Azrael is the current, and some would say the greatest, Supreme Grand Master (Chapter Master) of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter in the late 41st Millennium, and in this role, he is not only their military commander but the protector of their honour and the shield of their souls. He also carries the honorific Chapter title Keeper of the Truth. Following in the mighty footsteps of the father of the Dark Angels, Primarch Lion El'Jonson, Azrael understands full well the tremendous heritage and duty of his station as the commander of what remains of the Emperor's I Legion. He alone is privy to the darkest secrets of the Chapter, and it is his honour to lead the quest for the Dark Angels' redemption. Grim of demeanour, possessed of deep conviction and unwavering purpose, Azrael is the epitome to which the Dark Angels aspire.
A Determined Novitiate
Dark Angels forswear all past life and allegiances, forgetting the worlds of their birth, forsaking all kinship and former friendships to become warriors of the Chapter. Through long ritual and inculcation into the traditions and teachings of the Dark Angels, each takes on the mantle of righteous soldier of the Emperor and remembers little of his origins. The same is true of Supreme Grand Master Azrael; if he recalls anything of his childhood, he tells nothing. Yet in the vaults of The Rock, there exist ancient records of recruitment, guarded by the Chaplains and kept safe by vigil and lock. Here, even the beginnings of a lord of the Chapter as great as Azrael can be found. Though the Chaplains discourage idle rumour and gossip, tales circulate amongst the battle-brethren of the circumstance that brought their commander to the Dark Angels.
Azrael's beginnings are a mystery, although rumours persist that he was inducted into the Chapter from the tribes of wild headhunters who called the icy Feral World of Kimmeria home, but he shows none of his forebears' predilection for anti-social tendencies. Before reaching even thirteen Terran years old, he was marked for greatness. The trophy stakes outside the lodge of his family held two dozen heads taken by the young fighter in raids and battles, and leadership of the clan was certain when he grew older. The Emperor's servants had other plans for the youth that would become Azrael, for Kimmeria is a recruiting world of the Dark Angels, and on one of their visits to the planet, the Chaplains were drawn to the boy. Along with a handful of other promising candidates, he was taken by the Chapter, body and soul tested near to breaking. Alone amongst those recruited at that time, he passed these tests, meaning that there are no others amongst the Chapter who share any deeper knowledge of his lowly origins. Whatever the truth of his background, he foreswore it, as do all new inductees into the Dark Angels. Once inducted as a novitiate into the 10th Company, the youthful Azrael performed above expectation. As his body was crafted into that of a noble warrior of the Adeptus Astartes, so too was his mind honed. It was not the physical deeds of the Scout that drew attention, though they were as considerable as any Dark Angel, but his surety of purpose and dedication to the teachings of the Chapter.
On Daenyth Secundus, that mettle was tested gravely. Elements of the 10th, 6th and 3rd Companies were fighting Eldar pirates that had been preying upon the people of Daenyth Secundus for many decades. Against such swift-moving, elusive foes, the Scouts were essential in locating the enemy. One night, two weeks into a frustrating campaign that had seen the Eldar avoid open battle, the Scouts located an active warp gate -- an Eldar portal to one of the alien ships hiding in orbit. The Sergeants were ready to communicate their discovery to the force commander when a small group of pirates emerged. Caught unawares, the Eldar were swiftly slain. It was Azrael that realised that the Eldar would soon miss their reconnaissance party and urged the sergeants to lead an attack back through the portal before it was closed. Swayed by the scouts' conviction and recognising the logic of his plan, the Sergeants acceded to his impassioned request. Passing through the portal, the Scouts found themselves aboard a pirate ship above the world. They wreaked havoc in the heart of the enemy starship, managing to disable its engines so that a Dark Angels rapid strike vessel could bring it to battle. Before the ship was destroyed, the Scouts were saved by a daring Thunderhawk extraction. On returning to the Chapter, Azrael was awarded his first laurel of victory -- one of only six individuals in ten thousand years to have earned such honour before becoming full battle-brothers. By the time Azrael took his titled name and ascended to the ranks of the battle-brothers, it was thought he would join the chaplaincy, such was his knowledge of, and aptitude for, the lore of the Dark Angels. However, the course of his life was to take a different turn.
Knight of Caliban
Many are the great deeds performed by every Space Marine, and Azrael was no exception following his rise to the battle companies of the Dark Angels. Amongst warriors that will fight fearlessly and tirelessly for the cause, capable of feats that would make them heroes amongst the ranks of normal men, it takes a particular kind of Space Marine to earn even higher respect and recognition. For Azrael, this turning point came during the Scouring of Truan IX. On a night-shrouded world on the edge of the Truan System, the 3rd Company responded to the disappearance of an Adeptus Mechanicus outpost. At first, they encountered no foe amongst the abandoned hab-domes and mine workings, and they discovered no sign of what had happened to more than five hundred thousand Tech-Priests and colonists; there were no corpses and no evidence of battle. Unperturbed, the 3rd Company ventured into the depths. There, in caverns deep beneath the surface, they discovered the remnants of the inhabitants, their decaying remains scattered where they had fallen, Tech Adepts and miners locked together in mortal combat with themselves and each other. What had driven them to fall upon each other like wild animals made itself known as the Space Marines soon came under a powerful psychic attack. From the heart of the world, a corrupting siren song permeated the minds of the Dark Angels, demanding obedience and sacrifice, filling the warriors with a rampant paranoia.
Their souls hardened to such intrusion, the Space Marines did not fall immediately under the spell as had the weak-minded colonists, but the assault was not without consequence. Discipline was failing, and arguments between the battle-brothers sparked confrontations and sporadic bouts of violence as the company continued to explore. Their commander, Master Batheus, led his squad at the front, delving ahead into the ancient tunnels the mines had unearthed, leaving behind the rest of his command. Twelve hours later all contact was lost. After two days, during which the rest of the company came to the verge of open rebellion and internecine fighting, Azrael disobeyed Batheus' last command to evacuate if he did not return, instead gathering about himself such sergeants and battle-brothers as seemed least affected by the psychic malaise. They followed Batheus into the catacombs. They found the corpses of the command squad, broken and battered by chainsword and bolt shell. Coming under the scrutiny of the foul creature that resided in the depths, Azrael's ad-hoc command suffered the full force of the psychic assault. Pushing through the waves of demented paranoia that assailed him, Azrael left his companions behind and continued on alone, chanting hymnals and battle-prayers to harden his resolve.
In a temple-like chamber, he came across the siren-beast -- a bloated Warp entity trapped half in the real universe and half in the immaterial. Holding true to his faith in the Lion and the Emperor, determined that his loyalty was to no other, Azrael confronted the Warp creature. While it lashed at the Space Marine with ethereal tentacles, every touch from the writhing appendages sending a burning psychic pain through him for his disobedience, Azrael slashed and blasted at the creature's material form. Yet no matter how many cuts he made with his combat blade or how deep were the wounds gouged by his bolter, the warp-spawn could not be slain. Fighting through the agony of real wounds and psychic assault, Azrael realised that the creature's warp-self had to be banished. With a handful of melta bombs taken from the corpses of the command squad, Azrael fought his way from one side of the ancient temple to the other, withstanding the tormenting lashes while he placed the explosives. There was no way to escape the temple and still detonate the charges, so Azrael resigned himself to his death and brought the temple down upon himself and his foe. With the warding stones destroyed, the monster was wrenched back into the warp with a last howl of rage, leaving Azrael alone inside his self-made tomb. Azrael believed his sacrifice to be mortal, but after three days, the survivors of the company dug him free. Returning to the Tower of Angels, the warriors of the 3rd Company demanded, with due respect and humility, that Azrael be recognised for his efforts. He was inducted directly into the Deathwing Knights of the 1st Company in honour of his mental resolve.
A Natural Commander
Recognising Azrael's swift decision-making and hardiness of spirit during the Truan incident, the upper echelons of the Dark Angels paid close attention to the warrior's conduct and performance. His battle-prowess was undoubted, but to be inducted into the Inner Circle requires more than skill with blade and bolter. During his tenure with the Deathwing, Azrael continued to fight at the forefront of any engagement and, within a few years, attained the rank of Knight Master. No longer destined for the calling of the Chaplain, Azrael was the natural choice to take command of the 3rd Company when Master Razekiel, Batheus' successor, fell in battle against an Ork Warlord; in fact, the warriors of the 3rd Company courteously and respectfully petitioned for the return of their favoured brother. Many successful campaigns followed, including the defeat of the techno-recidivists of Faze V, the slaying of Gorbaz Ironmaw, who had slain Azrael's predecessor, and the overthrowing of the rebellious Nothurnis Monarchy. Within the chambers of the Inner Circle, Azrael's prowess was no less impressive. It was he who always spoke first to support the hunt for the Fallen, keen to restore the Chapter's honour and prove the Dark Angels' loyalty to the Emperor. His tempered argument and sound counsel found welcoming ears, and many of the other Masters, some of them decades his senior, looked to him as an exemplar of the greatest traditions of Caliban.
He quickly proved himself a most noble and diligent member of the Chapter. He rose rapidly through the ranks, distinguishing himself through his heroic performance during the scouring of Truan IX. The extremely secretive nature of the Dark Angels makes Azrael's achievements after these events nearly impossible to trace for several decades, but it is known that he was appointed to the Veteran Deathwing Company, and later served as the Master (Captain) of the 3rd Company. Azrael continued to distinguish himself, eventually becoming the Grand Master of the Deathwing in 917.M41. From there, he famously led the assault that slew the daemon-possessed Planetary Governor of Sephlagm, claiming vengeance for the Imperium before the order for Exterminatus removed the befouled planet from the heavens. Naberius was the former Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels before Azrael. He personally led an ambush and was slain by Chaos Space Marines during the Rhamiel Betrayal, whilst in pursuit of the infamous Fallen Angel Cypher in 939.41. Azrael led the Deathwing to recover his body and was subsequently named as his successor. Since that time, Azrael has distinguished himself, and his Chapter, with countless victories.
Supreme Grand Master
The Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels secretly chooses his successor from the Inner Circle of the Chapter. When the old incumbent dies, his choice is ceremonially presented with the panoply associated with the rank of Supreme Grand Master. He is presented with the Chapter's two most venerated relics as symbols of his office—the Lion Helm (a potent artefact that was previously worn by the Dark Angels' Primarch Lion El'Jonson) and the Sword of Secrets, the foremost of the fabled Heavenfall blades, which were created from a meteorite that struck The Rock, the Dark Angels' mobile fortress-monastery, after the Horus Heresy. This venerable weapon was so finely crafted that its razor-sharp edge has not chipped or lost its keenness since it was forged long millennia ago. Azrael also took up the Lion's Wrath, a Combi-weapon said to have been constructed by the Techno-magus Prestor the Unchallenged in the days following the fall of Caliban. Finally, he donned the Protector, a finely crafted suit of Artificer Power Armour inlaid with the symbols of his new rank.
Most sacred of all, the Chapter Banners are given into the new Supreme Grand Master's care, to be borne in battle by a Battle-Brother personally selected by him. All of these artefacts are potent icons for the Dark Angels, each having been passed down through the ages from one incumbent to the next, a weighty reminder to the Supreme Grand Master and to all under his command of the heritage and duty of the Dark Angels Chapter. Not only leading the Chapter in battle, commanding one of the mightiest fighting forces in the Imperium, Commander Azrael must also orchestrate the hunts for the Fallen Angels and guard the Chapter's most precious secrets. It is said that as the holder of this august rank, Azrael is party to the most terrible of truths, known only to him and to those who have preceded him as Supreme Grand Master. Granted the honorific title of "Keeper of the Truth" -- Azrael is the sole guardian of the Chapter charged with keeping the terrible secrets locked away within the dark chambers miles beneath The Rock where only the mysterious Watchers in the Dark dare to tread.
Azrael also sits at the head of the Chapter's Inner Circle, master over even the Grand Masters of the Dark Angels' Unforgiven Successor Chapters by ancient tradition stretching back to the time of the Second Founding. As Supreme Grand Master, Azrael alone is privy to the greatest secret of all—for at the very heart of The Rock lies a cell, shielded by metre upon metre of Adamantine armour and inscribed with the most potent runes of warding. Within this cell, kept alive for ten millennia inside a stasis field, languishes the broken man who was once Luther. During rare moments of lucidity, the link twixt Luther and the Warp is strong, enabling the Dark Angels to use him as an oracle of sorts. Each Supreme Grand Master in his turn has tried to extract from the Arch-Heretic a confession of his sins committed against the Lion, to make him repent, but even Azrael has not been able to penetrate Luther's madness. Luther just continues to rant and rave, claiming that he has no need of repentance or confession, for one day Lion El'Jonson will return and absolve him of his sins. He claims that this day is close at hand, and the Lion is already near.
The Precipice of Duty
This renewed secret crusade has had its consequences. More than ever, the Dark Angels must operate in the twilight between duty to the Imperium and their self-imposed quest to rid the Chapter of shame. Despite the travails and turmoil this has brought to his battle-brothers, Azrael faces the task undaunted. He knows that a greater honour waits to be seized if the Dark Angels can expunge the Fallen from existence, and he holds this higher truth to be more important than anything else the Chapter might accomplish, for the Dark Angels free of shame will become an even more potent weapon for the Emperor. Only through force of will and strong leadership can Azrael steer the hard path to final absolution. On the one hand, if ever the Dark Angels totally forget their oaths of allegiance and their pledges of duty, their quest will be in vain. On the other hand, to relent now, when the Emperor's enemies have never numbered so many nor the threats to the Imperium been so grave, is to court a disaster that would see the Dark Angels destroyed. The burden of the awful truth sits upon the shoulders of all the Inner Circle, but none bear it so heavily nor with such dignity as Azrael. He alone sees the light that will bring redemption and leads a course towards it. Only the Supreme Grand Master -- only Azrael -- does not hesitate at the precipice of damnation, but strides boldly along its edge, confident that his honour is sound and his goal noble. If the hunt for the Fallen can ever be successful, if the Dark Angels can ever overcome a shame ten thousand years old, Azrael will see it done.
- Lion Helm - The Lion Helm is an ancient artefact, taking the form of an angelic-winged helmet said to have been worn by the Dark Angels Primarch Lion El'Jonson himself during the bygone days of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy over ten thousand standard years ago. It is now the primary badge of office of the current Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels. As with all heirlooms connected to the mighty Primarch of the Dark Angels, it is attended by the Watchers in the Dark. The helm generates a powerful force field that has protected the Supreme Grand Master since the days when the Dark Angels were still a Space Marine Legion. To don that winged helmet is to take up the mantle of the Lion and lead the Dark Angels to victory, or die in the attempt.
- Sword of Secrets - A master-crafted Power Sword of formidable potency created soon after the disappearance of Lion El'Jonson. It is the mightiest of the so-called Heavenfall Blades, the swords cut from a block of jet-black obsidian that struck The Rock whilst in orbit around the Feral World of Al Baradad. The blade of the Sword of Secrets is so incredibly well-crafted that it has not chipped nor lost its razor-sharp edge over its many millennia of bloody use. Only the Supreme Grand Master knows that it is also the only device that allows access to the deepest known dungeon in The Rock. Fitting the blade into a cleft in the wall unlocks the iron gate leading to a dark tunnel and the rune-protected cell in which the Arch-Heretic Luther is imprisoned.
- The Protector - The Protector is a finely crafted suit of Artificer Armour that has been faithfully maintained by the Chapter's master craftsmen over the long millennia, and is said to provide even more protection and durability than the usual protection of standard Power Armour. The Protector is inlaid with the sombre symbols of the Dark Angels. Its exact age is unknown, but the Protector has been considered a Chapter Relic since the early years of the 37th Millennium, when it is recorded in Chapter records that it saved Brother Methias, Master of the 5th Company, from a close-range Battle Cannon shot during the storming of the Traitor stronghold on the moons of Secclucious VII. Since those days, this suit of armour regularly turns up in the Master of the Armoury's log, where it is praised for its exceptional ability to shrug off the most lethal of blows.
- Lion's Wrath - Lion's Wrath is a master-crafted Combi-Plasma Gun. Supreme Grand Master Azrael is the relic's current bearer. This legendary weapon was made by Technomagos Prestor the Unchallenged in the days following the Fall of Caliban in the early 31st Millennium. Upon his elevation, Azrael added his name to the list of Dark Angels heroes that have borne it into battle down through the ages.
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pp. 52-53
- Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition), pg. 46
- Codex: Dark Angels (3rd Edition), pg. 18
- Codex: Angels of Death (2nd Edition), pp. 13, 41, 62, 78-79
- Imperial Armour Volume Five - The Siege of Vraks - Part One, pp. 54–58
- Warhammer 40,000: Index Astartes - Azrael (Digital Edition), pp. 3-4, 6-10, 12-17, 24-32
- Index Astartes I, "The Unforgiven: The Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter", pg. 21
- Index Astartes III, "The Eye of the Storm: Space Marine Chapters fighting in the Eye of Terror", pg. 67