The whisper of celestial winds to a joyous howl as the Stormcasts Rangers rece across the Mortal Realms. The keen eyes of the Vanguard Auxiliary Chambers guide pinpoint strikes and razored blades, each sudden assault slaying the scions of the darkness with ruthless strength and speed.
Hunters of the damned
The Rangers of the Stormcasts play a vital part in Sigmars plan for the Mortal Realms. It is they who locate and exploit the weaknesses in the domains of the God-Kings foes, they who plunge the blade into the exposed throat of the butcher and the fiend. It is by swiftness of thought and surety of action that they lead the Stormcast Eternals in defeating enemy armies that outnumber them many times over. A barbarian horde harried by these expert trackers will find its rearguard dwindling with every passing night, its own outriders and champions led into ambushes from which there is no escape. When only the veterans at the enemys front line are left, enraged and all but unsupported, the Rangers will close in for the final assault - for though they fight with intellect first and blade later, they are all expert combatants well versed in the arts of war.
Though few amongst the budding civilisations of the Mortal Realms are aware of their existence, the Rangers have roamed the lands of men ever since Sigmars Tempest first brought vengeance to the lands. Theirs is not the bombastic charge of the Extremis Chambers, nor the inviolable shield wall and aerial assault of their kin in the Strike Chambers, but instead a shifting and fluid style of war designed to confuse and wrong-foot the enemy. Because their ranks include only the brightest and most self-sufficient of the Stormcast Eternals, the Vanguard are entrusted with more autonomy than any other chamber. Their leadership is a loose structure designed for oversight more than direct command; each Ranger is trusted to know their battle-craft well, and to make the right decision no matter the trials ranged against them. Many of their number are loners or reclusive agents who once fought Chaos on their own, and as a result they can seem aloof to those who do not know their methods. Nonetheless, they are as critical a part of the Stormhosts mission as the most vaunted Lord-Celestant or Drakesworn Templar.
The Rangers spend little time in the mountain fastnesses near Sigmaron, nor do they attend war councils unless called. Their homes are deep in the wilderness. They roam the hinterlands of shattered civilisations for years, living off the land and resting only when certain the nearest threat is many leagues distant. Since the ascendance of Chaos, such times are few indeed.
The Rangers have many bases of operations, making use of far-flung war lodges and humble way stations more akin to tumbled shrines from the Age of Myth than the towering Stormkeeps that rise up as the Age of Sigmar stamps the God-Kings authority upon the realms. In doing so they largely evade detection from those that would hunt them in turn.
Though they place a great value on guile and preparation, when the Stormcast Rangers attack they do so not as the assassin that slinks in the dark, but with the full glory of a raging typhoon. By attacking the enemy from afar, quickly striking down exposed elements, and then moving away as swift as a zephyr, the Rangers spur the enemy commander into revealing their weaknesses or frittering away their troops in a series of unwinnable fights.
Such is the skill and ferocity of the Rangers that few foes have lived to see them first hand. Among the slave camps and warbands of Chaos, rumours run rife with speculation about the nature of these elusive and deadly warriors. Some servants of the Dark Gods believe the Rangers to be elemental creatures of lighting and wind - the Wyndstalkers Chamber, for instance, is said to be able to change form before the startled eyes of their prey. Others claim they are an embodiment of the lands tormented by the Dark Gods that each one is the ghost of a fallen soldier, forged from righteous hatred and risen from the tortured earth to tear apart the invader.
In truth the Rangers are Stormcast Eternals, reforged from mortal clay into the form of great heroes, but they are creatures of sigmarite, flesh and blood all the same. Bonds of kinship have been forged with their fellow chambers - and even between Stormhosts - for victory has a way of binding warriors together, and adversity even more so. When the sworn enemies of Sigmar gather in great number, these elite pathfinders will fight as Ranger Brotherhoods, or even as part of a wider alliance of chambers. To fight alongside them in battle is seen as a great honour, for of all the Stormcast Eternals, the Rangers have become one with those lands they reclaim, and it makes them deadly warriors indeed.
The Rangers are the celestial Hurricane of Azyr - they race across the land unheard and unseen, only to strike with tearing, shattering force. - Vandus Hammerhand
Celestial creatures are drawn to the Stormcast Eternals, fighting as kin in the war against Chaos. Windshifting Gryph-chargers act as swift steeds for the Rangers, whereas Aetherwings are exceptional scouts, seeking out those whose auras bear the stain of evil for the Stormhosts to hunt.
The endless landscapes of Azyr are home to all manner of beasts. Many of these, such as the fiercely loyal Dracoths or the terrifyingly potent Stardrakes, are noble creatures that willingly ally themselves with Stormcast Eternals. The Rangers in particular are known for their use of beasts of tempest and hurricane.
Though fierce indeed, the true strength of these celestial animals is the purity of spirit they embody. Out in the wider realms many creatures have been corrupted by Chaos, and these same fell powers would gladly twist and subvert those of Azyr. However, the creatures that ally themselves with the Rangers are naturally resistant to such malign forces, and hunt Chaos worshippers across the Mortal Realms without fear. As a torch taken into the depths of a cavern shines all the brighter for the darkness pressing in on all sides, so too do the celestial beasts grow stronger as they take war to the minions of the Dark Gods.
Though the Rangers and their beasts share a common hatred of Chaos, the bonding process between warrior and celestial creature is far from certain. Should a soul fight long and hard enough against the Dark Gods they may draw the attention of a Gryph-charger, and find themselves with an unexpected ally at the last moment - when Raelus Galewalker lost his sword to a hammer blow from the Black Shaggoth Vokkh, his future steed Lightclaw appeared in a glittering gust of wind to tear open the monsters throat.
Aetherwings and Star-eagles are attracted to the glint in a hunters steely gaze. They will circle a kindred spirit for weeks before descending. Even after such a hard-won visitation, the bond between man and raptor is not one of master and servant. Rather it is a true alliance, a bond as solid as that which exists between the Stormcast Eternals themselves. Once forged, it is nigh unbreakable, no matter the Chaos-haunted depths they might plumb as they fight for the Mortal Realms.
Beasts of the celestial wlid
Perhaps the swiftest of all earthbound creatures, the Gryph-charger is an exemplar of the celestial beast. Gryph-chargers can channel the magic in their blood to transform into creatures of the aether, performing bursts of speed as swift as the howling gale. In the wilds, the Gryph-chargers use this ability to capture prey, becoming little more than a blur of light and a gust of wind until they reappear with their claws dug into their victims flesh. Their Stormcast riders, finding the storm-energy that runs through them amplified, change along with their mounts into crackling ghosts of lightning. Together, rider and steed hurtle onward at the speed of a gale-force wind, making dizzying flanking manoeuvres or closing with the enemy in the blink of an eye. This process is known as windshifting. When crossing the vast expanses of the realms, Vanguard-Palladors use this gift to strike unheralded. As wind picks up before a roiling thunderhead, the Rangers ride in bursts of crackling celestial movement, serried lines of lightning that pass through shadowy valleys and broken wastelands faster than the eye can follow.
The falcon-like Aetherwings rely not just on speed, but a keenness of vision that far surpasses natural eyesight. The layers of stone, earth and sorcery that bind the realms together fall away before their piercing gaze, revealing enemy lairs hidden over far horizons or deep beneath the earth. Magic too is little defence against the perception of these creatures, the veils of illusion as gossamer to be torn aside. When trained to speak the tongues of men, an Aetherwing can reveal the foes precise location to its Stormcast ally - and in doing so, ensure its demise.
- Saved by Swift Blades - Even as the Hallowed Knights bore the soulpod of Alarielle to safety ahead of the Chaos hordes, Lord-Aquilor Sathphren led his Vanguard Auxiliary Chamber, the Swiftblades, in a series of daring hit-and-run attacks that slowed the pursuers and bought time for the goddess' escape.
- Vampire's Bane - Vanguard-Raptors of the Knights Excelsior proved their marksmanship to all outside the fortified manse of Harrowbane. While faithful Aetherwings clashed savagely with giant bats flocking their position, the Vanguard-Raptors took aim and fired at the Soulblight vampire Cadavein, who was swooping high above on his zombie dragon. The bolts hit their mark, snuffing out the vampire's wicked essence before his broken body smote the ground.
- Legend of the Windriders - A host of thirty Vanguard-Palladors, led by Lord-Aquilor Kraisus Windrider, earned a fearsome reputation in the lands of Ulgu. Only dead bodies were left in their wake, the Rangers materialising as if from nowhere to cut down Sigmar's foes before vanishing once more into the cloying mists.
- Running with the pack - Raised by a pack of Gryph-hounds in the lowlands of the Boralis Mountains, Arden Gryphkin became the first mortal to be reforged and inducted into the Vanguard Auxiliary Chambers without prior service in the Strike Chambers. His Vanguard-Hunters, the Goldtalons, became famous for launching ferocious ambushes with the aid of their four-legged companions.
Vanguard Auxiliary Chambers
Pathfinders and hunters without peer, the Rangers are the eyes and ears of the heavenly hosts. Since the first Warrior Chamber set foot on the Brimstone Peninsula at Vandus Hammerhand's side, the Vanguard Chambers have prowled the Mortal Realms, clearing the way for the God-King's armies.
As befits their independent role, Vanguard Chambers are more compact than Strike Chambers and have a much simpler organisation. Led by a single Lord-Aquilor with a handful of knights, they comprise fifteen retinues divided across just two conclaves.
The Lord-Aquilor rank is equivalent to that of a Lord-Celestant, and is afforded the same honours within the halls of Sigmaron. As the Vanguard are expected to operate deep within enemy territory and apart from their comrades, they require a high degree of self-sufficiency and fortitude. The Lord-Aquilor must attend to every need of their troops as they may spend months, even years, fighting their secret war against the forces of darkness. To aid them in their duties, the lord can call upon the services of a small group of dedicated lieutenants - Knights-Azyros and Knights-Venator complete the Chamber Command.
The Vanguard-Pallador and Vanguard-Hunter retinues of the chamber belong to the Angelos Conclave, the main element of the chamber. This conclave defines the character of the Vanguard - fast, highly manoeuvrable and tactically flexible, able to strike at their enemy without warning and then disappear as quickly without trace. The Vanguard-Palladors can outpace most enemies and are fearsome combatants. The Vanguard-Hunters excel in a variety of battlefield roles, being both deadly missile troops and highly adaptable pathfinders.
Vanguard-Raptor retinues constitute the smaller, supporting Justicar Conclave. The speciality of this conclave is ranged combat, in which they have few peers. Fighting alongside each Vanguard-Raptor retinue is a flight of Aetherwings. Although these do not form part of the formal organisation of the chamber, they are nonetheless an important contributor to its overall fighting strength, and enemies ignore them at their peril.