"A warrior's heart should be as iron: Unforgiving, unyielding, and uncaring of all except duty. With such a heart, a warrior can stand against the terrors of the universe unbowed and unbroken."
Watch Fortress Erioch is a notable watch fortress of the xenos-hunting Space Marines called the Deathwatch based within the Erioch System of the Jericho Reach of the Segmentum Ultima. Within Erioch the Deathwatch's Kill-teams train and prepare for coming missions.
Watch Fortress Erioch combines the functions of a command centre, keep, archive, garrison and more. The Watch Commander often coordinates the monitoring of a hundred different threats; or his attentions might be focused exclusively on one single, overriding concern towards which all of his and his battle-brothers' efforts are turned.
The commander is assisted in his duties by a cadre of specialists, some of whom are Astartes, such as Techmarines, Apothecaries and the like, while many more are normal Humans who are the equivalent of Chapter serfs who have been assigned to the Deathwatch by the Inquisition's Ordo Xenos.
Erioch is also home to all manner of Astartes training facilities. In vast domes, unique environments can be recreated in which the battle-brothers can perfect their battle drill and rehearse their missions.
Some of these domes have been stocked with life forms, such as Death World flora and fauna, in order to create the most realistic training conditions possible. It has even been known for captured aliens to be set loose in the training domes, to be hunted down by the Kill-teams in deadly mission simulation exercises.
At the heart of Erioch is to be found a sealed vault, known as the "Omega Vault," which contains the most sensitive and valuable of assets available to the Inquisition in the Jericho Reach -- and perhaps the galaxy.
"Jagged, hull-black walls stand sentinel. Dark void's empty children wait beyond. Duty holds the breach."
- — Excerpt from Skald Haarksen's stanza of The Long Vigil
The empty, echoing halls of Watch Fortress Erioch hold many secrets even beyond the ultimate enigma of the Omega Vault at its core. It has been noted that the very fortress itself defies logical explanation.
It is a millennia-old edifice situated in a place where no Forge Master or architect-savant of the Imperium could have travelled and where no materials for its construction could possibly exist. The explanation to this first mystery is deceptively simple, but reveals deeper layers of conspiracy lurking beneath the surface.
Naval-minded Inquisition agents on their brief sojourns at Erioch have postulated that the fortress must have been brought there in some great and secret undertaking in the past. They point to subtle points of architecture still visible beneath Terran centuries of accumulated restructuring that are reminiscent of a mighty Ramilies-class Starfort. Such an edifice could be moved through Warpspace they insist, meaning that if they are correct, Watch Fortress Erioch could -- potentially -- be moved again.
The Imperium's scant supply of gigantic semi-mobile space stations like the Ramilies are vital to the Imperial Navy as forward fleet bases. Each one is capable of shortening campaigns by solar decades through its deployment.
That such a rare and precious commodity should have been risked in transport all the way to the distant Jericho Reach and then left essentially unused speaks volumes as to the perceived value of the location -- and of the overpowering reach of those who caused the fortress to be established there. Surely locked away within this ancient fortress can be found knowledge of the most heinous alien lifeforms Mankind has ever encountered.
Watch Fortress Erioch is a vast space bastion that lies in the outer reaches of the Erioch System in the untamed void between the Canis and Acheros Salients of the Jericho Reach. It is situated in a stellar dead zone populated by only a handful of failing, ancient stars -- of which Erioch itself is one.
A brutal mass of armoured basilica, domes, and spires, the fortress bristles with enough armament to rival a sizable battlegroup of Imperial warships, largely concealing the fact that underneath the Imperial ceramite and firepower, it is built on a ruined alien artefact that was old when Terra's star was first forming.
Within it is a vast maze of echoing, dust-carpeted corridors that wander past silent chapels and armoured vaults sealed with adamantine doors. Beneath war-tattered banners of glories past, the battle-brothers of the Deathwatch in residence move between their cells, practice ranges, armouries and briefing theatres like spectres in a dead city, their numbers swallowed by the vast and labyrinthine nature of the fortress.
Within the watch fortress, the Deathwatch gathers to rearm, train, and report. From within its confines, Kill-teams are despatched on missions to every corner of the Jericho Reach, and sometimes beyond. The fortress contains vast command cathedrals where Watch Captains come to discuss strategy, developments within their assigned vigils, and consult with the Inquisitor of the Chamber and the Master of Vigilance.
Alongside the towering Adeptus Astartes scurry the far more numerous Servitors and hooded, mind-wiped serfs that keep the fortress alive and functioning. These lobotomised or oath-bonded servants crew the watch fortress' weaponry, and serve under the eyes of the Forge Master in the maintenance of its Machine Spirits, their pasts shorn from them by mental conditioning. They remember nothing of their history, and know no life beyond the fortress and the demands of their duty.
The watch fortress could hold an entire Chapter of Adeptus Astartes with ease, but its records show that there are rarely more than a few score Deathwatch Space Marines garrisoning it at any time. Even during the grim events of the Council of the Ascension in 756.M41, no more than two hundred battle-brothers were gathered within the fortress.
As a matter of course, most of the Deathwatch Space Marines within the Jericho Reach only spend brief periods in the watch fortress before leaving again to fulfil their missions or to garrison other watch stations within the Reach. Indeed, some never see the fortress during their service in the region.
Instead, they spend their time on one bloody battlefield after another, or as the lone warden in Watch Stations far from their battle-brothers. The only exception are the guardians of the Chamber of Vigilance; a ten-strong squad of Deathwatch Keepers. Joining them is a position of great honour, and only battle-brothers who have performed a feat of exemplary courage and dedication during their Vigil are considered for service amongst these guardians.
Aside from the Deathwatch and their servants -- including cloisters of Navigators and Astropaths permanently sworn to their service -- Watch Fortress Erioch occasionally hosts members of the Inquisition and their attendant cadre of Throne Agents, Acolytes, and other minions.
Most of these Inquisitors come to consult with the Chamber of Vigilance, to examine some article recovered by the Deathwatch, or to make a request for aid in person. In the long millennia, many Inquisitors have passed through the watch fortress. Some stay for extended periods, others barely a few solar hours.
Some leave artefacts within one of the fortress' vaults, sealed to all but them, or those to which they entrust the cipher, key or secret of its opening. Some vaults have remained sealed in this way for Terran millennia; the horrors or secrets within shut away even from the Deathwatch itself.
Despite the power of the Inquisition and the ancient and honoured role of the Inquisitor of the Chamber within the fortress' hierarchy, the sole and final authority of the watch fortress, and thereby all the Deathwatch Marines in the Jericho Reach, is the Master of Vigilance, a position held by the most senior Deathwatch Captain in the Jericho Reach.
Others that have thought to act otherwise, including certain members of the Inquisition, have paid for this mistake with their lives.
Masters and Servants
Captain Mordigael of the Blood Angels Chapter is the current Watch Commander of Fortress Erioch and, by extension, the Master of the Vigil. Aiding him in the governing of the Chamber are any recognised Ordo Xenos Inquisitors stationed in the Jericho Reach, one of which will take on the mantle of the Inquisitor of the Chamber so that the Inquisition might have a voice to call for aid from the Deathwatch.
Given the nature of the Inquisition and the secretive nature of Inquisitors themselves, this group is always in flux, their numbers expanding and retracting as the members of the group are always changing. Typically, it will never be more than a handful at any one time, and always balanced out by Mordigael and his favoured commanders so that the ratio of Astartes to members of the Ordo Xenos remains more or less equal.
Depending on the nature of the issues to be dealt with by the Chamber, other advisors my be allowed to give specific council, though this is uncommon.
Because the Deathwatch of the Jericho Reach operates within the same areas of influence as the Ordo Xenos and the forces of the Achilus Crusade, the Chamber and its meetings can be coloured by politics as much as war councils, as would be the case if the Deathwatch operated like one of the more traditional Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.
While the Master of the Vigil and his officers are interested in the concerns of the Deathwatch, they cannot remain completely deaf to the presence of the Inquisition -- usually more specifically the desires of a single Inquisitor operating within the Reach.
Equally, though the vast majority of the Achilus Crusade remains ignorant of the Deathwatch, its Lord Militant, Solomon Tetrarchus, does not, and he has been known, on occasion, to try and request its aid.
Often, the personal politics of the Inquisitor will be reflected in the choosing of the Inquisitor of the Chamber and this can become a place where rival Inquisitors make their presence known, all of which contributes to another challenge the Chamber of Vigilance must overcome.
Deathwatch Veterans add another dimension to these proceedings, having earned the right and respect to speak for themselves even in the presence of the Master of the Vigil. Deathwatch Veterans are also wiser in the ways of the crusade and of the Jericho Reach, often having knowledge of the Inquisitors that might influence the Chamber of the Vigil.
It is the nature of the Inquisition that nothing is as it seems, and the same honours and right that will allow a veteran Kill-team a voice in the Chamber of Vigilance will sometimes mean that Kill-team must deal more closely with individual Inquisitors or even, in rare instances, agents of the Lord Militant of the crusade.
Many Inquisitors, of all the ordos, do not announce their presence to the Deathwatch when they come to the Jericho Reach, following their own personal missions out of sight and reach of the Achilus Crusade forces. These same Inquisitors, however, will call upon aid from the Deathwatch when it suits their purposes and when they need the kind of firepower and skill that only an Astartes Kill-team can provide.
It is here that the reputation of a veteran Kill-team might precede them and the Inquisitor might even choose to contact the Kill-team directly (especially if the battle-brothers and the Inquisitor have had dealings before), asking them for aid without any formal declaration to the Chamber of Vigilance.
Though it stands in stark contrast to the way most Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes operate, the individual bravado shown by such Inquisitors often earns the respect of Deathwatch Veterans.
Experienced Watch Captains also accept that Inquisitors work in this way, and much of their agendas do not reach the formal meetings of the Chamber, especially in the case of time-sensitive missions or missions of opportunity.
Ultimately, though, it remains the remit of the Deathwatch whether or not to come to the aid of an Inquisitor, however he or she calls for it. However, since the objectives of the Deathwatch and the objectives of many Ordo Xenos Inquisitors within the Jericho Reach are intertwined, it often serves the Deathwatch well to send a Kill-team, using the knowledge and skills of the Inquisitor to vanquish a common foe.
Places of Training and Devotion
Within Watch Fortress Erioch are many places in which the battle-brothers of the Deathwatch may hone their skills and temper their spirits. There are huge ranges housed in vast chambers where live-fire exercises and marksmanship drills can be performed in environments ranging from tangled ruins to liquid-filled tunnels or the chill of hard vacuum.
Alongside these are hundreds of smaller melee and exercise chambers where new skills with blade, fist, and body can be passed from battle-brother to battle-brother. Numerous clusters of armoured fighting cages (said to have been introduced by a Watch Captain originating with the Imperial Fists) exist where battle-brothers can test their skill of arms against each other.
There are also libraries filled with tactical treaties, past mission logs and spiritual texts for the edification of a battle-brother's mental faculties. For those Space Marines who are psychically-gifted Librarians, there are specialised warded and shielded chantries for a psyker to sharpen his own unique gifts in the Emperor's service.
In addition to these places that hone a warrior's body and mind, there are sanctuaries in which Space Marines can armour their soul. These scattered sanctums are often centred on the tombs of fallen Deathwatch battle-brothers and are reached by a long and tangled journey into the fortresses' depths.
Amid the silent waft of incense, the Deathwatch meditate on their duty and observe the traditions of their home Chapter. Many of these small devotional shrines hold banners and relics given as a mark of honour by Chapters whose brethren have died as part of the Deathwatch.
It is said that the marks of over a hundred Chapters can be found in the sanctuaries of Watch Fortress Erioch, including the liveries and icons of Chapters forgotten and destroyed over the long millennia. Each shrine is venerated by any member of that Chapter that comes to the fortress.
The Adeptus Astartes aboard Watch Fortress Erioch are housed in sparse single cells. By the traditions of the watch fortress, each is bare and unadorned. The walls in each cell are formed of unrendered stone or unpolished metal, containing no more than a stone plinth to lie on, and housings for the storage of a battle-brother's personal weaponry, devotional items, and other equipment.
These simple quarters are the same regardless of whether the Space Marine is a standard battle-brother or an honoured Watch Captain (however, some particularly individual Space Marines flout this tradition by displaying trophies, keepsakes, or other reminders of their home Chapter).
By the same traditions, battle-brothers arriving at the watch fortress are grouped together in cells next to battle-brothers already in residence with no division by rank or fighting formation. Likewise, the taking of food and drink is traditionally done together in one of the refectories, with the battle-brothers sitting on stone benches beside iron topped tables beneath the light of devotional candles.
Though the watch fortress is ultimately the domain of the Astartes of the Deathwatch, other men and women live and serve within it. Serfs and other important functionaries, such as the fortress' Astropathic choir, are housed in enclaves well-removed from the battle-brothers of the Deathwatch and sealed away from ready access to the deep places of the fortress and its many vaults.
The Inquisitor who serves with the Chamber of Vigilance traditionally keeps residence in the Tower of Brass, which juts into the vacuum from the upper hull of the fortress like a blade tip projecting from the back of a skewered foe.
This tower, while part of the fortress, is left alone by the Deathwatch out of courtesy, unless duty or suspicion call them there. Within this vast edifice, the Inquisitor of the Chamber houses their personal staff and entourage. It is, in effect, their personal domain to maintain as they wish.
Other Inquisitors who come to the watch fortress are often made personal guests by the Inquisitor of the Chamber and housed within the Tower of Brass. Some, however, are either not given the honour of such an invitation, or prefer to keep their own company, and are housed in one of the fortress' many sets of state rooms which lie empty until needed.
Tools of War
The Armouries of the fortress are located deep beneath its armoured hull, secured behind the thickest blast doors and internal layers of Void Shielding of the kind more commonly used to protect Battle Titans. This is the realm of metal and actinic light, of the beat of hammers and the fire of forges that arm and armour the Emperor's angels of death.
Made up of workshops, magazines and armouries, these are the domains of the Techmarines who serve in the Deathwatch, and all fall under the ultimate authority of the Forge Master of the watch fortress.
Chainswords, Power Axes, Bolters, Drop Pods, tanks, Thunderfire Cannons, and all of the tools of the Adeptus Astartes are held here; their war-like Machine Spirits soothed by the buzz of Servitors and the touch of sacred oils until they are needed. There also are billions of rounds, charges, and cylinders of ammunition from the simplest Laspack to the massive grav-stabilised macro-shells fired by the fortress' main batteries.
In the deepest reaches of the armouries, curled in waiting sleep, are the venerated Ancients of the Deathwatch. Those who have been grievously injured in serving with the Deathwatch may, with the blessing of his Chapter, be granted the honour of being installed in the cyborganic web of an armoured sarcophagus so that in times of great need they may once again serve alongside their battle-brothers as a Deathwatch Dreadnought.
There are believed to be three such ancient Dreadnoughts currently dormant within the armouries of Watch Fortress Erioch, though they have not been awakened to war in over a Terran century. Only the Forge Master knows the truth of their number and state.
Many of the most exotic and potent weapons of the fortress, however, are held within sealed vaults deep within the watch fortress, accessible only to those who bear the secret of their opening. Some vaults only open to members of a particular Chapter or those who bear the gene-seed of a particular Primarch, being gifted or left in trust by one of that Chapter's number. Others only open to particular members of the Inquisition or Adeptus Mechanicus.
Most secret of all are the terrible devices kept in the outer catacombs of the Omega Vault, the great sealed chamber at the heart of Watch Fortress Erioch. Such weapons include Vortex Torrent Imploder Charges, dread canisters of the Life-eater virus, and the imprisoned Nightmare Childe. These weapons are only yielded one at a time and by the will of the systems that lie at the centre of the Omega Vault's many chambers, watching and waiting for the future.
Defences and Void Docks
The exterior of Watch Fortress Erioch bristles with weaponry. Its sides are studded with the maws of Macrocannons, missile clusters, Thunderhawk launch bays, and Plasma Mortars, while the spires that rise from its surface are serrated with hundreds of Defence Laser cupolas.
The watch fortress has firepower enough to vaporise a Battleship in a single volley or to shatter a small moon should the need arise from any quarter. Beyond these fearsome weapons, separate defence platforms spin in thruster-corrected orbits, each armed with deadly Lance batteries and torpedo launchers.
Additionally, patrols of Defence Monitors roam in the cold void, cutting secret paths through deadly minefields; heavily armed and armoured spacecraft that together are capable of matching the firepower of a capital ship.
Watch Fortress Erioch also has extensive void docks in which a dozen Imperial Navy capital ships or Adeptus Astartes Battle Barges could be docked and resupplied at the same time. However, most vessels that come to the watch fortress are smaller starships such as the Deathwatch's Rapid Strike Vessels or the occasional voidship bearing a visiting dignitary.
Both defences and docks are crewed by legions of Combat Servitors and ratings that are supervised by Human serfs who are oath-bonded to serve the Deathwatch all their lives. In a crisis, overall command of the watch fortress and its defences is taken by the Master of the Vigil as its presiding castellan.
Chamber of Vigilance
The Chamber of Vigilance is the war council of the Deathwatch in the Jericho Reach. Established by a tradition whose origin is now long forgotten, the primary purpose of the Chamber of Vigilance is to discuss the import of developments in the Jericho Reach and to decide on how the Deathwatch should respond.
The reasons for a gathering of the Chamber of Vigilance are many and diverse. Usually, such gatherings are connected to new intelligence on a threat to the Reach, or in response to battlefield reports from Deathwatch Astartes in the field. In recent decades, however, the periodic opening of a new portion of the Omega Vault has also caused the Chamber of Vigilance to be gathered with increasing frequency.
The Chamber of Vigilance takes its name from the central chamber of Watch Fortress Erioch's primary command level. The Chamber is circular and over two hundred paces wide. Its ceiling is a great dome, in the centre of which is set a circle of armoured crystal that glows in the reflected light of the Erioch System's dying sun.
When a gathering is called, braziers burn incense wood in seven niches around the chamber's edge, and Servo-skulls, yellow with age, circle to record every detail of what transpires before them. The floor is black stone inlaid with symbols and words of the Codex Astartes worked in adamantine. The symbol of the Deathwatch rests at the chamber's centre beneath the pale light of the void cast down from Erioch's light.
There are no chairs in the Chamber of Vigilance; all who gather here stand as a sign that the duty of their watch is unending and without respite. Embedded in the floor and ceiling are null field generators and Vox baffles, as well as hololith projectors and sound generators for when information must be displayed to a gathering.
The membership of the Chamber of Vigilance is not fixed. The Chamber consists of all senior members of the Deathwatch present at the time of the gathering, plus any members of the Inquisition present at the fortress who may be invited (their presence being at the Master of the Vigil's discretion), or any other servants of the Imperium whose voice and knowledge is important to the Chamber's deliberations.
Although the membership of the Chamber of Vigilance shifts and changes, there are two positions that are permanent by tradition: the Master of the Vigil and the Inquisitor of the Chamber. Both must be present in order for a gathering to be called.
The Master of the Vigil
The Master of the Vigil is a senior member of the Deathwatch stationed at Watch Fortress Erioch, meaning that he is usually, though not always, the Watch Commander or the ranking Watch Captain. The bearer of this honour is oath-bound to act as the final arbitrator of decisions made by the Chamber of Vigilance, and also to rule and maintain the watch fortress, watch stations, and the other domains of the Deathwatch within the Jericho Reach.
The title of Master of the Vigil is conferred on a battle-brother only by a gathering of the Chamber of Vigilance and confirmed by the missive of the High Lords of Terra. This honour is traditionally borne by an individual for a score of Terran years before it passes to another, unless a time of great crisis or war makes such a shift in leadership unwise for its duration.
The Master of the Vigil remains within Watch Fortress Erioch for the duration of his duty, with certain exceptions made under critical circumstances. The Master of the Vigil's only mark of rank is the bearing of a singular heraldic pauldron on his armour, the design being of a gauntleted hand grasping a snarling serpent by its throat.
The Inquisitor of the Chamber
The Inquisitor of the Chamber is a member of the Inquisition who, by ancient tradition, represents the interests of the ordos within the Chamber of Vigilance. This Inquisitor almost always hails from the ranks of the Ordo Xenos, although there have been exceptions made in the past.
The Inquisitor of the Chamber is a position of honour and a symbol of the ties between the Deathwatch and the Inquisition in the Jericho Reach. The position and title of Inquisitor of the Chamber is bestowed on an Inquisitor by a conclave of his peers, and remains his until he dies, chooses to relinquish the position, or another is sent to take his place.
Part emissary, intermediary, facilitator, and watcher of the watchers, Inquisitors of the Chamber are often chosen for their diplomatic and political skill. Many are also great warriors or savants of extraordinary erudition. Most have found, however, that being able to speak warrior-to-warrior is often an advantage when dealing with the Deathwatch.
Hall of Glory
"I honour the accords and the will of the Emperor. I honour my Primarch and the Chapter Master whose will we obey. I honour the Deathwatch and the sacred duty to which I am now pledged."
- —The XXVI Litany, the Seventh Oath of Secondment
The swearing of the Apocryphon Oath, the solemn undertaking by which a battle-brother of the Adeptus Astartes joins the Deathwatch to stand a single Vigil of the Long Watch, is a simple affair, but one steeped in tradition.
Those supplicants who are judged worthy of assuming their Vigil make their Apocryphon Oath and are then led into the Hall of Glory. This vast chamber deep inside Erioch resembles a cathedral nave, two kilometres in length, a hundred metres wide and half a kilometre high.
Its barrel-vaulted ceiling is lost in a smog of incense through which vat-grown cyber-cherubs dart and caper while below, stooped, robed attendants bonded to the watch fortress for countless generations shuffle to and fro in their endless maintenance duties.
Countless ragged, battle-scarred banners line the nave, some all but transparent with age and dating back to the earliest days of the Deathwatch's mission. In solemn procession, the battle-brother is led the length of the nave of the Hall of Glory, passing by hundreds of niches set into the walls at every level, from floor to distant ceiling.
Eventually, the group halts before an empty niche, and the battle-brother undergoes the transformation into a member of the Deathwatch. With great reverence, the attendants remove his left shoulder plate and the armour of that arm, and it is set upon a stand in the niche. Sometimes, the niche is set into the wall high overhead, in which case the attendants pass the armour to the cyber-cherubs, who bear it aloft on their behalf and place it in the proper position.
Next, the attendants bring forth the silvered left arm and shoulder armour of the Deathwatch, and affix it with great care. Lastly, the battle-brother's armour is painted black, the colours of his own Chapter obscured until such time as his Apocryphon Oath is discharged and his Vigil is completed.
The battle-brother's armour remains in the Hall of Glory so long as he is standing his Vigil, and often long after. Upon completion of his Vigil, the items of armour are restored to him in a ceremony every bit as solemn as the first.
However, the Hall contains far more items than there are battle-brothers serving in the Jericho Reach. Should a battle-brother fall whilst serving the Long Watch, his Chapter is informed, yet his armour remains in the Hall of Glory until such time as that Chapter despatches another to retrieve it.
Some never call for the return of the armour, preferring to honour the brother's sacrifice by leaving his armour in its place of glory. Sometimes, the Chapter in question passes from the knowledge of the Imperium. There are said to be items of armour held within the niches of the Hall of Glory belonging to Chapters not heard of in millennia, including such otherwise unheard-of names as the Carcharodons and the Flame Falcons.
None can say if any of these items will ever be reclaimed, though from time to time a Black Shield might present himself at the watch fortress, serve a Vigil, and before he departs claim one such set of ancient relics.
In addition to the depositing of items of armour, the Hall of Glory maintains a permanent record of each battle-brother who has served a Vigil at Watch Station Erioch. The incense-laden silence of the vast chamber is disturbed only by the cold, echoing ring of chisel on stone as the names of those who serve are carved into the very walls.
This task is carried out by a body of specially-grown cyber-cherubs, a hammer grafted onto one arm and a chisel to the other, in place of hands. Any and every inch of free space in the entire hall is used to record the names and the Chapters of those Astartes who serve, creating a mesh of spidery High Gothic type covering every single surface.
In recent centuries, these arcane masons have started to utilise the space overhead, carving the names, origins, and deeds of the heroes of the watch fortress into the stone vaults. Of course, most of this text is obscured by the fine fog of incense that gathers under the ceiling, but it matters not, for the names shall endure as long as Watch Fortress Erioch stands vigil over the Jericho Reach.
The Outer Wards separate the landing cradles and void docks studding the fortress' walls from its interior reaches. The battle-brothers hold that no enemy of the Long Watch has willingly broached these wards, either entering or leaving, in more than two thousand standard years.
Some supplicants never pass the wards even on legitimate business lest they become lost in the constantly moving labyrinth. Madness and death await the unworthy, it is said, for only true servants of the Emperor may find a straight path through the Outer Wards. The wards themselves take the form of great moving mazes made of interlocking cog teeth and gear splines.
The wards are built on a titanic scale -- a hallway might be the space between teeth on a two-hundred-metre-wide cog, while a bridge over vast gulfs may be the slow-rotating spline of a half-kilometre connecting rod. In some areas gravity is defined by the different components of the maze such that walls might become floors and floors become ceilings within the turn of a corner.
Negotiating the wards for the first time takes a good deal of self-discipline and swift thinking as the constantly-changing environment threatens to trap and crush the indecisive. The mere sight of relentlessly narrowing spaces and widening gaps in the wards is apt to induce gibbering panic. The distress this causes in the minds of ordinary Humans is but a fraction of that felt by most xenos.
They find the wards a place of unthinkable terror, a man-made hell of grinding iron and fanged steel. The effect is so marked and so universal that it has been speculated that unseen factors are at work, a latent psychic marker generated by the fortress itself or a mnemonic dread generated by the grinding wards that leaves normal Humans and Space Marines untouched.
Others maintain that xenos will inevitably be repelled by the boundary of an edifice so utterly dedicated to their ruination and that the wards are themselves only the visible parts of a gigantic mechanism that lies beneath the outermost skin of the fortress, possibly the Omega Vault itself. If such theories hold true the function of the wards as a labyrinth is entirely coincidental to their presence. What purpose this titanic artefact might serve, or whether it is only the remnant of some monumental unfinished project, has never been adequately answered.
In the watch fortress' infamous Xenos Bestiarium, captive aliens roar and scream defiance at their pitiless examiners. Their inhuman blasphemies avail them naught as they are relentlessly tested and categorised by the Apothecaria in hundreds of holding cells and examination rooms.
From here the most dangerous xenos might be released into the fortress' extensive Hunting Grounds for the Deathwatch to hone their skills against. Discovering effective weapons and techniques to use against the alien menace is ever at the forefront of the Bestiarium's works; study of the alien itself is only undertaken as a byproduct of the quest for a better understanding of how to destroy it.
The Xenos Bestiarium occupies the lower thirteen levels of the northern quadrant of the fortress. The areas still in use are stark, brightly-lit corridors studded with observation windows of metre-thick crystal that look into the various cells.
By contrast, the many disused sections of the Bestiarium are forlorn, dimly-lit expanses of stained rockcrete cluttered with debris. Here and there shattered observation windows gape, blindly hinting at the violence unleashed by their occupants, while blackened walls recall the righteous fury of the burning promethium unleashed to quell them.
The Bestiarium has probably played host to hundreds of thousands of aliens over the millennia. Examples of xenos apprehended anywhere in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy may be sent here for study and dissection on the order of the Ordo Xenos.
Individual Inquisitors sometimes take advantage of the unparalleled knowledge to be found in the Bestiarium in pursuit of their own investigations, whether to arm themselves against a known foe or to trace an elusive xenotype.
The main body of the Bestiarium comprises holding cells subdivided in spectrum-based threat gradations running from ultraviolet to infrared. Xenos requiring complex or specialist environments are most commonly held in stasis shells until required. In many cases, the stasis shells kill as many as they preserve but both living and dead xenos are exhibited without distinction in the Bestiarium.
In some cases it has proved difficult to determine whether some aliens are truly alive or dead in the first place. The Bestiarium holds many strange and exotic xenos, from sentiences that exist only in a certain colour range of light, to beings that live their lives in reverse, or ones endlessly transmuting themselves into new and ever-more disturbing forms.
Each is thoroughly studied, annotated and categorised so that it can be better destroyed in the future.
Different rooms appointed for the examination and dissection of aliens are studded throughout the Xenos Bestiarium. Some take the form of small auditoriums with stepped benches suitable for an audience; others feature unbreakable crystal cages with remotely-controlled manipulators for dealing with xenos prone to noxious effluvia.
Most are gloomy, low-ceilinged places reminiscent of an ancient, medieval torture chamber with stained examination blocks and restraints speckled with the patina of rust. Here Servo-skulls and slow-ticking cogitators record every scalpel cut, amputation and injection made in the quest for knowledge.
Toxins and viral agents are tested, pain thresholds measured, vital organs and nerve centres located and categorised for lethality of attack. Even the most fearsome alien predator has a weak point somewhere and in the examination chambers that weak point will be revealed.
A number of T'au caste members are being held prisoner in Zone Magenta for behavioural studies by the Ordo Xenos. Most of the T'au prisoners have been seized from small colonies cleansed by the Deathwatch but a few are from T'au starships intercepted in transit. A single Ethereal Caste member is being held separately in great secrecy.
How the T'au interact without their ruling caste is of equally great interest to both the Deathwatch and the Ordo Xenos. The battle-brothers recognise the strong social structure of the T'au as a long-term threat. Some feel the rigid caste system holds the key to the T'au's undoing.
Should the aliens be as reliant as they appear to be on the Ethereal Caste to smooth out the endless quarreling and rivalry between the castes, a targeted assassination campaign could be of great value in the future.
A complex experiment has recently been set in motion by Inquisitor Adrielle Quist utilising a handful of Fire Caste warriors taken from the Forest World of Baraban. The Fire Caste T'au were afflicted by the so-called "Dream of Unity" by ancient xeno-tech traps on that world. This singular delusion has caused them to believe that anyone they encounter is a trusted member of the T'au Empire.
Inquisitor Quist has taken full advantage of this to convince the Fire Warriors of her status as an important Gue'la liaison -- a Human who has chosen to betray the Imperium to serve the Greater Good.
Quist has convinced the Fire Warriors that the other T'au prisoners held at Erioch are dissidents that refuse to accept that there is now peace between the T'au Empire and the Imperium.
Apparently she plans to find out how quickly and heavily the Fire Caste will resort to outright oppression to enforce their point of view. Such cat-and-mouse games have drawn criticism from some of the Deathwatch battle-brothers, but most have kept their silence thus far.
Zone Violet: Hive Fleet Dagon Vanguard
Zone Violet is locked under maximum security. Gun Servitors are stationed in every hallway and Kill-teams are kept on stand-by in a state of constant readiness. The xenos sealed within these cells could potentially compromise the entire fortress were they to breach containment.
Tyranid vanguard organisms lurk here, nightmarish monsters taken at the most fantastic risk from the forefront of the splinter hive fleet now designated Hive Fleet Dagon. Tracing the original gene strain of an invading Tyranid hive fleet has proven invaluable in previous campaigns. It provides a way to track the vagaries of the rapidly-mutating hive genus and find new vulnerabilities.
The Deathwatch relentlessly hunt down vanguard organisms like Genestealers and Lictors where they can, as these creatures are the ones most likely to carry the Tyranids' core genetic code. Capturing Tyranids is challenging work for even the most experienced battle-brothers, and such operations have cost many Astartes lives.
The Catacombs run throughout the lower reaches of the fortress, twisting runs of low, narrow tunnels that were perhaps once used for ducting and maintenance. Over the centuries they have been gradually converted into repositories for accumulated xenos lore.
Here great tomes of dusty learning lie beside vivisected specimens and forbidden bestiaries, all sealed by eternal guards of adamantium and wards of stasis against the dark day when such foes might rise again.
Over the centuries many Inquisitors have added their own burdens of dread knowledge to the musty passages beneath the fortress, leaving xenos artefacts and soul-shrivelling texts that they have decreed must be ever hidden from the gaze of man.
Deathwatch Keepers bar access to the catacombs to anyone lacking permission from the Master of the Vigil, though such is rarely denied to a petitioner who can cite clear reasons. The catacombs represent a great storehouse of knowledge about the enemies of Mankind, but finding any specific information amongst the teetering data stacks can be a challenge.
Stories persist of escaped xenos from the Bestiarium inhabiting the catacombs, but any member of the Deathwatch can dispel that myth. It is true there have been a few unfortunate incidents in the past, including a nasty bore-worm outbreak and a Quozikian hatchling or two, but escapees from the Bestiarium never get as far as the catacombs.
Unfortunately it does seem that certain xenos artefacts and alien young can be hard to tell apart sometimes.
Certain areas of the Catacombs have been declared as Quarantine Zones. Here the xenos taint is so powerful that only an armoured battle-brother may enter, and even then at some risk. Some of the Quarantine Zones are bathed in unknown radiation or subject to unpredictable temporal effects due to unstable xenos artefacts.
Others are infected by alien organisms so virulent that they cannot be truly destroyed, only contained. It is rumored that some of the Quarantine Zones actually contain alien dimensional gate technology of one kind or another -- Aeldari Webway portals or smaller examples of the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate.
If so, these locations would create a dire threat to the fortress' security in the wrong hands and must be heavily protected. On this matter, as with many other secrets of the fortress, the Deathwatch battle-brothers remain tight-lipped.
The Great Ossuaries are a staggering testimonial to the Vigil of the Deathwatch onboard Watch Fortress Erioch. The high-arched, oval tunnels that make up the majority of the Ossuaries are lined on walls, floors and ceilings with the countless polished bones, teeth and claws of slain aliens.
Some fragments may be inscribed with details of a xenos type or who slew it and when, but most lie bare and unadorned in mute witness to the passing of their owners. Looping corridors connect a handful of larger sepulchres that display the bones of truly gargantuan monstrosities too big to fit elsewhere.
Other macabre decorations can be found in these places too, chandeliers made of alien skulls and spines hang beside fluted pillars of chitin and bone. Tattered sheets of xenos hide hang like banners beside intricate mosaics of calcified shell. Centuries of accumulated slaughter have covered many kilometres of corridor already and the work is ever-expanding.
Any battle-brother is free to contribute to the Ossuaries and this practice becomes a source of great rivalry for some battle-brothers while drawing scorn from others in equal measure. The Master of the Vigil has final say in such matters and some take a dim view of such self-glorification. In the past, Masters have closed the Ossuaries for lengthy periods to curb the hubris they felt was being promoted by excessive trophy-hunting.
Nonetheless, if questioned, long-serving battle-brothers will recall places where the corridors were once much wider before the passing years brought their own drifts of xenos bones to clothe the walls. Most Space Marines of the Deathwatch find the Great Ossuaries to be a deeply spiritual, even meditative place. Here they may stand amongst the works of the brothers that came before them and rejoice in their triumph over the alien.
New arrivals to the fortress will commonly be invited to tour the Ossuaries to gain some silent measure of the enormity of the task the Deathwatch performs and their part in the Long Vigil. Ordinary Humans visited with this honour tend to find a trip through the Ossuaries a strangely oppressive, frightening experience for all its dark wonder.
Space Marines know no fear, but the bonded mortal serfs of the fortress avoid going into the Ossuaries at all if they can. Cleaning and maintenance is undertaken by mono-task Servitors shuffling along pre-set routines. The dusty husks of failed Servitors lie undisturbed in some halls, victims of a subtle jinxing effect that seems to persist despite the unguents and imprecations of the fortress' Tech-priests.
Perhaps it is no wonder that the Ossuaries are rumoured to be cursed by unquiet alien spirits. Millions must rest in the corridors and sepulchres of the Great Ossuaries, perhaps billions, unified in death. Entire alien species obliterated by the Deathwatch at the command of the Ordo Xenos line the walls, and are ground beneath the armoured boots of their slayers where they line the floors.
Those touched with psychic awareness report that the Ossuaries hold a miasma of pain and impotent rage, its bone-ribbed corridors echoing with a psychic babble of alien pleas, curses and prayers in forgotten tongues.
The Hunting Grounds have gradually grown to fill multiple levels of the fortress, forming an ever-more-important part of the Deathwatch training and devotion facilities at Erioch. Their construction was first begun some four Terran centuries ago at the instigation of Watch Captain Prascus.
Prascus had perceived a certain lack of readiness in Kill-teams being sent into the field because they lacked sufficient opportunity to train together in varied environments. By the nature of its work a Kill-team might find itself fighting in scorching deserts one day and reeking jungles the next.
Equally they might have crushing gravity, hard vacuum, toxic atmospheres or a thousand other exotic environmental challenges to overcome with little preparation. The transitions were sometimes difficult for newly arrived battle-brothers working together for the first time, and clearly it incurred unnecessary difficulties and even casualties.
It was a tricky matter to address among proud warriors of a dozen different backgrounds, each feeling they bore the honour of their own Chapter on their shoulders. Some Watch Captains would have tackled the issue head-on and called upon the battle-brothers to remember their duty and their oaths to strive harder, but Prascus knew that such a course could sow the seeds of later acrimony.
So Prascus decided it would impugn no one's honour for a lack of preparedness if he instead chose to celebrate the hunting traditions of some of his battle-brothers. He had a number of large cargo bays converted into facsimiles of rugged planetary environments and took to leading hunts through them against dangerous xenos released from the Bestiarium.
Thus, under the guise of sport and honour, Prascus trained his teams to hunt together with practiced zeal through frozen hells, fiery deserts and high waters equally well.
Long after Prascus' tenure as Watch Captain had passed, the Hunting Grounds remained in operation, falling into disuse for a few solar decades at a time before being reopened again. Later Watch Commanders of the fortress have expanded the grounds further, sometimes with sections mimicking the environments of their own homeworlds or, increasingly, depicting worlds from the Jericho Reach.
Master of the Vigil Jarrax of the Black Templars ordered gigantic sealed vessels to be built so that the battle-brothers could practice their arts under every conceivable trial of the void. The towering vaults he created can be configured using the fortress' technology to mimic any environment from the vacuum of the void to the crushing pressure of a gas giant.
Watch Captain Madsen caused several vessels to be modified by having ship corridors and xenos labyrinths painstakingly recreated for the exercise of Kill-team close assault tactics. Jarrax's Eyrie, a 3,800-metre-high vertical vessel, has so far been kept empty for the exercise of zero-G and terminal velocity combat techniques.
Within the last standard century the Hunting Grounds have become fully integrated into Deathwatch training dogma at Watch Fortress Erioch and expanded even further. Vast halls have been re-configured into exact replicas of the native environments of selected xenos species.
Here Deathwatch battle-brothers stalk nightmarish aliens beneath holographic skies to learn of their tricks and traps in their native realms. In such places the battle-brothers can truly hone their skills as they await the call to battle.
Watch Fortress Erioch holds a sizeable and well-established Inquisitorial Enclave centred around the jutting, blade-like spire called the Tower of Brass. The archaic palatial suites to be found there have seen little use over the millennia of the Long Watch save for the residence of the Inquisitor of the Chamber and occasional visits from other members of the Ordo Xenos going about their work.
As with so many other places in the fortress, the Inquisitorial Enclave seems almost too expansive and well-appointed for its current use. It seems as if the true purpose of the place is either long past or yet to come, and its current occupants merely the latest caretakers in a long and dusty line stretching back into lost antiquity.
The permanent residence of the Inquisitor of the Chamber fills barely a fifth of the tower, centred as it is about an ancient cogitator memory core believed to hold details of Ordo Xenos activities in the Jericho Reach pre-dating the ancient Jericho Sector's Age of Shadow.
As with her predecessors, the current Inquisitor of the Chamber, Hezika Carmillus, spends much of her free time picking through the old reports when not involved in more pressing matters. All too often clues to current events can be found mouldering in matters rooted in the past.
The vaulted doors into the Tower of Brass have remained unchanged over the millennia, inscribed with the catechism of hate: The Mark of the Xenos. However, the guard stationed outside them changes as the title Inquisitor of the Chamber changes bearers.
The size and nature of an Inquisitor's sentry force is indicative of the resident of the gleaming edifice. In keeping with her violent and martial nature, Carmillus herself keeps no guard at all: a message that she can face any threat on her own.
Carmillus generally prefers to keep her retinue small and her acolytes in the field with them only returning to the fortress to report and rearm before returning to the fray. A considerable body of Inquisition serfs and retainers maintains the tower itself in an effort to make it habitable, but their earnest efforts are dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the task.
The patina of age has crept over everything in the tower down the long ages, lending the place a haunting air of faded grandeur. The servants have to content themselves with keeping certain suites or chambers heated and lit as befits Human needs while hurrying through the cold, empty hallways left in between.
Recently the opening of the Warp Gate between the Jericho Reach and the Calixis Sector has brought a great many more visitors to the lonely fortress than it has seen in centuries. Now the Inquisitorial Enclave and the Tower of Brass have become the most populous area of the whole fortress.
Between the comings and goings of Inquisitors and their retinues, the Servitors, the slaves, the hostages and the prisoners of the Ordo Xenos, the vast halls of the Tower of Brass can appear almost bustling, filled with light and the sound of Human voices. This is an illusion, however, as once outside the immediate confines of the Inquisitorial Enclave the oppressive silence and crushing enormity of the fortress reassert themselves once more.
In the Tower of Brass the increasing focus on Erioch has caused friction amongst the Inquisitors themselves. Such powerful and dynamic individuals as Inquisitors are apt to clash over matters of priority or probity, and now Watch Fortress Erioch plays host to some individuals with surprisingly bitter rivalries.
In shadowy corridors and darkened halls of the Inquisitorial Enclave many whispered meetings are held to advance or frustrate different political agendas.
Shrine of Saint Aret the Lethecant
Hidden in a forgotten vestibule deep within the bowels of the fortress there lies an incongruous edifice. A beautiful Imperial Cult shrine can be found there, decked out in the full, rich panoply beloved of the Adeptus Ministorum.
Intricate stained glass windows tower over an octagonal dais of gold-veined white marble at the centre of the shrine. A heroically-proportioned statue of an Imperial warrior carved from alabaster occupies the centre of the dais and its incredible antiquity can be only be guessed at.
The High Gothic psalms graven into the walls of the shrine give no hint of whom it was built to honour. Time has blurred the details of the once-masterful carving, its face and one upraised arm have been obliterated by some past violence and yet it retains a haunting air of nobility and purpose.
Over the past few solar decades, those arriving at Erioch from the Calixis Sector have come to associate the shrine with Saint Aret the Lethecant, sovereign guardian of that which should not be remembered. A scattering of purged data-slates and cracked library crystals can sometimes be found left as offerings to the saint to call on his assistance in expunging memories of the past.
The longer-serving battle-brothers on the fortress know that the shrine long pre-dates the beatification of Saint Aret by the Ecclesiarchy. It is thought it most likely portrays a hero of the Ecclesiarchy long-forgotten by his fellow priests but still honoured by the Deathwatch for his works at their side.
The Omega Vault is a sealed series of ancient engines, catacombs, and chambers that sits at the heart of Watch Fortress Erioch. The Omega Vault has been part of the watch fortress since it was established in the Jericho Reach, though what it contains at its centre remains unknown to any now living.
The vault itself is a broadly cylindrical portion of the watch fortress that spans many levels running through its core. There is only one entrance into the Omega Vault; a single door forty paces high. The door is sealed and armoured by layered Void Shields and adamantine plating as thick as an Imperial warship's prow.
Engraved upon it are the symbols of the Deathwatch and the elder Terran rune "Omega," surrounding an image of the Emperor strangling a coiling serpent. Above these great doors are words in High Gothic that read, "And The Last Fortress Is Truth." Each battle-brother freshly stationed at the watch fortress is brought before these words to take his Oath of Vigil.
No living being can open the doors of the Vault; they open themselves at the command of mysterious ancient devices at the heart of the Vault itself. Those who have been inside pass along corridors and down spiralling stairs lined with catacomb subvaults, each barred with its own blast door and surrounded with dust-dry parchment fragments and archaic marks etched in silver.
Through each door awaits a secret of the Omega Vault held in an armoured chamber, each protected by powerful automated defences and locks of unfathomable complexity. The Omega Vault is known to yield up a portion of its cryptic artefacts and information in direct response to events unfolding within the Jericho Reach.
There is also evidence that the central data-reservoir of Watch Fortress Erioch is bound to something deep within the Omega Vault. The Vault has, on occasion, responded to new information sent in from watch stations or operational reports from Deathwatch missions by revealing a portion of what was placed within it many millennia ago.
However, this process remains fraught with mystery, particularly as to whether the Vault's actions are based entirely on a pre-ordained sequence or are at least partly reactive in nature. Perhaps most tellingly, there are numerous events of great import that have transpired in the Jericho Reach and failed to trigger any response from the Vault.
Most recently, for example, there was the incursion of the Tyranid threat into the Orpheus Salient of the Achilus Crusade. So far, this event has drawn no response from the Vault, although specific dangers since, caused by the Tyranids, have triggered activity within the Omega Vault. It is an enigma that continues to trouble the thoughts of Deathwatch Space Marines and Inquisitors alike.
Only one chamber has ever been discovered and unlocked each time the Omega Vault has opened itself. Once whatever waits in the open chamber has been removed, the Vault seals itself again, sounding a sonorous bell to warn of its closure and of the fatal consequences that follow should anyone tarry overlong.
In the past, the Vault has provided tomes of archaic lore, strange fragments of alien devices, ancient weapons forged in times long gone, world-slaying virus canisters, enigmatic star charts, and bizarre xenological specimens. On one occasion, its gift was an ancient Astropath held in a stasis field. When awoken, the Astropath sent one brief astropathic message and spoke two words before expiring from extreme old age, his final duty discharged.
At the centre of the Omega Vault lies another, inner vault: a secret of secrets, bound with scores of locking mechanisms which have slowly opened themselves, one-by-one, down the centuries. The Chamber of Vigilance believes that sealed within this chamber is the final truth and, perhaps, the last weapon the Deathwatch will have need for in the Jericho Reach.
What plan or pattern ordained in the ancient past may have necessitated the construction of the Omega Vault -- and what hands constructed it -- remains a mystery many have pondered. Further riddles are posed by the seemingly precognitive abilities and resources required to create such a Vault.
What is without doubt is that the creators of the Omega Vault were Human, a truth evident not only from the elements of its design, but a further significant detail.
Contained within the Vault's air is an appallingly powerful synthetic pathogen that is entirely inert outside the Omega Vault's walls. This pathogen is an ancient and un-replicable biological weapon, utterly lethal to all kinds of life save one: Mankind.
What is certain is that the Chamber of Vigilance has a duty to protect the Omega Vault and to use and follow what information it yields in the Imperium's defence as they judge fit. It is a duty they have had to discharge with greater frequency in the solar decades since the Jericho Reach's Jericho-Maw Warp Gate opened and the beginning of the Achilus Crusade in 777.M41. Now, only a handful of locks remain closed on the innermost vault.
Notable Personnel of Watch Fortress Erioch
- Mordigael, Watch Commander and Master of the Vigil - Watch Commander Mordigael is a quick and decisive commander of men with a natural charisma bound to a terrifying skill in battle. A Blood Angel by origin, Mordigael is a paragon of the qualities and traditions of his Chapter. His features are sharp and handsome, as if cut from the pale stone statue of an Imperial Saint, while his eyes burn with almost feverish intensity. He delights in the perfection of all his undertakings, from practice in the martial disciplines to the contemplation on the future implications of all things of note that bear on his sacred duty. For over five Terran centuries, Mordigael has served his Emperor and his Chapter; on three occasions, he has taken up the duty of serving in the Deathwatch. One of these past terms of service was in the Jericho Reach itself. Mordigael's current Vigil has lasted over five solar decades, and has seen him achieve the honour of being named Master of the Vigil a little more than a decade ago. During this time, Mordigael has seen things change within the Jericho Reach; the implications of the opening of the Warp Gate to the Calixis Sector have affected everything. The launching of the Achilus Crusade concerns him greatly, as he sees the possibility of a greater disaster being created from a war prosecuted through ignorance and arrogance. He sees the encroaching threat of the Tyranids in much the same light, quite apart from the terrible danger they represent in themselves. On more than one occasion, the Master of the Vigil has had to remind Lord Militant Solomon Tetrarchus that the Deathwatch is not beholden to the needs of his crusade.
- Axineton, Deathwatch Epistolary - Epistolary Axineton is a Librarian of the White Consuls Chapter who has only recently come to serve in the Jericho Reach. Lean-featured, dark-haired, and possessing a grimly superior demeanour, Axineton is caustic and blunt to his peers. Never does he allow a flaw that he perceives in another to rest unmentioned, nor a failing go unpunished, and his manner has created a reputation for sneering arrogance and pedantry among some of his battle-brothers. Despite this, he is a warrior of unquestionable ability and a psyker of great power; a power that he can wield with the subtlety of a torturer's razor or the brute force of an executioner's axe. As a past veteran of war against the Tyranid menace, he has already provided valuable insight for his peers. Axineton has been fascinated by the secret nature of the Deathwatch's mission in the Jericho Reach since learning of it, and his hungry mind has devoured all he can of the lore and history of the Omega Vault. He is a constant, but often silent, presence during gatherings of the Chamber of Vigilance, sometimes speaking only to condemn.
- Harl Greyweaver, Deathwatch Forge Master - This Space Wolves Iron Priest has been the Forge Master of Watch Fortress Erioch since his predecessor answered a summons to serve the Achilus Crusade a solar decade ago. While the influence of Greyweaver's time in the unorthodox halls of the Deathwatch shows in his Servoharness and other small deviations from the traditions of the Isles of Iron on Fenris, he is not as vigorous an adherent to the teachings of Mars as many of the Techmarines who serve under him might wish. The Iron Priest has adorned most of the Fortress' major workshops with icons of the Iron Wolf, and rivers of molten metal flow through his domain deep in the heart of Erioch. He is notoriously intolerant of other Chapter's brands of tech-craft, but his efficacy in conjuring the tools of war is so great that no one has yet been able to oust him. His fervent hatred of alien technology puts him at frequent odds with the Crucible Resolviate and Inquisitor Quist. Every piece of xenotech adopted into the Deathwatch arsenal since his arrival has been done so only grudgingly.
- Marius Avincus, Deathwatch Watch Captain - Captain Avincus of the Ultramarines Chapter hails from a noble family on the world of Prandium in the Realm of Ultramar. He was recruited alongside his twin brother Gnaeus into the Ultramarines, where the twins served together for centuries. After more than three hundred standard years in service to the Ultramarines, the brothers faced a horror the likes of which none could imagine -- the Tyranids attacked Prandium. Gnaeus was slain, crushed by a Carnifex. Avincus was furious at what the Tyranids had done, and he was given the opportunity to strike back against them during the Battle of Macragge, where he fought valiantly amongst the Astartes of the 3rd Company, seeing many of his battle-brothers slain during the brutal tunnel fighting. He was amongst those survivors who were chosen to join the 1st Company as one of Chaplain Ortan Cassius' Tyrannic War Veterans. Twelve Terran years later, he was nominated for service with the Deathwatch, and he gladly swore the Apocryphon Oath in order to share his experiences with those outside the Ultramarines, to give them a fighting chance should the Tyranids return.
- Tarran Cearr, Watch Captain - Tarran Cearr is an Astartes of the Storm Wardens Chapter and a Watch Captain currently serving the Long Watch with the Deathwatch at Watch Fortress Erioch in the Jericho Reach. Cearr is an outgoing man whose brand of camaraderie involves a scathing wit that spares no one, and he has challenged nearly every battle-brother on Erioch to a friendly duel at least once. The exception to his good nature is Watch Captain Servais. The two have clashed time and again on matters of strategy, philosophy, and personality. The diametric opposition of their approaches to combat has been a wedge between the two ever since the Raven Guard warrior arrived in the Jericho Reach. While Tarran serves the mission of the Deathwatch with utmost gravity, he sees no reason not to use the assignment to further the interests of the Storm Wardens during his term of service. Despite the Inquisitorial sanction, he possesses a burning drive to discover the truth behind the Nemesis Incident. He believes that it holds the key to the return of the Storm Wardens' original 1st Company. No one has read the Liber Tempest more than Tarran; he is always keen to volunteer himself and those under his command for any mission that might involve the Warp entities known as Enslavers and he frequently probes Ordo Xenos representatives for any information they might have on the topic.
- Brand Mac Lir, Watch Captain - Brand Mac Lir hailed originally from the Storm Wardens Chapter where he won fame during the Cleansing of Vigil. His experiences fighting the foul Slaugth kindled a desire in him to join the Deathwatch. His keen fervour and veteran tactical skills saw quick promotion for Brand -- by his third deployment, he led a Kill-team, and was elected Watch Captain on his ninth Vigil. Brand can be a cautious leader at times because he is always wary of the tricks and traps of the enemy, but once battle is joined he is as ferocious and direct as any Space Marine. Brand's Sacris Claymore Morwenna has reaped a tremendous toll of alien blood and ichor in deadly hand-to-hand combat.
- Prascus, Watch Captain - Captain Prascus of the Ultramarines Chapter is best remembered for building the first hunting grounds on Watch Fortress Erioch four hundred standard years ago. He became renowned for his skills in the selection and deployment of Kill-teams and is fondly remembered by the venerable Battle-Brother Arius Hyzeron. Arius can tell many tales of how Prascus' teams somehow always balanced their members to create a dynamism that proved nigh unstoppable. Current Watch Commanders still use the term "Prascus Pair" to refer to a team of two Deathwatch battle-brothers who operate well together despite their differences.
- Ramiel, Watch Captain - Captain Ramiel of the Dark Angels Chapter is currently serving the Long Vigil with the Deathwatch. Though he first volunteered for the duty, in truth, he had a hidden agenda in doing so, although his passion for smiting xenos was truly remarkable. Over a number of solar decades, Ramiel has pursued a Fallen who had presumably joined the Deathwatch under the guise of a Black Shield. For decades thereafter, Ramiel has spent years secretly investigating Watch Fortress Erioch's Deathwatch Chaplain Titus Strome, a former Black Shield of unknown provenance. Unable to confront Strome directly, he arranged for his gene-seed to be tested. However, before the matter could be resolved, Ramiel was called upon to lead a Kill-team on a special mission. Ramiel and his team disappeared after they were sent to re-establish contact with Watch Station Midael. No trace of them has been found since. Midael remains out of contact with the Deathwatch to this day and the secrets it might hold are still shrouded.
- Andar Scarion, Watch Captain - Andar Scarion is a member of the Astral Claws Space Marine Chapter who was seconded to the Jericho Reach to serve in the Deathwatch. His arrival was the cause of much controversy due to his Chapter's questionable actions in the solar decades before the outbreak of the Badab War. Nevertheless, Scarion was allowed to commence his Vigil with the Deathwatch and served for over five decades with honour, achieving the rank of Watch Captain. Like his Chapter Master Lufgt Huron, Scarion is a proud and ruthless warrior with a keen grasp of strategy and military politics, and has proven himself to be a valuable asset in liaising with the Achilus Crusade's officers. He expects the Kill-teams under his command to perform to the most exacting of standards and does not tolerate laxity, weakness or failure. As is common to many of his Chapter, Scarion regards non-Astartes mortals with a mixture of scorn and pity, holding that the Astartes ideal is fundamentally superior to the frailty of the common run of Humanity. He masks this arrogance well when political goals require it, but discards the façade when amongst other Astartes, seeing little issue with collateral damage amongst Human allies whom he regards as inherently expendable.
- Servais, Watch Captain - Servais of the Raven Guard Chapter has been a part of the Deathwatch less than a Terran year. A master sniper and infiltrator, he and the Kill-teams under his auspices are frequently called on to perform or consult in targeted assassinations. His quiet, calculating mannerisms have isolated him from some of his battle-brothers, although he has never refused training to anyone who sought it from him. Servais speaks quietly, and prefers to analyze and evaluate before striking. Tarran Cearr's dislike of his tactics is entirely reciprocated, and the sniper constantly seeks to prove that forethought triumphs over frenzy. Servais can be difficult to get to know, but is intensely loyal to Watch Commander Mordigael, and indeed anyone -- Space Marine or not -- that makes the effort to pierce his withdrawn exterior.
- Kail Vibius, Watch Captain - Kail Vibius is a Marines Errant battle-brother who serves as a Watch Captain of the Deathwatch. Vibius has a burning desire for vengeance against xenos, which has marked him out even amongst the alien-hunters of the Deathwatch. During the Corinth Crusade, Vibius and a squad of his fellow Marines Errant were captured by the vile Drukhari and taken into the Webway to the dark realm of Commorragh. Surviving the cruel treatment at the hands of his xenos captors, Vibius bided his time until he was able to seize the opportunity to escape, leading a slave revolt against his surprised masters. Eventually the Space Marines fought their way to freedom and returned to the Imperium. Vibius was nominated for the honour of representing his Chapter in the Deathwatch, and rose swiftly through the ranks until he led his own Kill-team. When his former commander, Captain Bron of the Dark Sons Chapter, was mortally wounded, he recommended Vibius be promoted to the rank of Watch Captain in his stead, a role he has held ever since.
- Attalus Fellhand, Deathwatch Champion - Attalus Fellhand is another recent arrival to Watch Fortress Erioch in the Jericho Reach. Attalus has won renown as a great slayer of Orks amongst his battle-brothers in the Space Wolves Chapter -- a tremendous accolade in a Chapter so well-known for its fierce love of hand-to-hand combat. He has been sent from the Space Wolves Great Company currently serving in the Orpheus Salient to learn the ways of Tyranid fighting at Erioch so that he can return and teach them to his battle-brothers. In truth, Attalus makes a poor student and a worse teacher, a fact he is painfully aware of and deeply worried about. Attalus covers his fear of failure with brash antagonism, much preferring to work out his frustrations in duels or challenges. He has gained a reputation for impulsiveness and disorderly conduct that has strained the nerves of the Chamber of Vigilance more than once. Unsurprisingly, Deathwatch Forge Master Harl Greyweaver is vociferous in support of his Chapter-Brother. Greyweaver insists that the "young-pup," as he calls him, will shape up with time. Watch Commander Mordigael has struck a balance by assigning Attalus just about any Deathwatch mission involving even a scent of Tyranids. It is hoped that Attalus will be more successful at learning by doing in the company of Deathwatch battle-brothers knowledgeable in the ways of the Tyranid. As a side effect, the policy serves to keep the troublesome Attalus away from the fortress for lengthy periods of time.
- Goremann the Elder, Deathwatch Dreadnought - Goremann is a celebrated Veteran of the Crimson Fists Chapter who served honourably in the Deathwatch on fifteen occasions prior to his installation into a Dreadnought body. Goremann's craft and cunning as an Ork fighter were legendary and it is said that at the Battle of Urkano Rift even the Orks chanted Goremann's name to honour him after he slew their Warboss in single combat. During Goremann's last Vigil five standard centuries ago (ca. 300.M41), he suffered mortal wounds and at his request the Deathwatch petitioned the Crimson Fists for his remains to be kept at Watch Fortress Erioch in the Jericho Reach. Now he rests in the cyborganic web of an armoured sarcophagus so that in time of need he can fight alongside his battle-brothers once more. Goremann's favoured Dreadnought armour is the war machine called Furiuosa Rex which is outfitted with twin Power Fists and underslung Flamers. In battle, Goremann's devastating charge can level a horde of lesser foes, crushing them beneath a terrifying avalanche of adamantium fists and steel limbs. Thankfully, such heavyweight support is seldom required in the field and Goremann's experience more often serves the Deathwatch in tactical analyses and threat assessments. In truth, the old warrior chafes at such mundane work and will seize on any opportunity to see action one more time.
- Arius Hyzeron, Deathwatch Keeper - Arius Hyzeron, a Veteran of the Ultramarines, has been on Watch Station Erioch longer than any other battle-brother. He has served as one of the ten Guardians of the Chamber of Vigilance for over two Terran centuries. Although no one is left who can confirm or deny it, it is said that Sergeant Varthion himself recommended Arius to his current post for his role in the famous defence of the Jericho Reach Warp Gate. This places Arius in the Jericho Reach over four hundred standard years ago. He has seen the arrival of many new alien threats since that time. Arius is gifted with his Chapter's charisma, and has forged bonds with many people on Erioch over his years there -- even the stubborn Forge Master Greyweaver. He has an easy smile, although his face is marred by a triumvirate of parallel scars that cross over his augmetic left eye. He is also a repository of speculation and past tales of the Omega Vault. This makes him of great interest to Epistolary Axineton.
- Septimus, Deathwatch Apothecary - Septimus is an Apothecary of the Angels of Absolution Chapter who is currently seconded to the Deathwatch. He has sworn to travel the void on secret missions without hope of help or succour from his Chapter. He arrived at Watch Fortress Erioch in the Jericho Reach on the heels of the Achilus Crusade in the entourage of Rogue Trader Diaz Lian, although it is unclear whether he came aboard a starship that traversed the Warp Gate from the Calixis Sector or was already present in the Jericho Reach. Though Septimus originated with the Angels of Absolution, he has not stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his battle-brothers in many Terran years. He is a highly skilled Apothecary with experience with a wide variety of gene-seed through his duties within the Deathwatch. He is known to be unusual amongst his battle-brothers for he is carefree and charismatic, even partial to the occasional joke. He is always willing to don his battle-plate and enter battle to assist his brothers, although his seemingly-friendly offer may hide a secret agenda of its own. What mission brought Septimus across the stars to Watch Fortress Erioch remains unknown. Upon his arrival he expected to find Watch Captain Ramiel at Erioch and in his absence he has remained to investigate the Captain's disappearance at Watch Station Midael.
- Titus Strome, Deathwatch Chaplain - Titus Strome embodies everything Watch Fortress Erioch stands for: unrelenting duty, unshakeable faith and an abiding hatred of all things alien. Like the fortress itself, Strome also has many secrets. Strome first came to Erioch as a Black Shield, his past history and Chapter expunged. From the outset, he made his every moment serve his duty to the Deathwatch, throwing himself into a cycle of training, fasting and prayer that caused some battle-brothers to question his sanity. Strome's readiness was truly tested in his very first deployment when his Kill-team was caught in a xenos Heretek ambush on Meniscus. Battle-Brother Zarkus, the team-leader, was killed outright and every other member seriously wounded in the opening salvoes of the engagement. Despite his injuries, Strome protected the survivors by making a ferocious single-handed counterattack that destroyed the Hereteks' weapon-nest and scattered its crew. After extraction, Strome's armour was found to have sustained over two hundred impact hits during the battle, fully a third of which had pierced the Ceramite and drawn blood. Even Space Marines are not immortal, and their gene-enhanced metabolisms can only survive so much harm. The Apothecaries did not expect Strome to live through such injuries and the Deathwatch Chaplain was called to give final unction. It was at this time, according to Strome, that his path became clear to him. The quiet strength and unwavering sense of righteousness of the Chaplain kindled within him a lust for life that returned him from the brink of death. Slowly, painfully, Strome recovered from his injuries and pushed against the limits of his endurance. As soon as he became fit for duty, Strome sought apprenticeship with the Chaplains and was accepted as an Acolyte. For many years Strome served under different Chaplains, being in effect reduced to a mere Novice learning catechisms and legends of the Long Vigil. He applied himself to every trial with fervour, winning the approval of every one of his masters before he was finally inducted into their ranks. When seen without the silvered death mask of a Chaplain, Strome's face is thin and aesthetic, his eyes lighting with fanatic fervour whenever talk turns to xenos. Despite his cadaverous appearance, Strome is a masterful close-combat fighter capable of trading blows with an Ork Warboss or overthrowing a Carnifex -- just two of the feats to be found in his long list of battle honours.
- Mac Zi Ven, Deathwatch Techmarine - Mac Zi Ven is a Techmarine of the Storm Wardens Space Marine Chapter and a devotee of the Cult Mechanicus who has shown the touch of a true master in the arts of technomancy. His humble beginnings amongst the warrior tribes of Sacris led him to view technology as truly touched with divinity. In the ranks of the Storm Wardens it soon became clear that Mac Zi was gifted and he was quickly raised to the rank of Techmarine. Some of his battle-brothers mutter that Mac Zi shows more respect to the Red Priests of Mars than to his own Chapter, but Mac Zi's contributions of finely-crafted weapons and armour win him many friends. Mac Zi volunteered for the Deathwatch to satisfy his growing hunger for knowledge. Now in the foundries and catacombs of Watch Fortress Erioch he has access to a vast repository of data about both Human and alien devices. He secretly views xeno-tech as only another tool for glorifying the Omnissiah, believing that any science can be turned to Mankind's service once it is properly understood. Mac Zi has come to despise Harl Greyweaver for the old Iron Priest's disrespect of the Machine God and narrow-mindedness. If Greyweaver should somehow lose his position as Forge Master of Erioch, Mac Zi would be ready and willing to take his place.
- Vigilant, Deathwatch Chaplain - The Deathwatch Black Shield known as Brother Vigilant arrived in the final hours of 812.M41 to Watch Fortress Erioch aboard a badly damaged Inquisitorial courier vessel belonging to an Ordo Xenos Inquisitor who had departed only a solar month before on some urgent, unknown mission. The Inquisitor was nowhere to be found and the crew had died from void exposure or radiation sickness within a solar week of departure, leaving only a single clue as to what had brought the vessel to Erioch. A stasis-crypt was found within the courier's hold, containing a single Space Marine in a Sus-an Membrane-induced coma, clad in battle-scarred black warplate and clutching a Crozius Arcanum that had seen much use. Upon the nameless battle-brother's awakening, Watch Commander Mordigael gathered the Chamber of Vigilance at the newcomer's urgent request, to hear his case. Three solar days passed, as he explained himself and put his fate at the mercy of the Master of the Vigil. Whatever was said is sealed by agreement of the Master of the Vigil and the Inquisitor of the Chamber, never to be spoken of again, and the bearer of this news was granted leave to swear the Apocryphon Oath and begin a Vigil without end, taking the name Brother Vigilant in place of his own. However, instead of taking to the field immediately, Brother Vigilant spent three standard years in intense study, learning the many rites and rituals of the Deathwatch, before he emerged to do battle with the Emperor's enemies, bearing once again the scarred and war-worn Crozius Arcanum he arrived with, having taken up the mantle of a Deathwatch Chaplain. At present, Brother Vigilant operates from Watch Station Andronicus, departing frequently with itinerant Kill-teams venturing deeper into space contested by the T'au.
- Zadkiel, Deathwatch Epistolary - Epistolary Zadkiel is a powerful and honoured Librarian of the Dark Angels Chapter, seconded to the Deathwatch and a prominent leader in the Acheros Salient. His potent psychic abilities have banished daemons without number, and his Force Staff has reaped a bloody tally against the Heretic hordes of the Cellebos Warzone. Known to possess an aloof and proud mien, Zadkiel is rarely forthcoming about his past, but there are a few facts known to his battle-brothers in the Deathwatch. As a young Lexicanium, Zadkiel studied under the Dark Angels' Grand Master of Librarians, no less a personage than Ezekiel himself. Zadkiel proved himself under his tutor's strict training, and swiftly ascended the ranks of the Librarium. In time, Zadkiel earned the right to be examined by Ezekiel for induction into the mysterious Inner Circle of the Dark Angels. Ezekiel despatched his former student to fight alongside the elite 1st Company of the Dark Angels, the Deathwing, for a number of years. Zadkiel once more excelled, honing his own battle skills and developing a talent not unlike that of his teacher -- an ability to read the tides of war and predict the flow of strategy with uncanny precision. Once Zadkiel even crossed blades with the enigmatic Fallen Angel called Cypher during the Battle of Screams, an encounter that left the Librarian with a bionic eye and a bitter heart. Zadkiel's accomplishments during one notable campaign earned him a special honour, as the Grand Master of the Deathwing (1st) Company granted Zadkiel the right to bear Deathwing heraldry upon his armour from that moment forward. The Librarian regularly assists Kill-teams with strategic and tactical planning for missions in the Acheros Salient of the Jericho Reach, and Zadkiel has led a number of assaults upon key Heretic Astartes warband leaders in the Blood Trinity region. Zadkiel regularly meets with Space Marines seconded to the Deathwatch from the Unforgiven Successor Chapters of the Dark Angels, and he has built a rapport with many of these Space Marines who are so far from their familiar surroundings.
- Inquisitor Hezika Carmillus, Inquisitor of the Chamber - Hezika Carmillus of the Ordo Xenos has served the Holy Ordos for over three standard centuries. In that time, she has led pogroms that have scoured xenos infestations from a dozen worlds, condemned and executed Lord Commanders and Admirals, broken influential and traitorous Rogue Traders, and denounced Radicalism amongst her own kind. Tall and blade-thin, she wears exoskeletal enhanced armour at all times and keeps a court of diverse and deadly warriors, collected from dozens of worlds, at her beck and call. Her voice is silken honey at one moment and unyielding steel the next as she desires. She will not, under any circumstances, allow herself to be perceived as anything other than what she is: a warrior-savant in the service of the Emperor of Mankind. She is undaunted by the transhuman killers whose company her duty now bids her keep, and she will brook no challenges to her authority, in particular by other Inquisitors, although she is ever-conscious of its limitations. Inquisitor Carmillus has been the Inquisitor of the Chamber and mistress of the Tower of Brass for sixteen Terran years and has executed her sworn tasks with precise dedication and utter ruthlessness. While possessing a warlike temperament, she is also highly intelligent and subtle. These traits make her an ideal emissary to the domain of the Deathwatch and well equipped to deal with its Adeptus Astartes masters. She has voiced the opinion in the Chamber that, although she is in favour of the Achilus Crusade, a contingency plan should be drawn up to destroy the Warp Gate to the Calixus Sector should the Crusade suffer catastrophic failure. She believes that the Warp Gate possesses a vast threat if it is no longer under the Imperium's direct control. Much of her other motivations, however, remain a tightly-held secret.
- Inquisitor Adrielle Quist - Adrielle Quist was first noted by Inquisitor Carmillus for her prodigious telepathic abilities. Her sharp, investigative mind distinguished her from her fellow Acolytes, and during her time as an Interrogator she was one of a select few brought to the Tower of Brass when her mistress became Inquisitor of the Chamber at Watch Fortress Erioch. Five short standard years ago, Quist earned her own Inquisitorial Rosette, and she remains Carmillus' primary hand in the field. Quist has a deep fascination with alien technology that she keeps tightly concealed. She is all too aware that many around her would brand her a Radical or Traitor for her desire to see the Imperium match the technological advancement of alien species like the T'au. She is secretly one of the Crucible Resolviate's principal sources of xenos artefacts. The fresh Inquisitor would like greatly to find Deathwatch warriors who share her open mind about the path to Humanity's continued advancement, as it would make procuring items of advanced alien technology from their missions far less laborious.
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 328-333
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 115
- Deathwatch: Game Master's Kit (RPG)
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pp. 228-232
- Deathwatch: The Emperor Protects (RPG), pg. 54