The Fate of Old Andrukah
The Blood Angels
The Blood Angels
The Blood Angels are the noble descendants of that most puissant and angelic of the primarchs—Sanguinius. They are perhaps one of the most celebrated Chapters in the entire Imperium, their countless heroic deeds and victories known to untold billions of the Emperor’s subjects across the length and breadth of the Imperium. The beauteous, angelic visages of the Chapter’s heroes adorn gothic facades and stained glass windows in a million holy basilicas, and their portraits gaze serenely from endlessly copied and much cherished illuminated tomes.
Yet, hidden from the multitudes, the Blood Angels harbour a terrible curse. When their beloved primarch was slain at the hands of the arch-traitor Warmaster Horus at the very height of the Horus Heresy, every Blood Angel was doomed to share a portion of the pain inflicted upon his flawless form. From that day forth, every Blood Angel has been tormented by visions of the last moment of Sanguinius. The older the Space Marine gets, the more frequent and debilitating such waking nightmares become. Should henot fall in battle, every Blood Angelwill one day become so consumed by these soul-searing visions that he will descend into a madness in which he must witness the death of Sanguinius over and over again, ever unable to intervene as teh warmaster enacts his vile treachery.
The very inevitability of their curse ennobles the Battle Brothers of the Blood Angels, driving them ever onwards to a glorious death in the name of the Emperor and their primarch. Where lesser men might have surrendered to the dark urgings to shed the blood of the enemies of the Emperor, the Blood Angels have remained pure and noble for ten thousand years. Despite this, the Capter is dying, for each year ever more of its brethren succumb to the so-called Red Thirst-the desire to rend limb from limb those responsible for the death of Sanguinius, and by extension every enemy of the Emperor.
The death of Sanguinius represents one of the most perfidious and tragic moments of the Horus Heresy, for he died at the hands of his brother-primarch, the arch-traitor Warmaster Horus, Although some say that the sacrifice weakened the Warmaster just enough to allow the Emperor to defeat him, the death of Sanguinius is mourned to this day, and felt keenly by the Blood Angels, in whose veins his blood still pumps. When war calls and blood is spilled, the Blood Angels are gripped by a fury born of the last moments of their primarch’s life. For some, the thirst is too great and they are entirely overcome by what is called the Black Rage, cursed to end their days reliving their beloved primarch’s death over and over again.
The World of Blood
The Blood Angels hail from a trio of worlds—the rust-red desert planet of Baal, and its two barren moons, Baal Prime and Baal Secundus. While Baal itself has always been a world of red rust deserts, it moons were once paradises. Yet, at some time around the end of the Dark Age of Technology, utter devastation was visited upon Baal and its moons. In a nameless, long-forgotten war, viral and nuclear weapons were unleashed,theireffectssopotentthatmanythousandsofyears later, all three worlds are still subject to deadly radiation storms. Their surfaces are scarred by vast plains of blackened glass and endless tracts of polluted desert. What must once have been oceans are now poisoned seas of toxic sludge, covered in layers of pallid dust. The people of the system must have died in their millions. But somehow, humanity prevailed. The populace became scavengers, picking the bones of their once great civilisation. Many must have perished, growing sickly and feeble as the atmosphere was radically altered. In the dark time that followed the total collapse of their society, it is likely that some became worse than scavengers, and turned in their desperation to cannibalism.
Upon the surface of Baal is to be found, half buried amid oceans of dust, some evidence of a once great civilisation – vast edifices, incredible monuments that must have been constructed with masterful skill to have stood for so long. It is obvious that the people of Baal spent their time creating mighty statues of their rulers and their gods, and it is through this record that those people are known.
One side effect from the ensuing radioactive atmosphere was inevitable. In time, the accumulated chemical and radioactive toxins that built up in the survivors’ bodies forced them to devolve into mutants, shambling parodies of the men their forefathers had once been. But there were some who held onto their humanity and preserved some semblance of sanity, forming tribes for mutual protection. But these were the embattled few, as a new and savage culture evolved amid the ruins of the old. The only social unit remaining was the tribe. For humanity and cannibal alike, the only folk they could rely on were their own kin.
The people of the Baal system became nomads, shifting from place to place, picking the ruins clean, and warring to preserve what spoils could be gathered. They constructed ramshackle vehicles and learned how to make rad-suits—and more importantly, rad-counters—to protect them from their hellish, blasted environment. The tribes fought constant wars. Where once they had been close to paradise, now they were closer to hell.
The Blood Angels maintain their fortress-monastery on Baal, and recruit from amongst the tribes of all three worlds. To be chosen in such a manner is more than the greatest of honours—it promises deliverance from the nightmarish realities of life on Baal and its moons. Only the toughest ever earn such honour, the vast majority eking out a short, brutal life amongst the warring tribes and the benighted radiation deserts.
To ascertain who is worthy to join the ranks of the Blood Angels, the youths of the pure Baalite tribes must take part in violent games and magnificent tournaments, battling against both the harsh landscape of their home world and, ultimately, each other. The contests are held only once in each generation, at the very place that Sanguinius first came to Baal—Angel’s Fall. Aspirants must reach the so-called Place of Challenge by whatever means they can, a process that weeds out many weaker individuals hoping to join the ranks of the Blood Angels. They must race across uncharted miles of hostile, irradiated desert. They must leap from the highest cliffs, praying that the primitive assembly of wings each bears will save them from sudden death. They must find their way through canyons infested with gigantic, mutated beasts. The desiccated husks of previous hopefuls bear witness to those who undertook the trials rashly. Once they reach the Place of Challenge, gladiatorial contests, often to the very death, ensure that only the most skilled and determined fighters survive.
Once fifty or so victors have been separated from the unsuccessful aspirants, they will be taken by Thunderhawk gunship to fulfil the next stage of their trials. Those who fail are nonetheless granted positions of honour when they return to their tribes, for the mere fact of their having survived the trials, even if not selected, is a great feat in itself.
The successful aspirants are taken to the fortress-monastery of the Blood Angels, where they witness sights of such magnificent glory that many are struck down with awe. They are taken before the full battle-brethren, and it is here that the contrast between aspirant and Space Marine is truly evident. Despite their youth, very few of the aspirants will be untouched by the ravages of the blasted lands in which they have lived. Their bodies are riddled with cankers and sores, their faces marred by lesions. In contrast, the towering physiques of the Space Marines around them are the very ideal of perfect beauty, their skin smooth, their features noble.
Having observed a gruelling vigil of three days and three nights, the aspirants are led away by the Chapter’s Sanguinary Priests, who fulfil not only the role of Apothecary, but of the bearers of their primarch’s most sacred blood. Each aspirant must partake of this blood, which is born in a chalice proffered to them by a priest. Soon after sipping the precious liquid, the aspirants fall into a profound sleep and are taken to the Hall of Sarcophagi. The walls of this vast, cathedral-like chamber
are lined with mighty golden caskets, each twice the size of a man. The sleeping aspirants are entombed within, dwarfed by the size of the huge sarcophagi, and attached to an array of life-sustaining nodes. There they remain for a full year, fed intravenously with nutrients and injected with the Blood of Sanguinius.
As the aspirants slumber, they are engulfed by vivid and strange dreams depicting the memories of Sanguinius himself. Thus the very essence of the primarch permeates the minds of his new sons, and ever afterwards these potent emotions and memories will be permanently imprinted upon their souls.
When the aspirants are finally removed from their sarcophagi, they have been changed so thoroughly that few could believe they were once the twisted creatures rescued from the living hell of their prior lives. They have become tall, immensely strong, and superhumanly powerful. Their restructured bodies have taken on a haunting beauty reminiscent of their angelic forefather, their senses keener, and their muscles stronger than tempered steel. Through this arcane process and lost technology, the scrofulous wastelander is transformed into a being of radiant purity and noble purpose.
The Sons of Sanguinius
The Blood Angels are amongst the longest-lived of all of the Space Marine Chapters, their gene-seed granting a vastly increased lifespan on all who possess it. It is not uncommon, therefore, for a Blood Angel to live for a millennium or more, if death in battle or the Red Thirst does not claim him first. These vastly extended life spans allow the Blood Angels to perfect their techniques in art as well as in war. They have centuries to perfect the disciplines to which they turn their minds, and this accounts for the fact that Blood Angels’ armour and banners are amongst the most ornate ever produced.
Following the example of their primarch, the Blood Angels espouse a vision of the galaxy in which the enemies of the Emperor can be defeated and mankind can progress to the life he was always fated to live. There is a deeply mystical streak in the Blood Angels’ doctrines, and a strong belief that things can be made better. After all, the Blood Angels are recruited from the scrofulous wastelanders of Baal, and if such can be transformed into a tall, proud, and handsome warrior, then there is hope for mankind yet. This belief can be seen in everything the Blood Angels do. They strive for perfection in all of their endeavours. Their works of art are things of beauty and symmetry. Their martial disciplines are practised unceasingly. Their doctrines are permeated with a sense of mortality and the fallen greatness of Man.
The beatific countenance and noble bearing of the Blood Angels is in stark contrast to the curse they bear. While lesser warriors might become morose or fatalistic, weighed down by the inevitability of their fate, the Blood Angels remain stoic. The Blood Angels’ cadre of Sanguinary Priests—the equivalent of Apothecaries in other Chapters—tirelessly pursue a cure to the Red Thirst. But each year, more and more brethren succumb to it. Perhaps in an effort to hold the curse at bay, many Blood Angels sleep in the same casket where their bodies were transformed from the ravaged Baalite wastelanders to the perfect forms they emerged as, the arcane machinery filtering
The Blood Angels adhere closely to the organisation laid down in Roboute Guilliman’s Codex Astartes, and the Chapter’s Battle-Brothers are equipped in a similar manner to most other Space Marines. The Battle-Brothers often display a savage desire to engage their foes in the fury of close combat, their rage growing all the stronger the closer to succumbing to the Red Thirst the Blood Angel steps. Most of the time, the Blood Angels are able to hold their curse in check, but those they engage in assault soon discover the bloodthirsty savagery of the sons of Sanguinius.
Blood Angels are unique amongst the Space Marines in that their gene-seed contains the encoded experience of their Primarch, and most deeply imprinted of all is the memory of Sanguinius’ final battle with Horus. Sometimes, on the eve of battle, an event or circumstance will trigger this embedded memory and the Battle-Brother’s mind is suddenly wrenched into the distant past. The Black Rage overcomes the Blood Angel as the memories and consciousness of Sanguinius intrude upon his mind, and dire events ten thousand years old flood into the present.
A warrior overcome with the Black Rage appears half mad with fury; he is unable to distinguish past from present and does not recognise his comrades. He may believe he is Sanguinius upon the eve of his destruction, and the bloody battles of the Horus Heresy are raging all around him. Such a Battle-Brother stands at the end of his travails, for his path leads only to the Death Company, where he and the Chapter’s other damned souls will fight one final battle in Sanguinius’ name under the guidance of a Chaplain. These individuals each fight their own battle, perhaps believing themselves to be waging the wars of the Horus Heresy at the side of their beloved primarch. Death for the members of the Death Company is a blessed mercy, for those not consumed in the cleansing fires of battle must be restrained and imprisoned, for their safety and that of their brethren, until the next battle.