A Master of the Hunt has always overseen the Hunting Grounds of Watch Fortress Erioch over the centuries since its founding. Always bestowed on a senior Deathwatch Space Marine with vast experience in both the hunting of xenos and the training of other Astartes, the title of Master of the Hunt is as unique to the Jericho Reach as the Hunting Grounds they oversee. Often extremely old, even by the standards of the long-lived Astartes, and typically heavily scarred by centuries of service, each of these veterans has overseen the daily operation of the Hunting Grounds during the decades of their stewardship. They are responsible for maintaining the facility and keeping it stocked with xenos specimens, and work closely with the Watch Fortress' Forge Master to keep the numerous arcane mechanisms found within the complex operating.
The Hunting Grounds have gradually grown to fill multiple levels of the fortress, forming an ever-more-important part of the Deathwatch training and devotion facilities at Erioch. Their construction was first begun some four Terran centuries ago at the instigation of Watch Captain Prascus. Prascus had perceived a certain lack of readiness in Kill-teams being sent into the field because they lacked sufficient opportunity to train together in varied environments. By the nature of its work, a Kill-team might find itself fighting in scorching deserts one day and reeking jungles the next. Equally they might have crushing gravity, hard vacuum, toxic atmospheres or a thousand other exotic environmental challenges to overcome with little preparation. The transitions were sometimes difficult for newly arrived Battle-Brothers working together for the first time, and clearly it incurred unnecessary difficulties and even casualties.
It was a tricky matter to address among proud warriors of a dozen different backgrounds, each feeling they bore the honour of their own Chapter on their shoulders. Some Watch Captains would have tackled the issue head-on and called upon the Battle-Brothers to remember their duty and their oaths to strive harder, but Prascus knew that such a course could sow the seeds of later acrimony. So Prascus decided it would impugn no one’s honour for a lack of preparedness if he instead chose to celebrate the hunting traditions of some of his Battle-Brothers. He had a number of large cargo bays converted into facsimiles of rugged planetary environments and took to leading hunts through them against dangerous xenos released from the Bestiarium. Thus, under the guise of sport and honour, Prascus became the first Master of the Hunt, training his teams to hunt together with practiced zeal through frozen hells, fiery deserts and high waters equally well.
Long after Prascus’ tenure as Watch Captain had passed, the Hunting Grounds remained in operation, falling into disuse for a few decades at a time before being reopened again. Later Watch Commanders of the fortress have expanded the grounds further, sometimes with sections mimicking the environments of their own homeworlds or, increasingly, depicting worlds from the Jericho Reach. Master of the Vigil Jarrax of the Black Templars ordered gigantic sealed vessels to be built so that the Battle-Brothers could practice their arts under every conceivable trial of the void. The towering vaults he created can be configured using the fortress' technology to mimic any environment from the vacuum of the void to the crushing pressure of a gas giant. Watch Captain Madsen caused several vessels to be modified by having ship corridors and xenos labyrinths painstakingly recreated for the exercise of Kill-team close assault tactics. Jarrax’s Eyrie, a 3,800-metre vertical vessel, has so far been kept empty for the exercise of zero-gravity and terminal velocity combat techniques. Within the last standard century the Hunting Grounds have become fully integrated into Deathwatch training dogma at Watch Fortress Erioch and expanded even further. Vast halls have been re-configured into exact replicas of the native environments of selected xenos species. Here Deathwatch Battle-Brothers stalk nightmarish aliens beneath holographic skies to learn of their tricks and traps in their native realms. In such places the Battle-Brothers can truly hone their skills as they await the call to battle.
The current Master of the Hunt is an ancient and grizzled Battle-Brother of the White Scars Space Marine Chapter named Master Qajutai. Master Qajutai refuses to discuss his age, but most believe the battered old White Scar’s days are closer to their end than their beginning. Already a highly decorated veteran when most of the Battle-Brothers aboard the Watch Station were yet mortal men, he has a tendency to speak to even the most senior members of the Deathwatch as if they were the greenest neophytes of the 10th Company. This behaviour is tolerated due to his rank, his age, and the great respect that many, even the Watch Commander, hold the old Master in.
- Deathwatch: Rising Tempest (RPG), pg. 72
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pp. 228-229, 231