Index Astartes: Blood Angels
The Alternate Heresy
Found and raised by the cannibal-mutant tribes of Baal Secundus, Sanguinius, grew up despising the normal humans who, if given the chance, would have murdered him as an abomination. Taunted with images of his death at the hands of The Emperor, Sanguinius entered into a small pact with Nurgle to cloak his true nature, which by degrees ended with the damnation of his entire legion as unwilling, cadaverous plague-carriers. Driven by the compulsion to obtain fresh, untainted blood to dilute the toxin running through their veins, The Blood Angels raid world after world to slake their red thirst, and dream of the time they will be strong enough for a second assault upon Terra to finally kill The Emperor.
Even before the infant primarch of the Blood Angels came to rest on Baal Secundus, the moon’s history was one of a struggle against adversity. Although the moons of Baal had once been homes to technologically advanced and bounteous human settlements, terrible wars had scoured these away. All that remained of the population were tribes clinging to existence, scavenging for food amongst a landscape turned to irradiated glass and toxic sludge by the atomic and biological weapons of their forefathers. Lacking even the most basic protective equipment against the harsh radioactive environment, mutation and sickness was rife, and only the strongest and most resistant survived.
Life for these scattered tribes of the Changed, as they called themselves, was one shorn of all sentimentality. The shadow of starvation was ever-present, and they did what they must to survive, including eating the flesh of those who had lost the battle for survival, be they friend or foe. The only thing to strike fear into the hearts of the Changed were those creatures known as the Faceless Ones: implacable armies of killers who lived only to hunt down and exterminate the tribes of the Changed. Stripped of their heavy protective suits and characteristic mirrored faceplates they were nothing more than humans, and yet they looked down with contempt upon anyone bearing the stigmata of mutation.
So it was that when the Faceless Ones came across the infant primarch lying unprotected in the burning radioactive sands, and with stubby wings protruding from his back, they judged him as worthless. Had their convoy not then been attacked by a war-party of the Changed, the greatest being ever to set foot on Baal Secundus would have been slain there and then. The ambush at Angel Falls, which had saved the babe’s, life was just the latest skirmish in an endless struggle, and the infant primarch grew up harbouring an abiding and righteous hatred of the faceless killers who had tried to murder him. As he matured into robust adulthood, seemingly untouched by the ravages of the world’s deadly legacy, he became an object of worship to the Changed, and a figure of terror to the Faceless Ones. His wings, now full and plumed with feathers of purest white, gave him the image of an angel, both terrible and divine. For his skill and savagery he became known to both sides as Sanguinius – the Bloody Angel.
As Rupal raised his spear, ready to plunge it down into the winged child, something made him pause. The creature was plainly a mutant, and yet there was something regal, almost divine about the boy. Rupal had slain dozens of the cannibal-mutants in his three decades, enough to cement his position as chief, and yet this child was different. Spear still raised high, he turned back to address his people, ready to make them understand that this boy could mean salvation for their whole planet, when the arrow struck him in the chest.
Rupal stumbled backwards and fell, paralysed by shock and the effects of the poisons. He survived long enough to see his people running in terror from the ambushing mutants, and their twisted leader bearing down upon the infant angel. With the black hand of death upon his heart, Rupal’s final thought was not for himself, or even his tribe, but the hope that the child would be spared.
The tribes of the Changed flocked to his banner, and sensing that their extinction was at hand, the Faceless Ones also banded together. At Angel Falls, the place the primarch had first been found, a mighty army closed in upon Sanguinius’s growing warband. Hemmed in on one side by cliffs, and the guns of their enemy on another, the Changed urged their beloved leader to fly away in the dead of night and save himself, but he would not leave them. The first light of dawn glinting upon Sanguinius’s pristine wings signalled the start of a day of carnage unmatched since the world’s Great War. Even though the Changed were outnumbered more than five to one, they had been trained in the arts of war by an avatar of destruction who they loved more than life itself.
Allegedly, the tribes of the Changed ate well that night.
Victory at the Battle of Angel Falls broke the power of the Faceless Ones across Baal Secundus, and Sanguinius made certain that they would never rise again. His army scoured every inch of their blasted world, and brought back numberless rad-suits as trophies. In the following years the pile of helmets, with each mirrored face-plate symbolically smashed, grew steadily at the base of the cliff at Angel Falls. So it was with great ceremony that Sanguinius and his honour guard approached the hiding place of the very last Faceless One - a damaged bunker complex left over from the war. No barrier or bulkhead could deflect Sanguinius’s righteous anger. He was the Bloody Angel of vengeance right up until the moment the defenders triggered the biological weapon stockpiles the bunker had been built to house.
The lethal pathogens killed Changed and Faceless One alike, and even felled mighty Sanguinius. In his paralysed state, Sanguinius was haunted by fevered dreams of a great power searching the stars to find him. He was granted visions of being greeted by The Emperor, who at first professed to be his father, but proved to be no better than the Faceless Ones, turning on him on finding his mutation. Sanguinius felt his heart plucked from his chest by the armoured giant at The Emperor’s side, and witnessed the genocide of every tribesman of the Changed on Baal Secundus.
In the silent, funereal chill, a voice calling itself ‘Nurgle’ offered Sanguinius a way to avoid this fate for him and his people. It said that The Emperor could be defeated, but only through guile. If Sanguinius could act the dutiful son, the presence promised to cloak him in a glamour that would shield his true intentions, and make all who laid eyes upon him see only the purest of spirits. Fearing more for his people than his own life, Sanguinius reluctantly agreed, and awoke. Stumbling from the bunker he saw The Emperor’s fleet arriving in orbit, and their drop-ships streaking the night with fire.
Thanks to the glamour, when The Emperor, accompanied by Horus, found Sanguinius, He accepted his son with open arms. To be hailed as “a pure soul, having grown up unsullied amongst a world of mutant cannibals” tore at Sanguinius, but he continued the charade, and against his expectation even his wings were taken as a sign of his angelic nature rather than a damning mutation. Sanguinius longed to tear out The Emperor’s throat there and then, but the image of his lifeless body at Horus’s feet stilled his hand. As a parting gift, The Emperor handed over control of the newly arrived Ninth Legion of the Adeptus Astartes – mighty warriors patterned upon the gene-line of Sanguinius himself. These Terran legionnaires were charged with socialising him into Imperial society, as well as exterminating the mutant tribes so that Imperial settlers, who were to provide the Legion’s new recruits, would be able to thrive.
At first, Sanguinius was forced to watch, helpless, as his legion built funeral pyres of his Changed brothers and sisters, but slowly he came to the point where he could control their actions without raising suspicion. He slowed the purges by ordering the bulk of the legion to Baal Primaris to deal with their mutant population first. This gave him the time he needed to learn all he could about the procedure for creating new marines, under the pretext that they would need fresh recruits to fulfil The Emperor’s Great Crusade. During this time, the choking smog from the pyres was making life on Baal Secundus more deadly than ever. At first Sanguinius saw this as a blessing, as the Imperial settlers sickened and became easy prey, while the tribes of Changed, long-inured to such a hostile environment were little affected. When the apothecaries had completed the last batch of gene-seed, cultured from his own body, Sanguinius recalled the Blood Angels from their pogrom. Then, one by one, he revealed his true nature to them.
Sanguinius fought to control his emotions as the Terran Captain, Thoros, spoke of his victories against the ‘mutant-cannibal scum’ in the southern polar reaches. Thoros, clearly unnerved by this personal audience with his primarch, was trying to impress, but his fate had been sealed from the time he had landed on Baal Secundus with The Emperor. Deciding that he had heard enough, Sanguinius licked his thin, angelic lips and asked the question he had posed each of the Terran Blood Angels who had come before him in the last week:
“Would you bleed for me, my son? Would you... die for me?”
The Great Crusade
Fired with new purpose, Sanguinius set to work reconstituting the Blood Angels with recruits drawn exclusively from his people, the downtrodden mutant tribes of the Changed. Only the hardiest of individuals were able to survive unprotected on Baal Secundus, and they made excellent candidates. Using the knowledge gleaned from the apothecaries, these new Blood Angel initiates were implanted with gene-seed and entombed for a year within their sarcophagus-like life-support chambers. They emerged as echoes of their primarch – stronger, taller and far more deadly than before, and took up the armour left by the dead Terran legionnaires.
Though the Blood Angels were easily able to reconstitute front-line fighting forces, they could not replace the technical knowledge that had been lost. Their forge grew cold, and the only maintenance being carried out was the most basic forms conducted by the legion’s servitors. Nurgle spoke to Sanguinius once again, offering aid in this matter in return for being let further into the souls, but the pact was roundly rebuffed. He intended that the Blood Angels would rely upon shipments of materiel from the Mechanicus until they had mastered the intricacies of producing what they needed themselves.
Sanguinius yearned to simply to build up his forces ready for the time they could kill The Emperor, but, mindful of the need to maintain the facade of loyalty, ordered his new Blood Angels to take their place in the Great Crusade. To hide their true nature they rarely fought alongside other legions and kept themselves aloof from the Imperial army. They always met outsiders wearing full armour, and officers hid their twisted faces beneath beautiful masks of shining gold. Despite all this, rumours of their savagery on the battlefield became legendary, alongside darker tales that they drank the blood and ate the flesh of their enemies.
Such lurid tales were easily eclipsed by the success of the Blood Angel expeditions, but as time went on their momentum began to falter. The legion’s lack of technical knowledge meant that everything from their vehicles, armour and even their warships were becoming increasingly inefficient and unreliable. Worse still, a malaise hung over the legion, souring their wounds and sapping their vitality. When it was discovered that the worst symptoms of the phage could be alleviated with frequent transfusions of blood, the exsanguination of their victims turned from cultural habit to full-blown necessity. In the face of such adversity, Sanguinius became increasingly resentful of his patron. Since his rejection of the pact, Nurgle had been silent, with requests about how much longer they would have to keep up the pretence of loyalty going unanswered.
Every world the legion brought into the Imperium depleted their resources further, turning the campaigns into grinding wars of attrition rather than the lightning strikes of their early years. Sanguinius was set to return to Baal Secundus to replenish their ranks when he received an astropathic communiqué from Rogal Dorn, The Emperor’s Praetorian. Sanguinius’s fear that his true intentions had been found out proved to be correct, but instead of anger, Dorn greeted him warmly, and as a fellow conspirator. He told Sanguinius things that melted his suspicions, and requested that he bring the Blood Angels to Terra while Dorn dealt with the three incorruptible legions on Istvaan.
It was what the Blood Angels had been waiting for, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Ground down by attrition, sickness and equipment failure, there was little chance of them arriving at Terra in time, and even less of them being in a fit state to kill The Emperor. With a heavy heart, Sanguinius opened his soul to Nurgle, and ordered his brethren to do the same.
The Siege of Terra
To the inhabitants of Terra, the full enormity of Dorn’s actions had yet to sink in. The destruction on Istvaan and the imprisonment of The Emperor inside his own palace were all-too familiar to them from the blood-soaked civil wars of the Age of Strife. The appearance of Sanguinius and his Blood Angels as they emerged from their landing ships at the Eternity Wall spaceport brought home the true nature of Chaos. They were gaunt, cadaverous and marked with weeping sores, yet also revitalised by the power of the Warp. Even Sanguinius’s glamour could not hide what he had become, or the fevered and hungry glint in his eyes. To the defenders, Dorn’s rebellion had been unthinkable, but the Blood Angels were like something out of a nightmare. Pausing only briefly to feed after their long voyage, Sanguinius led his battle brothers to the Imperial palace.
Inside, they greeted the demi-legion of Imperial Fists that Dorn had left behind. These palace guards turned prison warders had been charged with holding the palace, as well as trapping The Emperor inside His own armoured bunker of a throne room until Dorn’s arrival. The hatred that Sanguinius felt for The Emperor burned so brightly that in spite of his legion’s lack of siege-craft he summoned his Blood Angels from their posts on palace’s outer walls to assault the throne room’s fortifications. In the confusion the Night Lords mounted the unguarded battlements and briefly ran amok, before melting back into the darkness. This led to much tension between Sanguinius and First Captain Sigismund, the commander of the Imperial Fist contingent, and caused even more when the raid’s true objectives eventually became apparent.
Dorn’s arrival was followed shortly after by that of the vengeful Sons of Horus and the Iron Warriors. This saw the Chaos legions trying to break into the throne room while at the same time holding off the loyalists besieging the outer palace walls. Eager to redeem their past failure, and to avoid his entire legion being ordered away in disgrace to crush the pockets of resistance that were welling up worldwide, Sanguinius threw himself wholeheartedly into the defence of the palace’s outer walls. Their greatest test came on the 55th day of the siege, when the Iron Warriors breached the Ultimate Gate. As his Blood Angels repelled the enemy and sallied out to destroy their mighty war engines, Sanguinius confronted Perturabo in single combat. Energised by the power of Chaos and seemingly impervious to pain, the Bloody Angel triumphed over his brother primarch, snapping his spine over bended knee. Then, in an act that earned them the eternal hatred of the Iron Warriors, he drained the dying Perturabo of blood and contemptuously cast the corpse back amongst his demoralised progeny.
It was then the turn of the Chaos Legions to force a breach of their own, this time against the adamantium walls of the inner throne room. Once inside, it become clear that the Night Lord’s earlier attack had in fact been a diversion to allow The Emperor to escape. Sanguinius led his Blood Angels in a rampage across Terra to find their quarry, and everywhere they trod, disease and sickness followed. On information from the Blood Angel terror-squads operating across the planet they traced The Emperor’s new base back to the Astronomicon – an odd choice given the number of more easily defended sites available. As they closed in on the Astronomicon, the Blood Angels ran foul of The Emperor’s latest trick: the psychic beacon had been reconfigured to flare with His presence, which weakened the daemonic across the planet. This affected not just the creatures of the warp, but the Blood Angels themselves, reliant as they are on its power.
Though facing the brunt of the loyalist legions, the Blood Angels fought on towards the Astronomicon. Every step and every death brought them closer and closer to The Emperor. They even fought on upon hearing that Dorn’s Heresy had died with him, and that the other Chaos legions were fleeing the planet. All that remained for them was that they reach critically injured Emperor who had been returned to the Astronomicon. In the face of overwhelming numbers and escalating casualties they fought on, but hope finally died when word reached them that even the berserkers of the Space Wolves had turned their fleet aside.
With bitter resignation, Sanguinius led the Blood Angels back to Eternity Wall spaceport - the first Chaos Legion to arrive on Terra, and the last to leave.
After The Heresy
In the wake of their defeat on Terra, the Blood Angels returned directly to Baal Secundus. They hoped to reconstitute their dangerously thinned ranks in preparation for a second attempt to kill The Emperor, but instead found their homeworld to be dead. The changes in the atmosphere they had observed before departing on the Great Crusade had greatly accelerated in their absence, shrouding the moon in pestilent, acrid mists. It was unclear if this was a twisted reward from Nurgle for their service, or even a punishment for their ultimate failure on Terra, but the result was the same. The tribes of the Changed, who had survived the Faceless Ones, the pitiless rad-deserts and even the pogroms of the Terran Astartes had finally been annihilated.
Cursing the name of Nurgle, Sanguinius ordered his legion to divide down to the level of individual Grand Companies, hoping that these smaller, more mobile fleets would be better able to evade the Imperial Navy and cover a wider area to find new recruits to their cause. Though re-building their ranks was their goal, it soon became clear that the phage which afflicted them was far more debilitating than they had suspected. The frequency with which blood transfusions were required to alleviate the symptoms increased, forcing the Blood Angel raids to focus more upon securing captives than on recruitment. Worse still, their requirement for healthy subjects meant that simply claiming a world and bleeding it dry was out of the question, as their very presence rapidly tainted the populace with Nurgle’s plagues.
The Apothecarion’s Sanguinary Priests became adept not just at transfusing their brethren, but at transplanting organs to replace those atrophied by the build-up of toxins. In the most severe cases the poisons rotted away the brain itself, causing violent insanity – the so-called Black Rage –making them a grave danger to friend and foe alike. Known to their brothers as the Lost, these creatures are a terrible vision of what fate awaits them all. For this reason they are locked away in the darkest bowels of the fleet’s ships, sustained only by the unholy powers of the Warp.
With this constant drain on their numbers, as well as the grinding battle of simply staying alive, the Blood Angels have instead fallen into taking their pleasure in punishing the Imperial worlds they raid. Sanguinius, however, has never forgotten his original purpose, and moves between his fleets urging them on to build towards the long-planned second assault on Terra. There is a tension between the Blood Angels and their patron that has echoed down the millennia since that first, misunderstood, pact on Baal Secundus. Nurgle has never been able to force Sanguinius to fully submit to his will, but despite this the Plague God has either been unwilling, or unable, to convert a more pliable legion to his wholehearted worship. It is possible that seeing the Blood Angels desperately battle against the grinding entropy of his ‘gifts’ holds more interest to Nurgle than that of the blind adoration he receives from more obedient followers.
Even as a youth, leading his tribes to war against the Faceless Ones, Sanguinius would fly high over the battlefield before swooping down to tear into the heart of the enemy line. This simple joy, from a time before his life was marred by either Nurgle or The Emperor, has been imprinted upon the soul of each and every Blood Angel, and is reflected in the legion’s fighting style. Highly mobile assault squads make up the vanguard of every Blood Angels force, and the competition to gain a place amongst their ranks is fierce. Lacking the technical knowledge required to create or even maintain traditional patterns of Astartes jump-pack, a brother must make his own personal pact to create and empower their daemon-engine. These archaic devices emit a discordant sound more akin to the buzz of a swarm of flies than the roar of turbo-fans. In concert with those of their squad brothers, they come together to strike unnatural harmonics that can send their opponents screaming in terror rather than face them.
In support of the assault wave come infantry squads in vehicles that, despite their ramshackle and corroded appearance, can produce a remarkable turn of speed. These Tactical and Havoc squads provide invaluable covering fire, and once the battle is over they cordon the enemy survivors so that they can be tested for tissue compatibility by the Sanguinary Priests. Some of those that remain are gifted by the commander to slake the thirsts of the brethren he deems to have fought most valiantly, but most are allowed to leave alive. However, this is not done out of kindness. In their flight to other settlements, these refugees carry the seeds of sickness across the land.
As if in response to Sanguinary Priest Pelter’s presence, the sounds of scratching from inside the sigil-engraved case rose from insistent to frenzied. Pelter unfastened the catch and threw back the lid, and into the air rose a score of insects, each the size of a human hand. They were not like the ubiquitous clouds of flies that followed the legion, but forged from brass to bind and house a minor daemonic entity. They were yet another example of the Rite-Master’s craft, able to identify those suitable for exsanguination and organ harvesting. Without them, the legion would long-since have fallen to ruin.
The swarm rose, and then moved towards the ragged rows of captives the Blood Angels had assembled before them. They quailed before their approach, but it was a sign of the terror instilled by the Astartes that not a single captive broke and ran. Verdigris-covered insects landed upon petrified faces to sample tears, or capered across bandaged wounds to dab at the blood beneath with shining, syringe-like tongues. Alarmed by the high-pitched trill signalling tissue compatibility, one of the captives scrambled at the metal insect, shredding his hands on the iridescent blades of its wings. It tumbled to the ground, and was roughly stamped beneath heavy boots until the entity was released from its casing. Before the stench of putrescence and brimstone had dispersed, Pelter had the man pulled from the crowd. He had to make an example of him, and after all, it would be a shame to let compatible blood go to waste...
When the Blood Angels wish to ensure the downfall of a planet they will delay their return to the plague fleets, and focus their attention beyond small-scale raids. In such instances they unleash the full power of their necrotic arsenal, and become true harbingers of Nurgle’s power. The land sickens and the cloying stench of death fills the air. Clouds of flies blot out the sun and the ground becomes slick with decomposing vegetation. Victims of diseases in outlying settlements are herded in their millions against the defender’s strongholds. Only when morale is at its lowest ebb and stocks of ammunition run low do the Blood Angels finally attack.
Such strategies are effective against all but the most stalwart of opponents, and yet there is one final, terrible, weapon in their armoury: the mindless hordes of the Lost. Though they are undeniably lethal on the battlefield, the Lost are completely uncontrollable, unable to distinguish former friends from foes. Beyond such tactical considerations, the Lost are terrible reminders of the fate that lies in store for them all. For this reason only the direst of circumstances would prompt a Blood Angel captain to sanction their use on the battlefield.
The Blood Angels retain the same basic organisational structure they had during the Great Crusade, and revere Sanguinius as their primarch and wellspring of their existence. However, their renegade status, along with the need to raid far and wide to stave off the Black Rage, has necessitated that the legion fragment down to the level of individual Grand Companies. Because of the vast distances separating the plague fleets each Grand Company captain has a great deal of independence and autonomy, although on occasion two or more fleets will converge to carry out particularly large and audacious attacks.
Each Grand Company, indeed, each ship in the Plague Fleet has its own cadre of Sanguinary Priests and Rite Masters; powerful individuals who wield great influence. Without the Sanguinary Priests of the Apothecarion to hold the Black Rage at bay the Blood Angels would rapidly descend into little better than mindless beasts. The Rite Masters are responsible for the legion’s ships, armour and weapons. Much of the technical knowledge for proper maintenance was lost during Sanguinius’s bloody reformation of the original legion, and that which survived was useless in the face of Nurgle’s corrosive influence. Instead, the Rite Masters use their sorcery to bind and compel the myriad daemonic entities that inhabit everything from the plague ships themselves, to their vehicles, and even the armour they wear.
Moving between the different Plague Fleets, accompanied by his honour guard of ancient veterans, is Sanguinius himself. While other primarchs who turned to Chaos have long-since ascended to daemon-hood, Sanguinius remains as mortal and terrible as he was during the Siege of Terra. Just to be in the presence of Sanguinius, to learn from his millennia of experience and to replenish depleted stocks of gene-seed fills the Grand Company with renewed will and purpose. Much is expected of a fleet accompanied by Sanguinius, and the penalty for displeasing the primarch is to meet the same macabre fate as befell the legion’s original Terran Astartes.
Being a fleet based legion, the Blood Angels take every opportunity to bring more ships into their service. They do this not just by boarding and claiming other vessels, but by infecting the crew with Nurgle’s plagues, leaving them as ghost-ships which can be easily tracked. The most audacious example of this was at Port Maw in M34, when a seemingly minor raid allowed the Blood Angels contaminate the supplies for much of Battlefleet Gothic. More than forty vessels, including a dozen capital ships fell in their entirety to the contagion, and became a part of the Plague Fleet.
After the Heresy, and with nothing left on Baal Secundus for them to call home, the Blood Angels became fleet-based, the better to raid the Imperium. Unlike most of the Chaos Legions they have never felt the draw of the Eye of Terror, and have certainly not been lured by the offer of inhabiting a daemon-world created in Nurgle’s image. Though the Blood Angels had already turned their back on the place, Abaddon’s massed Crusades against the homes of the Chaos Legions drew them inexorably there. By this point the changes wrought by Nurgle were so advanced that even Mortarion of the Death Guard, brought up breathing the noxious chemical smog of Barbarus, would not risk setting foot on the planet without his armour tightly sealed. The loyalists found something approaching a daemon-world, and finding nothing except the daemonic haunting its mists, withdrew and subjected it to an atomic bombardment exceeding even that of the first Great War in its ferocity.
The thrice devastated moon was declared ‘Perditia’, and quarantined by the Imperium until it was swallowed by the ever-expanding borders of Ultramar Segmentum. Be it through arrogance or ignorance, the Ultramarines chose to settle what remained of the moon. The subsequent plague and the renegade actions of the chapter founded to guard the area sent convulsions through the realm for nearly a century afterwards.
It was in the deepest level of the deserted Fortress-Monastery that they found the bones: piles and piles of them stretching out in every direction. There were hundreds of such sites on Baal Secundus, but as Captain Garro stepped out upon them he realised that this one was different. They had not splintered to dust beneath his armoured boots as a normal bone would have. Kneeling down to examine them closer brought the realisation that this was not just another bone-pit, but the grave of thousands upon thousands of Astartes. He picked a femur from the piles and saw, with an icy chill, that in spite of its ceramically toughened nature, it showed definite signs of having been gnawed.
Before he could ponder the significance of what lay before him, the call came from Mortarion himself to withdraw back to the stormbirds. As they cautiously made their way back through the catacombs, Garro noticed Brother Decius shudder and grip at his arm. Despite his protégé’s protests, the warp-creature’s knife had clearly caused him more harm than he was admitting. This whole planet was death incarnate, and the sooner Decius got the wound treated by Apothecary Voyen the happier he would be.
Although the tribes of the Changed on Baal Secundus are now but a memory, mutants can be found on the fringes of every human society. Captives bearing the stigmata are thrown into the stygian, foetid darkness of the ship’s holds, and those resilient enough to survive until their captors have finished their work on the organ-harvesting and exsanguination decks are tested further for compatibility with the Blood Angel gene-seed. If found worthy, they are subjected to batteries of surgical procedures and blood-rites to implant and initiate the Sanguinius gene-seed, and are then entombed within a sarcophagus for a year. These arcane mechanisms feed and guide the changes wrought by the various implants so that when it finally opens, they emerge bloody, but transformed, an echo of their cadaverous primarch. Through a combination of psycho-indoctrination and gene-line transference, they become imprinted with memories and character traits from Sanguinius’s earliest days on Baal Secundus. In this way they are reborn sharing an unbreakable bond and a unified purpose.
Those who fail the selection procedures serve the legion for the rest of their lives, guarding and tending to their Astartes lords as they slumber within their sarcophagi. In part this is due to fear, but a more powerful motivation is the desperate hope that their actions might prompt their masters to deem them worthy to become Astartes after all. Given the myriad diseases that proliferate aboard the Blood Angel’s fleets, the lifespan of most of these serfs is measured in weeks or months of coming aboard. Some, however, gain the favour of Nurgle and build a symbiotic relationship with their diseases, treating every new sore and pustule as an agonising blessing.
The original gene-seed borne by the Terran legionnaires of the Ninth Legion was stable, efficient and pure, but they, along with their gene-line were wiped from existence. Unknown to Sanguinius, just as Nurgle had polluted his soul, he had also tainted his flesh, and in turn the implants prepared from it to create the new Blood Angels. Because of this, the gene-line of Sanguinius has become a curse, acting as a mark of Nurgle upon every marine who bears it. These implants acted more like a single parasitic organism than mere lumps of flesh. They aggressively drain nutrients and vitality from their host, causing the Blood Angel’s characteristic gaunt, cadaverous appearance. In turn the implants produce a seemingly endless array of diseases, to which the host marine becomes a potent carrier. The gene-seed shields the host from the worst of the symptoms, and also protects itself by making the host remarkably resilient to damage, or at least heedless of its effects until after the battle has ended.
The effect of all this is a build-up of toxins in the bloodstream which damages the organs, and, if left unchecked, they penetrate the brain causing the insanity of the Black Rage. The process is retarded by frequent transfusions of uninfected blood from the Sanguinary Priests, although in extremis it can be drunk and utilised by the body via a unique adaptation to the preomnor, or second stomach implant. The Blood Angels spend much of the long warp-journeys between raids inside their sarcophagi, waking only as the next planet approaches. Each sarcophagus incorporates arcane life support equipment which filters the toxin from their blood and allows the marine to enter an enhanced state of suspended animation to slow down his constant decline.
Though the gene-seed wreaks a terrible toll on its host, this becomes far worse if the implants become damaged in any way. As they regenerate they draw even more harshly on the body’s resources and release potent toxins, necessitating further transfusions and transplants. Because of this, the only time that a Blood Angel’s progenoid glands are removed is at the point of death, as to do otherwise would invite debilitating sickness.
Sergeant Yorah of the World Eaters brought his chain-axe around in a tight arc and decapitated the skittering mutant thing in mid-leap. They were getting bogged down, and every second brought this hulk of a plague ship closer to the planet. He ordered Brother Kellion to clear the corridor with his heavy bolter and checked the auspex for the best route to the life-support systems. They were so few – a single squad against a whole enemy ship – that their only chance was to destroy the Blood Angels before they could awaken.
In the seconds it had taken Yorah to pinpoint the correct path, his auspex had filled with encroaching blips. Despite the danger, he urged his brethren on into the fray. They were the sons of Angron, unmatched in martial discipline. They would prevail against this Chaos rabble.
Although the principle that has guided the Blood Angels is to bring about the death of The Emperor, in practice the need to quench their thirsts with the blood of their enemies all-too often obscures it. Despite the fates of Sanguinius and the Blood Angels being intrinsically tied to that of Nurgle, the relationship is very different to that of the cult legions of the other Chaos Gods. Where the Space Wolves, Raven Guard and White Scars are eager devotees, the Blood Angels spread disease across the galaxy not for the love of it, but to hurt the hated Imperium. They also have little choice, needing to raid far and wide to obtain the untainted blood they need to survive, and are well aware that to achieve Nurgle’s aim of infecting the entire galaxy would ultimately lead to their own extinction.
During the Great Crusade, the Blood Angels were careful to give no cause for suspicion and went into battle swearing allegiance to The Emperor. Since the Heresy they are far more honest and open about their loyalties and motivations, and the battle cry “For blood and for Sanguinius!” has risen to prominence.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 04 January 2010 - 12:51 PM.