- "To me, Ashen Drakes ! To me ! We shall ward those brave souls from the clutches of demonkin ! To your High Warden !"
- —To'shir Al-Ramut, The Demonslayer, first High Warden during the Demon's Descent
The Ashen Drakes were a part of the 21st "Cursed" Founding. They proclaim to be scions of Vulkan and thrive to be worthy of his heritage. While they hailed from a Founding plagued by genetic deviancy and ill-luck, the Ashen Drakes had exhibited neither of those traits, until the formation of the Great Rift; when they were destroyed after a century long siege of their homeworld. However, their reputation remained that of a Cursed Chapter, which had make them more isolationists than other (alleged) Sons of Vulkan, for other Astartes shunned them and the Inquisition is ever vigilant. They were still one of the most humane Chapter in existence, living among their people and helping all they can, but they knew that only the most desperate of Imperial Commander would call for their help.
Therefore, the Ashen Drakes tended to seek out foes themselves, always responding as fast as they could muster their forces to any threat they uncovered, be it a xeno invasion, a rebellion or more simply a planet wide humanitarian crisis. They also strived to maintain cordial relations with all of the Chapters founded during the 21st who have remained loyal to this day and with those Chapters proclaiming to be related to the Salamanders, despite their marred reputation. Nonetheless, their history and tally of battles span thousands of years.
The Ashen Drake history began in 991.M35, on the cusp of the 36th Millennium, with the 21st "Cursed" Founding. Not much (if any) is known about what happened on the world of Inculaba, but it seems that the Chapter proved to be one of the handful of successful genetic manipulations that the Adeptus Mechanicus had underwent. While the failure of the Founding and the subsequent Age of Apostasy have left this part of their past shrouded in mystery, even for the Ashen Drakes, the Astartes believe that they were some of the first Chapters created and then dispatched into the stars during this Founding. Even the dates of events seems sometime at odds with what few is still known of the Reign of Blood's chronology.
What is certain is that, at the very end of the Reign of Blood, the Chapter had just settled on the savanna-world of Inikar and that the Adeptus Mechanicus, perhaps out of of some remorse for the creation of so many flawed Astartes, had erected the Ashenhold, the mighty Fortress-Monastery used by the Chapter. Sadly for the Ashen Drakes, the day their base was completed was also the day the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath was formed, consuming the hosts of Goge Vandire sent against Sebastian Thor, unleashing scores of demons on the nearest inhabited worlds, including Inikar, in an event known by the Ashen Drakes as The Demon's Descent.
Death of a Chapter
- "Let it been know that we have never failed. We may be fallen now, but let our weapons be your weapons, our fire your own! Burn the Deamonkin in your name! Wander into the dark armed with our spears, clad in our armours and return triumphant, so that our souls may rest in peace. Ave Imperator!"
- — Ab'bekar Nem-Til, The 12th and last High Warden final's message for the Imperium.
At the end of the Indomitus Crusade, Imperial forces finally reached the world of Inikar. There, they discovered a ruined planet, its entire population gutted by the swarming armies of demons which had finally broke down the world's formidable defences. In the orbit, the full fleet of the Cursed Chapter of the Ashen Drake laid resting, their hulls corrupted by the influence of Chaos, yet still surrounded by an armada of destroyed vessels bearing Chaotic markings of several pirate fleets and traitorous fleets.
In the Ashenhold itself, the sole untainted bastion on Inikar, the forces of the Imperium discovered a veritable trove of archives, depicting in full detail the hundred year siege that the Drakes endured. The loyalists had to fight against servitors and defences programmed to repel any invader, a demonstration of the Ashen Drake Chapter's desperation in its last day. It appeared that the Ashen Drakes had at first tried to ward off the population in their fortress, but had to kill them to prevent their corruption in the last years of the siege.
In a deep chamber, the explorators discovered all the untainted relics of the Chapter, such as the Warden Spears and a very specific message from the last leader of the Ashen Drakes, Ab'bekar Nem-Til, The 12th and last High Warden, asking any Imperial forces discovering the chamber to make use of those weapons to slay enemies of the Imperium and deamons. The Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus who had launched the exploration discovered that the spears had slain so many demons in the Siege of Inikar that they were now deadly weapons for the Unborns.
When returning on Terra, the Inquisitors ensured that the Bell of Lost Souls rang for the fallen Chapter, which had remained pure of heart, body and soul until its very destruction. Most of the Ashen Drakes' archives were added to the Inquisition's libraries even if some of them were granted to the Administratum. Currently, no other Chapter bears the name and heraldry of the fallen Astartes of Inikar, but some High Lords of Terra are already thinking about using this now lauded legacy.
Since they have remained aloof from the greater Imperium, not much is known of the Ashen Drake's tally of campaigns, but five of them still stands out, known by the Imperium as proof of the Chapter's continual devotion to the Golden Throne.
- The Demon's Descent (early M36) : With the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath tearing reality asunder around the fleet of Vandire's sycophants, demons are unleashed on the nearby sectors. During the better part of a century, and under three leaders (Augusto Navarre, To'shir Al-Ramut and Men'tor Bal-Gel), the Ashen Drake fights to repel the invaders from the Immaterium and protect the citizens of the Imperium. Several Chaos cult springing into the nearby region stretch thin the forces of the Chapter, but the Battle-Brothers, with some help from mysterious grey-clad Astartes, managed to suppress them. This long war leave the Ashen Drakes depleted, proud but also tarnish their honour, for many in the wider Imperium suspect that the Storm opening near Inikar is the result of the Cursed Chapter's presence.
- Orpheus Prime's Famine (843.M36 to 847.M36) : Coming back from a suppression campaign against a migrating Orks fleet, the 3rd and 6th Companies stop at Orpheus Prime, a mining world at twelve Light-Years from Inikar after their Archivists receive a distress call. Upon arriving into the planet's orbit they discover a peaceful but dying world. The local governor, either due to incompetence or greed, as pushed the low-populated planet into a state of famine threatening to turn to open revolt. While the minors haven't yet broken into riots, seeking honourable solutions, tensions are running high and a local Astropath has called to the stars for help. Incensed by the governor's rule, the Ashen Drakes install a planet-wide tribunal, gather the food and distribute it equally. While the tribunal seeks to judge the guilty, the Astartes craft with the citizens a better functioning ruling system for Orpheus Prime and bring technology insuring a better food production locally. Impressed by the Orpheans behavior during this period, the Ashen Drake vow to recruit a handful of them in their Chapter. When they depart this world, Orpheus prime food and mining production have skyrocketed.
- The Beast and the Drake on Marduk Omega (999.M36) : The campaign opposing the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th Companies of the Ashen Drakes and the WHAAAG !!! Riproar comes to an end on the savage world of Marduk Omega. The primitive peoples of this world having regressed to bronze age technology , theyare at first kept as far from the battles as possible, however, to the Astartes stupor, they enter the fray on their own, hurling themselves at the Orks. The mortal's losses are horrendous but the Marduki keep fighting with a wanton abandon frightening to behold. In the final battle, the four Captain and The One Whose Flesh is Godly from the Marduki manages to slay Riproar and all his retinue, marking the end of the war. The Marduki war-leader then offers help to the Astartes in the purge of the xeno's taint on his world. Impressed by the Marduki peoples, the Astartes offer to induct some of them into their Chapter, the second and final time that such an offer is made. Even if Savages Orks have plagued Marduk Omega ever since, they have never become more than a nuisance for its ferocious natives.
- The Purge of Vandire's Ghosts (841.M41) : The whole Chapter of the Ashen Drake mobilize when a fleet of ghostly starship emerges from the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath. Either by a whim of faith or the so-called Curse of the 21st Founding, a modicum of Vandire's fleet tasked with killing Saint Sebastian Tor emerge from the Warp. More ghosts than living beings, they are mercilessly exterminated by the Astartes during a six-months long war into the void. many a Brother lose his life at the hands of the abominations but they are finally sent back screaming into the prison the Emperor's Wrath designed for them. However, Merool Bil-Kader, The Fireborn and Will Forger of the Chapter proclaims that laughs echoes from the Warpstorm when the ghosts are defeated. The Chapter then prepare for the return of Demons.
- The Demon's Return (989.M41 to present day) : 58 years, day for day, after the defeat of Vandire's Ghosts, rifts open on every planet near the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath and demons come pouring. While the warpborns try to re-enact the ancient struggle of the Demon's Descent, the Ashen Drake have prepared for their return. On every inhabited world near the Storm, defences have been erected, warriors trained and the Astartes strikes with a fury at their hated foes. While the conflict quickly claims the life of the High Warden and scores of Battle-Brothers, the Ashen Drake managed to hold the line. Calls are secretly sent to the the Grey Knights but the mysterious Brotherhood has to prioritize other conflicts in zones of more vital importance for the Imperium. A general call for help to any Imperial force which could be rerouted to bring help is then sent by the Ashen Drake. To this day, no help has come to the embattled Chapter. Since the creation of the Great Rift, nothing has been heard from the Ashen Drakes, and some believe that the Chapter has now been destroyed.
- "The Codex Astartes is a compendium of wisdom, but it most important teaching is that one must adapt to the war he wages. So shall we adapt our organization, to better defend the citizens of the Imperium"
- —To'shir Al-Ramut, The Demonslayer
The Ashen Drakes were mostly a Codex-compliant Chapter, except for the ranks of Captain (called Warden in the Chapter), Chapter Master (High Warden) Archivists (the Forge Wrought) and Master Archivist (the Will Forger) They did not possess alternatives formations to Companies; however the ratio of Tactical, Assault and Devastator units in those Companies was slightly different from the norm and they made a greater use of Assault Bikes and Land Speeders.
The 1st Company is comprised of four 10-men Units of Terminators (two standard and two assault), four 10-men Units of Vanguard Veteran and two 10-men Units of Sternguard Veterans.
The 2nd to 5th Companies are comprised of three 10-men Units Tactical Marines, two 10-men Units of Assault Marines, two 10-men Units of Devastator Marines, two 8-men Units of Assault Bike Marines supported each by one Attack Bike, and one Land Speeders Squad (usually comprised of three Tornado and two Typhoon).
The 6th Company is fully comprised of Assault Bike and Land Speeder Squads, composed like those of the Battle Companies, five 8-men Units of Assault Bikes Marines supported by one Attack Bike and five Land Speeders Squad. Its goal is to maximize the training of the Battles Brother's mastery of those Chapter's equipment.
The 7th and 8th Companies are comprised of four 10-men Units Tactical Marines and six 10-men Units of Assault Marines.
The 9th Company is comprised of ten 10-Men Units Devastator Marines.
The 10th Company is comprised of five 10-men Units Scout Neophytes, four 5-men Units Scout Bikers and five 6-men Units of Land Speeder Storm Scouts Neophytes.
This reliance over numerous Assault Bikes, Land Speeder and Assault Marines stems from the fact that the Ashen Drake have to be even more self-reliant in their operations than the usual Chapters, since they often are unable to convince others to work with them, at least in the first stages of their campaigns. Furthermore, their usual foes (traitors and demons emerging from the Storm of the Emperor's Warth) are best dealt in close quarter combat either because of the physical superiority of the Astartes (when confronted to human rebels) or a greater vulnerability to the more basic weapons of Mankind (demons exhibiting a strange resilience to firepower).
- "I've searched the Galaxy to prove my worth to Vulkan and the Emperor above, but nowhere did I found a sun as loving as Inikar's."
- — Anonymous Ashen Drake
The Ashen Drakes lived on the world of Inikar, a telluric planet larger than Earth and with an heavier gravity (1.35G). With the exception of great mountain chains barring the continents, Inikar is an hot world, with an average temperature of 25°C all year round. Vast oceans covered roughly 63% of the globe, and eight continents shared the rest of the planet's surface. Each of those continents was comprised of savanna and deep equatorial jungles, but also of ash deserts known as the Ashlands. The latter were the result of constant volcanic activity at some hot point of the planet. The Fortress-Monastery of the Chapter had been built near one of those hotspot.
Inikar was a Feral World, with scores of great herbivores roaming the savanna and the canopy of the jungles, but also deadly predators roaming the lands. In the open plains, the apex predator was without a doubt the Sand Manticora. As tall as the now extinct white rhinoceros of ancient Terra, the Sand Manticora appeared to be a strain of mutated animals whose transformation as stabilized thousands of years before the Age of Strife. Their massive head looked like that of a feline but their eyes were clearly reptilian and its body shared the attribute of both groups: a fauve fur cover sturdy scales, and it posses several venom glands, situated below its mouth, which the beast use to paralyze its prey.
In the jungle, the greatest hunter was without a doubt the Lava's scale, which earns its name from his dark and orange scales. This massive serpent (which could reach up to twenty meters long) possessed sturdy jaws, able to leave a mark on Astartes armor and extremely resilient scales. Yet, its greatest weapon wasn't it's size, it's strength or the power of its jaws, but the acid it spit when it felt threatened. Extremely potent, this acid could melt an unprotected human in mere minutes.
Finally, in the Ashlands, was the namesake of the Chapter, the mighty Ashen Drake, which ruled over the land and sky. Massive creatures, the size of pterodactyls of prehistoric Terra, the beasts looked like depictions of Wyverns commonly found on Knight-Worlds and other primitive worlds. Those creatures lived in massive brood of two to three hundred individuals, usually near the seas, where they plunged to gorge on fish, sea reptiles and mammals. Only the old and sick left the Ashlands to fly over savanna and jungles, but even those creatures could prove quite a threat for the locals.
Despite all those dangers and then some, Inikar was populated since before the Age of Strife. Nothing was known about the early colonist, neither their ethnic origins, their beliefs or why they chose this world to settle. What is certain, however, is that during the Long Night, they regressed to Bronze Age technology levels. Until the recent events of the Great Rift and Indomitus Crusade saw its destruction, Inikar was covered by City-States, petty kingdoms and nomad tribes roaming in the savanna or delving into the jungles. Life was harsh for the humans and only constant solidarity between the kin and kith ensured that Mankind could survive on this world. It was hardly a surprise than that supposed scions of Vulkan would thrive on such a world.
The Inikari weren't as war-like as many natives of Astartes Worlds, but they did conduct brutal war. In fact, no mercy was given to the enemy's warriors during a battle to acquire resources, shelter or a sacred place. However, once the battle was over, the defeated were incorporated into the winner's society and treated as equals, earning the same rights as any born into the City-State or tribe. The contrast between the absolute approach to warfare that the Inikar held and the treatment of their defeated foes was incorporated into the Ashen Drakes, something which kept surprising or incensing the rest of the Imperium, depending on one's opinion about the treatment of enemies.
On Inikar, martial supremacy was marked out by the possession of a spear, for it was reminiscent of Sky-Fire, their version of the Emperor's, and His Children (while the Imperial Creed tried originally to reduce the number of female divinities present into the Inikar's Pantheon, they had since three thousand years taken to depict them as an Imperial Saint of great renown), who wielded mighty spears to search out evil and vanquish it for good. Because of their close relationship with the Astartes of the Ashen Drake Chapter, the Inikar Cult also permeated the natives.
The Ashen Drake use a very thorough and careful method when it comes to selecting the Aspirants who will be inducted by the Chapter. This behavior may seems strange for their Gene-seed allow for an extremely slow risk of rejection, but it is precisely why the Ashen Drake are so careful with their chosen neophytes. Should an inapt recruit be selected, he would probably become a full-fledged Marine and weaken the Chapter.
The first step of the selection process is a gathering of the ten to thirteen years old teenagers from Inikar but also Orpheus Prime and Marduk Omega (usually representing a tenth of the Chapter's recruits) who are willing to become Ashen Drake. Those Aspirants are then submitted to a thorough physical and genetic verifications to ensure that they do not suffer from mutations or illnesses. Those who fail to meet those standards are returned to their family with the Chapter thanking them for their dedication and often counsel to ensure an healthy growth to the young and dejected man.
Once this first selection has been realized the Aspirants are submitted to the Forge-Wrought, who submit them to a battery of questions on morality, behavior and beliefs while reading their minds. The goal of this cycle of selection is to test the morality and humanity of the Aspirants. Only those who are humble, dedicated and kind but also brave and bold are selected for the next cycle of selection. Those who are rejected are also returned to their family with a mark of honor, except those few found morally bankrupt that the Chapter expunge from the ranks of Mankind.
This third cycle is a trial of endurance, the Chaplains of the Chapter submitting the Aspirants to starvation and physical exhaustion for three days and nights, the Aspirants being gathered by group of five. Contrary to most Chapters who practices this kind of selection process, those who collapses aren't necessarily found wanting : if they struggle to remain conscious and are helped by their fellow Aspirants. In truth, failing to help another Aspirant near oneself is an instant disqualification in the eyes of the Ashen Drakes. Should neither of the Aspirant in a group of five speak up to such behavior, they will all be rejected by the Chapter. Those who fails at this penultimate cycle of selection are destined to become servant in Ashenhold or the Chapter's vessels.
The final part of the selection process is a series of duels between Aspirants. At this moment, all the Aspirants are, unknowingly to them, already selected to become Scout Neophytes, but the Ashen Drakes use those duels to gauge the character of their future Battle-Brother and their affinity with weapons. Non-lethal swords, axes, hammer and pistols are used in small arenas to determine which training would be best suiting the future Neophytes. The young boys are then gathered and brought to the Ashenhold where their training as Scout will begin after they'll be ritually implanted with the Gene-seed of the Chapter.
When an Aspirant from Orpheus Prime or Marduk Omega is recruited into the ranks of Neophytes, he takes an Inikaran name to ensure the unity of the Chapter, but his often unique perspective remains extremely valuable to the Ashen Drake's upper echelon.
The Ashenhold is the fortified abode of the Ashen Drakes. Erected near one of the more active hot points of Inikar, the citadel like the often spear-like appearance of other Fortress-Monastery. Instead of reaching above the ground, it has been carved directly into the basaltic rock of the Ashlands, with only weapon batteries doting the landscape above ground. Ashenhold is in truth carved into the crater of a still active volcano.
This prowess of the Mechanicus was achieved at the express demand of Augusto Navarre, the Chapter first Master, who wanted to make use of the geothermic forces to power the fortress. Thanks to the might of its volcano, the Ashenhold posses an endless power supply, and a deadly weapon : the gases and magma can be canalized into specially crafted canons and used against any who would dare to attack the Ashenhold. Those special canons are also used as a valve to lessen the pressure into the volcano at periodic time, ensuring that no eruption will put the Chapter's fortress in jeopardy.
Since the Ashen Drakes prefer to live with the inhabitants of Inikar, the Ashenhold is mainly maned by servants and servitors, but one Company has to remain at all time behind the walls of the Fortress-Monastery. Directly above Ashenhold, put in geostationary position, the Chapter's docks looks like a brilliant star in the night sky of Inikar, and they too are protected by a Company. Usually, the two Companies tasked with guarding the Home-World of the Chapter are Reserve Companies, but at time, it has been the duty of Battle Companies while they replenished their losses.
The Inikar Cult
The very basis of the Inikar Cult is the Promethean Cult as it was understood by Xinwei, one of the first Chaplain of the Ashen Drakes. Therefore, loyalty and self-sacrifice play a great part in it. Xinwei did not, however, put emphasis on pure self-reliance, insisting that one man's prowess, even one as formidable as a Space Marine, may never suffice to achieve success. One as to work in tandem with his fellows to achieve maximum success. Therefore, it is at the Squad level that self-reliance is emphasized : from the youngest Scout to the oldest Veteran, each must sublime his Squad to bring forth its true potential. And to sublime the Squad, one must achieve his own potential.
In the Inikar Cult, each Ashen Drake has to be a smith and to live with the mortals of their world. In those times of rest, the Astartes must offer themselves in service of villages, towns or hermits, crafting tools and learning much from the common man's wisdom. They also have to learn crafts such has tailor, blacksmiths, potter... Each of those crafts must be fully mastered by the Ashen Drake before he may pick a new one. After each of those courses of enlightenment with the natives of Inikar, the Astartes will sear into their flesh a symbol of their own design representing what they have learn about themselves.
Other brands are found on the Astartes' bodies, symbols of valor or reminder of lost Squad-mates. An old Ashen Drake will often have to go out and use the skin of an Inikar's beast to mark both his progression on the road of personal betterment, and the proof of his prowess. They will often decorate their armors and weapons with symbols of fire, great monsters of Inikar or representation of the Primarch Vulkan and his symbols. While less common, symbols of the Golden Throne and the Emperor are also present.
- "We are Sons of Vulkan and children of Inikar. We shall forge a new way from those legacies, without disrespecting any. It is our burden, our glory and our hope. Bear it as us, the first Ashen Drakes did."
- —Xinwei, the Warden of the Inikar Cult, Venerable Dreadnought to Neophytes
Inikar's traditions have managed to found a niche into the Chapter's Cult, especially in the form of penance and recognition of debts. Like all the Inikari, the Ashen Drakes will, when they feel that they have to atone for some crime, seek out their direct superior. They will then receive a beating which length depends on their fault and how the superior deems it. The penitent will then be tasked with hunting a dangerous foe for the Chapter and will not be allowed to return to his Squad until he has slain it. For minor offenses, it will often be a great beast of Inikar which will be designed, but for those few whose crimes are deemed grievous, it may well be a renown Eldar Corsair, Ork warlord or Traitor Marine. While undergoing his penance, the Battle-Brother will don a jet-black robe, instead of the grey-white ones used by the rest of the Chapter.
To mark their debts to another, the Ashen Drakes tattoo themselves "bracelets of debts" on their forearms. Those bracelets remains open until the debt is paid. A battle-Brother with closed bracelets is held as particularly honorable by the other members of the Chapter. As a Battle-Brother will grow older, his tally od debts will grow too, and the bracelets will be tattooed around their their necks and fingers. For some particularly bloodthirsty Battle-Brother, who likes to delve deep into the most dangerous zones of the battlefield, the number of bracelets of debts may be so great that they are tattooed on their legs also. The older Ashen Drakes' bodies are thus a tapestry of scars, brands and tattoos.
The practice of Vulkan's Worth is more modern addition to the Chapter's tradition, having been instituted somewhere between the second half of the M39 and the first half of M40 by the 8th High Warden, Bel'ter Rol-Merok, known as the Vulkan's Seeker. Seeking to become Vulkan's Worthy, as the Ashen Drakes call it, require the Battle-Brothers to both delve deep into the ancient lore of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, and into the subsequent history of all Chapters who proclaim to hail from the XVIIIth Legion genome.
When seeking Vulkan's Worth, the Ashen Drakes create a made-up Company, comprised of ten units of ten Marines, one from each Company in the Chapter, who are then assigned to the ancient Strike Cruiser Pilgrim's of Legends, one of the oldest ships possessed by the Astartes from Inikar. During 25 years, the Brothers will then plunge deep into the sea of stars, touring ancient battlefields and prosperous worlds alike, always seeking traces of Vulkan's and the XVIIIth Legion history. More often than not, the Battle-Brothers return empty-handed, but with a great tally of battles and help to add to the Chapter's own history.
However, it sometimes happens that the Ashen Drake discover relics from a distant past, be they fragments of armors still bearing the symbols of the ancient Legion of Vulkan, shattered weapons and, in the rarest of circumstances, an intact weapon or banner from ages past. When such a thing happens, the Seekers are granted great feasts on Inikar, the whole Chapter being recalled to the home-world. Afterwards, the broken remnants are entered into the Gallery of the Salamanders, the labyrinthine vaults below the Ashenhold, while the intact relics are either brought to the Recclusiam (where they'll be used by the Chapter in future battle) or given back to the Sons of Vulkans who have lost them -but only when the Ashen Drakes are reasonably sure that they do are Sons of Vulkan.
The Ashen Drake's Gene-seed is pure and stable, without any of the usual genetics deviancy found among the Chapter of the 21st Founding. In that regard, they are quite like the Sons of Anteus, even if they do not seem to exhibit a higher pain resilience or strength. It is, however, noted that induction into the Chapter is incredibly easy, even when compared to the purest of Gene-seeds such as those of the Dark Angels, Ultramarines or even the Salamanders themselves.
It is widely suspected among the members of the Ashen Drake Chapter that this facility is the result of the Mechanicus tempering, a one in a million lucky stroke, or the will of the Emperor made manifest. While neither the Salamanders nor the Adeptus Mechanicus have officially recognized that the Ashen Drakes are genetically linked to Vulkan, while their eyes posses an unnatural red-like phosphorescence and their skin tends to turn to a jet-black taint when exposed to high-levels of radiations for a long period of time, it is almost certain that are sons of the XVIII Legion.
Chapter Battle Doctrine
The Ashen Drake have developed a self-reliant Battle Doctrine to compensate for their common isolation during their campaigns. They enter the fray with a massive Thunderhawk deployment directly behind the lines of their enemies if possible. Scouts, Bikers and Land Speeders are then sent to the weakest point of the enemy's forces to shatter their cohesion and open ways leading directly to the center of commands. Rhinos and other tanks are then sent into those road to shatter every nod of commands to end the campaign quickly and effectively. Like the Salamanders, the Ashen Drakes use a lot of flame-thrower or modified flame-bolters. This kind of weapons synchronize quite well with the assault methods of the Astartes.
The corner stone of the Ashen Drake's doctrine is to destroy the foe quickly and effectively to ensure that it won't be able to mount a long defense or lead offensives. In the aftermath of the battles, the Ashen Drakes gather mortals into camps far behind the battle-lines. If the war is against Chaos, the Battle Brothers will then scrutinize them to excise those who are corrupted by Chaos. In other wars, they gather even friends or families of rebels and ensure that they won't suffer at the hands of other refugees. Their goal is to sooth out tensions and craft the foundation for a more prosperous and effective world after the war.
This behavior have sometimes put the Ashen Drakes at odds with more ruthless Chapters, which hasn't served well for the Chapter's reputation aboard, but the Astartes from Inikar refuse to back down on this belief, for it would put shame on Vulkan's, the Salamander's and their own honor.
Notable Ashen Drakes
To'shir Al-Ramut, The Demonslayer
The second Chapter Master of the Ashen Drakes, the Demonslayer took the lead of the Chapter less than seventy years after the Founding. He succeeded Augusto Navarre, a Terran-born. To'shir Al-Ramut took the lead of the Chapter's war against the demons spawning from the newly formed Storm of the Emperor's Wrath which had killed his predecessor. Al-Ramut rallied the local defenders and during twelve years he earned a worthy tally of dozens of minor demons slain with his great power-sword. He was the creator of the High Warden title, in honor of what he felt was his duty, protecting the inhabitants of Inikar and the nearby sectors. He was killed in action by a Keeper of Secrets and his memory is still highly revered by the Ashen Drakes.
He reorganized the Chapter's Companies to their current formation and highlighted the need of a very rapid response to threats emerging near the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath and other theaters of war for the Chapter to prosecute its duties in an efficient manner. He was a strategical master and a tactical genius whose abilities saved untold millions. A selfless and humble warrior, brave and inspiring, To'shir Al-Ramut his seen by his Battle Brothers as the paragon of what an Ashen Drake should aspire to be.
Xinwei, The Warden of the Inikar Cult
One of the Ashen Drake's original Chaplains, Xinwei was recruited on Terra by the Adeptus Mechanicus as one of the first cadre of officers that the Chapter would posses. Quite certain that his Chapter was from Vulkan's blood, he delved into the lore of the Salamanders he could gather. He became a zealous promoter of the Promothean Cult. Once on Inikar, he felt that the local's belief were of value and forged from them a whole new system of beliefs for the Ashen Drake, the Inikar Cult.
A charismatic figure, Chaplain Xinwei helped kindle the courage and fortitude of his Battle-Brothers during roughly 150 years, serving under one Chapter Master and two High Wardens. However, a brutal clash with a Khorne's worshiping pirate crew almost ended his life when the cultists invoked Skulltaker and an host of Bloodletters. Reduced to less than 20% of his body, he managed to speak and asked for the honor to be entombed into a Dreadnought. Xinwei become the first of his kind among the Ashen Drake and he still remains to this day the oldest of the Venerables.
Bel'ter Rol-Merok, The Vulkan's Seeker
The 8th High Warden (and 9th leader of the Ashen Drakes), Bel'ter Rol-Merok tenure was the longest the Chapter has ever known, stretching from 723.M39 to 543.M40. He was the one who created and promoted the Vulkan's Worth beliefs into the Chapter. Possessing a great mind and a caring heart, he sought spiritual elevation to better serve the Imperium and his Primarch. Three hundred years into his tenure as High Warden, Rol-Merok felt the weigh of his Primarch's gaze unto his souls.
The High Warden believed that the Ashen Drake were wanting in their spiritual obligations toward their Father. He proclaimed that the Chapter had to seek out places of relevance to Vulkan's life, such as the world he liberated during the Great Crusade or those where the Salamander's Legion fought during the Horus Heresy. The Vulkan's Seeker then sought after those ancient worlds to commune with the lost Primarch of the XVIIIth Legion.
Ab'bekar Nem-Til, The 12th High Warden
The current High Warden is rather young, being only 110 years old. He was formerly the Warden of the 1st Company, a vaunted position achieved after an almost meteoric rise trough the ranks of the Ashen Drakes. He has become the leader of his Chapter in 990.M41 when his predecessor was killed in action fighting the Orks. His youth makes him more blunt and direct than most of the older Ashen Drakes, but he genuinely cares about the well-being of the Imperium and its citizens, even if he is also somewhat more arrogant than usual in this Chapter. Centuries-old warriors among the Chapter assume that such a behavior will correct itself as he'll grow older.
Wearing the massive Tartaros Pattern Tactical Dreadnought Armour known as Drakescale, a cape made with the hide of a great Sand Manticora, armed with the mighty power-spear of the High Wardens and a deadly stormbolter, Ab'bekar intend to lead his Brothers through the resurgent throngs of demonkin plaguing the periphery of the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath in number as great as at the time of the first High Warden. By battling those foes, Ab'Bekar Nem-Til intend to show once and for all to the Imperium that his beloved Chapter and those which, founded during the 21st, which have remained loyal throughout the centuries, aren't Cursed and deserve the same honors and trusts than Chapters from other Foundings.
Merool Bil-Kader, The Fireborn
The Fireborn is a key figure of the Chapter, being its Will Forger (Master of the Archivists) since the very end of M40, making him the oldest living Ashen Drake save those entombed into a Dreadnought Sarcophagus. His almost 1000 years of war have taught him much, especially in the refinement of his own powers. Bil-Kader is able to unleash potent psychic attacks to shatter the mind of his foes or to summon tempests of ghostly fires which consumes the very essence of those it touch.
Merool wasn't always well accepted by his Chapter, being rather aloof and distant ever since his youth on Inikar. Frightened by his own potential, he suppressed it for centuries and his character suffered for it, becoming irritable and lashing out easily at others, all the while struggling to accomplish is duty as a Forge Wrought. It was only in 263.M41 that he finally accepted his destiny. When he was trapped below a fallen Ork mechanical monstrosity with a Tactical Squad from the 3rd Company, his Battle-Brothers were badly suffering from the fires of the xeno warmachine. To save them and open a way trough the tons of metal above them, the would-be Fireborn let loose his powers and carved a tunnel of molten metal in the carcass of the abomination. Afterward, he came to grip with who he truly was and has become a linchpin of the Ashen Drake strength.
This armor is an unique Tartaros Pattern Tactical Dreadnought Armor in possession of the Ashen Drake. No one remembers today how and when it was added to the arsenal of the Chapter, but the fact that the names and personal symbol of all the Ashen Drakes' leaders, from Augusto Navarre to Ab'bekar Nem-Til, are etched in its plaques is proof enough that the Drakes have possessed it for thousands of years. Drakescale is both a revered relic and the garment of war of the High Warden, thanks to the unique capabilities of the Tartaros Pattern. From the first Chapter Master to the current High Warden, each has embellished the armor, carving symbols of purity and dedication, stylized fires and the likes of great beasts into the metal.
Furthermore, Drakescale has been reinforced by the successive Masters of the Forge to become ever more impervious to conventional weapons, while the Will Forgers of the Chapter have each etched into its plaque runes of power which strengthen the power field of the armor. Thus clad, the High Warden is a mighty bulwark and rallying beacons to their Battle-Brothers, even in the midst of the most violent carnage. Each time that Drakescale has been pierced and its wearer killed, it has returned sturdier and stronger than before. While the hordes of demonkin once more covet Inikar and the nearby sectors, this most ancient relic will be tested anew.
The Wardens' Spears
- "We are few in the Galaxy to wage war with spears. Other Chapter deem us primitives to use them, but I've found that there is no enemy that I can't slay with the High Warden's Spear."
- — Ab'bekar Nem-Til, The 12th High Warden
A set of thirteen power-spears masterfully crafted by the first Master of the Forge of the Ashen Drake, at the direct order of Augusto Navarre when he claimed Inikar has the Chapter's world, those weapons are both deadly tools of war and ceremonial symbols of authority. On Inikar, only the leaders of a war-party have the right to wield a spear instead of axes, swords, clubs or even javelins, and Navarre quickly understood that the Captains of his Chapter would command greater awe and respect even if they wielded such mighty spears as those the Gods of the Inikari carried in their myths. Therefore, for 5000 years, the Warden's Spears have been in use by the Chapter.
While their formal name was devised by To'shir Al-Ramut, the spears saw use almost immediately after their creation, when the Demon's Descent happened. Not every Warden or High Warden has wielded them, some favoring other kinds of weapons, finding the spears too cumbersome or inefficient to be brought to the battlefield, others have become masters of their use, such as the current High Warden. Each of the Spears posses the same silver-like shaft, as tall as an Astartes, however, their heads are different : those of the Battle-Companies are tear's shaped, those of the Reserve-Companies are scimitar-like, the one of the Scout Company is almost scythe-like, the First's is double-headed and the High Warden's posses only one edged side, looking like the most ancient spears of ancient Cina.
By tradition, every Warden attach to his Spear a piece of cloth at the color of his Company, while the High Warden use an orange fabric, symbolizing both the sun and the fire, both symbols of authority in the Inikar culture.
A monstrous two-handed power-sword, Ashenfang was the weapon used by the first High-Warden, known colloquially as the Demonslayer, during the Demon's Descent. This weapon has sent back screaming into the Warp hundreds of Demons and even an handful of Greater Demons. While any Warden or Company's Champion may call the right to wield Ashenfang in battle, the revered relic-weapon is more often than not resting in the Chapter's Recclusiam or is used by the Chapter's Champion. In very rare occasions, a Forge Wrought or the Will Forger will be granted the right to use it to banish the most hated foes of the Chapter, those powerful demons plotting to avenge their destruction at the Ashen's Drake inception.
Ashenfang is the most obvious proof of the Ashen Drake's ties with the Salamander, for this blade bear the mark of the XVIIIth Legion. The Chapter believe that this weapon was salvaged by a Mechanicus Adept somewhere on a battlefield at the end of the Heresy and preserved for reasons lost to time. Originally, it was a rather simplistic weapon, crafted more for a powerful soldier of rank than for an officer. However, the Ashen Drake have embellished it, re-crafting the pommel to look like their Chapter's symbol while the blade itself has been engraved with runes of banishment and potent wards, turning Ashenfang into a true demon's bane.
The Stormbolters used by the Terminators of the 1st Company are known as the Drakespitters for they have been heavily modified. Like most weapons of the Chapter, a flamethrower has been incorporated into their mechanisms. While it makes for a heavier and harder to use weapon for a normal Astartes, the Scions of Vulkan posses greater strength than most and the Ashen Drake's elite isn't bothered by such weight and size. However, had the stormbolters only been modified in such a way, they wouldn't have become relics of the Chapter.
Indeed, instead of common prometheum used in flame-thrower in all the Imperium, the Drakespitters use a mix of prometheum, Sand Manticora's venom and Lava-scale's acid. The combination create a volatile and extremely hot liquid which, when thrown at an enemy and ignited will not only burn armors and flesh, but also carve their way into the victim's protections and flesh. Because of how ardent and dangerous this substance is, the Drakespitters can't unleash long salvos, instead "spitting" a small amount of the burning solution to the foe, hence their name. That even such little "spits" would have marked the spirits of a Chapter quite use to flame-weapons speaks volume about its effects on their enemies.
In one of the strangest amalgamation of style witnessed among the Adeptus Astartes, the Ashen Drake wear ornamented armors, great robes and primitive tribal markings. it is something which never cease to amaze those who encounter them for the first time, making the Drakes looking like savages mimicking more civilized warriors of the Imperium for the ill-disposed, while those more open to the Chapter saw it as a reminder of their own humble origins, despite their glorious nature.
For the Ashen Drakes themselves, those assemblages of fangs, claws and bones the equivalent of purity's seals, proof of the warrior devotion and dedication to the Imperium's defense, but also a possibility to express themselves. The warriors who earn a tribal marking are expected to carved into the material their symbols, the names of battles they took part in or even poems of their youth or their creation. When an Ashen Drake die, his Brothers try their best to get back his tribal markings to add them to the Chamber of Commemoration, a vast cave below their Fortress-Monastery where their mortal remains will forever be guarded by the works of their hands, the marking hanging above the tombs of the Astartes.
The Ashen Drake's livery is rather simple, with most of their armor being dyed in a muted black, with only their knees, elbows, wrists and belt donning a rusty red. It is however noted that they often sport white robes over their armor (except the Scouts, Bikers and Assault Marines). Their Squad Specialist Markings also use the same red, and the helmets of their Veteran Sergeants are marked with a red band (over the white one often used in other Codex-Compliant Chapters). The helm of the members of the 1st Company are white, except for the Terminators whose helmets are jet black.
The symbol Chapter's is a red roaring spiting fire draconic head, reminiscent of the Salamander's own. The Squad Specialist Markings are also reminiscent of deep red flames. Their armors are also quite decorated, each wearer adding his own touch to his battle-plate, with carving of great beasts, fire or names of friends lost and foes slain. Among the Astartes, the armors are -quite like their alleged forefathers the Salamanders- some of the most decorated, which quite contrast with the tribal markings that the Brothers like to wear.
Relations with other Chapters
The Aspirant Tithing
A strange practice has taken root among the Ashen Drake shortly after their inception. Witnessing the decent into madness, corruption or simply oblivion suffered by their fellow 21st Founding Chapters, and the mistrusts it engendered into the wider Imperium, the Chapter has tried to cultivate good relationships with other Astartes, at the very least. One of the methods used is the Aspirant tithes : when encountering another Chapter, the Ashen Drakes offer a part of their Aspirants batch to the other Astartes to compensate any loss of Battle-Brother suffered during their common fight against the enemies of Mankind.
More often than not, that offer is rejected, the mistrust plaguing the 21st Chapters being too great to be cast aside by their fellow Astartes. To some, it is even disquieting that a Chapter would give up a part of their pool of recruits, and suspicion arise that it is some trick being played by the 21st's Chapter to their allies. Even the humble and kind behavior of the Ashen Drake may not be enough to sooth tensions, and it sometimes even makes them flare, when the other Chapter is particularly callous and arrogant. There is some rumors pretending that the Ashen Drake allow the Void Ravens to claims some Void Borns, but no proof has been brought to back those claims.
The Ice Dragons were one of the very few Chapters that the Ashen Drakes shared a strong bond with, for both were not only fellow Sons of Vulkan, but both were born out of the tragic events that came to be known as the Cursed Founding. Despite suffering severe physical idiosyncrasies due to their flawed gene-seed, the Ice Dragons managed to find a way and survived against the odds. During the first few decades of their existence, the Ice Dragons felt alone and isolated. Yet, despite their gene-flaws and suspicion by outsiders, the Ice Dragons found common ground with their fellow Sons of Vulkan in the form of the Ashen Drakes, who understood better than anyone, what it felt like to be ostracised and unwanted. Despite their differences in doctrine and temperament, the two Chapters went on to form strong bonds of both friendship and brotherhood, forged in the fires of battle down the long millennia. Whenever one of these Chapter's called upon their bond-brothers to aid them in their hour of need, the other would eagerly hasten to their call to arms, without hesitation.
The Silverbacks are another Chapter supposedly created from the lineage of Vulkan. Despite hailing from a jungle death world whose culture is considered primitive and barbaric, the Silverbacks have faithfully served the Emperor of Mankind for millennia. Though they are uncomprimisingly to their enemies to the point of savagery, they are stoic and fiercely loyal when it comes to defending the citizens of the Imperium - a trait both Chapters shared in common. Finding common cause, both Chapters fought alongside one another down the long millennia, when the Imperium faced it's most dire threats. It was with great sadness that the Silverbacks learned of their bond-brothers' demise, for their home system had also been cut off by the formation of the Great Rift, forcing them to fight a desperate campaign against the neverending hordes of ravenous daemons, legions of Chaos cultists and reaving Chaos Warbands. Unlike the Ashen Drakes, the Silverbacks had managed to weather the storm, and just barely survived.
With the arrival of a small contingent of Adeptus Custodes Emissaries Imperatus and an Ark Mechanicus, they brought not only the Chapter's salvation in the form of the newly revealed Primaris Space Marines, but they also bore gifts of priceless value - the formidable weapons of the now-extinct Ashen Drakes. Before their destruction, they had bequeathed these ancient and powerful weapons to be utilised by their fellow Adeptus Astartes, and had set aside a small portion to be given to their bond-brothers of the Silverbacks. It was with great solemnity and sincere gratitude that the Silverbacks graciously accepted this most profound of gifts. They vowed to put them to good use and would seek out and slay many followers of the Ruinous Powers as they were able, in honour of their former brethren.
- "To be a Forge Wrought is to know fear. Not of your enemies. Not of your allies. Fear of yourself, for your power may not only damn you, but consume those you care about. This is why we forge you here, at Ashenhold. So that you may know no fear."
- — Merool Bil-Kader, The Fireborn, Will Forger of the Ashen Drakes, to Neophytes with pysker talent.