Cursed 21st Founding (36th Millennium)
Roboute Guilliman (allegedly)
Grand Master Stibor Lazaerek
Red and Yellow
- "Burn them all; the God-Emperor will know His own."
- — Stibor Lazaerek, Grand Master of the Fire Hawks during the firebombing of Sacristan
The Fire Hawks were one of the Loyalist Space Marine Chapters created in the 36th Millennium during the Cursed 21st Founding. While the Fire Hawks have always maintained they were forged from the genestock of the Ultramarines, the sons of Roboute Guilliman have never acknowledged any kinship, fueling suspicions as to their true heritage. They have the dubious distinction of being one of the few Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes to have lost not one but two Chapter homeworlds. After being nearly driven to extinction during the Badab War, the Fire Hawks' mobile Fortress-Monastery, the ancient Void Fortress Raptorus Rex, was lost in the Warp in 963.M41. It is now believed that the survivors of this disaster became the cursed Astartes known collectively as the Legion of the Damned.
The Fire Hawks were a fleet-based Chapter, though they have in the past ruled over at least two former home worlds. Today however, these worlds are blasted wastes, consumed by the wars of the Age of the Imperium. Though no trace of the culture from which the Chapter originally recruited now exists, something of their feudal traditions lived on in the Chapter's rites and character. The Fire Hawks engaged in the practise of honour duelling, often using weapons heated over ceremonial braziers to settle disputes and lay rivalries to rest. Needless to say, the loser in such a bout was likely to be horrifically scarred, and death was not an uncommon outcome. Another tradition dating back to this lost culture was in the rank titles bestowed upon the Chapter's leaders. Knightly terms were often combined with standard Codex Astartes-compliant titles, creating individuals with a wide range of ranks, such as Captain-at-Arms, Knight-Sergeant or Brother-Ensign.
In temperament, the Fire Hawks were notoriously bellicose, their battle tactics almost entirely concerned with the application of overwhelming force to bring about the total and immediate destruction of the enemy. Despite their brutal approach to war, the Fire Hawks were not mindless berserkers and never threw away their own lives in the pursuit of impossible objectives. While some allies have denounced the Fire Hawks for this attitude, some coming close to calling them out as traitorous, it was in fact rooted in their overwhelming sense of superiority and self-worth. The Fire Hawks simply refused to sacrifice themselves for anything but the highest cause, and when they committed themselves to battle, the result was the total destruction of all who stood before them.
The Fire Hawks were somewhat unusual in another regard too. When the Age of Apostasy pitched the entire Imperium into an age of civil war and anarchy, most Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes focused on their own missions and refused to take sides. The Space Marines saw any involvement in the countless internecine wars of faith and the absolute, maniacal oppression unleashed upon the worlds of the Imperium by High Lord Goge Vandire as a betrayal of their duties. The vast majority looked to the security of the regions about their home worlds or continued to prosecute long-standing wars against ancient xenos foes. The Fire Hawks, however, did become involved in the wars of the age. The Chapter fought for the cause of the great reformer Sebastian Thor, and ever since that time has sought to maintain the status quo that settled over the galaxy following his victory over the insane High Lord.
To their last day, the Fire Hawks have been tireless in their prosecution of any enemy whose deeds might threaten the Imperium, launching their overwhelming assaults against Renegade Planetary Governors, apostate hierarchs, and rogue militant lords. In many cases, the Chapter's leaders have taken on such causes before any other body has beseeched them for aid, regarding the defeat of such Traitors as a matter of honour. Only when the demagogue was slain, his armies scattered, his cities cast down and his people made destitute did the Fire Hawks consider the matter settled.
The Fire Hawks were a Loyalist Space Marine Chapter who came to a disastrous end. This Space Marine Chapter has long been a byword for devastation and wrath. Noted in several classified sources as belonging to the Cursed 21st Founding of the 36th Millennium, the Chapter itself has always claimed descent from the renowned Ultramarines, although certain defects and variations in the genetic samples of the Chapter held in the archives of the Adeptus Terra speak against this, and the Lords of Macragge have never publicly acknowledged their kinship. Regardless of their actual lineage, in organisation and structure the Fire Hawks have always only broadly adhered to the Codex Astartes, and have sometimes come under deep suspicions by other Chapters who obey its tenets absolutely. The Fire Hawks, in contrast to almost all other Space Marine Chapters, have also long been notably strict adherents of the Imperial Cult, believing in the Emperor's divinity and the divine right of Mankind to dominate the stars. This Chapter has seen its fair share of victories and triumphs, but also more than its fair share of tragedy as well. The Fire Hawks are one of only a very few Chapters on record known to have survived the destruction of two separate homeworlds, and have been brought to the brink of extinction numerous times, only to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes.
This infamous Chapter's final fate remains uncertain and darkly rumoured to the present day. What is known for certain is that the Fire Hawks' mobile Fortress-Monastery, the Rapturous Rex and five ships of the line, with a complement of approximately 800 brethren and some 2,000 other personnel, disappeared into the Warp in the year 963.M41 after leaving the Piraeus System for the Crow's World Sub-sector, and the Chapter was ultimately declared Lost in the Warp. It is believed by some that some of the surviving Fire Hawks became the ghostly "Legion of the Damned".
In regard to the Legion of the Damned, all that is known is held by the Adeptus Administratum on Terra and by the Fire Hawks themselves. It has been confirmed that the Legion's members are, or once were, the Fire Hawks that made the Warp jump in 963.M41, though the origin of their seemingly supernatural abilities and mysterious interventions on behalf of beleaguered Imperial forces remain exactly that, a mystery.
To date, a number of items have been recovered relating to the Legion of the Damned. In 987.M41, a patrol ship in the Maran Sub-sector narrowly avoided a collision with a spacecraft at the Cift jump-point. The patrol ship was entering the Cift System as the unidentified craft was leaving. Alerted by the close encounter, the patrol crew scanned the entire jump-area and discovered two long cylindrical objects within the intruder's projected flightpath. These were hauled aboard and proved to be standard space coffins without identification markings. These coffins were shipped back to Terra and carefully opened by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The two coffins contained a number of interesting items that shed some light on the ultimate fate of the lost Fire Hawks Chapter.
The forms of two armoured remains of dead Space Marines were inside, both in an advanced state of decay. Their armour's serial numbers tallied with those of equipment originally issued to the Fire Hawks Chapter by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The bodies within were human, but further identification proved impossible due to their advanced state of decay. Further items such as the gnarled Chapter Banner of the Fire Hawks were found a year later in 988.M41, with the High Gothic motto, in dedicato imperatum ultra articulo mortis ("for the Emperor beyond the point of death"), inscribed upon it. Other items of interest including miscellaneous sealed sundries and a digital flight recorder were also recovered. The flight recorder was identified as being from the Absolute, the lead Battle Barge from the missing Chapter. The flight recorder revealed little in way of an explanation of what had happened within the Warp, only that the fleet had indeed been ravaged by a catastrophic Warp Storm of terrific intensity following their Warp-jump. Stunned by the intensity of the Warp Storm, the Chapter was forced to endure the attacks of powerful Warp entities as their Gellar Fields began failing. Soon ship after ship was destroyed and absorbed into the fabric of the Warp. Only one craft remained, and executed a daring Warp-exit manoeuvre. The craft managed to burst forth into realspace, emerging far in the galactic east, thousands of light years off-course and beyond even the psychic light of the Emperor's Astronomican.
- The Wars of Apostasy (ca. 378.M36) - The Fire Hawks distinguished themselves from the beginning of their history, when they bravely entered the conflicts of the Age of Apostasy, fighting alongside the Black Templars, Imperial Fists, Soul Drinkers, and the Adeptus Mechanicus' Skitarii against the Apostate Ecclesiarch and Master of the Administratum Goge Vandire. They did not escape such action unscathed, as during the battles against the Apostates their original homeworld of Zhoros was destroyed by a thermonuclear orbital bombardment unleashed by a fleet of the Ecclesiarchy's Frateris Templar. At the conclusion of the Age of Apostasy the Fire Hawks were rewarded for their actions in his support by the new Ecclesiarch Sebastian Thor, who issued the Chapter the right to use the Great Crusade-era mobile Void Fortress (space station) Raptorus Rex as their mobile Fortress-Monastery. The Fire Hawks became a Fleet-based Chapter as a result. In the closing days of the war, the Fire Hawks participated in the assault on Terra at the end of High Lord Goge Vandire's Reign of Blood in the 36th Millennium.
- Great Malagantine Purge (770-791.M38) - The Great Malagantine Purge was an Imperial military operation carried out by 5 Space Marine Chapters collectively termed the Manus Irae who unleashed the Emperor of Mankind's wrath upon the heretical Malagant Sector in the Segmentum Tempestus. The details of this operation have been kept secret from the Imperial Adepta, including the Inquisition, with the records of the campaign sealed deep within the Celarno Vaults on Terra. What is recorded in fragmentary Imperial records if that the Manus Irae were charged by the High Lords of Terra of that era to "spare none and set a bloody, fearful example to the realm of Mankind." The death toll unleashed by the Manus Irae during the course of this 21-year long campaign is believed to have been enormous and to have cost hundreds of billions of lives. Whole worlds were put to the sword by the Astartes or were wiped clean of all life by Exterminatus orders that unleashed a hideous, flesh-dissolving virus upon their inhabitants. In recognition of their successful participation in this campaign, the Fire Hawks Chapter was granted the Feudal World of Costeau XI as their demesne by the High Lords. However, due to their willingness to carry out such merciless exterminations of civilian populations whose guilt was not clear, the Fire Hawks would be shunned by many of their fellow Astartes Chapters. The Black Fragments of Cardinal Bloch the Reviled, one of the few remaining heretical sources which contain information concerning the Purge of Malagant, explains that the Manus Irae consisted of 5 Chapters, but listed only three by name, including the Fire Hawks, Silver Skulls and the Charnel Guard.
- The Castigations of Golgotha (228.M40-902.M41) - After their second homeworld was rendered uninhabitable, the Fire Hawks found themselves once again relegated to the status of being a fleet-based Chapter. The Fire Hawks vowed to undertake repeated "castigations" throughout the Golgotha Wastes region of space. These so-called Castigations of Golgotha consisted of a series of Imperial Crusades (totaling 13 Castigations) between 228.M40 and 902.M41 through this benighted and war-torn area. The last ending just prior to the Badab War.
- Lycanthos Drift Campaign (780.M41) - In the aftermath of the long-running and infamous Fourth Quadrant Rebellion, the Fire Hawks answered a general call to arms among the Astartes of the region and despatched a powerful force under the direct personal command of Chapter Master Stibor Lazaerek in 780.M41, undertaking the Lycanthos Drift Campaign against one of the last major stronghold star systems of the revolt located to the galactic south of the Maelstrom Zone. At the gathering of Imperial forces Astral Claws Chapter Master Lufgt Huron was elected battle leader of a number of Astartes contingents by common consent of a mixed taskforce comprising companies from the Astral Claws, Fire Hawks, White Scars and Celestian Guard Chapters, backed by Death Korps of 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 inspiring command the taskforce ruthlessly purged the heavily fortified system of Traitor and Chaos forces in under a year.
- The Badab War (901-908.M41) - The Fire Hawks were one of the first Loyalist Chapters to become engaged in the Badab War after one of their vessels, the Red Harbinger, was attacked and captured by the Secessionist Mantis Warriors in 904.M41 following their attempt to determine why so many Imperial vessels had gone missing in the Maelstrom Zone. The Fire Hawks quickly became embroiled in the conflict, with nearly the entire strength of their Chapter and its extremely powerful fleet assets committed to the war effort against the Secessionists. Despite the power of their fleet, the Fire Hawks suffered terrible losses in the early years of the conflict, both in terms of personnel and starships. The Chapter's total fighting strength was reduced to 22% by the third year of the war. The Fire Hawks were relegated to the sidelines lest the Chapter's extinction be risked. The Fire Hawks' Chapter Master Stibor Lazaerek successfully petitioned the High Lords of Terra for his Chapter's involvement in the final years of the war, using the Raptorus Rex, the single most powerful warship in the Maelstrom Zone, as a lynchpin in the blockade of Angstrom.
- Cleansing Fire (965.M41) - Ten Space Marines of the Fire Hawks Chapter sliped through the ethereal void and entered the realms of Nurgle to free Captain Tirek, who was held captive within Nurgle's manse. The Fire Hawks were enveloped in a spiritual fire, a cleansing inferno of their wrath made manifest. They fought their way through the thick, ever-changing gloom and assaulted his dwelling, burning back the drips of ichor and clouds of spores. Fierce fighting raged throughout his oubliette, their weapons furiously dealing with diseased creatures. Their cleansing flame purged disease from the very air around them. The Fire Hawks' incandescent attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Nurgle's subordinates. Having lost only two battle-brothers in the melee, the Fire Hawks finally left with Tirek. However, little did they realise that the virulent plague known as Nurgle's Rot had taken root beneath their captain's Power Armour, and the bubbling plague was rapidly spreading throughout his body. The Fire Hawks ventured back out into the Immaterium, their sickly captain slowly succumbing to disease, becoming a vector for the horrific Red Plague.
The Fire Hawks were known to only nominally adhere to the dictates of the Codex Astartes in the tactical and logistical division of their troops, with their insignia and command structure varying somewhat in structure and use. Most notably, the conventions of title and nomenclature used by the Chapter were of marked difference from the Codex. Feudal heraldic ranks that originated on the Chapter's original homeworld of Zhoros were traditionally appended to the nomenclature of the Fire Hawks' command structure. The Chapter Master of the Fire Hawks, for instance, was known as the Grand Master. The Chapter's Grand Master would award these titles in recognition for acts of courage and skill-at-arms performed by individual Battle-Brothers. This resulted in such titles as "Knight-Captain", "Preceptor-Sergeant", etc., being common amongst them. Without this recognition and attainment of individual glory in this manner, advancement within the Chapter was not possible.
While the Fire Hawks have not deployed to the Jericho Reach in force, a number of Battle-Brothers drawn from the Chapter were known to have stood the Long Watch in the region. Of these individuals, a Techmarine by the name of Solus Phen was the subject of an unfortunate incident involving the Omega Vault at the heart of Watch Fortress Erioch. It is normal for the vault to open to allow an individual to enter and recover the object of its unsealing, yet when Brother Phen entered, the portal closed immediately behind him and when it next opened, all sign of his passing was gone. Needless to say, Techmarine Phen's Battle-Brothers are keen to determine his fate and to uncover the meaning of this portentous event.
Chapter Combat Doctrine
The Fire Hawks' tactical doctrine has always erred toward the use of shock tactics, close-quarters combat and above all, the brutal application of focused and overwhelming force to obliterate the enemy. This Chapter also had a propensity towards habitually deploying the majority of their elite 1st Company Veterans in battle as Vanguard Squads where a Terminator assault was not warranted. Even the Fire Hawks' Tactical and Devastator Squads preferred to engage at point-blank range when possible. They were also known to utilise extensive stocks of ancient Mark III Iron Pattern Power Armour, especially for use in boarding assaults. The Fire Hawks also favoured the use of Land Raider patterns such as the Redeemer and Crusader, as well as Vindicator pattern Rhinos as mobile artillery batteries in open war to shatter a breach in any prepared defence, allowing the Fire Hawks to enter close combat with their foes. It is also noted by Imperial historians that the Fire Hawks eschewed the use of defensive warfare, despising the "inglorious" nature of sustained bombardments or long-range fire-fights as indecisive and unfit for the honour of an Astartes warrior.
The Chapter also vehemently refused to use camouflage (even Codex-approved patterns) as the "livery of curs", for they believed in boldly wearing the chosen livery of their Chapter as a visible sign to their foes of the destruction and cleansing they bring, thus the Chapter's sacred colours of blood crimson and fire yellow. Amongst the upper echelons of the Chapter the use of deaths-heads and other symbols of survival against all odds and the scorn of mortal fear were also quite common. Fire Hawks Astartes were also known to customarily modify their armour as they saw fit, decorating their Ceramite plate with personal heraldry in order to display their achievements of battle prowess as well as the battles in which they had fought.
The Fire Hawks were a well-equipped fleet-based force, with both capital warships and Escorts, and their Battle Companies were permanently split in deployment between these combat vessels, with their Reserve Companies, the elite 1st Company and the Chapter's high command based upon the gargantuan Warp-capable star-fortress Raptorus Rex. The Chapter's substantial fleet required a considerably larger than normal reserve of Chapter serfs and Servitors to perform regular crew and support duties. The Fire Hawks demanded absolute obedience from this large pool of indentured servants and also considered them utterly disposable.
Despite their avowed defence of the Imperium, their religious zeal and strength of purpose, a shadow has long hovered over the Chapter and allegations of excessive use of force by them against civilian populations have often been levelled, as have accusations of desertion in the face of their foes by their allies. In numerous battles they have been observed to have withdrawn their forces from situations where their ranks might become needlessly depleted by attrition, or where a tactical advantage has been clearly lost in favour of a later devastating counter-attack. This callous disregard for the fate of others has proven less than popular with their allies, as one might imagine, and on one such occasion the decision to withdraw from what the Fire Hawks considered an untenable position in battle was the cause of a three-century-long feud with the Iron Hands Chapter. This feud ended only with the death of the Fire Hawks' Force Commander from the disputed battle in single combat with a champion of the Iron Hands to settle the matter. This disregard for others may be the reason that the Legion of the Damned now seeks to provide reinforcement to other Imperial forces under fire whenever possible, in an attempt to atone for their previous behaviour.
The Fire Hawks, unlike most Space Marine Chapters, were notably strict adherents of the Imperial Cult, believing in the Emperor's divinity and humanity's manifest destiny to dominate the stars. For example, in the early 36th Millennium, such was the fervour of their faith that they became deeply involved in the wars of the Age of Apostasy, whereas many other Chapters stayed on the sidelines of this vicious religious civil war, paying in blood for their convictions in support of the Thorian reformers. This Chapter's Astartes were also rigid believers in the Imperium of Man's established status quo, and they took a singular interest in the destruction of Renegade Imperial commanders, Apostate Cardinals and other wayward Imperial lords, regularly consigning entire cities and colony worlds to the fire in order to achieve their aims. The Chapter has often been held in higher regard among the High Lords of Terra and their agents than by many of their other wartime allies, particularly among other Astartes. Because of this, it is known to be the case that several other Space Marine Chapters considered the Fire Hawks darkly tainted, over-prideful and wanting in brotherhood, some going so far as to suggest that they have been corrupted by some flaw in the Chapter's collective psyche or gene-seed, though none would gainsay their effectiveness in battle. Once again, it may be these perceived flaws that the Legion of the Damned now seeks to remedy with their penance.
The Fire Hawks are a Chapter that was long renowned for their focus on the individual battle-prowess and martial pride of their warriors. Honour duels with traditional swords and heated iron brands were actively encouraged between the ranks when not engaged on campaign, both for honour and to settle grievances between Battle-Brothers, and sometimes these duels were fought to the death. This tradition was thought to have originated from the rituals of the warrior castes of their first homeworld of Zhoros, which had been deliberately preserved by the Chapter over time and arbitrated by its Chaplains.
Notable Fire Hawks
- Knight-Commander Stibor Lazaerek - At the outset of the Badab War in 904.M41, Knight-Commander Stibor Lazaerek was the Grand Master (Chapter Master) of the Fire Hawks and he was already over 600 Terran years old and in failing health due to numerous war wounds accumulated over a long and glorious career. He was widely regarded by Imperial authorities as a bitter and hubristic individual, although he was an undoubtedly competent commander whose personal valour was second to none. Imperial historians point out that there is ample evidence which suggests that during Lazaerek's tenure as Grand Master, he led his Chapter into several feuds with both Imperial field commanders and other Astartes Chapter Masters. Of particular note is that Laezerek harboured a particular acrimony against the Astral Claws, which could be traced nearly a century earlier to the Lycanthros Drift campaign. Lufgt Huron had been declared the battle-leader in the Lycanthros campaign by his fellow Astartes commanders over the more senior Laezerek, much to the Grand Master's displeasure. This bad blood between the two Chapter Masters was more than likely a contributing factor to the Fire Hawks' involvement in the latter stages of the Badab War, sparking it into a full-blown Imperial civil war. Lazaerek, along with the entirety of his Chapter, was officially declared "Lost to the Warp" and assumed dead when their Chapter fleet attempted a Warp jump from the Piraeus System, 120 light years from the Crow's World Sub-sector in 963.M41.
- Knight-Captain Elam Courbray, "The Young Master" - Elam Courbray was the reigning warrior of the Fire Hawks Chapter. Captain of the 8th Company, the Chapter's Assault Reserve, Courbray's had arrogant confidence in his own prowess. He was in possession of the ancient power sword Excellus and also the heir presumptive to the rank of Chapter Master of the Fire Hawks. During the Badab War, Elam Courbray's reckless fury grew along with his hatred for the Secessionists, and he was the only Fire Hawks Captain to hold that rank that survived to see the conflict's conclusion.
- Everburning Brand - After the destruction of the Fire Hawks' homeworld in the Age of Apostasy, it is said that one of the chief Armourers of Watch Fortress Erioch, a Fire Hawk himself, went mad with grief and would not leave his forge, until at last, even his superhuman constitution failed him, and the strain of exhaustion and hunger slew him. The Power Sword he forged known as the Everburning Brand burns with the mad rage of its maker, believed to be the provenance of this tragic event. The Brand's power field is incredibly potent, but dangerously unstable, and the blade within the field has been shattered in several battles, only to be painstakingly reforged.
The Fire Hawks Chapter fleet was known to contain the following vessels:
- Raptorus Rex (Mobile Star Fortress)
- Absolute (Battle Barge)
- Red Harbinger (Strike Cruiser)
- Slaughtering Star (Strike Cruiser)
- Ravage (Destroyer)
The Fire Hawks' original Chapter colour scheme was predominantly yellow, trimmed with red flames. The current Chapter colour scheme is faded orange, trimmed with yellow flames and yellow pauldrons.
The Fire Hawks' original Chapter badge was that of an exploding, atomic mushroom cloud. The Fire Hawks' updated badge is a red phoenix rising from flames, centred on a field of yellow. The Legion of the Damned's Power Armour is black and marked with symbols of death and damnation: skulls, bones and flames.
- Chapter Approved: The Fourth Book of the Astronomican (2004), "The Cursed Founding by Andy Hoare, Graham McNeill & Phil Kelly, pp. 4-9
- Codex: Legion of the Damned (6th Edition), pp. 11-12
- Deathwatch: Honour the Chapter (RPG), pp. 113, 127
- Imperial Armour Volume Two (Second Edition) - War Machines of the Adeptus Astartes, pg. 51
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badad War, Part One, pp. 17, 22-23, 26, 30-31, 39, 41, 66-73, 77, 172
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War, Part Two, pp. 11, 44, 48, 54-55, 57-58, 119
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium, "The Badab War" by Rick Priestley, pp. 33-35
- Warhammer 40,000: Index Chaotica - Volume I (Digital Edition)
- White Dwarf 260 (UK), "Index Astartes: The Cursed Founding"
- White Dwarf 101(UK) "Index Astartes: The Badab Uprising" by Rick Priestley
- White Dwarf 99 (UK), Index Astartes: Legion of the Damned by Rick Priestley