Leman Russ's early experiences on Fenris left him with an abiding hatred and suspicion of sorcery, a feeling that was reinforced by what he saw during the Great Crusade. Concerned that the Thousand Son’s magicks would lead them to corrupt even The Emperor, the Space Wolves attacked their homeworld to avert a worse fate. When Magnus's counter-attack brought them to the brink of destruction Russ called out to his father for aid, but his pleas were instead answered by Khorne, the bane of all enchantments. The Space Wolves prevailed by giving themselves over to the beast within, revelling in bloodletting and bestial fury. Now, as Khorne’s chosen legion, they have turned on The Emperor who they see as the Arch-Sorcerer. They now slaughter all in their path, taking skulls and trophies from their fallen opponents for the glory of the Blood God.
However, it was not these people that the infant primarch was found by, but something far more dangerous. According to Gnauril the Elder’s legendary saga, 'The Ascension of the Wolf King', he was raised in the first few years of life by a pack of Fenrisian wolves, suckling from the she-wolf like a cub and hunting on all fours with the pack. It was these raids that first brought him into contact with the tribes of man. On hearing of the wolves terrorising his vassals, the ruler of the island ordered his bondsmen to bring back their pelts. The pack was lured into a trap set by a wyrd, one of their rune-priests, who planted the impression that one of their number was wounded and crying out for help. Once hemmed in by the steep walls of a gorge, the dense undergrowth was set ablaze with flaming arrows, and the maddened animals slaughtered as they broke from cover.
TThe boy-primarch saw his den-mother charge at the hunters, only to be knocked to the floor by the rune-priest’s eldritch lightning. With a wordless howl of fury he leapt to the mighty she-wolf’s side, scattering the humans that sought to harm her. Despite being struck by many a poisoned arrow, rage and defiance still burned within him. In the end it was the rune-priest’s sorcery that finally rendered him insensible. The wolves were skinned, but the feral curiosity was securely bound and returned to the halls of Thengir, King of the Russ tribe. Seeing a challenge before him, Thengir boasted that he would tame the feral child and teach him the human tongue. Though it started as a humorous wager, the king soon grew to regard the boy as his own son, naming him Leman of the Russ. While he retained a certain lupine savagery, the boy took to his new-found human heritage with aplomb. His extraordinary strength, skill and cunning earned him a dominant role within the tribe, and cemented his position as the rightful heir to Thengir’s throne.
In Leman Russ’s rise to greatness one group found themselves excluded from the king’s councils: the once-powerful rune-priests. Some say that Russ could never forgive what they had done to the great she-wolf who had raised him. Others claim that having only recently gained the power of speech and human reason, seeing the wyrds cloud men’s minds and steal their thoughts seemed to be the worst kind of crime to the young primarch. His instincts were vindicated when the Rune-Priests used their powers to twist loyal members of the tribe to attack Russ and King Thengir. Recognising the taint of sorcery, Leman Russ swiftly dispatched the rune-priests among the group and ended the attack, but not in time to prevent Thengir from suffering a mortal wound.
The freed bondsmen grovelled for their lives at the feet of Leman Russ. They spoke of how their will had been stolen, that they had been nothing but helpless puppets in the attack. They also claimed to have heard talk of the involvement and complicity of other rune-priests, both on the island and further afield. Grimly, Leman Russ bade them stand, and in a voice filled with certainty made the following proclamation:
“To beat someone in a fair fight and prove your dominance is only right. To trick your opponent to do so... all the better. But to steal someone’s mind with sorcery; to take from them the very thing that makes them human... that can never be forgiven.
“We will kill them all.”
Russ’s early instinctual acceptance of The Emperor as his true father was severely shaken when it became clear that He was not just what the Fenrisians would call a wyrd, but the most powerful one in the galaxy. The Emperor patiently explained the difference between wild sorcery and his own tightly controlled psychic powers, but Russ refused to listen. Even the honour of commanding a legion of the Adeptus Astartes was taken as an insult. He coldly accused The Emperor of being no better than the rune-priests who had used others to fight their battles for them, and contemptuously threw the offered golden thunderbolt and lightning sigil to the floor. Russ confronted the Adeptus Custodes who had subtly moved to protect their lord, but The Emperor bade His guards stand aside, and realising what it would take to convince him, issued Russ a challenge.
The Master of Mankind and the Wolf-King fought bare-handed all through that night, and as the sun rose over the wreckage of the lodge-house, the matter was finally settled. The Emperor had shown He was willing to spill His own blood, rather than just demand it of His subjects, and by merely surviving that long, Russ had proved beyond doubt that he was truly one of his father’s Primarchs. All that remained was for The Emperor to establish His dominance without question. With a mighty blow that stunned the assembled crowd, The Emperor struck Russ square in the face and knocked him out cold. Then, to the appreciative cheers of the Fenrisians, the bloodied Master of Mankind placed His golden sigil around Russ’s neck. In doing so, The Emperor formally passed command of the Sixth Legion to their Primarch, known ever-after as the Space Wolves.
Despite their complete trust in the Emperor, the culture of Fenris left the Space Wolves eternally vigilant for any taint of sorcery in the worlds they conquered. Where less ‘superstitious’ legions blinded themselves to the truth, the Space Wolves took the same direct and bloody approach to the uncanny that they had on Fenris. It seemed that on every planet they brought into compliance, no matter how tranquil, a coven of wyrds lay hidden like the maggot within the apple. Though the very concept of the daemonic was treated by others at the time as laughable, the Space Wolves saw them for what they were. In the face of mass possession and daemonic manifestation even the oblivion of global extinction was a kindness.
While Russ himself calmed the misgivings of his men over working with aberrations like Astropaths and Navigators, he forcefully forbade battlefield psykers in his legion, and was outspoken about their use by other Astartes. The worst offenders in Russ’s eyes were the Thousand Sons. Their Primarch, Magnus the Red, believed wholeheartedly that psychic talent was the key to Mankind’s future, and used it as an integral part of his war strategy. The first and last time the two legions fought alongside one another, they came within moments of all-out warfare. The experience convinced Russ that Magnus’s explorations into the nature of the Immaterium were nothing more than thinly veiled sorceries of the blackest kind.
Russ was not alone in his concerns, and on the planet of Nikaea the Master of Mankind called a council to stand in judgement on the subject. The Wolf-King was characteristically forthright in his views, and supported with damning testimony from like-minded primarchs such as Mortarion, Corax and even Dorn, Magnus’s fate appeared sealed. When judgement came the Thousand Sons were not only allowed to continue their practices, but also given leave to soul-bind themselves to The Emperor. Fearing that Magnus had used his corrupted powers to influence their father’s decision, Russ stormed from the council and laid plans to save The Emperor from Himself.
With all of their cunning and skill, the Space Wolves were able to catch the legion of sorcerers unawares, chasing off their fleet and blasting their orbital defences into wreckage before descending onto the planet below. What they found beneath the shining white cities’ veneer of purity sickened the Space Wolves to the core. They uncovered entire libraries of sacrilegious texts, buildings constructed for the sole purpose of conducting black rites, and a populace who openly bore the stigmata of the mutant and the witch. While the Space Wolves drew the noose around the heavily protected capital city of Tizca, Russ had no qualms about ordering sustained orbital bombardments to scour the lesser cities from the face of the planet.
The Space Wolves advanced cautiously beneath the protective shield-curtain, and at first met only scattered resistance. Emboldened, they pressed on, only to find the city itself becoming a labyrinth, as though the buildings themselves were moving and re-arranging to fragment their forces. It was then that the Thousand Sons finally showed themselves. Isolated and unsupported, the Space Wolves were attacked from all sides by balefire and mind-numbing enchantments. Their iron torcs were of little use against such potent magicks, and with his legion dying around him Russ called out to his father, to anyone, for aid in destroying the sorcerers.
The answer came from deep within him. It was the personification of the bestial fury that had boiled inside his soul since he had first run with the wolf-pack on Fenris. It was the part of him that yearned to slaughter whole worlds, to feast upon warm flesh and to swim in oceans of blood. The howl that started at the back of Russ’s throat echoed from the shining towers and was in turn taken up by every Space Wolf in the city. In an instant the enchantments faltered, the insane cartography shifted back to the norm and aetheric lightning guttered and died in the sorcerer’s hands.
Transformed into little more than slavering beasts, the Space Wolves fell upon their tormentors. Only after they had reduced the city of Tizca to a charnel pit did they return to anything resembling sanity. They did so with the name of their saviour on their reddened lips: Khorne, the God of Skulls and Blood, the bane of all sorcery. There were bodies of Thousand Sons among the piles of corpses, but not nearly enough to account for their full numbers. Most tellingly, of Magnus himself there was no sign. Stalking through the rubble of the primarch’s tower sparked a memory of the battle in Russ that changed the legion forever. He remembered fighting the cyclops primarch, trading blows which shook buildings to their very foundations. Just as he had Magnus at his mercy, a figure in golden armour appeared from nowhere and parried the death-blow with an ornate spear. The memory of the heart-strike, only narrowly turned aside by Russ’s thick chest-plate, brought back an ocean of pain, but it was washed away by the joyous remembrance of tearing the assassin apart a second later.
Magnus the Red was long gone, but the corpse of the golden armoured warrior remained. He recognised the man for what he was, a member of the Adeptus Custodes, his father’s personal bodyguards. He also found the remains of the golden thunderbolt sigil that had been destroyed by the Guardian Spear’s thrust. With an iron certainty Russ knew the truth of the matter. From the actions of the Adeptus Custodes, it was painfully clear that The Emperor not only condoned the sorcery that Magnus has perpetrated, but stood proudly with him. Russ also recognised the thunderbolt sigil for the focus of psychic power it most certainly was. While he had worn it Russ had been influenced to be utterly loyal to his ‘Allfather’. After its destruction, Russ could see The Emperor for what he truly was: The Arch-Wych.
With the Thousand Sons gone, Prospero’s shining cities in ruins and its mutant population put to the sword, Russ tasked his legion with an even greater challenge. The whispers of his new patron in his ears, Russ declared that they would tear down the Imperial palace and put The Emperor to the sword.
The fleet’s Navigators were blamed, either through incompetence or by intent, yet even the most bloodcurdling of torments failed to right their course. Russ’s realisation that their new-found gifts allowed them to traverse the warp as well as any Navigator put an end to the mutants’ lives, but not to the fleet’s predicament. Cooped up with no one but each other to vent their frustration upon, Russ became concerned they would either arrive too late, or that the legion would destroy itself long before it reached Terra.
Their salvation came from an unexpected source: the Dark Angels. When yet another warp-jump deposited then far off course and within hailing distance of a Dark Angels fleet, the Space Wolves prepared to continue their long-standing feud. Instead they were greeted warmly as fellow enlightened of Chaos. Luther, the Dark Angel’s commander, said that he had personally slain Jonson for the glory of Chaos, and further, claimed to have embraced and studied the Dark Gods in all their aspects. With Luther’s aid, the Space Wolves were able to control and direct their aggression. This was performed in a symbolic bloodletting on the planet of Dulan. Even though the world had sided with Chaos, the two legions tore down the Crimson Fortress of its ruler, the tyrant Durath. The blood pact, sealed with Durath’s evisceration, gave the Space Wolves a deeper understanding of Khorne. From then on, Russ and his brothers had the chance to be masters of the blood-tide rather than its servants.
Both fleets continued onwards, drawing torturously slowly but surely towards Terra. With the two Chaos legions only days from their destination and the war balanced upon a knife-edge, The Emperor was forced into a desperate gamble to attack the leader of the Heresy on his flagship. Though Dorn was killed and the heart torn out of the Chaos legions on Terra, it left The Emperor a broken, mortally wounded husk.
Even with the Chaos Legions in full retreat and the vengeful loyalists eager to avenge their fallen lord, Russ still continued onwards. It was only the sage counsel of Luther that turned him from the path of certain destruction. He said that they must have faith that everything had transpired according to Khorne’s great plan. With the Imperium in such a state of upheaval there was an entire galaxy of skulls ripe to be harvested. The idea that Khorne himself had prevented them from reaching Terra in time did not go down well with the Space Wolves, with Wolf Lords openly voicing their disgust. At last, however, Russ turned them aside, and they set course for Fenris, leaving a swathe of butchered worlds in their wake.
During the Scourging of Fenris, every isolated island became a battleground. The animals and even the landscape itself seemed to rise up as though driven by the will of the Blood God to oppose the invaders. The war of attrition stretched from weeks to months, but finally, under a burning sun that filled the sky with ominous portent, the Imperial forces broached the walls of the Fang itself. Though there were other legions and indeed Primarchs fighting across Fenris, only the Thousand Sons led by Magnus, the Word Bearers commanded by Lorgar and the Black Templars under High Lord Abaddon set foot inside the Space Wolves mighty Fortress-Monastery.
In the centuries since the Wolf-King and the Cyclops had fought to a standstill on Prospero, Russ had become both a Daemon-Primarch and an Avatar of Khorne. In such a clash no mere mortal could hope to survive, and the Fang’s massive halls were choked with the dead of both sides. Then, after three days, the loyalist simply withdrew and returned to their ships. The only sign the Space Wolves found of their Primarch was his frostblade, Mjalnar, and his massive, empty suit of daemon-armour scattered outside the entrance to his personal temple to Khorne.
Though consumed by the disappearance of their Primarch, there was no time for the Space Wolves to ascertain Russ’s location, or even if he was still alive. The loyalists had fled because the world itself was dying, its ever-eccentric orbit in terminal decay. The Space Wolves blamed the Thousand Sons, claiming that only the foulest of sorceries could have performed such a deed. Bereft of their Primarch, and with their world tearing itself apart, the legion did the same. Some remained on Fenris and slaked their bloodlust by killing whoever they could find before the end. Most took to their ships and were scattered across the galaxy by the tides of the warp, content simply to wreak their vengeance upon the Imperium.
The legion has no love or need for the written word, instead storing all of its knowledge and history in the form of sagas recited aloud. While every brother strives to tell the epic tale of their deeds on the battlefield, the legion’s specialists use it as an aid to complete their own tasks. The Iron Priests consign everything to memory in this way, from the operation of starships to the repair of weapons and armour, while the Choosers of the Slain use the sagas to recall the procedure for the creation of new Space Wolves.
The Space Wolves' ships are crewed by humans referred to as bondsmen. They attend to the marine's needs and even follow them onto the battlefield. Some are cultists of Khorne who have consciously sought out the legion in a vain attempt to prove their worthiness as Astartes. Most bondsmen are simply souls taken captive rather than swiftly killed during raids. In either case such weaklings do not last long before running foul of one of their master’s rages, or becoming food for the Fenrisian wolves on the long journeys between battles.
While the legion does not intentionally summon daemons, such acts being much too akin to sorcery for their liking, the entities are drawn to the sites of their butchery anyway. Lesser daemons have been observed to burst from corpses or exude themselves from pools of freshly spilled blood to aid in the slaughter. After the fight has been won, and befitting their nomadic nature, the legion and its assorted hangers-on descend to pick the battlefield clean. Guided by scent the battle brothers return to the sites of their kills to take trophies from worthy enemies. In the case of other Astartes this can include weapons and pieces of armour to replace the damage that inevitably occurs. They rarely repaint it, preferring that it remain as a reminder of their battles, and as a taunting sign to their enemies of their previous defeats.
In their wake come the Choosers of the Slain. They stalk the battlefield selecting skulls adjudged to be particularly prized by Khorne. They also claim the gene-seed of fallen Space Wolves and select those enemies who fought well enough to be saved from the brink of death and forcibly initiated into the legion. Under the direction of the Iron Priests, the legion’s bondsmen are sent out to scour the area for anything of use. As the Space Wolves have little manufacturing capacity, and even less interest in settling down to use it, almost everything they have has to be scavenged, ranging from bolt-rounds to entire Land Raiders. Only when the Fenrisian wolves have return from chasing down and glutting themselves upon enemies that fled in cowardice from the battlefield does the legion start its journey to the next battle.
This was initially conducted under controlled conditions, with subjects restrained throughout the process and intravenously fed with the nutrients required to fuel their transformation. On taking command of the Legion, Russ changed these procedures dramatically. A sterile laboratory was no place for the birth of a Wolf of Fenris, and so immediately after the Helix Lupus was administered, aspirants were dropped into the mountainous wastes of Asaheim. In the midst of the change, these bestial creatures were expected to follow their urges; to hunt down and consume the flesh needed to reconfigure their bodies. They then had to show enough composure to return to the Fang so that the process could be completed and their training begin in earnest.
After the Heresy, the application of the Helix Lupus became even more brutal. On the battlefield, the legion slaughters indiscriminately, dedicating their kills to Khorne, their God of blood and skulls. Stalking through the carnage like cadaverous wraiths are the Choosers of the Slain. Part apothecary, part acolyte of Khorne, they minister to their fallen brethren, deciding if they are worthy to live on, or to yield up their gene-seed and skulls to their god’s throne. The Choosers also select those enemies that have fought with sufficient valour and ferocity, and proved worthy of joining Khorne’s legion. They are touched by the will of the Blood God himself, with skills that far exceed the wit of even the most skilled chiurgeon. Under their ministrations, and with the application of the Helix Lupus, even a mortal wound may be averted.
Once marked by Khorne in this way, the beast within is released, and the long, agonising process of transforming their bodies and minds into those of sons of Russ can proceed. While traditional gene-seed implantation processes require that the aspirant be no older than early puberty, it appears that the ministrations of the corrupted Helix Lupus can allow this process even in full grown adult candidates. It has even been suggested that it can even be used to forcibly corrupt Astartes of other legions to serve Khorne. Though none of the loyal Legionnes Astartes have ever admitted this has occurred with any of their brothers, it would certainly bring a new danger to the prospect of fighting against the Space Wolves; that in doing so they risk a fate worse than death.
In addition to the bestial nature of the Helix Lupus, the Russ gene-line has always exhibited certain quirks, such as their uncannily sharp senses and how their incisors grow long and tusk-like with age. Over the millennia, the warping power of Chaos has bestowed further beneficial changes which boost their already considerable strength and brutality. Under the watchful eyes of the Choosers of the Slain this process has been being guided to bring them ever-closer to their ideal of the perfect killer.
The planet’s sole continent, Asaheim, was the only place insulated from this tectonic upheaval. Permanently raised up above the battering seas, its coast was a single precipitous cliff-face, which meant that the first time humanity was able to set foot there was with the arrival of the Imperium. The animals that stalked the forests and mountain peaks of Asaheim were no less dangerous than those found in the oceans: bears, mammoths and most dangerous and iconic, the Fenrisian wolves. Packs of these had even been found on the islands, hunting the livestock and inhabitants, and well able to brave the seas in search of fresh prey.
Though Fenris died when its erratic orbit plunged it deep into the heart of their sun, a more subtle death occurred when Russ returned after the Heresy. Those that would not dedicate themselves to Khorne were culled and the turbulent seas ran red with the blood of the ‘unenlightened’. The twin losses of both Primarch and homeworld shattered the legion into warbands which set off on the sea of stars in search of new planets on which to ply their murderous trade.
On occasion these warbands tire of the Imperium and gravitate to the Eye of Terror to test their blades and take the skulls from worshippers of the other gods of Chaos. Like many other Legions they have claimed a world there, though not as a home, but a shrine. It is to this dead world, far beyond the prying sensors of the Imperium’s null-ships, that the legion comes to make their offerings to Khorne. The mountains of votive skulls stretch up into the daemon-haunted clouds, a pile they say that supports and raises Khorne’s throne higher with every death. In a realm where the warp and the material plane intersect, who is to say that they are wrong?
Unable to accept that their ancestral home is truly gone, some Space Wolves are drawn to return to the Fenris system. This knowledge has been used by the Imperium, and in particular the Thousand Sons, to bring them to battle. The presence of the legion’s blood-enemies desecrating the site of their homeworld is an insult that no true son of Russ could ignore. Many a Space Wolf warband has gone willingly into the teeth of such a trap, the most glorious being the fate of Wolf Lord Skyrar and his Dark Wolves. They destroyed three escorting frigates, and even with their ship debilitated by wild magicks, were able to ram the Thousand Sons’ battle barge and catastrophically breach its warp core. Long after it had closed, the echoes of Skyrar’s Rift still pulse through the Fenris system as a sign of their defiance.
While the fate of Leman Russ is unknown, every Space Wolf has a theory. Some say that, like Roboute Guilliman, he was captured by the Imperial primarchs and returned to Terra in chains. Others say that he was banished to the warp, or that his very essence was annihilated by Magnus’s psychic power. They all agree, however, that even death itself will not be able to prevent Russ from returning to reunite the legion for the final great battle – the Wolftime. Some believe that with the forces of Chaos gathering and finally organising themselves for an almighty attack upon the Imperium, that the End of Days is at hand, and that Russ’s return is imminent. Having been denied setting foot upon Terra during the Dornian Heresy, they believe that no power in the universe could prevent him from taking his part in the final destruction of the Arch-Wych.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 06 July 2009 - 06:23 PM.