Chaplains begin, "Fear not death, we embody it in His name!" Battle-Brothers respond, "We fear not death, for we are death incarnate!"
13th ("Dark") Founding (Late 35th/Early 36th Millennium)
Black, White, Bone
- "You give up your humanity that the citizens of the Imperium may keep theirs. Pity or despise them, but never expect them to understand."
- — Apothecary Bharan, Adeptus Astartes Death Spectres
The Death Spectres are a Loyalist Chapter of Space Marines of unknown origin of the 13th ("Dark") Founding, only the second known Chapter of Astartes, besides the Exorcists, to have been created in that unusual Founding. They are a Successor Chapter of the Raven Guard as they share many of the same mutations as found in that Chapter's gene-seed. Stationed beyond the frontiers of the Imperium, the Death Spectres maintain a constant vigil to ensure that the supernatural inhabitants of the Ghoul Stars never again threaten the galaxy. The Death Spectres' homeworld is the planet Occludus. During the 13th Black Crusade, the Death Spectres infiltrated the world of Lelithar to assist the Imperial Guard regiments seeking to retake that world from the Forces of Chaos with stealth raids and hidden strikes.
During the dark and terrible times known to later historians as the Nova Terra Interregnum, when the Imperium fractured into warrior factions during the late 34th Millennium, there exists in what records remain from this era scattered and veiled references to a great threat arising from the Ghoul Stars known as the Pale Wasting. Much of the extant evidence relating to this threat has been censored or purposely destroyed, but there are contradictory indications which describe the nature of the threat as both a "Star-spawned plague" that swept away scores of worlds and as "Nightmare engines" slaughtering the populations of whole sectors. Those partial records which have been uncovered suggest that the threat was xenos in nature and that more than one Space Marine Chapter may have been completely destroyed in the course of the conflict. The xenos threat briefly mentioned in Imperial historical records might be the Thexian Elite of the Thexian Trade Empire, a biomorphic race few in number but strong in influence. They hail from the oxidised worlds known as the Bloodmoons of Thex Prime, which are located in the region of space known as the Ghoul Stars. These vile xenos are known to be masters of manipulation and have worked themselves into integral positions in the Borlac, Loxatl and Nicassar civilisations. Though Thexians are famously persuasive, when guile is not enough their battle form is quite horrifying to behold. Eleven Space Marine Chapters were lost in the final battles of what must have been a truly apocalyptic struggle. The chronicles of many Chapters who took part in this campaign are curiously empty of any reference to this conflict, and it is quite possible that this ancient threat may also account for the unusually large number of formerly human-inhabited Dead Worlds in the region.
Following this lamentable period of history, the 13th Founding, also known as the "Dark Founding," occurred sometime between the 35th and 36th Millennia, and is one of the very rare Foundings of Space Marine Chapters that were not recorded in exact detail. Since the Horus Heresy, the Adeptus Terra has maintained a bank of original gene-seed tithed by every single Chapter ever created, with one notable exception: the 13th Founding. There are no reliable records that indicate how many Chapters were created during the Dark Founding or what became of them. Full disclosure of the exact details of this mysterious Founding may lie buried deep within the record office of the Adeptus Terra. The Death Spectres are one of two known Chapters to have been created during this unusual Founding. They were created as a Successor Chapter of the Raven Guard, sharing many of the same mutations and flaws as found in that venerable Chapter's gene-seed. Following their creation, the Death Spectres were stationed beyond the frontiers of the Imperium and charged by the High Lords of Terra to maintain a constant vigil to ensure that the inhabitants of the Ghoul Stars never again threatened the galaxy. The nature of the threat could not be overstated enough, and the containment of such a species as the Thexians was worthy of the attention of an entire Chapter of Astartes. When the newly created Chapter's first Megir (Chapter Master), Corcaedus, was swearing his oath of loyalty and service to the Emperor at the foot of the Golden Throne itself, he received a vision. Guided by this vision, Corcaedus led his Chapter to the world of Occludus and to the very spot where they raised Logopol, their future fortress-monastery. It was at this very spot that the Chapter would find the source of their destiny -- the Shariax.
The Throne of Glass
When Megir Corcaedus first swore his oath of office before the Emperor and placed his blade at the foot of the Golden Throne, he received a vision from the Emperor Himself. This vision led him to the world of Occludus and the mysterious artefact known as the Shariax, the Throne of Glass. Little is known of its purpose and nothing is known of its origins. The Shariax is an archaic throne, contained in an ancient, secret dome, called the Temple of Voices, deep beneath the planet's surface, and directly underneath the Chapter's fortress-monastery of Logopol. The Throne is where the Megir rules Occludus and the Chapter, but it is also where he will inevitably die. All Megir, upon taking that position within the Chapter, take the Throne the same day as they take their oaths of office. Upon taking the Throne, they never rise again, and only rarely communicate with the Chapter, and when they do, only with a few select members. Exactly what the Shariax does is vaguely hinted at. In return for immense power (power that can be felt even in the planet's orbit by psykers) the Throne slowly drains the life out of whoever sits in it, while also slowly petrifying them, eventually turning the Megir to stone. What this mysterious power is that the Megir is gifted with is unknown, except for the sheer scale of it. When the Megir turns even a portion of this power to some task, the implications are apparently staggering. The fact that it seems to be a psyker-based technology implies that one must be a psyker to use it, reinforced by the fact that when the Magir finally passes, the current Mesazar of the Chapter (Chief Librarian) takes his place, but the references are vague, and it may just be based on the fact that the Chapter's strongest warrior must be the new Magir, and thus it is he who must sit upon the Throne. Over the millennia, the Death Spectres have been preparing for the Cadash, which translates to "Living Chalice", someone of great significance who, upon taking their place upon the Shariax, will bring about the "Great Resurrection". The leadership of the Death Spectres has apparently been sowing the seeds of fate to bring about the Cadash's rise throughout the Chapter's history.
- Macharian Crusade (392-399.M41) - The Macharian Crusade was a monumental, seven-year-long Imperial Crusade fought between 392.M41 and 399.M41, led by Lord Commander Solar Macharius, the Imperium's greatest Imperial Guard commander of all time and a recognised tactical and strategic genius on a par with the Primarchs themselves. This Crusade took place on the far western edge of the galaxy within the Segmentum Pacificus, reaching as far as the border of the galaxy with intergalactic space and even reaching into the unknown regions of the Halo Zone. The furthest extent of this Crusade reached just beyond the edge of the Segmentum Pacificus, where not even the blessed light of the Astronomican could penetrate the dark void. Most Imperial savants agree that Macharius was the most successful and brilliant Imperial Warmaster since the Arch-Traitor Horus. Nearly a thousand worlds were brought back into the Imperial fold in only seven standard years of fighting, yet upon his death the newly-won territories erupted into the civil war known as the Macharian Heresy as Macharius' various generals vied for control, fighting over the spoils as degenerate warlords.
- Hive Fleet Jormungandr (995.M41) - The tendrils of Hive Fleet Jormungandr begin to brush against the northeastern boundaries of the Imperium. The Death Spectres and Honoured Sons Chapters lead the Imperial counterattack against this arm of the Great Devourer.
- 13th Black Crusade (999.M41) - The Death Spectres participated in the Siege of Lelithar and the defence of the Cadian Sector against the 13th Black Crusade. The Death Spectres fielded 6 companies against the Forces of Chaos in this campaign.
The Death Spectres Chapter appears to be a Chapter organized around the standard dictates of the Codex Astartes. The Death Spectres place a strong emphasis on Assault Marines, as was shown during a major assault undertaken by the Chapter during the 13th Black Crusade which involved some 600 Astartes equipped for a Jump Pack assault on a Traitor stronghold.
The Death Spectres' order of battle contains several specialist formations and officer titles not present in other Space Marine Chapters which are derived from the language of the natives of Occludus:
- Megir - A title equivalent to the esteemed rank of Chapter Master in other Space Marine Chapters.
- Mesazar - A title equivalent to Chief Librarian of the Chapter (also the de facto leader of the Chapter in the Megir's absence).
- Megron - A title equivalent in fellow Chapters to Master of the Flag (a position held by one of the Chapter's Captains).
- Menrahir - The title given to the Death Spectes' equivalent in fellow Chapters of a Chapter Council. The word means "sage" in the native Occludian language.
- Terrorblade - A unique position within the ranks of the Death Spectres Chapter's Command Squad whose definition is not fully understood. As it is uniquely named it can be assumed that the position is different than that of a standard Company Champion or some other title commonly used amongst other Astartes Chapters.
Death Spectres Librarians
Like their fellow Astartes Chapters, the Death Spectres also maintain a Librarium of potent psykers who are highly talented and trained to master the power of the Warp at the highest levels. Each Chapter selects its Librarians in its own way, either from its seed worlds, as it does with the bulk of its Initiates, or from the ranks of gifted psykers brought to the Scholastica Psykana. Most Chapters train and test chosen psykers following the ancient ways laid out in the Codex Astartes. The Chapter's Librarius, known as "The Order," possesses a size and power that is unique amongst Space Marine Chapters. The Mesazar is known to command the Chapter in the absence of the Chapter's Megir. There are some references that the Megir is a psyker, who would then of course also be considered a member of the Chapter Librarius.
The Death Spectres' Librarians appear to place great emphasis on reading the tides of fate and time, and appear to have an unparalleled mastery for changing the future they foresee. The Mesazar are noted for being able to place prophetic notes in time itself, through their sheer power, enabling the Death Spectres to be in the appropriate place in the event certain eventualities come to pass, passing on information, and even psychic aid, if and when those eventualities actually occur. Through these techniques the Chapter Librarius seemingly alters the future to a degree that few Imperial organizations can dream of.
Chapter Aspirants (at least of those of the Librarius) are known to experience two deaths while trying to earn a place within the Chapter. The first death is experienced around ten years of age, when an Aspirant first begins the gene-seed organ implantation process. The Aspirant is injected with a lethal toxin, and remains dead until they revive on their own. Failure leads to oblivion. The second death takes place at the end of the Aspirant's implantation process, when the Neophyte takes his place amongst the Chapter. This death is much more intense, as the Aspirant experiences death for solar hours rather than minutes. A third death can also sometimes take place, but this is only for members of the Librarius who wish to attain the rank of Codicier, and greater power as a result.
A deeply held belief within the Death Spectres Chapter is that of the "Black River," which is seen by Aspirants of the Librarius during the ritual deaths they experience (it is unconfirmed if non-psyker Aspirants experience this as well). Though their first death is for the shortest duration, it also is the greatest, as during the trial, one is assailed by the Black River's currents (which seem to symbolize fate and time) and the "forces" that are drawn to it and the person experiencing it (daemons by another name). This first trial is an arduous one, as it is a task the Aspirant has no experience in dealing with, and so failure is quite common.
Like the Raven Guard, the Battle-Brothers of this Chapter possess a minor mutation that causes the Melanchromic Organ (which controls the amount of melanin in an Astartes' skin tone) to not function properly, leading to the development of albinism in Death Spectres Astartes. Differing Melanchrome gene-seed from Chapter to Chapter leads to variations in skin and hair colour, and in some Chapters all of the Space Marines may have identical colouration, such as is found in the albino warriors of the Death Spectres Chapter. Another aspect of the genetic flaws of their gene-seed is that it causes all members of the Chapter to possess glowing blood red eyes as well. Over time the Death Spectres have lost the use of two of the special organs produced by the basic Astartes genetic template: the Betcher's Gland, which allows a Space Marine to produce poisonous/acidic spittle, and the Mucranoid, which causes a Space Marine's body to secrete a waxy protein substance similar to mucus through his pores that seals his skin. Space Marines are cocooned in this way before they enter suspended animation, and the process can even protect them from the harshness of the vacuum and other extremes of temperature, particularly deeply frigid environments.
The existence of indigenous and often unique cult belief systems, martial philosophies and variations on the Cult Imperialis within the Adeptus Astartes is far from uncommon. To the Death Spectres, death is important to them in the nature and traditions of their Chapter. It is not important in the more morbid sense such as the way the Mortifactors Chapter celebrates it, but in a more sombre, respectful sense, such as the way the Star Phantoms embrace it. True to Imperial dogma, they hold as a central tenet of their beliefs, "That only those who die in battle will be reborn," and while they give little leeway or respite to the living, they deeply honour those who fall in the Emperor's service and hold the many martyrs of the Imperium and the dead of their Chapter with extreme reverence. Upon the death of a Battle-Brother of the Chapter, those Death Spectres whose bodies can be recovered are returned to Logopol, and are mummified and then interred within the fortress-monastery's catacombs. Death Spectres find great comfort and peace in the quiet of the endless graveyards and tomb cities of their homeworld, which includes Logopol.
Battle-Brothers of the Chapter are known to utilise a unique gesture, known as "The Masrahim"; the salute of skull and throne. This is done by placing the left hand, palm up, next to the abdomen, and then placing the right hand, in a close fist, in the palm of the left.
Notable Death Spectres
- Corcaedus - First Megir of the Death Spectres Chapter and former holder of the Force Sword Arquemann, the Chapter's most revered and ancient relic. It was this weapon that Corcaedus laid at the foot of the Golden Throne when he received the vision that led him to the world of Occludus and the remains of the Shariax.
- The Megir - Title of the Death Spectres' Chapter Master. Known as The First Spectre, Grandmaster of the Order, The Eye that Pierces the Veil. The name of the current Megir is unknown.
- Ahtio Cordatus - Mesazar (Chief Librarian) of the Death Spectres Chapter. Mentor to Lyandro Karras.
- Lyandro Karras - Lyandro Karras is a Death Spectres Codicier currently seconded to the Ordo Xenos' Deathwatch. Karras, known as "Scholar" to his Kill-team, leads an elite squad of Astartes specialists. It was this squad that slew the Ork Warboss Balthazog Bluddwrekk.
- Rohiam Elgrist - Captain of the Death Spectres' 3rd Company and current Megron (Master of the Flag) of the Chapter.
- Ischus Corvinnus - Brother-Sergeant of the Death Spectres who was seconded to the Inquistion along with remnants of the 68th Vostroyan Firstborn Regiment after they were devastated on Danik's World (circa. 767.M41). The fates of the Regiment and the Brother-Sergeant are unknown.
- Arquemann - Arquemann is a relic Force Sword that belongs to the Death Spectres Chapter. The sword was once laid at the feet of the Emperor on the Golden Throne by the Chapter's first Megir (Chapter Master). Seconds after laying the sword down, the Megir received a vision of the Shariax -- the Glass Throne on Occludus. Little is known of its purpose and nothing is known of its origins. The first Megir then proceeded to build the Death Spectres Chapter's fortress-monestery of Logopol directly above the cavern that contained the Glass Throne. The sword itself seems to have a psychic spirit bound to it. The sword's spirit will meld itself with the spirit of the wielder, making it even more deadly. The sword was initially owned by the first Megir of the Death Spectres, but after his ascension on the Glass Throne, he passed the sword on to the Mesazar (Chief Librarian) Athio Cordatus, who then passed the sword onto the Librarian Lyandro Karras when Karras was selected to join the Deathwatch. It is said that the bite of Arquemann is certain death whenever it glows with otherworldly energy. Arquemann is lethally sharp even without the power of the Immaterium running through it.
- Torch of the Vigil - The Torch of the Vigil is a master-crafted Astartes Heavy Flamer. Late in the 36th Millennium, a Deathwatch Kill-team was allied with a squad of Space Marines belonging to the Death Spectres Chapter in an action against a vile xenos species deep in what would one day become the Orpheus Salient of the Jericho Reach. Together, the two squads were able to eradicate the alien threat, but not before the sergeant of the Death Spectres, an honoured Veteran of the Chapter, was eviscerated by the vicious beasts. It was only by the actions of the members of the Kill-team that the sergeant's gene-seed was preserved and harvested and his ancient wargear recovered. As a reward for their aid, the Death Spectres presented the stewards of Watch Fortress Erioch with this mighty relic.
The Death Spectres' Chapter badge is a large bone-white skull with a pair of crossed, ebon-cloured scythes directly behind it, centred on a field of white.
- Codex: Eye of Terror (3rd Edition), pg. 16
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 19, 73, 155
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 26, 49
- Deathwatch - Honour the Chapter (RPG), pg. 135
- Hammer and Bolter #2, "Exhumed" (Short Story), pg. 30
- How To Paint Space Marines (2004), pp. 77, 89
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War, Part One, pp. 76, 118
- White Dwarf 283 (UK), pg. 68
- White Dwarf 270 (UK), pg. 82
- Heroes of the Space Marines (Anthology), "Headhunted" by Steve Parker, pp. 251-304
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 117
- Deathwatch (Novel), by Steve Parker, pg. 49