40K: Dead Cabal of Spite
A Chapter Serf is a human bondsman or bondswoman who acts as the indentured servant of a Space Marine Chapter (and the Deathwatch is no exception) for life. The Battle-Brothers themselves are far too few to fulfill all the tasks required to keep the Chapter running at peak efficiency. It is the Chapter Serfs who perform most of these sometimes very menial but nevertheless vital functions, freeing up the Space Marines’ time and allowing them to focus on training for and waging battle.
Most Chapter Serfs come into the service of their Chapter by being drawn from the Chapter’s homeworld population, being selected as Aspirants of the Chapter but found wanting to become full-fledged Space Marines, or being born into that status as the child of Chapter Serfs. A minority of Chapter Serfs are humans who have been rescued by the Space Marines on the field of battle and allowed to accompany and serve their saviours out of gratitude. A Chapter’s fortress-monastery is home to a large population of these hereditary servants and while they occupy a humble position, they are loyal members of the Chapter. The Serfs are inducted into the Chapter cult, and do not begrudge the status they could have obtained if they were once Aspirants, nor their lowly station, as they are always aware that their godlike masters could not fulfill their sacred duty of prosecuting the Emperor of Mankind’s wars and defending Mankind without their humble but necessary assistance.
Chapter Serfs are generally well-treated by most Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, and are educated and trained to a much higher standard than most other servants of the Imperium in order to fulfill their duties. For instance, all Chapter Serfs are capable of both reading and writing in High Gothic. Amongst the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, individual treatment of Chapter Serfs may vary: the Ultramarines and Salamanders treat their Serfs the most fairly, as important if still mortal extensions of the Chapter, while the Imperial Fists tend to treat their Serfs as if they were invisible and unimportant, while the Marines Malevolent treat them as little more than mortal slaves who are barely worthy of being in their masters’ august presence.
When Space Marines go to war, their Serfs maintain the fortress-monastery and defend it from attack. Chapter Serfs are normally never deployed in battle alongside their Space Marine masters, whose battle prowess they could never hope to match with their frail, mortal frames. However, most Chapter Serfs are still trained in the martial arts to levels at least equivalent to that of a standard Imperial Guardsman, and are expected to assist in the defence of Chapter assets such as fortresses and vessels if the need arises. Indeed, when the foes of the Emperor assault a Space Marine Battle Barge, it may very well be Chapter Serfs manning the great vessel’s gun turrets, freeing up their Astartes masters for more important tasks.
Conversarii Highest class of Serfs with the authority to speak to Space Marines themselves. Acting as intermediaries between many of the minor functionaries and the actual delivery of requests, they are essential in the day-to-day operations of the Space Marine holdings.
Artificers Serfs who are given basic training in the ways of the Machine-God by the Chapter’s Techmarines, and perform the routine maintenance on all the equipment and wargear the Chapter uses, freeing up the Techmarines’ time for the more advanced and arduous tasks.
Master of the Refectorium The Chapter Serf who is put in charge of the kitchens and food processing equipment of a fortress-monastery, and whose task is to ensure that food is always available to all the inhabitants of the Chapter fortress. Since enjoying a hearty meal is one of the very few mortal pleasures that Space Marines indulge in, the position of Master of the Refectorium is often a prestigious one amongst Chapter Serfs.
Medicae Those Chapter Serfs who are given medical training and assist the Apothecaries.
Monitors – Some Chapter Serfs who are trained as messengers are known as Monitors. They undergo hypno-therapy that allows them to flawlessly memorise messages, and bury this information within their minds so that it can be reconstituted in whole only if they are given the correct verbal activation code.
Ordinator of the House This Chapter Serf serves as the personal seneschal of the Chapter Master. This makes him or her “first amongst equals” and the nominal leader amongst all the Chapter Serfs. This office can have many different names, depending on the culture and traditions of a given Chapter.
Sacratium Chapter Serfs who tend to the Chapter relics and assist the Chaplains serve as part of what is known as the Chapter’s Sacratium.
Scribellum Chapter Serfs who assist the Librarians in writing down all the important deeds of the Chapter and its Astartes serve as a part of what is known as the Chapter’s Scribellum. Part scribe and part artist, the Chapter Serfs make sure the knowledge of the Chapter’s past glories and tragedies remains at hand. They also assist in the creation of Purity Seals and similar texts of devotion.