The Raven Guard
Space Marine Chapter
The Raven Guard specialise in devastating strikes behind enemy lines, guerrilla warfare and rapid reaction to enemy manoeuvres. During the Great Crusade, the Raven Guard conquered countless worlds thought impregnable, by the precise application of force at an enemy's weakest point. At the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the Raven Guard was almost destroyed, and only by employing the most desperate of measures was the Legion saved.
Of the early history of the Raven Guard's Primarch Corax, very little is known for sure. The Raven Guard's own legends are vague concerning the pale skinned youth who was raised on the mineral rich, but desolate moon of Lycaeus. This moon orbited Kiavahr, a technologically advanced planet, its surface covered with sprawling machine shops and forge cathedrals. Lycaeus was exceedingly rich in mineral wealth and populated by exiles from the planet below who lived in crude force domes to protect them from the vacuum of space. The ruling Tech-Guilds of Kiavahr used the mineworkings on Lycaeus as a dumping ground for their worst criminals and those who could not meet their production-quotas. Heavily armed overseers ruled the moon from a dark mountain spire that towered above the mineworkings, and it was, to all intents and purposes, a death sentence to be banished to Lycaeus.
Ancient, faded texts within the Chapter Librarius of the Raven Guard tell that the inhabitants of Lycaeus had long been the slaves of Kiavahr, working in the massive mines under armed guard in horrendous conditions. Accidents killed many of the workers and the polluted atmosphere took a heavy toll on the health of their children. Once condemned to a life in the mines, there was no escape and the slaves of Lycaeus prayed to the Emperor for a saviour. He came in the form of a child whose skin was as white as snow.
There are many stories concerning the discovery of Corax and the truth of the matter may never be known. One tale tells of a cave-in that claimed the lives of hundreds of slaves mining beneath a glacier and revealed a hidden chamber containing the infant Primarch. Another speaks of a fiery comet that broke apart on a massive mountain of iron and a child wreathed in ghostly light, who walked unscathed from the rubble. Yet another talks of a dying warrior giant delivering the babe to the slaves and begging them to protect the infant from the Dark Ones. Whatever the circumstances, the slaves of Lycaeus took the white skinned babe with midnight black hair and named him Corax, which means 'the Deliverer'. They hid the infant from their jailers and raised him as one of their own. Within the space of a few years, when his abnormal maturation became obvious, the slaves rejoiced, seeing this as a sign of favour from the Emperor. They trained the young Primarch in all manner of skills, the varied backgrounds of the exiles giving Corax a thorough grounding in urban warfare, sabotage, demolition and killing. They taught him all the qualities they believed a general and leader would need and Corax learned at an astonishing rate, his strength, keen intellect and taciturn demeanour making him a quick and voracious learner.
From the earliest age, Corax had been told that it was his destiny to save the people of Lycaeus and as the years passed he began sowing the seeds that would bring about their freedom. With the slaves' limited resources, only the crudest of weapons could be fashioned and great stockpiles of these were hidden in secret caches throughout the mineworkings in key strategic points. Corax organized the slaves into storm squads, appointed competent leaders and drilled them thoroughly in their assigned tasks. He also began psychological warfare on their jailers, organising regular strikes and staging riots that stretched the garrison's resources thinly and sapped the guards' morale. Each event was choreographed to seem like a gradual build up of pressure and soon Lycaeus was a powder keg waiting to explode.
When the time came, Corax and his trained squads of slaves struck. Massive mining machines were driven through the streets and key security points. Sabotage teams armed with rock drills and las-cutters were able to sever power lines, communications and life support to many of their enemies' strongpoints. One particular dome, home to a significant portion of Lycaeus' military might, was shut off completely, exposing its occupants to the hard vacuum of space. Simultaneously, Corax and a small group of his deadliest warriors assaulted the fortress-like tower of their taskmasters, capturing it in a single night's fighting. After centuries of abuse, there could be no mercy for those who had kept the slaves in bondage and every prisoner taken was executed.
The Tech-Guilds of Kiavahr were shocked at the fall of Lycaeus and immediately dispatched troops to crush the rebellion. The war was short and brutal. Sitting at the top of a long gravity-well, Corax's troops were able to bombard the planet from afar with cargo containers laden with crude atomic charges, laying waste to vast portions of Kiavahr's industrial landscape. When troops from Kiavahr did land on the moon to fight, Corax was there with his handpicked warriors. The raven-haired Primarch out-thought and outfought his enemies and every turn, surgical strikes decapitating the Kiavahr command structure, destroying their supply lines and keeping them on the defensive.
In the end, Corax was to prove victorious, and the Kiavahr troops withdrew as their planet's economy collapsed without the mineral resources of Lycaeus to plunder. Kiavahr descended into anarchy as the various Tech-Guild factions fought amongst themselves for control of the remaining materials still on the planet. The celebrations on Lycaeus went on for many days and, in memory of their victory, the slaves renamed their home Deliverance.
The most complete record of the Great Crusade, the Speculum Historiale, has little to say on the matter of Corax's reuniting with the Emperor of Mankind. It is left to the Raven Guard's Librarians to recall how such a momentous event came about and, as always, there is much that is shrouded in mystery. It is said that during the victory celebrations, the Emperor descended to Deliverance to find Corax waiting for him, curious to meet this stranger who had landed alone on his world. The Emperor spoke to Corax for a day and a night, but whatever passed between them is unrecorded. At dawn the following day Corax accepted command of the Raven Guard Legion of Space Marines and took his place at the Emperor's side. One condition of his acceptance was that the Emperor aid him in bringing peace to Kiavahr. Peace through force of arms, but peace nonetheless. Already reeling from their defeat on Deliverance and unable to muster a coherent force against the Raven Guard, the power of the Tech-Guilds was broken and the Adeptus Ministorium stepped into the void left by their destruction. Mineral production soon began again on Deliverance, under a much improved regime, and gradually the world of Kiavahr was rebuilt under the guidance of the Imperium. The dark tower that had once housed the slaves' oppressors, now became the fortress of the Raven Guard and was renamed the Ravenspire.
The Great Crusade saw Corax lead the Raven Guard in some of the most stunning victories of that turbulent time. He had not forgotten the training he had received on Deliverance and his talents for sabotage and precision planning were employed to great effect in the Emperor's Crusade. Planets thought impregnable fell to Corax's guile and swift, deadly actions of the Raven Guard. Assassinations, covert operations behind enemy lines and sabotage became the watchwords of the Legion and in these areas their skill was unmatched. Corax became a master at observing a planet's power structure and applying military pressure where needed to topple its leaders or cripple it's military capabilities. The full force of the Raven Guard Legion was seldom required but, when it was, Corax would not hesitate to throw every warrior into battle.
Corax's Legion garnered such a fearsome reputation that Warmaster Horus requested their aid many times in his campaigns and it is thought that it was thanks to the Raven Guard's assistance that Horus's tally of victories was so high. The Raven Guard's records are curiously reticent concerning this period of history and Imperial Historians suspect that the taciturn Corax did not like the more gregarious Horus, finding him overly boastful and manipulative. It is rumoured that on one occasion the two almost came to blows and bloodshed was only averted when Corax removed his Legion from the Warmaster's command. The two Primarchs were never to meet again and when the Horus Heresy tore the galaxy apart in the first Inter-Legionary war, the Raven Guard was fighting alongside the Iron Hands and the Salamanders. All three Legions were ordered to assault Horus's headquarters on the planet of Istvaan V and destroy it utterly. Four supporting Legions would be close on their heel, ready to reinforce the initial landing and consolidate the invasion.
Horus had turned his back on the Emperor, but had lost none of the cunning which had earned him the title of Warmaster. The Loyalist Legions were badly mauled on their initial landings and casualties were appalling. The forces of the Great Betrayer were heavily fortified, and after fierce fighting, the loyalist Legions were forced to fall back to link up with their supporting Legions. The landing zones had been fortified by the Iron Warriors, and when the retreating troops reached the fortifications, they came under withering hail of fire from their erstwhile allies. Unknown to the Legions on the planet, Horus had managed to corrupt four of the seven Legions sent against him. Caught between the enemy they were already fighting and the surprise attack from behind, the Loyalists were shattered and barely a handful were able to escape Horus's trap and warn the Emperor of this wholesale betrayal.
His Legion shattered, Corax returned to Deliverance with Orders to rebuild it as quickly as possible. It was a bleak time for the Primarch of the Raven Guard; the Imperium was teetering on the brink of collapse and desperately needed brave warriors, but he had none to give. A desperate situation called for desperate measures and Corax locked himself within the shadowed Chambers of the Ravenspire's Librarius to pour over volumes of forgotten lore in search of a solution. His researches led him back to the earliest days of genetic manipulation, when accelerated zygote harvesting techniques were used to create the first enhanced warriors with which the Emperor had long ago pacified Holy Terra. Corax realised that this process could be modified to produce full-grown Space Marines at a frightening rate. But the ancient tomes also warned of the terrible dangers involved and the unspeakable monsters that could result and, though he knew he risked destroying his Legion, he reluctantly ordered the Apothecaries to begin the process.
Of the Apothecaries' first creations, nothing is known for sure. The Raven Guard's records have been sealed with oaths and sigils of unspeakable power and none of the Chapter, or its successors, will speak more of those blighted days. Accounts culled from other sources are few and far between as the Raven Guard shunned the other Legions at this time, preferring to fight alone and unseen. One apocryphal tale is told by the Rune Priests of the Space Wolves, the so-called 'Saga of the Weregeld', which tells of ferocious monsters, drooling and almost insane with bloodlust, herded into combat by the battle brothers of the Raven Guard. Perhaps the Space Wolves' experiences with the curse of the Wulfen made them more sympathetic to the Raven Guard's plight as there is no record of them reporting the use of such forbidden technology. Barely one in ten of these abominations could even hold a bolt gun and yet amongst these there might be one in a hundred whose genetic structure was stable enough to develop into a fully-fledged Space Marine.
Years passed and the galaxy burned with war. Corax and his band of Space Marines gradually rebuilt their Legion and played parts when they could. The Raven Guard's talent for operating in small squads behind enemy lines offset their lack of resources, and their skills in this aspect of warfare were fully incorporated into their combat doctrine. Corax's ability to see weak points in a defence and apply precise force allowed his troops to fight battles of their choosing and keep casualties to a minimum. The Raven Guard simply hadn't the troops to operate in large-scale actions and it was nearly a century after the Heresy had ended before the Legion was able to deploy in meaningful numbers of full battle brothers. Corax had rebuilt his Legion, but at a cost. The dungeons below the Ravenspire echoed with the howls of the Apothecaries' creations, bestial monstrosities who hungered for battle, and Corax agonized as to what should be done with them. He decreed that none should discover the terrible price his Legion had paid in order to survive and his final solution was to personally administer the Emperor's Peace to each and every one, praying for their, and his own, souls as he did so.
Following the Heresy, Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines, became the de facto head of the Imperium's armed forces and one of the first edicts is his holy tome, the Codex Astartes, was that the Space Marines Legions be split into smaller units known as Chapters. Amongst many of the Primarchs there was resistance, but Corax welcomed the decision, knowing that Guilliman's vision of the future was true. Thus the Raven Guard were to give rise to three other Chapters: the Black Guard, the Revilers and the Raptors.
Like everything in Corax's life, his ultimate fate is shadowed in darkness. It is said that following the break-up of the Legions and re-establishment of Imperial rule to the galaxy, Corax locked himself in the highest tower of the Ravenspire, praying to the Emperor for forgiveness for what he had ordered done to his Legion. Whether he received the absolution he required no-one will ever know, but a year to the day after he had entered the tower, Corax emerged, haggard and wild eyed. He left Deliverance that very night on a course for the Eye of Terror, never to be seen again, leaving but a single word as his valediction, 'Nevermore…'
Between them, Deliverance and Kiavahr produce enough ordnance and engines of war to almost equal the production of a Forge world. The raw materials come from Deliverance's vast mineral wealth and the production facilities of Kiavahr produce weapons and war machines of unparalleled craftsmanship.
The moon, Deliverance, is a barren and airless ball of rock covered in force domes and massive mining structures. The dark side of the moon glows with the constant production and movement of massive cargo ships travelling between the two worlds. The fortress of the Raven Guard, the Ravenspire, occupies the huge, black tower once home to the Kiavahr overseers and is one of the largest natural structures on the planet. Unlike many other Chapters, the Raven Guard share close ties with the planet's populace and take many of their initiates from them, though not exclusively so. The people see the Space Marines among them as the physical manifestation of the Emperor's will and offer daily praise for their presence.
The planet Kiavahr is populated by billions of workers and craftsmen, with huge fabrication plants and hive cities covering its surface. The planets atmosphere is highly toxic from centuries of pollution and incidences of mutation are far higher than normal. This stretches the tolerance of the Adeptus Ministorium, but such is the quality and quantity of material that comes from the two worlds that more leeway is granted than would normally be the case.
The Raven Guard follows the dictates of the Codex Astartes closely, though they do differ in the tactical application of their troops. The Raven Guard depends heavily on Scout forces able to act alone for extended periods of time, and rapid reaction forces such as jump pack equipped assault troops. Quite commonly, they will deploy their tactical squads in Drop Pod manoeuvres or Thunderhawks in response to intelligence gathered by their Scouts. The Chapter's forte in covert operations means that they will rarely engage in a frontal battle unless no other option presents itself. Where possible, the Raven Guard will use precise application of force to cripple their enemy while avoiding a protracted engagement.
Dreadnoughts of the Raven Guard, while rare, are also quite commonly deployed via drop pods. This approach leads to a Chapter which can assemble its forces extremely rapidly and can react quickly to unexpected developments. When their numbers were limited during the days of the Horus Heresy, the Chapter's troops became experts in guerrilla warfare, and this has carried on to the present day, with the Chapter very rarely utilising heavily armoured vehicles.
After the massacre of Istvaan V, the Raven Guard had to make to do with older armour and equipment. The resources were simply not available to re-equip them and even today there is a higher percentage of ancient suits of armour amongst the Chapter than most others. The owners of these suits view themselves as blessed by the Primarch and fight to prove themselves his equal.
The Raven Guard's ability to have troops in vital locations to wreak havoc is legendary, and their mastery of rapid troop deployment and squad level tactics has been studied by many other Chapters. In several well-documented cases, the precise application of force in the right place has led to a rebellion being stopped before it has truly begun. However, their primary strength in battle is their ease of deployment. With most of the Chapter's Space Marines usually being drop pod deployed, or otherwise mobile, they can rapidly reassess a combat situation immediately before engaging, which gives them the ability to deal effectively with a rapidly changing battlefield.
To the Raven Guard, the Emperor is a distant figure, acknowledged as their founder and master of the galaxy, but who is not accorded the level or worship common amongst other Chapters. Corax is revered as their father and leader, worshipped as a man capable of making tough choices when the need was great. The Chapter still follows in his footsteps and post-action sermons, utilising data recorded from battle is later compiled and reviewed by the Chapter's warriors. Much of the Chapter's current tactical doctrine has evolved from meditations on past battles such as these.
For the leaders of the Raven Guard, tactical prowess and personal initiative is seen as more important than mere might. If there is the possibility of using a swift dagger to the heart instead of a drawn-out fight, the Raven Guard are the ones to find it, though if heavy assault is needed they will not hold back. These beliefs cause some tension between the Raven Guard and other Chapters, particularly the Blood Angels, who they see as brutish and clumsy.
The gene-seed of the Raven Guard is far from stable and a great deal of their gene-stock has become irreparably damaged, perhaps as a side effect of the accelerate gene-harvesting techniques employed many millennia ago. As a result, much of their genetic material has to come from Terra and therefore the cycle of recruitment for the Raven Guard is much slower than other Chapters. Few candidates for the Chapter prove able to sustain the transformation from a normal human being to a Space Marine and many die early in training, further limiting the Chapter in numbers.
Further deterioration has meant that several of the unique organs of the Space Marines no longer function as they should among the Sons of Corax, while others are not as effective as they once were. For example, the zygote cultures required to grow the Mucranoid and Betcher's Gland do not exist within the Raven Guard and the Melanchromic Organ has a unique mutation that, over the years of service, causes the skin of the Space Marine to grow paler. Eventually they will be as white as their Primarch and their hair and eyes will darken, becoming black as coal.
Specialising in covert operations behind enemy lines and debilitating fast strikes, the Raven Guard do not have a battlecry as such. Instead the Chapter's motto is simply 'Victorus aut Mortis'.