THE DARK APOSTLES
Word Bearers Space Marine Legion
While the vast majority of Chaos Space Marines are known for their unyielding bitterness towards the Imperium of Man, there are few who could match the depths of hatred of the Word Bearers. Armed with zealous faith in Chaos in all its myriad forms, the Word Bearers waged an unholy war against Man even before the Horus Heresy erupted.
Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers Legion of Space Marines, was known as one of the most scrupulous and dedicated followers of the Imperial Cult. His zeal in persecuting the enemies of the Emperor was almost unmatched by any of his brother Primarchs and many were those who felt him to be the most devoted of the Primarchs. It was on the world of Colchis that his character was to be formed, one of the first worlds settled in Mankind's exploration of the stars. Its continental masses were dotted with strange, crumbling edifices, and no amount of exploration and research could fathom their purpose. Explorators at the time of the Great Crusade put the date of its first settlements somewhere around the 16th Millennium, though it is impossible to be certain. Imperial scholars and historians believe that the world of Colchis was once highly advanced technologically, but fell into anarchy during the turbulent time known as the Age of Strife and that its population regressed to the level of a feudal society.
Few records remain of the society that arose from the ashes of the Age of Strife, save those penned by Lorgar himself, and these are sealed in the deepest vaults of the Library Sanctus on Terra. Various fragments of these records are reproduced in the Speculum Historiale, the exhaustive history of the Great Crusade penned by the historian Carpinus. In his description of Colchis, Carpinus tells of a caste of priests calling themselves the Covenant who rebuilt the shattered society of Colchis on the promise that a great leader would one day come to deliver them from the darkness their world had descended into. With harsh religious observance, the Covenant's strict dogma became a gigantic, monolithic belief structure that permeated every facet of daily life on Colchis. Of Lorgar's coming, Carpinus speaks of a fiery comet smashing into the foremost temple of the Covenant bearing the infant Primarch, while Lorgar himself often made oblique references to his 'pilgrimage' to Colchis. Another tale tells of the arrival of a strange, golden-skinned child at the doors of the Covenant's largest temple, asking to be schooled in their ways. The child was taken into the temple and given the name Lorgar, growing to manhood within its walls and quickly mastering the many tenets and codes of faith imposed by the Covenant. The truth of the matter will, in all likelihood, never be known, and though the answers may lie in the blasted words of the Liber Malum, its pages must never again be opened.
However it came to pass, Lorgar became a devout member of the Covenant, taking fiery words of faith to every corner of the globe, where the power of his oratory and charisma won him many supporters. He rose rapidly through the ranks and though the people of Colchis loved him, he had enemies within the Covenant who grew jealous of his popularity and challenge to their power. The Speculum Historiale speaks of a tale told by Lorgar to Konrad Curze, Primarch of the Night Lords, during the victory celebrations on Boraint following the defeat of the Arch-Heretic of Dulorth. Lorgar spoke of strange dreams and visions that afflicted him in his early years. In them he saw a mighty warrior in gleaming armour with a helm of bronze and a shining sword. A giant in blue robes with but a single, unblinking eye stood behind him, speaking of his lord's coming to Colchis and that Lorgar must be ready for him. Lorgar was convinced that this mighty warrior was the divine leader the Canticles of the Covenant had promised and, at the urging of Kor Phaeron, his closest friend, began spreading the word that their god would soon be amongst them. People flocked to hear his words and waves of popular support followed Lorgar wherever he preached. This was the opportunity Lorgar's enemies within the Covenant had been waiting for and they denounced him as a heretic, fearing the threat to the status quo and their power.
Lorgar's supporters rallied round him, fighting and killing the soldiers of the Covenant who came to arrest him. Lorgar himself fought with strength and passion for his cause, and each time the Covenant's warriors came for him, he slew them. His enemies had vastly underestimated the depth of belief in Lorgar's words and the Covenant split into two factions, each deeply opposed to the other's belief, and each believing that only they could save their people. A holy war of horrific proportions erupted, with more and more of the population forced to choose sides as the battles grew larger and spread across the planet. For six years the fighting raged across Colchis and many were the atrocities carried out in the name of holy righteousness. Lorgar's supporters were outnumbered, but they were led by a Primarch, and his strength and power were beyond compare. Lorgar fought many battles, learning the ways of war with astounding rapidity. His inspired words roused his armies to undreamed of heights of courage and devotion, binding them to the promise of their saviour's coming, and the priests of the Covenant could do nothing to stop him. Eventually, Lorgar led his people to victory, storming the temple he had trained in and killing all the priests within. With the end of the war, the people awaited the arrival of the divine being promised by Lorgar, and less than a year after the final battle, a mighty, sky-borne vessel descended to the temple on a trail of fire. The Apocrypha of Skaros tells that the Emperor and Magnus the Red descended to Colchis with two squads of Thousand Sons Space Marines, to meet its mighty war leader. Lorgar dropped to one knee, immediately recognising the Emperor from his visions, and swore his undying fealty to him. Under Lorgar's rule, every facet of the Covenant's belief structure was devoted to the worship of the Emperor and the population of Colchis rejoiced, united behind their new and wondrous god.
The elaborate celebrations and pious displays of devotion lasted for many months, and recent translations of some of the more obscure passages within the Speculum Historiale infer that the delays enforced on the Great Crusade by the lengthy shows of fealty Lorgar offered chafed at the Emperor, who wished to resume the conquest of the galaxy as swiftly as possible. These same scholars cite later events in the Great Crusade as further proof of this, though others point out Carpinus's revisionist tendencies and claim that such interpretations are based on the venerable historian's hindsight. At the conclusion of the celebrations the Emperor offered Lorgar command of the Word Bearers and bade him take his best and bravest warriors to become Space Marines for his praetorian guard. Lorgar accepted the honour the Emperor offered him and decreed that he would leave Colchis and take his place at the Emperor's side. He appointed faithful followers to minister to his people in his absence, garbed himself in his battle gear and departed with the Emperor and Magnus.
Lorgar led his Legion throughout the glory years of the Great Crusade, setting out to eradicate and destroy all forms of blasphemy and heresy that threatened the Emperor's realm. All manner of ancient scrolls, books, artworks and icons were burned and smashed before the advancing ranks of the Legion. In their place, vast monuments and cathedrals, all dedicated to the Emperor, were erected upon the mounds of dead of those who had resisted conversion. The greatest Chaplains of the Legions produced enormous works on the divinity and righteousness of the Emperor, and Lorgar himself delivered countless speeches and sermons, converting millions to the Emperor with his words alone.
The progress of the Word Bearers was slow, but complete. None escaped the crozius or the bolter. Entire worlds were scoured of the living for their refusal to submit to the will of the Emperor. When the Emperor took note of Lorgar's slow advance across the stars, he personally reproached his Primarch. He informed Lorgar that his purpose was not for faith, but for battle. The true mission of the Space Marines was to re-conquer and unify the galaxy under the banner of Imperium, not to waste precious time and resources in vast displays of fealty and piety.
Lorgar was stunned. Upon returning to his personal battleship, the Fidelitas Lex, the Primarch refused to speak to any of his lieutenants or chaplains. He removed his power armour and wore nothing but sackcloth, his golden skin greased with ash, his hair torn and dishevelled. He mourned the Emperor's command for a month, and the Legion of the Word Bearers stood idle and silent within the depths of space, waiting for a command, any command, to be issued by their Primarch.
The Master of Mankind did not remain ignorant of Lorgar's reaction. The Emperor was on the verge of once again reprimanding his tardy Primarch when news came that the Legion had suddenly renewed its campaign. Worlds now fell before the Word Bearers like ripe grain. The assaults were quick and devastating; no longer did Lorgar offer redemption or salvation to those he set his Legion against. The embittered Primarch offered only the sword, and in his wrath the holocausts were unnumbered. Pleased with what he saw as progress, the Emperor turned his eyes towards other matters. What he could not know is that he had already been betrayed.
The Word Bearers were the first Legion to be fully corrupted by Chaos. While it is true that Horus was the first of the Primarchs to be tainted, and his Sons of Horus were the first Legion to openly rebel, in truth it was the Word Bearers who were the first to fully embrace Chaos as an entire Legion. When the Emperor rebuked Lorgar's shows of devotion, the Primarch turned his gaze towards gods who would be more worthy of his dedication. In Chaos, Lorgar found what he was searching for. Beyond all mortal comprehension, the gods of Chaos welcomed, even demanded, worship. As such, they were initially generous with Lorgar, as his devotion to gods that accepted his worship unquestioningly was second to none. Lorgar's ego, however, would not allow him to become any single god's champion, instead preferring to worship Chaos in its myriad, infinite forms. The Word Bearers came to worship Chaos as a pantheon of countless gods and goddesses, dark princes and ethereal powers that writhed and seethed in the haunted depths of the Immaterium.
Lorgar would later say that as he turned his faith to Chaos, a veil lifted from his eyes and he was able to see the Emperor for what he was; not his god at all, but an irreverent man who had failed to grasp that what Humanity needed above all else was religious domination, that could only be provided by godlike beings such as himself. The resultant submission and fealty to Chaos would allow Mankind to stave off the countless alien hordes that sought to overwhelm and destroy the young Imperium. At first, the Legion kept their new faith secret, unaware that Chaos had already tainted many of their brethren. Once Horus openly defied the Emperor, and his Legion renounced all ties to Imperial authority, the Word Bearers openly cast their lot with the side of Chaos. The second Legion to spit on their oaths of loyalty, the Word Bearers, soon set upon the Legion they had come to despise the most, the Legion of Roboute Guilliman, the Ultramarines.
While the Emperor had chastised the Word Bearers, they watched with jealous hearts as he championed the Ultramarines as his finest warriors. When the Heresy erupted and the shackles of loyalty were cast off, the Word Bearers set upon the Sons of Ultramar with unbridled hatred. The Ultramarines were initially stunned, and Lorgar was able to push them back to Ultramar, the region of space that the Ultramarines govern and defend. It was upon the world of Calth that the final battle would take place. Famed for its orbital shipyards, Calth was a typical world of Ultramar. Its inhabitants were wealthy and generous, knowing little in the ways of want or fear. In many ways, theirs was a paradise, and as such it was not to last.
When the Word Bearers launched their attack against the Ultramarines, the strike against Calth was led by one of Lorgar's greatest champions, the former Master of the Faith, Kor Phaeron. This mighty champion swore to utterly destroy the planet, and was very nearly successful. From his personal battle barge, now renamed Infidus Imperator, Kor Phaeron directed a full-scale invasion of the Calth System. Calth's three sister planets were all destroyed, massive geo-nuclear strikes ripping them apart at the core. Its once gentle sun was laced with deadly metals and substances that increased the star's radiation output tenfold. Within a century after the Heresy's end, the final elements of Calth's atmosphere were burned off, the world left airless, its populace now dwelling in gigantic underground caverns. Upon its surface, the Word Bearers fought the Ultramarines to a standstill. The traitors held superiority in numbers, weaponry and brutality, but the Ultramarines would never give in. As driven as the warriors of Lord Kor Phaeron were, they could not dislodge the Ultramarines, many of whom had once called the planet home.
The war upon Calth was devastating and horrific. Ancient codes of warfare and martial conduct were broken and set aside by the Word Bearers as all manner of death and destruction was unleashed. The Ultramarines were stunned by the millions of cultists the Word Bearers used as human shields and disgusted by the hordes of daemons unleashed as shock troops. The Word Bearers, in turn, had underestimated the tenacity and resolve of their hated foe. In the end, Lord Kor Phaeron was defeated when reinforcements from Macragge drove the Word Bearers from the surface of Calth. Kor Phaeron retreated all the way to the Maelstrom, a turbulent region of the galaxy where the Immaterium of Chaos seeps through into the material realm of the universe. The Ultramarines were victorious, and their leader, Brother Captain Ventanus, would one day set foot upon a broken Colchis, symbolically capturing the abandoned home world of the Legion that had once threatened to enslave Ultramar.
While Kor Phaeron set his men upon Calth, Lorgar was leading the rest of the Legion against Terra. The horrors of the battles there were beyond the comprehension of mortal beings and fill many vaults of the Library Sanctus. Lorgar helped smash down the realm of the master he had once served with the fanaticism of a zealot. Suffice to say, Horus was defeated, and the legions of Chaos were forced to flee. The Word Bearers were also forced to retreat to the Eye of Terror, and there they have remained, returning to the Imperium to raid, pillage, and destroy, awaiting the chance to reclaim what was once theirs.
As time passed and the atrocities carried out in the name of Lorgar rose to new heights, he was rewarded by his patrons with the gift of daemonhood. Now he truly was the equal of a god, and the birth scream of this newest daemon of Chaos was said by Astropaths to have echoed through the warp with triumphant vindication. From the Daemon-world of Sicarus, Lorgar watches over his Legion, directing its myriad wars and engagements, orchestrating the vast corruption from within that the Imperium suffers at the hands of his innumerable cults and covens. Unlike many of the other Traitor Legions, the Word Bearers have remained a unified, if loosely organised, Legion. Each of Lorgar's champions have become an amalgamation of brutal war leader and divinely inspired preacher of Chaos known as a Dark Apostle. Each is gifted an army roughly equivalent to a Space Marine Chapter, known as a Host, and these armies have proven to be deadly raiding forces against the Imperium.
From the two primary bases of the Legion, the daemon world Sicarus and the factory-world of Ghalmek, located within the Maelstrom, the Word Bearers launch twisted wars of faith against the Imperium. On each world they attack, they plant the seeds of future corruption and an ever-expanding web of cults. Fortunately for the Imperium, the cults of the Word Bearers compete heavily with those of the Alpha Legion, a rivalry that has spread to the Legions themselves. Though the Alpha Legion and the Word Bearers have united several times to take part in the Black Crusades of Abaddon, they are more usually in states of bitter division and rivalry.
On the worlds they attack, the Word Bearers build huge monuments dedicated to their dark gods, and vast cathedrals are erected where the chants and prayers of the faithful intermingle with the screams of those being sacrificed in the name of Lorgar. The Word Bearers are the only Traitor Legion to still observe codes of religion in the form of their Dark Apostles, and under them have retained a strict regimen of blasphemous prayer and evil devotion that fills much of their time. All Word Bearers are expected to be thoroughly knowledgeable in ritual sacrifice, occult study, and decadent worship. In battle the Word Bearers are zealous in the extreme, marching forward under huge banners dedicated to Chaos in its myriad forms, reciting catechisms as they fight, and slaying the enemy for failing to follow the one true path to righteousness. Their war against the Imperium of Man is total, and it will not end until every icon of the Emperor who betrayed them lies shattered at their feet.
Colchis was once a technologically advanced world that regressed to a feudal state during the Age of Strife. The arrival of Lorgar brought with it both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it brought the world into the fold of the Imperium, a curse because his arrival signed the planet's death warrant many hundreds of years later. Under Lorgar's brief rule the planet prospered, but when the Emperor came to Colchis and put Lorgar in command of the Word Bearers, those he left behind allowed the world to fall into decline. When the Ultramarines took the fight to Colchis, they found a devastated world, its industry in ruins and its people clinging desperately to civilisation. Given Lorgar's treachery, the Inquisition ordered the planet to be cleansed and the Ultramarines battle barge, Octavius, bombarded Colchis with cyclonic torpedoes. The geological structure of Colchis was highly unstable and the resultant seismic activity split the planet apart. Nothing now remains of Colchis and where it once existed is still a closely guarded secret.
The Word Bearers follow the words of their Dark Apostles with utter loyalty and faith in battle, and they in turn interpret the will of Lorgar by many and varied means. The means to win a battle may be contained within the entrails of a particular captive, a particular alignment of the stars or the pattern of cast bones. The Dark Apostles decree how the battle is to be fought and the warriors of the Host obey unquestioningly. Before battle, the Word Bearers gather in ritual prayer, chanting blasphemous hymns and forbidden doctrine to affirm their faith in the power of Chaos. Often these chants will be answered and it is common for the Word Bearers to fight alongside hideous daemonic entities that have made diabolical pacts with the Dark Apostles.
The Word Bearers then raise their damned standards high and march into battle beneath cursed icons, bellowing catechisms and canticles of hatred at their foe as hideous drums beat out a dolorous thunder. The relentless advance of the Word Bearers is a terrifying sight, as the monotonous chant and beat of drums can break even the strongest will. The night before battle, the enemy can hear dark mutterings emanating from all around, echoed in the pounding drums, stretching the nerve and instilling every man with fear. The unshakeable belief of the Word Bearers that they alone can save the galaxy has seen them marching towards certain death, yet unwilling to take a single step backwards. Any victory won over the Word Bearers is only won at a terrible cost, as their attacks will only ever end when all are dead.
Alone amongst the Legions of Chaos, the Word Bearers maintain a facsimile of their former discipline and faith. That faith has been corrupted beyond all recognition and their discipline now serves darker masters, but their organisation bears a twisted resemblance to their former glory. The various warbands of the Word Bearers, known as Hosts, are scattered throughout the Eye of Terror and the Maelstrom, each led by a mighty champion known as a Dark Apostle. These terrifying warriors fulfil the dual role of chaplain and commander. Veterans of a thousand times a thousand battles, these mighty champions of Chaos are the epitome of a warrior of Chaos. These blood-soaked killers make unspeakable pacts with the entities of the warp, ritually debasing the Crozius Arcanum that was once their symbol of office by binding a daemonic creature within its accursed form. They are a potent reminder that even the most revered champions of the Emperor can fall from grace.
Each Host varies enormously in size, ranging from the equivalent of a Space Marine Battle Company to a rare few that almost equal a Chapter in size. The organisational make-up of each Host differs wildly as well, and can change depending on the whims of the Dark Apostle that leads it. Often they wilt suddenly alter the hierarchy of their Host for reasons known only to themselves. The reason for these changes has continued to baffle Imperial tacticians, as they often result in unwieldy or tactically inflexible formations that appear to have no battlefield precedent. The Word Bearers themselves accept these changes without question and none dare question the Dark Apostle's methods. The most commonly occurring structure discovered is that roughly equating to a Space Marine company, with the Host broken down into units of about twelve warriors. Each is commanded by a champion of the Word Bearers who strives to become as devout a war leader as the Dark Apostle in the hope of one day being chosen to succeed him on the occasion of his death.
Rooted in the beliefs of Lorgar himself, the Word Bearers are the heralds of a terrible new age of religious servitude. Only united behind the teachings of a god and offering the obeisance that such a god requires can the masses of Humanity be saved from the perils of alien menace and internal schism. There is only one power in the galaxy worthy of such submission, and that is the dark majesty of Chaos. Each warrior of the Word Bearers is a missionary bringing the darkness of Chaos with them, preaching the one true faith to those that will hear it and exterminating those who will not. Their belief is simple, tread the path of Chaos or die.
The gene-seed of the Word Bearers was originally thought to be pure, but events subsequent to the Horus Heresy revealed the weaknesses inherent in their genetic make-up. The Space Marines of the Word Bearers have a marked tendency towards dogged, unquestioning belief and stubbornness that verges on insanity. Since the Heresy, their gene-seed has become corrupted beyond redemption and those negative traits have been magnified to hideous proportions. The Word Bearers do not display a particular tendency towards mutation, though those who are gifted with such blessings of Chaos are much favoured amongst their Host.
The Word Bearers do not seem to evince any one particular battle cry, favouring instead to march into battle chanting passages from their damned texts over and over. The Host's Dark Apostle chooses the exact passage before the battle, and each warrior chants in time with the beating of great drums, either carried into battle by the Word Bearers themselves, or channelled through the amplifiers on their suits of power armour.