"Bless the curse..."
- — Part of the Black Dragons' mantra
Some Black Dragons afflicted in this way sharpened these bone growths and sheathed them in adamantium for use in close melee combat.
Little is known of the Black Dragons in official Imperial records but they have been noted in several classified resources as belonging to the 21st Founding (the so-called "Cursed Founding") of the 36th Millennium.
The Chapter was founded just prior to the Age of Apostasy, a time of internecine warfare and bloodshed on a galactic scale, the like of which had not been seen since the dark days of the Horus Heresy. The Imperium was nearly destroyed during this time by the whims of the insane and renegade High Lord Goge Vandire.
During the 21st Founding, the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus sought to "improve" the character of Astartes gene-seed by perfecting and removing the existing, identified deficiencies through various methods of bioengineering. The result was the Founding of a series of Astartes Chapters who have a long history of being plagued with rampant mutation and Chaos corruption.
None can tell the number of Cursed Founding Chapters that are in existence, as all records of their creation have been expunged from Imperial archives. It did not take long before the flaws inherent in the Black Dragons' altered gene-seed manifested themselves.
While their parent Chapter has not been confirmed, the Magos Biologis of the Adeptus Mechanicus believe that the Black Dragons' gene-seed originated from the Salamanders Chapter. Those that have been witnessed in battle appear to possess distinct abilities and mutations.
The Black Dragons were censured by the Inquisition due to the mutation of the Chapter's gene-seed, which causes certain Astartes of the Chapter to develop blade-like outgrowths of bone on the head and forearms and to grow long, poisonous fangs.
These obvious physical mutations make long-term cooperation with other (less tolerant) Imperial bodies impossible. The Black Dragons is a Chapter which pushes the Inquisition to the limits of tolerance.
Although they have fought alongside Imperial forces in conflicts as recent as the Third War for Armageddon, they rarely remain part of a standing force for long.
Only the turmoil that swept the Imperium in the wake of the birth of the Great Rift and the start of the Noctis Aeterna after 999.M41 has halted the latest Inquisition investigation of the Black Dragons.
- The Bone Curse (232.M40) - The Haemonculi of the Hex Coven learned of the aberrant Cursed 21st Founding of the Adeptus Astartes, and were taken by one Chapter in particular -- the Black Dragons, whose corrupted gene-seed forced sharp protrusions of bone to grow out from its warriors' skeletons. Striking a bargain with the piratical Duke Sliscus, the Hex attacked the Chapter as it was purging the Donorian System of the monsters that had spilled into Imperial space. A vicious hit-and-run war erupted across the space lanes, fought within the Adeptus Astartes warships and without. Though the resultant war cost Sliscus several of his prized starships, the Covenites that boarded the cavernous Imperial flagship captured a dozen of the most mutated Black Dragons in the Chapter and bore them back to Commorragh. Over the course of an agonising three-Terran-year period -- during which no fewer than eight breakout attempts were thwarted -- the Hex's Haemonculi took turns to experiment upon the slab-bound Space Marines. Soon enough they had isolated and synthesised the curse lurking in the Black Dragons' genetic patterns. The resultant osseovirus was distilled, weaponised and -- in one particularly memorable experiment -- reintroduced to its host in a concentrated form. The twisted bone "dragon" that hatched from the unlucky donor's flesh was hung above the Coven's Chamber of Whispers.
- Cleansing of Cable (Unknown Date.M41) - The Black Dragons, under the command of Captain Zartath, were responsible for purging the minor world of Cable from the Chaos Cultists known as the Reincarnated Supplicants. Captain Zartath's Astartes herded the cultists along a fiery crevasse, known as the Leap of Destiny, before giving them the choice to face them in battle or to jump to their own death. All the traitors chose to jump rather than face the Black Dragons.
- Death of Antagonis (Unknown Date.M41) - When the Curse of Unbelief broke out on the planet of Antagonis, the Black Dragons answered a plea for help from Inquisitor Werner Lettinger, to combat the plague of undeath that threatened to engulf the planet. Despite their presence and the assistance of an Order Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, the planet had to ultimately be declared Perdita and evacuated, before being scoured of Nurgle's taint by an Exterminatus order.
- The Third War for Armageddon (998.M41) - When the infamous Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka led the largest Ork WAAAGH! against the Hive World of Armageddon, he began the massive conflict known as the Third War for Armageddon between the Greenskins and the forces of the Imperium. The Black Dragons committed 9 out of their 10 Companies to the Imperial efforts to repel the massive Ork invasion.
- Indomitus Crusade (ca. 999.M41 - ca. 111.M42) - The 4th Company of the Black Dragons under the command of Captain Jorn Tanna was assigned to the crusade's Fleet Tertius' Battlegroup Haephestus.
One of the many gene-seed zygotes Black Dragon Neophytes are implanted with is the Ossmodula. This small organ has a complex function within the body of a Space Marine. It monitors and secretes hormones affecting epiphiseal fusion and ossification of the skeleton while engineered hormones encourage the forming bones to absorb ceramic-based chemicals administered in the Astartes' diet.
Two Terran years following implantation, the Neophyte's long bones will have strengthened considerably and there will have been a general increase in the overall size of the recipient's skeleton. Extreme ossification of the chest cavity caused by growth of ribs forming a solid mass of interlaced bone plates provides a Space Marine with an armoured layer to protect his secondary heart and lungs.
But the Ossmodula zygote of the Black Dragons functions in an abnormal way as the result of a mutation of its DNA, causing the growth of bony crests on the head, and blade-like protuberances from the forearm and elbow. Like the Death Company of the Blood Angels, Black Dragon warriors afflicted with such mutations are formed into a separate fighting unit within the Chapter.
Known as the "Dragon Claws," they sharpen these additional protrusions to a killing edge, and sheath them in adamantium to turn them into deadly close-combat melee weapons. The mandible bone and teeth of a Black Dragon Astartes are also unusual, as their canines grow overlong and become pronounced like fangs.
Their mouths, both inside and lips, are usually black in colouration. So too, their tongues, which taper to a sharp point like a dagger.
This level of mutation in an Astartes Chapter strains the tolerance of the Inquisition and there are many recorded instances of other Space Marines Chapters (notably the Dark Angels and Marines Malevolent) refusing to fight alongside the Black Dragons.
Some Chapters, such as the Marines Malevolent, would hunt down and execute what they regarded as deviations from the Emperor's genetic design, a template that had regrettably been diluted over the millennia since its initial perfecting.
None now existed who could restore it, and so there were those amongst the Adeptus Astartes regarded as "cursed", although some Chapters did not ostensibly count themselves amongst these puritans, there were still some for whom the presence of such an obvious mutant element amongst their ranks was not only distasteful, but was also dangerous.
It has been rumoured that the Black Dragons' Apothecaries deliberately encourage the mutation which results in rampant ossification growth, going so far as to knowingly implant genetically aberrant gene-seed zygotes into some Neophytes.
This is exceptionally dangerous, and the practice is strictly forbidden by Imperial edict, but old traditions die hard as the sheer ferocity of the Dragon Claws is much valued by the Black Dragons' Chapter Masters.
Every Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes is required to send 5% of its gene-seed's genetic material to the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars. This "tithe" serves two purposes: enabling the Adeptus Mechanicus to monitor the genetic health of each Space Marine Chapter, and storing Adeptus Astartes gene-seed with a view to founding new Chapters as needed by the Imperium.
The Adeptus Mechanicus has on several occasions threatened the Black Dragons with military action unless it complies with this decree and even when the Chapter has submitted genetic data, its veracity has often been considered suspect as each sample provided has passed the most stringent genetic purity checks without fail.
Without being able to prove anything, many Mechanicus Adepts believe that the Black Dragons submit genetic material culled from other, more pure, sources.
How this can be possible is unknown and the Adeptus Mechanicus is eager to fully investigate the medical practices within the Black Dragons Chapter.
Notable Black Dragons
- Captain Volos - Current Captain of the Black Dragon's 2nd Company. Captain Volos led a purging campaign against the vile Drukhari of the Desolate Sigh Kabal aboard the Universe-class Mass Conveyer Absolution. Volos led his twenty men against the minor Kabal while also trying to secure the human-hostages that were aboard the vessel. Eventually, circumstances turned against the Black Dragons when they lost contact with their flagship and were ambushed by Drukhari from all sides as they proceeded through the ship. Volos' salvation came in the form of a mortal-female who proposed to lead the marines into the atmospheric control chamber, from where she would unleash pure oxygen throughout the ship. Volos gave Dreadnought Nithigg an order to protect the mortal on her way to the atmospheric control chamber, while Volos and the rest of his men would lure most of the Drukhari away from Nithigg and the mortal. Volos and his men sustained losses while making their way to the ship's bridge, where Volos then clashed with the Kabal's Archon. At that moment, the ship turned into a blazing torch, as pure oxygen flooded the ship and was ignited by Nithigg's Flamer. Through the sacrifice of the ship's human population, Volos and his men survived and claimed victory over the sadistic Drukhari.
- Captain Zartath - Former Captain of the Black Dragons Chapter, Zartath had been captured in battle by the cruel Drukhari and forcibly taken to the Volgorrah Reef to live out a miserable life as one of the slave warriors in the Drukhari's cruel games and hunts. His time in captivity -- which according to him had lasted for six standard years -- irreparably damaged his sanity, leading him to forget his rank and sacred duty to the Emperor. Concerned only with his own survival and that of those who had gathered around him, Zartath devolved into a merciless killer, a far cry from the noble form of a Space Marine. Tracked and hunted, Zartath eventually faced the baleful ruler of the Drukhari but was defeated. When elements of the Salamanders' 1st Company, the Firedrakes, launched a daring rescue mission led by Vulkan He'stan to save the Salamanders taken prisoner and retrieve the Sigil of Vulkan from the famed Chaplain Elysius, the grateful Chaplain convinced his brothers not to leave the Black Dragon behind. At this point, Zartath was considered, at best, a rogue element, and at worst as a deserter and quite possibly a traitor (for unknown reasons, relationships between the Salamanders and Black Dragons have always been tense). Although Zartath demanded to be allowed to board an Imperial starship immediately so he could rejoin his Chapter, his physical state was such that it required medical treatment. Zartath was subsequently imprisoned on Nocturne, where he awaited his fate. Believing in his possible restoration, Chaplain Elysius taught him the tenets of the Promethean Cult, the teachings of Vulkan and the rites of self-cremation, which allowed Zartath's sanity to recover enough to be liberated. With no means to contact the Black Dragons and direly pressed by the situation at hand, Zartath was introduced into the Salamanders as an honourary brother and used as a scouting specialist; the Black Dragon proved far superior to the other Chapter Scouts in tracking illusive prey. This quality led Captain Agatone of the Salamanders' 3rd Company to request Zartath's aid in the quest for the fugitive Brother Tsu'gan who had left his Chapter for obscure motives. It was during this quest that Zartath was eventually reunited with elements of his former company, the survivors of his Command Squad called the "Wrath," who had been tracking him for years. Yet this reunion did nothing to improve the relations between the two Chapters as the Black Dragons had boarded and conquered the Salamanders' vessel, the Forge Hammer, and at least one Black Dragon had been killed in the process.
- Apothecary Thorast - Apothecary within the "Wrath", Captain Zartath's former Command Squad. The one-eyed Thorast was the most level-headed of the "Wrath", the one who seemingly was unaffected by his Chapter's genetic deviations and was thus considered with some regards and nobility amongst the small group of survivors.
- Apothecary Urlock - Apothecary Urlock was led by Captain Volos of the 2nd Company on their operation to eradicate the foul xenos that took over Absolution, an Imperial conveyer.
- Chaplain Massorus - Chaplain Massorus was the spiritual leader of Captain Volos' taskforce aboard the Absolution.
- Chaplain Vai'tan Ushorak - Vai'tan Ushorak was a Chaplain of the Black Dragons Chapter who fell to the corruption of Chaos and turned Renegade. He later served as a mentor to the Renegade Salamanders Librarian Nihilan in the ways of sorcery. Ushorak was slain when a strike force composed of the Salamanders' 3rd Company, under the command of Captain Ko'tan Kadai, caught up to Ushorak and the warband of Chaos Space Marines he had gathered around himself on the Cemetery World of Moribar while they were hunting Nihilan. While Ushorak delved into the secret crypts beneath the sepulchre world, the Salamanders and the Renegade followers of Ushorak fought savagely through the crematoria of that ash-blanketed world. At the height of the fighting, Ushorak was plunged into the central furnaces at the heart of the planet, while Nihilan tried to save his mentor but failed and was horribly burned in the process, barely surviving his horrific wounds. Eventually, from the tattered remnants of Ushorak's followers, the newly christened Chaos Sorcerer Nihilan forged the Dragon Warriors warband, determined to exact vengeance on the Salamanders and the people of Nocturne. The vengeful Nihilan was particularly determined to gain vengeance against Kadai, and proceeded to engineer the heroic Salamanders officer's downfall as revenge for his own horrific wounds. Nihilan also sought the sorcerous knowledge required to resurrect his mentor from the dead, no matter the cost.
- Epistolary Rothnove - Rothnove was part of an operation that was executed by Captain Volos of the 2nd Company. Rothnove would prove himself to be useful against the xenos' powerful projectile-weapons.
- Sergeant Urgaresh - Sergeant Urgaresh was the leader of the "Wrath" and appointed subsequent leader of the surviving Black Dragons following Captain Zartath's disappearance and capture by Drukhari. For an unknown number of years, Urgaresh maintained unit cohesion, restraining his more feral brothers descent into savagery. Urgaresh strongly believes in his cause and adheres to a strict code of honour which has kept him far less feral than his squad comrades, although he is by far the most afflicted by his Chapter's mutations. It was Urgaresh who took command of the Fist of Kraedor and tried to commandeer the Forge Hammer, leading the assault on the Salamanders' frigate and that would later reveal the true identity of Zartath. Following their reunification with their true leader, Urgaresh ordered his brothers to stand down and be taken prisoner by the Salamanders under Captain Adrax Agatone.
- Ghaan (Deceased) - Ghaan bore the title of Vexillary -- or Standard Bearer -- of the "Wrath", Captain Zartath's former Command Squad. By far the oldest within their little group of survivors, Ghaan was a member of the "cursed Astartes" that boarded the Salamanders' Frigate Forge Hammer and the only member of the Black Dragons to be slain. While still onboard their own vessel, the Fist of Kaedor, Ghaan was hit several times by the Lightning Gun of one of the Mechanicum's Thallax. Though mortally wounded, Ghaarn would go on and fight for his brothers, dying shielding them from harm and on his feets, a true warrior's death.
- Hakeem - Black Dragons-survivor and member of the "Wrath", infiltration specialist, Hakeem has been the most affected by the spiritual imbalance of his Chapter.
- Kor'Be (Deceased) - Kor'Be was amongst several Battle-Brothers captured alongside Captain Zartath by the Drukhari and imprisoned on Volgorrah Reef. Kor'Be was the last Black Dragon alive except for Zartath himself by the time a group of Salamanders and Chaplain Elysius were taken prisoner. At some time in his grevious six-year-long struggle for survival, Kor'Be was captured and horribly disfigured by his captors, the Drukhari having surgically removed his bone-blades, teeth and tongue before releasing the diminished Kor'Be to the Reef. Kor'Be met his destiny valiantly fighting the gathered Wyches of Helspereth, the deadly consort of the Archon An'scur which ruled the Reef.
- Skarh - Black Dragons-survivor and member of the "Wrath".
- Toharan (Deceased) - Traitor Black Dragon who formed the Disciples of Purity sect within the 2nd Company. Toharan was slain by his former Battle-Brother and close friend Volos at the conclusion of the Antagonis campaign.
- Dreadnought Nithigg - Entombed into the walking sarcophagus of a Dreadnought after his mortal wounds on a cursed moon, Nithigg would continue serving his Chapter for long after his "death". In Captain Volos' raid on the Drukhari aboard the Absolution, Nithigg was instrumental in escorting a human-female to the ship's atmospheric control chamber, from where he would unleash hell on the usurping Drukhari by flooding the ship's corridors with pure oxygen and then igniting it into a firestorm.
- Captain Jorn Tanna - Jorn Tanna commanded the 4th Company of the Black Dragons when it served as part of the Indomitus Crusade Tertius Fleet's Battlegroup Haephestus.
- Fist of Kraedor (Hunter-class Destroyer) - The Fist of Kraedor was the small Escort-craft upon which the surviving members of the "Wrath" Command Squad went searching for their missing Captain Zartath. It is unclear how long this search truly lasted as time flows differently within the Warp -- of which the Webway is a part--- and reality. By the time the Fist of Kraedor was found adrift and investigated by the crew of the Salamanders' Frigate Forge Hammer, the vessel had been drifting in the void for quite some time, the surviving members of the "Wrath" having been placed in cryogenic sleep for an extended period of time. Little better than a floating wreck, the Fist of Kraedor was swiftly abandoned by the Black Dragons, who sought to take control of the Forge Hammer instead. It is however unclear if the Fist of Kraedor originally belonged to the Black Dragons' Chapter Fleet or was indeed taken by force by the "Wrath". As random as their encounter with the Forge Hammer might seem, the Fist of Kraedor was precisely angled to close with the Salamanders-vessel undetected, Sergeant Urgaresh having somehow gained the information that Captain Zartath had been retrieved by the Salamanders and being held captive on the Forge Hammer.
- Argent Blade (Strike Cruiser) - The Argent Blade fought in the Indomitus Crusade. Under the command of Captain Jorn Tanna, it took part in the Drennox Cleansing as part of that crusade's Fleet Tertius' Battlegroup Haephestus.
Black Dragons Battle-Brothers are known to display a variety of tattoos and scars on their arms, which hint at the less than salubrious backgrounds these warriors may have had before their indoctrination into the Adeptus Astartes.
The terrifying mutations that their enhancement have wracked on their bodies have become almost a badge of honour for these Space Marines, and they now modify their armour to allow them to use these retractable blades in combat.
The white squad specialty symbol -- battleline, close support, fire support, Veteran or command -- located on the right shoulder pauldron designates an Battle-Brother's assigned combat role.
A white High Gothic numeral stenciled on the right knee plate indicates squad number.
The colour of the left knee plate indicates company number in accordance with the Codex Astartes -- i.e., White (1st Company), Yellow (2nd Company), Red (3rd Company), Green (4th Company), etc.
The Black Dragons' Chapter badge is a profile of a white stylised dragon head facing forwards, centred on a field of black.
- Adeptus Astartes: Successor Chapters (Limited Release Booklet), pg. 16
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pg. 58
- Codex Armageddon (3rd Edition), pg. 32
- Codex: Space Marines (8th Edition) (Revised Codex), pg. 58
- Haemonculus Covens - A Codex: Dark Eldar Supplement (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "The Chronicle of Endless Woe"
- Chapter Approved: The Fourth Book of the Astronomican, "The Cursed Founding" by Andy Hoare, Graham McNeill and Phil Kelly, pp. 4-9
- White Dwarf 260 (UK), "Index Astartes: The Cursed Founding"
- Firedrake (Novel) by Nick Kyme, Chs. 11, 12, 14, 18
- Nocturne (Novel) by Nick Kyme
- Rebirth (Novel) by Nick Kyme, Chs. 6, 10
- Death of Antagonis (Novel) by David Annandale
- The Tribute of Flesh (Short Story) by David Annandale
- Third War for Armageddon Worldwide Campaign - Forces Disposition, Imperial Forces: Black Dragons
- Black Library Blog: The Art of Antagonis
- White Dwarf 35 (July 2019), "Indomitus Crusade Fleets," pg. 45