Company Champions are charged with defending the honour of their company, their Chapter and the Emperor himself. They engage the warlords and champions of the foe in single combat, leaving their Captains free to conduct the wider battle, rather than engage in a series of personal combats. Company Champions have key roles in the rituals and ceremonies of the Chapter, representing their brothers in rites and mysteries as they do in war.
It is believed that the first Company Champions were to be found in the ranks of the Space Marine Legions as they fought in the Emperor’s Great Crusade. Although most records from this time were lost during the dark days of the Horus Heresy and the strife that followed, there are fragmentary reports of heroes armed with shining blades and clad in the mightiest suits of armour who protected their liege lords, the Primarchs and Praetors of the Legions, on the field of battle.
What is known is that when the Ultramarines Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, came to break up the Legions and wrote the Codex Astartes – the tenets of which still guide the organisation of the Adeptus Astartes ten millennia later – Company Champions were firmly established as part of every Chapter’s structure. It is likely, given the great emphasis placed on personal honour within the realm of Ultramar, that the concept of champions who protect the Masters of the Chapter originated within the XIII Legion, though none now can say for sure.
The champion of each company is chosen very carefully, for his skill in battle may be the difference between life and death for his Captain, and therefore between victory or defeat in battle.
Company Champions are rarely warriors of rank; those with the skill to command their fellow Space Marines in battle are better utilised as squad Sergeants or Captains. Instead, champions are chosen for their skill at arms.
By the strictures laid down in the Codex Astartes, it takes an act of great personal valour for a Space Marine to be considered for the role of Company Champion, as well as a demonstrated record of humility where others strive for personal glory. Such warriors must always keep the safety of their commander uppermost in their mind, even as they match blades with the deadliest of foes.
Different Chapters, however, choose their champions in different ways. The Silver Skulls cleave strongly to the visions of their Prognosticars, who see those marked for greatness and sequester them away to be trained in the arts of duelling until their very body is a weapon, every instinct honed to a razor edge.
The Imperial Fists and many of their Successor Chapters hold great tournaments whenever a Company Champion dies, where any warrior of the company may compete to take up the mantle of the fallen hero and represent their Captain. Few sons of Rogal Dorn can resist such an opportunity, and many friendly grudges result from these tournaments, spurring unsuccessful battle-brothers on to ever greater feats of valour on the field of battle.
It is even whispered that among the Mortifactors, the warrior who hunts and slays the killer of a former Company Champion and takes the foe’s skull will be named as the new champion. It is said that such hunts have taken battle-brothers of the Mortifactors as far afield as the hidden city of the piratical Dark Eldar and into the depths of the Eye of Terror itself. It is true that when the Mortificators march to war, their Captains often go unaccompanied by a champion, lending credence to such wild-seeming rumours.
When Company Champions take to the battlefield, it is as part of a command squad, assigned to accompany a great hero of the Chapter. Most commonly, the Champion – along with several other veteran battle-brothers – will fight alongside his Company Captain, but he can also be seconded to the service of his Company Chaplain or a member of the Librarius.
The champion’s role within the command squad is threefold. Firstly, and most obviously, he is an avatar of war, bringing death to the foe with blade and bolt. Often, his commander will need to focus on the wider battle, manoeuvring forces to achieve victory, and the Company Champion will be tasked with his protection, ensuring that any enemy who seeks to harm the Captain, Librarian or Chaplain meets their end, spitted on an energy-wreathed sword.
The Company Champion also acts as counsellor to his commander. While his focus is on martial skill and strength of arms, the Champion’s insight is often invaluable, giving his commander a different perspective on the unfolding events on the battlefield. The Champion’s knowledge of martial styles can often inspire interesting tactical options that a Captain or Chaplain may not have considered.
The third – and arguably most important – role of a Company Champion in war is to act as his commander’s second. While they are technically outside the chain of command and outranked by sergeants, Company Champions are veterans of hundreds of battles and have often served at the side of their Captain for longer than any other. Should they fail in their duty to protect their commander, a Company Champion will often be looked to to provide leadership and ensure that the Captain’s plan is carried out, his duty completed. This is a great burden, for should the battle be lost, the Champion will have failed twice, both to protect his liege and to fulfil his fallen commander’s duty – dishonouring them both.
Few Company Champions have ever failed in this way, and those who have often choose to stand down from their position and take up the role of a penitent in whatever way their Chapter Master sees fit, be it returning to the ranks as a battle-brother, or embarking upon a dangerous and almost certainly suicidal mission in an attempt to redeem their honour.
All Space Marine Chapters have ceremonies and traditions that go back centuries or millennia to their founding. These are often accompanied by rites and rituals in which the Chapter’s Chaplains lead the battle-brothers. There are as many different such traditions as there are Space Marine Chapters, and they will usually revolve around significant events – the recruitment of new warriors for the Chapter, movement between companies or promotions to higher ranks.
Among the duties of Company Champions is the representation of their own company during such rituals where multiple companies are involved. For example, the Crimson Fists have a ceremonial blooding for any warrior who moves from one company to another, where the Champions of both the battle-brother’s old and new companies perform a mock combat, with ritual steps that represent an honour-duel that Rogal Dorn is said to have performed with each of the Imperial Fists Captains who left to command new Chapters in the Second Founding.
One of the better-known ceremonial duties for Champions from many Imperial Fists Successor Chapters is to represent their brothers at the Feast of Blades, a great ritual combat that takes place at least once a century. Each of the Chapters formed from Dorn’s bloodline nominates a champion, usually chosen from amongst the Company Champions, competing for glory and the right to host the next Feast. It is a great honour to be chosen to represent the Chapter, and those who are frequently find that their Chapter Master has an eye on them for promotion in the near future.
Company Champions must always be prepared to engage their foes in single combat, and so are typically equipped with some of the finest arms and armour to be found in the Chapter vaults. The primary close combat weapon for many Company Champions is the power sword, though this is by no means universal.
The Champions of the Stone Hearts Chapter, for example, are known to have a preference for heavy maces or mauls, reflecting the culture of their home world, where such weapons, crafted from stone and hardened wood, are used in ritual combats to decide the hierarchy of local clans. When these bludgeons are recreated in adamantite and equipped with energy fields, they are vicious weapons, capable of knocking an enemy’s head from his shoulders or crashing through armour plate.
The Clan-Champions of the Storm Lords, on the other hand, have been seen to emulate their progenitors in the White Scars Chapter by making use of long, diamond-tipped lances wreathed in shimmering energy fields, preferring to destroy their target with a single decisive strike, though these warriors keep powered tulwars as secondary weapons for the rare occasions when an enemy survives their initial attack.
Even amongst those champions who make use of swords, there is near-infinite variety. From nimble duelling rapiers to heavy-bladed claymores, there is no type of blade that has not been used by a Company Champion somewhere in the Imperium. Each champion strives to completely master his chosen fighting style, training with his blade and shield to the exclusion of all else, the better to defend his Captain and uphold the honour of his Chapter.
When different Chapters come together in a theatre of war, it is common for Company Champions from the forces involved to come together to fight duels and learn from each others’ fighting styles and preferences. Many weapons and combat styles that originate from one world have spread across the Imperium in this way, and it is not uncommon for Chapters that have never fought alongside one another before to find that their Company Champions have surprisingly similar methods of waging war.
Regardless of their preferred weaponry, Company Champions are trained duellists and make use of many techniques handed down by skilled combatants since time immemorial, and codified in Guilliman’s great work. Their role as defender of their captain, as well as a hunter-killer, means that they often carry a combat shield to accompany their blade. Small bucklers that are typically affixed to the forearm, combat shields are equipped with a less powerful version of the energy field found in the storm shields of Terminators, and Company Champions train tirelessly to make best use of this extra defence. The Codex Astartes outlines three main uses for a combat shield in a duel:
Deflecting blows: The combat shield’s small size and energy field make its primary purpose to intercept and parry an enemy’s strike, allowing the Company Champion to deliver a riposte.
Hiding and protecting the sword hand: By angling his combat shield correctly, the Company Champion can both protect his sword hand from enemy blows and hide it from their view, allowing him the element of surprise as the foe struggles to anticipate his next strike. Whilst a few Chapters – typically those whose view of war is more brutal and straightforward – eschew this style of fighting, seeing it as dishonourable, most Company Champions are happy to have this technique in their arsenal.
Directing attacks: While not nearly as effective as a blade or a bolter, a strong strike with a combat shield at the right moment can knock an opponent off-balance, or even more if the power field makes contact with bare flesh. Many an overeager enemy has found themselves at the mercy of a Company Champion after being felled by an unexpected jolt of energy from a combat shield.
Many other techniques have been developed over the ages by particularly inventive or daring champions. Whilst many of these remain in use within just one Chapter, handed down from weapons-master to warrior across generations, many have spread across Chapters that have fought in the same war zones, and some have even made it back to Macragge, there to be enshrined in the addenda to the Codex Astartes, held within the Library of Ptolemy.
While many suits of Space Marine power armour are as old as the Imperium, handed down from battle-brother to battle-brother, repaired and refitted a hundred times or more, Company Champions are given a unique honour. Upon ascension to the role, a newly-appointed champion has a bespoke suit of armour crafted for them. When a champion eventually falls, should his body and armour be recovered, it is preserved and displayed with great honour in the Chapter reliquaries, every plate of the armour etched in remembrance of the hero’s many victories. Thus are the deeds of each and every Company Champion commemorated for all time.
The standard pattern of champion armour – known informally as Curadh variant armour, after a title for heroes in ancient Terran – is laid down in the Codex Astartes. Based loosely upon Aquila-pattern battleplate, the Curadh variant comes with additional reinforcement upon the shoulder guards, designed both to display the many badges of honour a Company Champion is entitled to wear and to provide greater protection.
A similarly reinforced breastplate is often emblazoned with a winged shield. Uniquely amongst his battle-brothers, a Company Champion is entitled to bear personal heraldry. Many choose not to, but some commemorate particularly notable feats of valour by adding them to the shield upon their chests. Amongst the Ultramarines, it is also common for champions of noble birth to display all or part of their family heraldry on their chest plate.
The helms worn by Company Champions are often designed to echo knightly helms of old, as seen in fragments of ancient tapestries and the tattered remnants of illuminated manuscripts. While little is remembered from these long-lost times, it is known that knights were chivalrous individuals dedicated to the defence of the innocent – ideals that Company Champions are seen to represent.
Cadulon is a name celebrated in the annals of the Iron Knights Space Marines and revered by every Chapter that sends warriors to the ritual Feast of Blades. Known to his brothers and rivals alike as the ‘Saint of Blades’ for his skill at arms, Cadulon rose to the position of Company Champion when his predecessor was killed by a Dark Eldar slaver-queen in battle on the world of Cystan. Over the centuries that followed, Cadulon became renowned for his swordsmanship, wielding an estoc with consummate ease.
Three times Cadulon represented his Chapter at the Feast of Blades, the great competition between the successors of the Imperial Fists Legion. On his first appearance, he won the contest, besting the chosen champions of eleven other Chapters. On his second, he was narrowly defeated by the Black Templars’ representative, but he returned once again and claimed victory a second time, one of only a handful of Space Marines to do so.
Eventually, Cadulon was promoted to Captain and served with distinction for nearly a century in command of the 4th Company until 226.M41, when he crossed blades with a Dark Eldar Archon on the world of Omeros. With his command squad and his own Company Champion kept busy by the twisted alien’s minions, Cadulon found himself fighting single-handedly against the Archon and a dozen Incubi. Even the Saint of Blades could not hold out against so many skilled foes, and he was incapacitated.
The last that any of the Iron Knights saw of Cadulon, he was being carried, still struggling against a dozen captors, into the writhing darkness of a webway portal.
The tragic tale of Oros Telemar is recounted whenever a new warrior of the Iron Hands takes up the mantle of Clan Champion, as a salutary reminder that, while justified pride in one’s martial abilities is no sin, pride taken to extremes is a deadly flaw.
In 237.M38, Clan Garrsak of the Iron Hands was deployed to the Herevok Sector to help put down an insurgency that had gripped more than twenty worlds. Upon their arrival, they discovered that the rebels were, in fact, Chaos-tainted heretics, aided by Traitor Space Marines from the Emperor’s Children Legion of old.
The Iron Hands fell upon their ancient foes with relish, cleansing them from world after world in the name of Ferrus Manus, slain in a bygone age by the Emperor’s Children Primarch in an act of fratricide which changed history. Beside his clans leaders stood Oros Telemar, a Clan Champion of long standing and great renown. Ever prideful, Telemar swore a battle-oath to hunt and kill the commander of the enemy force, a swordsman of superlative skill known as Lucius, a name recognised with hatred by every warrior of the Chapter.
Taking a handful of Space Marines with him, Telemar crossed the sector in pursuit of his quarry, eventually chasing him down to an airless asteroid on the outskirts of a long-abandoned planetary system. There, Telemar and his men engaged Lucius. The Chaos-corrupted swordsman, scarred and twisted, but still possessed of preternatural skill with a blade, dispatched Telemar’s warriors in short order, and so began a game of cat and mouse between champions that lasted for seven days and nights and ranged across the barren surface of the asteroid.
Eventually, Telemar prevailed, striking the traitor down and taking his sabre and whip to display as trophies of victory on the Iron Hands home world. When he returned to the clan, the war was over, and the Iron Hands departed for Medusa.
When their ship arrived in orbit around the Iron Hands home world, the vessel was silent, refusing to answer hails or follow recognised approach vectors. A boarding party of Space Marines entered the ship and found a scene of carnage. Every Iron Hands warrior and Chapter serf who had boarded the vessel in the Herevok sector was dead, killed by pinpoint sword strokes; all bar one – Oros Telemar himself, who was missing, along with the remains of the traitor Lucius.
The Techmarines used the ship’s logs and internal surveyors to piece together what had happened. To their horror, they discovered that over the course of the journey, Telemar had begun to change, ritually scarring himself and repainting his armour in wild and sickening colours. Eventually, his will had snapped and he had rampaged through the ship, killing all the crew and passengers with the weapons claimed from the traitor, before entering a saviour pod and disappearing into the depths of the Immaterium.
To this day, none are sure exactly how this happened, though this is well, as to try and explain the methods of Chaos is to invite madness. The members of the Iron Council theorised that Telemar’s pride over killing such a notorious traitor created a chink in his mental armour through which the Ruinous Powers corrupted his soul.
Later sightings of Lucius in war zones across the Imperium and beyond have only added to this mystery.
In the years before the fall of their home world of Ogrys, the Invaders underwent many trials. Their most notable feat was a daring assault upon the Eldar craftworld of Idharae. The entire Chapter gathered to leave the craftworld a floating wreck, and many valorous deeds were performed in Idharae’s domes and tunnels.
The 1st Company, under the command of Captain Ravinger, deployed en masse, teleporting into the centre of the craftworld and laying waste to all around them. As the Eldar reacted and more forces were drawn from the periphery of Idharae to deal with this immense threat, the Terminator-armoured veterans of the 1st found themselves fighting back to back, storm bolters and assault cannons running hot; power fists and lightning claws reaping a fearsome tally of Eldar warriors.
In the midst of the battle, Captain Ravinger fell, his hearts pierced by the blade of a mighty Wraithlord ghost-construct. With victory in the balance, his champion, Brayden, rallied the company around the ancient and proud banner of the 1st and stood over the body of his lord. No count exists of how many foes Brayden slew in the hours that followed, but all who saw his deeds attested that he fought with the valour of Rogal Dorn himself.
When the battle was won and the Masters of the Chapter convened to decide who would succeed Ravinger as First Captain, Brayden was unanimously nominated. Stepping forward under the gazes of the great and good of the Invaders, he humbly declined the honour, declaring that he was a warrior and a servant, not a leader, and that another would be better placed to command the company, another whom he would pledge to protect unto death. He nominated a sergeant of the company and stepped back into the shadows, content that his duty would continue.