|This article is about the Chaos Space Marine Legion, for the novels see Word Bearers (Novel Series)|
The Word Bearers, originally known as the Imperial Heralds, were the XVII Legion of the original twenty Space Marine Legions. They were one of the nine Legions which betrayed the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, becoming Chaos Space Marines, their allegiance pledged to their Primarch Lorgar and to Chaos as a whole.
Known for their extreme religious fervour even before their conversion to Chaos, they are some of the most fanatical Chaos Marines, notable for using Dark Apostles (a corrupted version of Space Marine Chaplains) to inspire their Marines and their cultist allies in battle.
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The Primarch of the Word Bearers, Lorgar, vanished while still an infant, just like all of the other Primarchs. The earliest days say the XVIIth Legion stand apart from their brother Legiones Astartes in duty and outlook. They fought with utter devotion and a fanatical zeal. Their original recruits were drawn from the sons of defeated enemies, raised to know the crimes of their fathers and the price of the Emperor's forgiveness. Thus while the other Legions went to war with righteousness, the XVIIth fought with the cold fury that only the condemned and redeemed could know. While other Legions took some time to aquire formal names, the XVIIth was named the Imperial Heralds almost immediately after their founding. This was due to their early role: to deliver the Emperor's ultimatum of submission or destruction.
Upon defeating an enemy, the Imperial Heralds would empty their libraries and records of any contents deemed heretical or sorcerous. Condemned works, individuals, and buildings would be destroyed in the name of the Imperial Truth. The Imperial Heralds repeated this process all across Terra during the Unification Wars. This gave the Imperial Heralds a rarely-spoken nickname among the greater Imperium: the Iconoclasts.
The Great Crusade
Eventually, Lorgar was discovered on a Feudal World named Colchis, which he had eventually unified in a series of brutal religious wars in response to his visions of the Emperor's coming arrival. When the Emperor did arrive, as Lorgar had foreseen, the Primarch dropped to his knee, leading the population of his world in rejoicing and worship of the Emperor as a god. At the conclusion of these festivities, the Emperor bade Lorgar take his best warriors and induct them into his Space Marine Legion (at that time known as the Imperial Heralds[7h]) and join him on the Great Crusade. Lorgar appointed trustworthy regents to rule over Colchis and devoutly complied with his father's direction.
Lorgar was an unusually pious Primarch. While other Legions were rapidly conquering planet after planet, the Word Bearers proceeded much more slowly, as they would build temples and shrines in veneration of the Emperor, who was also deemed the God of the Imperium by Lorgar, on each newly conquered planet. All forms of blasphemy and heresy that threatened the Emperor's realm, all manner of ancient scrolls, books, artworks and icons were burned and smashed before the advancing ranks of the Legion. In their place, vast monuments and cathedrals, all dedicated to the Emperor, were erected upon the mounds of dead of those who had resisted conversion. The greatest Chaplains of the Legion produced enormous works on the divinity and righteousness of the Emperor, and Lorgar himself delivered countless speeches and sermons, converting millions to the Emperor with his words alone.
A Legion Kneels
Despite being pledged to the Great Crusade for around a century, the Emperor had never once rebuked Lorgar or his Legion for their zealous worship even though such doctrine clashed with the Emperor's Imperial Truth. However 43 years prior to the events of Isstvan V the Emperor brought his wrath to bear on the Word Bearers. The Emperor ordered the Ultramarines to utterly destory the city of Monarchia, a perfect city that was testament to all that Lorgar and the Word Bearers stood for. In the ashes of the city the entire Word Bearers legion gathered to be reprimanded by the Emperor, Roboute Guilliman and Malcador the Sigilite. The Legion in its entirety was forced to kneel in the ashes of their greatest achievement and repledge themselves to the Great Crusade and to the Emperor.[7a]
In time, Lorgar came to realise that his worship of the Emperor as a god had been false. He still however maintained his view that faith was central to the human psyche and that it was still plausable that his views could be validated. His search began by investigating the Old Faith of his homeworld, which in his certainty that the Emperor was a god he had destroyed during the First Purge of the Brotherhood prior to being discovered by the Emperor. He returned to Colchis to seek the answers he so desperatley needed and sought the council of Magnus the Red, the wisest among the Primarchs.[7b]
Lorgar came to realise that all of the belief systems which featured in countless other human cultures across the galaxy shared a common origin and underlying message. He believed that because all the countless legends of divinity, from so many disparate cultures, all agreed on other powers than exist beyond the veil, that the human species' most natural instinct could not be false. Thus he took The Pilgrimage, a mythological journey to the place where gods and mortals meet in an attempt to discover the universal truth of the universe and enlighten humanity and his father.[7c]
The Word Bearers Legion rejoined the Great Crusade as a front for the Pilgrimage and scattered itself across the stars, bringing more worlds into compliance than any other Legion in the last fifty years of the Crusade. Lorgar himself joined the 1,301st Expedition Fleet and eventually came to Cadia where they received validation for their theories that all of the Old Faiths across the galaxy shared similar origins, and thus shared a universal truth. Ingethel, a native of Cadia was anointed by the gods as Lorgar's guide in revealing the Primordial Truth and undertook a ritual to do so which elevated her to the ranks of the daemonic as Ingethel the Ascended.[7d]
Ingethel the Ascended led the Serrated Sun Chapter of the Word Bearers into the Great Eye where the failure of the Eldar Empire was witnessed first hand. Ingethel informed the Word Bearers that the Eldar failed and suffered the Fall because at the moment of their ascension they were unable to accept the Primordial Truth. They gave birth to a god of pleasure and promise, yet they felt no joy.[7e] Their new god awoke to find its worshippers abandoning it out of ignorance and fear, thus was the endless storm of the Great Eye formed, an echo of the birth-cries of the Eldar's new god.[7f] The nature of the Primordial Truth was revealed to the Word Bearers in the ashes of the Eldar Empire, they learnt that in order for humanity as a species to survive they must not commit the same sins the Eldar did, they must instead accept Chaos.
The Pilgrimage ultimately proved that the Emperor's Imperial Truth was in fact a lie and that gods truly did exist. Pledging themselves to new Dark Gods, the Word Bearers hid their true allegiance for the next four decades.
Lorgar and the Word Bearers spent the remaining years of the Great Crusade attempting to enlighten humanity about the universal truths of the universe, swaying several Primarchs to their cause, the most notable being Horus Lupercal. When it became clear that humanity could not be enlightened without bloodshed whilst it remained shackled to the lies of the Emperor, Lorgar helped orchestrate the Massacre at Isstvan V and the Horus Heresy itself.[7g]
The Horus Heresy
As the Heresy unfolded, the Word Bearer ship Furious Abyss set off for Ultramar right after its construction was completed on the Jovian moon of Thule. The Furious Abyss's first kill was the Ultramarines ship Fist of Macragge as it was heading in for repairs in the Vangelis space port. The astropaths of the Fist of Macragge managed to send out a warning, ultimately received as a very powerful psychic scream at the Vangelis space port. Seeing visions of Macragge and the impending terror, Captain Cestus, Fleet Commander of the Ultramarines, quickly gathered a force of ships at the main Vangelis hub of Coralis. He managed to find seven ships: the Wrathful (which Cestus commandeered and commanded from) and her escorts, the Fearless, the Ferox, the Ferocious, the Fireblade, along with the Thousand Sons ship Waning Moon. Captain Vorlov of the ship Bounless also requested to join Captain Cestus, and was accepted. The fleet pursued the Furious Abyss and battled with it, suffering heavy casualties (all ships but the Wrathful and Fireblade were destroyed), ending when the Furious Abyss entered the warp to continue its journey to Ultramar. The Wrathful and Fireblade made the transition as well, but the Furious Abyss deployed a psionic mine which disturbed the Warp, causing the Fireblade's Gellar Field to fail, and the ship was torn apart by the forces of the Immaterium.
When the Word Bearers launched their attack against the Ultramarines, the strike against Calth was led by Lorgar's greatest champion, the former Master of the Faith, Kor Phaeron. He swore to utterly destroy the planet, and was very nearly successful. From his personal battle barge, now renamed Infidus Imperator, Kor Phaeron directed a full-scale invasion of the Calth System. Calth's three sister planets were all destroyed, massive geo-nuclear strikes ripping them apart at the core. Its once gentle sun was laced with deadly metals and substances that increased the star's radiation output tenfold; within a century after the Heresy's end, the final elements of Calth's atmosphere were burned off and the world left airless, its populace forced to live in gigantic underground caverns.
The war on Calth was devastating and horrific. The Ultramarines were shocked by the millions of cultists the Word Bearers used as human shields and disgusted by the hordes of daemons they unleashed. The Word Bearers, in turn, had underestimated the tenacity and resolve of their foe. In the end, Lord Kor Phaeron was defeated when reinforcements from Macragge drove the Word Bearers from the surface of Calth. Kor Phaeron retreated all the way to the Maelstrom, a turbulent region of the galaxy where the Immaterium of Chaos seeps through into the material realm of the universe. Meanwhile, Lorgar led his own Shadow Crusade in conjunction with the World Eaters, hoping to create a gigantic Warp storm to cut off Ultramar from Terra.
Lorgar himself later lead the rest of his Legion against Terra, where he helped smash down the realm of the master he had once served with the fanaticism of a zealot. In the end, Horus was defeated, and the legions of Chaos were forced to flee. The Word Bearers were also forced to retreat to the Eye of Terror, and there they have remained, returning to the Imperium to raid, pillage, and destroy.
From the Daemon World of Sicarus, Lorgar watches over his Legion and orchestrates the vast corruption from within that the Imperium suffers at the hands of his cults and covens. Unlike many of the other Traitor Legions, the Word Bearers have remained a unified, if loosely organised, military force, the main ruling body of which is known as the Dark Council, which rules in Lorgar's absence.
From the two primary bases of the Legion, Sicarus and the factory-world of Ghalmek, located within the Maelstrom, the Word Bearers launch twisted wars of faith against the Imperium. On each world they attack, they incubate a seed of heresy that will one day contribute to their ever-expanding web of cults. Sometimes however, this brings them into competition with the efforts of the Alpha Legion. Though the Alpha Legion and the Word Bearers have united several times to take part in the Black Crusades of Ezekyle Abaddon, they are more usually in states of bitter division and rivalry. However, these things are but distractions as their war against the Imperium of Man is total, and they do not intend for it to end until every icon of the Emperor lies shattered at their feet.
Notable Engagements Post-Heresy
- The Crusade of Wrath
- The Bissan Ambush
- The Crusade of Fire
- The Siege of Hermetica
- The Achilus Crusade
- The Battle of Naemloch
- The Scouring of Makenna VII
- The Ur-Clemait Civil War
- The Invasion of Tanakreg
- The Battle of Eagle Gate
- The 13th Black Crusade
Great Crusade and Horus Heresy
During the Great Crusade and ensuing Horus Heresy, the Word Bearers Legion, 100,000 strong[7a], was divided into many different Chapters, each bearing a name and icon representing one of the constellations of Colchis.
Known Chapters included
- Serrated Sun
- Tri-Fold Crown
- Star of Judgement
- Osseous Throne
- Broken Scythe
- Twisting Rune - Destroyed in the caverns of Calth 
- Graven Star - Destroyed in the caverns of Calth 
- Asps of the Sacred Sands - Destroyed on Calth 
- Flayed Hand - Destroyed under an Ultramarines ambush under Ventanus on Calth 
- Exalted Gates - Consumed by a unaligned greater daemon 
- Unspeaking - Fought an Ultramarines company to mutual annihilation on Calth 
- Inscribed - Destroyed by an Ultramarines counter-assault on Calth. 
- The Bloodied Visage - 3,855th Expedition Fleet 
- The Crescent Moon - 3,855th Expedition Fleet 
Word Bearers do not worship Chaos Gods individually. Instead, they are venerated and regarded as a Dark Pantheon of Chaos Gods. The sons of Lorgar view those who limit their worship to a single Chaos God with contempt and are partially at odds with the Emperor's Children for their decadence. Word Bearers rely on Daemons as shock troops, meatshields, and as the bulk of their armies. Their elite Chaos Space Marines are used to accomplish vital tasks. The Word Bearers have been known to have a massive cultist base, and have used cultists and insurgents since the Great Crusade. However, unlike the Alpha Legion, the primary use of cultists is as cannon fodder and distractions.
The Word Bearers are notable for being the only Traitor Legion who still have a corps of Chaplains, now known as Dark Apostles. The Word Bearers follow the words of their Dark Apostles with total faith in battle. The Dark Apostles divine through many ways how a battle is to be fought and won, and the warriors of the Host obey unquestioningly. Before battle, the Word Bearers gather in ritual prayer, chanting hymns and cult doctrine to affirm their faith in the power of Chaos. Often these chants will be answered and it is common for the Word Bearers to fight alongside daemonic entities.
From the Dark Council, this evil priesthood enforces a strict regime of worship of the Chaos pantheon upon their fellow Word Bearers and are also highly likely to be found leading the Legion in battle. Each is gifted an army of their own, known as a Host. The numbers vary, with the smallest typical size roughly analogous to that of a Space Marine Company, and the largest exceeding the manpower of a Space Marine Chapter.
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 often result in seemingly unwieldy or tactically inflexible formations. The Word Bearers themselves accept these changes without question.
The largest known Host numbered over two thousand Chaos 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 champion, entitled as the Coryphaus. The role of the Coryphaus is to be the intermediary between the Dark Apostle and his host. This allows the Dark Apostle to be seen primarily as a spiritual and distant figure. Furthermore, the Coryphaus is essentially in charge of the majority of tactical decisions on the battlefield, freeing the Dark Apostle to commune with the Darker powers, fuel the hatred of the host and ponder strategic matters. Additionally, the Host possessed an Icon Bearer and an elite unit of over two hundred Terminators known as the Anointed.
The most commonly occurring structure is that roughly equating to a Space Marine company, with the Host broken down into units of about twelve warriors. Each is commanded by a 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 unshakeable belief of the Word Bearers in the truth of 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.
Known Sects and Sub-factions
- Ashen Circle
- The Brotherhood
- The Foresworn
- Gal Vorbak
- Lords of Desolation
- Prophets of the Blighted Path
- The Sanctified
- Sons of Damnation
Notable Word Bearers
- Lorgar Aurelian - Primarch of the Word Bearers.
- Kor Phaeron - Black Cardinal and First Captain of the Word Bearers.
- Erebus - First Chaplain of the Word Bearers.
- Jarulek - Dark Apostle. (Dec.) 
- Marduk - Dark Apostle, former First Acolyte of Jarulek. 
- Ekodas - Dark Apostle
- Paristur - Dark Apostle
- Mothac - Dark Apostle
- Valdrekk Elias - Dark Apostle
- Leyak - Dark Apostle
- The Warmonger - Chaos Dreadnought
- Davroth - Warlord
- Drachmus - Warlord
- Kol Badar - Coryphaus of Jarulek and then Marduk. 
- Burias Drak'Shal - Former possessed marine and Icon Bearer for the 34th Host, now Chaos Dreadnought
- Nahren - Dark Apostle of the 3rd host, who fought along the Primarch Lorgar during the great crusade. Was left behind wounded along with Enusat at the Garden of Nurgle at the Vox Dominus. Was too infected to be saved and was mercy-killed by Marduk.
- Enusat - Replaced Ashkanez as first acolyte of the 34th host, left behind on the Vox Dominus at the Garden of Nurgle. Later rescued by Marduk and Sabtec.
- Eliphas the Inheritor - Dark Apostle, leader of the Dark Crusade on Kronus. Defected to the Black Legion.
- Zadkiel - Fleet Captain of the Furious Abyss.
- Baelanos - Assault-captain of the Furious Abyss.
- Ikthalon - Brother-Chaplain of the Furious Abyss.
- Reskiel - Sergeant-commander of the Furious Abyss.
- Malforian - Weapon Master of the Furious Abyss.
- Argel Tal - Crimson Lord of the Gal Vorbak.
- Maloq Kartho - Dark Apostle, now the Daemon Prince M'kar.
- Garand - Warmaster of a Thousand Hosts.
- Iskavan the Hated - Dark Apostle. (Dec.)
During the Horus Heresy the Word Bearers are known to have possessed the following vessels:
- Fidelitas Lex - Flagship of the Word Bearers Legion [7i]
- Kamiel - Battleship
- Lorgar's Spite - Battleship
- Destiny's Hand - Battle Barge. Commanded by First Chaplain Erebus.
- Infidus Imperator - Battle Barge. Commanded by Lord Kor Phaeron.
- Infidus Diabolus - Strike Cruiser. Commanded by Dark Apostle Jarulek. 
- Furious Abyss - Specially-built Battleship. Commanded by Fleet Captain Zadkiel.
- Blessed Lady - Sister ship to the Furious Abyss
- Trisagion - Sister ship to the Furious Abyss
- Misericorde - Desolator Battleship
- De Profundis - Flagship of 1,301st Expedition Fleet
After the Horus Heresy the Word Bearers are known to possess the following vessels:
- Dark Chorus - Desolator Battleship[14a]
- Inexorable Ruination - Battle Barge[14b]
- Vox Dominus - Carrion-class. An extremely huge ship, commanded by Dark Apostle Nahren. Lost in the warp for a few seconds, while most of the 3rd host were aboard, and returned to real space with all the ship's crew dead and with the Garden of Nurgle taken root on the ship.
|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 IV
- 2: Horus Heresy: Visions of Death by Alan Merrett
- 3: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade
- 4: Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds
- 5: Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter
- 6: Dark Creed by Anthony Reynolds: [Needs Citation], p. 9
- 7: The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- 8: Daemon World by Ben Counter
- 9: The Chapter's Due (Novel) by Graham McNeill, Chapter Twenty-Four
- 10: Deus Encarmine by James Swallow
- 11: Interview with Dan Abnett (8m33s)
- 12: Word Bearers Omnibus
- 13: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising
- 14: Deathwatch: Achilus Assault
- 15: Apocalypse pg.172
- 16: Imperial Armour Volume Ten pg.109
- 17: Deus Sanguinius (Novel) by James Swallow, [Needs Citation]
- 18: The Horus Heresy Book Two - Massacre pg.136-141
- 19: Mark of Calth edited by Laurie Goulding
- 20: Treacheries of the Space Marines - Vox Dominus (short story)
- 21: Betrayer (Novel)
- 22: The Tallyman (Short Story) by Anthony Reynolds