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Bjorn the Fell-Handed battle ready

Bjorn the Fell-Handed, Venerable Dreadnought of the Space Wolves Chapter

Bjorn the Fell-Handed, also known as the Eldest, Trueclaw, Revered One, and Last from the Company of Russ, is a Venerable Mars Pattern Mark V Dreadnought and former Chapter Master of the Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter. He is also the oldest living Space Marine in the Imperium of Man, for in his mortal life he fought beside the Primarch Leman Russ himself during the Great Crusade and the bitter wars of the Horus Heresy. More than ten thousand years have passed since that age of legends, yet Bjorn remains a living link to the Chapter's distant past -- it is little wonder that his counsel is sought by many within the Space Wolves when they gird for war. Despite his extreme age, Bjorn is a steadfast warrior and lumbers into battle entombed within the sacred sarcophagus of his Dreadnought. A venerable hero of immense power, Bjorn has masterminded many of the Space Wolves' greatest victories, and by his hand have some of the Imperium's most heinous adversaries been slain. Always eager to crush the foes of the Allfather, Bjorn continues to fight amongst his Chapter's ranks as he has done for millennia. Legend claims that the spirit of Russ ever watches over Bjorn, and that no harm will come to him until the Primarch returns to fight alongside his friend once more in the battle to end all things -- the Wolftime.

History

Prospero

"Bjorn, of Tra", the warrior introduced himself.
"One-Handed", said Russ, nodding in recognition. "That is a poor name", replied the Wolf King.
"It suits", Bjorn replied coolly, flexing his half-ruined arm with something like pride. "It stands for all of us.
"
— Bjorn Fell-Handed speaking to Primarch Leman Russ following the Burning of Prospero
Bjorn The Fell-Handed pic

Bjorn in combat during the Fall of Prospero at the time of the Horus Heresy

Ten thousand Terran years ago, before his internment within the armoured sarcophagus of a Dreadnought, Bjorn fought alongside Primarch Leman Russ of the Space Wolves Legion during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy and saw the Emperor Himself before He was interred within the mechanism of the Golden Throne. Bjorn was a member of the Vlyka Fenryka (Wolves of Fenris)'s Tra (3rd) Great Company where he served under the command of Jarl Ogvai Ogvai Helmschrot. The stern, taciturn warrior saw combat in many theatres of the Crusade, including the Olamic Quietude Campaign and the Burning of Prospero, during which he served as the (rather unwilling) guardian of the Remembrancer Kasper Hawser to atone for his mistake of wrongfully shooting the man's shuttle out of the sky during the Remembrancer's initial arrival on Fenris.

Bjorn's saga of greatness would begin in earnest during the Burning of Prospero. The exact account of what happened on Prospero has been lost to time, but it is known that some thing, whether foul Warlock of the Thousand Sons or Neverborn abomination had taken a special interest in Kasper Hawser, ostensibly attempting to use the mortal as a spy against the Vlyka Fenryka, but in truth to ensure that the confrontation between the Space Wolves and Thousand Sons resulted in their mutual annihilation. The being revealed itself to its unwilling mortal pawn on Prospero, and when Hawser defiantly planted his axe into the foul creature's head, the monster started to choke the life out of him due to its inveterate malice. Bjorn intervened, hacking the foul being's arm off at the elbow and saving Hawser's life. Pressing his advantage, Bjorn dealt the creature several ruinous blows, but the daemon refused to fall, and used fell magicks to pluck the Space Wolves' true names from Hawser's mind and to use it against them as part of its foul sorcery. Yet, the sorcery failed aganst Bjorn, for Hawser, having always subconsciously translated his name to "Bear", did not know Bjorn's true name. Refusing to be daunted by the messy death of his fellows, Bjorn kept hammering at his opponent, driving it back until the foul being managed to grab his arm and send a massive surge of Warp energy through it. Bjorn's hand immediately started to smoulder and decay, and the corruption started to crawl up his arm, yet Bjorn grimly fought on. Luckily, succor arrived in the form of a Rune Priest accompanied by a squad of Sisters of Silence, two Space Wolves Dreadnoughts, and (according to some accounts) Constantin Valdor of the Adeptus Custodes. The Silent Sisters' Pariah Gene interrupted the being's fell magicks, and it was ground to paste by the two vengeful Dreadnoughts. At the same time, either Hawser or Valdor intervened and saved Bjorn's life by hacking his arm off at the elbow, preventing the corruption from spreading further. Bjorn was later lionised by the others, especially Hawser, for resisting and driving back such a monstrous opponent.

First of the Lone Wolves

Bear Vlka Fenryka

An ancient Remembrancer's sketch of Bjorn of Tra

During the Horus Heresy, Bjorn was a young warrior of great potential. He had excelled during the campaign known as the Fall of Prospero and Bjorn's saga was already being crafted by the skalds. He had been there when he was confronted by the Horus-daemon and heard the words of mystery spoken by the fell creature. His stock had risen, and he was being spoken of as if some deep wyrd had attached itself to him. Indeed, Bjorn's Pack was often singled out to lead assaults where enemy resistance was expected to be at its heaviest. It was whilst undertaking one such attack on the acrid, volcanic world of Gryth that events were to take a tragic turn. Bjorn's Pack had humbled tyrants, butchered aliens beyond counting, and even hewn down their brother Space Marines who had fallen from the Emperor's grace; yet against the daemon king, Arvax the Arch-slaughterer, they knew only death. That Bjorn actually survived the massacre of his kinsmen was a testament to his exceptional skills as a warrior, for all others who faced the mighty Daemon of Khorne that fateful day joined Bjorn's packmates in death. Though the arrival of the mighty Primarch Leman Russ saw the Space Wolves ultimately emerge victorious against the daemonic warhost, it was Bjorn's relentless assault who finally drove the seemingly unstoppable daemon general from the field.

Despite his victory of sorts, Bjorn never forgave himself for the loss of his kinsmen, nor the fact that he alone yet lived, having been denied a magnificent death. In the hours that followed the battle, Bjorn became increasingly melancholic, refusing to accept the hearty approval of those who had witnessed his heroic battle against the daemon king. As he witnessed his packmates burn atop the victory pyres, he gave voice to a long, mournful howl. Kneeling before the bodies of his burning kinsmen, he swore a grave oath of vengeance against their slayer.

Bjorn dead AL

Rare and ancient pict-capture of Bjorn aboard an Alpha Legion vessel, slaughtering his treacherous foes

To Bjorn's continued frustration, it was to be five long standard years before word of Arvax' location surfaced once more. Russ immediately led his Space Wolves to destroy the foul creature, determined to personally slay the daemon king himself and avenge those who had died during their last encounter. Yet in this goal, the Primarch was to be denied, for Bjorn too sought out his nemesis and, as fate would have it, was the first to face Arvax in battle. As the Wolf-King tore through the Khornate horde towards his quarry, he witnessed Bjorn's duel first-hand. Russ could only look on in pride as Bjorn deftly rolled beneath a blow attempting to cut him in half, then clambered up the daemon's towering frame to tear out the Arch-slaughterer's throat with his trusty Wolf Claw. In the aftermath of the battle, Russ came to Bjorn in person and exonerated him in front of the entire Legion, holding his oath fulfilled.

Setting a precedent that still exists to this day, the Wolf-King promoted Bjorn to his personal Wolf Guard, naming him the "Fell-Handed" in honour of his mighty deed. The Skjalds of the Chapter hold that it was the sense of loss and tragedy that Bjorn had already experienced and learned to master that influenced Russ' decision to leave him behind when he set forth on his last, fateful journey into the Eye of Terror. Of all of the Primarch's Wolf Guard, he alone had shown such strength of purpose and determination in his darkest hour; he alone would understand the lonely burden of command.

Last of the Company of Russ

The Fell Hand

Bjorn the Fell-Handed as a Venerable Mark V Dreadnought during the Defence of The Fang on Fenris from the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion

No one knows what happened to Leman Russ. Some say he disappeared in the Eye of Terror whilst searching for his old friend and rival, the Dark Angels Primarch Lion El'Jonson. Others say that, to this day, he walks disguised among Mankind, watching over the people of his Emperor and guarding them from the powers of Chaos. All that is known for sure is that Leman Russ vanished in 211.M31, nearly two standard centuries after the Emperor was entombed upon the Golden Throne. At that time, all of the Space Wolves warriors and their Wolf Lords, including the Great Wolf himself, were gathered for a feast on Fenris. The holiday, known as the "Feast of the Emperor's Ascension", commemorated the day the Emperor defeated Horus and "ascended" back into the Immaterium after being entombed upon the Golden Throne. On this occasion, Leman Russ quieted the great hall of his warriors to speak, but then froze in place as his eyes glazed over as if seeing a vision. The assembled Space Wolves looked on in horror as their Primarch fell to his knees and called for his Wolf Guard and closest retainers to attend him, all save the youngest, Bjorn the Fell-Handed. Giving his closest companions his instructions, Russ turned and left the Great Hall with his bodyguard in tow, leaving only Bjorn behind. The tale of his disappearance is retold every thousand standard years by Bjorn the Fell-Handed, now the oldest Astartes Dreadnought still in service in the entire Imperium. It is believed by some Astartes amongst the Space Wolves that Russ left Fenris and journeyed into the Eye of Terror to find the fabled Tree of Life, a font of uncorrupted Warp energy hidden somewhere within the Immaterium that bears fruits said to be able to heal the Emperor and restore Him to full life.

It was no mere coincidence that Russ chose young Bjorn to lead the Chapter in his stead. During the aftermath of the Horus Heresy called the Great Scouring, Bjorn proved both his tenacity and mettle a hundred times over. This, combined with the fact that he had already lived through and come out of the ordeal of losing his packmates stronger than he was before, led Russ to see in Bjorn the future leader of the Space Wolves in the reformed Imperium as forged by Roboute Guilliman. He was the only member of Leman Russ' personal Wolf Guard who could and would endure being left behind when Russ departed for the Eye of Terror; and so he was. This deed left Bjorn harbouring intense feelings of rejection and bitterness to this very day, for the taciturn Primarch did not explain his decision to the young warrior, and what was meant to be high praise and honour left Bjorn instead feeling that he had been punished by his Primarch for some flaw of which he was unaware. Bjorn has never explained why he was left behind in this manner; it is not certain if he even knows himself, but the Primarch was never one to act idly.

Every standard year after his disappearance, Russ' place was laid at the same feast. Every year his drinking horn was filled should he return. For seven long, painful Terran years the Space Wolves waited patiently for their lost Wolf-King to return to them. After seven years, the surviving Wolf Lords gathered and elected Bjorn their leader, becoming the Chapter's first warden in the Primarch's name. So it was that, when it became clear that Russ was not to return, Bjorn reluctantly took his Primarch's place as master of the Chapter, becoming the first Great Wolf. Bjorn gathered all his warriors together in the Great Hall of The Fang, and announced the first Great Hunt. Russ' people would seek out their master if it took the rest of time to do it. So did the twelve Great Companies take to their voidships and sail forth in separate directions across the Sea of Stars. From the day of Russ' disappearance, Bjorn has given his all to prove himself worthy in his missing Primarch's stead, first as Great Wolf, then as a Dreadnought, and finally to this day as the spiritual and moral compass for the entire Chapter. Only the ancient Wolf Priest Ulrik knows Bjorn well enough to suspect that he still craves the benediction of Russ, and that Bjorn will know no peace until he fights alongside his Primarch once more.

His heroic career as the Great Wolf of the Space Wolves was tragically cut short during the Proxima Rebellion in 934.M31. Bjorn led a successful raid to free those of his Battle-Brothers trapped within the notorious Dreadsun Fortress, but his body sustained such terrible injuries that, to preserve his life, what was left of his shattered body was interred in a Dreadnought. Acutely aware that, as a Dreadnought, he could no longer fulfil his duties as master of the Chapter, Bjorn abdicated his position as Great Wolf. Even being confined within a cold robotic shell did nothing to dampen Bjorn's burning conviction. Over the following five hundred standard years, he remained at the forefront of every battle, leading by example, and counseling his successors as the Chapter's Great Wolf. Eventually the long years took their toll on the ancient warrior, and he began spending longer and longer periods dormant in stasis sleep. Now he is only awakened when the Chapter has the greatest need of his potent skills and ancient wisdom, as during the First Battle of The Fang in the 32nd Millennium, where Bjorn faced off against and severely wounded the Space Wolves' arch-nemesis, the Primarch Magnus the Red; or the so-called "Months of Shame" in the aftermath of the First War for Armageddon in 451.M41 where he negotiated a truce between the Space Wolves, the Grey Knights and the Inquisition.

Bjorn is also awakened by his Chapter at the dawn of each new standard millennium to hold court at the Great Feast. The Great Feast commemorates the disappearance of Leman Russ; it is a boisterous celebration that all Space Wolves attend, where Fenrisian Ale flows freely, the ancient sagas are told to the younglings, and new oaths taken and old oaths reaffirmed. Invariably, at some point during the Great Feast, a delegation of Iron Priests will arrive, escorting a massive figure. In seconds, the Great Hall of The Fang will fall utterly silent as the Great Wolf rises and cedes his place to the new arriver. When the ancient Dreadnought speaks, the boisterous mirth of his Battle-Brothers is replaced by the hushed silence of utmost respect. Entire generations of Space Wolves can fight and die without ever witnessing Bjorn in person, so to be in the majestic presence of this revered hero is a rare privilege. In the utter silence of profound respect, Bjorn will speak of the time of the Great Crusade, where he recounts elements from his own saga and anecdotes about their long-gone Primarch to his Battle-Brothers. To the youngest Blood Claws, Bjorn's stories sound more like a skjald's outlandish legend than a recollection of facts, yet Bjorn's memory is clear and he speaks with the authority and certitude of one who has seen it all and lived to remember it. The only moment where his voice falters is when he recounts Russ' decision to leave for the Eye of Terror and his own appointment as the first warden of the Space Wolves Chapter until Russ returns. Even after ten millennia, Bjorn still feels the pain of rejection by his Primarch as keenly as he did on that fateful day. Those who are the eldest amongst the Space Wolves believe that the only thing that could grant "The Revered One" his peace of mind again is the return of Leman Russ, and the occasion to fight alongside his Primarch one last time.

To the Space Wolves, Bjorn represents the Chapter's greatest link to the past. He is revered as a hero almost as great as Leman Russ, and his words are to his living brethren akin to law, for he is the only one amongst them who can still judge a situation by their Primarch's standards. In this, Bjorn also functions as the Space Wolves' moral compass, and even the stubbornness incarnate that is Logan Grimnar listens and defers to Bjorn's ancient wisdom when "The Eldest" speaks against him. On those dire occasions where the Ancient is roused to take the field, the Space Wolves will fight with a tenacity and stubbornness remarkable even for the Space Wolves, for they believe that faltering in the eyes of Bjorn is akin to faltering in the eyes of Russ. Woe to the being skillful yet unlucky enough to dare to damage the mighty Dreadnought, for it only spurs the Space Wolves into a fanatical, homicidal rage, and the whole of them will charge forward madly in order to prevent "The Eldest" from being defiled by the foe.

Wargear

Dred Bjorn Fell-Handed

Bjorn the Fell-Handed, Venerable Dreadnought of the Space Wolves Chapter

When he was still counted amongst the living, Bjorn was outfitted as befitted a member of Leman Russ' retinue: garbed in a mighty suit of Artificer Armour, in his left hand he wielded a Master-Crafted Lightning Claw which he always used with tremendous skill, and in his right hand he bore a Bolter modified with a pistol grip, allowing him to fire the weapon one-handed.

Shortly after his internment in a Dreadnought chassis, the Chapter's Iron Priests fashioned a lightning-wreathed claw sized to match his massive chassis in honour of his favoured weapon in his former life. Bjorn wields this mighty weapon, known as Trueclaw, as deftly as ever, ensuring that he continues to live up to his name. It is much more devastating than the weapon he bore as a living Astartes, and is additionally equipped with a built-in Heavy Flamer that allows Bjorn to carbonize anything escaping his Claw's attentions. On his left arm he also bears a mighty ranged weapon: most often an Assault Cannon, which is to a Dreadnought like the standard Bolter is to an Astartes. However, if the situation requires it, the Iron Priests will equip Bjorn with a Plasma Cannon, Helfrost Cannon , or Twin-linked Lascannons.

However, Bjorn's most potent weapon is neither his Lightning Claw nor his tactical acumen, but his legend. To be in Bjorn's presence is to the Space Wolves akin to being in Leman Russ' presence by proxy, spurning them on to commit acts of courage so foolhardy that even their "usual" acts of near suicidal bravery seems only like child's play in comparison. Although he rarely complains, Bjorn finds the decorations and embellishments with which his brothers have decorated his sarcophagus an annoyance and a lie, for he is convinced that Leman Russ left him behind for some failing on his part, and that he is as such unworthy of the reverence in which he is held. Yet, he is canny enough to understand his value as a role model to his younger brethren, and thus only voices his opinion in private to the other Dreadnoughts beneath The Fang.

Sources

  • Codex: Space Wolves (7th Edition), pp. 12, 43-44, 61, 63, 128-129
  • Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pg. 49
  • Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition), pp. 15-16, 31, 68-69
  • Champions of Fenris - A Codex: Space Wolves Supplement, pp. 12, 52-53, 71, 86, 107, 124-125, 134
  • Companies of Fenris - Space Wolves Painting Guide (6th Edition), pp. 53, 59
  • Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Artbook Series), pg. 240
  • Index Astartes I, "Warriors of Old - Space Marine Dreadnoughts", pg. 55
  • White Dwarf 227 (US), "Chapter Approved - Space Marines: Space Wolves", pp. 73-80
  • Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett
  • Scars (Novel) by Chris Wraight
  • Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight
  • The Emperor's Gift (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Bjorn: Lone Wolf (Short Story) by Chris Wraight
  • Bjorn: The Fell-Handed (Short Story) by Chris Wraight

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