Tanith was formerly a heavily-forested Imperial Hive World / Agri-World located in the Sabbat Worlds Sector, a cluster of planets in the Segmentum Pacificus that was under constant assault by the Forces of Chaos.
Due to its destruction, much of the earliest history of Tanith has been lost to Imperial records, but fragmented accounts speak of a time when Tanith was ruled by a planetary monarchy known as the Huhlhwch Dynasty. However, its rule came to end when the monarchy was brought low by the Nalsheen, the wood-warriors of ancient Tanith lore who fought using only spear-staves tipped with single-edged, silver blades. They united Tanith and overthrew the nobility and the feudal order they upheld, paving the way for the later, democratically-governed Tanith city-states.
During the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, following the death of the Warmaster Slaydo, a splinter Chaos Warfleet slipped past the picket fleet set up by the Imperial Navy due to the newly-appointed Warmaster Macaroth's change of tactics. This small Chaos fleet attacked and conquered six worlds, one of which was Tanith.
The Chaos armada bombarded Tanith from orbit, and deployed ground troops to kill whatever the heavy orbital guns had missed. The forests of Tanith burned to ash under the crippling firepower of the Chaos warfleet. It is not clear if Tanith had any functioning planetary defence artillery batteries, or if the Tanith Militia was able to fight back against the invaders.
Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was one of the last people to leave the planet before its demise, and was saved by a youth named Brin Milo, whom he took with him in gratitude. Milo confirmed that he was the only civilian to leave Tanith alive, having been too young to join the Imperial Guard.
The hive cities of Tanith were great stone bastions. The capital city of Tanith -- known as Tanith Magna -- was no exception, and was known to be surrounded by a giant wall, presumably to keep the nalwood trees from moving into the city. The world was governed from the capital by an Imperial Planetary Governor, known locally as an "Elector," and the main governmental building appeared to be the Assembly (although Rawne also mentioned a place called the "Elector's Palace" when hypnotised on Monthax).
It is unclear as to whether or not the Elector was elected as the title sounds, or if it is an inherited position like a monarch or other aristocrat. Tanith was administratively and culturally into counties, among which were Counties Pryze and Cuhulic. This system of organisation was very similar to that found among the Old Earth polities of Ireland and Scotland, whose cultures were similar to that of the people of Tanith.
Each city on Tanith had a Militia, from which a number of members of the Tanith First and Only were drafted into the Astra Militarum.
Flora and Fauna
The planet was covered in dense forests of mobile trees known as Nalwoods -- these creatures were actually a type of photosynthetic animal-plant hybrid, while their wood was the world's primary export. The primary industry was the harvesting of seasoned Nalwood timbers and a large wood carving industry that created pieces of beautiful woodwork that were highly prized across the Imperium of Man.
This wood became even more prized and valuable after the planet's destruction. The Nalwoods themselves were capable of completely uprooting and moving to new locations, and were known to migrate from place to place following the seasons and the moving sun.
The moving forests made any roads or paths through the trees quickly obsolete, and for this reason, the Tanith have developed an almost preternatural sense of direction, bred into them by adapting to this environment. Tanith had at least one major sea or ocean, and polar ice caps were present all year round.
Tanith's native wildlife included larisel, small animals hunted by woodsmen -- presumably for food -- and shoggy; small amphibian creatures with bulging eyes that dwelled by woodland pools in Tanith's forests.
The Tanith people were pale-skinned and dark-haired, with a lilting, sing-song accent when they spoke their dialect of Low Gothic. Most Tanith men were tattooed with blue ink from the time of their youth. No female Tanith are mentioned in detail, and it is presumed that none made it off-world, but if any did they did not accompany the Tanith 1st.
The main Tanith curse-word is Feth, which is used in the same context as other common Imperial epithets, but it is also the name of an ancient Tanith tree-god. Sacra is an alcoholic beverage once favoured by the people Tanith, although it is not clear if it is native to Tanith as it is served in some bars off-world.
Many Tanith names begin with "Mk", a variant of "Mc" or "Mac" used by the Irish and Scottish people of Old Earth, from whom inspiration for the Tanith culture appears to have been drawn. Tanith Pipes are described as a small clutch of spidery reeds attached to a bellows bag which is squeezed rhythmically under the arm, and make a sound similar to Uilleann Pipes. Their initial use on Tanith was to guide off-worlders through the shifting forests, but in the Tanith First they are used to rally the men and spook the enemy (although they have a similar effect on the Tanith's allies).
According to Scout Trooper Bonin, most old Tanith families (his own included) baptise and officially name their children at the age of eight Terran years, as naming children at birth was considered premature and a child would grow into the names he or she would need. Bonin also remarks that this tradition wasn't observed much in Tanith's final years.
Tanith was home to the legendary Nalsheen wood warriors, a brotherhood of Tanith who used the martial art cwlwhl (pronounced kil-wil); using blade-tipped staffs to fight off multiple foes. The Nalsheen were responsible for overthrowing the corrupt Huhlhuch Dynasty and ushering in the free modern era of Tanith.
Mkvenner is the only Tanith to have been trained in cwlwhl who escaped the world's destruction, but has reluctantly admitted that he never completed his training. The Nalsheen used "Proto-Gothic" -- the early form of both High and Low Gothic used presently in the Imperium -- as their private language.
It is unclear in the sources whether or not Tanith had a standing Planetary Defence Force beyond the city Militias, but if it had any major form of global defence network then it was evidently outmatched by the Chaos splinter fleet that swept through the sub-sector. It is confirmed that each city had a militia force, which presumably served as a local garrison force and assisted the local police.
When Tanith was called upon to raise regiments for the Imperial Guard, men from the Militia were drafted into the new regiments to help build up acceptable numbers. Notable Ghosts such as Colm Corbec, Hlaine Larkin, Elim Rawne and Mkvenner were recruited into the Imperial Guard through the militia.
The Tanith First-and-Only
Originally, there was three Tanith Regiments raised for the Astra Militarum: the Tanith 1st, 2nd and 3rd -- 6,000 troops and a small number of armoured vehicles and artillery pieces. When Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was sent to Tanith to oversee the founding of these regiments, he was not impressed by the appearance of the new soldiers, initially describing them as "a scrawny, scruffy mob of soft-voiced woodsmen." His opinion of them changed quickly after seeing them in combat.
Gaunt first met the troops of Tanith when he impatiently ordered the regiments to begin boarding the carriers that would take them to the orbiting troop ships waiting to ferry them to their first warzones. This proved a fortuitous meeting, as it got one full regiment's worth of troops off-world before the Chaos fleet struck Tanith the same night. Gaunt confirmed after leaving Tanith that this salvaged three and a half thousand troops and the majority of their equipment.
It is unclear which of the original three regiments, or which portions of them, were actually saved from the destruction of Tanith, but the remaining troops were reorganised into the 1st Tanith Regiment, which was soon nicknamed the "Tanith First and Only". On the regiment's first battlefield on the world of Blackshard, Hlaine Larkin coined the other nickname the regiment carried, "Gaunt's Ghosts." The name had two meanings: the first was that Corbec told Gaunt that his decision to abandon Tanith "made ghosts of them, hollow echoes." The second was that because of their exceptional stealth and scouting skills, the Tanith troops often operated like ghosts on the battlefield.
The Tanith First excelled at reconnaissance work as Tanith troops never get lost, and they use camo-cloaks to move quickly and stealthily through even the roughest terrain. The Tanith uniform is black, with optional helmets for standard troopers and forage caps for the regiment's elite scout platoon.
Camo-cloaks made of the material known as cameleoline that can help to camouflage a soldier in nearly any environment are standard. Every Tanith trooper has a long, double-edged bayonet/combat blade the Tanith call "Straight Silver." Their favoured special weapons include Long-Las Sniper Rifles and Flamers, and portable Missile Launchers that the Tanith nickname "tread feathers."
The cap badge for the Tanith is a wreath-surrounded skull with three daggers behind it; each dagger representing a Tanith regiment. On the badge is the inscription "For Tanith, For the Emperor". After the destruction of the Tanith 2nd and 3rd Regiments, the surviving Tanith snapped off the two outside daggers on their cap badges to remember their lost comrades.
The Verghastite cap badge is an axe-rake to symbolise their former hive city's mining and industrial background, while the Belladon who were later amalgamated into the regiment retained their traditional regimental symbols and iconography.
Since Tanith was destroyed, the Tanith First-and-Only have no homeworld from which to draw new recruits to replace losses. Instead, new members of Gaunt's Ghosts are adopted into the regiment from other sources. At the end of the siege of Vervunhive, the hive city was left in ruins and the disillusioned citizens of Verghast were given the opportunity to join the Astra Militarum under the Act of Consolation. This resulted in an influx of Verghastite soldiers, which brought the first females into the regiment. Several of these women became some of the regiment's best snipers.
While Gaunt was on Gereon and the Tanith First was left without a senior commander, the regiment was merged with the 81st Belladon Regiment, a covert scout unit, and became the 81st-1st Reconnaissance Regiment. Following Colonel Wilder's death and Gaunt's return to command, the regiment resumed the name of the Tanith First-and-Only.
It is worth noting that following the merger with the 81st Belladon, the Tanith First's organisational structure changes; companies using alphabetical call-signs replace the previous numerical platoons. By the beginning of The Armour of Contempt, there are three cultural sections: Tanith, Verghastite and Belladon; led by Majors Rawne, Kolea and Baskevyl respectively (each is native to the section he commands).
The ongoing campaign in which "Gaunt's Ghosts" served was the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, a vast effort by the Imperium to retake worlds lost to the servants of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds Sector of the Segmentum Pacificus. The Tanith First-and-Only joined this Imperial Crusade (which began in 755.M41) shortly after their escape from their doomed homeworld.
Though they were frequently overshadowed by more decorated regiments, "Gaunt's Ghosts" were nonetheless instrumental in many key operations, frequently using their unique skills to execute dangerous covert operations. Since its Founding, the Tanith First-and-Only has served in the following campaigns and warzones, in approximate chronological order:
- Ramillies 268-43
- Typhon VIII
- Spurtis Elipse
- Fortis Binary
- Menazoid Epsilon
- Oskray Hive (Sapiencia)
- Verghast - The campaign on Verghast was one of the more notable engagements Gaunt's Ghosts took part in. The regiment's time on Verghast saw them defending the hive city of Vervunhive from their Chaos-corrupted rivals in the neighbouring hive of Ferrozoica. Following the destruction of the Chaos forces and Vervunhive's subsequent dissolution, many of the natives of Verghast who had fought alongside the Ghosts as part of the Scratch Companies formally joined the regiment.
- Hagia - On Hagia, the sacred homeworld of Saint Sabbat herself, Gaunt's Ghosts nearly found themselves disbanded after a trap sprung by the Forces of Chaos resulted in the destruction of the planet's Doctrinopolis, signalling a massive Chaos retaliation warfleet to move in on the world in the process. Assigned to retrieve the sacred remains of the Saint from her mountain tomb, the regiment was able to both fend off a massive assault by the Infardi Chaos Cultists of Pater Sin and activate the powerful psychic device in the Saint's tomb, which scattered the incoming Chaos warfleet through the Warp and ultimately saved the planet from invasion and conquest by the servants of the Ruinous Powers.
- Phantine - On the world of Phantine, a number of Gaunt's Ghosts took part in Operation Larisel, an airborne operation that deployed specially selected fire-teams into the city of Ouranberg to seek out and assassinate Sagittar Slaith, the Chaos warlord in command of the Blood Pact forces holding the city. This mission took place at the same time as the main Imperial assault on the world in which the rest of the Tanith First was deployed.
- Aexe Cardinal - Deployed as part of a brigade-strength force to the planet of Aexe Cardinal, the Ghosts quickly became embroiled in the brutal trench warfare that had defined the local defence. This was also the first conflict which the Ghosts did not help end decisively; while they made some gains against the Chaos-corrupted Shadik Republic, they were ordered to take ship for Heredor even as the war on Aexe continued to rage on.
- Herodor - When the recently resurrected Saint Sabbat asked that the First-and-Only serve as her bodyguards, the Ghosts found themselves embroiled in a brutal city-fight against a massive Chaos host attempting to kill her and thus shatter the morale of the Imperial Crusade in the Sabbat Worlds. Ultimately, the regiment was victorious, fending off both the armies of the Blood Pact and nine assassins serving Chaos to protect the Saint, allowing her to kill the Chaos Magister Innokenti. With this victory, the Chaos Archon Urlock Gaur lost one of his greatest lieutenants, and the Crusade was able to take the Fortress World of Morlond and open up a second front in the Crusade against the Forces of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds. It should be noted that it was on Herodor that Colonel Colm Corbec fell, shot and killed by the Chaos-corrupted Verghastite Lijah Cuu who had been a member of the regiment.
- Ancreon Sextus - The Tanith 1st Regiment was deployed to Ancreon Sextus as part of the Belladon 81st Reconnaissance Regiment, whilst Gaunt's team was pursuing its own mission on Gereon. The key battle-zones on that world were a series of massive, compartmentalized steppe-cities, which were in reality gateways linked to the Realm of Chaos. Upon discovering the true nature of the steppe-cities as a result of the efforts of Gaunt and the Gereon Twelve, the Imperial forces abandoned their bloody siege-work and destroyed them using an orbital bombardment, which annihilated significant numbers of the enemy and evaded the trap set for the Imperials by the Forces of Chaos.
- Gereon - First visited by a hand-picked team lead by Gaunt, to assassinate the Imperial Guard Traitor General Noches Sturm. That team would return with the rest of the regiment in the later Imperial liberation of Gereon from the Forces of Chaos.
- Jago- The 1st Tanith Regiment suffered upwards of 50% casualties on Jago while defending the right flank of the larger Imperial Sabbat Worlds Crusade army from an assault by the Forces of Chaos.
- Balhaut - While on shore leave on Balhaut, elements of the 1st Tanith Regiment fought off a Blood Pact death squad that had been sent to assassinate Mabbon Etogaur, a former Blood Pact officer who had defected to the Imperial side in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, before he could reveal any useful intelligence to the Imperial military.
- Salvation's Reach - The Tanith First-and-Only have been away from the front line for too long. Listless, and hungry for action, they are offered a mission that perfectly suits their talents. The objective: the mysterious Salvation’s Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronghold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. But the proposed raid is so hazardous, it is regarded as a suicide mission, and Gaunt's Ghosts may have been in reserve for so long they have lost their edge. Haunted by spectres from the past and stalked by the Forces of Chaos, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his Ghosts embark upon what could be their finest hour… or their final mission.
- Only War: Hammer of the Emperor (RPG), pg. 28
- Sabbat Worlds Crusade (Background Book) by Dan Abnett
- The Guns of Tanith (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Sabbat Worlds Anthology (Anthology) edited by Dan Abnett
- Titanicus (Novel) by Dan Abnett