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The Silverbacks are a Loyalist Space Marine Chapter of unknown Founding and lineage. It is believed that they were created during the 9th Founding. Their fortress-monastery is located on the jungle Death World of Wazari II between the borders of the Segmentum Obscurus and Segmentum Pacificus. The Astartes of this Chapter are notable for being unusually large and robust physical specimens, even amongst their kind, and they are capable of surviving wounds and physical injuries that would kill even other Space Marines. Very little information is recorded about this Chapter in official Imperial records.
The Silverbacks are a little known Space Marine Chapter supposedly created during the 9th Founding. This little recorded Founding most likely took place sometime between the late-34th or early 35th Millennia. During this period in Imperial history, warp storm activity increased over the entire Imperium, and anarchy descended upon many isolated worlds. During the mid-34th Millennium, the dark and terrible period in Imperial history know as the Nova Terra Interregnum occurred. During this troubled period the Imperium of Man fractured for a time into warring factions that lasted for over nine centuries, and would not end until the late-35th Millennium. During this period, the rebellious Ur-Council of Nova Terra dismissed the authority of the High Lords of Terra and claimed separate rule over the Imperium's Segmentum Pacificus. It is generally believed by Imperial scholars that the Silverbacks were one of several Space Marine Chapters created during this tumultuous period in history to help stem the tide of insurrection and rebellion that was rife throughout Imperium.
Siege of Wazari II (Unknown Date, Mid-M34)
Following their inception, the newly created Silverbacks Space Marine Chapter were stationed along the northern border of the Segmentum Pacificus and the Segmentum Obscurus, a volatile and dangerous region, that often saw incursions by the Forces of Chaos. The followers of the Ruinous Powers observed the internecine fighting between the various factions within the fractured Imperium, and saw division and strife. Like carrion to a bloated corpse, the Forces of Chaos took advantage of this division to launch lightning raids on several Imperial worlds. One of these systems that fell to the ravenous marauders was the Jabari System - a backwater region comprised of several feral and death worlds, including the jungle world of Wazari II.
The Forces of Chaos sought slaughter and a bounty of slaves to take for their dark and bloody sacrificial rituals to their foul Dark Gods. But the minions of Chaos would not succeed in enacting their diabolical plans, for they were soon set upon by an unknown warfleet. The Chaos fleet was surround by a large Imperial fleet comprised of dozens of ebon-coloured warships, and a thousand heavily-armed, transhuman killers awaited them in a battle in the most deadly environments possible - the open void of space. This unknown Space Marine Chapter launched a massive assault wave to scatter and destroy the foe. Their vessels tore into the enemy with the fury of an unleashed hurricane, bearing down upon their foes in a deadly fusillade which saw much of the Chaos outrider vessels reduced to cinders in the wake of their brutal assault. Once the blockade had been breached, the unknown Chapter unleashed swarms of drop pods and gunships upon the planet's surface.
When they touched down upon the surface of the verdant planet, six-hundred Space Marines, their ebon-coloured armour gleaming in the bright light of Wazari's sun, erupted from their drop pods, and fell upon the besiegers. As they charged their foes, the Loyalist Space Marines unleashed a terrifying animalistic roar, amplified by their power armour's vox systems. This primal roar caused many of the mortal Chaos cultists to be stunned into submission. Soon, the real slaughter began as the drop pods' and gunships' deadly cargo was unleashed. Scores upon scores of Chaos cultists were cut down from behind while fleeing in blind panic, their weapons abandoned. Meanwhile, their Chapter fleet in orbit, launched boarding torpedoes and assault rams at the remaining Chaos vessels. As they slammed into the hulls of the twisted vessels, they disgorged the Space Marines in their unstoppable, inhuman rage, turning enemy ships into charnel houses of hacked and broken bodies.
On the surface of Wazari II below, the Forces of Chaos were caught in the onslaught from above, and soon they died in their thousands, unable to coordinate a defence from this unforeseen direction of attack. But once the initial attack had taken hold, the Traitor Astartes began to fight back and fight back hard. Though they outnumbered the Loyalist Space Marines many times over, for every score that perished, a Space Marine was brought down in turn. These were no ordinary Space Marines however, for they seemed to be much hardier and robust than the average Astartes. The Traitor Astartes found it quite difficult to kill them, as they were night unstoppable once they came to grips at close-quarters. Arrayed with a pair of deadly power fists, individual cultists and even Traitor Astartes were, often times, quickly overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of their attacks as the giant Astartes pounded their doomed victims into a bloody pulp. It was also noted that these formidable warriors would also fight on despite suffering horrific wounds that would normally fell even an Astartes, intent on wreaking as much slaughter upon their foes before they were finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers or a high concentration of small arms fire.
The battle continued to rage for many hours as the skies above Wazari II were riven with fire and lightning as the Chaos warships in orbit died and broke up above, hurtling down blazing debris in a shower of blazing meteors upon the surface of the jungle death world. The Space Marines were able to carry the attack despite their numbers by sheer courage and the ferocity they could unleash, regardless of their own losses and heedless of risk. Sensing that the battle was slowly turning in their favour, the Chaos warlords called in reinforcements from across the planet's surface to aid them and drive off the invaders. Hosts of Chaos cultists and lesser daemons converged upon the Loyalist Space Marines' drop zones intent on crushing the servants of the 'Corpse Emperor' in a final crushing counter-assault.
Seconds later a volley of highly accurate lance strikes smashed into the surface all around the Loyalist's positions, as they Space Marines continued to fight on, heedless of the destruction being wrought around them. In their wake came the Space Marines second assault wave. The battle in space had been won and the initial drop assault had served its purpose; it had stirred up the Chaos forces, like kicking an insect nest, and drawn out the enemy, lining them up for the kill.
As the second wave of drop pods and gunships landed upon the blasted surface of the verdant jungle world, they disgorged hundreds of more black-armoured giants, blood-drenched from their battles above and now rearmed for this new fight. They strode forth, weapons blazing. What followed was vicious and bloody slaughter, as the Space Marines soon overran the enemy positions. The killing went on and on until there was nothing left to kill. Of those few that escaped the wrath of the enraged Space Marines, none survived the nests of giant silverback mountain gorillas or the deadly flora and fauna of Wazari II. Not one minion of Chaos left the surface of the deadly jungle world alive.
After the battle was over, the grateful Wazarian inhabitants fearfully approached the ebon-clad giants. An ancient and elderly Laibon ('medicine man'), using his gnarled Kerrie walking stick, hobbled over to one of these mysterious warriors from the stars and performed a ritual prayer of protection over the massive warrior. The Space Marine took a knee and removed his helm, revealing human features that were eerily similar to those of the tribal inhabitants of this world, with the exception of a pair of startling golden-coloured, luminescent eyes and large sharpened incisors. With a gentleness that belied his gigantic physique, he placed one of his massive armoured gauntlets gently upon one of the fragile shoulders of the frail Laibon and replied in perfect Wazarian, 'The Ọlọrun protects'.
The parlance of the Wazarian people carries more specialised words than can be hoped to be presented here. What follows, then are a few of the more universal terms used by the Wazarians and the Astartes of the Silverbacks Space Marine Chapter. In all but the most isolated domain, one Wazarian speaking to another (provided they know the local language) is unlikely to be misunderstood if they use one of these commonly understood terms:
- Bamba - (Pronounced bom-buh) A Wazarian term for 'youngling'; an affectionate term when referring to anyone younger than oneself. This is a term used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Chapter's Aspirants and Neophytes.
- Guruhi - (Pronounced goo-ruh-hee) A Wazarian term for 'honoured ones', this is used by the Silverbacks when referring to the advisory war council comprised of the Chapter's senior-most officers. They serve the Chapter Master and act as his advisors and close companions.
- Ghekrunanse - (Pronounced gek-ruh-non-say) Taking its name from the Warzarian ape god Ghekrun, this is a Wazarian term which means 'ape warriors', and is used by the people of Warzari II when referring to the Astartes of the Silverbacks Space Marine Chapter. This is also a term used by the Silverbacks when referring to themselves.
- Ibutho - (Pronounced ee-boo'tow) The Wazarian term for 'Elite Warrior', this term is used by the Silverbacks when referring to their elite Veteran Marines which are also known as the Silverguard.
- Kerrie - (Pronounced keer-rye) A traditional Wazarian walking stick, used for protection as well as to aid in travel. This term is also used by the Silverbacks Laibon (Librarians) when referring to their Force Staffs, which are typically wielded in battle to help enhance their innate psychic abilities. Using this weapon they can draw upon the stored psychic energy from it to increase the power of their attack which helps magnify the power of their blows and shatters armour.
- Kholo - (Pronounced koh-loh) The eldest chieftain in a given location. Also, a collected body of elders who advise the magaji. This is a term used by the Silverbacks when referring to the war council of the Chapter's Captains.
- Kinyonyi - (Pronounced kin-yon-yee) A Wazarian term for 'bird', this is used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Chapter's pilots.
- Kuta - (Pronounced koo-tah) A Wazarian term which literally means 'turtle'; a term used to signify a young warrior, often patronizing and derogatory, this is a term used by more senior Astartes of the Silverbacks when referring to their Chapter's Neophytes or those newly inducted as full-fledged battle-brothers.
- Laibon - (Pronounced lay-buhn) A Wazarian term that means 'shaman' or 'medicine man', this is the term used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Chapter's Librarians.
- M'limu - (Pronounced mm'leem-moo) A Wazarian term that means 'prophet' or 'holy man', these individuals have taken vows of poverty and worship, renouncing all relations and possessions, to better serve Ọlọrun. This is the term used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Chapter's Chaplains.
- Magaji - (Pronounced mey-ga-jahy) A Wazarian term when referring to the preeminent chieftain of a given domain which means 'prince'. The Silverbacks use this term when referring to their Chapter Master.
- Mla Watu - (Pronounced mm-lah' wah'-too) A Wazarian term meaning 'Ghost Eaters', this is a term when referring to those who partake in the hideous practice of necromancy. This is a term used by the Silverbacks when referring to a Chaos Sorcerer or one who practices 'witchcraft' (sorcery).
- Nagloper - (Pronounced nag'-lo-per) A Wazarian term meaning 'Night Walkers', these are debauched creatures who are corrupted body and soul. This is a term often utilised by the Silverbacks when referring to those who willingly follow the corrupting influence of the Dark Gods.
- Nkulu - (Pronounced nn-koo-loo) A Wazarian term that means 'Dead Soul', these are warriors who have witnessed too much horror and wrought too many bloody deeds in the name of the 'Star Father', which in turn has mutilated their souls and minds to such an extent that they have become something hollow and murderous beyond reason. Often, this term is utilised by the Silverbacks to identify those battle-brothers who are the lone survivor of their nest, and who often take on an air of vengeance and doom, determined to regain the honour of their fallen brethren in battle or die in the attempt. It is the Chapter's Chaplains who ensure that those marked by Gaunab (the god of death) are cast upon the enemies of Mankind with proper application of force. Those warriors who succeed in their quests and survive are accepted into the ranks of the elite Silverguard, while the rest at least earn an honourable death in battle like their fallen kin.
- Obayifo - (Pronounced oh-bah-yee'foh) A Wazarian term for 'witch healer', these are traditional shamanistic healers who cure ailments and exorcise evil spirits by the use of magic. The Silverbacks utilise this term when referring to their Apothecaries.
- Ọlọrun - The Warzarian mythological deity who is the supreme ruler of the heavens and is associated with the stars. His name literally translates as the 'Star Father'. The vital energy of Ọlọrun manifests in humans as Ashé, which is the life force that runs through all living things in the universe. This deity is associated with the Master of the Mankind, and as such, the Silverbacks refer to the God-Emperor by this name.
- Osebo - (Pronounced oh-say'boh) A Wazarian term for 'hot blooded', often when referring to a young warrior who is eager to prove themselves in battle. They are known for being passionate individuals with a heated temper. This is a term used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Assault Marines, who are known for their bellicose demeanour.
- Shango - (Pronounced shan'-goh) A Wazarian term for 'fierce one', these are warriors who follow Yoruba, the god of war and storms. This term is used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Devastator Marines.
- Xi Dundu - (Pronounced zee duhn'doo) A Wazarian term which means 'shadow', it is said these lords of the night cast no shadow. This term is used by the Silverbacks when referring to their Scout Marines.
Idiosyncrasies in Space Marine gene-seed is not merely common within the Adeptus Astartes, it is part of the Emperor's grand design. It was the divergence in programming and influence of the Primarch's genotype in the transformation of human to transhuman Astartes that, beyond any other factor, sets the various Space Marine Chapters apart from each other. In the case of the Silverbacks, this factor shows clearly both in temperament and overtly in physiology. Of particular note is the robustness and strength of constitution displayed by fully developed Silverbacks Astartes, which has measurable superiority to the already superhuman Space Marine norms in relation to constitution, exceptional durability and toughness. Detractors point out that the Chapter appears every bit as resilient as the Death Guard Traitor Legion.
Their physical appearance is striking, most likely brought about by a combination of the phenotype effects created by a biochemical interplay of their gene-seed, the harsh environment of their home world and the unique genetics of the human population of Wazari that has evolved to survive them. These factors have contributed to the peculiar reaction of the Silverbacks' Melanchrome organ, resulting in an individual battle-brother's skin becoming obsidian-black. Imperial scholars have pointed out the similarities in the physiques, markings, and tactical dogma of the Silverbacks indicates that it might indeed be a rare Salamanders Successor Chapter created from the stockpiles of their gene-seed.
The few fragmentary records that remain show the Silverbacks' gene-seed branded as 'Chimeric'. This, as blasphemous as it may now seem, may have indicated that the Silverbacks' genetic material was either procured from a prohibited source, mixed with a heretical genetic pool, adulterated or somehow tampered with during its creation. There are also genetic markers within their gene-seed that shows it possesses traces of ancient primate DNA of an unknown species. This genetic quirk in their gene-seed would explain these Astartes' growth of enlarged (top and bottom), sharpened incisors. It is theorised by the gene-wrights of the Magos Biologis that the source for this primate DNA more than likely comes from Wazarian giant mountain gorillas, a species distantly related to the ancient and extinct Terran Gigantopithecus species.
Indeed, this would also explain the duality of the Silverbacks' persona as well -- uncompromisingly brutal to their foes to the point of savagery, yet stoic and fiercely loyal when it comes to defending the people of the Imperium. Often the Silverbacks display a propensity for being quite reserved when dealing with mortals, as they fully realise their physical appearance is quite intimidating -- a tool often used in the Chapter's arsenal -- used to great effect when dealing with recalcitrant Imperial commanders or rebellious forces into submission without the need for further bloodshed. Though slow to anger, once their ire is up, woe betide those who stand in their path. In battle, the Silverbacks are known to emit a terrifying animalistic roar, amplified by their power armour's vox systems, while they pound their chests like the apes of their world. Witnesses have reported that this wailing cacophony is known to drive deep into the minds of those who hear it, bringing to the fore an absolute terror that can stun lesser enemies into submission, and making it almost impossible to halt the Silverbacks' brutal assault.
The Silverbacks' order of battle contains several specialist formations and officer positions not present in other Space Marine Chapters:
- Magaji (Chapter Master)
- M'limu (Chaplain)
- Laibon (Librarian)
- Obayifo (Apothecary)
- Guruhi - The advisory war council comprised of the Chapter's senior-most officers.
- Kholo - The war council comprised of the Chapter's Captains.
- Ibutho - The elite warriors of the Ibutho, which are known beyond their home world as the Silverguard, serve as the personal bodyguard and champions of the Chapter Master.
- Ibutho (Veteran Marine)
- Ghekrunanse (Tactical Marine)
- Kinyonyi (Pilot)
- Osebo (Assault Marine)
- Shango (Devastator Marine)
- Xi Dundu (Scout Marine)
- Bamba (Aspirant)
Order of Battle
The Silverbacks have a long history of service with the Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition. The Silverbacks send many of their more experienced battle-brothers to the Long Watch, especially those who have won great renown amongst their fellow warriors for tracking and eradicating notoriously hard-to-kill xenos.
Chapter Combat Doctrine
The Silverbacks have followed the same tried and true fighting techniques throughout their millennia of existence. Utilising ancient Wazarian tribal combat techniques, the Silverbacks often employ the 'chest and horns' tactic. It is comprised of the following elements:
- 1. The Enemy
- 2. The 'Horns', or flanking right and left wing elements: Used to encircle and pin the enemy. Generally the 'horns' are made up of Osebo (Assault Marines).
- 3. The 'Chest', or central main force: Used to deliver the coup de grace. The elite Ibutho (Veteran Marines) and prime warriors who make up the composition of the main force.
- 4. The 'Loins', or reserves: Used to exploit success or reinforce elsewhere. Comprised of stalwart Shango (Devastator Marines) and reserve Ghekrunanse (Tactical Marines).
When conducting this tactic, the initial wave of Ghekrunanse advance in close order until they are almost upon the enemy. Then the Osebo at either flank advance (often utilising jump packs) or run around the enemy and completely surround them. The central group (the 'chest') comprised of Ibutho (Veteran Marines) then advance and crush the enemy against the anvil of the Osebo ('horns'). Behind the chest is the 'loins' as reserves, also of experienced warriors, comprised of reserve squads of Ghekrunanse and deadly Shango (Devastator Marines), who make short work of any survivors with their heavy weapons. The deployment of the 'chest and horns' three-pronged technique has also spawned several variations of this tactic, which follow the basic tenets of its overall deployment. One variation of this tactic is when the Silverbacks have the left 'horn' work with the 'chest' to pin their foes down, drawing the bulk of the enemy's fire.
Making use of superior speed, the right 'horn' (sometimes comprised of Attack Bike Squads and Land Speeders or Rhinos and Thunderhawk Gunships) will circle around a major landmass or geographic feature, such as a mountain or a forest, using it to conceal the Chapter's movements. They are then able to flank the enemy and attack their vulnerable rear or interdict vulnerable supply lines. Or they will attack an enemy that is strung out on the move, or crossing difficult obstacles like rivers, cutting off and driving back enemy columns so that the 'chest' and 'loins' can trap the foe in a pincer movement and utterly annihilate them. The 'loin' reserve forces then strikes deeper, cutting off and pursuing those who attempt to flee.
The use of separate manoeuvre elements to support a stronger central group is a well known tactic often utilised by many Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes. What is unique about the Silverbacks is their degree of organisation and consistency with which they use these tactics, and the speed at which they execute them. They have refined this tactic to an artform, and once executed, is nearly impossible to defend against. Even against larger groups of enemy regiments, this tactic is used to devastating effect.
The Silverbacks primarily wear black coloured power armour with the exception of the faceplate, cuisse (upper leg) and backpack being grey in colour. The grey coloured, tribalistic-style squad specialty symbol -- Tactical, Devastator, Assault and Veteran -- is located on the right shoulder pauldron, which indicates squad type. A grey coloured tribalistic-styled Roman numeral is stenciled on the inset of the right shoulder pauldron, to the right of the squad specialty symbol, indicating squad number. Company number is designated by a grey coloured tribalistic Roman numeral stenciled on the right poleyn (knee guard). Personal honour and totemic symbols, as well as tribal markings, are often displayed upon the left poleyn, greaves, helmet or gauntlets.
The Silverbacks' Chapter badge is a large stylised black and grey-coloured Wazarian silverback gorilla centred on a field of black, a constellation of three stars centred behind the central symbol.
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The Ashen Drakes were a Chapter supposedly created from the lineage of Vulkan. Unfortunately, they had the misfortune of being created during the lamentable 21st Founding, the so-called 'Cursed Founding', which was plagued with Chapter's that suffered genetic idiosyncrasies and severe, and often times, spontaneous and uncontrollable mutations. Despite not sharing the unfortunate traits of many of their fellow Cursed Founding Chapters, the Ashen Drakes were often looked upon with derision and outright suspicion. But despite being ostracised by many of their fellow Space Marine Chapters and other Imperial organisations, the Ashen Drakes were well known for their compassion and humanity towards the common Imperial citizenry, and would fiercely defend the innocent should they be threatened. This was a trait both the Silverbacks and the Ashen Drakes 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, the Ashen Drakes 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.
The Ice Dragons are another fellow Scions of Vulkan Chapter that the Silverbacks share a common bond of friendship and brotherhood. Despite their genetic flaws and reputation as a dour and isolationist Chapter, the Silverbacks accepted their fellow Chapter for who they were - loyal servants of the Emperor and proud inheritors of the lineage of The Promethean Fire. Though these two Chapters have only fought alongside one another on a handful of occasions down the long millennia, they still maintain close relations with one another. Despite the great distance between these two Chapters - with both being on opposite ends of the galaxy - these bond-brothers still sent emissaries to one another in a long-standing exchange program, up until the recent events of the formation of the Great Rift which tore the galaxy asunder. Despite this setback, those Ice Dragons that were stranded upon the Silverbacks' chapter homeworld stood side-by-side with their bond-brothers and helped defend their home system against the daemonic hordes, cultists and Heretic Astartes that continuously assailed them over several long decades. Despite the nature of their genetic flaws that only allowed them to live in sub-zero temperatures to survive, these battle-brothers acquitted themselves well, and earned much praise and respect from their more warm-blooded kindred, which has only strengthened the bonds of brotherhood between these two Chapters.
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By the Silverbacks
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About the Silverbacks
- "A call back to humanity's primate past. Before we learned tools, before language, before civilisation. When we knew only bonds of family, and the rage of enemies. "
- — Inquisitor Jacob Flux on the Silverbacks
- "Fists so mighty the enemy wails in dread at the very sight of them. We of the Gila Monsters are proud to call these Astartes, true brothers in the face of conflict and contempt. "
- — Chief Librarian, Iguanata, of the Gila Monsters Chapter