The Charnel Guard is a Loyalist Space Marine Chapter and a Successor Chapter of the Blood Angels suspected to have been raised during the Third Founding though they are not acknowledged as a member of the Sanguinary Brotherhood by their ancestral Chapter.
This reclusive, fleet-based Chapter's chronicle threads through many dark passages of the Imperium's history.
Evidence for this lies in the number of ancient war relics the Charnel Guard is known to possess, such as a Fellblade super-heavy tank and at least two other super-heavy tanks of similar provenance. In particular, this Chapter makes use of a sizable fleet of Fire Raptor gunships, a specialised variant of the Storm Eagle.
This Chapter is most notable for having been a member of the Maelstrom Warders, an alliance of Space Marine Chapters dedicated to the defence of the volatile and dangerous region of the Ultima Segmentum of the galaxy known as the Maelstrom Zone from the Chaos Renegades of the nearby Warp rift of the same name.
The Charnel Guard are also part of an alliance of Blood Angels successors known as the "Triarchy" that includes the two successors of the Blood Eagles Chapter, the Angels Numinous and the Red Seraphs.
The Triarchy dedicated itself to battling the foes of the Emperor wherever they could be found in the Imperium Nihilus after the birth of the Great Rift cut the Imperium in half during the Era Indomitus.
Both of those Chapters were themselves the direct successors of the Blood Eagles, a Blood Angels successor that had torn itself in half during an unknown conflict. The two surviving halves of the Blood Eagles then formed their own Chapters, which became the Angels Numinous and the Red Seraphs.
Though now allied through the Triarchy, the Angels Numinous and Red Seraphs Chapters were noted to agree on nothing.
The Chapters of the Triarchy used the ritualistic phrase, "We are Three, drawn from Two, born of One," to define their traditional partnership and kinship to one another.
It was a tradition of representatives of those three Chapters to meet at the abandoned homeworld of the Blood Eagles to determine a course of action that would involve the entire Triarchy. The ritual words were always spoken by the Triarchy representatives before any conclave could begin.
At one such conclave held after the birth of the Great Rift during the Era Indomitus, Ynoch of the Red Seraphs, Jagudir of the Angels Numinous and Mordath of the Charnel Guard gathered to discuss how the Triarchy would deal with their growing isolation in the Imperium Nihilus, as the Chapters were unable to cross the Great Rift and were coming under increasing threat from xenos and the forces of Chaos.
They decided to reject their traditions, and rather than defend their shrinking domains they would seek out the foes of the Emperor in the Dark Imperium and fight aggressively even if it meant the death of their Chapters. And they promised that if they could find Roboute Guilliman's Indomitus Crusade, they would join it.
- Pentarchy of Blood (860-940.M33) - During the War of the False Primarch, a dark and bloody episode of the Imperium's history, now largely lost to myth and purged from the record, which plunged the Segmentum Pacificus into anarchy, the Pentarchy of Blood was convened by the High Lords of Terra to enact their judgement. Five Chapters; the Charnel Guard, the Carcharodons, the Death Eagles, the Flesh Eaters and the Red Talons were used to systematically destroy eleven Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes judged Traitoris Perdita and lay waste to their homeworlds, finally drawing the eight decade long conflict to a close.
- 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 ("Hands of Wrath" in High Gothic) 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 is 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 reached 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. 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.
- Messallas Purgation Campaign (Unknown Date.M38) - The Charnel Guard's Fellblade tank Mori Drakka is known to have taken part in this campaign.
- Angevin Crusade (322-384.M39) - Praetor Golgenna Angevin, a powerful noble from the Terran Court was raised to the rank of Lord Militant and granted a writ from the High Lords to persecute the Angevin Crusade to liberate and dominate the area of space designated as the Calyx Expanse. His Crusade forces were drawn principally from the Segmentum Solar and numbered over 17 million levied troops divided into four battle groups and a strategic reserve, re-enforced by Titans drawn from the Legio Venator and Legio Magna, as well as the Charnel Guard, Black Templars, Tigers Argent, and Sons of Medusa Chapters of Adeptus Astartes and a significant naval deployment from the Battlefleets Solar and Obscurus. A score of Rogue Trader and Explorator fleets ranged ahead of the main forces identifying targets and providing active reconnaissance in this dangerous region of space. Swelling the Imperial forces' already vast ranks were tens of thousands of "pauper warriors" of the Frateris Militia whipped up into a frenzy of holy zeal by the Ecclesiarchy and innumerable petty hangers-on, opportunists and logistical transports, with supply trains leading back whole sectors away from the front. With their final victory achieved in 384.M39, the Angevin Crusade officially ended, giving rise to the birth of the Imperium's Calixis Sector.
- The Death of the Witching Moon (013.M41) - The Forge Moon of Keziah, in the strategically vital Agathon System, fell into an unnatural eclipse during which its population was driven to murder and madness in an endless night of horror. The dread forces of the Tenebrae and Company of Misery reigned as dark kings amid the nightmare, and the baleful light of the "Witching Moon" that Keziah had become spread calamity and warp-tainted phenomena wherever it now fell, threatening the entire star system. The first Imperial attacks by the Astra Militarum, squadrons from Battlefleet Ultima and the Inquisition were hurled back in tatters by the madness of the black light and the warp-fuelled savagery of the defenders. It was only by the unexpected arrival of the Charnel Guard Chapter, accompanied by a sacred band of Adepta Sororitas from the Order of the Black Sepulchre bearing the holy relic known as the Book of Tears before them, that the imminent loss of tens of billions of lives on Agathon Prime was prevented, and the insanity-inducing radiance of the Witching Moon was held back. The Charnel Guard led a fresh assault as further Adeptus Astartes, including the Iron Hands, Storm Lords and Angels Porphyr, and Adeptus Mechanicus reinforcements arrived, fighting a brutal battle of tank and gunship clashes across the soaring metal canyons which razed the moon's surface and chamber-by-chamber Zone Mortalis actions to purge Keziah of the shadow that had befallen it. When the Charnel Guard launched their orbital assault of Keziah's Moon each of their Storm Eagle attack waves was accompanied by a rare Fire Raptor gunship to provide additional fire support, the largest deployment of these vehicles observed in at least the last three millennia. Of note, several different variations of this formation have been observed by the Charnel Guard. The Chaos Astartes inflicted fearful losses on their besiegers before they were driven into the deeper darkness of the Warp. In the wake of their retreat, all life was purged from Keziah before it was given back to the hands of the Machine Cult for tech-exorcism and eventual reclamation.
- Maelstrom Warders (587.M41) - In direct response to the numerous dire predations from the Maelstrom an Edict Imperialis was pronounced by the High Lords of Terra and the order was given to permanently base several Space Marine Chapters in the Maelstrom Zone in order to protect the Imperium's interests and pacify the region. The Astral Claws Chapter, in recognition of their past glorious service to the Imperium, was given the high honour of commanding the newly formed Maelstrom Warders task force. This force also included the fleet-based Charnel Guard and Lamenters Chapters, who were specifically charged to patrol the Maelstrom's outer regions, and was also to incorporate the Mantis Warriors who were already based in the nearby Endymion Cluster within its command.
- Scourge Campaign (640-651.M41) - The Scourge Campaign was one of the largest Imperial operations conducted in the Maelstrom Zone, in which the Maelstrom Warders carried out a series of major combat operations, striking deep into the heart of the Maelstrom itself and taking the battle to the Renegade servants of Chaos, the first Imperial force in centuries to do so. Despite the Space Marines' numerous successes, their efforts were suddenly curtailed when the Charnel Guard Chapter was abruptly withdrawn from the Maelstrom Zone entirely. By direct intervention of the Adeptus Terra, the Chapter's ties to the Warders were severed and they were dispatched on the Thanatos Crusade into the Veiled Region at the edge of the Segmentum Tempestus.
- Devastation of Baal (ca. 999.M41) - The Charnel Guard were among the forces deployed by the Blood Angels Successor Chapters to defend their parent Chapter's homeworld of Baal from an assault by the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan.
They also seem to develop the appearance of a partially dead or decaying body, including grey skin, breath and skin that smells of rotting flesh, and eyes that are completely white, showing no visible pupils.
Notable Charnel Guard
- First Captain Paracelius - Paracelius is the current captain of the Charnel Guards 1st Company and was part of the forces that the Chapter sent to aid the Blood Angels during the Devastation of Baal by Hive Fleet Leviathan. It is unknown whether he survived the destruction of the Chapter flagship.
- Mordath - Mordath was the representative of the Charnel Guard on the Blood Eagles' abandoned homeworld at the Triarchy conclave that made the decision to take the offensive against the enemies of the Emperor in the Imperium Nihilus during the Era Indomitus.
The Chapter fleet of the Charnel Guard is known to consist of the following warships:
- Invictrix (Battle Barge) - The Invictrix was the flagship of the Charnel Guard and was sent to aid the Blood Angels during the Devastation of Baal. The Invictrix was destroyed in a void battle during that campaign with the Tyranid Hive Ships.
- Tacit Canticum - A warship of unknown class that bore Mordath to the Triarchy conclave on the Blood Eagles' abandoned homeworld.
The Charnel Guard's Chapter colours are known to be primarily black and maroon. Their power armour is fashioned to mimic the polished black of volcanic glass.
The Charnel Guard's Chapter badge is a black stylised fleur-de-lis cross, adorned with lily petal flourishes at the arm-ends, outlined in white.
A maroon, diamond-shaped lozenge is centred on the cross with a fanged skull in its centre.
- Imperial Armour Volume Two, Second Edition - War Machines of the Adeptus Astartes, pp. 17, 107, 135
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War, Part One, pp. 13–14, 68-69
- Imperial Armour Volume Thirteen - War Machines of the Lost & The Damned, pg. 23
- Dante (Novel) by Guy Haley, Ch. 11
- The Devastation of Baal (Novel) by Guy Haley, Chs. 10, 12, pp. 170, 392
- Dark Heresy Apocrypha: Dark Heresy Timeline
- White Dwarf 454 (May-June 2020), "Tradition's Last Breath" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, pp. 42-43