|Legio Mortis (Death's Heads)|
Black, Red, Silver and Gold (Pre-Heresy) / Green, Black and Silver (Post-Heresy)
The Legio Mortis (Death's Heads) are a Traitor Titan Legion of the Dark Mechanicus that repudiated their oaths to the Emperor of Mankind and followed Warmaster Horus into the service of the Ruinous Powers during the Horus Heresy. There is very little information in Imperial records about the founding of this Titan Legion, though they are known to have been founded before the Age of the Imperium, during the Age of Strife, in the early days of the Cult Mechanicus' conquest of Mars.
The name of the Legio Mortis was feared and distrusted by many within the Imperium long before the betrayal and horror of the Horus Heresy was to unfold. Originating in the pre-Imperial Age of Strife the Legio Mortis was, according to the legends of the Martian Lexmechanics, one of the "Triad Ferrum Morgulus" -- the three originating Titan Legions created by the besieged Cult Mechanicum during the bloody wars to take back the Red Planet from the degenerate hordes of Cy-Carnivora and mutant scavers that had overwhelmed Mars after the fall of the first human interstellar civilisation. As was recorded in the iconography of their seal, the purpose of their creation was two-fold: firstly, to stand sentinel at the gates of the Fabricator-General's domain as tireless guardians, and second, the annihilation of all life that would threaten the Machine Cult. As such, the Legio Mortis served as both sentry and exterminator. Grim, dour and secretive, the Legion had gained a dark repute during the conquest of Mars as merciless and sinister that would only grow as the centuries passed, and it is now lost in time whether they gained their common name, "Death's Heads," from their iconography, the ritual onyx skull masks and sable robes their Princeps wore, or their long practice of arraying the skeletal remains of those they had slain across the armoured pediments of their war machines as trophies.
Bound they were by rite and tradition in personal loyalty to the office of the Fabricator-General of Mars, and many times were they used both against his enemies in war (for Mars was not truly pacified until the coming of the Emperor), and as a weapon to maintain his authority among the Fabricator-General's own and punish recalcitrant Magi and even other Titan Legions when needed. This history garnered them few friends or allies and their long standing rivalry with their fellow members of the Triad Ferrum Morgulus, most notably the Legio Ignatum, and their contempt for the "upstart" Titan Legions of other Forge Worlds than Mars was well known. In particular, the Legio Venator could not be trusted to fight alongside them without the threat of civil conflict erupting after the events of the Accatran Compliance during the Great Crusade.
Their reputation as an infamously fractious and insular force -- whose allegiance many within the Imperium's military staff believed remained solely to the Fabricator-General and to the Emperor not at all -- resulted in the tragic irony of the Legio Mortis ' assignment to the personal flag of Horus Lupercal of the Luna Wolves for the purpose of guaranteeing and deepening the Titan Legion's loyalty to the Imperium. Notwithstanding smaller battlegroups assigned to the Legio Mortis Forge-fortress on Mars and to the blockade of the Uhn Holdfast, the bulk of the Titan Legion's active strength was assigned as the Titan backbone of the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet under Horus. With that charismatic and deadly Primarch they fought in over one hundred campaigns in the later decades of the Great Crusade, and the ashes of countless worlds and the bones of scores of different alien races adorned their war engines. During these years of blood and battle a new loyalty was indeed forged for the Legio Mortis, but it was not to the distant Emperor of Mankind but rather to Horus, and they became pledged to his standard above all, and followed him willingly into treachery.
Ironically, the Death's Heads would become corrupted by the Chaos God of Decay, Nurgle – a deity whose undead servants they had once fought against on Davin's moon, where Horus had been mortally wounded. After the Warmaster's "miraculous" recovery from his wounds following his corruption by the Chaos Gods in the Temple of the Serpent Lodge, he began his rebellion against the Imperium by unleashing Life-Eater Virus bombs upon the world of Istvaan III, seeking to destroy elements of the Traitor Legions that were still steadfastly devoted to the Emperor of Mankind. Elements of the Titan Legion had already descended to the surface where what few elements of the Legion that were not trusted were quickly purged. It was to the Legio Mortis in their sealed war engines that Horus' plan had given the coup-de-grâce to the few Loyalists expected to survive the initial virus bombardment, but as matters transpired, what was to be an extermination to scour the survivors evolved into a wholesale battle. Horus ordered the full Titan Legion deployed to smash the husks of the Istvaanian cities and break the Loyalists' resistance, and for the first time the Legiones Astartes met the Legiones Titanicus in open conflict. Some claim that mutated strains of the Life-Eater Virus brought about their final corruption, while others say that the madness wrought by the sight of billions of putrefying corpses turned the Legion's faces to Chaos.
When the Horus Heresy became a full-blown insurrection, on Mars the traitorous Fabricator-General Kelbor-Hal of the Adeptus Mechanicus decided to take the Warmaster's side in the conflict. The Legio Mortis supported the Fabricator-General, being one of the first Titan Legions to fight in the service of the Ruinous Powers. Open hostilities erupted all over the Red Planet as the civil war within the Mechanicus that became known as the Schism of Mars began. Loyalist and Traitor forces alike brought forth forbidden technologies to use against one another. The Dark Mechanicus-aligned Legio Mortis eventually fought the Legio Tempestus in open warfare near Mars' Magma City, but these contingents of Death's Heads Titans were wiped out by the Loyalist Titan Legion that defended the hive city.
By the time the Legio Mortis landed on Terra to take part in the siege of the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra, its Titans had been warped and mutated beyond all recognition -- their adamantium hulls pockmarked and bubbling with fetid vapours. The twisted flesh and metal of great tentacles lashed to and fro, spiked tails whipping about. The once-noble skull-faced heads adorning the Legion's Titans had now been transformed by the eldritch powers of Chaos into rancorous visages of drooling daemons filled with malice, their engines roaring like angry beasts.
The Warmaster granted the Legio Mortis the singular honour of breaching the outer walls of the Imperial Palace. Using Wreckers, Power Rams, Warp Missiles and their own fiendish bravery they managed to accomplish this near-suicidal task despite suffering the loss of over thirty Titans in one evening of intense fighting. The walls of the Imperial Palace finally broke under the onslaught by the Death's Heads Titan Legion -- the huge Warlord-class Titans of the Legion smashed their way through the last few metres of the bastion and unleashed a flood of Traitors into the inner courtyard of the Palace. But despite their efforts, ultimately the Siege of Terra failed and Horus was laid low by the Emperor Himself. The remnants of the Legio Mortis fled from Terra hunted and pursued, system by system, to the Eye of Terror. There, where the Warp and realspace overlap, time has flowed differently for the Death's Heads. They remain trapped in servitude to the Ruinous Powers, fighting the Long War against the forces of the Corpse Emperor that began ten millennia before, building their strength and testing the Imperium’s defences for the time when they shall return and wreak terrible vengeance on all living things for the defeat of their beloved Warmaster.
- Ullanor Crusade (Unknown Date.M30) - The Ullanor Crusade was a vast Imperial assault on the Ork empire of the Overlord Urrlak Urruk during the Great Crusade of the 31st Millennium. The capital world of this Greenskin empire, and the site of the final assault, lay in the Ullanor System. The Crusade included the deployment of 100,000 Space Marines, 8,000,000 Imperial Army troops, and thousands of Imperial starships and their support personnel. The Luna Wolves Legion spearheaded the assault with Titans from the Legio Mortis providing heavy support. Striking directly at the heart of the Ork empire, this force succeeded in killing the Overlord, thus casting the Greenskin horde into disarray and unleashing infighting within its ranks. In recognition of this great victory, Horus was elevated to the esteemed rank of Supreme Commander of the Imperial armed forces and granted the title of Imperial Warmaster.
- Lament of Shedim (Unknown Date.M31) - This was an Imperial Compliance action carried out against the Eldar upon the arid world of Anark Zeta between the forces of Craftworld Mór-ríoh'i and the forces of the Great Crusade, which included detachments from no fewer than four Titan Legions: the Legio Mortis, Legio Fureans, the Legio Atarus and the Legio Osedax. Overall command fell to Horus Lupercal, most-favoured son of the Emperor and Primarch of the Luna Wolves Legion. During the apocalyptic battle, the Legio Atarus was cruelly used, and without their foreknowledge, they were sent to probe the enemy lines of the Eldar, and were subsequently destroyed. The grievous losses suffered by the Firebrands due to the Legio Mortis and the Legio Fureans ' refusal to fight alongside them due to internal Mechanicum politics, was a grievous injury not soon forgotten.
- Cleansing of Murder (One-Forty-Twenty) (Unknown Date.M31) - The world of Urisarach (nicknamed by the Space Marines who fought on it as Murder) was the twentieth world that was first encountered by the 140th Expeditionary Fleet, which was composed of three companies from the IX Space Marine Legion, the Blood Angels, commanded by Captain Khitas Frome. This deadly world acquired its nickname of "Murder" from the last transmission received from Captain Frome before the failed Imperial expedition was massacred by the local alien population -- a deadly arachnoid race dubbed the Megarachnids. Eventually it took a combined strike-force composed of elements from the Blood Angels, Emperor's Children, and Luna Wolves Space Marines as well as a Legio Mortis Titan battlegroup to initiate a full-scale assault that drove back the ultra-violent xenos.
- Assault on Davin's Moon (Unknown Date.M31) - At the behest of Chaplain Erebus of the Word Bearers Legion, Warmaster Horus and his 63rd Expeditionary Fleet were requested to return to the Feral World of Davin. Erebus reported that the Imperial Governor of Davin -- Commander Eugen Temba had gone Renegade after he and his forces had gone to the moon in an attempt to bring the Davinite tribes there into compliance. Unfortunately for Commander Temba, the parley with the tribespeople turned violent, and he and his men were struck down by a sorcerous attack that had twisted their loyalty to the Imperium. The Renegade Commander and his forces took refuge on Davin's moon which they soon transformed into a Nurgle-corrupted swamp land. Supported by Titans from the Legio Mortis, the Warmaster led the assault force personally. It was here that the Imperial forces were first confronted by a horde of reanimated corpses of Plague Zombies which was all that remained of Temba's Imperial Army garrison. Ironically, the Death's Heads would later become corrupted themselves by the Chaos Lord of Decay, Nurgle. They did not know that they were fighting against the deity in the form of hundreds of disease-ridden Plague Bearers. It was during the Warmaster's confrontation with the daemon-possessed Temba that he would fall, gravely wounded by the mysterious Chaotic sword known as the Kinebrach Anathame.
- Istvaan III Atrocity (ca. 007.M31) - The campaign known in later times as the Istvaan III Atrocity began when the Imperial Planetary Governor of Istvaan III, Vardus Praal, had been corrupted by the Chaos God Slaanesh whose cultists had long been active on the world. In 205.M31, Praal declared his world to be independent from the Imperium. Unaware of the change in the Warmaster's loyalties, the Council of Terra charged Horus with the retaking of that world, primarily its capital, the Choral City. When the Imperium finally gathered their forces, the Sons of Horus, Death Guard, Emperor's Children and the World Eaters Legions arrived in the Istvaan System, mustering in orbit above the doomed planet. Under the guise of putting down the rebellion against Imperial Compliance, Horus hatched the plan by which he would destroy all the remaining Loyalist elements of the Legions under his command. He purposely gathered those Astartes who were not loyal to him and used them in the assault on the non-compliant world. With elements of the Legio Mortis Titan Legion in support, the invasion of Istvaan III then began in earnest. One of these terrible war machines was the infamous Imperator-class Titan, the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), which had already gained a fearsome reputation amongst the Astartes of the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet. At the moment of victory and the capture of the Choral City the Loyalist Astartes involved in the assault were betrayed when a cascade of terrible virus bombs fell onto the world, launched by the Warmaster's orbiting fleet. Caught in the deadly bombardment, the Princeps of the Dies Irae had the behemoth sealed against the deadly viral vapours, as his crew watched in horror as Istvaan III died around them, including many of the Loyalist Death Guard Astartes they had been supporting only moments before. Without the benefit of cooling systems and sufficient ventilation they were very nearly overcome by the intense heat when the secondary firestorm erupted. When the flames finally died down the Dies Irae went on to attack and help exterminate the remaining Loyalist forces within the ruins of Choral City.
- Schism of Mars (ca. 007.M31) - When open civil war erupted all over the Red Planet as the civil war within the Adeptus Mechanicus known as the Schism of Mars began, the Legio Mortis had already pledged their support to the Fabricator General and his co-conspirators of the Dark Mechanicus. Sallying forth from their fortress at Pavonis Mons, the Legio Mortis clashed with the Loyalist Titan Legion called the Legio Tempestus in open warfare near Magma City, but ultimately, these contingents of Death's Heads Titans were wiped out by the Loyalist Titan Legion.
- Battle of Tallarn (Unknown Date.M31) - The Legio Mortis is known to have fought in various engagements during the Horus Heresy, including the infamous Battle of Tallarn. During the Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion, intending to destroy all potential resistance before landing, virus-bombed the world of Tallarn, rendering it an inhospitable desert. Only then did the Chaos Space Marines land. Tallarn's few survivors emerged from their underground bunkers to stop the Iron Warriors' invasion. Soon, reinforcements from both sides arrived, including the Legio Astorum Titan Legion. It soon became painfully clear to the Imperial forces the futility of fighting over a destroyed planet, but by then there was no turning back. Though it was not known at the time, the Iron Warriors were motivated to attack the world beyond their mere appetite for destruction because Tallarn was the site of a hidden and potentially powerful Chaos artefact. The poisoned environment of the world made it impossible for infantry troops to operate outside of their protective shelters, and so the only available option was to make use of armoured vehicles and the support of the Titan war machines of the Legio Astorum. The Legio Mortis fought their hated Loyalist kin from the Warp Runners, while the largest tank battle in human history erupted on the surface of Tallarn, involving some 10 million armoured vehicles. By the end of this brutal conflict, the Iron Warriors were defeated, and the wreckage of over a million tanks littered the sands.
- Battle of Terra (ca. 014.M31) - The Legio Mortis took part in numerous engagements during the dark days of the Horus Heresy, but their most notable action occurred when they took part in the Battle of Terra and the Siege of the Imperial Palace. Horus commanded the Death's Head Titan Legion to break the walls. The fell Titans began to demolish entire sections of the bastion. The defenders inflicted dreadful carnage upon them - three, four then five massive Titans were destroyed in as many minutes. The Chaos Titans would not relent and they kept hammering away at the walls. The walls of the Emperor's Palace finally broke under the onslaught of the Death's Head Titan Legion -- its huge Warlord Titans smashed their way through the last few metres of the bastion and unleashed a flood of Traitors into the inner courtyard of the Palace. But despite their efforts, ultimately Horus was laid low by the Emperor himself and the Forces of Chaos were forced to flee into the Eye of Terror.
- Siege of Hydra Cordatus (999.M41) - During the 13th Black Crusade, an unnamed Iron Warriors Warsmith laid siege to the world of Hydra Cordatus in an attempt to steal samples of Imperial Fists gene-seed from the Adeptus Mechanicus fortress located on the planet. This Warsmith's warband of Iron Warriors was supported by a battlegroup of Chaos Titans from the Legio Mortis, including the infamous Imperator-class Titan Dies Irae. Three Loyalist Warlords, two Reavers and two Warhound-class Titans drawn from the Legio Ignatum were stationed on the planet to provide support for the Mechanicus garrison forces. The Imperial defenders fought back bravely and many of the Traitor Titans, including the Dies Irae, were destroyed with the support of the Legio Ignatum 's God-Machines. Unfortunately, the Warsmith eventually conquered the world and captured the Imperial Fists gene-seed, which would be used to create new generations of Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines, a victory for which this Warsmith was raised by the Ruinous Powers to become a Daemon Prince.
Thanks to its ancient history and its close ties to the Fabricator-General of Mars and his coterie, the Legio Mortis was one of the numerically largest and best-equipped of all of the Titan Legions at the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. Conservative estimates place their disposition at or around 200 Titans in active service, as well as having 2 battalions of specialised support armour, 5 Skitarii Auxilia Legions and a close air-support phalanx of 9 squadrons bound to their service. Only the Legio Destructor is believed to have been able to put more Battle Titans into the field at the war's outbreak. In particular, the Legio Mortis was known to possess a strong contingent of the most powerful classes of Titan: the Imperator, Nemesis and at least one Apocalypse Pattern war engine. While the bulk of the Legion's Titans were Warlord, Reaver and Nightgaunt classes, Scout Titans such as the Warhound were represented in relatively small proportions to the whole.
- Aquila Ignis (Imperator-class Titan) - The Aquila Ignis was an Imperator-class Emperor Titan constructed in the Daedalia Forge Yards far to the south of Tharsis on Mars. The Aquila Ignis fought during the Schism of Mars against Loyalist elements from the Legio Tempestus in the battle for Magma City, where it was destroyed in the heavy combat.
- Dies Irae (Imperator-class Titan) - The Dies Irae was an Imperator-class Titan which was attached to the 63rd Expeditionary Fleet under the command of the Warmaster Horus. This infamous Titan was present during the opening days of the Horus Heresy at Istvaan III, when it followed Horus' orders and helped exterminate the remaining Loyalist Astartes of the Traitor Legions present on that cursed world after they were virus-bombed by their comrades from orbit. The Dies Irae was also present during all of the major ground assaults towards the end the rebellion. The Dies Irae finally met its fate ten millennia later during the siege of Hydra Cordatus in 999.M41 during the 13th Black Crusade when it served as part of an Iron Warriors attack force. When it was confronted by Imperial Titans from the Collegia Titanica, the Dies Irae was critically damaged when a Loyalist Warlord-class Titan detonated its plasma reactor when it was in close proximity to the Traitor Titan, which damaged the ancient Imperator-class Titan's armour. Another Warlord Titan then penetrated the Dies Irae's Void Shields and compromised external carapace with its Battle-Claw and crushed the Chaos-tainted Titan's plasma reactor. The resulting explosion wiped the Dies Irae 's ancient taint from the face of the galaxy forever.
- Phantom Lord (Warlord-class Titan) - Fought with the Sons of Horus Traitor Legion during the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Molech.
- Manus Mortis (Warlord-class Titan) - A siege Warlord-class Titan that fought in the Great Crusade and the Battle of Terra. Present during the siege of the Imperial Palace.
- Xestor's Sword (Warlord-class Titan) Fought with the Sons of Horus Traitor Legion during the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Molech.
- Dread Wake (Reaver-class Titan) - Fought with the Sons of Horus Traitor Legion during the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Molech.
- Hand of Ruin (Reaver-class Titan) - Fought with the Sons of Horus Traitor Legion during the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Molech.
- Myrmidion Rex (Reaver-class Titan) - Fought with the Sons of Horus Traitor Legion during the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Molech.
- Death's Head (Warlord-class Titan) - Participated in the assault on Davin's moon during the Great Crusade.
- Xestor's Sword (Warlord-class Titan) - Participated in the Luna Wolves' assault on Davin's moon during the Great Crusade.
- Ferrum Mori (Reaver-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Lead Battle-Titan of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Dread Wake (Reaver-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Hand of Ruin (Reaver-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Mortmain (Reaver-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Myrmidon Rex (Reaver-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Vulkus Tor (Reaver-class Titan) - Destroyed by Orks on Ullanor during the Great Crusade.
- Blood Wolf (Warhound-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Carrion Crow (Warhound-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Sothis (Warhound-class Titan) - Participated in the Istvaan III Atrocity. Part of War Maniple Ferrum Mori.
- Venator (Warhound-class Titan) - A member of the Death's Head Scouts, a Warhound Titan battlegroup that fought during the Horus Heresy. It was the excesses committed by Senior Princeps Esau Turnet's Death's Head Scouts during the course of the Horus Heresy which were directly responsible for terminating the practice of organising Scout Titans (such as the Warhound) into battlegroups. By the order of the High Lords of Terra they were limited to operate single or in pairs, so that the horror of civilian massacres, perpetrated by packs of Warhound-class Titans during the Battle of Terra, may never again be visited upon mankind.
- Camulos - Senior Princeps, commander of the Legio Mortis' forces on Mars at the Legion's fortress located at Pavonis Mons. Camulos led the Titans of his Legio against the Loyalist Titans of the Legio Tempestus in open warfare at the Battle of Magma City during the Schism of Mars.
- Esau Turnet - Esau Turnet was a Senior Princeps, the commander of the Imperator-class Emperor Titan Dies Irae during the Horus Heresy. The Senior Princeps had already repudiated his oaths to the Emperor and sworn allegiance to the Warmaster by the time the events of Isstvan III occurred. Turnet was privy to what Horus had planned for the Loyalist Astartes on the surface of the doomed planet.
- Jonah Aruken - Aruken was the Moderati Primus of the Imperator-class Titan Dies Irae during the Horus Heresy. When the Warmaster enacted the opening phase of his rebellion on Istvaan III, he was present on the Dies Irae. After the virus-bombing and secondary firestorm, Senior Princeps ordered the Titan's weapons to be reactivated and to fire upon the Loyalist Death Guard Astartes. Horrified, his friend and fellow Moderati Titus Cassar attempted to stop the Senior Princeps from carrying out his unlawful orders. Seeing his future ambitions to command his own Titan being sabotaged by his friend Titus, Jonah shot and killed his fellow Moderati. He then carried out Senior Princeps Turnet's orders and proceeded to fire upon the loyalists.
- Titus Cassar - Moderati Primus of the Imperator-class Titan Dies Irae during the Horus Heresy. He was secretly a member of the Emperor-worshiping cult known as the Lectitio Divinitatus, which believed that the Emperor was a divine being and the God of Mankind. He was often ridiculed by his friend and fellow Moderati Jonah Aruken for his beliefs. Titus was present during the opening days of the Warmaster's rebellion at Istvaan III. He watched in horror as the planet was virus-bombed and died and the subsequent firestorm that followed. When ordered by Senior Princeps Turnet to reactivate their weapons and open fire on the Death Guard Astartes that they had supported only moments before, Titus attempted to stop him with a pistol, but was killed by his friend Jonah Aruken.
The Pre-Heresy colours of the Legio Mortis were black, red, silver and gold. Now that they are the corrupted followers of Nurgle, their Titans no longer resemble the once-proud war machines of the past. They now display the outwards signs of their allegiance to the Plague God, and are covered in all manner of putrescence, decay and filth.
The Legio Mortis badge is a skull centred in front of a gate with chains dangling from it. Half of the Cult Mechanicus cog symbol sits atop the gate. This symbolises the Legion's ancient mission of both standing sentinel at the Fabricator-General's gates as the personal protectors of his domain, and annihilating all life that would threaten the Machine Cult, for the Legio Mortis served as both sentry and exterminator. A variant of the Legion's badge is a horned death's head in front of a red-outlined blue delta (triangle) on a field of black. Below the death's head are rows of skulls, symbolising the Legion's skill at bringing death to its enemies.
- Adeptus Titanicus (1st Edition), pg. 59
- The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, by Alan Bligh, pp. 138-141
- Titan Legions (2nd Edition), pg. 12
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