Provisional Text, 1.0
LEGIO XVII “WORD BEARERS”
Homeworld: Colchis (Destroyed)
Status: EXCOMMVINICATE TRAITORIS
Of all the sons of their secular father, Lorgar was perhaps the most divergent, for he landed on the highly religious world of Colchis, and spent his entire life prior to discovery by the Emperor as a player in the complex socio-religious political structure of that world. Prior to his discovery, Lorgar had overthrown an ancient Ecclesiastic Hierarchy based upon the debased worship of Chaos gods. Upon the arrival of the Emperor, which Lorgar saw as the confirmation of many visions and prophecies, Lorgar and his people embraced the ruler of the Imperium as their messiah and God-Emperor. Perhaps the most manifest display of this belief was the now infamous “Lectitio Divinitatus,” a document written by Lorgar expressing the divine nature of the Emperor. Ironically, this document created the foundation, during the Emperor’s lifetime, for the new religion that would emerge on the multifold worlds of the Imperium falling his internment in the Golden Throne.
Throughout their existence, the Word Bearers saw themselves as Crusaders working toward the unification of humanity under a single creed. It was Lorgar’s professed belief that humanity would only be able to protect itself against destruction and conquest by its galactic neighbors by embracing religion and a faith in the divine order. Through faith, Lorgar believed, humanity found strength; though strength, Lorgar argued, humanity would find unshakeable unity. The unification of the human race must rest upon more than the eloquence of a single leader, no matter how godlike. It must be fermented in the manifest belief of the devoutly faithful – something that humanity had lacked for centuries prior to the arrival of his father on Colchis.
The Marines of Legio XVII were ever faithful to their Primarch, who was as brilliant a speaker as he was a soldier. They fought hard, and well, to bring countless worlds into the Imperium. Lorgar’s doctrine was such, however, that the process of pacifying a world often took as long as, if not longer than, the initial campaign to conquer or liberate it. The people of a planet would only finally, truly, accept the rule of the Emperor if they could be given “The Word” of the Emperor – the godhead of humanity made flesh. Those who were willing to learn would be treated with patience and benevolence, tutored in the ways of the Imperium; those refused this faith would be terminated. Conversion, however, was only a part of the process. Over their centuries of crusading, the Word Bearers became outstanding civil engineers and architects, erecting statues, temples, and holy cities on a scale that had not been seen in human space for as long as any historian could remember.
During this period, the absolute loyalty of Lorgar and the Word Bearers was absolutely unquestionable. Their worlds regularly delivered tithes in the Emperor’s name, and the orders of Terra were accepted without question throughout the worlds liberated by the Word Bearers. But the Emperor, for all his love of his son, was greatly unsatisfied. He had initially tolerated the beliefs of the less secular of his sons, even those of Lorgar, but as the Crusade reached its maximum extent, the Emperor found himself increasingly frustrated with the slow pace with which Lorgar conquered and then converted worlds for the Imperium.
Sometime around the Ullanor Crusade, we are told that the Emperor summoned his most worshipful son to the Imperial flagship. There, he harshly excoriated Lorgar for his slowness in bringing worlds to compliance. He repeated his stance that the Imperium should be a secular society, with no time for “meaningless religious ceremony.” In some versions of the story, we are told that Lorgar eloquently defended his position, in other versions, he simply listened, broken hearted. But the end result was the same. The Emperor ordered Lorgar to cease his normal tactics and to get on with the business of galactic reunification. Lorgar returned to his flagship, utterly crushed, and spent a month in the solitary confines of his quarters, fasting and wearing only hairshirts. He was attended only by two beings – Priest-Captain Kor Phaeron and Chaplain Erebus – during this period, and it has been strongly suggested that the Primarch of the Word Bearers was turned against the Emperor by the combination of their efforts.
When the month had passed, Lorgar emerged from his solitary confinement, reclad in his battle armor, and ordered that his Legion begin the process of reunification again. With cruel swiftness, the Word Bearers followed the orders of the Emperor to their most literal degree. Gone was any degree of humanity or tolerance, even for those who might have otherwise been brought peacefully into the Imperial fold within the pretext of the Lectitio; instead, the Word Bearers used their martial skills to cut a swathe of blood and fire across the galaxy that rivaled even that of the World Eaters.
Although they had initially been thrown into disarray with the Emperor’s commands, we are told by the Post-Heresy Word Bearers novels that the Legion was divided into two camps. Those who remained faithful to the previous religion taught by their Primarch (primarily the Astartes from Terra) and those who began to embrace the dark precepts of Chaos, rediscovered by Lorgar after long meditation and study (primarily the Astartes from Colchis.) It is to be hoped that the new novel, The First Heretic, will further elucidate these matters, but in any case, the Word Bearers initially kept their faith in Chaos secret, remaining loyal, at least in name, to the Imperial path, until the events of Istvaan V, after which time they openly embraced the new faith without any pretence and joined the Heresy.
Were there those among the Legion who still wished to serve the Emperor? The current literature would seem to indicate as much. The post-Heresy novels inform the reader that those who refused to accept this new creed were “purged” from the Legion over the course of one week. They intimate that this involved the elimination of every one of the Terran born members of the Legion, as well as any Colchian Marines who refused to accept the doctrine espoused by the Primarch.
There are a number of problems with this, as we wait for the publication of the first Heresy-era Word Bearers novel. In the first place, fluff repeatedly describes units of Word Bearers stationed on Terra even as the Heresy broke out, but it does not explain what happened to them. In addition, like every other Legion, it is quite likely that the Word Bearers had their Astartes scattered in several different sectors, on missions that were sometimes held in common with other, Loyalist, formations. What of the fate of these men?
The simple answer, for the moment, is that we can generally assume that, however briefly, there were Loyalists in the service of the Word Bearers, but we cannot be certain how many, where they were located, or even for how long they were permitted to exist. The Old Chronology intimated that there were loyalists from all of the Traitor Legions who were eventually absorbed by other Legions or chosen for new tasks – but the New Chronology has yet to completely come to grips with this contentious issue.Power Armor Variants
Unfortunately, virtually all of the depictions we have of the Word Bearers are from the period in which they had already openly declared their allegiance with Chaos and Horus respectively. Most of these illustrations, predominantly found in Collected Visions, depict armor that has clearly been debased, altered, or significantly ornamented with icons of Legio XVII’s newfound faith, so it is somewhat difficult to determine what types of armor the subjects seen are wearing. Those marks of armor clearly identifiable are usually MkIV “Maximus” power armor, and MkV “Heresy” power armor. At least one image depicts Word Bearers in MkII “Crusade” power armor. Some of the less readily identifiable models of armor incorporate the knee-less greaves best known in MkVI “Corvus” power armor; given that the Warmaster had more access to this latest type of power armor than his Imperial opponents and given his close relationship with the Word Bearers, it is not unreasonable to assume that at least some pieces of this armor fell into the hands of Seventeenth Legion.
Somewhat complicating the matter, we have the description of Word Bearers in some short stories and excerpts as wearing religious vestments, robes, and other religious attire. This might argue for the use of Dark Angels style cowls and robes when modeling Word Bearers Astartes – at the very least, the use of such items might be common amongst long-time veterans and particularly devout Astartes.Livery
This is another tricky issue with the Word Bearers. Essentially, there are two schemes of livery recorded for Legio XVII. The most commonly attributed colors are dark slate grey, inscribed with various prayers, phrases, and words of devotion, with no contrasting colors, and the insignia of the Legion, an opened book surmounted by a flame, worn on the left shoulder pad. Many painters choose to adapt this color as a pale metallic shade; however, the official descriptions and depictions of this scheme such as it exists are not metallic, simply slate grey in color.
However, the Word Bearers did eventually adopt a new scheme – blood red, and a new symbol – the screaming head of a demon superimposed over a blazing fire, complete with the standard devotional messages inscribed and/or engraved on many surfaces of the armor. Just when they adopted this armor is somewhat questionable. It was previously accepted that the slate grey armor was adopted by the Word Bearers after they had begun to worship Chaos, or that at the very least they were wearing the new colors at Istvaan V; that said, it has been intimated that The First Heretic will change this view. At the very least, most still accept that Loyalists would have retained their slate grey livery. Confusing the matter further, Collected Visions depicts a MkI or MkII Dreadnought in the new red livery of the Legion, but clearly decorated with a twin headed Aquila. It would seem to be extremely strange for a traitor to maintain such a symbol openly without defacing it in some manner.
In either case, the Word Bearers would not be strangers to purity seals and oaths of moment, and these might be found quite liberally applied in many squads.
The Word Bearers certainly had Chaplains, but it is difficult to say for certain what colors they wore. The only Word Bearer Chaplain explicitly described is First Chaplain Erebus, who is described as being dressed in the same dark slate grey of his battle brothers. His shaved head, however, is said to be richly tattooed with religious sayings and imagery – an interesting challenge for the modeler.The CompaniesBattle For the Abyss
says that the Word Bearers were divided into Companies rivaling those of the Space Wolves in terms of iconography and organization. Apparently, these Companies used their own iconography which may or may not have taken the place of what we have traditionally regarded as the “official” insignia of the Legion. This information has not been confirmed by Heresy-era sources, but it is worth repeating here.
“The Burning Hand” – One member of the Chapter is said to have installed flame jets in his vambraces, so that it appeared that his armored hands were always on fire.
“The Ebony Serpent” – No recorded symbol. Presumably a black snake of some sort?
“The Crimson Mask” – The faceplate of the helmet was supposedly painted or sculpted to resemble a screaming red-faced beast.
“The Opening Eye” – Presumably the symbol was a stylized eye of some kind, but this has remained unrecorded. One symbol, unattributed to any chapter, supposedly depicted an eye in the palm of an opened hand.
“The Quillborn” – A fleet based Chapter. Symbol was a Quill with a drop of blood at its base.
“The Void” – Chapter with a large number of Librarians. No symbol describedVehicle Livery
No current images exist of Word Bearers vehicles in their grey scheme. Red vehicles are occasionally depicted, however, with the new Legionary device depicted in black over yellow flames. The vehicles are usually hung with oaths, purity seals, chains, burning candles, and other items of religious iconography.Prominent Astartes of the Word Bearers
Erebus – First Chaplain
Kor Phaeron – Equerry to the Primarch
Sor Tagron – Captain of the 34th Company