The Word Bearers march into battle chanting passages from the Book of Lorgar over and over
First Founding (30th Millennium)
The Dark Council
Crimson and Silver
- "Speak the words of Lorgar and you shall live forever in the glory of Chaos. Speak them not and every one of you shall die today."
- — Ultimatum made at the gates of the capital city of Moegh IV before a Word Bearers' assault
The Word Bearers are one of the nine First Founding Space Marine Legions that betrayed the Emperor of Mankind during the Horus Heresy. They became Chaos Space Marines, their allegiance pledged to their Daemon Primarch Lorgar and to Chaos Undivided. The Word Bearers were also the first Space Marine Legion to be corrupted by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos many decades before their counterparts turned to the Dark Gods and through their actions they corrupted the Warmaster Horus and brought on the terrible civil war of the Horus Heresy in all its savagery. Today they bend all their considerable efforts towards the overthrow of the "Corpse Emperor" in the Long War and spreading the "truth" of Chaos to all Mankind. The Word Bearers Legion was originally known as the Imperial Heralds Legion when it was first raised on Terra and took part in the Great Crusade; after the Legion was reunited with its lost Primarch Lorgar on his homeworld of Colchis he renamed the XVII Legion the Word Bearers, which was in line with his belief that the Emperor of Mankind was the divine saviour of humanity. The Word Bearers' greatest foes amongst the servants of the Emperor are the Ultramarines and their Successor Chapters, who the Word Bearers have hated and seen as rivals since the time of the Great Crusade.
The Heralds of Truth
If there is a hierarchy of treachery, then the Word Bearers sit in its highest circle. Once the most devoted and rigorous of warriors, it was not enough that they fell, but they pulled their brother Space Marine Legions into the abyss with them. While the treachery of others came like a storm, or the final flowering of a long buried seed, the Word Bearers' betrayal was poison distilled over long years. From their founding their devotion to the Imperium and the Great Crusade was beyond question, they were the bearers of the ideals of the Imperium, of its vision for the future of humanity. Their loyalty was never questioned, only the form of their devotion. But now their loyalty can never be seen as anything other than a mask and their fanaticism as a flaw which would undermine all they once sought to build.
Even before the Emperor's conquests spilled into the heavens, it was clear that He was not fighting a simple war of conquest, but a war of ideals. The Unification Wars, and later the Great Crusade, were intended to bring humanity's disparate and divided children together under a single enlightened rule. While the Emperor would break the forces and strongholds of those who opposed Him, He was always prepared to accept fealty and service from those He defeated. If it was to be a true empire of Mankind then it would have to embrace even those who at first resisted its claim. As one battle leader in the Unification Wars remarked, "If we kill everyone who resists us then we will reign over a kingdom of ashes." But with some there could never be reconciliation; unity had its limits.
Rationality and illumination of knowledge could only lead Mankind so far; the darkness of barbarity had to be beaten back, broken and burned to light the path to the future. The adoration of gods and the proliferation of ideas and beliefs that could lead to superstition and ignorance were weeds that had to be cut away with the sword of the Imperial Truth. In this way the armies of the nascent Imperium were fighting a war in the minds of the conquered as much as they were fighting a war of flesh and blood. It was this first war, the war to preserve the ideals of the Imperium, that the XVII Legion was created to fight.
From its earliest days, the XVII stood apart from its brother Legions in its Astartes' duty and outlook. While all the Legiones Astartes fought with utter devotion, the warriors of the XVII Legion carried with them an air of zealotry. Recruited from the sons of exterminated foes of the Emperor, they were trained and raised to know the crimes of their forebears and the price of forgiveness. While others went to war with righteousness, the XVII fought with the cold fury that only the condemned and redeemed can know. Dour and mirthless, few of them formed the bonds with other Legions that were common during those early days. For them there was no joy in battle, nor glory in conquest. All that mattered was that their duty be done. While others might acknowledge and even respect their foes, the XVII saw no virtue in defiance. Only once a foe was broken and bowed in repentance, could they be accepted as deserving anything but ruin.
While the other Space Marine Legions acquired names later in their history to accompany their initial numerical designations, the XVII Legion were named as the Imperial Heralds at their Founding. That one Legion amongst twenty should be so singled out might imply some special favour, but in truth it was a title that spoke not to special honour, but to the Legion's place in the Emperor's purpose. Where enemies stood against the Emperor because of their belief in gods or the superstitions bred by Old Night, it would fall to the XVII Legion to deliver the Emperor's ultimatum: recant or be destroyed. To the fortresses of demagogues, and the enclaves of cults, a lone warrior of the XVII Legion would come. Clad in black armour, his face hidden by a skull helm and bearing the eagle-winged mace, the herald would speak of the truth offered by the Emperor and the futility of resistance. These bearers of the word and death were chosen from those who had shown supreme devotion to the Imperial Truth. Such a mantle once bestowed was never removed. Some, on seeing such a warrior, would surrender, and renounce their false beliefs. Others would refuse. Many heralds would die at the hands of defiant enemies, pulled down by human hands after slaying hundreds. But always after the black clad herald, the grey warriors would come with fire and the thunder of change. The wars waged by the Imperial Heralds were direct and functional. While other Legions fought in a manner that mirrored their nature, for the XVII Legion warfare was simply a tool to be applied. For them the true war existed long before a bullet was fired, and would last long after the last drop of blood had fallen. They were warriors in a war fought in the realm of belief, a war in which the truth was the only real weapon.
Once they had conquered, the Imperial Heralds would seek out works which spoke of the power of sorcery, false gods and the irrational. They emptied libraries, dividing the contents into truth and falsity. Idols and the trappings of worship would be cast down and pulled from temples and shrines. Those who had preserved the poison of false belief would be dragged to pyres made of heaped books and carved statues. All would burn together. Those who had been freed from the shackles of ignorance would be given a choice, embrace the Imperial Truth or join the pyre. Finally, the great buildings which had sheltered the lies of the past would be pulled down and reduced to dust. Only then would most of the superhuman warriors depart, leaving the saved population to their newly illuminated lives. It was a pattern they repeated across Ancient Terra in the last days of the Unification Wars, earning themselves a second name. Few spoke of the XVII Legion as the Imperial Heralds. To their brother Legions and the people of the newborn Imperium, they were the Iconoclasts.
The Coming of Lorgar
- "Faith is the soul of any army; be it vested in primitive religion or enlightened truth. It makes even the least soldier mighty, the craven is remade worthy and through its balm any hardship may be endured. Faith ennobles all of the worlds the soldier undertakes be they so base or vile, and imports to them the golden spark of transcendent purpose."
Colchis was a world of old gods. It was said that religion was in the air, in the touch of the sun and the taste of the dust. To its people, worship of higher powers was as much a part of them as the beating of their hearts and the crying of their children. Bound in feudal traditions, Colchis had once been a world of high technology, but those days lay forgotten in Old Night. Life was easy for some and hard for others, and all the people knew the same truths that their fathers had known and their mothers had taught. That disease came and culled generations, but that these times would pass for nothing could remain unchanged. That war would come like rain and stain the land with blood, but there were always the promises of joy even when all seemed lost. All men died, and kings fell and new kings rose, but the gods remained.
The infant Primarch Lorgar vanished from the Emperor's gene-laboratory beneath the Himalazian (Himalayan) Mountains on Terra while still an infant in his gestation capsule, along with the 19 other Primarchs, who were all transported through the Warp and scattered to random human-inhabited worlds across the galaxy. His gestation-capsule came to rest on the theocratic Feudal World of Colchis. When the infant Lorgar fell from the sky, his Legion had yet to be born on Terra, and the faith of Colchis was held in the hands of a ruling priesthood called the Covenant. Discovered by the followers of this predominant religion on Colchis, the Covenant, later known as the Old Faith or the Old Ways, was a polytheistic religion dedicated to the worship of entities that were in fact the Chaos Gods in more benevolent guises, and Lorgar was raised amongst this priesthood. Studying within a temple of the Covenant, Lorgar quickly became a devout preacher, his skill in oratory and the power of his charisma winning him many followers. Perhaps Lorgar's staunchest ally and friend was the High Priest of the Covenant, a cleric named Kor Phaeron. However, as Lorgar grew in standing amongst the people, the other members of the Covenant's ecclesiastical hierarchy began to grow jealous of his popularity.
Lorgar's youth was plagued by visions of a mighty warrior in gleaming bronze armour coming to Colchis, a cyclopean giant in blue robes standing beside him. At one point, the visions reached such an intensity that Lorgar claimed that the prophesied return of Colchis' one, true God was soon to occur. He began to preach this news to the people of Colchis, causing disruptions to the theocratic rule of the Covenant as people converted to his dissident beliefs in the One God, creating a new faction within the Covenant who called themselves the Godsworn. Lorgar's enemies in the Covenant saw this as the opportunity they had been waiting for to remove the threat that Lorgar presented to the status quo, declaring him a heretic to the Old Ways.
Those of the Covenant who came forward to arrest Lorgar were killed by his followers. The Covenant split into two factions, and a holy war of immense proportions erupted, eventually forcing the entire population of the world to choose a side. This war lasted six standard years, ending when Lorgar and his Godsworn supporters stormed the temple of the Covenant known as the Cathedral of Illumination in the heart of the City of Grey Flowers, the world's capital of Vharadesh, at which the Primarch had trained, killing the monks within and eliminating the heart of the conservative religious resistance to his ideas concerning the One God. Lorgar, now the Archpriest of the reformed Covenant, promised the masses that their new God would arrive on Colchis no more than a year after their victory and that they would know him only as "The Emperor." Kor Phaeron expressly explained to his adopted son that he remained a believer in the other gods of the Old Faith, but that he also believed that the One God was the most powerful of their number. This continued belief in the Old Ways, also maintained by many other Colchisians after the Godsworn's victory, would lay the foundation for the Word Bearers' eventual turn to Chaos. When the Emperor and the Great Crusade's Expeditionary Fleet reached Colchis, and He descended with Magnus the Red at His side, there could be no doubt in Lorgar's mind that he knelt before his god. Beside him a planet knelt and believed the same. Lorgar saw this preordained meeting as the confirmation of his many visions and prophecies, and so, the Primarch and his people wholeheartedly embraced the ruler of the Imperium as their promised messiah and God-Emperor.
When the Emperor finally met His long lost son face-to-face, as Lorgar had foreseen, the Primarch immediately dropped to one knee in obeisance, leading the population of his world in rejoicing and worshipping the Emperor as the one, true God of Mankind. At the conclusion of these festivities, the Emperor bade Lorgar to take his best warriors and induct them into the XVII Space Marine Legion, the Imperial Heralds, who had been derived from his own genome. Lorgar gratefully took up the Emperor's purpose, expressing his deeply-held desire to spread his faith in the God-Emperor to every world in the Imperium, despite the Emperor's continuing admonishments that His Imperium was to be built on the foundation of the Imperial Truth, an atheistic, rationalist doctrine that forbade the practice of religious faith as mere superstition. Lorgar then joined his father and his Legion on the Great Crusade to reunify the human worlds of the galaxy under the new Imperium. Lorgar appointed trustworthy regents to rule over Colchis in his absence and devoutly complied with what he believed were his father's divine commandments. That the Emperor claimed He was not divine paradoxically only further strengthened Lorgar's faith in Him, as who else but a true God would claim that He was not divine?
The Emperor as God
The belief that the Emperor was a god was not a new one. From the days of His first conquest, there were some who whispered that He was not of the mortal realm. Many of His conquered enemies were amongst the first to call Him divine. Faced with His power and the destruction of everything they had known, they called Him by ancient names, that being their only way to rationalise what had happened. Some called Him an angel, others a spirit, some a daemon, others placed His nature higher still. God they called Him, and spoke prayers to Him in the watches of the night and under the light of lost suns. That Lorgar believed the Emperor a god is beyond doubt, and it is likely that he held this belief before he met the object of his devotion, and maintained it even after becoming the lord of a Space Marine Legion charged with purging idolatry, religion and superstition in the name of the atheistic Imperial Truth. In those first years of the Great Crusade, Lorgar hid his true conviction, never stating it openly but also never disavowing it. In all the records of his words in that time, of which there are many, there is endless praise for the Emperor's vision and for the course He charted for Mankind, but not one word denouncing the specific belief that the Emperor was divine. The worship of idols, the practices of mystics, and the falseness of countless gods; all were condemned without measure, but on the nature of his lord and father, Lorgar remained silent. Perhaps the most manifest display of this belief was the now infamous Lectitio Divinitatus, a document written by Lorgar expressing his belief and the rational basis for this belief in the divine nature of the Emperor of Mankind. Ironically, this document created the foundation for what would later become the Imperial Cult during the Emperor’s own lifetime, for the new religion would eventually emerge during the 32nd Millennium on the myriad worlds of the Imperium following the Emperor's interment in the Golden Throne to become His Imperium's state religion.
It seems likely that Lorgar shared his belief with others, discussing and nursing their faith alongside his own. It might be easy given later events to say that figures such as Erebus and Kor Phaeron were his chief confidants, and perhaps they were. Others though seem equally likely to have played their part. Halik-gar, High Herald of the XVII Legion and its commander before Lorgar's return, seems to have been converted by his gene-sire, and with him such devoted Iconoclasts as Maedro Vessar, and Ustun Cho. Through these and others, Lorgar began to change his Legion's soul. Lorgar's return to the XVII Legion did not change the Legion's nature on the surface, the manner in which they waged war was the same, but, underneath the surface, the return of their gene-father changed the Imperial Heralds in far more profound ways. The old ways of devoted service were no longer enough, devotion to an ideal was not enough, victory was not enough. The reason one fought, the fire that drove one on step-by-step on the path of truth, that was everything. If victory was certain, and who could doubt it as stars and systems fell to the Emperor's Great Crusade in their hundreds, then the measure of true victory was not in death and blood, but in what a warrior carried within him. What one believed and the mark one left on Mankind were of the utmost importance. This sense of heightened fervour spread through the XVII Legion like fire, as if Lorgar's mere presence had raised his sons up into a brighter light.
One of the tangible changes that came with the return of the Primarch Lorgar was an increase in the importance of ceremony amongst the warriors of the XVII. The black clad and skull helmed heralds of the old Legion were given new authority to ensure the moral strength of their brother Legionaries. These new Legion officers, called Chaplains, would be the core of the XVII Legion's strength, showing the way of truth through word and deed, not just to the conquered but those who held the sword. When a city burned or a people were put to death, the deed was done with the solemnity of a rite. The death notice of enemies were spoken in ritual phrases by a Chaplain, as he scattered the ashes of dead and defiant worlds over the bowed heads of warriors. New words and phrases began to enter the vocabulary of the XVII Legion, words which tasted of the dust and incense of Colchis: apostle, athame, creed. Some even began to refer to the dangerous and deviant modes of thought within the Legion by a name which itself came from the shadows of lost religious creeds: heresy.
The Fires of Colchis
The change of the XVII Legion's soul took decades to complete. A large Legion even before it was reunited with its Primarch, Lorgar was not fool enough to attempt such a project in one stage. The golden Primarch had a genius for speaking to men's hearts, and his campaigns to win those hearts were as subtle and thorough as those fought by the likes of Fulgrim of the Emperor's Children and Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines on the battlefield. Bit by bit, the faith in the Emperor's divinity was spread from brother to brother. The Chaplains, Lorgar's new vanguard of faith later copied by all of the other Legions following the Council of Nikaea, subtly altered the counsel they gave their brothers. New structures of organisation sprang up beside the old military hierarchy; fraternities that seemed to have much in common with those of other Space Marine Legions but, in truth, were devices for the propagation of the faith through the ranks of the XVII Legion. The echo of this grand, yet slow, conversion can be seen in the steps by which Lorgar would later corrupt half of the other Legions, and pull the Imperium into the darkness from which he had once sought to raise it. It might seem strange that warriors who had fought to cast down gods would embrace those same beliefs, but this ignores the basic nature of the fanatic. At their core they need a cause around which to build their world. What that cause is can be always be easily changed, so long as the heart of its fire fills them. In their hearts the Astartes of the XVII Legion fell into the grasps of religion because part of them had always wanted to, part of them wanted there to be more to belief than mere rationality.
The second factor which allowed Lorgar to convert his Legion to the belief in the Emperor's divinity was the nature of the Great Crusade itself. Across countless fronts the Legions fought, suffered casualties and recruited anew. As this attrition mixed the old with the new, so the blood of the mostly Terran-born Iconoclast Imperial Heralds was diluted with that of Colchis and then with dozens of worlds on the bloody edge of conquest. These were sons who had never seen the light of Sol, nor known the Legion as it had been. They accepted what was taught to them because it was the only truth offered. In the case of those of Colchis, the belief in the divine was already ingrained into every thought from birth. When all was done, when the final Imperial Herald had embraced the faith, when the last of the old Iconoclasts had died, then Lorgar added the final flourish of ritual to seal his victory. The Imperial Heralds would become known instead as the Word Bearers. To the rest of the Imperium, still ignorant of the change wrought in the XVII Legion, the name reflected their part in bringing the Imperial Truth to all humanity. To Lorgar it was an affirmation of his purpose: to give humanity faith in the god at its pinnacle.
The Arithmetic of Faith
Lorgar was an unusual Primarch because he was less martial in nature than his brothers, and possessed an abiding faith that religion represented the pinnacle of human expression and a deeply-held belief that the Emperor of Mankind was actually a divine being made manifest in the mortal realm. As a result, Lorgar was determined to spread his own faith in the Emperor to every world that his Legion encountered in the course of the Great Crusade, a policy that would be in direct contradiction to the principles of the Imperial Truth. Yet Lorgar also was never respected by his brothers, largely because he was never comfortable with his own gifts and less prone to violence than they. This caused the other Primarchs to believe their soulful, intellectual brother to be a weakling, the runt of the Emperor's litter. While other Legions left conquests like bloody footprints on the stars, the Word Bearers lingered.
Faith in secrecy might be sincere but, ultimately, it cannot satisfy a driven soul. With the Great Crusade reaching its zenith, Lorgar was faced with worlds brought to compliance by his Legion: broken worlds, worlds that had lived under the yoke of aliens, witches and belief in false gods, worlds that now had nothing but the cold comfort of being united with a universe that seemed to hold nothing greater than the truth they saw blowing on ash-laden winds. How could he know the truth and deny it to these worlds? At least that seems the likely path that led him to make his crusade not one of rationality but of faith. As worlds and star systems fell to the Word Bearers, they were brought to believe in the Emperor as a god. Amidst the devastation they raised temples. Chaplains and mortal vassal preachers would go amongst the conquered to speak of the god who now reigned over them, producing enormous devotional works on the divinity and righteousness of the Emperor, and Lorgar himself delivered countless speeches and sermons, converting millions to the worship of the Emperor with his words alone. The foundations of new cities were sunk in the embers of the old, vast monuments and cathedrals dedicated to the worship of the Emperor were erected upon the mounds of corpses belonging to those who had resisted conversion. The worlds they re-founded grew and prospered. Their people utterly loyal to the Imperium and the Emperor; they were compliant, but they were alone in an unholy land. Though they did not see it, their piety was doomed from the moment the Word Bearers brought them to it.
The rumours came first: whispers passed between Imperial forces who had fought alongside the Word Bearers. Talk began to circulate of the ritualistic practices of the XVII Legion, of the fervour of their zeal and devotion to the Great Crusade. Some even went so far as to wonder if the Iconoclasts of old had not succumbed to the superstitious practices they had once persecuted. The rumours multiplied, but if they reached the highest circles of the Imperium, they triggered no action. The Great Crusade was a war of expansion spread across the galaxy. Numberless fleets and hundreds of thousands of armies came into operation, separated by vast distances and joined only by the tenuous links of Warp travel and astrotelepathy. The sheer scale and dynamism of such an endeavour made absolute knowledge a rare commodity. The Emperor and the War Council did not have the time or means to do anything but trust that those who led the Crusade acted as the Emperor would wish. Rumour, hearsay and unkind suspicion were not enough to call the motivations of one of the Legions into question.
At the last, it was not talk of belief that brought the Word Bearers' wrongs to light, but the arithmetic of conquest. Conquering worlds took time and resources, but rebuilding them and bringing them to believe in the Emperor as a god took far longer again. Over the years, the Word Bearers' rate of conquest had slowed to a crawl. Where the other Legions brought dozens of worlds to Imperial Compliance, the Word Bearers would claim a handful by comparison. The disparity eventually became too much to be ignored. The military bureaucracy that had grown up around the War Council sent expeditions to a cluster of worlds conquered by the Word Bearers. Was there some factor that had caused the Word Bearers greater difficulties than other Legions? The emissaries and expeditions found their answer. The XVII Legion had not been slowed by resistance, but because they lingered after their conquests. The rebuilding of a planet's faith and social structures took time, as did the rebuilding of cities and the raising of temples from which the faith could be maintained. And the faith gifted to the worlds they conquered was the belief that the Emperor was a god, the one, true God of all Mankind.
A Legion Rebuked
During this period, the absolute loyalty of Lorgar and the Word Bearers Legion to the Emperor and His Imperium was unquestionable. Their Compliant worlds regularly delivered tithes in the Emperor's name, and the orders of Terra were accepted without question throughout the worlds liberated by the Word Bearers. Lorgar and his Legion had successfully prosecuted the Emperor's Great Crusade for almost a standard century, and in that time the Emperor had never once admonished His zealous son or the Word Bearers Legion for their fervent worship of Him even though such doctrine clashed with the Emperor's policy of spreading the Imperial Truth.
But the Emperor, for all His love of his son, was deeply disturbed. He had initially tolerated the beliefs of His deeply religious son, but as the Great Crusade reached its height, the Emperor found Himself increasingly frustrated with the slow pace with which Lorgar conquered and then brought worlds into Compliance for the Imperium. The Emperor finally ordered the Word Bearers to cease their religious activities, as their mission was to reunify the galaxy under the banner of the secular Imperial Truth, not preach the word of the Emperor's personal divinity. The Emperor had long opposed the spread of organised religion and was determined to use the creation of the new Imperium of Man to enshrine reason and science, not religion, as the true guiding light of a new interstellar human civilisation. The Emperor was particularly troubled by any notion that He should be worshiped as a god and the actions of the Word Bearers Legion in slaughtering those who refused to accept the Emperor's divinity stank of the religious excesses that had so often poisoned human history.
Once the truth was revealed, it was only a matter of time before the Emperor would be moved to censure the Word Bearers. The links of cause and effect are poorly recorded, but it seems that the Emperor waited for some time after the initial reports reached his court. That He sent missions to assay many more worlds conquered by the Word Bearers is known. We can only speculate as to why: perhaps He did not want to believe it of His son, perhaps He wanted to be sure, perhaps He was simply gathering information before acting. Some sources indicate that the Emperor confronted Lorgar during this time, that He even told him that if he persisted he would have to suffer the consequences. Imperial scholars cannot know now if this is true, too much has been forgotten, and too much more must never be remembered. What is known, at least, is that the Emperor acted.
The Emperor rose from his endeavours and called another of His sons to his side. Roboute Guilliman, the Primarch of the XIII Legion, had a reputation for careful leadership and unbending honesty. No one else witnessed what passed between the two, and Lord Guilliman refused to speak of it, but it can be speculated why the Emperor chose the Ultramarines to be His tool of censure. It seemed clear that the Emperor did not wish Lorgar or his sons broken, merely set back on the correct path. The Ultramarines Legion were a Legion with an exemplary record of victories and Compliant worlds. Ultramar was even then a growing realm of hundreds of obedient and prosperous star systems. Across the galaxy the Ultramarines had pushed back the boundaries of the Imperium with energy and a mind for what should follow in the wake of war. They were the Word Bearers' mirror and shadow, alike in so many ways and different in so many others: a living example of what the Word Bearers could be. Perhaps that was the message carried by the choice of the Ultramarines; that there was hope for glory beyond the shame that must come. Whatever the subtleties of the message of censure, it would, however, be delivered in a manner that could leave no doubt to its meaning.
The Emperor ordered a task force composed of the entire Ultramarines Legion and accompanied by a force of his elite personal bodyguards, the Legio Custodes and the Imperial Regent, Malcador the Sigillite, to raze the capital city of the planet Khur, a world dear to the Word Bearers, whom considered its capital, Monarchia, the "perfect city" because of the intense religious devotion of its citizens and the sheer number of cathedrals and monuments dedicated to the worship of the Emperor as the God of humanity. Following the city's destruction by the Ultramarines, the entire Word Bearers Legion, 100,000 Space Marines strong, were ordered to assemble on the planet's surface, within sight of the smoldering ruins of Monarchia, where its Astartes were humiliated and rebuked by the Emperor Himself, who psychically forced everyone, including Lorgar, to kneel before Him in the ashes of a city which stood for all they had believed and done, and explained to them that they had failed both Him and humanity. He was no god, and would suffer no such belief in His realm. The Emperor departed, leaving a Primarch chastised and a Legion humbled. Lorgar was stunned by his father's reproach and refusal to accept his worship, and fell into a deep melancholy. Some may say that future generations could see all that would come to pass was born in that moment.
After the razing of Monarchia, the history of the XVII Legion divides. One is the history of the Legion that the Imperium believed existed for decades after, the history of a Legion pulling itself from the pit of the past and embracing its true calling, a false history. The second is a shadow history, the true history that hid behind the mask of seeming loyalty. This true history can never be known, and what Imperial scholars do know of it are only distorted glimpses. On the surface, Lorgar's response to the Emperor's censure was to withdraw. For a time his Legion seems to have played little part in the Great Crusade. When they returned, it was clear that they were a changed force. Whereas before they lingered after conquests, now they drove forward with relentless momentum. Worlds burned, civilisations were made to kneel, and a trail of swift conquest and Imperial Compliance actions stretched behind them like a bloody cloak. It is said that the Emperor was pleased that His son had understood his error and would, in time, become what he was destined to be. To every other eye, the Word Bearers seemed possessed by a penitent fury and grim resolve to burn the past. All were deceived.
That Lorgar was shaken by the shattering of his universe seems likely, but what action did it prompt? At the time some thought that the XVII Legion had withdrawn in shame, and that its return to the Great Crusade was fuelled by a wish to atone. Such a kind reading of events no longer rings true. Instead it seems likely that Lorgar's fall began after Monarchia, that the dark powers of the Warp reached out to him in his moment of doubt and offered him that which the Emperor had denied him: a higher power to believe in. It is not known whom these voices were that counselled him, and the hands that guided him to damnation. Again much remains hidden, but a number of candidates seem likely. Kor Phaeron, Lorgar's surrogate father on Colchis and close advisor, seems a likely source of poison, as does the Legion's First Chaplain Erebus. Both were steeped in the Old Faith of Colchis, a faith that was likely tainted by the powers of the Warp long before Lorgar fell from the sky. The word "Pilgrimmage" is also one of the few fragments that has emerged as linked with that time, thought its precise significance can now only be guessed at. What cannot now be doubted is that the Word Bearers who re-joined the Great Crusade after the razing of Monarchia no longer served the Emperor.
For over four standard decades the XVII Legion wore a false face of loyalty and planted the seeds that would eventually bloom into a galaxy-spanning civil war. The precise nature of their preparations is only open to supposition, but much can be deduced from Lorgar's character and the atrocities that would come later. First, it seems likely that the Word Bearers' renewed energy in the Great Crusade was a cover for its rapid growth in size, as well as the seeding of its new corrupting creed and belief in Chaos onto new worlds. It must also have been during this time that the Legion was cleansed of dissent. The last of the old Iconoclasts, the few Terrans, and those who would not embrace the new faith must have been put quietly to the sword. The corruption of much of the apparatus of the Imperium also must have occurred in this time. So it was that when Horus finally fell to the temptations of the Ruinous Powers, Lorgar had already long prepared the ground for war.
Pilgrimage of Lorgar
- "All I ever wanted was the truth. Remember those words as you read the ones that follow. I never set out to topple my father's kingdom of lies from a sense of misplaced pride. I never wanted to bleed the species to its marrow, reaving half the galaxy clean of human life in this bitter crusade. I never desired any of this, though I know the reasons for which it must be done. But all I ever wanted was the truth."
The truth of the events that followed the razing of Monarchia can be pieced together by those scholars willing to seek out potentially heretical sources of knowledge. Feeling betrayed by the Emperor, Lorgar withdrew to his private chambers aboard his flagship, the Fidelitas Lex, refusing audience to all but Kor Phaeron, the Word Bearers' First Captain and Cardinal. Kor Phaeron was Lorgar's adoptive father and had raised him from infancy on Colchis as a member of the Covenant. Kor Phaeron had served as Lorgar's chief lieutenant and primary advisor since his time as the ruling theocrat of Colchis. Lorgar also called the Legion's First Chaplain Erebus to his side, who had long been another trusted advisor. Kor Phaeron and Erebus sympathised with Lorgar's unrequited religious longings, and felt that the Word Bearers Legion should serve gods truly worthy of their worship. Kor Phaeron and Erebus explained that they knew of such gods, the divine beings once worshipped by the Old Faith of Colchis and thus, Lorgar learned of the existence of the Chaos Gods, who not only accepted the zealous worship he offered, but demanded it. Thus the seeds of the Horus Heresy were first sown amongst the Word Bearers. Intrigued, Lorgar demanded that the Legion find these gods, and Kor Phaeron and Erebus, both of whom had been secret devotees of Chaos for decades, proposed a pilgrimage.
The idea of "the Pilgrimage," a journey to the legendary place where mortals could directly interact with the Gods, was an ancient mythological trope on many human-settled worlds of the Milky Way Galaxy, including Lorgar and the Word Bearers' homeworld of Colchis. Of course, such a place, the Warp, did exist, and one could discover the Primordial Truth of the universe there, i.e. that the Immaterium was dominated by the powerful spiritual entities known as the Chaos Gods. Prompted by Kor Paheron and Erebus, Lorgar journeyed with his Word Bearers Legion's Chapter of the Serrated Sun to what was then the fringes of known Imperial space as part of the 1301st Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade. At this time, Lorgar had not yet fallen to the corruption of Chaos, though he had turned against the Emperor of Mankind as a deity no longer worthy of his worship. Lorgar believed that the Emperor was wrong to condemn Mankind's natural instinct to seek out the divine as an unworthy superstition and he intended to discover if there were truly deities worthy of humanity's respect. To this end, though Lorgar no longer had any love or loyalty for the Emperor, he and his XVII Legion rejoined the Great Crusade but did so only as a front to mask their pursuit of the Pilgrimage.
The Word Bearers were also accompanied on this Pilgrimage by five members of the Legio Custodes who had been set by the Emperor to watch over everything the Word Bearers did to prevent them from falling back into error once more. The Word Bearers' pursuit of any scrap of information that could be found on the Primordial Truth or the nature of the place where Gods and mortals could mingle ultimately led the 1301st Expeditionary Fleet to the Cadia System near the largest Warp Storm in the universe, later known to the Imperium as the Eye of Terror. The Expeditionary Fleet's Master of Astropaths advised Lorgar that unusual "voices" in the Warp were heard in the vicinity of the great Warp rift, voices that spoke directly to the Primarch as well. These were the voices of the Chaos entities within the Immaterium. It would be in the Cadia System that Lorgar would learn that his suspicions had been correct and that all of the religions across the galaxy that possessed so many similarities to the Colchisian Old Faith were not coincidences, but expressions of worship in the universal truth that was the existence of Chaos.
The decision was made to hold orbit over Cadia and for the 1301st Fleet's elements to make planetfall on the unknown world, designated as 1301-12. The landing force was comprised of Imperial Army, Word Bearers, Legio Custodes and Legio Cybernetica elements. The landing party, led by Lorgar, was greeted by a large number of barbaric human tribes, tribes described as "dressed in rags and wielding spears tipped by flint blades...yet they showed little fear." Most notable were the barbarians' purple eyes, which reflected the colour of the Eye of Terror itself in the spectrum of visible light. Despite the Custodian Vendatha's protests and request to execute the heathens, the Word Bearers approached the natives. A strange woman emerged from the crowd and addressed the Primarch directly, calling him Lorgar Aurelian and welcoming him to Cadia. This woman, the Chaos priestess Ingethel, would ultimately lead the Primarch down a path of spiritual enlightenment that actually marked the beginning of Lorgar's fall to heresy and Chaos. Later, the Priestess Ingethel of Cadia would initiate a ritual that would see her transformed into the Daemon Prince known as Ingethel the Ascended, Viator of the Primordial Truth, and then lead the 1,301st Fleet's scout vessel Orfeo's Lament into the Eye of Terror.
Within the Eye of Terror, the Serrated Sun Chapter of the Word Bearers Legion witnessed the failure of the ancient Eldar empire first hand in the form of the Crone Worlds that had been scoured of all life that littered the Eye's region of space. Ingethel, of course, lied to the Word Bearers about how the Chaos God Slaanesh had truly been born and warned that the Eldar had failed as a species and suffered the Fall because at the moment of their ascension they were unable to accept the Primordial Truth, i.e. serve Chaos. They gave birth to a God of Pleasure, yet they had felt no joy at her coming. Their new God, Slaanesh, had awoken to consciousness in the 30th Millennium to find its worshippers abandoning it out of ignorance and fear, and from the Prince of Pleasure's grief was born the endless storm of the Great Eye (the Eye of Terror), an echo of the birth-screams of the Eldar's new and rejected God. The nature of the Primordial Truth was revealed to the Word Bearers in the ashes of the Eldar empire, and Ingethel warned them that in order for humanity as a species to survive they must not commit the same sins the Eldar did, and must instead accept the worship of Chaos.
The surviving Space Marines of the Word Bearers' Serrated Sun Chapter eventually returned to Cadia and related to Lorgar all that had happened and all that they had learned within the Eye, the place where mortals and Gods could meet. Following the visits into the Eye of Terror, Lorgar ordered a cyclonic bombardment of the planet, wiping out the Cadians and leaving the planet abandoned so that no others could stumble upon the secret of the Primordial Truth that had been entrusted to him alone by the Chaos Gods. However, the planet's extremely strategic location meant that it would prove useful to the Imperium and in the 32nd Millennium Imperial colonists were dispatched to resettle the world, becoming the ancestors of the present-day population of Cadians. Perhaps as a result of the Eye of Terror's proximity this later population of Cadians also soon developed the unusual violet-coloured eyes that had marked the first human inhabitants of the planet.
This "truth" changed Lorgar and the Word Bearers forever as they were exposed to the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and slowly corrupted, the first of the Legiones Astartes to worship the Chaos Gods and become Traitors to the Emperor in their hearts. Lorgar and the Word Bearers spent the remaining years of the Great Crusade attempting to enlighten humanity about the true spiritual nature of Creation, ultimately resorting to manipulation and deception to sway nine of the Primarchs to the cause of Chaos as their Gods demanded, the most notable being the Warmaster Horus. When it became clear that Mankind could not be enlightened by Chaos without first being forcibly weaned at a great price in blood from the Emperor's false Imperial Truth, Lorgar willingly helped orchestrate the terrible Battle of Istvaan III and the Drop Site Massacre at Istvaan V as well as the larger Horus Heresy itself. When Horus openly declared his rebellion against the Emperor, the Word Bearers were once of the first Legions to support him and his cause. The worlds they had conquered since their conversion to Chaos also joined the side of the Traitors, having been secretly corrupted to the worship of the Ruinous Powers in the final days of the Great Crusade.
Furious Abyss and the Battle of Calth
As the Horus Heresy unfolded, the Word Bearers' unique and monstrous Battleship Furious Abyss, set off for the Realm of Ultramar in the Eastern Fringes of the galaxy after its secret construction by the Dark Mechanicus was completed on the Jovian moon of Thule. The Word Bearers intended to gain vengeance upon their old rivals the Ultramarines and pin their forces down in Ultramar while the main forces of the Traitor Legions advanced on Terra under the command of Horus. The Furious Abyss' first kill was the Ultramarines starship Fist of Macragge as it was heading for repairs to the Vangelis spaceport. The Astropaths of the Fist of Macragge managed to send out a telepathic warning through the Warp, ultimately received as a very powerful psychic scream at the Vangelis spaceport. Seeing visions of Macragge and the impending terror brought by the Traitor Marines of the Word Bearers Legion, Captain Cestus, the Fleet Commander of the Ultramarines Legion, quickly gathered a force of starships at the main Vangelis hub of Coralis. He managed to find seven Loyalist starships: the Wrathful (which Cestus commandeered as his flagship) and her Escorts, the Fearless, the Ferox, the Ferocious, the Fireblade, and the Thousand Sons Legion's starship Waning Moon. Captain Vorlov of the starship Boundless also requested to join Captain Cestus, and was accepted. The Loyalist fleet pursued the Furious Abyss and assaulted it, suffering heavy casualties as all of the Loyalist starships but the Wrathful and Fireblade were destroyed. The battle ended only when the Furious Abyss entered the Warp to continue its journey to Ultramar. The Wrathful and Fireblade made the transition as well, but the Furious Abyss deployed a psionic mine which disturbed the Warp, causing the Fireblade's Gellar Field to fail, and the ship was torn apart by the daemonic forces of the Empyrean.
When the Word Bearers of the Furious Abyss finally launched their attack against the Ultramarines' dominion of Ultramar, the strike against the world of Calth was led by Lorgar's greatest champion, the former Master of the Faith, First Captain Kor Phaeron. He swore to utterly destroy the Ultramarines' homeworld of Macragge in vengeance for what the Ultramarines had done to Khur, and was very nearly successful. From his personal Battle Barge, now renamed Infidus Imperator ("False Emperor"), Kor Phaeron directed a full-scale invasion of the Calth System. Calth's three sister planets were all destroyed, massive geo-nuclear strikes ripping them apart at the core. The system's once gentle sun was laced with deadly heavy metals and other unstable substances that increased the star's radiation output tenfold; within a century after the Heresy's end, the final elements of Calth's atmosphere were burned off and the world was left an airless void, its populace forced to live in gigantic underground caverns which were transformed into massive subterranean hive cities.
The Battle of Calth itself was devastating and horrific. The Ultramarines were shocked by the millions of Chaos Cultists the Word Bearers used as human shields and disgusted by the hordes of daemons they unleashed from the Warp. The Word Bearers, in turn, had underestimated the tenacity and resolve of their Loyalist foes. The Loyalist Marines on Calth, Ultramarines all, had been forced into a fighting retreat, but soon occupied fortified positions. Many Ultramarines had been born on Calth, and proved more resolute than the Word Bearers anticipated. In space, Guilliman's vessels began hit-and-run attacks on their over-confident enemy. Guilliman assessed his ground troops' positions and broadcast clear, concise orders to each pocket of defence, coordinating them into a cohesive force. One Ultramarine force led by Captain Ventanus led a breakout and retook Calth's Defence Laser silos, aiding the sorely-pressed Ultramarines fleet from the surface of Calth. Guilliman's depleted forces slowed the Word Bearers down long enough for the remainder of the Ultramarines Legion to arrive and rout the Traitor Marines from the system, though at a heavy cost. The Word Bearers turned Calth's own orbital defence platforms on the Veridian star, stripping away the outer layers of its photosphere and destabilising it, ultimately rendering the surface of Calth uninhabitable. At the same time, the Word Bearers had used the battle taking place on Calth to summon a massive Warp Storm called the Ruinstorm, that was intended to cut off Ultramar from the rest of the galaxy and prevent the Ultramarines from providing any reinforcements to Terra as Horus made his assault upon humanity's homeworld. The eruption of the Ruinstorm cut off Calth from the main body of the Ultramarines Legion and left the Astartes of the XIII Legion trapped on Calth locked in a brutal subterranean war with those Word Bearers units that had also been left behind when their Legion retreated from the Viridian System.
In the end, Kor Phaeron had been defeated when Ultramarines reinforcements from Macragge translated from the Warp above Calth and drove the Word Bearers Astartes from the surface of Calth. Kor Phaeron retreated all the way to the Maelstrom, a turbulent Warp rift much like the far larger Eye of Terror where the Immaterium of Chaos seeped through into the material realm of the universe. Yet Roboute Guilliman and a large portion of his Legion had remained off-world as a result of the Word Bearers' devious assault upon the Ultramarines fleet. Guilliman immediately gathered reinforcements in the wake of the Calth Atrocity and swore to hunt down his brother Lorgar and make the Word Bearers pay for what the treachery they had unleashed upon Ultramar and its people.
Cull of the Word Bearers
Unknown to Erebus and Kor Phaeron, their Primarch had also had a secret objective in mind when he had sent his two most zealous sons to Calth. After their humiliation at Khur, thousands of World Bearers within the Legion detested the Ultramarines. The Urizen ordered a great gathering of his Legion while their fleet was already en route to Calth. The Primarch called for Argel Tal, the leader of the Gal Vorbak, and one other Word Bearer officer who would eventually become commanders and apostles amongst the elite Vakrah Jal. The Primarch wanted their counsel on what to do with those amongst their Legion he no longer trusted. The Word Bearers had culled their ranks down through the decades, removing unrepentantly Loyalist elements such as the Terran-born warriors of their Legion, but had carried out no purge like the Istvaan III Atrocity that Angron was so proud of. Lorgar knew that the loyalty of his own Legion to both him and his vision of Mankind transformed through the embrace of Chaos was never in doubt, but competence was another matter entirely. Lorgar asked what should be done with those warriors of the XVII Legion he felt were no longer reliable. Those whose hatred burned brighter than their sense. For tens of thousands of them -- whole companies, whole Chapters -- their rage was no longer pure. It was decided that these suspect elements of the Legion would be gathered into a single host and ordered to undertake the "sacred" mission to Calth to assault the Ultramarines that they had so craved. They were led by Erebus and Kor Phaeron and were expected to martyr themselves in glory. The other Traitor Legions such as the Emperor's Children, Sons of Horus and the World Eaters might have purged their own ranks at Istvaan III, but the Word Bearers had proceeded to purge their own at Calth.
Though the XVII Legion had achieved a monumental victory of sorts, it was all a matter of perspective. Piercing the veil of the Warp, Lorgar had heard the whisperings of the Chaos Gods and had witnessed the truth for himself. Yes, Erebus had successfully conjured the Ruinstorm at Calth. But ultimately, Erebus and Kor Phaeron had failed to achieve their overall objectives: Roboute Guilliman was still alive, the Word Bearers had lost half the fleet at Calth to an Ultramarines counter-attack, and tens of thousands of Word Beaers, including the Gal Vorbak and mortal servants, had been abandoned to a useless subterranean war beneath Calth's irradiated surface while the two Word Bearers commanders had fled. This meant that the Word Bearers left behind were left to die, never to be reinforced. Never to be recovered. All those Gal Vorbak who had spent months of their lives fasting, praying, scarring their flesh in preparation for a chance to taste the Divine Blood, they had simply been lost for no real gain. Though Lorgar was somewhat displeased, Erebus had more or less achieved the base level of success required of him; the Ruinstorm had been conjured and the rogue elements of the Word Bearers had been culled. Now it was time for Lorgar to further his own plans and complete the campaign against the Ultramarines he had come to call his Shadow Crusade.
Shadow Crusade and the Purge of Nuceria
During the opening days of the Horus Heresy, Lorgar had ordered his two most trusted advisors, First Chaplain Erebus and the Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron, to unleash their wrath against the Realm of Ultramar. This was done in retaliation for the humilation the XVII Legion had been forced to endure by being forced to kneel in disgrace before the Emperor and Roboute Guilliman and his Ultramarines on the world of Khur by the XIII Legion at the Emperor's orders during the Great Crusade. The Word Bearers proceeded to achieve a monumental victory at the Battle of Calth which ensued. The Ultramarines Legion was badly crippled and no longer presented a viable threat to Horus' plan to drive on Terra. Erebus had managed to complete his blasphemous ritual on Calth's surface, which summoned the beginnings of the sorcerous Ruinstorm to the galaxy's Eastern Fringe -- a monstrous Warp Storm larger and more destructive than anything space-faring humanity had witnessed since the days of the Age of Strife.
Simultaneously with the Word Bearers' assault on Calth, Lorgar and the more reliable Word Bearers under his command launched a second offensive, a joint Shadow Crusade with his brother Angron's World Eaters Legion into the rest of the Realm of Ultramar, laying waste to the Five Hundred Worlds with reckless abandon, slaughtering twenty-six worlds in rapid succession. This was to ensure the success of the sorcerous Ruinstorm, which would ultimately split the void asunder, dividing the galaxy in two and rendering vast tracts of the Imperium impassable for centuries, effectively cutting Ultramar off from the rest of the Imperium. This prodigious Warp Storm would deny needed reinforcements to the Loyalists as Horus drove on Terra in an attempt to overthrow the Emperor of Mankind. Nothing from Terra would get in and nothing would get out. Not even an astropathic whisper would be able to pierce this storm of Warp energy bleeding into realspace.
During this campaign of destruction, Lorgar had come to realise that over the course of their Shadow Crusade, Angron's temperament and mental stability had steadily grown worse. His cybernetic neural-implants known as the Butcher's Nails were killing him faster than Lorgar had originally imagined, faster than anyone realised. The rate of degeneration had accelerated very quickly in the months after the Battle of Calth. The implants had never been designed for the peculiar genetics of a Primarch's brain. Angron's physiology was trying to heal the damage produced by the implants as the Nails bit deeper. To save his life, Lorgar convinced the Lord of the World Eaters to go back to his homeworld of Nuceria. The overlords of the gladiatorial games on that world who had first hammered the foul device into Angron's skull would know more of the implant's function than the Traitor Legion's savants and the Dark Mechanicum. The two Primarchs would learn all that was known about the Nucerians' insidious cortical implant technology, and then they would burn that loathsome world until its surface was nothing but glass. Angron would finally take the vengeance he pretended to no longer desire. Whether Angron fought him, hated him or trusted him, mattered little to Lorgar, who intended to drag Angron into the immortality that he deserved before the Dark Gods whether he wanted it or not.
Guilliman's retribution fleet, which had been tracking the rest of the Word Bearers Legion in the wake of the Battle of Calth, finally caught up to the Traitors upon Angron's homeworld of Nuceria, which the World Eaters Legion were preoccupied with wiping clean of all life in vengeance for the treatment the Nucerians had merited out a century before to Angron. The XIII Legion warship Courage Above All, Guilliman's temporary flagship, broke Warp at the system’s edge, at the head of a large void armada consisting of 41 vessels. The Ultramarines armada looked wounded, cobbled together from separate fleets. It was not a dedicated interdiction war-fleet, but clearly a ragtag strike force, a lance thrust to the enemy’s heart. Guilliman himself had done the best he could with limited resources. The XIII Legion's Cruisers and Battleships ran abeam of the enemy fleet for repeated exchange of broadsides, offering targets too big and powerful to ignore, while the rest of the Ultramarines fleet used calculated Lance strikes from safer range. The armada then divided its assault potential, doing its utmost to destroy Lorgar's flagship Fidelitas Lex, and attempted to take the World Eaters' flagship Conqueror in a boarding action.
But the Ultramarines' warships not only fought a void war, they also attempted to take the fight to the surface of Nuceria, for this attack was personal. The Ultramarines had come for revenge against Lorgar and the Word Bearers, just as they had pursued Kor Phaeron all the way to the Maelstrom on the other side of Ultramar. Several Ultramarines warships attempted to make a run on Nuceria, haemorrhaging Drop Pods, landers and gunships, forcing planetfall by any means necessary. The Ultramarines fleet swept over and against the Traitors like an insect horde. But the tenacious commander of the Conqueror, Lotara Sarrin, refused to go on the defensive and destroyed a number of Ultramarines vessels that attempted to make a run for the surface. Though the World Eaters' flagship transformed a number of the smaller vessels into flaming wreckage, the Ultramarines eventually punched through her tenacious defence and managed to land troops on the surface of Nuceria.
Meanwhile, the Fidelitas Lex was already a ruin, its armour pitted and cracked, its shields a memory. The cathedrals and spinal fortresses barnacling along its back were gone, laid waste by the Ultramarines’ incendiary rage. The XIII Legion's armada attacked in strafing runs and protracted exchanges of broadsides, trading fire with the superior warship and accepting their own casualties as the cost of bleeding the bigger vessel dry. Each assault left the Lex weaker, firing fewer turrets and cannons, taking punishment on its increasingly fragile armour. But she fought on. Crawling with smaller ships, the Lex lashed back with its remaining Macro-cannons, rolling in the light of its own burning hull. Guilliman guided the battle from the command deck of Courage Above All, and had decided that the Lex would die first, killed in the death of a thousand cuts and swept from the game board, while the Conqueror would be boarded and killed from within. In the course of the battle in Nucerian orbit, the Conqueror could not rise to its sister-ship’s defence. Both Traitor Legion flagships fought alone, starved of support and suffering the endless attacks of the XIII Legion’s ragged armada. Salvation Pods streamed from the Lex’s sides and underbelly, along with heavier Mechanicum craft and bulk landers. With the Legionaries of the Word Bearers already on the surface, the ship’s human population fled in the vessel’s final minutes. And still the great vessel fought -- rolling, turning, raging. The Ultramarines Cruisers that drifted past burned as badly as the warship they were killing. This void battle was a form of dirty fighting between warships, too close for the neat calculations of ranged battery fire. Instead, it was an up close and personal slugfest.
The Ultramarines Battle Barge Armsman intercepted the Conqueror and came abeam, launching Assault Carriers and Boarding Torpedoes. While the World Eaters flagship was busy repelling boarders, a number of smaller XIII Legion vessels slipped past her defences and launched Drop Pods, gunships and troop carriers. The first Drop Pods hammered home on the planet's surface. Sealed doors unlocked and the first Ultramarines poured forth, Bolters raised, moving in perfect and well-trained unity. But the World Eaters were waiting for them. Those not lost to the Butcher's Nails at once had the presence of mind to note that these Ultramarines were not the pristine cobalt-blue warriors they had previously faced on the War World of Armatura. These Legionaries of the XIII wore cracked Power Armour, still scarred and burnwashed from some horrendous battle weeks or months before. These were hardened veterans of the Calth Atrocity. They burned with a cold intensity to carry out the vengeance in their hearts, and were intent on getting to grips with the Word Bearers.
As was their way, the Ultramarines established footholds at defensible positions, clearing room for their reinforcements to land. For every position they held, another was overrun by the World Eaters in a storm of roaring axes, or lost to the Word Bearers' chanting, implacable advance. The XII Legion crashed against the XIII in rabid packs, showing why Imperial forces had feared to fight alongside them for decades. Uncontrolled, unbound, unrestrained, they butchered their way through Ultramarines strongpoints, enslaved to the joy of battle because of the Butcher's Nails cortical implants sandwiched within the meat of their minds. The XVII Legion also met their Loyalist cousins, replacing ferocity with spite and hate. The Ultramarines returned it in kind, hungry for vengeance against the vile Traitors who had defiled Calth and damaged its star. Word Bearers units marched, droning black hymns and chanting sermons from the Book of Lorgar, bearing corpse-strewn icons of befouled metal and bleached bones above their regiments.
As the fighting raged, the burning shell of the Fidelitas Lex cut through the clouds into the planet's atmosphere, shuddering on its way east, rolling ever downwards, achingly slow for something of such scale. The weight of the Lex's massive plasma engines dragged the stern down first, colliding with the Nucerian ocean's surface far from shore. In the meantime, the demigod in gold and blue had finally found the object of his obsession amidst the clamour of war. Guilliman confronted Lorgar, possessing the advantage of two weapons, but Lorgar's Crozius gave him a reach his brother lacked. When they first met, there was no furious trading of frantic blows, nor were there any melodramatic speeches of vengeance avowed. The two Primarchs came together once, Power Fist against War Maul, and backed away from the resulting flare of repelling energy fields. Their warriors killed each other around them both, and neither Primarch spared their sons a glance. Lorgar flicked the clinging lightning from the head of his Crozius, shaking his head in slow denial.
Both Primarchs fought without heeding their warriors, their godlike movements an inconceivable blur to the Space Marines fighting around them. None had ever imagined the heroes of this new age would take the field against each other, nor could they have predicted the wellsprings of spite between them. Guilliman confronted Lorgar for what his Legion had done across the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar. In his righteous anger the Ultramarines Primarch struck Lorgar with one of his fists, battering the Word Bearers Primarch's sternum. Lorgar repulsed him with a projected burst of telekinesis, weak and wavering, but enough to send his brother staggering. The Crozius followed, its power field trailing lightning as Lorgar hammered it into the side of Guilliman’s head with the force of a cannonball. Both Primarchs faced each other beneath the grey sky, one bleeding internally, the other with half of his face lost to blood sheeting from a fractured skull.
Locked in their furious life-and-death struggle, the two Primarchs were oblivious to the destruction being wrought around them. Suddenly, Angron burst forth from the Ultramarines ranks, his armour a shattered wreck, and both of his Chainswords spat gobbets of ceramite armour plating and scarlet gore. Angron was plastered with the blood of the slain after hours in the crush of the front lines of intense combat. On his chest hung a bandolier of skulls taken from the mass grave at Desh’elika Ridge. Blood painted them as surely as it marked Angron. Even through the constant pain generated by the Butcher's Nails, that pleased him. He wanted his deceased brothers and sisters to taste blood once more. He had carried them with him across Nuceria, letting their empty eyes witness the razing of his former, hated homeworld. The World Eater launched himself at Guilliman with murderous hatred. The two Primarchs fell into a seamless, roaring duel where Lorgar and Guilliman had abandoned theirs. Guilliman found himself forced back by the storm of Angron's blows.
Once on Nuceria, Angron had paid his respects to his fallen brothers and sisters amongst the Nucerian gladiators he had once fought beside, whose bones now lay exposed to the elements on the Desh'elika Ridge where they had died. The painful memories of that day, long ago, were too much for the Primarch to bare. After paying a visit to the city-state of Desh'ea to see who ruled the Nucerian city-state that had once claimed to own him, he became enraged when he was told the tale of how he had fled at the Battle of Desh'elika Ridge, and the subsequent massacre of the rebel army in the mountains. The rebels had died to a man in his absence. Enraged by the lies that had been told about him over the last century, Angron ordered his Legion to kill everyone in the city. Then they were to kill everyone on the planet. At the height of the final battle against the last city on Nuceria, Lorgar was confronted by his wrathful brother Roboute Guilliman, who had been chasing him and the XII Legion since the destruction of Calth. As the two Primarchs fought, Guilliman gravely wounded Lorgar and was about to deliver a killing stroke to his wretched brother. But Angron had seen Guilliman's assault upon Lorgar and intervened, facing the Lord of Ultramar in single combat.
On Angron's chest hung a bandolier of skulls taken from the mass grave at Desh'elika Ridge. Blood painted them as surely as it marked Angron. Even through the haze of pain created by the Butcher's Nails, that pleased him. He wanted his former brothers and sisters, the Eaters of Cities, to taste blood once more. He had carried them with him across Nuceria, letting their empty eyes witness the razing of the high-rider cities. As the two Primarchs fought, Guilliman landed a glancing blow, his fist pounding across Angron's breastplate. One of the skulls of Angron's fallen kinsman that hung from the chain worn across his breastplate was partially shattered and scattered across the ground. Guilliman stepped back, his boot crushing a skull's remnants to powder. Angron saw it, and threw himself at his brother, his howl of wrath defying mortal origins, impossibly ripe in its anguish.
Lorgar saw it, too. The moment Guilliman's boot broke the skull, he felt the Warp boil behind the veil. The Bearer of the Word started chanting in a language never before spoken by any living being, his words in faultless harmony with Angron's cry of torment. Lorgar enacted his dark plan to save his brother's life, summoning the Ruinstorm to the world of Nuceria, tearing the sky open and unleashing a crimson torrent, formed from the ghosts of a hundred murdered worlds, raining blood. Lorgar focused his concentration on the triumphant form of his mutilated brother, calling for the Neverborn, the entities men called daemons, to answer in kind. He locked Angron’s muscles, setting fire to the synapses in his brain. The first spasms wracked their way through Angron’s sinews, turning his blood to quicksilver, then to lava and at last to holy fire. His cries of thwarted rage were tainted by an agony beyond comprehension. His body started tearing itself apart, growing, rising. Perfecting, after a lifetime of broken torture. This was the moment of Angron's apotheosis into daemonhood.
The World Eaters Librarians, those few who had never received the deadly Butcher's Nails implants which were inimicable to psykers, sensed the fey powers summoned by Lorgar from the Warp. In an attempt to halt the Urizen's dark plans, the 19 remaining Librarians harnessed their collective psychic powers to manifest a psychic entity known as the Communion, the gestalt consciousness of 19 psychic minds. In the midst of Lorgar's incantations, the Communion pulled the soul of the Primarch from his body. The two psychic entities confronted one another within the Warp, locked in a deadly contest of wills, each convinced that they were the one responsible for saving Angron. But ultimately, the Communion failed, for Lorgar was just as powerful in the Warp as he was in the material universe. After Angron's completed metamorphosis into a new Daemon Prince, the Daemon Primarch turned his attention to the Librarians. The creatures that had pained him for decades. The warriors that had made the Butcher's Nails sing and his brain bleed just for the sin of standing near them. Now they moved against his brother, hurling their foulness at Lorgar, who crouched one-handed and wounded, down on his knees.
The Daemon Primarch's rage killed the remaining Libarians, each of them tasting a different doom. Angron killed the last of the Librarian, expunging his Legion of the weakness that had plagued his gene-sons since his reunification with them a century earlier. The Librarius of the World Eaters, the last fragment of the War Hounds within the XII Legion, was no more, a fact which greatly pleased the Blood God Khorne, who would not brook the existence of any psykers amongst his chosen servants. Lorgar had offered up the XII Legion to the whims of the Blood God as his loyal servants. Now there would only be blood, an ocean of blood carried on a tide of eternal slaughter.
The gravely wounded Guilliman escaped from Nuceria, unable to face or even fully comprehend what both of his brothers had become through their corruption by the Ruinous Powers. The World Eaters completed their purge of Nuceria until not one human life remained on the benighted world. Angron, now the very embodiment of the Blood God's Eight-Fold Path, shook the dust of the world from his feet and did not think of it again. Lorgar believed that he had "saved" his brother. In his mind it was the only way, for he alone had sought to save Angron from the implants that were killing him by degrees. Only Lorgar had found a way to free Angron from an existence of unrivalled agony, and he alone had acted to save his tormented brother. Now the Shadow Crusade could move on from Ultramar and rejoin Horus. The next target for the Traitors would be Terra itself.
Battle of Terra
Lorgar himself lead the rest of his Traitor Legion alongside the Warmaster Horus in the Forces of Chaos' siege of the Imperial Palace during the climactic Battle of Terra, where he helped invade the realm of the master he had once served with the fanaticism of a zealot. In the end, Horus was defeated personally by the Emperor aboard his own flagship, the Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit in orbit of Terra, and the remaining Traitor Legions of Chaos were eventually forced to flee into the Eye of Terror as the Loyalist Legions regrouped over the next several decades. The Word Bearers were also forced to retreat to the Eye of Terror with their traitorous brethren, and there they have remained, returning to the worlds of the Imperium since the end of the Heresy only to raid, pillage, and destroy.
From the Daemon World of Sicarus, Lorgar, rewarded by the Dark Gods with ascension to daemonhood as a Daemon Prince for his faith, now watches over his Legion and orchestrates the vast corruption from within that the Imperium suffers at the hands of the various Chaos Cults and witches' covens he sponsors across the galaxy. Unlike many of the other Traitor Legions, the Word Bearers have remained a unified, if loosely organised, military force that has not split into separate warbands all vying against one another for power and control. The main ruling body of the Word Bearers is known as the Dark Council, which rules in Lorgar's self-imposed absence as he meditates on the mysteries of Chaos. From the two primary bases of the Legion, Sicarus and the factory-world of Ghalmek which is located within the Maelstrom, the Word Bearers launch twisted Wars of Faith against the Imperium. On each world they attack, they incubate a seed of heresy that will one day contribute to their ever-expanding web of Chaos Cults. Sometimes, however, this brings them into competition with the equally insidious efforts of the Alpha Legion. Though the Alpha Legion and the Word Bearers have united several times to take part in the Black Crusades of Abaddon the Despoiler, they are more usually in states of bitter division and rivalry. However, these conflicts are but distractions as their war against the Imperium of Man is a total one, and they do not intend for it to end until every icon of the False Emperor lies shattered at their feet and the Corpse Emperor has been toppled from the life-sustaining mechanisms of the Golden Throne to wither and die. Only in this way can Mankind finally be free to understand the truth of Chaos.
- The Fall of Orioc (Unknown Date.M30) - Orioc was a city-state of Old Earth. Buried in a hallowed-out mountain in Ancient Terra's ice-bound south, it stood throughout the darkness of Old Night, weathering the storms of strife for thousands of standard years. The people of Orioc believed they were the chosen of Ancient Terra's blighted children, and that they alone would outlast the anarchy that had broken so much else. This certainty came from their faith in protection from the spirits of death and life, an ancient pantheon of gods worshiped by the people of Orioc. During the Unification Wars, when the Emperor's eye finally turned to the mountain city, He seemed to have known that soft words and diplomatic overtures would be of little use. The XVII Space Marine Legion, the Imperial Heralds, came to the city and gave it a choice -- kneel and accept the Imperial Truth, or be destroyed. The Priest Kings of Orioc did not even hear the message before they gave their answer. Fire met the Imperial Heralds' transport and as it fell to the ice plains, the XVII Legion began their attack. Macro bombers came out of the snow-filled sky and the mountain cracked under a rain of seismic charges. On the mountain's flanks, siege tanks coughed shell after shell into fractures in the rock, breaking them wide open. Behind the wind came the grey armoured warriors advancing in a relentless drum roll of gun fire and the hiss of flame. After three solar hours of battle, the remaining populace was a huddled flock, crammed intro the central cavern. With every other tunnel and cavern district wiped clean of life, the XVII Legion halted, sealing the ways in and out of the central cavern. As the survivors waited in fretful silence, they wondered what fate awaited them. Their answer came in a rain of shattered stone and red fire, as the Ashen Circle descended on the last idolators like comets flung from a destroyed heaven. All burned, none were spared, and when it was done, the XVII Legion overloaded the geothermal power plants beneath the mountain, causing lava to fill the caverns, swallowing the stone idols, and exploding the city-state from the wounds in the mountain's flanks. So fell Orioc, and the message of its death carried across Ancient Terra and beyond: faith in false gods would bring only ruin and ashes.
- The Melkeji Salvation (Unknown Date.M30) - The world of Melkeji was a planet on the trailing edge of the galactic rim which had retained many of the technological marvels of Mankind's lost Golden Age of Technology. Star docks ringed its orbit and moons, and electric lights bathed its cities which rose in metal and stone from plains, mountains and blue sea shores. Winged craft skimmed its atmosphere, while genecrafts and bio-cleansing technologies allowed much of its population to live for many Terran centuries. On the surface Melkeji was a jewel of light still burning in the night, but darkness coiled at the heart of this perfect realm. A parasitic alien race held control over Melkeji. Accounts describe these creatures as clouds of shattered black crystal when glimpsed without their hosts. Unable to exist outside of a biological sentient host, these nameless creatures ruled Melkeji through a class referred to as the Ascended. Wearing the faces of human men and women, the Ascended ran their domains with a single purpose guiding their every action: the maintenance of a pool of future hosts. Such was the Melkeji world's ingrained devotion to their parasitic masters, that when the Great Crusade found them, they rose up to resist the invaders who sought to free them. Initially, the Imperium's Expeditionary Fleet encountered heavy resistance and the armada withdrew with a small number of human captives. From these captives the nature of the Melkeji's enslavement soon became clear. Knowing that they could not capture the planet, the Grand Marshal of the Expeditionary Fleet sent an Astropathic message asking for aid. When that aid came, it was more than the Grand Marshal could have dared to hope for. Lorgar himself came to Melkeji with eight full Chapters of his XVII Legion. Having talked to the captives in person, the Lord Aurelian is said to have given a single order: "Light the first fire." Perhaps out of fear that their human cattle might one day turn on them, the Ascended dwelt in a chain of nine orbital cities far above the planet's surface. Approaching without power, the war barge Castigator slid towards Melkeji from its system's edge. Once it was deep behind the planet's sphere of defences, it fired its payload, a Nova Shell and a cluster of Melta and plasma-tipped torpedoes timed to strike at the same moment. Revealing itself after launching its payload, the Melkeji warships turned to chase the Word Bearers vessel. Meanwhile, Lorgar's fleet met them, the void battle lasted a single hour, and at its end the Melkeji ships were scattered fragments of debris. The Word Bearers moved past the orbital cities to land their armoured cargoes of Astartes upon the planet's surface. Five thousand Word Bearers and 100,000 Imperial Army auxiliaries fell on the planet in a single drop. Even in the face of such might, the Melkeji resisted. Several million died in the first hour of engagement. Then, just as the defenders reached into their reserves of will, Lorgar attacked the remaining cities of the Ascended. Boarding companies in Astartes gunships punched through the turret fire and armour, and began to advance through the cities. Throughout the assault the Ascended called on their forces to resist, their voices reaching across the planet on signal waves. Lorgar made no move to stop the signaling voices, but his Assault Companies reached the orbital cities' plasma reactors. Then, one after another, the Ascended's voices were silenced and a chain of explosions ringed the besieged world. In a single moment the people of Melkeji knew that their masters were gone and that they were facing a power greater and more terrible than they any they could have dreamed in their wildest nightmares. Most of the Melkeji surrendered at that moment, the rest a few days later. A decade after, Melkeji was a world faithful to the God-Emperor. Half a century later, half a million of its sons and daughters would come to Ultramar in 005.M31 with the names of alien gods on their lips and aid the Word Bearers in the assault upon Calth and other worlds within the Realm of the XIII Legion.
- Compliance of Forty-Seven Ten (ca. 903.M30) - The world of Forty-Seven Ten, also known as Khur, was brought into Imperial Compliance by the Word Bearers Legion approximately a Terran century before the events of Istvaan III at the outset of the Horus Heresy. The beautiful capital city of Khur known as Monarchia, called the Perfect City by the Word Bearers, was built by the people of Khur at the direction and exhortation of the Word bearers to demonstrate their faith and devotion to the God-Emperor.
- Razing of Monarchia (964.M30) - During the Great Crusade, the world of Forty-Seven Ten, also known as Khur, was brought into Imperial Compliance approximately a Terran century before the events of Istvaan III at the outset of the Horus Heresy (approximately 005.M30). The beautiful capital city of Khur known as Monarchia, called the Perfect City by the Word Bearers, was built by the people of Khur at the direction and exhortation of the Word bearers to demonstrate their faith and devotion to the God-Emperor. Nearly six decades after being brought into Compliance, some forty-three years before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the XIII Legion, the Ultramarines, utterly destroyed Monarchia on the order of the Emperor as an example to both Primarch Lorgar and his Word Bearers that violations of the Imperial Truth through the encouragement of the continued error of religious faith and the spread of idolatrous doctrine would not be tolerated. This action crushed Lorgar and his Space Marines and led them to seek out new gods more worthy of their worship -- the Ruinous Powers of Chaos.
- Pilgrimage of Lorgar (ca. 964.M30) - The Pilgrimage of Lorgar was the spiritual quest undertaken by the Primarch Lorgar of the Word Bearers Space Marine Legion during the Great Crusade. Its object was to discover whether humanity's ancient collective beliefs in supernatural entities were true or whether his father the Emperor of Mankind's atheistic, rationalist Imperial Truth was the correct philosophy to guide Mankind's future. In the course of his Pilgrimage, Lorgar learned that the Emperor had lied and that supernatural entities, the Chaos Gods, did exist. Since they were the only deities seemingly in existence, Lorgar believed that they were worthy of humanity's worship. Lorgar would spend the next 40 standard years seeking to turn his fellow Primarchs to the service of Chaos and this Pilgrimage was ultimately responsible for setting in motion the events that brought on the cataclysmic Horus Heresy.
- Purge of Forty-Seven Sixteen (ca. 964.M30) - Forty-Seven Sixteen was the first world brought into Imperial Compliance after the rebuke of the Word Bearers by the Emperor on the world of Khur. The lost human world had at first rejoiced to be reunited with their long-lost brothers from the stars. For over four thousand Terran years they had thought themselves alone in the universe until the arrival of the XVII Legion. They had greeted the Word Bearers' envoys with open arms, gazing upon the immense, grey-armoured Astartes warriors with awe and reverence. Upon their return to their orbiting vessels, First Captain Kor Phaeron commented that the people of Forty-Seven Sixteen were, "Irrevocably corrupt worshipers of a heathen deity." The humans of this world appeared to venerate a large profane titanic colossus known only as the "Storm Lord." Since the Emperor had rebuked their Primarch and the entirety of the XVII Legion for their slowness in bringing worlds into Compliance and violating the Imperial Truth, the Word Bearers could not again refuse the will of the Emperor. The XVII Legion did not have the time necessary to convert the population of Forty-Seven Sixteen to the Imperial Truth, and since their profane beliefs were deemed incompatible with the Imperium's order, the world of Forty-Seven Sixteen would have to be purged. Less than 24 hours later more than a 190 million people were dead – over 98% of the doomed world’s population. Only one city survived the 12 hour orbital bombardment, in which entire continents disappeared in flame. This was the seat of the planet's governance and centre of its blasphemous worship. The world's profane palace-temple was protected by a bubble of coruscating energy. Five full Word Bearers companies were deployed to the planet's surface to finish the job. Battling through the masses of artificial intelligent war machines unleashed by the desperate defenders, Captain Sor Talgron and his 34th Company spearheaded the assault and eventually forced their way inside, while taking more casualties than initially expected. Within the dome of the temple were gathered hundreds of human survivors as well as the political leaders of the people of Forty-Seven Sixteen. Sor Talgron spoke with the head priest and discovered, much to his shock, that these people worshipped the Emperor as a God, and that they wanted to join the Imperium! Sor Talgron felt guilty for the genocide that had been committed by his Legion because of this misunderstanding. Informing the Primarch of what had transpired, the First Captain Kor Phaeron and a cadre of 100 Terminators teleported to the surface, materialising inside the dome, their weapons trained on the human worshippers. Then Lorgar and First Chaplain Erebus materialised, making their presence known. The Primarch dismissed the fact that the people of this world worshiped the Emperor as a God and that they had somehow obtained a copy of the Lectitio Divinitatus scribed by Lorgar himself. Lorgar informed Talgron that he had been penning a new magnus opus, something that would make everyone forget the now-obsolete Lectitior Divinatus. This was to be the profane Book of Lorgar. The people of Forty-Seven Sixteen were condemned, for ignorance was no excuse for violations of the Imperial Truth. The Primarch explained to Captain Talgron that sometimes sacrifices had to be made, and with a signal to his First Captain the survivors of Forty-Seven Sixteen were massacred in a hail of Storm Bolter rounds.
- The Pyre of Corrinos (Unknown Date.M30) - The Corrinos Campaign is one of many that were seen at the time as shining examples of the Word Bearers' renewal after their censure at Khur. Now, with the fires of treachery still casting a lingering shadow ten thousand standard years later, this ancient victory can be read in a very different light. Corrinos was a star system of inhabited worlds that lay close to the major Warp routes linking the Sol System to the Eastern Fringe. Discovered after a previously unstable Warp route had opened, it at first seemed Corrinos might be brought into the Imperial fold without bloodshed. The light Imperial scout fleet who first made contact with the trio of worlds reported that the populations of all seemed open to reunification with Terra. Given the levels of technology and industry, they became a waypoint for greater exploitation of the eastern galactic zones, and a small force of Ultramarines was dispatched to link up with the scout fleet and bring Corrinos into the expanding Realm of Ultramar. The Ultramarines were becalmed in the Immaterium while en route to the Corrinos System, which delayed them by several solar months. When the forces of the XIII Legion finally reached their destination, they found its three worlds covered in the ruin of war. All that remained was a lone Imperial voidship lingering in orbit around one world. The Imperial survivors' account given to the Ultramarines, and the one that entered the War Council's archives, was that the scout fleet had been ambushed and destroyed after being lured into a false parley. The scout fleet's Astropaths had broadcast a garbled message that called for help and spoke of treachery. A Word Bearers Crusade fleet, under the command of Chapter Master Hasdrubal, had responded, racing to the system to find that the worlds of Corrinos were waiting for them. Far from open compliance, the population was riddled with the taint of renegade psykers. These witches had clouded the minds of the Imperial scout force, seeding them with lies that would draw more victims to Corrinos. It had only been chance that the Astropath's message had broken through. As soon as they were in range of the first world, the Word Bearers Crusade fleet began their bombardment, hammering the surface of the first planet from orbit with relentless fury. A mass Astartes drop had followed to clear the remaining life from the surface. With the warships above shaking the ground with fire, the Word Bearers made a last advance before withdrawing to orbit again and leaving the first planet of Corrinos in flames. It was said to have been done in less than a single transit of the world's sun, and then repeated twice more until the Corrinos System was cleansed of life. These were the facts the Imperium believed at the time, which signified nothing but the strength of a loyal Space Marine Legion. That Corrinos could have provided a key mustering ground for later Loyalist forces seeking to strike out of Ultramar towards the systems around Terra to protect the homeworld of humanity from an attacking force never occurred to anyone. Only later, after the terrible events of the Horus Heresy, does the account of the Pyre of Corrinos now taste of lies when one speaks of it.
- Compliance of Fortrea Quintus (Unknown Date.M30) - The world of Fortrea Quintus had been isolated from Imperial rule for several centuries, and when the leading edges of the Great Crusade reached the frontier of their star system, the planet's governing monarchy proved unwilling to submit itself to Imperial rule and had the Emperor's representatives executed. The Word Bearers were the nearest Legion to the world, though they were already heavily engaged in fighting Orks in the Chairak Nebula. Lorgar despatched 2,000 Astartes to Fortrea Quintus with orders that the planet be pacified within three months. The Word Bearers quickly established fortified positions on the planet and found the populace to be living in abject poverty, while their corrupt and ruthless rulers grew fat off their hard labours. A well-trained and disciplined army defended the planet's rulers, equipped with advanced weaponry and artificially-intelligent war machines. Under the command of Captain Jarulek, the Word Bearers steadily pushed their enemies back, their captain rousing the populace against their rulers with stirring speeches and fiery oratory. In ever-increasing numbers, the people of Fortrea Quintus joined Jarulek's march until his army numbered more than a million people. A month after the Word Bearers had landed, Captain Jarulek, together with his millions of new followers, launched his assault on the planetary ruler's last bastion, the Palace of Light. The casualties amongst the populace were horrendous,with thousands dying every minute as they charged the heavily defended walls, armoured bastions and labyrinthine trench systems of the main gates armed with little more than pistols and spears. As the carnage continued at the main palace gates, the Word Bearers attacked on another front, catching the defenders off-guard and striking for the heart of the palace. Nothing could stand before them and Jarulek himself captured the planet's ruler, throwing him to the blood-maddened survivors of the battle at the gates where he was torn to bloody shreds. Fully 90% of the people who had joined Jarulek's march died in the battle for the main gates, whilst barely a handful of Word Bearers had been killed. Following the victory, Jarulek began the Imperial indoctrination of the populace. When the Adepts of the Ministorum arrived to bring the word of the Emperor to Fortrea Quintus, they were horrified by the Word Bearers careless use of the populace, but found the people as well versed in the culture of the Imperium as any Loyal world could be. But when the Horus Heresy began, Fortrea Quintus would be revealed as a hotbed of Chaos worship secretly planted by the Word Bearers. After the end of the Heresy, the Ultramarines Legion would be forced to purge the planet of its festering Chaotic corruption by exterminating its population.
- Battle of Calth (005.M31) - The Battle of Calth, also referred to as the Calth Atrocity, was the name given by later Imperial scholars to the treacherous campaign conducted during the early stages of the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium by the traitorous XVII Space Marine Legion, the Word Bearers, on behalf of the Warmaster Horus against their hated rivals, the XIII Space Marine Legion, better known as the Ultramarines. The campaign was launched by the Word Bearers' Primarch Lorgar Aurelian with the goal of exterminating the XIII Space Marine Legion outright. The purpose of the Word Bearers' invasion of the Ultramarines' Realm of Ultramar in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy was to tie down the XIII Legion and prevent them from reinforcing their fellow Loyalists as the Traitor Legions marched relentlessly on Terra itself. The crux of the campaign came on the Agri-world of Calth in the Ultramar Sector, where the Ultamarines successfully broke the Word Bearers' surprise assault after a viciously-fought siege action, though at the cost of terrible casualties and the complete destruction of Calth's atmosphere and once-verdant biosphere. As a result of the devastation wrought by the Word Bearers during the Calth Atrocity, future generations of Calth's people were required to live deep underground in massive subterranean hive cities to escape their world's radiation-scorched, airless surface. While both the Ultramarines and their Primarch Roboute Guilliman survived the Word Bearers' assault, the campaign successfully prevented the Ultramarines from participating in the Battle of Terra as Horus had planned. During the invasion, the Word Bearers conducted a blasphemous Chaos ritual which summoned massive Warp storm disturbances known as the 'Ruinstorm,' which would isolate and trap those Loyalist forces caught within it like the Ultramarines, preventing them from coordinating their efforts and supporting one another as the Traitor Legions moved towards Terra. It would even prevent them from warning each other, for a time, of the Warmaster's betrayal and the civil war that had begun to consume the Imperium. The Ruinstorm would leave Terra alone in the void, infinitely vulnerable to the approaching shadow of Horus.
- Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V (006.M31) - Noted as one of the most devastating defeats in the history of the Adeptus Astartes, the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V saw the Raven Guard and Salamanders Legions nearly annihilated as effective fighting forces and only the quick thinking and initiative of the Salamanders allowed a bare few Space Marines of these two Legions to escape that dreadful day. In response to the treachery of the Warmaster Horus and his betrayal of the Loyalist Astartes in the Sons of Horus, Emperor's Children, World Eaters and Death Guard Legions at Istvaan III, the Primarch of the Imperial Fists Legion, Rogal Dorn, on the direction of the Emperor who had learned of Horus' actions from the Loyalist survivors aboard the Eisenstein, ordered 7 Loyalist Space Marine Legions to Horus' base on the world of Istvaan V to challenge the Traitors. They would attack in two waves and fall under the supreme command of the Iron Hands' Primarch Ferrus Manus. The Legions comprising the first wave were the Raven Guard, Iron Hands and Salamanders. The Legions comprising the second wave were the Alpha Legion, Night Lords, Iron Warriors, and a large contingent of Word Bearers that their Primarch Lorgar had stationed in the star system. Unknown to Dorn and Ferrus Manus, the Night Lords, Alpha Legion, Iron Warriors and Word Bearers had all turned from their service to the Emperor and secretly pledged their loyalty to Horus, and been instructed to keep their new allegiance to Chaos a secret. The Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard were deployed in the first wave of the assault on the planet. The first wave secured the drop site, known as the Urgall Depression, though at a heavy cost. Horus ordered his front line troops to fall back in a feint, tempting Ferrus Manus to overstretch his already thin lines. Against the advice of Corax and Vulkan, Manus led his Veterans against the fleeing Traitor Marines unsupported. Manus then brought his brother Fulgrim to combat. As the two Primarchs drew their weapons, the Raven Guard and Salamanders fell back to regroup and allow the second wave's Legions to advance and earn glory. However, as they returned they were mowed down by the four Traitor Legions that had landed to supposedly support them, thus revealing their new allegiance to Chaos. At the same time the apparent rout of the Sons of Horus, the World Eaters, Death Guard and Emperor's Children suddenly halted and the Traitors pressed their attack. As Horus pressed the counterattack he managed to sandwich the Loyalists between the two Traitor forces, killing most of them. As the black-armoured Astartes of the Raven Guard Legion were cut down by the Traitors' sustained volley, the traitorous Primarch Lorgar ordered his Word Bearers Legion to attack the Raven Guards' unprotected flank. Corax charged into the ranks of the Traitorous Word Bearers, a blur of charcoal armour and black blades, butchering with an ease that belied his ferocity. Argel Tal, the Crimson Lord and leader of the daemon-possessed Astartes known as the Gal Vorbak, Lorgar's "Blessed Sons," leapt forward to meet their end at the hands of the enraged Primarch. Lorgar soon noticed that Corax was wading through the Gal Vorbak, ripping his daemon-possessed crimson warriors apart. Despite the protestations of both Kor Phaeron and Erebus, Lorgar disregarded their counsel and sprinted forwards across the churned earth and dead bodies of his brother's Legion to engage in a battle he had no hope of winning. The two Primarchs fought in furious combat -- Corax fighting to slay the Traitor, while Lorgar fought simply to stay alive. The Primarchs traded vicious blows, but the Raven Lord had the advantage not only of speed and finesse, but also of being a gifted warrior with decades of fighting experience. Lorgar did not, for he had always been more of a scholar than a warrior, and his lack of experience cost him dearly as Corax impaled Lorgar through his stomach and out his back. As Corax stepped closer, he raised his one functioning Lightning Claw to execute his brother, but was thwarted by the timely intervention of the Night Lords' Primarch Konrad Curze. Weakened by his battle with Lorgar, Corax took advantage when the Night Haunter was momentarily distracted and fired his flight pack, burning his fuel reserves to escape Curze’s grip, soaring skyward away from Curze’s rising laughter. Meanwhile, the Iron Hands were cut off and slaughtered to a man -- the Veteran Morlock Terminators cut down while Ferrus Manus was beheaded by Fulgrim. The Salamanders and Raven Guard could do nothing to help the Iron Hands, and were forced to make a costly break-out with precious few of their forces. Those Thunderhawk and Stormbird gunships that lifted off and escaped Istvaan V were far fewer than those that had landed. Corax was badly wounded and Vulkan's fate was unknown for some time. The remainder of the Iron Hands Legion arrived to find their Veterans and Primarch dead and the Salamanders and Raven Guard reduced to a fraction of their full strength, with both Legions nearly wiped out.
- Shadow Crusade and the Purge of Nuceria (006.M31) - In the wake of the Battle of Calth, the Word Bearers Legion, led by their Primarch Lorgar, linked up with Angron and his World Eaters to launch a Shadow Crusade against the Realm of Ultramar's Five Hundred Worlds in an attempt to spread the massive Warp Storm known as the Ruinstorm that had been conjured by the Word Bearers at Calth across the Eastern Fringe. This would split the galaxy in half and deny needed reinforcements to the Loyalists as Horus drove on Terra in an attempt to overthrow the Emperor of Mankind. But Lorgar noticed that the mental stability of Angron, the Primarch of the World Eaters, was rapidly deteriorating because of the damage caused by the Butcher's Nails, the cortical implant that had been forced upon Angron by the slavemasters of his homeworld of Nuceria. With the savants of the Traitor Legions and the Dark Mechanicum unable to divine a way to either remove the implant without killing the Primarch or to prevent the escalating deterioration of Angron's mind, Lorgar suggested that the Word Bearers and the World Eaters return to Nuceria to gather knowledge about the implants and then raze the world to the ground. When Angron returned to his homeworld, he learned that in the Terran century since the Emperor had rescued him unwillingly from certain death beside the rebel band of gladiators he had led, the Nucerian slavemasters had concocted a story that he had cowardly run away from the rebels' last stand and left them to be slaughtered alone. Enraged by the lies that had been told about him over the last century, Angron ordered his Legion to kill everyone in the city of Desh'ea, the masters of which had once claimed to own him. Then they were to kill everyone on the planet. At the height of the final battle against the last city on Nuceria, Lorgar was confronted by his wrathful brother Roboute Guilliman, who had been chasing him and the XII Legion since the destruction of Calth. As the two Primarchs fought, Guilliman gravely wounded Lorgar and was about to deliver a killing stroke to his wretched brother. But Angron intervened, facing the Lord of Ultramar in single combat. As the two fought, Guilliman landed a glancing blow, his fist pounding across Angron's breastplate. One of the skulls of Angron's fallen kinsman that hung from the chain worn across his breastplate was partially shattered and scattered across the ground. Guilliman stepped back, his boot crushing a skull's remnants to powder. Angron saw it, and threw himself at his brother, his howl of wrath defying mortal origins, impossibly ripe in its anguish. Lorgar saw it, too. The moment Guilliman's boot broke the skull, he felt the Warp boil behind the veil. The Bearer of the Word started chanting in a language never before spoken by any living being, his words in faultless harmony with Angron's cry of torment. Lorgar enacted his dark plan to save his brother's life, summoning the Ruinstorm to the world of Nuceria, tearing the sky open and unleashing a crimson torrent, formed from the ghosts of a hundred murdered worlds, raining blood. Lorgar focused his concentration on the triumphant form of his mutilated brother, calling for the Neverborn, the entities men called daemons, to answer in kind. He locked Angron’s muscles, setting fire to the synapses in his brain. The first spasms wracked their way through Angron’s sinews, turning his blood to quicksilver, then to lava and at last to holy fire. His cries of thwarted rage were tainted by an agony beyond comprehension. His body started tearing itself apart, growing, rising. Perfecting, after a lifetime of broken torture. This was the moment of Angron's apotheosis into daemonhood. The World Eaters Librarians, those few who had never been implanted with the deadly Butcher's Nails implants which were inimicable to psykers, sensed the fey powers summoned by Lorgar from the Warp. In an attempt to halt Lorgar's dark plans, the 19 remaining Librarians harnessed their collective psychic powers to manifest a psychic entity known as the Communion, the gestalt consciousness of 19 psychic minds. In the midst of Lorgar's incantations, the Communion pulled the soul of the Primarch from his body. The two psychic entities confronted one another within the Warp, locked in a deadly contest of wills, each convinced that they were the one responsible for saving Angron. But ultimately, the Communion failed, for Lorgar was just as powerful in the Warp as he was in the material universe. After Angron's completed metamorphosis into a new Daemon Prince, the Daemon Primarch turned his attention to the Librarians. The Daemon Primarch's rage killed the remaining Libarians, each of them tasting a different doom. Angron killed the last of the Librarians, expunging his Legion of the mutant weakness that had plagued his gene-sons since his reunification with them a century earlier. The Librarius of the World Eaters, the last fragment of the War Hounds within the XII Legion, was no more. Lorgar had offered up the World Eaters as the Blood God's new servants. Now there would only be blood, an ocean of blood carried on a tide of eternal slaughter.
- Battle of Terra (014.M31) - The Word Bearers took part in the climactic battle of the Horus Heresy, the Battle of Terra. The walls of the Imperial Palace seemed to touch the very sky, so tall were they. Before the walls milled the combined forces of the Traitors, an army so vast and terrible that its like has never been seen before. Nor will its like be seen again until the end of times, and the final battle. All manner of corrupted mutants, all the Greater and Lesser Daemons of Chaos, and the Traitor Legions in their fell might surrounded this last bastion of the Loyalists on Terra. The walls of the Palace were ultimately breached by the Titans of the Death's Heads Legion. Even as the Emperor fought Horus above the ruins of Terra, fought like never before, intent on slaying as many of the Loyalists as they could, sacrificing their souls to the Ruinous Powers. In the wake of the Warmaster's defeat the Word Bearers withdrew with the other Legions after Horus' fall and fled to the sanctuary of the Eye of Terror. Here, they founded a new homeword, the Daemon World Sicaraus, where the Word Bearers raised up blasphemous monuments and cathedrals to the glory of Chaos Undivided and to continue to launch their holy war against the hated Imperium of Man over the next ten millennia.
- Invasion of Tanakreg (Unknown Date.M41) - Carrying out a dire prophecy he had received ten millennia earlier during the Horus Heresy, the Dark Apostle Jarulek led his formidable Word Bearers Host in the invasion of the Imperial world of Tanakreg. Though the planet possessed a formidable air defence network protecting it from orbital attack and a large number of local Planetary Defense Forces (PDF), numbering approximately 200,000 soldiers, they were subsequently slaughtered by the invading Word Bearers. The Word Bearers Host only suffered minimal casualties as they had seeded the planet before their invasion with a large number of Chaos Cults and then incited them to rise up against their Imperial overlords when the time for their invasion had arrived. This cancerous rot had spread into the upper echelons of the Tanakreg PDF, whose members sabotaged the world's air defence network so that the Word Bearers could launch a deep strike planetary assault. With the successful subjugation of Tanakreg, Jarulek had the remaining populace enslaved and forced them to build a massive obelisk known as a Gehemehnet. This foul structure was designed to channel Warp energy directly into a planet, effectively transforming it into a Daemon World. Jarulek used the Gehemehnet to channel enough Warp energy to shatter the crust of the planet, exposing a dormant Necron Monolith beneath its surface. Accompanied by his First Acolyte Marduk, the Dark Apostle managed to recover a powerful artefact from the Necrons' stasis tomb, but was slain by the awakened Necron Lord as Marduk made his escape.
The Word Bearers followed much of the structure of the Legiones Astartes during their earliest incarnation. Warriors belonged to squads, squads to companies and companies to Chapters. This functional structure remained largely unchanged from when the Legion was the Imperial Heralds until their own treachery on Istvaan V. The rediscovery of their Primarch and the influx of recruits from Colchis did little to change the Legion's basic structure, rather it added layers of organisation. This second layer of organisation was concerned, not with the makeup of units on the battlefield, but with the ideology of those units. The Word Bearers employed all the squad configurations seen across other Space Marine Legions, with a tendency towards keeping the size of all units high. While other Legions might be content with or even favour units of only a handful of warriors, the Word Bearers would typically keep its line units at a much higher strength. Squads of twenty were common across all companies and Chapters, and typically took a tactical configuration. These squads formed the core of the XVII Legion and the keystone of its philosophy of war: the aggressive advance of warriors in force.
Squads in turn belonged to companies, usually a hundred Astartes strong though sometimes larger or smaller depending on the nature of their tactical role. The Word Bearers had a tendency to dedicate companies to a particular combat specialty, designating companies as assault companies, line breaker companies, reconnaissance companies, and so on. These companies would often deploy in combination, again showing the Word Bearers' favour for massed forces and sledgehammer actions. Companies were grouped together into Chapters of between 500 and 3,000 warriors. Each Chapter bore a name and sigil based on the constellations of Colchis: The Serrated Suns, The Osseus Throne, The Crescent Moon, The Weeping Hand, The Coiled Lash, The Exalted Gate, The Twisting Rune, The Scold's Bridle, The Night's Chalice -- each were found within the Legion's ranks. These large formations were often the building blocks for Word Bearers campaigns. Most Word Bearers Great Crusade Expeditionary Fleets consisted of at least one full Chapter, and the largest might comprise several.
Although their methods of war were often workmanlike in application, the Word Bearers always displayed a taste for the symbolic act. War was not just a process, it was a message, and so the Word Bearers would often include notes of the spectacular into their campaigns to make a point. A number of unique formations in their order of battle echo this tendency. As an example, the Chapter of the Broken Scythe consisted of armoured artillery, siege tanks and mounted Flamer squads. Their roles was to level cities and strongholds in a single attack and leave nothing but scorched rubble. Also of note are the warriors of the Ashen Circle. Descending from the sky on Jump Packs, they were the destroyers of false gods, ashen angels sent to reduce libraries and shrines to cinders with Flamer and, where a truly lasting destruction was required, Phosphex. Attached to Chapters but standing as a circle apart, only the most dedicated Astartes of the Legion could enter their ranks. Many Word Bearers passed through their ranks before ascending to the role of Chaplain.
It is worth nothing that throughout their history, the XVII Legion made extensive use of bonded mortal auxiliaries comprised of religious fanatics (the precursor to the present era's Frateris Militia often utilised by the Adeptus Ministorum). In the days when the Unification Wars were blurring into the Great Crusade, the XVII Legion would often recruit bands of militant followers from those they had conquered. This practice continued throughout the Great Crusade, and these formations were often as much mobs as they were military formations, but again their presence in many campaigns added to the XVII Legion's ability to apply overwhelming force to an enemy.
Legion Command Hierarchy
Lorgar was both commander and spiritual father to his Legion. The hierarchy of authority within the Legion reflected this dual nature, divided between military and spirituality, between mind and heart. On the one hand, the XVII Legion followed simple and robust lines of authority. A Chapter Master led each Chapter, a Captain each company and a Sergeant each squad. It was common for a Chapter Master to designate one of the Captains as a "Sub Commander" to act as his lieutenant. The second line of authority in the Chapter was spiritual. The Chaplains, although nominally attached to companies and Chapters, in reality were a brotherhood unto themselves. While each was a warrior, their concerns were not for the business of direct command, but for the strength of their brothers' spirits, for the clarity of their purpose and the purity of their actions. Each Chaplain fitted into their own hierarchy, with ascending tiers of knowledge and respect. High Chaplains were the ruling circle of their kind, and at their centre was the First Chaplain.
The strands of authority within the Word Bearers often crossed and blurred. While theoretically separate hierarchies, no lowly line Captain would question the authority of a senior Chaplain. Given that the reasons for fighting were as important to the Word Bearers as victory, decisions about the course of a war or battle were often made by the Chaplains and enacted by the commanders. This blurring and fusion of the spiritual and military command was also present in Lorgar's inner circle. This group comprised the Legion's ruling council, and included both commanders and Chaplains. Even within this small group there were two who held more power and authority than any others. The names of Kor Phaeron and Erebus are now heavy with infamy, and one cannot help but wonder if the early Imperium's fate would not have been vastly different if these two had not been Lorgar's most trusted counsellors.
The strength of the Word Bearers at the time of the Istvaan V Drop Site Massacre was thought to be approximately 140,000 Astartes. It is now clear that this figure was a lie. Four decades earlier, when the Legion was rebuked at Khur, it was approximately 100,000 Space Marines strong. That the XVII Legion had made a notable increase in recruitment was clear, but far from swelling their numbers by 40,000, the Word Bearers had grown to a far greater strength. Mass recruitment from every world they conquered, and the use of rapid gene-seed implantation techniques and hypno-indoctrination meant that by some reports their numbers might even have rivalled those of the Ultramarines. Certainly the scale of their actions during the opening phases of the civil war, and the casualties they suffered, indicate that few other Legions could have approached them in size.
In addition to the surge in numbers of the Word Bearers, the number of mortal vassal warbands and half-feral fanatics who accompanied them reached extraordinary numbers. In the extermination phase of the Istvaan V Drop Site Massacre, one survivor estimated that a horde of 50,000 faced the Loyalist enclave of Nurin. That such forces were lost and yet more were unleashed on world after world in the dark years that followed shows that behind the Word Bearers themselves stood millions more willing to die at their command. Given the actions of the so-called Abyss-class vessels in later campaigns, it is also clear that Lorgar had increased his Legion's naval strength, possibly to levels which exceeded that of the Imperial Fists, who were thought at the time to control the largest fleet of any Space Marine Legion. Such an increase in strength, and the delicacy with which it was concealed, indicates that Lorgar went into the Horus Heresy ready to embrace the carnage that would follow.
Specialty Ranks and Units
- Gal Vorbak (Colchisian for the "Blessed Sons") - The Gal Vorbak are the surviving Space Marines of the Serrated Suns Chapter of the Word Bearers Legion who ventured into the Eye of Terror Warp rift and brought back the Primordial Truth of the existence of Chaos to their Primarch Lorgar. The Gal Vorbak were originally the 1,000 Space Marines of the Serrated Sun Chapter of the Word Bearers lead by their Chapter Master Argel Tal. Their Power Armour was painted red as opposed to the standard pre-Heresy Word Bearer colour scheme of grey, which differentiated them from the rest of the Legion. During the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V when the Traitor Legions betrayed their Loyalist brethren, the Gal Vorbak underwent another change. When Lorgar attacked Corax, the Primarch of the Loyalist Raven Guard Legion, all of the members of the Gal Vorbak, possessed by daemons since their journey into the Eye of Terror, revealed their true, dual nature; their flesh and Ceramite fused as their bodies warped into new, bestial forms. This marked the Gal Vorbak as the first of the Possessed Chaos Space Marines who would become increasingly common amongst many of the other Traitor Legions. The Gal Vorbak resumed the normal forms of Space Marines again at the end of the conflict, though the battle had proven costly and only six of their number had survived taking on a Primarch in battle to continue to fight in the service of Chaos throughout the rest of the Horus Heresy. The remaining members of the Gal Vorbak became the most feared unit in the Word Bearers Traitor Legion after the end of the Heresy.
- Vakrah Jal - Thousands of the Gal Vorbak were left to die, alone and unsupported, on the surface of the devastated world of Calth when First Chaplain Erebus fled the infamous conflict later known as the Battle of Calth that the Word Bearers had fought against their hated rivals the Ultramarines on that benighted planet. Argel Tal, the Crimson Lord, was the sole surviving original member of the Gal Vorbak, having been seconded to the World Eaters Legion for temporary duty before the Word Bearers' assault on Calth. Argel Tal forsook his oaths to the annihilated Serrated Suns Chapter and gained permission from his Primarch Lorgar to form a newly constituted formation, known as the Vakrah Jal, the Chapter of Consecrated Iron, who rose from the ashes of Word Bearers companies devastated on the killing fields of Istvaan V.
- The Ashen Circle - The Ashen Circle was a unique formation created for a unique purpose; the destruction of a world's original culture, learning and faith. Serving alongside the Word Bearers' Legion Destroyer Squads, the Legionaries of the Ashen Circle were members of the Legion's original Iconoclast faction, charged beyond the battlefield with hunting down works of false doctrine and those who purveyed it, consigning both to destruction and eradicating flame. On the battlefield, they were tasked with seeking out those things which gave the foe the heart and courage to fight: charismatic leaders, priests, battle flags and champions. Once singled out, they were dragged down with the hook-blades of the Ashen Circle Astartes' axe-rakes and destroyed with brutal fervour, often far in advance of their own lines in order to do so, with no thought as to their own survival.
- The Annunake - "Annunake" is a Colshisian term which means alternatively "Princely Sons" or "Judges of Hell", and was used within the Word Bearers Legion to denote those Legionaries granted the honour of continuing their service within the armoured shell of a Dreadnought.
- Mhara Gal - First encountered during the Battle of Ithraca amidst the catastrophe on Calth, the twisted form of the Mhara Gal Tainted Dreadnought is terrifying in both its aspect and its unearthly power. The first Mhara Gal is believed to have been created from the barely living remains of a Gal Vorbak Dark Brethren and a battle-shattered Contemptor Dreadnought chassis, both recovered from the blood-soaked ground of Istvaan V. Fused together by unholy practices, they were then corrupted by a warp-borne power, giving birth to a new monstrosity -- a living engine of war and hatred. The Word Bearers Mhara Gal Tainted Dreadnought is a fearsome opponent in battle. Wielding a warpfire plasma cannon and tainted power claw, it is formidable both at range and in close combat, its blows slicing through armour and energy fields alike. Its warp-twisted reactor and the daemonic powers gifted to it by dark forces make it all the more deadly, even breaking the bonds of reality around the Mhara Gal to allow it to walk through obstacles as if they were not there at all.
After their corruption by the Ruinous Powers, the Word Bearers alone amongst the Traitor Legions maintained a facsimile of their former discipline and faith in the wake of the Horus Heresy. Word Bearers do not worship the Chaos Gods individually. Instead, the Word Bearers venerate and regard them as a collective Dark Pantheon of Chaos Gods, placing their faith in the concept of Chaos Undivided. The Sons of Lorgar view those who limit their worship to a single Chaos God with contempt and are partially at odds with the Emperor's Children because of both their decadence and their devotion to Slaanesh alone. The Word Bearers often rely on summoned daemons as shock troops, "meat-shields," and to form the bulk of their armies. Their elite Chaos Space Marines are used to accomplish vital tasks. The Word Bearers have been known to maintain large numbers of Chaos Cultists in their forces, and have used cultists and insurgents in their assaults since the Great Crusade. However, unlike the Alpha Legion, the primary use of Chaos Cultists for the Word Bearers is only as cannon fodder and distractions.
The Word Bearers are notable for being the only Traitor Legion who still have a corps of Chaplains, now known instead as Dark Apostles. The Word Bearers follow the words of their Dark Apostles with total faith in battle. The Dark Apostles divine through many ways how a battle is to be fought and won, and the warriors of the Host of Lorgar obey unquestioningly. Before battle, the Word Bearers gather in ritual prayer, chanting hymns and cult doctrine to affirm their faith in the power of Chaos Undivided. Often these chants will be answered and it is common for the Word Bearers to fight alongside daemonic entities.
A core group of the most dedicated and powerful Dark Apostles within the Legion make up an evil priesthood known as the Dark Council. This elite cadre is the main ruling body of the Legion at present, enforcing the will of their Daemon Primarch Lorgar and the Chaos Gods. They rule from their immense cathedral-fortress known as the Basilica of the Word upon the Daemon World of Sicarus, located deep within the Eye of Terror. They rule the Legion in the absence of their Primarch, who has isolated himself for 10,000 Terran years in meditation within the Temple Inficioto seek enlightenment and communion with the Ruinous Powers.
Before their fall from grace, it is recorded that the Word Bearers were not considered particularly different from the organisation of the other Astartes Legions, apart from the unusual number of zealous brothers who served as Chaplains. Outside of their Legion, the Word Bearers' current organisation is not known or understood by Imperial savants. Before the Horus Heresy, the Word Bearers Legion, like many of their fellow Space Marine Legions, were sub-divided into Chapters. A full Chapter consisted of 1,000 Astartes, sub-divided into 10 companies, each 100 strong and led by officers designated as Captains. It has also been noted that not all Chapters consisted of the standard 10 companies of 100 Astartes each. The Serrated Sun Chapter, for example, seems to have consisted of only 3 companies which each originally comprised 100 Astartes. The order of the numbered companies in these Chapters is non-linear. For example, the Serrated Sun Chapter includes the 7th, 15th and 37th Companies of the Legion. Other Chapters are known to have possessed 20 or more companies. Despite being part of the greater Word Bearers Legion, every Chapter has its own cultural traditions and its own role within Lorgar's "Word." Furthermore, each Chapter has its own iconography, symbology, and specific tactical role within the Legion, giving each their own distinct appearance. Four of these Chapters remain known to the Imperium today, bearing these logos:
- A quill with a drop of blood at the nib
- An open hand with an eye in the palm
- A burning book
- A sceptre crowned with a skull
Known Chapters of the XVII Legion
- Chapter of the Coiled Lash - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
- Chapter of the Crescent Moon - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
- Chapter of the Iron Veil - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The Iron Veil's Chapter badge was a face, pale against a dark background, shaped as a sorrowful masquerade mask.
- Chapter of the Opening Eye - The Chapter of the Opening Eye was commanded by Chapter Master Faerskarel. Nothing is known about this Chapter in Imperial records.
- Chapter of the Osseous Throne - The Osseus Throne Chapter iconography is that of a makeshift throne comprised of skulls with a golden flame burning behind it. The Chapter of the Osseous Throne specilised in infantry wave attacks.
- Chapter of the Void - The Chapter of the Void was commanded by Chapter Master Tenaebron. The Chapter of the Void was probably the least respected amongst the Chapters of the Word Bearers Legion for it was by far the smallest, with less than 700 Astartes. There was little glory in its history, since it was used as a reserve force that enacted its missions behind the front line. This dishonourable purpose fell to the Void and Chapter Master Tenaebron. The Void's Master did not complain, for he knew that his Chapter's true role was to create and test new weapons and tactics for the rest of the Legion. Lorgar ordered Tenebron to also concern himself with the exploitation of the Word Bearers' psychic resources.
- Asps of the Sacred Sands - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The Asps of the Sacred Sands' Chapter badge was a red palm print.
- Burning Hand Chapter - The Burning Hand Chapter was commanded by Chapter Master Deinos. In keeping with the name of his Chapter, Deinos's gauntlets were permanently wreathed in flames from gas jets built into his vambraces. Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
- Crimson Mask Chapter - The Crimson Mask Chapter was commanded by Chapter Master Rukis. The Battle-Brothers of the Crimson Mask were known to have the faceplate of their helmets wrought to resemble fearsome red-skinned, snarling daemons.
- Ebony Serpent Chapter - The Ebony Serpent Chapter was commanded by Chapter Master Skolinthos. Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
- Exalted Gate Chapter - The Exalted Gate Chapter was commanded by Chapter Master Ungol Shax. Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The Exalted Gate's Chapter badge was a portcullis or gate.
- Flayed Hand Chapter - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth.
- Graven Star Chapter - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The Graven Stars' Chapter badge was the Octed or Star of Chaos.
- Perpetual Spiral Chapter - The Perpetual Spiral Chapter had a proud and illustrious history dating back to the time of their precursors, the Imperial Heralds. Garrisoning worlds brought to compliance by the Legion became the primary function of the Perpetual Spiral, though this was said to have displeased Silak, who saw such a task as lacking in martial honour. Nevertheless, it was a role at which they excelled, and the Chapter was praised by the Primarch Lorgar Aurelian on many occasions. The Chapter was later attached to the 47th Expeditionary Fleet, during which time it led the final assault upon the world designated Forty-Seven Sixteen. It was later after this compliance action that the Primarch took a special interest in Captain Sor Talgron, Lorgar decreed that the captain would lead almost half of the Perpetual Spiral back to the Solar System, ostensibly taking his 34th Company to garrison Terra in the name of the XVII Legion. More astute Imperial Remembrancers noted that the move was likely to be politically motivated -- Sor Talgron, already noted for his disregard of the Legion's excessive reverence of the Emperor, was living proof that the Word Bearers had taken to heart the concerns expressed so forcefully at Monarchia. Though these Legionaries presented an officious face to Imperial commanders, in reality they were secretly committing acts of sabotage entrusted to Talgron by Lorgar himself. The Perpetual Spiral Chapter's badge is a flaming spiral.
- Quillborn - The Quillborn were so named because their traditions emphasized their birth, created in the laboratories and Apothecarions of Colchis. They believed themselves to be written into existence, born as syllables of the Word. A dedicated naval formation, the Quillborn were true marines, fighting ship-to-ship, completely at home battling through the cramped structure of a starship. The Quillborn's Chapter badge was a quill with a drop of blood at its base.
- Serrated Sun Chapter - The Serrated Suns Chapter's iconography is that of a golden sun, centered on a black lozenge, on a field of maroon. The Serrated Suns Chapter accompanied Lorgar during his Pilgrimage. The Serrated Suns was ultimately lost to the predations of the first Imperial expedition known to ever enter the chaotic eddies of the Eye of Terror and treat with the Ruinous Powers and their daemonic servants directly some forty standard years before the start of the Horus Heresy. The survivors of the Serrated Sun would become the infamous Gal Vorbak, the first known Possessed Chaos Space Marines. The Serrated Sun Chapter's specialty was tactical drop strikes.
- The Broken Scythe - The Broken Scythe Chapter's iconography is that of a broken black-coloured scythe centered on a maroon coloured circle. This Chapter's specialty was infrastructure reduction.
- The Inscribed - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The warriors of the Inscribed were known to decorate their armour with gold runes -- sigils representing various concepts of Chaos on a background of arterial red.
- The Star of Judgement - The Star of Judgement Chapter's icon was a crimson-coloured gauntlet wielding a mace, centered on a crimson-coloured gardbrace, painted with flames. This Chapter's specialty was scorched earth assaults. The Star of Judgement bore a mantle of dark renown within the Word Bearers, and were deployed only to those war zones where it was deemed that the populace of a world did not deserve the honour of Imperial Compliance. At Istvaan V, the full arsenal of proscribed toxic munitions available to the Star of Judgement was utilised against the unsuspecting Loyalists of the assault's first wave during the Drop Site Massacre.
- The Tri-Fold Crown - The Tri-Fold Crown's symbol was a cracked bleached skull with flames wreathing its head like a crown. The Tri-Fold Crown Chapter's specialty was attritional warfare.
- The Unspeaking - Nothing is known about this Chapter's particular function or specialty. It was said that the Word Bearers of this Chapter were warrior-sages to match any others, stilling their tongues with proud oaths of silence. To honour their masters, the Unspeaking's oath-sworn serfs would ritually mutilate and remove their tongues. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth.
- Twisting Rune Chapter - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty. This Chapter was wiped out during the Underworld War that took place after the end of the formal Battle of Calth. The Twisting Rune's Chapter symbol was a mangled Chaotic sigil of eldritch power.
Specialty Ranks and Units
- Dark Apostle - The Dark Apostles are the corrupted Chaplains of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion, who gleefully redirected the Legion's fanatical zeal from preaching the divinity of the God-Emperor to howling the praises of Chaos. They serve as the spiritual and overall leaders for their own Word Bearers Host. In battle they are skilled demagogues, able to exhort their followers to greater acts of bravery and depravity; enemy commanders have often found out to their cost that the only way to truly blunt an attack by such fanatics is to either remove the Apostle, or destroy each and every Word Bearer facing them. Their strategies sometimes border on psychic prescience.
- First Acolyte - The First Acolyte serves as an apprentice to a Dark Apostle and will inherit a portion of the Host when the Dark Apostle and the Dark Council see fit to allow it. There are only three ways for a First Acolyte to become the Dark Apostle of his own Host: to wait for the current Dark Apostle to die in battle, to be elected as the new Dark Apostle by the Dark Council on the Daemon World of Sicarus or for the First Acolyte to kill the Dark Apostle himself and await the Dark Council's appointment as the new Dark Apostle. In any case, the Acolyte will need the Dark Council's blessings to become a Dark Apostle.
- Coryphaus - The largest known Host of the Word Bearers numbered over 2000 Chaos Space Marines at its peak. The size of this force required that the Dark Apostle be served by two chief lieutenants, his First Acolyte and a Chaos Champion called the Coryphaus. A symbolic title, this position was only granted to the most trusted and capable warrior leaders and strategos within a Host. The Coryphaus served as the Dark Apostle's senior war captain and the voice of the congregation. A Coryphaus served as an intermediary between the Dark Apostle and his Host, expressing his master's moods and opinions by leading them through the chanted responses and antiphons in ceremonies and rituals. This allows the Dark Apostle to be seen primarily as a spiritual rather than a martial figure. Furthermore, the Coryphaus is essentially the Host's military commander on the ground and is responsible for making the majority of the tactical decisions on the battlefield, freeing the Dark Apostle to commune with the dark powers, fuel the hatred of the Host and ponder more strategic matters.
- War Host - Each Dark Apostle enforces a strict regime of worship of the Ruinous Powers upon their fellow Word Bearers and are also highly likely to be found leading the elements of the Legion in battle. Each Dark Apostle is gifted a warband of his own, known as a War Host or often, simply a Host. The numbers vary, with the smallest typical size for a Word Bearers Host roughly analogous to that of a standard Space Marine company of 100 Astartes, and the largest exceeding the manpower of a full Space Marine Chapter of 1,000 Astartes. The organisational make-up of each Host differs wildly as well, and can change depending on the whims of the Dark Apostle that leads it. Often they will suddenly alter the hierarchy of their Host for reasons known only to themselves. These changes can result in seemingly unwieldy or tactically inflexible formations. The Word Bearers themselves accept these changes without question. The most commonly occurring structure for a Word Bearers Host is that roughly equating to a Space Marine company, with the Host broken down into units or squads of about 12 Traitor Marines. Each is commanded by a Chaos Champion of the Word Bearers who strives to become as devout a war leader as the Dark Apostle in the hope of one day being chosen to succeed him on the occasion of his death. The Word Bearers then march into battle beneath their standards, bellowing catechisms of hatred at their foe as drums beat out a dolorous thunder. The relentless advance of the Word Bearers is a terrifying sight, as the monotonous chant and beat of drums can break even the strongest will. The unshakable belief of the Word Bearers in the truth of Chaos and their cause has seen them marching into certain death, yet unwilling to take a single step backwards. A battle ends either in victory or the utter destruction of the Word Bearer Host.
- The Anointed - The Anointed are the most favoured warriors within the Word Bearers Traitor Legion and are an elite cult within the broader Legion. The Anointed wear fully enclosed, ancient suits of Terminator Armour. Each suit is a relic of holy significance, as to don this armour is considered a great religious honour. Once a warrior-brother entered the ranks of the Anointed, he is a member for life, and with lifespans extended indefinitely through a combination of their Astartes conditioning, bio-enhancement and the warping power of the Chaos Gods, the Anointed were only replaced on the rare occasion that one of their number fell in battle. Many of them had fought alongside older members of the Legion and their holy Daemon Primarch Lorgar at the great siege of the Imperial Palace during the closing days of the Horus Heresy in the Battle of Terra. Unsurpassed warriors with the hearts of true fanatics, the cult of the Anointed had won countless battles for the Legion. Their glories were sung in the flesh-halls within the temples of Sicarus, and their deeds recounted in the grimoire historicals housed in the finest scriptorums of Ghalmek. Additionally, a Host often possesses an Icon Bearer and an elite unit of The Anointed, consisting of over 200 Chaos Terminators. It is also common for Anointed warriors to accompany important figures within the host, such as the Coryphaus or First Acolyte.
Legion Combat Doctrine
The Word Bearers follow the words of their Dark Apostles with utter loyalty and faith in battle, and they in turn interpret the will of Lorgar by many and varied means. The means to win a battle may be contained within the entrails of a particular captive, a particular alignment of the stars or the pattern of cast bones. The Dark Apostles decree how the battle is to be fought and the warriors of the Host obey unquestioningly. Before battle, the Word Bearers gather in ritual prayer, chanting blasphemous hymns and forbidden doctrines to affirm their faith in the power of Chaos. Often these chants will be answered and it is common for the Word Bearers to fight alongside hideous daemonic entities that have made diabolical pacts with the Dark Apostles.
The Word Bearers then raise their damned standards high and march into battle beneath cursed icons, bellowing catechisms and canticles of hatred at their foe as hideous drums beat out a dolorous thunder. The relentless advance of the Word Bearers is a terrifying sight, as the monotonous chant and beat of drums can break even the strongest will. The night before battle, the enemy can hear dark mutterings emanating from all around, echoed in the pounding drums, stretching the nerve and instilling every man with fear. The unshakable belief of the Word Bearers that they alone can save the galaxy and Mankind has seen them marching towards certain death, yet unwilling to take a single step backwards. Any victory won over the Word Bearers is only won at a terrible cost, as their fanatical attacks will only ever end when all are dead.
Colchis was once a technologically advanced world that regressed to a feudal state during the Age of Strife. The arrival of Lorgar brought with it both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it brought the world into the fold of the Imperium, a curse because his arrival signed the planet's death warrant many hundreds of years later. Under Lorgar's brief rule the planet prospered, but when the Emperor came to Colchis and put Lorgar in command of the Word Bearers, those he left behind allowed the world to fall into decline. When the Ultramarines took the fight to Colchis, they found a devastated world, its industry in ruins and its people clinging desperately to civilisation. Given Lorgar's treachery, the Inquisition ordered the planet to be cleansed and the Ultramarines Battle Barge Octavius bombarded Colchis with Cyclonic Torpedoes. The geological structure of Colchis was highly unstable and the resultant seismic activity split the planet apart. Nothing now remains of Colchis and where it once existed is still a closely guarded secret of the Inquisition.
The Word Bearers currently reside on the Daemon World of Sicarus within the Eye of Terror. Beneath churning clouds of pendulant fire and blood the surface of Sicarus is covered by massive temples, towering cathedrals and blasphemous monuments dedicated to the worship of the Chaos Gods. Millions of slaves toil endlessly in the construction and raising of new structures and monuments of dark devotion. New levels are built upon existing crumbling edifices which results in towering spires that reach kilometres into the foreboding sky. This results in the creation of the sprawling subterranean warren of labyrinthine passages that interconnect the various devotional structures. From this daemon planet, the Word Bearers Dark Council, a collection of the Word Bearers Legion's most powerful Dark Apostles, is the main ruling body that leads the XVII Legion in the absence of their Daemon Primarch, who has isolated himself in meditation for millennia within the Templum Inficio. The seat of the Dark Council is located within the immense cathedral-fortress known as the Basilica of the Word. This structure is crowned with hundreds of five kilometre high barbed spires, each studded with jagged spikes, upon which are impaled countless living sacrifices.
The Legion also maintains control of the daemonic Forge World of Ghalmek deep within the Maelstrom Warp Storm, which is ruled over by Kor Phaeron and serves as a base for the Legion to launch raids against Imperial worlds in the eastern regions of the galaxy.
Rooted in the beliefs of Lorgar himself, the Word Bearers are the heralds of a terrible new age for Mankind of religious servitude to the Chaos Gods. Only united behind the teachings of these divinities and offering the obeisance that they require can the masses of humanity be saved from the perils of alien menace, Imperial tyranny and internal schism. There is only one power in the galaxy worthy of such submission, and that is the dark majesty of Chaos, which was discovered by Lorgar on his infamous pilgramage after the extermination of the capital of Khur. Each warrior of the Word Bearers is a missionary bringing the darkness of Chaos with them, preaching the one true faith to those that will hear it and exterminating those who will not. Their belief is simple: tread the path of Chaos Undivided or die. The word Bearers hold the Book of Lorgar as their most sacred text and the foundation of any faith in Chaos. They often inscribe heretical passages from this unholy tome upon their Power Armour, and will provide copies of it to every world they assault in order to spread the message of the Urizen and convert more of Mankind to the service of the Dark Gods. It is also common for passages from the Book of Lorgar to be read by Dark Apostles on the battlefield, propelling the warriors of the Word Bearers Legion onward, no matter the odds against them.
The gene-seed of the Word Bearers was originally thought to be pure, but events subsequent to the Horus Heresy revealed the weaknesses inherent in their genetic make-up. The Space Marines of the Word Bearers displayed a marked tendency towards dogged, unquestioning belief and stubbornness that verged on insanity during the Great Crusade. Since the end of the Horus Heresy, their gene-seed has become corrupted and mutated beyond any hope of redemption by constant exposure to the energies of the Warp and the Word Bearers' original negative personality traits have been magnified to hideous proportions. The Word Bearers do not display a particular tendency towards mutation, though those who are gifted with such "blessings" of Chaos are much favoured amongst their Host.
Notable Word Bearers
- Lorgar - Lorgar, also once called Lorgar Aurelian and the Urizen before the Horus Heresy, is a Daemon Prince of Chaos Undivided and the former Primarch of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion. Lorgar spent his entire life determined to uplift humanity through a deep belief in the divine. Once the Emperor of Mankind rejected his attempts at worship, Lorgar discovered new gods, the Ruinous Powers of Chaos, who he beleived were more worthy of his devotion during his infamous Pilgrimage. He was the first Primarch of the Space Marine Legions to fall to the corruption of Chaos before the Horus Heresy and it was he who ordered the corruption of the Warmaster Horus. He and what remains of the XVII Legion can today be found on the Daemon World of Sicarus within the Eye of Terror, where the Word Bearers have maintained far more unity of purpose than any of the other Traitor Legions.
- Kor Phaeron - Kor Phaeron was the First Captain and Black Cardinal (High Priest) of the Word Bearers Legion. He served as a spiritual counsel and foster father during the years of Lorgar's youth on the Word Bearers' homeworld of Colchis, before Lorgar was rediscovered by the Imperium. It was Kor Phaeron's influence and continuing devotion to the Colchisian Old Faith -- a faith dedicated to the Dark Gods -- that corrupted his Primarch and the XVII Legion into repudiating their oaths to the Emperor of Mankind and becoming willing pawns of Chaos.
- Erebus - Erebus held the prestigious position of First Chaplain of the Word Bearers Legion during the end of the Great Crusade in the early 31st Millennium. He was a fearsome and intimidating Astartes warrior and wore tattoos depicting sections of the Book of Lorgar across his shaven scalp to terrify his enemies. Erebus was the first of the Space Marines to knowingly turn to Chaos and he was personally responsible for corrupting Lorgar, Horus and the Death Guard's First Captain Calas Typhon to the worship and service of Chaos. He is presently one of the ruling Dark Apostles of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion and has an ongoing but subtle war with Kor Phaeron for control of the XVII Legion's direction.
- Ekodas - Word Bearers Grand Apostle. Kor Phaeron, in his role as Black Cardinal of the Word Bearers' Chaotic faith, bestowed the title of Grand Apostle upon Ekodas, who served as the senior-most member of the ruling Dark Council of the Legion after the end of the Heresy. However, he was also a secret member of The Brotherhood -- a clandestine, internal sect within the Word Bearers Legion that had been formed at three different periods during the Legion's history to maintain the Word Bearers' theological purity. Primarch Lorgar had ordered its formation on two separate occasions during the purging of the Covenant and the old religion on Colchis before the coming of the Emperor of Mankind to that world. The second occasion was after the Pilgrimage of Lorgar during the Great Crusade when Lorgar had first gained knowledge of Chaos. With the realisation that the Chaos Gods were the true divinities of the universe came Lorgar's understanding that the Old Faith, the ancient religious beliefs of the people of Colchis that he had swept away, were true. The Old Gods, not the flawed Emperor, were the only powers that Lorgar believed were worthy of the Word Bearers' faith and worship. With the second reformation of The Brotherhood, the ranks of the XVII Legion were purged of all Terran-born Loyalists, leaving only those Astartes native to Colchis -- and thus loyal solely to Lorgar -- behind. In the latter part of the 41st Millennium, Kor Phaeron ordered The Brotherhood's formation a third time in order to overthrow the Dark Apostle Erebus, whom the First Captain felt had too much sway with the will of the Dark Council. Ekodas later led the Word Bearers' assault against the Boros Gate System but was killed by the Grey Knights Space Marine Chapter before his duplicity could be revealed. In battle, Ekodas was able to use incredibly powerful psychic abilities through his unshakeable faith in Chaos Undivided. Ekodas led the 7th Host, successfully leading an unholy crusade of retribution upon the Black Consuls, which succeeded in almost wiping that Successor Chapter of the hated Ultramarines from the galaxy.
- Ankh-Heloth - Ankh-Heloth was the Dark Apostle who led the 11th Host. Ankh-Heloth had risen to the esteemed position of Dark Apostle under dubious circumstances. While it was the Council of Sicarus that had instated Ankh-Heloth as the First Acolyte of the 11th Host, this was only at Grand Apostle Ekodas’ insistence. Less than a decade later, Ankh-Heloth ascended to the position of Dark Apostle after his predecessor was killed under circumstances engineered, many believed, by Ekodas. Ankh-Heloth did not garner much respect from his fellow Dark Apostles of the Dark Council, many of whom regarded him as "Edokas's whipping boy."
- Belagosa - Dark Apostle of the 30th Host, Belagosa was a tall and gaunt figure. In an act of devout faith, Belagosa clawed out his own eyes centuries ago. Nevertheless, he was still able to turn his head towards the direction of those that spoke to him, his empty eye sockets still far from blind, which bled red tears down his cheeks as a gift from the Dark Gods for his devotion.
- Eliphas the Inheritor - Dark Apostle, leader of the Dark Crusade on Kronus in the late 41st Millennium where he was defeated and slain by the Blood Ravens Space Marines. He was resurrected by the will of the Dark Gods to gain his revenge upon the Blood Ravens and left the Word Bearers behind to ally himself with the Black Legion following his return to life.
- Jarulek (Deceased) - Dark Apostle, served as a former First Acolyte to the Dark Apostle known as The Warmonger during the Horus Heresy during the assault on the Emperor's Imperial Palace at the Battle of Terra. He later served as the Coryphaus to the First Captain Kor Phaeron. Through his extreme devotion to Chaos Undivided, furious passion and fiery oratory he brought countless millions into the truth of the Eight-Fold Path. Millions more who had chosen to remain ignorant and resistant to the true faith had been slain upon his orders. Jarulek was slain on the world of Tanakreg by an awakened Necron Lord after successfully recovering a potent artefact from the Necrons' stasis tomb.
- Marduk - Marduk was a Dark Apostle and the former First Acolyte of Jarulek. He was a member of The Brotherhood which eliminated all Word Bearers who failed to comply with the new direction of the Legion following the conversion of Lorgar to the service of the Chaos Gods, including all Terran-born Word Bearers. Marduk fought at Calth against the Ultramarines Legion during the Heresy and was elevated to the position of Dark Apostle and leader of the 34th Host following the death of his former master at the hands of a Necron Lord on the world of Tanakreg in the late 41st Millennium.
- Mothac - Mothac was a Dark Apostle who was encased within ensorcelled daemonic armour that was a gift of the Daemon Primarch Lorgar. He was the keeper of the forbidden tome known as The Dark Creed, a thick book bound in the skin of fallen Ultramarines. This book contained the holy writings of Lorgar after the Horus Heresy and the Legion's flight to Sicarus.
- Paristur - Paristur was a Dark Apostle who was known for his shrewdness and savagery. He had killed the Blood Angels Chaplain Aristedes in single combat on the walls of the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra in the closing days of the Horus Heresy.
- Sarabdal - Dark Apostle of the 18th Host. Within the elite ranks of the cadre known as the Dark Council, Dark Apostle Sarabdal had led his Host the longest. Sarabdal had been groomed to become the Dark Apostle of the 18th Host by none other than Lorgar himself. Raised in the scriptorums of Colchis, Sarabdal had been little more than a child when he had taken part in the brutal Schism Wars that fractured the Covenant, the dominant religious order of that Feudal World before the arrival of the Emperor. Impressed with the youngster’s religious fanaticism for his new faith and fiery demeanour, Lorgar had taken the boy under his wing and once reunited with his Legion after the Imperial takeover of Colchis, had personally chosen Sarabdal as one of the first Colchisian natives to join the Word Bearers. Few Dark Apostles garnered more respect than Sarabdal. Other Dark Apostles even bowed at his venerable presence.
- Sor Talgron, The Warmonger - Dark Apostle, Sor Talgron served as the Captain of the 34th Company during the Great Crusade. He took part in bringing Forty-Seven Sixteen into Imperial Compliance. He was stationed on Terra during the Horus Heresy. Known to have worn Terminator Armour with a Chaplain's Skull Helm. Fought at the walls of the Emperor's Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra. Eventually rose to the esteemed rank of Dark Apostle. Was mortally wounded in battle and interred within a Chaos Dreadnought and has managed to retain most of his sanity through the willpower instilled by his dark faith, though at times his hold on reality slips, and he believes he is once against fighting alongside his Primarch during the Horus Heresy.
- Zardu Layak - Known as the "Thrice-Born," "The Binder of Souls," and "The Voice of the Unspeaking," Zardu Layak's true name is now lost, but it is recorded in his Legion's lore that he was once an officer of the Ashen Circle, a Terran by birth, and a devout destroyer of all that pertained to false superstition and errant creed. He oversaw the burning of a hundred temples and countless tomes of lies in the Emperor's service. That was until the Word Bearer's brutal censure by their ultimate master. As Lorgar led his Legion into the wilderness after their punishment on Monarchia, Layak was contrite and ashamed, soul-sick and lost, and quickly a fervent convert to Erebus' and Lorgar's new teachings in which he sought solace, but even this did not fill the terrible void within him. So it was that when he began to receive visions in which he believed his Primarch spoke to him directly, he concealed them from others for fear his shame had driven him mad. In those visions the golden-skinned apparition of Lorgar bade him to reconsider his work, not to burn the books and lore he encountered, but to read them, covet them, to search in them for the hidden truths that the Emperor had not wished his sons to know. Word upon word, rune upon rune, glyph upon glyph was a new creature born, a creature who named himself from the Book of Lorgar, using the ancient practice of Sorrilege, as Zardu Layak, "Eater of Wisdom", but who came to be known as the Crimson Apostle.
- Garand - A Chaos Warmaster, Garand was a mighty warrior and formidable psyker. He served under Captain Jerulek during the Great Crusade at the battle of Fortrea Quintus, revelling in the slaughter of the planet's population. He rose through the ranks of the Word Bearers Legion and eventually became the Witch-Prince of Helicia. He went on to earn the esteemed rank of Warmaster with command of over a thousand Hosts.
- Chapter Master Deinos - Deinos commanded the Word Bearers Legion's Burning Hand Chapter. In keeping with the name of his Chapter, Deinos's gauntlets were permanently wreathed in flames from gas jets built into his vambraces.
- Chapter Master Faerskarel - Commanded the Opening Eye Chapter.
- Chapter Master Rukis - Commanded the Crimson Mask Chapter. Like all Astartes of his Chapter, Rukis wore a helm whose faceplate was wrought to resemble a fearsome red-skinned snarling creature or daemon.
- Chapter Master Skolinthos - Commanded the Ebony Serpent Chapter. Skolinthos's oesophagus had been crushed in the early years of the Great Crusade when it was still the Emperor whom the Word Bearers served above all others. His voice crackled sibilantly through a vocal synthesiser that had been installed on his chest.
- Chapter Master Tenaebron - Commanded the Chapter of the Void, the least respected Chapter amongst the Word Bearers Legion, which primarily used as a reserve force that enacted its missions behind the front line. His Chapter's true and hidden role was to create and test new weapons and tactics for the rest of the Legion as well as studying ways to exploit the Word Bearers' psychic resources.
- Kol Harekh - Kol Harekh was the Coryphaus of Grand Apostle Ekodas.
The Graven Star Chapter
- Hol Beloth - One of the most prominent and certainly the most ambitious of the field commanders of the Word Bearers Legion, Hol Beloth was a seasoned warrior and a decorated veteran of his Legion's lightning swift Compliance campaign in the years after their censure. This was a period which saw the XVIIth Legion conquer more worlds in a confined period of time than any other, and Captain Hol Beloth, then a rising star within the ranks, was personally responsible for a score of broken and subjugated worlds. The flames of his ambition fanned further by the honeyed words of Erebus and his Dark Apostle Maloq Kartho, Hol Beloth took up a position of command at the forefront of the Word Bearers attack on Calth where he would meet his dark fate at last.
The Osseous Throne Chapter
- Ban Xisugal - Apothecary Ban Xisugal served with the Kigal Medicae Pact, detached to the 4th Drop Assault Company of the Word Bearers' Osseous Throne Chapter. He deployed along with almost two thousand other Apothecaries to the battlefields of the Urgall Depression during the Drop Site Massacre, a number far in excess of that indicated by standard Space Marine Legion doctrine. Apothecary Xisugal and his brethren plied their bloody craft amongst the Legionaries of the 4th Word Bearers Drop Assault Company, striking into trapped and unsuspecting Loyalist Imperial Army forces in the rear echelons. Despite the units they accompanied suffering few fatalities, further pict-captures from the battlefield indicate Xisugal and his Pact all ended the engagement with their Vas "Mortuis" and other gene-seed and casualty containment pods fully laden, most likely to add to the XVII Legion's growing forces.
7th Grand Company/Host
- Argel Tal - Captain of the 7th Assault Company of the Chapter of the Serrated Suns. After the Horus Heresy, Argel Tal became known as the Crimson Lord of the few remaining Gal Vorbak.
- Xaphen - Chaplain of the 7th Assault Company of the Chapter of the Serrated Suns.
- Nemur Ennat - Nemur Ennat was the Sub-Captain of the 5th Heavy Assault Company of the Serrated Suns Chapter. Ennat was originally attached to the command of First Captain Kor Phaeron, the powerful if often unpopular executive officer of the XVII Legion. Kor Phaeron transferred Ennat's company to the Serrated Suns Chapter to act as his eyes and ears within the Chapter that bore Lorgar's favour following their pilgrimage into the Eye of Terror. Though part of the Serrated Suns Chapter, the 5th Company were not Gal Vorbak, and during the fighting in the Urgall Depression atthe Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V, they were left isolated by the Gal Vorbaks' sudden departure after they transformed into their daemonic forms. The 5th Company soon found themselves surrounded by Raven Guard warriors attempting to force a breach in the Word Bearers' lines. Ennat himself was slain when a squadron of Iron Warriors' Typhon Heavy Siege Tanks began to lay down a punishing bombardment against the Raven Guard at his position, heedless of the casualties caused among their allies.
- Dagotal - Sergeant, Dagotal Outrider Squad
- Malnor - Sergeant, Malnor Assault Squad
- Torgal - Sergeant, Torgal Assault Squad
- Apis Merenkar - Apis Merenkar was a Legionary of the Nemarros Tactical Squad of the 7th Assault Company, Serrated Suns Chapter. Legionary Merenkar was amongst the Gal Vorbak deployed into the foothills on the Urgall Depression's right flank during the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V to oppose the Raven Guard's attempts to reach their waiting gunships. This area saw some of the battle's bloodiest fighting as the Primarch Corax scythed a path through the massed ranks of the Word Bearers to clear a path for his sons. Merenkar's unit was last sighted engaging several Raven Guard companies in a headlong charge, well ahead of the nearby Word Bearers Chapters. Evidence was later seized that his abandoned wargear was recovered from the battlefield by an Iron Warriors provender detachment, but no identifiable corpse was found for Merenkar or any member of his squad amongst the mounds of slain Raven Guard rent apart and strewn across the field.
- Eduhkar of the Annunake - During the Great Crusade, Eduhkar was widely lauded in Imperial battlegroup records for his heroism during the Sarapis Compliance against the monstrous xenos known as the Fra'al. As a result of irreparable wounds taken in the battles there, he was interred into a Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought chassis. He willingly followed his Primarch in the Word Bearers' descent into heresy and the worship of the Ruinous Powers. In the aftermath of the massacre on Istvaan V, Eduhkar's flame-scorched sarcophagus was found amongst the foothills of the Urgall Mountains, on the edge of the fighting where a small force of Salamanders had attempted to break through the encircling Traitors. His broken Dreadnought body was still locked in his final struggle with the ruins of a Salamanders Dreadnought, identified only by the legend "Dragon of Saraphis".
8th Grand Tactical Company/Host
- Grindis Vahn - Legionary Grindis Vahn served in Squad Ameshdun of the 8th Tactical Company of the Word Bearers' Sundered Tower Chapter, one of the largest and most prestigious of the Word Bearers Chapters which comprised eighteen separate companies designated as frontline tactical companies for the XVII Legion during the Great Crusade era. After the Legion's shaming on Khur and subsequent re-organisation, these companies appear to have been filled with the majority of those Terran recruits who still remained in the Chapter, placed under Colchisian officers of proven fervour and set to the hazardous spearhead of the Legion's future attacks. A Terran veteran, Legionary Vahn was one of the longest serving and most decorated line infantry Legionaries in the Word Bearers, having served since the Unification Wars. He was a member of the Sundered Tower Chapter and was deployed along with his squad as part of the Orichalan Subjugation in early 005.M31. Squad Ameshdun suffered near total casualties during the final confrontation between the massed ranks of the Sundered Tower and the Orichalan's war-simulcra, and while battle reports state that Legionary Vahn, though badly injured, survived the battle, there is no record of his assignment to one of the Chapter's many Apothecaries for treatment or his whereabouts afterwards.
18th Grand Company/Host
- Sarabdal - A native of Colchis, Sarabdal handpicked by Lorgar for his position within the XVII Legion.
34th Grand Company/Host
- Ashkanez - First Acolyte to Dark Apostle Marduk. Icon Bearer Burias Dark'Shal grew bitter and resentful at the elevation of First Acolyte Marduk to the position of Dark Apostle of the 34th Host. Expecting to rise in power with Marduk, Ashkanez was elevated instead to the position of First Acolyte. Seeing his resentment towards his former master, Ashkanez took advantage of Burias' spite and turned the Icon Bearer against Marduk. He then inducted him into the ranks of The Brotherhood, who were now composed of a high number of Word Bearers who were only loyal to Kor Phaeron. In a conspiracy to overthrow the Dark Apostle, The Brotherhood revealed their duplicity openly, following the Battle of Boros Gate, fighting Marduk and those loyal to him in a massive internecine battle. First Acolyte Ashkanez and his fellow co-conspirators were all annihilated.
- Burias Drak'Shal - Burias Drak'Shal was the Icon Bearer of the 34th Host. Burias had been born and raised in the monastery-prisons of Colchis but only indoctrinated into the Legion during the first great influx, once the old beliefs had been re-embraced wholeheartedly. He fought under the command of Dark Apostle Jarulek and later Marduk, being the latter's blood-sworn brother and closest ally. During the Horus Heresy he fought at Calth against the Word Bearers' most hated rivals, the Ultramarines. Known also as Burias Drak'Shal due to his joining his soul with that of a Daemon. When Marduk was elevated to the esteemed position of Dark Apostle of the 34th Host, Burias thought that he would be elevated as well. But Marduk had elevated Ashkanez to the position of First Acolyte of the Host instead. Bitter at this betrayal, Burias grew spiteful towards his former master. Seeking to prey upon this bitterness, Ashkanez fuelled Burias' anger towards Marduk and secretly inducted him into the ranks of The Brotherhood. This newest iteration of the secret sect of the Legion was composed of Word Bearers primarily loyal to Kor Phaeron. Eventually, Burias revealed his betrayal to Marduk and was mortally wounded in a massive battle between the factions by Kor Badar, the 34th Host's Coryphaus. After the annihilation of Burias's co-conspirators, the traitorous former Icon Bearer was sent to the Basilica of Torments to suffer accordingly for his transgressions. Not satisfied that the pain and torture Burias endured was punishment enough, Marduk came up with a most vile way of punishing his former follower. He had Burias entombed within The Warmonger's now empty Chaos Dreadnought sarcophagus. He then had the Dreadnought's limbs removed, entombing the traitor for all eternity within its Adamantium shell to slowly go insane.
- Kol Badar - Coryphaus of the 34th Host. Kol Badar was a very capable commander and formidable warrior, rising to the rank of Captain during the Great Crusade. He was instrumental in the assault upon the world of Forty-Seven Sixteen. He served under the Dark Apostle known as the Warmonger serving as his Coryphaus and continued to serve in this position under the subsequent Dark Apostle successors, Jarulek and then Marduk. Kol Badar harboured an extreme hatred for Marduk, whom through undisclosed circumstances, was responsible for the death of his closest blood-brother towards the beginning of the Horus Heresy. Kol Badar was known to have been a part of the Host that fought during the Battle of Terra. Known to wear an ornate suit of Terminator Armour with a horned helmet that sported the Blessed Horns of Colchis. His helmet's face plate is crafted in the likeness of a snarling bestial visage. He fights with a Combi-Bolter and an ancient clawed Power Fist. Kol Badar lead the elite cadre of Chaos Terminators known as The Annointed into battle.
- Arshaq - Sergeant
- Paeblen - Sergeant
- Bachari - Assault-Sergeant
- Aecton - Battle-Brother
- Khadmon - Battle-Brother
- Urhlon - Apothecary
- Sabtec - Chaos Champion of the 13th Coterie (Assault Squad) of the 34th Host. Sabtec played a pivotal role in the boarding action and successful capture of the White Consuls' Battle Barge Sword of Truth during the Word Bearers' Dark Crusade into the Boros System. He fought with a serrated Power Sabre, a potent weapon gifted to him personally by Erebus after the 13th Coterie's heroics upon the stinking Death World of Iagata VII. His Coterie had successfully brought down the defences of a war shrine of the Adepta Sororitas, ensuring a crushing victory against the hated Battle-Sisters holed up there. Every last Sister had been stripped of her armour and her flesh ritually debased before being staked out around the outskirts of the defiled shrine, the Sisters' bloodied forms affixed to crosses hammered into the earth. There they were left to perish, vast swarms of blood-sucking insects rising from the surrounding death-marshes and descending upon them, their screams music to the Word Bearers' ears.
- Khalaxis - Exalted Champion of the 17th Coterie (Assault Squad) of the 34th Host. Khalixis presented a savage appearance -- his cheeks were always carved with fresh cuts by his own ritual blade, and he wore his mane of hair in thick dreadlocks which swung wildly as he hurled himself, roaring in hatred, at the enemy. The 17th Coterie were brutal warriors, always the first into any engagement, and invariably the last to be extracted. These savage berserkers wore the grisly trophies of those they had defeated around their waists. Their shoulder plates were draped with skins ripped from the corpses of powerful enemies they had overcome in personal combat; it was an old Colchisian belief that by donning the flesh of powerful defeated enemies, you were able to harness a portion of their strength. While the Word Bearers as a Legion worshipped Chaos in all its glory, Khalaxis and his brood had a tendency to gravitate towards the sole worship of Khorne, the Bloodied One, the Skull Taker, the brazen god of destruction and brutality. For the most part Marduk overlooked this failing, as had his predecessor Jarulek, merely for the fact that this Assault Squad were such devastating shock troops, and that their pre-battle blood-rituals honouring Khorne lent them unmatched fury and savagery.
Known Word Bearers Daemon Princes
- Kor Megron, the Reaper of Rhodax - Daemon Prince from the Word Bearers Traitor Legion. During the Great Crusade, Kor Megron was known as a brave and formidable warrior who brought many glories to the Imperium. Following the defeat of Warmaster Horus and the failure of the Horus Heresy, Megron swore eternal allegiance to the Ruinous Powers. Upon the Cathedral World of Rhodax he fought the forces of the Imperium, and through his dark, unflinching devotion to the Chaos Gods, he was rewarded with daemonhood.
- M'kar the Reborn - Daemon Prince of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion. He was once the Dark Apostle Maloq Kartho. During the Horus Heresy he took part in the attack on the hated Ultramarines on the world of Calth, where he was eventually slain by Captain Ventanus who used a small flint dagger known as the Shard of Erebus. Rewarding his dark devotion to the Chaos Gods for the blood slaughter he wreaked on Calth, Kartho was resurrected as a Daemon Prince named M'kar the Reborn. He has been a great bane to the Imperium of Man for over ten millennia.
- Periclitor the Foresworn - Daemon Prince from the Word Bearers Traitor Legion. In 220.M38, Periclitor became the root cause of long-standing enmity between himself and the Howling Griffons Space Marine Chapter after the brutal slaying and desecration of their former Chapter Master Orlando Furioso on the eve of the 5,000th anniversary of the Chapter's Founding.
Known Word Bearers of the Furious Abyss
- Zadkiel - Fleet Captain of the Furious Abyss.
- Baelanos - Assault-Captain of the Furious Abyss.
- Ikthalon - Brother-Chaplain of the Furious Abyss.
- Reskiel - Sergeant-Commander of the Furious Abyss.
- Malforian - Weapon Master of the Furious Abyss.
During the Horus Heresy the Word Bearers Legion fleet was known to have possessed the following vessels:
- Fidelitas Lex (Gloriana-class Battleship) - Flagship of the Word Bearer's Primarch, Lorgar Aurelian and the XVII Legion. The Fidelitas Lex was destroyed by the Ultramarines during the Shadow Crusade at the Purge of Nuceria.
- Anarchus (Battleship, Unknown Class) - Commanded by Dark Apostle Ankh-Heloth.
- Dominus Violatus (Battleship, Unknown Class) - Part of the Word Bearers' Legion's 7th Host.
- Kamiel (Battleship, Unknown Class)
- Lorgar's Spite (Battleship, Unknown Class)
- Dark Chorus (Desolator-class Battleship)
- Crucius Maledictus (Infernus-class Battleship) - Commanded by Grand Apostle Ekodas. Before the Heresy this ship was known as the Flame of Purity. Its name was changed once the Word Bearers made their loyalty to Chaos known openly. The Crucius Maledictus was heavily damaged after combat with the Loyalist White Scars Legion.
- Flame of Purity (Infernus-class Battleship)
- Furious Abyss (Abyss-class Battleship) - Commanded by Fleet Captain and Dark Apostle Zadkiel. Active during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy. The Furious Abyss was ultimately destroyed by a small group of Loyalists who sabotaged it from within before it could be brought to bear against the hated Ultramarines at the Battle of Calth, possibly preventing that battle from becoming a complete defeat for the Loyalists.
- Blessed Lady (Abyss-class Battleship) - Sister-ship to the Furious Abyss that was secretly built under the direction of Lorgar. Active during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy.
- Trisagion (Abyss-class Battleship) - Sister-ship to the Furious Abyss that was secretly built under the direction of Lorgar. Active during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy. The Trisagion became the new flagship of the Primarch Lorgar following the destruction of the Fidelitas Lex at the Purge of Nuceria.
- Baithamir's Sword (Battle Barge)
- Castigator (Battle Barge)
- De Profundis (Battle Barge)
- Destiny's Hand (Battle Barge) - Commanded by First Chaplain Erebus.
- Dies Mortis (Battle Barge) - Commanded by Dark Apostle Belagosa.
- Infidus Imperator (Battle Barge) - Commanded by First Captain Kor Phaeron.
- Mortisis Majesticatus (Battle Barge) (Destroyed) - Commanded by Dark Apostle Sarabdal.
- Mournsong (Battle Barge) - Flagship of the long-extinct Twisting Rune Chapter.
- Dark Page (Strike Cruiser)
- Dominatus Sanctus (Strike Cruiser) - Part of the 47th Expeditionary Fleet during the Great Crusade.
- Infidus Diabolus (Strike Cruiser) - Commanded by Dark Apostle Jarulek and later Dark Apostle Marduk.
- Maledictus Confutatis (Strike Cruiser)
- Moribundus Fatalis (Strike Cruiser) - Part of the Legion's 18th Host.
- Sanctus Diabolica (Strike Cruiser) (Destroyed)
- Orfeo's Lament (Light Cruiser)
- Crown of Colchis (Capital Ship, Unknown Class)
- Spear of Cedros (Capital Ship, Unknown Class)
- Faith's Speed (Transport Ship)
The exact make-up of the Word Bearers' Legion fleet since the end of the Horus Heresy is unknown in Imperial records.
The Pre-Heresy Word Bearers Legion originally wore slate grey coloured Power Armour complete with inscribed/engraved prayers in Colchisian cuneiform script, phrases, and words of devotion, with no contrasting colors. Word Bearers Chaplains wore the slate grey armour of the Legion, being distinguished by gold armour trim and their Crozius. The Chaplains repainted their armour black following the Legion's reprimanding by the Emperor in Monarchia, "...in remembrance of the ashes coating every warrior's armour."First Chaplain Erebus was known to have a clean shaven head which was richly tattooed with religious sayings and imagery. It is not known whether or not this was standard practice amongst the other members of the Word Bearers' Chaplaincy. After their fall to the Ruinous Powers, the Word Bearers adopted a new colour scheme in the days immediately after the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V intended to symbolise the Word Bearers' willingness to shed blood to bring the truth of Chaos to all Mankind. Their Power Armour was repainted the colour of spilt blood, a colour often called "Traitor's Red" or "Betrayer's Red," sometimes worn with black or silver trim. Heretical prayers are inscribed directly into the surface of their armour. Often times Word Bearers Traitor Marines are also seen wearing devotional prayer sheets hanging from their armour's shoulder plates -- the blasphemous words of the Book of Lorgar inscribed upon them.
The insignia of the Pre-Heresy Word Bearers Legion was an opened book surmounted by a burning flame of truth, which was prominently displayed on the left shoulder plate. Following their corruption by the Ruinnous Powers the Word Bearers adopted new iconography: the Latros Sacrum, the Chaotic symbol that represented the Word Bearers Legion. It was a stylised representation of a roaring, horned daemon's head wreathed in flames, which represented all that the Legion stood for, all that they believed in so deeply and all that they were willing to kill for.
Loyalist Word Bearers Controversy
Although the Word Bearers Legion had initially been thrown into disarray after their public humiliation and rebuke by the Emperor on the world of Khur, it has been established that the Legion was divided into two camps. Those who remained faithful to the previous religion which held the Emperor of Mankind to be the God of Humanity taught by their Primarch (primarily the Astartes from Terra) and those who began to embrace the dark precepts of Chaos, rediscovered by Lorgar after completing his Pilgrimage (primarily the Astartes from Colchis). The Word Bearers kept their faith in Chaos secret for many decades, remaining loyal, at least in name, to the Imperial Truth, until the events of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V, after which time they openly embraced their new faith without any pretense and eagerly joined the Horus Heresy.
Were there those amongst the Legion who still wished to serve the Emperor? The current literature would seem to indicate as much. Those who refused to accept this new creed were “purged” from the Legion over the course of one week. This involved the elimination of every one of the Terran-born members of the Legion by The Brotherhood, as well as any Colchisian Astartes who refused to accept the new religious doctrine espoused by their Primarch. In order to accomplish these purges, Lorgar ordered an internal sect known as The Brotherhood to be formed, composed of his most loyal sons to carry out his will. The Urizen was notably mournful, acting with great reluctance when his hand was forced to form this clandestine sect.
The Word Bearers novel Dark Creed by Anthony Reynolds speaks of the purges within the ranks of the Word Bearers against the Terran-borne Astartes:
"Our Fraternity represents divine change. On ancient Colchis, a billion souls were released from earthly flesh in the Brotherhood's purge of the Covenant, and great was the rejoicing; and stronger did Colchis become. The second cleansing saw the Legion's ranks purified of Terran taint; and stronger did the Legion become, its chaff cast aside." (p. 111)
"The Second Purge came a century later, after our blessed lord, the Urizen, had reunited with his Legion; after our glorified Primarch's eyes were opened to the lies of the golden-tongued so-called Emperor of Mankind." (pp. 184-185)
"With realization came the understanding that the old beliefs of Colchis were the only truth in the universe; that the old gods were the only powers worthy of our faith and worship. There were those amongst our blessed Legion that would not have understood these things, brainwashed and conditioned as they had been in their formative years. Our lord Lorgar once more reformed the Brotherhood, again with great mourning and remorse. Thus were the Legion's ranks cleansed and unified. In one week, thus were all warrior brothers of Terran birth eradicated, leaving only those brothers of Colchis blood behind." (pp. 184-185)
"Great was the Urizen's lamentation, for those warriors slain were his sons, his flesh and blood, children of his own gene-code. And yet, through no fault of their own and as a direct result of being raised in isolation from him, they had to be removed. Their will had been utterly corrupted by the lies of the False Emperor. Their souls had been closed off to the great truth." (pp. 184-185)
There are a number of unanswered questions. Imperial records repeatedly describe units of Word Bearers stationed on Terra even as the Horus Heresy broke out, but it does not explain what happened to them, though these Astartes were most likely the Outcast Dead. In addition, like every other Legion, it is quite likely that the Word Bearers had their Astartes scattered in several different sectors, on missions that were sometimes held in common with other, Loyalist, formations. The fate of these Astartes remains unknown.
The simple answer, for the moment, is that we can generally assume that, however briefly, there were Loyalists in the service of the Word Bearers, but we cannot be certain how many, where they were located, or even for how long they were permitted to exist. Previous sources intimated that there were Loyalists from all of the Traitor Legions who were eventually absorbed by other Legions or chosen for new tasks – but this contentious issue has not yet been settled.
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 28, 55, 202, 379, 381, 388-390
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 13-14
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 13, 69
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Edition), p. 43
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Edition), p. 38
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition), pp. 13, 39, 51
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 89-90
- Deathwatch: Achilus Assault (RPG), pg. 79
- Horus Heresy Book III: Visions of Death by Alan Merrett
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 112, 132, 285, 388
- Index Astartes II, "For the Emperor - Space Marine Chaplains"
- Index Astartes IV, "Dark Apostles - The Word Bearers Space Marine Legion"
- Only War: Enemies of the Imperium (RPG) (Forthcoming)
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition)
- White Dwarf 270 (US), "Index Astartes: Dark Apostles"
- False Gods (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Tales of Heresy (Anthology) edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Preistley, "Scions of the Storm" by Anthony Reynolds
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Battle for the Abyss (Novel) by Ben Counter
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Demski-Bowden
- Aurelian (Novella) by Aaron Demski-Bowden
- Butcher's Nails (Audio) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Betrayer (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- The Blood Angels Omnibus by James Swallow
- Chapter's Due (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Daemon World (Novel) by Ben Counter
- Know No Fear (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Mark of Calth (Anthology) edited by Laurie Goulding
- Word Bearers Novel Series:
- Dark Apostle (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Disciple (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Creed (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds, pp. 9, 111, 184-185
- Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC Game)
- Forge World - Primarch Lorgar Aurelian
- Forge World - Erebus & Kor Phaeron
- Forge World - Gal Vorbak
- Forge World - Mhara Gal Tainted Dreadnought