Functioning as both a sword and shield, today we explore the Duty of the Deathwatch!
After yesterday’s lore drop about a Space Wolf asking to be released of his duty from the Deathwatch and head back to Fenris, we thought it would be a good idea to dive into more detail on WHY that’s such a big deal. To do that, you need a quick history lesson.
“The Deathwatch are a unique and specially trained Space Marine Chapter that dedicates its every hour to xenos hunting. They are the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos, charged with protecting it in its search of information, containment, and ultimate destruction of all xeno species. Consisting of Battle-Brothers drawn from many Chapters, the Deathwatch operates from Watch Fortresses and Watch Stations across the whole of the Imperium.”
While the origins of the Deathwatch were traced back to the War of the Beast, there is also a record of the different Chapter Masters agreeing to aid the Inquisition. They swore solemn oaths to form a new chapter, drawn from Battle Brothers of existing chapters, to serve in various missions to exterminate Xenos.
“An account from older editions states that centuries ago, a Conclave of Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Lords, known as the Apocryphon Conclave of Orphite IV – convened with the purpose of formulating a galaxy-wide strategy to combat the many xenos civilizations assailing mankind. Foreseeing an age where mankind would eventually consume the Imperium itself, the conclave sat and debated for many years. Some advocated the annihilation of all xenos, some that certain less-violent civilizations should be “tolerated”. However a strategy was eventually formed and the Conclave requested an audience with many assembled Chapter Masters of the Adeptus Astartes. After hearing the Inquisitor’s pleas, the Chapter Masters deliberated for one night before giving their verdict: they and the Inquisitors would together take a solemn oath and form a new Chapter, one drawn entirely from Battle Brothers from existing chapters. The alliance dubbed it the ‘Deathwatch’, for it would stand guard against the doom foretold by the conclave.”
Sometimes, these Brothers were sent voluntarily. Sometimes they were sent to serve as penance. The Deathwatch is akin to a special operations team made up of various special-ops teams. It’s part Dirty Dozen in the Grim Dark, part Delta Force. And you don’t just ask to leave.
It is an Honor to serve in the Deathwatch and to complete your mission and to be released upon completion. When Tor Whitetail asked to leave so he could aid his ‘true brothers’ that was a pretty major breach of the oath he swore. That’s why Sergeant Caddon said to him the following:
‘But it is not our duty to answer, Tor. Our duty is to the Emperor. That is why Veterans join these ranks, for they should have the wisdom to see the bigger picture. Your sworn duty is fulfilled by fighting here, under the orders of our Watch Captain, to enact the Emperor’s will.’
The Deathwatch serve the Emperor and fight for a much bigger picture. Who knows what mission has just been delayed or compromised because Tor Whitetail had a bad dream – prophetic or not. Who knows if this was just a rash decision that was made in a panic or if was meant as a warning to gather more allies. Tor just broke an oath and abandoned his Deathwatch Brothers. That’s not something the Adeptus Astartes do lightly.
Watch Captain Ghasubai granted his request to allow him to leave for the sake of the bigger picture. He didn’t want a ‘crack in the unanimity of this brotherhood’ to compromise the mission. Personally, I really hope we see the Deathwatch respond to this and that GW follows-up on this thread. To be honest, I doubt it – this is just some random story in an anthology building up to the bigger picture of the events in Psychic Awakening. But there SHOULD be a bigger reaction to this because one does not turn their back on their duty to the Deathwatch.