Prior to their service in the Maelstrom, the Astral Claws were a fleet based chapter, and their specific founding is not entirely clear. The records of their parent chapter have been lost, so they start with an air of mystery. The money bet for the chapter is sadly that they are Ultramarines, owing to their blue heraldry, Roman aesthetic, and codex adherence. Some link the chapter's Lion heraldry to the Dark Angels, but since they have no inner circle and don't pass on the story of the Unforgiven, it seems unlikely they were a successor as such. Whatever the source material, the Claws at some point spawned a few sucessor chapters, of which only one is named, the Tiger Claws.
The current version of the Tiger Claws paint scheme
The Tiger Claws are an interesting side portion of the story, their role perfectly fits into the fall from grace story. The Astral Claws were steeped in gory, triumphant and powerful, but simultaneously hamstrung by their chapter's size and force limitations. Around the time that these limitations became clear, a full company of the long-lost Tiger Claws chapter appeared from warpspace, and after attempting to petition their gene-seed be released to rebuild their chapter, disappeared again. Interrogation of surviving Astral Claws subsequently revealed that the surviving Tiger Claws had found their way back to their parent chapter and secretly integrated into their forces. The Second Company Captain and Chapter Champion Corien Sumatris is believed to be the most prominent of the Tiger Claw transplants. This was all part of an effort to expand the forces of the Astral Claws well beyond codex limitations.
A map of the Ultima Segmentum, home of the Maelstrom
But, we've gotten ahead of ourselves. The Astral Claws served loyally for centuries, and were so honored they had a banner raised on Terra itself as a tribute to their service. It was only in the year 587 of the 41st Milennium that the Astral Claws were called on to serve in the Maelstrom Zone alongside the Lamenters, Executioners, Mantis Warriors and Charnel Guard. The Charnel Guard would have to withdrawal from this role before the Badab War due to taking severe losses. The Astral Claws seized an orbital battle station within the Badab System and made it their Fortress Monestary.
A Map of the Badab Solar System
The role of the Warders in this time was essentially to act as a rapid response force, striking out at raiders, xenos, pirates, and the forces of chaos undermining the various imperial worlds surrounding the great warpstorm. The Maelestrom region is incredibly rich in resources, which while useful in times of peace, means there is a constant motivation for the enemies of mankind to attack. During this era there was constant fighting, and at one point an Ork incursion incensed the Chapter Master of the Astral Claws. Upon routing the greenskins, the Astral Claws, led personally by Chapter Master Rovik Blake, went into the Maelstrom to challenge the Ork Warboss. He fell in battle and the Astral Claws were forced to retreat.
Huron: What's that, you have a job opening?
Upon their return to the Badab System, Lugft Huron was elected the Chapter Master. He was the youngest warrior in the history of the Astral Claws to earn this rank. Upon taking power, he began plotting to pacify the Maelstrom once and for all. Obviously, such aspirations would seem a fools errand for any normal space marine chapter, or even a group of chapters, so Huron put together a petition to Terra to greatly expand the Maelstrom Warders, increase the military resources in the system, etc. Around the same time, the geneseed tithe made by the chapter to Terra began to fall off. This was overlooked largely because the chapter was known to be engaged in military operations, which sometimes makes it difficult or impossible to provide geneseed.
It is important to note that in the meanwhile, there was a rebellion on the surface of Badab Primaris. This prompted the Astral Claws to intervene, seizing control over the government and establishing the chapter as the sole government authority. This provided Huron with the opportunity to begin fundamentally altering his chapter and planetary defense forces. By integrating space marine leadership into planetary auxilia, Huron began undermining the Codex Astartes organization of his legion.
Secretly Huron just wanted to buy Leman Russ tanks for his army
Huron's requests for assistance were rebuffed, and despite further appeals, it became clear he would not be able to implement his plan as written. His response belied the traits that would later lead to war, he cut off all planetary tithes of planets under his control, and secretly began expanding his forces. It is believed that at its peak size, the Astral Claws numbered 3,000-3,500, fully triple the numbers allowed by the Codex.
Ironically, this deviation was massively successful, gradually securing and strengthening the Maelstrom. This allowed the Astral Claws to engage in outside conflicts. In year 780 of Milennium 41, Lugft Huron was elected battle leader of the Lycanthos Drift Campaign, and under his leadership they were victorious, wiping out the chaos forces in less than a year. The Fire Hawks also participated, and their older, and in his view wiser, Chapter Master was insulted for being snubbed by the assembled forces. He would later lead the Fire Hawks against the Warders in the very first conflicts of the Badab War.
By the 860's of Milennium 41, the Astral Claws had so effectively subdued the antagonistic forces in the Maelstrom that they called upon and received the Black Templars war host, leading them on the Crusade of Wrath. The Warder chapters went into the warpstorm with the templars, and dealt massive blows to the chaos and xenos forces they found there. Only the onset of the Tyrannic War would derail this opperation, once again forcing the Astral Claws to abandon their gains and return to Badab. This is the time where Huron became despondent. He started to realize that the Imperium had given him an impossible task, to bottle and control chaos itself, and that the simultaneously tied an arm behind his back.
By the early years of the 9th century of the 41st Milennium, the Astral Claws were still expanding and attempting to keep order, but Huron had begun to consider open rebellion. A fleet of ships from Terra were sent to investigate the lack of planetary and geneseed tithes from the Astral Claws, and were destroyed by the orbital defenses in the system, known as the "Ring of Steel." This kicked into motion the conflict that would follow. Since my forces ostensibly operate just prior to this period, here is where we'll stop, but rest assured in a future post, I will begin telling the stories of the Badab War itself.
And now for some random shots of my army!
One of my plasma badasses, I believe the model was once an Iron Warrior
I haven't gotten around to doing the plasma glow on this guy yet, but you get the idea