Nobledark Imperium Primarchs
- Finish Fulgrim and Angron
- Write up Dorn
In his conquests of Old Earth and Sol, the Warlord created the title of Primarch and awarded it to twenty of his greatest generals, that they might become leaders of leaders. This was partly to maintain an ordered hierarchy but also to promote autonomy within his forces. The Warlord's long-term dream at the time was creating a system of governance so efficient that he would become obsolete. His short-term dream at the time was to free up enough time to spend all evening in the pub. Of the twenty awarded that rank, only eighteen are — by name and deed — remembered by history under that most magnific of titles.
Although all of the primarchs commanded a legion of super soldiers, not all of them were Astartes. Some primarchs were earlier types of super soldier, whereas others were incompatible with the proceedure. Some were too old to receive any kind of full-scale augmentation — though they were given rejuvenants, cybernetics and limited gene-forging. The Imperium experimented with many types of super soldiers before eventually developing the Mark III MP (Mass Production) Pattern. Each of these models can count at least one Primarch among their ranks.
- Roboute Guilliman
- Corvus Corax
- Magnus (Especially bizarre genetics made him incompatible with any augmentations save the most basic juvenants)
- Horus (Abhuman, member of the Void Born migrant fleet born on Luna)
- Ferrus Manus (Heavily augmented, but a Mechanicum Skitarii, not an Astartes or Thunder Warrior)
Early Thunder Warrior
Refined (Late Stage) Thunder Warrior
- Leman Russ
Mark I Astartes
- Rogal Dorn
- Jaghatai Khan (Maybe Mark II. Dorn was mentioned to be one of the last of the Mark Is and still had problems)
Mark II Astartes
Mark III MP Astartes
- Conrad Kurze
Mark III S Astartes
- Lion El'Jonson
"Somehow I thought he'd be... well... gold-ier"
— Horus Lupercal, speaking of his first impressions of the Warlord
The exact birth date of Horus is not easy to pin down, as the calendar used by the Void Born of Sol was one used by no one else, and didn’t use the Earth Year as the basic measure of time. The particular calendar used by Tribe Lupercal fell out of use, in any case, within a few generation of the death of Abaddon the Last and the disbanding of the Void Born as a unified nation.
What is known is that, by the final days of the Earth Unification Wars, Horus Lupercal was a man of renown and considerable accomplishment. His age was always difficult to judge, as up until his twilight years he remained spry, lively, and remarkable well preserved. When the Warlord first made contact with him he was described as being in his late prime to very early middle years in age. In appearance, he was much like all Void Born; freakishly tall and thin, pale, and in possession of large eyes and pianist hands. His face was much accustomed to smiling and his mouth contained three gold teeth; generally he evoked an image of a second-hand starship salesman in the people that met him.
The Void Born were not, in those ancient days, a unified people — though they were more cooperative amongst their own kind than baseline humanity ever was. They attributed this to the constant exposure to the bottomless depths of the inky blackness; space is vast and good friends are few. Yes, they would swindle, cheat, and engage in cutthroat business practices, but never to the point of death. Of all the myriad branches of humanity, in those days theirs was the only one willing to ply the starry sea. How Horus Lupercal, son of Maherpa, of the Lunar Lagrange Point rose from a humble bulk haulage transporter to representative of the Void Born as a unified people is the stuff of legends amongst the Merchant Navy and early Rogue Trader dynasties, and like most legends is almost certainly mostly bullshit.
Whatever the case, it was not long before the final defeat of Ursh that Horus found himself in a support harness on the surface of Old Earth, unsteadily approaching the Warlord’s tent a few miles behind the front lines. Exactly what they discussed that day is not in any recorded history, and the event itself was witnessed by only a precious few — Sigillite Malcador and Lord Guilliman among them. But beer was drunk and hands were shook, and Horus returned to his people and the blessed lightness of empty space.
The nation of Ursh was brought to an end the next day, for all that their underground resistance would persist for nigh on twenty years after.
The Warlord — now Steward — appointed his twenty greatest the rank of Primarch. Among their exalted ranks was Horus, who soon after was crowned King of Empty Space by the unanimous vote of the great matriarchs and patriarchs of his people.
Some time after the King’s death, archived audio records revealed that the Olympus Mons Priesthood of Mars had also offered him vassalage — at not unreasonable terms — some days after the deal with the Warlord was made;
“So you're saying you'd rather be vassal to the Terrawatt apostate's flesh-smith than master of our every ship for perpetuity? You scorn the shipwrights of your forefathers! You scorn the smiths of time immemorial! What nerve you have, Lord-Admiral, what—”
“Nerve, is it? Certainly, it is nerve, magos. He promised me a partnership, as fruitful and even as the bargain you propose. He'd have me be his indispensable confederate until the end of my days, and as lord of my people. I made sure he stood as I knelt to the throne, and swore no oath he had not. I set the terms of my service, and I chose my mandate.”
“The gilt conqueror has amassed the treasures of man's eldest ruin, and he dotes mightily upon his subjects. More than that, he is unabashedly greedy.”
“Oh yes, his greed for self-possessed statesmen and commanders is vast, and his appetite for men wiser than he insatiable. I am the admiral of my ships, and of his ships, and all ships he might gain henceforth, and command his navy just as my own. He is steward of my people, and he is bound to them, each and every. Not just for as long as I hold them as one but instead in perpetuity, so long as his empire stands.”
And so was undone — with no small bitterness — an older arrangement between the Void Born and the Mechanicum, each feeling betrayed by the other. It was perhaps not such a heavy or saddening burden on the Primarch’s heart as it might have been, as he had never dealt with the Olympus Mons Brotherhood and so felt no real loyalty to them. In the days of his youth and in his father’s service, they had dealt with lesser — and less arrogant — brotherhoods. The Olympus Mons Brotherhood had subjugated them all, and thus felt they were entitled to take on their obligations and owed their respective loyalties. But Horus had shaken no hands with them.
It should be noted that, despite the public image of the unshakable trust and confidence the Steward had in his primarchs, Horus did worry him somewhat — and worried the other Primarchs rather more. Horus dreamed of an Imperium with almost no centralized authority and an almost non-existent hierarchy; each world independent and sovereign, united in mutual friendship but beholden to no one but themselves, and with no authority past their own bounds.
In Horus’ vision humanity would be, in some distant age, diversified into cultivated and pure abhumanism; a type of tool for every job and a type of human for every world, all united in a shared common humanity. Humanity was in its infancy compared to the Eldar, true, but unlike the Eldar we would not forget our roots. To him, the Imperium was not a final product, but rather a mere stepping-stone towards some strange utopia of a “Star Union”.
These visions did not sit well with the Steward at all. Nevertheless, though Horus was willing to privately challenge the Steward's vision for humanity, he never crossed the line and tried to aggressively implement anything to that effect. As the Emperor could wait and play the long game, so too could Horus. He saw his vision as inevitable; maybe it would start to take shape in some near century or some unimaginably distant age, but he could wait.
The great ships of the Migrant Fleets now stood with the Steward, whose eyes were fixed upon the warring states of the Far-Orbit colonies on the moons of Neptune and Uranus, the Jovian and Saturnine nations, the settlements of the asteroids belt and the Kuiper belt, and the ultimately to the distant stars. Suddenly, those stars seemed not so distant.
It would be Horus’ people who would take them there. His formidable ships would be at the forefront of the frontier, at the bleeding edge where the Imperium met wilderness space. At the place where profit, fame and fortune could be made and where legends were forged. In every way possible, his people were going to make a killing off of this deal.
The Void Born, though master sailors of the starry seas, made for poor soldiers. Upon their ships were placed bondsmen of the Imperial Army and the fearsome and awe-inspiring Astartes pattern Space Marines. In essence, Horus now had his own Legion on top of being a necessary participant in the operations of all the other Legions, as he was the one with the ships. There was not a war he didn’t have a hand in, not a victory his people not accredited with having done their part.
But of these victories, he would claim, none were a grand as those that came to the Imperium willingly — as he had, not so long ago. Deals were ripe for the making, trade could flow, riches could be shared and increased, and all the petty little worlds had to do was reach out a hand. Of all the Primarchs only Lorgar managed to get more worlds to join the Imperium bloodlessly.
Time wore on and the borders were pushed back. The Void Born soon found themselves with more — more ships made, more wars victorious, more trade flowing, more deals made, more riches pouring into their coffers, more fame and fortune, more stories and glories — than even Horus could have dreamed of, all those years ago in that far away tent on some forgotten battlefield. It was a golden age after the ten thousand years of the Long Night. It was in this golden age that Abaddon, nephew of Horus, was born.
Horus had no children (that he knew about) and so took the young Void Born as his heir and protégé, and tried to instill in the child the skills that had led him down the road to kingship and riches. But to Horus’ mixed shame and pride, Abaddon turned into more of an admiral than a salesman. That was not to say that he didn’t learn much from Horus — quite the opposite — as Abaddon was no poor diplomat and could play the part of the blunt-but-lovable old soldier to his advantage, and manipulate an Administratum requisitions committees as well as any royal court. It was just as well, as there weren’t enough Void Born to fill the Navy by that time — and hadn’t been for decades, if truth be known. The Imperium was growing faster and faster still, producing ships faster than his people could fill them, making it a necessity for baseline humans to fill the berths of the Imperium's voidships. Horus was Void Born to the marrow and had grown up in another time. A time that was all but gone now. Abaddon would be the sort to inherit Empty Space.
As the forces of the Void Wolves — as his forces had collectively become known by that point — were at the edge of Imperial Space, it was they that were first alerted to the arrival of The Beast.
The Beast’s forces, raised across a thousand star systems and launched simultaneously with disturbingly un-orky precision, swatted aside hundreds of ships in a matter of hours across a front twenty thousand lightyears long. After that, his people would need no incitement to vengeance — no rhetoric of Warlords or Stewards or hypothetical Emperors. Blood had been spilled in Empty Space, and for the Void Born — as has been since the days of the first space pirates — only one thing could wash away a debt of blood: more blood.
It says something of the presumptiveness of Chaos that they tried to deal with the Pale Primarch, at that point still believing that they had remained hidden. They believed Horus and his people to be degenerate mutants; too slow witted to realize that the Orks were not the orchestrators of this war.
They promised him dominion of the stars, the birth of his Stellar Union. They knew that he knew that the Steward would never allow it to be in his lifetime, but with their help all could be as it ought to be. He would be exalted from now to the day the last star went out. All he had to do was simply wait the war out.
Horus would have none of it;
"Your offer sounds interesting. But you forget one thing: I am a captain of the migrant fleet and a businessman. In this place, I am the one who makes the deals. Now get off my ship."
It would be disingenuous to say that Horus had not considered sitting out the War of the Beast; he was a merchant prince at heart, and knew first-hand the advantages of considering alternatives and making cost-benefit analyses. However, he realized that not coming to the aid of the Imperium, regardless of his own political opinions, would kill any hope of a long-term "Star Union" — a fact only reinforced by the attempted temptation of the Chaos Gods. Even if humanity survived the War of the Beast, brother would blame brother for a perceived lack of help and poison any attempt at a long term "Star Union". And, perhaps most importantly, Horus had sworn an oath to the Steward centuries past. To Horus Lupercal, a man without his word was no man at all.
The people of the Void Born were not as numerous as the baseline humans and for a time it looked as though, by throwing their lot in with the Imperium, Horus had doomed them to extinction. But Horus and the wise admirals under his command could be all too sure of one thing: Chaos would have come for them in time, Imperium or no. The War needed to be over quickly. It needed to be over before his people left the stars forever.
The King of Empty Space went to the Steward and proposed a plan. A desperate and needed plan. By misdirection and feigned weakness, the forces of the Imperium would funnel the hordes of the Beast to Old Earth. Orkish psychology would demand that The Beast himself be at the head of the incursion and there — deep in the heart of Imperial territory — they would close the trap and decapitate the WAAAGH!!! of The Beast. Without their leader the orks would fall apart and fight each other, and without their meat shields the Chaos Eldar would flee.
Horus was not on the surface of Old Earth to witness the death of the Angel-Primarch. He knew that none of the other Primarchs knew of his plan to force the end of the war. He knew that they would blame him; he could tell them that the war needed to be ended, a war of attrition against Orks was a slow walk into the grave and as relentless as a gravity well. He could have told them that this had been the only hope of victory. HE knew it all to be true. Maybe they would agree, maybe they would not. Maybe it didn’t matter in the face of victory. But it was a bitter victory, given the cost and the ruin the Imperium had suffered. The Golden Age was over, and now it seemed that Long Night had never really left.
In the subsequent years — and accompanying reconstruction and rejuvenation — of the Imperium, the Merchant Navy was instrumental in the rebuilding efforts, to the point of being equal to the forces of the Imperial Army in importance. Broken and scared worlds looked to the heavens and the Pale Men of the stars with pleading and love. Horus was old, now, and a little broken inside. But maybe helping the battered and bruised people of the Imperium, seeing their gratitude and their heartfelt smiles, healed something in Horus' heart, in some small way.
Many expected that Horus would launch a coup against the Steward around this time; the Imperium was on its knees, its allies were weary, and many of the generals and the old Mechanicum brotherhoods would have followed him without question. For all his faults — for all his trials and failures — Horus was still hellishly charismatic and could sell anyone anything, whether it be a used cargo hauler or a new dream.
The Imperium waited, and it seemed like all powers that be in the Imperium — the Primarchs and generals, the lords and their assassins, the movers and shakers and the influence-peddlers — all stood poised to spring in one direction or another at his word. That word never came. Maybe he had given up on his dream of a galactic union, or perhaps he saw it as something that could only be born from the Imperium. We will never know. But for three hundred years the Imperium waited for a rebellion that would never come. A man without his word is no man at all.
Void Born are fragile creatures by nature and their bodies can’t deal with alchemy in the blood well, making it is easy for them to overdose on drugs and medicines. The rejuvenant drugs that kept him in some manner of youth had to be of a lower dosage, and now even that was starting to fail altogether. His body was too frail for the longevity treatments designed for baseline humans. Primarch Horus Lupercal, King of Empty Space, would die soon.
An entirely plausible story — held as true by the Sons of Horus and official Imperial history — put forward this unusual reaction to rejuveants as an explanation of the Lord-Admiral's recorded vigor and mental acuity, even unto the last years of his life, as well as his ceremonious abdication to Prince Abaddon several years before his death. That the Lord-Admiral spent those years assembling an entourage of notable captains, as he flitted between the systems of the Imperium, has been relegated to obscure tomes of history. Around this time, Horus threw his considerable clout into numerous ambitious projects, and was often present in the orbits of Old Earth, Mars, and Jupiter, as well as the systems of Chthonia and Prospero. Of all his works in these last decades, he is recorded to have shown greatest interest in the creation of an Imperial capital upon the Chthonian ring, the work of the Martian explorator fleets, and the collaborations of Fulgrim and Ferrus Mannus. These projects are acknowledged to have laid the groundwork for much of the Imperial Navy's own capacity for independent logistics and development. The order that would become the Sons of Horus had its roots in this period, intended by Horus to see his vision of a humanity truly suited to interstellar civilization well into the future. Horus died nineteen years after his abdication and was entombed on his personal warship. Age took him quickly in the end, but he went into the Long Sleep knowing that he had served his people and the Imperium well, and that a good man would take up his burdens.
His tomb has never been opened, but upon that basalt slab still stands the Corona Nox. Waiting for a worthy brow to sit upon.
The story of Leman Russ starts in the land of Skand, among the Nordyc peoples. He was born to a woman called Ragna, who was considered to be wise, if not especially beautiful, by the clans and so her affections were oft courted. Russ’ father was Thengir, tribal king of the Kalararit people. That his mother and father were not married was seen as not particularly odd by the peoples of Skand. Especially when his father was Thengir.
Russ’ education was about as formal as it was ever going to get among a tribe of fishermen, semi-raiders and occasional traders. Although most Kalararit men did not become warriors as a full time profession, all were expected to be able to fight in times of need. It was in this pursuit that Russ found his calling, for the ways of war came easy to him. He grew tall and broad at the shoulders, with powerful musculature and boundless stamina. He became well-versed in the care and maintenance of his tribe's weapons, from autoguns to the humble war axe. He was peerless in the execution of ambush warfare on land and boarding actions upon the cold seas. Sadly, the ways of the scholar did not come as readily to his mind. Although by no means unintelligent, Russ did not — especially in his youth — have the temperament for understanding the needs of large-scale or long-term expeditions.
In time, Russ grew to be the strong right hand of King Thengir — who had lost his own literal right hand some years previously, in a bitter and bloody dispute with the former King Clovis Fouché of Franj. This hatred of the Franj would never leave him, for Russ could be very stubborn.
The men and women of the Kalararit respected Russ — who could be quite charming, in a blunt sort of way. Russ did take his first wife by own choice, rather than at his father’s insistence. Linnea was probably the one part of softness in Russ’ life, and possibly the only thing in later years that held his bloodlust in check. Many of the Kalararit suspected that she possessed more wisdom than he. She certainly possessed great patience.
It was when Russ was still a young man that a foreigner in dusty grey robes came to his father’s thatched hall with offerings — of strong wine, silks, and laser rifles — in chests with lightning bolt heraldry upon them. His companions were strange, for their armour was of a sort not seen in the lands of Skand or its neighbours; they were silver and matte grey, segmented with face covering helmets. The foreigner walked with the aid of a stick with a metal eagle perched atop it, and was accompanied by a giant dressed in the manner of a common man. This was the first time that Russ saw the man who would soon be know to Old Earth as The Warlord.
Some time into the deliberations between the robed man and the king, another giant — this one dressed in the manner of a wandering shaman — strode into the hall, and was called over by the first giant to sit beside him. At the time Russ thought little of it, and just assumed it not unreasonable that a giant would have giant kin. This was the first he saw of Magnus the Red — and many times down the centuries he wished it had been the last.
Over the next few months, other tribal chieftains and kings found themselves drawn to the hall of Thengir the Cripple. Much was discussed, marriages were arranged, oaths sworn, and gifts exchanged. It was disconcerting for Russ; to the young warrior's mind, the world was changed by strong men doing great deeds — with blood and iron and sweat. But here he watched as old men and scribes carved up the world, and told the future how it was going to be.
This — he thought as he looked at the maps and the increasingly long lists being drawn — this was true power. One great warrior could do great deeds, but this was something rather more lasting.
There were some — tribes, clans, and petty little kingdoms — that would not entertain the notions of peace. They saw the plans of Malcador and The Warlord for what they were; the soft subjugation, capitulation, compromise, and surrender of the signatories. They had pride, they had their principles — for it was the strong who dominated the weak — and they would not roll over and submit. They left the great hall of the Kalararit, and never again would they be welcomed there.
Of the tribes that were incapable of seeing reason long enough to join this new alliance, all were left behind to die in their old world of savagery — by one means or another. Most simply withered and died, as the Nordyc peoples formed a true nation and they could no longer attract new blood — for all their young had left to find new work and new lives, in the rebuilt cities of Gamsta and Akershus and the reclaimed and prosperous farmlands that surrounded them.
Few were foolish enough to outright attack the fledgling Imperium. Few but still some. These tribal savages were brought to ruin by the Nordyc men who insisted — nay demanded — that it be they who dealt with this problem, for all that they were they had once been friends and brothers all. As with the Old Ways, the warriors and kings of the barbarian tribes were slain; their women and children assimilated into the more prosperous tribes to be cared for, and their lands given to young Skandish men and women looking to found tribes of their own. It would be the last time this old law of conquest would ever be practiced by the people of Skand. Russ was present at the closing of that era, smoking and pungent with the fresh blood of the slain though it was. It was not a thing in which he found any joy, but he knew it had to be done.
It was from some unremembered tribe — slain by his hand, no less — that he obtained his second wife. Febronia had been a court slave kept by a petty chief too lazy to learn basic literacy, and thus she was fluent in an improbably large number of languages — both written and spoken — and passable in many others. Not of the Nordyc peoples herself, but a former slave bought from exotic climes, Febronia's marriage was nevertheless at the insistence of Russ' aging father — Russ, after all, was a wealthy warrior of the nobility and it was his duty to care for the slain.
Linnea was, to her credit, understanding of the situation. It was the way of things for her people in that era, even though that era was drawing to a close. In time she and Febronia became good friends. It was often joked by Russ' companions that he preferred the battlefield to the hearth of home, as he felt less outnumbered. Between them, Russ and his wives had many children — but by some fluke of genetics and chance they had only birthed daughters.
It was at about this time that the Thunder Warrior program was being phased out. The two alternate branches of Super Soldier production that the Imperium was perusing were the Canis Helix project and the Astartes project.
The first test subjects of both yielded positive results, but ultimately Russ volunteered for the former as it would complement and enhance his own strengths. By pure chance, he was spared the crippling mutations and biological failures that plagued those that took this choice in the years that followed. Indeed, he was one of only a handful of successes, and the only other to have survived both the Canis Helix tests and the passage of time was Bjorn "Fellhanded" of Kraken Bay.
Although the "Dog Soldiers" — as the Canis Helix super soldiers came to be derogatorily known as — fought magnificently and ferociously, the failure rate and the nature of the failures was too much for the Warlord to accept. The whole project was scrapped, its resources given over to the more reliable Super Soldier branches.
As time and war ground onward, the Nordyc regiments earned both fame and infamy, for they were brutally effective but, The Warlord felt, with too much emphasis placed upon brutal. Much like the bloody antics of Curze and the calculated atrocities of Mortarion, this was permitted under sufferance. Victory was always afforded some leeway, and the wars were only ever a means to an end — and Russ's carnage was expediting that end.
The Skandish raised regiments — the newly minted Wolves of the North — in the final days of the wars with the Ursh-Pacific union, and were found to be more suited to harrying moving forces and preventing the enemy from receiving reinforcements, allowing a smoother and less costly victory for the other Legions. To their immense regret, however, the Wolves were never present in the major battles.
As Old Earth united and The Steward looked to the stars, Russ was elevated to the exalted rank of Primarch.
To the disgust of Russ, so were Lion of House El'Jonson and Magnus the Red.
The Lion, as a knight of Franj and a member of House El'Jonson, was both an ancestral and recent enemy; Lion's brother Luther was responsible for the late king Thengir's maiming. Magnus the Red was a warp dabbling mutant who confessed to having consorted with daemons. Both had personalities that were utterly incompatible with Russ' own — and the feeling was mutual. It was rare that Legion elements under their jurisdictions would work together.
Russ was the first to recruit warriors from beyond Sol into his superhuman ranks. The people of Fenris were excellent recruitment stock — even if they were from a barbaric and primitive planet and needed extensive education to learn the discipline necessary for war. Russ himself was from a discontinued line of super soldiers; though possessing savage fighting temperaments and heightened senses, the modifications of the "Dog Soldiers" were dangerously unstable, and the Canis Helix Project proved to be too untenable even for the best minds in the Imperium. If news of the monsters born from the project had become common knowledge on Earth, the Warlord's support would have crumbled. But on a distant world as remote and seldom visited as Fenris, the project could not only be buried but begun anew at Russ' behest. After all, any monsters arising from the Project were the problem of a few distant primitives, certainly not the concern of the glorious Terra. For his part, the Emperor at first claimed no knowledge of the new Canis Helix soldiers, and even when he did learn of it he trusted Russ' claims of the failure rate as being "well within acceptable parameters", thus leaving Fenris and its canine guardians well alone.
The Space Wolves, as the legion became known, quickly made up for their questionable origins by serving with great distinction during the Great Crusade, excelling at tracking a target and assassinating them — often in close-quarters combat. Regrettably, in the wretched days of the War of the Beast, a number of the wolves were tempted down the bath of bloodshed for bloodshed's sake, and forsook the Empty Throne of Terra for the one of brass and bone, where the Lord of Skulls held court instead. Of these oathbreakers, no name was cursed more by Russ than that of Skyrar of Caledonia — whom Russ once would have called brother.
Some measure of honour would be restored, however, to the ranks broken by turncoats and anointed in blood. Russ's Wolves made great speed back towards Terra, and seeing the home he had left a lifetime ago aflame in war broke the Great Wolf's heart. The wolves threw themselves into the inferno and fought like mad beasts, with neither thought of the past nor hope for the future; this was no thirst for vengeance but instead a plea for redemption. Russ himself was there at the Last Roll of Thunder when Arik Taranis, Bearer of Lightning, fell in battle in the great plaza before the Eternity Gate, and took up the tattered old Unification banner in his place.
When the last of the fires grew cold, none would ever again question the loyalty of the Space Wolves. For all that the shattered remnant of a legion was covered in blood and soot, each man felt truly clean.
The remains of the Space Wolves retreated to Fenris, licking their wounds, and quietly rebuilt their legion as the Imperium itself rebuilt. For no matter how enlightened or holy it may become, Russ knew that the Throne would always need its tame monsters. But the Great Wolf himself was not fated to fall in glorious battle, and certainly not to fall to the temptations of the Ruinous Powers. Instead, the legends say, some two centuries later Russ — now an old warrior and the King of his world — simply walked alone out into the snow. His brothers, friends, and servants all followed his tracks into the cold woods of the frozen north, but he was never seen again. Some say the Old King is resting, and will return to face the Old Night in the days when hope withers and the stars grow dim.
The unimaginatively named Ferrus Manus was born in the manner typical of the Mechanicus enclaves of Antarctica — grown in a jar from anonymous genetic samples. Deemed free of malformation and unwanted deviations in his early development, which were rare and valuable assets in an age where clumsy genetic enhancement created mutants more horrific than radiation or plague ever could, he was permitted to be born rather than recycled. Being born and raised where he was at the time he was, Ferrus had no name at birth — although the markings on his tube did superficially resemble the name Gorgon in an ancient tongue recognised by one of the oldest Magi. This was adopted as his unofficial name in his youth; doubly so after it became apparent that he would grow up to be aesthetically displeasing.
Ferrus was given a basic and general techno-ecumenical education until the age of twelve, after which he began training for full inclusion into the Mechanicus. By fourteen he had managed to achieve the rank of Technician-acolyte — escaping the the fate of Servitorhood that awaited underachievers — but a purely priestly life was deemed an inefficient use of his talents, and he was transferred to the Skitarii for training. By his eighteenth year he was a fully and mechanically augmented soldier of the Mechanicus priesthood, and was tasked with the defence of the Nuemyana Port, one of the few places where primitive outsiders were permitted to have dealings with the Terran Mechanicus.
As he rose through the ranks of the Mechanicus military, receiving all the augmentations appropriate to his station, Ferrus began to see the world in absolute terms — the black and white notions of Weak and Strong; that it was the duty of the Weak to serve the Strong, whose duty in turn were to rule and protect. It was as if his heart was slowly being replaced with machinery as much as his body was, beginning to see all humanity not a part of the Mechanicus as Weak. Perhaps this was merely conformity, however, as many of the Elder Magi shared similar views. And... enforced them. Regardless of their attitude to more baseline humans, the Enclaves soon came under threat from Hy Braseal. Though the nation could hardly be called a superpower Hy Braseal was close enough, and proved sophisticated and organised enough to push the Mechanicus Enclaves off the tip of South America, leaving their former holdings destroyed, irradiated, or captured.
Due to their perceived incompetence in the piecemeal defence of their lands many of the Elder Magi were deposed by those below. The ambitious and the popular soon rushed in to fill the power vacuum at the top of the hierarchy, whilst the new Elders had the few remnants of the old order servitorised. At the end of the reshuffling Gorgon found himself as General-Sentinel and Protector of the Northern border, a prestigious yet demanding job that commanded the first line of defense against the Braseali peoples — and would be the first to be servitorised, were the enemy to force their way onto the Antarctic mainland.
In spite of the Mechanicum's preference for function over form, Gorgon ordered for his new cybernetic upgrade to be encased in the toughest alloy known to the Mechanicum. True, it would serve no purpose; although the material was indeed potent armour, his position as General-Sentinel precluded any situation where that would be useful. Instead, it was a surprisingly perceptive move to bolster his stature in the eyes of others; the intimidating size and power of the modifications terrorized those who sought to mutiny as much as it did Braseali spies. Thus, the Gorgon was no more — in his place there was only Ferrus Manus.
Even as he rallied his Skitarii and began to forge them into something stronger, the generals of Hy Braseal had already raised a horde of relatively well-disciplined and well-armed soldiers, and were beginning to lead them into the cold Antarctic enclaves. Salvation came in the form of the Warlord, who sought the advanced technology hoarded by the Mechanicum. The Elder Magi saw their projections of survival in a total war scenario with Braseal jump over tenfold merely by being on friendly terms with the Warlord, and all the way to an astounding 93% were they to accept his offer. Which they did without second thought. Dalmoth Kyn — the leader of most of South America — and his descendents would never forget how the Warlord had sided with the Mechanicus, forever opening a rift between their people and those of the Imperium. In time, they too would eventually join — but not before a long and bloody war consumed much of the Braseali people.
As the Mechanicus Enclaves were assimilated one by one into the Imperium, Ferrus Manus once more found himself rising up the ranks of the military. His existing rank the Mechanicus — which were a few isolated enclaves that had fought valiantly against an entire continent — was prestigious and his tactical acumen formidable. So too were his legions of cybernetic soldiers, who could comfortably overrun any techno-barbarian on the planet and even go toe-to-toe with the Warlord's own biologically augmented warriors. The one who, as the Gorgon, had looked down on all flesh as weak was now beginning to find a grudging respect for it.
Years passed and wars were moved from the surface of Terra to the stars. Ferrus' soldiers — now known as the Iron Hands — became renowned for being able to resist the harshest of environments with ease, proving as comfortable in the cold vacuum of space as they were in the sand-blasted remains of Ursh. Thus, although often (and rightly) feared by many, the Mechanicus forces were respected by all and proved to be a key factor in cementing the Terra-Mars partnership, which would be a story repeated at each world they encountered more of their cybernetic brothers on their crusade into the depths of space. Perhaps it was this — securing the mighty forges of mankind — rather than the Iron Hands' martial prowess, that earned the old Gorgon his recognition as a Primarch.
During the War of the Beast, however, the Iron Hands lost much of their prestige and reputation by primarily seeking to defend their Forge Worlds instead of the Imperium as a whole. Perhaps this was simply because their Primarch had seen how hard mankind would fall if they once again lost the machinery that held its precious Imperium together. Or perhaps (as many others claimed), their loyalties lay more with the Fabricator-General of Mars than they did the Steward or Terra. For their part, the Hands never denied the accusations levelled at them, only defending them.
Of all the Primarchs, Ferrus Manus was one of only three who lived to see the Steward become Emperor; and he was the last of them to die, meeting his end on the fields of Armageddon before the gates of Hades Hive in the year 616.M39. In truth, his health — both biological and mechanical — had been deteriorating for centuries, and although he knew that there was little operational time left for his body he did his best to ensure that neither his Legion nor his Emperor knew of the fact. He took a bloody and glorious toll with him — one worthy of respect from any and all — but his passing marked the end of an era. Although he and the Emperor had never been friends, his passing was felt by the flesh-bound of the Imperium just as much as it was by his Mechanicus brethren.
The Primarch Fulgrim, foremost of the Legion of Terra's Children, was conceived in a Merikan population expansion program. His parents were both loyal Merikan officers, and upon their deaths their genetic material had been saved — and eventually combined — for one of countless batch-grown children. In truth, this program and others like it were conceived and implemented as the early Wars of Unification rocked the Eurasian continent, if only to bolster the numbers of the Merikan guard should another high-technological joust of nations commence. Fulgrim was decanted twenty years before the fall of Ursh, in the facilities of the Moton industrial concern. By either random chance or the inevitability of mass production, Fulgrim could be said to have been born with a charming and distinct beauty, characteristics which he maintained through all his life — though accompanied by a vast and neurotic ego. In those days his name was Furis Doe, and shared a surname with all the other children created as he was. In his youth, he found success among the ranks or mechanists and the overseers of Moton, and became the commander of his own sub-workshop at a young age. Between his competence and the opportunity to demonstrate the success of their program, Furis' superiors were eager to fast track him.
Furis matured steeped in the legends told by old mechanists — some even from the Arctic Enclaves — of the star spanning Mechanicus and the gleaming stelar empire they maintained — but also surrounded by the propaganda of the Merikan war machine, its edicts of the holy human form, and its pretensions to brutal meritocracy. In the years surrounding the Imperium's first truly overt offensives and then its brutal dismantling of the Despot of Ursh and all under his banner, Merika hardened for war against the Unification.
Between the saturation of muddled anti-Ursh and anti-Imperial propaganda and his own dreams of the stars, Furis began to recede into his mind just as the mounting war effort put the apparent prodigy in command of his own experimental workshop and staff. Placed under his command were Merikan mechanists and the tech-priests cast out of the polar enclave after it sided with the Imperium. Fulgrim — a nickname earned by his increasingly dry, cynical demeanor — mostly served as a director for the workshop, but was himself a decent scientist and tinkerer.
Furis began experiments with superhuman modification in response to the fabled Imperial Thunder Warriors, among other things. While these projects had successes, even creating subsystems superior to Imperial equivalents in some respects, they were few and expensive where other avenues showed far greater promise. Fulgrim did, however, upgrade himself in numerous faculties, spending not insignificant resources on improving his physical and mental capacities. He was said to be deeply interested in the lore he could draw from the defector tech-priests, though he never went so far as to make any of his personal modifications as overt. Fulgrim would eventually express an opinion that it was partially the Mechanicus' preference for skitarii and servitors that made progress on superhuman physiological enhancement so difficult. He traveled around Merika and Kalbi during this period, particularly exploring the borderlands and the deep mazes of vaults drilled through the western mountains where techno-barbarians still flourished. Fulgrim and his workshop were notably productive though this time, either creating or dredging up dozens of horrific technological marvels, but Furis Doe was only loosely tethered to his superiors' control and was rarely in contact with Merikan command. In some histories it is guessed that the Warlord contacted him around this time, but in reality the fabled approach would happen later.
Furis and his mechanists, notably cherry-picked from Doe production runs, returned from the wastes with a vast technological bounty and only a handful fewer men and tech priests than they set off with. Several important events occurred around this time; Ursh had all but fallen and the Pan-Pacific empire was on the defensive, Kalbi was in revolt under Military Governor Dorn, and Merikan high command contemplated alliance with Hy Braseal — though the prospect was unlikely. Fulgrim famously wowed the capital as he fired some of his more militarily applicable discoveries over the marching grounds, and excited the officers in the audience with promises of strategic archeotech and superhuman advancements to rival the powers in Europe. In truth, the director was unmoored from the war effort as much as the rest of terrestrial reality; between the unnerving horrors of the wastes, the gross violations of decency and humanity he witnessed undertaken by the great Merikan industrial core, and the Dark Age technologies he had tried to meddle with, Fulgrim had driven cracks through his pretty world. Fulgrim had long nursed a love for hedonism, and as he enjoyed his fame in the capital his old neuroses as Moton's prodigy layered into his drug-clouded state. In something of a haze, Fulgrim began to lay down his own base of influence. Seeking military office, he naturally needed to advance himself militarily. Thus, attaching his tinkerers and forces to the command of one honorable Major Lucius Doe, Fulgrium was bound for the Expeditionary Forces to engage the Imperium. The air assets under his command, long maintained by the Merikan high command as defense against Urshii invasion, were to be fitted for offensive war and launched from forward air bases built up on New Atlantis. Major and Dr. Doe were respectively ordered to force the Brasealian and Afrique garrisons from the island and to ensure the readiness of the Merikan air forces and drop troops that would be stationed there.
Lucius had cut his teeth in the Panama trenches, fighting Hy Braseal in the long border wars that burned along the isthmus. He was little more than a month Furis's senior, and likewise was held up as another triumph of the Doe program. His tactical virtuosity was said to match Fulgrim's technical art, and the prodigies had been introduced to each other during the revels of some mutual superior. Major Doe is said to have rescued the mechanist from the agents of high ranking officers, who were intent on compelling Furis to grant them immortality, and would years later go on to make that same request — a request which Fulgrim strove to achieve. The two Does, Major Lucius and Special Lieutenant Fulgrim, took up their commands on New Atlantis; the former beginning his campaigns against the Braseali forces in the heavily fortified south of the landmass and the scattered Afrique enclaves occupying its eastern half, and the latter rebuilding and updating the ancient Merikan air fortress and factories on the island. Backed by Fulgrim's advanced weapons as well as the ever increasing air power Fulgrim was building in the northwest of the continent — and occasionally supplemented by Fulgrim's enhanced soldiers — Lucius made short, mean work of the Afrique settlements and drove Hy Braseal back to a single, heavily entrenched garrison on the continent's southernmost point. The Major was known for leading from the front, sword in hand. Fulgrim — once his workshop was well-established, and when the conversion of the Ursh defense interceptor wings to dive bombers and escorts was under way — was characteristically preoccupied with personal projects; he and his corps of mechanists were busy preparing cybernetic enhancements and combat-ready super soldiers, in a rush to complete their longstanding mission of providing Merika with shock troops equivalent to the Thunder Warrior — themselves already replaced by Astartes.
Fulgrim was so bold as to fly sorties of cyborg drop troops into Imperial territory, testing his Merikanized Skittari against the Imperium and its Astartes under the cover of the brushfire wars that had sprung up around the holdouts of Ursh's conquests. In these raids — nominally advance scouting missions — he found that a single Astartes was worth about two of his own prized combat cyborgs. Despite many close calls, he succeeded in taking numerous Astartes and Thunder Warriors intact — though rarely alive — and began the process of reverse engineering their implants, if not outright stealing them. Very few outside of Fulgrim's mechanists — an increasingly honed band of enhanced Doe children and long exiled Arctic tech-priests — were privy to these hoarded acquisitions, but Lucius was one of the few who Furis included in his conspiracy. Both Lucius and Fulgrim were reforged with Astartes enhancements and the mechanists' own inventions, as best they could manage, alongside many of their cabal. The result was lesser in stature and might than true Astartes, but the Doe children were a match for second generation Astartes, refined towards Furis' aims for the unit. It was at this point that Fulgrim and his group caught the attention and interest of the Warlord's forces, and the Hydra in particular. With the artificial continent secured and the Merikan air forces ready to launch their newly fitted bombers and gunships, Merikan High Command moved into the fortress and Fulgrim's band returned to the continent. The lab that remained to produce Merikan cyber-legionnaires bore no trace of the Astartes experiments, but leaked rumors of new wonders saw Fulgrim returned to the capitol and his projects well-funded as war with the Imperium mounted, while Lucius was sent to reinforce the army sent to end the rebellion of Governor Dorn. Merikan bombers lit up the Imperium from Franj to Afrique and cyborg drop troops fell from the skies to the aid of recalcitrant lords and Urshii holdouts, destroying and sabotaging everything they could.
Fulgrim himself was attempting to engineer a coup; having seen the Imperium in his advance raids and equated it with the empire of old he had dreamed of, Fulgrim wished to cut down the old leadership of his nation while it seemed within his power, and steer Merika into his bright vision. He had surpassed even Lucius as a swordsman during his adventures in the New Atlantis campaign, and now Fulgrim planned to use his charm, fame, and the lure of technological enhancement to access necessary targets and ingratiate himself in the matters of succession before the planned decapitation. Though his early plan went well, Fulgrim overestimated his own and his agents' ability to manipulate a government in the mounting chaos of war with the Imperium, and it was not long before the self-styled superhuman was at the mercy of the Merikan secret police. He was saved by two plainly dressed men that introduced themselves as Ames and Ozzy, both of whom bore the sigil of a hydra. Under the aegis of these two Hydra contacts, the Doe cadre continued Fulgrim's strategy of building support in the mass produced populations of the manufactories further back from the coast, but Fulgrim himself was made to concede direct control over the operations in the capital. Fulgrim's laboratories in the capital became the futurist's edifice to a Phoenician Merika, to the wonderment of the officer class, and Lucius built up the manufactories of Moton into an advanced fortress city on the near edge of the Kalbi territories. Fulgrim had little contact with either project; these power bases were tended by the Doe Cadre's inner circle under the direction of the Hydra and Major Lucius respectively, and while Furis visited his old home when it was under the Major's command his work took him yet further from the center of the Doe conspiracy.
Under the cover of another exploratory mission to the bunkers and cracks of the western mountain line, Fulgrim and his mechanists traveled the length of the rocky spine and the loosely governed western territories beyond. It was true they again delved the chains of fortresses, redoubts, and sunken chambers under those lands for new relics of the golden age, but only the least of these fruits ever reached Merikan High Command. The rest became assets of the conspiracy, and some even found their way across the wastes of Beringia to the Imperium. More than this, Fulgrim secured the support of the enclaves whose knowledge had driven his successes years prior, and in the druidic labs of the Geno-Hippes (an ancient title) Fulgrim and his proto-Alpha Legion contacts established forward positions from which to build Astartes forces. The work done in these installations unified Fulgrim and the Geno-Hippes' cybernetically and biologically upgraded "Doe" Mk II Astartes with the Duscht-Jemanic genesmiths' Mk III pattern.
Through Fulgrim's promises and intrigues, much of the western territory would come to favor his succession, and for his technological efforts on their behalf they held him in better regard than High Command. The collaboration with the Geno-Hippes allowed state-of-the-art super soldier forces to be built in the mountain enclaves, stretching even into the heart of Governor Dorn's beleaguered territory. Less than a year since it nearly died with its indiscreet leader, Fulgrim's conspiracy was at its zenith.
The destruction and capture of the Merikan air bases on New Atlantis saw the top admirals and generals return to the capital, in turn seeing preparations for a counterattack to keep the theater of war on the artificial continent and the fortification of the Atlantic coast. Lucius had made dramatic use of the Doe combat cyborgs Fulgrim had premiered in Europe, aiding the hapless commander tasked with the re-conquest of Dorn's dominion — entrenched as they were in west and northern Kalbi. Showy hunts by air cavalry and drop troops had done more to lionize the cyber-soldiers, as they strode about in gleaming gold and purple, than they could ever have hoped to have done to weaken Dorn’s defense. The guns of the Imperium were turned squarely to Merika in the weeks that followed; the massive naval forces of Skand, the air forces of Europia, and the full war host of the Quadruple Alliance all gathered at New Atlantis. The ancient Merikan voidships that hung in orbit over the continent were moved in a careful dance across the Americas, for the dual purpose of denying space superiority to the heirloom fleet the Imperium brought to bear and remaining ever vigilant above the Panama fortresses for movement from Hy Braseal. Fulgrim returned to the capital as plans were being drawn up to leap back to New Atlantis and charge from Europia to Uralia — with Doe cyborgs leading the way. Other plans were being conceived to quickly stamp out Governor Dorn's decades long rebellion and annihilate it to the last — using the forces of the field marshal already engaged in the north backed by masses of advanced weapons deployed from Moton. Neither plan would ever see action.
As Fulgrim made to announce promises of support from western military governors with all due fanfare, he was accompanied by a brigade of what seemed to all a new generation of cyborg soldiers — as fair as their inventor and clad in bright ceremonial armor. Mere days after he had arrived at the capital, Merika and the Imperium began fighting in and above the Atlantic, west of the artificial continent; air forces clashed above the naval blockades and the coasts, and orbital assets made firing lines hundreds of kilometers long. Orders were issued to Moton to begin operation in Kalbi, and soon Doe-designed and Doe-piloted gunships and drop troops were buzzing northwest towards the Merikan position. Impenetrable havoc erupted in the Merikan capital and the first company of one hundred Terra's Sons — led by Fulgrim the Futurist — fortified the Doe laboratories and began conducting brutal raids on enemy factions within the Merikan command structure and officer class, who were also entrenched in the capital. The citadel of the high command had been raided by teleporter insertion of un-blazoned power-armored commandos in the first hours of the fighting, and subsequent clashes over the building saw it bombed to rubble by Merikan air assets. Fulgrim officially seized dictatorial emergency powers, and with a company drawn from his long-honed circle of mechanists he corrected his rivals in the capital, making a great show of the advanced forces those same officers and ministry heads had counted on in their grand strategies. The Futurist took Merika's reins, and with the nation’s purple and white still flying high, cowed the fractious military houses in the wake of what he called an opportunistic Hy Brasealian attack, enabled by the faithlessness of his enemies and the Imperium's assault.
Prior to the decapitation of the Merikan military, the Kalbi expeditionary force had embarked on a hard offensive against Dorn, counting on support from Moton's special forces as they drove for the pacific. Lucius lead the combined forces of the second company of Terra's Sons and cybernetic Moton drop brigades, smashing the confounded expeditionary force against Dorn's built up battle lines. The Merikan ship above Kalbi was quick to react with the the bombardment of the Moton citadel, and what few volleys it managed were devastating before it was crippled by boarding forces of Merikanized skitarii and mechanists. In the capital, there was stalemate between Fulgrim and the remains of the Merikan High Command, with most of the lower officers sided with the futurist or "removed" from the equation. But the campaigns in the north were fast concluded, and Lucius advanced southeast — some of Dorn's own forces following close behind. The Merikan Orbital Brigades and Navy were old institutions staunchly opposed to Fulgrim, and supported Merikan ground forces throughout the gulf coast and around the Panama fortifications. As Merikan reserves were mobilized by the panicking High Command, the Astartes company in the Rockies struck east across the continent — right at the head of the western governors' military forces — and made rapid progress securing the Merikan heartland despite the orbital bombardment from opposing factions. The machine-stubber, rocketeer, and armored fighting carriage battalions that had been the Merikan Junta's unbeatable scourges were hardly sufficient against their own colonial forces reinforced by Astartes and Skitarii. After a week of the stalemate in the capital, the Merikan Navy and Space Brigade retreated and shortened the blockade so they could both bombard the capital and keep Imperial forces from doing the same.
Fulgrim and Terra's Sons first company continued to fight for the capital, all under heavy shelling and the highest rate of lance strikes the capital's guarding geostationary starship could muster. They were supported by most of the remaining officer corps against the remaining High Command holdouts, the latter of whom were reinforced by Merikan marines and loyalist military regiments. Fireteams of Astartes in Imperial livery moved openly in the south and west, and Imperial soldiers landed in Newfoundland and the gulf; to be met by the advanced guard of the forces that started from the Rockies or Moton. Lucius and Dorn's forces combined with the Terra's Sons third company, the latter of whom had led the midlands campaign, marched on the eastern seaboard, pacifying or simply commandeering the remaining ground forces — nearly all of whom remained unclear on the state of affairs for the duration.
The Merikan Space Brigade was forced to retreat from the battle for the capital by subsequent attacks and abandoned the Merikan Navy to regroup with Merika’s remaining voidships over the Panama defenses, which had become the last stronghold of the remnants of the old Merikan High Command. In short order, the Merikan blockade was broken by the Imperials and the Merikan Navy suffered mutiny and folded. The Imperial Navy and Air Forces subsequently accompanied the battered Merikan Navy into the harbor of the capital. The cratered slopes of the captial's anti-fallout pyramid bunker-citadels were lined with Merikan officers and civilians, as Imperial engineers and officials of every land and discipline piled off amidst the columns of proud soldiers in the livery of Franj, Gredbritton, Achemedinia, and Europia. The Imperial delegation was marched to the Doe complex by the Futurist's own soldiers — equal in stature and clad in purple with emblems of raptors — who were themselves well-known to the capital from the past weeks. The Imperials had hardly arrived at what had become the de facto seat of government for a day before those same engineers and Furis' mechanists were seen together, drafting plans for reconstruction.
The battered Merikans that remained in the capital saw many astounding figures among the Imperial delegation — the gold giant that had been the subject of much propaganda, the Skandian warrior at his side, his tattooed sorcerer, his towering iron-fisted automaton, his cadre of princes, the vassal warriors he’d taken from Ursh and the Pan-Pacific League, and so on, and on — as they had disembarked. The transcripts of the meetings within the Doe laboratories were sealed with the mark of a hydra, and vanished after some select members of the officer corps were pointedly denied a chance to read them. In the inevitable announcement from the grandstand on the capital’s debris-strewn parade ground, Esteemed Dictator Furis Doe and ‘Warlord’ Oscar made their speeches; the former waxed poetic about the wonders of history and the wings of the Aquila, and the latter made a curt and businesslike statement sketching out the terms of Merika’s stake in the Imperium — which had already been decided. This was all very much in keeping with Merikan custom; the general impression among the Merikan junta’s officers and populace was that Fulgrim had brokered an alliance and won them an entry on the footing of equals. In truth, Fulgrim had met the Warlord in Sibar for the Astartes III hybridization project, long before the operation began, and the conference was in many ways a formality — though Furis took it as an opportunity to lobby for his future projects.
The remains of the Merikan Space Brigade took aboard much of the Panama garrison and its war materiel, but lingering as they were between the changed Merikan regime and Hy Braseal was not a long-term option. What remained of the Merikan Space Brigade never reconvened after that regrouping at Panama; the bulk of the small fleet dove for deep space and vanished from common histories, while about half their number mobilized to attack the Imperial ships above the eastern seaboard — of which two were disabled and one seized before it could be scuttled. The six voidships that remained over Panama held position for two months, and subsequently defected to Hy Braseal. Of those ships, one is recorded to have been used by Hy Braseal in the War of The Beast, further cementing their victory over their long term rival. They too could be considered the “winners” of the Unification Wars, and remained the last holdout of the old nations on Earth centuries into the Imperium.
Fulgrim made many inquiries into future endeavors to the Warlord — for potential avenues of research and for examination of technologies — which continued all through the last years of Unification, and he always seemed to give them precedence over the interim Merikan government run by him and Lucius. Lucius in particular — but Fulgrim as well — both showed a keen interest in the overtures the Imperium extended Hy Braseal, though they had the deference not to take part. It was worth noting, in Oscar's mind, that the Does had more or less copied the councils under which he'd arrayed the leaders of the lands of Europe and the remains of Ursh, to assemble and represent the various Merikan provinces north of the isthmus and south of Dorn's restored Kalbi, and had done it all without coaching on his part — though with focused and major alterations in some areas. Under the newly drafted agreement between Merika and the Imperium, there were provisions for continued cooperation with the Alpha Legion (nominally to ensure full and thorough reform and removal of entrenched corruption), for the continuation the Doe program — with the added practice of optimizing the babies after random sample combination (which Fulgrim had already started doing), and provisions for eminent domain over all samples of neutronium in the Merikan government's remit. For his part, Lucius was reorganizing the Merikan military and its many arms foundries, designing them to support his companies of Terra's Children, and glad-handing and encouraging as much of the old officer class to go on on grand world tours to enjoy the new Imperium. Fulgrim, meanwhile, was overseeing the expansion of the proud legion of nearly three hundred that had overtaken the Merikan war machine. And yet, Fulgrim's inquiries persisted, pointedly asking what his place would be in the Imperium.
The Futurist got his conclusive answer shortly after Oscar became Steward of the Empty Throne. He was named Primarch of Terra's Children, swore his oath before all assembled, and together they began the next stage of unification: that of Sol. With naught but some hasty organization of the new Council of Merikan Foremen, Fulgrim convened his legion in Moton. Fulgrim stood before his force of three hundred Astartes — each selected personally by him and bearing his modifications — and their backing of seven hundred Merikanized Skitarii. With his blades by his hip, his mechanists arrayed behind him, and Lucius by his side, Fulgrim drew up — in illustrious, impassioned words — his vision of the era before Old Night, one that the this new Imperium of unification would reclaim, with the Children of Terra at the fore to realize its mighty promise. He spoke of ships fleet and unstoppable, pillar cities vaster and more grand than any gilded Urshii ziggurat or Merikan pyramid-bunker, and of the great bridges indestructible; the Neutronium lines that tied worlds to the sea of heaven and thus to each-other. He envisioned his legion as the mighty “New Men” of this Imperium, more virtuous, more beautiful, more effective than any officer class or knightly order of the old provincial nations, the great poet warriors that would realize this Imperium’s truth. His speech was met with cheers of exuberance and tears of joy among his men, and in that moment every member of the Legion of Terra's Children knew they would follow their Primarch to the stars.
Furis’ new position on the council of twenty — the Primarchs, Malcador, and Oscar Steward — ensured he was now privy to the grand strategy of the Solar Unification without needing to trade favors with Ames and Ozzy. Already the pale and eerie, yet charming trade lord of the inner system had seized the initiative and taken up the Unification’s banner as its master of ships, and the famed Knight of Franj — the Lion ascendant — was bound on a mission of pacification to the outer Sol system aboard his flotilla. With some prodding, a contingent of Terra’s Children's best military virtuosos followed close behind, led by Lucius in a gold, purple, and white fleet of a half dozen restored Merikan warships.
In that same period of manic consolidation and activity, Fulgrim fell in with Horus, the esteemed King of Empty Space, and Ferrus Manus, the iron-fisted Antarctican Skitarii mastermind, on their mission of diplomacy to Mars. While the Steward knew Lorgar, the Holy Man that he was, to be the better diplomat than the preening Phoenician, treating with the dogmatic and hegemonic Brotherhood of Olympus Mons was a task ill-suited to the earnest preacher, and thus it was Fulgrim that bore the Standard of the Aquila to the red priests for that first time. It proved a wise choice, and between the guns of Empty Space encircling, the mercenary charms of Horus and guileful Fulgrim, and the proud imperatives of the Antarctic Brotherhood’s iron fist, the ruddy neighbor of Old Earth was drawn into the fold.
Fulgrim hardly returned to Merika after this, instead dwelling at the dockyards of the Lagrange with Horus, supervising the building of the dreadnoughts that would lead the coming interstellar crusade, and on Mars, aiding the designs of the Iron Fists he had long idolized from the stories of his Mechanists. One could hardly tell if his fondness for Horus was surpassed by his love for Horus’ ships, and though his obsession with the mighty Ferrus Manus was clear, it took many efforts and trials to prove the worth of his works, and thus himself, to the machine-man.
Fulgrim was often said by the remembrancers to be the more worldly mirror image of Blessed Sanguinius; created haphazardly — a happy accident that perfected himself — but grew imperious and mighty by his own ambition, if flying by roaring jet instead of graceful wing. And like Sanguinius, Fulgrim too was pale and fair, refined and elegant. Indeed this was very compelling image — the Terra’s Children’s fine armor was unmarred and unbloodied even through Fulgrim’s brutal raids and engagements, and Fulgrim struck where he pleased and retreated when it was advantageous — but the differences between the two came not from the body, but the mind; Fulgrim's blade was drawn in pride where Sanguinius drew his in duty. For all their contrasts, the aesthete and the prince were on good terms — so long as military matters were not broached between them. Likewise, he was compared to Guilliman — great strategos of Europia — as the Phoenician conducted great overarching campaigns in sector after sector, indomitable purple Astartes at the vanguard and unbreakable supply lines guarded by his shining cyborgs, advancing through the galactic west apace with the vaunted Ultramarines in the east. That said, Guilliman never leaned quite so heavily on the techniques of economic sabotage and proxy war that Fulgrim typically brought to bear, following on the heels of the shadowy Alpha Legionnaires he still held close from the days of the Merikan Coup. By all appearances, Fulgrim was as deft a diplomat as Lorgar, Vulcan, Horus, and Roboute — but for the fact that when he paraded his regal Astartes before the people of a world and charmed its leaders at Imperial-hosted galas, he was often hard at work cutting down their dissenting elements and special forces just beneath that pleasant veneer of peace.
Be it from their similar childhoods, shared archaic fantasy of the Great and Bountiful Human Dominion, or merely Fulgrim’s persistence, it was in this time that he finally endeared himself to Ferrus Manus. In Fulgrim, Ferrus saw a fitting disregard for the limitations of biology. In Ferrus, Fulgrim found an exemplar for the advancement of the holy human form and appreciation of its mighty heritage. Thus, and an unusual friendship had bloomed in the life of the Iron Fist.
The Contest of Smiths
It was in the forges under Olympus Mons, after the Gorgon had established his might over the heads of the resident Archmagos, that they held their famed Contest of Smiths. Among the great cogs and reactors of the forges in the heart of the red mountain, the cold Iron Hand was making demonstration of his mastery of artifice before the many venerable smiths of the ancient foundry. While the Gorgon beat cascades of sparks from adamant at the forge, another unfamiliar host of robed and augmented figures drew around the mighty Skitarii. At its head was Fulgrim, and about him were the Archaeo-technological Diviners and Warsmiths of the Terrawatt Clan that he had been asked to herald to the Martian Brotherhood, and with them came the Genesmiths of the Duscht Jemanic, the Geno-Hippes of the mountain enclaves, mighty Weapon-Wrights and Siege Masters of Macedonia and Achemedinia, and Furis’ own mechanists — the last of whom had already found favor among the Martians that held with the more creative interpretations of the Strictures Cybernetica.
It was in the midst of this gathering of the great masters in the forges of the Brotherhood of Olympus Mons — who had brought Mars to heel in a few scant years, who dared to say they were the keepers of the Noctis Labyrinth, who were protectors of the vast treasury of knowledge and art that were the assets of the Imperial Court, who were possessors of so many esoteric and mighty secrets and specializations that they could not be rightly remembered hence their passing — that Fulgrim and Ferrus proposed to settle the budding rivalry between Old Earth and Holy Mars. In the spirit of their great and blessed adventures to come — their Crusade of Interstellar Unification — Fulgrim proposed a tourney that would last seven days, and in that time all present would strive to see the arsenal of Man filled with wonders to match the weapons of old. It was Ferrus that added the terms that each master of his own forge should work for himself upon his craft, and that any that shrunk from the task — who would let servitors or adepts dither in their work — would show their lack of art. It was then that Ferrus Manus shed his robes and bore down upon the forge, like a tempest with his vast silver arms, and bid the adepts about him bring schematics and materials. Furis Doe likewise seized a forge, his Mechanists setting about the recalibration of tools and selection of designs. And all around Siege Masters and Genesmiths and Armorers rushed to heat Adamant and prepare the manufacture of fine mechanical filigree.
At the contest’s end, the forges and laboratories still and quiet, many gleaming wonders were brought forth to be seen by all. Kelbor Hal, esteemed host to those assembled, humbly presented a bright adamant power-javelin he named the Windlance, that flew unerring by means of grav-lifts in its shaft, and for which he received much acclaim. Vie Braur, Master of the Genesmiths, came forward with a pair of golden armbands that would regrow the arm on which it was worn in a matter of minutes if it was severed. This was followed by a cybernetic eye that saw across the spectrums and could glare a hail of lasfire as effectively as a heavy rifle, presented by Arton Luron of the Order Cybernetica. From the Geno-Hippes, a poison gland from which a modified creature could spit streams of strong corrosive marking agent. Put forth by the Skitarii armorers was a beautiful brassy jezail of ancient design and thunderous power. An ingenious system of actuated tread claws that would let superheavy tanks scale sheer cliffs was produced by the Macedonian envoy. The gift of the Terrawatt engineers was a gleaming reconstruction of an ancient tactical awareness computer, a golden pedestal that held an ethereally projected globe, then set to show much of the infrastructure and troop placement on Mars. Between all of these treasures and wonders — any one of them fit for royalty of the previous forsaken era — still none could rightly see its creator named champion, until together Fulgrim bore up a great black hammer, and Ferrus Manus unsheathed a burning golden blade.
The black hammer — Forgebreaker — glowered with un-light, cut as it was from a shred of neutronium Fulgrim salvaged from one of Earth's many equatorial scars, and he had struck upon a way to shape it only in the heat of the tourney. Though in the past Fulgrim had failed endlessly to work neutronium whatsoever, the modest lump of exotic matter was now a weapon to scatter the mass of mountains. The eye-searing sword thrust aloft by the Gorgon was simply named — Fireblade — and it burned with unreal white flames that enveloped its narrow golden edges at solar temperatures, forged as the unification of many of the ancient subsystem fragments and schematics Ferrus Manus' brothers of the Antarctic Enclaves had brought from Earth, and now possible to construct and piece together in the vast facilities of the Martian Brotherhood. The whole assembly of priests and artificers conceded the glory of these weapons above all others, but between them none could decide the better. Fulgrim was certain it was the Gorgon's that was the mightiest; he loved the sword from his first sight of it, and its swift and biting form taken from the ancient glory of man far surpassed the bleak, crude weapon he had been able to carve from the strange matter. Ferrus Manus was already transfixed by the very notion of working neutronium even on such a small scale — far better than his misassembled archeotech hunting knife, here was a step towards the rediscovery of one of mankind's greatest arts. No decision could be reached, for the mastery of artifice could be given neither to Old Earth nor Holy Mars, and the budding of that rivalry continued. But the tourney beneath the red mountain did fill the arsenal of the Unification of Sol and the long and glorious Great Crusade after, and much joy and mirth resounded in the forges of Mars on that seventh day, one that would be remembered as the unofficial, popular unification of Earth and Mars.
The tournament itself was said to end when the two Primarchs gave each other their own creations as prizes, and the countless Adepts, Apprentices, Magos, Forgemasters, and Artificers present saw fit to rejoice in their work and the coming years of war and production. As the Primarch inventors exchanged notes on their works of the past seven days, the huge convention of Imperial technological orders and leaders did much of the same, establishing much of the early relationship between the Mechanicus Orders and the myriad of other technological orders that The Throne would come to retain over the coming millennia. Fulgrim would never part with the Fireblade after this, taking it with him into the unification of the galaxy and bearing it back to Sol to strike at the back of the Beast — when all that bright, dreaming civilization shuddered and collapsed — and forth again in vengeance and beautiful rebirth. Ferrus Manus would never forsake the Forgebreaker, and even when the Gorgon finally fell on the fields of Armageddon, millennia after his weapon's maker, that same hammer had meted the ruin of many dozens of Meks and Bosses across the battlefield, and left its final enemy naught but broken atoms in the ground.
The Conquest of Laeran
The world of Laeran was, in all Imperial records of the Great Crusade and since, unique. A wonder brought together in the horror of Old Night, with technology from the brighter age — before the dusk of the Old Empire’s Fall. The space-based, sculptural colonies of the Laer were first encountered by the 28th Expeditionary Fleet of the Terra’s Children along a long arc across the fringes of the galactic west. At their eager initiation of contact with the third legion, the serpentine Xenos seemed the most advanced, cultured, and diplomatically forward the Imperium had encountered since Eldrad’s representation of the Craftworlders. Shared in these early encounters with the diplomatic cadres of the Laer, and confirmed by Imperial analysis of the distribution of known colonies, the Laer had fled their home in the regions of the galactic northwest to escape the collapse of the Old Eldar Empire they had evolved in the midst of. Absconding from their home star in a mass exodus and seeding new colonies along the path of their flight, they had fled the opening of the Eye of Terror.
As the next stages of diplomatic contact and positioning were prepared, Imperial assets from the Terra’s Children likewise began the far less stately work of intelligence gathering and the preparation of contingencies. The Laer’s description of their means of exodus — Laeran itself — was striking, both in their soaring reverence for the world and its technological significance as a gas giant and lunar system driven by torch drives to the point of warp transit capability, constituting a starship of utterly immense scale. Of similar interest were the trans-biological technologies the serpents employed, with many of their modifications matching — or even surpassing — humanity’s best Astartes or Skitarii implants and treatments. Fulgrim grew drawn by this wonder, and his personal attention quickly fell upon the Laeran matter. With his curiosity came his inquisitive pack of mechanists and genewrights, Captain Lucius and his force reconnaissance fleets, the Legions’ Blades, the Phoenix Company, the support brigades of heavily updated Merikan Shock Cyborgs, and the Mechanicus Exploratory attaché offered by Ferrus. Their Administratum observers, Munitorum bullet-and-bean-counters, Alpha Legion contacts, and the not-insignificant following of painters, sculptors, artisans, documentarians, writers, and veritable circus of other artists that had found Fulgrim as a patron and received stipends as Imperial Remembrancers, followed close behind. As elements of the Third Legion and their diplomatic entourage contacted more and more Laer colonies, the air of open artistic and diplomatic exchange persisted. In actuality, however, diplomacy had stalled, and deep tensions were building between the parties — veiled though it was by a pretense of aesthetic debate and politely contrasting paradigms for cybernetic development and genetic engineering.
Though more formal diplomacy between powers and a meeting on Laeran remained the subject of talk, in truth the planet’s location was not forthcoming from the Laer even as Imperial Naval assets narrowed down their deductions for its path and place. Within the week the elusive torchworld’s presumptive location was pinned down and confirmed, while a discovery made by Lorgar was delivered to Fulgrim by the hand of the Custodes that had accompanied the Preacher’s expedition to the brink go the Eye of Terror.
From any other Primarch, the aristocratic ones long in the Warmaster’s highest favor particularly, Fulgrim’s pride and nervous sense of inferiority would have led him to doubt the clear conclusion Lorgar’s report implied. He would have dared to think nearly any of his twenty peers would press such conclusions upon him merely to disrupt the handful of years he had sunk into cautious diplomacy with the Laer. But not of Lorgar — he had no doubt in the conqueror of naught but hearts and minds. The Mechanicus attaché, Lucius, Ames and Ozzy, the Mechanists, the Genesmiths, the Administratum observers, the Eldar Corsair captain Fulgrim had convinced to join them, and all the rest all of the Imperium's party agreed upon the necessity for decisive action. It was made clear that the path of Laeran had not taken it from its place amongst the Crone worlds along a direct path out of their midst, but rather that their path started at the Cadian Gate, that their passing had been marked with terror and rapine, and that their elder colonies were rocked by civil war against a monodominant cult of perfection. Fulgrim was insistent that he personally reaffirm to the Laeran delegation and accompanying fleet that the Imperium had truly negotiated with them in earnest, and that he had the assurance of one Mr. Ozzy that they would be transported to Ganymede unharmed and in perfect safety. Upon the seizure of their vessel and the Laer diplomats’ removal, Fulgrim returned to his flagship — the Pride of Imperium — and began the Astropathic relay of instructions to activate the contingencies, likewise prepared in earnest.
Codex entry not finished.
- This universe's version of an "Iron Cage" incident that leads most Astartes legions to follow Guilliman's idea of breaking into Chapters. Fulgrim tries to micromanage everything but gets ground down by attrition. Final blow was trying to clear a sector of an Ork infestation led by a Tzeentch-aligned Big Wyrd, which was so nuts it was impossible to account for everything.
Vulkan — son of N'bel of the Afrique League, First Patriarch of the Prometheans, Defender of the People, Cleansing Flame of Earth and Primarch of the Imperium — was born in a mud and thatch hut in an arable farming village eight days' walk from Lanbarno, capital of that semi-prosperous realm.
The nation itself was little more than a shadow of what it once was. At its height, some 500 years previously, it had been a superpower — the rival of every other on the Earth at the time, with culture and technological knowledge beyond peer. But then Ursh came and taught them that this was not — has never been and will never be — a time of peace. But all that was history; the realm that Vulkan grew up in knew nothing of their legacies, save for meaningless glyphs inscribed in dusty old tomes of half-forgotten lore.
And so a peace — a hard fought peace — had been won against the Despots of Ursh and their vassal states. If mere survival can be considered winning.
Yet the suffering of the Afrique people would continue; of all the peoples on the Earth, it was they who had come to the attention of the twisted, foul xenos. Why they amongst all others? None can say. But there it was. The only thing that was certain during this era was that the Dark Eldar were discovering the depths of their needs and thirsts, and they had found the pickings in the Afrique League to their liking.
The depredations of the Dark Eldar became a hated part of life. Shelters were dug by the prudent and the the foolish were left to die. It was an unhappy time. The only consolation was that perhaps the presence of the xenos raiders and their attentions had made the lands of the Afrique League less appealing to more Earthly invaders.
It was in Vulkan's fourteenth summer that he joined the Afrique military — against the wishes of his father and mother, but with their blessing nonetheless; Vulkan's parents had been adamant he not join the warriors, for they knew that his job would be to dissuade their tormentors from their raids, that they might find a softer village to attack. But it was customary for men of the Afrique League to serve and protect the communities they came from; for what was good for the people must surely be good for the nation as a whole, and Vulkan would strive to serve his people.
One such raid was the beginning of Vulkan. His life before this moment had been merely a prelude to the man.
A brutal assault befell Vulkan's home, the invaders seemingly determined to abduct the whole village. Their scant defences were as paper against blades; little more than the facade of a defense. The pitiful few warriors of the Afrique League were tormented in the manner of a cat toying with its prey — and inevitably snuffed out just as quickly. In short order, every defender of the village fell to the Dark Eldar's cruel games — all bar one. When the village's bio-petroleum tank detonated beside him, Vulkan was showered in flames and burning oils — and here lesser men would have died, writhing in agony at the burns that covered him so. But still he rose, clutching his blacksmith fathers hammer, a halo of flame above his head and an inferno blazing upon his broad shoulders like wings. The inflamed man rose as he stood before the Archon, the chief tormentor of his people. His heart beat like a blast furnace and his eyes were holes into the heart of the sun. With his father's hammer he brought down the fire of his people upon the Eldar. The Archon danced around him with inhuman grace, a nimble torturer before an enraged giant. In later legends it would be said that they they danced from sunrise to sunset, but in truth there was a death far sooner than that; though the Archon's blades had been doused in poisons most foul, the heat of the flames had cleansed them. Although Vulkan could barely land a single blow, he did manage to land one. And one was all he needed.
The simple smith's hammer struck hard and true. It was said to have been heated not only by the burning fuel that covered it, but by the furnace heat of hate also. The Archon lay crippled, in agony at Vulkan's feet. He raised that vile man high above his head and brought him down hard over his knee, breaking the depraved Eldar's back like a twig. The flaming warrior held the corpse of his foe aloft once more and, with a roar like the great dragons of old, dared all those who would bear witness to look upon what ruin had been done to his enemies and despair — before tearing out the Raider King's throat.
And no more did the creatures come back.
When the Warlord came to the Afrique League, it was Vulkan who met with him in the old and dying King Shatimuene's stead. With the xenos gone it would not be long before Ursh came back, and when that day came the Afrique League could not endure alone.
Now the chief military officer of his nation and a hero of the people, Vulkan was taken into the confidence of the Warlord. In the name of the Warlord he claimed back the old vassal states of Ursh for the Afrique League, and built that broken nation back up on freed slaves and a noble sense of retribution. When the last tyrant fell and it came time to bring the Unification to the rest of Sol, Vulkan — son of N'bel — was raised high and dubbed Primarch of the Imperium.
Vulkan was one of the first of the final design of Astartes, as all of the major flaws of the previous iterations had been resolved by that point. For which we can be grateful — the world did not need another Angron.
When the Great Crusade began, Vulkan showed that although the Imperium was strong and could be monstrous, it could also be noble and capable of true virtue — he was second only to Lorgar in the compassion he showed to the new Imperial worlds.
When the War of The Beast began, it was the the Salamanders that dedicated their lives most to the defense of the people above the defense of the Imperium; for what was good for the people must surely be good for the Imperium as a whole.
Vulkan did make it back to Old Earth before the Martyr Angel fell, and that he could not save his brother Primarch was an agony that would follow him to his dying days. But no blame was laid at his feet, for his Legion had worked so tirelessly and gave their lives so readily for the people. Always were his Salamanders in the thickest of the the fighting, and ever in the heart of the inferno was the Promethean — his hammer aloft to strike down his enemies with fire and fury.
In the years that followed the rebuilding of the Imperium, Vulkan's forces remained integrated most strongly with those of the Imperial Army, and Vulkan served the Imperium for longer than any other Primarch save for Ferrus Manus of the Mechanicum. Time and again the enemies of man would rise to threaten the Imperium, and the Promethean would rise in turn to face them. Vulkan fought against the Black Crusades of Chaos, the Orkish WAAAGHs of Armageddon, and uncountable other foes, surviving against odds in which any lesser man would perish. Vulkan became known as Vulkan the Undefeatable, the Emerald Knight, the greatest of the Imperium’s champions.
Nevertheless, despite his Mark III S geneseed, the years began to take their toll on Vulkan. Vulkan’s body may have been young but his spirit was old, and he could no longer serve his Imperium the way he once did. The Emperor granted his steadfast champion the right to retire, only stating that he hoped Vulkan could find place to retire fitting for one who had served the Imperium as long as he.
The Promethean picked the humble planet Nocturne as his place of retirement. During the Great Crusade, Nocturne had embraced the Promethean Creed completely and with great enthusiasm. Vulkan was head of the Promethean Creed, its greatest missionary and — given how long he had been influencing it — probably the greatest factor in shaping it. As a result, Nocturne had become an important world to the Salamander Legion, and was the world the Salamander chapter held onto after the splitting of the legions — though the Salamanders built their actual fortress on the nearby moon of Prometheus, to ensure the civilians of Nocturne would not be made direct targets of any would-be aggressor.
By the time that Vulkan started to feel old, nearly the entire population ascribed to the Creed in one form or another. It had become their holy land, eclipsing even the old lands of Africa. Although Vulkan had intended to settle down and live a quiet life in his old age, the people of Nocturne recognized the Unbound Flame of the Promethean Creed, and petitioned him to rule. And so Vulkan became the High Patriarch of Nocturne, ruling as a philosopher-king in peace and wisdom — though more than once the former Emerald Knight had to pick up his old hammer to defend his adopted home.
Of all the Primarchs — save perhaps that of Leman Russ of Skand — Vulkan's disappearance was the most odd. Shortly before Vulkan's disappearance there is a gap of approximately 200 years in the records of Nocturne, and after that point it is generally accepted that he was gone. Before this gap Vulkan is recorded as the High Patriarch of Nocturne, whereas after the gap a Triumvirate was ruling in Vulkan's place and apparently had been doing so long enough that such an arrangement was considered normal. The last known record of Vulkan is a statement by the Promethean that he had planned to take a trip around the farthest planets of the galaxy, but there is no indication of how long he expected to be gone and when he expected to be back. What happened during the Centuries of Silence, as the Prometheans call it, is a holy mystery. Some say he is dead, some say he will come back again in a great hour of need, and some say he never left.
All that is known is that his children — the Fire Lords and the Black Dragons and the Salamanders — fight like lions for humanity, legions of them have laid down their immortal lives for mortal men, and legions more have risen in turn to take up their duty.
- Calbi born, early model astartes pattern. Desensitization problems. - Odd friendship with Perturabo - Died during 1st Black Crusades holding the battlements of Cadia
The story of Rogal Dorn starts in the garrison town of Onto Rontus, in the not-too-long-ago annexed land of Calbi. Born to a mother of the local tribes and an officer father of the Merikan army, his start was not as tragic as it could have been; often such half-breeds were not typically the result of consenting unions, but Donovan Dorn held genuine affection for Kosa and — unknown to his fellow officers — they had exchanged wedding vows.
Dorn was one of a large family and had many siblings, though he was ultimately the only one to follow in his father’s footsteps. Upon coming of age Dorn left his loving tribe and family and all he had known, traveling to the distant lands of Merika to begin his training as his father had before him.
He learned much in those years and was an excellent student, and would have been on the fast track to high station but for his circumstances of birth. No soldier of the "Greatest Nation on Old Earth" would gladly allow themselves to be given orders from a savage of the north. Despite all this, his tutors could not deny his talents.
It was not a thing he took undue joy, in but the ways of war came very easily to Dorn. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of his birth, he became the very model of a modern Merikan officer; he was well versed in military doctrine of all sorts and knew something of the history of his nation — at least enough to spot the histories with a more revisionist bent.
Although adept — or at minimum competent — at all aspects of war, his true talents were found in siege warfare. In the tactical simulations and competitive VR matches Dorn was unsurpassed.
Due to his knowledge of the locals and ability to speak at least one tribal language fluently, Dorn returned to Calbi wearing a conqueror's uniform. He thus served as a lieutenant under the rule of Praefectus Adran, himself new to the post after the forced retirement of old Praefectus Stavart.
Praefectus Stavart had been very old and was unquestionably loyal to Merika, but had always dealt with the natives with some degree of fairness — even kindness when he could afford to. He was not loved by the locals — for how could he be — but the elders were more than smart enough to know that his position as an intermediary between them and Merika was probably the best deal they could get in those circumstances.
For Stavart’s part he probably knew that as well. In his childhood Dorn had met him a few times with his father. He remembered him looking old then and, unless he somehow genuinely had six sixty-seventh birthdays, it was obvious that he had been lying about his age for a long time. In his own way, Stavart had cared about Calbi and its people as something other than a broken, subjugated state of Merika. Stavart held onto the job until he was nearly ninety, because he knew that Adran — or someone much like him — would succeed him. And he was right.
Praefectus Adran was not a nice man by any measure. His was a brutal reign of the law and the authority of an iron fist. He wouldn’t be seen attending local festivals or events, nor would he ever lift a finger to improve the lives of the Calbi citizenry; the people were there — from the greatest to the least — to be at his beck and call. They were savages and heathens, and he was a man of the Greatest Nation and a paragon among them. Needless to say, tensions between the conquered and conquerors increased.
At some point tribal unrest turned into genuine riots, and Praefectus Adran ordered mass executions in response.
At the time Dorn was well loved by both the locals, who saw him as their man on the other side and looked to him to for salvation, and by the Merikan occupation forces, both the rank-and-file and quite a few of the officers.
There were subsequently a few days of communications blackout between Calbi and Merika, reportedly due to "faulty equipment" and some "regrettable accidents", during which some of the Merikan officers were found dead and saw Praefectus Adran committing suicide after a long period of depression. When asked how he managed to shoot himself in the back of the head with a shotgun, acting Praefectus Dorn told the investigators that Adran had been "very depressed indeed".
Nobody believed it but, due to the difficulties in the still mysteriously faulty communications equipment, it does buy Dorn enough time to root out more Merikan loyalists and secure his alliances with the local tribes. When the order came from the capital to stand down and come back for questioning, he declared independence.
The next day Dorn was met by an uncannily nondescript man — possessing of average height and build, no distinguishing features, inestimable age, unremarkable clothing, and an oddly neutral and difficult-to-place accent. He claims his name to be Alpharius Omegon and he comes representing the Imperium. He tells Dorn that his timing is awful: had he been able to spin this out for a few more years, five at least, the Imperium would have been in a position to lend their considerable military might to his Rebellion. As it is, they will offer what lesser obvious help they can, but the Imperium can't get dragged into a direct and total war with Merika at the current time. Dorn and a few of his elites get what likely were some of the very last Mk1 Astartes upgrades, administered by local bio-druids for reasons of plausible deniability.
Merika had recently been supplying and training terrorist organizations in the lands conquered by the Imperium, and Oscar had found out who was behind the seemingly random attacks. The aim was to disassemble the Imperium back into little nations for Merika to "Manifest Destiny" all over — and the Warlord was most unhappy, most unhappy indeed. But his forces were all tied up dealing with Ursh and the Pan-Pacific Empire, so he couldn't act directly and was forced to use Dorn and his rebellion — and later Fulgrim — to fight by proxy.
Not that Dorn would know the specifics of this until quite a few years after Unification Day.
Dorn held out for long enough for Fulgrim — then Furis Doe — to raise his rebellion and make contact.
By this point, the Imperium was finishing off the last enclaves of Ursh, Lorgar was decapitating the Despot, and Merika was in deep shit because of the multiple rebellions, the pissed off Imperium, and the only neighbor it has left with whom it was not at war with was Hy Braseal — who hated both of them and were content to simply sit back and watch the fireworks.
Fulgrim "negotiated a deal of inclusion with very good terms" with the Imperium after he was appointed President of Merika and "abandoned the unprofitable campaign to uplift and civilize the northern provinces". Calbi became an independent nation and Dorn appointed an Assembly of Elders to govern the nation in his stead, stepping down from and decommissioning the title of "Praefectus of Calbi", but remained the head of the armed forces. The Elders of Calbi, or representatives of them in the case of the more elderly Elders, and Rogal Dorn are present at the swearing of allegiance to the Empty Throne of Earth.
When Oscar Steward looked to the other worlds of Sol and to the stars beyond, he named Dorn as one of his primarchs — to the surprise of Dorn, if not the people of his home nation who saw it as only right and proper.
And then Great Crusade, the War of The Beast, the reconquest and death on the walls of Cadia during the 1st Black Crusade, of which is WIP by Dornfag
During the Great Crusade, Dorn moved slower than most of the other Primarchs — bar Lorgar — but this came from his prioritization of diligence over speed. Though criticized at the time for this approach, Dorn's great care proved its worth in the War of The Beast when the worlds he had brought into the Imperium weathered the Orkish storm consistently better than others — when not compared to the works of Perturabo, at least.
At some point Dorn got it into his head to grow his trademark mustache, and some time later he had to have one of his eyes replaced — the resulting prosthetic bore an uncanny resemblance to a monocle. Due to some fault in the Mk I Astartes enhancements he received Dorn suffered from desensitization problems throughout his life, which gradually turned into a mild case of masochism.
Dorn did not take part in the Raid on Nurgle's Mansion; he did not excel as a personal combatant — instead tending to perform better at static defense than actually running around — thus the quick raid into the bowels of Chaos would not have played to his strengths.
Dorn never married or had any children that he or history knew about, though he did have a large number of family members — nephews and nieces and cousins and more distant kin. Quite a few of his family survived the War of The Beast — he was quite lucky in that regard.
Guilliman was born to a minor noble house in the great and relatively prosperous realm of Europia. His parents were able to afford him admittance to Parisiorum University, the most prestigious educational institution of that fair nation. By the onset of adulthood he was well versed in the classics of language, mathematics, and the basic sciences; but it was in military theory that he truly excelled. Soon he was scouted by a visiting officer, and was quickly transferred to Avelroi Military Academy. He was a more than adequate soldier and a fairly skilled tactician, but it was in the arts of grand strategy and logistical planning that Gulliman's brilliance shone. During wargames and simulations, his peers often managed to gain the upper hand on Guilliman's forces, flanking or encircling his forces, only to find themselves critically short of materiel and facing positions prepared long in advance thanks to their opponent's unconventional focus on interdicting supply lines. Thus, while he graduated with glowing recommendations from his tutors he was somewhat resented by his fellow alumni, who felt his tactics underhanded or cowardly.
Shortly after graduation, Guilliman was assigned to the southern border of Europia, where his nation rubbed shoulders - and often warred - with the Nord Afrik Conclaves. Within a month of his assignment there the area was brought up to peak efficiency and combat effectiveness. Whole swathes of the border defenses were brought back up to standard — often exceeding them — and became greater and more formidable than they were in the last border dispute; the semi-derelict Jibraltonius border fort seemed to change overnight from a ceremonial headquarters to an impenetrable bastion. And not a moment too soon, as before long the Nord Afrikaanus and their cyber-thrall army commanders changed their tack from the brief raids and pillages that Guilliman's defenses had been blooded against, were soon ready for war.
The hordes of Nord Afrik, armed and armoured with most powerful technology they had recovered from the rotting corpse of the old world, charged with a ferocity that would've shattered the defences of just years before. They played every hand they could — hit-and-run raids, armoured assaults, wave attacks, attempts at infiltration — yet in the end it did not matter, as their crusade broke upon the hardened shell of Europia. For every of Guilliman's soldiers, there were ten Afrikaanus barbarians — but in turn, there were a dozen shells, plasma charges or lascannon shots for each of them — and it is said that fresh Europian reinforcements would arrive before their dead predecessors had even hit the ground. The counter-offensive orchestrated by General Guilliman was nothing less than a masterpiece of warfare, facing the Afrikaanus as if on his own home turf. The waves of techno-barbarians were bled white, their counterattacks shrugged off and shattered, and their homeland burned to ashes from which nothing could ever recover.
The customary actions to follow in these conquests was for nations to incorporate the territory of the fallen into their own empire, lording over the few remaining broken people. This would have been the fate of Nord Afrik too, but for Guilliman's address to the Senate imploring them to let that foul place rot. This was perceived as weakness by some, yet his foresight would go on to frustrate the other neighbouring nations — who were themselves looking forward to invading a Europia overextended and weakened by their subjugation of Nord Afrik. For his martial brilliance and wisdom, Guilliman was given the honorific title of Lord — a title that would not normally be bestowed upon him until his father's death. Furthermore, in the time of relative peace, the nation now found itself in need of an ambassador — albeit one with enough accomplishment and worth behind him that the leaders of neighbouring realms would sit up and listen.
It was during his time in the Kingdom of Franj that he met the relatively young Queen Yolande Fouché. The two had little in common on a personal level and neither ever completely trusted each other, but their respective governments deemed it imperative that they marry as a prelude to the unification of the two nations. Franj itself was deeply wounded, and only slowly starting to recover from devastating attacks by the Unspeakable Tyrant of Gredbritton's horrific weapons; it would not survive even the most half-hearted of assaults from any of its neighbors — least of all the Duscht Jemanic, who were looking to settle old grievances. In turn, such an alliance would allow the people of Europia access to the produce of Franj's huge tracts of agricultural land; sorely needed, as using Nord Afrik as a psuedo-colony to feed their growing population was no longer an option.
When The Warlord came before the Senate of Europia, in the modest robes of a scribe, he came with open arms and a warm smile. Unlike elsewhere, the Senate of Europia saw this new "Imperium" as a macrocosm of themselves; their own well-ordered nation merely taken to its logical conclusion. Thus their inclusion was brief and painless, and allowed them representation in the decisions and policy processes of such a regime. The Kingdom of Franj was joined along with them, as both realms were nearly dependent on one another by this point.
Lord Guilliman quickly rose through the ranks of the new Imperial Army, thanks to his history amongst one of the more civilised realms of the Imperium as well as his unparalleled logistical prowess. Yet, when it came time for the Warlord to implement his super soldier project on a much expanded scale, it was a sad fact that Lord Guilliman was biologically too old and would almost certainly have died during the implantation process. As consolation he was granted some limited gene-forging and rejuvenation procedures, that his usefulness might be extended for centuries to come.
And down the centuries his usefulness would be proven.
When the Warlord became the Steward before the Empty Throne and looked to the stars, amongst his generals it was Guilliman who was deemed to be best suited to the task of preparing for interplanetary warfare; a feat considered logistically impossible by many, yet achieved through meticulous calculation and planning. His dedication and adaptability earned Lord Guilliman the title of Primarch — a leader amongst leaders and a legend amongst legends. When the eye of the Steward looked beyond the confines of Sol, he saw Guilliman was needed now more than ever.
The Primarch rose to the challenge, reorganising the Imperial Army into a force that seemed able to be everywhere at once yet — at least to the eyes of its enemies — truly endless in its numbers, and giving the Steward's war machine efficiency more befitting a creation of the Mechanicus. Whole stellar clusters were brought under the Aquila by the old man of Europia with wars that could fill a library — the greatest of which, he believed, were the ones not fought. Yet Guilliman was an old man — though he looked only of his middle years, the Primarch felt that he had lived long, long past his time. Memories of loved ones, their faces and voices, had become dim and faded. He had outlived his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his beautiful nation, and even the greatest of its monuments. The old man had never relished war like the others, seeing it instead as an intellectual exercise — and by now he was so very tired of it.
When the War of the Beast descended like a hammer upon the still fledgling Imperium, it was Guilliman's reforms — from the optimisation of trade routes to the streamlining of military integration and combined arms policies — that allowed whole sectors to mobilise their forces fast enough to weather the initial shock. His well-disciplined and well-equipped legionaries made The Beast and his horde pay for every parsec, every light-year, every metre in blood. For every slain citizen under his care, a hundred deaths were meted out in turn. But all could see that the line was being ground back to the Sanctum Sanctorum of humanity: Old Earth. The Beast and his forces were defeated, just like all the others were, but the legions that struck the deathblow were glorified far more than the one that hamstrung a tide of Ork that would've otherwise swallowed them whole. Guilliman held no jealousy or resentment over that; he was old enough to understand that good men were seldom remembered as long as entertaining monsters, and had resigned himself to that fact long ago.
After the slaying of The Beast, the Imperium began to rebuild. It was dirty work, but it was good work; the Primarch relishing in the opportunity to rebuild something after fighting for so long. Those close to him claimed it soothed his aching soul and reminded him of the miracles he worked on the borders of his homeland, long ago — even when many of his fellow Primarchs outright refused his suggested reforms.
Guilliman endured for centuries longer than any thought possible — even himself — but in 014.M32 he began his long, dreamless sleep. His legacy, however, would endure for ages to come; remembered fondly even by those who thought him nothing but a glorified penpusher, and proving to the quiet administrators and quartermasters of the Imperium that they had just as much to be proud of as any other.
Magnus the Red
The origins of Magnus the Red can be traced back to the previous Despot of Ursh, a remarkably unfriendly fellow by the name of Ganzorig the Great. Indeed his deeds were great, and he conquered huge swathes of the Afrique League to add to the already great Empire his uncle left him. One of the contributing factors in his victories was his use of enslaved and potent psykers. These poor creatures — witch-kin as they were — were not highly valued by the Despot as people, despite him being a follower of the dark gods.
One of his most prized possessions was a witch by the name of Ada, who was said to be able to summon daemons and direct them to her bidding, if not bind them as more contemporaneous psykers might be wont to do. In her youth, before he had discovered quite how valuable she was, the Despot had whored her out to a navigator for imported weapons from far off worlds beyond Sol. That she had a child that she loved dearly was good news for Ganzorig, as it gave him a means by which he could control her.
Time passed, wars were waged, new lands were conquered, and things continued to get worse on Old Earth. Much as they always had done.
In time, Ada's son — named Magnus — grew into a man. Like his father he was uncommonly tall, and it was soon evident that like his mother he was uncommonly powerful. As such, he was press-ganged into the psychic warfare and assault efforts of the Regime. Magnus' greatest aptitudes were in wards and defensive measures, and by age fifteen could stop artillery fire with the powers of his will alone — and had done so on the front lines. By age twenty he could throw up a shield wall that was harder than the finest steel, covering almost a mile in either direction.
Where Magnus had always been Ganzorig's leash to ensure Ada's obedience, so too had Magnus been kept obedient by the promise of his mother's continuing life. Ada died on the front lines in Magnus' 35th year, fighting against the Pan-Pacific Empire and the monsters created by its mad sciences. Magnus was on his own front lines half a continent away — on the borders of Achaemenidia — when she died, but he felt her loss suddenly and keenly. Magnus seemed to vanish after her death, and the border was overrun by the next morning. A few month after Magnus' disappearance Ganzorig the Great was found to have died in his sleep — charred and immolated, with a rictus of agony frozen on his face.
Little is known of Magnus' movements in the subsequent years and the Urshii War of Succession that followed. It is suspected that he fled to the cursed ground of the Himalayzia Mountains — a place only whispered in dark legends, the one place nobody was strong or mad enough to conquer and, from the fall of the Dark Age Empire to the arrival of the Warlord, remained inviolate. It remains unknown what exactly was protecting those highest peaks, but
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and never again, they promised on that hallowed ground, and so they faded in midnight clad.
Magnus emerged from that strange land some time in his sixties, although how much had actually passed time in that place was anyone's guess. Due to his inhuman heritage Magnus looked still of his early middle years — but for his one remaining eye, which held reflected horrors enough to last lifetimes. Once pale and soft like his father's, his skin was now hardened by years of exposure to the energies of the Warp, becoming something approximating leather, and was adorned from head to foot in red wards, runes, and holy script in some unknown letters tattooed, branded, and scarred across every inch of flesh — save for the ragged bite mark that took up one side of his face.
By this time the Warlord's armies were moving in earnest with expert precision across a dozen fronts, both military and diplomatic.
At first, the tall man wandered in places he thought beyond the reach of any king, man, or beast. But as the Warlord progressed his psychic powers, his presence grew until Magnus felt them eclipse his own. He traveled to the very furthest reaches of Sibar and buried his talents, that he might not shine out from afar. But the Warlord could feel him and he knew it. Rather than wait to be hunted down like a wild beast or chained up like the days of his youth, Magnus set out for the burning light.
At the time the Warlord was busy in the Lands of Skand, where the Nordyc people dwelt. The Warlord was trying to unify them into a cohesive nation that could be negotiated with and absorbed into the Imperium. Some tribes would remain staunchly independent, and would raid, pirate, and maraud across the landscape — and they would be crushed for it — but the Warlord's hoped to minimize the number of uncooperative tribes.
It was to this that Magnus — draped in animal skins, weathered and wild-looking — strode into the great wood-and-thatch hall, himself almost as tall as the doorway. The great hall fell silent for a moment, taking in the tall stranger, before the babbling of conversations returned. He scanned the scene before him through the hazy smoky air, examining the rows of men and women seated around the tables and staying warm by the great fire pit. There he found the Warlord.
He was seated some way down the bench, tearing into a slab of mutton whilst a man in dusty grey robes negotiated with the king in a jovial manner. To Magnus' great surprise the Warlord had waved him over, offered him a seat on the bench next to him, and poured him a drink; it had not occurred to Magnus that the Warlord meant him no harm, for it had always been his assumption that powerful men fought and that was the way of things.
In the years that followed the Warlord offered Magnus a place at his side; not for his battlefield prowess, although that was indeed formidable, but for the forbidden and ancient lore he had
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although it troubled him greatly.
Magnus did eventually walk the battlefield once more, but this time at the head of a small army of his own making; a band of psykers like himself, some liberated slaves of Ursh or other nations and some born free in the Imperium, who would become the Legion of the Thousand Sons. For the first time since the death of his mother Magnus felt at home. They accrued much fame and fortune in the Wars of Unification — primarily against the stain on the map that was Ursh. Though the Warlord trusted Magnus, he put upon him the one condition that he have no more dealings from things beyond conventional time and space.
Being not fully human and witch-kin besides, steeped as he was in forbidden magics and lore, the other commanders were unsure of Magnus; Mortarion and Russ in particular, untrusting as they were of Warp magicks and psykery, both had a distinct dislike of him and his methods. For all that, Magnus eventually attained the rank of Primarch and became Magnus the Red. Unlike most of his fellow Primarchs, Magnus could not receive any augmentations due to his anomalous genetic makeup.
As the Unification slid gently into the Great Crusade, the Thousand Sons held themselves well and as high as any other — despite being the smallest of the Legions in the Imperial Army.
With the coming of the War of the Beast, Magnus' armies found themselves outmatched; The Beast had psykers of his own, and the Chaos Eldar were experienced in tormenting his people — the Crones seemed to take special delight in making Magnus' psykers die screaming in agony. But they fought on still, unyielding and unrelenting.
It was during The Beast's assault on Old Earth that Magnus finally broke his word to the now Steward. Using the precious knowledge his mother had taught him all those centuries ago, Magnus called forth the old spirits of Earth, working up the Warp into a howling gale and dashing The Beast's fleets upon impossible shores — one might almost pity them for where they now were. It was a gamble that was not wholly won, for some Imperial ships were also lost in the gale, their crews damned and lost forever. He was severely berated by the Warlord for this and they almost came to blows in the ensuing arguments. Even so, Magnus was nevertheless still present on Old Earth in those final days of the war, confounding the sorcerers of Chaos and slaying their daemons. Eventually the Steward and Magnus did reconcile their differences, though that took many, many years.
It is said that the Grey Knights were founded and trained by ancient veterans of the Thousand Sons, though — as with all things to do with the history of the Order — the truth will never be known.
Magnus was one of the three primarchs that lived to see the Steward crowned Emperor, although only barely. He was as human as the day he was born, however much that was, and longevity treatments can only take a human so far. His ashes were scattered to the winds on the tallest Himalayzian mountain, carried there by the Emperor himself.
Even well into the Dark Millennium, the Emperor will not allow any discussions of what he found in those mountains.
Was it wondrous? Terrible? Both? None may ever know now. Whatever was there was gone by the time Earth was all but unified. Yet a few clues remain; a few abandoned villages, some empty temples, a few overgrown fields. Whatever was there looked and acted enough like people to fool people into thinking they too were people, more or less.
But no signs of violence. Whatever was there also left of its own accord.
What it is and why anything can never be known will forever remain a mystery, though the Warlord found neither joy nor sorrow in its departure.
Duscht Jemanic was an old nation, a once great empire that spanned from the coast of the Atlazia Ocean in the west to the Besivik Ocean in the east, the lightning speed of its war machines crushing nations beneath their tread. Over the centuries its power and borders were slowly eroded by the Urshii hordes and revolts in its Europian provinces, until it was left only with its core territories and forced into a humiliating treaty for survival as part of the Quintuple Alliance.
The Duscht were a dour and efficient people, obsessed with genetic purity above all else. In their great iron towers the famed Genesmiths delved into the secrets of the human genome, while in the bellies of its ashen factories millions of enslaved “unclean” sweat and died to produce materials for its armies. It was into this decaying society that Sanguinius was born, only son of the Kaiser.
The Kaiser was a cold man, and over the many centuries of his life he had failed to produce an heir that satisfied his obsession for perfection. As he grew older he grew more desperate, and in his desperation he summoned his greatest Genesmiths to do something never before attempted: the creation of a human life. To create his perfect heir, the Kaiser opened the ancestral gene-vaults of House Baal and sequences were taken from its greatest heroes; genes from generals and warriors for strength and bravery, from diplomats and statesmen for wisdom and intelligence, from courtesans and athletes for beauty and fairness of form. To this blend of genes, the Kaiser — perhaps in a final act of caprice or megalomania — added the genes for a pair of enormous, white wings to grow from the child’s back.
With the genome completed, the Genesmiths retreated to their towers to perform their ancient biotech rites as they attempted to forge the raw genetic material into a living fetus. Nine and ninety failed — all ending as twisted, misshapen things — but in the hundredth rite the genes took hold, and after a year and a day of labor the genesmiths presented the baby boy to the Kaiser. As he wept, the Kaiser named the boy “Sanguinius”, for he was to be the culmination and greatest champion of the Baal bloodline.
As the boy grew, he was indeed as perfect as expected — tall and strong, brilliant and wise, golden-haired and beautiful to behold. His tutors were astonished at his genius, and the royal masters-of-arms soon found themselves outstripped by the stripling boy. Yet the Kaiser was still displeased, for the boy had always been a means to an end; a means for the restoration of the old Duscht Empire. Two factors pulled his dream further and further from his grasp. The first were rumors and rumblings of an upstart nation, led by a feared Warlord, conquering and subjugating those in its path. The second was something he could never has foreseen, something that surprised and confused and enraged him when he confronted it: Sanguinius had compassion.
Indeed, as a boy Sanguinius had horrified his governesses and caretakers by sneaking out of the palace to play with common children in the street (wearing bulky clothes to hide his growing wings), and infuriated his father by speaking out against the cruelty of the nobility and freeing the household slaves assigned to him. His kindness and strength of will drew the masses to him, yet in his gaze there was always a sense of melancholy, a sense that he was looking into the distance at something no one else could see. And it was so, for Sanguinius dreamed.
In his visions he saw the Earth and the suffering of its teeming masses, felt their psychic screams of pain: from a nomad child dying of radiation in the Calbian wastes, raw boils and weeping sores stark against her pale skin; from an old slave in a Duscht factory collapsing under the savage blows of laughing guards; from all the wretched of the Earth crying for salvation. And from far away, amongst the inky blankness of the stars, he heard similar, fainter echoes as people suffered and died on far-flung planets across the galaxy. Sanguinius wept for them, and for his own powerlessness. Yet as he wept a great, golden figure rose from the darkness, whose benevolent gaze swept over the Earth. The figure reached their hands down and lifted the masses to the stars, and where once there dwelt sorrow was now hope and opportunity. Yet the visions proved fickle, and it was here Sanguinius’ apparitions diverged. In some, he and the Duscht people were lifted into the stars with the rest of humanity to spread amongst the galaxy, his heart bursting with joy. In others, the great golden figure drew his gaze to the cruelty of Duscht Jemanic — to its slave pens and pogroms and purges of the unclean — and Sanguinius felt only cold despair as the great hands turned to fists and ground the Duscht people into dust.
Though he was not much older than a boy, Sanguinius vowed this would not come to pass. He would protect the Duscht people and pledge himself to the service of the great savior, and he would march across the stars to save the scattered people of Terra no matter where they were.
So it was that the Warlord came to borders of Duscht Jemanic during Sanguinius’ seventeenth year.
By this time, Sanguinius was the de facto leader of the nation, having won over the court with his charisma and strength. The Kaiser, for his part, was by now decrepit and decayed, spending most of his time secluded in his private chambers and emerging occasionally to make wild proclamations and rants about the lost glory of the Duscht Empire. Thus, when the Warlord’s herald came to demand the surrender of the Duscht people, it was the boy-king Sanguinius at the head of the Duscht steel legions that came to parley with the Warlord.
When Sanguinius stepped into the Warlord’s command tent and saw his face, it took all of Sanguinius’ will not to fall to his knees, for he knew with certainty that this was the great golden man he had dreamed of. The Warlord, noting the young man’s hesitation, greeted him with a half-smile and asked, “Is aught the matter?” to which Sanguinius simply replied, “I dreamed of you.”
The beginning of the negotiations was simple enough, for Sanguinius was already willing to pledge fealty and offer the technology of the Genesmiths to the Warlord. Yet when Sanguinius requested mercy for his people, the discussions grew heated.
The Warlord was benevolent but possessed an iron sense of justice, and in his eyes the cruelty of the Duscht people demanded harsh sanction. The specifics are lost to history, but the argument is said to have stretched long into the night — Sanguinius pleading, protesting, and threatening in turn, and the Warlord impassively countering each rhetorical thrust. Finally, Sanguinius offered his own life in return for mercy for his people, for he declared that as the culmination of the Baal bloodline the sins of his house were for him and him alone to bear.
Impressed by the earnest conviction of the young man, the Warlord relented. The Warlord demanded that the slaves be freed, the possessions of the nobility be seized and distributed among them, and that each noble house serve in the Warlord’s armies as penance. Sanguinius himself would be their general, and their duty would be to go where the fighting was thickest and lead the charge. Finally collapsing to his knees from relief, Sanguinius accepted the terms without hesitation.
With the secrets and technology of the Duscht Genesmiths, the Warlord perfected the final design iteration for his Astartes warriors: the Mark III augmentation pattern — of which Sanguinius and his fellow Primarchs to-be, Vulkan and Lion El’Jonson, were prototypes for. The Warlord ordered the Genesmiths to lavish the entirety of their expertise upon them and to spare no cost, pushing the boundaries of their arcane knowledge.
When the three men emerged they were indeed without any of the flaws and mutations that had plagued the earlier Astartes generations, with strength and abilities far exceeding those of their existing fellows. However, the cost was astronomical and the process too slow to be viable on a large scale. Thus for the mass production Mark III pattern the improvements were mostly limited to eliminating the flaws from the Mark II pattern, keeping a roughly similar or marginally higher level of strength. The prototype Mark III design was archived and later designated as the Mark III S pattern, used for the most elite warriors of the Imperium: the Custodes and the Grey Knights.
Sanguinius and his legion served with distinction for the rest of the Unification Wars, winning fame for their lightning assaults against even the most entrenched of foes, their Astartes descending as streaks of scarlet on wings of burning ash and flame as they followed their general into battle. With his purity of spirit and the oneness of their shared vision for humanity, Sanguinius won the trust and confidence of the Warlord and became a close advisor, making his eventual elevation to Primarch a mere formality. Thus, when the Warlord became the Steward of the Empty Throne and proclaimed the Great Crusade, it was the fleets of the IX Legion with Primarch Sanguinius at the helm that were in the vanguard, blazing a crimson trail into the darkness.
Sanguinius’ legend grew as he and his legion pacified world after world, a magnificent sight to behold as he soared over the battlefield on immense white wings to slay the enemies’ generals and greatest champions. Yet it was not only for feats of arms that he was revered as the “Angel”. Worlds blighted by mutation that would have been purged by other legions instead found themselves welcomed into the safety of the Imperium by the IX Legion, and broken peoples barely recognizable as human experienced the warmth of kinship and camaraderie for the first time.
The IX Legion soon won the moniker of “Blood Angels” for their nobility of spirit and devotion to the shared blood of mankind. Soon, tales of the great Angel and his warriors spread across the oppressed people of the galaxy, and many rose in joyous rebellion against their alien overlords when the great Angel and his red warriors appeared in the skies above their worlds.
Amongst his brother Primarchs, Sanguinius found comrades and friends of his own. Well-liked, or at least well respected, by most of the Primarchs, Sanguinius was particularly close to Horus and Vulkan. It was in him that “Old Man Roboute” finally had a willing audience for his lectures on strategy and logistics, and Fulgrim found a kindred spirit with an appreciation of art and philosophy, the greatest achievements of man. Sanguinius’ relationship with Angron was complicated, troubled as he was by Angron’s unpredictable madness — on good days, theirs was a friendly rivalry as each legion strove to claim the title of finest assault troops in the Imperium; on the others, Angron viewed the Angel as an upstart pretender without respect for his elders and resented the Angel's pity, and they had to be separated lest they come to blows. Curze and Mortarion despised Sanguinius as naïve and foolish, and Sanguinius despised them in turn for obvious reasons — Mortarion in particular, for he reminded Sanguinius far too much of his own father.
When the Steward, with Eldrad at his side, first proposed the idea of an alliance with the Eldar to his gathered Primarchs at the Council of Nikaea, Sanguinius was one of the first to speak out in favor, for he believed all sapient beings willing to work towards peace, prosperity, and the good of mankind had a rightful place within the Imperium. Later, he would be part of the great raid on the twisted realms of Nurgle, and nearly perished there in the stinking hellscape.
As the raiding party retreated to the portal with Isha in tow, they received word that Eldrad and his council of seers — busy as they were holding the portal open in realspace — had come under ferocious daemonic assault, and that the portal was failing rapidly. As the allied forces rushed to the exit, Sanguinius lingered as he tried to save the lives of several wounded Exarchs and Astartes. It was only through the combined heroics of Lion El’Jonson, Jaghatai Khan, and the Phoenix Lords Asurmen and Baharroth that he survived, as they carved a path through the hordes of slavering monstrosities to drag the Angel through the collapsing portal.
The next few years represented the zenith of the Great Crusade as the Imperium expanded at an unprecedented rate, fueled by their new allies and technology. World after world was brought into the Imperium, and Sanguinius dared to hope that his dream of a gentler future could truly come to pass.
Then the War of the Beast came.
The hordes of the Orks, Chaos Eldar, and Dark Eldar smashed through the fledging Imperium, plunging it into darkness. Where once there was hope and opportunity before, there was now only a desperate struggle against extinction. The Blood Angels fought as they always had, leading the attack and diving into the most vicious fighting as the tip of the Imperium’s spear, and inspiring fellow troops through deeds of valor and sacrifice. Many a Warboss, Archon, or Chaos Seer met their end at the blades of a squad of Blood Angels, only for the Astartes to be surrounded and cut down by the enraged foe in turn. The loss their of leaders sowed disruption and mayhem among the enemy forces, yet for all the Blood Angels’ sacrifice it could only slow the enemy’s inexorable advance.
Those within the Imperium who fell traitor learned that Sanguinius was not all kindness, and found themselves hunted without mercy by the vengeful Blood Angels. Perhaps it was because the traitors sought to tear down his cherished dream of a peaceful future, or perhaps it was because they spat on the mercy and acceptance of the Steward that Sanguinius and his Duscht people had sacrificed so much to earn back on Terra long ago. Whatever the reason, he reserved a special savagery for those who turned their backs on the Imperium. One claim suggests that after witnessing the carnage wrought on an entire regiment of Traitor Guard by a single squad of Blood Angels, a shocked Imperial Army general called High Command to ask “Where are the Angels I was promised? Who are these flesh tearers?”
And so the war ground on. Peace was a distant dream, and for the Men and Eldar of the Imperium there was only cold, quiet determination to defy a cruel fate in the face of a hateful and malicious universe. Worlds burned, trillions died, and across the galaxy the Blood Angels could always be found neck deep in the thickest battles. Many battles were on the most populated worlds of the Imperium, and the Blood Angels would fulfil their devotion to mankind as they fought in rear-guard actions to save civilians and evacuees, these valiant defenses all too often becoming last stands.
Captain Malakim and his doomed 29th Company became everlasting symbols of this devotion when they gave their lives to the man, securing the evacuation of hive-world Ancalagon. Ancalagon had been the greatest world of Subsector Urulok, and the invasion of the world was particularly savage, representing the greatest concentration of Ork and Chaos Eldar forces in the subsector. The Imperial defenders, led by the Blood Angels, were inevitably pushed back to the walls of the last hive, with millions of civilians yet to evacuate. Primarch Corvus Corax, commanding forces in a nearby subsector, repeatedly ordered the remaining Imperial forces to retreat and regroup to conserve their strength, yet Captain Malakim refused, for doing so would have doomed the millions of civilians to butchery or enslavement at the hands of the invaders. The Imperial defence held just long enough for the final transports to clear the spaceport, and as the hive walls were overrun the Chaos Seer leading the Chaos Eldar touched Captain Malakim’s mind to taunt him and savor his despair. Yet the alien only found calm and peace, and in response Captain Malakim sent out a final vox transmission.
Across the ruined world and the Imperial starships high above, his words rang out clear and true — “For those we cherish, we die in glory!” Minutes later, enormous explosions visible from orbit erupted across the planet as hidden Cyclonic Torpedoes detonated, remotely triggered by the cessation of the heartbeat of the last Blood Angel defender. The massive loss crippled the Ork and Chaos Eldar forces in the subsector, and the regiments later raised from the evacuees won renown as some of the fiercest in the Imperial Army with their war cry, “Remember the Blessed 29th!”
Through it all, Sanguinius could be found leading his Blood Angels through the most perilous of missions, or offering a kind word to faltering Guardsmen and a gentle touch to traumatized refugees. He ignored criticisms that his men’s sacrifices were wasteful and pointless, sneers that they could have done much more had they only the wisdom to regroup and fight another day. For Sanguinius knew that each civilian saved was another who could fight, build, and carry on the legacy of man, a precious spark of humanity, and that in a war as horrific as this morale and hope were as powerful as any weapon or starship or fortress.
Yet his men noticed a change in their beloved Primarch, subtle as it was — a restlessness and grimness he could not always hide. For Sanguinius’ visions were growing stronger, and each night, pounding at his consciousness, he saw his own death again and again. He knew it would be at the hands of a great monstrosity as he stood between it and the Steward, and that his time was growing short. Death held no fear for Sanguinius, but it was the fate of mankind that gave him pause; humanity was balanced on the knife’s edge, extinction a mere slip away. Even if the gentler future of his dreams was realized, Sanguinius knew he would not be there to see it, but he would give everything to ensure it would come to pass.
In the last days of the war, as the unstoppable hordes of the Beast, Dark Eldar, and Chaos Eldar converged on humanity’s final bastion, the Primarchs and their legions raced home to Terra to fortify their homeworld for the coming onslaught. Across the soil of Terra, the Men and Eldar of the Imperium prepared for their last stand, standing side by side to shout defiance at the hatred of the galaxy:
Here, a squad of Guardsmen drawn from a dozen worlds of the Imperium place sandbags around a hospital in the shadow of a towering Wraithlord, pausing occasionally to marvel at the gleaming colossus;
Bonesingers weave armored shells around the frames of hulking Imperial tanks, as nearby techpriests chitter with anxiety;
In a long abandoned church a Word Bearer Chaplain preaches to a motley crowd of humans and Eldar, rainbow lights from ancient stained-glass dancing on his brow, fire and ecstasy burning in his breast;
A mother comforts her weeping child as they are shepherded onto an evacuation ship under the watchful eye of an Ultramarine, the boy still reaching for the picture he dropped of his fallen father;
At the edge of their camp, in an old garden under the light of the stars, a tall Aspect Warrior kisses an astonished guardswoman and smiles at her joy;
And far above in the night sky, the greatest fleets of Men and Eldar float amidst the gloom, blotting out the stars with their numbers, ready to stand and spit light and fire against the coming forces of the dark.
Secluded in the great halls in the Imperial Palace the great leaders of the alliance, the Steward with his Primarchs and Eldrad with his seers, laid their plans for the coming invasion. Agreements were made and bitter arguments were fought. Many of the Primarchs requested the honor of defending the Imperial Palace itself, and the Steward heard them each in turn, from the impassioned pleas of Lorgar to the cold growls of Dorn.
Yet when the Steward turned to Sanguinius, expecting a fervent request for the honor from his old friend, he found only tranquillity. Sanguinius rose from his seat and said, “That I shall die before the walls of this palace is beyond doubt. My destiny comes and I go to it with peace in my heart.”
The Steward recognized the calm conviction in the Angel’s eyes. It was the same look he had seen so many years ago when he first met Sanguinius as the Warlord in his command tent, and Sanguinius had offered his life for mercy for his people. It was the look of a man who had wholly accepted and welcomed his death for a greater purpose, and would go to it without fear and regret.
Moved by his words, the Steward accepted the request. So it was that when the Chaos armada forced its way to Terra and its unending hordes began their assault on the Imperial Palace, they found the proud Blood Angels manning the great walls, with Sanguinius, his elite First Company, and the legendary Custodes defending the Eternity Gate.
The Beast was possessed of greater cunning and primal intelligence than most of his species, and began the assault by probing the defense of the palace, looking for a weakness. When none were found, he sent his the masses of his most expendable troops to overwhelm the defences with the crushing weight numbers.
But Dorn and Perturabo had done their work well. Automated defence turrets gunned down hordes of Orks before they even reached the firing range of the Blood Angels, and those that survived ended up in carefully designed killing fields with no cover and no escape. Overhead, Ork jets and stormboyz crashed screaming off the palace void shields, or were frozen by stasis fields to be picked off by lance batteries at leisure.
Yet for all of Dorn and Perturabo’s defensive genius, the palace was simply not designed to hold off numbers of this magnitude, for who could have predicted a WAAAGH! comprised of a full half of the Orks in the galaxy? After several days of fighting a flaw emerged: the immense piles of dead Orks were obscuring crucial firing angles for the defensive turrets, and had grown so tall in some places that the greenskins were using them to climb up the previously impregnable walls. The Imperial Palace was too vast to fully hold against so numerous a foe, thus Sanguinius ordered his forces to withdraw to the secondary defensive positions, cunningly designed to minimize the advantage of numbers and to funnel the enemy towards the entrenched elites defending the Eternity Gate. Thus it was the days after the breaching of the walls that historians consider the true Siege of the Imperial Palace.
The first day of the siege consisted of more Orks, though now they included more than just mere boyz. In the Orkish hordes now came nobz and weirdboyz, flash gitz and kommandoz, all roaring for battle and eager to spill the blood of humanity.
The first greenskins to enter the Grand Plaza of the Eternity Gate were greeted with a magnificent sight before they were gunned down: the white-winged Angel surrounded by his warriors resplendent in red, while beside them stood the gold-clad figures of the Custodes with their Lord Commander Arik Taranis at the forefront, holding aloft the great Banner of Unification, its length equal to full five Astartes. Behind them, a giant Aquila spread its wings on the massive adamantium Eternity Gate, protecting the Throne Room command center where the Steward and Eldrad commanded the forces of Terra, telepathically linked with thousands of their commanders to coordinate with perfect precision and unison.
The two sides met in the middle of the plaza with a resounding crash, howling as their blades sought the blood of their hated foes. Chainswords tore flesh, power klawz ripped bodies, and the dead and wounded were trampled underfoot in the savage melee. Lord Commander Taranis won the greatest deed of the day, slaying the Warboss leading the Orks by impaling him on the Banner of Unification and lifting his still screaming body into the air for all to see, as Sanguinius held off the Warboss’ nob retinue.
By nightfall, the tide of Orks slowed, for their poor eyesight would have put them at a great disadvantage against the enhanced Astartes and the Beast would not waste his troops here. As the last Ork died gurgling with a sword rammed through its chest, the defenders found a moment of respite to pray for the dead, celebrate the deeds of the living, and prepare for the next day.
The start of the second day consisted of more Orks, though by mid-morning it was clear something was amiss. The Ork forces were in disarray, even for their crude standard of organization, and reports came from the secondary Blood Angel positions that an unknown force was attacking the Orks in the rear. When lithe figures in black cut down the last of the Orks and stepped into the great plaza, it became all too clear: the Dark Eldar had come. In their sadistic greed, they had seen a opportunity to capture the unfathomable prizes of the Steward and Eldrad at the same time, and believing the Blood Angels to be worn down they had come in full force to break the defenders.
The Dark Eldar were a deadly foe; Astartes and Custodes died screaming as the enemy weapons inflicted agony that overcame even their enhanced physiologies and mental conditioning. Yet the vile invaders had blundered in their greed and haste: for all their lethal skill and precision, the Dark Eldar were not assault troops — their equipment and tactics unsuited for the grinding attrition of siege warfare — and Sanguinius and his scions quickly showed them their error.
With no space to maneuver and dodge in the packed plaza, the sculpted and graceful bodies shaped by the finest of Comorragh’s flesh arts were crushed under ceramite and steel as easily as any Ork boy. Three entire Wych cults were eradicated that day, with Sanguinius personally cutting down the three Succubi that led them. As night fell, once again the enemy withdrew, consumed by infighting as the ever-scheming Archons used the chaos to usurp weakened rivals or settle old scores. There was no levity this night for the defenders: their wounds and exhaustion prevented such efforts, and battered armor and weapons required their attention.
The dawn of the third day was unusually still, the Orks and Dark Eldar nowhere to be found. For a moment, the defenders wondered if the xenos had retreated to seek an easier target, but when the morning quiet was shattered by the pounding of unholy war drums, eldritch howls, ululating chants, and gibbering laughter, the reason for the xenos’ absence became clear.
The dread legions of Chaos crested the great stairway of the plaza in a screeching tide of twisted flesh — hordes of savage Bloodletters, sinuous Daemonettes, and rotted Plaguebearers — howling and eager to feast on the souls of the defenders. Beside them were mobs of cultists, cowardly, wretched things skulking in the shadows of their masters and chanting hymns of praise to their dark gods, hoping to gain a few scraps of favor.
Throughout the horde, the defenders glimpsed the Chaos Eldar — impossibly beautiful and perfect, their every movement liquid and effortless, their flawless faces belying the wild and fickle cruelty within. Ceramite gauntlets tightened around the hilts of swords and bolters as the Astartes gazed with hatred upon a row of hulking figures — their fallen comrades, the Traitor Marines. At their front strode the Arch-Heretic Erebus, once honored as First Captain of the Word Bearers and Living Saint of the Katholian Church, now reviled as the Dark Oracle and First Traitor.
Above the teeming corrupted multitudes stood the four greatest servants of the Ruinous Powers, looming over their minions: Kairos Fateweaver, the ancient Lord of Change; Scabeiathrax the Bloated, the laughing and virulent Great Unclean One; Zarakynel the Bringer of Torments, the most favored Keeper of Secrets; and the mighty Ka’Bandha, bloodiest of Khorne’s Bloodthirsters.
Such a sight could have driven men to madness or despair; this was an army to crush entire sectors and devour the souls of whole species. Yet the Blood Angels and Custodes raised their blades aloft and shouted war cries and challenges at the dark horde, spitting defiance and insults in the faces of the dark gods. For they had armored themselves in faith and duty, purpose and loyalty, and there were no flaws upon their souls where weakness could take hold.
With the mournful blare of warhorns, the daemonic forces broke rank and thundered through the plaza. Astartes and Custodes had only moments to ready themselves before the wave crashed into their ranks. Daemonic hellblades tore through ceramite with unholy strength, impaling Astartes’ twin hearts in a single blow. Blasts of swirling warpfire incinerated men where they stood, armor and all, and still others were melted into puddles of festering ooze by hellish plagues and toxins.
Yet for every loss they suffered, the defenders retaliated tenfold. The searing touch of holy promethium and plasma cleansed corrupted flesh, and ancient power weapons sang their songs of death and lightning as the Astartes hewed through the enemy ranks. Vanguard veterans descended from on high, lashing out with bolt and blade and scattering the enemy before them, while Librarians wove great nimbuses of lightning and incinerated scores of demons with a gesture.
It is said that only in the crucible of trials and hardship does a man find his true worth, and humanity’s darkest hour also proved its finest. The Blood Angels fought with the fury of humanity itself, and their deeds that day would echo through history, to be sung of in the future even as the embers of civilization smoldered and the darkness drew near.
Chief Librarian Sandelon was the first to slay one of the Greater Daemons. As the battle swirled around him, the great librarian found himself facing Scabeiathrax, and without a flicker of hesitation he hurled himself at the massive, bloated daemon. The Blood Angel tore great gouges into the beast’s stinking flesh with his force staff and lances of crimson lightning, skillfully dodging between the beast’s cumbersome counterstrikes. However, for a heartbeat, the librarian was distracted as he turned to parry the strikes of a Chaos Astartes attacking his flank, and the momentarily lull in his defenses was enough: the Great Unclean One skewered Sandelon at the end of its massive, rusted cleaver, chortling to itself as its prey writhed on the end of its weapon. But Sandelon would not die.
With his rage and sheer force of will he anchored his soul to his dying body, and grasping the cleaver with both hands impaled himself further, bringing him within striking range of the daemon’s head. With a roar he rammed his force staff through the daemon’s skull, and focused all his pain and rage into a maelstrom of searing lightning through the staff.
The greater daemon howled and twisted in pain and fear as it burned from the inside out, slabs of flesh blackening and sloughing from its massive body, until at last it was nothing more than piles of charred, smoking meat, and its soul was sent screaming back into the realms of the warp. Only then did Sandelon close his eyes, a grim smile of satisfaction on his lips, and allow his soul to depart, his ravaged body at last going limp as he left to join his fallen brothers.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Captain Azkaellon of the First Company, famed leader of the Sanguinary Guard, slew a dozen Chaos Lords in succession as they stepped forth to challenge his Primarch while Sanguinius dueled Erebus. Their weapons clashed for the better part of an hour, great bursts of light and warp energy erupted from the points of contact between the radiant blade of gold and the cruel mace of black. Finally, Sanguinius found an opening in Erebus’ defenses, and with a flourish he disarmed the Arch-Heretic, before severing both the traitor’s arms with a sweep of his burning blade.
Zarakynel was slain by Commander Taranis, the mighty Custodes parrying and dashing through the flashing, quicksilver strikes of the Keeper of Secrets. With a single blow of his right hand, the Commander bisected the daemon at the waist, all while firmly grasping the Banner of Unification in his left.
Yet for all the deeds of heroism performed that day, the greatest was surely the Banishing of Ka’Bandha. The towering Bloodthirster was more akin to a force of nature, its great axe and nine-tailed scourge were streaks of blood as it cleaved through scores of Astartes and Custodes with contemptuous ease, and the Imperial defenders were forced to cede ground to it rampaged across the plaza.
Filled with fury at the deaths of so many of his men, Sanguinius rallied his Sanguinary Guard and together they crashed into the path of the berserk daemon. The blades of Astartes and daemon lashed out, slashing and hacking, as Sanguinius and his Guard pressed the daemon. As they fought, a score more of the Sanguinary Guard were slain, each a mighty hero the Blood Angels in his own right. Yet not even Ka’Bandha could stand in the face of so many deadly warriors, and it was forced back, bleeding from dozens of wounds.
Flapping its great leather wings, it launched itself into the air seeking a respite, but Sanguinius followed, chasing the massive daemon into the sky on wings of white. In the air, they clashed and broke away, seeking greater height before clashing again. The nimbler Angel darted around the heavy Bloodthirster, swooping and twisting, dodging the daemon’s blows and inflicting a dozen more wounds on the beast. Sensing the daemon was slowing, Sanguinius pressed his advantage, and in a blur of speed, he slashed through the daemon’s right wing, sending the beast hurtling down to the plaza far below.
It landed with a thundering crash, crushing the granite and gouging a huge crater, and a few seconds later Sanguinius landed, driving his boot into the daemon’s head with all the force of his dive. As the daemon struggled to rise, faithful Azkaellon slashed through the daemon’s remaining wing as Sanguinius drove his sword through its throat. With the beast weakened, Sanguinius flung aside his blade and grabbed the Bloodthirster by its legs and throat, and with a heroic burst of strength lifted the beast above his head and dashed him against his knee, tearing the daemon in two with his force. The warriors of Chaos looked on in shock as Sanguinius flung the two pieces of the mighty demon into their ranks, while Ka’Bandha's soul was flung screaming into the warp to beg forgiveness at the feet of Khorne.
And so the battle raged on. Kairos Fateweaver was the last of the Greater Daemons to fall, screaming in rage and disbelief as its carefully laid plans were ruined, its frail body pulverized by the thunder hammers of a dozen vengeful Blood Angel Terminators.
Though their greatest champions had been cast down, the forces of Chaos did not relent. Night fell and there was no respite in the evening, for daemons did not suffer from frailties like fear or exhaustion, and their mortal servants would never dare retreat lest they invite the displeasure of their fickle masters. Long into the night, the sounds of battle echoed through the darkened plaza, the shadowy figures of daemon and Astartes illuminated only by the brief flashes of power weapons and bolter muzzles, and the ghostly glows of plasma and warpfire.
Dawn broke as the last of the daemons were slain and banished to the warp, and the first rays of the sun touched on a hellish scene. The plaza was a mire of gore and viscera, so thick that the granite floor could not be seen beneath clotting pools of purple and red and brown — an accumulation of blood spilled over three days of ceaseless battle. Greasy tongues of black smoke reached into the sky from pyres of corpses fifty feet high, as alien, traitor, and daemon alike were fed into the fire. Amongst the dead stood the few survivors, lonely figures of red and gold, the proud First Company of the Blood Angels and the legendary Adeptus Custodes reduced to a meager handful. They knelt above the bodies of their fallen brothers, the dead outnumbering the living, and no words were spoken as each man offered his silent prayers to the fallen. The honored dead, who just a few hours ago had been friends, comrades, and battle-brothers, were now reduced to corpses, cold and silent, by the savagery of the xenos, the treachery of man, and the hatred of Chaos.
Yet even in this moment of their greatest weariness and sorrow, there was no time for rest. Frantic calls came from the perimeter, voices raw from battle and disbelief as the scouts reported a monstrous Ork the size of a building advancing towards the Eternity Gate, surrounded by a horde of Nobz as big as Warbosses. The Imperial defenders gritted their teeth and gripped their swords, rising on legs worn from days of relentless fighting. The Beast itself had come. Yet when they turned to their Primarch for orders, they found that Sanguinius was still kneeling amongst the dead. They shouted but he did not hear, they shook him but he did not feel; for the visions had come again, stronger than ever before. They assailed his mind, overwhelming thought, a thousand variations and permutations of his impending death: crushed beneath a foot the size of a land speeder, impaled on the end of jagged claws, swatted out of the air to be hacked down by swarming Nobz, and a thousand other ends too brutal to imagine. Any lesser man would have been driven to madness by the phantom pain, but Sanguinius summoned all his will and forced the visions back, suppressing them until they were not gone but at least tolerable, and his mind was his own once more. He rose on unsteady legs to the relief of his men, and together the defenders pulled back from across the plaza. Sanguinius shouted orders as the Astartes and Custodes readied their weapons and gathered in a tight defensive circle before the Eternity Gate itself. Here, they would stand. Here, they would die.
The Beast announced its presence long before it reached the plaza, the ground itself dully reverberating with the weight of its steps. Steadily, the tremors grew stronger, until at least the Beast strode into view, granite cracking and splintering beneath its steps, its horde of hulking Nobz following close behind. Partway into the plaza, the Orks stopped, and for a few moments an eerie silence hung over the plaza as the two sides surveyed each other.
The Imperial defenders gazed for the first time upon the monstrous Beast, whom before they had only heard of through hearsay and scattered reports. It was even more ferocious in the flesh: a towering monstrosity almost forty feet tall, defying all laws of nature and biology. Tusks as wide as a man jutted from its jaw and its gargantuan frame bulged with enough alien muscle to tear apart an Imperial Knight. It bore no weapons, instead grafting individual power field generators onto its jagged claws, and its crude armor was formed from the plates of destroyed Baneblades and Titans.
Even a spirit as pure and tireless as Sanguinius could be worn down. For days, he had faced the most terrible and nightmarish foes of humanity in endless combat, seen thousands of cherished friends and comrades butchered, resisted haunting visions of death and madness that would have broken any lesser man; and as Sanguinius gazed upon the overwhelming and terrible form of the Beast, for the first time he felt doubt.
What if it had all been useless? What if all their struggle and sacrifice was for naught, and the light of humanity was snuffed out? What if he failed?
Sensing an opening, the faintest blemish on Sanguinius’ soul, the dark gods of Chaos struck. Creeping tendrils of dark thought seeped into his mind, offers and seductions, promises of power enough to fulfill all his dreams.
Kneel before me, boomed a voice of hot iron and raw power, and I shall give you and your soldiers such strength that none may stand before you, and the whole galaxy shall know peace under the might of your legions. And it was so, for Sanguinius saw himself leading the invincible legions of the Imperium to victory after glorious victory, sweeping away the enemies of man until only an iron peace remained, enforced under his watchful eye.
Join me, said a voice of chortling mirth and boundless life, and man will never again fear the blight of mortality or the frailties of flesh, and you shall be free to spread across the galaxy to spread life wherever you tread. And it was so, for Sanguinius saw joyous families, untouched by age or weakness, venturing forth on great journeys of discovery, colonizing virgin worlds and facing the challenges of the galaxy with optimism and camaraderie.
Serve me, rasped a voice of eldritch cunning and ancient wisdom, and I shall grant you wisdom and foresight, and all the knowledge of the lost golden age of man. And it was so, for Sanguinius saw all the ancient wonders of humanity restored as man, filled with wisdom and understanding, walked among the stars to reclaim the galaxy with knowledge and technology.
Come with me, said a voice of whispering silk and untamed passion, and humanity shall be made tall and strong and golden, shaped in your image and as perfect as you. And it was so, for Sanguinius saw golden men and women, as tall and strong as he, striding across the stars without fear, their wings carrying them over the skies of distant worlds
The voices grew louder, each clamoring to be heard, sometimes working in concert to sway him, sometimes working to undermine the others. But they agreed on one thing: the way forward was so simple, so clear, and Sanguinius only need reach out to grasp the power and opportunity offered to him. Sanguinius was granted one final vision: he saw himself in the Throne Room of the palace, warpfire dancing in his eyes, the power of the Warp overflowing from his body. Before him, a bleeding Steward kneeled at his feet, and to his side the headless body of Eldrad lay discarded, the blind eyes of the severed head frozen in an accusatory glare. Reaching down, Sanguinius hauled the Steward upright as the voices exulted and laughed, and with a leering smile shoved his golden sword through the Steward’s chest.
In an instant the voices recoiled, and Sanguinius’ eyes snapped open. He had not realized they were closed. Only creatures as foul and debased as you would think that virtue could be gifted, that loyalty could be bought and bartered, he thundered in his mind. Strength does not come from might of arms, but from clarity of purpose and force of will. Joy does not come from a long life, but from a life well-lived. Wisdom does not come from arcane secrets, but from experience hard won in the trials of life. Perfection does not come through fairness of form and mind, but from struggle, sacrifice, and the will to better oneself, the noblest virtues of man. Your pathetic entreaties have failed, false gods. Flee back to your twisted realms and think upon your failure, that for all your supposed power you could not sway this man to your cause. Know that though you have thrown all your greatest champions and sorceries and horrors against the bastion of humanity, we live on, and that man will rise from these ashes, stronger for having risen above such adversity. Know that man will one day conquer his baser self, that you will wither and starve, and far in the future when you have long disappeared, the light of humanity will continue to shine from the stars, until the universe itself comes to a close.
And the voices howled and cursed, the Ruinous Powers swearing bloody vengeance upon Sanguinius and his kin. He took a moment to savor their impotent rage and smiled briefly, and then with a shout he banished the Chaos gods from his mind.
Though the dark gods had whispered their lies for what seemed like hours, only moments had passed in reality, and both the orks and the Imperial defenders were stirring. The horde of Nobz bellowed war chants and smashed their weapons together, raising a crashing din of guttural roars and ringing metal. The Beast itself was still motionless, its eyes surveying the Astartes with malevolent cunning.
Around Sanguinius, his men were springing into motion. Captain Azkaellon shouted for reinforcements through his vox receiver, calling for the secondary Blood Angel forces within the Imperial Palace to hurry to the plaza and for the assistance of any other Imperial forces in the vicinity. The few remaining librarians readied their powers, sparks swirling about their temples and fingers, as Astartes and Custodes checked armor and weapons battered from days of combat, adjusted sights, and muttered quiet prayers.
The ground shook as the Beast finally began to move. With slow, ponderous steps, it walked out in front of the horde, waving the eager Nobz back as they tried to follow; one Nob foolhardy enough to follow was pulverized into a smear by a casual swing of the Beast’s massive fist.
Across the plaza, Sanguinius did likewise, striding out alone against the protests of his men, shaking off Azkaellon as his captain begged him not to face the Beast alone. The Steward in the Throne Room had sensed the presence of the Beast, and as he touched Sanguinius’ mind he knew in an instant that the Angel meant to face the Beast unaided. The Steward urgently ordered his old friend to retreat to the Throne Room so that they might face it together, but Sanguinius refused, for to do so would have endangered the very survival of humanity.
The Steward was psychically linked with thousands of his commanders as he orchestrated the Imperial forces across Terra, and it was only through his military genius that they held, the armies of men and Eldar acting in perfect unison as they threw back wave after wave of fouls xenos and the forces of Chaos. Distracting the Steward would imperil all the forces of Terra and the survival of humanity, for even if the Beast were slain, Terra would fall should the rest of the planet be lost. Knowing he could not sway Sanguinius’ decision, the Steward could only powerlessly observe as Sanguinius bade him farewell, and met the Beast in the middle of the plaza.
Man cannot be brave without fear, nor can he have faith without doubt, and once again fear and doubt welled in Sanguinius’ heart as the terrible figure of the Beast grew larger in his vision. Not fear or doubt for himself, for death held no sway over him. No, it was fear for the future of man, for their fate hung in the balance, the existence of his entire species to be decided in the coming moments. It was doubt for the very meaning of his struggle, for while Sanguinius would gladly sacrifice himself a thousand times over, he wondered if even his greatest efforts could alter the cruel whims of fate.
But unlike before, when these weaknesses had gnawed on his resolve and allowed an opening for the whispers of Chaos, he now let them pass through him, accepting and facing down these unfamiliar feelings. And as they swirled inside them, he found a rock hard seed of hope deep in the core of his being. For Sanguinius believed in the spirit of man: in man’s resiliency, the sheer dogged stubbornness and will to endure; in his nobility, the greatness of heart and will to strive towards a better future; in his capacity for hope, the daring to dream even in the face of unfathomable darkness. And he believed in the Steward, his liege, his friend, his brother.
Thus from the dark waters of doubt did the great rock of faith rise, renewed and immovable. Sanguinius felt his fears for the future of man dissipate, for he knew that humanity would carry on and flourish far into the future even without him to protect it, and with fresh eyes, he gazed upon the Beast and knew that even such a monster could not stand in the way of humanity’s ascent. Fear became bravery and tranquility; his mind was his own, his will was pure. In the middle of the plaza, as the Beast loomed over him, Sanguinius took a slow breath and savored his last quiet moment.
The tension broke as Sanguinius burst into motion, moving so quickly he was a blur even to the enhanced senses of his Astartes. With all his righteous fury and strength he surged into the air and slashed at the Beast’s head, the massive Ork barely catching the strike in time with its armored fist. The Beast staggered back several steps from the force of the blow as the Blood Angels and Custodes looked on in awe at the power of the Primarch, and the Ork’s features twisted into a leering grin of approval, acknowledging Sanguinius’ strength. It struck back, faster than anything that huge had right to be, so fast even Sanguinius barely had time to react. The servos in Sanguinius’ armor whirred and screeched as mechanical muscle and his own superhuman frame struggled to parry the Ork’s counterblow, the power fields around the Beast’s claws crackling as they skimmed the golden relic armor.
And so the Beast and the Angel fought, the smaller frame of Sanguinius darting and striking between the Beast’s thunderbolt blows. The duel stretched on, with neither side seeming to take the advantage, and the Blood Angels allowed themselves to hope, to believe that their Primarch could win. Such hope was futile. Sanguinius could not have defeated the Beast alone even were he rested and at his full strength, perhaps fighting the monster to a standstill at best. But Sanguinius was not rested; he was wounded and weary from days of battle against the most savage foes of man, and as the duel continued blood trickled from his armor as days-old wounds reopened under the ferocious strain of combat.
A low rumble came from the Beast then, a sound of grating iron and gloating amusement, and the Astartes realized it was laughing. The Beast’s fist whipped forward in a blur, catching Sanguinius in a misstep as the massive punch caught the Angel in the chest, and he was thrown hurtling through the air, crashing through one of the few remaining statues in the plaza before tumbling to a halt on the shattered granite.
With a cry, the remaining Astartes and Custodes rushed forward to the aid of their Primarch, determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible, and from the other end of the plaza the horde of Nobz broke ranks as well, no longer able to contain their bloodlust. As Sanguinius struggled to his feet, armor cracked and blood matting his golden hair and white wings, he gazed into the mocking black eyes of his hated foe and he vowed that the Beast would not leave the plaza without bleeding dearly. In a moment, Azkaellon was at his side, pulling him to his feet, and Sanguinius joined his men in their final charge across the plaza.
Even as exhausted as they were, the Blood Angels each fought with unmatched valor: individual Astartes held off a dozen Nobz as others hurled themselves at the Beast, sacrificing themselves to try to force an opening in the monster’s defenses. The Beast was more than eager to oblige, roaring as it swiped left and right, crushing scores of Astartes with each blow. Before the unstoppable blows of the Beast and the crushing numbers of Nobz, the defenders were forced back across the plaza, until they were backed up to the steps before the Eternity Gate itself.
As his men died to the last around him, Sanguinius finally sensed an opening in the Beast’s defenses. He made a quick gesture at Azkaellon who understood immediately, and the captain flew into the air, flame roaring from his jump pack as he slashed at the Beast’s face, distracting the Ork.
As the faithful captain was crushed by the monster’s fist, Sanguinius summoned the final reserves of his strength and leaped with a great flap of his wings. Blinded by the smoke and flame in its eyes, the Beast was caught unaware as Sanguinius descended from on high and plunged his golden blade through crude armor plates, deep into its chest, seeking the heart that lay beneath. The Beast roared in pain as the sword carved open a massive wound, thick spurts of blood bursting forth, but as Sanguinius drew his sword from the Ork’s chest it caught in the sternum bone, and the momentary pause was enough. The Beast’s hand shot up and seized the Primarch from the air, pinning Sanguinius within the massive fist.
Outside the plaza, the other Blood Angel companies had rushed to aid of their Primarch and First Company upon hearing Azkaellon’s call for reinforcements. They neared the plaza as Sanguinius was dueling the Beast, but they found their way blocked by the horde of Nobz, and even with all their desperate strength, they could not break through the wall of hulking greenskins, for the Orks were simply too savage and too many. It was only upon the arrival of Leman Russ and Lorgar, the only two Primarchs close enough to respond to the call for aid, and their legions of Space Wolves and Word Bearers that the reinforcements were finally able to make headway.
Together, the Blood Angels, Space Wolves, and Word Bearers hacked their way through the Orks and crested the stairs to the plaza just in time to see the Beast grab Sanguinius in its massive fist, the plaza strewn with masses of dead greenskins and lifeless bodies clad in red and gold. As they looked on in stunned horror, Sanguinius turned his head to face them, and against all their expectations, he gently smiled. It was an expression of true warmth, forgiveness, and trust that shone from Sanguinius’ beatific face, a gesture that he did not blame them and that he placed his faith with them to safeguard humanity. In that final moment, as tears welled in their eyes, the Astartes could only watch helplessly as the Beast’s fist closed, and the monster ripped Sanguinius into shreds.
With cries of grief, the Imperial forces threw themselves at the greenskins in a blind rage. Leman Russ led the assault, tearing his way through the Nobz to body of Lord Commander Arik Taranis of the Custodes. There, he seized the fallen Banner of Unification and raised the great standard for the last time, rallying the Imperial forces forward. Yet for all their fury, the Astartes could not cut through the Orks in time, and were forced to watch, helpless once again, as the Beast smashed through the adamantium of the Eternity Gate to face the Steward and Eldrad within the Throne Room.
As the last Ork fell and the Imperial forces made their way to the ruins of the Eternity gate amidst corpses of crimson and gold, they found Eldrad perched upon the massive chest of the lifeless Beast, and the Steward kneeling over a red ruin, cradling the last few pieces of his old friend. Later, Eldrad would confess that they never could have defeated the Beast were it not for the great wound Sanguinius carved into its chest, and in his quiet moments the Steward, later the Emperor, wondered if his friend and brother might have been saved, had he only chosen a different Primarch and legion to defend the palace, or sallied forth from the Throne Room to save the Angel as he dueled the Beast.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Terra, as the forces of Chaos were defeated and driven back from the planet in disarray, the Blood Angels spirited away the remains of Sanguinius to the shattered land of what had once been Duscht Jemanic. There, in the garden of the old Jemanic Palace, they buried Sanguinius in his favorite childhood refuge, a solitary place with a creek, quiet and clear, and where the trees were very old.
As word spread of the Primarch’s death, cries rose from across the Imperium for a great state funeral so that all might participate in grieving and remembering the beloved Angel. The Steward agreed, urging the remaining Blood Angel captains that such gesture would help the survivors and citizens of the Imperium move on from the loss, but they stubbornly refused. Sanguinius would have wanted the resources and efforts of the Imperium focused on rebuilding and moving forward, not spent on lingering in the past, and besides, there was not enough left to fill a casket.
Today, Sanguinius is the most dearly loved of the Primarchs, revered as the Martyr Angel for his great sacrifice. Secrets do not last long in the Imperium, and upon his burial site, where Sanguinius was to rest undisturbed for eternity, there now stands a small chapel, built with reluctance by the Blood Angels when word of their Primarch’s resting place was revealed. It was, after all, better than erecting a massive cathedral there as many demanded. Pilgrims wait for years on end for a chance to enter and glimpse one of the holiest relics in the Imperium: a single white pinion feather from one of Sanguinius’ wings, miraculously untouched by blood or dirt during the four days of the Siege of the Imperial Palace.
Sanguinius is also honored in the yearly celebration of the Sanguinala; coincidentally, his death came three days after his birth on the Terran calendar, so for this span of time all are encouraged to celebrate the Angel’s life and great deeds, and to share in his spirit of goodwill towards all. Traditional decorations of red are hung in homes, and children are told that if they are good, the spirit of Sanguinius will visit them as they sleep and leave presents under their beds.
As for the Blood Angels, the fierce spirit of their Primarch still burns within their twin hearts as brilliantly as it did ten millennia ago. The First Company of their chapter is called the Death Company, in memory of the sacrifice of the entire company when they died at Sanguinius’ side long ago, and when veterans are inducted into this august group they swear the Oath of Black Rage, a remembrance of the helpless grief and fury they felt as they watched their beloved Primarch die.
Amongst Imperial citizens, they are celebrated for their compassion, virtue, and defense of the common man; the melancholy Blood Angel clad in red is a popular figure in Imperial media, most recently in the popular romance Eventide, where a young Eldar farseer is caught between the affections of a rugged Space Wolf and noble Blood Angel. Yet for all the adoration and honors rightly bestowed upon the Blood Angels for their undying defense of the Imperium, the old veterans have begun to wonder if the younger Astartes are becoming vainglorious, and if they are losing the true meaning of sacrifice. Pride is the surest road to damnation, and so they renew their vows of humility and loyalty, remaining vigilant not only in the defense of man but in defense of their own souls.
Beneath the romance of their devotion and nobility is the eternal struggle against the forces of chaos and entropy, the unending duty of the Blood Angels. Like Sanguinius before them, they fight for the dream of humanity even as it stretches before them into an uncertain future. For this dream, they fight and bleed and die to hold the darkness at bay, to halt the dying of the light, even if it is only for a moment.
The story of Lion El'Jonson began over a generation before his actual birth, during the Nordyc-Franj war. Clovis Fouché, King of Franj, had sought the aid of Skand against the invasions of the Tyrant of Gredbriton, and after the Tyrant had been repulsed the Nordyc people sought payment for their services. However, King Clovis had proven to be rather miserly with the payment of the debt, and the men of Skand were worried they would never be recompensed. Chief Thengir of the Kalararit was nominated by the chieftains of Skand to travel to Franj to discuss the repayment of the debt with King Clovis.
For whatever reason, the meeting did not go peacefully. The exact nature of the quarrel has been lost to history. The Nordyc claimed that King Clovis tried to short-change them, offering only a pittance in exchange for the blood they had shed. The Franj claimed that Chief Thengir had acted arrogant and disrespectful, behaving more like a conqueror demanding tribute than an ally requesting payment. Whatever the reason, the meeting quickly escalated to violence.
Chief Thengir lost his hand. King Clovis lost his life.
Thus began the Nordyc-Franj war. In retaliation for the death of their king, Franj soldiers devastated huge tracts of Skand and destroyed entire Nordyc villages. The Nordyc responded by launching devastating raids into the heart of Franj territory. The war only ended when the new regent — fifteen year old Yolande Fouché, Yolande the Clever — called a meeting with Chief Thengir, now known as Thengir the Cripple, to formally apologize and pay back the remainder of the debt along with a weregild for the lives lost. Nevertheless, a considerable amount of hatred remained between the Nordyc and Franj. Perhaps nowhere was this more pronounced than between the noble family of Jonson and the Kalararit house of Russ, both of whom had been involved in the thickest of the fighting.
As a boy, the Lion grew up with stories of glory and heroism, of knights and warriors. And yet not all of these stories were merely tales of fancy. The Lion grew up idolizing his older brother, Luther El'Jonson, who was at first a Knight of Franj and later, when Franj-Europia had been absorbed into the Imperium, a Mark I Astartes. Luther El'Jonson had won fame for his exploits as a mere squire of sixteen in the Nordyc-Franj war, and had only risen in stature since. However, the Sword of Franj had a darker side which was not widely known. Although Luther was a loyal servant of Franj, he greatly disliked the fact that his country was consorting with weak allies, first with the Europia and then later the Imperium itself, when it turned out the Warlord was not as much of a warmonger as Luther expected.
From the moment he was born, it was clear that something was… different about Lion El’Johnson. Although he truly cared about his fellow man, he often had trouble reading people and came off as unempathetic. Despite being fiercely loyal to those he considered his friends, he was socially awkward and had trouble looking people in the eye. Nevertheless, despite his faults, he was groomed for knighthood by his brother Luther, who recognized his talents. Although Lion would often focus on a problem to the point of obsession, he was tactically brilliant. He also followed the old ideals of chivalry, to a degree that some would consider ridiculous. The Lion was an idealist at heart, seeing the world in terms of dragons and princesses as opposed to corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. This noble behavior won him the fancy of many a young woman’s heart, though throughout history there is no record of the Lion ever engaging in a romantic relationship.
It was for these reasons that when it came time for the Steward to name the twenty primarchs that would command his legions, the Lion was among that number. Such a nomination came as a surprise expected by no one, least of all Lion himself. Before this time, the Lion was only known as the younger brother of Luther, or at best Luther’s squire. But the Warlord knew of the evils that lurked in the hearts of men. Luther was a great soldier, but his mind had been corrupted by hatred and jingoism. The Lion’s heart was untamed but pure, its idealism and love for humanity untampered. Along with Sanguinius Baal and Vulkan, son of N’Bel, Lion was chosen to be one of the three prototypes for the Mark III Astartes augmentation, which was to be the final model of Space Marine augmentation. Some say that this was the point that the seed of jealousy was first planted in Luther’s heart, with all his years of service to Franj and the Imperium being overlooked in favor of his untested brother. Lion, for his part, did not reciprocate the feeling and named his older brother second-in-command of the legion in gratitude for all that his brother had given him. Lion named his legion the Dark Angels after the legendary Black Knight of his country's folklore, who covered his armor in pitch and lived as a wild man rather than subject himself to an unjust lord.
If the Dark Angels were to become a proper legion, they would need a strong recruiting base. Fortunately, the Lion’s home country of Franj was almost perfect for the task. Franj was extremely healthy in terms of both health and population, and the only other primarch from Franj-Europia, Roboute Guilliman, did not seem that interested in recruiting from his home nation. Guilliman, ever the long term thinker, preferred to recruit from all over Old Earth instead of a single country, with the mind of forming an army that had no loyalty to any nation but the Imperium itself. The Lion, on the other hand, felt he needed soldiers he could trust, and so he recruited heavily from his home country of Franj-Europia. Compared to many of the other nations of Earth, the knightly orders of Franj were organized, well-trained, and well-educated militarily, making them ideal Astartes candidates. As a result, by the time the Unification of Sol was complete, the First Legion was bigger, better trained, suffered from fewer casualties, and could recruit faster than any other legion.
It was for this reason that the Dark Angels were picked to be the first legion to travel outside of Sol, acting as an expeditionary force to scout the galaxy ahead of the rest of the Great Crusade to see what of humanity had survived the Age of Strife. The Lion was enamored with the idea, starry-eyed at the prospect of meeting new peoples and reuniting with lost colonies of humanity. Luther, for his part, was not. He was growing increasingly dissatisfied with Europia-Franj’s increasing lack of autonomy in the increasingly peaceful Imperium, which was only magnified by King Gunthar Fouché, son of Roboute Guilliman and Yolande Fouché, turning over all military production and funding to the Imperium on the reasoning that there was no one left to fight. Perhaps in a bout of paranoia, Luther feared that his assignment to the expeditionary fleet was an unofficial exile as opposed to an award, and that the Imperium would completely gut his beloved Franj while he was not around to watch it.
Lion and the Dark Angels set out in The Rock, one of two completed super-battleships — along with the Phalanx — that were commissioned by the Steward to be the flagships of the new Imperial Navy, along with several ships of the Voidborn primarch Horus Lupercal (whose cartographers happened to be the ones that owned all the maps). At first the mission did not go well; the first sentient life the expeditionary force encountered was the orks, followed by the Dark Eldar, the latter of which in particular fostered a particularly deep-seated dislike of Eldar in the two brothers. Even the Lion, despite his general open-mindedness, never really felt comfortable with the Imperium being on good terms with the Craftworlders, as he had a hard time distancing the likes of Eldrad and Macha from the atrocities of their distant kin.
And yet despite these setbacks there were also great triumphs. Despite the Dark Angels' first encounters being with the orks and Dark Eldar, the Dark Angels encountered other races — such as the Diasporex and the Watchers in the Dark — who would prove to be loyal allies. And there were so many human colonies, many of whom welcomed the Dark Angels — and by proxy the return of humanity as a power in the galaxy — with open arms. After seeing Russ’ success at recruiting warriors from the planet of Fenris, the Dark Angels set up recruitment stations on many of these worlds, causing the Dark Angels to swell even larger. Nevertheless, many of the Dark Angels, particularly the officers, still came from Franj.
It was sometime during this period that Luther was contacted by Erebus — the Dark Chaplain, the First Traitor. The Ruinous Powers had seen the doubts that lay in Luther’s heart, and saw their opportunity to sow dissent within the forces of the Imperium. Erebus told Luther that he saw the nobility in Luther’s heart and his loyalty to Franj and humanity as a whole, and yet the Imperium was willing to get in bed with all the old enemies of Franj and humanity; the Duscht-Jemanic, the Nordyc, the Eldar. On behalf of the Dark Gods, Erebus offered Luther a deal: divert all Dark Angel reinforcement from the upcoming war, and in exchange Chaos would only target non-essential or non-human interests. Many have wondered, when it became clear that Chaos would never uphold such a bargain, why Luther would have continued to serve the interests of the Ruinous Powers. Captured members of the Fallen have said that Luther was never fully convinced by Erebus’ words, but merely planned to double-cross Chaos and re-establish Franj as an independent power, similar to Hy Braseal. Luther saw the Imperium as a noble ideal, but corrupt and rotten to its core — better to burn it all down and start afresh, preferably with Franj as its center. However, as with all traitors whose minds have been warped by the influence of Chaos, it is difficult to say if they are telling the truth.
At first, it actually seemed like Chaos was going to keep its side of the bargain. The entire tone of the war did not shift, but many worlds that had been predicted to be in the path of breakaway warbands suddenly found themselves waiting for an invasion that never came, though this may have been more due to the actions of Horus and Guilliman than anything Erebus did. At the same time the response of the Dark Angels to crises became extremely variable and unreliable. The Dark Angels who fought alongside the Lion responded valiantly and with alacrity, but other groups replied to cries for help sluggishly, if at all. However, it wasn’t before long that Erebus appeared beyond Luther again. He told Luther that the war against the Imperium wasn’t going so well, and while before the forces of Chaos were content to have Luther sit out the war now they needed help. There was a chance that the followers of the Ruinous Powers might actually lose the war, and if that happened, well, there was no guarantee that the Imperium wouldn’t find out about Erebus and Luther’s little bargain from captured traitors.
In retrospect, what Erebus said was clearly a ruse. Although Chaos and the Beast’s forces had lost some momentum on their blitzkrieg through the stars, the tide was far from turning, and even if the Imperium had found out about the deal from prisoners of war they would have had little reason to believe it was anything more than an attempt to sow suspicion among Imperial forces by traitors. Erebus had no evidence beyond his word that such a deal had been made. But in the heat of the moment, and due to his own guilt over having been tempted into making this deal in the first place, Luther was unable to recognize Erebus’ claim for what it was. Luther was enraged by this, Erebus was clearly altering the terms of their deal, but he didn’t see any way out of it.
Having made judicious use of the stick, Erebus then offered Luther the carrot. The Ruinous Powers didn’t require much in order to help their schemes succeed. All they needed Luther to do was burn down some Maiden Worlds. It’s not like Luther would be required to commit treason or kill humans. They were just Eldar. Luther accepted Erebus’ terms with a snarl, before setting off to organize his forces to perform the deed. Fifteen Maiden Worlds burned before the relentless assault of Luther’s Dark Angels. Upon hearing this news, the Lion was horrified. Already irritated by the apparent lackadaisicalness of his forces, he immediately set out to find Luther and demand an explanation.
The Lion finally caught up to Luther in the ashes of the Maiden World once known as Tarsus. Already in a rather poor state of mind, the Lion made no attempts to try and talk his brother down or convince him to surrender. Instead, he marched his honor guard down the ramp of his ship, bolters drawn, before asking his brother what the hell he thought he was doing. Even though Lion didn’t like the Eldar either, there was a world of difference — or rather, fifteen worlds — between merely disliking them and butchering the civilians of their nominal allies. Being fixed by the Lion’s withering, contemptuous glare, Luther found himself having trouble explaining his actions to his little brother. His tone low, and with a bit of shame in his voice, Luther told Lion that he had made a deal… for Franj. Upon hearing those words, the Lion long pent-up rage finally erupted and he struck Luther in his anger. It wasn’t a hard blow, but it was enough to knock Luther off his feet and escalate the situation to violence. Lion yelled that committing massacres in Franj’s name did nothing but sully Franj’s honor, and the country would rather die than have such blood on its hands.
Something in Luther snapped at Lion’s accusation. He declared him a traitor to Franj, willing to let his country be gutted and eaten by foreign powers rather than protect it, and in a fit of madness ordered the Dark Angels to kill him. Both brothers were enraged at the other’s perceived betrayal.
Luther’s order sent the Dark Angels into disarray. Luther had originally justified his orders to the Dark Angels by claiming that the Eldar had turned on the Imperium, and the Lion had ordered the Maiden Worlds burned in retaliation. Most of the Dark Angels had obeyed, since they were used to Luther being the spokesman for the Lion and Lion’s poor personal skills meant he had trouble voicing a reasonable counterargument. Many were more loyal to Luther than Lion, being Franj nationalists. Others — particularly those who had spent significant time with Lion or capable of critical thinking — realized that Lion had ordered no such thing and that Luther had completely lost it. Still others had no clue what was going on due to the contradictory sets of orders and were merely caught in the middle. When the Dark Angels loyal to Luther raised their bolters, those loyal to the Lion did so response. It was absolute chaos, brother against brother, with many not even knowing if they were fighting traitors or those loyal to their cause.
It was as at this point that one of the Lion’s biggest mistakes becomes clear. The Lion recruited much of his legion, including most of its officers, from Franj because he felt he needed people he could trust. Sadly, the officers of the Dark Angels were loyal to a fault, but not to him. Although many in the legion respected the Lion — and those who actually got to know him personally actually found him quite pleasant, if persnickety — the Lion often relied on his brother to motivate the legion due to his lack of people skills. The Lion had so much trouble reading people, and was so trusting of his brother, that he had not seen the viper in the grass before it bit him. Between two-thirds to three-fourths of the legion had been subverted by the Ruinous Powers. If it were almost any other legion, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but by the time of the War of the Beast the Dark Angels were by far the largest legion. Thus, having two-thirds to three-fourths of the legion go renegade was the equivalent of having two or three other legions fall to the Ruinous powers.
In the confusion, Luther and many of his followers commandeered the Rock, the flagship of the Dark Angels, and escaped into the Warp. Luther’s madness only worsened as he mulled over Lion’s words and the fighting on Tarsus, leading him to believe that the entire Imperium including his brother had turned against him. Many of the Dark Angels felt the same way, seeing themselves as abandoned and betrayed by the Imperium they had once served, and resented it. After Tarsus, Luther’s Dark Angels began burning both human and Eldar worlds indiscriminately. The worlds that had been “spared” after Luther’s initial bargain found themselves the target of Chaos, with interest. Besieged Guardsmen on many worlds looked to the skies in hope when they saw the famed Astartes legions come to reinforce them, only to be butchered when their “saviors” landed on the planet. Chapters of the legion devolved into civil war as former brothers drew arms against one another as they realized they served different causes. Many more Dark Angels turned to the service of the Ruinous Powers out of desperation and a desire for survival.
The Lion never returned to Old Earth during the War of the Beast to participate in the Battle of Terra. Many have criticized the Lion for these actions. In the Lion’s mind, however, his priorities were clear; his men were slaughtering one another, and it was his duty to put things right. Perhaps more importantly, it was his mistake — HIS mistake — and the universe would not be set right until he took pains to correct it.
Eventually, Lion tracked Luther and his inner circle to the world of Caliban. Getting to Caliban was easy enough. When the Dark Angels reached the planet Luther’s Fallen found themselves sandwiched between the loyalist Caliban garrison and the Lion’s reinforcements, forcing them to temporarily break their hold over the planet in order to regroup. However, when the Dark Angels found out from captured traitors what Luther was actually looking for on Caliban, they were stunned. Luther had learned from the entity known as Be’lakor (which the Imperium had only recently learned existed due to the actions of the Alpha Legion, and only then at great cost) that Caliban was the site of the Ouroboros, a device created by an ancient xenos race — one even older than humanity, the Watchers, or the Eldar — capable of warping the very fabric of space-time, which they had used to create the Webway. The Dark Angels realized the implications of this discovery; here was the potential solution to the issue of the fragile, irreparable Webway, and possibly a means to free the Imperium and the galaxy from the tyranny of the Warp, whereas the Watchers were shocked at learning the origins of their eons of suffering had been buried under their own feet. No one knew exactly what Luther planned to do with the equipment, but all agreed it could not be anything good.
The Dark Angels and Watchers were faced with a dilemma. Destroy the device that could potential prove the salvation of the entire galaxy, or leave it to fall into the hands of the Fallen. Although the loyalist Dark Angels could disrupt Luther’s control of Caliban, they could not hold the planet, as Luther’s forces greatly outnumbered their own. In the end, it was the Watchers who made the decision to blow up their own homeworld. They loved Caliban, it was their home despite being harsh and warp-tainted, but they realized the danger that Luther in control of the Ouroboros would prove. Better that no one have it than let it be abused. As the Watchers wired their planet to blow with Exterminatus-class weaponry, the loyalist Dark Angels launched a counterattack on the Fallen, with the Lion particularly eager to take the fight to his brother. However, when Lion reached what should have been Luther’s sanctum within the Rock, he realized he had been tricked. Luther had known where Lion would have looked for him, and therefore did the exact opposite, taking a small strike team to the surface of Caliban. However, he was quickly forced to turn around when he realized what the Watchers had done to their planet. Lion was also forced to retreat, realizing that he and his men risked being cut off and overwhelmed by the Fallen if they tried to wait to ambush Luther. No one had won at Caliban. Luther had lost the Ouroboros, but Lion had lost his brother.
There were reports of a “Cypher”-type character on both sides of the conflict. Based on reports either he could travel really fast or (more likely) there was more than one of him. Some say he was the court battle-wizard of the legion who had gone missing/presumed dead two years previously whilst fighting a Big Mek and his Orkblitorator Cyborks on a Forge World. Some of these Cyphers may have actually been Alpha Legion infiltrators covertly helping the loyalists and hindering the traitors.
What happened to the Fallen mostly depended on what they did immediately after the War of the Beast. Some of the Fallen, mostly members of the lower ranks who realized they had been fed bullshit for the whole ordeal, surrendered when the enormity of their error became apparent. They ended up being sentenced to serve in the penal legions until they were deemed to have sufficiently repented for their sins after the first Black Crusade, after which the survivors were scattered among the other legions. The remainder, which represented at least half of the surviving Dark Angels, were spirited away by the Ruinous Powers to the Eye of Terror where they formed the core of the Fallen as we know them today. Of the being known as Cypher no conclusive answers have been obtained. He still appears in Imperial records from time to time down the ages with no discernable pattern. He is either leapfrogging through time via cryo-sleep or it’s not the same man. Even a Mark III S Astartes should have aged to death by now. The Eldar allies of the Dark Angels are unable to predict his movements and, much like the tyranids, he acts as a travelling blank spot in their prophecies.
In the years immediately following the War of the Beast, there were many who criticized the Lion's actions, chief among them Leman Russ. At one point the Great Wolf said within earshot of El'Jonson that Luther's betrayal was a near certainty, because "that's what one gets for trusting a member of the house of Jonson". That was a fateful mistake, as while the Lion might have been distraught, he wasn't deaf. The Lion was enraged — although his brother may have fallen to the Ruinous Powers, the Lion had still remained loyal to humanity and had done all in his power to help the Imperium. At least one son of House Jonson had retained his honor. In retaliation, the Lion turned and struck the Great Wolf on the jaw, knocking him out cold. In the aftermath of the fight, Leman Russ decided he had enough of witches and Jonsons and decided to relocate to Fenris entirely, nearly severing all ties with Old Earth. The Great Wolf would not set foot on his home planet again until nearly forty years after the Lion's disappearance, slightly humbler and wiser from his experience setting up the Fenrisian colonies.
As with all of the Primarchs save Sanguinius and Angron, the Lion was active following the War of the Beast, though one would be forgiven for thinking he was not. Unlike most of the Primarchs, who were primarily focused on rebuilding the Imperium, Lion was focused — some would say obsessed — with trying to recapture the Fallen. He split the remaining loyalist Dark Angels into knightly orders, reminiscent of those once present on Franj, and scattered them to distant worlds, with a program of frequent officer exchange between orders to keep them loyal to the Imperium rather than any one place of origin. He also instituted a mandatory position of Watcher within each chapter, held by a member of the Inquisition in order to monitor the chapter from the inside. These days, the job is usually held by a really old member of the Inquisition who refuses to retire despite being too old to chase anyone.
Finally, years after the War of the Beast had ended, the Lion received the news he had waited so long for. The Rock, and by extension Luther, had reappeared.
The Dark Angels and the rest of the Unforgiven fell upon the Rock swift as a flock of ravens, hounding it from system to system in a series of skirmishes, until they finally cornered the Fallen Angels on a long forgotten feral world. Amidst the twilight murk and murmuring rustle of a primeval forest, the once comrades faced each other after long centuries of hunting and waiting. The trees bore silent witness as loyalist and traitor slaughtered one another with a fury born of the void left by brotherhood and filled by hate, the quiet split by the roar of bolters and the scream of chainswords on ceramite. Bodies clad in green and black fell soundlessly to the mossy undergrowth, and the soil drank deep of rich dark blood.
Lion was unstoppable that day as he stalked the battlefield with his Deathwing honor guard, the Lion Sword flashing red as the Fallen fled before the Primarch. Yet the scum before him did not interest Lion; he had come with only one goal, and he would not be denied.
In the tangled forest the Primarch soon was separated from his honor guard and found himself alone at the edge of a clearing. He brushed aside the foliage in time to see a lone figure in black cut down the last of a squad of Dark Angels, carving through their armor with contemptuous ease. Lion did not need to see the golden fleur-de-lis on the horned onyx helm to know who the traitor was. His stance, the arrogant grace with which he moved, the way his sword danced in his hand like an extension of his arm. Luther.
Luther turned at the sound of Lion’s footsteps. The clearing was quiet as the eyes of the two brothers met behind the mirrored lenses of their helms, then Luther raised his sword in an old Franjish dueling salute, half mocking and half earnest. Lion did not return the gesture. Then sudden and swift as his namesake, he charged. The Lion Sword descended in a shining blur, faintly glowing with a pale inner light, and their blades met with a shivering clang as the Arch-Traitor blocked the Primarch’s savage strike, the Sword of Luther wreathed in a delicate corona of the void, tendrils of the Immaterium spilling forth from the edges of the blade. The sound of swords rang through the forest as back and forth the brothers traded blows, each unable to take the advantage as Lion’s cold ferocity and superior augmentations were matched by Luther’s consummate skill and the blessings of Chaos Undivided.
So bathed in the dappled light of the setting sun Lion and Luther did battle. Against the backdrop of the ancient giants of the forest, they might have been boys play-fighting with sticks, swatting at each other with wild abandon; but this was no game, and these were not the familiar old oaks of Franj. Bright gashes appeared on the brothers’ green and black armor where they found openings in the other’s defense, and blood trickled out where the blades had pierced the flesh beneath before the wounds were stanched by their superhuman physiologies. Pressed by his brother’s assault, Luther eventually began to tire, yet Lion remained as unrelenting as ever. Sensing victory, he battered Luther with a flurry of blows, tearing off the helmet with a glancing slash to the head, and finally drove his blade into his brother’s leg. Luther fell to one knee, and before he could react the Lion Sword was at his throat, the tip pressed against his bare neck.
For a moment the two men were motionless. Then Lion removed his winged helm with one hand and let it fall to the ground, and for the first time in a century the brothers looked each other face to face. Under his matted blond hair Lion’s eyes were red and wet. Another moment of stillness, then the Lion Sword dipped, and lowered away. Sharp as a whipcrack, Lion said only one word: “Why?”
The accusation in his brother’s voice struck Luther like a hammer, and emotions welled up within him. Rage. Humiliation. Guilt. Shame.
How could he have lost to Lion? Never before had Lion bested him in their sparring, except the few times when he had allowed it. But he deserved this. He betrayed his brother, and the Imperium, and had nearly damned humanity to extinction.
No, no! His plan had been sound, and with a single stroke they could have rid humanity of xenos influences and secured a future for Franj among the stars. If only Lion had listened and followed. Lion had always sought his counsel and followed him in matters of import, never defying him until that fateful day.
Yes, with that once act of defiance, of betrayal, Lion had doomed his plan and consigned him to a life of furtive scavenging and raiding. It was Lion!
With a cry Luther burst upwards, his sword a malign black blur streaking towards Lion’s throat. Surprised, Lion threw himself back and raised his sword to parry, but it was no use; against foe as deadly as Luther, even an inch of an opening would have been fatal. But the Chaos Gods were not done with their servant yet. In a final act of malicious caprice, they lifted the scales of madness from Luther’s eyes and allowed him to see with a clear mind what he had done.
In that moment Luther saw: Lion as the solemn boy he had taught to swing a sword, who wanted so much to be like his famed older brother; as the young man he had personally knighted, a rare, sweet smile spreading across those stern features; as the man he had fought and laughed and bled with on the battlefields of a thousand worlds, side by side. And he saw the brother that he had just killed, the tip of his sword cutting smoothly through a pale throat, a thin spray of blood in its wake.
Something within Luther broke. Beneath the horror of this realization, his tortured psyche fell to pieces, and when the Deathwing finally came upon the clearing they found a screaming Luther kneeling over Lion’s still body. Their act of domination complete, the warp echoed with dark laughter as the Chaos gods spirited Luther away amidst a hail of bolter fire.
The Deathwing immediately recovered Lion, and in a battle barge in orbit the Chief Apothecary and his team fought to save Lion’s life. Indeed, it was a miracle that Lion had survived so long, made possible only through the astounding power of the Mk III S augmentations, for even a Sus-an coma would not have saved a normal Astartes from such a grievous wound. Yet while the apothecaries could stabilize Lion, they could not restore him. A slash from a mundane weapon would have soon been healed by Lion’s regenerative abilities, but Luther’s cursed blade had inflicted a wound that would not close, the treatments and medications unable to take hold on the tainted flesh. Lion was slipping away, and with no other options, the apothecaries could only seal Lion in a stasis-coffin, and hope that some day a cure would be found.
To this day, Luther is still a broken man, given to wild swings of mood as his mind flits to and from the scattered shards of his personality, from charming magnanimity to unbridled rage to brooding despair. Yet buried within the dark cage of madness lies the last piece of good within Luther’s heart, his nobility and honor and love for his brother. And once in a rare while that light emerges from its prison, and Luther awakens to the reality of the nightmare around him and the horror that is his life. He screams then, and as he slaughters the Fallen around him he weeps and begs Lion for forgiveness. Inevitably, that moment of lucidity is swallowed again by warp-fueled madness as the Chaos gods reassert their power over their servant. But that piece of goodness remains, perhaps as the last spark of hope for Luther’s redemption.
Lion still sleeps in his coffin, his features peaceful beneath the crystal cover, frozen in time on the precipice between life and death. He would surely perish were he removed to perform the canticles of purification to cleanse his wound, and so he remains in his millennia-long slumber. Entreaties to Isha have proved fruitless, for she has said healing Lion would be beyond ever her powers as the Goddess of Life; Lion is too far into the realm of death for her to exercise sole influence over him. Indeed, it would take another god, a God of the Dead, in conjunction with her powers to restore Lion to life, and surely no such god exists. But the Dark Angels are not deterred; they wait and dream, sure that one day the last remaining Primarch will return and lead them all to their long-promised salvation.
The Lion Sword
Throughout his travels the Lion was known to use a red blade of excellent quality. When the Lion was put into his coma, his sword was interred alongside him in the Rock, ready to be wielded again by its master should the Lion ever wake from his coma. That sword is The Lion Sword, a Kinebrach blade exchanged as part of the ceremony finalizing the alliance between the young Imperium and the Interex.
It was the last blade made by the venerable master Mez-Go-Bur, who was said by witnesses to his work to have used neither forge nor hammer in his smithing, and that the metal he worked was taken from the shell of a fallen Cybernetica robot. He struck the metal with his bare fists, and as it started to heat up and become pliant the swordsmith beat all his sorrows (which were many) and his wrath (which was considerable) into the metal before him. The cherry red blade was quenched in a barrel of ceremonial oil mingled with his own blood, and on that concoction-laden blade he inscribed words of binding — banes against daemonic beings. Daemons had made his life a misery, so his blade would cut them and leave them maimed and miserable in turn with a pain that would follow them to the depths of their Hell. No matter if or how they healed the wretches would never stop hurting — as he would never stop hurting. But though he would die the daemons would linger eternally, and upon them would be inflicted a pain that would likewise linger eternally — for ever and ever and ever.
He smiled when the sword was handed over to Lion El'Jonson. He died not long after.
There are many Kinebrach blades in circulation in the Imperium and the art of making them is in no danger of ever being lost, but few are as vindictive as the ones made by Mez-Go-Bur; The Lion Sword was his last creation and believed to be his best.
There was a legend among the people of Franj: if an implement is left for more more than a year and day it will hunger for blood. The blade has been idle for too long now. Too many summers under a shroud of dust, even as its edge remains razor keen. If the old stories are true, then the Lion Sword thirsts a great deal. It would take a man of iron will to tame that blade now.
Perturabo of the Macedonian Garrison was not a man truly cut out for the military life, although it is hard to say exactly what sort of life he was cut out for.
Macedonia was an odd case at that point in the constant wars of the Age of Strife. Barely a century and a half ago it had been a conquered territory of the Great Everlasting Tharkian Empire — an empire far less grand than its name would suggest — until the Tharkians were themselves crushed by the relentless expansion of a Despot of Ursh, as so many others of the time were. The Urshii quickly swallowed up the valuable regions of the area, leaving only the ancient nation of Macedonia relatively untouched. By some miracle of cunning, guile, and luck on an incredible scale, Perturabo's grandfather Nestor made it appear that, instead of the meagre garrison it actually held, Macedonia was in fact home to Tharkian strategic reserves far greater than the forces the Urshii had already fought. This, combined with the seemingly unwavering defiance of the Macedonian people, convinced the Despot that conquering the region would overextend his supply lines and weaken his control over the greater Tharkia and thus abandoned the region to its fate.
With the immediate threat gone, the cities began to drift apart and Nestor was old and wise enough to know that he had neither the forces nor the authority to hold them together. He did, however, manage to take and hold the ancient fortress city of Štip-Isar; and many rival groups joined him in seizing a city or hive and expanding from there. Thus, Macedonia did survive, to some extent, albeit as a collection of squabbling city-states that would only unite against greater outside threats; ironically, not unlike the Classical Greek counterparts who were conquered by the Macedonians themselves in the depths of history.
Perturabo's father Nikola had risen to be the petty king of the reasonably well-off fortress city of Štip-Isar after Nestor had passed away, and, recognising how inadequately he had been prepared for the job, immediately set about the task of trying to train his children in the arts of statesmanship. His daughters were fine women, just as dedicated to the nation as he was, but the other regional powers would have openly scoffed and secretly mocked the entire family if a queen were to rise. Thus the highest positions the daughters would reach were the hastily arranged marriages they bore to shore up the city's few alliances, leaving Perturabo as the heir apparent — albeit one rather psychologically unsound.
Countless years later, when Nikola and his nation were a mere footnote in endless halls of historical texts, Perturabo's peers would describe him as a spare Angron minus the enthusiasm. Such a description is unfair and inaccurate, but it was true that it would have been difficult to find a leader less statesmanlike than the unfortunate son of Nikola. Perturabo suffered from bouts of quite severe depression, punctuated by occasional flashes of intense rage with little to no warning. Although the rage would flash into incandescence and burn itself out relatively quickly, the depression was far more lingering. Nikola made no effort to hide the disappointment he had for his son, but little did he know that the heir's true talents would be more vital for the nation's survival than Terra's finest diplomats could ever be.
For Perturabo — in spite of his constant pessimism, or perhaps because of it — was supremely gifted at defensive planning. His dreams, haunted as they were by thoughts of his home being crushed by faceless invaders, merely bolstered his resolve to resist. He was not his father, or his grandfather, however; he was not a leader who could call the people to defend their land tooth and nail, for that would require hope and optimism that he himself so sorely lacked. Instead, Perturabo's defensive planning was that of grim determination, of strongholds and counter-offensives instead of rallies and patriotism, of a hard shell around softer peoples. Some would have called this paranoia, especially given how the petty skirmishes with other nation-states were the largest wars known for over a generation, but in truth it was uncanny foresight.
When the scum of Ursh came back it was as if a mighty hammer had struck the lands, driving all before it. Perturabo — indeed, all of Macedonia — was caught off-guard by the assault; by the time he was made aware of the threat, the most prosperous and powerful of his neighbours were little more than flaming rubble. Desperate for time, the heir withdrew his forces again and again, his generals raging and threatening mutiny for his cowardice, and he later claimed that in all his life he had faced no greater test than keeping his calm and concealing his plans from them (and thus, any possible Urshii spies) until the very last moment.
Nestor had fought a war — a war of armies and raiding parties facing each other in pitched battles — but his grandson had to stop a wave of slaughter that bore more resemblance to a swarm of locusts than any coherent fighting force. Isolated strongpoints were ground down horrifyingly quickly by sheer weight of numbers, and Perturabo had soon realised that the only chance he had of stopping the swarm was in a single, united defensive line. Even then, he knew he could not hope to stop the Despot's onslaught, only to give it a bloodied nose and hope it would back off. The Urshii forces knew none of this, as all they saw were lands held by weak natives and abandoned by their defenders. Just as they were wondering if their grandparents' tales of the effortless conquest of Tharkia had some truth to them, they ran directly into Perturabo's hastily constructed kill zones. Metal, laser, and superheated plasma alike rained down on the barbarians as if it were the Macedonian's own spite and pain made manifest, and the Urshii vanguard was left a mere pile of mangled bodies for their comrades to climb.
The Despot's humiliation drove him into such a rage that he eviscerated his own commanders, ordering their replacements to wipe Macedon from the face of Terra. Even with Perturabo's formidable defences and traps, the main Urshii force would raze the land without batting an eyelash — yet the Despot was so blinded by his rage that he was caught completely unawares by the true threat to his power.
When the scouts of the Warlord's army first trickled into Macedonia they expected a barren wasteland — or at best, a broken nation at its own throat. Much of their suspicions were confirmed, but amongst the dirt they found a diamond-hard shard of defiance that had prepared for the storm and, amazingly, was still weathering it. It was here, the Warlord decided, that the first (and perhaps the most important) true blow against Ursh would be struck.
After the smoke had cleared, the plasma burns had cooled, and the shrieks of the wounded had finally fallen away into silence, Perturabo discovered that not only had he bloodied the nose of the Despot's assault, but he had broken its back completely. Caught between the swift hammer of the Warlord's armies and the unyielding anvil of the Macedon defence, Ursh's toughest veterans were shattered and scattered to the wind — and even the most zealous of the barbarians were were beginning to question if there was a master greater than their own.
The Warlord entered Štip-Isar not as a conqueror, but simply as a leader, for he had great respect for the one who turned such a small nation into a devourer of armies. Yet the prince would do something that not a single battlefield or leader had managed so far, or quite possibly since. He surprised his guest, and not only with his young age (for, compared to his generals, he was little more than a boy), but with his mind. For when the Warlord looked into his psyche, he found something he had never seen before or since - and he wished he had not. It was cold. Bleak. A desolate landscape of steel and bone blasted smooth by an unrelenting gale of numbers, of angles, of shifting probabilities; while above, great roiling clouds of blackness drained away what little light and life lay beneath them. Even this was just a momentary glimpse, for in the blink of an eye he was locked out by an immense iron wall rising from the ground in a mere instant, horizon-lengths wide and twice as tall. The Warlord found himself simply staring into dead, grey eyes, barred from what lay within by mental defences greater than all but the most powerful of psykers — and built simply from paranoia and distrust rather than to contain any unearthly whispers. But those eyes told him all he really needed to know about the prince. There was no fear there, no awe, and certainly no love. Just endless planning, calculating, searching for weakness.
To his credit, the Warlord still saw potential in the mad architect; something that could be put to use, maybe even turned to greatness. After long, distrustful negotiations (for the Macedonians were as wary of his arrival as they were grateful for it), Perturabo was offered a place in the Warlord's armies as a fortification and garrison specialist. For King Nikola's part... the sad truth was that he was glad to see the back of his son. After all, with Perturabo otherwise occupied — or out of the way, depending on your point of view — he now had grandchildren to train in inheriting his responsibilities.
Perturabo rose through the ranks of the Imperial Army with neither the speed nor grandeur of the other Primarchs, but he did indeed become great. Other generals captured huge swathes of land or routed vast armies, but it was he who ensured that any forces seeking to recapture their territory or avenge their fallen knew nothing but failure. He was never at the forefront of any battle or campaign, never the glorious conqueror or invincible warrior; and of course, he earned little respect from those who were, who saw him as an unstable freak barely fit to follow in their footsteps. This, however, suited him just fine, as he much preferred a legacy of impenetrable bastions safeguarded people than any number of songs or monuments.
Still, the Warlord quietly took note of his work, of how harmlessly the condescension of both his superiors and subordinates bounced off him, and none were surprised as Perturabo himself was when he was selected for late-stage Thunder Warrior treatment. Soon, as the remnants of the Old Night were finally purged and the dream of Unification began to spread across Sol, malcontents and partisans began to emerge from the woodwork; and it was here Perturabo's worth truly became evident even to his detractors. For old king Nikola's lessons had not, in fact, been in vain, and it was discovered that the Macedonian's lands were impenetrable to assault from within as well as without. For this, he was finally elevated to the lofty title of Primarch.
In the countless years that followed, the Unification became the Great Crusade; the Warlord became the Steward, and Štip-Isar faded into distant memory. Perturabo, however, did not change. Perhaps he could not. After all, his life had certainly not changed, for it still consisted of day after day of building meat grinders of horrific scale while planning yet-greater ones, all while hoping against hope they would never be needed. Or perhaps, just as was the case in his youth, his works were so brutally efficient because of the hope he — and they — lacked. But back in his homeland he still had the support of his people; or at least he had his father to soothe and comfort them at every turn. Here, on the frontier worlds, the deal of "harsh work and oppression for you and your children in the name of descendants you will not live to see" would've been a hard sell for Guilliman, or Sanguinius, never mind one as uncharismatic as Perturabo — and the hatred of the people was beginning to wear down even his iron resolve.
When The War of the Beast descended upon the worlds under his aegis, his worth was finally proven beyond any doubt. Wretched, base creatures assaulted his people, his fortresses, his worlds in droves — and time and time again they drowned in their own tides of endless green. His warriors manned their battlements and fired from positions prepared centuries ago in an eerie mirror image of the plains of Macedonia so long ago. The doctrine still remained identical, as well. No point would be defended to the last man, for such heroics were costly and unnecessary; instead, the defenders would fight until the back of the assault force was broken before retreating to their next set of positions, buying them precious breathing room while the enemy were forced to bring in a fresh wave of warriors.
It would be wrong to say that no worlds under his protection fell, or to say that his methods were flawless. Just as it was against the Urshii, he would never defend an untenable position; civilian conurbations and evacuation points were no exception to this, and his new subordinates labelled him a coward with as much vigour as his old ones had so long ago. But this cold, calculated strategy ensured that his armies lived — and more importantly, rested — to fight another day, where another Primarch would've allowed them to be slaughtered in a vain order to hold the line.
On venerable Olympia, one of the first colony worlds of the Old Empire brought back into the fold by Perturabo's Iron Warriors, the Primarch nearly met his end. His command headquarters was unexpectedly besieged by a force of Orks that, reinforced by a newly arrived Rok, had broken through a weakened flank, and he insisted on taking to the field personally. Years later, he would claim it was simply a pragmatic decision — after all, as a Thunder Warrior he was fully capable of fighting to earn time for his command staff to be evacuated, all of whom were equally invaluable to the defense of the planet — but for many, this unexpected loyalty was a welcome reminder that there was still a human within the Primarch's iron shell. His psychological one, at least.
His physical armour, however, would be sorely tested by the Warboss he would face; a great corroding creature of Nurgle's kin, leading the Orks of the Pox Doks with laughter and taunts even as lascannon and bolter blew off chunks of rotting green flesh. The fate of the world and every soul on it was decided in a burning cathedral; and while Perturabo was certainly not the unstoppable juggernaut other Primarchs were, his calculating mind was as much use here as it was fighting on theater or even planetary level. It merged with his Thunder Warrior instincts, making each move carefully planned and each attack predicted ahead of time, until the fight seemed to be a fluid dance akin to that of the Eldar Harlequins.
Still, in brute force he was outmatched, and for every hundred blows he saw coming, there was one he simply could not parry or evade in time. The mighty green leviathan and the smaller figure slowly but relentlessly tearing it down — a fitting reversal of their armies' roles — wore each other into the ground, until the Iron Warrior emerged triumphant over the Rust of Decay. With the Warboss gone, the Primarch's legion quickly broke the remainder of the Ork assault, reclaiming swathes of land and beginning the long and thankless task of re-securing it. Scouting parties quickly found their Primarch, slumped in the pews where the faithful once prayed for redemption, and almost as white as the pale stone dust raining down from the ruined cathedral.
Perturabo did not see that world retaken; he did not see the organised withdrawals from worlds and sectors almost turn to a complete rout without his immaculate planning.
He did not see the Battle of Terra, the desecration of his homeworld.
He did not see the death of first Sanguinius, then the Beast.
He eventually did awaken, but only after a year spent comatose, while his ruined body was slowly repaired by Thunder Warrior physiology where possible and Mechanicus cybernetics where not. Unbowed and unbroken; Iron within, Iron without. As soon as he was able to, he marched on with his legion, rebuilding worlds and shoring up their defences before moving onto the next. Still, many believed that the Beast's legacy still haunted him and that he blamed himself personally for each loss; for as the years passed he became more and more of a perfectionist, making demands of broken worlds that could not have met them in their prime. Eventually, his most senior Warsmiths agreed by unanimous vote to remove him from active service, after he demanded a planet's population be decimated for a single of its regiments' incompetence. Perhaps, like many others, he did not resist simply because he was grateful.
Perturabo's last days were spent back on Old Earth as an architect, away from the battlefield and doing what he loved. Many had forgotten that he could design anything but defensive lines and fortresses; and perhaps he himself had forgotten as well. Over time, the work began to heal him, and in turn he began to heal Old Earth. The swathes of land destroyed by the Beast were given to him as a blank canvas, and upon them he built structures as grand and magnificent as any in the Dark Age of Technology ever were. Oddly enough, this would be his legacy to the common man; his military campaigns would be lost to the ages, but his designs would be copied and imitated across the entire Imperium — from his streamlining of Hive City layouts that every planetary governor desperately sought to the glorious palaces on Terra that, well, every planetary governor desperately sought. Such form and function would not be surpassed for millenia to come, and even to this day his influence is visible on almost every Imperial world.
Perturabo passed away soon after finishing his plans for the new Imperial Palace; remarking that only now he was able to discover his art, after war had taken all the joy and beauty from it. Some say that he passed with a gentle, childlike smile on his face — for after a thousand years of siege and duty, Perturabo, Prince of Macedonia, Son of Nikola, was finally to be relieved.
See Also: Iron Within, Iron Without
Mortarion was born in the abject squalor of the slums of Gredbritton, in the aftermath of the fall of the Unspeakable Tyrant. His life was certainly not made any easier by the fact that his mother was the fallen Tyrant's daughter; and that many whispered that his unknown father was the Tyrant himself — and given the sheer depravity of that individual, these accusations were hardly baseless. When the hysteria was beginning to die down, his mother did her best to hide their shared heritage and instead made ends meet as a maintenance skivvy and lay-technician of the great Tintajus Hive, the capital of that broken nation. They never truly advanced in wealth or power — although perhaps this was shrewdness on his mother's part, as those of the upper hive would be more likely to recognise them — and as such Mortarion seemed almost permanently sickly, growing up pale and gaunt from lack of sunlight and food.
Gredbritton was one of the earliest nations brought into the Imperial fold — being part of a greater union of nations went some way to restoring order, as well as bringing strength and prosperity it had not seen since the nation itself had ruled great swathes of Terra. Like so many young men with no hope, Mortarion joined the regiments of the Imperial Army — not out of some sense of patriotism or desire to bring other realms into the Imperium, but simply for the promise of at least one meal a day, a pair of trousers he didn't have to share, and perhaps even some money to send home to his family.
He served with merit (if not distinction) until he was in his 22nd year, in spite of recurring bouts of old childhood illnesses. At some point in this year he had learned that the Warlord was looking for volunteers for Thunder Warrior conversion, known to be a procedure that carried considerable risks. The Apothecarium and the Biologis warned both him and the officials administrating the project that his physical imperfections would likely render Mortarion little more than a twisted nightmare — yet neither side yielded. The project's overseers were unwilling to turn away one of the few volunteers they could find, least of all one so eager; and for his part, the would-be Thunder Warrior reasoned that his body was already almost constantly betraying him, and that both success and failure would finally bring him the respite he so desperately sought. At first he volunteered, then requested, then demanded that they tear his body apart and put him back together, as the payout his family would get for his "death" in this manner would set his mother and younger sisters up for life.
By some strange twist of fate he did survive. Perhaps even the biotechnicians had failed to realise how far they had refined their own process — certainly, the success rate was easily an order of magnitude higher than it was when Angron was "upgraded" — or perhaps the trauma of the procedures was shrugged off by a body that had spent twenty-two long years steadfastly refusing to die. In any case, Mortarion fought as hard as any other in the name of the Imperium and its Warlord, earning rank after rank based on sheer weight of victories. These victories were costly, the battlefields brutal — for Angron was no tactical genius, and would often dismiss inventive but untried tactics and strategies in favour of the certainties of more proven ones.
Thus, while his superiors prized his methodical successes over the less reliable tactics of the more creative leaders, his men held no love for him, only a grudging respect. The latter was cemented in place by his willingness — nay, his insistence — to lead from the front, forcing his way into the thickest fighting and risking death alongside his men. They saw great victories against the savage men of Ursh and the organised and equipped armies of Achaemenidia with equal ease, only stumbling when facing the Gyptoussian sorcerers — who dabbled in things that should not be dabbled in. Indeed, it was in those desert campaigns that Mortarion developed a fear, almost a hatred, of all psykers. Never again in his long life would he employ them or even accept their advice or aid, even when it might have been advisable to do so.
Mortarion soon developed a reputation for being invincible, and while this struck fear into his enemies, it merely frustrated his subordinates. He would charge into battle alongside his soldiers, yet he would far outlast them even under the most withering fire; returning from the field of war alone, with shredded armour and spent weapons, sporting wounds that would have felled a lesser Thunder Warrior.
When the forces of the Steward looked to the rest of Sol, Mortarion's forces were assigned primarily to garrison duty due to the costly nature of his method of warfare. In these engagements they held themselves with distinction, as they would make an enemy's assault on them far costlier. By the time Sol was subjugated and the galaxy lay before the Imperium, the Emperor had named him Primarch for his sheer tenacity and list of victories. It was revealed in later years, however, that the Warlord/Steward disapproved greatly of Mortarion's methods of warfare — at least, according to a few unnamed insiders from the Imperial Palace. Mortarion had, by methods undisclosed, obtained the entire stockpile of biological and chemical weapons owned by his late grandfather and father. He had also obtained the ancient library of Gredbritton, the contents of which were hastily handed over to the Warlord's Sigillite.
When taking a city or hive, the Dusk Raiders would prefer to besiege if first, firing artillery rounds filled with a dozen godforsaken contagions over (or through) the walls and waiting a few months. When the time came for them to enter the city, anything that was still alive would be shredded with bolt, plasma and promethium; the only considerable obstacles in their way being the sheer number of dead bodies filling the hive. Only Curze's methods were deemed more detestable, but unlike his fellow primarch's claims that the horrors he committed were for the greater good he simply pointed out that a conventional assault would likely have similar civilian casualties, but would also take a heavy toll on his own legion. The Warlord was never satisfied with this defence, but the results of his campaigns were undeniable.
He would go on to take this method of warfare off-world; after all, the need to kill and conquer in the most efficient way possible was even greater when precious supplies had to be ferried across the depths of space. Many whispered that he was his father's son — but this was not the case. For while the Unspeakable Tyrant had done such things in the name of gods too terrible to contemplate, Mortarion did them in the name of his warriors, and so that they may live another day. For all that they hated him, he did not hate his own men; although few would have believed that had he told them.
At the onset of the War of the Beast, the Dusk Raiders were quickly established as the dirty, dirty hands of the Imperium. Instead of fighting heroic yet costly rearguards to save evacuees as so many others did, they would bombard worlds with flesh-eating diseases and exsanguination virii the minute they were lost. This, contrary to their detractors, was not to punish those left behind but instead to deny the enemy potential slaves — or food, for that matter — while leaving most material assets intact. Hundreds of billions, maybe even trillions, died from these proto-Virus Bombs, and it did not stop the enemy or even slow their expansion; it was only beginning to chip away at the rate at which the expansion accelerated. Yet this was still more than most other legions could achieve against the sheer size and speed of the Beast's initial assault, and it was done while preserving Mortarion's valuable warriors; indeed, it was then that they earned their moniker of the Death Guard, for the ruination that followed on worlds they failed to defend was as if they were the guardians of the Reaper himself.
Many of Mortarion's fellow Primarchs, Sanguinius and Vulkan in particular, publicly decried these attacks, but he did not care. They called him a traitor, and he did not care. They called him a coward, a monster, and he did not care. They spat on his legion's banner; Dorn in particular calling his warriors detestable cravens — and only then did he warn the man who fought only from his precious entrenchments to mind his choice of words, lest one of the Unspeakable Tyrant's lost weapons suddenly "appear" in the skies over his beautifully crafted defensive lines. For his Legion were not cowards, and any who would make such a claim had not seen the mechanical determination with which they fought. Any who would make such a claim had not seen the way they ground the Beast's forces down into pieces, then into dust, breaking the back of the enemy's assaults so that other, more heroic, better men might earn the glory of beheading them.
When the smoke had cleared and the Steward and Eldrad stood over the corpse of The Beast, the remains of the Imperium cheered for years, for decades. The Death Guard did not, for they were pushing its borders outwards; rebuilding their legion and continuing their endless, tireless crusade. Never mind how the mighty Dorn and his warriors would not take one step back. The Death Guard would never cease marching forward, into the Dark Millennium and beyond. The only time they would ever falter would be to honour their primarch's passing, on the distant western fringe world known as Macharius' Rest. Where sickness, assassination attempts, Thunder Warrior surgeries and treatment, and thousands of Orks had failed, time had won its final victory. Members of the Dusk Raiders, the Death Guard, and every crusader who had ever fought alongside them made the pilgrimage to the edge of the Imperium, to pay their grudging respects to the Man Who Would Not Die.
"Even our allies believe us nothing more than scum, than vermin to be crushed underfoot. Then let us fight like them; with tooth and claw, dragging down the mightiest of enemies with our dying breaths. Let us scour their lands clean with pestilence, and leave nothing that can be used against man — for vermin always have the last word."
Lorgar Aurelian was a child born in the theocracy of the Ynsdonesic Bloc, and as all children born in that awful place was the result of a state designated union. Unions in that dysfunctional realm were usually decided by perceiving omens, be it from smoke patterns or entrail augury — despite the degenerate unions that this practice often created.
As with all Yndonesic youths, Lorgar was raised in the Kartharanite branch of religion. He was taught that only through suffering was any worth found — be it inflicted on the self or on others — and that the unbelievers must be cleansed from the world by fire and sword. It was not a faith of kindness that he was raised in.
His appointed mentor in matters of religion was Bishop Kor Phaeron of Jakurtana. Had he had any other master history would have taken a decidedly different path, for Bishop Phaeron was secretly a member of the Katholian sect from which the Kartharanite had once sprung. It was in this more kind and just faith that Lorgar found peace and purpose.
The old faith spread through the downtrodden and the hopeless of society — despite the brutal and cruel efforts of the ruling Cardinal Tang to suppress, contain, and exterminate it. Eventually the outrage and animosity of the people for their leaders reached a fever pitch, and a brutal civil war ensued. As Bishop Phaeron was the highest ranking member of the hierarchy on the side of the people, the people looked to him for guidance. As the Bishop's right hand man Lorgar soon learned the ways of war. He learned to inspire and comfort. He learned how to appeal for calm and how to whip people's passions to a frenzy. Although not lacking in martial prowess, it was his voice, his cunning, and his keen intellect that were Lorgar's favoured weapons.
It was fortuitous that the Katholian subversion erupted into open rebellion when it did, for the forces of the Warlord were marching down from the North and the Ynsdonesic Bloc was well up on the "Burn it down and start again" list. With the possibility of an unwinnable war on two fronts quickly emerging, Bishop Phaeron went to the parlay with the Warlord in person, dressed in a crude hessian robe and with only Lorgar Aurelian accompanying him.
Phaeron and Lorgar were granted audience with the Warlord in his tent, and the two made their way into the heart of the enemy war camp, surrounded by genetically modified super-soldiers and heavy weapons. Expecting some zealous speech of defiance and martyrdom, the Warlord was somewhat taken aback when the two knelt before him and swore allegiance. The two Katholians cared deeply about their faith and the word of their God, but their God also cared deeply about the people he had made. Their God would understand if he was to be forgotten, but would not forgive men leading his children to slaughter — men who should know better than to undertake such madness. They would rather their people be free and happy than pious.
Moved by their words, the Warlord gave them time — a grace period. Should they triumph over their oppressors, they would be welcomed into the Imperium as any other member state. Should they fail, their nation would receive the harsh treatment of conquest and subjugation.
Through a brutal twelve year war fought with insurgencies, underhanded tactics, and assassinations, the Katholians claimed victory and Cardinal Tang's broken — but still living — form was dragged before the Warlord as a token of gratitude. It was somewhat of a pyrrhic victory for the people of the Ynsdonesic Bloc, for their nation was fragmented into a hundred pieces, each swearing loyalty to some tin-pot dictator with delusions of grandeur — some almost as bad as Cardinal Tang. It would not be long before the fights for dominance and conquest began anew, to say nothing of annexation by another nation. The forces of the Warlord again prepared to march, and again Lorgar begged the Warlord to stay his hand. They were just sheep without a shepherd, he implored, lost children in a very dark night. Once more swayed by the strange but kind passion in Lorgar's voice, the Warlord relented.
Over the next five years, as Bishop Phaeron became Patriarch Phaeron, Lorgar went to the isolated, the lost, and the scared with open arms and promises of reconciliation. For the most part he was well received, and his homeland healed. It was only after the talking was done that those too stubborn or monstrous to come home again were removed. Great pains were taken to minimize casualties, but there was never going to be a wholly peaceful end to that bitter conflict.
The Ynsdonesic Bloc was the first of the old nation states to disband its own military completely and throw the totality of its own might, meagre though it was, wholeheartedly into the Imperium. Lorgar, now a Chaplain-General in the Imperial Army, was considered too old for conversion from human to superhuman, but did receive some discrete genetic modifications.
It was a regiment overseen by Lorgar that lead the final assault on the Despot of Ursh's palace. The fall of the Despot's final bastion signaled the unification of Old Earth. The Despot was tried and sentenced to execution for his many unspeakable crimes, and it was Lorgar's blade that finally fell upon the Last Despot of Ursh. But Chaplain-General Aurelian considered all of his victories to be nothing but tragedies. The only true victory, he would often claim, was one where no war was to be found. For his valour and astounding levels of inspiring oratory skill he was declared the unlikely Primarch.
Of all the Primarchs in the time of the Great Crusade his forces brought more worlds into the Imperium peacefully than any other. They didn't bring more worlds in, oh my no; Lorgar's forces moved quite slow and their tardiness was the source of great consternation to the now Steward. But Lorgar was tolerated because the worlds he claimed were brought into the Imperium whole — undamaged and eagerly contributing.
In the War of the Beast Primarch Aurelian and his Legion struck back with an unexpected ferocity. Many of the other war leaders of the Imperium had considered his to be a Legion full of pacifists and weaklings. Like many of the Damned in the armies of the Beast, they had mistaken the olive branch for a white flag — and they were punished hard for it.
Across the breadth and depth of the burning Imperium, to the aid of human or xeno, the Word Bearers could be found holding the line and inspiring others to hold the line. Wherever they strode despair turned to hope, weary hands held firmly anew their blessed weapons, and shaky voices roared the old battle hymns.
Lorgar and his forces were on Old Earth when Sanguinius died, and ever afterwards Lorgar blamed himself for not fighting hard enough to have saved his brother Primarch.
Lorgar lived and served for many years. He eventually died of old age at near eleven hundred years old. A small but modest shrine was erected at the Jakurtana Seminary that is sometimes visited by Word Bearer chaplains even into the Dark Millennium.
See also The Book of Lorgar
From an early age, it was clear to most people that Jaghatai “White Scar” Khan was going to grow up to be a troublemaker. Some might have doubted such a claim, but that doubt would have been put to rest by the time Jaghatai was ten; he was thrown from his vehicle during an accident while tending the flocks, giving him the scar that would later become his most identifying feature, only to dust himself off with little to no concern for the cut on his face. Unfortunately, “most people” did not happen to include the Despot of Ursh. For years, Jaghatai and his people had lived the way his people always had, raising flocks of livestock on the steppes as shepherds and drovers with the help of motorcycles and off-road vehicles. It was this skill with motor vehicles that had brought the people of the steppes to the Despot’s eye. He saw a greater use for their talents than simply herding livestock, and so he pressed the people of the steppes into service. The people of the steppes were turned into shock troopers — raiding enemy supply lines, tearing into retreating battalions, and burning down villages that refused to completely subjugate to the Despot — becoming yet another boogeyman for the Despot of Ursh to use to scare his enemies and subjects into submission.
Jaghatai’s father was the nominal representative of the steppe peoples to the Despot of Ursh, and so was given the title of Khan; a once noble title that had come to mean nothing in the years since the people of the steppes were enslaved by Ursh. Jaghatai's father pleaded with the Despot to try and make the lives of his people better, but the Despot had a heart harder than adamantium and had no love for people whose loyalty was not absolute. And so it was that at the age of nineteen Jaghatai was awoken one night by emissaries from the Despot of Ursh, who dropped his father's head in a sack on his doorstep and gave Jaghatai the same ultimatum the Despot had given his father: "Serve me absolutely, or die".
Faced with not only the threat of his own demise but the demise of his people, Jaghatai swore loyalty at the point of a sword. But privately, the new Khan swore another oath. He swore that if there was any justice in this world he would not rest until he had avenged his father and it was the Despot of Ursh who had his head put in a sack. And so it was that for several years Jaghatai served as the leader of the one of the most feared forces in the entire Urshii army. And he hated it. He hated seeing his people being turned into animals, being used as attack dogs to terrorize people whose only sin had been to ask the Despot of Ursh for a bit of mercy. He hated the pain and suffering he caused in every burned out husk of a settlement he left behind him. Even when his people were kept out of the fray of raiding and pillaging, his conscience still gnawed at him over the fact that it had been his support that had allowed the Urshii to win and allowed this to happen.
This went on for several years, until reports began to come in about a strange new power known as "the Imperium" led by a most peculiar Warlord, which was pushing against the Urshii from the west. Fortunately for Ursh, much of the south and west of the Urshii heartland was bordered by near-impenetrable mountain ranges, with only a few major passes between them. Khan and his people were dispatched as part of a force to guard one of these mountain passes from incursion, along with several thousand elite Urshii troopers. The Urshii soldiers had no love for the nomads, forcing them to set up camp far away from the rest of the army and foisted upon them most of the scouting and reconnaissance duties. It was because of this that the Khan and his forces were alone when they quite literally stumbled upon the expeditionary force of the Warlord one fateful day.
Coming around a corner in the bottom of a river valley, the Khan and his scouting forces quite unexpectedly came across some incredibly angry men holding some very imposing guns. After a few minutes of tense standoff, the leader of the opposing forces called a ceasefire to try and figure out why neither of the two sides had begun shooting at each other yet. It was at this point that the Khan first met the Warlord. The Khan realized that this was his opportunity to get revenge on the Despot of Ursh and avenge his father. He told the Warlord the truth, the real truth he had carried inside him since the day his father died. Although initially skeptical, the Warlord was impressed by the sincerity of the Khan's answer, enough so to believe the Khan's story.
The Warlord and the Khan thus began to conspire as to how to defeat the Urshii army at the pass. At first, the Warlord suggested to the Khan that he simply "forget" to show up to the battle, but the Khan vehemently disagreed. The Urshii had denigrated his people, the Khan said, and blood had to be repaid in blood. Therefore, a new plan was formulated, in which the Khan's forces would change sides once the Urshii and the Imperium became locked in combat. Rather than being flankers as intended, the Khan's troops would tear into the Urshii army from behind, forcing them to fight a two-fronted battle. The plan was a resounding success, and the battle ended in a complete rout of the forces of Ursh, allowing the Imperium to cross the mountain passes into the core Urshii territories. The former slaves of Ursh were skeptical to see the Khan's people as liberators, rather than devastators, and this bad blood would persist for years even after the fall of Ursh. Nevertheless, being involved as the front lines of a massive liberating army went a long way towards alleviating such concerns. When the Despot of Ursh was toppled and his abominable empire finally fell, the Khan finally felt that his father had been avenged.
The Warlord had earned the Khan’s gratitude and trust, but the Khan made sure to let the Warlord know that his people would never again be unthinking slaves.
“You have helped me avenge my father and free my people, and for that you have my gratitude. But remember that gratitude makes my people and I your allies, not your slaves. For all that you have done, you have my trust. But if you abuse that trust, know that not even death will be fast enough to catch you before I do.”
— Jaghatai Khan, reportedly said to the Warlord upon the final fall of Ursh
Fortunately, the Khan never had to put his newfound trust to the test. The years of the Great Crusade were probably some of the best of the Khan's life. His people were no longer slaves; in the place of chains and endless toil was a vast new galaxy that had just become open to them. He even fell in love, something he had been studiously avoiding under the reign of the Despot in order to avoid giving that monster something he could exploit him with. He caught the eye of a girl, a former Urshii woman who had worked in the fields as an agricultural serf. He showed her the ways of the steppes, and the two of them fell deeply in love. He was heartbroken when she died. She died at 110 — a ripe old age by the standards of those who lived before the Dark Age of Technology — from a disease that befell many who had worked in the fields of Ursh in the later years of their lives, which unfortunately no amount of juvenant drugs could fix. And yet the Khan had to go on, as the Imperium still had need of his services. It was this sense of duty that led Khan to become an Astartes. Khan spent most of the Crusade on planets that had problems with orks and occasionally Dark Eldar, beings that the Khan saw as truly reprehensible and therefore had no moral problems with hunting them down.
Late in life, the Khan began to feel his age seeping into his bones, and looked back at what he had accomplished during his life. He had avenged his father, freed his people, taken them to the stars, started a family, and helped build an empire. It was "more than any man could hope to accomplish in one lifetime", as the Khan said in his own words. But there was still one last thing Khan had to do. The old warrior planned to travel the galaxy one last time, to say goodbye to the friends he made before he passed away. However, the Khan never finished his trip. Although most of the people close to him did report seeing him shortly before his disappearance, the Khan never made it back to Earth to be buried in his homeland, like he wanted. Many of the White Scars say that like many of the other Primarchs, Khan did not truly die, and will return to lead them once more when times are dire. One can only hope.
Although the Khan got along well with many of the warrior Primarchs like Russ, perhaps his strangest relationship was his odd friendship with Magnus the Red. Part of the reason for this is that Khan actually knew Magnus (though not well) before either had become known as Primarchs, back when they had been bound under the Despot of Ursh. Khan knew firsthand that Magnus was a man, not a monster, and treated him as such. It was probably this friendship that lead to the Khan being so pro-psyker in life. Although he was not a psyker himself, he knew of the suffering psyker powers could bring to an individual, and so was a strong advocate for pro-psyker policies like the Schola that would help psykers control their gifts. He was also not averse to the use of psykers in combat, though like most he drew the line at warp sorcery. Outside of the Steward and the Primarchs, the Khan often had trouble socializing with other people. Part of this was due to a lack of things he could talk about with other people, and part of this was that he never really got the hang of Gothic — always speaking it with a rather heavy accent, which he was embarrassed by. As a result, the Khan was often known for being taciturn at public appearances, and was well known for regarding actions higher than words.
Konrad Curze was a man that could politely be described as driven — and accurately be described as a frothing at the mouth lunatic. Of all the Primarchs, none of the appointments were more questioned than his.
Curze had grown up in the final days of the Age of Strife in the rambling under-city of Tordashimya in the Pan-Pacific Empire, along with all of the horrors and excesses that this entailed. To say that this had an effect on the deepest levels of his mind would be a woeful understatement, and he saw the fledgling Imperium as only existing as a means of imposing some sort of order and some basic justice on a world that was in dire need of both. And he saw it as his duty to make it happen. Sadly, his means of doing so were as crude and brutal as those who he sought to bring to justice; after all, the quickest way to gain obedience is through fear, and the easiest way to rebuild a society is to behead it and tear apart the body.
Despite — or, some whisper in hushed tones, because of — the Steward's insistence that he change his tact, Curze became stubborn and resentful; his predations becoming ever more brutal. Realising the futility of the attempts to bring the man to heel, the Steward instead directed him instead to the worlds of no hope — worlds so broken that they could never be brought into the Imperium. Worlds he couldn't make worse. It was on one of these worlds, Nostramo, that the Night Haunter found some strange joy. If he could bring a world such as this — so broken, so unspeakably wretched as this — to the light of civility, then he would be vindicated before the whole galaxy. If a world so cursed by both gods and men could be rebuilt, there was nothing that could not be.
The subjugation of that world was the harrowing stuff of nightmares. The Dark Eldar could barely have done better to make every day-cycle a new nightmare; indeed, some claim that they were there to simply soak up the suffering as a welcome break to their long campaigns of torture and enslavement. But in time Curze, now infamous as the Night Lord of Nostramo, was vindicated. His people took control of every position of authority, while the malcontents were quickly disappeared, often winding up dead and mutilated along with their families and friends, whether man, woman, elder or child. Reprehensible though it was, order was brought to a chaotic world — and order began to spread, as for each world his legion inflicted such unspeakable horrors on, ten more surrendered without raising arms. Hideous, brutal examples were made of the worst, but through them the more virtuous were saved.
Soon enough, the dark whispers of Chaos began to tempt his mind, the fallen Eldar of the Crone Worlds assailing his dreams with tantalising offers of untold riches and endless power. Yet every offer was found wanting; every envoy cut down, every promise met with scorn. They had made the mistake of assuming that one such as Curze had become would revel in their depraved debaucheries, without considering that he would find them every bit as repulsive as other, better, people found him. He was a monster, this was true, but he was a monster who ripped and tore and tortured in the name of order; by the Emperor he was the Imperium's monster and nobody else's.
Some, of course, fell. Younger soldiers who had maybe joined the cause for glory, for strength, or even for mere self-gratification. But the vast majority of them were, like their Primarch, disgusted by the offerings of Chaos — horrified by the fall of their battle-brothers, and insulted at the implication that they and the forces of Chaos served the same ends. For the entirety of the War of the Beast, the Lords of the Night could be found sowing discord and misery amongst the fleets and the armies of Damnation. For every horror the invaders committed more was inflicted upon them, and for every innocent killed by the Ruinous Powers the Night Lords would swear vengeance on a dozen daemons.
Few of that despised Legion ever fought on the soil of Old Earth, and never were they allowed to forget this. But because of their actions the forces of damnation were weakened and poorly focused, with one eye always over their shoulder. Even if their military successes had counted for naught; even if they had not managed to save a single soul, they had made Chaos fear them. And that was an achievement beyond all others.
In the aftermath of that war, many small provincial worlds and systems tried to strike out on their own, away from the light of the Throne, often being brought back by force. None of Curze's worlds, however, had ever tried to secede — after all, they knew both sides of the Imperium's protection, and had seen first hand the wrath that the Night Lords could unleash. If that was what they would to in defence of the Imperium, what they would do to willing turncoats did not bear thinking about.
In his later years, Curze was well aware that he had become everything he had despised in his youth, and he sometimes derived a black humour from this; that he had finally rediscovered across the galaxy what he had first learned in his youth on a small Terran kingdom: that the ends do not, and cannot, justify the means. In the year 243.M32 he had himself tried and executed for war crimes as the ultimate testament that none were beyond judgement. He had deemed himself to have outlived his usefulness, and to some extent he was right; although the Imperium could tolerate a useful monster, it should have no love for one.
Angron was a slave pit fighter in what was left of the Nord Afrik Enclaves.
He was liberated quite early on in The Warlord's campaign, and signed on to join the Thunder Warriors.
Rose through the ranks and earned great fame and respect. Munched loved by his men due to his tendency to lead from the front and getting stuck in where the fighting was thickest.
Was one of the older generation of Thunder Warrior, with all the damage and flaws this brought with it.
Due to his astounding aptitudes he was promoted to the rank of Primarch and given command of a batch of the new Astartes model Space Marines.
Plagued by health issues despite attempts to repair his faulty upgrades. Refused the retirement offer that many Thunder Warriors took to make lives for themselves. He wouldn't have been able to deal with a peaceful life.
Survived all the way to the end of The War of the Beast but not much longer. Died peacefully in his sleep. Probably the oldest Thunder Warrior.
Kharn the Oathsworn took over, new type of super soldier for a new era.
He didn't live a happy life, but given the nature of his childhood he could have lived a worse one and a statue of him stands outside the gate of the Carthisisa Hive Cathedral.
His Early Life
Some men are born into greatness, and carry it upon their brow with the natural ease of command. Others have greatness forced unwillingly upon them, and they suffer its burden for duty and honor. The Primarch Angron fell firmly into the second category.
Little is known about Angron’s early life. What is known is gleaned from his private writings, scattered public records, and a few of Kharn’s recollections; and it is little wonder that the Primarch did not speak of his youth, for it was a bitter and brutal upbringing so sadly common in the chaotic days before the Unification.
Angron was born to a humble family in a small town in Timbuk, the northern state of the Afrique League, along the border of the Nord Afrik Conclaves. The town sat on a trade route used by nomad clans and acted as a minor trade hub and rest stop for their caravans as they traveled the roads between the techno-barbarian conclaves of Nord Afrik and the settlements of the Afrique League. Angron’s family made their living as bakers; their fortified strongbread was particularly well-regarded in the area as a food of the road for weary travelers. Their lifestyle was modest but probably not unpleasant, and it was more than likely that Angron would have followed in his family’s footsteps and become a baker as well, living a quiet life, were it not for the Europian-Afrikaan War.
After the humiliating defeat inflicted by Angron’s fellow Primarch-to-be Roboute Guilliman, the Padishah of the Nord Afrik Conclaves needed victory and loot to pacify his rebellious vassal shahs and sheikhs, who were threatening a shahs-moot to elect a new leader or even open revolt should the Padishah refuse. Thus, the Padishah turned his gaze and armies towards the weakest of his neighbors, the Afrique League. The southern Afrique state of Nama Gola was cut off from Timbuk by the toxic coastal wastelands and the vassals of Ursh further inland, nor could they challenge the Afrikaan forces at sea, and so their northern brethren faced the rage of the Afrikaan utterly alone.
The Padishah’s regular forces had been decimated by the war with Europa, and in a desperate show of might he turned to the cruelest monsters and technologies hidden within the Conclaves. Upon the Afrique League he unleashed grotesqueries varied and vile — lumbering arco-flagellants, limbs replaced by electro-whips and hydraulic mauls; screaming berserker slaves, hippocampuses mangled by crude cybernetics to increase aggression; cackling Volkite cultists, who unleashed the terrible heat of their weapons to praise their Burning God and the Devouring Flame; shriveled moisture cannibals from the deep deserts, who ripped men apart to drink of the precious water in their bodies and harvest the fluids for dark rituals; and a hundred other varieties of horrors and monstrosities forgotten to history, each worse than the last.
The Afrikaan host swept over the border unimpeded as the scattered militias of Timbuk were blown aside before the Padishah’s storm of ravening terrors, the regular Afrique soldiers having long withdrawn to fortify the coastal cities. Angron’s town was one of the first to fall, and the Afrikaan marauders slaked their bloodlust on the terrified citizens through all manners of torture and slaughter. The details around what happened to Angron during this time are scarce; Angron himself understandably did not speak much of this event, and the only written comments involve a short line in one of his final writings. The only clues are from the journals of a minor officer of the Padishah’s elite Janissor Corps who was assigned to oversee the sacking of Angron’s village, where he writes of an incident regarding a young boy who leapt from the rafters of a burning bakery and stabbed one of his men to death, and who then almost escaped on foot before being shot down by a stun dart to be taken as a slave.
From ruins of his village, Angron was taken to a loot caravan along with the few other survivors, mostly young children like himself who would fetch a generous price at the slave markets. They were taken through the scorching heat and swirling sands of the Afrikaan deserts until at last they reached their destination: Karthago, called Carthisisia in the Afrikaan tongue, oldest of the Nord Afrik city-states, seat of His Ascendancy the Padishah. Perched upon the western bank of the great God’s Eye Lake, it was a dusty city of brass and stone, its red stone walls a crumbling reminder of a long and cultured past, its glittering pyramids and temples casting long shadows over the slave bazaars reeking of blood.
In the auction houses, the fierce young boy drew great interest from the old gladiator houses, for a star pit fighter would bring great riches and prestige to anyone who owned him, and when the auctioneer’s hammer finally fell after a round of exorbitant bidding, it was the infamous slaver Nuceria, Queen of Flesh, who won the right to Angron’s collar. After the auction he received Nuceria’s slave mark, the inverted red triangle upon his forehead that marked him as her property, a tattoo he would have for the rest of his life.
The next twelve years of Angron’s life were a nightmare of the most brutal training imaginable, designed to break and beat him into a instrument of slaughter, a sadistic crucible to purify him into a weapon unhindered by morality or humanity. From sunup to sundown, on the grounds of Nuceria’s palatial manor, Angron was forced to train and fight until his entire body was a tight knot of agony, and every slight failure, misstep, or distraction was punished with beatings. In his first year he was given a puppy to raise as his companion, and on his birthday the next year he was ordered to strangle it with his bare hands. When he refused, he received the first of many electro-whippings. As Angron grew older, Nuceria used him as her headsman, forcing him to mete out the punishments to her other slaves, like cutting off the feet of escapees and executing those who disobeyed.
It was in this hell that Angron grew into a man. At eighteen he already stood well over six feet tall, his dusky frame thick with corded muscle, and he was excellent with the sword, superb with the mace, and unmatched with the axe. During one sparring match he killed three of the trainers that had tortured him since his childhood with a blunted training sword until the others managed to intervene, and when Nuceria heard she laughed and said the dead men had done their jobs well.
Yet for all their efforts, they had not broken him. Beneath all the years of horrors and scars upon Angron’s psyche, there was still the core of the simple young boy from Timbuk, the son of parents he no longer remembered, born in a village that no longer existed. It would have been easier to break — to become the monster they wanted, to place the blame for all the atrocities he had committed on Nuceria and the others who forced his hand. Instead Angron chose to face and accept all that he had done, and when he woke at night, gasping and sweating from the nightmares that haunted him, all he could do was swear to make things right, some way, some how.
When it was time for Angron’s first fight in the pits, to Nuceria’s fury it was to be against Tigris of Franj, a knight taken as a prisoner of war long ago and a long-time veteran of the pits. Nuceria had seen too many promising young talents cut down before their prime by facing wily old fighters before they were ready, and on this match she saw the mark of the other gladiator houses, conspiring with the gamemasters to kill her most promising fighter before he could bloom. For all her rage, Nuceria could not challenge their combined authority, and so as Angron stepped out in the sandy arena to face the Franjish knight, she resigned herself to losing a decade of investment. Angron won in less than 5 minutes. With dispassionate, overwhelming strikes of his axe he dismantled his opponent’s defense piece by piece before battering him down with a furious rain of blows. When the crowd called for Tigris’ death, in defiance of pit custom Angron refused to perform the traditional execution of disemboweling his opponent and strangling him with his own intestines. Instead, he cleanly decapitated Tigris in a single blow, leaving the crowd in a momentary stunned silence before they rose to their in feet in an approving roar to cheer the masterful performance by the young fighter.
Elated, Nuceria took Angron to her slave pens and allowed him to choose any of the slave girls to be his personal courtesan, a prize usually reserved for gladiators that had won ten fights. To Nuceria’s surprise he walked past the cells of beautiful young women to the cells of children. They were frightened, furtive little things, and there Angron picked up a little boy with dark eyes full of defiance and loss, so very much like his own, and said this boy was to be no slave, but his son. And so Angron had found Kharn, the first of his children.
In the next few years Angron became a legend, his matches broadcasted and rebroadcasted throughout the Conclaves, defeating champion after champion in an unbroken chain of victories. The crowds called him the “Lord of the Red Sands” while Nuceria lavished gifts and privileges on him for his victories, and so Angron’s little family grew as he took several more children under his wing as his sons and daughters. Yet for all his successes and outward displays of obedience, Angron was still haunted by his sins, and the chance for his atonement finally came when he was approached by a group of fellow slaves who asked that he aid them in their escape attempt by killing the guards the protected the motor pool. In return, they would take him and his children with them to freedom in far off Franj. Angron agreed without reservation, and the preparations were made.
Yet rarely were things ever so simple. The night before the planned escape, Angron returned to his quarters after training to find his children’s rooms empty. Nuceria was sitting in her study when Angron burst through the door, his axe dripping with gore from the guards he had slaughtered outside, and froze when he saw Macer — his youngest son — upon her lap, the baby giggling as the slaver cooed and bounced him in her lap in a mockery of motherhood. Angron demanded to know where his children were. Nuceria replied that they were safe, for the moment, but only if Angron the revealed the names of the conspirators of his escape. Remain silent, she added, and his children would die screaming, and suddenly there was a stiletto in her hand, delicately tracing a line across the baby’s neck. Falling to his knees and weeping tears of helpless rage, Angron made his choice, and Nuceria smiled. In the morning, there were dozens of new crucifixes in the courtyard, and the moans and cries of the dying escapees echoed through the manor. Angron could only look on at the new nightmare that would haunt his dreams, and swear a dozen new vows of bloody vengeance.
The chance would come sooner than Angron ever imagined. War came once again to the Nord Afrik Conclaves, but this time in the form of an overwhelming invasion from a mysterious Warlord from the Terrawatt Clan. At first, the Afrikaan nobility was filled with bluster, boasting that they would crush this upstart and take him as a slave to be paraded in the streets, yet in only a few short months the main armies of the Conclaves were crushed. The shahs of the Conclaves had imploded into panicked infighting and blame, and whispers spread throughout the fearful streets of Karthago of invincible steel-clad giants who marched in the vanguard of the invading army who crushed all resistance under the shells of their mighty guns.
Soon the enemy army was at the gates of Karthago, and the siege was brief, the spirit of the defending soldiers already broken and the conscripted slaves unwilling to waste their lives for their hated masters. As the walls fell and the fighting neared the estate, Angron knew he would have no better chance to fulfill his vows. In the chaos he pushed his way through panicking servants and slaves to the motor pool, where he found Nuceria with a few guards preparing an armored car for her escape. The guards he swiftly killed before they even had a chance to draw their weapons. For Nuceria, Angron gave her the death she deserved: the gladiator’s death, cutting open her belly and strangling her with her own entrails as she screamed and begged for mercy she had never shown, a final act of irony he hoped would appease his fallen comrades. With the deed done, Angron took his axe and retreated to his quarters with his children, barricading the door as the sounds of fighting grew ever closer. Soon, he could hear echoing footsteps inside the manor, and he gripped his axe tightly as they drew closer down the hallway.
The door exploded open in a cloud of splinters and dust, and a hulking armored figure ducked through the doorway with a massive gun in its grip. From behind, Angron leapt forward and kicked the back of the intruder’s leg, causing the giant to stumble forward slightly, and with a roar he swung his axe two-handed at its vulnerable head. The axe struck true and hard, and bounced off harmlessly with a clang. The giant turned, and in response drove its armored fist into Angron’s chest. Never in all his training, sparring, or duels had Angron been hit so hard, and he was flung backwards against the wall, vision flickering, gasping and coughing blood through broken ribs and crushed lungs.
The giant stood over him and leveled the gaping muzzle of its gun at Angron’s head, dim light glinting balefully from the red lenses of its helmet, when there was a sudden movement. It was Kharn, screaming and beating at the giant’s leg with his thin arms. The giant looked down at the boy flailing helplessly at its leg and turned towards the sounds of whimpers from the other side of the room where the rest of Angron’s children huddled weeping behind the bed. He looked back down at Angron, and wordlessly the giant plucked Kharn off its leg, tossed him aside, and walked out of the room.
The next few days were a haze of pain as Angron lay in his bed, tended by a few of the old healers who had remained. The city had fallen, they told him, and to their surprise there had been no looting or raping or murder. Instead, the corrupt of the city had been dragged into the streets and purged, all the old slavers and fat nobles and decadent priests — though the Padishah had long fled. So when word spread that the Warlord that had taken their city would be coming to visit his new territory, Angron dragged himself out of his bed despite the agony in his chest, and limped his way down to the city gates to take stock of this Warlord who had conquered them so easily.
When the Warlord walked through the city gates, there was a murmur of hushed awe. He was young, his face unlined and dark hair falling to his shoulders, and he towered well above the steel giants beside him, his gold-armored frame standing well over eight feet tall. In unison, the crowds lining the road began to kneel, an instinct drilled into each of them by their years of service to their masters. But as their knees began to bend, each person felt an invisible force seize them, holding them before their knees could touch the ground. A presence touched their thoughts, vast and overwhelming, yet somehow warm and protective, and it spoke in ringing tones that echoed soundlessly within their minds:
Do not kneel, for I am no king or conqueror.
Do not kneel, for you are slaves and servants to the unworthy no longer.
Do not kneel, for though you know it not you are noble and good.
Instead, I bid you: STAND.
And every onlooker felt the force around their bodies reverse, pulling them gently but firmly upwards, until even the most stoopbacked old men found themselves standing as tall and proud as they did in the flower of their youth. They looked up with wide eyes upon the golden stranger before them, and a cry rushed through the crowd as they called out in tongues from a dozen lands.
“Liberator!” “Breaker of chains!” “Savior!” And that is when Angron knew he would fight and die for the Warlord.
See Also: Nails
Towards the end of the Wars of Unification, the Despot of Ursh and remnants of the Pan-Pacific Empire united out of desperation — although for all their desperation the united empires were no less formidable and no less monstrous.
The lands of Sino were blessed with huge tracts of the richest and most bountiful fields on all of Old Earth, and with the produce that resulted a seemingly unending number of fighting men — and near-men and once-men — could be maintained. Those fields, though bountiful, were tilled with the blood and sweat and breaking backs of a slave caste that knew nothing of war and cared nothing for conquest — their eyes were cast firmly upon the ground, as those that dared to look up were so often the worse for it.
It seemed the Warlord knew that any attempt to invade that place by conventional means would be bloody in the extreme; to his own men, to their men, and most tragically to the people he was trying to liberate.
Ursh had been pushed back and back, until it was now a diamond-hard core of resilience. Conventional war was to be avoided and Curze's methods of unconventional war were best not considered.
Thus, all that could be done was stand at the border and wait. Although the Warlord could not get in, the Despot and his men were contained; victory by weight of probability and time was assured — but time passed waiting for a change to occur would turn the campaign glacial, and all the while suffering and death would continue amongst the downtrodden masses. Death by time or death by the blade, neither option was palatable.
It was into this unhappy standoff that Corax, the one who would one day be known as the Stormcrow, arose.
Uninformed and downtrodden as they were, the slaves of Sino were far from stupid — if only because stupidity was far from a survival trait in their harsh world. They had heard of the Warlord, they had heard of his new Imperium, and they had heard of the freedom it offered. It was a freedom they craved desperately. Yet few would dare try to run the border, for fear of what the Urshii would do to their loved ones left behind and what the foul men of the Khanate did to those they found escaping.
Among them arose a factory worker who had spent too long toiling for cruel masters and starving whilst his oppressors feasted. His family were dead by one means or another — be it contagion, deadly sport, or occult, unnatural ritual — and he was left with critically little left to lose.
His job afforded him a basic but working knowledge of alchemy and chemical reaction, and he often handled various kinds of equipment — merely considered tools rather than the weapons they could be. Corax was a very angry man, but also a very cunning man whose anger was tempered by age-earned wisdom and set for the long simmer rather than full boil. This proved a good thing, as he was surrounded by a lot of other very angry people who also needed to be taught that patience and anger could work very well together.
By simple but time proven methods of communication, the words of rebellion spread. It was not without cost or casualties, but the suffering of the fallen was just more fuel for the long burning fury of righteous hatred. The uncertainty surrounding the revolt is not to be understated; the rebellion could well have died in its infancy — but for the forces, resources, and attention being diverted to the borders where the Warlord circled, waiting for some weakness to show.
When the hammer finally came down, it was like half the nation caught fire all at once. Caught unawares, vast numbers of the fearsome warriors trying to out-stare the Warlord at the border were frantically pulled back to keep the heartlands under control. Perhaps this was a miscalculation on the part of the generals responsible for the decision — certainly the Despot thought so, if the flayed and violated (but still somehow living) bodies of those generals adorning the palace walls were anything to go by.
With that sudden depletion of amassed soldiery on the borders, the tables had turned sufficiently to make conventional invasion a realistic possibility. At the head of the vanguard was Angron, whose account of the first battles would have made for historically important reading — had he been persuaded to write anything down about it.
Caught between the forces of Corax and his merciless insurgency — who knew all about cruelty and were more than willing to give as good as they had gotten — and the forces of the Warlord — that were as unstoppable and inevitable as the rising of the sun — the forces of Ursh were driven from the lands of Sino to their last strongholds, where they licked their wounds and waited for the end — an end that came swiftly and succinctly.
The people of Corax, freed for the first time in living memory, looked towards the ordered and disciplined (except for Angron, who had to be sedated) forces with wary eyes. They were not slaves now and would never bend a knee to a man again.
Corax, to his credit, did know that there was a world of difference between taking an nation and holding it. His people were brave and tenacious, and could be vicious when provoked. But he knew deep down that they could not run a nation, and everything would soon descend into anarchy at best — and re-enslavement or death at worst.
When the Warlord strode across the quietened field of victory towards the Stormcrow, he could see in the eyes of the man opposite him that this was no meeting of conqueror and conquered; it was one man greeting another as an equal, brothers in battle and free men all.
Corax knew he would need to use what temporary authority he had as leader of a victorious rebellion to direct his people into a cohesive whole, now that the immediate threat was removed. The Warlord, for his part, knew that the newly freed people of Sino were distrustful of outsiders and wouldn't take kindly to direct orders. A compromise was quickly reached; the most competent-seeming of Corax's people would be given positions of authority in the newly freed nation, but would also be provided with advisors and assistants from the newly formalized Administratum — on loan for as long as they were wanted.
It was not long after that the battered and weathered man Corax witnessed the final and lasting death of the Ursh, and ever afterwards was he disappointed that he didn't get to deal the killing blow.
As Old Earth was brought to a new golden age, the now Steward's eyes turned upward to the inky black. To the far reaches of Luna and Mars, to Jupiter and Saturn — and further, so very much further.
The Steward knew he would need men whose loyalty and competence could be assured. People to act in his stead. Of the multitude of gifted and proven individuals at his disposal, Corvus Corax was one of a mere twenty who would ascend to the vaunted rank of Primarch. When it came to covertly setting traps and ambushes he had no equal. Sadly, he was well beyond the age where super soldier treatments could be a viable possibility — to say nothing of the two prosthetic lungs Imperium loyal tech-adepts had gifted him to undo the effects of thirty years of toxic fume inhalation from his old job. He did receive some discrete cybernetic enhancements and longevity treatments, but nothing that wouldn't allow him to pass as human.
The skills he had learned and instilled in his new legion were of great use in the Unification of Sol. One of the earliest and most characteristic of his victories was when the dissidents breaking away after the Magi of Mars pledged allegiance to the Empty Throne swiftly found themselves making considerable compromises — as their air recyclers all spontaneously exploded. Ever a man of the people, Corax would always choose the path of least collateral damage over expediency or personal safety.
As the Unification of Sol turned into the Great Crusade, Primarch Corax found that there were all too many kindred souls enslaved on distant worlds to terrible masters — some human, some xeno, some hideous beyond categorization, yet all slavers and monsters to the last.
Although the Raven Guard did possess Astartes soldiers, favoring a more refined version of the earlier patterns rather than the later models, they were only typically used for the killing blow. The bulk of the Legion was composed of mere mortal men, who were far more adept at covertly tagging targets of interest and walking amongst the downtrodden masses unobserved. When the Space Marines were called in and the fireworks went off the action would be intense, devastating, and brief. Quick decapitations with little mess were what his legionaries prided themselves in, and it served them well. The people of the worlds they liberated loved them and rejoiced in their coming; the Men of Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity, had come back to save them.
But Corax neither rested on his laurels nor revelled in the celebrations. If his victories had taught him one thing, it was that their campaigns, however deadly or destructive, were necessary — and they hadn't yet run out of worlds to free. There would be no rest until they reached the edge of the galaxy and all the worlds in between were free.
During the Great Crusade, the Raven Guard could be said to have operated in a manner mirroring that of the Night Lords. The Night Lords would terrorize, scatter, and slaughter, but leave the technology and architecture of a world intact in preparation for a killing blow — the Imperium had no shortage of people, and a replacement population could always be brought in. The Raven Guard, in distinct contrast, preferred to destroy facilities and infrastructure, but spare those who knew how to repair and maintain it, in preparation for the final strike — under the certainty that expertise could not be easily replaced. The Raven Guard argued that the entire endeavour of the Great Crusade was to save humanity, not slaughter it. The Night Lords agreed, but saw no point is losing sleep over the loss of individual humans sacrificed for the good of the whole.
Both rival Primarchs despised one another — both raised valid arguments, both were most effective when fighting in concert with a more direct Legion or similar fighting force, and neither were openly brought to heel by the Steward because both were undeniably effective. Twice, in the days of the Great Crusade, the Crow and the Haunter came to blows, although their Legions never went to war against each other. Barely.
When the Beast arose among the orks, and the Great Crusade ran into its equal and opposite, the nature of the Raven Guard changed. Just as the Night Haunters were occasionally called in — to their disgust — to protect refugee convoys, so too were the Raven Guard called in to euthanize populations contaminated irreparably. To say that Corax found these orders distasteful would be a gross understatement. Out of all the Primarchs, it was Corax who was first to outright disobey a direct order from the Steward. He would not bring nuclear fire down upon a civilian target. He and his men would not abandon their principles, not even in the face of annihilation.
It was upon the fate of planet Azoth — once a thriving cultural hub, now corrupted and tainted — that the Raven Guard made their principled stand. The world was infected but they believed — they knew in their heart of hearts — that it could be saved. The forces sent to retake it were led by the Stormcrow himself, who needed to show the Steward that no such drastic steps need ever be taken.
Upon that world, something in the heart of Corax died at what he saw. At the barbarity and the debauchery, the unholy violations of justice and morality he could never have dreamed of — not even the most depraved Despot of the Urshi could have dreamed of. Here, the Stormcrow bore witness to the
[DATA EXPUNGED -][- HYDRA DOMINATUS]
And so Azoth was sterilized with atomic fire, a monument and condemnation to all that should be reviled. Never again, the Stormcrow vowed, never again would he inflict such cruelty for the sake of human pity and the bleeding conscience of one old man. Indeed, the primarch did feel old. And, in some way unfixable by rejuvenant treatments, did look it — now more than ever.
For all that it cost the self-respect and idealism of one Primarch, the Imperium did at least learn of the Chaos Eldar earlier than they otherwise might have. Despite his disobedience, Corax faced no censure from the Steward for showing pity and sorrow in his work — if he had shown joy then maybe things would have gone rather differently for him, but the Steward would not punish a man for being human.
For the most part the Raven Guard served in the War of the Beast with great valor and uncommon cunning, striking far harder than their numbers would suggest. Their greatest ally, they would claim in later years, was the orkish nature of their foes — orks are prone to infighting when their leaders were removed. Whole sub-WAAAAAGH!s would grind to a halt as Nobs and Warbosses were subject to fatal ambush and inhumanly precise assassinations. Purely against the orks, it is possible that the Raven Guard had no equal.
But it was not purely against the orks; the Children of Chaos were abroad, and the Raven Guard could not outmaneuver or decapitate them so readily. The forces of the Dark Gods reaped a heavy toll, as hunts were turned inside out and the weakness of using so many mere mortal men was exposed. Astartes, it was often claimed, knew no fear, but baseline humanity did and that played right into the hands of the Croneworlders.
It is unknown how many of these sworn to service under Corax fell. Many who venerate the Stormcrow Primarch would claim that none did — they are blinded by a worthy pride, but blinded all the same. In a legion that so loves the shadows the numbers are hard to tell, and when the traitors struck it was from a direction those in command did not anticipate — a direction thought safe — and so the wounds were felt all the deeper. Exact numbers may never be known beyond "too many".
Perhaps it was having to deal with these traitors, perhaps it was getting mired in a war of attrition against the orks, or getting outmaneuvered by the fallen Eldar, or maybe some combination of all three, but Corax — and all save a token force of his vanguard, like his old rival — was not on Old Earth when Sanguinius died and the great Beast was slaughtered. Some blamed him, but none so much as he himself did.
The wars of reconquest and the rebuilding of the Imperium was not a war that the Raven Guard were well suited for. Their primary means of warfare was one of carefully stalked targets and swift, simultaneous executions. The reconquest of the Imperium — with its muddied waters and sliding scales of loyalty — was something they found difficult to adapt to, and in the years that followed they lost nearly as many as they did to the Beast's depredations.
By the time the Imperium was stabilized and looking even anything like it had once done, the Raven Guard was a shattered remnant of its former glory and its primarch was almost broken. Corax had seen too much he held dear despoiled, too many dreams crushed. The Steward tried to comfort him, but his kind words fell upon deaf ears. In Corax's mind the Great Crusade, the greatest accomplishment of the human species, had failed — and perhaps he had played no small part in its failure.
To his credit, he never let his sorrows interfere with his work. The Raven Guard was rebuilt far more modestly in scale, and in the place of a Legion were a hundred Chapters, built in the centuries that followed. By the time the last of the commissioned chapters were declared ready for duty, Corax was an old and withered man. His early life had been hard and he had started on the rejuvenants relatively late in life — and it showed, now more than ever.
The truth of Corax's ultimate fate is unknown. He would, in his last known years, travel between the newly minted chapters to inspect and advise — and occasionally accompany on missions — but like always he made few aware of his movements, and would often drop in unannounced and leave abruptly. Which chapter he last visited is up for debate, as many records are contradictory at best and nonsensical at worst, but the only confirmed information is that one day he just vanished.
Some hold out hope, even unto the Dark Millennium, that the Raven King will return.
Alpharius & Omegon
"I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
The above quote constitutes the last confirmed record of the Primarchs "Alpharius" and "Omegon". All documents and records pertaining to these individuals were deleted by Inquisition. Those that were thought to be associated with the Primarchs have disappeared, and all that was left was a parchment with the phrase quoted above and a small wax stamp beneath, depicting the Lernaean Hydra of Old Terran mythology. Now, the only way to learn about these individuals and their legacy is by eyewitness accounts and rumours that have slipped beneath the inquisition's watchful gaze.
One eyewitness report tells of two figures clad in dark robes standing next to the Warlord and his war council, describing the figures as being much shorter than the others in the council.
It is unknown if these are the individuals known as Alpharius and Omegon, as other conflicting reports suggest that the Primarchs were tall men who fought battles and cut down their enemies. It is likewise not known if they are indeed two persons; "Alpharius" and "Omegon" might in fact represent one individual using multiple monikers, and one witness purportedly met a man dressed in the clothes of a highly revered official that presented himself as "Alpharius Omegon". All that can be said with certainty is that there was, at one point, one or more individuals called Alpharius and/or Omegon. What is known is that he — or they — had a large part in the counterintelligence and espionage efforts of the nascent Imperium during the Unification Wars. Multiple sources purport the pair to be masters of infiltration, supposedly possessing of a deep network of agents and assassins so interconnected and loyal that the mysterious individuals could exercise their will in multiple places at once. This network is thought to have become what we now know as the Inquisition.
"Cut off one head and two shall take its place." — Last words spoken from a prisoner before their suicide.
A popular theory regarding the origins of the mysterious individuals suggests that they were the members of the even lesser known ██████████ — a secret society of Old Terra. The theory holds that the society joined the Warlord after seeing the potential power they could have and sent their most loyal and brightest two members to help the Warlord in his endeavours.
"You search the darkness, while we hide in the light. You see not the serpent lying in wait, you see only a brother. We witnessed your beginning and we will be your end." — Said to be whispered to a rogue Imperial official before her assassination.
Another theory suggests that they originate from ███ ████ a group of Xenos set on destroying the "primordial annihilator" and thus sent their best human operatives to aid the Warlord and his future plans.
"Cut the head off the snake and the body will die shortly after" — Thought to be a direct quote from either Alpharius or Omegon.
Alpharius and Omegon are currently considered to have been major contributors in the creation of the Inquisition. After the alliance with the Eldar their influence is thought to have only increased. Acting as puppet masters, they are thought to have orchestrated both the starting of wars and the ending of them, doing as they see fit for the betterment of the Imperium.
Around ████ all records and documents of or pertaining to Alpharius and Omegon were deleted. Theories say that they had died and that their successors order the purge of information surrounding the Primarchs, so that their legacy and actions can be forgotten. Other theories say that the Warlord declared them traitors and therefore destroyed all evidence of their existence.
Yet to this day, there are whispers about legions of men and women walking among the people of the Imperium and beyond — executing the orders of their puppet masters, killing the corrupt, eliminating the foe from the inside, and bearing the brand of the Hydra
— Alpharius and Omegon, the Beginning and the End