"In a far-off land where you have never wandered, there is a castle by the name of Montsalvat. And in the midst stands a light-filled temple more rich and lovely than anything else on Earth. Therein is kept a blessed miraculous vessel guarded as a sacred relic. Only men of the purest heart may guard it, therefore it was brought to Earth by a host of holy angels. Once every year a dove descends from Heaven to strengthen it anew with wondrous powers. The Grail it is called! It imparts upon its brotherhood of Knights a most blessed faith. Whosoever is chosen to protect the Grail, the Grail itself arms with wondrous powers. No force of evil can overpower him; for once he has looked upon the Grail the gloom of death flees from him. And even when he is sent to far-off lands appointed by the Grail to be the champion of righteousness, even there the holy power will still serves him; as long as he remains nameless and unknown, the power is his. For the blessing of the Grail is so fabulous that it may not be revealed to the uninitiated. And so, the Knight of the Grail must never be doubted, for once his name and identity are known, he must leave the land. So, now, hear how I reward the forbidden question:"
- – Lohengrin, Act III, by Richard Wagner
Among the Blood Angels, there is nobody more mysterious than the Sanguinor. Known by the moniker of Exemplar of the Host, this mighty angelic warrior appears out of nowhere Legion of the Damned style whenever
plot armor fails Blood Angel forces are in serious jeopardy while fighting.
About the Exemplar of The Host
Nobody knows who or even what the Sanguinor is. The marines believe that he's no more than a myth, while the Chaplains keep extremely detailed records on when he appeared during the millennia, and Dante's served so long that he's actually seen the Sanguinor several times, albeit rarely. Some believe that he's the personification of Sanguinius's noble and idealistic side (while the rest took form of both the Red Thirst and Black Rage) that disappeared after the Primarch got slain by Horus. The Sanguinary Guard on the other hand think that the Sanguinor is actually Azkaellon. The latter is less believable for one single thing. The average lifespan of a Blood Angel is even greater than that of any non-Dreadnought or non-Chaos Space Marine (can live up nearly a thousand years or longer as Dante proved it thanks to their blood drinking habits), yet even the Blood Angels can't live that long. That would mean that Azkaellon should be as old as Bjorn (if not slightly older). This makes it completely impossible, unless he did find a way to increase his lifespan (but that is wild speculations, as well that nobody knows if the Space Marines have waaay longer lifespans than humans, or are truly immortal, unless he's a Perpetual, which would suddenly amp up the (secret) political importance of the Blood Angels to raise the attention of the Historical Revision Unit).
However, it should be noted that it is rare for a Space Marine to die of old age, as many die on the battlefield before they even get close to that sort of age. But Cypher is over 10,000 years old, and the Salamanders (in Nick Kymes 2009 Salamanders novel) found a living Space Marine that crashed into the planet Scoria sometime in the Great Crusade. This also makes him as old as Bjorn and Cypher, while alienating him completely from any sort of Chaos effects. In the book Pandorax (2015 Novel by C.Z. Dunn), a Grey Knight, supposedly one of the first grand masters, was found locked away in a mountain to guard an ancient chaos gateway. Considering that the first GK grand masters were chosen by Malcador himself and were among the last people to see the Emperor before his battle with Horus and elevation to the Golden Throne, that would easily make him around the 10k age range too. Thus it is entirely possible for the Sanguinor to be 10,000 years old while still phasing in and out of reality, a la Legion of the Damned. And if he is phasing in and out of the warp, doesn't time move differently in the warp anyway?
Our beloved HERESY detecting paranoia driven nutballs on the other hand speculate that the Sanguinor is neither of the first two, instead being something of a warp creature created by the mass desire and need of the Chapter, proving that the Angels are slowly spiralling down into corruption (disregard it all as mad Monodominant propaganda). Whatever the truth is, the Sanguinor is part of the heritage of the Blood Angels and their loyalty to the Emperor and Imperium.
Everyone seems to forget apothecary Meros, who, not only "travelled" 10 thousand years in the future to "meet" Rafen, but also saved his primarch's life on Signus Prime, by offering himself to possession instead of letting Sanguinius be trapped; though later used by Horus, he may have found a way to overpower the demon inside of him and become the Sanguinor.
The GW digital advent calendar presented us with a story called "The Herald of Sanguinius". Set at the beginning of the Imperium Secundus, the New Emperor Sanguinius finds himself overwhelmed by petitions from people who wish to speak to him.
Captain of the Sanguinary Guard Azkaellon, already considered a bit possessive in his duties as a bodyguard, gets a bit paranoid about letting all these people see his father, as he suspects treachery and betrayal everywhere. Sanguinius agrees that he cannot sit on a throne all day and hear petitions, so between them they agree to create a Herald who will speak for Sanguinius whenever the Primarch is busy doing something else.
To this end, the Sanguinary Guard came together and allowed two of their number, Aratron and Haratial to nominate themselves for this new position of "stand-in Emperor", then left the room whilst they drew straws between them. The "winner" was Aratron, whilst Azkaellon slew Haratial to keep Aratron's identity a secret (though any Blood Angel with half a brain would have realised that both guards were missing and had a 50/50 chance of guessing the right one) Then Aratron's face was permanently sealed within a golden mask and from then on referred to only as "The Sanguinor".
However, the original Aratron-Sanguinor stood in Sanguinius' stead on Davin by holding a daemon of Chaos Undivided in place, trapped in a portal between the warp and reality upon a fulcrum of destiny while the planet was then obliterated from orbit. This was a task that Sanguinius had set himself in the hopes of sparing the Blood Angels from the Black Rage without turning into a monster even worse than Horus as his visions suggested would happen to him if he survived the Horus Heresy, though realised in another vision that his sons would suffer the Black Rage on the event of his death in any case. However, the Sanguinor stepped in wordlessly and stood for him, setting the example of the best that Blood Angels could possibly be, becoming a symbol much more than a "warrior of flesh and bone." Sanguinius also observed that he began transforming into a "golden angelic form" as he entered the portal.
Azkaellon would later survive the Horus Heresy as the sole remaining Sanguinary Guard and also the only person who knew the identity of the Sanguinor, meaning unless he took the role himself or appointed a new one, the secret died with him. In modern 40k it is quite possible that the Sanguinor is just a continuation of the old tradition of creating a herald for their Primarch. If the role is not just simply a succession of individuals wearing the same armour then the original Aratron may exist in warp limbo in a similar way to Kaldor Draigo if not becoming an outright warp entity himself, potentially being summoned by all the mass worship of Sanguinius throughout all the Imperium, unlike any other Imperial Saint or Primarch. Since the Ministorum's usual worship is enough to create small "miracles" for the Adepta Sororitas, having the original Sanguinor become the genuine "Angel" of the Imperium and popping out of the warp whenever he is required makes a level of sense.
The Khartas Incident
One of his appearances was on the planet Khartas when the Blood Angels were pursuing Ork Freebooterz. The Ork vessel that crashed on the planet had its warp drive go haywire, allowing Daemons of Khorne to pour through the portal that was created by the drive. The horde of Daemons were led by Ka'Bandha (the same douche of a Greater Daemon that fought Sanguinius back during the Horus Heresy), who quickly slew nearly all of the thirty Blood Angels that made planetfall. The Daemonic Horde went to finish off the surviving marines that had entrenched themselves in a ruined Cathedral, when the Sanguinor appeared out of nowhere and did the following:
- Bitchslapped Ka'Bandha out of the skies via the aerial variant of dynamic entry.
- Fought marine to daemon with him. The two fought with such speed and ferocity that they couldn't best each other.
- Broke Ka'Bandha's Axe in order to twist the odds of the battle in his favour.
- Penetrated him through the heart with his sword.
After finishing off the Greater Daemon, the Blood Angels and Sanguinor finished off the rest of his horde and destroyed the Ork warp drive.
When the Stormraven Gunships appeared to pick up the survivors, the Sanguinor vanished as fast as he appeared.
There was also that one time when he showed up in the dreams of a Heresy-era Apothecary somehow, which makes his identity even more confusing- quite notably, said Apothecary was unable to tell the difference between the Sanguinor and Sanguinius himself. Make of that what you will.
The Sanguinor appeared to help the Blood Angels in the Shield of Baal campaign against the Tyranids after telling a weary Dante that there's still hope.
He shows up to help Karlean out in the new Angel's Blade campaign and beats the shit out of a Lord of Skulls. NEVER TRY THIS ON THE TABLETOP!! You will die hilariously easy.
He was last seen confiding with Dante after the latter sacrificed the world of Aeros to delay the Tyranid's advance towards Baal. In the final moments of the Devastation of Baal he finally appeared at the head of a host of the Legion of the Damned which tore the tyranids to shreds, and again later in a vision when Dante was near death (after taking down the Swarm Lord) before heralding Sanguinius. Take note that the latter two took place in the wake of the opening of the Great Rift, which may have granted him a greater amount of power and agency.
In the wake of the opening of the Great Rift, and the splitting of the Imperium in twain, the Sanguinor apparently has a new role -- as a beacon of safety that the Blood Angels and their Successors can follow as they traverse the Warp while in Imperium Nihilus.
On the Tabletop
The Sanguinor: Definitely not the primarch, unless Sanguinius was the runt of the litter. Turns out he's just Aratron suped up by the warp. Still a badass. 8th's handling of characters means that this guy's biggest weakness, the inability to join a bodyguard unit, has been completely negated.
His Encarmine Broadsword is S +2 AP -4 D d3, making him an absolute murder machine. Nearby Blood Angels get an extra attack in melee, and he can charge after falling back from combat, letting him get out of tarpits and then into combat with the small, elite squads he wants to be killing. Plus, his Death Mask knocks a point of morale off nearby units, making those kills hurt even worse.
Given he has an aura granting +1 attacks to all Blood Angels Infantry within 6" and he has the Blood Angels and Infantry keywords, just like a Captain granting reroll 1's The Sanguinor will never not have 6 attacks. Shock Assault can bring that to 7, and Savage Echoes can bring it up to 8 attacks!
Remember to throw a grenade each turn, if possible. He may not have a gun, but at least it's something to do with that BS 2+.