The countdown to this being complete by mid-April starts.... NOW!
The Word Bearers are tireless in their crusade to have the galaxy worship The Emperor as divine. It is a duty they carry out with both impassioned, fiery rhetoric and the cleansing purity of the bolt gun. They were one of the first legions to comprehend the existence and threat of Chaos, and that faith in the God-Emperor was soul-armour against its wiles. They used this knowledge to save Warmaster Horus from possession on Davin, but to their regret were unable to prevent the Dornian Heresy, which crippled their living deity. As Guardians of the Faith, they founded the galaxy-spanning Ecclesiarchy, and after witnessing how it nearly plunged the Imperium into another civil war, now act as its moral compass to ensure that such a powerful body can never again be corrupted.
The tale of how Lorgar came to the Covenant is recounted by Carpinius in his Speculum Historiale. It posits that Lorgar was subconsciously aware that The Emperor was searching for him, and this was the reason the Covenant’s tenets resonated so strongly. Once initiated into the Covenant, he absorbed every aspect of the vast and complex creed, and as would be expected of a Primarch, excelled in its practice. Driven by the knowledge that re-unification was at hand, and urged on by his friend and mentor, Kor Phaeron, Lorgar undertook a pilgrimage across Colchis, preaching to whoever would listen. His speeches were electrifying, and soon drew crowds in their tens of thousands, but gave his political enemies a chance to eliminate what they saw as a powerful rival.
It was only with an army approaching that Lorgar’s innate skills in warfare came to the fore. Over the course of eighteen months, his small entourage of clerics and civilians was transformed into a battle-hardened army numbering in the hundreds of thousands that swept away all who opposed them. Lorgar had not started the fight, but he was determined to finish it. Whenever he wearied of the slaughter, Kor Phaeron was there to assure him of the righteousness of their cause, and by the time the final enemy stronghold was razed to the ground and peace restored, the death-toll was truly monumental. His actions were vindicated, though, when shortly after The Emperor, accompanied by Magnus of the Thousand Sons, did indeed land on Colchis. Unafraid, Lorgar knelt before the Master of Mankind, and pledged the planet to His worship.
Lorgar was instructed by Magnus on the marvels of The Emperor’s Imperium, and given command of the legion of Astartes based upon his genetic pattern. He named them the Word Bearers, and inducted his most devout followers into their ranks. Kor Phaeron was of course amongst the first members of the Covenant chosen to join the legion, but in a tragic twist of fate, suffered catastrophic side-effects during the gene-seed implantation process. Though the death of his closest friend since childhood was a source of great pain to Lorgar, he bore the loss stoically, as an event pre-destined by fate.
Despite such views being regarded as laughable superstition on all but the most primitive Imperial worlds, Lorgar was unashamed by his beliefs. He saw to it that the Word Bearers and the Covenant embraced the worship of The Emperor with unrivalled devotion. They made it their duty to bring enlightenment to the galaxy.
When the summons came to attend to The Master of Mankind, the Word Bearers took it as a pilgrimage, and the entire fleet set aside their plans of conquest to attend to their lord. Lorgar took his audience with The Emperor as a great honour, and hung on every word his father said. He emerged transformed; his eyes opened to how he might even better serve the great work. By making such slow progress, they were denying so many other worlds The Emperor’s Truth. In the words of Lorgar: “Let the reclamation of worlds in the Great Crusade be the way we praise Him”.
By the time the Word Bearers reached their next world, the expedition had transformed its practice beyond all recognition. The task of converting newly compliant worlds to the worship of The Emperor was instead given over to men and women from outside the legion. These preachers and missionaries were given the task of guiding the worlds in worship after the Word Bearers had gone. Beyond the ad-hoc army of zealots that gravitated to their banner, a new, highly trained and well resourced military formation was created, called the Frateris Militaris. Nominally independent of the Imperial Army and Navy, they would ensure the preachers’ voices were heard.
As Lorgar’s tenets for the worship of The Emperor as divine spread through the Imperium, it incorporated other nascent cults dedicated to the Master of Mankind. One of the most influential sects they absorbed was that of Lectitio Divinitatus, a faith prevalent amongst the artists, poets, iterators and even military forces that accompanied the Great Crusade’s expeditions. The co-opting of this group strengthened a religion already in the ascendant, and brought with it a group of people adept at catching the imagination and stirring the passions.
At Ullanor, The Emperor announced that he was going to return to Terra, and that Horus would command the Great Crusade as Warmaster in his stead. His last act before leaving was to call a conclave at Nikaea to rule upon the allegations of sorcery surrounding the Thousand Sons, and indeed that of all psykers within the Legionnes Astartes. The brother-Primarchs were sharply divided in their opinions, and not even Lorgar’s impassioned defence of his friend could sway Russ and Mortarion from their stance. The Emperor eventually ruled that there would be tighter restrictions on Astartes Librarians, and in addition the Thousand Sons would be ‘soul-bound’, and merge their essence with Him to grant them greater protection from the dangers of the warp.
Lorgar saw this as a great honour for his friend, and when he spoke with Magnus even referred to it as a “communion with the divine”. It was then that Magnus revealed the dark truth that had been haunting him; that the words of Corax, Russ and Mortarion held more to fear than even they realised. On that night, Magnus explained the nature of the Empyrean, the existence of the Chaos gods, and the vulnerability of psykers too weak, or weak-willed, to resist. It was, he said, a truth so devastating that The Emperor would rather it not be known, even to most of His sons, for the fear it would bring. Magnus, however, believed that Lorgar must know, and that widespread belief in The Emperor would be vital to shield them from the Sinister Powers.
The vigilance of the Word Bearers and the Thousand Sons paid off sooner than they could possibly have expected. On the primitive world of Davin, Warmaster Horus was laid low, and while the baffled apothecaries misdiagnosed the malady as the effects of poison, Chaplain Erebus recognised the signs of daemonic possession. Together with the psychic presence of the Thousand Son’s Primarch, Erebus carried out an exorcism which banished the entity and brought the Warmaster back from the brink.
From that point onwards, the Sons of Horus joined the covert war against Chaos.
For some time there had been disquiet voiced over Roboute Guilliman’s ever-expanding realm in the galactic east. During the Great Crusade his quest for power and control had driven him to claim vast areas of the galaxy, and his legion had swollen correspondingly. Even with the Eastern Fringe brought into compliance, Guilliman’s domain had continued to grow as Imperial worlds bordering it petitioned to join his so-called ‘Ultramar Segmentum’. When Rogal Dorn approached Lorgar with evidence that the Ultramarines were set to secede from the Imperium and challenge the rightful rule of The Emperor, Lorgar was instantly concerned that the Ruinous Powers had found a new champion.
Aware of Lorgar’s suspicions, Dorn laid subtle hints to reinforce the impression that the Ultramarines had been corrupted. Claiming it was the will of The Emperor, Dorn had marshalled fully half of the Legionnes Astartes to assault the Ultramar Segmentum. While the bulk of the forces arrayed against Guilliman moved to strike at him on his newly conquered world of Istvaan V, the Word Bearers and the Alpha Legion were tasked with attacking Ultramar Segmentum from within. As was his favoured tactic, Alpharius scattered his legion far and wide to destabilise the rebellious Segmentum, while Lorgar’s fleet set course for the core worlds on the assumption that with Guilliman captured or dead, the rebels would look to Macragge for leadership. This plan was stymied because of the ever-increasing numbers of enemy vessels that shadowed them through the warp. This was seen as yet more evidence the Ultramarines were in league with the daemonic, and only much later did it become clear that their course had been given away by Dorn, the Arch-Betrayer. Forced to break out of the warp far short of Macragge in an area of space known only as ‘the Abyss’, the Word Bearers tore into the shadowing Ultramar fleet with a ferocity borne of the righteous denied.
Despite their triumph, it was clear from Astropathic scans and readings of The Emperor’s Tarot that overwhelming forces had been massed for the defence of Macragge. Knowing the Word Bearer’s dogmatic approach, the Ultramarines had expected that nothing would deflect Lorgar from a frontal attack, and so had drawn their armies and fleets back to the expected, well defended battleground of their capital world. Although not possessing the tactical genius of Horus or Alpharius, Lorgar’s decision to split the fleet and attack the neighbouring systems to draw the Ultramarines away from Macragge caught the defenders off-guard.
Communication so far back to the Imperium through hostile territory was problematic, but eventually it became clear that Istvaan had been a ruse. Rogal Dorn had been in league with Guilliman, and that the Praetorian had plunged the Imperium into a civil war. Many of Lorgar’s captains pleaded with him that they should return to Terra with all haste, but they were over-ruled. Lorgar said that no force could stand against The Emperor, and that as a god, He would inevitably destroy the traitors. Their duty remained the same; they must destroy Dorn’s ally and prevent them from marching on Terra. Historians have debated Lorgar’s motives for not returning to Terra. Most attribute it to his stubborn dogmatism and faith in the divinity of The Emperor, although a few cite practical considerations; that they were so far away and so deeply mired in combat that they would never have been able to return in time to make a difference. Lorgar had already shown greater tactical skill than he was generally given credit for, and this has been viewed as further evidence of a growing tactical maturity.
As the war went on, Guilliman himself returned to coordinate the defences, and the scouring of the core worlds degenerated into a bloody stalemate. Although the legion was gratified that the threat they posed at the heart of their realm prevented the Ultramarines from moving to reinforce Dorn’s insurrection, the prospect of the Word Bearers ever setting foot on Macragge seemed to diminish with every passing day. That was until the arrival of envoys from the Alpha Legion.
Working together at last, a plan was devised to break the impasse. With Alpharius’s tactical genius and the Word Bearer’s stubborn determination and indomitable will, Macragge was to be brought to its knees. Using Alpharius himself as bait, the Alpha Legion drew Guilliman and a large proportion of his forces to the planet of Eskrador. The Ultramarines could not pass up this rare chance to strike back at the Alpha Legion in open battle, and took advantage of the seemingly collapsing Word Bearer threat to strike with overwhelming force.
The grand assault upon Macragge never came, though. Just as the Word Bearers were withdrawing from their scattered battlefields to assemble for a massed planetary assault, their plans were torn apart by catastrophic news; The Emperor had been grievously wounded by Dorn and lay dying. Lorgar couldn’t have stopped his legion leaving for Terra even if he had wanted to, and they threw caution to the wind in their flight. In their grief their allies were forgotten. Withdrawal turned to rout, and many brothers died during the return to their ships. Many more lost their lives as their ships were destroyed by the pursuing Ultramar fleet.
A feeling of desolation settled over the legion on the endless journey back to Terra. Despite Lorgar’s calming presence, the thought that their God-Emperor could be proved to be vulnerable, and therefore fallible, gnawed at them. For some wounded brothers it was all too much; brethren in the ship’s Apothecaria who should have returned rapidly to their squads died in their droves. Even proud veterans who had passed unscathed through the bloodiest battles of Calth and Iax succumbed to the soul-sickness, laying down their heads to rest, but never awaking.
In the depths of the gloom Lorgar addressed them. Every brother on every ship heard his proclamation. The Emperor was not dead, he said. His heart still beat and His soul still blazed like a nova within the Astronomicon. Had He not destroyed the Arch-Betrayer and banished the Traitor Legions from His sight? He explained that this was an act of transcendence, pre-ordained, and that just like the fate of his friend, Kor Phaeron, it was not their place to question or doubt the divine actions of The Emperor. The events they had endured were a test of faith; some had been found wanting and been judged accordingly. Those that remained had proved themselves, and were all the stronger for it.
When Lorgar stepped down from the command-pulpit, there was a silence so deep it drowned out the noise of the fleet’s warp engines. Then, as one, every brother raised a cry of devotion to The Emperor and to their Primarch. With that one speech Lorgar healed the spiritual wounds that had threatened to cripple the Word Bearers, and by the time they reached Terra they stood ready to take their place as paragons of faith in The God-Emperor of Mankind.
Cathedrals, basilicas and monasteries dedicated to the faith sprang up across the Imperium, especially on planets where The Emperor Himself had walked during the Great Crusade. No true Imperial citizen was without a devotional medallion bearing the thunderbolt and lightning sigil, and shrines in workplaces and homes became commonplace. Preachers and missionaries accompanied the fleets that brought worlds back into the Imperial fold, with even the most backward feudal world taught a suitably simplified version of the creed.
Lorgar used his growing influence to heal the rift between Terra and the Adepts of Mars. There was much bitterness at the Mechanicus’s relative silence during the Heresy, but after much discussion, an understanding was reached whereby the tech-priests and magos accepted the Omnissiah as an aspect of The Emperor’s divinity. He also bartered the Word Bearer’s support for Abaddon’s Crusades in return for his own Wars of Faith. In the main these were directed against the Traitor Legions that most closely aligned themselves with the Gods of Chaos, but on occasion it became necessary to fight against human worlds that had perverted the Imperial creed for their own ends.
On the planet of Dimmamar, Lorgar led a force of Word Bearers and Frater Militaris against an outbreak of the Plague of Unbelief. The scale of the infection ran far deeper than had been anticipated, though; most of the population had degenerated into hollow-eyed walking dead and daemons of Nurgle stalked the streets. Despite Lorgar’s inspiring presence, his small force was cut off and surrounded by enemies numbering in the billions. When their last bolt round had been expended and the last flask of sanctified promethium had run dry, Lorgar threw open the great doors of the cathedral they had garrisoned. In the shadow of his father’s house of worship, he and his battle-brothers strode out, unafraid, into the press of plague-infected wretches. In a strong, steady voice, Lorgar recited from the Scriptures of the Dead, his sacred warhammer in one hand, a metre-long adamantium spike of the cathedral’s damaged altar in the other.
For days the slaughter went on, and Lorgar wearied, not of battle, but of the waste of his Emperor’s humanity. Though he could have fought on until the end of time, Lorgar dropped to his knees in prayer to his father. As his retinue formed a protective circle around their Primarch, the battlefield was enveloped by a golden glow and a feeling of peace which gave even the pestilent hordes pause. When it faded away, the Primarch of the Word Bearers’ soul had returned to The Emperor. Despite the many wounds he had suffered, his face was peaceful and at rest. This final sacrifice infused the world with The Emperor’s Grace, and in doing so every daemon was banished and the Plague of Unbelief driven from every human on the planet. It is said that there is no zealot like a convert, and the survivors of Dimmamar set out to prove the truth of this. As living proof of the power of The Emperor to save their bodies and souls from the Fell Powers, they returned to the worship of Holy Terra with a passion. The planet became a shrine world, and such was their piety that the Word Bearers even took to recruiting from the planet.
For the Word Bearers, the loss of Lorgar was a tragedy second only to The Emperor’s grievous wounding at the climax of the Dornian Heresy. Without their Primarch the Word Bearers were bereft, going through the motions as before, but pale shadows of their former selves. Into the yawning chasm left by Lorgar stepped an ambitious and greedy marine by the name of Goge Vandire. He excelled in organisation rather than in piety, and his guiding principle proved to be the accrual of personal power. Such a person should never have been allowed to become a Word Bearer, but once inside, his manipulative, scheming nature saw him rise inexorably through the ranks. While the legion grieved, Vandire smoothly assumed command of the Word Bearers, and so doing became the Imperium’s new Ecclesiarch.
Once ensconced on Terra as a High Lord, Vandire traded on the deep well of sympathy over the death of Lorgar to further extend his power base. As his confidence and lust for control grew, he used manipulation, bribery and threats of excommunication against High Lords who dared to oppose him. By the time it became clear that Vandire had ordered the assassination of the Master of the Astronomicon and replace him with a more malleable candidate, it was already too late – his grip on power was unassailable.
Vandire’s Imperium was in a perilously fragile state, though. Still wracked by warp-storms and beset by the resurgent Traitor Legions, his response was to call for ever-more brutal Wars of Faith. Rather than targeting the true enemy, these pogroms were aimed at persecuting parts of the Imperium that showed even minor doctrinal differences to his own, increasingly idiosyncratic view, or worlds which baulked at the ever-higher tithes demanded by the Ministorum. While Vandire’s radical interpretation of the lore differed wildly from Lorgar’s, the concept of disobeying orders came harder to the Word Bearers than to perhaps any other legion. A sense of deep unease spread through the legion, and they took increasingly creative interpretations of Vandire’s edicts to minimise the harm that they were doing, much to their master’s displeasure.
Events came to a head when Vandire moved to oppose the only group able to threaten his schemes: the Legionnes Astartes. Up until that point the other legions had stayed neutral in the power struggle. The Wars of Faith were carefully targeted to avoid systems with marine homeworlds or recruiting bases, and both sides were unwilling to be the first to fire for fear of igniting a second Inter-Legionary War. This uneasy arrangement was broken when Vandire accused the Emperor’s Children, who had never felt the need to have chaplains in their ranks, of impiety. When the Legion Master of the World Eaters spoke in their defence, he and their chaplaincy were branded apostates for defying the will of the Ecclesiarch. With the threat of whole legions being branded Excommunicate Traitoris, it seemed inevitable that brother would once again be pitted against brother, to the ruin of all.
The man who eventually rose to epitomise resistance to Goge Vandire’s reign of terror came from within the ranks of the Word Bearers; a young initiate by the name of Sebastian Thor. He was everything that Vandire was not; devoutly pious and selfless. Thor had in fact been born on Dimmamar at the time of Lorgar’s ultimate sacrifice, the symbolism of which was not lost upon his followers. Thor claimed with great passion and eloquence that the actions Vandire had taken spat upon everything that their Primarch had stood for, and called for him to immediately step down. In response, Thor was branded a heretic and sentenced, in his absence, to death. Any forces sent to carry out the Ecclesiarchal decree, be they Frateris Militaris, Imperial Army or detachments of Word Bearers only swelled Thor’s host, as they were won over by his stirring oratory. Recognising a sense of the purpose they had thought lost, the Word Bearers flocked to Thor’s banner. Even marines from other loyalist legions joined the great pilgrimage through the Imperium, which led inexorably towards Holy Terra, and the confrontation with the insane Ecclesiarch.
Feeling his control of the Imperium slipping away, Vandire revealed the existence of a previously hidden and fanatically loyal force. He had long been concerned over the way his own legion had responded to his edicts, and knowing the Frateris Militaris were no match for Astartes, Vandire had, though base trickery, groomed a sect called the Brides of The Emperor to become his enforcers. Their faith was subtly corrupted into an unshakeable devotion to Vandire himself, and using his position armed them with potent weaponry and even a crude version of power armour. Thor’s open defiance pushed Vandire to send contingents of his Brides to ensure the compliance of the Word Bearers, but this insult backfired. The resulting bloodshed pushed ever-more Great Companies to side with Thor.
By the time the coalition reached Holy Terra, Vandire’s paranoia and desperation had reached fever-pitch. The seriousness of the situation had even penetrated the secluded, armoured throne room of The Emperor Himself, and tragedy struck when a group of Custodes were attacked and killed by the Brides, who claimed that they had tried to sway them from their loyalty to Vandire.
After that outrage, what became known as the Second Siege of Terra was bloody and brief. Unwilling to back down, even in the face of The Emperor’s displeasure, the Brides died to a woman, and their order expunged from the pages of history. Dishevelled and raging, Vandire was hauled bodily from his hiding place by Sebastian Thor, his time of misrule at an end. The two Word Bearers were then brought by the Custodes to The Emperor’s throne room to face judgement. While Thor emerged as the new Ecclesiarch, Goge Vandire was never seen again, and none present would ever speak of his fate.
It is a testament to the character of Sebastian Thor that he was able to rebuild the reputation of both the Ecclesiarchy and the Word Bearers. Part of the act of contrition was to make radical changes to the organisations of both bodies. While the High Lords on Terra were purged of Vandire’s influence, Thor took advantage of the waning warp storms to tour the Imperium and reorganise the Ministorum. Even though Vandire was gone, his cronies were unwilling to yield their petty fiefdoms without a fight. The Traitor legions had also taken advantage of the confusion to venture forth from the Eye of Terror. By the time the Word Bearers reached the domain of the Apostate Cardinal Bucharis, they found that the entire sub-sector’s population had been culled by the butchers of Leman Russ’s Traitor Legion.
At long last the greed, corruption and lust for power that had been so rife under Vandire’s rule were swept away. With the Ministorum returned to its role of guiding the galaxy in the worship of The Divine Emperor, and to protecting the Imperium from the whispers of the Fell Powers, Sebastian Thor announced his final reform: he stepped down as the Ecclesiarch. No longer would any Word Bearer hold the role. Instead, the legion became the Chamber Militant of the Ministorum, acting not only as its strong right arm, but as the body charged with ensuring it never again overstepped its bounds. These decisions returned stability to the galaxy, and marked an end to the Age of Apostasy, and ever since, the Word Bearers have remained diligent guardians of The Emperor’s Truth in the Imperium.
While the Word Bearers are the fatal spear-point in any attack, the psychological effect of an endless tide of wild-eyed zealots closing on the enemy cannot be discounted. These mobs are often little more than local citizens, untrained and armed with nothing but improvised weapons. Individually they are no match for a well-drilled opponent, and yet they give their lives willingly in the service of The Emperor, and are lauded for doing so. Across the Imperium there are vast monuments built to honour the glorious sacrifice of these martyrs, often alongside the mass graves of the fallen.
Librarians are greatly valued by the captains of the Great Companies, and their divinations and predictive abilities through readings of The Emperor’s Tarot are used to inform strategy. It is also common for companies to be drastically reorganised on the eve of battle based on how the cards fall, even if it flies in the face of what is known of the enemy or expected battlefield conditions. Despite disdain for this practice from outside the legion, it has proved to be divinely inspired on countless occasions. Even when it has led to catastrophic defeats, these are borne with stoicism as the Will of The Emperor.
Because of the dramatic changes in organisation from battle to battle, squads are not assigned to assault, tactical or devastator specialties. Instead, marines are expected to be proficient each of the roles. Their designation on the battlefield is displayed by coloured votive cloths worn as tabards or draped from shoulder pauldrons, with sergeants proudly displaying their colours on richly embroidered back banners. Such ostentatious displays not only help to identify the squad’s position to their officers, it also acts as a spur to inspire their allies to ever-greater acts of valour.
Their role as guardians of the Imperial creed, enforcing and, where necessary, checking the power of the Ministorum, requires the Legion’s strength be distributed thinly across the galaxy. For this reason, Word Bearer Great Companies are composed of less than five hundred brethren each, perhaps half the size of that found in most other legions, the better to cover the vast distances involved. Their fleets are accompanied by ramshackle civilian transports packed with zealots eager to martyr themselves for the cause, as well as regiments of Frateris Militaris. Encased in matt-black carapace armour and wielding powerful hellguns and purging flame weaponry, the grim-faced Frateris endlessly strive to emulate their Astartes superiors.
Though it is routine to carve the words of Lorgar into the ceramite of their power armour, some initiates choose to sear large passages of the holy texts into their flesh so that they will never be without the words of their Primarch. This practice is often taken to extremes by chaplains, with a rare few covering their entire bodies, heads and even their tongues with the sacred script. This is done with a red hot stylus and the sap of the Black Jula bush, a plant native to Colchis. Because of the super-human regenerative capabilities of the Astartes constitution, even this potent scarring will fade over time, and just as faith must constantly be renewed, so too must the devotional script branded into their skin.
Pilgrims flock to Colchis in their millions, but the holiest site, the place where The Emperor first set foot on the world, is forbidden, because on that spot was built the Legion’s Fortress-Monastery. From there, protected by adamantium walls as strong as their faith, the Word Bearers ensure that their compact with the Imperium is kept. Engraved upon those walls, just as it is engraved upon their souls, is the credo that Lorgar adopted on returning back to Colchis after seeing The Emperor entombed within the Golden Throne: “The Emperor protects, but we must also protect The Emperor.”
The Word Bearers draw their recruits not just from Colchis, but from across The Emperor’s Imperium. Strength of faith is as important a factor as skill at arms, and as such Cardinal-worlds and the Ministorum-run Schola Progenium orphanages are prime recruiting grounds. Word Bearers are expected to be thoroughly conversant with Lorgar’s writings, which teach the importance of sacrifice, and the willingness to suffer pain and death in the face of the unrighteous. Such lessons are an excellent preparation for the life of an Astartes.
Just as the gene-seed implantation procedure strengthens the body, their lessons in theology strengthen their souls. Despite the skill of the Legion’s apothecaries, there are cases where the Primarch’s gene-flesh finds the neophyte wanting. Just as happened with Lorgar’s friend, Kor Phaeron, this is stoically accepted as the Will of The Emperor. Most of those who are rejected are granted The Emperor’s Mercy, but some are spared, and find another way to serve doing menial tasks for the Ministorum. Because of this, it is not uncommon to see these pitifully misshapen, hunched figures in the shadows of cathedrals, acting as choral page-turners during masses or ringing the bells to call the faithful to worship.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 19 April 2009 - 03:17 PM.