"Victory often rests on the correct weaponry being in the right place and at the right time. Even the most destructive weapons of war are worthless if absent from the battle."
- — Artor Amhrad, Chapter Master of the Astral Knights (KIA)
The Astral Knights sacrificed nearly their entire Chapter in 926.M41 to destroy the hideous threat to the Imperium called the World Engine in the Vidar Sector. This Necron weapon was a planet-sized spacecraft, armed with Gauss Projectors capable of scorching entire planets of all life on their surface.
The remaining battle-brothers who had not been present with the majority of the Chapter were too few in number to carry the burden of reconstruction.
Shortly after the battle, the Astral Knights were struck from the roster of active Space Marine Chapters and another Chapter, the Sable Swords, was created to fill the void. The Sable Swords took up stewardship of the now all-but-abandoned Astral Knights fortress-monastery on the world of Obsidia.
"This is the first battle I will fight today. To these other Chapters it is typical of the Astral Knights to go our own way and expect them to accommodate us. The Red Consuls strip away everything they were before recruitment, they are soldier and no more. The Invaders have no time for politics at all, they would far rather be up to their elbows in the dead. And the Ultramarines think themselves the model of a Space Marine Chapter and anyone who does not follow the Codex as they do is wayward or worse. We shall have to leave them to their convictions, Captain. We do what we must do."
- —Chapter Master Artor Amhrad talking to Captain Sheherz
- Castigation of Acralem (799.M41) - The Flesh Tearers, working in conjunction with the Astral Knights, the Grey Knights of the 3rd Brotherhood (which included Kaldor Draigo) and nine regiments of the Astra Militarum, descended upon the Imperial world of Acralem to halt the daemonic incursion of the infamous Daemon Prince M'kar the Reborn and his Daemon army. What followed was one of the most terrible battles of that century, though ultimately the Imperial forces proved victorious and M'kar was banished back to the Warp for a time.
- Battle of Safehold - Assault on the Necron World Engine (926.M41) - The massive mobile artificial Necron Tomb World of Borsis, known to the Imperium as the World Engine, was attacked in the Vidar Sector in 926.M41 by an Imperial task force comprised of 15 Space Marine Chapters, plus elements from the Imperial Navy, and even the mightiest weapons the Imperial forces could bring to bear could not harm it. Drop Pods and torpedoes could not penetrate its Void Shields and it was impossible to lock on to with teleport beams. The Imperial task force tried twelve times to overwhelm it through sheer valour and firepower and was rewarded with a string of destroyed and crippled starships and millions of casualties. The World Engine destroyed a third of an entire Imperial Navy battlefleet before the Chapter Master of the Astral Knights decided to ram the hideous vessel with his Battle Barge, the Tempestus. It was only when the enormous Space Marine starship collided with the Necron construct's shields that they finally failed, allowing the Imperial forces to approach their target. A force of over 700 Astral Knights deployed from Drop Pods onto the Necron vessel's surface. For over 100 solar hours the Astral Knights fought against tens of thousands of Necron warriors and destroyed every flux generator, weapon forge and command node they came upon. Only after the Chapter had been reduced in size to the Chapter Master, Artor Amhrad, and five battle-brothers did they succeed in their quest. Amhrad detonated Melta Bombs that destroyed a vast Necron tomb complex that housed many of the World Engine's command arrays. This brought down the vessel's impenetrable Void Shields and also silenced the machine's weaponry. This assault allowed the Imperial Navy's starships to destroy the World Engine with Cyclonic Torpedoes. After the battle, as the Adeptus Mechanicus picked over the remains of the destroyed World Engine, the Ultramarines retrieved the twisted wreckage of the Tempestus and placed it amid the ruins of Safehold, the planet that had been the last victim of the World Engine. The 2nd and 4th Companies of the Blood Angels had been amongst the Astartes task forces despatched to the Vidar Sector to assist their fellow Space Marines against the threat posed by the World Engine. After the sacrifice of the Astral Knights led to the final destruction of the World Engine, Captain Donatos Aphael of the 2nd Company proposed that an Imperial shrine be erected upon the world of Safehold in eternal memory of the Astral Knights Chapter. The shrine consists of seven hundred and seventy-two arbalstone statues, one for every Astral Knights battle-brother that died stopping the World Engine, which stands a silent vigil within the dead heart of the Tempestus. From that day forth, two Blood Angels of the 2nd Company, and battle-brothers from nearly a dozen other Chapters, are always assigned to stand guard over the memorial, which is considered a singular honour for the Astartes that fought beside them for the last time.
Sometime shortly after the destruction of the Necron World Engine and the loss of nearly the entire Astral Knights Chapter, an envoy of the newly-formed Sable Swords Chapter, led by 1st Company Captain Daegan, visited the world of Obsidia to inform the remaining Astral Knights that they were to claim stewardship of their fortress-monastery.
The remaining Astral Knights, numbering only thirty battle-brothers, were led by the Chapter's last surviving Dreadnought, Brother Thade. Thade, angry at the thought of his proud and noble Chapter being so easily cast aside and replaced with a Chapter so young and inexperienced, nearly came to blows with Daegan, instead demanding what deeds could the Sable Swords offer the remaining Astral Knights.
Daegan simply stepped aside, clearing a path from the chamber deep within the fortress and said: "Take a ship from here and ply the stars as the Astral Knights once did, before they set down roots in stone and iron. Fight on in the Emperor's name until you can fight no more, and when that day comes, know that in death your duty has ended." There are no known Imperial records of what befell the Astral Knights in their final days.
"Chapter Master: Dorn and the Emperor watch over you both.
Combatants traditional reply: By Dorn and the Emperor."
- — Ritual phrase of old, recited before the beginning of an honour duel
The Astral Knights were known to be dour by temperament, even for heirs of Rogal Dorn, and guarded their honour jealously. Even the most trivial of disagreements could easily escalate to the point where the symbolic shedding of blood seemed the simplest way to determine who was in the right.
Duels of honour were usually held in an arena located in the Chapter's fortress-monastery on Obsidia. The two combatants would enter the arena, stepping forward onto the carpet of tiny crystals, each smaller than a grain of sand, glittering crimson in the dull ember glow of their homeworld's sun.
The only garments they wore were the duelling tunics tradition demanded, their plain white fabric dyed the colour of blood by the glowering Eye of Obsidia. The traditional weapon was a soul shard blade. Every Astral Knight carried one of the glittering blades, each as unique as its owner, and would as soon be parted from it as from his Progenoid Glands.
The first time every initiate wore power armour was the day he went out alone, to scour the endless plains around the Obsidian Vaults until one of the millions of crystals littering the landscape called out to him; honed carefully into a razor-sharp blade, mounted in a hand-crafted hilt, the soul shard became permeated with the essence of the man who created and carried it, thus its poetic name.
The duel would begin once the terms of victory had been agreed upon by both combatants. One of the combatants would begin the duel by announcing the terms of victory. This usually meant "to the drawing of first blood." His opponent would traditionally agree to the terms and the duel would begin in earnest. But if their opponent felt aggrieved enough by the situation, they could chose to fight "to the death."
Once the challenge had been thrown down, the first combatant had no choice but to accept. In truth, there was no other answer they could give. To refuse would have smacked of cowardice, or a trace of doubt in the rightness of their cause.
To take the life of a battle-brother was almost unimaginable, a duel to the death by mutual agreement the only way in which it could be done without incurring Terran centuries of penitential exile. Even then, the survivor would bear an ineradicable stain on his honour for the rest of his life.
These duels of honour would be overseen by the Chapter Master, who observed from a lofty position on his crystal throne, opposite the amphitheatre's entrance.
When the Astral Knights' entire progenitor Chapter, the Imperial Fists, had been lost millennia before, when the original VIIth Legion was broken down into separate Chapters during the Second Founding, they were still mourned by those who carried their genetic legacy in their Progenoid Glands.
The only thing about death that mattered to an Astral Knight was that he make his final moments a testament to his faith in the Emperor, and the means to a victory in His name. Whoever met the conditions of the duel, be it first blood, or to the death, the duel would then cease -- honour having been satisfied.
Order of Battle
The following represents the order of battle of the Astral Knights Chapter as it stood at the Battle of Safehold against the World Engine in 926.M41:
- Chapter Command: Lord Artor Amhrad, Chapter Master of the Astral Knights
- 2nd (Battle) Company: Captain Pelisaar
- 6th (Battle) Company: Captain Sheherz, Master of the Fleet
- 7th Reserve (Tactical) Company: Captain Ifriqi
- Lexicanium Dehaarz
- 9 Tactical Squads
- 8th Reserve (Assault) Company: Assault-Captain Zahiros
- 9th Reserve (Devastator) Company: Devastator-Captain Khabyar
- Codicier Valqash
- 8 Devastator Squads
- 10th Scout Company: Scout-Sergeant Faraji
Notable Astral Knights
- Chapter Master Artor Amhrad - The final Chapter Master of the Astral Knights Chapter, Artor Amhrad detonated Melta-charges that destroyed a vast Necron tomb complex that housed many of the World Engine's command arrays, which brought down the vessel's impenetrable Void Shields. This allowed the Imperial Navy's starships to destroy the World Engine with Cyclonic Torpedoes. Amhrad willingly sacrificed what remained of his Chapter for the sake of saving millions, perhaps billions of Human lives. He is considered one of the greatest heroes of the Imperium for his tremendous sacrifice.
- Thade (Dreadnought) - Brother Thade was a Dreadnought and the last Chapter Master of the all-but decimated Astral Knights Chapter. Following the death of the majority of his Chapter, who died heroically in the destruction of the Necron World Engine, Thade had been left behind at the Chapter's fortress-monastery as acting commander of the Chapter's thirty remaining battle-brothers and neophytes. To the honoured Ancient fell the onerous duty of surrendering his Chapter's fortress-monastery to the newly-founded Sable Swords Chapter, who had sent representatives to claim all of the Chapter's possessions on Obsidia. The ultimate fate of Brother Thade and his fellow Astartes is unknown, but Sable Swords Captain Daegan advised his fellow Astartes to embark upon an Imperial Crusade in order to spend the remainder of their lives fighting the enemies of the Imperium.
- Tempestus (Ryza-class Battle Barge) - The flagship of the Astral Knights Chapter, this most ancient ship of the Chapter fleet was one of the finest starships any Chapter could muster. Her Machine Spirit was as old as the Forge World of Ryza where her keel was laid four thousand Terran years ago. Only six such Battle Barges were ever constructed, and only three still sailed at the time of the Tempestus ' death. The secrets of its and its fellows' construction had long been lost. But each of the Ryza-class Battle Barges were renowned for the steadfastness of their construction. They were built to run minefields and asteroid blockades. Impacts that would break another voidship apart could be suffered by a Ryza without destruction. This made the Tempestus ideally suited for her suicide run against the Necron World Engine. Though the ancient vessel penetrated the powerful Void Shields of the massive Necron vessel, the damage it sustained made it unable to ever be void-worthy again. The mortally wounded vessel was moved to the Imperial world of Safehold and a permanent Imperial shrine erected upon it to stand in eternal memory of the Astral Knights Chapter's valiant sacrifice.
The Astral Knights' Chapter colour scheme is known to have been primarily silver-white. The shoulder plate trim and knee guards were blue.
Officers within the Chapter were easily identifiable through their use of demi-cloaks with tabards.
The Astral Knights' Chapter badge was two crossed white double-edged swords, pointing upwards.
The novel The World Engine by Ben Counter shows the Astral Knights' colour scheme as primarily a light silver with blue trim.
But the sourcebook Adeptus Astartes: Successor Chapters for 7th Edition shows a Space Marine with dark blue armour with a silver Aquila and black shoulder plates and helm that follows the common Codex Astartes scheme for designating company number by the colour of the shoulder plate trim and squad number through a red High Gothic numeral placed on the right shoulder plate.
Additionally, the Astral Knights' badge in this publication is depicted not as crossed swords but as a white Gothic cross with a red starburst at its centre. No explanation is given for this discrepancy, but as The World Engine is the more recent source representing the Chapter, its depiction is accepted as canon here.
- Adeptus Astartes: Successor Chapters (Limited Release Booklet), pg. 13
- Codex: Blood Angels (5th Edition), pg. 16
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pg. 38
- Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pg. 26
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 44-45, 49, 74
- The World Engine (Novel) by Ben Counter
- The Cost of Command (Short Story) by Sandy Mitchell
- Angels of Death - Obsidian (Short Story) by Graham McNeill