|White Dwarf 99||Index Astartes: Legion of the Damned (by Rick Priestly,
excerpted from White Dwarf 99)
THE LEGION OF THE DAMNED
In the year 963 of the current millennium, Space Marine chapter 'Fire Hawks' was ordered into the Crows World sub-sector. Crows World and adjacent planetary systems had fallen into anarchy following heavy raiding by Eldar Pirates. The Fire Hawks' intervention would drive the Eldar from the human worlds, restoring Imperial rule and teaching the alien invaders an important lesson. The entire chapter-fleet, including the chapter's mobile space-fortress, made a successful warp jump from the Piraeus system a mere 120 light years from Crows World. The five ships, over eight hundred brethren, and two thousand other personnel expected to reach Crows World within no more than 12 hours. They never arrived. Twenty years after the event the chapter was officially declared lost in the warp and presumed destroyed. The great Bell of Lost Souls tolled a thousand times, and it said that the Emperor himself ordered a Black Candle to be lit in the Adeptus Chapel of Fallen Heroes.
On 9667986.M41 a routine Imperial patrol passed through the Ork held system of Jakor-tal. The squadron uncovered altogether unexpected scenes of devastation. The limited facilities available to the patrol could uncover no clue to the identity of the attacking forces. The incident was noted and passed into the everlasting record of the Administratum.
A rash of similar incidents within the same and adjoining sectors soon began to arouse the interest of the Inquisition. Squadron commanders throughout these sectors were reinforced and ordered to double their routine patrols. The incidents continued apace, increasing rather than declining in frequency and destructiveness. Even so, no sign of the intruders was discovered for almost a year. Then, on 3628987. M41, a patrol ship in the Maran sub-sector narrowly avoided a collision with a space-craft at the Cift jump-point. The patrol ship was entering the Cift system as the unidentified craft was leaving. Alerted by the close encounter, the patrol crew scanned the entire jump-area and discovered two long cylindrical objects within the intruder's projected flight-path. These were hauled aboard and proved to be standard space-coffins without identification markings.
The coffins were shipped back to earth and opened by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The coffins themselves were identified as belonging to the Absolute, one of the spacecraft from the vanished Fire Hawk fleet. Inside were the armoured remains of two Space Marines. The unconventional armour colours and unofficial insignia puzzled the investigators, but serial numbers tallied with equipment made by or issued to the Fire Hawks. The armoured suits were expected to house members of the lost chapter, and were carefully broken open. The bodies within were human, but further identification proved impossible due to their advanced state of decay.
The full truth would not emerge until almost a year later when a besieged Imperial research station received unexpected help. The garrison had been attacked suddenly by Ork pirates. After three hours of fighting the situation looked hopeless. Then, without warning, the Orks found themselves attacked in the rear. The ferocity of the fighting appalled even the station's defenders. Within half an hour, several hundred Orks had fallen to the mysterious, power-armoured figures. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the warriors vanished. This time they left behind a banner - the gnarled chapter flag of the Fire Hawks - and inscribed upon it was the motto In dedicato imperatum ultra articulo mortis (For the Emperor beyond the point of death). As well as the banner there was a recorder and sundry other sealed items. These were immediately shipped to Earth.
From the data contained in the recorder the Administratum was able to determine exactly what had happened to the lost chapter. Following their warp-jump the entire fleet had been caught within a warp-storm of terrific intensity. Stunned by the power of the warp, the chapter was forced to endure the attacks of powerful warp entities. Ship after ship was destroyed and absorbed into the fabric of the warp. Soon only one craft remained. By a daring warp-exit manoeuvre the craft burst out of warp-space, emerging far in the galactic east, thousands of light years off-course and beyond even the psychic light of the Emperor.
The original survivors numbered two hundred brethren. All gene-seed had been lost, all initiates killed, and most of the chapter's masters were gone. None of the ordinary human staff have survived at all. To make matters worse the brethren had changed. This change became more obvious over the next few months. Skins began to blacken and blister, flesh began to fester and putrefy. Slowly they began to die. Within days of the transition into normal space it became obvious that the chapter had been exposed to some form of dangerous mutation or disease. It took many years to navigate a way back into the Imperium, during which time almost half the brethren succumbed to the malady. Those who remained were no longer sane. Pain and despair had driven even their hardened minds beyond the point of rationality. Doomed to agonising deaths, they gradually became obsessed with their fate. Now they only wanted to die. But they were still marines, still loyal to the Emperor and humanity. They would not die without a purpose.
So began the unstoppable war of the Legion of the Damned! The marines elected to remove all insignia from their armour. Instead their armour would be black, decorated by each brother with whatever emblems of death he chose (the accompanying illustrations show some typical variations). Most brothers employed a similar theme - skeletons, bones and skulls.
All ranks and companies were abolished, most of the chapter's officers were already dead and the remaining warriors were too few to make up a fully functioning chapter hierarchy. All brothers were to be equal before death - levelled by the certainty of their assured extinction. The warriors decided to expend their lives attacking enemies wherever they could be found. The disease had robbed them of their sanity, but not their loyalty! And their condition gave them powers - powers that endow them with incredible fighting abilities.
The legion is not a part of any Imperial force, and employs an unusual modus operandi. Apart from driving them insane, the contagion heightens their psychic awareness considerably. One result of this is the way in which the legion selects and attacks targets. These matters are left entirely to the process of divination provided by the mystic Tarot of the Emperor. This tarot is supposedly bound within the psychic will of the Emperor and is used throughout the Imperium as both a pastime and a form of divination. It is an undeniable fact that attacks seem to fall in 'the right place at the right time'. The Legion of the Damned certainly believe themselves to be directed by the Emperor - and who is to argue!
As the fatal malady takes a firm hold, the victim begins to degenerate and putrefy. However, even as his body decays, he grows in supernatural vigour. Even though the marine's limbs become rotten and twisted he gains strength far beyond that of a normal marine. These powers heighten as the disease rages through the victim's body. At the moment of death, each brother reaches a peak in power, at which point the raw energies of the warp transmute the death throes of the doomed marine into a berserk orgy of destruction. Make no mistake - the Legion of the Damned may be few in numbers, but their powers are awesome!
Just as their bodies are changed by contact with the warp, so their minds are hardened too. Brethren are completely immune to all forms of psychic attack or interference. They cannot be affected by the special psychic attacks of warp-creatures - although they may be harmed physically by physical attacks that such creatures may have. Astral spectres and other immaterial creatures cannot harm them in any way.
The brethren have innate psychic abilities in the same way as a normal psyker.
ORGANISATIONThe Legion has no formal organisation - it fights as a single body of troops. The only tactic possible to such a formation is to steam-roller over the enemy by a steady advance.
Facing death - the final equalizer - the marines' command decisions are made by collective divination. Devices, emblems and personal badges are applied over the armour by individuals; they are not indicative of rank or function.
EQUIPMENTThe vast stocks of weaponry available to the Fire Hawks were destroyed along with the rest of the fleet. The surviving brothers have only a limited range of weapons, and most are armed identically. Powered armour and weapons are of standard type.
BERSERK DEATH SPASMThe marines are rapidly approaching the moment when they will be claimed by the warp contagion. No-one knows when this be. The rigours of combat tend to initiate the final stages of the disease, warping more and more raw energy into the marine during his final moments.