The Angels of Death
“They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give of themselves to me. Like clay I shall mould them, and in the furnace of war forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest guns will they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines so that no foe can best them in battle. They are my bulwark against the Terror. They are the Defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines and they shall know no fear.”
Space Marines are the champions of the Imperium, Mankind’s most elite fighting force. The combat prowess of these heavily augmented warriors is backed up by the best weaponry and equipment the Imperium can provide. Clad in nigh-impenetrable power armour, each Space Marine combines excellent close combat skills with deadly shooting accuracy. Space Marine armies are hard-hitting, able to tactically adjust to any foe or situation. A wide range of troops and vehicles enables them to launch lightning strikes, armoured spearheads, airborne assaults, or any other strategy a commander can envision.
It was the Emperor who unlocked the secrets of creating superhumans. Through many trials of alchemy and genetic artifice he created his masterworks, the Primarchs. The genetic material of those legendary beings still shapes the galaxy, used again and again to create warriors that surpass the physical and mental limitations of the human race. Although the exact science behind such bio-engineering has been lost, the ritualistic process for creating more Adeptus Astartes has not.
The Space Marines are the elite of the Imperium’s armies, and it is said by some that a single member of the Adeptus Astartes upon the battlefield is worth an entire regiment of lesser men. Curators of the Logis Strategos, an obscure branch of the Adeptus Administratum, calculate that during many campaigns, hundreds, if not thousands of foes fall for the loss of a single Space Marine. Yet still the Adeptus Astartes rue such exchanges, for they are few in number and their enemies beyond count. So it is that every Chapter of Space Marines must constantly induct new warriors into its ranks in order to survive. Most have recruited from their Chapter Planets and nearby worlds since the foundation of their brotherhoods. This explains why so many Chapters are based on harsh or otherwise deadly worlds – the recruiting stock is far stronger where every day is a struggle to survive. Aspirants must always be chosen as youths, before they become too mature to accept the foreign genetic substances that must be implanted within them. These are derived from material known as gene-seed, specially grown grafts that turn them into Space Marines.
Gene-seed implants are organs that work with an aspirant’s own body tissues, stimulating natural abilities such as muscle growth, or creating abilities that are wholly new. Organ implantation goes hand in hand with a harsh routine of physical and spiritual training. This is achieved by means of hypnotic suggestion, prolonged meditation, psychological and spiritual testing, and gradual initiation into the rites and traditions of the Chapter. It is a long and sometimes fatal process that must be done in the correct order. In this way, a Space Marine is engineered and modified to become stronger, faster and tougher than any normal human could ever be, able to endure the harshest conditions without concern. Gene-seed is a finite resource, for it is a direct delineant of the biomanipulations that created the Primarchs, a biological inheritance that is shared by every Space Marine – past and present. In a very real sense, the blood of the Primarchs flows through each Space Marine’s veins. It is a Chapter’s single most valuable resource, for it alone allows the creation of more battle-brothers.
Sky Warriors of Russ
“There is no leashing them. The tendrils of the Ice Kraken cannot bind them. They are the wind that howls through the trembling forest. They are the ship that splits the Storm.”
Between Space Marines there are a lot of unique and eccentric chapters. Salamanders - paragons of self-sacrifice in the name of common people, Black Templars who are still on the eternal crusade, even ten thousand years later, or cannibalistic Sons of Malice who are fighting both with the Imperium and forces of chaos.
But there is one chapter that stands out even between them. The Space Wolves, ferocious warriors drawn from a population of Fenris.
The home world of the Space Wolves is dominated by extremes of climate, and is amongst the most deadly and turbulent worlds inhabited by Man. Most of Fenris’ surface is covered by water, its tiny land masses no more than islands scattered sparsely upon the mighty sea. The one and only sizeable continent, Asaheim, lies at the northern pole. There are many death worlds in the Imperium, whose wildlife, native flora or esoteric nature make them inimical to human life. Even in such baleful company, Fenris is amongst the very worst. It is a world of fire and ice, of wolves and dragons. It is one of the most inhospitable planets in the universe, yet the folk of Fenris not only endure, but thrive.
Although Fenris is the world of the Space Wolves, the Chapter occupies only the island continent of Asaheim, which rises from the polar oceans like a massive pillar of granite, sheer and forbidding, shrouded from mortal eyes by thick white clouds. The remainder of Fenris is left in its wild and primitive state and the people survive as best they can amidst the endless seasons of ice and fire. The Space Wolves maintain a careful watch over their tribal brethren, but rarely appear openly amongst the warrior clans. To uninitiated Fenrisians, the Space Wolves are seen as demigods that descend from the stormy skies, legendary champions possessed of unsurpassed strength and magical, holy powers. They are warriors of myth, and the lands of Asaheim are the forbidden realms of the divine, where native tradition prohibits man to go. Only a warrior chosen by the gods themselves can enter the Fang – the fortress at Asaheim’s peak. Thus the Fenrisians have become accustomed to the bravest of their young warriors vanishing from the everyday world, having been taken to win glory in the high realm of Asaheim. So it has ever been. So it will ever be.
With bolt, blade, and fang Vlka Fenryka have fought in Humanity’s wars for ten thousand years, ever loyal to the Emperor and their lost Primarch, Leman Russ. The Space Wolves march to battle clad proudly bearing the markings of their Great Companies and of the packs in which they fight. Known as Sky Warriors by the tribes of their home world, they are tenacious, dauntless and possessed of insatiable hunger for battle. They restlessly hunt all who would defy the will of the Imperium.
Space Wolves have uncanny abilities above and beyond even the Space Marines of other Chapters. As a genetic descendant of Russ, each battle-brother has the razor- sharp senses of an apex predator. Incredible eyesight and olfactory perception allow him to stalk his prey in a snowstorm, and acute hearing can pick out his quarry’s breathing pattern in the midst of a raging battle. During his life, his teeth will lengthen and stretch into vicious-looking fangs that are capable of denting plasteel, and his skin becomes as resilient as cured leather. By some quirk of fate, a flaw took root deep within the Space Wolves’ gene-seed legacy – known as the Canis Helix – very early in the Chapter’s history, and it still affects each and every one of the Sons of Russ. For most, this manifests in a berserk battle-fury when their inner beast takes over. Some carry the genetic heritage of the Canis Helix even deeper within them. There are dark tales of the horrific transformation that these warriors undergo in battle.
While the usual chapters of Adeptus Astartes have fixed companies and their number, the Great Companies of the Space Wolves are not permanently fixed. Where one Wolf Lord falls, another must rise to lead his battle-brothers, taking a figure from Fenrisian myth to be his sigil. Though varied, every Wolf Lord and Great Company strives to embody the virtues of strength, courage and honour that defined their Primarch.
Each Great Company is near autonomous. Each is commanded by a Wolf Lord, equivalent to the Captains of other Chapters. He rules a brotherhood of eager warriors fuelled by battle-lust, and his resources give him the capacity to hunt down and kill any prey. In the Wolf Lord's lair within the Fang are stores of powerful wargear and master-crafted weapons; he commands a fleet of warships to sail the Sea of Stars, as well as powerful war engines such as battle tanks, anti-grav vehicles and bulky war suits - some of which are centuries or even millennia old, their machine spirits as aggressive and savage as ever.
Upon the enormous stone tablets of the Grand Annulus, within the Hall of the Great Wolf on Fenris, each Great Company is represented by the sigil of their Wolf Lord. The Space Wolves have used many dozens of sigils throughout their history, some descended from ancient Fenrisian myths, but many developed solely in the Space Wolves' own mystic traditions. Some, like the Spirit Wolf, have not been selected in millennia. The symbolism of each is not only fixed in myth but absorbs the deeds and characters of each Great Company, consuming their sagas. Thus do some sigils recur in cycles of prominence, while others - with connections to fallen heroes or to bad omens - remain thought of as cursed. Such is the case with the Hunger Skull, tied forever to the traitor Jorghun Vor.
Driven by warrior instinct and armed with the mightiest weapons of Fenris, the Space Wolves cast off into the Sea of Stars in search of battle. They are a Chapter of heroes profoundly shaped by their tribal heritage, and their deeds are the stuff of legend. Every victory in the name of the Imperium is yet another verse in their long and storied saga.
“Do you sense the hairs on your neck standing and the chill of the ice spearing your heart? Do you see pitiless yellow eyes calculating your every weakness? You are being hunted. Are you afraid?
They are the Emperor’s executioners - you should be.”
Quite soon you will get a chance to meet the Space Wolf whose saga crosses with your journey. How will it end? Only the Emperor and the Allfather know.