From a manuscript discovered in the depths of the Scriptorum, the Emperor's Palace, Terra.
To: His Excellency The High Inquisitor Josephes T'Rasque.
From: Yacobe Scrivenius
As per your final instructions to me, I have begun to assemble information for you on that region of our Emperor's realm known as the Wailing Reach. I fervently hope that this dossier reaches you in time for you to review it when you emerge from warp space prior to your beginning your investigations there. Unfortunately I fear I will never be able to send it to you myself for, whilst delving here in the depths of the Emperor's labyrinthine library I managed to let the door to this, one of the Scriptorum's deepest and remotest vaults, swing shut and lock itself behind me. Knocking and calling for help is pointless, as I believe I am the first scribe to have passed this way in many years, perhaps decades. The door is of a very old type which cannot be opened from the inside, and I confess I have surrendered all hope of finding any means of egress from my prison. I do not hope for succor from without, for in the interests of secrecy I naturally told no one of my errand or the nature of the information I sought to discover for you.
Still, all is not lost. I imagine that I shall not perish from famine or thirst for two or three weeks, at least, and I have brought a powerful battery with me that I have no doubt shall continue to run for some time after I myself have expired. I should have plenty of time to assemble a good quantity of pertinent information for you to aid you in your endeavors. The Wailing Reach is very far from Terra, and your Warp journey may well take eighty or one hundred years to complete. In that time, I pray, some scribe like myself may discover my bones and forward this manuscript to you as per instructions I shall leave with this text.
You Specifically requested information concerning the Dead Men Space Marines Chapter, and some of that I shall gather and record in the best fashion I can. I fear it shall be arranged in rather haphazard and unlovely fashion, but I must make the best progress I can before my strength begins to wane. In the following sections I include some photo-cells of some of the Dead Men, with what I hope is some useful commentary.
Presented here is a photo-study of a typical squad of Dead Men Marines arrayed in tactical squad configuration. The Chapter's history is fascinating and complex but to summarize very briefly here, the Dead Men were formed during the darkest days of the Horus heresy from the shattered remnants of three Space Marine legions; The Harvesters, the Death Eaters and the Raven Watch. These three legions, broken beyond hope of re-building, were struck from the Imperial roles and reformed, along with a large number of equally irreparably mangled Imperial Guard regiments, into an ad-hoc operational entity dubbed "Battle Group Omega". Battle Group Omega spent the remainder of the Heresy War in the role of a fire brigade, being rushed from one crumbling sector to another. Their last mission was to destroy a Rebel Force led by the Chaos Sorcerer Abn Fleinn. During the mopping-up operations which followed the defeat of Horus and his followers, Task Force Omega pursued Flein to the very edge of the galaxy. There, in an uninhabited region which would come to be known as The Wailing Reach, Flein opened a Warp Gate and led his followers through it to a kind of safety in the arms of Chaos.
With the Heresy Wars now over, the Administratum was surprised to find that some members of Task Force Omega remained alive. What was left of the Marines who made up part of the force were refashioned as the Dead Men Space Marines. They were detailed to defend The Reach and to guard against the peril of Abn Flienn's warp-rift, which throbbed like an evil eye at the edge of the galaxy, and which came to be known as the Vermillion Gate. I believe that the War of the Horus Heresy had taken it's toll on the surviving Marines. The constant Warp-Jumps and desperate fighting against heavy odds and in terrible conditions, combined with the knowledge that they had been written off as losses even before they had been killed, did much to shape the culture of the future chapter, and undoubtedly influenced many of their strange, indeed seemingly heretical, beliefs about the nature of time, and their place in it.
The colors used by the chapter are somewhat more subdued, and uniform standards somewhat relaxed in comparison to other Space Marine chapters. The colors themselves are the colors of violence and death: somber black, bone white, and rusty red, the color of dried blood. Helmets are painted white, to suggest a skull. Equipment tends to be mixed, with post Heresy, Heresy, and even pre-Heresy pattern equipment appearing throughout the chapter's companies. This is partly necessity; the Chapter's remote posting means that they cannot rely on Imperial armories to supply them with what they need, and partly preference. The chapter presides over a frontier district, and many Dead Men prefer the pre-Heresy weapon systems with which mankind conquered the galactic frontier, claiming that while less sophisticated, they are also more rugged and repairable in the field. The Dead Men manufactorum on Ran still produces most of the common patterns of weapons and armor used over the last ten thousand years, side by side, snd individual marines equip themselves with those weapons they believe are most suited to their mission, or to their taste.
The badges of rank and tactical markings so common amoung the vast majority of Space Marine chapters are almost invisible amoung the Dead Men. Special Weapons such as Power Swords and Power Fists serve to distinguish leaders from their marines. Some officers and NCOs will in addition wear a small bone marking on shoulder or shin pads to denote their rank. All squads are cross-trained in operating as tactical, support and assault squads, so the custom of using tactical markings on helmets, shoulder pads, etc, is discarded. Company symbols and mottos are common, however. These marines are probably of the 4th Company, as they wear that unit's motto, usually rendered as "Mort" or "Mortis" scrolled on the shoulders of their firing arms.
Scarcely any mark of rank can be discerned on this Dead Man squad leader, other than his power fist and the modest leg bone marking on his left shin.
An interesting example of custom armor is shown here worn by this this corporal/assistant squad leader. Note again the helmet painted so as to give the rough suggestion of a skull, and the "cloven' boots apparently intended to suggest hooves.
These marines have emblazoned their helmets with primitive-looking skull markings, taking the concept of the 'skull' helm to its logical extreme. Such markings have no particular significance other than as personal expressions of the marines' fervor, but have undoubtedly helped earn the marines their fearsome reputation amoung the Space Orks of the region, who are known to refer to them not as Space Marines but simply as "Dead Boys", a term of some grudging respect. The ancient las cannon carried by the gunner is an interesting example of the Chapter's preference for weaponry considered obsolete by other chapters. Of pre-Heresy design, it is thought to be sightly less accurate and underpowered compared to more recent models. Many Dead Men prefer it, however, claiming its simple and rugged construction make it more dependable, while the open housing makes it highly accessible and thus much easier to maintain while in the field.
This Marine's melta gun is an excellent example of newer-model weaponry but his older-pattern armor is the same as that of his comrades...
The squad advances through a ruined settlement, possibly on the quasi death world of Faust. The thick vegetation of Faust produces floating clouds of toxic vapors which have retarded human attempts to colonize this world. The genetically enhanced Marines are largely resistant to its effects, and occupy a secret reclusium and base on the planet. Unfortunately, Orcs and Genestalers are also largely immune to the planet's poisons, and the marines must regularly patrol the thick forests to eliminate any toe-holds that such scum may have established there.
Weariness steals over me and I feel I must rest for a short while. My battery pack still shows plenty of power. Perhaps I'll search the vault again for something I might have missed. Some hidden key or exit? Or would that just be a waste of time I could spend more profitably at work? A quick rest...then I'll see...