Mortarion (also known as the Death Lord) was one of the original twenty Primarchs. He was given command of the Death Guard Legion on the arrival of the Emperor to his world but he turned to the forces of Chaos during the Horus Heresy.
Before the Coming of the Emperor
The only consistent information regarding Mortarion and his homeworld come from a single source: the Stygian Scrolls of Lackland Thorn, a historian and polymath attached to the explorator fleet that discovered Barbarus[6b].
Mortarion crash landed on the world of Barbarus. He came to rest at the site of a huge battle fought across a vast plain. All around him were strewn the bodies of the dead and dying for miles in all directions. Barbarus was constantly covered in a poisonous fog and the mountains were ruled by fierce warlords. The normal humans, dropped off millennia before, were forced to live in the lowest areas of the planet, amidst the choking fog. They were condemned to an endless life of servitude and were in constant fear of those who moved above them[6b].
The winner of the battle in which Mortarion had landed was the greatest of the warlords. He was revelling in his victory until the silence was shattered by the scream of a child. It is said this warlord walked the battlefield for a day searching for the child, not stopping once until he found it. For a moment he considered killing the child, but he realised that no human should be able to breath at this height, let alone cry out. He considered what he had found, and then bundled the child up and carried it from the carnage. He now had a son, something he had craved for years despite his dark magical powers. The warlord christened the child Mortarion, child of death[6b].
The warlord tested how high the child could survive in the poisonous atmosphere of Barbarus and then erected a massive wall of black iron. He then moved his mansion past this to keep it from the child. Perhaps he knew the child was better than him and that one day he would come for the warlord, or perhaps he was afraid of the small child able to breath where no other of his kind could. Whatever he felt, he trained the child in his image. He taught everything of warfare to Mortarion. He was constantly at the front fighting against all of the other warlords' armies, sometimes of undead humans, sometimes of more daemonic creatures. Mortarion was still human though, and he sought to know of those who dwelled below the layer of fog. Eventually Mortarion escaped from his holdings and descended the mountain, the warlord bellowing after him of his treachery and that to return would mean death[6b].
As Mortarion descended, he began to realise he had found his people. He smelt the scent of food for the first time, he saw people unobstructed by the fog and for the first time he heard laughter, real laughter, not that of the victorious warlord's. He realised that the prey that the warlords fought over was his own people, and with this came a sense of hatred and he vowed to give them justice over their oppressors[6b].
His acceptance into the community of humans was not easy. He was seen as just another monster from above them, and this was quite true due to his appearance. He had pallid skin and hollow, haunted eyes and he terrified most of the inhabitants. He may have been feared, but Mortarion bade his time and helped get the meagre harvest in and was generally a useful and productive member of the society, more than most were. Eventually, the time he had waited for arrived, a way to prove himself in the eyes of his fellow humans[6b].
A lesser warlord had arrived with his shambling undead legions and began to carry off those they could for their master's plans. The peasants fought back as best they could, but they only had fire torches and farming implements to defend themselves. Each of them had fought many times like this during their lives and it was all they could do not to run, let alone put up an effective counter manoeuvre. Until, that is, Mortarion himself joined into the fray. He strode above his fellow humans, dwarfing all around him. He used an enormous two handed scythe and charged into the ranks of the enemy with the hatred that had been building for years before and drove them from the village. The warlord smiled and withdrew to the poisonous area above, unaware of the primarch's amazing respiratory abilities. Mortarion dispatched the warlord and his place among the villagers was sealed[6b].
As Mortarion grew he taught the villagers all he knew of warfare. Word of his knowledge and exploits spread and people came from far and wide to learn from him. Soon, villages were becoming strongholds and the villagers were more effective defenders. Eventually, Mortarion began to move from village to village, teaching along the way and if need be, defend the settlements. His ultimate vengeance was always denied to him because of the fog that prevented the humans from pushing home their attacks[6b].
Mortarion then recruited the strongest and most resilient of warriors from the villages he went to. He formed them into elite units and drilled them himself. He turned blacksmiths from tool-working to weapons-making when time allowed and had them craft armour. He also armed his warriors with crude air filtration apparatus. It is said that the next attack that descended from the mountains above was repulsed quickly and Mortarion, leading his Death Guard, as they had become known, followed them into the fog above, massacring the remaining forces and killing the warlord. For the first time in history, Mortarion had led the people into the toxic fog and survived. Mortarion continued to improve the breathing apparatus and campaigned ever higher into the fog. The constant exposure to the toxins hardened his warriors, a useful and transferable skill retained by the Death Guard[6b].
The Unification Struggle
Only the top of the mountains denied him access. After hundreds of battles and wars, there was just one inaccessible mansion, one which Mortarion knew well, the one where his adoptive father resided. Mortarion returned to his village, confident in the knowledge that he would return for his final battle. When he returned, there was word of an amazing visitor who brought promises of salvation. The mood of the primarch darkened. His final battle had been building for years and he was not happy that someone else would share his glory[6b].
People say that Mortarion flattened the wooden door to the banquet room and he found the elders and a stranger who was their opposite in every way. Where they were gaunt and pale skinned, the stranger had bronzed flesh and a perfect physique. The connection between father and son immediately formed and was plain to see, although Mortarion knew nothing of the link. The stranger challenged the young primarch to capture the last mansion alone, but if he failed he would join the stranger in total obedience. Mortarion turned away and began the ascent to the final mansion, that of the man he had called father, alone. He marched to the top with the anger given by years of building hatred for the final warlord. He climbed higher than he had ever gone before, ignoring the increasing toxins[6b].
When the confrontation came, it was mercifully short. Even the hoses of his suit began to corrode and rot down and Mortarion was gasping for breath. The last thing he saw was the overlord walking towards him to fulfill the promise he had made years before. Then, the stranger stepped between them and, defying the fog, killed the warlord with one mighty sweep of his sword[6b]. When Mortarion had recovered he bent his knee to the stranger and pledged his service. Only then did the stranger reveal himself to be the Emperor of Mankind and Mortarion's father. He then was given command of the fourteenth legion of the Space Marines, the Dusk Raiders.
It was said that Mortarion brought his relentlessness to the Death Guard legion and they followed his ideals. He only ever found friendship in two other Primarchs, Night Haunter and Horus. So close did Mortarion and Horus become that the ever watchful Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines and Corax of the Raven Guard approached the Emperor with concerns as to where Mortarion's loyalties lay. The Emperor waved it aside with a hand gesture; loyalty to Horus was loyalty to the Emperor[6b]. Meanwhile, Mortarion was frequently critical of Magnus the Red over his use of Librarians and was one of the chief voices to ban Psykers among the Astartes Legions at the Council of Nikea. Mortarion expressed a hatred of all things related to the Warp, and felt betrayed when he managed to sneak into the Imperial Palace and discovered the Golden Throne under construction. However after Malcador explained that the purpose of the Golden Throne was to remove mankind's need of the Warp, Mortarion was put more at ease. Mortarion also clashed with other Primarch's who he felt had upbringings far easier than his hell on Barbarus, particularly Sanguinius, Jaghatai Khan, and Fulgrim.
Horus found Mortarion more difficult to bring to his cause than either Angron or Fulgrim, and for a time it seemed the Warmaster may have failed to convince the Lord of the Death Guard. However Horus at last found a chink in Mortarion's armor, he was beginning to see the Emperor as having been corrupted with power and now was just another tyrant drunk with power. Horus eventually used this doubt to bring Mortarion to his cause.[6a] Mortarion led his Legion in their betrayal of the Imperium at the Battle of Isstvan III and Drop Site Massacre. He later came to blows with Jaghatai Khan on Prospero after failing to convince him to join with them in rebellion. During the fight the two Primarch's were able to challenge the other, with the Great Khan proving faster and the Death Lord proving more durable. Following the battle, Mortarion abandoned his pursuit of the White Scars and instead began a spiteful purge of the systems surrounding Prospero. During the purge, Mortarion encountered a Daemon possessing the body of a woman and was forced to kill it using his innate psychic abilities despite it being against Imperial (and by this point, his very own) dogma. Realizing that the Emperor had lied to him about the Empyrean, Mortarion vowed to master it.
With the entire Death Guard fleet, Mortarion set off to Terra to join the siege. Unfortunately the fleet was caught in an impenetrable warp storm, the navigators not being able to find a way through the warp or a way back into real space. The fleet was reduced to drifting, and in that time the Destroyer came. The plague that came could not be resisted, something that terrified Mortarion and the Death Guard. It transformed them into bloated mutants, yet none could die, their own body being their undoing. None suffered more than Mortarion, for it was like being on the mountain top again, surrendering to the toxins, but this time without the Emperor to save him. Eventually, Mortarion could suffer no more and gave himself to Chaos. Father Nurgle responded and took the legion and Mortarion as his own.
What emerged from the warp bore little resemblance to what had gone in. The Marines' once gleaming armour was corroded and shattered, barely containing their bloated, pustule covered bodies. Their weapons and armour were powered by the energies of Chaos and they became known as the Plague Marines, although they would still use the name Death Guard.
After Horus was defeated, Mortarion led his forces, in an ordered formation, back to the Eye of Terror. Mortarion claimed the Plague Planet as his new world and it is ideal for launching attacks on the real world. He shaped it so well that Nurgle promoted him to Daemon Prince. Mortarion got what he wanted, a world of his own. He ruled over a toxic death world of poison, horror and misery. He had come home[Needs Citation].
In 901.M41, during the Battle of Kornovin, Mortarion killed Geronitan, Supreme Grand Master of the Grey Knights. Geronitan's subordinate, Kaldor Draigo, assaulted the Daemon Primarch and spoke the true name that the Emperor had originally intended for him. His physical form devastated and his spirit sent to the Immaterium, Draigo carved his forebear's name into the Daemon's heart, an insult Mortarion has never forgotten.
During the height of his powers as a servant of the Emperor, Mortarion was described as having an ashen, hairless face. He was extremely tall and thin and wore a heavy collar around his throat that constantly emitted wisps of poisonous air. He wore a grey cloak over his personalised suit of brass and bare steel power armour. He carried a huge, hand-crafted Shenlongi energy pistol at his side called "the Lantern." He also wore a string of globe-shaped brass censers which contain poisonous gases from his homeworld. His signature weapon was the Manreaper, a battle scythe a foot taller than him.
The Deathshroud are his personal bodyguard. Two accompany him at all times and are never more than forty-nine paces from his side. They are marines who are listed as killed in action and then wear a mask for the rest of their lives so that only Mortarion may know their true identity. They carry their own Manreapers, copies of the primarch's weapon proportionate for their hands.
Mortarion's name comes from the Latin word Mors, meaning death.
|I - Lion El'Jonson · II - Unknown · III - Fulgrim · IV - Perturabo · V - Jaghatai Khan · VI - Leman Russ · VII - Rogal Dorn · VIII - Konrad Curze · IX - Sanguinius · X - Ferrus Manus · XI - Unknown · XII - Angron · XIII - Roboute Guilliman · XIV - Mortarion · XV - Magnus · XVI - Horus · XVII - Lorgar · XVIII - Vulkan · XIX - Corvus Corax · XX - Alpharius Omegon|
- 1: Index Astartes: Death Guard (White Dwarf 264 (US))
- 2: The Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow, Chapter One, pgs. 28-29
- 3: White Dwarf 150 (UK)
- 4: Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition) pg. 38
- 5: Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition) pg. 22
- 6: The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal
- 7: Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pgs. 347-349
- 8: Mortarion's Heart
- 9: Scars (Novel)
- 10: Daemonology (Short Story)
- 11: A Thousand Sons (Novel)