The Dark Fortress

The History of the Dark Angels

As fully-fledged Space Marines within the Chapter we learn of the heroic exploits of many of our past and present bretheran. We learn of the Deathwing, of the Ravenwing and the other companies of our Chapter.

Yet of our deeper purpose we initially only have imited understanding. As we rise through the ranks of the Chapter more of our history becomes revealed — the pinnacle of aspiration being the inclusion to the Inner Circle. It is only here that the highest ranking members of the Dark Angels Chapter know the terrible, shameful secret of what happened ten thousand years ago — a secret that drives the Dark Angels to search throughout space and time for the final conflict that will bring them redemption or damnation.

We, the Dark Angels, are considered to be the greatest of all the Space Marine Chapters. But legend persists that once the Dark Angels teetered on the brink of Chaos, that a terrible betrayal besmirched all of the Chapter's feats of valour and left an enduring stain on the Chapter's honour. Such is their shame that from that time on they have striven for absolution from the sins of millennia past.

Set out below is the history of the Chapter as I know it.

Canto I: Rise

The Primarchs

To understand what happened to the Dark Angels we must return to a time more than 10,000 years ago. To a time before there were any Space Marines — to the time when the Emperor created the Primarchs. To help him in his Great Crusade to reclaim the galaxy for humanity, the Emperor, in his wisdom, created genetically-engineered superhuman Primarchs. The mutant genes used as the basic building blocks for these elite warriors had taken centuries to gather and refine, and despite the Emperor's best efforts of psychic shielding, his industry did not go unnoticed by the Dark Gods of Chaos. Not having the resources to actually destroy the incubator capsules in which the embryonic Primarchs grew, the Chaos Powers combined their energies and instead stole them away from the Emperor, scattering the amniotic tanks and their fetal occupants throughout the warp.

The twenty incubation capsules drifted through the warp for centuries, until finally coming to rest on human-inhabited worlds throughout the galaxy. The capsule of one Primarch, he who was to become known as Lion El'Jonson, founder of the Dark Angels, was dropped on an isolated planet on the northern fringe of the Eye of Terror — the death world of Caliban.


Caliban was as cruel and harsh an environment as any in the galaxy. In the bleak forests that covered the globe lived creatures that had been warped by Chaos, and which were of such ferocity that mere day-to-day survival was a constant struggle. The human inhabitants of Caliban were forced to live in huge fortresses and castles, located in clearings hacked from the forests of the planet. Cut off from Earth by the warp storms that savaged the galaxy in the Age of Strife, civilisation on Caliban devolved back to a semi-feudal state, with most of the population ruled over by a warrior elite.

The nobility of Caliban were a bluff and pugnacious race. Raised from childhood to live and die by the sword, they were great warriors and extremely brave. They fought in a form of power armour much like that used by the first Space Marines, and like them their main weapons were the chainsword and bolt pistol. Most other forms of advanced technology had, however, been lost, and the warrior nobility therefore rode into battle on huge warhorses known as destriers.

The nobles' life was one of constant struggle as they fought against the multitude of chaotic creatures that threatened to overrun their small settlements. Sometimes a particularly fearsome creature would stay in one area and terrorise it, in which case the ruler of the community would declare a quest against the monster, and nobles from all around would come to attempt to kill the beast. Slaying a quest-creature could bring honour and fortune for the noble lucky enough to kill it - more often than not though it brought only a bloody and horrific death at the teeth and talons of a hell-spawned abomination.

The Young Lion

Such then was the planet where the young Primarch's capsule crash-landed. Most of the other Primarchs were fortunate enough to be found and raised by the local human inhabitants of the planer they landed on. Such was not to be Jonson's fate, for his capsule landed in a remote and isolated region of Caliban many miles from the nearest human settlement.

How Jonson survived those early years on Caliban is a complete mystery. By rights, he should have died within the first few minutes he was exposed to the planet. But Jonson did not die. Somehow, as a young child on one of the most deadly death worlds in the Imperium he not only survived, but grew strong and tall. What it was like for him in those grim and dark days none can say, for there was no-one there to record the events of his life, and Jonson never spoke of those times himself. All that can be said for certain is that for a decade Jonson was forced to trust his own wit and skill in order to survive. He had no-one to aid him, he could rely only on himself. And so it was, in this state, that at the turn of the decade since his arrival on the planet, the Primarch encountered his first humans.

The Order

The brave warrior knights he encountered belonged to a group known simply as the Order. The Order had a reputation across all of Caliban for the honesty, nobility and fearless skill of its brother-knights in battle. Uniquely amongst the knights of Caliban, the members, or brothers, of the Order were selected by merit rather than inheritance. Anyone could join the order, no matter how low-born they might be. Contingents of brother-knights from the Order travelled across the planet, giving their aid wherever needed.

It was while on one of their great expeditions that a band from the Order came upon the wild man that lived in the forests. Thinking him a monster, the knights were ready to kill the Primarch when one of their number, sensing that there was something more to the creature than at first apparent, halted his fellows. Luther, for such was the name of the Primarch's saviour, and the other knights returned to civilisation, taking with them the man born of the forest.

Because of his appearance and the place of his discovery, the Order gave the wild man the name of Lion El'Jonson, which meant "The Lion, the Son of the Forest". Jonson easily adapted to the ways of humans, learning to speak remarkably quickly. But of his time growing up in the forest he never spoke.

Within the fortress monastery of the Order the Primarch was assimilated into human society on Caliban. There he and Luther formed a close friendship. It appeared that the two men filled in the gaps in each other's personalities. Where Jonson was temperamental and taciturn, Luther was charming and charismatic. Where Luther was rash and emotional, Jonson was a brilliant strategist and unstoppable once decided upon a course of action. They realized that they complemented each other and, as such, became an incomparable team.

Over the following years Jonson and Luther rose through the ranks of the Order. Their exploits became the stuff of legend on Caliban, and the reputation of the Order rose accordingly. The number of young warriors wishing to join the Order grew and grew, so that in time many new fortress monasteries had to be built. As the Order grew in size Jonson and Luther argued for a crusade against the monsters that infested the forests, to cleanse the planet once and for all of their foul presence. The oratory of Luther convinced the Grand Masters of the monasteries and most of the nobles of the planet to join in the crusade, but it was Jonson's supreme ability at planning and organisation which ensured that within the course of a single decade the entire planet of Caliban was cleared of the monstrous creatures that had once inhabited it. A golden age dawned for the inhabitants of the once troubled planet.

In recognition of his triumph against the creatures of Chaos Lion El'Jonson was proclaimed new Supreme Master of the Order and Caliban. Although Luther did not openly begrudge Jonson the great honour he had won, he would not have been human if he did not feel some twinge of jealousy. Thus was lit the first small spark that would lead to the schism that would tear the Dark Angels Legion apart. But all this was in the future - for the present the people of Caliban enjoyed a time of peace and plenty.

The Emperor Reaches Caliban

Meanwhile, unbeknown to Jonson and the people of Caliban, the Emperor was waging his Great Crusade across the galaxy, reuniting humanity and purging entire star systems of their alien oppressors. As the Imperium's wave of conquest advanced across the galaxy, Imperial Scouts rediscovered the isolated world of Caliban.

It was not long before the Emperor was at last reunited with the Primarch and was filled with joy as would be a father on finding his lost son. The Emperor's first action was to give Lion El'Jonson control of the Dark Angels Legion. This body of Space Marines had been created by the Emperor from its Primarch's gene-stock and had fought alongsidethe other Imperial forces as the Great Crusade was waged across the galaxy.

Caliban was made the home world of the Dark Angels and the whole order moved to join its ranks. Those knights who were still young enough had the Legion's gene-seed implanted within them, while those too old for this process underwent surgery to transform them into elite warriors of the Imperium. The first to be brought into the Legion in this way was Luther, who became Jonson's second-in-command, just as he always had been within the Order.

The Great Crusade, of course, had to go on: there were countless human worlds that were still under the influence of Chaos or suppressed by the harsh rule of alien races. So it was that Jonson and may of the Dark Angels set out with the Emperor to continue the battle for humanity and Luther was left behind in charge of the remainder of the Legion on Caliban. Despite the importance of Luther's position, it was not one that suited his ambitious personality.

As Jonson's fame spread throughout the galaxy and reports of his great deeds and prowess in battle reached the Legion's home world, Luther felt robbed of his share of the glory. He wanted fame and recognition that he felt he deserved as Jonson's equal. His role as planetary governor of some half-forgotten backwater world seemed more and more to him like an insult. The seed of jealousy and dissension that had been planted within Luther when Jonson was made Supreme Master of the Order now began to grow and rankle within his heart as the Primarch became more and more celebrated and famous.

Canto II: Fall

The Treachery

Then came the terrible days of the Horus Heresy. As the Emperor fought Warmaster Horus for the possession of the Earth, Lion El'Jonson was far away fighting for humanity alongside Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves Legion of Space Marines. Hearing of the potentially disastrous proceedings taking place around Earth, the two generals hurried back as quickly as they could. Coming into Earth's orbit they realized that they had arrived too late. Events had already taken their terrible course and the cataclysmic final battle was over. The forces of Chaos had been defeated, but they had left the Imperium in ruins. And for Jonson one final, shattering betrayal remained to be discovered on his return to his home world of Caliban.

It had been many long years since Jonson had been to Caliban, and he longed to see his home world once more. As the unsuspecting ships of Jonson's fleet moved into orbit they were met by a devastating barrage of defensive laser fire. Ships exploded into flame and crashed into the surface like monstrous comets. Stunned by the attack, Jonson withdrew and attempted to find out what had happened.

A captured merchant ship soon provided the answer: Luther had used his skills at oratory to lead the Dark Angels under his command to the path of Chaos, instilling his own feelings of jealousy and rage in the Dark Angels who had been left on Caliban during the Great Crusade. Luther had convinced them that they had been shamed, that the Emperor had turned his face from them.

While Jonson and those Space Marines who had gone with him battled for humanity light years away, Luther's feelings of anger and jealousy had grown within him like a corrupting canker until they were his only purpose and driving motivation. Luther was now a man obsessed, whose own neuroses had pushed him over the edge and made him dangerous beyond imagining.

The fury of Jonson and the loyal Dark Angels at learning of this treachery knew no bounds. They had fought from one end of the galaxy to the other and thought that the curse of Chaos had been cleansed from the planets of the Imperium, and now they found that their own home world, and their own brethren, had been corrupted and turned against them. Jonson immediately ordered an assault on the planet. The massed guns of the Legion's fleet easily disabled Caliban's defence laser batteries and then scoured the planet, hunting down and driving the rebel Dark Angels back to their fortress monasteries.

Knowing that one surgical strike was all that was needed to end the conflict Lion El'Jonson led an assault on the greatest of the monasteries himself. He knew that this was where he would find Luther: and so it was that there the two former friends, now mortal enemies, faced each other. Even though the Primarch possessed superhuman powers, the two opponents were equally matched, for Luther's own already considerable abilities, had been enhanced by the dark gods of Chaos.

What followed was a fight of titanic proportions during which the two equally-matched adversaries laid blow for blow against each other, tearing down the monastery around them until the whole massive edifice had been levelled by their battle. Meanwhile the massed guns of the Legion's fleet carried on pounding the planet, reducing the other fortress monasteries to rubble. The very surface of Caliban began to crack and heave under the strain of the bombardment.

As the planet itself started to break apart, the battle between Jonson and Luther reached it's climax. Luther, weakened by the long combat, staggered and fell, leaving himself open to the death blow from Jonson's power sword. But Jonson could not bring himself to strike the final blow. As he hesitated, Luther, aided by the powers of Chaos, unleashed a furious psychic attack that knocked Jonson to his knees and left him mortally wounded. But as the dying Primarch struggled to stand, his noble features wracked with pain, it was as if a curtain was lifted from Luther's eyes and he realised the full extent of what he had done. His was a triple betrayal: of his friend, of the Dark Angels, and of the Emperor. The truth shattered his sanity and he slumped down beside Jonson, no longer willing to fight.

Luther's psychic cry of pain and despair echoed through the warp and the Chaos gods realised that, once again, they had been defeated. They lashed out in fury and frustration. A rent appeared in the very fabric of space and a warp storm of unprecedented fury engulfed Caliban. In an uncontrollable, swirling flood of psychic energy the warp rushed into the physical universe. Those 'fallen' Dark Angels who had served under Luther and his clandestine masters were sucked from the face of Caliban into the warp and scattered throughout space and time. Caliban, already weakened by the loyal Dark Angels' bombardment, was ripped apart and destroyed, the debris being sucked into the warp.

The only part of the planet that survived the storm was the huge fortress monastery where Jonson and Luther had fought. Protected by force fields of awesome power the monastery and a colossal mass of the bedrock of Caliban held together. When the storm abated this was all that was left of the once magnificent home world of the Dark Angels.

The remaining Dark Angels were ferried down from the fleet to the surface of the rock where they gazed about them in horror at all that remained of their once beautiful home world. The great fortresses had been razed to the ground and of all the living things that had once teemed across the face of Caliban only one remained. At the heart of the ruined wasteland the Space Marines found the traitor Luther. The warriors were unable to get anything coherent out of the shell of a man who had once been Jonson's closest friend and second-in-command Luther just constantly repeated the same words over and over again: the Primarch had been carried away by the Watchers in the Dark and one day he would return to forgive Luther for the terrible sins he had committed. Of the mighty Primarch, Lion El'Jonson, there was no sign.

Canto III: Path to Redemption

The Dark Angels and Successor Chapters

At the conclusion of the Horus Heresy, it was resolved that never again would the old Space Marine Legions be allowed to wield so much power. As a consequence all the existing Legions were broken up into a number of smaller Chapters each of approximately 1000 fighting men. The first Chapter (First Founding) of each Legion retained the name and heraldry of its original Legion, whilst the subsequent chapters (Second Founding) were given new names and identities. Thus the Dark Angels Legion was broken up into the Dark Angels Chapter and the Second Founding successor Chapters, Angels of Vengeance, Angels of Absolution and Angels of Redemption (it is believed other successor Chapters were created at the second founding but were not listed). These four Chapters are known collectively as the "Unforgiven". The story of treachery and betrayal is at the heart of their secret shame — none know of it other than the Dark Angels, their successor Chapters and, maybe, the Emperor on his Golden Throne. Even within the Chapters themselves very few brother-marines are allowed to know exactly what happened during those fateful days.

The organisation of the Dark Angels Chapter and Successor Chapters' has been shaped primarily by events in its history. As a result it is different from that of any other order. The Chapters are monastic in nature with much time being given over to worship and prayer. There are also many different levels within the Chapter through which individuals may gradually rise. On attaining each level, they find out a little more about the truth behind the "Unforgiven" origins. Most Dark Angels themselves know nothing about the beginnings of the Chapter. It is only those at the very top who have learnt the whole truth.

The bulk of the Dark Angels Chapter is organised along strict Codex lines, as laid down in the Codex Astartes. However, the First Company and the Second Company both have special organisations. The Second Company is known as the Ravenwing, and is trained as a special mobile formation equipped completely with either bikes or Land Speeders.

The First Company is the famous Deathwing, and although it appears superficially to be the same as any other Chapter's First Company, it is actually a highly specialised formation in that it is composed only of Terminator-armoured battle brothers, Dreadnoughts and Landraiders. But importantly it is only when Dark Angels reach the Deathwing that they learn the story of Luther's betrayal. More terrible still they learn that many of the Dark Angels that followed Luther are still alive. These damned warriors are known as the Fallen Dark Angels, or simply "the Fallen", and it is the eradication of this stain on the Chapter's honour that drives and motivates the Chapter to this day. As long as still one of the Fallen remains alive, the honour of the Chapter will never be restored. Even within the Deathwing there are various levels of admission, and with these come gradually increasing levels of knowledge.

The Rock

Following the destruction of Caliban, the Dark Angels resolved to remake the rock as their new home, drilling out a huge network of halls and chambers in the bedrock under the ruined fortress monastery. In time engines were added, allowing the Rock to travel through the warp as the Chapter continued on its secret quest across the galaxy.

Beneath the shattered ruins of the order's greatest fortress monastery, the Rock hides many dark secrets. The further anyone gets inside it, the closer they come to the truth. For at the very heart of the gargantuan Rock, is the deepest, darkest and dankest dungeon. There, kept alive for ten thousand years inside a stasis field, languishes the broken man who was once Luther.

Because of his link to the warp, during rare moments of lucidity, the Dark Angels are able to use Luther as an oracle. Each Supreme Master in his turn has tried to get the arch-heretic to repent but none has ever been able to get through to him: Luther just continues to rant and rave saying that he does not need to repent because one day Lion El'Jonson will return and forgive him.

The Rock itself does not stay in any one place for very long, at most only for a few generations. As a result the Dark Angels do not recruit from any one planet. It is for this reason that the order needs such strict levels of admission and rigorous tests of loyalty. The masters of the order have to make sure that all those who come to the Chapter become true Dark Angels. As the members of the order come from such a mixed variety of backgrounds, the Dark Angels rely on their heritage for their sense of camaraderie. Once a prospective Space Marine has passed through all the appropriate levels, only then can he be considered a true Dark Angel.

Fallen Angels

In the eyes of the Dark Angels Space Marines, the only way that they can rid themselves totally of their shame, and restore their honour and trust in the Emperor's eyes, is if all the Fallen are found and either made to repent or are slain. However, since the Fallen were cast through the warp to all corners of space and time, this is no mean for the Dark Angels to achieve. As the Ordo Malleus and Ordo Hereticus of the Imperium, whose roles it is to root out the agents of Chaos at work within the galaxy, so the Dark Angels are concerned with finding the Fallen of their Chapter.

But not all of the Dark Angels' damned brethren have succumbed to the power of Chaos to the same degree. It is true that some of the Fallen have embraced the ways of the Dark Gods totally — becoming true Chaos Space Marines. These Fallen do not belong to a Chapter of their own but have become dispersed throughout space and time as either isolated individuals or in small bands.

However, most of the Fallen realise that their actions during the fall of Caliban were wrong. Disgusted by the corrupting influence of the Chaos gods and unable to reconcile themselves with their order they lead a solitary existence. Many of them become mercenaries or pirates, roaming the galaxy as masterless men. This makes the Dark Angels' task of finding the Fallen harder as they are not easy to identify as such. But it is still the Dark Angels' duty to try and track them down. In order to do so, they must investigate any rumour or story relating to the Fallen, just in case it should lead them to one of their corrupted brethren.

The Dark Angels wait for years without hearing any rumours that might lead them to one or more of the Fallen. When they do however, and their mission is a success, those Fallen that are captured are taken back to the Rock. Deep inside its dungeons Interrogator-Chaplains aided by Librarians attempt to make the Fallen repent. Occasionally they do repent and for their attonement die quickly. Bu more often than not the captured Fallen refuse and suffer a long, drawn-out agonising death at the hands of those who would save their soul.

The Final Secret

The only people who know about the disastrous events that took place on Caliban all those millennia ago are the Emperor and the Inner Circle of the Dark Angels. They will never reveal the truth to anyone outside the Chapter for they could not bear others to know the truth of their terrible shame. And all the while, deep within his cell, Luther, the betrayer, speaks of what is to come. Yet even the highest-ranking Dark Angels do not know everything, although they may think that they do.

Buried even deeper within the Rock, is the final, greatest secret of the Chapter. Only one person in the entire universe knows the truth — the Emperor himself. For hidden inside a secluded, unreachable chamber at the heart of what was once the planet Caliban, xxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxx, xxxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxxxxx xx xxx xxxx xx xxxx xxxx xxxx xx xxx xx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xx xxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxx [++ censored by the Inner Circle ++].