Corvin Severax served as the Chapter Master of the Raven Guard Space Marine Chapter. As the Chapter's commander, Corvin Severax's honorific, the "Lord of Shadows", was well founded. Seldom was the enigmatic commander seen -- even by the Space Marines of his own Chapter -- yet his authority was absolute. Despite his covert style of leadership, Severax fought as a consummate predator in battle. The Lord of Shadows was known for possessing fast and fierce strikes of a thunderbolt, his form a blur of motion as he carved his foes to bloody ruin without hesitation or remorse before disappearing into the shadows once more. Little is known of the mysterious and shadowy Chapter Master of the Raven Guard, save for his exploits fighting against the Tau Empire's Third Sphere Expansion upon the Imperial worlds of Agrellan, Voltoris and Prefectia
Severax met his end while fighting against the Tau Empire's Forces on Prefectia. Commander Shadowsun's genius strategy and the sacrifice of a brave Fire Warrior led to the Raven Guard's Chapter Master demise -- a painful memory that shall haunt the Sons of Corax until the end of times.
Damocles Gulf CrusadeEdit
Towards the end of the Tau Empire's Second Sphere Expansion, a breakthrough was made when, after many failed attempts, the Tau Air Caste successfully navigated a safe route across the Damocles Gulf. The Tau immediately began colonising this ripe new source of worlds and, in doing so, made first contact with the Imperium of Man. Water Caste emissaries moved to integrate themselves within the worlds on the periphery of Imperial space, negotiating trade deals and spreading the message of the Greater Good to those long oppressed beneath the yoke of Imperial rule. Despite many of these worlds remaining mistrustful of the silver-tongued aliens in their midst, other planets rebelled, openly declaring their loyalty to the Tau Empire. The Imperium's response, though slow in gathering pace, was far more brutal than the Tau could ever have predicted. Thus was the Damocles Gulf Crusade launched to purge the xenos threat -- a mighty counterattack that tore through the newly colonised Tau worlds like a juggernaut. Led by Space Marines from a dozen Chapters, the Imperial forces routed the Tau and drove them back across the Damocles Gulf. However, after a long and bloody retribution campaign upon the Sept World of Dal'yth, the Imperium's momentum was spent and they were forced to disengage and return across the Damocles Gulf to combat the approaching Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth.
Storm Clouds GatherEdit
Even as the conquest of the planets beyond the Damocles Gulf continued in earnest, Tau ambassadors from the Water Caste continued to make impressive gains on the diplomatic front, swaying hearts and minds of disenfranchised populations and resentful Planetary Governors. Many of these worlds wasted no time in rejoining the Tau Empire, just as they had done during the Second Sphere Expansion. However, as Astropathic warnings and pleas for military aid gradually began to circulate around the Imperial worlds of the sub-sector, the persuasive methods of the Water Caste became increasingly ineffective. When they attempted to sway the Knight World of Voltoris to their cause, they were rebuffed by Patriarch Tybalt of House Terryn, who banished them from Voltoris under pain of death. His House would oppose the impudent xenos of the Tau Empire should they ever threaten the sovereignty of a world that belonged to the Emperor -- a vow that cost the Tau dearly in the ensuing months.
The gravity of the Tau expansion was not lost on the Imperial commanders of the Lithesh Sector. Indeed, it was becoming increasingly evident that the xenos forces were far greater in both number and strength than they had been during the Second Sphere Expansion two standard centuries earlier. Slowly, inexorably, the Imperium began to gather its armies in response to the Tau threat, though it would still take time before a force large enough to counter the alien advance could be fully mustered. With memories of the overwhelming victories won at the outset of the Damocles Gulf Crusade fresh in their minds, the Imperium's commanders grossly underestimated the Tau. Their arrogance only served to leave the Emperor's armies further at the mercy of the consummate Tau Commander Shadowsun's finely honed military strategies. With the Imperium's defenders having retreated to their most heavily defended worlds, protocols of engagement would normally have called for the Tau expeditionary force to circumnavigate the populous Hive World of Agrellan and concentrate on the more vulnerable planets beyond. However, the Dovar System's proximity to an impassable region of the Damocles Gulf meant that it was all but impossible for the Tau armada to gain access to it without passing through Agrellan's orbit. The Hive World had to fall.
Third Sphere ExpansionEdit
Into this crucible of hostility swept the Tau, their fearless Commander the first to set foot on Agrellan's surface. Shadowsun, ever the patient huntress, sought to test her enemies rather than waste the lives of her brave warriors in a bloody assault on the imposing defences. Orbital scans had revealed the presence of a small force of the Imperium's deadly White Scars Space Marines, under the command of Captain Kor'sarro Khan, alongside a number of Imperial Knights of House Terryn. Though the White Scars caused great harm to the Tau infrastructure with their lightning raids, more often than not, they were unwittingly drawn towards the battlefields of Shadowsun's choosing. Khan and his fellow White Scars were nearly cut off in a carefully executed Tau ambush, and would have been annihilated were it not for the timely arrival of a Land Speeder Stormbringer Squadron which was able to punch an escape route through the encircling Tau army.
Far from sitting idle and waiting for the White Scars to make their next move, Shadowsun had been working with Aun'Va, the current Ethereal Supreme of the Tau Ethereal Caste and Aun'o of the Tau Empire, preparing to unleash her boldest action yet of the Third Sphere Expansion. In order to prevent the war on Agrellan from descending into a grinding stalemate, she intended to marshall her forces and launch a carefully orchestrated, simultaneous attack against every hive city on the planet. To combat the Imperial Knights, the attack on Agrellan Prime would be spreaheaded by the latest breakthrough in Earth Caste technology -- the XV104 Riptide Battlesuit. If Shadowsun's ambitious stratagem worked, Agrellan would fall in a single day.
Cometh the RavensEdit
As the White Scars gathered at a hidden munitions cache, a long figure emerged from the darkness. It was Shadow Captain Kayvaan Shrike of the Raven Guard, and he delivered a message to the alerted White Scars from his Chapter Master, Corvin Severax. The White Scars were to return to the capital and prepare to retreat offworld. A powerful Imperial fleet, including the Raven Guard Battle Barge, Wings of Deliverance, stood ready to aid in the evacuation. Agrellan could no longer be held against the Tau. It was well indeed for the Imperium that Corvin Severax had such a shrewd tactical mind. Had he not acted so swiftly and decisively to organise a full-scale evacuation, the planet-wide Tau assault would have decimated the Imperium's fighting strength in the Lithesh Sector.
When the Tau attack came, it was so sudden and brutally efficient that many hive cities fell within the first few hours of the mass assault. The defences of every hive city had been meticulously analysed by orbital scans and advanced reconnaissance teams. The weaknesses of each of these strongholds had been discovered, and the appropriate cadres deployed to ensure their total destruction. Shadowsun developed a different plan of attack for each hive city, ensuring that if any defensive strategy proved effective, it would not work against Tau forces elsewhere. At the forefront of each and every assault strode the new XV104 Riptides. Wherever these mighty Battlesuits engaged the beleaguered Imperial defenders, they slaughtered them and shattered their bulwarks. Only the Imperial Knights seemed able to withstand them on the battlefield, and even then, five Knights were felled by Riptide Wings during the Battle for Agrellan Prime.
The defenders of Agrellan Prime had been bolstered overnight by the newly arrived Raven Guard 6th Company and the Cadian 724th "Wardens" Imperial Guard regiment, under Colonel Jericho Voss. Corvin Severax himself directed the hive city's defences, determined to see them hold long enough for Shrike and the White Scars to fight their way back into the city for extraction. But just when it seemed that the Space Marines and Catachans would make it back to Agrellan Prime, Shadowsung sprang her trap. A simultaneous pincer assault comprising four Counterstrike Cadres and Shadowsun's own Firestrike Assault Cadre slammed into both flanks of the Imperial column. Despite a ferocious counterattack from the White Scars and Raven Guard against the first wave of Tau attackers that drove them back, the arrival of a Riptide Wing turned the tide back against the Imperials. Shadowsun darted between the desperate fire fights, picking off the Imperial transports with methodical efficiency. It was at that moment, just when all appeared lost, that Corvin Severax played his trump card.
The explosive arrival of this new combatant was evidenced when a vast Reaper Chainsword burst from the chest of a Riptide, before tearing the Battlesuit apart in a welter of sparks. The Knight Freeblade known as the Obsidian Knight had entered the fray. Acutely aware of the specialist skills of this fabled Knight, Severax had sought out the relentless Tau-killer and transported him to Agrellan. The violence that ensued proved the Chapter Master wise, for the Obsidian Knight slaughtered the Tau forces with terrible purpose. Inspired by this veritable engine of death, the embattled Space Marines redoubled their efforts and hurled the Tau back. At the last, the Knights of House Terryn were able to fight their way through to relieve the retreating Imperial host. Only when the first of the Imperial transports were launched did Patriarch Tybalt grudgingly lead his few remaining Knights back towards the awaiting Imperial drop ships. With that final act, the Imperium withdrew from Agrellan, leaving the planet in Tau hands.
The Imperium RegroupsEdit
After the defeat at Agrellan, Corvin Severax held a council of war aboard his flagship, Wings of Deliverance. It was here that Patriarch Tybalt made a solemn gesture of sacrifice, offering up his own homeworld as a favourable battleground on which they could fight the Tau. If the Tau could be drawn into attacking this verdant Knight World, it could be defended more effectively than any other planets in the sector. In the wake of her stunning victory at Agrellan, Shadowsun led her Tau expeditionary fleet onwards to fresh conquests without delay. But ever in the back of her mind was what had become of the Imperial forces that had eluded her at Agrellan. Sensing Shadowsun's frustration, Aun'Va sanctioned her to leave and hunt down her quarry whilst the rest of her expeditionary fleet consolidated their conquest of the Dovar System. She knew that their destruction would not only shatter Imperial resistance in the sector, but Aun'Va was confident that after fulfilling her quest, Shadowsun would return to him more hungry than ever to expand the Tau Empire and strike deeper into the heart of the Imperium. Shadowsun wasted no time in tracking the whereabouts of the Imperial host, and soon quickly discovered their location upon Voltoris. Despite her surprise that the Imperial forces did not hold the planet's orbit against the Tau, she chose to press on with the attack.
A Trap is SetEdit
Corvin Severax had ordered the Imperial fleet to retreat before the Tau armada, feigning weakness. He needed to ensure that Voltoris was a suitably irresistible target to the pursuing Tau, who now had the perfect opportunity to seek revenge on the Knights that had so vehemently rebuked their ambassadors and caused so much harm on Agrellan. House Terryn would not stand alone. With great effort, the White Scars Stormseer Sudabeh had concealed the main fighting strength of the Raven Guard beneath a shadowy psychic mist. Meanwhile, the Catachans were carefully ensconced within the dense jungle surrounding House Terryn's main stronghold, Furion Peak. Even the dangerous predators that stalked amongst them held no fear for those born and raised on Catachan. The duty of bait went to the brave shock troopers of the Cadian 724th Regiment, who were heavily dug in before the great gates of Furion Peak. Within the stronghold itself waited the sharpest jaws of the trap -- Khan's 3rd Company of White Scars and the full fighting strength of House Terryn's Knights.
To Shadowsun's well-honed instincts, such a situation called for Mont'ka -- the killing blow. She would launch a lightning assault to crush the exposed enemy with overwhelming force. Counterstrike Cadres and Rapid Insertion Forces would form a hard-hitting reserve, ready to react to any fresh enemy threats yet to be revealed. For the first time in her illustrious career, Shadowsun was sorely mistaken. Blinded by her determination to eliminate those that had previously eluded her, Shadowsun had fallen for the same strategy that had won her victories beyond counting. Lured into launching an all-out attack on the Imperial battle line, Shadowsun was unaware of the sheer size and strength of the Imperial army lying in wait.
The Trap is SprungEdit
The Tau Fire Warriors laid siege to Furion Peak, reacting swiftly to the multiple threats posed by the Imperial force, rallying around their mighty Riptides and returning fire. Entire platoons of Imperial Guardsmen were torn apart by the lines of death stitched by Tau Heavy Burst Cannons. But the Raven Guard Astartes have ever been masters of the ambush, and they knew their craft well. They had anticipated such a response from the Tau -- indeed, they had counted on it. The artillery batteries began to refocus their aim, targeting their bombardments to land behind the main body of Tau invasion forces to cut off any lines of retreat. Moments later, shadowy figures began to emerge from within what the Tau had mistaken for thick morning mists. The Raven Guard entered the fray, seemingly assailing the Tau forces from every direction. They swiftly surrounded the pockets of Tau resistance, cutting them down before disappearing back into the psychic mists once more. Amongst them strode Furion Peak's Counterstrike Command, each Space Marine an indomitable champion of Humanity. Without fear or hesitation, they sought out the deadly Riptide Battlesuits and, with blade, claw and psychic energies, they struck them down.
Shadowsun was caught in the thick of the fighting when the Space Marine commanders joined the attack. During the height of the battle, Shadowsun activated her XV22 Stealthsuit and blended into the mists and darted her way through the press towards the Stormseer. Scant heartbeats later, Sudabeh was consumed by the superheated fury of Shadowsun's Fusion Blasters, and with his demise, the ghostly psychic mist that had shrouded much of the battlefield began to dissipate. As the air cleared, the full gravity of Shadowsun's predicament was revealed. She looked on in horror at the sight of more Imperial reinforcements. Pouring forth from the gaping maw of Furion Peak's majestic gate came the White Scars, engines roaring as they sped forth to encircle the Tau army. Behind them marched the full might of House Terryn -- over thirty Imperial Knights with Patriarch Tybalt and the Obsidian Knight at their head. The Cadian 724th Regiment emerged from their dugouts to lend their weight to the big Imperial push, each company supported by a Steel Phalanx Tank Squadron.
Realising victory against such odds was nigh impossible, Shadowsun relayed urgent instructions to her reserve cadres to drive back a number of key locations and buy the Tau forces time to retreat. In the meantime, she gave the order to fall back and regroup. As Shadowsun turned her attention back to the battle, Kor'sarro Khan was almost upon her, his oath to slay the Tau Commander not forgotten. Were it not for the intervention of her local bodyguards, the Khan would undoubtedly have taken Shadowsun's head. So did the Tau Commander cheat death; Kor'sarro Khan's blade carving a deep furrow across her chest instead of severing her head. Khan was driven back by the timely arrival of a Tau Rapid Insertion Force dropping from above to rescue their sorely wounded commander.
Despite the arrival of Tau reinforcements, it was too late for them to turn back. The Imperial ambush had been so swift that the Tau forces were assailed on every front within solar minutes of setting foot on Voltoris. When word spread of the near-fatal wounding of their commander, the morale of the Fire Caste broke. With their leader cast down and lacking the iron discipline of the Adeptus Astartes, the Tau suffered appalling casualties as they retreated from Furion Peak. The Imperial Knights and Space Marines gave merciless chase and only the formidable firepower of the Tau Mantas and Paradox Squadrons prevented a total massacre. The Tau armada returned to rejoin Aun'Va's expeditionary fleet, humbled by their disastrous defeat. Having learned much from her failure, Shadowsun swore before Aun'Va to redouble her efforts and now leads the Tau onwards with renewed zeal.
The Shadows Cast LongEdit
The stakes upon Prefectia, already so dizzyingly high with the Dovar System at risk, were growing higher by the hour. Trench systems were crisscrossed with slashing plasma volleys, ruins were lit by ruby lasers, and outside the built-up areas, tanks prowled by the thousand across dunes of dust and bone. The war for the planet was hanging in the balance.
Long days of war passed, each bringing a hundred new acts of heroism and tragedy. Bellowing commanders and scholarly strategists alike were drowned by the tides of violence that washed across the Fortress World. The ancient wisdom of the Codex Astartes was repeatedly tested against the Code of Fire’s teachings. Several Space Marine forces distinguished themselves above the others, amongst their ranks those of Captains Shrike and Khan, but it was becoming obvious that the fortress of Prefectia would not fall to a lightning-fast blitz. Keen to secure victory over the xenos, Chapter Master Corvin Severax made planetfall in person. He intended to oversee the Tau’s defeat – or engineer it himself if necessary.
Tau high command was just as determined to win lasting victory. Every available cadre was redirected to Prefectia from those planets already conquered, including the most advanced battlesuits the Fire caste could field. Several Ethereals volunteered to bolster morale on the front lines, Aun’Do amongst them, but the real shock came from above even those lionised few. In a speech that touched the hearts of a hundred billion Tau, Aun’Va himself announced he would be descending from on high. Just as he had on Agrellan, the Master of the Undying Spirit would lead from the front to ensure the torch of the Greater Good burned the planet clean of Humanity’s corruption.
As for Commander Shadowsun, her star was on the wane. By failing to repel the Space Marines on schedule, Shadowsun had given Aun’Va cause to risk his own life. It was small wonder the commander was no longer in the ascendent, for the White Scars that hounded her were relentless. She had given her all upon Agrellan, and had not been given a moment’s rest since. Every explosion she heard on the front line sounded like the boom of a Space Marine bike’s twin bolters, every shadow flitting across the ground the precursor to a gunship or speeder charged with her death. The seed of fear the Khan had put into Shadowsun’s heart was taking root, the doom he had dangled over her head oppressive indeed. The thought of his blade haunted her with every waking hour – but at least that threat was in plain sight. There were other forces closing in; sharks sliding through the inky waters in comparison to the Khan’s raging bull.
Corvin Severax had ordered his warriors to converge upon Shadowsun wherever she was sighted. The Chapter Master told his Shadow Captains the Khan was out of time, outlining a masterful search-and-destroy battleplan that would span Prefectia. In the past, such manhunts had been met with unqualified success; more often than not, it was Severax who delivered the coup de grâce. Within hours, the Chapter Master expected to have Shadowsun’s corpse before him. His Captains made the sign of the Aquila and slid into the night. Thus far, the Tau Fire caste had encountered the pugnacious, bombastic face of the Imperial war machine. They were soon to realise that under the raw brutality lurked horrors beyond measure, hungry and cunning
The Doom of HeroesEdit
Shadowsun had made no secret of her presence upon Prefectia, instead reinforcing her role in the war until she had made herself a target above all others. She believed she could defeat the leader of the Space Marine invasion in person, succeeding where even the most terrifying galactic warlords had failed. Perhaps it was pride, too, that drove Corvin Severax to hunt her in person, for the list of his victories spanned the Vault Raptorium twice over.
Dug into a long-dry riverbed east of Aquillon, the trenches of Denechai had been the site of several vicious battles between the Astra Militarum and the Fire caste. Shadowsun’s distinctive battlesuit had been sighted there in the last hour of conflict. Taking only a hand-picked squad of Vanguard Veterans with him, the Chapter Master ordered his personal Thunderhawk to pass over the Denechai Strait, debarking in mid-flight to air-drop straight into the hostilities. It would earn the Raven Guard great honour if Severax’s talons took the head of the Tau supreme commander where the scimitars and tulwars of the Khan’s men had failed.
The battle below had seen most of the strait’s Astra Militarum slaughtered by the Fire caste’s overlapping fields of fire. The Raven Guard’s 3rd Company, as well as scouting elements from the 10th, had attacked from the shadows of the trench network. They had used the Imperial Guardsmen as bait without their knowledge, but the ploy had yielded an advantage – with the cadre spread out before them, they were able to strike back hard. Into this fierce fighting Chapter Master Severax deployed. Somewhere below him was Shadowsun, a foe he had grown to despise. A reckoning was close at hand.
The xenos commander preferred to work unseen, and there was wisdom in that. A true warlord did not roar like a beast at the foe, making himself an obvious target and thereby ensuring history remembered him as a scalp claimed by someone else’s sword. No; the wise leader ruled from the shadows, watching and waiting for his moment before bursting out to despatch his foes with certainty and precision. Shadowsun had been a constant thorn in the side of every Chapter tasked with the reclamation of the lost fortress world. The White Scars had suffered worst of all, compounding the losses suffered upon Agrellan, but over the last few months the Raven Guard had lost far too many warriors to the cursed Tau.
The Chapter Master and his veterans descended through the mists without so much as a single shot sent to intercept them. They hit the Tau line from above. Ceramite boots smashed the tall ochre battlesuits so hard they sprawled backward into the trenches. Severax’s Vanguard Veterans tore into the Tau forces with their weapons whilst the Chapter Master cast around for his true prey, fully confident in the abilities of his men.
When Severax spied a flicker of movement, a heat-shimmer mirage in his peripheral vision, he dived sidelong as twin fusion beams scorched the air where he had been standing. He clattered into the trenches for a moment only to burst back up, claws slashing at Shadowsun’s torso. She too was quick, leaning with impossible agility to escape his double blow. Severax’s momentum carried him on. He lowered his head, connecting hard with the bulbous helm unit of his foe’s battlesuit. The impact sent a ripple of malfunction across its stealth field. As she staggered backwards he swung a bladed right hook that carved her forearm, Fusion Blaster and all, into a gore-spurting mess. The other fusion gun came round, but Severax already had his shoulder beneath it, grasping his foe in a death grip and punching his other claw into her midsection over and over. Blood sheeted down the Battlesuit’s front, turning it from white to filthy red. Severax gave a hollow laugh as Shadowsun was cut to ribbons by his thrice-blessed talons.
The laugh echoed longer than it should have. Something shimmered at Severax’s flank, something with a tread so heavy he felt it through his power-armoured soles. There was a blaze of light, and Severax was suddenly halved at the waist, groping in horrified denial at the black-armoured legs that kicked and squirted some yards in front of him. The last thing the Chapter Master felt was a blast of fire throwing him into the trench. His vision faded as his half-molten remains thudded into a morass of cooling human corpses. Upon the bloody battlefields of Prefectia, Severax died, passing into the Raven Guard Chapter's legends.
Stealth And Subterfuge Edit
The catastrophic damage meted out upon the 3rd Company shook the Raven Guard Chapter to its core, but it was the death of Corvin Severax that was to echo in the annals of history. Once again, the genius of Tau high command had wrong-footed the Imperial invaders, but in daring to bring low a Chapter Master, they courted a drastic response indeed.
Shadowsun’s orders from the Ethereal Supreme Aun’Va had been to use herself as bait for a major Kauyon. Yet a true leader demands results, rather than dictates the manner in which they are achieved. Shadowsun had devised her plans accordingly, asking for volunteers from her cadre’s stealth suit pilots to impersonate her on the battlefield. Unsurprisingly, every member of her teams stepped forward. Even after the events of Voltoris, Shadowsun was still a beloved heroine of the Tau’va.
The first part of Commander Shadowsun’s gambit was to commission ten customised XV22 battlesuits from the Earth caste. They were only too happy to comply, for their weapons scientists considered the model a successful prototype after O’Shaserra’s extensive testing. These new battlesuits were fitted with fusion blasters, emblazoned with Shadowsun’s own honour markings, and accompanied by C-link and MV52 Shield Drones so they would better resemble their commander’s signature wargear.
If Corvin Severax had known the identity of his killer, he perhaps would have been impressed despite himself. It had not been some nameless veteran in the control cocoon of a Ghostkeel battlesuit that had slain him, but Shadowsun herself. Having seen Kor’sarro Khan and Shrike fight first-hand upon Voltoris, she suspected that their superior officers would also be lethal opponents. It had been her intention to lure out the warrior-king of the Space Marines, and the plan had worked spectacularly.
Though Shadowsun was not afraid to give her life for the Tau’va, she also knew that her death would strike a terrible blow against Fire caste morale. By sending decoys into battle, she ensured that Aun’Va’s orders were obeyed, whilst maximising her chances of seeing Prefectia’s conquest through to the bitter end.
- Damocles - Warhammer 40,000 Apocalypse War Zone, pp. 13-15, 17-21
- Damocles: An Apocalypse Anthology (Anthology), "Blood Oath" by Phil Kelly
- War Zone Damocles: Kauyon, pp. 59, 63