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Watch Fortress Erioch

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"Jagged, hull-black walls stand sentinel.
Dark void’s empty children wait beyond.
Duty holds the breach."

–Excerpt from Skald Haarksen’s stanza of The Long Vigil

Watch Fortress Erioch is a Ramilles Class Watch Fortress of the Deathwatch, used by the Deathwatch Space Marines and Ordo Xenos Inquisitors holding vigil over the Jericho Reach.[1]

It is currently located in the Erioch System of Ultima Segmentum.[2]


Watch Fortress Erioch hold many secrets besides the Omega Vault. A millennia-old edifice situated in a place where no forge master or architect-savant of the Imperium could have travelled and where no materials for its construction could possibly exist. Navy-minded Inquisition agents on their brief sojourns at Erioch have postulated that the fortress must have been brought there in some great and secret undertaking in the past, pointing out subtle hints of architecture that are still visible beneath centuries of accumulated restructuring that are reminiscent of a mighty Ramilles Class Star-fort. That such a precious commodity should have been risked in transport all the way to distant Erioch and then left essentially unused speaks volumes to the perceived value of the location and the reach of those who caused the fortress to be established there. Locked away within this ancient fortress can be found knowledge of the most heinous alien lifeforms mankind has ever encountered.[1]


The Outer Wards

The Outer Wards separate the landing cradles and void docks studding the fortress walls from its interior reaches. The Battle-Brothers hold that no enemy of Watch has willingly broached these wards, either entering or leaving, in more than two thousand years. Some supplicants never pass the wards even on legitimate business lest they become lost in the constantly moving labyrinth. Madness and death await the unworthy, it is said, for only true servants of the Emperor may find a straight path through the Outer Wards.[1]

The wards themselves take the form of great moving mazes made of interlocking cog teeth and gear splines. The wards are built on a titanic scale- a hallway might be the space between teeth on a two hundred metre wide cog, while a bridge over vast gulfs may be the slow-rotating spline of a half-kilometre connecting rod. In some areas gravity is defined by the different components of the maze such that walls might become floors and floors become ceilings within the turn of a corner.[1]

Negotiating the wards for the first time takes a good deal of self-discipline and swift thinking as the constantly-changing environment threatens to trap and crush the indecisive. The mere sight of relentlessly narrowing spaces and widening gaps in the wards is apt to induce gibbering panic. The distress this causes in the minds of ordinary humans is but a fraction of that felt by most xenos. They find the wards a place of unthinkable terror, a man-made hell of grinding iron and fanged steel. The effect is so marked and so universal that it has been speculated that unseen factors are at work, a latent psychic marker generated by the fortress itself or a mnemonic dread generated by the grinding wards that leaves humans and Space Marines untouched.[1]

Others maintain that xenos will inevitably be repelled by the boundary of an edifice so utterly dedicated to their ruination and that the wards are themselves only the visible parts of a gigantic mechanism that lies beneath the outermost skin of the fortress, possibly the Omega Vault itself. If such theories hold true the function of the wards as a labyrinth is entirely coincidental to their presence. What purpose this titanic artefact might serve, or whether it is only the remnant of some monumental unfinished project, has never been adequately answered.[1]

The Xenos Bestiarium

The Xenos Bestiariumis were aliens are kept captive, tested and categorized by the Apothecaria in hundreds of holding cells and examination rooms. The most dangerous xenos might be released into the fortress’ extensive Hunting Grounds for the Deathwatch to hone their skills against, so they can discover effective weapons and techniques to use against the aliens; study of the alien itself is only undertaken as a byproduct of the quest for a better understanding of how to destroy it.[1]

The Xenos Bestiarium occupies the lower thirteen levels of the northern quadrant of the fortress. The areas still in use are stark, brightly-lit corridors studded with observation windows of metre-thick crystal that look into the various cells. By contrast the many disused sections of the Bestiarium are forlorn, dimly-lit expanses of stained rockrete cluttered with debris. Here and there shattered observation windows gape, blindly hinting at the violence unleashed by their occupants, while blackened walls recall the fury of promethium unleashed to quell them.[1]

The Bestiarium has probably played host to hundreds of thousands of aliens over the millennia. Examples of xenos apprehended anywhere in the Eastern Fringe may be sent here for study and dissection by order of the Ordo Xenos. Individual Inquisitors sometimes take advantage of the unparalleled knowledge to be found in the Bestiarium in pursuit of their own investigations, whether to arm themselves against a known foe or to trace an elusive xenotype. The fortress-bonded staff of Logis and Lexmechanics sift, catalogue and cross-index each examination and every observation.[1]

The Holding Cells

The main body of the Bestiarium comprises holding cells subdivided in spectrum-based threat gradations running from ultraviolet to infrared. Xenos requiring complex or specialist environments are most commonly held in stasis shells until required and often the stasis shells kill as many as they preserve, both living and dead xenos are exhibited without distinction in the Bestiarium. In some cases it has proved difficult to determine whether some aliens are truly alive or dead in the first place.[1]

The Bestiarium holds many strange and exotic xenos, from sentiences that exist only in a certain colour range, to beings that live their lives in reverse, or ones endlessly transmuting themselves into new and ever-more disturbing forms. Each is thoroughly studied, annotated and categorized so that it can be better destroyed in the future.[1]

The Examination Chambers

Different rooms appointed for the examination and dissection of aliens are studded throughout the Xenos Bestiarium. Some take the form of small auditoriums with stepped benches suitable for an audience; others feature unbreakable crystal cages with remotely controlled manipulators for dealing with xenos prone to noxious effluvia. Most are gloomy, low-ceilinged places reminiscent of a medieval torture chamber with stained examination blocks and restraints speckled with the patina of rust.[1]

Here servo-skulls and slow-ticking cogitators record every scalpel cut, amputation and injection made in the quest for knowledge. Toxins and viral agents are tested, pain thresholds measured, vital organs and nerve centers located and categorized for lethality of attack. Even the most fearsome alien predator has a weak point somewhere and in the examination chambers that weak point will be revealed.[1]

Zone Magenta

A number of Tau Caste members are being held prisoner in zone Magenta for behavioural studies by the Ordo Xenos. Most of the Tau prisoners have been seized from small colonies cleansed by the Deathwatch but a few are from ships intercepted in transit. A single Ethereal caste member is being held separately in great secrecy. How the Tau interact without their ruling caste to guide them is of equally great interest to both the Deathwatch and the Ordo Xenos. The Battle-Brothers recognize the strong social structure of the Tau as a long-term threat. Some feel the rigid caste system holds the key to the Tau’s undoing. Should the aliens be as reliant as they appear to be on the Ethereal Caste to smooth out the endless quarrelling and rivalry between the castes, a targeted assassination campaign could be of great value in the future.[1]

A complex experiment has recently been set in motion by Inquisitor Adrielle Quist utilizing a handful of Fire Caste warriors taken from the forest world of Baraban. The Fire Caste Tau were afflicted by the so-called “Dream of Unity” by ancient xeno-tech traps on that world. This singular delusion has caused them to believe that anyone they encounter is a trusted member of the Tau Empire. Inquisitor Quist has taken full advantage of this to convince the Fire warriors of her status as an important Gue’la liason. Quist has convinced the Fire Warriors that the other Tau prisoners held at Erioch are dissidents that refuse to accept that there is now peace between the Tau Empire and the Imperium. Apparently she plans to find out how quickly and heavily the Fire Caste will resort to outright oppression to enforce their point of view, plans which have drawn criticism from some of the Deathwatch Battle-Brothers, but most have kept their silence. [1]

Zone Violet

Zone Violet is locked under maximum security. Gun servitors are stationed in every hallway and Kill-teams are kept on stand-by in a state of constant readiness. Tyranid vanguard organisms that could comprimise the entire star-fort taken from Hive Fleet Dagon. Tracing the original gene strain of an invading Tyranid Hive Fleet has proven invaluable in previous campaigns. It provides a way to track the vagaries of rapidly mutating hive genus and find new vulnerabilities. The Deathwatch relentlessly hunt down Vanguard Organisms like Genestealers and Lictors where they can, as these creatures are the ones most likely to carry the Tyranids’ core genetic code.[1]

The Catacombs

The catacombs run throughout the lower reaches of the fortress, narrow tunnels that were perhaps once used for ducting and maintenance. Over the centuries they have been gradually converted into repositories for accumulated xenos lore. Lying here are great tomes, vivisected specimens and forbidden bestiaries, sealed by eternal guards of adamantium and wards of stasis for when such foes might rise again.[1]

Over the centuries many Inquisitors have added their own burdens of dread knowledge to the passages beneath the fortress, leaving xenos artefacts and soul-shrivelling texts that they have decreed must be ever hidden from the gaze of man. Deathwatch Keepers only allow those with permission of the Master of the Vigil to enter the catacombs.[1]

Stories persist of escaped xenos from the Bestiarium inhabiting the catacombs, and while it’s true there have been a few unfortunate incidents in the past, including a nasty bore-worm outbreak and a Quozikian hatchling or two, but escapees from the Bestiarium never get as far as the catacombs. Unfortunately it does seem that certain xenos artefacts and alien young can be hard to tell apart sometimes.[1]

Quarantine Zones

Certain areas of the catacombs have been declared as quarantine zones and only an armoured Battle-Brothers may enter. Some of the Quarantine Zones are bathed in unknown radiation or subject to unpredictable temporal effects due to unstable xenos artefacts. Others are infected by alien organisms that can't be destroyed, only contained. It is rumored that some of the Quarantine Zones actually contain alien gate technology, like Eldar webway portals or smaller examples of the Jericho-Maw warpgate. If so, these locations would create a dire threat to the fortress’ security in the wrong hands and must be heavily protected.[1]

The Great Ossuaries

The Ossuaries of Watch Fortress Erioch[1]

The Great Ossuaries are sections of Watch Fortress Erioch where the walls, floors and ceilings are covered with countless bones, teeth and claw of slain xenos, with some being adorned with information. The larger bones of gargantuan monstrosities are displayed in the larger sepulchres, with chandeliers made of alien skulls, hanging spines, pillars made of chitin and bone, sheets of xenos hides hanging like banners and mosaics of calcified shell, all of it representing centuries of accumulated slaughter. All of these bones are contributions by Deathwatch Space Marines, with some marines taking such donations as a source of rivalry, with the Master of the Vigil having to close the ossuaries to curb the hubris of excessive trophy hunting.[1]

New arrivals to the Fortress are invited to tour the Ossuaries to understand the enormity of the task the Deathwatch performs and their part in the Long Vigil.Ordinary humans tend to find these tours as a oppressive and frightening experience, while Space Marines find it to be a deeply spiritual and meditative place, and rejoicing the work of Space Marines before them and their victories over xenos. These are rumoured to be cursed by unquiet alien spirits causing mono-tasks servitors to lay on its halls victims of a subtle jinxing effect and those with psychic awareness say that the Ossuaries hold a miasma of pain and impotent rage, echoing with a psychic babble of pleas,curses and prayers in forgotten tongues.[1]

The Hunting Grounds

The Hunting Grounds are part of the Deathwatch training and devotion facilities, occupying various levels of Erioch, that has gradually grown over the four centuries since it was built. Their construction was first begun some four centuries ago at the instigation of Watch Captain Prascus. Prascus had perceived a certain lack of readiness in Killteams because of their inability to train together in varied environments, with the transitions between those environments causing difficulties and casualties.[1]

These difficulties were caused by the space marines prides and the feeling that they carried their Chapters honour on their shoulder. Most captains would have reprimanded the Space Marines and told them to remember their oaths and duties, but Prascus knew this could probably cause bitterness between Space Marines. Instead the Captain converted a large number of bays converted into facsimiles of rugged planetary environments and used it to celebrate the hunting traditions of some fellow Space Marines. By leading hunts against dangerous xenos released from the Bestiarium, he thought that it would help prepare Kill-teams against various environments without offending their honour by calling out their lack of preparedness.[1]

After Prascus ended his tenure as Watch Captain it fell into disuse even though it remained in operation, with later Commanders expanding the grounds, sometimes with sections mimicking their own home worlds or depicting worlds from the Jericho Reach. Master Jarrax of the Black Templars ordered gigantic sealed vessels to be built so that the Space Marines could practice their arts under every conceivable trial of the void, creating vaults that can be configured to mimic any environment from vacuum to the crushing pressure of a gas giant. Watch Captain Madsen caused several vessels to be modified by having ship corridors and xenos labyrinths painstakingly recreated for the exercise of Kill-team close assault tactics. Jarrax’s Eyrie, a 3800-metre vertical vessel, has so far been kept empty for the exercise of zero-G and terminal velocity combat techniques. Within the last century the Hunting Grounds have become fully integrated into Deathwatch training dogma at Erioch and expanded even further. Vast halls have been reconfigured into exact replicas of the native environments of selected xenos species. Here Deathwatch Battle-Brothers stalk aliens beneath holographic skies to learn of their tricks and traps in their native realms. [1]

The Inquisitorial Enclave

Watch Fortress Erioch holds a Inquisitorial Enclave centred around the jutting, blade-like spire called the Tower of Brass. The archaic palatial suites to be found here have seen little use over the millennia of the Long Watch save for the residence of the Inquisitor of the Chamber and occasional visits from members of the Ordo Xenos going about their work. As with so many other places in the fortress, the Inquisitorial Enclave seems almost too expansive and well appointed for its current use. It seems as if the true purpose of the place is either long past or yet to come, and its current occupants merely the latest caretakers in a long and dusty line stretching back into lost antiquity.[1]

The permanent residence of the Inquisitor of the Chamber fills barely a fifth of the tower, centered as it is about an ancient cogitator core believed to hold details of Ordo Xenos activities in the Jericho Reach pre-dating the Age of Shadows. As with her predecessors, Inquisitor Carmillus spends much of her free time picking through the old reports when not involved in more pressing matters. All too often clues to current events can be found mouldering in matters rooted in the past. Carmillus generally prefers to keep her retinue small and her acolytes in the field with them only returning to the fortress to report and rearm before returning to the fray.[1]

A considerable body of serfs and retainers, most belonging to the Family Longsorrow, maintains the tower itself in an effort to make it habitable, but their earnest efforts are dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the task. The patina of age has crept over everything in the tower down the long ages, lending the place a haunting air of faded grandeur. The servants have to content themselves with keeping certain suites or chambers heated and lit as befits human needs while hurrying through cold, empty hallways left in between. Recently the opening of the warp gate has brought a great many more visitors to the lonely fortress than it has seen in centuries. Now the Inquisitorial Enclave and the Tower of Brass have become the most populated area of the whole fortress. Between the comings and goings of Inquisitors and their retinues, the servitors, the slaves, the hostages and the prisoners of the Ordo Xenos, the vast halls of the Tower of Brass can appear almost bustling, filled with light and the sound of human voices.[1]

This is an illusion, however, as once outside the immediate confines of the Inquistorial Enclave the oppressive silence and crushing enormity of the fortress reassert themselves once more. In the Tower of Brass the increasing focus on Erioch has caused friction amongst the Inquisitors themselves. Such powerful and dynamic individuals as Inquisitors are apt to clash over matters of priority or probity, and now Watch Fortress Erioch plays host to some individuals with surprisingly bitter rivalries. In shadowy corridors and darkened halls of the Inquisitorial Enclave many whispered meetings are held to advance or frustrate different agendas.[1]

The Shrine of Saint Aret

In the depths of the Erioch lies a beautiful shrine, decked out with rich panoply beloved of the Adeptus Ministorum with intricate stained glass windows and a octagonal dais of gold-veined white marble at its centre. In the centre of this dais lies a heroically proportioned statue carved from alabaster with the details blurred by time, maintaining a air of nobility and purpose even trough it lost its face and a upraised arm. Graven into the walls of the shrine there psalms in High Gothic with no hint to whose honour was it built.[1]

The new arrivals from Calixis Sector have come to associate this shrine with Saint Aret the Lethecant, sovereign guard of that which should not be remembered, but the longer-serving Space Marines know that the shrine predates the beatification of Saint Aret. Some purged dataslates and cracked library crystals can be found left as offerings in the shrine to help expunge memories of the past.[1]

Omega Vault

For main article see Omega Vault