Among the many myriad Space Marine Chapters spread across Mankind's domain there exists an almost innumerable variations of combat styles, creeds and beliefs. From the resplendent hosts of the Ultramarine's and Imperial Fists, who stand as paragons of superhumanity and as one of the final images of the Emperor's long forgotten Great Crusade, to the savage pride of the Space Wolves and the righteous zeal of the Black Templar's, both warrior brotherhoods that display humanities unwavering ability to wage war. The warriors of the Adeptus Astartes are as numerous as the race they protect, for they are one of the few lines of defence between the Emperors domain and its annihilation.
Amongst this host of hero's however there stand some apart. Like the hidden hand of the Emperor they watch from the shadows of the void, waiting for a call to arms and to strike down the enemies of humanity before their foe is even aware they have been targeted for destruction. Within this shadowed few there is a Chapter mysterious as they are merciless, an unrelenting brotherhood that prowls the void between worlds. They are the Ashen Clad, the shadow of the Emperor's vengeance.
This pale brotherhood has been stalking humanities realms for many millennia. A hidden hand that has laid low all manner of foes, be they mutant, heretic or alien, before they have had a chance to strike at Mankind's holdings.
Despite having existed for longer than many Space Marine Chapters much of the Ashen Clad's history and battle honours aren't recorded with their other brethren and much of the information about them is either purposefully erased or locked behind seals of the Inquisition. Indeed for some Chapters, until recently, the Ashen Clad were seen as a myth, such was the rarity of their appearance.
What information can be gleaned of the Chapter identifies them as a fleet based Chapter who favour a mixture of infiltration and stealth based operations combined with sudden and unrelenting assaults. Those allies that witness the Ashen Clad in battle describe groups of pale spectres descending on their chosen targets with remorseless fury, like water flowing around rocks as their battle lines constantly shift around their foe and wearing them down with constant strikes and assaults. In space the Ashen Clad are no different and their ships captains have a reputation for being particularly savage, favouring close combat and boarding assaults.
While some cast suspicion, and in a some circles accusations, against the Chapter for their aloof and sometimes distant relationships with other Imperial authorities none who have witnessed the Ashen Clad at work can doubt the Chapters dedication to the Emperor or their mission. Even as the End Times draw near the Chapter beings to slowly step from the shadows only one thing is certain for them. Until the last of the Ashen Clad falls they will always be watching, ready to move the from the shadows to strike down more of the enemies of the Imperium of Man.
The exact origins and founding of the Ashen Clad is a disputed thing among some Imperial scholars, much of the information pertaining to such matters have either been expunged from the Terran archives or are sealed behind cipher seals of the Inquisition. The only information potentially available would be hidden deep within the countless archived campaign and battle reports gathering dust deep in the archives of Terra or from ancient legends on far off worlds that were the subject of the Ashen Clad wrath in the past. The information is out there, though it is unlikely that any have the time or the will to search for such things. The truth of the origins of the Ashen Clad are both much more unexpected and unique than many other Space Marine chapters.
For those with the eyes and wit to see it there are two pieces of evidence that can point toward the Ashen Clad's shadowed past. The first is the effects of their gene seed. As with many Space Marine Chapters the Ashen Clad gene seed enacts certain changes within the body it is implanted into, a necessary part of an aspirant becoming a Space Marine, however the gene seed also has another side effect. Over time the skin of Ashen Clad Marines takes on a deathly tone, giving them a dull white visage, while their hair either bleaches to a similar deathly grey as their skin or to a deep blacker than black hue. Finally, in some Ashen Clad, the eyes of the Space Marine will loose all colour and become little more than pure black orbs as dark as the void they prowl through.
The second clue is the Chapters emblem. Though within the Chapter there are often subtle variations the overall design remains the same. A white bird diving down toward the ground. The design of the bird, which has never been identified as any avian species, bares much in common with the symbol of the Raven Guard and its various successors. And therein lies the first hidden detail of the Chapters past. Much of their iconography, gene seed and even modus operandi are strikingly reminiscent of the Raven Guard. Although it is likely that any learned scholar could make such a connection, it is unlikely any could guess the truth.
The Ashen Clad actually trace their linage back to the original Raven Guard Legion, even before the coming of The Raven Lord, Corvus Corax. Before then they were the XIXth Space Marine Legion, the Hidden Hand of the Emperor. Throughout the Unification Wars they fought a secret shadow war against those that would appose the Emperor in his quest to unite Terra as one planet. Renowned for their mixture of stealth and combat skills. Who can say how many would be warlords were put to the sword by the Legion's hand? Or how many surrendered in the face of their sable fury?
Regardless of this the Legion was a formidable force even before their Primarch was discovered a few centuries later. The last leader of the XIXth Legion before the coming of Corax was Shade Lord Arkhas Fal. Upon taking up leadership of the newly christened Raven Guard Legion following the Liberation of Deliverance Corax begun imposing his own style of war, perfected in his early life. Part of this was to remove some of the more cold-blooded tactics of the Terran born legion, some of which he felt drifted close to the very evils he had fought against. As part of this many senior Terran commanders of the Raven Guard were reassigned, either to none combat roles or as part of splinter groups attached to independent nomad or Rouge Trader fleets that dotted the early centuries of the Great Crusade. Amongst those reassigned was Arkhas Fal who was given command of a small fleet and contingent of Raven Guard to command.
The exact nature of Arkhas's mission remains conjecture and guesswork as even the Ashen Clad archives are void of much of their early progenitors activities during this time. What is known is that they were considered very much a body apart from the main Raven Guard force and weren't part of any kind of recall during the Horus Heresy. This either indicates that Corvax deemed their mission too important to interrupt or, for whatever reason, no longer considered them part of the Raven Guard. And so Arkhas Fal sunk into legend as the Great Crusade begun. To be followed by the Horus Heresy sometime later.
As the fires of the Horus Heresy slowly died away following the disastrous Battle of Terra the surviving Primarch's, still reeling from the events of the Heresy, begun the long process of rebuilding the Imperium of Man. One of the first orders of business was the reorganisation of the Space Marine Legions, to ensure that no one would ever again possess the powers that a Legion created. While for a time it was a point of contention for some Primarch's eventually all relented to the new Codex Astartes, and so the Second Founding begun. During this time the newly formed Inquisition used the cover of the founding to legitimise some other Chapters that would remain less known. Amongst them the Grey Knights, a Chapter unknown to all even other Chapters of that founding. Among these secret additions was the Ashen Clad.
Found about a decade or so before the Second Founding by an Inquisitorial search team, what would become the Ashen Clad Chapter was a meagre few Astartes crewing a few ancient battle barges and strike cruisers. Without any chance to replace any losses they would sustain in a protracted battle Arkhas's splinter fleet had fought a shadow war across the northern advances of the Great Crusade. Due to limited contact they had avoided the Heresy as it had burned the progress they made behind them. Only now, with so few battle brothers left did they turn and head back toward Deliverance in hopes of receiving aid and fresh troops.
They were naturally surprised to find the Imperium they had left utterly changed from what it had been. Now lacking any kind of purpose and not knowing what to do the remaining few of what would be the Ashen Clad returned home to Deliverance. There they met in secret with Corvus Corax. Not knowing if they could return to the Legion, and perhaps not wanting to, the few survivors found their Legion in the same state as their Imperium. A ruined shell of what it once was.
The Raven Guard had recently suffered from their Primarch's attempt to tamper with their gene seed to try and quickly replenish their numbers. It had ended in failure and sorrow and while Corax was delighted to see that more of his sons had survived the Heresy that he thought he bore it with a grim sorrow. For the warriors before him weren't those of the Raven Guard, their time away had bred a different battle craft within them. And so for a time these few hundred Space Marines were in limbo, not knowing what their future would hold.
Eventually the Second Founding would begin and they would get their answer. Not wanting to loose the skills that had been cultivated in their long and perilous mission in the shadows of the Great Crusade those that had survived were reorganised into the Ashen Clad Chapter. It would take a few decades for the Chapter to train up enough aspirants to be even close to full strength. All the while trying to find their own identity now they were truly free from the yoke of the Raven Guard. However, when they finally did emerge, the new Ashen Clad chapter would be a force both unexpected and unrelenting.
Since the halcyon days of the Second Founding the Ashen Clad have found their place in the Imperial war machine. Deathly spectre's stalking the void between worlds, ever ready to strike at those that threaten Mankind's realms. A powerful, if mysterious, force of warriors the Ashen Clad have engaged in many battles all across the galaxy. To list all their myriad battle honours would take much time but listed below are some of their more notable engagements and events.
Like the majority of Chapters in the 41st Millennium the Ashen Clad organise themselves according to the Codex Astartes, for the most part. They are organised into ten companies which each comprise of approximately 100 Space Marines. Each company is commanded by a Captain and the whole chapter is commanded by the Shade Lord, the name for their Chapter Master that has existed since the dawn of the Ashen Clad. There the similarities end.
Ashen Clad Captains are given much more autonomy than other Chapters and force organisation changes from company to company, and no two companies have the same order of battle. There are no dedicated companies like the Assault or Devastator companies, instead each company is expected to maintain all the different roles required to fill most battlefield needs. As such each company can prosecute its own war effort without relying on other companies. As always there are exceptions and some companies remain highly specialised.
"Our way isn't the glorious charge, nor the protracted assault. We do not meet the enemy on his terms we force them into ours. To strike swift, to strike without mercy and to leave no enemy left to oppose us. This is our way to do battle"
―An Ashen Clad sergeant to a group of newly inducted scouts
As benefits their origins the battle tactics of the Ashen Clad aren't so dissimilar from those perfected by the Raven Guard, though there do remain some key differences. Where the Raven's favour covert tactics, often with their targets not even knowing they are being marked for death until a silenced bolt round ends them, the Ashen Clad pursue a much more vicious combat doctrine.
The Chapter rarely fights as a cohesive whole, only ever coming together for the most calamitous of campaigns. Instead different companies are often spread across different war fronts allowing the Chapter to be in many places at once. This level of autonomy is unusual for a Space Marine Chapter but makes each individual battle company a highly skilled and adaptable force that can face many situations without need for back up from the rest of the Chapter.
Assaults from the Ashen Clad are often as unexpected as they are unrelenting and there are a few foes that can survive a determined attack from this chapter. Using their skills in stealth and infiltration the Ashen Clad prepare their enemies for a quick and merciless death. With their chosen target identified squads of scouts and tactical marines are deployed silently to prepare the way for the main assault through subterfuge and assassination. If possible the foe is never made aware of the chapters presence as they slip like a silent breeze, slaughtering the foe without any raising a finger against them.
For situations where this is not possible the chapter quickly prepares for a much more overt course of action. With their enemy already in disarray as their forward elements engage them the rest of the strike force is brought to bear. Striking like a spear from the Emperor's fist the chapter plunges into the heart of the foe, switching for spectres of death to angels of fury. Not quarter is given as the Ashen Clad mercilessly butcher their enemy. Here their propensity for close range fighting and airborne combat is display in stark detail. But even as the main force presses the attack, the silent elements still work in the background. Always one step ahead of the battle.
If possible the Ashen Clad seek to end combat quickly and divisively, protracted combat often leads to casualties they can't afford to loose. For times when it will not be possible to end a battle with such speed the Ashen Clad choose to rely on tactics few chapters would consider. Long term deployment of small units is remarkable common, especially when used in conjuncture with other Imperial groups. Small squads ranging from ten to a single marine will be deployed with the objectives of gathering intelligence and starting the silent work that will one day be carried out by the strike forces forward elements. How many large scale battles that have been avoided by the use of these long term deployments is something known only to the Chapter itself.
Whether it takes weeks, months or even years to bring a foe to its knees the Chapter never ceases their work until the foe is defeated. News of Ashen Clad battle groups remaining in a warzone long after other Imperial units have retreated is common and the Chapter is loath to let an enemy go free. Either way the Chapter will eventually have its due, and the foe will be left as broken, charred corpses before the fury of the Emperor's Vengeance.
This Chapter is a thing long in the making, spawned from the authors love for the Raven Guard as well as chapters such as the Carchardon's. They also stand as his attempt to make a much more grim chapter than he is used to writing about.
Its also my second or third Chapter i've come up with.