- "Of all the legends of the Imperium, one of the strangest is that of the Legion of the Damned. For those who know where to look, there are many corroborated accounts of these otherworldly warriors, their unexpected appearances upon a desperate battlefield, and their sudden and inexplicable disappearance at the battle's end."
The Legion of the Damned is a mysterious band of Space Marines who appear unbidden when all hope seems lost, striding forth from their hidden netherworld to bring retribution to the Imperium's foes. Once their bloody work is complete they vanish into myth once more. They are a legend, whispered in secret by a suspicious few, that the Emperor has the loyalty of a force from beyond reality. The Legion is an army of vengeance and of flame, a brotherhood of warriors who appear at first glance to be Space Marines but quickly prove to be more lethal than even those most formidable of transhuman warriors. These warriors are variously said to dwell in the spaces between this world and the realm of the Warp, in the hopes and dreams of desperate men, and in a pocket of reality eternally lit by the fires of hatred. Rare is the man that has witnessed the sudden violence of their attack, rarer still those with the strength of will to keep their sanity intact afterwards.
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.
The haunting legend of the Legion of the Damned is known across the galaxy, and even nonbelievers speak of such things in hushed tones. These silent warriors are Space Marines in appearance, their black armour adorned with images of bones and fire, yet they are not of any Chapter recognised in the Imperium. Most eyewitnesses dispute even the Legionaries' mortality, for an eerie glow suffuses their sable armour and a halo of ghostly fire dances about their feet. There are many corroborated accounts of Legionaries of the Damned enduring firepower that would annihilate a warrior clad in Tactical Dreadnought Armour. Among them is a report from the Keyan battle zone, where a handful of Astartes of the Legion of the Damned were witnessed walking unharmed from the Volcano Cannon blast that claimed four Predators and several squads of Space Marines. Energised blades, melta beams and plasma volleys often pass right through them without causing the slightest harm, and on those occasions when such deadly weapons do strike home and inflict horrific damage, even then they do not slow the Legionaries in the slightest. The Bolters carried by the Legionaries, though in aspect no different to those borne by other Space Marines, discharge flaming projectiles that can pierce the strongest armour. Imperial scholars have concluded that the Legionaries are able to fire far more bolts from their weapons than the ammunition capacity of their clips would suggest -- indeed, no footage has ever been recorded of any kind of weapon reload, even in the most protracted of engagements. Nothing, not Chaos Chosen, rockcrete bastion, nor boiling lava can stay the spectral wrath of the Legion of the Damned.
The nature and origin of the Legion of the Damned is shrouded in mystery and myth. Some rumours suggest that they are the survivors of the lost Fire Hawks Chapter, transmuted by the Warp Storm that claimed their vessel. Others imply that the Legion is an extension of the Emperor's will, time-lost saviours, or even the vengeful spirits of Space Marines slain in the Imperium's many wars. In the course of their investigations, several Inquisitors have tried to capture or intercept the Legion of the Damned, but all have failed; events always inexplicably conspire to prevent the Inquisitors from getting close to their quarry, leaving them nothing more than frustrated witnesses to the event.
Who, or what, guides the Legion of the Damned is an enigma to all save the beneficent Emperor Himself. They appear only in times of great need, coalescing from the fires of a desperate battlefield to turn a disaster into victory. Regardless of the conflict, the Legionaries fight with a chill precision that few mortal warriors can match, sweeping enemy positions like vengeful ghosts. Terror is their harbinger and oblivion their gift. After the battle, the Legion of the Damned departs as suddenly as it arrived, leaving only the bodies of the slain and wonder in its wake.
Saviours from Beyond
- "Never before or since have I seen fighting such as I witnessed when that host fell upon the Orks. Seizing the moment, I regrouped my company and led them once more into the fray, yet there was little work for us, for the Greenskins lacked stomach for the fight. Soon we secured the great bastion once more and without further loss. Of the dark brotherhood, there was no sign."
Little is truly known about the Legion of the Damned, though a few truths have come to light as reports of their manifestations have been collated and compared. They invariably attack to save some part of the Imperium from disaster, a fact that implies they have powers of prediction that even the most gifted of seers and prophets cannot rival. Whenever the Legion of the Damned appears on the field of battle, they do so without warning. Bursting out of a sulphurous cloud of flame, they stride from nothingness, adorned with icons of the grave. With a terrible efficiency, they cut down the foe, not a wasted motion nor a spoken word giving pause to their dark work. The Legion is always clad in ceramite of deepest black. Despite their surroundings, whether they appear in the brightly lit haven of a Planetary Governor or under the glare of a sun at its zenith, their armour seems to consume natural light. Even direct torchlight does not illuminate them. Instead, the pale bones and death's heads emblazoned on their armour are lit by a lambent fire, their armour flickering as if each Legionary has been set alight with some combustible chemical. It is more likely these pyrotechnics are psychic in nature, for they blaze bright whenever the Legion's blades sink into the flesh of their victims. There have been several accounts of Legionaries becoming little more than pillars of flame at the height of an engagement; on such occasions, the individual will fight with terrible ferocity before succumbing to the flame and disappearing from reality.
To witness the Legion of the Damned fight at close quarters is to observe true martial prowess, for they combine the brutal power of the Space Marine's gene-enhanced physique with the expertise and insight of a veteran weapons master. Knives plunge deep through exposed joints and into thundering hearts, bone-clad fingers stab through throats and eye sockets before returning, red and wet, to the triggers of their guns. Here and there, a hurled Combat Knife claims the life of an enemy trying to escape; never aiming to wound, always to kill. The Legionaries attack with an economy of motion that leaves even the warriors of the Adeptus Astartes wide-eyed with surprise. Though their ornate suits of Ceramite are as efficacious as that worn by any other Space Marine, the Legionaries are able to shrug off wounds that would cut apart even a warrior clad in Tactical Dreadnought Armour. Energised blades slice them without resistance, Melta beams and plasma volleys pass right through them without causing the slightest harm. Sometimes such deadly weapons find their mark, inflicting horrific damage and yet not slowing the Legionaries in the slightest. Those who witness such ethereal sights at first conclude that their deliverers are some manner of ghost or spirit, though the destruction the apparitions mete out soon puts the lie to the idea they exist only beyond the veil.
The impression of burning vengeance is always uppermost in the minds of those that witness the Legion of the Damned on the attack. Not only do their Bolter shots ignite the air in stabbing lances of energy as the Legionaries march towards the foe, but they bring to war a great many Flamers, Heavy Flamers and Multi-Meltas, incinerating with pitiless efficiency those foes that cower from their sudden assault. Those enemies that simply stand agog at their sudden change of fortunes are blasted apart with expertly placed mass-reactive bolts. However, after-action pict analysis has put a mysterious twist on even these most fundamental of Adeptus Astartes kill-tactics. Imperial scholars have concluded that the Legionaries are able to fire far more bolts from their weapons than the ammunition capacity of their clips would suggest -- indeed, no footage has ever been recorded of any kind of weapon reload, even in the most protracted of engagements.
Once the tide of battle has been turned, and those in need of rescue have been freed from the threat that had closed around them, the Legionaries vanish from sight. Some witnesses say they looked away for a second only to look back and find nothing there, others that the Legion shimmers before disappearing like a fading holograph. The strange static that accompanies these disappearances prevents any proper record of their exit from the field. Those monitoring devices that are able to steal evidence of a Legion manifestation invariably have Machine Spirits that are badly traumatised, and have to be coaxed back into life by a talented Magos or Techmarine before they will yield any secrets at all. A peculiar property of any mass apparition is that it will quickly fade from memory. If an investigator wishes to obtain any kind of first-hand account, he must visit those who witnessed the incident within solar days, preferably hours, for the presence of these strange Space Marines erases itself from the mind much as a dream or nightmare. Nonetheless, the scent of burnt flesh lingers in the nostrils and on the tongue for solar weeks, years, or even the rest of the witness' life, resulting in disturbing thoughts that can never quite be traced back to their source.
Defining the Ethereal
- "They warrant further investigation, that much is certain. Their modus operandi bears similarities to that of... certain individuals we consider of extreme importance. It is not unheard of for those... lost to history to appear in a state that bears little relation to their original appearance. Given postmortem Auspex readings it is clear they have advanced telekinetic capacity, presumably psychic in origin. Upon stasis capture, I recommend extensive questioning within a quarantined null zone, performed by gifted Interrogator-Chaplains still attired in full battle plate."
There are those in the complex strata of the Imperium that make it their business to study the Legion of the Damned. They hope to learn not only of the mystery that lies behind them, but to capture whatever peculiar abilities they wield and use them for the betterment of the Imperium. On many occasions, the area of a Legion sighting is extensively analysed, but the Auspex returns never yield evidence of a teleport signature, nor the presence of an undesignated vessel that could have transported them to the field. If the rumours are true, the Legion is able to translocate directly via the Warp, not by using a Navigator and the unsteady pulse of the Astronomican -- not even by the dangerous science of teleportation -- but by some kind of innate mastery. One facet of the Legion of the Damned's legend lends weight to this supposition. Vid-thief evidence, from Servo-skull captures to multispectral analysis, places them in various locations and times that were entirely cut off from the Imperium by Warp Storms, and therefore unreachable by conventional means. The collated reports then show what appear to be the same individuals across the other side of the galaxy shortly afterwards -- or, in the case of the Astigmatan Anomaly, simultaneously. Even blaming the fickle tides of the Empyrean does not adequately explain such occurrences. Some have taken these incidences as proof that the Legion is master of the Warp, much like the embodiments of the Dark Gods. It is a disturbing thought, even for those who have witnessed the Legion fighting hard to save Imperial lives.
One of the few facts known about the Legion of the Damned is that its agents appear at a critical time, never too late or too early, and always in the most advantageous place to bring death to the enemy. The idea of negotiating the Empyrean reliably and accurately has long been a dream of the leaders of Mankind, its potential captivating in the extreme. If harnessed properly, it would form a grand prize that could change the fate of Mankind on a galactic level, allowing the armies of the Imperium to multiply their military presence by an unimaginable factor. So it is that no small portion of the Ordo Chronos, the part of the Inquisition that deals with temporal anomalies, is given over to the quest for the Legion's secrets. There are members of that secretive brotherhood who have spent their entire adult lives in pursuit of a first-hand sighting, who would give their lives gladly for a single exchange of information with a Legionary; yet every time the operatives of the Ordo Chronos get close to their quarries, events conspire to keep them apart -- landslides, telekinetic bursts, sudden mass aneurysms, or even vehicular explosions force the curious and the mysterious apart until the Legion has vanished from the time stream once more. It is as if the Legion will not allow themselves to be interrogated and have power enough to ensure that such an encounter does not come to pass.
Hunt for the Truth
- "They are creatures born of the Warp; that much even a child could divine. That they wear the shape of Mankind's vaunted defenders is a matter as immaterial as the warriors themselves. They are daemons, and they must be brought low, just as with all their malefic kind."
Speculation as to the Legion's nature runs rampant amongst the cognoscenti of the Imperium. A few scholars of Adeptus Astartes history have intimated that the Legion of the Damned is a psychic backlash made real. Events such as the Istvaan massacres or the death of a Primarch were so traumatic they left a permanent scar on the psyches of all of the First Founding Space Marine Legions, so these theories run, a scar so deep it has permeated not only the Chapters that came after them but hundreds of Successor Chapters since that tumultuous time. The Space Marines that have remained loyal to the Emperor since then have a deep-seated belief that those who betrayed them should be made to pay for their transgressions with fire and fury. It is quite possible that the Librarians of the Adeptus Astartes tap into this belief and make it real, whether by accident or design, resurrecting the ghosts of their fallen brothers and giving them a chance to wreak their terrible revenge. These scholars believe it is a Chapter's burning conviction that the guilty must be punished that gives the phantoms of the Legion a physical form.
There are radicals amongst the Librarius who have a similar theory, though they believe the Legion of the Damned is a kind of consensual hallucination, and occasionally even manifestation, conjured by Mankind as a whole. They believe that the subconscious power of hope is so strong, that when combined with the nascent psychic abilities that lurk within Humanity's minds and a stimulus of imminent death, it can potentially be made reality. Central to this theory is the idea that though a single man may have but the tiniest shred of spiritual or mystical ability, the uncounted trillions of humans that populate the Imperium all contribute to a kind of psychic reservoir that can be tapped into in extremis, even by those who do not realise they are doing so. The Adeptus Astartes have come to embody both hope and terror to a beleaguered Imperium, and the form of deliverance and vengeance alike is the broad silhouette of the Space Marine. This theory is reinforced by observing that the aspects of fire and death that are associated with the Adeptus Astartes are made manifest upon the armour of these conjured warriors. If the theory is correct, their weapons are no more real than the apparitions themselves. Yet the psychic flames that shoot from half-imagined Bolters are real enough to burn the enemies of Mankind, or even to blast them bodily apart in the manner of true mass-reactive ammunition. Such is the latent psychic power of the common man.
A darker premise, held by the renegade Inquisitor Quixos before he was slain by Gregor Eisenhorn, is that Humanity's omnipresent faith in the Emperor has bestowed upon the Master of Mankind a caste of supernatural agents. Just as the Dark Gods of Chaos have daemonic servants made of the same soul-stuff that sustains them, Quixos theorised that the Legion of the Damned were shards of the Emperor's will given form. Furthermore, the Inquisitor's writings posit the idea that these "Engels Mortis" could take a number of forms, just as the daemons of the Ruinous Powers range from the diminutive to the colossal, and that their greater forms have yet to be recorded. It is said that when the deserving and the devout find themselves on the brink of death these spectral warriors will emerge, blazing with the fires of the Emperor's immortal will. However, Quixos maintained, there is plenty of evidence that almost every Legion appearance has happened in an area where the metaphysical barrier between realspace and the Warp is thin, suggesting a kernel of truth behind his claims that the Legionaries are creatures of the Immaterium. Quixos' premise was widely decried as heresy at the time, and after his death, purged from the Ordo Malleus' records. Yet it somehow lingers on.
- "In Dedicato Imperatum Ultra Articulo Mortis"
- — Inscription on Legionary banner, loosely translatable as "For the Emperor Beyond the Point of Death"
Another belief whispered amongst the hidden orders of the Adeptus Astartes is that the Legion of the Damned was once a Chapter of Space Marines, a force that has been claimed by the fires of the Warp and reborn into a more sinister form. After all, across the Imperium's long history, several contingents of Space Marines have made translation into the Empyrean and emerged changed as a result, or not emerged at all. Prominent amongst these are the Fire Hawks, a Chapter whose history was blighted by disaster. In the year 963.M41, the Fire Hawks were sent to the Crow's World Sub-sector to engage a flotilla of Eldar raiders and bring the anarchy that was spreading there to an abrupt end. The scale of the xenos incursion was such that 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 their target coordinates. The five starships, over eight-hundred Battle-Brethren, and two thousand other personnel expected to reach their targetted quarry within no more than half a solar day, though they never translated back into realspace. The Crows World Sub-sector was left to the mercies of its Eldar persecutors. Twenty standard years after the event, the Chapter was officially declared perditas. The great Bell of Lost Souls tolled a thousand times, and a black candle was lit in the Adeptus Chapel of Fallen Heroes within the Imperial Palace upon Terra itself.
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 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. 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.
Almost a standard 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.
Yet there are those who believe the Fire Hawks underwent some strange metamorphosis after their disappearance, maintaining that they became irrevocably changed by the tides of the Warp, both dying and somehow remaining alive. Knowing they could never openly serve the Imperium in their Warp-tainted state, they became the Legion of the Damned, fighting on in the Emperor's name from the hell that had become their home. The simplest theory as to the Legion's nature, and therefore perhaps the most credible, is that its warriors are simply ghosts. They are the spiritual echoes of once-great Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes whose hatred for the enemies of the Imperium was so powerful that it transcended mortal limits and became something eternal. If this is true, then the Legionaries may come from a great many different Chapters, their insignia and heraldry subsumed by their supernatural rebirth and replaced by icons of doom so that they are linked together by their own damnation. The few reports of those who have seen the Legion of the Damned unhelmed speak of ghostly pallor, sunken skin, and hollow eye-sockets. Every supernatural occurrence, every glitch in reality that is attributed to these mysterious warriors adds credence to this theory. Perhaps those who know of their existence prefer to imagine the spectral Space Marines as revenants, for what mortal mind could possibly stand a life bound to the hell dimension of the Warp and still remain sane?
The original Fire Hawks numbered 200 surviving Battle-Brothers. 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 solar 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 solar 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.
Martyrs Beyond Death
- "I personally believe them to be Warp-tainted, and therefore in need of the purging flame. But whilst they fight as allies of the Imperium, whilst they bring destruction to the foes of Mankind, well; their destruction remains a low priority -- for me at least."
Quadrimesta's Thesis of Perpetual Martyrdom, an exhaustive report commissioned by the High Lords of Terra themselves, paints a compelling picture of what might have become of the Legion for those who still seek the truth. Its conclusion states that the Legionaries are still compos mentis, but that they are deliberately quarantining themselves from the rest of the Imperium's servants. Quadrimesta believes that the Legion is a lost strike force of Space Marines who have somehow blended with the stuff of the Warp, contracting a kind of metaphysical contagion. They fear this malady could spread to innocent souls should they remain in proximity for too long, and will do anything to prevent this. Knowing that their affliction will claim them body and soul, the Legionaries seek to punish the enemies of Mankind as best they can whilst they still have the chance. Though the Warp contagion is said to bestow all manner of strange supernatural abilities upon those that bear its curse, it is ultimately fatal. Worse still, being spiritual in nature, the contagion's effects do not end with death. A soul that dies with such taint in his soul is damned indeed, for though they are claimed by the fickle tides of the Warp, they can be reborn after a certain period of time, much as a banished daemon can return to the service of its masters after its purgatory is complete.
The unusual but startling incidences of Legionaries entering a flame-wreathed berserker state are perhaps best explained by the Warp contagion theory. Quadrimesta calls this state "pyromortis". He believes a Legionary enters a pyromortic state as the curse enters its final stages, burning his essence in one grand inferno before the damned individual is snuffed out altogether. Intense experience or exertion can accelerate the contagion's effects, bringing incidences of pyromortis into being prematurely. This Quadrimesta links to his martyrdom theory, for only those with true steel in their souls would risk such a horrendous fate in order to save the lives of faithful men and women of the Imperium. The Arch-cardinals of the Ecclesiarchy have been known to compare these dramatic acts to the self-immolation of Saint Delemetris, whose final act was to kill the Black Deacon Numas in a fiery embrace. Circumspect as ever, the Adeptus Ministorum draws no concrete ties between itself and the Legion, in case the rogue element's more destructive actions are laid at their door.
The Warp contagion concept would also explain the phenomenon whereby the Legion's intervention often proves critical to the fate of the wider Imperium. In his later work, The Tarot Symbiosis, Quadrimesta concludes that the Warp contagion bestows a great deal of psychic ability on the sufferer, blending their bodies and minds alike with the raw stuff of Chaos. Because of this, the Legion is able to read the Emperor's Tarot with an uncanny degree of accuracy, tapping into the immense psychic prescience of the Master of Mankind and using His abilities to read the future in the swirling tides of the Warp. In this way, it always knows exactly when and where to attack to best effect. Quadrimesta cites as evidence the Calamitine Incursion, where the intervention of the Legion of the Damned ensured that Tech-priest Vidrillian escaped from The Purge's drop zone attack upon the Tharlan Swamp Tigers. Vidrillian later discovered the Standard Template Construct (STC) for a respirator-mod that saved trillions of lives from the biovitriol virus deployed into the Calamitan Sub-sector by the Traitor geneticist and Apothecary Fabius Bile. The Legion's uncanny ability to influence future events was also documented within the twisting region of space known as the Higorian Helix. During a boarding action by the Ork Freebooterz known as the Bone Dogz, a dozen Legionaries saved the life of Commissar Fletchlack -- a man who later averted a mass daemonic incursion by the pinpoint execution of the powerful psyker Exegias.
The Legion has even appeared in the astral docks of Luna, freeing a Salamanders Kill-team from the vacuum traps of the renegade Draco Clan. This act allowed the Space Marines to intercept a transfer shuttle that had been wired to detonate upon landing within the Great Terran Autoarchive. If the Autoarchive had been lost, the Adeptus Administratum would have suffered a blow that would have compromised their logic engines across the galaxy, and possibly even prevented the Imperium from coordinating its military actions for the best part of a standard century. Repercussions such as these ripple out from each and every fiery intervention, a sure sign that the Legion's work is not in fact random, but indispensable to the fate of Mankind. Though it has been debunked as often as it has been embraced amongst the higher orders of the Adeptus Terra, Quadrimesta's theory bears one thing in common with all the others that have sprung up in the wake of these violent visitations. It concludes that, although their minds and bodies have suffered greatly, the honour of the Legionaries is still intact, and their intent is noble.
By striking hard at the most pivotal points of fate, the Legion can inflict the maximum damage on those xenos races and heretical factions that would harm the Imperium. In this way, the Legionaries are locked into a cycle of perpetual martyrdom, fighting an endless war against the enemies of Mankind, all the while being unable to clear their own names from suspicion or indeed take any succour in the gratitude of those they have saved. Anonymous, unbidden, and unyielding, the Legion fights on throughout the span of time, with none truly sure whether they are angels or devils -- perhaps not even the Legionaries themselves. Despite the speculation that has accumulated around the Legion of the Damned, the only point of certainty remains their uncanny skill on the field of battle. Wherever the Legionaries appear, the tide of battle turns at a critical moment, tipping the scales of fate in the favour of the Imperium and the true servants of the Emperor. They may be plagued by madness and morbidity, they may be touched by the fell powers of Chaos, they may even be amongst the ranks of the fabled undead, but they remain loyal servants of the Imperium, and perhaps that is enough.
Despite the strange occurrences that all too often prevent the Legionaries from being monitored, there exist those events in Imperial records that undeniably show their presence as a recurrent phenomena. Every one of these appearances has been picked apart in minute detail by the Ordo Chronos, though in truth, their examinations have raised as many questions as they have answered:
- The Pyrocataclysm of Vilidad Prime (006.M40) - After broadcasting a terror message condemning the lack of beauty in the populace, the Renegades of the Flawless Host invaded the Adamantium mines of the world of Vilidad Prime. The 122nd Imeldan Destriers, a veteran Imperial Guard regiment assigned to monitor the tithe, made a valiant attempt to hold back the Renegades. Modified nova charges were set by the Flawless Host throughout the Adamantium mines and the population centres above them. Though the surviving Destriers fought the Chaos Space Marines every step of the way, the vast majority were slain in battle, their persecutors claiming the kills are "for the sin of mediocrity in the face of true beauty." Though the Destriers were reduced to their mortis threshold within the first three solar days of fighting, reports of strange Space Marines appearing in the mining districts croped up again and again, each time engaging the Flawless Host and driving them back. At first, the strikes were so sudden and brutally effective that the Destriers thought they had a real chance of outlasting the Renegades. When the Chaos Lord that called himself the Visionary joined the fight, a hundred daemonic handmaidens at his side, the tide swung back again, for many of the Legion's number were banished by the vorpal claws of the Slaaneshi daemons. Those Legionaries that remained became searing columns of fire, fighting with a fury that made them every bit as frightening as the Renegade invaders. During what came to be known as the Pyrocataclysm, the fire of the Legionaries proved able to burn even daemon flesh, and the Slaaneshi entities were sent screaming back to their master's foul realm. Though commiting a number of spiteful acts during its retreat, the Flawless Host fled back to its ships rather than risking disfigurement and defeat. During the fighting, a dozen new seams of adamantium were revealed by weapon blasts that scared the surface of Vilidad Prime. The nearby Forge World of Lipitou Anville tripled its production of war materiel, ensuring the majority of its labours benefited the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.
- The Swords Reforged (343.M41) - When Hive Fleet Moloch invaded the Imperial weapons testing planet of Ghodba, the Tyranids found that the world had a vicious bite of its own. Everything from unclassified super-heavy war engines to gatling Macrocannons was employed by the Tech-priest Enginseers that supervised the planet's defences, with entire phalanxes of Baneblades and Shadowswords leading each charge against Moloch's many leader-beasts. Yet though Ghodba's surface was soon thick with Tyranid corpses, reinforcements couldn't reach the planet for solar months at best. The war of attrition startsed to tip in favour of the xenos invaders. The last Steel Fury squadron, the Swords of Ghodba, was crippled by sustained bio-cannon fire and swiftly overrun by numberless Gaunts. Its crew commended their souls to the Emperor, taking up their Laspistols and Autoguns, preparing for a last stand. Upon throwing open the hatches of their mobile fortresses, the crew of the Swords were stunned to see squad after squad of black-clad Space Marines forming a cordon around their tanks, the relentless pounding of their Bolters and the billowing flames of their heavy weapons blasting back the Hormagaunts scuttling around them. The crew bailed out, their saviours maintaining the cordon around them as they fought across three miles of corpse-strewn battleground to reach a squadron of Doomhammers, whose crews had been slain by Lictor attacks. With the chameleonic assassin-beasts blasted apart by pinpoint volleys from their Legionary escort, the crews of the Swords quickly familiarised themselves with the weapon suites of the Doomhammers and rejoined the fight. The introduction of three more super-heavy tanks and almost a hundred Legionaries tiped fate in favour of the Imperium. The invading swarm was shattered, dispersed, and hunted to extinction, forcing the rest of Hive Fleet Moloch to seek its prey elsewhere.
- The Doom Of Idharae (852.M41) - The Legion of the Damned came to the aid of the Invaders Chapter as they waged a devastating attack upon the Eldar Craftworld Idharae. When their flaming bolts did little harm to the raging Eldar Avatar at the heart of the battle, the Legion instead blew out the great dome under which they fought. They vanished once more as the Eldar defenders and the single surviving member of the Invaders force left fighting there were blasted out into the void. Idharae was left as a ruined and desolate hulk.
- The Great Bastion of Andraxas (922.M41) - Chief Librarian Tigurius led an Ultramarines strike force to rescue a delegation of Tech-priests from the Ork invasion of the world of Andraxas. Within the towering mega-fortress known as the Great Bastion, the Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-priests had unearthed a Force Staff that bore the Electoo recognition codes of none other than Malcador the Sigillite. The Ultramarines stroke with pinpoint accuracy and great fury, only to find that the Ork forces upon Andraxas had such a high degree of aerial supremacy that they could scramble a dizzying amount of reinforcements to the Great Bastion. Given that the Bastion was the only part of the planet that had not already been subjugated by the Greenskins, the Orks flocked to the fight in impossible numbers. Tigurius and his men were outnumbered fifty-to-one, and were about to commend their souls to the Emperor when the air shimmered and the Legion of the Damned burst into realspace. The slaughter that followed was nothing short of inspirational. Flaming volleys of Bolter shells blasted Orks to bloody scraps on every wall and gulley. Tigurius renewed his attack, only to find the morale of the xenos invaders had been devastated by the sudden and inexplicable strike. The Great Bastion was secured and used as a base for the subsequent evacuation of the world's surviving Imperials. The Force Staff was recovered and examined by the Adeptus Mechanicus and then by Tigurius himself, yielding secrets about the Golden Throne's construction and a greater understanding of the sacrifice its master made in the name of the Imperium. It is still in the Chief Librarian's hands to this day.
- The Timeaon Deliverance (940.M41) - The Iron Snakes Chapter was ambushed during the Timeaon Planetstrike by Tau Battlesuits and saved from certain death only when the Legion of the Damned appeared from the Warp and launched a devastating assault on the aliens' flanks.
- A Prize Denied (967.M41) - Dark Eldar from the Kabal of the Black Heart burst from the Webway to launch a realspace slave raid on the hapless population of the world of Thersuis. The raid was powerful and well-funded, featuring the cream of Commorragh's fighting elite, including the illustrious Queen of Slaughter, Lelith Hesperax. The planet's defenders stood little chance, and many thousands of humans were captured within only solar hours of the raid beginning. Yet the Dark Eldar had a greater quarry in mind. A large Black Templar fleet was rearming in close proximity to the Thersius System, and swiftly responded to the planet's cries for aid. Led by none other than High Marshal Helbrecht, the Black Templars soon engaged the xenos forces with all of their renowned fury, but in doing so, fell into a cunningly-contrived trap. Seeking a worthy challenger to pit against his gladiatorial champions in the arenas of Commorragh, Asdrubael Vect had engineered the entire raid from behind the scenes to draw forth the Black Templars and capture Helbrecht. As the High Marshal dutifully gave battle, Lelith Hesperax led the strike force tasked with abducting him. Despite bloodily repulsing the Dark Eldar slavers, Helbrecht was finally laid low by the mercurial skills of Commorragh's gladiator queen. Yet even as Helbrecht's superhuman constitution succumbed to the fiendishly envenomed blades of his would-be captor, his last vision before he sliped into unconsciousness was of death and fire, and the last sounds he heard were roaring flames and alien screams. Upon his recovery, Helbrecht was informed by his ashamed Sword Brethren of his redemption at the hands of a ghostly brotherhood, which arrived as if from nowhere to drive the Dark Eldar from the field. Even the blades of Lelith Hesperax could find no purchase on the spectral forms of Helbrecht's saviours, and she was forced to retreat without her prize or share the fate of her kin that were being slaughtered by the Legion of the Damned.
- 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 could 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.
- The Defence of Certus-Minor (996.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 of 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.
- Battle for the Phalanx (999.M41) - The Phalanx, the brutish supervessel the Imperial Fists use in lieu of a Fortress-Monastery, was in orbit around Terra when the Iron Warriors Warsmith Shon'tu and his daemonic allies emerged from a Warp rift in the vast warship's heart. Battle erupted as the newly-forged Imperial Fists 3rd Company fought to repel the boarders, their Bolter fire booming through the corridors but ultimately failing to halt the onslaught of the Daemon Prince Be'lakor. Shon'tu headed for the gun decks, intending to use the mighty vessel's continent-wrecking firepower to assail the Imperial Palace upon Terra's surface. Without men enough to stop him, the Imperial Fists made an emergency translation into the Warp, and battle was joined once more as the Phalanx plunged through the screaming tides of the Empyrean. Just as it looked like the infested vessel might be lost, the lower decks were suddenly awash with spectral fire that burned back the daemons capering in its corridors. When the fire faded, an unprecedented number of the Legion of the Damned stamped through the star fortress' iron corridors, pitilessly exterminating those daemons that survived their initial attack. The Imperial Fists, prepared to fight to the last man if necessary, took heart and launched a spirited counter-attack on Shon'tu's forces. The battle rages still...
When the Firehawks Chapter made its fateful Warp jump to the Crow's World Sub-sector and was caught in the prodigious Warp Storm that swept it 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 Legionaries of the Damned still very much prefer the use of rapid assault tactics. Their tactical doctrine still tends to favour 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 makes extensive use of Bike Squads, taking advantage of their superb speed and agility to launch lightning fast raids.
The Legion of the Damned also employs 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 adding 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 the Legion's members 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 Animus Malorum - Accounts vary as to the exact description of the sinister relic known as the Animus Malorum -- some claim it to be a baleful skull borne into battle, holding true to the legend of Attica Centurius; others insist that it formed part of a ghostly warrior's spectral armour, as if the Animus Malorum and the damned Legionary were somehow one. Despite their divergent theories as to its exact nature, these reports are unanimous in describing the horrific effects of the Animus Malorum -- the skull's victim visibly withers beneath its sightless stare as unwholesome energies draw forth the target's soul. Each time this macabre event takes place, the phantasmal haze that surrounds the warriors in the skull's presence condenses, rendering them all but immune to physical harm. Within this aetheric miasma, rent armour reforms, intangible flesh knits together, and fallen Legionaries rise to do battle once more.
- Attica Centurius (Sergeant) - From scattered eyewitness accounts it appears that the Legion of the Damned has abolished all ranks and no longer organises itself 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 who 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 Astartes 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 soul 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.
The Legion of the Damned's remaining Chapter fleet consists of only one known vessel:
- Raptorus Rex (Mobile Star Fortress) - This vast, mobile pre-Imperial Star Fortress of the Fire Hawks Space Marine Chapter served as their primary base of operations and Fortress-Monastery. During the Badab War this vessel was the largest warship operating within the Badab Sector and is indeed one of the largest warships ever used in the Imperium of Man's service. The formidable firepower of this colossus of war was capable of scouring the surface of a world within mere moments of its emergence from the Warp or challenge an entire squadron of Cruisers alone. The Raptorus Rex and the entire Fire Hawks Chapter Fleet was officially declared "Lost in the Warp" by the Imperium following an attempted Warp jump from the Piraeus System to the Crow's Word Sub-sector in 963.M41. Now it is used by the remaining survivors who have been transformed into the Legion of the Damned as their mobile base of operations.
- "... 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 paints its Power Armour a flat black colour that seems to swallow all light. They adorn their armour with the symbols of death -- images of skulls, ribcages, phalanges, and sundry other human bones. They also have a tendency to add flames to their shoulder plates or greaves to show their damned status. The Aquila, if present, is usually bone white.
The Legion of the Damned's Chapter badge is a large white skull on a field of black.
In the Horus Heresy novel Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter, there is a Word Bearers vessel known as the Raptorous Rex, a vessel formerly devoted to the Emperor, who had plucked their Primarch Lorgar from Colchis during the Great Crusade and placed the Word Bearers at his command. It later became a profane temple to the Ruinous Powers, following the Word Bearers "illumination" during the Primarch's pilgrimage into the Eye of Terror, known as the Pilgrimage of Lorgar. Their faith subverted to the worship of the Dark Gods, the traitorous Word Bearers henceforth had any images or iconography related to the False Emperor of Mankind stricken from its corridors. It is highly doubtful that this is one and the same vessel, as the Fire Hawks' flagship is a mobile star fortress of unknown class, and the Word Bearers' vessel is an unknown class of ancient vessel utilised during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras. This may have simply been an oversight as the author may have been recycling a name used in other Warhammer 40K fiction, or it may be the start of an unusual new backstory for this ancient vessel.
- Codex: Legion of the Damned (6th Edition)
- Codex: Imperial Agents (7th Edition), pp. 18-19
- Codex: Space Marines (7th Edition), pp. 119-120, 331-333
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 32-42, 104
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 95
- Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pp. 74-75
- Index Astartes II, "The Cursed Founding" by Graham McNeill, pp. 60-64
- Planetstrike (5th Edition), pg. 57
- To Cleanse The Stars by Andy Chambers and Matt Keefe (accessed 2007.02.19)
- White Dwarf 305 (UK), "Crux Terminatus - Legion of the Damned models", by Dominic Murray, pg. 82
- White Dwarf 224 (UK), "Legion of the Damned", by Jervis Johnson, pp. 18-25
- White Dwarf 195 (UK), "Legion of the Damned: Veteran Sergeant Centurius" by Ian Pickstock, pp. 11-13
- White Dwarf 99 (UK), "Index Astartes: Legion of the Damned" by Rick Priestley, pp. 39-42
- The Legion of the Damned (Novel) by Rob Sanders
- Flame and Damnation (Anthology) Various Authors
- Votum Infernus (E-Short) by Nick Kyme
- Remorseless (E-Short) by Josh Reynolds
- Animus Malorum (E-Short) by CZ Dunn
- Ship of the Damned (E-Short) by LJ Goulding
- From the Flames (E-Short) by David Annandale
- The Dark Hallows of Memory (E-Short) by Graeme Lyon
- Cursed Founding