The Flame Falcons was one of the cursed Space Marine Chapters created during the Cursed 21st Founding. Although its earlier successes promised a great future for the Chapter, it was almost completely wiped out by the Inquisition before a hundred standard years had passed following its Founding. The cause of the Inquisition's attack was the fact that during an engagement, members of the Chapter had burst into flame. These Astartes came to no harm, and believing the flames to be a gift from the Emperor of Mankind, they fought with a fierce savagery that won the day. This ability was very likely the result of an unforeseen psychic mutation within their gene-seed that had come about as a result of the modifications the Adeptus Mechanicus had made to the gene-seed of all the Chapters created during the 21st Founding. The members of the Inquisition did not share the Chapter's belief that it had been blessed by the Emperor, and when the Chapter returned to its homeworld of Lethe to celebrate its victory, it was attacked and almost completely destroyed by a force of Grey Knights who believed the Flame Falcons to have been possessed by daemons.
The 21st Founding was the largest Founding of Space Marine Chapters since the Second Founding following the Horus Heresy. It took place in the 36th Millennium shortly before the start of the Age of Apostasy. The focus of the 21st Founding for the Adeptus Mechanicus was perfecting and removing the existing, identified deficiencies in flawed Adeptus Astartes gene-seed, and ultimately the production of new and improved Primarch-like Space Marines as part of what was called "Project Homo Sapiens Novus". Unfortunately, the Adeptus Mechanicus' Genetors proved far less skilled in the genetic sciences than the Emperor of Mankind, and their efforts resulted in the development of seriously flawed gene-seed that was used to craft the organ implants for the new Chapters. The Founding itself ended when one of its projects, already corrupted by Chaos, sent a signal through the Warp and alerted Fabius Bile, a Traitor Marine who served Chaos Undivided by seeking out new recruits for the Chaos Space Marines, to its existence. Bile had been engaged in his own quest to improve upon the Emperor's work since the Horus Heresy and he found the "improved" Space Marines of the 21st Founding to be creations after his own black heart.
The 21st Founding is also known simply as the "Cursed Founding", because of the appalling bad luck that seems to dog the Chapters that were created by it. Worse still, some of these Chapters have developed unexpected genetic idiosyncrasies, mutations that strain the tolerance of the Inquisition and threaten the Chapters' survival. As a result, the Chapters of this Founding have gradually dwindled in size as their inability to raise and induct new recruits means that their battle casualties cannot be replaced. The most seriously afflicted Chapters exhibited spontaneous and extreme physical corruption, turning them into a race no longer human or sane. Most of the Space Marine Chapters founded during this time eventually turned Traitor and swore themselves to Chaos or met a gruesome end at the hands of other Space Marine Chapters and the Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus.
- The Scouring of Lethe (Unknown Date.M41) - The Grey Knights and several Ordo Malleus Inquisitors helped destroy the Flame Falcons Chapter during the Scouring of Lethe when they mistook the Flame Falcons' fiery bodies for a sign of their corruption by Chaos.
The Emperor's Blessing, a Chapter's Curse
Next to nothing is known of the Flame Falcons Chapter in official Imperial records, for it was declared Excommunicate Traitoris within a standard century of its inception. Initial combat trials involving the Chapter were a resounding success, and it was put on active service on the Southern Rim of the galaxy, based on its homeworld of Lethe. Its first engagements, with Orks and Eldar Corsairs, promised a great future for the Chapter, as its Battle-Brothers were observed to be hardy and courageous, even for Space Marines. It was at the battle of Raffenburg's World that things began to go awry for the Flame Falcons. At the height of the battle, their largest engagement to that point, the 1st Company was observed to spontaneously immolate at the height of the fiercest fighting against the rebel forces. Fearing witchcraft, the Chapter's commander reinforced the front line and sent for an Inquisitor who was accompanying the Imperial Guard forces. When it was reported by the reinforcing Space Marines that the members of the 1st Company were not dead, but were in fact fighting with renewed savagery covered in flames to which they themselves were immune, the commander declared it a miracle, a gift sent from the Emperor.
The Inquisitor had a different opinion. Knowing that he could not assault the Flame Falcons immediately, he bided his time, witnessing the remainder of the Chapter undergo the same horrific change as the 1st Company. Upon the successful completion of the campaign, the Flame Falcons returned to Lethe in a celebratory mood, convinced, as they were, that their unique ability was a manifestation of the Emperor's grace. Soon after, the Grey Knights, the Chamber Militant of the daemon-hunting Ordo Malleus, at the behest of the Inquisition, assaulted Lethe, ruthlessly destroying the supposedly "cursed" Chapter. It is thought that a small number of Flame Falcons escaped that day, but of their fate, nothing is known.
- Immolation - The Battle-Brothers of the Flame Falcons Chapter are cursed with a terrible mutation that causes their bodies to become wreathed in flame. The Inquisition is particularly uncompromising in punishing these mutants wherever it encounters them.
The Flame Falcons' Chapter colours are not recorded in current Imperial records.
The Flame Falcons' Chapter badge is not recorded in Imperial records.
- Chapter Approved: The Fourth Book of the Astronomican (2004), "The Cursed Founding" by Andy Hoare, Graham McNeill & Phil Kelly, pp. 4-9
- Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pg. 13
- White Dwarf 279 (UK), "Chapter Approved: The Cursed Founding" by Andy Chambers, Andy Hoare, Graham McNeill & Phil Kelly, pp. 51-52
- White Dwarf 260 (UK), "Index Astartes: The Cursed Founding"