Gather ’round Loremasters. Let us talk of darkness–of Chaos–prepare your canticles against corruption, for today we discuss the shadow that has fallen on distant Vigilus: the shadow of the Black Legion.
The Black Legion’s shadow has fallen upon the world of Distant Vigilus, that lone star burning bright against the darkness of the Imperium Nihilus. And yet, even now news has reached us that the Herald of Abaddon has fallen upon the planet, plunging a cursed spear into the surface of the world, cursing it to bear the brunt of the Black Legion’s assault. But who exactly are the Black Legion? They were not always the cursed traitors they once were–no, their long descent into corruption serves as a cautionary tale for us all. So gather ’round young Loremaster-initiates, and let us peer back through the mists of the Lexicanum’s archives, to find the Black Legion’s not-so-humble beginnings as the Luna Wolves.
The Luna Wolves, as they would come to be called, were the XVI Legion of the original twenty Space Marine Legions. Their Primarch was Horus, known to them as Horus Lupercal, and to Imperial history as the greatest traitor in the history of the Imperium. From the Emperor’s most beloved son (–archivist’s note: records indicate Horus is more of a slightly tolerated figure, the Emperor is not believed to have loved his sons, as a father might, but rather looked on them as useful tools, and perhaps this denial of love is what drove Horus to commit his heresy) to leader of ruinous powers, and the cause of the damnation of untold numbers of souls, worlds, and Space Marines.
But this story is not his. It is the XVI Legion’s–who, some time after their defeat in the Horus Heresy, were renamed the ‘Black Legion’ by their new commander, Ezekyle Abaddon. As with most things involving Chaos, they are full of deceit and treachery. Even their moniker is a lie: they are not a single unified legion, but can instead be found operating in countless small warbands across the galaxy, except when they are called together under Abaddon’s banner to spearhead one of his notorious Black Crusades.
Where did it all begin though? Records are murky at best–there appears to have been a distressingly successful effort by person or persons unknown to expunge the records of the Black Legion’s earliest day. Our records are cobbled together from scraps and fragments found in other parts of the Archive. We know precious few things–the Luna Wolves Luna Wolves are said to have originated from a world called Cthonia; a planet allegedly existing in one of Terra‘s closest neighbouring star systems. Though again, no records of this world can be found. One can surmise though, that being within reach even for non-warp spacecraft, Cthonia had been colonised, built upon, tunnelled and mined out probably since the dawn of space travel.
Leaving a world barren of all resources, and riddled through with ancient mining techniques that drilled down to the very core of the world, it is noted as no longer extant, believed to have cataclysmically lost geo-structural integrity in the centuries after the Horus Heresy. Many put this down to the fact that the planet was tunneled and mined right though to the (dead) planetary core, but there is much conjecture that Cthonia was deliberately destroyed, by person or persons unknown.
The initial recruitment pool of the XVIth Legion was believed to made up of members of the ‘hunter clans’ of both the Jutrigan Bowl and Samsatian sub-plate slums of Terra. These areas were reckoned to be harsh places to live, with their inhabitants noted for their ruthless, independent character. Whether it was this nature, or the Emperor’s genetic design for the legion template, or a mixture of both, the nascent Terran XVIth soon became known for being exemplar shock troops during the initial Imperial expansion campaigns, used successfully to both quickly start and finish fights, either in an initial, fully successful blow, or in being deployed from reserve to enact the killing strike.
And with the rise of their Primarch, Horus, they quickly became known as the Sons of Horus–and all the tragedy that might accompany those devoted to so evil a figure would soon follow. They were the most aggressive Legion during the Horus Heresy, and when their Warmaster died, the Sons of Horus were left broken, bereft of morale and a will to fight. They are said to be the first of the Traitor Legions to retreat from Terra, an act that would earn them the hatred of all the other Traitor Legions. The Legion re-grouped on the world of Maeleum inside the Eye of Terror. There they built a fortress-tomb for the safe-keeping of the Warmaster’s corpse and even in death still revered him as their commander. Nobody was appointed in his place and the Captains of the Legion would offer sacrifices and pray for guidance in his shrine.
The Sons of Horus for a time tried to atone for their previous cowardice on Terra, hoping to prove that they were still the best Legion. There was no end to the opportunistic treacheries and heresies they would commit. Leaderless and directionless, they would dedicate themselves to whatever cause seemed likely to win. They dedicated themselves not to one single Chaos Power, but constantly shifted their allegiance to whatever god suited them at the time. Marines willingly became possessed by the Chaos gods’ daemons; with every change in loyalty, the daemons of the rejected god abandoned the hosts, leaving them lifeless husks.
The once great Legion constantly dwindled in number, until they neared extinction. Eventually the desperate experimentation and research by the Legion’s Sorcerer-Librarians uncovered a method of possession that did not destroy the mortal host, saving the Legion. The Traitor Legions, along with the restored but still numerically inferior Sons of Horus, then became embroiled in a series of internecine wars triggered by the Emperor’s Children legion, culminating in the destruction of the Sons of Horus’ fortress on Maleum. To the disgust of the Sons of Horus, the Warmaster’s corpse was taken by the Emperor’s Children and several clones were created by their self-styled ‘Primogenitor’, Fabius Bile.
And so they might have faded from galactic history, a victim of Chaos–but fate had a different tragedy instead. Abaddon the Despoiler, deep within the Eye of Terror plotted to destroy the clone of Horus, declaring himself the rightful successor to the Warmaster, hoping to reforge the Legion into a weapon to finish the war that Horus had started. Notably, his initial campaign met with success–he smashed the Emperor’s Children fortress and killed the clone of Horus, which lead the newly reinvigorated Sons of Horus to abandon their namesake. Painting their armor black, Abaddon renamed his forces the Black Legion, rejecting Horus’ name and all the failure that went with it.
Let the irony of that statement be a caution against Hubris, Loremasters. But for a time Abaddon was successful in defeating the other traitor legions and amassing forces for a Black Crusade. And then another, and another, until after thirteen, the Black Legion has finally managed to carve out a name for itself as host to Daemons, traitors extraordinaire, and opportunists who will leap to the first chance for power. Only a strong leader can wield this weapon–and Abaddon seems determined to use Chaos rather than being enslaved by it.
And now that the Black Legion is descending upon Vigilus, it remains to be seen–will they unite and fight as one? Or will they fall, squabbling and chaotic, to the bickering of legions and leaders who lack the moral fortitude and conviction to follow the Emperor’s Will?
That question was rhetorical, and to think otherwise is heresy. Be sure and look for our followup lecture on the vanguards of Chaos, so you might know the telltale signs of an invasion on your world.