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Title: Notitia Astartum: The Word Bearers

Mithras - September 16, 2010 08:26 AM (GMT)
Provisional Text, 1.0
Primarch: Lorgar
Homeworld: Colchis (Destroyed)

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.

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.

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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.

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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 Companies
Battle 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 described

Vehicle 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

MouldytheMoulder - September 19, 2010 09:33 AM (GMT)
Nice, but for clarification the member of the Chapter of the Burning hand with the flamefists was Chapter Master Deinos.

Mithras - September 19, 2010 10:05 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (MouldytheMoulder @ Sep 19 2010, 01:33 AM)
Nice, but for clarification the member of the Chapter of the Burning hand with the flamefists was Chapter Master Deinos.

Thanks, Mate. Much appreciated.


MouldytheMoulder - September 19, 2010 10:12 AM (GMT)
Any time, still to find my feet on this site so I want to be as helpful as possible. :)

Algrim Whitefang - September 23, 2010 05:30 PM (GMT)
Here are some visual reference for those who have not seen the original slate grey colored power armor. Yes, they don't have the original Word Bearers icon of the open book with the flame. They all have the screaming demon's head symbol. Also, some of them possess the eight-pointed star of Chaos on their armor as well. One can only assume that these Word Bearers were just beginning to openly display their faith on their early Pre-Heresy armor, before they went over to the contemporary blood red armor theme.

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Word Bearers Pre-Heresy contemporary power armor scheme.

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Bargotal Heavy Support Squad.

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Rongar Assault Squad.

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Dagotal Bike Squad. This is the only Word Bearers vehicle that I could find in the HH 'Collected Visions' book that had the slate grey colors.

Hope this helps!

Algrim Whitefang - September 23, 2010 05:46 PM (GMT)
Also, wanted to add some icons and symbols both Pre-Heresy and after for those that might be interested:

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Shoulder pads with early Word Bearers' Legion Symbol. From Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, circa 1989. RT Era.

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Pre-Heresy Word Bearers icon.

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Early Word Bearers' heresy banner, from Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, circa 1989. RT Era.

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Contemporary Word Bearers screaming demon head icon.


malika - September 24, 2010 09:15 AM (GMT)
Battle for the Abyss mentioned that the Word Bearers were divided into Chapters. The HHCG and later novels (Word Bearers Trilogy) however seem to have the Word Bearers being divided into companies. One of these companies is the 34th Company.

One can assume that the Chapters were divided into Companies. But I doubt that there were Chapters containing 34 Companies. For that reason I argue that the Word Bearers simply kept on counting. Meaning that they have their Chapters in an order (1st Chapter, 2nd Chapter, etc), whilst this order exist the Chapters themselves aren't numbered. However it would be along the lines of the first chapter (for example The Void) having 10 companies (Companies 1 to 10), the second chapter (for example the Opening Eye) having another 10 companies (Companies 11 to 20), etc etc etc.

Mithras - September 24, 2010 09:19 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (malika @ Sep 24 2010, 01:15 AM)
Battle for the Abyss mentioned that the Word Bearers were divided into Chapters. The HHCG and later novels (Word Bearers Trilogy) however seem to have the Word Bearers being divided into companies. One of these companies is the 34th Company.

One can assume that the Chapters were divided into Companies. But I doubt that there were Chapters containing 34 Companies. For that reason I argue that the Word Bearers simply kept on counting. Meaning that they have their Chapters in an order (1st Chapter, 2nd Chapter, etc), whilst this order exist the Chapters themselves aren't numbered. However it would be along the lines of the first chapter (for example The Void) having 10 companies (Companies 1 to 10), the second chapter (for example the Opening Eye) having another 10 companies (Companies 11 to 20), etc etc etc.

I was thinking along the same lines. Hopefully "The First Heretic" will help to illuminate the situation, but I may be pinning to much hope on the novels, as in general they give only a very rough sketch of internal organization. "Battle for the Abyss" in and of itself conflicts with other sources, so... who knows.


Brother Handro - September 25, 2010 06:58 PM (GMT)
Nice work,

as for that red dreadnaught issue, if it's the pic I'm thinking of, I always thought that the black eagle was the imprint where the Aquila had been removed, thus explaining why the dread is a traitorous shade of red. Just a thought anyway. Keep up the good work!

Algrim Whitefang - December 6, 2012 07:49 PM (GMT)
Additional notes for the Notitia Astartum: The Word Bearers -

Legion Organisation
Before their fall from grace, it is recorded that the Word Bearers were not considered particularly different from the organisation of the other Astartes Legions, apart from the unusual number of zealous brothers who served as Chaplains. Outside of their Legion, the Word Bearers' current organisation is not known or understood by Imperial savants. Before the Horus Heresy, the Word Bearers Legion, like many of their fellow Space Marine Legions, were sub-divided into Chapters. A full Chapter consisted of 1000 Astartes, sub-divided into 10 companies, each 100 strong and led by officers designated as captains. It has also been noted that not all Chapters consisted of the standard 10 companies of 100 Astartes each.

The Serrated Sun Chapter, for example, seems to have consisted of only 3 companies which each originally comprised 100 Astartes each. The order of the numbered companies in these Chapters is non-linear. For example, the Serrated Sun Chapter includes the 7th, 15th and 37th Companies of the Legion. Other Chapters are known to have possessed 20 or more companies. Despite being part of the greater Word Bearers Legion, every Chapter has its own cultural traditions and its own role within Lorgar's "Word." Furthermore, each Chapter has its own iconography, symbology, and specific tactical role within the Legion, giving each their own distinct appearance.

Known Pre-Heresy Chapters of the Word Bearers
*The Burning Hand Chapter - Commanded by Chapter Master Deinos. In keeping with the name of his Chapter, Deinos's gauntlets were permanently wreathed in flames from gas jets built into his vambraces. Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
*Chapter of the Coiled Lash - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
*Chapter of the Crescent Moon - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
*Chapter of the Opening Eye - Commanded by Chapter Master Faerskarel, nothing is known about this Chapter in Imperial records.
*Chapter of the Osseous Throne - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
*Chapter of the Void - Led by Chapter Master Tenaebron, the Chapter of the Void was probably the least respected amongst the Chapters of the Word Bearers Legion for it was by far the smallest, with less than 700 Astartes. There was little glory in its history, since it was used as a reserve force that enacted its missions behind the front line. This dishonourable purpose fell to the Void and Tenaebron. The Void's Master did not complain, for he knew that his Chapter's true role was to create and test new weapons and tactics for the rest of the Legion. Lorgar ordered Tenebron to also concern himself with the exploitation of the Word Bearers' psychic resources.
*The Crimson Mask Chapter - Commanded by Chapter Master Rukis, the Battle-Brothers of this Chapter were known to have the faceplate of their helmets wrought to resemble fearsome red-skinned snarling daemons.
*The Ebony Serpent Chapter - Commanded by Chapter Master-Skolinthos. Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty.
*The Quillborn - The Quillborn were so named because their traditions emphasised their birth, created in the laboratories and Apothecarions of Colchis. They believed themselves to be written into existence, born as syllables of the Word. A dedicated naval formation, the Quillborn were true marines, fighting ship-to-ship, completely at home battling through the cramped structure of a starship. The Quillborn's Chapter badge was a quill with a drop of blood at its base.
The Serrated Sun Chapter - Nothing is known of this Chapter's particular function or specialty, though it was the Chapter which accompanied Lorgar during his Pilgrimage and was ultimately lost to the predations of the first Imperial expedition to enter the Eye of Terror.

Four of these Chapters remain known to the Imperium today, bearing these logos:
1. A quill with a drop of blood at the nib
2. An open hand with an eye in the palm
3. A burning book
4. A sceptre crowned with a skull

Specialist Ranks & Formations

*Dark Apostle - The Dark Apostles are the corrupted Chaplains of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion, who gleefully redirected the Legion's fanatical zeal from preaching the divinity of the God-Emperor to howling the praises of Chaos. They serve as the spiritual and overall leaders for their own Word Bearers Host. In battle they are skilled demagogues, able to exhort their followers to greater acts of bravery and depravity; enemy commanders have often found out to their cost that the only way to truly blunt an attack by such fanatics is to either remove the Apostle, or destroy each and every Word Bearer facing them. Their strategies sometimes border on psychic prescience.

*First Acolyte - The First Acolyte serves as an apprentice to a Dark Apostle and will inherit a portion of the Host when the Dark Apostle and the Dark Council see fit to allow it. There are only three ways for a First Acolyte to become the Dark Apostle of his own Host: to wait for the current Dark Apostle to die in battle, to be elected as the new Dark Apostle by the Dark Council on the Daemon World of Sicarus or for the First Acolyte to kill the Dark Apostle himself and await the Dark Council's appointment as the new Dark Apostle. In any case, the Acolyte will need the Dark Council's blessings to become a Dark Apostle.

*Coryphaus - The largest known Host of the Word Bearers numbered over 2000 Chaos Space Marines at its peak. The size of this force required that the Dark Apostle be served by two chief lieutenants, his First Acolyte and a Chaos Champion called the Coryphaus. A symbolic title, this position was only granted to the most trusted and capable warrior leaders and strategos within a Host. The Coryphaus served as the Dark Apostle's senior war captain and the voice of the congregation. A Coryphaus served as an intermediary between the Dark Apostle and his Host, expressing his master's moods and opinions by leading them through the chanted responses and antiphons in ceremonies and rituals. This allows the Dark Apostle to be seen primarily as a spiritual rather than a martial figure. Furthermore, the Coryphaus is essentially the Host's military commander on the ground and is responsible for making the majority of the tactical decisions on the battlefield, freeing the Dark Apostle to commune with the dark powers, fuel the hatred of the Host and ponder more strategic matters.

*Host - Each Dark Apostle enforces a strict regime of worship of the Ruinous Powers upon their fellow Word Bearers and are also highly likely to be found leading the elements of the Legion in battle. Each Dark Apostle is gifted a warband of his own, known as a Host. The numbers vary, with the smallest typical size for a Word Bearers Host roughly analogous to that of a standard Space Marine company of 100 Astartes, and the largest exceeding the manpower of a full Space Marine Chapter of 1,000 Astartes. 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 will suddenly alter the hierarchy of their Host for reasons known only to themselves. These changes can result in seemingly unwieldy or tactically inflexible formations. The Word Bearers themselves accept these changes without question.

The most commonly occurring structure for a Word Bearers Host is that roughly equating to a Space Marine company, with the Host broken down into units or squads of about 12 Traitor Marines. Each is commanded by a Chaos 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. The Word Bearers then march into battle beneath their standards, bellowing catechisms of hatred at their foe as 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 unshakable belief of the Word Bearers in the truth of Chaos and their cause has seen them marching into certain death, yet unwilling to take a single step backwards. A battle ends either in victory or the utter destruction of the Word Bearer Host.

*The Anointed - The Anointed are the most favoured warriors within the Word Bearers Traitor Legion and are an elite cult within the broader Legion. The Anointed wear fully enclosed, ancient suits of Terminator Armour. Each suit is a relic of holy significance, as to don this armour is considered a great religious honour. Once a warrior-brother entered the ranks of the Anointed, he is a member for life, and with lifespans extended indefinitely through a combination of their Astartes conditioning, bio-enhancement and the warping power of the Chaos Gods, the Anointed were only replaced on the rare occasion that one of their number fell in battle. Many of them had fought alongside older members of the Legion and their holy Daemon Primarch Lorgar at the great siege of the Imperial Palace during the closing days of the Horus Heresy in the Battle of Terra. Unsurpassed warriors with the hearts of true fanatics, the cult of the Anointed had won countless battles for the Legion. Their glories were sung in the flesh-halls within the temples of Sicarus, and their deeds recounted in the grimoire historicals housed in the finest scriptorums of Ghalmek. Additionally, a Host often possesses an Icon Bearer and an elite unit of The Anointed, consisting of over 200 Chaos Terminators.

*Gal Vorbak (Colchisian for the "Blessed Sons") - The Gal Vorbak are the surviving Space Marines of the Serrated Suns Chapter of the Word Bearers Legion who ventured into the Eye of Terror Warp rift and brought back the Primordial Truth of the existence of Chaos to their Primarch Lorgar. The Gal Vorbak were originally the 1,000 Space Marines of the Serrated Sun Chapter of the Word Bearers lead by their Chapter Master Argel Tal. Their Power Armour was painted red as opposed to the standard pre-Heresy Word Bearer colour scheme of grey, which differentiated them from the rest of the Legion. During the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V when the Traitor Legions betrayed their Loyalist brethren, the Gal Vorbak underwent another change. When Lorgar attacked Corax, the Primarch of the Loyalist Raven Guard Legion, all of the members of the Gal Vorbak were possessed by daemons; their flesh and Ceramite fusing and warping into new, bestial forms. The Gal Vorbak resumed their normal forms of Space Marines again, though the battle had proven costly and only six of their number had survived taking on a Primarch in battle to continue to fight in the service of Chaos throughout the rest of the Horus Heresy. They remaining members of the Gal Vorbak became the most feared unit in the Word Bearers Traitor Legion after the end of the Heresy.

malika - December 7, 2012 12:10 AM (GMT)
Hmm, so which one is the smallest? The Serrated Sun of the Chapter of the Void?

Algrim Whitefang - December 7, 2012 02:53 AM (GMT)
Various sources stated that the Serrated Sun Chapter seemed to have consisted of only 3 companies which each originally comprising 100 Astartes each, consisting of the 7th, 15th and 37th Companies of the Legion. This means, that each company could have easily had more than 100 Astares each. For example, the The Horus Heresy Betrayal source book, stated that company strengths as small as 36 and as large 972 Astartes were recorded by datafactors during the XVI Legion's action against the Dasim Patrimony. Also, official sources did state very clearly in the Word Bearers novels that the Chapter of the Void was by far the smallest, with less than 700 Astartes.

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