The Black Templars Space Marines revere the Emperor as a god, His divine will guiding the actions of their Chapter as they scour the galaxy of His foes in a never-ending crusade. This faith is embodied in the Emperor’s Champion, a chosen vessel of the God-Emperor’s might that manifests only within the ranks of the Black Templars. On occasion, the spirit of the Emperor will make itself known to a Black Templars battle-brother as he prays on the eve of battle, and by holy mandate, the Emperor chooses the battle-brother to be His instrument of war. It is a duty that is never taken lightly by the Space Marine gifted with this honour, and as he dons the sacred Armour of Faith and takes up the Black Sword, he leaves behind the warrior he once was. In his place, the Emperor’s Champion is born, implacable behind his visored helm and unflagging in his righteous rage.
A Righteous Vessel
How and why the Emperor’s Champion manifests within the soul of a Black Templars remains a mystery, even to the Chapter itself, though the Black Templars accept it as the divine work of the God-Emperor, and a measure of their faith. Indeed, as far as they are concerned, that the Emperor’s Champion is unique to the Black Templars only goes to prove their profound connection to the Master of Mankind and the strength of their devotion.
In a ritual that has been repeated for centuries, the Black Templars gather on the eve of an important battle, their heads bowed in solemn prayer by the light of candles rendered from the tallow-fat of faithful Chapter serfs. Walking among the supplicant warriors, Space Marine Chaplains carry censers of sacred incense, their voices raised in droning hymns. Through the haze of blue-tinted smoke, the battle-brothers’ lips move in silent prayer to the Emperor, each one inviting His divine spirit into their souls.
The First Emperor’s Champion
The Emperor’s Champion was a title originally given by Rogal Dorn to Sigismund, founder of the Black Templars. During the Second Founding, when the Black Templars were born out of the Imperial Fists, the title became an honour for those who embodied the greatest ideals of the Chapter and were peerless in their faith to the Emperor. It is written in the holy texts of the Black Templars that when a battle-brother is gifted with divine visions guiding him to take up the mantle of the Emperor’s Champion, it is the memories of Sigismund he sees. It is a shifting vista of warring angels and vengeful gods, just as the ancient Space Marine witnessed during the war for Terra and the blasphemy of the Horus Heresy. Only those who have become the Emperor’s Champion and survived can hope to understand the time in which Sigismund lived, and the weight of his duty to smite the enemies of the Emperor.
Almost every ritual ends with the candles burned to nothing and the air heavy with a mist of stale incense. Invigorated by their prayers, the Black Templars battle-brothers will then rise to their feet and march to war. A handful of times each century, the ritual will end in a different way.
During the long night of prayer, a single battle-brother will be visited by a vision sent by the Emperor, a ghostly dream of a pale, blazing knight struggling against a sea of foes. While accounts of the vision vary from one battle-brother to the next, many of the symbols and themes remain the same. A mighty hero fighting an impossible foe, a fading light that must to be rekindled, and a tide of endless enemies crashing upon crumbling fortress walls, are all images given by the Emperor. Awaking from his vision-trance, the battle-brother will proclaim the Emperor’s visitation and the Chaplain will take him away so that the true ceremony may begin.
The most senior Black Templar’s Chaplain in the crusade is called to listen to the vision, and verify its authenticity. Ever fearful of daemonic trickery and false interpretation, the Chaplain will have the battle-brother recount what he saw, referencing the Liber Divinitus of the Chapter to see if symbols and images recorded there match those described. Never in the history of the Chapter has a battle-brother received a false vision, each and every one a true vessel of the God-Emperor.
The vision confirmed, the battle-brother is taken to the Chapter’s lay-shrine: sacred ground blessed by the Chaplains wherever the company makes its camp. Whether it is the scorched earth of an alien world, the shadowy, creaking hold of an Imperial vessel or the rusted, dripping ruins of a hive city, this is a place holy to the Chapter and made divine by the grace of the God-Emperor. From a sealed stasis casket, the Chaplain draws out the Black Sword and Armour of Faith – the trappings of the Emperor’s Champion. With great care, the attendant Chapter serfs will then dress the battle-brother as blessings are recited over each plate and seal. Tiny, spidery script is inscribed upon the armour, further protecting its wearer from harm; each one a benediction to the Emperor’s might, and a promise of His divine protection.
Finally, once the visored helmet is placed upon his head, the newly anointed Emperor’s Champion will heft the Black Sword, placing both hands on its long, heavy hilt and lifting it high into the air; the ritual is done and the Emperor’s Champion is ready to begin his holy work.
In battle, the Emperor’s Champion fights alone. Even though he might stride through the ranks of his battle-brothers, he does not heed the orders of Captains nor share their objectives. He exists only to vanquish the most powerful foes of the Emperor, singling them out in personal combat and hewing them apart with felling blows from the Black Sword. No warrior that has seen the Emperor’s Champion in battle can deny that the God-Emperor is working through his faithful servant. Haloed by a faint glow of faith manifest, enemy bolts and bullets that would tear ordinary men apart seem to have no impact upon the champion. The blessed battle-brother walks across the field as if the hand of the Emperor shields him, shells ripping the earth and air to pieces in his wake, while he remains untouched. Even when a powerful blow or blast knocks the Emperor’s Champion to the ground, he will haul himself to his feet, shaking debris from his armour to continue his charge into the foe.
The effect of the Emperor’s Champion on a battle is undeniable, and many Black Templars battle-brothers believe that it is a blessing merely to fight beside one. While the champion does not follow orders from his former commanders, he answers to a greater power, and the Chapter is content to allow him to seek out specific enemies or war zones as guided by his visions. This is born out of the belief that the Emperor’s Champion manifests for a reason, one that is beyond the ken of the Chapter Commanders but that is nonetheless important to victory. It is reasoned that the Emperor’s Champion has been summoned to kill a potent foe or turn the tide of a vital conflict, and he alone knows what is required of him.
It is rare for the Emperor’s Champion to live long beyond donning the Armour of Faith. Filled with divine courage, he will hurl himself into the thickest fighting or against the greatest enemy warlords, selling his life for the glory of his Chapter while taking scores of the foe with him. It is a doom that both battle-brother and Chapter accept as part of their covenant with the God-Emperor, the knowledge that great glory is won only with the blood of heroes.
When an Emperor’s Champion falls, the Chapter’s Chaplains will bear his body from the field of battle. In a ritual that honours his divine deeds, the Armour of Faith is removed, its seals broken and its prayers washed away with holy oils. The Black Sword is borne back to the Black Templars’ battle barge Eternal Crusader and interned in its reliquary. Then, in an honouring ceremony, High Marshal Helbrecht listens to Chaplain Grimaldus tell him of the deeds of the Emperor’s Champion while a venerable Chapter serf inscribes the battle- brother’s name onto the blade. The ritual complete and the name having taken its place next to its predecessors, the blade is placed back into its stasis casket until another is chosen by the Emperor to claim it.
Blade and Faith
The Black Sword is a heavy great sword, blessed by the Emperor and wreathed in a potent power field. Only ten of these ancient weapons exist, given to the Chapter during its founding as a token of their bond to the Emperor and of their oaths of loyalty. Every significant crusade the Chapter embarks upon must take with them one of the ten blades.
The armour is a relic of equal sanctity, crafted by the Chapter’s Techmarines and blessed by its Chaplains. It embodies the height of the artificer’s craft, usually reserved for Company Captains and Chapter Masters. The Armour of Faith is also as much a symbol as it is protection for the Emperor’s Champion. The purposefully archaic design and its distinctive laurelled helm are a rare and inspiring sight to the Black Templars, and proof that the vessel of the Emperor’s wrath walks among them.
Rynart the Unbowed
Blessed be the name Rynart, Champion of the Emperor in the year of Our Saviour 563.M38. On the storm-wracked world of Ismas, Rynart led the charge against the cursed Ork hordes of Warboss Slagrut. Astride his clanking, smoking war machine, the Ork leader assaulted the Imperial lines across the great Ismas Steam Bridge linking the vast central canal-cities together. Rynart walked across a river of xenos corpses to smite the alien warlord, his Black Sword smashing apart the pistons and gears of its war engine. In the end, only a blow against the bridge itself was enough and, rupturing the compression spire, Rynart sent the Ork warlord and his horde screaming into the black waters below.
Torund the Thrice-Blessed
Blessed be the name Torund, Champion of the Emperor in the year of Our Saviour 772.M39. When the cursed Sorcerer-Librarian Xenthuros claimed the Crystal Hives of Vard for his profane god, it was Torund that stood against him and prevailed. In the final Black Templars assault against Xenthuros’ floating spire fortress, dozens of battle-brothers were driven mad by the mirrored buttresses and their hidden whisper-spells. Only Torund was untouched, three times Xenthuros tried to ensorcell the Emperor’s Champion, and three times Torund spat back the enchantments with contempt. In the crystal throne room of the Sorcerer, Torund swept Xenthuros’ bird-like head from his shoulders, the Black Sword cleaving through wards and Warp magick alike.
Renald the Retribution
Blessed be the name Renald, Champion of the Emperor in the year of Our Saviour 301.M40. Renald was gifted with visions from the Emperor while gravely wounded and returning from the war zones of Helath. Renald was one of only a handful of Black Templars aboard the Space Marine strike cruiser Catechism of Fury. When the Fury’s Gellar field failed and the vessel was overrun by Daemons, Renald alone saved it from destruction. Bereft of Black Sword or Armour of Faith, and suffering festering injuries, the Emperor’s Champion exacted a terrible tally upon the Daemons wielding only a chainsword, until the Gellar field could be restored, and only then succumbing to his wounds. Though he never carried it in battle, a Black Sword was inscribed with his name to remember this great deed.
Alehart the Slayer
Blessed be the name Alehart, Champion of the Emperor in the year of Our Saviour 997.M41. When the Shimmering City of Mirlas fell under the shadow of Hive Fleet Leviathan, it was Alehart who stemmed the alien tide. In the second battle of the Heatwash, he slew the Tyrant overlord, choking it with his blade as it tried to devour his flesh. Not content to turn the tide of war, the champion led a small band of his battle-brothers aboard the Tyranid hive ship, hacking his way through tunnels webbed with grasping tendons and clawed sphincters. Alehart alone made it through the birthing stomachs and up the ropy spinal strands at the hive ship’s core. Finally, the champion drove his Black Sword into the pulsing cortex of the beast, its death scream echoing across the system.
The Broken Blade
His hearts thundered in his chest as he lay gasping in the dirt. The blow had cracked the ceramite of his chest plate and fractured one of his knee-plates, the joint pushing against his augmented muscles as he tried to rise. The whine of hard rounds and the crump of bolter shells finding flesh were somehow louder, sharper and closer than before. A tendril of fetid air made him realise his helmet had come loose, the seals torn and useless. Pushing himself up onto one knee, he braced himself with his heavy blade, its point sinking into the earth as it took his weight. Through the single intact lens of his helm he could see the beast readying for the kill.
Clearing his mind, he let the divine touch of the Emperor take him, the memory of the previous night’s visions still vivid and fresh. An icy shiver ran through his blood, as if his faith were a cool stream. Shaken awake by the feeling, he pushed himself fully to his feet and raised his blade to defend himself. The beast lashed out at him as it closed, diamond hard talons carving screeching furrows in his shoulder pad, raking across the symbol of his Chapter. Pivoting on his heel, he let the blow spin him around and away from the beast, harnessing the momentum to bring his blade around in a wide, flat arc. The blow caught the creature across its elongated jaw, spraying black blood across his face and armour. Where the blood found cracks and rents in the armour, he felt it burn his flesh, the foul chemical smell of it filling his nostrils.
Wounded, but far from defeated, the beast staggered past him, its lumbering charge taking it back into the press of battle to find another foe. Such was the swirling melee that warriors and beasts would meet for but a moment, presented with a fleeting chance to score a kill before they spun apart again to face fresh opponents. Without a second thought, he turned back to the fray, the creature forgotten. Ripping free his helm and clasping it to the magnets at his waist, he spat out a mouthful of blood and blinked to clear his vision.
All around him was carnage, dozens of his brothers were locked in combat with the aliens, their bolters and blades reaping a terrible toll, horribly outnumbered as they were. What seemed only a moment ago, the trench-works had been filled with stony-faced Guardsmen, heavy weapons platforms and battle tanks, the proud, black-armoured warriors striding through their midst giving them hope and filling them with the wrath of the God-Emperor. Now, only corpses manned the defences, the smoking remains of tanks and blasted craters where guns had been. The Space Marines alone fought on, defending the last piece of the Imperium on this world.
He watched as his brothers hacked apart the foe or blasted them at point-blank range. For every vile xenos that fell, three more seemed to take its place, and he knew then that the battle was lost. Even so, he raised his blade once more, willing to die fighting alongside those of his brotherhood with prayers to the Emperor on his lips.
It was then that a flash caught his eye, a break in the seething black clouds through which a beam of pure light descended from the sky to fall upon his upturned face. In the midst of the tumultuous battle, a sea of calm enveloped him, and friend and foe alike parted around him like water. In his mind, he heard a trumpet’s call, the stirring song of angels and the ring of holy steel being unsheathed. This was his purpose, this was his time, and he welcomed the spirit of the God-Emperor into his body.
Turning his gaze upon the enemy, he took a step toward their ranks; then another, and another, until he was running across the broken earth-works, his charge kicking up dust and dirt. Where a beast lunged at him, the Black Sword flicked out, severing talons, limbs and insect-like heads with equal ease. Though he saw them not, his remaining brothers fell in behind him, spurred on to a final glorious act of defiance by his actions.
Sprinting now, he reached the great city gates where the beasts had broken through, the ground still choked with alien and Imperial dead. Climbing up over the mounds of corpses, he forced his way into the breach, cutting down dozens of the foe, his broken armour slick with alien blood. Finally, hewing down a towering warrior-beast, he made his way to the opening and stepped out.
Before him stretched the once verdant plains that surrounded the city, a patchwork of hab-farms and gruel-mills, now carpeted in millions of crawling, clawing and screeching xenos. As he watched, the sea of creatures rippled and surged forward, thousands of beasts pushing towards the city and the lone warrior standing at its gates.
‘FOR THE EMPEROR!’, he screamed at the sky, holding the Black Sword aloft and charging down into the seething swarm.