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Leman Russ (Primarch)

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Leman Russ leads the Wolves of Fenris on Prospero.[8b]
Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Primarch; for the battle tank, see Leman Russ Battle Tank.
Targetdrone.gif Wolf King redirects here. For the novella, see Wolf King (Novella).

"Beat your thoughts to the mould of your will."[3b]

Leman Russ, also called The Wolf King[5], The Great Wolf[5] or The Lord of Winter and War[29] is the Primarch of the Space Wolves Chapter of the Space Marines. He along with Angron and Vulkan, was considered to be one of the mightiest warriors amongst the Primarchs. Known for his fierce and wild personality, Leman Russ considered himself the Emperor's most loyal son and executioner, unquestionably carrying out the punishment of the Master of Mankind.[17] The Chaos emissary to Lorgar called him the Brawler.[19]


A Young Leman Russ[30]


When the Primarchs were spread throughout the galaxy by the forces of Chaos, one came to land in the far north west of the galaxy on a remote ice world named Fenris. He was adopted by a Fenrisian she-wolf and raised among the wolves, with his two wolf brothers Freki and Geri. One harsh winter, the wolves attacked a village and stormed the food storage facilities. The villagers fought off the wolves, but Leman Russ fought them off so viciously that all of his brothers escaped alive. Thengir, King of the people of Russ, sent a raiding party of hunters and villagers to remove this menace for good with poisoned arrows and knives sharp enough to slice through oak.[7a]

The raiding party killed many members of the pack, including the she-wolf and one of his wolf brothers. Leman Russ was shot many times, and then captured, and brought, bound and gagged before King Thengir. Leman Russ proved himself to be more than just another wolf, and was eventually taken in by the king himself. Among men for the first time, Leman quickly learned their skills, showing a natural aptitude for the way of the warrior. He learned to speak, and mastered their weapons - iron axes and swords. He was quick to roar with laughter or sing tunelessly and he slowly realized that he was more human than wolf, but superior to both. Eventually, Leman Russ became sufficiently civilized to warrant a true name. The King named him Leman (Leman of the Russ). Later in his life, he is said to have been able to turn back whole armies of the king's enemies by himself without a scratch, to tear whole oak trees from the ground and snap them over his back, and to wrestle Fenrisian Mammoths to the ground. When King Thengir died, there was no question as to who should succeed him. Therefore, King Leman Russ took to the throne.[7a]

He was said to have been the best leader, no one could stand against him and it was not long before the tales came to the Emperor's notice. The Emperor recognized this figure as a Primarch and travelled to Fenris. He entered Russ's court, cloaked in runes of disguise and confusion. The natives shrunk from this new presence. Russ refused to pay him homage as the Master of Mankind. Russ challenged the Emperor to a series of tests. The first challenge was an eating one, this the Emperor lost.[7a] The second challenge was a drinking one. This the Emperor also failed.[7a] For the third challenge Russ boasted he could defeat the Emperor in combat. This time, after hours of intense brawling the Emperor eventually defeated Russ, felling him with a blow from his mighty power glove. Leman admitted defeat and swore to serve the Emperor.[7a] The first of his brother Primarchs he met was Horus, at that time the only other of the Emperor's sons discovered. Russ learned Gothic in just a few days, and recognized Horus's jealousy and disdain for his savage ways. Despite this, Russ expressed a desire for friendship and wanted to brawl with his brother.[25] Just weeks later, Russ was placed at the head of his Legion (newly named the Space Wolves) and joined the Great Crusade. He was armed with a thrice blessed suit of power armour and a new sword forged from the maw of the Great Kraken Gormenjarl and reputably, the blade could cleave the ice mountains of Fenris in half.[Needs Citation]

Great Crusade

Leman fought well during the Great Crusade, gaining the reputation as a cunning and fierce, as well as slightly unstable, warrior and leader.[Needs Citation] After the Wheel of Fire Campaign in which a third of the legion was lost against Orks, Russ was rewarded with The Fang as well as the Spear of Russ.[25] During the course of the Great Crusade Russ saw little of the Emperor. Instead, he received much of his counsel from Malcador, and the two formed a strong bond.[25d]

Leman Russ during the Great Crusade[27]

During a conflict on the word of Dulan, Russ and his Wolves fought alongside the Dark Angels Legion. The leader of this particular planet had insulted Leman Russ's honour, and so he wanted to defeat the leader personally for the insult. The two Legions, each led by their Primarch, assaulted the rebels' fortress. Leman Russ burst into the throne room just in time to see Lion El'Jonson beheading the enemy leader. Angry that the honour was not his, Leman Russ marched up to the arrogant Lion. This led to a battle that lasted a week or more, until finally Russ saw how immature their squabble was and started laughing. Lion El'Jonson took this as Russ mocking him and in what was considered a cowardly act, knocked Russ unconscious whilst he was laughing. El'Jonson left the planet with his legion. This led to a bitter feud between the Legions (and subsequent Chapters), which lasts to this day - although recent events may finally have led to an end to the rivalry, though it is still customary for selected champions from both sides to engage in a (usually) non-lethal duel.[7a]

Later, when Angron refused to end the Butcher's Nails surgery on his World Eaters Legion, the Emperor dispatched Russ and his Wolves to Malkoya to bring Angron back to Terra to answer for his insubordination. However what resulted was a brief but bloody clash between the World Eaters and Space Wolves, and Russ engaged Angron himself in single combat. In the duel, Russ held back and was defeated by the Red Angel. Russ' true stratagem soon became apparent when it was revealed that Angron had allowed himself to become encircled by Space Wolves forces during the duel. Russ tried to convince Angron to stand down, explaining to him that while he had bested him in single combat, Angron was nonetheless trapped and that this was a result of his own bloodlust and failure to lead his Legion. Infuriated, Angron refused to stand down and Russ sadly realised his brother was a lost cause. With a howl, Russ ordered the Space Wolves to withdraw.[10] Russ later clashed with another one of his brothers on the Great Crusade, this time almost coming to blows with Magnus the Red over the fate of the Great Library of Ark Reach Secundus. A direct confrontation was only stopped thanks to the intervention of Lorgar. Such was Russ' rage at Magnus that day that he made a blood vow to settle their score.[5]

Despite being considered "ill-tempered" and "argumentative," Russ was held in great esteem by his brother, Roboute Guilliman, who privately referred to him, along with Rogal Dorn, Sanguinius, and Ferrus Manus as "the dauntless few," the four primarchs who could be counted on to carry out their father's designs. Guilliman once said that he could win any war, outright, if he had one of those four and his Legion alongside the Ultramarines.[11] Such was Russ' deadly abilities and loyalty that the Emperor appointed him as his unofficial Executioner and "Enforcer", and it is suggested he had something to do with the fates of the Lost Primarchs.[15]

Leman Russ battles the Alpha Legion during the Heresy[17a]
Leman Russ in the Court of the Erlking during the Heresy[25c]

Horus Heresy

Many years passed, and many more battles. Thousands of worlds were reclaimed by the Imperium, but eventually the golden age came to an end. The Emperor sent Leman Russ and his Space Wolves to deal with Magnus the Red and the Thousand Sons legion, who the Emperor believed to be the true heretics; Magnus had used sorcery to warn the Emperor of Horus after being told not to and nearly ruining his secret project. Horus, seeking to either eliminate or turn the Magnus, manipulated Russ into launching an all-out assault on the Thousand Son homeworld of Prospero as opposed to simply bringing Magnus back to Terra.[18] In an attempt to find a peaceful solution with the Thousand Sons Russ sent a plea through what he thought was a Hidden One, Kasper Hawser, though in truth he was a Chaos pawn and thus the message was never received.[8a] Ultimately Prospero was assaulted and bombarded. Thousands died within days. In the final battle between Russ and Magnus, it is said that Russ blinded Magnus and then broke the Cyclops's back over his knee, and just as Russ was about to deliver the final blow, Magnus used his sorcery to escape.[Needs Citation]

After Prospero Russ and his forces were forced into a rout by the Alpha Legion and forced to take shelter at the Alaxxes Nebula. Surrounded on all sides and abandoned by the White Scars, Russ consigned himself to defeat and admitted to Bjorn that blindly serving as the Emperor's Executioner had been a mistake. Russ pledged to take his own path from now on, and led a desperate last stand against the Alpha Legion, unwittingly battling Alpharius himself who was disguised as one of his Lernaean bodyguards.[13] However Russ' forces were eventually saved by a detachment of Dark Angels and he returned to Terra. There, Russ helped Malcador organize the plan to have the Knights-Errant assassinate Horus during the Battle of Molech. He then announced his plans to leave Terra and take the fight back to the traitors.[14] Russ was still on Terra when Jaghatai Khan and his Legion arrived. Upon meeting the brother who had abandoned him at Alaxxes, Russ expressed his seething anger but admitted that Terra needed all the help it could get.[20]

After returning to Terra Russ was changed. He challenged the wisdom of the Emperor openly and expressed regret for being manipulated into destroying Prospero. Thinking that it was his destiny to deal with Horus personally, Russ eventually led the Wolves out from Terra to try and engage the Warmaster despite disagreement from Rogal Dorn and Sanguinius, who wished him to remain for the coming siege. Thanks to the efforts of the Knights-Errant during the Battle of Molech, Russ was able to track the location of the Vengeful Spirit in order to confront Horus directly.[25a] Before moving on Horus, however, he returned to Fenris to conduct a ritual with his Rune Priests to try and ascertain a weakness in the Warmaster.

The ritual, overseen by Kva, Bjorn, and seven other Rune Priests, saw Russ enter the Underverse through the volcanic cavern known as Syrtyr's Door. Within the Underverse, Russ entered the Hall of the Erlking, a Warp Entity that collects the Fenrisian souls which die outside of battle. Russ was about to be consumed by the Erlking's hordes of Wulfen when he offered to complete four challenges in exchange for his soul. The Erlking accepted, and challenged him to first to drink the damned souls Amarok's bowl dry, next to wrestle an old crone, and finally move the Erlking's great sleeping wolf. Russ failed in the first three, and his soul depended on completing the fourth which was to explain what the Erlking challenged him to complete. Russ revealed that the first challenge symbolized the changing of the seasons on Fenris, the old woman represented the inevitability of age, the unmovable wolf inescapable death. The hall crumbled, replaced by a finely dressed, civilized version of Russ that was revealed to be his fate had he never landed upon Fenris. This Russ revealed the nature of the Spear, that it held a portion of the Emperor's power and could illuminate the truth to those it pierced. With that, the false-Russ impaled the Wolf King, revealing to him the truth regarding the nature of the Primarchs. Russ despaired, and the false-Russ revealed that this knowledge would one day see him leave Fenris. Nonetheless Russ had gotten what he was looking for, as he understood that the Spear of Russ could not only wound Horus but change the course of the war.[25c]

Russ emerged from Syrtyr's Door with Bjorn as the only surviving member of his retinue. He announced his intention to confront Horus despite it being suicidal. He allowed his Wolf Lords to decide if they would follow him or not, but none refused. Using the runes placed aboard the vessel by the Knights-Errant at Molech, the Space Wolves fleet ambushed the Vengeful Spirit as it was docked over Trisolian A4. A vicious battle erupted between the two armadas and Russ boarded the Vengeful Spirit and confronted Horus himself. Russ was disgusted with what had become of his brother, and unsurprisingly rejected his offer to join him in overthrowing the Emperor. The two engaged in a titanic duel, with Russ deliberately allowing himself to be wounded by Horus's Lightning Claw to create an opening to impale the treacherous Warmaster with the Spear of Russ. However, Russ hesitated to strike down his brother for a second, allowing Horus to deflect some of the blow and turn a fatal strike into a wounding. Nonetheless, Horus was grievously injured, and more importantly the power of the spear cleared him of the corruption that he had suffered since Molech. Faced not by a creature of Chaos but by Horus Lupercal, Russ again engaged his brother in battle and this time was badly injured. But before Horus could land the final blow, hundreds of Space Wolves swarmed the Warmaster and gave Bjorn and Grimnir Blackblood time to drag the barely-conscious Primarch back to the Hrafnkel and flee.[25b]

After the fight against Horus, the badly wounded Russ fell into a comatose state. Abaddon pursued the depleted Space Wolves to Yarant, where he besieged them. Russ awoke only when Corax arrived with the Raven Guard, awake long enough to greet the Ravenlord and give Bjorn the Spear of Russ. In the end, the Space Wolves were able to evacuate Yarant with Corax's aid but Russ remained unconscious.[21] Corax brought Russ and the Wolves to Deliverance, where the Wolf King was able to eventually heal from his injuries.[31]

Eventually, Russ met up with Lion El'Jonson at the Raven Guard's Fortress-Monastery. The Lion was quick to question the Raven Lord's absence from major fronts of the war, but his ire was put to rest by Russ, who points at the survival of his own legion as evidence of their worth. Russ declared he will join the Lion's Crusade of Vengeance, including warriors equipped with new Mark VI Power Armour produced on Kiavahr. While Corax was more cautious to commit his forces to such a bloody campaign, the Wolf King relished his role as the Emperor's Executioner and unleashed a campaign of vengeance on the traitors.[31]


Russ was not known to be present during the Siege of Terra or when the Emperor was entombed upon the Golden Throne. Upon his arrival on Terra and discovery of what had happened, Leman Russ became distraught and verbally clashed with Constantin Valdor, who suggested the events had transpired as the Emperor had planned.[26] When the newly appointed Lord Commander of the Imperium Roboute Guilliman tried to reorganize the Legiones Astartes into Chapters based on his new Codex Astartes, Leman Russ protested heavily and sided with the Imperial Fists during the Codex Crisis. Ultimately, the Space Wolves would heavily deviate from the Codex Astartes and their only successor chapter became the ill-fated Wolf Brothers.[24]

In 211.M31[12] Russ, at a great feast with his Legion in attendance, stood and said: "In the end I will return. For the final battle. For the Wolf Time." He then left the Fang and embarked into the Eye of Terror accompanied by his personal retinue bar one — Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who remained on Fenris in the role of Great Wolf. The tale of his disappearance is retold every thousand years by Bjorn, now the oldest dreadnought alive. Every once in a while, the Space Wolves embark on what is called the Great Hunt to search the galaxy for their missing leader. Though they have searched far and wide, they still haven't found any sign of their Primarch. Many within the Space Wolves believe that Russ has sought out the Tree of Life to restore the Emperor to health.[16] Apparently the Wolf Primarch's arch-nemesis Magnus knows the Wolf King's whereabouts, but keeps it secret.[5]

Leman Russ[28]


  • "You strive for victory. That is obvious. What may be less obvious is the nature of victory. There are circumstances in which you can destroy the enemy utterly, without loss to your own forces, and yet the victory may be his. In all situations, you must first decide on the nature of victory, and then take steps to secure it. Avoid the instinct of fight first and think later." (Meditations, Book VI)
  • "A fortress circumvented ceases to be an obstacle. A fortress destroyed ceases to be a threat. Do not forget the difference." (attributed)[2]
  • "A fortress is built with blood and toil. Only by blood and toil may it be taken." (attributed)[2]
  • "Beat your thoughts to the mould of your will." (attributed)[3b]
  • "Listen closely Brothers, for my life's breath is all but spent. There shall come a time far from now when our Chapter itself is dying, even as I am now dying, and our foes shall gather to destroy us. Then my children, I shall listen for your call in whatever realm of death holds me, and come I shall, no matter what the laws of life and death forbid. At the end I will be there. For the final battle. For the Wolftime." (last words of Leman Russ)[4]
  • "Only in the Space Marines of the Legiones Astartes are courage and expertise perfectly blended. In other troops they are present in varying degrees and proportions, and many scholars have debated their relative merits.
For my own part, I come down on the side of courage. For courage can sometimes make a virtue of inexperience. I myself have commanded Imperial Guard troops whose probitor units have achieved great things, because they were too inexperienced to realise that their goal was impossible." (Leman Russ on the military use of Whiteshields, De Natura Belli, Book XIV)[1]
  • "There are those who undervalue the Penal Battalions. But they should consider this: should a man who has wronged the Emperor be allowed to wrong Him further? For each man executed is a man who can no longer serve, and to fail in service to the Emperor is the greatest of sins." (Meditations on Imperial Command, Book XXI)[1]
  • "Do not underestimate the Squats. They survived for millennia cut off from the Imperium and assailed from all sides. Their determination and resilience is an example to all." (Meditations on Imperial Command, Book XVI)[1]
  • "Harden your soul against decadence. But do not despise it, for the soft appearance of the decadent may be deceptive. One need only consider the Harlequin dancers of the Eldar to see the truth of this proposition." (A Book of Admonitions for the Legiones Astartes)[1]
  • "Here I am and here shall I die." (attributed to Leman Russ at the Battle of Rising Fell)[3a]


Leman Russ's primary weapon during the Horus Heresy was the Frostblade Mjalnar, an ancient weapon also known as the Sword of Balenight. Prior to taking up Mjalnar he wielded the chainsword Krakenmaw until it was destroyed by Angron during the Night of the Wolf. To complement his sword, Russ also wielded the frost axe Helwinter.[22] For longer-ranged engagements, Russ wielded the combi-bolter Scornspitter. Russ is also known to have had an artifact known as the Spear of Russ, but he hated the weapon and ultimately gave it to Bjorn during the Battle of Yarant.[21]

For protection, Russ wore a singular suit of artificer armour known as the Armour Elavagar.[23]

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