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40K Lore: Leman Russ

7 Minute Read
May 15 2016
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Today Loremasters we delve into the master of Fenris and the Vlka Fenryka – the Primarch Leman Russ.

Leman Russ, also called The Wolf King or The Great Wolf is the Primarch of the Space Wolves Chapter of the Space Marines. He along with AngronLion El’Jonson, and Jaghatai Khan were considered to be one of the greatest warriors amongst the Primarchs. Known for his fierce and wild personality, Leman Russ considered himself the Emperor‘s most loyal son and executioner, unquestionably carrying out the punishment of the Master of Mankind. The Chaos emissary to Lorgar called him the Brawler.


When the Primarchs were spread throughout the galaxy by the forces of Chaos, one came to land in the far north west of the galaxy on a remote ice world named Fenris. He was adopted by a Fenrisian she-wolf and raised among the wolves, with his two wolf brothers Freki and Geri. One harsh winter, the wolves attacked a village and stormed the food storage facilities. The villagers fought off the wolves, but Leman Russ fought them off so viciously that all of his brothers escaped alive. Thengir, King of the people of Russ, sent a raiding party of hunters and villagers to remove this menace for good with poisoned arrows and knives sharp enough to slice through oak.

The raiding party killed many members of the pack, including the she-wolf and one of his wolf brothers. Leman Russ was shot many times, and then captured, and brought, bound and gagged before King Thengir. Leman Russ proved himself to be more than just another wolf, and was eventually taken in by the king himself. Among men for the first time, Leman quickly learned their skills, showing a natural aptitude for the way of the warrior. He learned to speak, and mastered their weapons – iron axes and swords. He was quick to roar with laughter or sing tunelessly and he slowly realized that he was more human than wolf, but superior to both. Eventually, Leman Russ became sufficiently civilized to warrant a true name. The King named him Leman (Leman of the Russ). Later in his life, he is said to have been able to turn back whole armies of the king’s enemies by himself without a scratch, to tear whole oak trees from the ground and snap them over his back, and to wrestle Fenrisian Mammoths to the ground. When King Thengir died, there was no question as to who should succeed him. Therefore, King Leman Russ took to the throne.

He was said to have been the best leader, no one could stand against him and it was not long before the tales came to the Emperor‘s notice. The Emperor recognized this figure as a Primarch and travelled to Fenris. He entered Russ’s court, cloaked in runes of disguise and confusion. The natives shrunk from this new presence. Russ refused to pay him homage as the Master of Mankind. Russ challenged the Emperor to a series of tests. The first challenge was an eating one, this the Emperor lost. The second challenge was a drinking one. This the Emperor also failed. For the third challenge Russ boasted he could defeat the Emperor in combat. This time, the Emperor defeated Russ, felling him with a blow from his power glove. Leman admitted defeat and swore to serve the Emperor. Just weeks later, Russ was placed at the head of his Legion (newly named the Space Wolves) and joined the Great Crusade. He was armed with a thrice blessed suit of armour and a new sword forged from the maw of the Great Kraken Gormenjarl and reputably, the blade could cleave the ice mountains of Fenris in half.



Great Crusade

Leman fought well during the Great Crusade, gaining the reputation as a cunning and fierce, as well as slightly unstable, warrior and leader.

During a conflict on the word of Dulan, Russ and his Wolves fought alongside the Dark Angels Legion. The leader of this particular planet had insulted Leman Russ’s honour, and so he wanted to defeat the leader personally for the insult. The two Legions, each led by their Primarch, assaulted the rebels’ fortress. Leman Russ burst into the throne room just in time to see Lion El’Jonson beheading the enemy leader. Angry that the honour was not his, Leman Russ marched up to the Lion and punched him in the jaw. This led to a battle that lasted a week or more, until finally Russ saw how immature their squabble was and started laughing. Lion El’Jonson took this as Russ mocking him and in what was considered a cowardly act, knocked Russ unconscious whilst he was laughing. El’Jonson left the planet with his legion. This led to a bitter feud between the Legions (and subsequent Chapters), which lasts to this day – although recent events may finally have led to an end to the rivalry, though it is still customary for selected champions from both sides to engage in a (usually) non-lethal duel.


Later, when Angron refused to end the Butcher’s Nails surgery on his World Eaters Legion, the Emperor dispatched Russ and his Wolves to Malkoya to bring Angron back to Terra to answer for his insubordination. However what resulted was a brief but bloody clash between the World Eaters and Space Wolves, and Russ engaged Angron himself in single combat. In the duel, Russ was defeated by the Red Angel but Russ’ true stratagem soon became apparent when it was revealed that Angron had allowed himself to become distracted by Space Wolves forces during the duel. Russ tried to convince Angron to stand down, explaining to him that while he had bested him in single combat, Angron was nonetheless trapped and that this was a result of his own bloodlust and failure to lead his Legion. Infuriated, Angron refused to stand down and Russ realized his brother was a lost cause. With a howl, Russ ordered the Space Wolves to withdraw. Russ later clashed with another one of his brothers on the Great Crusade, this time almost coming to blows with Magnus the Red over the fate of the Great Library of Ark Reach Secundus. A direct confrontation was only stopped thanks to the intervention of Lorgar. Such was Russ’ rage at Magnus that day that he made a blood vow to settle their score.

Despite being considered “ill-tempered” and “argumentative,” Russ was held in great esteem by his brother, Roboute Guilliman, who privately referred to him, along with Rogal DornSanguinius, and Ferrus Manus as “the dauntless few,” the four primarchs who could be counted on to carry out their father’s designs. Guilliman once said that he could win any war, outright, if he had one of those four and his Legion alongside the Ultramarines. Such was Russ’ abilities and loyalty that the Emperor appointed him as his unofficial executioner and “enforcer”, and it is suggested he had something to do with the fates of the Lost Primarchs.


Horus Heresy

Many years passed, and many more battles. Thousands of worlds were reclaimed by the Imperium, but eventually the golden age came to an end. The Emperor sent Leman Russ and his Space Wolves to deal with Magnus the Red and the Thousand Sons legion, who the Emperor believed to be the true heretics; Magnus had used sorcery to warn the Emperor of Horus after being told not to and nearly ruining his secret project. Horus, seeking to either eliminate or turn the Magnus, manipulated Russ into launching an all-out assault on the Thousand Son homeworld of Prospero as opposed to simply bringing Magnus back to Terra. In an attempt to find a peaceful solution with the Thousand Sons Russ sent a plea through what he thought was a Hidden OneKasper Hawser, though in truth he was a Chaos pawn and thus the message was never received. Ultimately Prospero was assaulted and bombarded. Thousands died within days. In the final battle between Russ and Magnus, it is said that Russ blinded Magnus and then broke the Cyclops’s back over his knee, and just as Russ was about to deliver the final blow, Magnus used his sorcery to escape.

After Prospero Russ and his forces were forced into a rout by the Alpha Legion at Yarant and forced to take shelter at the Alaxxes Nebula. Surrounded on all sides and abandoned by the White Scars, Russ consigned himself to defeat and admitted to Bjorn that blindly serving as the Emperor’s Executioner had been a mistake. Russ pledged to take his own path from now on, and led a desperate last stand against the Alpha Legion, unwittingly battling Alpharius himself who was disguised as one of his Lernaean bodyguards. However Russ’ forces were eventually saved by a detachment of Dark Angels and he returned to Terra. There, Russ helped Malcador organize the plan to have the Knights-Errant assassinate Horus during the Battle of Molech. He then announced his plans to leave Terra and take the fight back to the traitors. However when exactly this would be is unclear, as he was still on Terra when Jaghatai Khan and his Legion arrived. Upon meeting the brother who had abandoned him at Alaxxes, Russ expressed his seething anger but admitted that Terra needed all the help it could get.


Years passed after the Horus Heresy. In 211.M31 Russ, at a great feast with his Legion in attendance, stood and said: “In the end I will return. For the final battle. For the Wolf Time.” He then left the Fang and embarked into the Eye of Terror accompanied by his personal retinue bar one – Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who remained on Fenris in the role of Great Wolf. The tale of his disappearance is retold every thousand years by Bjorn, now the oldest dreadnought alive. Every once in a while, the Space Wolves embark on what is called the Great Hunt to search the galaxy for their missing leader. Though they have searched far and wide, they still haven’t found any sign of their Primarch. Many within the Space Wolves believe that Russ has sought out the Tree of Life to restore the Emperor to health. Apparently The Wolf Primarch’s Arch-nemesis Magnus knows the Wolf King’s whereabouts, but keeps it secret.


Learn More of Leman Russ


Ok, Which Primarch could take Russ – drunk?

Author: Larry Vela
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