It has taken a lot of time to crack this one, but I have finally said I will post this on the board by the end of October. So as usual, the yellow text is a placeholder or an early draft. Orange text is the most recent changes and the nice normal grey text is for sections I am relatively happy with. (10/10/11)
Midnight clad, and wielding fear as a weapon, the Night Lords haunt the dark places of the Imperium. They do this not to hide from the light of justice, but because that is where those who would seek to harm the Emperor’s subjects are to be found. Since the time of their Primarch, Konrad Curze, the Night Lords have been guided by visions of the darkest of futures which they are driven to avert, even at the cost of their own lives. By their blood and sacrifice the Imperium of Mankind has been kept safe from rebellions, xenos invasions and betrayals without number.
In the revered, handwritten accounts of his youth, the primarch tells of how he grew up on the unlit streets of Nostramo Quintus, hiding from everyone, even the gangs of abandoned children which roamed the slums. He watched the press of humanity around him, content simply to study them, until he witnessed a family being menaced by a gang of thugs. The sight of the criminals attempting to steal the baby from its parents offended something deep inside him, and in an instant he was upon them with the only weapons he had – his nails and teeth. By the time his enemies had breathed their last, the terrified family had already fled from their blood-soaked protector. From that point on, no longer was he able to look on as injustice was perpetrated. He made it his business to put an end to such things. Those who witnessed his attacks told of a soulless creature of nightmare which stalked the shadows and wore the darkness like a cloak. For the first time he also had a name: to his prey he was the Night Haunter.
As he grew to maturity, he came to realise that the criminals he had been punishing had been given their orders by more powerful individuals. Over the course of a long, bloody year, the Night Haunter waged war upon the corruption which had spread its tendrils right to the top of society. From the heads of the organised crime syndicates to the law enforcement officials who had spat upon their oaths for personal gain, none were safe from his punishment; their broken bodies left for all to see as warnings to those who broke the Night Haunter’s law. Fearing for their lives, the criminals searched in vain for their tormentor. Unimaginable sums were offered for his head, or even for information, but to no avail. He had no-one, so could not be betrayed, and Nostramo contained more than enough shadows in which to hide.
The war was bloody, but one-sided, and eventually the criminal population was cowed into complete submission. From the alleyways of the undercity to the corridors of power, no-one dared to break the law lest they be the next to suffer the Night Haunter’s retribution. By the time Imperial Expeditions reached Nostramo, drawn initially tales of its bountiful supplies of adamantium, they found the world orderly, productive and ruled over by a being of preternatural abilities. Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons ventured down to investigate further, and soon confirmed that another of the Emperor’s long-lost primarch sons had indeed been found.
In the time it took for the Emperor to reach Nostramo, Magnus bonded with his brother, and spoke in glowing terms of their father’s great quest to unite the scattered worlds of mankind under Imperial Law. With his interest in justice, this aspect held considerable appeal to the Night Haunter. In return, Magnus was fascinated to learn that his brother was gifted by brief flashes of precognitive ability, although he had so far been unable to use this fore-knowledge in any meaningful way.
The eventual arrival of the Emperor was a time of hushed expectation and awe. So accustomed to the darkness were the people of Nostramo that when the Emperor first stepped from his landing craft, many were dazzled by the golden light reflected from His burnished armour. However, it was as nothing to what occurred next. As the Night Haunter approached his father in humble supplication, the Emperor opened his arms wide in welcome, and the entire sky lit up as it had not done in living memory. In honour of the new dawn which the Imperium had brought to Nostramo, the Emperor had ordered the orbit of Tenebor to be fractionally altered, so that the moon would no longer hold the world in a permanent eclipse.
Even though the light from Nostramo’s dying star was wan and pale, for some it was the last thing they would ever see. Even the Night Haunter was struck down, shaking uncontrollably not at the light, but undergoing one of his prophetic visions. With great tenderness the Emperor laid hands upon His son’s head, and calmed the seizure, saying “Konrad Curze, be at peace. I have arrived and I intend to take you home.” The reply, controlled and level, was recorded for the galaxy to hear:
“That is not my name, father. I am Night Haunter... and I have seen the glory of the Imperium that we will create.”
Though he had long resisted it, Night Haunter finally agreed to allow his brother access to the memories of his latest vision. Magnus was more successful than they could have hoped, reassembling the headlong rush of knowledge into a coherent form. Forewarned, they were able to prevent the ambush and destruction of many of the orbiting Imperial Army vessels, and the planet fell into compliance soon afterwards. In the wake of this victory, Night Haunter confessed to his brother the dark truth that had haunted him since he had first met the Emperor on Nostramo; that his prophesy had not, as he had publically stated, been of the inevitable rise of the Imperium. Instead it had shown his own execution, and that the deed had been carried out on the orders of their own father. The proof that the visions were not inevitable and could be averted had freed him to at long last confide this knowledge to another person. With the burden lifted from his shoulders, he was at last able to accept and welcome these visions, and rapidly became skilled at their interpretation. He was also free to set aside his past, and reclaimed the name his father had bestowed upon him – that of Konrad Curze.
The Night Lords’ apprenticeship was finally at an end, and as the Thousand Sons left, reinforcements arrived in the form of the first Astartes recruited from Nostramo. What should have been a moment of great pride proved to be singularly ill-starred. As Curze greeted these new battle-brothers, he was struck by the vision of his legion corrupted from within and populated by criminals and moral degenerates – individuals who carried out wanton acts of brutality for no better reason than for the sick thrill of it. Where Night Haunter might have resignedly embraced this as the inevitable reason for his execution, Konrad Curze would not. Instead, he ordered the new Astartes placed under confinement, and returned to his homeworld with all haste.
He had thought Nostramo left in capable hands. Instead, Curze found that in his absence the criminals had risen up once more and turned the planet into a cess-pool of lawlessness. The Adeptus Arbites and the Administratum had been unable to deal with the situation, so it fell to Curze and his Night Lords to re-impose order through the fear of brutal, inevitable retribution. Within a week, crime had dropped back to nothing, and when the legion eventually returned to the Great Crusade, it was an unbending cadre of Night Lords who held stewardship of the planet rather than the hopelessly outclassed Adeptus Arbites.
The Night Lords found themselves changed by the experience of Nostramo, and with the lessons of the campaign weighting heavily upon them, they saw the Imperium with fresh eyes. The Great Crusade had become a victim of its own success. With so many worlds conquered so fast, many took advantage of their distance from the front lines to rise up against the Imperium. Long before the Iron Warriors were persuaded to bleed away their strength in garrison duties to address this, the Night Lords took it upon themselves to re-impose the rule of Imperial Law on the faltering galaxy.
This was a far more uncompromising, brutal legion than the one which had accompanied the Thousand Sons. It descended on planets only nominally still part of the Imperium, and enshrouded them in a cloak of fear. Planetary leaders were given the ultimatum to submit wholeheartedly to the Pax Imperialis, and any who resisted became bloody public exhibitions to the folly of resistance. They did this not out of sadistic pleasure, but from the knowledge that humanity needed to be subjected to the fear of certain retribution to keep it from straying into corruption. Just as a plant grows twisted if the cane that supports and guides it is removed too soon, the same applied to the Imperium of Mankind.
The Night Lords took it upon themselves to do the terrible things required to keep the Imperium from slipping into anarchy and rebellion, and to protect humanity from its own darkest impulses. Curze’s prophetic visions were vital in crushing rebellions before they could gain ground, and the belief was encouraged that they could see the evil that lurked in the hearts of men. They did all of this willingly, knowing that the price was to be hated, and obviously feared, by the very people they were protecting.
With the exception of his mentor, Magnus, Curze was never close to his brother primarchs, and so cared little for their low opinion of him. All that mattered was that the Emperor understood his actions. He left his brothers to their machinations, rivalries and petty posturing, confident that while they might differ in their approaches, they were all in their own ways working towards the greater glory of the Imperium. This belief, and the Night Lords’ participation in the Great Crusade, was abruptly terminated on the planet of Cheraut.
It was a testament to the fierce, coordinated resistance of the people of Cheraut that the primarchs of three legions were sent to finally bring them into compliance. The Night Lords arrived first, and Curze ordered his legion to carry out terrible and public displays of brutality against the military forces who opposed them to paralyse the individual nations with fear. The once cohesive, unified world which had stood firm against veteran regiments of the Imperial Army for more than a year fell into disarray. By the time Fulgrim’s Emperor’s Children and Rogal Dorn’s Imperial Fists arrived, every city stood alone, isolated from even their closest neighbours, and ripe to be conquered piecemeal.
To Curze, the Pacification of Cheraut had been a prime example of combining their various talents to great effect, but when he joined his brother primarchs in the shattered remnants of the world’s last and greatest citadel, he found Dorn not appreciative, but furious. The Imperial Fist railed against what the Night Lords had done, claiming that Guilliman and Angron had been right, and that he would answer for the gross excesses carried out in the Emperor’s name. Unwilling to engage in yet another pointless discussion of his methods, Curze turned to leave, but Dorn reached out to stop him. At the touch, Curze was driven to his knees, struck down by a vision of terrible, sickening potency.
Both Dorn and Curze were there, but rather than on Cheraut they were in the midst of the Emperor’s Throne Room on Terra. Rather than the serene majesty Curze had remembered, there were obvious signs of battle damage and the charnel stench of death hung heavy in the air. Dorn’s ornate golden armour was engraved with unholy symbols painful to look upon, and his sunken eyes burned with hate and the icy fires of insanity. Curze tried to move, but could only strain against the heavy shackles which restrained him. His struggling grew ever-more frantic as Dorn drew a black bladed sword, and stepped aside to reveal the broken, unconscious body of the Emperor, and with a smile held the blade to his father’s throat. With an almighty snap the chain holding Curze gave way, and he threw himself across the room at Dorn, hands contorted into talons to rip and tear at the Arch-Betrayer...
...When he awoke from the vision, his hands were around Dorn’s throat, and in a desperate attempt to prevent the future he had been shown he continued to attack, rending and tearing with tooth and nail. Even as the blows rained down on him from all those around, he tried to explain the importance of what he was doing, but his words were lost in a howl of incoherent pain and rage. He shrugged off the yellow armoured Astartes as though they were nothing, but before he could take the life of his treacherous brother, Fulgrim was there, and in a blur of purple and gold tore him away from Dorn and knocked Curze unconscious.
While held in custody aboard the Phalanx - the vast flagship of the Imperial Fist fleet – Curze came to realise the full gravity of his situation. His carefully crafted reputation as an object of fear, and the damning testimony of Fulgrim, someone known to loathe Rogal Dorn, had left people wary of his motives and even of his sanity. Furthermore, having seen the suspicion and unfair accusations of sorcery that dogged his brother Magnus, any talk of prophesy would serve only to further weaken his case. Knowing the result that a trial before the Council of Primarchs would return, and that his vision had shown him as Dorn’s prisoner, he made his escape from the Phalanx leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. While the Imperial Fists and Emperor’s Children searched for him in vain, he made his way back to his legion, and quietly slipped away into the darkness between the stars.
They looked on as hunted fugitives, unable to prevent the disasters that were to come, but when Dorn’s treachery was finally revealed at the Istvaan Drop-site massacre, the Night Lords were in place to act. With the anarchy of Dorn’s rebellion, the Night Lords were at last able to penetrate the supremely tight defences of the Terran system without detection. Unfortunately, by this point the Emperor was already trapped inside his Throne Room by the demi-legion of Imperial Fists which Dorn had left to garrison the outer palace.
So good were the Imperial Fists at this task that despite all their stealth, it was only with the arrival of the Blood Angels, and their eventual sloppy relief of the Imperial Fists on the outer walls, that the Night Lords were finally able to penetrate the walls of the palace. They ran riot through the palace, attacking the forces of Chaos and the Imperial Fists in particular, but for all the devastation they caused, it was merely a distraction. Their true purpose was to release the Emperor from the cage His Throne Room had become.
Curze begged his father to leave Terra, but the Emperor was unbending in his refusal. Even the arrival on Terra of Rogal Dorn at the head of the Istvaan Traitor Legions could not dissuade Him, after which Curze never again broached the subject. What the Emperor said to convince Curze that He must not leave Terra to the traitors has long-since been lost to the ages, but most within the legion believe that it refers to a prophesy borne not by the son, but by the father.
Still unaware that their quarry had been spirited away, the traitors continued to focus all of their efforts on breaching the walls of the throne room. This allowed the Night Lords to do what they knew best; instilling the fear of retribution amongst the Chaos forces across the planet. During this time, Curze received further warnings, which he tried to avert with varying degrees of success. His vision of Perturabo being dealt a grievous, plague-infected wound by Sanguinius of the Blood Angels came even as the assault on the Ultimate Gate was about to take place. Despite contacting Perturabo minutes before the attack, the primarch of the Iron Warriors contemptuously ignored the warning, and was instead killed outright by the rotting primarch. Even beyond the grief and responsibility Curze felt for the loss of his brother, the revelation that his actions could inadvertently create an even darker path shook Curze to the core.
As the Siege of Terra ground through its third month, the war fell into stalemate, with neither side able to comprehensively defeat the other. With the long-delayed fleets of the Dark Angels and Space Wolves growing ever-closer, the Imperial forces sought a way to end the rebellion before they could arrive by killing the Arch-Betrayer himself. However, since the breaching of the Imperial throne room Dorn had rarely been seen on Terra, and had instead taken to coordinating the campaign from the Phalanx.
Protected behind countless banks of void shields and wielding enough firepower to devastate any Imperial fleet sent against it, the Phalanx appeared impervious to assault. Every attack simulation the Warmaster could conceive ended in abject failure, and while a covert action might prove more successful, there was no time to put such a plan into operation. At that moment Curze stepped from the shadows, and announced that he would be able to bring down the Phalanx’s shields for long enough to allow a strike-force to teleport aboard. He had been granted a vision of the desperate direct assault against the Phalanx, and of the Imperial fleet, including the Warmaster’s own flagship, illuminating the night like new suns as they burned. Since he had received that warning, the Night Lords had spent every waking moment preparing and analysing the weaknesses of the Phalanx. Just as Konrad Curze had escaped from the Phalanx as it lay in orbit around Cheraut, he was certain he and his team could also break onto it.
With their presence revealed, the Night Lords took advantage of the devastation and darkness to turn the enemy’s territory into their own. They were in their element, but such was the size of the Phalanx that Curze knew it would be impossible to reach his father before His assault on Dorn’s command sanctum. The Night Lords would have been content simply to punish the followers of the Arch-Betrayer that pressed in on them, but it soon became apparent that something had gone terribly wrong.
Due to the corrupted nature of the ship, they almost dismissed the twisted half-figure merged into the wall as yet another daemonic manifestation, and yet the distinctive burnished golden armour revealed it to be nothing less than one of the Emperor’s Custodian Guard. Curze even recognised the man as part of his father’s strike force, who had clearly suffered a catastrophic accident during teleportation. As Curze reached out to close the eyes of the tortured man, he was again struck by a vision of the near-future. Through tears of grief, Curze told his officers that he had seen the traitors triumphant. He spoke of Dorn boasting of how he had feigned shaking off the daemonic and begged forgiveness, and had used that moment of confusion to strike down first Warmaster Horus and then the Emperor.
With no way to contact his father to warn of Dorn’s treachery, and being much too far from the command bridge to fight their way there, Curze did the only thing he could to get into Dorn’s presence. Much to the dismay of his Night Lords, he left them with the cryptic phrase “This will be my Investory”, before surrendering to the Imperial Fists and demanding to be taken before their primarch.
The Night Lords fought on with renewed ferocity, but by the time they cut their way through to the Sons of Horus the battle, and the Heresy, had already ended. Curze’s actions had bought the Emperor enough warning to raise His guard against Dorn’s deceit, but it came at a terrible cost. The last seconds of Curze’s life were recorded on the vid-logs of the primarch’s own armour. Curze was securely chained and shackled, yet confident as he was brought before Dorn. When offered the stark choice between life and death – to join the rebellion, or die there and then - Curze gave a chilling, contemptuous laugh, and calmly rejected his offer, before defiantly addressing Rogal Dorn:
“Why did I come before you only to be killed? Because your Heresy, and the act you are about to commit, proves the truth of my actions at Cheraut. I merely tried to punish one who would go on to cause so much harm – my only regret is that I did not succeed in killing you before you made war on our father, our Emperor. Death is nothing compared to vindication."
Despite exhaustive examination, the exchange has given little clue as to exactly how Curze’s death averted the events of his prophetic vision. All is certain is that through this act of supreme self-sacrifice, the Emperor’s life was saved, and the Arch-Betrayer’s Heresy brought to an end.
In this task they were aided by the High Lords of Terra, who ruled in the Emperor’s name, and in particular by their leader, Ezekyle Abaddon of the newly renamed Black Templars. Having seen at first hand the service and sacrifice of Curze and his Night Lords, High Lord Abaddon gave them carte blanche to bring rebellious planets back into line, and to ensure that governors thinking of declaring independence reconsidered the wisdom of such actions. He also ordered that the full weight of the Officio Assassinorum stand alongside the Night Lords in this task, an edict which remains in force to this day.
Along with the extensive intelligence-gathering abilities of the Vanus Clade of Assassins, who monitor and predict worlds likely to fall to rebellion or to come under attack by invasion, a rare few Night Lords are also blessed with their primarch’s gift of prophesy. This allows the Night Lords to crush insurrections in their infancy, and to divert forces to stand against acts of aggression by Xenos and Chaos forces. Yet for all the good that the Night Lords do, their appearance is rarely greeted with enthusiasm. All too often they are seen as harbingers of doom, arriving as they do just ahead of either an invading war-fleet, or as agents of bloody vengeance. With good reason it is said that the black eyes of the Night Lords are able to see the evil in mens’ hearts, and as few are without a trace of sin, many a guilty conscience is prickled by word of their arrival.
They strike seemingly from nowhere, favouring hit-and-run attacks to frontal assaults, before melting back into the darkness. Nowhere is safe from the Night Lords’ wrath, and this continues until even the dullest of imaginations comes to see them in every shadow and dark corner. In this way a small number of Night Lords can seemingly be everywhere, and can paralyse a whole army, or even a whole world with fear. Only when a base or settlement is psychologically isolated, with nothing to listen to on the vox but the chilling promise of retribution and the looped screams of their missing squad mates, do the Night Lords mass for the final attack. With their helms decorated like skulls, they appear as death incarnate, come to claim those who have transgressed the Emperor’s laws.
Even in cases where the enemy is said to have no fear, the Night Lords finely honed talents have still proved to be effective. Be they the synapse-creatures of the Tyranid Hive-mind or the corrupted Magos of the Dark Mechanicus, by targeting their leaders, the followers are soon left either milling around in confusion, or are soon ordered to adopt a far more static, defensive stance. Though some may call it a simple logical or evolutionary response to the presence of the Night Lords, this rapid drawing in of forces and settling into a state of heightened awareness holds many similarities to that of fear.
The legion is aided both on and off the battlefield by the temples of the Assassins, from the infocytes of Clade Vanus procuring and analysing data to the agents of the Vindicare training battle-brothers in the fine art of killing from afar. Though a Night Lord force commonly counts but a single assassin amongst their number, far rarer and more prized are the legion’s prophets. They can come from any background or specialisation – for instance, one of the legion’s finest and most valiant prophets was not an officer, but an apothecary – and as soon as their talent manifests they come under close scrutiny by the brothers of the Librarium.
As Magnus the Red well understood, there is little link between the psychic power of the librarians and the prophetic visions of the Night Lords. They are invaluable, however, in helping to draw out and analyse the often maddeningly vague assemblage of images into a coherent form, and to help identify when and where the disaster is set to occur. They are also used to test the veracity of both the prophesy, and even of the prophet himself, as the consequences of the Ruinous Powers influencing these visions would be truly disastrous.
Despite the arrival of the Emperor bringing daylight to Nostramo, the population have proved unwilling to embrace this new dawn. For a people genetically adapted to the darkness, even the weak sunlight which reaches them can be blinding, and under the protection of the Night Lords there is little to fear from the shadows. Because of this, Nostraman society conducts its business wherever possible during the night, with the population careful to return to their shuttered homes before the first scorching rays of sun return at dawn. The only souls to be found out during the day are those not indigenous to the planet, or those forced by circumstance to brave the daylight behind goggles of smoked glass and layers of protective clothing.
Over the millennia the five cities of Nostramo have steadily expanded, although Quintus, the place where the infant primarch first fell to earth and the site of the legion’s fortress-monastery, retains primacy. It is said by off-worlders that despite their large populations the cities of Nostramo are unnervingly quiet and well-ordered. The streets are clean and free of litter, and even the air is sweet – at least in comparison to the levels of pollution pumped into the atmosphere before the arrival of the Emperor.
During the Great Crusade, Curze had to return to Nostramo to reverse the world’s descent into anarchy and corruption. To prevent his legion from becoming tainted with moral degenerates and psychopaths he turned his Night Lords loose upon the criminal elements in an echo of his first great purge of Nostraman society. So effective was this that some grew concerned that the population had become cowed into such a submissive state that they would be all-but useless as Astartes. Needless to say, they should not have doubted their primarch. Just as the Nostraman people had adapted to the dark by losing their irises, they also adapted to a society where crime was so swiftly, brutally and publically punished by embracing Curze’s concept of natural justice not just as the norm, but as their moral duty.
Rather than passively avert their eyes from criminal acts, secure in the knowledge that their Night Lord guardians would soon deal very publically with the miscreant, Nostramans gained the confidence to stand against wrongdoers themselves. While at first this may have been done out of fear, that inaction might have been seen as complicity, it has long since been because seeing such acts genuinely offends their ingrained sense of justice. While the Night Lords continue to watch over Nostramo and its people, what little crime that might occur is frequently dealt with by ordinary citizens. The Night Lords continue to watch silently from the shadows, but their role is now as much to identify those who might possess the moral fibre to become potential aspirants as it is to guard the streets from crime.
To those truly without sin, the world of Nostramo is the safest in the Imperium.
While this gift has helped to shape the tactics used by every Night Lord, there is another, far more extraordinary inheritance passed down from Konrad Curze to but a select few of his brethren – the power of prophesy. Such are the stresses that these visions place upon both body and soul that their bearers can be readily identified by their haunted, even haggard appearance. Because of the huge role that these warnings play in the psyche and effectiveness of the legion a staggering amount of research has gone into understanding how to increase the number of individuals able to harness this invaluable talent. Over the centuries innumerable approaches have been championed, and yet in truth the proportion of individuals with this talent has barely kept pace with the expansion of the legion.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 31 October 2011 - 11:29 PM.