|Legion of the Damned|
Chapter fights in complete, eerie silence
Cursed 21st Founding (36th Millennium)
Black with bone and flame decorations
- "...their armour was coloured black and upon it was drawn chilling images of bones and fire, and on their helm they bore skulls... Like the bones of men in the torment of purgatory they were, and yet not a sound did they make... We that remained watched the dark battle-brothers at their work, and never before or since have I witnessed such fighting... Soon we secured the objective once more, yet of the dark brotherhood, there was no sign!"
The Legion of the Damned are a mysterious band of Space Marines who often arrive on the battlefield when Imperial forces find themselves most in need of reiforcements. In truth, the Astartes that make up the self-proclaimed Legion of the Damned are remnants of the lost Loyalist Fire Hawks Chapter. They fight as a single unit and often appear mysteriously to aid an Imperial military force at a moment when they are about to be overwhelmed by the foe. The Legion's Space Marines are afflicted by a strange Warp contagion that destroys their sanity; as it progresses their bodies decay physically at the cellular level, but they grow in supernatural strength and the ability to use the power of the Empyrean against the Emperor's foes. Each Astartes of the Legion is rapidly approaching the moment when he will finally succumb to the contagion. Combat can initiate the final stages of the disease, in which the afflicted Space Marine reaches a peak in physical power but also enters a permanently berserk state that ends with his death.
In 963.M41 the Fire Hawks were sent to the Crow's World Sub-sector to put down an incursion into realspace by Dark Eldar pirates. The entire Chapter fleet, including the Chapter's mobile fortress-monastery, the Raptorus Rex, made a successful Warp jump from the Piraeus System 120 light years from Crow's World. The 5 starships, over 800 Battle-Brethren, and 2000 other personnel expected to reach Crow's World within no more than 12 hours. They never arrived. Twenty standard years later, the Chapter was officially declared lost in the Warp by the Administratum and presumed destroyed. The great Bell of Lost Souls tolled a thousand times, and a Black Candle was lit in the Chapel of Fallen Heroes in the Imperial Palace to mark the Fire Hawks' passing. In 986.M41 a routine Imperial Navy patrol passed through the Ork-held star system of Jakor-tal. The squadron discovered altogether unexpected scenes of devastation. The limited facilities available to the patrol could uncover no clue to the identity of the attacking forces. The incident was noted and passed into the records of the Adeptus Administratum.
A rash of similar incidents within the same and adjoining sectors aroused the interest of the Inquisition but no sign of the intruders was discovered for almost a year. Then, a patrol ship in the Maran Sub-sector narrowly avoided a collision with a spacecraft at the Cift System jump-point. The patrol ship was entering the Cift System as the unidentified craft was leaving. Alerted by the close encounter, the patrol crew scanned the entire jump-area and discovered two long cylindrical objects within the intruder's projected flight-path. These were hauled aboard and proved to be standard coffins used for Imperial starship burials in space, though they lacked any identification markings.
The coffins were shipped back to Terra and opened by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The coffins themselves were identified as belonging to the Absolute, one of the spacecraft from the vanished Fire Hawk Chapter fleet. Inside were the armoured remains of two Space Marines. The unconventional armour colours and unofficial insignia puzzled the investigators, but serial numbers on the armour tallied with the equipment made by or issued to the Fire Hawks by the Mechanicus. The armoured suits seemed to belong to members of the lost Chapter, and were carefully broken open. The bodies within were human, but further identification proved impossible due to their advanced state of decay.
Almost a year later, a besieged Imperial Research Station received unexpected help. The garrison had been attacked by Ork Freebooterz. After three hours of fighting the situation looked hopeless for the station's defenders. Then, without warning, the Orks found themselves attacked from the rear. Within half an hour, several hundred Orks had fallen to the mysterious, Power Armoured figures. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the unknown warriors vanished. This time they left behind a banner—the gnarled Chapter banner of the Fire Hawks -- and inscribed upon it was the High Gothic motto In dedicato imperatum ultra articulo mortis ("For the Emperor beyond the point of death"). As well as the banner there was a digital flight recorder and sundry other sealed items. These were shipped to Terra.
The Fire Hawks' Fate
From the data contained in the flight recorder the Administratum was able to determine exactly what had happened to the lost Chapter. Following their Warp jump the entire fleet had been caught within a Warp Storm of terrific intensity and forced to endure the attacks of powerful Warp entities. Ship after ship of the fleet was destroyed. Soon only one craft remained. By a daring Warp-exit maneuver the ship burst out of Warpspace, emerging far to the galactic east, thousands of light years off-course and beyond even the psychic light of the Emperor's Astronomican.
The original Fire Hawks survivors numbered 200 Astartes. All of the Chapter's gene-seed had been lost, all of its Initiates killed, and most of the Chapter's officers were gone. None of the Chapter's human serfs had survived at all. To make matters worse, the brethren had been mutated by their intense, unshielded exposure to the Warp. This change became more obvious over the next few months. The surviving Fire Hawks' skins began to blacken and blister, and their flesh began to fester and putrefy. Slowly they began to die. Within days of the transition into normal space it became obvious that the Chapter had been exposed to some form of dangerous Warp mutation or disease. It took many years to navigate a way back within the borders of the Imperium, during which time almost half the surviving brethren succumbed to the malady. Those who remained were no longer sane. Pain and despair had driven even their hardened minds beyond the point of rationality. Doomed to agonising deaths, they gradually became obsessed with their fate. Now they only wanted to die. But they were still Space Marines, still loyal to the Emperor and Mankind. They were determined that they would die only for a purpose.
So began the unending war of the Legion of the Damned. The surviving Fire Hawks Astartes elected to remove all official insignia from their armour. Instead their armour was painted black, decorated by each Battle-Brother with whatever emblems of death he chose. Most of the Legion's Astartes employed a similar theme—skeletons, bones and skulls.
All ranks and company structure were abolished, since most of the Chapter's officers were already dead and the remaining warriors were too few to make up a fully functioning Chapter hierarchy. All of the Legion's Battle-Brothers were to be equal before death—leveled in station by the certainty of their collective assured extinction. Using the Emperor's Tarot to go where they were most needed, the warriors decided to expend their lives attacking the Imperium's enemies wherever they could be found. The disease had robbed them of their sanity and their health, but never their loyalty.
- The Defence of Certus-Minor (Unknown Date.M41) - The entirety of the Excoriators' 5th Company was lost in garrisoning the Imperial Cemetery World of Certus-Minor against the predations of the Chaotic Cholercaust Blood Crusade. Certius-Minor lay directly in the path of the Keeler Comet, an ancient blood-red comet whose strange route out of the Eye of Terror embodied the will of the Chaos God Khorne, leading the Traitors, Heretics and daemons of the Cholercaust across the stars in a celebration of slaughter for the Blood God. That was until the comet appeared in the skies of the tiny Ecclesiarchy Cemetery World in the Praga Sub-sector. The 5th Company did request reinforcement from the rest of the Chapter but had little expectation of its arrival in time to make a difference. The 5th Company sent long-range astrotelepathic requests to the regiments of the Imperial Guard's Viper Legion at Hellionii Reticuli, the 2nd Company of the Novamarines Space Marine Chapter stationed at Belis Quora and the Angels Eradicant Chapter at Port Kreel. They even sent a message to the Vanaheim Cordon where Imperial forces had gathered to face the oncoming Cholercaust, in full knowledge of its futility, for the Imperial Fists, Exorcists and Grey Knights Astartes stationed there would not leave the line of defence for fear that the Keeler Comet and the trailing Cholercaust Crusade might resume its progress on towards Terra. The Adeptus Astartes contingents stationed at Vanaheim would never leave the sacred soil of Terra open to attack to help defend a tiny Cemetery World. The Excoriators' Battle Barge Certius attempted to reach the Cemetary World to answer their Battle-Brothers' call and halt the progress of the Cholercaust, but they were delayed by strange Warp currents in the wake of the crimson Keeler Comet. Much to the 5th Company’s dismay, their commanding officer, the disgraced Corpus-Captain Zachariah Kersh, ordered them to make a defiant last stand against the invaders, and stranded his forces on the world by sending their Apothecary and their crippled Strike Cruiser the Angelica Mortis to a nearby Forge World out of the comet’s path, taking the 5th Company's precious gene-seed with it to be used to create future generations of Excoriators after they had been slain. Kersh commanded less than half of a full company of Astartes as well as an Imperial Guard regiment of Certusian Charnel Guard against a legion of Chaotic Traitors, daemonic Bloodletters and Khornate Berserkers. Despite the odds, Kersh formulated a plan worthy of his Chapter's ancestors who had defended the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra, and he led a bold last stand by the Imperial defenders at Certus-Minor's capital necropolis of Obsequa City. The weight of the Khornate assault far exceeded even Kersh’s estimates, and things began to look grim for the Imperial forces. The doomed 5th Company faced their inevitable deaths at the hands of the Forces of Chaos, and in desperation sent a last, prayerful plea to the Emperor of Mankind for assistance of any kind. For a miracle. Beyond all hope, their prayers were answered. The Blood God's butchers soon became the butchered as they were completely wiped out by the timely intervention of the mysterious Astartes who called themselves the Legion of the Damned, whose mysterious vessel (more than likely the Fire Hawks' ancient Void Fortress Rapturous Rex) unexpectedly arrived to destroy the Keeler Comet which took much of the Cholercaust's warfleet with it. Yet the price was high, as all the Space Marines of the 5th Company valiantly lost their lives in the effort, save for their commanding officer, Corpus-Captain Zacariah Kersh. Kersh would go on to become Chapter Master of the Excoriators after this pyrrhic victory.
- The Rescue of Gloriam (990.M41) - The Ork Warlord Nobgrok and his WAAAGH! attacked the Imperial Forge World of Gloriam, intent on looting the biggest weapons he can find from the planet's myriad weapons testing facilities. Nobgrok and his Greenskins wreaked havoc across the planet and quickly captured its Basilica Principalis. While in the middle of using the Basilica's orbital magno-laser batteries to burn his name into Gloriam's moon, he was interrupted by the mysterious appearance of vengeful Space Marines haloed by etheric flames and with symbols of death deeply etched into their midnight-black armour who slew him and thus shattered the Orks' grip upon Gloriam so that its defenders could take back their world.
When the Firehawks Chapter made their fateful Warp jump to the Crow's World Sub-sector and were caught in the prodigious Warp Storm that swept them across the galaxy, only one starship of the fleet managed to escape its fate. The survivors soon realised that they had brought back a mysterious Warp contagion that decayed their bodies and drove them beyond the point of sanity. The survivors originally numbered only 200 hundred Astartes while all of the Chapter's gene-seed had been lost, all of its Initiates had been killed, and most of the senior leadership within the Chapter was gone. All ranks and companies were abolished as most of the Chapter's officers were already dead and the remaining warriors were too few to make up a fully functional Chapter hierarchy. There have been some notable exceptions such as sightings of the mysterious Centurius, a suspected Veteran Sergeant who leads some of his fellow Legionaries into battle. Although nothing is known of the Legion's higher organisation, there have also been eye-witness accounts of a mysterious figure sighted directing the Legion's attacks. It is not known if he is the Master of the Legion or the equivalent of a Space Marine Captain.
Harkening back to their former lives as Astartes of the Fire Hawks Chapter, the Legion of the Damned still very much prefer the use of rapid assault tactics. Their tactical doctrine still tends to err towards the use of shock tactics, close-quarters combat and, above all, the brutal application of focused and overwhelming force to obliterate the enemy. Having a reputation for appearing suddenly and disappearing after a battle just as mysteriously, the Astartes of the Legion of the Damned have been seen to make use of some heavy support elements, such as Rhino armoured personnel carriers or a Venerable Dreadnought. Even the Legion of the Damned's Tactical and Devastator Squads prefer to engage at point-blank range when possible. The Legion of the Damned also make extensive use of Bike Squads, taking advantage of their superb speed and agility to launch lightning fast raids.
The Legion of the Damned also makes use of ancient technology, especially the early patterns of Plasma Weapons that date back to the Horus Heresy era. Though the plasma technology of that time was notoriously unstable and dangerous, this has not dissuaded the Legionaries from removing them from their formidable arsenal. The devastating power of this plasma weaponry makes it too potent to abandon, and so, the Legion of the Damned continues to utilise them, as after all, the worst that could happen is that they might meet an even more premature death in the service of the Emperor.
Chapter Combat Doctrine
The Legion of the Damned maintains no formal Chapter organisation or order of battle—it fights as a single body of troops. The only tactic possible for such a formation is to steam-roll over the enemy through a steady advance. The Legion is not a part of any Imperial force, and employs an unusual modus operandi. Apart from driving them insane, the Warp contagion also heightens the Legionaries' psychic awareness considerably. One result of this effect is the way in which the Legion selects and attacks its targets. These matters are left entirely to the process of psychic divination provided by the mystic Emperor's Tarot. This system of Tarot cards is supposedly bound to the psychic will of the Emperor and is used throughout the Imperium as both a pastime and a form of true, precognitive divination. Its effectiveness can be seen in the undeniable fact that the Legion of the Damned's attacks always seem to come in the right place at the right time for the servants of the Imperium.
The Legion of the Damned paints its Power Armour a flat black. Some Astartes add flames to their shoulder plates or greaves to show their damned status or otherwise add symbols of death to their armour. The Aquila, if present, is usually white.
The legion of the Damned's Chapter badge is a white skull.
- Attica Centurius (Sergeant) - From scattered eyewitness accounts it appears that the Legion of the Damned have abolished all ranks and no longer organise themselves into companies. Most of the Chapter's officers were already dead after their Chapter fleet was lost in the Warp and the remaining warriors were too few to make up a fully functioning Chapter hierarchy. There is, however, one notable exception—the mysterious Attica Centurius whom seems to wield some type of leadership role over the other Astartes of the Legion. Centurius' armour does not display any rank or insignia save the usual symbols of death employed by Legionaries, however it is believed that he is a former Veteran Sergeant of the Fire Hawks. He is marked out from the other Legionaries by the archaic skull that he carries aloft into battle known as the Animus Malorum ("Soul of the Damned"). This ancient Imperial relic takes the form of a skull whose eyes blaze with light when its power is unleashed. There is some speculation as to the identity of the skull, as it bears three long service studs bolted into its forehead. This indicates the skull belonged to an Astartes of senior rank, and it may be all that remains of Sergeant Centurius' former company captain. This powerful artefact has the ability to literally suck the souls from its target and then resurrect a fellow Legion of the Damned member who has fallen in battle to continue to serve the Emperor beyond the point of death—another gift of the Warp curse that has befallen the Legion.
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 95
- Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pp. 74-75
- Index Astartes I, "The Cursed Founding"
- Planetstrike (5th Edition), pg. 57
- To Cleanse The Stars by Andy Chambers and Matt Keefe (accessed 2007.02.19)
- White Dwarf 224 (US), "Legion of the Damned", by Jervis Johnson, pp. 18-25
- White Dwarf 195, "Legion of the Damned: Veteran Sergeant Centurius"
- White Dwarf 99, "Index Astartes: Legion of the Damned"
- The Legion of the Damned (Novel) by Rob Sanders
- Cursed Founding