The Death Guard, formerly known as the Dusk Raiders, were Legion XIV of the original twenty Space Marine Legions. Their Primarch is Mortarion, who relocated their base to his homeworld of Barbarus after his discovery by the Emperor. During the Horus Heresy, Mortarion and the majority of the Legion swore allegiance to Horus, becoming one of the nine Traitor Legions who betrayed the Emperor. After Barbarus was destroyed during the Heresy, they relocated to the Plague Planet inside the Eye of Terror.
Because of Barbarus's toxic environment, the Death Guard took great pride in their resistance to poisons, disease, and mortality in general. This fascination led them to worship the Chaos God Nurgle and in return he infests their armour with pestilence and disease, and elevated Mortarion to a Daemon Prince.
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The base gene-seed stock of the Dusk Raiders, originally known as the XIVth Legion, came from Terra or more specifically the warlike and tough clans of Albia. In the Unification Wars the XIVth Legion quickly developed the use of tactics and methods of warfare that their ironside fore-bearers would have found familiar. Operating in the role of heavy infantry, they were experts at survival, endurance, and stubborn defense. Their grey Power Armor began to carry battle decorations as well as the modified imagery of Albia. As the Unification Wars came to an end and the Great Crusade began, the Emperor gave them the title of the Dusk Raiders, a nod to their use of the ancient Albian tactic of conducting major ground attacks at twilight when the shift of light confused an enemy's watch and gathering shadow would advance across open ground.[16a]
The Dusk Raiders' armour was originally unpainted, but with their right arm and both shoulders coloured crimson. This was done with the intent to show their enemies that they were the Emperor's red right hand, relentless and unstoppable. Many enemies simply threw down their weapons at nightfall so they didn't have to fight the terrifying Dusk Raiders.[2a]
For more then eight decades the Dusk Raiders fought across the Galaxy in the Great Crusade, earning a fierce reputation by failing to reunite with their Primarch.[16a]
The Great Crusade
When Mortarion was found by the Emperor upon the troubled world of Barbarus, he was swiftly given control of his Legion. Upon first seeing them he told them, "You are my unbroken blades. You are the Death Guard." The Legion's name was then changed in accordance with this decree,[2a] and Mortarion's words engraved above the airlock door of the Battle Barge Reaper's Scythe in honour of the moment. Their armour's colour was changed, and whilst their main armour remained unpainted, the trim colour became dark green.
Combat Disposition and Record
Before the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard differed from the other 17 known Legions in that they had only seven Great Companies, although these held far more men than those of other Legions such as the Ultramarines or Space Wolves. There were three privileged titles held by captains of the Death Guard. The captain of the First Company was known as the First Captain, the captain of the Second Company was known as Commander, and the captain of the Seventh Company was known as Battle-Captain.
The Death Guard tended to be organised into units of foot-slogging infantry, rather than mechanised squads. Mortarion ensured that his men were well-equipped and highly-trained. He also ensured that they could fight in almost any kind of atmosphere, and placed little emphasis on specialised units using jump packs or bikes. The Death Guard did not have dedicated Assault and Tactical Squads. Every Marine was equipped with a bolter, bolt pistol and close combat weapon and told to fight with whatever weapon circumstance dictated. The Legion was also well known for its use of Terminator Armour. Possibly as a result of this, the Death Guard were highly successful at high-risk boarding and close-quarter operations such as space hulk clearance.
By the time of the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard is known to have had roughly 95,000 Space Marines.[16a]
The Horus Heresy
At the beginning of the Horus Heresy, many Death Guard who remained loyal to the Emperor were massacred on Isstvan III by their fellow Space Marines, including Captain Ullis Temeter. Roughly a third of the Legion was still loyal to the Emperor.[16a]
During the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard joined Warmaster Horus in many battles and raids on the Imperium. When Horus led his forces against Earth and the Emperor, the Death Guard's First Captain, Calas Typhon, killed the Navigator of their capital ship. Pretending that they were still loyal to the Emperor, Typhon led the Chapter's Fleet into the Warp but instead of going to Holy Terra to defend the Imperium, the ships became trapped and unable to return to Real Space. The Destroyer Hive flooded the ship while they were trapped in the Warp. The stinking pestilence flooded the gut and distended the flesh, while the Marines were blacked out the Destroyer Hive swarmed over them and laid eggs inside the sores of the Marines. Craving salvation, the Death Guard called upon Nurgle to help them. Nurgle corrupted them beyond measure, transforming them into the grotesque warriors they are now. Typhon then inherited the Destroyer Hive: having already sacrificed his soul to Nurgle. The flies entered Typhon and thus Typhus, Herald and Champion of Nurgle, was born.
A number of Death Guard Marines, and one Luna Wolf who renounced his Sons of Horus status, led by Battle-Captain of the 7th Company Nathaniel Garro, remained loyal to the Emperor. They formed part of the crew of the Eisenstein, a frigate which ran the Traitor blockade in the Isstvan system in order to bring news of Horus' descent into Chaos to the Emperor on Terra.
Despite Garro's efforts, the forces of Horus besieged Terra and the Imperial Palace itself. After a breach in the Palace defensive wall was forced by Titans of the Legio Mortis Titan Legion, the Traitor Legions, including the Death Guard, poured into the breach only to be met by loyalist forces led by the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Sanguinius. It is recorded that Mortarion personally led his pustulent Plague Marines into the thickest fighting that day.
Horus Heresy Aftermath
After Horus' defeat, Mortarion led his Death Guard in a campaign of destruction over a score of planets, until finally retreating into the Eye of Terror. Here he received Nurgle's ultimate reward and became a full-fledged Daemon Prince, ruling over one of Nurgle's greatest Plague Worlds in the Eye of Terror. Mortarion sends out fleets of Plague Ships into the Warp to carry their contagions throughout the galaxy.
- Campaign against the Jorgall - during the Great Crusade
- Conquest of Galaspar - during the Great Crusade
- Isstvan III - during the Horus Heresy
- Isstvan V - during the Horus Heresy
- Battle of Terra - during the Horus Heresy
- Bloodpox Campaign - M34
- Fall of Sanctia - M36. Mortarion returns to lead his Legion in the planets fall.
- The destruction of Hydra Minoris - M40. Typhus unleashes the Zombie Plague on the world.
- The Scouring of Makenna VII - M41
- Achilus Crusade - M41 Death Guard forces under Ussax took part in the conflict
- Siege of Vraks - M41 Several Death Guard affiliated warbands took part in the conflict
- 13th Black Crusade - M41[8a]
The Death Guard's genetic traits always reflect the gaunt, shadow-eyed quality of their Primarch. Known for their hardiness, the contagion which led to their damnation corrupted them physically as well as spiritually. As a result the gene-seed of the Death Guard is putrid, infectious, and corrupted completely by Nurgle.[1-p75]
Originally the Death Guard believed that humans should be free of oppression and that hardship should be faced with faith in inner strength, strong will and stern resolution. During the Heresy, these beliefs were twisted into contempt for the weak and the conviction that individuals were not fit to judge for themselves what was best for them.
When the Legion was trapped and infected by Nurgle in the warp, their arrogance and contempt for weakness turned against them. Their surrender to Nurgle caused them to become self loathing and now they seek to spread ruin and decay in order to let their own fate appear less shameful in comparison.
A Death Guard force is largely made up of Plague Marines, and still follows the doctrines that their Primarch Mortarion taught them. Their tactics are based on the use of foot-slogging infantry, and the hardy use of their Bolters. Any vehicles that were in possession of the Death Guard at the time of the Horus Heresy have since fallen into disrepair, or have been commandeered by cheeky Nurglings. The Death Guard make full use of Nurgle's gifts, spreading turmoil, advancing solidly amidst a mist of choking disease, surrounded by Nurglings at their feet and summoning horrific Plaguebearers from the Warp. In larger battles where the outcome is of dire importance, a decaying Daemon Prince may take the reigns of the army, or a Great Unclean One may posses a Champion.
The Death Guard often organizes squads by multiples of seven, based on the sacred number of Nurgle.
Since the ascension of Mortarion to Daemonhood, his hold over the legion has become more and more remote. While he broadly orchestrates the Guards actions through his throne on Plague Planet or from the Warp, the Death Guard has since fragmented into many warbands and sub-factions.[1-p74] Some of these factions include:
- Apostles of Contagion [7p142]
- Lords of Decay [7p141]
- The Purge [7p141]
- The Tainted [7p142]
- The Plague Fleet of Typhus
Noted Elements of the Death Guard
During the Horus Heresy the Death Guard are known to have possessed the following vessels:
- Endurance - Capital Ship
- Reapers Scythe - Capital Ship[16b]
- Indomitable Will - Capital Ship
- Spectre of Death - Capital Ship
- Terminus Est - Capital Ship
- Undying - Capital Ship
- Reapers' Scythe - Battle Barge
- Stalwart - Battle Barge
- Barbaros' Sting - Strike Craft
- Eisenstein - Frigate (destroyed)
- Valley of Haloes - Supply Hauler (destroyed)
All of these vessels are likely to have been stranded in the Warp following Typhon's treachery. The Terminus Est still exists, as does at least one other capital ship known as the Plagueclaw. It is possible that this is another of the ships listed above which has been renamed in honour of the Legion's Chaos worship.
By the time of the 13th Black Crusade, Typhus was in command of a powerful Death Guard fleet. This included the vessels Plagueclaw and Terminus Est as well as two other Battleships, three Heavy Cruisers, five Cruiser squadrons, and twelve Escort squadrons.[8b]
- Mortarion - Primarch
- The Deathshroud, Mortarion's two personal bodyguards who accompany him at all times.
- Huron-Fal - Dreadnought[6a]
- Holgoarg - Captain[6b]
- Kargul - Dreadnought[6c]
- Calas Typhon - First Captain
- Ignatius Grulgor - Captain, 2nd Company
- Ujioj - Captain[6d]
- Ullis Temeter - Captain, 4th Company, remained loyal to the Emperor
- Nathaniel Garro - Battle-Captain, 7th Company, remained loyal to the Emperor
- Solun Decius - Battle brother, 7th Company
- Meric Voyen - Apothecary, 7th Company
- Durak Rask - Marshal of Ordnance
- Crysos Morturg - Lieutenant
- Mortarion - Daemon Prince
- Typhus - Herald of Nurgle
- Ignatius Grulgor - Daemon Prince
- Necrosius - Sorcerer of Nurgle
- Ussax - The 'Blight-Master'
- Festardius - Warband leader
|Loyalist||I - Dark Angels · V - White Scars
VI- Space Wolves · VII- Imperial Fists
IX- Blood Angels · X- Iron Hands
XIII- Ultramarines · XVIII- Salamanders
XIX- Raven Guard
|Traitor||III- Emperor's Children · IV- Iron Warriors|
VIII- Night Lords · XII- World Eaters
XIV- Death Guard · XV- Thousand Sons
XVI- Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus · XVII- Word Bearers
XX- Alpha Legion
- 1: Index Astartes III: The Lost and the Damned
- 2: The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow
- 2a: Chapter Five, pgs. 118-120
- 3: Horus Heresy: Visions of Death by Alan Merrett
- 4: Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 14
- 5: Galaxy In Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter
- 6: Horus Heresy Collectable Card Game
- 7 Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three
- 8 Codex: Eye of Terror (3rd Edition):
- 9 The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- 10: Deathwatch: First Founding, pg. 85
- 11: Collected Visions, pgs. 354-356
- 12: Apocalypse, pg. 171
- 13: Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three pgs. 141-143
- 14: Games Workshop
- 15: Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pgs. 22-23
- 16: The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal