"There was never a genius who did not know the touch of madness."
- —Saint Khallon, Ruminations on Martyrdom
Ebongrave was a capable, even heroic officer who distinguished himself amongst the cavalry of the Dhkasin Hussars and became a trusted advisor to the crusade's commander Lord Militant Solomon Tetrarchus, before being given command of the Canis Salient.
The lord commander has not borne his role well. This once dashing cavalryman is a bitter, graying man who rarely leaves his fortified situation rooms in the Achilian Bastion.
He has become increasingly paranoid and has ordered purges of regimental commanders, naval officer classes and Imperial Planetary Governors, sometimes at the vaguest suggestion of T'au sympathies or ideological weakness.
Some believe he is losing his grip on reality, while others think he sees reality all too well and is the only man who appreciates just how devious his xenos foes really are.
Sebiascor Ebongrave began his career in the Astra Militarum as a cornet (or standard bearer) in the celebrated Dhkasin Hussars, a cavalry regiment raised from the noble classes of the world of Dhkas in the Scarus Sector.
The young subaltern distinguished himself early in his service, bearing his troop's standard into battle in the glorious Charge of the Ardent Martyrs, and defending it against a horde of Orks when his mount was slain beneath him.
Having been decorated for his actions by the Queen of Dhkas herself, Ebongrave used his newfound fame and the wealth it brought him to purchase a commission as a regimental colonel, and led his unit in a series of actions that won him yet more battle honours.
But Ebongrave was not prepared to stop at the rank of colonel, instead coveting high military office. With each successive victory he earned, Ebongrave climbed his way further and further up the chain of command.
Having left the Dhkasin Hussars, he could no longer rely on fame, nepotism or his personal fortune to purchase higher commissions, and so Ebongrave launched himself into an intensive round of politicking. By means both fair and foul, Ebongrave worked his way from Lord Colonel of Army Group Tempest to High Marshal of the Tharsis Nebula Pacification.
Finally, it was Ebongrave's sterling service as Chief of Staff to the doomed Lord Militant Bernadotte during the last days of the Fall of Ishtaar that brought him to the notice of the High Lords of Terra themselves. Three Terran years later, Ebongrave was appointed a subordinate commander and adviser to Lord Militant Tiber Achilus.
But Ebongrave soon found that serving under Warmaster Achilus was not the appointment he had hoped it would be. He was but one amongst a cadre of scores of advisors, each of whom guarded their own position to the exclusion of all else. Frustrated by the realities of Achilus' court, Ebongrave engineered his appointment to a front line position and won a score of victories across a dozen worlds.
Having spent the best part of a solar decade serving in the general staff, Ebongrave relished the chance to return to the front line, taking to the field and participating directly in several of the battles he commanded. At the Third Battle of the Argent Bastion, Ebongrave led the cavalry charge that broke the back of the rebel defence of Mneme IV and opened the way for the relief of the third moon of Wrath.
By the time of Achilus' death, Ebongrave was riding a wave of personal glory, but had apparently reached the upper limit of command thanks to the closed-off nature of Achilus' circle of advisers.
When Achilus was lost, the former Warmaster's inner circle was scattered by the new incumbent, Lord Militant Solomon Tetrarchus. Ebongrave was immediately recalled from the frontline and restored to the high office he so craved, becoming one of Tetrarchus' most trusted advisors.
When Tetrarchus conceived his plan to rejuvenate the crusade by committing its forces along three salients, Ebongrave petitioned Tetrarchus for the honour of leading the main advance towards the Hadex Anomaly, perceiving this as the deed that would earn him such glory that he would one day take command of the entire crusade.
Some whisper that it was Ebongrave's hubris in coveting command of the Acheros Salient that caused Tetrarchus to appoint him to lead one of the two lesser salients.
Perhaps Tetrarchus sought to contain Ebongrave's ambitions whilst taking full advantage of his prodigious abilities, perceiving in the Lord Commander a potential rival best kept on a short leash.
Whatever the truth, Ebongrave was given command of the Canis Salient. He fully intended to prove himself the better of the three Lord Commanders, and the xenos-pyres of the Greyhell Front would bear witness to his glory.
Then Hive Fleet Dagon smashed into the spinward systems, and Ebongrave's ambitions were devoured along with a score of Human worlds. Forced to fight two enemies at once, Ebongrave has become increasingly paranoid and unwilling to heed the counsel of his advisers.
He sees the work of T'au infiltrators everywhere he casts his gaze, and has gone so far as to quarantine three entire star systems that he suspects to be in league with the enemy. Ebongrave even imagines agents of the T'au in his own staff, and has initiated several high level purges in an effort to flush out those who would have truck with the T'au and their collectivist ways.
Lord Commander Ebongrave has become increasingly insular, secreting himself in his personal bunker several kilometres beneath the surface of Fortress Spite. All but the boldest of his command cadre are too cowed to seek an audience with him, and so bad news regarding the progress of the war is often kept from him lest the messenger be blamed and executed on the spot.
On several occasions, emissaries of the Deathwatch or the Inquisition have entered into an audience with Ebongrave, only to come away deeply concerned for the man's state of mind. Some fear that one day soon Ebongrave will accuse the wrong person of collaboration with the enemy, and then, not even a Lord Commander's rank and status will save him from censure.
Until that time, Ebongrave will continue to brood in the shadowed depths of his bunker, plotting the downfall of his hated foes no matter the cost in blood and treasure.
Relationship with Tetrarchus
The relationship between Lord Militant Solomon Tetrarchus and his subordinate commander started off well, with the Warmaster recognising the abilities of the Lord Commander and rewarding him with high rank.
Yet, in truth the appointment was a double-edged sword and while the two men present the appearance of mutual respect, they are in fact engaged in a bitter political rivalry.
Tetrarchus sees in Ebongrave a capable and ambitious underling, one whose skills are too great to be ignored, but who may one day covet his own position. Ebongrave sees in Tetrarchus a commander every bit as skilled as he, yet who presents an obstacle to still higher office.
This situation has gotten worse with the coming of Hive Fleet Dagon, for Ebongrave continues to prosecute the war against the T'au when many are coming to believe it is the Tyranids against whom the crusade should launch its strength.
While Ebongrave will not hear of concession or compromise, many of Tetrarchus' most trusted advisors are coming to believe that some arrangement should be made with the T'au, at least until the threat of the hive fleet is contained.
To date, Tetrarchus has sanctioned only limited, and entirely deniable contact, which Ebongrave remains ignorant of even though it continues on the marches of his own domains.
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 353
- Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pp. 102-103