Belisarius Cawl is a ten-thousand-standard-years-old Archmagos Dominus of the Adeptus Mechanicus, one of the ruling lords of the Priesthood of Mars. He played a pivotal role in the events of the 13th Black Crusade, the Celestinian Crusade and the Terran Crusade, and shared responsibility with the Ynnari for the resurrection of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman as the Lord Commander of the Imperium.
Skittering into battle on a multitude of metal legs, Belisarius Cawl is a nightmarish amalgam of ﬂesh and machine swathed in robes of Martian red. Millennia of tinkering and obsessive self-improvement have left Cawl as a grotesque, and his lumpen form towers to several times the height of a grown man. The Archmagos Dominus can unleash tank-busting firepower upon his foes, even as their panicked return-fire rebounds from his thrumming defensive force field. His many mechanical limbs terminate in glowing energy weapons, piston-claws and vicious combat armaments capable of peeling open a tank like a ration tin. Clustered eyelenses glow beneath his heavy cowl, their gaze insectile and utterly remorseless as it cooly dissects his victims' every weakness. A master of the manifold binharic cants of the Lingua-technis, Cawl can reinvigorate a Machine Spirit or stop its reactor heart with but a single phrase. No secret is safe from his acquisitive grasp, and those who seek to keep Cawl from his prize are soon nothing but glowing ashes upon the wind.
Cawl himself is known to be over ten thousand standard years old, having been alive at the time of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, though how he managed to maintain his life over more than ten thousand standard years is unknown. Even the most advanced Rejuvenat and augmetic systems cannot normally maintain an organic human mind for such a long period. After the end of the Horus Heresy, he was charged by Roboute Guilliman, then the Lord Commander of the Imperium, to oversee two responsibilities should the Primarch fall, one of which was the construction of the life-sustaining suit of Artificer Armour known as the Armour of Fate. The other was the preservation of the Emperor's Sword, the blade given to Guilliman by the Master of Mankind Himself and which contained a fragment of his divine power.
13th Black Crusade
At the time of the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41, Cawl, in command of the Ark Mechanicus Iron Revenant and a large Mechanicus fleet including Skitarii troops and powerful Kataphron Battle Servitors, was guided by the Eldar Harlequin Shadowseer Sylandri Veilwalker to the world of Eriad VI, a former Imperial Navy base which had been abandoned during the 4th Black Crusade in the 32nd Millennium. Unknown to the Imperials, Eriad VI had also been a Necron Tomb World. After battling Orks who had been drawn to combat on the empty world with the powerful Mechanicus fleet, he recovered an ancient Necron artefact. He also learned more about the nature of the Cadian Pylons originally built by the Necrons that were tasked with restraining the eruptions of the Immaterium -- especially the Eye of Terror -- into realspace. Cawl uneasily accepted Veilwalker's enigmatic instructions to make his way to Cadia, already under siege by Abaddon the Despoiler's massed Forces of Chaos, where his timely arrival provided desperately needed reinforcements for Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed's embattled Imperial forces.
While on Cadia, Cawl began his investigation of the local xenos pylons with the knowledge recovered from Eriad VI. During his investigation, the Necron Lord Trazyn the Infinite, who had decided to intervene to aid Humanity against their mutual enemy in the Warp, made his presence known. Though wary of the Necron's motivations, Cawl's fascination with the highly advanced Necron technology of the pylons overcame his hostility to xenos and he accepted the Necron's aid. With Trazyn's knowledge, Cawl was able to determine how to use the pylons to cut off the local area of space-time from contact with the Immaterium. As the ground battle between the Despoiler's invaders and Ursarkar E. Creed's defenders reached its climax, Cawl activated the pylons. The Necron technology operated precisely as had been expected, cutting off Cadia from the Warp, banishing the daemons of Chaos, actually shrinking the Eye of Terror and giving Cadia's defenders a chance for yet another unlikely victory.
Unfortunately, the Despoiler would not be denied the prize he had sought for millennia so easily. Foreseeing the need for a fail-safe, Abaddon had the damaged bulk of the Blackstone Fortress Will of Eternity, its systems disabled by an assault from the Imperial Fists' star fort Phalanx, hurled from orbit as an artificial meteor into the surface of Cadia. The massive kinetic strike destroyed what remained of the world's defences, ensuring its envelopment by the now rapidly-expanding Eye of Terror. Lord Castellan Creed ordered an evacuation of the dying world, and the Imperial survivors of Cadia -- led by Cawl, Saint Celestine, Inquisitor Katarinya Greyfax and Marshal Marius Amalrich of the Black Templars -- now calling themselves the Celestinian Crusade -- used every voidship at their disposal, including the Iron Revenant, to ferry the three million survivors off Cadia. Unable to enter the Warp because of the roiling instability of the Immaterium near the Cadian Gate, the Imperial fleet was forced to flee through the Cadia System at sub-light speed, and the Chaos warfleets gave chase. The largest and most powerful remaining Imperial capital ship, Cawl's Iron Revenant, heroically sacrificed itself in battle against Abaddon's flagship the Vengeful Spirit so that the Celestinian Crusade could escape to Klaisus, the nearby ice moon of the world of Kasr Holn. The Iron Revenant's loss was not in vain, for the surviving Celestinians were rescued from Chaos attacks and the unforgiving arctic environment at the last by the arrival of the Ynnari through Klaisus' hidden Webway gate. Though his flagship was lost, Belisarius Cawl had rescued its most precious cargo -- the Armour of Fate, key to the resurrection of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman.
The Reborn Eldar guided the Celestinians through the Webway to the Realm of Ultramar in the Eastern Fringes of the galaxy, now also under ferocious assault by the forces of the Despoiler. After some initial distrust, the Celestinians were ultimately taken by the Ultramarines who called Ultramar home to the realm's capital world of Macragge. Once in the Ultramarines' Fortress of Hera, Cawl revealed the identity of the artefacts in his accompanying auto-reliquary. He declared that they were intended to resurrect Primarch Roboute Guilliman from the mortal wound that had seen him trapped in stasis in the Temple of Correction for the last ten millennia. While under potent assault by the Forces of Chaos within the Primarch's final resting place, Cawl worked with Yvraine, the Daughter of Shades and priestess of Ynnead, the Eldar God of the Dead, to restore the Primarch's life force while Cawl's technology healed his grievous wound.
With Guilliman resurrected, he drove the invaders from Ultramar before deciding to make his way to Terra through the Warp anomalies roiling the galaxy to an extent not seen since the Horus Heresy. Cawl joined the Primarch on this Terran Crusade, his technological acumen and combat prowess aiding the Imperial forces of the Crusade in all their trials and tribulations in the Warp rift known as the Maelstrom. The survivors of the Terran Crusade finally arrived in the Sol System at Luna through the Webway after being freed from imprisonment in another Blackstone Fortress belonging to the Red Corsairs. Following the Crusade's rescue by the Fallen Angel Cypher and a troupe of Harlequins, Cawl was one of the few Imperials present at the fall of Cadia to survive both the Celestinian and Terran Crusades. After aiding in the defeat of the forces of the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion and the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red on Luna, Cawl and his allies were finally ferried to the Imperial Palace on Terra. There, before the Eternity Gate of the Inner Palace leading to the throne room of the Emperor where Guilliman would meet his father for the first time in ten standard millennia, Cawl spoke with his Mechanicus fellows and with the Primarch himself. His words were cryptic, mentioning secret pacts forged on the Red Planet and long works at last drawing to their conclusion. Satisfied, Cawl took his leave of the Primarch and returned to his forge on Mars to oversee these projects to completion.
The Indomitus Crusade and the Ultima Founding
In fact, Cawl's work on Mars had been nothing less than an attempt to approve upon the Emperor's own works of creation. For ten standard millennia, the Archmagos Dominus had been working on another task set for him by the Primarch Roboute Guilliman before he was mortally wounded by the Daemon Primarch Fulgrim in the days after the Horus Heresy: a new legion of transhuman warriors.
In the days after the Terran Crusade, though the Imperium was poised on the brink of annihilation at the hands of Chaos, his task was at last completed. The Primaris Space Marines were a new generation of transhuman warriors developed across the span of ten standard millennia by Cawl on Mars. Cawl used the genetic template of the original Space Marines created by the Emperor for His Great Crusade as the starting point for the development of the new Astartes. Primaris Space Marines are bigger, more physically powerful and possess faster reaction times than their original Astartes counterparts.
The Primaris Space Marines raised in the so-called Ultima Founding of 999.M41 are a new breed of hero for this, the darkest age in the Imperium of Man's history. These new warriors were the next step in the evolution of the Emperor's Angels of Death, and timely reinforcements for the Imperium's armies as their enemies closed in for the kill in the wake of Abaddon the Despoiler's 13th Black Crusade and the birth of the Great Rift dividing the Imperium in two.
To aid them in battle, these gene-forged warriors were equipped with new arms and armour forged on Mars itself at Cawl's direction, such as the Mark X Tacticus Pattern Power Armour worn by the Primaris Space Marine Intercessors, which combined the most effective elements of ancestral Horus Heresy patterns of battle-plate with more recent developments in Power Armour technology; the Mark II Cawl Pattern Bolt Rifle, the archetypal firearm of the Adeptus Astartes, now re-engineered, re-crafted and perfected; the Mark III Belisarius Pattern Plasma Incinerator, a new refined Plasma Gun; Redemptor Dreadnoughts, the Overlord gunship, and Repulsor grav-tanks.
At the dawn of the Indomitus Crusade called by Guilliman to throw back the Forces of Chaos, these phenomenal new warriors joined the Lord Commander of the Imperium as he fought to liberate the scattered bastions of Imperial space. Some, Guilliman has forged into new Space Marine Chapters, whole brotherhoods comprised only of these new transhuman warriors. Others he has offered to the existing Space Marine Chapters. Many Chapter Masters have welcomed their Primaris brethren into their ranks, accepting the new reinforcements gladly. Others, though, view these new creations with suspicion or outright hostility, claiming that the Emperor's work should never have been meddled with by mere mortals.
Though they are a step removed from their brothers, the Primaris Space Marines still bear the gene-seed of their Primarchs, and some dissenting voices worry how this new type of warrior will react with the known genetic quirks and flaws of some of the more unusual Chapters, such as the Blood Angels and the Space Wolves. The Primaris Space Marines offer new hope to a besieged Imperium, but the future remains a dark and uncertain place.
A little over a standard century into the 42nd Millennium, as the Indomitus Crusade appeared to reach its inevitable conclusion, Cawl was given free reign to unleash technological innovation to help the forces of the Imperium finally throw back the tides of Chaos. Cawl was authorised to utilise new technology and new configurations of ancient devices to refit Guilliman's flagship, the Macragge's Honour. The ancient Archmagos had proven to the Imperium's only source of technological innovation across the century-long span of the Indomitus Crusade, creating several new vehicles and weapons to outfit the formidable legions of Primaris Space Marines and the original Chapters of the standard Adeptus Astartes.
During the first century of the 42nd Millennium, Cawl became increasingly detached from the wider galaxy, instead focusing on his quest to create and perfect the Primaris Space Marines. As part of that initiative, he sought to persuade Guilliman to allow him to utilise gene-seed from the forbidden genetic lines of the Traitor Legions and even the long-lost II and XI Legions. But Guilliman emphatically refused, even as he knew that Cawl would most likely take it upon himself to pursue such heretekal lines of inquiry on his own.
By the end of the Indomitus Crusade, a small faction of devoted Mechanicus Tech-priests had formed around the Archmagos. They served as his obedient servants, eager to aid him in the pursuit of this radical new course called "innovation." But such a dramatic rejection of the Adeptus Mechanicus' dogma and beliefs also created many enemies for Cawl among the Mechanicus' traditionalists and conservatives. Such growing political resistance also caused Guilliman to worry about his ally, knowing that Cawl's desire for innovation could lead him to walk the same path that had led the original Dark Mechanicus into damnation over ten thousand standard years before. The Primarch knew that Cawl's thirst for advancement could eventually become a problem for the Imperium, and at that time, he would have to deal harshly with his old ally.
- Arc Scourge - The raw might of the motive force dances between the splayed claws of the Arc Scourge. A potent weapon of technobanishment, this weapon is designed to target Heretic war engines and exorcise their Machine Spirits with jolts of agonising lightning, disrupting their electronic and mechanical systems.
- Master Crafted Mechanicus Power Axe - A Power Axe is a Power Weapon taking the form of a single or double-edged battle axe. Power Axes vary in length and design, and have been known to be crafted from one of any number of different materials, though usually Adamantium. As with all Power Weapons, when its power field is activated, usually by operating a control located on the hilt, the blade is sheathed in a lethal corona of disruptive energy. This energy field allows the blade to carve through flesh, bone and most forms of armour plate alike, making a Power Axe a highly effective close combat weapon.
- Mechadendrite Hive - Hissing and slithering like a nest of mechanical snakes, the Mechadendrite Hive engulfs the foe in dozens of steel tendrils. Lashing, stabbing and throttling, the mass of Mechadendrites bloodily disassembles its victims with horrific speed.
- Scryerskull - The Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus take the assessment and exploitation of battlefield resources very seriously indeed -- so much so that many of them continue their work in this role beyond the point of death as Servo-skulls dedicated to tactical analysis, transmitting a torrent of binharic code outlining battlefield strengths and weaknesses back to their masters.
- Refractor Field - Considered essential by many lesser Tech-priests, the Refractor Field distorts the image of the wearer with a shimmering cloak of gravitic energy. Incoming attacks that strike the field will be refracted into multispectral electromagnetic bursts that dissipate harmlessly. The field, although less reliable than that generated by a Rosarius, can stop even the most powerful directed energy attacks, such as Lascannon and Plasma Gun fire.
- Cawl Inferior - Cawl Inferior was a digital construct that Cawl used to carry out a variety of tasks so that he could remain focused on what he deemed more important. Among the labours carried out by Cawl Inferior was the Archmagos' communications with others, including Roboute Guilliman. The Primarch worried that the construct was actually a form of forbidden Artificial Intelligence, and was indicative of Cawl's increasing willingness to dabble in tech-heresy.