40K Lore: Canis Helix

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Today loremasters, we delve deep into they gene seed mysteries of the Vlka Fenryka, the Space Wolves.

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History and Properties

The Canis Helix is a mutation of normal gene-seed that gifts the Wolves with enhanced abilities beyond even those of other Space Marines, including hyper-acute senses of smell and hearing, elongated canines that can dent plasteel, and leathery, resilient skin. It also enhances the Wolves’ ferocity in battle, but carries a dangerous risk of turning a Wolf into a bestial monster, if he fails to control his feral side. This risk accompanies the Wolves throughout their lives, and is known as the Curse of the Wulfen.

The Canis Helix is the first and most essential component of gene-seed implanted into Aspirant Space Wolves, during the final stage of their initiation. During the Test of Morkai, the Aspirants drink a formula containing the Helix from the Cup of Wulfen and undergo a violent transformation: their bones split and buckle, thick hair sprouts from their bodies, and they revert to a bestial state where they hunger for raw meat and blood. One of the most important aspects of the Test is that the Aspirant show himself able to keep this bestial side under control, even while making his way through the Fenrisian wilderness in harsh conditions. Those that fail to do so become Wulfen, and remain in the wild. If the Aspirant returns to the Fang, he is implanted with the remaining components of the Wolves’ gene-seed, which stabilize the effects of the Helix. Although this procedure is extremely hazardous, these remaining components are ineffective unless the Canis Helix is implanted first.

As Wolves grow older and more experienced in battles, the Canis Helix causes additional transformations: their hair turns grey, their fangs grow even longer, their skin becomes even more leathery, and, in some rare cases, their eyes turn yellow. A Wolf who reaches this stage is considered fit for elevation to the rank of Grey Hunter.

In some Wolves, the Canis Helix leads to the development of a brooding, malignant demeanour, which makes them unfit for the camraderie normal to a Wolf Pack. These Wolves traditionally become Wolf Scouts.

By the time a Wolf is considered fully mature, the Canis has caused their fangs to grow to their fullest possible length and their hair to grow long and grey, at which point they join the ranks of the Long Fangs, the chapter‘s long-range heavy weapons specialists.

No matter how old or experienced a Wolf grows, many of them are never entirely free from the risk of the Curse, and risk reverting to their bestial state in moments of great stress; for this reason, part of the duties of the Wolf Priests is to watch over their brothers in battle, and remind them of their better instincts when they are in danger of succumbing to the Curse.

It is speculated, though not known for sure, that some latent irregularity in the Canis accounts for the psyker abilities of the Wolves who eventually become Rune Priests.

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The Tempering

The Canis Helix is at once the Wolves’ greatest strength and their fatal flaw; because the Wolves’ geneseed is inherently unstable, the Wolves’ first (and possibly last) attempt to create Successor Chapters was a complete disaster. When the Legion was divided after the Horus Heresy, a new chapter, the Wolf Brothers, was created. The Wolf Brothers were intended to be the first of many Successor chapters, but quickly succumbed to the Curse of the Wulfen and scattered. Thereafter, the Wolves all but abandoned their hopes of copying themselves.

In M32Thar Ariak Hraldir, the Wolf High Priest of the Space Wolves was conducting experiments, which he called “The Tempering” to control the instability of the Canis Helix, and believed he was close to succeeding. However, his laboratory was destroyed by Magnus the Red during the Battle of the Fang. Magnus, afraid that the Wolves might succeed in proliferating, made a point of destroying the lab and killing Hraldir before moving on to assault the heart of the fortress.

The Tempering was a controversial project, and was thus a closely guarded secret within the chapter. It had the approval of Wolf Lord Vaer Greyloc and the Great WolfHarek Ironhelm, but the venerable Bjorn, when he learned of the project, was outraged and called it a betrayal of their primarchLeman Russ; had Magnus not destroyed it, Bjorn said, he would have done so himself. Even a mortal kaerl of the Wolves, Morek Karekborn, thought the prototype Space Marines he saw in Hraldir’s lab looked terribly unnatural and lacking in the feral potency he was used to sensing from the Wolves. Hraldir also admitted that he had not yet been able to stabilize his test subjects to the point where they could survive on their own, though he believed he was getting close. It is thus uncertain whether the Tempering would have succeeded even if Hraldir had completed his work.

Read More of the Space Wolves

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  • euansmith

    “… the Wolves’ first (and possibly last) attempt to create Successor Chapters was a complete disaster.”

    • Hedwerx

      Such mutation, very heresy.

    • amaximus167

      HA! You often crack me up, euansmith…

  • SYSTem050

    I always thought the canis helix was a mutation in the people of fenris. Hence the “whole there are no wolves on fenris” the so called wolves were mutated descendent’s of the original colonists

    • Loki Nahat

      you are correct, this summary is from the novels Prospero Burns and A Thousand Sons:

      http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Fenrisian_Wolf

      The original colonists gene-spliced wofly genes into their DNA, the ones who devolved became werewolfy then further to Fenrisian wolves

      Many thousands of years later when the 6th legion used Fenrisian recruits, the genes activated with the Astartes gene-seed, and the ones who turn/devolve into wulfen (astartes werewolves), until eventually they go full wolf and become thunderwolves

      There are no wolves on Fenris. Also kinda the reason the Chapter doesn’t recruit off world, they need the genes of the original colonists to be present to become wolfy, or retain control of wolfyness (actually this bit isn’t quite clear, I mean, why not make a new colony with a couple of tribes of fenrisians)

      • SYSTem050

        Yeah I preferred that version as it also explained why the earlier space wolves werent quite so ehm wolf obsessed and more space Vikings. The original terran marines were drawn from Nordic stock so didn’t have the canis helix while future recruits came from Fenris.

        The lack of a viable successor chapter means it’s impossible to prove that it’s the aspirant rather than the gene seed that brings the wolveness

        • euansmith

          It seems kind of odd, when settling an ice world, so splice Wolf DNA in to your Genome; but then, I guess that Space Walruses, or Space Penguins wouldn’t have sounded so cool.

          • SYSTem050

            I dunno they are known for their ability to thrive in cold weather, have strong bonds within packs and a quite ferocious survival instinct.

            Also as you mentioned no colonist would sign up to becoming part penguin but part wolf where do I sign 🙂

          • euansmith

            “Where do you sign? Just join the queue to pee on that tree… but no sniffing butts until you’ve been properly introduced.”

          • SYSTem050

            Isn’t that the recruitment mantra of the rune priest’s?