40K Lore: Arik Taranis

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Today Loremasters, a look at what just one of the legendary Thunder Warriors was capable of.

They say big changes are coming to the Imperium. What is shadowy insubstantial rumor today may become terrifying reality tomorrow. But the Imperium’s past holds its greatest weapons–and not just in the sense of the relics made during the great Crusades of the Emperor. Rather it is the knowledge of what has come before that will shape our understanding of what is to come again.

So let Cawl and Guilliman tinker with the gene-seed of the Astartes. We shall study the fruits of past labours such as these, and in doing so, glean the future. With that in mind, Loremasters, let us open the book on Arik Taranis, one of the mighty Thunder Warriors, whose strength put even the Astartes to shame.

Arik Taranis was a Thunder Warrior commander known to history as Victor of Gaduare, the Last Rider, the Butcher of Scandia, and the Throne Slayer. He was a legendary figure, thought killed at the last battle of the Wars of Unification atop Mount Ararat in the Kingdom of Urartu. However, Arik survived into the start of the 31st millennium on Terra by studying gene manipulation from the Emperor prior to His conquest of Old Earth. According to Taranis, the Emperor may have in fact massacred the Thunder Warriors and spread the tale of their annihilation at the Battle of Mount Ararat as a cover-up.

His mortal name is not recorded within the Imperial historical archives, but when he was reborn into the new form of one of the first proto-Astartes, he was named Arik Taranis. The Emperor had wrought these gene-enhanced warriors to be faster, stronger and more powerful than any of the feral techno-barbarian gene-sept warriors that claimed fealty over humanity’s homeworld at the end of the Age of Strife. Taranis and his Battle-Brothers were created as tools of deadly efficiency, intended to spread terror amongst the Emperor’s enemies and serve as the perfect killing machines. Their goal was to drag Terra back from the anarchy into which it had fallen for over five millennia, and into a new age of enlightenment and peace — though they themselves would never know anything but war.

It was against this backdrop of oppression, violence and casual brutality that Arik Taranis and his fellow Thunder Warriors carved a reputation as the undisputed soldiers of their age. Arik Taranis would forge a legend that would still resonate with the modern Space Marines created as the replacements for the Thunder Warriors before the start of the Great Crusade. Even millennia later, Imperial records were strewn with the historic battles Arik Taranis had helped to win, the terrible foes he had slain and the great honors he had earned fighting in the Emperor’s legions during the Unification Wars. He would become history wrought in living form: the Victor of Gaduaré, the Last Rider, the Butcher of Scandia, the Throne-slayer — these and a hundred other battle-honors earned by this incomparable warrior are scattered throughout the historical texts written about the foundation of the Imperium. All these tales culminated in the end of Taranis’ life atop a once-flooded mountain during the final great clash of the Unification Wars, the Battle of Mount Ararat fought in the Kingdom of Urartu.

The truth, however, was very different and far darker, for Arik Taranis had actually survived the Battle of Mount Ararat and also knew that at the very moment the Emperor had founded his Imperium, He had also arranged for the betrayal of the men who had fought so ferociously for Him, eliminating every last one of the surviving Thunder Warriors because they were no longer necessary and would serve as an impediment to the next stage in the Emperor’s plans to forge a new Golden Age for Mankind. Amazingly, Taranis bore no ill-will towards his creator for this monstrous and secret betrayal, for he understood better than anyone that the Thunder Warriors had always been merely a means to an end. He and all his kind had been cast aside by the Emperor in favour of the more advanced Space Marine gene-template. Arik Taranis was one of only a small number of Thunder Warriors who managed to escape the final cull of his kind after Mount Ararat.

Taranis managed to hide himself amongst the teeming masses of Mankind on Terra for over a century after the end of the Unification Wars, shunning his former name and assuming a new identity. He became the criminal warlord Babu Dhakal, clan master of the Dhakal gang, the master of most of the Petitioner’s City criminal enterprises, including prostitution, gambling, and the illegal sale of food, drugs and weapons. Nothing moved within the city without the Babu’s approval. During the century spent on the run from Imperial authorities, Taranis discovered the inherent flaw that lay within every Thunder Warriors’ genetic makeup, for their lifespans had been engineered to be extremely limited, unlike the true Astartes who came after them and would live for hundreds of Terran years. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of the Petitioner’s City, Taranis maintained a well-equipped genetic laboratory at the heart of the city. The fact that such an advanced laboratory existed on Terra was not surprising, but that it was to be found in the heart of that city of lost souls was nothing short of miraculous — akin to finding a fully functioning starship buried within the ruins of Old Earth’s ancient prehistory. Fortunately for Taranis, he had learned what he could from his creator in the years of the Unity Wars, and had come to master much of the Emperor’s knowledge of the ancient science of genetics. Unfortunately, Taranis did not possess enough knowledge to halt his own cellular deterioration, only enough to desperately cling to life long enough for his fortunes to finally change during the opening days of the Horus Heresy.

But Taranis and his lieutenant within the Dhakal gang Ghota, another Thunder Warrior who had survived the Emperor’s cull, took advantage of this distraction and managed to escape during the ensuing chaos. Somehow, Taranis managed to obtain the Progenoid Glands of one of the fallen Astartes. These organs contained the vital key needed to provide the means for Taranis to unlock the genetic secrets that would allow the surviving Thunder Warriors to extend their lives. Deep in the heart of the Petitioner’s City Taranis experimented with his ill-gotten samples within his secret laboratory. Using gene-samplers he managed to extract the necessary information encoded within the Gland’s stored zygotes of Astartes organs and the impossibly complex amino acid chains were decoded. Taranis unraveled the complexities of this biological miracle and managed to replicate the process of its creation and clone a new set of Progenoid Glands from the original sample. It is assumed that Taranis had the new organs implanted within his and his lieutenant’s bodies.

A cautionary tale, if ever there was one. Genetically forged to be powerful warriors–and ultimately found to be wanting, the mightiest of the Thunder Warriors were capable of overcoming even their bred-in weaknesses. Hopefully Belisarius Cawl and Roboute Guilliman understand the depths of the dark sciences they’re delving into. For if they do not… who knows what shall be unleashed upon the Imperium.

Read more about Gene-Seed

Of course this is probably all just needless worry. Doubtless Cawl and Guilliman have thought everything through completely and have foreseen any repercussions that might come up.

  • Randy Randalman

    I think they simply unlocked the Empy’s old genetic labs and went to work.

    This time, instead of Thunder Warriors, however, they will be Stormcast Eternals. Large, golden warriors that fly to the battlefield in a clap of THUNDER.

    I had to. 🙂

    • Paul Applebaum

      Even if the had, Corax took most of the equipment out of it 10,000 years ago. Plus, they are on Mars in Crawl’s lab. Or at least somewhere on Mars.

    • euansmith

      The Clap of Thunder was actually an unfortunate result of Thunder Warrior’s amorous dalliances.

      • Andy Wise

        Thunder, thunder thunder thunder claps!

        • Rechnin

          Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! You’ve been…

  • Inco Gnito

    Ya know …
    This thing could work if these new guys get more of a background then:
    -They are bigger than space marines
    – They are the good guys
    – They are awesome
    – They fight for the imperium

    Could we get a little bit more of depth , please ?
    How does the Imperium see these guys , surely many are not happy about them ! There must be more about them then just:”They are cool super soldiers!” , you know , just because they look cool don’t make them cool. Do these guys have a character beyond “heroic hero of herostown” ? Would be nice to see them actually be more , just like the space marines were /are, then just super awesome heroic super soldiers . Do they dream, aspire or have quirks ! Give them some sort of character beyond heroism , ffs ! Do they have flaws ? You know, 40K ain’t owned by Disney yet , so can we maybe not do what marvel is currently doing and simply paint our protagonists as near perfect living beings that JUST WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING . Space marines are not heroes , they are brutal warriors ! Even the best of them is a murderous killing machine that only lives to kill … so why should these new guys be different .
    How the fiff did big G get the knowledge to build these ??? Seriously don’t make a stupid : “The emperor told me in a dream” explanation …
    Like seriously … stop it ! So many questions … so many unsatisfying answers …

    • Haighus

      I really hope they have some significant flaws. Like instability perhaps.

      • Inco Gnito

        Given how super heroic and fearless these new warriors are, it will propably be the only way how GW could get them to do a leadership test anyway =D

    • Mathew G. Smith

      In the few stories that feature them in their prime they aren’t heroic. They’re the Emperor’s pet psychopaths and nothing more.

      • Inco Gnito

        I personally started believing that GW just wanted to see how far they could take this whole:”dystopian totalitarian state” thingy and see if they could write the best emperor damned propaganda in the world.
        And it worked… so many people that believe that the Space Marines are actually the good guys… so convincing that GW might actually believe it themselves…

    • georgelabour

      I dunno. Merely being Heroic seems to have worked for The Master Chief…and he doesn’t even have a face!

      Also I’m not sure where you got the idea that all astartes aren’t heroic. They’re certainly no boy scouts but they’re as heroic as any other brutal demi-god’s that people have written stories about.

      • Inco Gnito

        Yeah… but:
        1) Their heroism comes at a price (loss of humanity blah blah blah)
        2) How heroic they are, is all a matter of perspective.These blokes are recruited from amongst the closest things to neanderthals that runs around in the 41st millenium, are conditioned over 10+ years that it is a bloody fine idea to die in battle, are castrated and the chance to a normal life is permanently taken away from them. Afterwards all they do is kill, kill, kill. CONSTANTLY. And the only way out is death. Why do you think they are so obsessed with death? Cuz their weird space religion has turned them into crazed loonies, whos only chance of actually achieving anything in life that is not repetitive to a point of banality (the killing part, that is), is dying gloriously. Obviously the only way to die gloriously, is in the name of the Emperor.

        Don’t think that is real heroism… that is brainwashed fanatics doing what they are trained to do…

        • georgelabour

          I’m pretty sure most people on a death world would be fairly obsessed with, or at least comfortable associates of, death even before they become post human warrior-monks.

          In fact that is one of the reasons such places are chosen as recruiting worlds for most Chapters. It produces a breed of people who can handle certain harsh realistis. E.G: The fact the entire species is going to die horrifically if someone doesn’t go and chainsw some daemons.

          They also don’t spend all their time just murdering things. Many chapters are known for their craftsmanship, organizational skills, and mead drinking. Others are also known for their piety, reverence of logic over irrationality, and scholarly tendencies.

          Finally most heroes tend to emphasize selflessness and or self-sacrifice in order to accomplish a task. Though the whole brainwashing thing is technically accurate it hardly makes them unheroic.

  • jmaximum

    I’ve always hoped they would flesh out more about the Unification Wars and the Thunder Warriors……
    I’ve always been curious tho: how did the Emperor betray the Thunder Warriors? As in, whom did he use to destroy them?
    It’s also a bleak parallel to Horus betraying everybody at Itsvan.