"The awkward question; the wise know when to remain silent."
- — Chaplain Glaw of the Storm Wardens
The Nemesis Incident was an event in the history of the Storm Wardens Space Marine Chapter that has served to define the Chapter's culture in the intervening centuries since it unfolded in the 36th Millennium.The Storm Wardens are stoic Astartes often found defending the borders of the Imperium of Man. Until recently, these Space Marines focused their attention upon the great Warp Storms that trouble the Halo Stars region on the galaxy’s western edge.
There, they protect Frontier Worlds from the predations of xenos threats, Chaos Renegades, and heretical recidivists. They are often unknown and unsung heroes to those planets they defend, for the Storm Wardens are highly insular, and there are only a relative handful of monuments and records that celebrate their long list of battle honours.
A bizarre twist of fate occurred in the depths of the 36th Millennium, during the Age of Apostasy -- an event called the Nemesis Incident that many hold responsible for the Chapter’s aloof nature.
Every Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes has its legends, many recounting glorious victories and noble deeds, others serving as warnings against hubris or the perfidy of Traitors or aliens. The Storm Wardens hold many battle honours, yet the defining campaign in their history is shrouded in mystery, its true details unknown even to those brethren now interred within the sarcophagi of mighty Dreadnoughts, some of whom may actually have been serving the Chapter at the time. The only details of the event that would later become known as the "Nemesis Incident" are to be found within the pages of the Liber Tempest, a 77 volume tome describing the deeds of the Chapter and the lives of its heroes throughout the turbulent years of the Age of Apostasy in the late 36th Millennium. This mighty book was authored by Chief Librarian Brin Maxen, who had himself become so crippled in body during the fighting that he was capable of no more service to his Chapter than committing his wisdom to parchment before his wounds eventually claimed his life. It is said that Maxen held death at bay for almost twelve years as he recited the Liber Tempest to his disciples of the Librarius, each of his followers transcribing his words faithfully.
Yet, the very fact that several versions of the Liber Tempest were written simultaneously led to a near schism within the Librarius after Maxen's death. When the texts were studied in detail it was discovered that they differed from one another in several major details. The differences were not mere errors of transcription, but were so great that Maxen’s successor came to suspect some outside agency of deliberately corrupting the transcription process, or of interfering with the archives at some later point. Yet, the Librarius of a Space Marine Chapter should be one of the most secure and sealed places in the entire galaxy and surely nothing short of the supernatural could have altered Maxen’s words once they were committed to record.
Following the discovery of the divergent accounts of the Nemesis Incident, the senior members of the Librarius undertook a process of determining which of them, if any, was truthful. This process took the best part of a standard century, and was made all but impossible by the facts of the incident itself. Eventually, one single version of Maxen’s account was declared the truth, and the others labelled apocryphal and locked away deep inside the inner repository of the Storm Wardens’ Librarium. Each of these divergent tomes became known by the name of the Librarian that had compiled it, such as the Apocrypha of Yorath, the Book of Einion, and the Liber Esoterica Cadfanius.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Apocrypha
The Liber Tempest details the calamitous events of the Age of Apostasy, as experienced by the Storm Wardens Chapter. The Nemesis Incident represents a brief but dramatic period within this turbulent epoch, and the Liber presents very few details of it. The roots of the incident are to be found in the general increase in Warp Storm activity that afflicted the Imperium in the run up to and during the Age of Apostasy. Trade routes the length and breadth of the galaxy became all but impassable as the Warp boiled with tumultuous etheric storm fronts. Entire war fleets and crusading armies were lost as the Warp routes they travelled were overcome with impossible energies. In many areas the raw stuff of the Empyrean bled through the thin skein of reality and engulfed settled worlds or entire systems. The more fortunate were simply cut off from all outside contact; the less fortunate were saturated in the terrible unreality of the Warp, entire populations spontaneously mutating or falling victim to apocalyptic daemonic incursions. Aside from aetheric overbleed, genetic mutation and daemonic incursion, Warp Storms sometimes bring with them the risk of another, thankfully rare, but utterly devastating threat. There exists in the depths of the Warp entities other than what men call daemons. Enslavers are one such form, a nightmarish hybrid of the xenos and the daemonic that exists for most of its life cycle within the Empyrean but breeds and multiplies in realspace. Enslavers utilise the minds of untrained or latent psykers, transforming their victim’s bodies into vast, distended gateways through which the Enslavers themselves pour from the Warp. Furthermore, they are able to take control of the bodies of their foes, turning them into drooling mindslaves that fight until overcome by their wounds, exposure or malnutrition. When Warp Storm activity increases, so too do the rates of psyker births, and so the Age of Apostasy was underpinned by a second horror – that of Enslaver infestation.
This much the various versions of the Liber Tempest all agree upon, but the accounts begin to diverge at the point when the Chapter was committed to a region of space known as the Steropes Cluster. For the Space Marines, the Age of Apostasy was an extended period of retrenchment during which the pronouncements of the Senatorum Imperialis were replaced with the irrational dictates of the High Lord Goge Vandire. The vast majority of Astartes Chapter Masters became so distrustful of Vandire’s pronouncements that they were forced to pursue their duties without recourse to the central authority once provided by the council of the High Lords of Terra. Where Warp conditions allowed, Chapters coordinated their actions with brother Chapters or occasionally with the forces of the Inquisition, yet very few answered the commands or demands of High Lord Vandire. Most versions of the Liber Tempest agree that the Storm Wardens' Chapter Master, Owin Glendwyr, took his force to the Steropes Cluster in response to a reading of the Emperor's Tarot made by his Chief Librarian, but some texts call this into question, insinuating that the deployment may have been carried out at the behest of the Inquisition or some other faction within the Imperium’s shattered structure.
Having reached the Steropes Cluster, it is said that the Storm Wardens discovered a swathe of worlds entirely consumed by the roiling energies of the Warp. Those worlds lying on the outskirts of the storm had come under the dominion of the largest Enslaver plague the Segmentum had ever witnessed, and Chapter Master Glendwyr was faced with a terrible choice -- deploy his warriors in a battle that would undoubtedly prove costly in the lives of his warriors, or grant the doomed and enslaved populations the Emperor’s mercy and scour the worlds’ surfaces with the nucleonic fire of Exterminatus. Once more, the various accounts of the war differ in their descriptions of what followed. The Liber Esoterica Cadfanius contains a detailed account of Glendwyr and an unnamed Inquisitor Lord exploring a series of ruins across several of the cluster’s worlds, and this is corroborated by the Liber Tempest itself. No account of the ruins gives any suggestion as to which alien species may have built them, but all describe their halls as black and oppressive, and completely dwarfing even the mighty Space Marines.
At some point during the exploration of these ruins, it appears that the Storm Wardens and an allied Inquisitorial force came under attack, first by a horde of enslaved human meat-puppets, and then by Enslaver Behemoths. The Chapter Master and the 1st Company fought a series of desperate battles against the Enslavers, during which many heroic Battle-Brothers were lost. Three entire worlds were cleansed of the xenos' presence, but ultimately the Inquisitor Lord declared the Writ of Exterminatus on seven more before the cluster was declared purged of the Enslaver Plague. In the aftermath of the Steropes Cluster campaign, the Storm Wardens returned to their homeworld of Sacris. Yet, by a reading of a number of the Apocrypha, it appears that the taint had not been entirely eradicated and that the 1st Company had in fact brought it back to the Calixis Sector.
According to the Book of Einion, a number of 1st Company Veterans had become corrupted by some form of psychic taint, which was only uncovered during post-battle cleansing protocols. The Chapter’s most senior Apothecaries, Chaplains and Librarians turned their efforts to purging this taint, but, according to Einion’s account, the taint was too ingrained and presented a dire threat to the survival of the entire Chapter. Initially, the Inquisitor Lord was of the view that those infected should submit to voluntary liquidation, yet the Storm Warden’s senior officers argued vehemently against such a drastic sanction, and Glendwyr proposed a compromise. Having convinced the Inquisitor Lord of the viability of his plan, the Chapter Master ordered that he and the entire 1st Company would be interred within stasis sarcophagi in the vaults far below the Chapter’s Fortress-Monastery, which would not be opened until such time as a definite cure for the Enslaver taint was discovered. The Inquisition placed a condition on their acquiescence, demanding that the Chapter’s homeworld be isolated from the greater Imperium and all knowledge of the Nemesis Incident be purged from the annals of the Imperium’s history. Aside from those often contradictory accounts presented in the various Apocrypha, which are accessible only to the most senior officers of the Chapter, none outside of the Storm Wardens have any inkling of the tragic events of the Steropes Cluster campaign.
There were a number of side effects to the sealing of the stasis vaults and the isolation of Sacris. Firstly, many of the Chapter’s oldest archives were sealed along with the 1st Company, so that millennia later the Storm Wardens remain ignorant as to many details of their Founding and earliest history. Furthermore, a number of legends have evolved around the incident, which form the basis of some of the Chapter’s most cherished rituals. One such legend states that the long-lost Brethren of the 1st Company will some day return, when the very existence of the Chapter and indeed the Imperium is threatened. The Chapter’s beliefs call upon its members to be ever vigilant for such a time and to meet with honour and stoicism every challenge the galaxy can throw at them. The Storm Wardens maintain their traditions to this day, seeking every chance to prove themselves in the eyes of those who they believe will one day return and judge them worthy of standing at their sides in the final battle against the myriad foes of Mankind.
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 50
- Deathwatch: The Nemesis Incident (RPG Web Supplement), pp. 1-3