The Maelstrom Warders were 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. In 587.M41, the High Lords of Terra issued an Edict Imperialis in response to numerous dire predations on Imperial commerce and worlds in the region that ordered several Space Marine Chapters to permanently base themselves in the Maelstrom Zone. Their objective was to protect the Imperium's interests and pacify the region. But conditions in the Maelstrom Zone worsened and the Renegade Astral Claws' Chapter Master Lufgt Huron, the self-proclaimed "Tyrant of Badab", embarked upon a dark course that would eventually lead the Maelstrom Warders into heresy during the lamentable civil conflict between the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes known as the Badab War from 901.M41 to 912.M41.
Second only to the great Warp Storm of the Eye of Terror, the Maelstrom is a vast Warp Rift that scars both the physical universe and the fabric of the Immaterium beyond. Located near the dense stellar masses of the galactic core in a near linear path between the core and Terra, the Maelstrom covers an area many hundreds of light years across, and its presence in space is marked by a vast, slowly turning gyre comprised of nebulae, dust and stellar material in which countless stars and worlds have long been lost. Since the era of the Great Crusade the wealth of the region has drawn Mankind to the Maelstrom Zone time and again despite its manifold hazards and difficulties.
But the Maelstrom Zone has also drawn humanity's enemies as well in their countless number and diverse loathsome forms. With the difficulty of traveling through the region, soon this area of space became a haven to corsairs, criminals and renegades. Over time, the Imperium slowly established several important Imperial outposts within the Maelstrom Zone during the 38th and 39th Millennia. These outposts rose to prominence as flickering beacons of Imperial influence and strength within the region. The three vital systems that formed the links in a distant chain that allowed the resources of the Maelstrom Zone to flow into the coffers of the more established sectors beyond were the star systems of Cygnax, Sagan and Badab. As the situation in the Maelstrom became ever more volatile, this path of commerce came increasingly under threat.
With the fall of Cygnax, one of the lynchpin worlds within this volatile region, Imperial control of the northern Maelstrom Zone swiftly crumbled. Without this key world, taken with other losses over the previous few centuries, vital military supply chains stretching as far as Bakka and Terra itself were threatened, forcing the Adeptus Terra to act. In 587.M41, the High Lords of Terra pronounced an Edict Imperialis in response to these dire predations, ordering several Space Marine Chapters to permanently base themselves in the Maelstrom Zone in order to protect the Imperium's interests and pacify the region. In recognition of their past glorious service to the Imperium, the Astral Claws Chapter was given the high honour of the senior role in commanding the newly formed Maelstrom Warders. This force was to include the fleet-based Lamenters and Charnel Guard Chapters to patrol the outer regions, and also incorporated the Mantis Warriors who were based in the nearby Endymion Cluster. Once this force was put in place, the Astral Claws Chapter took over an orbital battle station in the strategically vital Badab System, which became their fortress-monastery and base of operations. After their establishment, a detachment of a Imperial Navy squadron were permanently assigned to the region to conduct search and destroy and convoy protection duties. This naval detachment quickly stabilised the surrounding areas and purged the inner zone of heretical and xenos elements that had plagued them. Soon the wealth of the Maelstrom Zone once again began to flow into the coffers of the Imperium.
The greatest operation during these times occurred during the Scourge Campaign from 640.M41-651.M41, in which the Astral Claws and their allies conducted a series of major combat operations, striking deep into the heart of the Maelstrom in an attempt to take the battle to the foe. Initially the Space Marines were successful, until the abrupt withdrawal of the Charnel Guard Chapter. The Adeptus Terra severed the Chapter's ties to the Warders, dispatching them to the Thanatos Crusade into the Veiled Region. This sudden loss effectively ended the campaign. The Astral Claws subsequently petitioned for a replacement Chapter to be reassigned, but were denied. Less then two decades later, the Warders suffered a series of setbacks and a high number of casualties amongst some of their allies, causing a rift in relations between the wider Imperium and the Maelstrom Warders during this period. Soon the Warders became hard pressed by an upsurge of daemonic incursions and corsair attacks, pushing them into an increasingly defensive posture and suspending all operations near the Maelstrom itself.
The Tyrant of Badab
Once again, disaster struck, as a series of Ork raids originating within the Maelstrom struck deep into the Badab Sector. The Astral Claws' Chapter Master Rovik Blake, went against his own doctrine, and pursued the Orks back into the Maelstrom itself. Having led the Astral Claws for the last two centuries, he fell in single combat with the Ork Warboss Vorg Manburna and forcing the Astral Claws to retreat. On return to the Badab System, the Captain of the Astral Claws 3rd Company, Lufgt Huron, was appointed as Chapter Master by popular acclaim of his peers in 715.M41. He became the youngest warrior in the Chapter's history to attain this esteemed rank. Imperial historians now point out that such a man of flawed character should never have been allowed to rise to the command of a Space Marine Chapter. But Lufgt Huron had already proven to be an exceptional warrior as well as a skilled tactician and charismatic leader. He quickly reorganised the Chapter's strategic deployments and established a policy of expanding his Chapter's fleet which had been badly depleted, including within its ranks captured corsair vessels in aggressive raids. He also established the questionable scorched-planet policy against their enemies and increased his Chapter's stockpile of Exterminatus-class weapons. This resulted in several fringe worlds that harboured renegade ships in the past being turned into lifeless husks.
In 718.M1, a failed coup on the Hive World of Badab Primaris led to an abortive civil war, and the Astral Claws stepped in and brutally crushed the conflict. In the aftermath, the elements behind the coup were brought forth to Lufgt Huron for judgement. Mindful of the lesson of Cygnax, the Chapter Master personally took matters into his own hands, swiftly reimposing order once more. This time he employed the Astral Claws much more brutally as they executed much of the planet's ruling class as well as purging those they perceived as morally recidivist. Taking upon himself the mantle of planetary ruler, Lufgt Huron stylised himself the 'Tyrant of Badab', claiming the inhabited worlds in proximity to the hospitable region of the void around the Badab System as his Chapter's fiefdom. In his subsequent pronouncement, he echoed the example and precedents of the sovereign realm of Ultramar and the Warder's charter. The nearby system was soon purged wholesale of the ruling elites and in the decades afterward, a number of Astral Claws 'watch bastions' were established. The Tyrant's chosen servants and political allies were placed in positions of power, turning the Badab Sector into a pocket empire, commanded by the Astral Claws.
To further cement his power, in a massive reorganisation of the uneven and often isolationist native planetary defence forces in the region into what would become known as 'The Tyrant's Legion'. Following a unified command structure these forces now followed a standard dictated by Huron. The Astral Claws assigned detachments to further train the Tyrant's Legion in order to purge them of weak elements. Soon the Tyrant's Legion proved their worth as they repulsed numerous corsair raids, freeing the Astral Claws from their defensive stance. The Chapter was able to conduct a series of lightning raids into outlying areas to harass and destroy heretic and xenos controlled areas. With the increase of Huron's tally of victories, and the curtailing of corsair activity and the increase of production never before reached, the fame of the Astral Claws 'Tyrant' grew beyond the Maelstrom Zone.
Spurred by this success, Huron had his servants deliver a formal and lengthy petition to Terra, making a detailed case for completely subduing the Maelstrom and the surrounding area, which would greatly benefit the Imperium in the long term. In order to achieve this, Huron advocated the deployment of several more Space Marine Chapters to the Warder's ranks, suggesting even that a new Founding might even be warranted to meet the needs of his plan. Unfortunately, Huron's petition was dismissed without full hearing on the grounds that the requirements of the Imperium were better met elsewhere.
During the mid 700s.M41, the Astral Claws submission of required Gene-Seed tithes to the Magos Inviglia of the Adeptus Mechanicus became infrequent and incomplete. Although initially a cause for concern, such matters were not uncommon, particularly those Space Marine Chapters deployed to border areas or on crusade, simply because the Chapter itself might have a temporary need to retain the gene-seed itself to sustain battlefield losses. But as the omission persisted, this signaled to the Mechanicus that there was some darker motive at work. This would later prove to be true with the Astral Claws, as evidence later indicated that this first great sin against the traditions of the Astartes would arguably result in the Chapter's fall into heresy. Repeatedly denied the reinforcements he had requested to aid him and the Maelstrom Warders in carrying out their tasks, in his arrogance and pride, the Tyrant sought to expand his forces into a force equal to a Space Marine Legion of old. Further covert investigation would later uncover that the Astral Claws Apothecarion were conducting heretical experiments in rapid zygote cultivation. Though largely unsuccessful, the Astral Claws eventually stood at around an estimated 3,500 battle-brothers strong.
In protest, Huron also withheld Badab Primaris' planetary tithe to the Administratum and further blocked the passage of trade through his realms in protest over the Adepta's failure to provide him and his allies sufficient resources to police the Maelstrom. Refusing the Astral Claws' role as defenders of the Maelstrom Zone, the Tyrant soon diverted the industrial resources and manpower to directly supplement the Badab Sector's defences as well as augmenting the Maelstrom fleet detachment and fortification of key worlds under his command. These space-based defences encircling the outer and inner spheres of the Badab Sector came to be known as the 'Ring of Steel.' On Badab Primaris, the Tyrant ordered the demolition of the ancient citadel of the ruling dominars and instead erected the legendary, hugely fortified 'Palace of Thorns' to his own specifications and design. The clashing entitlement of the Administratum's Imperial tithe and the ancient rights of the Astartes commanders to defend the Imperium by any means necessary swiftly came to be known as the Badab Schism and would last for more than a century and a half, during which the Astral Claws and the Maelstrom Warders would continue to carry on military operations as usual, against a volatile backdrop of worsening tensions with the Administratum and Segmentum authorities.
War on the Horizon
Freed from their inglorious garrison duty, the Astral Claws intervened in the aftermath of the infamous Fourth Quadrant Rebellion, which had troubled the Imperium for many decades. Gathering in a mixed taskforce comprising of various companies from the Astral Claws, Fire Hawks, White Scars, and Celestian Guard Chapters, backed by Death Korps of Krieg and Kol-Sec Imperial Guard regiments and the Titans from Legio Venator, Lufgt Huron was elected battle leader by common consent. Under his inspired command, the taskforce ruthlessly eradicated the heavily fortified Lycanthos System of Traitor and Chaos forces in under a year. However, Stibor Lazaerek, Chapter Master of the Fire Hawks, continued to harbour a grudge over the fact that Huron was given overall command despite his seniority as a Chapter Master. This grudge would fester over the coming years until finally it would bear the fruit of bitterness.
Seeking to capitalise on this glorious victory, in 869.M41 the Astral Claws, at the instigation of their Chapter Master, the Black Templars declared a Crusade of Wrath into the Maelstrom, assaulting it from the eastward approach. Meanwhile the Astral Claws, Lamenters and Mantis Warriors launched their own assaults from the southern and north-eastern approaches. Thanks in no small part to Huron's brilliant strategic planning as well as the mettle of the Maelstrom Warders and the Black Templars, they achieved a stunning victory against 23 alien or heretic stronghold worlds. Unfortunately, wider events intervened, once again putting a premature end to the Astral Claws plans, as the Black Templars were called away to aid the beleaguered realm of Ultramar in the wake of the Tyrannic War. Having already suffered substantial losses in the campaign, the Warder Chapters were forced to withdraw from the Maelstrom, much to Huron's fury.
Matters worsened once again, not only within the Maelstrom Zone but the wider Imperium as well, as the threat of Hive Fleet Behemoth left the defences of the Segmentum Ultima in disarray, and wars and rumours of wars as far as the Eye of Terror and the Ghoul Stars threatened to erupt, as well as galaxy-wide revolts and other strange phenomena. Soon crisis followed crisis, and in the dying years of the 800s.M41, Lufgt Huron saw the Maelstrom Zone slipping from his grasp and all the victories the Warders had gained began to crumble, and so in an attempt to tighten his grip, he remained unaware that elsewhere events were moving against him. It would not be long before the brooding Tyrant of Badab would spark into violence, and the Imperium would once again, shed the blood of its own. In 901.M41, the Administratum dispatched a Imperial investigation fleet to Badab to demand the immediate delivery of the tardy Badab tithe, commandeered resources and the Astral Claws Chapter's gene-seed requirement. In circumstances that cannot be fully explained, the investigation fleet was fired on and destroyed in its entirety as it attempted to force its way through the Badab System's 'Ring of Steel'.
The Karthan Sector Governor heavily censured the Astral Claws Chapter, along with calls for the arrest and trial of Huron for such treachery against the Imperium. With the weight of suffering and bloodshed elsewhere, the tangle of claim and counter claim fell on deaf ears. In addition, Lufgt Huron was the lawful master of a realm permanently on a war footing; a bulwark against the xenos and Chaos, and on the most basic level authorised to defend those domains. Without hard evidence, charge of willful and premeditated homicide against the Imperium's servants would be almost impossible to prove in this case. Over the next three years the Karthan Imperial commanders took it upon themselves to send two further punitive expeditions into the Maelstrom Zone but both fleets were lost in unconfirmed circumstances, supposedly never reaching the Badab System. The intervention of the Astral Claws and their allies was suspected.
Unable to enforce their will decisively, the increasingly desperate Karthan lords, near bankrupted by this stage, attempted to circumvent Badab itself, taking the far longer and more perilous route in order to access the lost tithes directly to make up their shortfall. By 903.M41 the agents of the Karthan Imperial commanders began to spread propaganda in both the Segmentum Assizes and the Senatorium Imperialis to any that would listen. As the local Administratum continued to press the High Lords to intervene directly, the Maelstrom Warders continued to arm themselves for war and conducted sweeps of the Maelstrom Zone in force, while they simultaneously continued to augment their defences within the Badab Sector itself.
The Maelstrom Secession
To answer the continuing threats to the control of his domain, Lufgt Huron issued the infamous 'Articles of Just Secession', which were also signed and ratified by the masters of the Lamenters and Mantis Warriors Chapters. These documents were designed to formally sever the Maelstrom Zone's direct tithes to its neighbouring sectors. In support of their cause, the document cited both the edict that founded the Maelstrom Warders and the ancient rights and titles of the Adeptus Astartes prerogative in their defence, precedents that both weighed heavily in their favour. These articles also called for a full investigation into the Karthan Sector, asserted the historic and lawful sovereignty of the Space Marine Chapters involved from outside interference by the lower Adepta and stated again their willingness to defend the Maelstrom Zone from any who would threaten it.
As the situation devolved further the Karthans threatened all out war, but lacked the means to do so alone. Instead the petitioned aid to mount an attack from the Deparmento Munitorum and the Segmentum Naval sub-command at Ryza, but were flatly refused and informed that the matter was an "internal dispute." Met with denials, the Karthago Sector itself drafted increasingly large numbers of troops into its planetary defence regiments. To further their goals, the Karthan Satrap sent several direct and open appeals to several Space Marine Chapters with whom they had past dealings with. The Satrap had quickly realised that only other Space Marines could truly hope to contest other Space Marines in open battle. The Fire Hawks Chapter was the first to respond to their cause.
Let Slip The Dogs of War
At the direct request of the Karthan Satrap, they requested the Fire Hawks Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes to investigate the disappearance of Karthan shipping in the areas to the Galactic south of the Golgothan Wastes (which bordered the northern reaches of the Maelstrom Zone). In the past the Fire Hawks Chapter had used the vast orbital dockyards of the Karthan capital world of Sidon Ultra for resupply. The volatile and bellicose nature of the Fire Hawks Chapter was widely known, and it is likely that this also figured in the Karthan Satrap's reasoning in making her request. This monumental arrogance and folly would soon prove disastrous.
Conducting search and destroy operations in the Golgothan Wastes, Knight-Commander Stibor Laezerek acquiesced to despatching several ships into the northern Maelstrom Zone. One such vessel, the Red Harbinger, entered the Endymion Cluster in 904.M41. This ancient region of space was under the stewardship of the Mantis Warriors Chapter, one of the Astartes Chapters that belonged to the Tyrant's alliance of the Maelstrom Warders. When the Red Harbinger entered the Galen System, they were intercepted and surrounded by Mantis Warriors vessels. Ever fierce and proud, they were goaded by the Fire Hawks' refusal and threats and opened fire, crippling the lone cruiser. With this single act, the full-scale conflict between Space Marine Chapters that was to follow was ignited. This bloody conflict would last until its bloody conclusion on the Tyrant's homeworld of Badab Primaris.
In the aftermath of the death of Badab Primaris, the remaining Secessionists from the Astral Claws, Executioners, Mantis Warriors and Lamenters Chapters were put on trial before a specially convened Consistorial Court of their peers composed of Chapter Masters from the Adeptus Astartes. The very existence of these Chapters was at stake. Despite the attempts of the Inquisitor Legate to have the matter placed fully under Inquisitorial remit, a conclave of five Space Marine Chapter Masters whose forces were not part of the conflict were convened in judgement in accordance with Astartes tradition. A unanimous verdict was reached by the tribunal that the Astral Claws were judged to be traitors most foul and that they were to be declared Exommunicate Traitoris. They were guilty of taking up arms against the Imperium and deceitfully causing their brethren to do likewise.
The Consistorial Court also found all of those Chapters who had taken part in the Badab Secession guilty in breaking with both the Codex Astartes and the ancient covenant with the Emperor that it represented. In punishment, all the Astral Claws in Imperial custody were blindfolded and shackled in dishonour and then put to the sword. It was further judged that the other surviving Secessionist Chapters would have to each undertake a 100 year penitent crusade to atone for their transgressions, and would have to do so without the right to recruit new brethren to replace their losses during this time of punishment. Their future survival would therefore, be left in their own hands and by the grace and benevolence of the Holy Emperor.
In addition, the Mantis Warriors would henceforth lose all rights to their ancient domains in the Endymion Cluster, with their goods and chattels given over to the Fire Hawks in perpetuity, and likewise the Lamenters Chapter were condemned to surrender reparations in ships and wargear to the Minotaurs Chapter (this in essence being no more than a rubber-stamp approval of actions already taken place). The Executioners Chapter in contrast were granted a measure of comparable clemency, and their twin Chapter worlds were given over in trust to the Salamanders Chapter and their own successors rather than forfeited entirely, to be returned to them should they endure their hundred year act of contrition and survive.
In recognition for their efforts in the war's brutal final assault, the badly mauled Star Phantoms Chapter were given the somewhat pyrrhic reward of dominion over the once proud Badab Sector, along with the task of policing its survivors by edict of the Inquisitor Legate. Though the Star Phantoms were now reduced to less than a third of its former strength, ruling over a kingdom of ashes, they had long been a fleet-based Chapter after having lost their former homeworld centuries before. They eagerly grasped this laurel of victory as their just and long-laboured reward. With the pick of the sector's worlds for their choosing, the Star Phantoms brought their severely damaged battle-barge Memento Mori down to the surface of the Ice World of Jahga in the Archaea System to serve as their core for a new Fortress-Monastery and slowly began the process of rebuilding their Chapter.
Before departing the Maelstrom Zone. the Carcharodons Chapter fleet returned to the Endymion Cluster. There, with the agreement of the Fire Hawks, they struck at the Tranquility System, whose worlds were once the primary recruiting and training grounds of the Mantis Warriors Chapter. From these worlds they harvested an entire generation to renew their own losses, forcing those selected to fight to the death to prove their worth in order to survive in the Carcharodons brethren. Thus paid in blood, the Carcharodons fleet departed, the last known sighting of them made by an Explorator augery-beacon, which marked them tacking course through the Warp, ascending the galactic plane into the blackness of the outer void once more.
In 915.M41, upon returning to Terra, the Inquisitor Legate carried out his last act by ordering an Edict of Obliteration to be carried out under the auspices of the Adeptus Terra in regards to the Astral Claws, the Tiger Claws and their master Lufgt Huron - the Tyrant of Badab - wiping their accursed names and their sins from the pages of Imperial history. Entered into the official record would be sanitised and altered versions of the events of the Badab War.
Chapters of the Maelstrom Warders
The current known Space Marine Chapters that were a part of the Maelstrom Warders included:
- Astral Claws (Red Corsairs) - The Astral Claws were declared Excommunicate Traitoris by the Inquisition
- Charnel Guard
- Mantis Warriors
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 11, 12-18, 20-23, 26-28, 30-32, 34, 39-43, 47-51, 54, 56-57, 59, 108-109, 111, 139, 140-142, 144
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 10-14, 18-19, 24-27, 30-31, 34, 36-39, 42, 44, 46-49, 53-62, 68-69
- Warhammer 40,000 Compendium, "The Badab War" by Rick Priestly, pp. 33-35