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What’s in a name?

This is a question that has been bothering me for the last week quite a bit. Mostly in relation to what the chapter name Sons of Corax really means. Ages ago on warseer when someone was posting their own DIY chapter they had some sort of similar name for a different legion successor. One of the posters said it was quite presumptuous of the chapter to name itself after the primarch, somehow indicating that the particular chapter was more favored by the primarch.

Is that necessarily true?

We already have the Sons of Guilliman, Sons of Dorn, Hammers of Dorn, Angels Sanguine, Disciples of Caliban, Heralds of Ultramar, Emperor’s XYZ, Imperial ABC, Knights of the Raven, other Sons of PQR etc etc. What are the significances of these names? The Heralds of Ultramar aren’t even based anywhere in Ultramar! The Sons of Orar aren’t even Orar’s sons in the sense that the Sons of Guilliman are literally sons of Guilliman! Did Dorn ever really carry a thunderhammer (how does the Fist of Dorn fit in here when the Imperial Fists are the ones using it)? Or the Emperor’s XYZ (loyalist) chapters who have been created after the Emperor ascended the Golden Throne and isn’t even aware of them? Are the Imperial ABC chapters really favoured by the Imperium?

Where does the favoritism being and where does it end? Is there really a question of these chapters being favored as indicated by the names of these chapters?

Two other aspects of the question are A, what is the power of these names and B, what is the real significance of these names? Let’s take it one by one.

A, The Power of Names – Fiction is quite literally littered with references and cases to/of the idea that names have power. These are reminiscent of some of the oldest religions on our planet. Knowing the name of a daemon gives you power over him is a concept particularly emphasised in both Warhammer worlds and in 40K we have the new background stating that the names of Grey Knights are parts of the true names of daemons! It is all the same as knowing the true identity of a spy, which allows you to exert power over him/her.

Why else do Inquisitors in 40k operate in subterfuge, particular examples being Eisenhorn and Ravenor. They don’t think twice about falsifying identities.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune series, the name Muad’Dib is a name of power, a killing name that the Fremen soldiers can use to literally kill their enemies with the aid of their sonic weapons.

Perhaps the Alpha Legion, at least pre-Heresy, exemplified this best of all. All Alpha Legionnaires are Alpharius when questioned in the book Legion. The identity of the primarch is hidden from anyone not of the Twentieth Legion and there is even a bigger secret being kept here.

What is the power of a name in Warhammer 40,000 in your opinion?

B, The Real Significance of Names – If names have power, then they also have a significance, a deeper meaning perhaps.

What does the name Blood Angels mean for that chapter? The chapter often has angelic names for its battle-brothers. The space marines were/are the Emperor’s Angels of Death. Sanguinius was raised in the Baalite tribe ‘Blood’. Post-heresy the Blood Angels and their successors have been cursed with a vampiric heritage and the Red Thirst.

Ultramarines, is it significant only in that Guilliman’s space marines come from Ultramar, or is the significance related to the colour of their name or is it a clever pun on both?

Space Wolves, are they really wolves in space because they have larger canines than is the norm among other marines, or is it a reference to Leman Russ’ upbringing, or is it related to the Wulfen curse, or is it another clever twist on all of them?

Alpha Legion, the last legion to be formed and yet designated in an old dead (in-universe) language as the first. Alpharius, the last primarch to be found yet his name has one (of course there are multiple meanings) meaning of the first. His twin’s name, Omegon, in that same dead language is the last letter of the alphabet.

Among the Raven Guard, a lot of their captains are named after birds, just as Corax is. And they are plays on similar words. Korvydae of the Tenth, Kayvaan Shrike of the Third, Corvane Valar of the Fifth. Go to wikipedia and do a search for the word Corax and see the results that come up.

Perhaps the most telling and important from an in-universe aspect is Horus, primarch of the most accomplished legion during the Heresy, the Warmaster of the Imperium, the Emperor’s most favored son, foremost among all the primarchs. And the one who plunged the entire galaxy into never-ending war. Horus, in egyptian mythology, is one of the oldest and most significant gods. What came to be known during the Heresy as the Eye of Horus, and was previously the Eye of Terra, is an ancient egyptian symbol for protection, royal power and good health. What Horus the primarch did during the Heresy is known to everyone.

Where does this all end?

All of this is something that I’ve been thinking about in this last week. I was quite surprised when I found out that the Corvus Mellori is a species of the crow/raven family Corvidae about two weeks back. The protagonist of my short story is Valerius Mellor. I had accidentally come up with a name that tied my character to the primarch and legion his chapter is descended from. And yes, it was quite unintentional.

All this comes down to the collective fact that Black Library does not want its writers, particularly ones who are aiming to get published through them the first time (established writers might be getting some leeway), to invent new chapters. I can see where they are coming from because there is such a large number of canon chapters we known nothing about. Some of them exist as nothing but names, they have no livery, heraldry, home or any kind of backstory.

This put me in a real bind because even though Sons of Corax was a stopgap measure to name the Raven Guard successor, I have become quite attached to it. And now I have to change it. Mostly because using my own chapter name is quite a bit of risk and could potentially work against my pitch for the upcoming submissions window. And I really want to not have any negative points against the pitch, especially ones that are easily controllable by me.

So I am now changing the name of the chapter. I have a short list of 4 chapters from Lexicanum’s list of canon chapters. I am very undecided at the moment because each of them represent some aspect of the backstory I have created for the Sons of Corax and I am reluctant to just abandon any of it. I tried to roll for these 4 names (about 50 times mind you to get a nice average) but I was still unhappy.

You see, the name of the chapter matters a lot. It ties it to the primarch, to the original legion. The Sons of Corax have a rich history of having collaborated with the Raven Guard over the years and they have kept some legion practices alive in their original form. They are also quite close to Corax in a spiritual way from what I have envisioned. And the name should reflect the traditions they have inherited from the legion, even though they are Third Founding, and an aspect(s) of the primarch that they think is the most appropriate for the direction they want to go in.

Perhaps all of this is a little too much for just one short story that may not even get picked up. But I think that that is where the difference lies. The difference between a writer who is aiming for quality and one who is just doing it because he/she wants to do it. I am not the best writer out there by any means. And the quality of the fanfic I regularly see on the good old Bolthole reminds me of that everyday and pushes me to perfect my own work that much more.

Its all about the effort you want to put in. And I believe that the more you can show that in the pitch, the better your (and my) chances of getting that foot in the door.

I have had three great critiques on my sample. They all attacked it in very different ways. Some did it from a background perspective. Some based on their own ideas on how things work in-universe. Some based on the technical aspects of the writing process. Some based on just pure logic from their own experiences. Combined, their review has resulted in quite a few changes to the sample in ways I had ignored because I wasn’t aware of the significance. Much thanks to Phalanx, Raziel and Narry for their help on this. Particularly Narry for his help with the names. And all the other Boltholers who helped in the entire process as well.

What makes them tick?

Gene-seed

The Sons of Corax gene-seed is derived from that of the Raven Guard and has similarly mutated over the millennia. Their skin and hair grow paler over time and turn white eventually while their eyes turn completely sea-green. They are also missing the Betcher’s Gland while their Neuroglottis and Lyman’s Ear have become especially sensitive. As such the gene-enhanced senses of the Sons of Corax are superior to their armor’s auto-senses and rival those of even the renowned Space Wolves.

Beliefs

The Sons of Corax hold to the belief that their gene-father Corax will one day return to lead all his sons in a final crusade against the hated Betrayers of Isstvan who nearly destroyed the XIXth Legion at the onset of the Horus Heresy. They are aware that Corax’s experiments failed because he possessed incomplete knowledge about both the cloning process and the gene-seed of the Astartes. Therefore they believe that he disappeared not to seek penance for his failed experiments with the Legion’s gene-seed but to seek knowledge that will perfect the process.

As such they revere their gene-seed all the more and have never sought to tamper with the genetic legacy of their Primarch. Their beliefs are known to none outside the Sons and the Raven Guard and these beliefs have sometimes caused friction between the two noble Chapters.

The Chapter venerates its Primarch Corax and the Lord of Mankind, the Emperor, above all others and like many other Chapters they view the Emperor not as a god but as the greatest and most powerful man to have ever lived. As Corax is descended from the Emperor, the Sons are descended from Corax himself and save the Emperor there is no other man they hold in higher regard. The Chapter has immortalized the Primarch of the XIXth Legiones Astartes by naming itself after him and it is one of the many ways in which they display their affection for him.

Homeworld

The Sons of Corax have earned the right to a homeworld many times over but all the High Commanders over the millennia have never accepted the offer, preferring to continue in the tradition of Taimon Naskius and the first battle-brothers of the Chapter. The warships of the chapter are the only homes that the Sons of Corax acknowledge, returning to the worlds of their birth only during recruiting missions to conduct their search for new warriors.

Fleet Disposition

As a fleet-based Chapter, the Sons of Corax possess a considerable fleet of warships and possess three battle-barges (Montisgarre, Spear of Lycaeus, and Avalerion) as well as six strike cruisers (Crusader, Chevalier, Ravenna, Talon, Raven’s Fury and Wrath of Redemption). Additionally the Chapter possesses the forge-ship Raven Song and several escort squadrons of frigates and destroyers. Each of these warships serve as the home of one of the Companies of the Chapter, which are often referred to as the Fleet Companies.

The Montisgarre serves as the chapter’s fortress-monastery and has done so ever since the first days of its founding. It is a warship that saw service with the expeditionary fleets of the XIXth Legiones Astartes for a hundred and eighty years. However it was retired to Deliverance just before the onset of the Horus Heresy because of severe damage in its last engagement. It was repurposed as a training vessel and formed part of the system fleet. When the Sons of Corax were formed in the Third Founding it was gifted to the new chapter as part of the Raven Guard contribution of war supplies.

With the necessities of their nature as a crusading chapter and their growing numbers, the Sons were quickly able to collect a sizable fleet of warships and escorts. Eventually the Adeptus Mechanicus was able to supply the chapter with a proper fleet that served their purposes and replaced their casualties. The Kiavhari Wisdom, a modified Lunar-class cruiser, was once a part of the chapter fleet and assigned to the Fourth Company. The warship served for fourteen hundred years and had an honour roll including such victories as the Adenari Campaign of 205.M33. Eventually the Kiavhari Wisdom was destroyed in a Word Bearers ambush in mid-M34 during the War of Faith in the Sarosa subsector.

Recruitment

Each Company is responsible for its own recruitment and the training of its recruits who are drawn from all over the Tempestus Segmentum from the worlds visited by the Fleet-Companies of the Chapter. All potential Chaplains, Librarians and Apothecaries are sent to the Montisgarre while those neophytes who display technical aptitude are sent to the forge-ship Raven Song to serve under the Chapter’s Master of the Forge. As some battle-brothers have been known to have displayed psychic potential far past their time as a novice Scout, all battle-brothers of the Chapter are regularly screened by their Company Librarians and those who show such abilities are then sent to the Montisgarre.

Heraldry

The Chapter symbol of the Sons of Corax is a golden raven clutching a black spear and is displayed on the left shoulder pad. The Chapter’s colour scheme is blue armour with orange kneepads, boots, chest eagle and backpack. Veterans are differentiated by their white helmets while officers wear white helmets with gold stripes.

While squad designations are never displayed, company colour is displayed as shoulder pad trims while the Company badge is displayed on the right shoulder pad:

  • 1st Company – Colour: Silver, Badge: Silver Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
  • 2nd Company – Colour: Yellow, Badge: Yellow Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
  • 3rd Company – Colour: Red, Badge: Red Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
  • 4th Company – Colour: Green, Badge: Green Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
  • 5th Company – Colour: Black, Badge: Black Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
  • 6th Company – Colour: Orange, Badge: Orange Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
  • 7th Company – Colour: Purple, Badge: Purple Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
  • 8th Company – Colour: Grey, Badge: Grey Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
  • 9th Company – Colour: Blue, Badge: Blue Raven/White Spear/Black Background.

1st Company Veteran and 2nd Company Captain

Welcome

Welcome to the Sons of Corax Blog. The Sons of Corax are a successor chapter of the Raven Guard chapter, formerly the XIXth Legiones Astartes. Stay tuned for more information about the chapter as I add more information to my pet chapter.

UPDATE

A little about me, as it relates to the hobby – I was in the hobby for about all of two years from late 2007 to late 2009. In this time I collected quite a few armies – Ultramarines, followed by my own space marine chapter I called the Shadowblades, followed by some dabbling in an Eldar Jetbike army and some Daemons for 40k. I don’t play the game anymore but I am still in it as far as rules theorizing and fluff discussions go. I can be found almost any day, any time of the day, on the warseer 40k forums where I post under the highly unimaginative name of shadowhawk2008. I sometimes dabble in the Black Library forums or the rules development forum or the warhammer fantasy background forums too on warseer but not much. I am much more at home discussing the 40k universe and the good and the bad of it.

I’ve attempted to write short stories and novels over the past eight or nine years but nothing has gone far enough in its development. Concerning 40k my first true attempt was an ambitious trilogy dealing with the proper ‘End of Times’ when the Emperor is resurrected (a billion theories on that one!), the missing primarchs return, the dead/injured ones are whole again and the Imperium has its final battle against Chaos. My aforementioned pet chapter the Shadowblades were going to be a special presence in that. But then I realized that the way I was writing the story was solidifying too many mysteries of the 40k universe, in particular the missing 2 space marine legions, and the whole project was completely over ambitious.

Well then I hit upon the idea of the Mantis Warriors space marines chapter finally ending their penance crusade at the end of the 41st millenium and being a normal chapter. Then I got thinking that I should probably write some shorts first and see where it goes. One of my key ideas in the End of Times trilogy had involved a new founding of the astartes and I was going to feature ten new chapters there. So I started with this idea to come up with some chapters I could use in my shorts. One thing spawned another and another and so on and in the end I finally hit upon the Sons of Corax and their battles in the grimdark universe of Warhammer 40,000.

I’ve been working on the Sons of Corax for about 5-6 months now, mostly developing their background so it can help inform my first true short story. And this short will be submitted to the Black Library for their open submissions in May’11. If it doesn’t get the greenlight then I’ll take it to the next level and develop it into a proper novel and try again next year. I have ideas aplenty in my brain and on paper to last a lifetime so that’s not a problem.

Stay around for some more info on the short story and the background for the Sons of Corax.