WOLVES OF FENRIS
Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter
Since the Imperium came into being, the Space Wolves have fought tooth and nail for the cause of the Emperor. Among the most famous of the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, their name and actions are known from one side of the galaxy to the other. As headstrong as they are fierce, the Space Wolves are experts at close-quarter fighting, and their warriors compete keenly for glory on the battlefield. The Space Wolves live to fight, and death holds no fear for them.
The cornerstones of the Imperial creed are related across a hundred thousand worlds. Although the details vary, it is widely acknowledged that, millennia ago, the Emperor of Mankind walked upon the face of Terra. His mighty deeds unified the race of Man in a spiritual golden age, and legends of his greatness have been told across the galaxy for countless centuries. The vaults of the Library Sanctus contain many truths such as these, held sacred by the Librarians of the Adeptus Astartes since the birth of the Imperium. One of the most coveted and respected of these legends concerns the creation of the Primarchs.
The Emperor, at the height of his powers, was virtually omnipotent. Yet the Emperor of Mankind could not be in every place at once, the blinding beacon of his light could not illuminate all the dark corners of the galaxy. And so the Emperor created the Primarchs, sons born from his holy blood, each a paragon of humanity that surpassed Mankind in every way. Each of these first-born were brought into being as leaders, warriors whose might was tempered by serenity and wisdom.
There are no records as to how the Primarchs became so widely spread across the galaxy. The prevalent theory maintains that as the Primarchs were still incubating in their nascent state in the laboratories of Luna, they were scattered to the far corners of the galaxy. One certainty to arise from this foundation of mystery is the fact that the Emperor subsequently used the lost Primarch's gene-seed as a template for a genetically engineered species of superhumans, the Space Marines.
Every one of these enhanced warriors were many times more powerful than an ordinary human soldier, and it was with these elite troops that the Emperor intended to unite the galaxy. Legion upon legion of the Legiones Astartes were created in their Primarchs' image. One of the greatest of these legions would become the Space Wolves.
Many of the Imperium's records concerning the Space Wolves' heritage owe much to the life's work of Gnauril the Elder, a contemporary of the ancient Fenrisian king Thengir. His sagas have been retold word for word across continents where possessions are scarce and the written word completely unused. That such records remain, even after millennia had passed, is a testament to the awe that the Fenrisians reserve for their mythology. Gnauril tales, many of which detail the early years of Leman Russ' life, have passed into the folklore of Fenris itself.
In the far north-west of the galaxy, on a remote and frozen ice world named Fenris, one of the infant Primarchs came to rest. Given the harshness of the climate, it is safe to say that a lesser being would have died almost immediately. It seems highly likely that the Primarch was adopted by a Fenrisian she-wolf; Leman Russ himself mentioned his lupine parentage on more than one occasion. Russ' wolf companions, Freki and Geri, are widely believed to have been his original pack-brothers, growing to maturity at much the same time.
Gnauril's saga, 'The Ascension of the Wolf-King', tells of one fateful Helwinter when the young Primarch joined his pack in a raid on a nearby settlement. Running into the village on all fours, a pack of lean, howling wolves behind him, he smashed his way into the village storehouse and gorged on great shanks of salted meat. The wolves were attacked by the villagers before they could carry the spoils to their starving kin, and the Primarch fought with unfettered ferocity to allow his fellow wolves to escape. The villagers had not seen the like, and petitioned their liege, King Thengir of Russ, to rid them of this menace. Within the week, a hunting party was sent out 'with drake-poison on their arrows and knives sharp enough to slice through oak.'
Many of the Primarch's pack died as a result of this action, pierced by the spears and arrows of the hunters. Even the venerable she-wolf that defended the litter was impaled through the throat, ending the lives of five hunters before she finally succumbed to their poisoned arrows. But the wolf-child was spared as he crouched growling over the she-wolf's corpse, the poison slowly affecting his iron constitution, barbed arrows sticking like quills from his face and back. The wolf-child was bound and gagged tightly with strips of gut and sinew cut from the corpses of his pack, and thrown before King Thengir himself.
The saga continues in detail, telling of the Primarch's first contact with the royalty of Fenris:
"In the evening the wolf-man was ungagged, and the King demanded that the feral creature grovel for his life like a dog. The strange beast drew itself up to its full height and roared so loud and so long that some of the younger men had to leave the hall. The wild-eyed creature spat a great gobbet of blood and poison at King Thengir, his golden eyes shining with regal pride."
Over the next few years, the wolf-child was taken into the care of the King himself. He was taught how to use a battle-axe, how to fish and, soon after that, how to speak. The Primarch matured quickly, absorbing knowledge at an incredible rate. He also showed a natural aptitude for weaponry, in addition to being unmatched in unarmed combat. Quick to roar with laughter or bellow tunelessly in song, the Primarch slowly realised that he was more human than wolf, and that he was far greater than either. When Russ handed the Champion of the King's Guard his battle-axes during their third sparring session, Thengir admitted to himself that the young man was destined for greatness. The Primarch soon spoke with powerful eloquence, and one evening, King Thengir deemed him worthy to receive a true name.
Thus it was that Leman of the Russ was truly born.
Much of what is known of Leman Russ's early years is borne of hearsay and legend as his fame quickly spread throughout the land. The legends of Fenris cite him as being able to pluck an oak from the earth and snap it in twain over his back, facing armies of the King's enemies and sending them running without sustaining a scratch, wrestling a Fenrisian Mammoth to the ground and roasting it whole for his meal that evening. When Thengir died, there was no question as to the succession. King Leman Russ took his place on the throne.
Each Allwinter's Eve, in the halls of the Fang, the Space Wolves' Fortress-Monastery, the Rune Priests recount in great detail the saga of Leman Russ. Every one of the Space Wolves knows the tale by memory, and the legends are passed down from solemn Priest to naive cub with the greatest of reverence. In this way the saga of Leman Russ is kept alive to this day.
Due to their oral tradition, the following legend has not been written down in any form by the Space Wolves. However, the clandestine introduction of a vox-corder to the Feast of the Wanderer by Inquisitor Chalfont, a guest at the table of Cormack Wolftongue, has provided Imperial scholars with the following transcription:
"Thus it came to pass that Russ was hailed as King of all Fenris, his judgement as strong as his sword-arm and his authority indisputable. No man nor beast could best the Wolf-King,
No tribe could stand against his armies. Within Russs kingdom a truce existed between man and wolf. His court was attended by the fiercest of warlords and the most beautiful of maidens. Tales of his mighty conquests spread like forest fires, and it was not long before the eyes of Terra turned upon his deeds.
Such was Russ's fame and so great were his accomplishments, The Holy Emperor of Terra did take it upon himself to meet with the Wolf-King. He believed, in the core of his soul that this mighty warrior was one of his true sons. He knew well that Russ would not bow to his rule without being beaten in a contest. The Emperor was convinced of his own power, and knew that such a challenge would be as nothing to him. Who could best a living god? Who could stand firm in the presence of Humanity's king? And so it was that the great, sky-spanning ships of the Emperor Travelled to the centre of the sea of stars Settling on the hard, cold skin of Fcnris scant years after Russ s ascension to the throne.
The Emperor, clad in a long, plain robe, entered King Leman Russ court Through a yawning cave mouth in the south of Fenris he came. His divine aura was hidden from the curious eyes of the King's court And his towering physique was cloaked with runes of disguise and confusion. Half his face was within the shadow of his hood. In his hands he carried the oaken staff of the wanderer, But to the sharp-eyed and sober, his nature was clear: The great wolves of Fenris slunk away at the strangers passing.
Slouched on his oaken throne sat Leman Russ, A flagon of fine mead in one hand and the leg of a roast bear in the other. Freki and Gcri, the Kin-Wolves, lay curled about his bare feet, and a great pool of blood glittered in the torchlight around the base of his throne. The court had been hunting, and did not take kindly to the interruption of their feast. The wanderer approached the gnarled wood of the throne and its gargantuan occupant, and stood firm, staring hard at where Russ was presiding over the feast. The court grew silent as the Wolf-Kings growl reverberated around the walls. Freki stood at the sound, baring his fangs, Geri, old beyond his years, proved wiser than his brother. The stranger was meeting their masters gaze unflinchingly.
It was then that the stranger offered his Challenge. The nature of the contest was for the King to decide. If he won, the stranger asked for nothing but to be allowed to drink at the right hand of Russ during the feast. The shouts of the household rang against the shields strung around the roof, the laughter at this preposterous suggestion shared by all present. Russ demanded that should the wanderer fail, he would serve at the King s behest for a year. Grimly, the stranger accepted.
The Wolf-King did not wish to spoil a good feast; His first challenge was to an eating competition. The food was brought forth on vast brass shields, and the stranger ate well indeed, consuming many times more than the stoutest warriors present without pause. But by the time he looked up from his platter, Russ was finishing his third Auroch. The vast, red bones lay around him, not a morsel of meat to be seen. Giving voice to a thunderous belch, Russ grinned at the wanderer. Fangs glittering red in the torchlight. The stranger bowed his head.
But the King was enjoying his sport. He realised that the brown-cloaked traveller had the spirit of a Fenrisian. And so challenged the newcomer to a drinking bout. The second contest began, sounded by a clarion horn. But by the time the wanderer had reached his sixth barrel of strong Fenrisian mead, there was no more to drink. The Wolf-King had drained the entire feast dry. Consuming enough to fell a whole Great Company. The light of anger appeared in the wanderer's eye.
If he was not to be given the chance, how could he prove his mettle? If all that would greet him was derision and scornful laughter. How could he welcome this warrior, so fond of his mead, as his lost child? Driven by disappointment, the wanderer called Leman Russ a drunkard and a glutton, Able to achieve nothing more than filling his face and bellowing hollow boasts.
At this, the court fell silent. None even dared to breathe as the Wolf King drew himself up to his full height. The bloodied carcass of his meal crunching beneath his feet. Russ drew his greatsword and stepped onto the banqueting table, a growl rising in his throat. The Wolf-King calmly laid down the consequences of his last challenge, and his court backed away as one.
Time seemed to stop as the Emperor of Mankind threw away his cloak, the hood falling from his face, his true form revealed. Standing far taller than any man present. swathed in light and clad in baroque golden armour. The God-Emperor stepped onto the banqueting table. His sword shimmered as it was drawn from its gem-encrusted scabbard. With a roar that shook the walls of the court, the Wolf-King leapt. Battle was joined between the two titanic figures.
The Emperor fought gracefully and with precision. His every act like liquid fire, his swordsmanship faster than the eye could follow. The Wolf-King attacked with the force of pure fury. Tempered by years of living by his skill and wits alone. The lustrous gold of the Emperor's burnished armour Reflected the glimmers of torchlight and the eyes of a thousand onlookers. The Wolf-Kings skin glistened with sweat and blood, His matted hair flying around him as he roared and howled.
The speed and passion of Russs attack A perfect fusion of martial prowess and a focus that was nothing less than total. Convinced the Emperor without doubt that this was one of his lost sons. Swinging his power fist around in a blurring golden arc The Emperor struck Leman Russ full in the face."
(It has been noted in the transcription that at this point in the recording a great cheer erupts from all present. This part of the legend seems to be the cause of much mirth amongst the audience, all of whom have evidently heard the tale before).
"It is testimony to the fortitude of our Lord Russ That within the hour he was able to think clearly once more. Recovering quickly from a blow that would have destroyed any mortal man. Russ made little show of his headache. It was as a result of ingesting mighty quantities of Fenrisian mead Rather than the result of the duel. But nevertheless, with bloodied smile and broken fang, He swore fealty to the Emperor of Mankind."
It is well known among Imperial scholars that, when given proof as to his origins, Leman Russ did indeed pledge his sword to the Emperor. His teaching and training went swiftly; it was a matter of weeks before the Emperor judged Russ worthy of leading his armies in the holy war across the galaxy. Leman Russ was introduced to the warriors who bore his mark within their very genes. And so it came to be that Leman Russ became the father, progenitor and Lord of the Space Wolves of the Adeptus Astartes.
Leman Russ settled into his role as the Primarch of the Space Wolves. He was gifted with a great suit of armour blessed thricefold by the Emperor himself. His greatsword was replaced with the legendary Frostblade Mjalnar, whose teeth were fashioned from the maw of the Great Kraken Gormenjarl and whose blade, it was claimed, could cleave the very ice mountains of Fenris in twain. It was without question that the Space Wolves Legion accepted the towering Wolf-King as their Primarch and leader and, over the next few years, they became as sons to Leman Russ.
In time, all of the Primarchs were united with their respective Legions; the records of that time speak of a golden age of conquest and success. The forces of the Imperium were unstoppable in their quest to unite the galaxy in the worship of the God-Emperor. Russ plunged headlong into the fighting at the forefront of every battle, vanquishing all before him. Throughout the long and various battles of the Great Crusade, the Space Wolves and their lupine allies were at the front line. Russ strode at the head of his Legions, slaughtering all who dared stand before him, his coming announced by the howling of the pack.
Russ's actions met with such rampant success that his conquests led him into the far corners of the galaxy, many light years from the Segmentum Solar. Thousands of worlds were reclaimed in the Emperor's name, and it seemed that the Golden Age would never draw to a close. Until, in an act that would scar the galaxy forever, Russ's brother Primarch Horus, the progenitor of the Luna Wolves, turned from the light.
The Horus Heresy was a time of total war, a great schism rent across the Imperium in the wake of the Great Evil One's folly. Horus' trickery and deceit ensnared no less than nine Space Marine Legions, whether by coercion, misdirection or corruption.
The Space Wolves, although not present for many of the final battles when the forces of Chaos laid siege to the Emperor's Palace itself, were heavily involved in the foundations of the Horus Heresy. It was in the disastrous beginnings of this time that the Sons of Russ began their ages-long blood feud with the Thousand Sons Space Marines Legion.
In contrast to the Space Wolves, the Thousand Sons Space Marines were fixated with the pursuit of lore and, as a result, much can be gleaned from the tomes recovered since their fall. There are even accounts of the ruination of the Legion; most notably the Fall of Prospero, but all are tinged with the bitterness of defeat. Within these rotting texts, the Space Wolves are painted in the worst light imaginable. However, with the careful integration of the legend of the Space Wolves that portrays this time, and the collation of events that appear in both accounts, it is possible to put together a fairly accurate picture of what truly started the blood feud between these two Legions.
Magnus the Red was a giant of a man, standing far taller than even his brother Primarchs, his hair and complexion a livid red. Most remarkable of all was the enormous cyclopean eye set deep into the Primarch's forehead; where normal men have two eyes, Magnus had one. His strength was lauded as rivalling that of Russ, but he preferred to expend his energies learning and pursuing ancient arcana than the art of battle. His physical peculiarities were never remarked upon by the other Primarchs; after all, Sanguinius was blessed with wings and Leman Russ himself bore the sharpest of fangs. Nonetheless, the Wolf-King feared that the taint of Chaos was ingrained within the giant's soul. But the Emperor would not hear of his suspicions, as Magnus was one of his own sons.
As the events leading up to the Horus Heresy ripened into terrible fruition, Magnus the Red sent a psychic message to the Emperor. No records exist as to what the message was, but more than one source theorises that it was a warning against the treachery of Horus. Although the message was said to be of great import, it inadvertently revealed the true extent of the practices of the Thousand Sons. The Emperor refused to believe that Horus, his favoured son, would betray him, and he rose in anger against Magnus's warning. As the flame-haired Primarch opened a psychic connection to the Emperor, the Emperor was aghast at the extent of the research Magnus had conducted into heretical and blasphemous arts. In the Emperor's eyes, the Thousand Sons had probed too deeply into mysteries better left alone, willingly walking into the lair of the beast. Magnus' explanations did not pacify the Emperor, and Russ' worst suspicions were confirmed. At Russ' insistence, the Emperor was persuaded that Magnus was the traitor, not Horus. Horrified, the Emperor commanded Russ to leave immediately for the Thousand Sons' home world. The Wolf-King mustered his Legions about him, and prepared once more to go to war.
Prospero was once the very image of paradise. Great towers of ice and ivory studded the landscape, and beautiful gardens and peaceful lakes were abundant. Russ believed that this veneer of civilisation and culture hid a roiling foundation of evil. In his eyes, every scholar, scribe and sorcerer had delved too far into the mire of Chaos, had drunk too deeply from the blasphemous waters of forbidden knowledge. There was no option; the Wolf-King knew that he must follow the Emperor's command to the letter: cast down the Thousand Sons.
After a lengthy and punishing series of bombardments, the legions of the Wolf-King fell upon the inhabitants of Prospero in an avalanche of howling fury. The savagery and ferocity of the Space Wolves' attack enabled them to strike through to the heart of Prospero's capital, but the Thousand Sons had prescience enough to prepare their final defences. By the time the Space Wolves had slaughtered their way to the gates of the largest citadels, the Legions of Magnus the Red were waiting for them.
The ensuing battle raged day and night without pause, the Space Wolves fighting with furious zeal, the Thousand Sons battling for their very home world. By all accounts, although there is little in the way of specifics, the war between the Legions took many days and cost thousands of lives.
Ultimately, for all their wisdom, the Thousand Sons could not stand against the fury of the entire Space Wolves Legion in the field of war. At the forefront of the Space Wolves' battlelines, led by Jorin Bloodfang, was the Thirteenth Great Company. They were those who adopted the form of the Wulfen, their bestial souls transforming them into nightmarish half-wolves in the heat of battle. The sheer scale of the carnage the Thirteenth Company caused opened a massive hole in the lines of the Thousand Sons, and soon the verdant pastures of Prospero ran red with streams of blood. Magnus' brave warriors were slowly but surely culled, their numbers melting under the intense fire of the Space Wolves' assault. Although they did not fear for their lives, they fought to their last breath to protect their lore and their home world.
The loss of each and every Space Marine is recorded in Prospero's Lament, and although its veracity is in question, it remains the only account of the cyclopean Primarch's horrifying bargain.
"Magnus, squatting in his vast tower, watched in agony as his sons were torn to pieces by the barbarian Wolves of Russ. The howls of the pack resounded in his ears, destroying his concentration, breaking his psychic wards and driving him to the edge of madness. Bounding from his ebony throne, he flung his arms in the air and roared a plea for help, to save his Legion and their great works. As if something malign had been waiting for the Cyclops call, the sky grew dark and the air boiled with energy. Magnus was infused with eldritch power, his frame buckling as vile changes were wrought upon his body and his soul. He gazed out from the parapets of his citadel at the landscape of pain stretching before him, and screamed.
Hundreds of the Sons of Russ lost their minds completely as the magicks of Magnus took their toll. The skies cracked open, kaleidoscopic lightning blasting apart squad after squad of the savage Space Wolves. The very soil of Prospero sprouted ten-fingered hands like obscene fungi, clutching at the legs of the beast-warriors. And yet, they fought on regardless, sheer bloodlust inuring them against the numerous terrors now defending the citadels."
It can be presumed that this tale is continued from the Space Wolves' perspective of the titanic battle between Russ and Magnus, as related by the legend 'The War of the Giants', committed to memory by Inquisitor Bastalek Grim (1087345. M4I/5586741. P12).
"Magnus the Red took to the field of battle. The ravaged ground liquefying under his mighty strides As he cut a swathe through the ranks of the Space Wolves, Crushing everything in his path. Where his gaze fell, even the stoutest Long Fang turned white and died. The single orb in his forehead pulsed with an unnatural light. And his red mane stood on end with the energies coursing around him. Truly, this was an abomination in the eyes of the Emperor.
Leman Russ leapt from the thick of the melee to intercept the rampaging giant. As he turned, Russ grabbed one of the traitors by the throat and flung it at the giant's face. Magnus s petrifying gaze was blocked for a moment, and with celerity unheard of, Russ charged bodily into the crimson behemoth. And yet he did not fall.
The giant moved far faster than a being of such size might. Smashing his fist into Russ s chest with force enough to splinter his breastplate, pushing slivers of ccramite into Russs heart. But the Wolf-King was undaunted. Crabbing the giants arm as Magnus reared back for another blow, Russ was brought near to the giants face, and kicked him squarely in the eye. Magnus's roar of pain shattered the sky above, and thick black blood began to rain from the heavens.
Russ took his chance, and grabbed his blinded foe about the waist. Lifting the Cyclops clean off the ground, teeth grinding in a grimace of pain, The Wolf-King broke the Cyclops' back. The Thousand Sons, seeing their Primarch broken and cast down, turned and fled. But as Russ raised the Frostblade Mjalnar to deliver the killing blow. Magnus gasped a word of power and sank into the iridescent ground."
As for the conclusion of this epic battle, the accounts vary wildly. Some sources maintain that the sorcerers of the Thousand Sons opened a gate into the warp, fleeing into the jaws of Chaos rather than face the fury of the Space Wolves. Some claim that as his quarry escaped, Leman Russ swore an oath that he would destroy the legion to a man. Some claim that the traitor Legion became as ghosts, their diabolic patron protecting them from further harm.
But there are certainties about the flight of the Thousand Sons. They were not destroyed, and they salvaged much of their knowledge and arcane literature. Magnus himself was not killed, as he and his minions have plagued the Imperium for thousands of years since that day. Also, however they escaped, the Thirteenth Company, the Wulfen-Kind, were in pursuit. They have vanished from Imperial records since that time. The Space Wolves honour their loss by a blank stone in the Grand Annulus (qf. 'Observations from the Fang'by the late Erasmus Bosch, Inq.8726/M40), and the Thirteenth Company has never been replaced.
Once every 1,000 years, the ancient Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed is awoken from his dreamless sleep. He gathers the Chapter's Rune Priests to him, and retells the ancient sagas, testing them on their remembrance of their heritage. The following text is a direct transcription of Bjorn's account of Russ' disappearance, recorded by Vagnai Ravenmane in 7662/M35.
"The Feast of the Emperor's Ascension was as fine as any Space Wolf had seen. In celebration of the Emperor's final victory over the Great Evil One, thousands of his sons joined in the revelry. The torches that lined the walls were as stars in the night sky, and our spirits soared high as the vaulted roofs. The halls rung loud with song and laughter. At the head of the feast, surrounded by his closest friends, sat the Wolf-King himself, Leman Russ.
The Great Primarch climbed once more onto the ancient oaken banqueting table, the very same one on which he had fought the Emperor in a titanic and desperate struggle for his life and pride centuries before. One by one, the raucous voices stopped. Russ's speeches were legendary.
Seconds passed. Then minutes. The Great Hall was as silent as a barrow-tomb. All eyes were fixed on Russ.
But the Primarch made no sound, and his body remained frozen. We who were closest to him could see that his great yellow eyes were glazed over, that his iron muscles were locked in spasm. Slowly a sussuration of noise bled into the natural amphitheatre of the Hall as his warriors questioned what in the Eye of the Kraken could be happening. Surely this was a joke? Surely at any moment our roaring, charismatic King would bellow with deafening laughter, calling for more ale? Was it some kind of challenge, or something worse? We could not tell, and none dared to ask.
Suddenly, Russ fell heavily to his knees, a resounding crack reverberating around the hall and bringing utter silence once more. He turned to his most faithful retainers and, in a voice that no others could hear, not even I, issued his instructions. His face lined with sorrow, he addressed the throng, and his grave words sank deeply into every one of the Space Wolves' souls. As one, Russ and his retinue turned on their heels and strode out of the Great Hall. Only I, the youngest of the Primarch's favoured, was left behind.
Every year hence his place was laid at the feast. Every year his drinking horn was filled should he return. Seven long, painful years passed, and still Russ did not come home to us. It was a bleak time, and many say that the worst of all Helwinters raged outside the walls of the banqueting halls on the night when the Wolf Lords came to their decision. If Russ would not come back to us, then we would find him ourselves. Elected as Great Wolf, I led the Space Wolves in the search for our forefather. And thus the first of the Great Hunts began.
The Companies of the Space Wolves took to their ships, and sailed on
different headings far into the Sea of Stars. The tale of the battles we fought and the worlds we discovered is a long one indeed, too long for any time save Allwinter's Eve. But ultimately, our search was in vain, earning nothing more than stories and hollow prophecy. And thus it was that the first Great Hunt ended in sorrow.
It is not unheard of for the spirit of Russ to grant a senior Rune Priest a vision, to speak directly into his mind. Their words are then the words of Russ himself, and it is then that a new Great Hunt is called. Although none have succeeded in our ultimate goal, many victories have been won, and many mighty tasks have been accomplished in the name of Russ. And we are left with the comfort of his final words: at the end he will return to us. For the final battle. For the Wolftime."
Fenris is a world of pain and hardship, swathed forever in freezing ice or unforgiving fire. It drifts in the far northwest of the galaxy, perilously close to the Eye of Terror, and yet its denizens remain pure. From space it is apparent that the vast majority of Fenris is covered in ice-cold water, and what little land mass there is floats as small islands of frozen earth and snow. Imperial scholars have wondered at the fact that, in the dark, long days of the Fenrisian winter, the oceans freeze over completely, swathing the planet in a hard, white skin.
One small continent is the only area of land that remains stable throughout the years, the land of Asaheim, which sits atop the crest of the world. The planet orbits its sun in a pronounced ellipse; as a direct result, the climate on Fenris ranges from ice cold during the most part of the year to searing heat in the summer. Even at the time when Fenris reaches its perigee, the primary continent remains intact, although it is ravaged by blazing lava and rivers of magma. Tectonic plates grind, mountains are thrown up, and chasms rend deep gashes in the skin of the planet. Yet somehow, amongst the shifting ice floes and fierce tides, the men of Fenris thrive.
As the constant ravages of a cruel and constantly changing climate harden its people, so too does it harden the native species. The prey, such as the herds of giant Fenrisian elk with their majestic and razor-sharp antlers, and the hulking mammoths that can crush a man's body to a pulp, are dangerous indeed. However, extensive observation has revealed the predators of Fenris to be among the most ferocious in the galaxy.
Ancient drakes and wyrms soar on the thermals above the shifting islands, thriving in geothermally heated caves. Sea serpents and kraken haunt the deeps, terrifying tentacled leviathans that can grow thousands of yards in length. The respected Magos Biologis Anatole Leviticus has theorised that these 'kraken', one of which is said to have been caught by Russ himself, are remnants an unsuccessful Tyranid invasion from the past.
Great white bears, raging beasts that weigh as much as an ice shark and are almost invisible in a blizzard, can be found prowling the frozen tundra, fully capable of smashing apart the strongest buildings to feed on the unwary occupants. But most dangerous of all, a predator so advanced that it is known throughout the galaxy, is the Fenrisian wolf. These iron-furred monsters range from the mass of a small horse to that of an armoured personnel carrier, and are possessed of a singular cunning. A brief series of studies proved that their jaws can leave impressions in plasteel. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about these beasts is that they live in packs and, when they are hunting, their prey has little hope of escape.
Given that many Space Wolves wear the pelts of these vicious creatures, having killed one such beast with their bare hands, the warriors of Fenris can be surmised to be mighty indeed. Born into a world of such omnipresent danger, only the toughest can thrive. Few worlds in the breadth of the galaxy hold any fear for the Space Wolves.
In defiance of the Codex Astartes, the Space Wolves Chapter is split into twelve Great Companies. Each of these is led by a Wolf Lord, who answers only to the Great Wolf himself (for the last eight hundred years, the position has been occupied by the infamous Logan Grimnar). Each Great Company has its own headquarters or 'lair' within the Space Wolves' Chapter-fortress, the Fang. This mile-high edifice of steel dominates the mountain ranges of Asaheim, and is said to be the most steadfast Imperial fortress outside of Terra. The Fang serves as headquarters, cathedral and fortress to each of the Great Companies. In almost all respects, each of the twelve Companies is a free-standing body of troops, with its own weapons, spacecraft, forges, customs and heroes settled within the depths of the Fang.
These Great Companies take much from their current Wolf Lord, including his name. When the Wolf Lord dies in battle another is chosen to replace him, and so the Company will reinvent itself. This provides a fluid command structure within the Chapter (the mortality rate of Space Wolves is unsurprisingly high, given their yearning for close-quarter fighting, although a few particularly stalwart Wolf Lords have seen out their thousandth year). Each Wolf Lord chooses a symbol from the mythology of Fenris as his personal sigil, and it is this symbol that adorns the Company's banner.
Presiding over the twelve Great Companies is the household of the Great Wolf himself. This is comprised of all the Chapter's most venerable heroes; the Rune Priests, Iron Priests, Wolf Priests and Dreadnoughts. Their badge remains constant; the Wolf that Stalks the Stars, the personal emblem of Leman Russ himself.
The Space Wolves' gene-seed is as unique as it is deadly. The frightening potency of the first gene-seed to be implanted into an aspiring Son of Russ is legendary, and has accounted for the lives of hundreds of Fenris's warriors; those it does not kill, it transforms into a slavering monster.
The Canis Helix is necessary, however, as without this essential part of Leman Russ' heritage the other gene helices cannot be implanted at all. Unfortunately the genetic coding of the Canis Helix contains a number of acids that are not synthesised by the human body, and they have a dramatic effect on the physique of the potential Space Marine. The ravages of this unique gene first take effect during the aspirant's indoctrination. Ultimately, he is cast out into the wilderness to make his own way back to the Fang. The gene works hideous changes on the warrior's mind and body; he reverts to a primal state where his bones split and buckle, thick hair sprouts from across his body and his only desire is to gorge on fresh meat and glut himself on hot blood. His body mass grows by up to eighty percent, many of his bones fuse, and vestigial fangs sprout from his gums as he undergoes the transformation. Whilst his body is wracked with pain, the warrior must overcome the gene lest it overcomes him. It is common knowledge that the nights of Fenris are prowled by giant, feral creatures, known as the Wulfen, who failed to overcome the curse. To become one of the Wulfen is to fail, and truly become a monster.
If the aspirant manages to find his way back to the Fang across chasms and glaciers populated by snarling predators and blasted by freezing winds, he is implanted with the remainder of the Space Wolves' gene-seed, stabilising the Canis Helix and completing his genetic indoctrination into the ranks of the Sons of Russ. A minority of these warriors do not completely conquer the gene-seed's original effects, however, and in times of great stress, they revert to the hulking, bloodthirsty state that haunts their genetic structure like a ghastly shadow. This is the Curse of the Wulfen, and it is rightly feared.
The warriors of Fenris are brought up on tales of monsters and heroes, sky-straddling wolves and world spanning sea-beasts. They have a proud tradition of storytelling, and value a good tale almost as much as a good fight. The mythology of Fenris is crowded with the deeds of heroes, and many of their legends stem from the Fenrisian Wolves that prowl Asaheim. These pagan beliefs are looked upon with scorn by the Ecclesiarchy, but the Sons of Russ refuse to give up their beliefs even when their fangs are long and their skin weather-beaten and wrinkled. Superstition is rife, and the Space Wolves regularly enter battle festooned with totems and talismans to bring luck and ward off evil spirits.
Central to their belief system is Leman Russ, who they look upon as more than just a man, and to whom they attribute the deeds of a god. Heroes are held in the highest esteem, and none more so than their Primarch, who they believe will return to fight alongside them at the end of the world.
The forces of the Space Wolves have a very different approach to martial strategy from their brother Space Marines. There are several distinct types of squad, or pack, in each Great Company, and each fulfils a different role in battle. As a Space Wolf progresses through his life, he may rise through the ranks until he is old and his fangs are long. If his bravery and might are without question, he will be asked to join the Wolf Guard, or even become a Wolf Lord himself.
Most Space Wolves begin their careers as Blood Claws, hot-headed young warriors who cannot wait to prove themselves, charging in howling packs at the front lines of the enemy in their efforts to garner personal glory. The Blood Claws are the shock troops of the Space Wolves and spearhead the majority of assaults. If they survive to become mature and capable warriors, they will be elevated to the ranks of the Grey Hunters, tempered by battle but nonetheless ready to give their lives in the name of honour. When the Space Wolves are fully mature, their hair grey and their canines pronounced, they are likely to be inducted into the Long Fangs, veteran soldiers who are disciplined and steady even in the heat of battle, and hence are entrusted with the Company's heavy weapons.
The bravest and strongest of the Space Wolves, after proving themselves in a feat of exceptional valour or martial prowess, may become Wolf Guards. The Wolf Guard either lead less experienced packs of warriors into battle, or form a retinue for the mightiest warrior of the battleforce, the Wolf Lord. Few can stand against these heroic warriors, equipped as they are with the best wargear in the Company's armoury, making them virtually unstoppable in close combat.
The Space Wolves' combat doctrine is unfortunately nowhere near as organised as their brother Chapters. Given that they live for the honour of battle, it is almost certain that the younger Space Wolves will abandon a standard tactical structure in favour of simply rushing headlong at the enemy, howling at the tops of their voices. This has been known to aggravate many allied commanders over the millennia, including Lord Solar Macharius himself, who famously recorded his displeasure in the Tactica Ultimatum.
"The Blood Claws of the Space Wolves endanger not only themselves but the lives of their comrades in arms. If they are so eager to die, and they will not heed the words of their superiors, then let them rush headlong into the )aws of the lion. We can only hope some of them get caught in its throat."
However, far from being uncontrolled berserkers, the Space Wolves as a Chapter simply relish the thrill of close combat above all else. Nonetheless, their battle tactics are undeniably effective; the Space Wolves have fought in a similar manner on a hundred thousand battlefields since their conception, and are unlikely to stop merely to conform to the precepts of the Administratum.
The battle-cry of the Space Wolves varies from Great Company to Great Company. However, it is certain that when the assault is launched, every member of the attacking force will raise his voice in a blood-curdling howl.