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40K Lore: Legion XIX The Raven Guard

8 Minute Read
May 26 2015

Shrouded in darkness and mystery, today we illuminate the Raven Guard – one of mightiest shrouded saviors or humanity.

via our sister site: Lexicanum

The Raven Guard specialise in guerrilla warfare, moving behind enemy lines with unrivalled stealth, and striking with precise application of force.


Originally founded as the XIXth Legion, the Legion was used by the Emperor as his hidden hand in its early years during the Unification Wars on Terra. The original recruits of the Legion were firstborn sons drawn from tribes of savage yet technologically adept Xeric warriors of the Asiatic Dustfields, which regularly battled with the much larger Yndonesic Bloc.

In its earliest days, the XIXth Legion was used for infiltration, reconnaissance, and target identification operations. The Legion was covertly used to quickly annihilate any faction which refused to submit to the new Imperium, striking from the shadows without warning. One of the earliest known campaigns by the Legion was the conquest of the central Asiatic region, which was ruled by a tyrant known as Kalagann of Ursh. They won many battle honors on Terra, and later took part in the expansion of the Imperium into the rest of the Sol System, liberating Jupiter‘s moon of Lysithea from xenos. The battle on Lysithea proved costly for the Legion however, and for many years after veterans of the battle wore Jovian runes in its commemoration.

In the early days of the Great Crusade, the Legion found itself in the shadow of Horus and his Luna Wolves. While Horus valued the XIXth greatly, the Legions forces were largely serving as support troops for the Wolves.

The Legion’s Primarch Corax was not reunited with the Legion for nearly two centuries. first meeting between Corax and the Emperor is shrouded in mystery, as the two spent a day and a night in private discussion, with no records kept about the conversation’s contents. At dawn the next day though, Corax agreed to take command of the Legion, on the condition that Kiavahr be conquered and brought into the Imperial fold.

The Great Crusade was already a century old by the time Corax took command of his Legion, but quickly imposed his style of war he had learned on Deliverance on his new troops. Stealth, swiftness, and guile were impressed on a Legion already renowned for its reconnaissance and rapid-strike capability. In particular, the old ways of the Xeric tribes were purged. Corax also was disheartened by the way his Legion had been used as a repression, counter-insurgency, and occupation force; not unlike what he had fought against himself. He purged the Legion of its old commanders, such as Lord Arkhas Fal. Corax also used factories on Kiavahr to commission several vehicles unique to his forces, most notably the Shadowhawk, a stealth variant of the Thunderhawk as well as the Whispercutter.


Doctrine and Record

During the Great Crusade the Raven Guard, based upon the training Corax had learned on Deliverance, became masters of sabotage, assassination and other covert operations. Planets that were thought impossible to take fell quickly as the Raven Guard applied precise military pressure to its vulnerable sectors. Such was the Legion’s reputation that Warmaster Horus frequently requested their assistance to assure victory, though there was little admiration between the two; unconfirmed reports include the two sides nearly coming to blows on one occasion.


Tensions between the two boiled after during the Battle of Gate Forty-Two, where Horus had the Raven Guard launch a bloody frontal assault on enemy defenses that decimated the Legion’s numbers despite Corax’s warnings that the plan was reckless beforehand. After the battle the Raven Guard was reduced to 80,000 Astartes. Corax removed his forces from Horus’ command, bitterly swearing to never serve alongside the Warmaster again.

Horus Heresy

The Raven Guard legion was one of the smallest legions during the Great Crusade, numbering 80,000 Astartes as well as an Imperial Army Regimentknown as the Therion Cohort attached to the legion’s expeditionary force. As a legion they were a fierce enemy for anyone who opposed the Imperium of Man, using time honoured tactics of guerilla warfare which Corax himself had learnt during the Revolution he himself had commanded to free his people from the merciless slavery forced upon them by the Tech Guilds of Kiavahr. Extremely efficient and trained, the Raven Guard would engage in acts of mass sabotage along with infiltration, blink-of-an-eye Strikes, and expert covert operations, all of which they had perfected into what would look like ease to any other warrior.

The Raven Guard were one of seven legions to be sent to the Istvaan system (Others present were the Iron HandsSalamandersAlpha LegionIron WarriorsNight Lords and Word Bearers) to quell a rebellion lead by the former WarmasterHorus – Primarch of the Sons of Horus Legion (Formerly the Luna Wolves). Horus and his other three traitor primarchs (FulgrimAngron and Mortarion) had entrenched themselves on the planet of Istvaan V, and lay in wait for the Loyalist forces to land and engage. The fighting once joined was fierce and hot-blooded, brother versus brother, and no quarter was given on either side. Mid way into the fighting, Horus and his allies retreated back into their fortifications for no reason that could be grasped by the loyalist factions. The Raven Guard were in the thick of the fighting from the start, though out of their element due to the lack of tactical planning and the close-up-and-personal combat spreading like wildfire across the plains of Istvaan V. They fought both with as much honour and as much skill as any other legion would in the circumstances. When the traitors made a surprise withdrawal back to their fortifications, the Raven Guard used this cease in the fighting to regroup and re-arm. However, when they neared the “loyalist” defences (which were tenfold reinforced by the expert siege engineers of the Iron Warriors legion under their Primarch Perturabo‘s direction, they were fired upon by the very guns meant to protect them. Hundreds were gunned down in the first few minutes of the betrayal, before they even realised that there were traitors in there midst.

Four of the seven loyalist legions sent to Istvaan V had thrown off the colours and pretences of the Imperium, and set about playing out a totally new preformance (hatched from long before Istvaan). The Iron WarriorsNight LordsAlpha Legion, and Word Bearers turned on their brethren in a bloody thunderstorm of bolters and blades, decimating their numbers in a multitude of seemingly never ending skirmishes and drudging battles for ground that cost lives for every metre gained or lost. Corax and his legion were reduced from their mighty 80,000 warriors to a meagre 3,000 battle hardened veterans. Himself by now a brooding vengeful demigod, weilding a whip in place of his normal customary left set of talons which were lost in a rage fueled duel with the traitorous primarch Lorgar, which would have ended in Lorgar‘s death had Konrad CurzePrimarch of the Night Lords (also known as the Night Haunter) Not intervened and shattered it with a swipe of his own claws. Respite came in the form of a single battle barge The “Avenger“, captained by Commander Branne Nev, a captain originally stationed on Deliverance as a garrison commander, with him came the battered remains of the Therion Cohort normally serving with the legion under Praefactor Valerius who ironically brought Isstvan V into compliance with Corax the first time.

Upon escaping the tailing forces of World Eater‘s picket ships, “Avenger” broke real-space into the warp, and headed for Terra. Upon arriving Corax headed for the Imperial Palace, which was being fortified by Rogal Dorn and his Imperial Fists in preperation for the coming Siege (Siege of Terra), upon which after much argument with Dorn and Malcador the Imperial Regent, The Emperor himself boomed in a psychic voice for the arguing to cease and pulled Corax into a vision of extreme light, and showed him the secrets he had been asking for – The gene forging tech used to create the Primarch’s by the Emperor himself. After navigating the treacherous and dangerous contraption which was the ever shape-shifting maze on Luna, by using his advanced logic, and the skill of his sons to out-think its logic engine and freeze it in place, he retrieved the gene tech and returned to Deliverance under the watchful eye of the Adeptus Custodes (who were charged by Malcador to keep an eye on its safety).


At first the Astartes created by the gene tech were a marvel, a splice of primarch and Astartes, but not in an imbalanced degree so as to cause malfunction, a perfect meld. These new warriors were faster, stronger, and more intelligent than any of the older warriors of the Legion, and within a few weeks more aspirants had been successfully implanted with stable gene-seed than ever before (the new gene seed also meant that warriors matured into their new forms rapidly compared to standard Astartes). The new warriors would be placed under the command of Captain Branne Nev under the moniker “Raptors“, and would be used against a Word Bearer fortress as their first deployment, which would see them successfully slaughter veteran Word Bearers with the ease of much older warriors. Raptors would take injuries that would have killed even an Astartes, and still remain fighting due to their enhanced bodies. Word of this reached the ears of Omegon, twin primarch of the Alpha Legion, whom had been laying dormant on Kiavahrbelow stirring up a rebellion amongst the tech guilds, and he sprung into action.


The rebellion and even the Alpha Legionnaires supporting it were a distraction, while the Raven Guard were caught off guard, Omegon and several Alpha Legion operatives managed to covertly spike the gene tech with a daemon blood poison (while managing to keep the pure technology for themselves) using the Raven Guard gene-seed to produce deformed monsters. The battle finally began as the first Raven Guard recruits to receive the secretly spiked gene seed were implanted, and by the time it raged into the gene labs of Ravendelve, only to be met by deformed warriors created by the spiked gene seed’s effects. While deformed, these astartes still fought with otherworldly strength, overpowering even the Alpha Legion Astartes. By the time the battle was over, Agents had been found amidst the legion, explaining how news reached the traitors about the gene tech, and thus the loss of such a boon to the crippled legion, gene screening was to be implemented to find and destroy the agents with the stolen faces of Raven Guard Legionnaires. Corax nevertheless led the Raven Guard in full strength (~4000 Astartes) and his allies (over 500,000 Therion Cohort, 100-150 Imperial Fists, ~20 Custodes against The Perfect Fortress, an Emperors Children stronghold. Planned to be conducted with his legion rebuild to be at least 10.000 Astartes strong, the Fortress was taken by luring the Traitor forces out with an failed assault by the Therion Cohort. While Raven Guard losses were small, the Traitor force was totally destroyed. The Perfect Fortress was on a important strategic planet for the whole sector, but Corax withdrew his legion to strike the next Traitor force, leaving the garrison to the Therion Cohort, and the expected Imperial Army and Titan Legion Reinforcements.

Without the gene tech the Raven Guard Legion remained a small legion, though their continued work with small cells of warriors allowed them to remain no less of a fighting force, though fewer in number then before. Tales of the Space Wolves report the use of Astartes more beasts than man. The Space Wolves never reported this to any imperial authorities, most likely because they shared a sympathy with the Raven Guard because of their own similar flaw.

When Roboute Guilliman announced his “Codex Astartes” which would split the legions into organised chapters, Corax was circumstantially forced to adapt to the new rules, Abliet still retaining his legions overall structure, but in smaller chapters of 1,000 Astartes, As is how the Raven Guard chapter is to this day.


The Raven Guard homeworld is Deliverance, a moon which their Fortress Monastery “Raven Spire” is built on. Deliverance was once known as Lycaeus, where 10,000 years previous to current events, Corvus Corax (soon to be Primarch of the Raven Guard Legion) lead a revolution to free his fellow slaves, and eventually the whole moon from the Slavery enforced on them by the Tech Guilds of the planet below, Kiavahr. Kiavahr was converted into a forge world by the Adeptus Mechanicus upon the Emperor‘s arrival, due to Corax‘s wishes that the Tech Guilds no longer held sway, this meant that the Legionalso recieved a vital supply line for materials.


The degeneration of the Raven Guard gene-seed means several of the unique organs of the Space Marines no longer work properly or no longer grow. Raven Guard do not have the Mucranoid or Betcher’s Gland. The Melanchromic Organ has a unique mutation that causes the skin of the Space Marine to grow paler. Eventually each Marine’s skin becomes pure white while their hair and eyes darken, becoming black as coal. The main issues could have come from Corax‘s experimentation with the Raven Guard Gene-Seed to try and create stronger and faster-maturing astartes (although the Alpha Legion is primarily to blame for causing his project’s failure), it is never fully stated what is the actual cause.

Learn More of the Raven Guard

~ Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

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