What does it mean that the Emperor can produce such a twisted son? Delve into the dark madness incarnate that is Night Haunter, primarch the Night Lords.
Youth on Nostramo
The child that would come to be known as Konrad Curze was first recorded as crashing through the surface and into the core of the night-shrouded world of Nostramo. The crust of Nostramo bore high quantities of the mineral adamantium, which provided the basis of the planet’s immense mining and purifying industries. The vast majority of the planet’s population lived in abject poverty, toiling in the mines while the rich grew in affluence, exploiting the already downtrodden workers. Crime ran mostly unchecked, depression was inescapable, and overpopulation was kept in check more by suicide than by any other measure.
Unlike many of the other Primarchs, Konrad Curze was not taken in by any family and was left to raise himself. He spent his early life surviving off his wits and determination, feeding himself by hunting the feral animals that roamed through the vast city of Nostramo Quintus. He was continually plagued by visions of the darkest possible future, horrifyingly potent waking dreams that would curse him throughout his life.
Birth of the Night Haunter
During his short youth, Curze was pitched into a destructive cycle of persecution and murder, focusing on the criminal elements of Nostramo’s society. His vigilante actions began small, intervening when he witnessed something he believed to be wrong, but rapidly escalating into hunting down those he believed had committed transgressions.
At first, several people prominent within the city’s corrupt hierarchy disappeared. Leaders of the most vocal opposition to the status quo vanished in similar circumstances. Bodies of known criminals began to appear, gutted like fish by some cruel assailant. Officials were found hung from high windows. Body parts blocked storm water drains. Many of the corpses found were so horribly beaten by their assailant that identification was impossible.
Within the year, the crime rate of Nostramo Quintus fell to near-zero. Society underwent massive changes, most notable of which was the self-imposed curfew that came into being. Mothers began to threaten children that if they continued to misbehave, the Night Haunter would come for them. This term quickly came into common usage, describing a dark creature that stalked the city, ready to disembowel anyone it believed to be a criminal or heretic with dirty, razor-sharp talons.
Curze saw hope for the inhabitants of his world. He had become the only object of fear and hate within the city. Appearing before the nobles that had survived his vigilante purge, Night Haunter became the first monarch of Nostramo Quintus. He assimilated knowledge almost greedily, and became considered a fair and temperate ruler, until word of some injustice reached his ears. He would then hunt the guilty through the streets, wearing them down and then killing and mutilating them. The unpredictable pattern of benevolent wisdom and hideous vengeance ushered in a new level of efficiency and honesty. Other cities around the planet followed suit, in an attempt to keep the Night Haunter from their doors.
The Coming of the Emperor
A short time into the reign of Night Haunter, the Emperor’s Great Crusade reached the outskirts of the Nostramo system. The coming of the Emperor of Man was an event that had been prophesied in Nostramo’s history: an event that would lead to the planet’s downfall.
The Emperor landed on Nostramo, and led a delegation to the centre of Nostramo Quintus on foot. The citizens of Nostramo, adapted to the near-constant darkness, could not bear to look upon the radiance of the Emperor. Most wept, as the healing light he projected reflected off the rain-slicked streets into their faces. Those brave enough to look upon him directly were blinded. At the end of the broad road leading to Night Haunter’s palace, the Primarch stood, waiting for the delegation to approach. As they did, he succumbed to a vision so potent and horrifying that he tried to claw his own eyes out, but was stopped by the Emperor. Night Haunter then looked at the Emperor, and the following dialogue ensued:
“Konrad Curze, be at peace, for I have arrived and intend to take you home.”
“That is not my name, Father. I am Night Haunter, and I know full well what you intend for me.”
The Great Crusade
Night Haunter quickly adapted to the teachings of the Imperium, studying the complex doctrines of the Adeptus Astartes under Fulgrim‘s tutelage. Night Haunter was soon incepted as the leader of the eighth Space Marine Legion, which he named the Night Lords.
Although he and his Legion excelled in many theatres of war, a tendency soon became apparent. It never occurred to the Night Lords to use anything other than total and decisive force to achieve their goals. Over the first few years, the Night Lords were moulded by their Primarch into an efficient, humourless force, possessing the fanatical thoroughness of Witch Hunters.
Night Haunter encouraged his legion to decorate their armour with images designed to inspire fear in the enemy, a tactic that proved incredibly effective. Soon, rumours of the impending presence of the Night Lords would cause a system to pay all outstanding tithes, cease all illegal activities and put to death any mutants and suspected heretics.
Reinforcements to replace the Night Lords that fell in battle were selected from the population of Nostramo, but in Night Haunter’s absence, the population of the planet collapsed back into the corrupt and decadent ways that had prevailed before his arrival. The ruthless criminals were the only ones to remain healthy and strong, so it was these men who were recruited for the Legion. Night Haunter began to lose some of the control he held over his Legion, and the visions that plagued him increased in both lucidity and quantity.
Learning of the fate of his homeworld, Night Haunter tried to confide in his brother Primarchs, but had never been close to them in the beginning, and their reaction was less than favourable to his claims. He attacked Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists before taking the Night Lords fleet to Nostramo. A few Imperial pursuit craft arrived just in time to see the Night Lords’ laser batteries firing into the hole left by Night Haunter’s arrival decades earlier. Nostramo’s core overheated and the world exploded.
The Horus Heresy
Night Haunter’s terrible acts caused him to become susceptible to the whispers of Chaos. The campaigns of the Night Lords became less justifiable, terror campaigns leaving a trail of devastated worlds across the galaxy. Night Haunter no longer crusaded in the Emperor’s name, instead fighting only in the name of death and fear. Eventually, the Emperor was forced to order the recall of Night Haunter to answer charges laid against him and his men. But before the Night Lords reached Terra a new crisis erupted…
When the Horus Heresy broke out, Night Haunter was quick to swear his Legion to the forces of Warmaster Horus. Curze revealed his treachery during the Drop Site Massacre, launching his legion against the loyalist forces of the Raven Guard, Salamanders, and Iron Hands. During the battle, Curze and Lorgar battled against Corax. After the massacre, Curze captured Vulkan but found that the Perpetual Primarch could not be killed despite his best efforts. After unleashing every torment imaginable on Vulkan, the Salamanders Primarch was eventually able to escape Curze’s clutches.
Two years after the Dropsite Massacre, Curze engaged the Lion El’Jonson in a series of hit and run battles all over the Thramas Sector. Eventually, Curze would leave a message for his brother to meet him (Curze) on the planet Tsagualsa. Here he would reveal some prophecy to Lion. Afterwards, a fight would ensue between the two Primarchs and their respective troops. Eventually, Curze would slash the Lion’s throat and the Dark Angel Corswain would stab the Night Haunter in the back. Both Legions retreated. The next encounter between the two brothers would begin when the Dark Angels ambushed the Night Lords and would end with the Lion dealing Curze eleven identifiable wounds that are instantly fatal to an Astartes. These injuries would put Curze in a comatose state. While recovering, Sevatar would take temporary command of the Legion and divide it into six fleets that would go wherever the respective commander directed it. During this reorganization, the Dark Angels would attack again. During this second attack, Curze would reawaken and board the Invincible Reason. He would remain in hiding aboard the Dark Angels’ flagship for the next sixteen weeks. Curze was able to evade capture on the massive ship, massacring every search team and confounding the Lion himself.
When the Dark Angels ship arrived over Macragge, Curze made his escape and landed on the planet by hacking into the Invincible Reason and initiating a mass Drop Pod landing, commandeering one of the vessels. Curze then unleashed havoc upon Macragge’s capital, massacring all he came across and eluding any capture. After killing Phratus Auguston in a Chapel within the Fortress of Hera, Curze was confronted by both Roboute Guilliman and Lion El’Jonson. Managing to hold out against both Primarch’s simultaneously, Curze unveiled his trap and detonated the explosives he had rigged around the Chapel. Curze escaped in the chaos while Guilliman and the Lion only survived thanks to Barabas Dantioch teleporting them to Sotha with the Pharos. Thinking both Primarch’s dead, Curze swept aside a pack of Space Wolves and was about to kill Guilliman’s “mother” Tarasha Euten when he was beset upon by the now-insane Vulkan, who had teleported to Macragge. Curze, in genuine shock due to not having any visions of Vulkan, battled the Salamanders Primarch across Macragge. The duel was only interrupted by the Cabal assassin John Grammaticus, who stabbed and apparently killed Vulkan with the Fulgurite. Curze wished the Fulgurite for himself, and as he attacked Grammaticus his comrade Damon Prytanis used a captured Daemon to banish the Primarch into the Warp. After being trapped inside the Warp for what seemed to him to be weeks, Curze managed to escape and reemerged into the Materium in front of Macragge’s capital.
Haunted by visions of Sanguinius‘ death aboard the Vengeful Spirit, Curze then infiltrated the “Emperor” of Imperium Secundus‘ throne room on Macragge. Badly wounding Azkaellon and using him as a hostage, Curze revealed to the Angel that he not only foresaw the death of Sanguinius, but his own as well. Curze had come to believe that the scattering of the Primarchs, his own life on Nostramo, the Horus Heresy, and his own eventual death by the Officio Assassinorum were all part of a grand scheme by the Emperor. The Night Haunter wished to know why Sanguinius chose to be a “slave” to the Emperor and why he had not accepted the offer of Daemons on Signus Prime to become their champion. When Sanguinius expressed his continued faith in their father, Curze gave the Angel a chance to strike him down, an offer Sanguinius refused and instead pleaded to the Night Haunter that there was still final chance to join the loyalists and seek redemption. Stating that Horus’ rebellion was nothing in the grand scheme of things, the galaxy was doomed to eternal war, and only Chaos existed in the end, Curze set off an explosive trap and escaped from the throne room.
Curze continued to plague Macragge, spreading terror and working with anti-Guilliman bandits on the world. Curze even was able to send a suicide bomber to destroy a strategically important bridge on the Imperium Secundus capital. However Lion El’Jonson (now Lord Protector of Imperium Secundus) was able to corner the Night Haunter in the Alma Mons region of Macragge. After a vicious battle, Curze was defeated by the Lion. However The Lion could not bring himself to slay his demented brother, and instead broke his back over his knee. Curze was brought into custody and put on trial before the Emperor of Imperium Secundus Sanguinius.
During the trial, Curze admitted to his action, but refused to accept guilt because he was made to act that way, thus they were not crimes. Curze then divided Guilliman from the Lion, accusing the Lion of ordering secret orbital attacks and pitting them against each other. The Lion sought to kill Curze, but Sanguinius prevented him with words and Guilliman broke his sword. Later, Guilliman and Sanguinius stood before Curze in judgment and to execute him. Guilliman said that he should be the executioner, and Curze said that it was just like the Emperor. However, Sanguinius was filled with his psychic power and attacked Curze to his cries that it was not how he would die. Suddenly, the Lion appeared, asking for Sanguinius to stop. Troops came into the room, demanding the Lion’s surrender but he responded that Curze was able to see the future, and he repeated that Curze’s claim that his death would be at the hands of an assassin was sent by the Emperor. This, to the Lion, was proof that the Emperor was still alive. Sanguinius recognized that his own visions of death would also be true. Guilliman demanded what would come of Curze. The Lion knelt before his brothers and promised that he would be Curze’s gaoler, and Curze laughed at the confusion of the scene.
Curze remained a chained captive aboard the Invincible Reason, with The Lion occasionally visiting him to try and use his prophetic visions and insight into helping their effort. However, the Night Haunter, having since regenerated from his spinal injury, rarely proved cooperative enough and continue to taunt The Lion. Curze, aboard the Invincible Reason, was part of the combined fleet of Guilliman, The Lion, and Sanguinius as they tried to breach the Ruinstorm and reach Terra. Upon having a vision that his destiny lay at Davin, Sanguinius went aboard the Invincible Reason and took the chained Curze with him, hoping to not only use his prophetic insight into what he must do but also try and show the Night Haunter that destiny could be changed. Sanguinius was forced to defeat several Dark Angels guards through non-lethal force, enraging The Lion and almost causing him to destroy Davin with Cyclonic Torpedoes. However The Lion and Guilliman both eventually followed Sanguinius and Curze to the surface, and together the four Primarch’s journeyed to the temple on Davin where Horus had fallen. At the temple, Curze fell into anger and depression as he realized he had foreseen none of this and that his view that destiny was set in stone was being tested. When Sanguinius was swallowed up by the Daemon Madail‘s portal, Curze broke down and seemed genuinely concerned for Sanguinius. Guilliman and The Lion attempted to get Curze to predict a way to save Sanguinius, but the Night Haunter in his despair declared he no idea what to do, he had foreseen none of this. As Daemons erupted across Davin Curze was dragged back aboard the Invincible Reason.
Following the battle, a way to Terra was clear but blockaded by the fleets of Horus. Guilliman and The Lion agreed to distract the blockade while Sanguinius and the Blood Angels raced to Terra, as was their destiny. Sanguinius took custody of Curze and brought him aboard the Red Tear, declaring that he would face the Emperor’s judgement. However once aboard the vessel Sanguinius put Curze in a stasis coffin and said that just as he was about to meet his destiny on Terra, so must Curze follow his foreseen path. Sanguinius declared that he would freeze Curze in the stasis coffin and jettison him into space. Though it may take millennia for the Imperial Assassin Curze had foreseen killing him to find the Night Haunter, one day fate would catch up. The raging Night Haunter was frozen in the coffin and shot into the void of space.
After the invasion of Terra, the Night Lords did not splinter and flee like the rest of the Traitor Legions. Instead, they continued to attack the Imperium, however, their tactics seemed to change, betraying a self-destructive desperation. The Night Haunter himself was gradually losing his sanity and sense of purpose that had earned the respect of his Legion, and in his last days would frequently erupt into fits of violence, incoherency, and sadism. Many, such as Sevatar, became disheartened at what their Primarch had become. The Emperor himself, wishing to disband the Night Lords forever, dispatched half the Callidus Temple of assassins to terminate the renegade Primarch.
Night Haunter was eventually killed, assassinated by the Callidus M’Shen. It is believed she was allowed to infiltrate his palace on Tsagualsa, as she encountered no guards between herself and his throne room. Confronted with her, he simply said:
“Your presence does not surprise me, Assassin. I have known of you ever since your craft entered the Eastern Fringes. Why did I not have you killed? Because your mission and the act you are about to commit proves the truth of all I have ever said or done. I merely punished those who had wronged, just as your false Emperor now seeks to punish me. Death is nothing compared to vindication.”
The vid-log then shows M’Shen leaping forward, although the kill was never confirmed, as the video feed cuts out right before they fight. It is believed that Night Haunter allowed himself to be killed: he saw himself as a murderous and corrupt villain, the very thing he sought to destroy. Regardless, his final words are considered one of the great enigmas to the Imperium’s history.
The character’s last name is almost certainly inspired by the novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad, where a former ivory trader in the Congo named Kurtz rules over the native population as a charismatic demigod. The book was later adapted into the Vietnam War movie ‘Apocalypse Now’, where Kurtz’s assassinator is played by Martin Sheen who M’Shen is likely a reference to. The first name ‘Konrad’ is probably inspired by the author’s last name.
Batman Night Haunter”