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Ibram Gaunt

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Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt

Lord Militant General Ibram Gaunt was an Astra Militarum officer best known for his long-running command of the Tanith First and Only Imperial Guard regiment, also known as "Gaunt's Ghosts". A favoured subordinate of the Imperial Warmaster Slaydo, the once simply Commissar Gaunt was given the unusual distinction of regimental command by the Warmaster on his deathbed. Gaunt was to assume command of three Imperial Guard regiments drawn from the backwoods world of Tanith, but terrible tragedy during their Founding resulted in only enough men for a single regiment surviving. Gaunt would go on to turn these ragtag, ill-disciplined, under-equipped survivors into one of the most notable and successful regiments that served during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, though it took a long time for their achievements to be noted and rewarded. Gaunt ultimately rose to the rank of First Lord Executor, serving as right-hand man and acknowledged successor to Warmaster Macaroth.[1][2][14]

History

Early History

Ibram Gaunt was born on Manzipor, the son of the second-in-command of the Jantine Patricians regiment.[1a] After the death of his father at the hands of Orks, Gaunt was sent to the Schola Progenium on Ignatius Cardinal, where he first met Vaynom Blenner.[1b] After his graduation he saw action in many theatres as a Cadet-Commissar, attached to the Hyrkan Regiments and under the tutelage of Commissar Delane Oktar.[1c]

While battling human separatists on Darendara, Gaunt learned from a captured enemy psyker that his "Uncle" General Aldo Dercius, who had sponsored his education at the Scholam, was responsible for his father's death, having abandoned his position in fear, leaving the elder Gaunt to be overwhelmed by the Orks.[1d][1e] Gaunt was promoted to full Commissar at the death-bed of his mentor Oktar, who had been poisoned by Orks on Gylatus Decimus.[1f] His first action was to condemn General Dercius for his cowardice and execute him with his chainsword, though Dercius, in his desperation to defend himself, gave Gaunt a near-fatal wound to the stomach with his own weapon. Unbeknownst to Gaunt, this act disinherited Dercius's son Draker, who would later seek revenge.[1d]

As commissar to the Hyrkan 8th, Gaunt was part of the conclave of officers to whom Warmaster Slaydo announced the founding of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Gaunt came to Slaydo's attention, and was one of the select few who attended a private banquet held by the Warmaster before his valedictory battle on Balhaut. During the banquet, Slaydo shared his reverence for Saint Sabbat, and made each of his guests swear a blood oath to protect the Saint at all costs.[4]

After taking fatal wounds on Balhaut, the battle that finally opened a corridor into the Sabbat Worlds for the Imperial forces, Slaydo gave Gaunt another deathbed promotion, to the rare rank of Colonel-Commissar which he would carry for much of his career. Even more extraordinarily, Slaydo pledged the Right of Settlement to Gaunt's regiment - the right to occupy and retire to the first planet they conquered for themselves.[Needs Citation]

The Tanith First and Only

The Founding

Gaunt was to take command of the first 3 regiments raised from the planet Tanith, the Tanith 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Excelling in stealth and reconnaissance tactics, all they required was a great leader to lead them to victory. But before they were fully mustered for departure, Tanith was attacked by a Chaos fleet which broke through a gap in the Imperial Navy's lines. In one night Tanith was lost, but Gaunt made the decision to save as many troops as possible instead of letting them burn with Tanith.[1g][2a] These remaining troops were grouped together into a single regiment, the Tanith First-and-Only.[2a]

Early Battles

As the Crusade rolled on through the Sabbat Worlds, Gaunt and the Tanith saw action in numerous theatres. Gaunt's initially low opinion of the Tanith vanished after seeing them in action for the first time on Blackshard, where master sniper Hlaine Larkin coined the nickname 'Gaunt's Ghosts', referencing both the Tanith's superlative stealth skills and their dispossession. The Ghosts played a critical role in capturing Voltis City on Voltemand in their second combat outing, but suffered heavy casualties from a deliberate 'friendly-fire' attack orchestrated by General Noches Sturm of the Royal Volpone, who would become a long-term enemy of Gaunt's. Afterwards, Gaunt considered leaving the regiment for a desk job his old friend Blenner had secured for him, but he ultimately decided to stay with the Ghosts.[2][15]

The Ghosts subsequently fought in many notable battles, including on Caligula where Gaunt became separated from the regiment and command fell to his second, Colonel Corbec; Bucephalon, where Hlaine Larkin assassinated enemy Magister Nokad the Blighted; and Sapiencia, where they captured Magister Sholen Skara. They were instrumental in liberating the forge world of Fortis Binary from Chaos cultists, and Gaunt later foiled an attempt by rogue Inquisitor Heldane and corrupt Lord Militant General Hechtor Dravere to overthrow Warmaster Macaroth with an army of Iron Men, killing Draker Flense in the process. On Monthax the Ghosts secured an impossible victory thanks to the influence of an Eldar psyker, but Imperial tacticians found the reports inexplicable and decided that they were incorrect.[1][2]

Gaunt and the Ghosts faced their toughest challenge yet when they were drawn into the defence of Vervunhive on Verghast, a hive-city under siege by the Chaos-corrupted hordes of its rival Ferrozoica. Gaunt's strategies were ignored by high command, who handed the reins to Gaunt's higher-ranked rival General Sturm, but at the height of the siege Sturm abandoned his post in fear and Gaunt brought him in to face judgement, severing Sturm's right hand when the latter tried to shoot him with a pistol he was given after requesting permission to commit suicide. During the siege Gaunt rescued his ally General Grizmund from execution by the hive authorities and lost his prized chainsword when it dissolved in the acidic blood of a Chaos monster. He also had a one-night stand with Vervunhive noblewoman Merity Chass. After a string of battlefield deaths left Gaunt in overall command, he was able to secure victory by leading a strike team into the mobile fortress of the enemy commander, Heritor Asphodel, and slaying the Heritor in close combat. His actions won him acclaim as the People's Hero, and he received the power sword of Heironymo Sondar as his new personal weapon.[3].

From Hagia to Herodor

Gaunt's career suffered a major setback on Hagia, birth-world of Saint Sabbat herself, when his capture of the capital city Doctrinopolis was marred by a sorcerous trap left behind by the Infardi cultists of Pater Sin. Summoned by the destructive sorcerous beacon, a Chaos fleet was now en-route to Hagia and the Imperial Guard had no way of countering it, meaning that the birthplace of Saint Sabbat was now doomed. Gaunt's superior, Lord-General Lugo, blamed Gaunt for the situation, even though it was Lugo's own orders which had forced Gaunt's hand. Gaunt was given a last chance to do something worthy before he was discharged in disgrace, leading the Tanith on a final mission into the Hagian highlands to retrieve the mortal remains of Saint Sabbat for evacuation. Upon reaching Sabbat's shrine Gaunt realised he could not condone moving her body and the Tanith made a last stand against the besieging Infardi, but were able to rescue the situation when trooper Niceg Vamberfeld activated a hidden defence beacon which blasted back the nearing Chaos fleet and allowed the Tanith to sally out and rout the Infardi.[4]

On Phantine, Gaunt's Ghosts came under the command of Lord-General Barthol Van Voytz, who became the first senior officer to recognise their unique skills and abilities after Tanith troops snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Cirenholm. Gaunt then oversaw Operation Larisel, which ultimately succeeded in assassinating the enemy commander and therefore retaking Phantine for the Imperium. Whilst on Phantine Gaunt personally intervened when one of his troopers, Dermon Caffran, was charged with rape and murder. Phantine was also the regiment's first encounter with the Blood Pact and their loxatl mercenaries, two of their deadliest foes.[5]

The Ghosts' next assignment was to the planet Aexe Cardinal, where they served as reinforcements to the beleaguered Aexe Alliance. Gaunt was appalled by the Alliance's outdated combat methods and philosophy, and struggled to secure a more appropriate combat role for the Tanith. His efforts succeeded in landing half of the Ghosts a scouting mission through the Montorq Forest, but as a compromise he was forced to lead the other half on a dangerous, behind enemy lines sabotage assignment. Though the Ghosts succeeded in both missions, their efforts were erased by setbacks elsewhere and they were pulled from Aexe Cardinal without making a significant difference to the state of the theatre. Gaunt was honored by Alliance command for his efforts, but his experience of their methods made the award a hollow one in which he took no pride.[6]

The story of the Tanith First took a fateful turn when they were assigned to defend the Civitas Beati on Herodor, an insignificant planet which suddenly became strategically vital when Saint Sabbat herself was reincarnated there. Gaunt harboured doubts about the veracity of the Saint's identity, doubts which bordered on heresy in the eyes of Lord-General Lugo, but events soon transpired to make the formerly fraudulent pretender the real thing, and the Ghosts served as Saint Sabbat's personal honour guard in the battle. Gaunt was at Sabbat's side when she slew Magister Enok Innokenti, a glorious moment which was tarnished by an attempt on Sabbat's life made by one of Gaunt's own troopers who had been possessed by the foe. Though the assassin was stopped, Gaunt's beloved second-in-command and close friend Colm Corbec gave his life protecting the Saint, leaving Gaunt devastated.[7]

Extremely hazardous/suicidal

Following the rebirth of Saint Sabbat, the Sabbat Worlds Crusade entered a new phase. The Tanith 1st were assigned to the Ancreon Sextus theatre, but shortly after arriving Lord-General Van Voytz approached Gaunt with the news that his old foe Noches Sturm had fallen into Chaos hands whilst en-route to his court martial. Sturm's memories were mind-locked, but if his interrogators could break the mind-lock they would discover many sensitive details about the Astra Militarum and the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Feeling responsible for the situation because he hadn't executed Sturm when he had the chance, Gaunt volunteered to lead a EZ-level insertion and assassination mission to the enemy-occupied planet Gereon, where Sturm was being held.[8]

In a display of loyalty and devotion, many Ghosts competed for a place on what was probably a suicide mission. The final team were Gaunt, Rawne, Mkoll, Larkin, Mkvenner, Bonin, Beltayn, Brostin, Varl, Feygor, Criid and Curth. Making landfall and contact with the local resistance, they were able to gather intelligence on the Lectica Bastion where Sturm was being held but had to contend with occupation forces at every turn. A hunter-killer team of Chaos Space Marines were dispatched to eliminate them and the Tanith retreated into Gereon's Untill marshes, home of the tribal Partisans who resisted Imperial control. Ignorant of the dangers of Chaos, the Partisans revealed their presence to the Chaos Marines, who attacked the Partisan village but were all killed in the ensuing firefight. As recompense, the Partisan leader offered his third son Eszrah ap Niht to Gaunt as a guide, and Gaunt accepted unaware that the entirely literal tribesman had just made Eszrah Gaunt's permanent servant. The Tanith were then able to coordinate with the resistance, who launched a diversionary assault on the Lectica Bastion but where butchered by the Sons of Sek, an elite Chaos military loyal to Magister Anakwanar Sek being trained on the planet by Mabbon Etogaur, a Blood Pact defector, and Sturm himself, whose mind-lock had been broken. However, the diversion allowed the Tanith to infiltrate the fortress and ultimately force Sturm's suicide, the traitor general taking his own life in shame after the memory of his cowardice on Verghast returned. Gaunt was then almost killed by Sturm's vengeful life-ward Desolane, but Feygor shot it from behind with Larkin's long-las, saving his life.[8]

Though the Tanith team succeeded in eliminating Sturm before he could divulge important information to the enemy, Beltayn's vox-caster was irreparably damaged in the fighting and they were left stranded on Gereon. They spent the next year and a half honing the Gereon resistance into an effective guerrilla force that constantly harassed and undermined the occupation, weakening it enough that smugglers became able to sneak onto the planet. It was one such smuggler that eventually became the Tanith's means of escape, though Mkvenner and Curth both chose to stay on Gereon with the resistance.[8][9]

Gaunt's time on Gereon had a profound effect on him, just as it did the rest of the team. Already a hardened veteran, spending the best part of two years on an enemy-occupied world turned Gaunt into an elite commando with stealth and reconnaissance skills that were among the best in the entire Astra Militarum. It also burned away most of his remaining compassion and further inured him to the horrors of Chaos, though he retained his humanitarian philosophy of leadership and command.[9]

The 81st/1st Recon

Gaunt and the Gereon team's return to the Imperium was not a smooth one. Imperial Command rightfully doubted that anyone could spend almost two years on a Chaos-held world without becoming tainted, and suspected Gaunt and his men of being spies. However, they were locked in a cage like animals and scheduled for execution until Gaunt was able to convince his gaolers of his identity. Taken to Imperial HQ on Ancreon Sextus, Gaunt and his team anticipated similar treatment and escaped confinement, Gaunt taking General Van Voytz hostage to ensure his safety and the safety of his team. While this worked, it also got Gaunt arrested and put on trial for his actions.[9]

Gaunt was cleared after a few days, but his expected return to command of the Tanith 1st was not to be. Colonel Corbec's death, plus Gaunt, Rawne and Mkoll's extended absence on Gereon, had left the Tanith without most of their commanders and they had been merged with the Belladon 81st, another light infantry regiment that also specialised in reconnaissance. The Belladon 81st had suffered heavy casualties in previous engagements but still had most of its command structure, and it was combined with the Tanith 1st to create the 81st/1st Recon. The new regiment's commander was Belladon Colonel Lucien Wilder, who had earned the respect of the Tanith whilst leading them into combat in Sparshad Mons, one of Ancreon Sextus's massive step-cities where the Blood Pact had dug in. Unable to return to his old regiment, Gaunt was demoted to regular commissar and toured the theatre with Nahum Ludd, a junior commissar assigned to him who had advocated for Gaunt during his trial. During this time they discovered that regimental chefs from Fortis Binary had been putting meat from battlefield corpses into the food, causing sickness, and narrowly escaped an ambush by a Chaos predator.[9]

Sparshad Mons was eventually discovered to be a massive trap designed to tie up and consume Imperial forces and all regiments were ordered to retreat ahead of orbital bombardment. The 81st/1st were too embroiled in combat to retreat in time, so Colonel Wilder led a last stand which allowed most of the regiment to escape. Wilder's heroic death allowed Gaunt to resume command of the Ghosts, now with a third cultural group, the Belladon, as part of the regiment.[9]

The Iron Star

Gaunt's first mission as reinstated commander of the new Tanith 1st was to lead the regiment back to Gereon as part of a massed Imperial liberation force. The Ghosts played a small but crucial role by bridging the gap between Imperial command and the Gereon resistance and Gaunt was reunited with Curth who returned to the regiment, but was dismayed when Inquisitorial forces forcibly colonised the Untill in a misguided search for a substance that could bolster humanity's resistance to Chaos taint. Thankfully, someone freed all the Partisan prisoners shortly after Gaunt's departure.[10]

The Ghosts' next mission was the fortress-world Jago, where General Van Voytz assigned the Tanith to the ancient, abandoned fortress of Hinzerhaus. The Ghosts encountered a number of difficulties occupying the fortress, including incomplete maps and severe water shortage, and were soon fighting for the lives when the Blood Pact stormed Hinzeraus in unexpectedly heavy numbers. Gaunt was wounded in the thick of the fighting and captured by the enemy, but due to the extreme chaos of the battle it took a while for word to filter through the whole regiment. Not until Sergeant Varl was found lying among the wounded and was able to tel his story did the Tanith learn what had happened: taken alive, Gaunt had been carried outside the fortress by an enemy squad who attempted to carry him down a cliff, but rather than face prolonged torture Gaunt used his sword to sever the team's ropes, killing the entire enemy squad and himself.[11]

In the aftermath of Gaunt's death, Major Rawne took command of the Tanith regiment for what seemed to be their final hours. Unbeknownst to him, both Eszrah and Mkoll abandoned their posts to search for Gaunt and if possible retrieve his body, teaming up to infiltrate the Blood Pact camp and cause as much damage as possible. There they found Gaunt tortured and blinded but alive, having survived the fall and been captured anyway. They were able to rescue him and bring him back to the regiment, which was saved from destruction by timely reinforcement, but Gaunt was so severely injured that he almost died and only the stubborn efforts of Doctor Curth saved him. He was then fitted with top of the line augmetic eyes, and his request that the Tanith be rotated off the front lines was granted.[11]

Sabbatical on Balhaut

First Lord Executor

Character

Gaunt is a rebellious figure and has been known to have many conflicts with his superiors. Some of his enemies tried to kill him and destroy his regiment, such as Colonel Flense, Lord General Dravere and Lord General Lugo amongst others. Gaunt also found himself caught up in a plot to remove Macaroth from command of the Crusade. In which he was guardian to a vital piece of information that almost got him killed in a number of attacks on both him and his regiment.

Weapons

Ibram Gaunt is well known to use a Bolt Pistol both for his duties as a Commissar, as well as in battle. In the early Gaunt's Ghosts novels he also used a Chainsword which was a gift from his mentor Delane Oktar, but this was destroyed during a battle with a daemon-thing during the defence of Verghast hive[3c]. The ancient Sword of Heironymo Sondar was given to him in the final stages of his brave defence of Verghast.[3a]

Images

Ibram Gaunt miniature

See Also

Sources

  • 1: First and Only (Novel) by Dan Abnett
    • 1a: A Memory: Manzipor, Thirty Years Earlier
    • 1b: A Memory: Ignatius Cardinal, Twenty-Nine Years Earlier
    • 1c: A Memory: Darendara, Twenty Years Earlier
    • 1d: A Memory: Khedd 1173, Sixteen Years Earlier
    • 1e: A Memory: Darendara, Twenty Years Earlier (II)
    • 1f: A Memory: Gylatus Decimus, Eighteen Years Earlier
    • 1g: Part Three: Fortis Binary Forge World, Chapter Six
    • 1h: Part Three: Fortis Binary Forge World, Chapters Ten and Eleven
    • 1i: Part Six: Menazoid Epsilon, Chapter Twenty-Three
  • 2: Ghostmaker (Novel) by Dan Abnett
    • 2a: Chapter One
    • 2b: Chapter Eleven
  • 3: Necropolis (Novel) by Dan Abnett
    • 3a: Chapter Fifteen
    • 3b: Chapters Seventeen-Eighteen
    • 3c: Chapter Fourteen
  • 4: Honour Guard (Novel) by Dan Abnett, Chapter Eleven