Disclaimer – The Crimson Guardians are mine. However, Games Workshop owns everything else. Any registered trademarks herein are not mine.
(Here it is, finally. This may not fit what you've seen in "To Ourselves we must be True" but that was before the new Space Marine Codex came out. As such, I've had to make some modifications, but I hope you enjoy it. Bear in mind, this is set before the story. )
(Also, after liljimmyurine;s review, I redid the poem to what I think is a haiku. Thank you for the suggestion.)
Compassion and Honour
The Crimson Guardians Space Marine Chapter
The history of the Crimson Guardians is an eclectic mix of hearsay and legend. What is known is that the World called Joukai had been colonised for many centuries when it was discovered in the thirty-eighth millennium, possibly even millennia. The Joukaijin, as the planet's populace call themselves, can provide few useful facts with regard to their origins, mostly as a result of having reverted to barbarism like all too many human colonies. Over many centuries the Joukaijin redeveloped into a stable pre-industrial society.
It was within this society that roots of the Crimson Guardians Chapter can be found, in the form of the Joukaijin warrior caste, known as Samurai. The Samurai were required to master every aspect of warfare, from archery and swordsmanship to strategy and tactics. Bolstered by peasant auxiliaries armed with spears or black powder gunsSamurai armies numbering in the tens of thousands clashed across the wide fertile plains. The most valuable resources were food and the land needed to produce it, so to sacrifice a thousand men for a few square feet of land was nothing at all to an ambitious Warlord in whose hands rested the destinies of all who called him master.
This feudal warrior society would be shaped by one factor above all. The 'Green demons,' better known to the Imperium as the Orks.
The first known appearance of Orks on Joukai occurred approximately two hundred years before its discovery by the Imperium. Study of contemporary accounts and native art suggest that the invaders approximate to the 'Feral' Ork subculture. This would explain why the Joukaijin were able to avoid utter annihilation despite their isolation and technological backwardness. The green tide that the Samurai faced were armed with crude stub-guns, far beyond the muskets used by the auxiliaries but so shoddily constructed as to be little more than noise-makers and status-symbols. However, this was no real loss, for they possessed their traditional close combat weapons in plenty. No true Ork finds fault with his weapons.
What followed was nearly fifty years of bloodshed. Countless Samurai and auxiliaries died in one slaughter after another, each time doing little more than hold the Orks back, thinning their ranks for a time, but never for long enough. The Samurai soon discovered that the most effective strategy was to retreat to their vast fortresses. Designed to resist cannon fire, the walls were proof against anything the Orks possessed. These battles the Samurai could surely win, but at a terrible price. Although most Orks are invariably drawn to the point of greatest resistance, such is their warlike natures, the more wily Orks knew better than to throw themselves into a meaningless slaughter. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the peasant villages, slaughtering those helpless folk whom the Samurai had sworn to protect. Sequestered inside their strong walls, the Samurai could do nothing to help, yet to go to the assistance of the peasants was certain death.
To a few, however, there could be only one answer. To these Samurai, it mattered not that to face the Orks meant death, for to die in battle was the best end a Samurai could hope for. But the peasants were not Samurai, and did not deserve to see their homes burnt and their children slaughtered. The first of them became legends; Senshiro, Takato, Katsuo, Harunobu, Ashitaka, Otomo, and Yoshimune, who would become their leader. To those brave few, a Samurai's duty was to defend the weak and helpless, to die that they might live, to suffer that they might not suffer, to kill that they need never kill. They, and others like them, gave the Orks no rest, often disobeying their Masters and thus condemning themselves to disgrace, exile and even death.
But in those desperate times, only the proud or the foolish would turn them away when Orks were near. Despite the losses they invariably suffered, the Shougojin Chimidoro ('blood-stained protectors') were never short of recruits. Desperate and dispossessed; rebels and Ronin. To join them meant death, but when life was not worth living, what did it matter?
The Shougojin were not Samurai alone, but also included many peasants and auxiliaries. These lesser warriors would prove their worth when a group of enterprising weapon-smiths succeeded in reverse-engineering plundered Ork firearms. The new weapons were not merely copies of the originals but improvements, each one a work of art. Armed with the new guns, the auxiliaries were at last able to play a decisive role, slaughtering Orks by the hundred with massed volleys.
In time, the Shougojin crushed the Orks once and for all, driving the few survivors into the most inhospitable places, where they linger to this day. But the final victory had not been without cost. Countless millions had died and much of the planet had been laid waste. Over this ruined planet the Shougojin reigned supreme, led by the great samurai Yoshimune. Any of the remaining Warlordswho had hid in terror while samurai and peasant fought and died, had either to submit or commit suicide. Those who would do neither were crushed in an orgy of vengeful bloodletting, with no mercy for those cowardly warriors who would leave the helpless to die.
But this was not the end. Though the Orks and their own Lords were defeated, the new enemy was the Shougojin themselves, or rather their conflicting ideologies. Some of Yoshimune's subordinates, such as Takato and Katsuo, sought to make use of the captured Ork technology, limited though it was. Stories were abounding that the Orks had come from the stars, and that more might follow some day. To them, it was necessary to adapt the technology to their use, so that the invaders could be better resisted. Others, Harunobu chief among them, feared that the technology might rob the Samurai of their privileged status. His major ally was Ashitaka, who feared that the new technology would only exacerbate the growing conflict and lead to the destruction of what remained of the planet's ecosystem. This conflict of tradition versus progress, that was as much about power as ideology, soon exploded into yet-another civil war, with Yoshimune unable to control the situation. The conflict began with a series of indecisive skirmishes, although the advantage lay increasingly with the Progressive faction, for although both sides were equally well organised and motivated, the samurai of Takato, Katsuo and Senshiro possessed greater discipline.
This was not the only problem for the Conservatives. Harunobu's behaviour had become increasingly bizarre. It was unusual for a Samurai to speak ill of, or be impolite to, another Samurai, even if they are mortal enemies. Yet Harunobu is recorded as spending much of his time in a fit of rage, ranting and raving over the smallest annoyances. He reserved particular ire for Takato and Ashitaka, though the latter was his most valuable ally. Both were born of peasant stock, yet had risen to rank equalling his own and were both considered by some to be greater warriors. The rudeness with which he treated Ashitaka, without whom he had no hope of victory, was shocking to the most uncouth of characters. It was whispered that Harunobu was possessed by a fox, a polite euphemism for insanity, although some Imperial scholars have suggested that darker forces were at work.
It was at the Genda Temple that the conflict would be decided. Both sides gathered their armies on the plains surrounding the temple, wherein their former leader Yoshimune was sequestered, his remaining troops barracked in the compound. His calls for a truce ignored, Yoshimune could only watch helplessly as the two armies tore each-other to pieces. Heartbroken, with the sound of battle in his ears, he composed his goodbye poem and then killed himself, hoping against hope that his death would end the conflict. In accordance with his final orders, his loyal retainer Hikaru bore word of Yoshimune's suicide to the Generals. Grief-stricken and ashamed, they withdrew their troops and called a parley. Upon their meeting within the temple, in the very same chamber from which Yoshimune had observed the battle, Hikaru read to them his master's final poem.
If all men are one
Why does the Eagle shriek
In the withered trees?
It was hard enough for the six Generals to accept that they, through their petty conflict, had contributed to the despair of their comrade and leader. But what followed became the stuff of legend.
The argument dragged on for several hours, neither side willing to give way. Even then Harunobu missed no opportunity to insult both Takato and Ashitaka, though the latter had fought better than any of those present. Otomo, however, was the wiser. He knew that though the slaughter had been considerable, both sides possessed thousands of fresh Samurai and auxiliaries, waiting in their fortresses for the call to arms. If they did not take this opportunity to end the conflict and re-unite the Joukaijin, then the war could drag on for decades.
But his suggestion of a compromise only enraged Harunobu further. The insane General loudly proclaimed that his allies were a mewling coward and a useless peasant. Takato, who had grown tired of Harunobu's antics, leapt to his feet and tried to shout him down. Harunobu's response was to strike Takato with his fan, its bladed edge laying the General's throat open. The sight finally broke what little control Ashitaka had left. With a shout of fury, Ashitaka drew his sword and struck Harunobu dead.
There was silence, for what seemed an eternity. Then Hikaru, the least of them, was the first to speak.
"My Lords, forgive me for speaking as a loyal servant must. Metal is not Earth and Earth is not Metal, thus the old is not the new and the new is not the old. Water may extinguish fire, but the water then sinks into the earth, and thus both fire and water are lost. So it may be for us all if there is no end to this war."
His words, full of wisdom beyond his years or status, brought the Generals to their senses. A compromise was reached, with the decision that the two sides would separate. Those who followed the old ways would farm the land as they had always done, thus providing food for all. Those who wished to use the new technology would live on the plains, in those areas laid waste by the Orks in which nothing would grow, thus all would reap the benefits. It was intended that Katsuo and Senshiro would rule the progressives while Otomo and Ashitaka would rule the conservatives. But Ashitaka refused, to the dismay of the others. Before he left, however, he made one final request. He asked the Progressives never to forget nature, and to prosper while always respecting it. When Katsuo promised to honour his request, he rode away never to return. Some say that he lived out his life in a deep forest with a mononoke who was his lover. Others say that he lives on, watching over Joukai and its people, ready to correct them if ever they abuse nature and the life he loved.
Their decision laid the foundation of the present system of governance on Joukai, a system which for the most part the Imperium has seen no reason to alter. The Progressives built great cities on the ruined plains, scouring the abandoned Ork camps for useful artefacts of technology. After a century and a half of labour and struggle, they developed the clean-energy systems they needed to fulfil Katsuo's promise. In so doing, they had reached a general level of technology comparable with that of the wider Imperium. It was this as much as anything else that attracted the attention of Imperial Explorators in 476 M38.
Joukai, in the local tongue, means "the sacred land", and few of its visitors would argue. A verdant planet in the Mordant Zone, its Earth-like conditions are believed to be the result of pre-Age of Strife terraforming. 50 of the planet is covered by water, and the land is a mixture of mountains and plains, made fertile by numerous rivers. Great forests contain a variety of creatures, and are places of wonder, mystery, and even fear to the natives. Tales of vengeful forest spirits, called mononoke persist to this day among the primitive subculture and, to some extent, among city-dwellers. The rural Joukaijin live much as they have done before the coming of the Orks, and armies of Samurai clash over land, wealth or simple prestige. The city-dwellers allow this limited warfare, on the premises that no armies approach the cities and that agricultural production is not significantly disrupted. This has allowed the Samurai and their ethos to survive, and they make fine recruits for the Chapter.
Although large areas were laid waste by the Orks, these areas were built over and became the great cities that are the centres of commerce and culture on Joukai. Presumably out of reverence for Ashitaka, the cities were built with environmental protection in mind, with old areas being redeveloped instead of expanding outward and technological advancements allowing for minimal to non-existent pollution.
The Joukaijin are dutiful and pious, though their reserved countenances hide considerable depth of feeling. They follow a combination of the Imperial Creed and their native religion, worshipping the Emperor as a God and as King of the Spirits. The Imperial influence comes from the Diocese of the Humanist, as evidenced by a relatively benevolent attitude towards mutants. These unfortunates are cared for in isolated, secure hospices, where it is rumoured that minor mutations can be cured. Proponents of this rumour claim to have evidence of discrete cash payments made to these facilities by a number of high-ranking Imperial servants. There is nothing as yet to substantiate this.
The two Moons Shihaku and Shingetsu were mined over a thousand years for valuable ores. With the ores long since exhausted, both moons now serve the Chapter. The ships of the Chapter fleet are based inside vast grottoes within the ancient rock of the moons, also serving as shipyards for the construction of new vessels. Underground factories and armouries serve the Chapter, while also providing for the Planetary Defence Force, whose members man the formidable lunar defences.
The Crimson Guardians' combat doctrine is heavily influenced by their core beliefs, with particular regard to the protection of non-combatants. As such, the Chapter makes little use of vehicles or bombardment weapons, unless the combat zone is confirmed to have been evacuated. As such, the Crimson Guardians prefer the more versatile Dreadnoughts when heavy supporting fire is needed. Their infantry are equally skilled in ranged and hand-to-hand combat, allowing them to fight ranged or close combat specialists on equal footing.
Also, the Crimson Guardians show particular stubbornness when protecting non-combatants. There are many recorded incidents of Crimson Guardians standing their ground in the face of overwhelming opposition, selling their lives dearly to allow refugees to escape. While this has cost them dear in the past, they have also managed to inflict crippling reverses on enemy forces through these rearguard actions. These tendencies have earned the Chapter praise from some quarters and scorn from others.
Although the Chapter follows the Codex Astartes in many respects, it diverges noticeably in certain areas. The Chapter is divided into Seven Great Companies or Sentai, with two reserve companies from whom replacements are drawn. Each of the Seven Sentai are free-standing armies in themselves, equally capable of fighting alone or in cooperation. Rather like the Space Wolves, the makeup of a particular company is heavily influenced by the personal style and preferences of its Shogun-Commander. Though the Shogun-Commander may delegate small-scale missions to a Taisho-Captain, the Codex Astartes rank structure is adhered to. The Shogun-Master commands the utmost respect as the Chapter's leader, although respect for the Office is not always enough to keep the Shogun-Commanders and lesser officers in line. The Chapter's tradition includes risible stories of the tribulations faced by Shogun-Masters in trying to control his proud and often stubborn subordinates. The Shogun-Master must show himself to be the greatest warrior of the Chapter, in body, mind and soul, if he is to command effectively.
To the Crimson Guardians, the first and overriding duty of all Space Marines is the protection of the Imperium and its citizens. As the common folk have a duty to serve the Imperium, so the Space Marines have a duty to protect them from those who would do them harm. The Chapter has never implemented an Exterminatus in its entire history, and is noticeably unwilling to act in a manner that would bring unnecessary harm on civilians, fighting in situations where other Chapters would deem the risk unacceptable. These beliefs stem in part from their veneration of the Emperor and in part from their native culture. Like the Samurai from whom they are largely recruited, the Crimson Guardians consider all life to have intrinsic value, even that of aliens and mutants. When duty and circumstance demands killing, they do so with respect, taking life with reverence and gratitude. Gratitude for the deaths of their enemies, as it is through the destruction of its enemies that the Imperium is able to survive. Chaos and its followers are the only exemptions to this philosophy. The demonic is the only form of life that has no value for them. They consider Chaos to be a denial of order and balance, emotion without wisdom and desire without discipline, to be opposed no matter what the cost.
The Crimson Guardians venerate the Emperor in his aspect as the saviour martyr, who died to save humanity from the grip of Chaos. They believe that when the Emperor slew Horus, the Warmaster's soul was purified of the evil that had taken hold of it, thus was he saved from damnation. That the Emperor was willing to die to save his traitor son and protect the human race is all the motivation the Crimson Guardians need. Like him, they willingly lay down their lives to shield the weak and powerless. Their philosophy has drawn its fair share of criticism, with claims that by to value life is to be less willing to take it when necessary. To value the lives of heretics and aliens can, some claim, be turned over time to tolerance and even acceptance. However, the fact that these enemies die just as easily at the hands of the Crimson Guardians largely puts paid to such accusations. To the Crimson Guardians, life is valuable but will inevitably end. Respect for life does not stop the Crimson Guardians from taking it when necessary.
Though criticism of the Chapter is largely dogmatic or academic in nature, the Crimson Guardians have made far more dangerous enemies within the Adeptus Astartes. Their feud with the Marines Malevolent, whose philosophy is diametrically opposed to their own, is the stuff of legend. After the incident at the Emperor's Deliverance refugee camp during the Third Armageddon War there have been reports of violent incidents between the two Chapters.
The culture of Joukai permeates the Chapter, and is evident in the iconography and also in language. Although High Gothic is used for Emperor-worship and dealing with outsiders, the Crimson Guardians make regular use of the native Joukai language, casually and in inter-squad communication, making it difficult for enemies to interpret their actions.
The Chapter's beliefs, along with its dark red and gold colours, hint strongly at Blood Angels ancestry, although they show no signs of the notorious 'red thirst' that plagues the Blood Angels and its successor Chapters. Likely co-progenitors include the Raven Guard, the White Scars and the Ultramarines. The gene-seed itself is drawn from Martian stocks and there are no recorded incidents of unacceptable mutation.
Tenbatsu tekimen! (Approximately translates as "Swift is Heaven's vengeance!")
Trust your Battle-Brothers; Heed the Wisdom of the Ancients
Flesh over Steel; Death before Dishonour.
The Focault Bridge Incident -998 M41
An unfortunate and bloody incident on Sebulon towards the end of the Third Armageddon War resulted in an escalation of the feud between the Marines Malevolent and the Crimson Guardians. Under attack by Traitor Guard and Space Marines, believed to include the 666th Regiment and the Word Bearers respectively, Sebulon had little hope of assistance, as practically all local resources were tied up either participating in or supporting the Armageddon conflict, a fact that the Traitors were deliberately exploiting. However, Imperial forces answered the call. It was simply unfortunate that Sebulon's saviours would include both the Crimson Guardians and the Marines Malevolent.
The incident occurred in Gormana, a vast continent split from north to south by the Focault gorge. A marvel of nature and almost three kilometres wide at its narrowest point, the gorge was a major tactical obstacle. As the Traitors lacked the necessary air superiority and transport aircraft to cross the gorge by air, their success relied on possession of the vital bridges. If the Imperials managed to destroy the bridges, then the Traitor advance in Gormana would be stalled for months at least, buying valuable time for Loyalist forces to regroup and reinforce.
At Bridge 13, hence the incident sometimes being referred to as the 'Bridge 13 Incident", a Crimson Guardians detachment had taken up position on both sides of the bridge with orders to destroy it and fall back. This they intended to do, once a column of refugees and PDF survivors had crossed. A flight of four Marines Malevolent Thunderhawks entered the area just as they reached the centre-point of the bridge. Without warning, and having received word from the Crimson Guardians that there were refugees on the bridge, the Thunderhawks opened fire, their missiles tearing through the Western tower and ripping open the deck, spilling hundreds of refugees into the abyss. Shocked by the carnage, the Crimson Guardians locked anti-air missiles on the Thunderhawks and opened fire. All four Thunderhawks plunged flaming into the gorge, but it was already too late. The central span of the bridge collapsed, taking with it an estimated 100 000 refugees and PDF personnel.
To the Crimson Guardians it was deliberate and unnecessary murder of helpless refugees, for which the destruction of four Thunderhawks was not justice by any means.
To the Marines Malevolent, however, the destruction of the bridge was necessary to prevent the Traitor vanguard from taking possession of it. The refugees, they claimed, had forfeited their right to live by becoming refugees in the first place. That their Thunderhawks had been shot down was further evidence, in their eyes, that the Crimson Guardians were weak-hearted fools without the moral awareness to see that the blood they spilt to protect such people was wasted.
The Crimson Guardians have never forgiven the Marines Malevolent for this atrocity, and the Marines Malevolent have never forgotten the insult. Only the peacekeeping efforts of the White Consuls contingent prevented the two from coming to blows. They have never served together since this incident, and no Imperial Commander has been tactless enough to press the issue. One can only wonder what will happen when the twain shall meet again.
(How was that? Any reviews will be much appreciated, so long as any criticism is purely constructive.)
(With regard to the Focault Bridge; if the death toll seems a bit steep, think as follows. The proposed Messina Bridge will have a central span 3.3 kilometres long and 60 metres wide. Thus the deck has a surface area of 198000 metres. Imagine how many desperate people could be squeezed onto such a bridge, add a few well-aimed missiles and enjoy the carnage.)