" I'm no Space Marine - none of us are - but there's a line... A line of courage, and brotherhood, and I'll be damned if I cross it!"
Poul Marlin was a Sergeant in the 10th Slavok Imperial Guard Regiment. He and his men were involved in the action on the Ice World of Shadrac, and subsequent escape from that planet. During the engagements against the Tyranids on that world, Poul Marlin was rescued by and eventually befriended Skold Greypelt of the Space Wolves Chapter.
Doom on Shadrac
"No more talk like that, men! We're all getting out of this! The Emperor protects!"
- — Poul Marlin
When the Ice World of Shadrac came under attack by the Tyranids, the 10th Slavok Regiment of the Imperial Guard was deployed to stop the deadly xenos. Their efforts proved insufficient, and one standard month after their deployment, Poul Marlin gathered the two score survivors of his regiment together and led them in a retreat toward the nearest Imperial outpost. Having lost all contact with their superiors, proceeding on foot through the deadly frost and with their food rations critically low, the Slavok soldiers were demoralised, but Sergeant Marlin kept them going, putting on a facade of optimism to prevent his men from despairing and simply laying down to die, carried away by the gentle but deadly hand of hypothermia.
The Tyranids would not let them die so easily, however, and the survivors soon found themselves under attack by fast-moving swarms of Rippers and Hormagaunts. Poul Marlin led his troops in a running defense, keeping his men moving, and they managed to beat back the small swarm while losing only two of their own. Things still looked grim, however, for the Tyranids had their scent, and the humans would soon have to stop for the night. Marlin gathered his men at a rocky outcropping, and made them form a half circle. Expecting this to be their last stand, the Slavok soldiers ate their last food and burned their last fuel, waiting for the Tyranids to close in for the kill. When their last fuel burned out, the humans commended their souls to the Emperor of Mankind as total darkness fell. Yet, instead of hearing the hisses and chitinous creak of moving Tyranids, the survivors were deafened by the loud bark of Bolter fire. The bewildered Guardsmen peered into the surrounding darkness, catching glimpses of giants in grey Power Armour slaughtering the Tyranids through the stroboscopic effect of their Bolters' muzzle flashes. No Tyranid managed to reach the sheltering humans, and when hours later the sun rose, the astonished Guardsmen could only stare at the slaughterhouse scene that confronted them. The frozen plain was littered with blasted, exploded or eviscerated Tyranid bodies. But of their Astartes saviors, there was no sign.
Chasing the Space Wolves
Marlin forced his men and himself to ignore the Astartes' strange behaviour; with neither fuel nor food left, they now had to make it to the outpost with all due haste, before the murderous night fell again and froze them all to death. Gathering his men about him, Marlin set out with all possible speed, and the survivors ultimately reached the outpost in the nick of time. Although the forced march would claim three of their numbers, things began to look up for the survivors, as the outpost was still intact and provided them with shelter, water and fuel to burn and get warm. Alas, the remaining food stores had rotted away, so food remained a problem for the Slavok men. The much-needed warmth and rest restored some of the Guardsmen's morale, and when one of the soldiers reported the presence of functional Chimera APC's in the outpost, Marlin rejoiced and decided that in the morning they would embark in search of the Astartes they had glimpsed the day before.
The night proved bitter, however, for one of the famished soldiers chanced to eat the rotten food, and became delusional. In his madness, he severely wounded two of his comrades before running out of the base. Marlin ordered his men to prepare the Chimeras while he went after their crazed fellow soldier. His rescue attempt would prove futile, however, for a Hormagaunt had gotten to the man first. Hissing in fury, the Gaunt launched himself at Marlin, but was caught in-flight by a well-aimed Bolter shell, and a bewildered Marlin dazedly turned his gaze from the remains of his would-be killer, to his saviour, glimpsing again a gigantic warrior in Power Armour who nodded at him before disappearing.
Marlin returned to the outpost, and had his men mount up in the Chimeras. The three vehicles then set out with their Auspex running, in the hope of finding the Astartes. What they found instead was another swarm of Gaunts, who attempted to overwhelm the Chimeras. This time, however, the Guardsmen had enough firepower at their disposal, and they held their own, cutting swathes through the Tyranid creatures, and when suddenly three Astartes bikers shot out of the mists and added their close-quarters prowess to the Guardsmen's firepower, the swarm was quickly routed. Marlin ordered a full stop, and jumped down from his Chimera to greet and thank the Space Marines, but their leader only barked at him to go away quickly. Dumbfounded, Marlin gazed in the same direction as the other two Astartes, and watched with horror as a Carnifex charged out of the mists: the Gaunts had sacrificed themselves to slow the humans down and allow the larger bioform to join the fray. Marlin mounted his APC again, watching in fascination as the Space Wolves prepared to face the "Screamer-Killer". At first he gave the order to run for it, but the decision rankled him, and moments later he ordered his three APC's around, and grabbed their last remaining Missile Launcher. Reaching the battle once again, he calmly adjusted his aim, and shot a Krak Missile straight down the Carnifex's maw, which blasted out the back of the gigantic Tyranid's skull and killed it instantly.
Last Stand on Shadrac
"Slavok! Slavok! Do or die!"
- — War-cry of the 10th Slavok Regiment
Marlin introduced himself to the leader of the Space Wolves, who named himself Skold Greypelt. The Slavok soldiers then followed the Space Wolves back to their encampment. To their astonishment, they were treated to a traditional Fenrisian feast, with the Space Marines building a large bonfire and breaking out caskets of Fenrisian Ale. The Space Wolves explained this was a funerary feast for the Space Wolf biker who had been mortally wounded by the Carnifex. When Marlin dared to ask if the Space Wolves were not afraid thet the fire would attract the Tyranids, he was answered with roars of laughter, growls that the Space Wolves feared nothing, and the "assurance" that attracting Tyranids was the whole point of the Space Wolves' presence on Shadrac. Greypelt explained to Marlin the way of the Space Wolves, and explained that while Shadrac was lost to the Imperium, they could still make the Tyranids pay a steep price for it.
After having feasted, the Space Wolves and the remaining Guardsmen took up defensive positions, and battle was soon joined, as wave after wave of lesser Tyranid bioforms threw themselves at the stubborn defenders, who slaughtered them in droves with volleys from their Lasguns and Bolters, before cutting those few that managed to reach them to pieces.
Yet the valiant defenders eventually ran out of ammunition, and Greypelt called in his Thunderhawk, upon which the surviving Astartes and Guardsmen hurriedly embarked. As the last living defenders departed the doomed world, the critically wounded Space Wolf laid down on his funeral cairn, and with a last shout of defiance, detonated the nuclear weapon that had been buried within it. A cataclysmic explosion that was seen by the survivors from orbit ravaged the surrounding swarms, incinerating thousands of Tyranids and denying their bio-matter to the Hive Mind forever. Shadrac had fallen, but the Hive Mind had paid in blood and ichor for it.
The survivor's trials were not yet over, however; the Tyranid fleet had forced the Imperial Navy and the Space Wolves' ship out of the system, leaving the Thunderhawk stranded above the dying planet. The prospect of a slow death by asphyxiation made the surviving Guardsmen become restless and agitated, and Sergeant Marlin had to step in and restore discipline, lest fights break out. Marlin assigned his men to man the dropship's Auspex stations, and report anything that could be of use.
Once again, the Emperor seemed to protect the survivors of the Slavok 10th, for they quickly identified a possible solution for their predicament. By scanning a Space Hulk that had somehow followed the Tyranid fleet in-system, they identified a recent addition to it, an Eurus-pattern Fleet Tender from the Imperial fleet that had crashed against it. Auspex scans showed that the tender's bridge and reaction drives were intact, so the Guardsmen reasoned that if they managed to sever it from the Space Hulk's main mass using Demolition Charges without damaging the vessel too much, they could use it to blind-jump through the Warp toward the nearest Imperial outpost.
Marlin realized it was their best chance of survival, and presented his men's findings to the Space Wolves. It was met by reluctance from Trunglas, the Space Wolves' Iron Priest, who acknowledged that the plan was feasible, but that he had grave concerns about angering the Fleet tender's Machine Spirit. Keeping calm, Marlin stood his ground before the grumbling Astartes, and they decided that the Guardsmen would install the Demolition Charges, and then wait for the Iron Priest to finish the necessary rituals before detonating them.
Gathering his men, Marlin gave them a rousing motivational speech, saying they would have only one shot at escaping and assigning them tasks. His speech seemed to amuse Skold Greypelt, but when Marlin asked why, the Space Wolf simply told him to continue. The Guardsmen and Astartes then quickly went to work, but trouble erupted when they encountered a party of Orks from another part of the Space Hulk. The Greenskins were intent on looting this newest addition to their home, and eagerly seized the chance to do battle.
Marlin's small party defended themselves mightily, but they fell one by one to the Orks' Choppas, until only Sergeant Marlin remained, barely keeping the Greenskins at bay with bursts from his Bolt Pistol. He was saved in the nick of time by his friend Greypelt, who joined the battle while savagely swinging his Power Axe and cutting the xenos into little green pieces. Greypelt burst out laughing when Marlin reminded him that they only had one shot at taking the ship, happily countering that life itself represented a single shot, and at that, the only thing that mattered was making the shot count. Both warriors then made a fighting retreat towards the fleet tender's access hatch, buying the necessary time for Trunglas to complete the needed rituals. Once completed, they jumped through the hatch and detonated the charges, which liberated their new starship from the Space Hulk's mass and allowed them to escape.
As the Fleet Tender moved away under its own power, Marlin collapsed from sheer exhaustion, and remarked in a daze that he was down to his last Bolt Pistol shell. The Space Wolf joyfully told his friend once again that one shot was all he would ever need.
" We'll only get one shot at this!"
- — Favourite expression of Sergeant Poul Marlin when motivating his men
Sergeant Poul Marlin was an honourable and competent member of the Imperial Guard. As a non-commissioned officer, he knew how to lead and motivate his platoon of men, but he was also very humane, and did everything he could to keep his men alive and out of harm. As a veteran, he was fully aware that despair was the Guardsman's worst enemy, so he made sure he kept his men focused and as motivated as possible. Marlin was also a courageous man, never flinching when faced with the horrors of the Tyranids, nor hesitating to stand up to an Astartes to defend his opinion. His exact rank and seniority is unknown, but judging from his scars, his eyepatch, and the fact that he possesses a precious Bolt Pistol normally reserved to officers and Commissars in the Imperial Guard, he is probably the Sergeant of a Veteran Squad.
- Lone Wolves (Graphic Novel) by Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson