter maintained is a matter for some debate as it was known to possess a number of captured vessels taken from within the Maelstrom, as well as armed transports of its own. The known, named vessels within the Astral Claws Chapter fleet include the:
- Seraph of Judgement (Battle Barge)
- Hyrcania (Strike Cruiser)
- Piercing Nova (Strike Cruiser)
- Thoth's Hound (Cardinal-class Heavy Cruiser)
- Dreadchild (Gothic-class Cruiser)
In their original incarnation during the Rogue Trader era, the Astral Claws were referred to as the "Tiger Claws", and their armour was portrayed with a tiger stripe pattern. In the updated canon they now wear metallic silver coloured power armour with blue shoulder plates, trimmed in gold. As the Chaos Renegade Warband known as the Red Corsairs, they wear corrupted, predominately red and black coloured power armour with gold trim.
The original Chapter iconography for the Astral/Tiger Claws was an orange, black and white, tiger-striped colour scheme with a tiger's head centered on the shoulder pad inside a yellow coloured roundlet. The Chapter's new iconography is a contemporary tiger's head coloured gold and black on a dark blue background.
In the original iteration of the Badab War which appeared in the Warhammer 40,000 Compendium, "The Badab War" article by Rick Priestly, the Tiger Claws were the primary Chapter that was responsible for the civil conflict. In its newest iteration, re-released in Forge World's Imperial Armour Volumes Nine & Ten - The Badab War, Parts One & Two, the name of the Tyrant of Badab's Chapter had been changed to the name "Astral Claws". In this updated background information, the Tiger Claws Chapter had instead become a Successor Chapter of the Astral Claws.
- Deathwatch: Honour the Chapter (RPG), pp. 114, 126
- Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pp. 76–77
- Deathwatch: The Emperor's Chosen (RPG), pg. 39
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 12, 14-17, 19-21, 24, 26-27, 34, 40, 42-43, 47, 53-65, 77, 93, 101, 111, 160-163, 173-176, 178, 180, 182, 184, 187-188, 193
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 9, 20-21, 24-25, 28, 30, 36-39, 42, 46-49, 52-61, 69, 78, 88-89, 127, 136, 175, 180
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium, "The Badab War" by Rick Priestley, pp. 33–35
- White Dwarf 303 (UK) "Index Astartes: Rogue Sons" by Andy Hoare
- White Dwarf 101(UK) "Index Astartes: The Badab Uprising" by Rick Priestley
- Heroes of the Space Marines (Anthology), "The Skull Harvest" by Graham McNeill
- Legends of the Space Marines (Anthology), "The Trial of the Mantis Warriors" by C.S. Goto