On the edge of the Eastern Fringe, where even the light of the Astronomicon fades to a faint shimmer, the border worlds of the Imperium are under constant peril. Xenos raiders strike from without, while sedition and open rebellion jeopardize the realms’ stability from within. Realizing that the planetary defense forces and ponderous Imperial Guard would not be enough to quell such threats, the High Lords of Terra commissioned the founding of several new Space Marine Chapters to supplement the Imperium’s fighting strength. Among these was the Azure Blades, a fleet-based Chapter whose mix of covert actions and more traditional Codex tactics, mark it as an unpredictable but effective weapon in the Emperor’s arsenal.
The Azure Blades are descended from the Ultramarines through the widely-scattered Novamarines, who provided the gene-seed for the fledgling Chapter, along with was a modest donation of equipment from their own forges and a cadre of veterans to train the recruits. In some ways, they even owe the Novamarines their name — it is said that Brother-Captain Antonius, senior among the training cadre, looked upon the promising neophytes, and likened them to his favored power sword Azul (whose surface glowed a rich blue when activated), stating that they were to be “… Blades that clove through the enemies of the Imperium.” When Antonius ascended to the position of Chapter Master, the Chapter in essence became his symbolic weapon for use.
His Azure Blades.
Antonius was an adherent of the Codex Astartes and organized the Chapter according to the doctrines of Roboute Guilliman. As an accomplished swordsman, Antonius encouraged formalized dueling to hone his warriors’ hand-to-hand skills and foster competitive camaraderie. The introduction of these dueling conventions began to subtly shape the Chapter’s rituals and symbolism.
When the Chapter finally reached full strength, Antonius ordered the fleet eastward, to the far edge of Imperial space, where the worlds it was founded to protect awaited it. There, in one of the systems of the Eastern Fringe, the Azure Blades was involved in its first major engagement, as they engaged a force of Orks threatening to overwhelm the colony of Genso Beta. It was a literal trial-by-fire, but the battle-brothers of the Azure Blades proved themselves admirably, as they aided the local PDF in driving off most the greenskins from the planet’s important industrial and population centers, while Antonius led a force of his best warriors behind enemy lines to deal with Grognard Darkklaw, the warboss leading the invaders. In an encounter still celebrated in the Chapter’s records, the greenskin commander was finally cornered and slain, with Antonius himself decapitating the brute with his power sword. With its leader gone, the invasion soon disintegrated.
Antonius steadfastly led his Chapter for more than five centuries, before finally falling in battle against a kabal of Dark Eldar. The Azure Blades greatly mourned his passing, for the Chapter owed much of its identity to his influence. As a mark of respect he was forever immortalized in their history as the First Blade, the forger of the Chapter’s destiny, while his power sword Azul, which had served him faithfully for so long, became the Chapter Master’s symbol of office, the High Blade. In time, the position of Chapter Master became intimately associated with the relic, as each successor became the symbolic High Blade for the battle-brothers of the Chapter — the greatest among them, and inheritor of Antonius’ will.
For more than two thousand years the Azure Blades faithfully prosecuted the duty they had been assigned, assisting the forces of the Imperium on the Eastern Fringe against the dangers they constantly faced. Although it maintained the flexible way of warfare espoused by Antonius, as a fleet-based Chapter the Azure Blades also earned a reputation for rapidly answering calls for aid, as well as ship-to-ship combat and boarding actions, the latter culminating in the capture of the Dark Eldar vessel codenamed Revenant, which had been plaguing the shipping lanes of the Biscay sector for four decades.
The Azure Blades prospered under the guidance of Antonius’ successors, but for all their foresight and planning, they could not prepare the Chapter for the greatest trial it would face, one that would nearly break it completely.
The Shattered Blade
On 987.M40, the Azure Blades was part of an Imperial task force sent to quell an uprising on Siquijor Primus, the largest populated world in the Rahe system. While the world had a history of unrest, the discovery of Alpha Legion warbands active on the planet showed that the Great Enemy had a hand in fanning the flames of rebellion. Gerhardt Einhander, the Chapter master of the time, pledged the entire strength of the Chapter to aid the Imperial Guard regiments sent to pacify the world, but that decision almost proved to be the Azure Blades’ undoing. The traitor legionnaires, who had wreaked havoc on the Guard forces already present on-world, turned their baleful attention on the newly-arrived Chapter, and singled it out as the greater threat to their campaign.
The traitors were like phantoms, striking everywhere and nowhere at once, luring squads into devious traps and deadly ambushes, before fading back into the darkness, leaving only the injured and the dying as evidence of their passing. The veterans and commanders drew on all of their battlefield experience to counter the traitors’ tactics, and in many instances drove the renegade legionnaires back, but the toll was mounting. As the campaign ground on, more of the Blades were lost in the conflict, and still the Alpha Legion struck, their numbers seemingly undiminished.
Things came to a head during the siege of Valencia, the largest hive city on the planet. When the Imperial Guard finally breached the city’s defenses, the Azure Blades followed, aiding in the advance of the Guard companies by engaging traitor warbands where they were found. Fierce street-to-street fighting erupted amidst the ruins of the hive, but after three days the Alpha Legion appeared to be in full retreat, with most of the traitor legionnaires slain. With grim purpose battle-brothers of the Chapter followed the traitors deep into the lower levels of Valencia, seeking to end the threat the renegades posed to the world, and eager to avenge the loss of so many of their brothers. Gerhardt however, as well as the surviving brother-captains of the battle and reserve companies, sensed even more subterfuge from their enemies. While they were confident of the abilities of the brothers under their command, the rout that had occurred seemed far too easy, especially when one considered the tactical guile their enemies displayed. Contingencies were quickly formulated, and the advance reversed, but by then it was too late.
The trap was sprung, as the Alpha Legion finally revealed their hand, and attacked en masse, with far more traitor legionnaires than the Chapter had estimated them to possess, supported by large numbers of what appeared to be heavily-armed cultists and looted Imperial Guard tanks.
Surrounded on all sides, the Blades fought bravely, with all the strength and skill available to them, but it wasn’t enough. With the path of retreat to the upper levels cut off, the Chapter’s forces were isolated, and soon its battle brothers fell, blasted by traitor tank rounds, rent apart the traitor’s hand, or overwhelmed by endless of waves of armed cultists. Facing total destruction Gerhardt gathered the surviving veterans and company commanders, and led a breakout against what looked like a weak point among the forces encircling them. Such was the fury of the attack that their enemies fell back against their onslaught, giving enough of an opening for their injured brothers to take advantage of.
The gambit succeeded, but at a terrible price; nearly all of the marines that accompanied Gerhardt’s last charge fell with their leader. Only Apothecary Alion, steadfast friend to the Chapter master since their time as scouts, and Brother-Captain Diego Albark of 4th Company, whose normally stoic face was said to have been slick with tears that day, survived. Between them they bore their fallen commander’s body, as well as Azul, nearly lost to the hands of the renegades.
Of the eight hundred or so battle brothers that walked into the ambush, less than a company remained, not counting the specialists that were left to oversee the Chapter’s ships. It was a grievous blow, one that would take long to recover from. With an apology to the Imperial commanders of the Siquijor campaign, Brother-Captain Diego withdrew the surviving battle-brothers of the Chapter back to their fleet, to mourn the fallen, and plan for an uncertain future.
Although the planet was eventually reclaimed in the name of the Holy Emperor, it would be without the support of the Azure Blades.
The Hidden Blade
As the highest-ranking non-specialist, Brother Diego ascended to the position of Chapter Master by default, and was faced with the difficult task of deciding the future of his Chapter. Although Rebuilding the Chapter’s strength was clearly a high priority, withdrawing completely to do so was out of the question, as it would be tantamount to abandoning the duty entrusted to it. At the same time, given the losses sustained during the Siquijor campaign, the Azure Blades could no longer fight in manner it had followed for so long. Diego needed a compromise, that allowed the Azure Blades to recover its strength, at the same time allowing the Chapter to still lend its aid when it was required.
Eventually, it was to the Codex that Diego turned for inspiration. As the battle-brothers of the Chapter continued to mourn, Diego isolated himself for three days in the battle barge Joyeause’s Reclusiam to study the Codex copy preserved there — the same one that Antonius had brought with him during the founding of the Chapter. During that period of seclusion he found his answer, but it was not the one he had initially expected.
Diego gathered the battle-brothers of the Azure Blades, including senior representatives of the Reclusiam, Librarius, Armorium, and Apothecarion, and put forward his plan for the Chapter. To conserve what remained of their brethren, he proposed that, until their numbers had sufficiently recovered, the warriors of the Azure Blades would be deployed as small units of infiltrators and saboteurs, relying on stealth and guerilla tactics to attack targets of opportunity and value. The irony of the suggestion was not lost on those in attendance, especially the battle-brothers who had survived the massacre; to continue the Chapter’s duty, they would have to utilize the same tactics that had been used against them.
The proposal was controversial, and many rejected the idea altogether. The change in tactics spoke of cowardice, some debated, and insulted the memory of those that came before them. In his defense Diego quoted sections of the Codex that referred to the use of covert actions and its place in warfare, and pointed to the Raven Guard as an example of a Chapter that used those tactics to full effect. The shift to a more specialized stealth-based doctrine was the only viable way for the Chapter to continue fighting and still hope to recover, he argued; with the manpower it had left open combat was not an option, and would only lead to the Chapter’s eventual annihilation.
The debate continued for a few days, with honor duels fought between those who saw wisdom in the Chapter Master’s words and the traditionalists, but ultimately even these die-hards relented. For all their misgivings, Diego’s proposal was far more preferable than the alternative.
With the Chapter finally in agreement, Diego put the changes he suggested into motion. As he redirected the course of the Chapter’s fleet towards some of the Azure Blades’ traditional recruiting worlds, the retraining of the warriors under his command begun in earnest. Despite the initial opposition to the idea, the transition to guerilla warfare went fairly smoothly — after all, every battle-brother in the Chapter started their careers as scouts. Small, squad-based tactics independent of armored support and readily-available supplies were re-emphasized, and the use of camo cloaks, once the reserve of initiates in the 10th company, was encouraged. Strategies that favored open battle and assault, maintained out of respect for the Chapter’s predecessors, were reserved as tools of the last resort due to the low numbers of available battle-brothers.
The first test of this change in tactics came barely a century and a half after the Shattering (what the Azure Blades now call the Valencia Massacre). Despite still being under-strength, Chapter master Diego led half a company to the defense of Dynamis Three, a world besieged by a Waaagh led by a particularly belligerent Ork warboss named Ugo Bonecrusher. As the Imperial Guard and brothers from the Aurora and Storm Lords Chapters battled the Orks on the open field, the Azure Blades did their part to aid the Imperial forces there by undermining the warboss’ supplies and communications. The battle-brothers of the Chapter infiltrated deep into enemy lines and struck hard at important targets, causing maximum disruption with precise applications of force; supply columns were ambushed, fuel and ammunition dumps were sabotaged, and many of the warboss’ trusted underlings were systematically dealt with.
The Azure Blades wreaked havoc wherever they appeared, and frustrated all attempts by the Bonecrusher to deal with them by quickly fading back into the shadows once their deeds were done, denying the Orks their numerical advantage. The harrassment continued for more than a year, diverting just enough of the Bonecrusher’s attention — and more importantly, the forces under the brute’s command — to allow the Imperial forces on the planet to consolidate and finally break the back of the greenskin horde.
With its effectiveness unquestioned at the end of the Dynamis campaign, the shift to a more specialized and covert way of war for the Chapter was complete. This set the tone for all engagements the Chapter participated in for the next three centuries. It was not long before the Azure Blades gained a reputation for being experts in stealth, subterfuge, and sabotage.
In Light and In Shadow
The tactics Chapter Master Diego engendered served his Chapter well, minimizing losses amongst battle-brothers and allowing the Chapter to focus much of its resources into reconstruction. The Azure Blades would slowly recover, although Diego himself would not live to witness it. By the third century of the 41st Millennium, the battle-ready brethren of the Chapter numbered five hundred strong, more if one included the specialists of the Armeria (the Chapter Master’s household, which encompassed the Reclusiam, Librarius, Apothecarion, and Armorium) and scout-initiates. While nowhere near full strength, it was a milestone when one considered just how close to extinction the Chapter had come.
Still it would be decades, perhaps even centuries before the Chapter could be considered whole again. To that end, the stealth stratagems that Diego had implemented continued to be used, with squads of infiltrators dispatched to aid Imperial forces in warzones across the Eastern Fringe, instead the full battle companies expected of a Codex Chapter.
There were some, however, who felt the Azure Blades had recovered sufficiently enough that it no longer required subterfuge to battle its enemies. A faction led by veteran sergeant Quintero, a firebrand who followed a strict interpretation of the Codex Astartes, pointed to the fact that the Chapter possessed enough men for a veteran company and four full battle companies. Though it was barely above half the strength expected in a Codex Chapter, it was more than enough to crush any opposition the Chapter might face, without having to resort to the guerilla tactics it currently utilized. As such, there was only one logical step for the Chapter to take, and that was a full return to the way of war prescribed by the Codex.
Many amongst the veterans, which included more than a few survivors of the Shattering, merely shook their heads at the sergeant’s reasoning; most of them had already heard similar statements before. In their opinion, it was far too early to even think of returning to Codex tactics. While it had the manpower to field battle companies, as Quintero suggested, what the Azure Blades did not have was a stable pool of reserves to draw replacements for the losses the Chapter would inevitably incur in open combat. Indeed, the reconstruction of the reserve companies had barely begun, and while there were technically the scout-initiates, they were not viable as reserves for full battle-brothers.
Ruis Fabella, the Chapter Master of the period, also believed that the time to return to the traditional way of warfare had not yet come. However, the Chapter was slowly moving towards that end, with the reformation of the reserve companies part of the process of shifting from specialization back to Codex flexibility. As such he advised patience, for the change that Quintero wished for was already in the making.
The Chapter Master’s words did little to mollify Quintero and his cohorts, and instead gave them more impetus to push for an earlier return to Codex tactics. Even worse, the argument seemed to have taken a life of its own, and had spread to the rest of the Chapter’s brethren. Although nearly all of the veterans, Armeria specialists, and some of the more experienced marines understood the need to continue using covert actions in their campaigns, a growing segment made up of the Chapter’s younger battle-brothers found themselves drawn towards Quintero’s side of the discussion. Relative calm prevailed in the debates that followed, though some honor duels were still fought, as each side tried to prove themselves more correct than the other.
The Azure Blades still performed as expected in the campaigns that followed, though Imperial observers began to note a marked change in the tactics the Chapter used. Infiltrators were still deployed, but many commanders were surprised to find squads of Astartes taking to the open field and spearheading assaults, the camo cloaks they had been equipped with left discarded, as if removed in disdain. Few would realize that these were outward signs of the internal conflict that was threatening to tear the Azure Blades apart…
Concerned at the potentially disastrous consequences for the Chapter if the debate was allowed to continue, Brother Tsurugi Kuro, highest-ranking member of the Librarius, and Brother Francesco Bertolini, Master of Sanctity and replacement of the recently-fallen Brother Sebastio, approached their Chapter Master with a possible solution that would placate both sides of the argument. Chapter Master Ruis listened to the advise they gave, and found that it was similar to the resolution he himself had reached. With the three leaders in agreement a conclave was soon organized, to put an end to the argument that was undermining the Chapter’s unity. Echoing the gathering organized by Brother Diego in the aftermath of the Shattering, the Chapter’s battle brothers assembled onboard the battle barge Joyeause, to listen to what their commander and his advisors had to say on the matter.
Chapter Master Ruis spoke first, revealing the initial reservations he himself had felt about the Azure Blades’ choice of tactics before he ascended to the position of leadership, where he finally realized that there was simply no other practical alternative available that allowed the Chapter to recover. Epistolary Tsurugi reminded those gathered of the reason why the Azure Blades was forced to abandon the tactics espoused by their founder, and pointed out the fact that, despite what Quintero and his associates might have claimed, the Chapter still adhered to the teachings of the Codex as the proper use of covert actions was also written down in that holy tome. Finally, Brother Francesco followed up on his companions’ points by stating that, while the zeal and devotion displayed by the brethren that argued for a return to the old ways of war was commendable, the Chapter itself was barely halfway through the rehabilitation process started by Chapter Master Diego, and rushing the transition could compromise the Chapter’s future as much as the internal bickering was doing.
With their exposition finished, the three leaders revealed the solution they proposed for the ‘problem’ currently besetting the Chapter: the Azure Blades would retain its stealth-based tactics, but such maneuvers would no longer have a central role in completing mission objectives, allowing force commanders to utilize more traditional strategies such as rapid strikes or direct assault when the situation allowed for it. As the number of full battle-brothers in the Chapter increased, so would the focus on covert actions decrease, until it occupied a support capacity in campaigns — minor, perhaps, but no less important. It would be foolish, after all, to dismiss the effectiveness of infiltration in undermining the strength and focus of enemy forces, which would otherwise have been brought fully to bear on brothers fighting out in the open. Much like twin weapons wielded by a skilled warrior, specialized covert actions and classic Codex tactics can complement each other to bring ultimate victory.
Members of both sides of the argument saw the wisdom in words of their elders, and realized the foolishness and the pettiness of their argument. The rift that had threatened to devastate the Chapter even more than the Shattering was healed, and in the process, the Azure Blades became stronger for the internal trials it had undergone.
Recent Chapter History
In the waning years of the 41st Millennium, the Azure Blades found an alarming increase in Xenos activity among the systems on the outer reaches of their fleet’s patrol route, with some purposely intruding into Imperial space. As it fought one incursion after another, it steadily became apparent that many of these races were not actually invading the holdings of the Imperium, but fleeing through them. The question of what they were escaping from soon became apparent in the first few months of 994.M41, when large-scale genestealer infestations were discovered in several outlying planets.
The Tyranids were coming.
The new Hive Fleet, codenamed Jormungandr, soon made its presence known, sweeping its way through the Centaurus arm of the Galaxy, on the edge of the Eastern Fringe. All-too quickly the Azure Blades, as well as their brothers in the Death Spectres and Honored Sons, found itself facing splinter fleets of a major Tyranid invasion. While their brother Chapters met the Tyranid swarms in force, the Azure Blades, still nowhere near full-strength and possessing only a relatively-small fleet, conducted hit-and-run raids against the Tyranid bioships, while its ground forces aided in the defense of worlds directly in the Hive Fleet’s path. Using the mixture of guerrilla tactics and open warfare, the Chapter met with initial success, its forces specifically targeting known synapse creatures, causing disruption in the incoming horde.
In late 995.M41 the Azure Blades fleet, along with ships from other neighboring Chapters, joined the ad hoc armada led by High Admiral Vortigern Hanroth in what would become the Battle of the Black Nebula. Although the Strike Cruisers Astor’s Falx and Cynod’s Saber were crippled during the encounter, the encounter broke the back of the Hive Fleet. With much of the hive fleet’s elements destroyed, the Chapter returned to its ancient patrol routes to repair their ships, and rearm for future threats.
Despite the most optimistic of estimates, Chapter Master Burgos was sure that this was not the last the sector had heard of the Tyranids, and of Hive Fleet Jormungandr in particular. It was not a prediction that the commander would take pride in when, decades later, it proved to be very true indeed…
Homeworld and Recruitment
The Azure Blades do not have a homeworld as of yet, instead operating from a modest fleet of warships, the centerpieces of which are the twin battle barges Joyeause and Cortana, ancient leviathans journeying across the stellar expanse that function as the Chapter’s mobile fortress-monasteries, each symbolizing the Blades’ spiritual heart and glorious past as well as their temporal might. The better-armed Joyeause, bristling with weaponry and protected by layer upon layer of heavy armor and shields, serves as the Chapter’s mobile fortress-monastery and main battleship during naval maneuvers, while the relatively larger Cortana doubles as the Chapter’s forge ship, manufacturing implements of war for the Azure Blades to use. Finally Strike Cruisers, and various fast-attack craft classes such as the Sword, Gladius, Firestorm, and Cobra round off the remainder of the flotilla, serving as escorts to the battle barges.
The Blades have no single world where they draw their recruits from, instead selecting potential initiates from worlds located along their fleet’s patrol route. They seem to prefer worlds with medieval to pre-Renaissance levels of technology, but are just as likely to recruit from hive worlds; indeed the current Chapter Master, Eugenio Burgos, hails from one such planet, the heavily industrialized and populated Humabon IV. The only constants the Chapter seem to keep with regards to recruitment is that the potential marines must display resourcefulness, adaptability, and the ability to keep their thoughts clear and focused under pressure.
Despite the Chapter’s fleet-bound nature, which preclude it from staying in any system for an extended period of time, the Azure Blades do keep a few sacred rituals connected to the recruitment and induction of new battle brothers. Foremost of these is the Gathering of Swords, which take place roughly every ten Terran-standard years. During this period an inhabited world on the Chapter fleet’s patrol route will be chosen, sometimes at random, other times with the aid of the Emperor’s Tarot, to be the Blades’ new recruiting ground. After communicating the Chapter’s intent to the planetary rulers, the Chapter Master sends a small contingent of veterans and Armeria specialists to the world, who will then set up a temporary base of operations there. This base will almost always be founded relatively close to the planet’s major settlements, yet situated in an area that is known for its high level of danger, extreme inaccessibility — or both — to test the potential recruit’s resolve and adaptability.
With the base established, the veterans will discretely make their way to the towns and cities, where they will reveal themselves — often surprising the citizens there — and proclaim the start of the Gathering. Open to all youths and warriors of eligible age, the conditions are simple: over a seven-day period, the prospective recruit must make their way to the Azure Blades base on foot, using only their chosen weapon and their wits, and present themselves to the Armeria brothers waiting there. After making the announcement, the veterans will leave as quickly as they came, and return to their base to await the arrival of possible initiates to their Chapter.
The few that survive the trek and the natural hazards of the base perimeter are tested by the Armeria specialists waiting for them there. While the standards of the Azure Blades are less stringent than other Astartes Chapters, more often than not only half of the survivors will be judged fit for initiation into 10th company. There is no shame in not being accepted, however, and the youths that did not pass muster are returned to their settlements, where they go on to occupy places of leadership and honor.
Organization and Tactics
During its inception, the Chapter was organized as a standard Codex Chapter with ten companies, composed of veterans, four battle companies, two tactical reserves, assault brethren, devastators, and a varied-strength scout company. The command pool of each company is drawn from the veterans, who in turn directly answer to the Chapter Master and his household (the Armeria, which includes the Reclusiam, Librarius, Apothecarion, and Armorium). A fully mobilized battle company will feature the standard mix of veteran, tactical, assault, and devastator squads, supported by the Chapter’s specialists.
In the aftermath of the Shattering, the Chapter was forced to mostly abandon standard Codex organization, relying instead in small squads of infiltrators to accomplish mission and campaign objectives, using subterfuge to eliminate targets of opportunity. Assault squads were virtually unheard of during this period, surviving specialists were forced to take up additional roles, and the use of cameoline cloaks — still widely-used by the Azure Blades even in the present day — spread among the remaining battle-brothers of the Chapter.
Recently the Azure Blades have mostly returned to Codex norms with regards to tactics and organization. Depending on the situation tactical brethren may spearhead strikes at enemy positions or, if their opponents prove far too numerous or too well-defended to dislodge via direct means, infiltrate behind their lines to attack high-value targets, and undermine their communications and command structure. Devastator squads still make heavy use of covert tactics, often lying hidden in strategic positions that offer a wide view of a battlefield, before revealing themselves at the most opportune moment to lay down a hail of heavy weapons fire, either to cover the advance of their tactical and assault brethren or to directly attack heavily armored targets.
Members of the Veteran Company rarely deploy as a single formation, and instead squads of these experienced battle-brothers are seconded to the Battle Companies depending on the needs of a specific Campaign. Given the Chapter’s current rate of recovery, all Azure Blades veterans are expected to be well-rounded in all aspects of combat, and as such can deploy either as a Vanguard or a Sternguard. Due to the relative rarity of the revered suits of tactical dreadnought armor, veterans are almost always deployed either via drop pod as infiltrators or via low-altitude flybys via Thunderhawk Gunship, making daring raids deep in enemy territory and causing as much disruption as possible among an opponent’s forces while the bulk of the Battle Company moves in to land a killing blow.
After serving a specific tenure in the Chapter’s combat squads and line companies, promising battle-brothers are singled out for training in the Azure Blades’ Armeria. Unlike other Chapters, who send aspiring techmarines to Mars for their training, the techmarines of the Azure Blades are also trained within the Armeria, but this is mostly due to the risk involved in sending aspirants for indoctrination, due the Chapter’s area of jurisdiction at the edge of Imperial space.
When a battle-brother has been deemed worthy for promotion to Veteran status, he will have to undergo a ritual called the Soul Forging before he is fully accepted into their august ranks. The aspirant is allowed access to the Chapter’s forges, where he must create a weapon that is serves both as a symbol of his new role as a sword against the Emperor’s enemies, as well as a practical implement of death. Only when a worthy weapon is created, one that is strong enough to turn the blows of the Traitor, keen enough to cleave through the heart of the Xeno, but not brittle enough that it would shatter against the armor of the Heretic, will the battle-brother be welcomed into the 1st Company. There he will be further trained in other advanced aspects of warfare, such as Command and Deployment, as well as the proper operation of the revered suits of tactical dreadnought armor.
When the Chapter Master falls in battle before naming a successor, the issue is decided upon as soon as possible by the Chapter Council, which is composed of the current Brother-Captains of the reconstituted companies as well as the Chief Librarian and Master of Sanctity. Likewise, when a Captain falls without naming a heir to the Company’s command, it is up to the Company Veterans to decided upon who is best among them to lead the formation.
The symbol of the Azure Blades is a stylized broad sword, normally displayed on the right shoulder, with the left side of the insignia displaying normal colorations of rich blue on the blade and a golden hilt, while the other half is completely obscured in black. Slight variations on this theme is utilized by each company to denote membership — for example, a member of the Devastators would display a claymore instead, and so on. Seniority, experience, and rank are denoted by a different-colored helmet. In order of influence, members of the Armeria normally wear bone-white colored helms, while veterans are differentiated from their less-experienced brethren by their rich orange-toned helmets. Non-veteran sergeants are distinguished by a yellow helmet, while a front-line battle brother wears the standard dark blue-hued helm. Membership in the Chapter’s companies are denoted by white Roman numerals representing the company (II for the Second Company, for example) superimposed over a marine’s squad markings, instead of colored trim on their shoulder armor.
Because of its fleet-bound nature and the remote distance of their area of jurisdiction, far from the Imperium’s traditional shipping lanes and industrial centers, the Azure Blades have never been able to maintain a stable pool of resources, and there have been a few instances where the Chapter possessed just enough material to restore damaged wargear or vehicles and replace spent ammunition, but little else. As a result, the Chapter has more often than not been forced to rely on treaties with many of the worlds along their fleet’s route, exchanging protection for resources.
In light of these shortcomings, the battle-brothers of the Azure Blades have learned to use the bare minimum amount of supplies and equipment required — in some cases resorting to hand-to-hand fighting to save ammunition — to complete their mission objectives, and save their assets in case a shortage occurs in the future. Unsurprisingly, the Azure Blades frown upon excessive displays of force made by allies during campaigns, as they more often than not waste supplies that might have been put to better use in other pursuits.
Given the tactics the Azure Blades utilize, it would be quick to assume that they are descended from the Raven Guard gene line. Imperial records, however, clearly show that the Chapter is descended from the gene line of the noble Ultramarines of Roboute Guilliman through their Successors, the Novamarines. It is a testament to the hard work and care of the Chapter’s apothecaries in the wake of the Shattering that the geneseed of the Azure Blades’ battle-brothers remain relatively intact, but despite even their best efforts some worrying organ malfunctions have begun to manifest themselves. For example, their Mucranoid organ seems to have mutated enough that it no longer changes the skin tone of the Chapter’s marines to match the amount of UV radiation they are exposed to, instead forcing it into a uniform hue of neutral Brown.
The battle-brethren of the Azure Blades have also been known to exhibit extreme visual acuity, often distinguishing fine detail more than thirty meters away, even without help from their armor’s autosenses; with their helmets on, the range is effectively doubled. Magos Biologis, after study of the Chapter’s geneseed tithes, point to a marked increase of size and activity in their Occulobe organs, which might have contributed to this trait. While this might be seen as a boon, it has a severe side-effect: some battle-brothers have started to grow blind over time, their eyes ‘burning out’, and are forced to replace these with bionics. The apothecaries of the Armeria are currently trying to isolate the cause of this deterioration of vision, but as of yet have found any clue as to why it occurs, since it seems to affect their brethren at random.
The Azure Blades do not venerate the Emperor as a deity, instead as a great warrior whose strength, nobility, and ingenuity should be respected and emulated. Like their Novamarine forebears, they revere Roboute Guilliman and honor his masterpiece, the Codex Astartes, but many in the Chapter believe that the Codex is a guide open to interpretation, rather than an absolute set of rules that need to be followed to the letter. They do not maintain a strict calendar of holy days, but pivotal events in the Chapter’s history are remembered, such as the founding of the Chapter and the aftermath of the Shattering, where there is rejoicing and celebration in the former and much meditation and introspection in the latter.
The Chapter no longer finds itself adverse to open combat, but it is still under the opinion that blind charges bereft of support or planning are foolish and wasteful; where possible, the Azure Blades will use precise application of force to cripple their enemy while avoiding a protracted engagement. As such, they find it hard to work properly with fully assault-oriented Chapters such as the Blood Angels and Black Templars. The Chapter has no problems working with the other branches of the Imperium’s war machine, as in their own ways they all serve as instruments of the Emperor’s will.
The Azure Blades have a relatively poor relationship with the Adeptus Mechanicus, partly due to the Chapter’s tendency to tinker with the otherwise sacred and sacrosanct STC designs of their fighting machines. Although the techmarines insist that they are doing nothing illegal, and are only adapting existing and established technologies, the fact that they dare to modify hallowed designs tests the patience of even some of the more open-minded priests of the Machine God.
To ease sanctions that might otherwise irrevocably cripple the Chapter, already forced to rely on ancient pacts with worlds on their fleet’s route for supplies, which are uneven and erratic at best and barely enough to maintain Chapter’s battle-readiness, the Azure Blades routinely submit plans of their creations for evaluation; one of these, the Hellkite anti-gravity troop carrier, with its near-heretical melding of several STC technologies, is the most controversial design to date. As such, the Adeptus Mechanicus keeps a close and critical eye on the developments being done in the Azure Blade forges.
A battle cry is inappropriate for a Chapter where about half of its brethren practice stealth and guerrilla warfare. The half that does engage in open warfare, however, commonly use the following chant: “We are the Azure Blades! We shall cleave the Emperor’s foes!”
The Armorium of the Azure Blades have never possessed a sizeable number of vehicles and, given the relative shortage of supplies the Chapter sometimes faces, replacement parts for their maintenance and repair. Each vehicle is considered a near-irreplaceable resource, and as such the techmarines of the Chapter go to great lengths to ensure that their mechanical charges not only perform as expected during campaigns, but return intact to serve the Chapter in missions to come.
One of these prized relics is the Mk-I land raider christened Antonius’ Wrath, an ancient machine that had been part of the Novamarines’ donation to the fledgling chapter at its founding, and had been used by the Azure Blades’ first Chapter Master Antonius as his primary transport throughout his campaigns. Still retaining its original pre-Azure Blades paint scheme, the land raider has served the Chapter faithfully since that time, and was used as the primary transport of each succeeding Chapter Master and his command squad, until the battle of the Viridian Cliffs in 458.M39, where several direct hits from an Eldar wraithlord’s bright lance crippled its ancient engines, while the xeno construct destroyed its weaponry. When the battle was won the vehicle’s sundered frame was recovered by the Chapter, though the techmarines were initially at a loss as to how to restore it. Although the land raider’s machine spirit had survived little worse for wear, the same could not be said for its engine housing and lascannons; the weapons had literally been torn off their mounts, and most of the engine’s sacred systems had burned or melted in the lance attack. What was worse, the parts required to repair them were no longer manufactured by any forgeworld along the Azure Blades’ patrol route.
Loathe to leave the proud machine in its sorry condition, the head Techmarine, with permission from the Chapter Master, decided to use the systems available to the Mk-V Phobos-pattern land raider to restore it. Minor modifications were made to accomodate the larger housing of the Mk-V Mars-pattern engine, as well as the Godhammer lascannons and their cooling systems on each of the vehicle’s sides. As a final touch, the techmarine added an upgrade that would augment the war machine’s already impressive defensive systems, and increase its chance of survival — the Kinetic Dampener. Essentially an active shield of energy, the Dampener reduced the damage of potentially devastating hits by dispersing the energy over a wider area on the vehicle instead of the point of impact. With the enhancements and repairs done, the land raider’s machine spirit was once more brought online. Its logis engines took stock of the changes wrought, but it quickly adapted, seemingly pleased at being able to once more partake in glorious battle. Antonius’ Wrath was again ready for war.
Antonius’ Wrath was one of the Azure Blades vehicles present at the Battle of Valencia, and was instrumental in the charge that Chapter Master Einhander led to break out of the ambush the Chapter had fallen into, and carried many of the gravely injured in its armored hold. With the Azure Blades shifting to more covert tactics in the aftermath of the Shattering, the land raider saw little use, but with the recent return to traditional Codex tactics in addition to the stealth actions the Chapter performed, the vehicle is once more seeing use as the Chapter Master’s mobile command center.
Crew: Three Space marines
Weapons: Antonius’ Wrath is armed with a hull-mounted twin-linked autocannon (counts as heavy bolters), two side sponsons equipped with twin-linked lascannons.
Fire Points: None.
Access Points: Antonius’ Wrath has a front assault ramp and two side hatches.
Transport: Antonius’ Wrath can transport up to 12 Space Marines in power armor, or 6 Space Marine Terminators.
Vehicle Upgrades: Antonius’ Wrath has the following upgrades present, and are included in its point value — dozer blades, extra armor, pintle-mounted storm bolter, searchlight, smoke launchers.
Assault Vehicle: Models disembarking from any access point on Antonius’ Wrath can launch an assault on the turn they do so.
Power of the Machine Spirit: Antonius’ Wrath can fire one more weapon than would be normally permitted. In addition, this weapon can be fired at a different target unit to any other weapons, subject to the normal rules for Shooting. As such, if it has moved at combat speed it can fire two weapons, and if it had either moved at cruising speed or had suffered a ‘Crew Stunned’ or ‘Crew Shaken’ result can fire a single weapon.
Kinetic Dampener: Antonius Wrath is protected by an active energy field that disperses an attack’s energy across a wider area instead of the point of impact. Whenever opponents roll on the Vehicle Damage table they must roll two dice and apply the lowest result.