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"From the first wound you deal to the last wound you receive, all blood spilt belongs to Elak Sarda!"

—Captain Val Vendercas, of the Mataras 9th Lacerators
Stigmatus

The Chaos armies of the Stigmartus march to war.

The Stigmartus are a well-organised Human military force of the Lost and the Damned in service to the Ruinous Powers found within the Acheros Salient of the Jericho Reach. It is commanded by Cult-General Elak Sarda.

Of all the forces standing in opposition to the Acheros Salient, none are more belligerent or numerous than the degenerate armies of the Stigmartus.

Composed of Renegades, Chaos Cultists, rogue psykers, mutants, and madmen, the Stigmartus represent the greatest single military threat to the success of the Imperial forces retaking the salient.

Despite their disparate makeup, the forces of the Stigmartus display a level of military organisation and tactical acumen rarely seen among the servants of Chaos.

History

"The more understanding I have of the past, the more fear I have for the future."

—Tselomas Dorel, scribe to Inquisitor Adrielle Quist

The origin and history of the Stigmartus are both shrouded in mystery despite the best efforts of the Inquisition and Astra Militarum intelligence operatives. What little is known comes from the interrogation of captured Stigmartus officers.

All that is known for certain is that the history of the Stigmartus begins on the wretched Death World Khazant. Khazant was a world ravaged by perpetual war long before the coming of the Achilus Crusade.

What scant historical records survived the onset of the Jericho Reach's "Age of Shadows" indicate the hereditary nobility of Khazant began an irreversible slide into decadence shortly after the disappearance of Lord Sector Designate Masimat Helicos in a devastating Warp Storm in 416.M36.

Without a central Imperial authority to enforce order, Khazant's noble houses were free to give in to their ambitions. Political assassinations led to blood feuds. Blood feuds led to civil war. In less than a standard century Khazant was a planet-wide warzone.

Khazant's Ecclesiarchy, the last weakening pillar of Imperial authority, shattered under the weight of noble hubris, splitting into innumerable factions each loyal to a different bloodline. The Imperial Creed was perverted to serve the needs of the nobility, each warlord claiming themselves inheritors of the God-Emperor's divine authority.

In a few short generations the warlords were considered divine beings, supplanting the Master of Mankind as a focus for worship. By the advent of the Achilus Crusade, the God-Emperor was all but forgotten upon Khazant.

Millennia of war left Khazant a withered husk of a world: her mines abandoned, her fields barren, her people weak and broken. In the end, the victors were those few warlords who managed to secret away a modicum of Khazant's dwindling resources. The rest starved in their fortress keeps.

Faced with the realisation that Khazant could no longer support their ambitions, the remaining warlords banded together under an uneasy truce and turned their collective gaze outward. A fleet of voidships, their hulls long ago gutted to provide materials and technology for the civil war, were hastily repaired.

Taking advantage of Khazant's position along the Araqiel Main, the warlords remade themselves into corsairs, raiding neighbouring systems and bringing new resources to their world.

By the time of the Achilus Crusade, Khazant was a world to be reckoned with. Made wealthy by centuries of plunder, her population reinvigorated by slaves captured from across the Reach, her orbital shipyards constructing powerful vessels of war, Khazant was a prize Lord Militant Tiber Achilus could not ignore.

The Lord Militant claimed the world in 782.M41 after a hard-won campaign. However, as Achilus moved to consolidate Imperial power in the region, the displaced warlords fled into the Charon Stars to lick their wounds.

Within five standard years, elements of the Khazantine warlord fleet returned, deploying the first regiments of the Stigmartus across the crusade front. Taking advantage of the Lord Militant Achilus' untimely death, this highly organised Chaos Cult army broke the Imperium's hold upon several worlds. The Cellebos Warzone was born.

Structure and Organisation

"They fight and die with one purpose: to fight and die. If our own forces possessed such single minded dedication, this Crusade would know victory within the year."

—Colonel Drach of the Landrian 202nd Light Infantry
Stigmartus at War

The Chaos Cultists of the Stigmartus prepare to charge enemy lines.

On the battlefields of the Acheros Salient, the legions of the Stigmartus are unmistakable; mutants, corrupted Humans, and psykers marching together, their flesh scarred by old wounds and the ritual brandings of their dark masters. Despite their seemingly random composition, units of the Stigmartus display a surprising level of battlefield co-ordination uncommon among the lost souls who fight under the banner of Chaos.

Their ordered ranks, tight formations, and ability to carry out complex battlefield strategies comes as a shock to most Imperial military personnel, especially those levied from the Calixis Sector accustomed to the disorganised and riotous assaults of the Pilgrims of Hayte. Those Imperial commanders who doubt the organisational effectiveness of the Stigmartus do not live long enough to regret their mistake.

The key to Stigmartus military discipline lies within its cult-like structure. Indeed, the further up the chain of command one looks, the less the Stigmartus resembles a corrupted version of the Astra Militarum and the more it resembles a dark reflection of the Ecclesiarchy. Rank and file soldiers are indoctrinated to look upon their commanders as warrior-priests, who in turn worship their superiors as saints.

As Stigmartus soldiers rise in rank and experience they are indoctrinated into the deeper mysteries of the warrior cult, their flesh branded in jagged scars of rank and devotion, their souls lost to a twisted creed that offers divinity through warfare. Every foe slain in battle is looked upon as a sacrifice, a blood offering sent up the chain of command to Elak Sarda, the cult-general whom the Stigmartus claim as their master and god.

Mark of the Stigmartus

Upon initiation into the warrior cult, each Stigmartus is branded with a ritual scar, the symbolic wound from which the cult is named. As a Stigmartus advances in rank and initiation new scars join the first.

Cult veterans are disfigured by scars that display rank, honours, notable kills, and survival on multiple battlefields. The most seasoned of Stigmartus warriors, the infamous "Defaced," are said to have hides composed of nothing but scar tissue.

The Stigmartus at War

Cult-General Elak Sarda has accomplished a feat that awes and outrages the crusade's leadership. Without the backing of the Imperium, he has established an army that spreads across dozens of systems of the Reach.

Through his force of will, he has managed to keep that army well-supplied and mobile enough to engage the crusade upon multiple fronts. Further, his cult is well-equipped, in spite of the limited technology base of the systems in the sector.

Clearly, the dark powers of the Warp have aided his cause and contributed to the fanatic loyalty of his forces. Yet those entities are seldom known for their ability to effectively manage the supply and requisition required to maintain such a large army and campaign.

Those responsible for such organisation have been traitors to the Imperium, but Sarda is believed to have come from an isolated, relatively primitive world. Similarly, though much of their equipment is likely provided by the Hereteks of Samech, no other leader is known to have successfully procured their support.

Throughout the history of the Imperium, there are few instances of a Traitor army that has spread as far or been as well equipped as the Stigmartus. The unusual coordination and aggressive expansion represents an unanticipated challenge for the forces of the Acheros Salient.

The majority of the Stigmartus forces are maniacal deviants who have won their victories more through sheer numbers than through any tactical success. These troopers have extensive ritual scars and proudly display the iconography of the Dark Gods.

In battle, they attack with zeal, as they seem almost as driven to martyrdom as they are towards victory. These infantry units favour a strategy of endless waves of Humanity. When unaccompanied by other forces, they will seldom even make effective use of terrain. Their fanatical devotion to the heathen gods is apparently their only armour.

Though these units far outnumber the crusade's available forces, they are not limitless, and their tactics quickly deplete their vast supply of soldiers.

If these zealots were Sarda's only forces, the crusade might have already met with success. In addition to warbands and daemonic allies, the Stigmartus also possess elite units. Some of these are soldiers equipped with gear provided directly from Samech, including effective armour, unusual weaponry, and devices that are entirely foreign to those used by the Astra Militarum. Others are well-disciplined forces that have dedicated themselves to the service of specific Warp entities.

Though hardly as effective as Chaos Space Marines, these units bear dark blessings that they can strategically employ in the service of their dark gods. These specialists include units that are adept at infiltration, subversion, and even the dark arts. In two confirmed cases, Stigmartus infiltrators have even successfully assassinated planetary commanders.

The greatest concentration of Stigmartus forces are in the worlds of the Cellebos Warzone. There, the Chaos forces dramatically outnumber the elements of the Achilus Crusade. It is only through their faith in the God-Emperor that the crusade has persevered.

The Stigmartus are not native to the planets of the Cellebos Warzone. Rather, Sarda is believed to have come from Malehi, one of the Ghoul Stars. The Fortress Worlds of the Dark Gods located at the edges of the Hadex Anomaly are densely populated with potential recruits for the Stigmartus forces. In these environs, Humans and mutants are tainted by Chaos from birth. The hopeless scum are selectively bred to create the fanatical and capable warriors to feed Sarda's armies.

It is also believed that some of these systems are subject to the time dilation that has been observed in this region. By taking advantage of this shift, Stigmartus forces may have Terran years to breed and train additional forces while only solar days or weeks pass in the worlds outside of the Hadex Anomaly's influence. This enables the Stigmartus to effectively replace even the most dramatic of losses in an extremely short time frame.

Recruitment

"Accept the brand and worship at the altar of war. Comprehend the brand and master the ways of war. Become the brand and be the heart of war."

—Excerpt from Stigmartus officer initiation ritual

Lack of concrete intelligence regarding the recruitment and training of Stigmartus soldiers has led to rampant speculation and rumour-mongering within the Astra Militrarum. Across the Cellebos Warzone, barracks and trenches are filled with horror stories of traumatic hypno-indoctrination rituals, mass daemonic possession, and factory-like induction centres that await Imperial soldiers unfortunate enough to be captured by the enemy.

The fact the Stigmartus are not known for taking prisoners, something oft-repeated by officers of the Commissariat, has done little to quell rumours or bolster morale. The truth of the matter is simple. The Stigmartus fills its ranks in much the same way as the Astra Militarum, with a mixture of volunteers, conscripts, and officers gleaned from worlds beyond the Cellebos Warzone.

Indeed, the rulers of the systems along the Araqiel Main gladly offer up levies of their own subjects to the Stigmartus in a parody of the Imperial Tithe. In return for such levies the Stigmartus offer these petty barons and corrupted priest-kings protection from the encroaching Imperium.

Stigmartus Command Stations

Stigmartus commanders frequently direct their operations from within heavily fortified bunker complexes outfitted with Heretek systems purchased from the dark magi of Samech.

Mistrustful of even their own troops, the command and control systems of these bunkers allow them to defend themselves with automated systems slaved to dangerously independent cogitators, all the while directing battles across half a world from inside the ferrocrete walls. It is typical that no more than half a dozen personnel will be found within such a bunker.

Even if additional troops are called in to defend the complex against a determined assault, only the commander's personal support staff are allowed access to the inner chambers. This scant handful of overseers remains sufficient to direct the ruin of even the best Imperial forces.

Within the black walls of the primary structure in any Stigmartus command facility is a Heretek masterpiece, dubbed a "Herald Engine" by those Imperial officers unfortunate enough to be deployed against emplacements containing one.

Herald Engines use advanced cogitator technology to analyse the stratagems used by the Imperium and respond to them with frightening accuracy. Some commanders even believe enslaved daemons to be used in guiding the analysis, doubting the ability of any machine to be so precise.

No matter how a given commander interprets the Tactica Imperialis, while a Herald Engine aids his foe, the Stigmartus are almost impossible to surprise, able to respond to any ambush or feint while directing counter-assaults at the weakest points in the Imperial line.

A Stigmartus Command Station could have anything from a dozen long-range automated weapons to keep attackers at bay to scores of point-defence turrets gunning down intruders and unauthorised Heretics with equal readiness.

They typically attack with basic and heavy weapons, though when necessary, the machine intelligence will operate said-defences from armoured, mechanised emplacements.

Given the prodigious cognitive ability of a Herald Engine, it is quite possible that some element of the Imperial strategies it has analysed could give away the presence of enemy forces, or even the target thereof. Further compounding the danger is the chance that a given Command Station might be reinforced by hordes of Renegade militia.

Deathwatch Operations

Given the advantage offered to a Stigmartus force by the blasphemous technologies inside such command stations, the Achilus Crusade will devote incredible resources to taking one down. The Watch Captains of Watch Fortress Erioch have also requested independent missions against these structures at times, when they threaten Deathwatch operations within the Acheros Salient.

A Kill-team deployed against such a foe must break through deadly automated defences to dismantle the command station as thoroughly as possible, before getting bogged down in an extended firefight with a major Stigmartus force.

The danger of a Stigmartus Command Station revolves around the Herald Engine. Though it is deadliest when matched with a skilled heretic commander, the most simple-minded officer of their ranks can still cripple Imperial operations with its aid.

It is also the most irreplaceable of the station's assets, as the dark magi of Samech are said to become enraged with any who let their prized creations be destroyed. As such, no assault on the base can be considered complete without destroying the Herald Engine.

The dark magi of Samech provide more than just Herald Engines to the Stigmartus, as the advanced defence systems of the command stations show. Where a normal Imperial officer's bunker would have a vox array, the Stigmartus rely on advanced cogitator links to direct both the base's automated defences and deliver their orders.

Destroying these systems can compound the loss of a Herald Engine, turning the tactical situation around entirely as Imperial forces gain the logistical upper hand.

For all their tactical prowess, the Stigmartus are followers of the Ruinous Powers, and respect power over sophistication. The officers placed in charge of a command station will invariably be ruthless killers, blessed by their patrons with unnatural prowess and might.

While lesser warriors die at their hands, the Kill-teams of the Deathwatch have the strength to cast them down and strike a mighty blow against the enemy's morale.

Though the Stigmartus are not known for mercy, they frequently take prisoners to sacrifice to the Ruinous Powers in profane rituals.

For the Deathwatch, rescuing these poor souls could be as simple as granting them a clean death, or as difficult and glorious as shielding them from enemy fire in the escape from a collapsing base, and delivering the prisoners back to the hands of the Imperium.

While the automated defences of a command station are not a great threat to the Imperial war machine in and of themselves, few Kill-teams would simply leave the blasphemous machines intact when they could be cleansed from the face of the battlefield.

Pitting the might of a Space Marine against the command station's firepower and devilish machine intellect would also surely gain the victorious warrior great honour among his Battle-Brothers.

Forces of the Stigmartus

Sources

  • Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pp. 69-74
  • Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pg. 48
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