"I am the punishment of God...If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you."
"When he is nearly ten, his mother submits him to a first ordeal: she sews his shirt to his arms through the skin. Siggeir's sons, submitted to the same ordeal, had howled with pain, but Sinfjotli remains imperturbable. His mother then pulls off his shirt, tearing away the skin, and asks him if he feels anything. The boy answers that a Volsung is not troubled by such a trifle (...) After this proof of courage Sigmund takes the boy into the forest with him. One day they find two wolfskins hanging from the wall of a hut. The two sons of a king had been transformed into wolves and could only come out of the skins every tenth day. Sigmund and Sinfjotli put on the skins, but cannot get them off. They howl like wolves and understand the wolves' language."
- – Volsung Saga, summarized and commented by Mircea Eliade, Birth and Rebirth (New York: Harper & Row, 1958)
"It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep may be."
- – Virgil
Leman Russ, "The Great Wolf", not to be confused with the tank bearing his name, is the primarch of the Space Wolves legion. A superhuman nordic king with a warrior's crude humor and a stubborn streak a mile wide. He was such a hard headed son of a bitch, that he's survived extended fights with Angron, Magnus, The Lion, and even the Emperor himself. General all-around badass deserving of much respect, but superstitious and flawed, with a serious problem valuing others' points of view, even if he understood them. He's blonde underneath all the blood.
When the Primarchs were lost, Leman's capsule landed on Fenris, a harsh planet of insane violence that the Norse gods shit out after a three day meth fueled orgy with a tyranid hive fleet. The locals there enjoy a life of fishing, drinking, sailing, fucking, pillaging, and conquering other tribes of people for the modest little islands they all have to live on. Granted, it's also usually a very short life, because they're sharing the world with trolls, yetis, wolves the size of horses, wolves the size of battle tanks, bears the size of a house, whales that kill for fun, and krakens, which are to a squid as a Hierophant is to a Hormagaunt.
So it was that little baby Russ left his capsule in the polar mountain region of Asaheim. There, some monstrous female wolf found him and said to herself "I WANT!". So Russ was raised by a dire wolf In Spess. A few years pass, Russ growing up big and strong and hairy, having a grand old time running around the mountains and killing the sheep and such of the humans there with his wolf brothers. Eventually a king named Thengir heard of the Wolf-man, and decreed he be captured and brought to his hall. The mist of ages (and retcons) have hidden the details of Thengir's first meeting with Russ. Some stories would say that Russ was bound and gagged and dragged into the hall of the King Thengir after his Wolf family was slain, others claim a hunting party stumbled across his cave and kicked off a bloody melee in which a dozen hunters were killed, along with Russ's mother, after which the hunters somehow convinced Russ to stand down and come with them, a conversation that may or may not have included copious amounts of alcohol and whores. Thengir took a wondrous interest in Russ and ordered he be educated. In a short time, Russ was trash-talking every short bastard who dared look at him the wrong way, and had become insanely good with weaponry. When Thengir finally died, all declared that Leman of the Russ become the new high King.
Also, remember that Volsung Saga quote regarding Warrior Initiations for Berserks? Considering that (according to old Fluff) Sanguinius looked like a young teen adult at 1 year old, Leman Russ passed this trial that when he was around 7-10 months old or so. No wonder he went on to be a dick with some of his brothers and his new recruits (first, the Space Wolves feed them like they arrived to Valhalla and then, when they fall asleep they abandon them in the cold wilderness of Fenris until they transform into Wulfen or return home by themselves...) and was easily manipulated by the Luna Wolf Primarch in tearing a new asshole to Magnus.
He was just an ordinary commander who came with two wolves, Freki and Geri. This is them.
The Next Step
Russ conquered and took. He bartered and traded. He united the people of Asaheim under his rule. Somehow, the Emprah heard of it and realized it all had to be the work of a Primarch. So then he attended a royal banquet in the Hall of the Mountain Ki- I mean Leman Russ. The Emprah, taking a leaf out of Odin's book, disguised himself as some old geezer, then waited until the right moment to reveal his true identity. When he did Russ refused to bow down and challenged him to several contests, he ate so much the Emprah was forced to back down. Russ drank so much the Emprah was forced to back down. By now, the Emprah was fairly surprised at finally being out-done by someone else, Russ gazed upon the Emperor and challenged him in combat, and so did the Emprah raise his Power Glove into the air for all to see, and so did he then bring it down on Leman Russ's head, knocking him the fuck out in one solid hit.
Of course fluff changes and a 1-hit KO wasn't very fulfilling, so the new lore arrived: After the Emperor revealed himself Leman Russ skipped the eating and drinking contests and just challenged the Emperor to a fight. It is unknown whether the Emperor was in his full armour and actually had his Power Fist at the time, or whether he used his psychic powers; but the duel lasted for hours. (Presumably Russ did a lot better this time by virtue of not being drunk.) In the end, though the Emperor, presumably pissy that Leman was waving his cock in his face by just straight up fighting him, punched him square in the face and dropped him. When Russ awoke, he laughed it off and swore loyalty to the one who managed to beat him. Afterwards he ended up in command of the one Space Marine legion that knows how to eat, drink, brawl and make war upon any asshole that mocks their Thunderwolf.
Rumour has it that the Emp was so pleased with Russ' prowess, that he tasked him and the Space Wolves to be his executioners and it seems Russ is the reason the 2nd and 11th Legions no longer exist. So he has experience fucking up a Primarch, which is pretty goddamn manly. (Not confirmed by any sources and is not more than passing conversation in one Black Library novel, other than that, yeah totally definitely didn't kill the other legions. Also if you take how he acted with Angron and Magnus, he totally hated his job of being the executioner... and apparently thought Lorgar was a pretty cool guy).
(The novel "Betrayer" give's Angron's version of their run-in, where he tells to Lorgar what happened. Russ had taken it upon himself to school the World Eaters as he was disgusted by their behavior. Angron was having none of Russ' babbling and finally jumped him when he realized he hadn't been sent by Big.E. Angron eventually defeats Russ in single combat, but because only he was fighting to kill while Russ was trying to teach. It then ends with the Space Wolves entirely outmaneuvering the Eaters and winning a tactical victory by surrounding Angron, some more hissing vitriol between the two Primarchs and Angron leaving. The World Eaters believed they won due to a higher kill count and the Wolves leave disappointed that their legion brothers were too retarded to see the lesson Russ was teaching. It is pretty telling that even Lorgar replies to Angron that he was a complete tool on that night and would have been killed after hearing him boast of how he won against Russ.)
Apart from that, Russ and his Space Wolves had a goddamn good time during the Great Crusade, although it hasn't been written about so this is all we can guess. Until Inferno dropped. It turns out that Russ became the Emperor's executioner in the process of fighting the Rangdan Xenocides, which saw entire Army regiments, Titan Legions and somethings of Space Marine Legions (could be Chapters, could actually be entire Legions) wiped out. With the Luna Woves up to the eyes in glorious warfare in the Galactic East, Russ and the VI headed north along with the I Legion - this is the war that ended the I's time as the largest Legion. The end of the Xenocides entailed a series of bio-pogroms which left the Wolves with a very ugly reputation, and from then on Russ' role was the doer of necessary dirty deeds.
When that fag-ass Horus started whining and crying, Leman Russ and his Legion were on their way to Prospero to bring Magnus the Red to Terra for questioning. Horus intercepted the message and re-worded it to order Russ to destroy Magnus and his Thousand Sons. Russ and the Space Wolves carried out a class-10 clusterfucking on Prospero (aided along a bit by Magnus himself lowering his planet's defenses because he wanted to atone for his wrongdoings, but it merely cut to the inevitable chase). It should have ended with the glorious finale where Leman Russ himself lifted Magnus the Red over his shoulders and broke the sorcerer's back over his knee. But even so, the red bastard managed to utter one single word of power and escaped through the fucking ground ( I PUNCHED OUT ONE OF HIS HEARTS! WHY DOES NOBODY REMEMBER THAT?! ) Russ was so enraged that he ordered the 13th company of Space Wolves to pursue the fleeing Thousand Sons through their pansy-ass portals.
This said, winning the Battle of Prospero left a bitter taste in Russ' mouth and complicated things for the Wolves in the long run. First of all, despite his reputation as the Emperor's Executioner, fighting Magnus took a serious toll on Russ. He probably knew that it was a "fair fight" only because Magnus was devastated and held back his power, with which he would have easily won, being at least the third most powerful psyker humanity, and possibly the galaxy, had ever known. Rumour has it, that during the battle between those two demigods Magnus, by psychic means, laid his heart and mind bare to Russ, revealing that he knew not only every blow that was coming from his brother, but everything that he had come to know, accepting his failure and his fate, which was defeat. In the recently published Horus Heresy novel Wolfsbane Magnus' last words to Russ are finally revealed "You are a sword in the wrong hands. You have severed an innocent neck.". In other words: Magnus was even aware that the wolves had been manipulated into wiping the Thousand Sons out, instead of detaining them and bringing them back to Terra. It will be interesting to see how GW tries to fill the logic gap regarding the hatred of Magnus towards the wolves now, considering he obviously *knew* that Russ had been manipulated into killing Magnus. Or is it all about the shard of Magnus that held his nobility which was absorbed by Ianus (first grandmaster of the Grey Knights, a former Thousand Son that was in the process of succumbing to the flesh change when this little "accident" occurred). That would be the easy way out (and therefore probably the road trodden), although fans would be deserving of a more convincing explanation. Seeing a hypergenius like Magnus hating the Space Wolves for destroying his legion - irrespective of the fact that he *knew* that they had been manipulated into doing so - makes absolutely no sense any more.
Either way, the events of Prospero shook the Wolf King deeply, but Russ decided to carry on and try to make the best of a real clusterfuck of a situation. (An Inquisitor once called it an "emo phase" in front of a Rune Priest, and was fed balls-first to a Thunderwolf.) Not long after that, the news of the Drop Site Massacre reached the Wolves; which was another blow for the Wolf King. In his own words, Russ felt he'd been "in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing", wasting his time and men fighting an eventually futile battle instead of standing with his brother Primarchs against the real threat. Just to make things worse, the Alpha Legion turned up to batter the Wolves and prevent them from heading to Terra and helping Big E. As the rotten cherry on top of an already really bad cake, the White Scars, who'd been bros with the Thousand Sons and had no idea why Russ had just decided to fuck them up royally seemingly out of the blue, weren't going to help them after Prospero. But the Dark Angels of all people aided the Wolves in fighting off the Alpha Legion, letting the Wolves damage their fleet to an impressive degree. A plus here was that Bjorn the Fell-Handed came to his attention, setting the young warrior on the path to ironclad badassness. This said, when he went to Yarant to fight the main Traitor advance, Russ was badly injured, entering a coma and giving Bjorn temporary command of the Legion. He bought Dorn and the Emperor more time, but didn't make it back to Terra until it was too late.
Oh and Empy totally gave him a spear after most of the Terran members of his original legion depicted fighting various gribbly xenos. Including Tyranids. Yup. Said spear was tossed into a certain Daemon Primarchs single eye, thereby preventing him from manifesting in reality AND resurrecting his legion. Russ totally hated this spear btw. At one point Russ tried to hit a moon orbiting some planet (he was drunk, don't judge) and the spear was lost for months but since it had been a gift from Big.E the Wolves did spend said months searching for it. In the new novel Wolfsbane, it's revealed he was fearful of the spear and purposefully avoided using it while "forgetting" it at conferences before people brought it back. He later uses it and became fond of it as a weapon. Later he uses said spear to fight chaos-empowered Horus, after another try to get rid of it. He manages to stop the Warmaster with it. But then, when he thinks Horus will redeem himself he is nearly killed by the traitor, explaining his state in weregeld.
Russ and his Brothers
In many ways Russ can be best understood by looking at the clashes between him and his brothers, butting heads with Angron, Magnus, and Lion El'Jonson over the years. All three of them had much in common with Russ, and there was potential for great brotherhood there, but in large part his lack of tact or understanding crushed whatever relationship might have been.
His fight with Angron was an attempt to teach his brother a lesson. Both of them were penultimate warriors, both relied on their amazing athleticism and berzerker rages to triumph in battle, both were known for losing their temper when challenged, but Russ saw weakness in his brother's lack of strategy. Leman tried to just talk to the World Eater's primarch, but Angron was so uncontrollably, incredibly, "calm down son", angry that he just attacked Russ. While Russ and Angron were dueling, their retinues kicked off an open war, and in the battle that followed Russ found himself defeated by Angron, but Angron was in turn outmaneuvered and surrounded by the Space Wolves, thus proving Russ's lesson that warrior prowess isn't enough. That said, no one learned anything. Angron thought himself the victor because he'd won the duel and his sons had inflicted greater casualties than the Wolves, but Russ thought himself the victor because he'd proven his point and "educated" his brother. On the flip side, arguments that Russ should have been more tactful ignore that he was trying to deal with a Space Marine Legion of questionable loyalty that could and had caused massive amounts of collateral damage. There's a time for caution; it's not when rampaging supersoldiers are threatening the Imperium and its people. Which is indeed a good point, but then he should have gone all the way and gotten Big.E's approval to deal with this shit once and for all if it came down to that instead of trying to do things on his own on the sly. No matter how you look at it, Russ' idea to "educate" his brother was one of good intent (no really, it's a genuine bro' move that the Primarchs rarely extended to another) but of poor execution. If Russ had paid more attention and thought things through rather than sticking to do things his way, he'd have used subtler methods of persuasion to calm Angron, as Fulgrim and especially Lorgar had done in the past. Russ would have had an easier time of persuading Angron than either of them, given that he and Angron had a similar sense of brutal honor and a great lust for war. But, ultimately, it didn't occur to Russ to slow down and think his idea though, so he failed that day..... Well, that last statement is a bit in the grey zone. It was rightfully pointed out above that Russ was not exactly cool-headed either. And it was only when Angron said that without the Nails he might have been a more honourable man (like Russ claimed to be); but that if this were so he might have decided at some point to storm the Emperor's palace and "chop the slavering bastards head off". That was the final straw for Russ who couldn't take more of that shit, hissed "Heretic" as he lost his temper and things went downhill from there until both legions clashed. It is also noteworthy (and of course grimdark/tragic) that Angron made some pretty valid and surprisingly logical arguments including showing genuine regret for having been pressed into a role he had never wanted ("I died on Nuceria") , especially considering what a berzerk killer he was even then already. Several years/brain hemorrhages later only the berzerk killer with the attention span of a two year old was left but that's a story for another day (as in: when he was trolling Ultramar with Lorgar, which ultimately culminated in his ascension to daemon(prince)hood).
Russ really, really didn't get along with Magnus, even before the burning of Prospero. He hated that his brother used sorcery and warpcraft so extensively. The Rune Priests of the Space Wolves use their psychic abilities in a much more limited and controlled way than the Thousand Sons, and the Rout never used Chaos familiars (which the Thousand Sons - to be fair - were totally unaware of using. They thought them to be benevolent spirits or "tutelaries"... until the Burning of Prospero of course when these spirits showed their true colours and turned on Magnus' sons). The Wolves also use the spirits of Fenris, hence all the totems and runes. Nearly all fluff indicates that this is utter horseshit, until the Spirit of Fenris was revealed to be real. Russ' convictions led him to feud with Magnus, but so did his concerns over the threat the XVth Legion posed to the Imperium and his frustration with Magnus' tendency to abandon his allies in favor of investigating some psychic artifact or slow down a conquest to avoid damaging some books. Russ never stopped to consider that Magnus' understanding of the Warp might have been better than his, or that the things Magnus preserved might have value for the humans Russ wanted to make the Galaxy safe for. Ridiculous theories that Russ was a psyker aside, another significant source of the feud between Magnus and Russ was The Crimson King's sheer arrogance. Leman Russ was rightly proud of his cunning battle tactics and personal ferocity, and was fully aware that he grew up on a savage death world where everything is constantly trying to kill you, while Magnus had it comparatively easy on Prospero. The Wolf King and his Legion, from the Wheel of Fire to the Rangdan Xenocides, had proved its mettle, cunning, and devotion to the Emperor many times over, yet Magnus treated him like a dumb hick and acted as though his psychic powers made him the greatest primarch. It couldn't have helped matters that some of the threats the VIth had bested were psychic in nature. Yet Magnus knew none of this; only the Emperor and the Space Wolves understood the extent of the threats they had faced down. Russ never considered that Magnus had no knowledge of the terrible secrets that only he had been entrusted with; he expected Magnus to take the word of an "ignorant savage" that the abilities he defined himself by couldn't be trusted. Whether Magnus would have listened if he did explain all that on the other hand, is another story - recall that he didn't listen the first time the Emperor told him to stop.
Perhaps most famous and most tragic of Russ's feuds was his strife with Lion El'Jonson. Both men had very similar origins, but slight differences in their upbringings drove a wedge between them. The Wolf and the Lion were both raised by the wild: both of their pods had crashed in areas with no humans, and they had to learn to survive with no lessons from other men. Both were eventually taken in when they were discovered by the men of their world, but that's where their stories differ. Where Russ was raised in the friendly, bawdy brotherhood of Thengir's men, the Lion was trained and educated in the somber fraternity of the knightly Order. While Russ had been brawling and singing with his friends, leading great hunts to destroy monsters and enemy tribes, the Lion was mastering discipline and embarking on solemn quests to destroy the Great Beasts of the forest. The battle between the two came on the world of Dulan, where the VIth and Ist legion were fighting together to slay a tyrant who'd insulted Russ's honor. At the beginning of the conflict the two brothers had promised to work together, but as time went on the Lion grew tired of his brother's insistence on utterly smashing every pocket of resistance rather than taking a more efficient, direct method of ending the war. Eventually he just launched an assault on the tyrant's palace, and beheaded the man before Russ could reach them. In the heat of the moment, Russ was furious to hear that and immediately confronted his brother. Russ was an angry dickhead, the Lion was a snarky bastard, and before long blades were drawn and the two were trying to kill each other in a violent battle. After a long and bloody fight in which the two of them beat one another senseless and finally fell over the ramparts of the fortress to the ground below, Russ started laughing, the ridiculousness of what they were doing finally apparent. Here they were, two Primarchs of the Legiones Astartes, brawling like children instead of leading their men. The Lion, however, didn't laugh. Like, at all. He coldly asked if his brother would yield, a question that just confused Russ. His brother thought this was a real duel? Russ had thought of the fight as a brawl between angry brothers like would happen on Fenris: a quick spat that would end with both of them beaten and bloodied, a spur-of-the-moment thing to vent their anger they'd laugh about over a tankard of Mjod years later. The Lion however was taking it deadly seriously and while Russ was laughing he struck a final blow, shattering Russ's skull and ending the fight. Had Russ stopped to consider his brother's mentality, or listened more closely to the Lion's words, he would have realized that the Lion saw the conflict as something profoundly different from what Russ thought it was, taking the matter of honour as something deadly serious. Again, Russ's lack of consideration was his failing.
However, while certainly abrasive, arrogant, and brutal, Russ was also every bit as loyal as Sanguinius or Dorn. The other thing Magnus, Angron, and the Lion had in common? All three of them behaved like assholes in their way. The Lion had zero people skills, arrogantly considered himself the best of all Primarchs, acted like he was some prince-in-waiting and lorded it over his brothers, him turning a small brawl into a duel of honour case in point. Magnus was much more enjoyable to be around but he arrogantly assumed he knew best because of his powers and blatantly favored psykers in his Legion. Angron's case is... self-explanatory. Bottom line, his brothers all put their own feelings/goals before those of the Emperor. Not to say that Russ was tactful, diplomatic, or understanding with these three - he certainly could have handled all of these conflicts better - but Russ was never a dick just for the sake of being a dick - he was a dick because someone had to keep his brothers in line.
His relationships with his brothers also highlight another one of his traits. Fans LOVE to call him a hypocrite, and this isn't far off the mark. However, it's not quite on target either. To elaborate, Russ did indeed criticize (and at times even physically attacked) his brothers for traits he or his Legion also had. On closer inspection, though, the way Russ dealt with his flaws was different from his brothers - and that's the best justification for his behavior:
- Russ and Angron both led Legions that were extremely violent, especially towards the defenseless. But Russ made a point from the very beginning to rein himself in and taught his Legion to temper their bloodlust and fight to make the galaxy safe for humans by example. Angron didn't care about either his Legion or the people of the Imperium, the only leadership and example he gave the World Eaters was to slaughter anything that dared stand in his way. Even worse, Angron jammed the Butcher's Nails in the brains of his War Hounds, taking their discipline and brotherhood away from them and leaving them to degenerate into blood-crazed psychopathic supersoldiers living only to kill without rhyme or reason. Russ gave massacres of friendly units as his main reason for intervening.
- As for Jonson, both Primarchs had an element of glory-seeking in their nature. Both were also very stubborn and combative, with an animalistic side. However, Russ wasn't ruled by his pride but his drive to serve the Emperor came from a different place: the Lion lectured Russ about wasting time destroying the Emperor's enemies, when winning wars is all that matters. (ironically a similar lesson that Russ tried to teach Angron), while Russ couldn't countenance leaving any enemies alive. During a dispute between the Space Wolves and the Dark Angels over a friendly fire incident, Russ personally apologized to the Lion in spite of the Dark Angels being the ones who knowingly fired on the Rout. Russ put aside his lust for glory and victory to save the lives of his men, then privately made it clear what would happen should the Dark Angels do something similar again. By contrast, the Lion's honour was everything to him, that the Dark Angels fired on the Rout because they had been fired on first (even after warnings were given) and that the Lion seemed fully prepared to kill his brother in the brawl over kill stealing, because Russ laid hands on him first. This distinction justifies Russ' initial hatred of Jonson though the two did come to an understanding later; that the reason for the Lion breaking his promise on Dulan was because Russ was putting off the final blow and allowing the battle to drag out, costing lives, which was pretty much the lesson Jonson was trying to point out earlier. All because Russ had wandered off the battle-plan to sort out the Wulfen issue within the 13th Company, something that Russ later realised that the Lion already knew and had quietly disposed of the evidence for his brother, even though he could have used the knowledge to break the Space Wolves Legion.
- With Magnus, the accusations of hypocrisy carry little weight. Russ' attempts to cover up the Curse of the Wulfen are somewhat similar to Magnus' treatment of the flesh change (the Wulfen curse was not exacerbated by rampant sorcerous power use like the flesh change was), and both Legions did use psykers. The real difference here is how they dealt with the situation. However, the Rune Priests were much more cautious than the sorcerers of the Thousand Sons in their dealings with the Empyrean and only "taking a sip of the cup when needed instead of drinking deep each time" as the Khan would put it. More importantly, the Space Wolves treat the degeneration of their gene-seed and the transformation into Wulfen as a curse, a failing to be contained and if possible eradicated. The Thousand Sons treat their psyker powers as a badge of superiority, taking any excuse to use them and revelling in what made them unique without considering its links with the flesh change. Russ did his best to control his secrets, he didn't glorify them or thought it made him and his Wolves better than the other Legions. Magnus was controlled by his secrets and saw them as strengths. It's also worth noting that as per Prospero Burns Tzeentchian dickery had led Russ and others to believe Magnus' equerry had planted a spy among the Wolves, with Amon apparently attacking Bjorn and a Custodian at Nikaea. It is a tragic turn of events in its own right that this "Amon" was in truth a daemon masquerading as the Amon (who had - matter of factly - faithfully stayed at Magnus' side which was generously entirely disregarded by both the Wolves and the Custodians for plot reasons), playing a pivotal role in tipping the balance towards the dissolution of the Librarius (which - ironically - would have been one of the greatest assets the Imperium/the Emperor would have been able to field against Chaos during the Heresy.. Just as planned!!!!).
TL;DR: Russ shared many flaws with his brothers, but he was defined by being in control rather than being thrall to his flaws. His bloodlust never overtook his discipline like it would Angron. His glory-seeking never overrode his sense of responsibility like it would Lion El'Jonson. He made sure his sons worked against their curse rather than have them embrace it like Magnus did. It comes to no surprise that someone who worked so hard for control resented people who thought they didn't need it, hence the accusations of hypocrisy, however (in fairness like many of his brothers Primarchs), interpersonal skills weren't exactly his forte. Russ' real failing was not that he accused others for things he had to deal with himself, but rather that he was in an unique position where he could have been an example to his brothers because he shared and knew how to deal with said flaws but his brashness and agressivity drove them apart instead.
On a somewhat amusing tangent, one of the best relationships Russ had with his brothers was with Guilliman. Russ considered Guilliman a good choice for Warmaster, and in return Guilliman considered Russ and his legion part of his "Dauntless Few", meaning that Bobby G sincerely believed that alongside Russ and his Wolves, the Ultramarines could defeat any opponent. Rather amusingly, when he was struck down by Fulgrim, Guilliman's last thoughts were, in order, of his sons, of the Imperium, and then for his brothers, the first being Russ. While they weren't exactly best of buds, they had a sincere respect for each other as warriors, contrary to what their sons (re: players) seem to think. The only thing they had a bit of a pickle with was Rob's Codex Astartes thing; and Russ eventually ostensibly acquiesced only to ignore it when G-man stopped breathing down his neck, kinda. The Space Wolves did try to form a successor Chapter, the Wolf Brothers, but those very quickly devolved into Wulfen for whatever reason (it is suspected the planet Fenris has something to do with it). After that The Wolves simply gave up on the idea and Russ merely presented his Great Companies (that were around Chapter strength) as being completely independent from one another.
This begs the question how many Space Wolves there are in the 41st Millenium, as theoretically they would still be around Legion strength due to their inability to split up into successor Chapters and there still being 12 Great Companies; and a returned G-Man offered them some Primaris Marines to boot. On the other hand, they got pretty banged up defending Fenris from Magnus the Red's latest attempt at revenge, so their exact actual number is unclear. (In the novel "The Emperor's gift" it is stated that there are only 1,000 Space Wolves, but this is highly debatable.)
Although unable to return to aid the Imperium in the Battle for Terra, Russ and the Space Wolves threw themselves headfirst into the post-Heresy war efforts. Aside from spanking the traitors into the Eye of Terror, he came up with the concept for the Adeptus Praeses. Though he'd told Guilliman where he could shove his Codex, Russ liked the idea of successor chapters for the Wolves. To him (or the little reformist movement within the Legion later, the fluff isn't totally clear), they were a way of maintaining the Wolves' influence alongside that of Girlyman, Dorn and the rest. Unfortunately the Wolves' gene-seed proved too unstable to set up any viable successor chapters, and as a result while the Ultramarines, Imperial Fists and Dark Angels have shitloads of descendants to call on in a crisis, the Wolves are the sole embodiment of Russ' strength and drive. This hasn't helped their situation with Imperial institutions such as the Inquisition.
One-hundred years to the day after the Emperor's internment on the Golden Throne, during a feast in the halls of the Space Wolves fortress, Russ climbed upon a table to give a speech. He was stricken with a vision, and after standing there speechless for a few minutes, he fell to one knee, issued hushed orders to his retinue, and left. He left his sons with their first Wolf Lord; Bjorn the Fell Handed, and a message.
"In the end, I will be there. For the final battle. For
the wolf dinner time."
And then the winds of change blew over the fluff once again. In the audio play Parting of Ways we get a slightly different version of events. There was still an annual feast, though it wasn't just to celebrate the day the Emperor got the snot beaten out of him by Horus, but also to commemorate the Wolves that had died during the spring cleaning that followed the Heresy, plus the completion of the Aett - the giant fortress of the Space Wolves. Also instead of a hundred years, it was two hundred years since the siege of Terra, so unless Dorn was a really slow learner and not very bright and it took him over a hundred years to assemble the Golden Throne, that is a clear lore change. Then again, given how Perturabo thoroughly kicked Dorn's ass in the iron Cage, forcing Bobby.G and the Ultrasmurfs to come and save Dorn's sorry ass, it's a possibility that Dorn just wasn't very bright. It's also a possibility that the Emperor got the Golden Throne from an old IKEA warehouse, which would explain why even a Primarch would have had trouble in figuring out how to put it together in less than a hundred years.
Also Russ wasn't about to hold a speech, instead he had at first partaken in the festivities but as the party grew sullen, Russ retreated, sensing, as Bjorn put it, "a fell wind from beyond the mountains, bleeding through the cracks of the Fang". After clenching the table for a while, Russ clambered to his feet on the table, screaming “No More!” The shout silenced the Space Wolves in their brawling and made the flags of the smoke filled halls tremble, so Russ apparently also had a gift for speech, plus he had a gift for getting instantly sober as Bjorn described his face going from being ruddy flushed with Mjod to looking like an ice spectre. Russ then held the following kickass speech:
“We come here to celebrate the All-father, we come here to remember his sacrifice and his ascension from the world of the senses and his victory over my brother the traitor.” “We remember the dead, who even now gather in the oververse, their blade sharp, their aim keen.” “They are better than we are for they perished in the war to end all wars and their souls have been purified! And what of us those left behind, wallowing in the drinks the fallen gods have left us?” “We have grown fat, we have the beast within us, but is has never yet been mastered.”
Then Russ paused to grab his drinking horn and held it aloft and continued: “So let us celebrate my father's ascension, let us remember what he was able to accomplish, let us remember what he built and what he foresaw and then what he lost and how he failed.” “Do not mourn the fact that he no longer walks among us, for the galaxy was too small to accommodate such a soul, he was of an age of gods! And we are slumped in an age of mortals.” “The lights of the stars will fade, this place will grow old and the ice will crack it.” “We will forget no matter how much the skalds tell the old tales, what battles are left for us like the ones before?” “My fallen brothers are gone, Malcador is gone, the leeches cluster around the Golden Throne and whisper of deeds done before they were born as if it were they who achieved them.”
At this point Russ looked unsteady on his feet and his eyes went glassy: “A doubt of all of this, one thing remains true we were not on Terra, we were not there when the palace fell and that shame will pursue us for eternity.”
Then Russ dropped his drinking horn on the board and then started to speak not to his warriors, but to himself or to some presence that was unseen. “It remains unfinished… I have waited for too long, building this mountain, squabbling with Guilliman. I will not grow old, feeble, limping around a crumbling inheritance. I have an Oath to keep, there are beasts left to slay.”
At this point Russ was fully immersed in his premonitions and he looked around the room, a smile dancing on his fanged face, seeing things from either long ago or yet to come. “Listen closely my brothers, there shall come a time far from now, when the chapter itself is dying and our foes shall gather to destroy us.” “Then, my sons, I shall listen for your call, in whatever realm holds me and come I shall, no matter what the laws of life and death forbid.” “At the end, I will be there. For the final battle. FOR THE WOLF TIME!”
Then Russ gave the mustering signal and he and his retinue left, though as Bjorn made to follow only to have Russ turn towards him saying a single sentence: “Not you.” When Bjorn asked for an explanation all Russ did was repeat the words: “Not you.” Then he left.
It is theorized that Russ like Magnus had the gift of premonition and knew that Bjorn would be needed in the years to come as the first Great Wolf, as it is heavily implied that if Bjorn hadn't been persuaded to take the mantle of great wolf, the Chapter itself would have fallen apart in the absence of Russ.
More likely Russ just didn't want Bjorn's moodiness to poison what ever adventure he was on. His helmet eventually came to be in the possession of Ulrik the Slayer.
As to where Russ went and what happened to him there's a few theories given:
- Russ sought the Lion out to make amends of their old feuding (if so they both forgot to tell both their chapters about it).
- That he fought in eternal combat with the resurrected cadaver of Horus (no that would be Abaddon's task and he completely owned that clone of Horus).
- That he searched for the tree of life to heal the Emperor's soul (if so it will be needed sorely needed, as Abaddon blasted a remnant of the Emperor's soul, watching it decay in front of him (which of course makes no sense as the Emperor's powers are innately anti-Chaos and so cannot be blasted by it)).
- That he is trapped within a hollow star and tormented by his old adversary Magnus (Since Tzeentch was able to trap Sigmar in another dimension, trapping Russ in a hollow star and have his star pupil Magnus use him as a punching bag makes as much sense as anything).
- That he is actually searching for Magnus, to finish the last task given to him by the Emperor and "arrest" his wayward brother.
- That he passed beyond the bounds of space and time and now roams among the gods, ready to return when needed accompanied by the fallen of his legion sundered in a paradise of warriors (so basically he's in the Age of Sigmar at this point? somebody put him out of his misery, that's not a paradise that's hell on earth).
- That he's simply lost in the galactic fjord known as the Warp and has been playing drunken pranks on daemonic villagers for 10,000 years.
/tg/ theorizes that Leman Russ may return as Horo (Implying Horo isn't just one of Leman's many, many bastard children growing up on some shithole Feudal world).
Magnus actually know where Russ is now, but he don't tell it even to his trusted sorcerer lords.
The 13th company, and a figure bearing the likeness of Russ, was spotted during the 13th crusade and the siege of the capital of Cadia.
On The Tabletop
An impressive stat-line, even by the insane standards of Primarchs, is coupled with unbelievably powerful wargear:
- The Armour Elavagar starts as your bog-standard 2+/4++ which is increased to a 3++ against flamer (in case that Marksmen Veteran with a Combi-flamer or Heavy Flamer rolled a 6 wounding you), melta, and plasma weapons, but the truly
awesomeseverely-overpowered-bullshit part is that it imposes -1 to hit on anyone in BtB with him. Do note however that it only works in BtB contact, so the models not directly in contact with Russ would still hit him as usual (likely on 5+ due to his insane WS). Basically, he's insanely tanky in protracted fights.
- The Axe of Helwinter is a +2 S master-crafted power axe with sunder and without unwieldy for your vehicle-wrecking needs and putting some more guaranteed wounds on high toughness opponents. Also useful for inflicting Instant Death on anything T4 or lower.
- The Sword of Balenight is a Shredding AP2 power sword; oh wait, it also has Sever Life. If Russ' prey suffers one or more wounds from the sword, roll a 2d6. If this result beats your target's toughness, add 1d3 additional wounds.
- Thanks to vague wording, when you must make the test for Sever Life is a subject of debate. Some say "suffering one or more wounds" means that the rule applies immediately before saves are made. HOWEVER, the rule clearly states that Sever Life is used only if the model "is not slain" by the initial attacks, and you HAVE to make your save rolls in order to know if they are slain or not, so one can lawfully argue that unsaved wounds are the real trigger. Keep calm and make it clear with your opponent until a FAQ is released.
- For ranged fights he has the Vulkan-remade bolter (mentioned to be regular one until Xzibit got his hands on it) turned into a pistol for Primarch's hand, called Scornspitter which is assault 3 AP3 rending, but with pitiful 12" range. Of course if you aren't within 12", then you can't charge, and if you can't charge you're running therefore even if it did have a greater than 12" range it wouldn't be used anyway.
His Wolf-Kin are deployed separately and he can't join them, but they're great harassing units and surprisingly brutal fighters.
Meanwhile, his Sire of the Space Wolves gives him Night Vision, Counter-Attack, Preternatural Senses, and Hunter's Gait: all Wolves get +1Ld and Russ gets to Howl once per game (letting everyone in his detachment reroll run and charge for said turn). Breaker of Shields, Bringer of Ruin gives weapon mastery (like Horus and Calgar). If he's Warlord, you can take Veteran Tacticals (who may run/shoot bolters then charge instead of regular Vet tactics) and Varagyr Terminators as troops.
If Horus plays like everything a Space Marine Chapter Master ought to be, Russ is best compared to an Ork Warboss. He isn't exactly "tactical" in the traditional sense of reserve dickery, but Howl of the Death Wolf combined with Warrior's Mettle Veterans can make your army a strong hunter-killer force, able to get in your enemy's face and fuck up his battle plans. This is an unpredictable force, able to catch most armies by surprise and keep them off balance. Freki and Geri are practically auto-takes, and Russ himself can and will fuck up everything from Leviathans to Thanatars to Land Raiders. Due to high strength, high initiative, and high weapon skill, even Imperial Knights aren't out of the question. Worth it.
Leman Russ VS other Primarchs:
Inferno is finally released and you came here to see how your favorite/most hated superhuman demi-god fares against the other Primarchs, because you love delicious Mathhammer trolling and cautious planning before battle.
THEY ALL DIE. EVERY. LAST. ONE. OF. THEM.
Sever Life on The Sword of Balenight is the real kicker here. Allowing him to potentially pile on more wounds than what would normally be possible for the amount of attacks he has. And since most primarchs only have a 4++, they tend to die in short order (with even the tougher ones eventually going down from sheer wound output). So if you want to add the damage for Sever Life, here's the results:
- Against T6 Sever Life will cause an additional 1.091 Wounds on average.
- Against T7 Sever Life will cause an additional 0.909 Wounds on average.
- Note that these are Wounds that can still be saved via Invulnerable saves.
This is made even crazier with his ability to split his attacks between his axe of awesome and his sword of cheese (Yes just like Horus). Since all it takes is one wound going through to trigger Sever Life thus he can lay on the hurt with his high strength axe while still getting some good jabs in with his sword. When combined with the additional wounds from sever life (assuming it goes off, which against most Primarchs it should since they are mostly in the T6 range) this guy can lay on more wounds on a single target than just about any other Primarch (except a fully buffed Angron, though to be fair that is really all Angron has got going in a fight).
Actually, far worse than Sever Life (which probably is intended to trigger after saves, hence the "Is not slain" part) is his armor, which cripples almost every Primarch's ability to damage him with the negatives to hit. Since thanks to his insane weapon skill almost all will be needing 6's or 5's at best to even hit him, and after taking wound rolls and saves into account he is basically taking almost no damage. Which really hurts alot of his opponents since most of their special rules in CC rely on doing damage (e.g. Horus disabling strike and Perturabo's fancy hammer with basically every CC special rule). Even the uber-tanks are left flailing at him, barely doing any damage, while he grinds them out.
The only ones who can even stand a snowballs chance are heavy-hitters in the range of Horus, Fulgrim, Angron with maximum attacks, Ferrus Manus, Perturabo and a fully buffed Magnus. In addition a Transfigured Lorgar might be able to tar pit him for awhile (though don't expect him to actually win). But I do mean snowball, even these guys barring some amazing rolls will probably lose virtually every fight (including Horus).
Vulkan holds out pretty well but only if Russ is just using the sword... against the axe... well lets hope the dice are on your side!
HOWEVER if you or your opponent plays him in a 40k list he can potentially be tar pitted with assault terminator with thunder hammers and storm shields. Russ is not immune to concussion and the invuln save is superior than Russ. This will bring him down to an equal playing field since while they will not be doing much damage to him (since needing 6s to hit) (actually, since they are WS 4 they will hit on 6's first turn and the next will be unable to hit him, as a 6 is not an autohit in 7th edition, he will probably not be able to rip throw them before the game ends (he is more a challenge monster than infantry wrecker, again that is Angrons job). Though don't rely on this as like all primarchs he is perfectly capable of wiping them out. Such is the fickleness of the dice.
He's running so fast because he saw someone throw a stick.
|The Primarchs of the Space Marine Legions|
| Loyalist |
Corvus Corax - Ferrus Manus - Jaghatai Khan
Lion El'Jonson - Leman Russ - Roboute Guilliman
Rogal Dorn - Sanguinius - Vulkan
| Traitor |
Alpharius/Omegon - Angron - Fulgrim
Horus - Konrad Curze/Night Haunter - Lorgar
Magnus the Red - Mortarion - Perturabo