- "There is only the Emperor, and He is our shield and protector."
- — Second Book of Chantings
An Emperor's Champion is an honourary position within the ranks of the Space Marines, especially amongst the First and Second Founding Chapters whose history dates back to the dark days of the Horus Heresy. Almost all Chapters of the Space Marines have had an Emperor's Champion of their own at one time or another, especially during the period following the Horus Heresy, known as the Great Scouring. The practice is much less common in the 41st Millennium.
However, the position of Emperor's Champion has played an important role within the ranks of the zealous Black Templars Chapter since the Chapter's inception as a Successor of the Imperial Fists, and has been maintained with reverence and high esteem throughout nearly ten millennia of endless crusades and ceaseless conflicts. In battle, it is the duty of a designated Emperor's Champion to seek out and challenge the commander of the enemy force, fighting him or her in single combat for the glory of the Emperor. Many great battles and wars have been turned in favour of the Imperium by the slaying of enemy leaders or other key figures in a foe's chain of command by an Emperor's Champion.
Always at the forefront of the Black Templars' battle line strides a singular figure, his gleaming blade carving a path of ruin through the foe. This warrior will challenge any enemy, no matter how mighty, for he is the Emperor's Champion and divinity rests upon his shoulders as both mantle and shroud.
On the eve of battle, as the Black Templars kneel before their Chaplains and pray for the Emperor's favour, one amongst them may be granted a vision. In his mind's eye, angelic hosts wielding blades of flame bestride the stars, driving back the writhing shadows with their righteous fury. Glorious battles of both past and future whirl through the Battle-Brother's mind, accompanied by the certainty that he has been chosen by the Emperor as His mortal vessel upon the field of battle. As this fugue state passes, the Space Marine knows that he must heed this summons and stand forevermore apart, bereft of his brothers in the searing light of the Emperor's gaze. The Chaplains then lead the chosen Battle-Brother to an isolated contemplation chamber. Here, he is clad in holy raiment, donning the Armour of Faith, and surrendering his weapons in favour of one of the Chapter's ten sacred Black Swords.
Only a handful of Emperor's Champions arise each century, their emergence a miracle worthy of remembrance, and at any given time there can be only one in the Chapter. It is, therefore, the duty of the Chaplains to ensure that a single Black Sword accompanies each crusade from its inception, ready should an Emperor's Champion arise. Should this happen, the name of the blade's new wielder is inscribed into its obsidian hilt, immortalising a new hero as a part of the blade's own legend.
When battle is joined, divine might flows through the Emperor's Champion's every sinew. His vision shimmers with golden light that burns brightest around the mightiest of enemies. In this way, the Emperor's Champion is guided through the press, swatting lesser enemies aside as he closes upon his target. Leaving his brethren to fight the broader battle, the Emperor's Champion engages the most deadly foes in single combat. The Emperor's Champion will never concede defeat, for his duty does not end until the Black Sword is pried from his cold, dead hands.
At the conclusion of the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Terra, First Captain Sigismund of the Imperial Fists Legion was chosen to serve as the first Emperor's Champion. Personally singled out by Rogal Dorn himself, Sigismund was bestowed with the high honour of serving as the personal champion of the Emperor. Though humbled by the honour, he was disturbed by only one thing -- it seemed wrong to him to obscure the sacred colours of his Legion. The Imperial Fists Reclusiarch who bestowed the sacred blessings upon his armour and wargear told Brother Sigismund to fear not, for Dorn himself had ordered it to be so. Sigismund's heraldry had been changed to black to show that he served the Emperor directly, as did the Reclusiarch and his fellow Chaplains. As such, he had been marked out in the sight of the Emperor. Reassured, Sigismund strode across the war-torn scenes of carnage, of hell on Earth, challenging any and all Champions of Chaos to single combat as well as anyone else unfortunate enough to cross his path. Since that time, the Black Templars Chapter has continued to honour Sigismund by continuing the practise of naming an Emperor's Champion.
Ever since Sigismund was elevated to the rank of the first High Marshal (Chapter Master) of the Black Templars, there have been others who have risen to follow in his stead as the Emperor's Champion. The practice of having an Emperor's Champion has spread to other Chapters, but it is enshrined most strongly in the Black Templars. It is written in the holy texts of the Black Templars that when a Battle-Brother is gifted with divine visions guiding him to take up the mantle of the Emperor's Champion, it is the memories of Sigismund he sees. It is a shifting vista of warring angels and vengeful gods, just as the ancient Space Marine witnessed during the war for Terra and the blasphemy of the Horus Heresy. Only those who have become the Emperor's Champion and survived can hope to understand the time in which Sigismund lived, and the weight of his duty to smite the enemies of the Emperor.
Becoming an Emperor's Champion
To become the Emperor's Champion is no matter of training, but rather a sacred calling that most Black Templars aspire to, but few ever achieve, for to be chosen to serve as the Emperor's Champion is to be chosen by the Emperor Himself. Becoming the Emperor's Champion is a singular honour and few Space Marines attain that status more than once in their lives.
On the eve of battle, Black Templars brethren pray and fast. On some extremely rare occasions, a Battle-Brother may feel the blessings of righteous certainty upon him, and know that he must take up the mantle of the Emperor's Champion. This Battle-Brother will seek out the Chaplains and be declared the Emperor's Champion by them, but this may not be possible if he is serving the Long Vigil with the Deathwatch. Unless a Chaplain of the Black Templars is present and able to take the Brother's confession, he must assume the mantle alone, donning the most sacred relics of his Chapter and declaring his mission to his fellows.
He will seek permission from the Master of the Armoury to bear into battle the most potent of weapons and the most revered of armour. Few would dare refuse, for the Battle-Brother's eyes burn with the zeal of his duty and the weight of his oaths is an almost palpable thing. Having taken up the trappings of the Emperor's Champion, the Battle-Brother remains as such until his vision is fulfilled. Only by the word of the Chaplains is his duty discharged, and he resumes his place in the ranks of his Chapter once more.
A Righteous Vessel
How and why the Emperor's Champion manifests within the soul of a Black Templars remains a mystery, even to the Chapter itself, though the Black Templars accept it as the divine work of the God-Emperor, and a measure of their faith. Indeed, as far as they are concerned, that the Emperor's Champion is unique to the Black Templars only goes to prove their profound connection to the Master of Mankind and the strength of their devotion.
In a ritual that has been repeated for centuries, the Black Templars gather on the eve of an important battle, their heads bowed in solemn prayer by the light of candles rendered from the tallow-fat of faithful Chapter serfs. Walking among the supplicant warriors, Space Marine Chaplains carry censers of sacred incense, their voices raised in droning hymns. Through the haze of blue-tinted smoke, the Battle-Brothers' lips move in silent prayer to the Emperor, each one inviting His divine spirit into their souls.
Almost every ritual ends with the candles burned to nothing and the air heavy with a mist of stale incense. Invigorated by their prayers, the Black Templars Battle-Brothers will then rise to their feet and march to war. A handful of times each century, the ritual will end in a different way. During the long night of prayer, a single Battle-Brother will be visited by a vision sent by the Emperor, a ghostly dream of a pale, blazing knight struggling against a sea of foes. While accounts of the vision vary from one Battle-Brother to the next, many of the symbols and themes remain the same. A mighty hero fighting an impossible foe, a fading light that must to be rekindled, and a tide of endless enemies crashing upon crumbling fortress walls, are all images given by the Emperor. Awaking from his vision-trance, the Battle-Brother will proclaim the Emperor's visitation and the Chaplain will take him away so that the true ceremony may begin.
The most senior Black Templar's Chaplain in the crusade is called to listen to the vision, and verify its authenticity. Ever fearful of daemonic trickery and false interpretation, the Chaplain will have the Battle-Brother recount what he saw, referencing the Liber Divinitus of the Chapter to see if symbols and images recorded there match those described. Never in the history of the Chapter has a Battle-Brother received a false vision, each and every one a true vessel of the God-Emperor.
The vision confirmed, the Battle-Brother is taken to the Chapter's lay-shrine: sacred ground blessed by the Chaplains wherever the company makes its camp. Whether it is the scorched earth of an alien world, the shadowy, creaking hold of an Imperial vessel or the rusted, dripping ruins of a hive city, this is a place holy to the Chapter and made divine by the grace of the God-Emperor. From a sealed stasis casket, the Chaplain draws out the Black Sword and Armour of Faith – the trappings of the Emperor's Champion. With great care, the attendant Chapter serfs will then dress the Battle-Brother as blessings are recited over each plate and seal. Tiny, spidery script is inscribed upon the armour, further protecting its wearer from harm; each one a benediction to the Emperor's might, and a promise of His divine protection.
Finally, once the visored helmet is placed upon his head, the newly anointed Emperor's Champion will heft the Black Sword, placing both hands on its long, heavy hilt and lifting it high into the air; the ritual is done and the Emperor's Champion is ready to begin his holy work.
Emperor's Champion Special Abilities
To be the Emperor's Champion is to be oath-bound to oppose the enemies of the Emperor in all things and at all times, to be a living manifestation of the Emperor's wrath, and to inspire others to acts of valour and righteous hatred against the enemies of Mankind. All of these things come naturally to the Adeptus Astartes, but the Emperor's Champion must take them further, vowing to perpetuate the Crusade that the Black Templars so fervently prosecute. The mantle of the Emperor's Champion is not without variation, for Astartes must be flexible in the manner of their wrath, delivering unto the Emperor's foes the most deserved death and, to this end, a number of traditional vows exist that serve to focus the hate and fury of the Champion and his Battle-Brothers. During the preparation stage of each mission, after Oath-Taking, the Emperor's Champion selects one of the following vows, which will confer upon him and his Battle-Brothers a variety of effects:
- Abhor the Witch, Destroy the Witch - The Champion cannot tolerate the continued existence of witches. He displays a far higher agility in combat, intent on coming to grips with his malefic foes, as well as a higher resistance to the effects of psychic powers used against him. If an Emperor's Champion leads a Deathwatch Kill-team, then all members of the team gain this ability.
- Accept Any Challenge, No Matter the Odds - The Champion cannot tolerate the continued existence of witches. When engaged in melee combat, the Emperor's Champion becomes overzealous in his efforts to strike down his foes, however, in doing so he does not readily defend himself. When leading a Deathwatch Kill-team, all members of the team gain the vow's effects.
- Suffer Not The Unclean To Live - While a single servant of the Emperor draws breath, none of His enemies can be permitted to endure. The Champion summons up greater reserves of strength with which to strike down his foes, granting him the ability to cause more damage when engaged in melee combat. However, this holy might takes time to muster, granting his enemies time to dodge and parry as they move to counter the Champion's slow-but-deadly strikes. If the Emperor's Champion is a Deathwatch Kill-team's leader, then all members of the team gain this vow's effects.
- Uphold the Honour of the Emperor - The Adeptus Astartes shall stand tall and proud in battle, never shrinking from conflict or danger. The Champion's faith in the Emperor and his own might allows him to stride unflinching through enemy fire. The Champion does not skulk or cower to elude the enemy's gaze, hiding behind cover or moving silently through the shadows, instead he shrugs off the blows of his foes as a result of his righteous zeal. If the Emperor's Champion is a Deathwatch Kill-team's leader, then all members of the team gain this vow's effects.
In battle, the Emperor's Champion fights alone. Even though he might stride through the ranks of his Battle-Brothers, he does not heed the orders of Captains nor share their objectives. He exists only to vanquish the most powerful foes of the Emperor, singling them out in personal combat and hewing them apart with felling blows from the Black Sword.
No warrior that has seen the Emperor's Champion in battle can deny that the God-Emperor is working through His faithful servant. Haloed by a faint glow of faith manifest, enemy bolts and bullets that would tear ordinary men apart seem to have no impact upon the champion. The blessed Battle-Brother walks across the field as if the hand of the Emperor shields him, shells ripping the earth and air to pieces in his wake, while he remains untouched. Even when a powerful blow or blast knocks the Emperor's Champion to the ground, he will haul himself to his feet, shaking debris from his armour to continue his charge into the foe.
The effect of the Emperor's Champion on a battle is undeniable, and many Black Templars Battle-Brothers believe that it is a blessing merely to fight beside one. While the champion does not follow orders from his former commanders, he answers to a greater power, and the Chapter is content to allow him to seek out specific enemies or war zones as guided by his visions. This is born out of the belief that the Emperor's Champion manifests for a reason, one that is beyond the ken of the Chapter Commanders but that is nonetheless important to victory. It is reasoned that the Emperor's Champion has been summoned to kill a potent foe or turn the tide of a vital conflict, and he alone knows what is required of him.
Ritual of the Black Blade
It is rare for the Emperor's Champion to live long beyond donning the Armour of Faith. Filled with divine courage, he will hurl himself into the thickest fighting or against the greatest enemy warlords, selling his life for the glory of his Chapter while taking scores of the foe with him. It is a doom that both Battle-Brother and Chapter accept as part of their covenant with the God-Emperor, the knowledge that great glory is won only with the blood of heroes.
When an Emperor's Champion falls, the Chapter's Chaplains will bear his body from the field of battle. In a ritual that honours his divine deeds, the Armour of Faith is removed, its seals broken and its prayers washed away with holy oils. The Black Sword is borne back to the Black Templars' Battle Barge Eternal Crusader and interned in its reliquary. Then, in an honouring ceremony, High Marshal Helbrecht listens to Chaplain Grimaldus tell him of the deeds of the Emperor's Champion while a venerable Chapter serf inscribes the Battle-Brother's name onto the blade. The ritual complete and the name having taken its place next to its predecessors, the blade is placed back into its stasis casket until another is chosen by the Emperor to claim it.
- Armour of Faith - The Armour of Faith is the traditional name given to the Artificer Power Armour gifted to the Emperor's Champion. Chosen from the finest artificer armour available to the Chapter and then inscribed with sacred wards and catechisms of hatred, the armour offers greater protection than any ordinary suit of power armour could, allowing the Emperor's Champion to complete his holy duty. Such is the protection of its wards that some blows and rounds are simply turned aside or flash to nothing in a blaze of divine power.
- The Black Sword - Paired with the Armour of Faith, the traditional weapon of the Emperor's Champion is the Black Sword. A massive two-handed Power Sword, blessed by the Chapter Chaplains, it becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of the chosen of the Black Templars. The Black Sword is one of the most exquisitely master-crafted weapons in the whole of the Imperium. It is perfectly balanced to allow it to be used either with a one-handed or two-handed grip. This allows the Emperor's Champion to either deliver a flurry of fast slashes and stabs or slower but much more damaging hacking blows to his opponents. The Black Templars Chapter possesses only ten of these sacred weapons in its armoury.
Notable Emperor's Champions
In the millennia since the first Emperor's Champion took up blade and armour with divine anger and righteous purpose, hundreds of Black Templars have borne the title. Most of these great Battle-Brothers did not live to see a second night after receiving their vision, though their names remain etched onto the Black Swords they carried, and their glorious memory endures:
- Alehart the Slayer - Champion of the Emperor in the year of 997.M41. When the Shimmering City of Mirlas fell under the shadow of Hive Fleet Leviathan, it was Alehart who stemmed the alien tide. In the second battle of the Heatwash, he slew the Tyrant overlord, choking it with his blade as it tried to devour his flesh. Not content to turn the tide of war, the champion led a small band of his Battle-Brothers aboard the Tyranid Hive Ship, hacking his way through tunnels webbed with grasping tendons and clawed sphincters. Alehart alone made it through the birthing stomachs and up the ropy spinal strands at the hive ship's core. Finally, the champion drove his Black Sword into the pulsing cortex of the beast, its death scream echoing across the system.
- Marius Amalrich - Marius Amalrich was a Marshal of the Black Templars Chapter of Space Marines who played a significant role in the final days of the 13th Black Crusade before the fall of Cadia, in the Celestinian Crusade that resurrected the Primarch Roboute Guilliman, and in the Terran Crusade Guilliman led to meet with his father the Emperor of Mankind on Holy Terra. After Guilliman's resurrection and the arrival of a new Black Templars Crusade at Macragge to support the efforts of the revived Primarch, Amalrich was recognised for his contributions and was named the Emperor's Champion by his Chapter's Chaplains. During a critical moment of the Terran Crusade aboard a Blackstone Fortress in the Warp rift called the Maelstrom, Amalrich stabbed the Bloodthirster Skarbrand the Exiled One through the chest with the Black Sword of the Emperor's Champion. Though this effort cost Amalrich his life, Guilliman exploited the wound to defeat the Greater Daemon of Khorne, escape from the trap set in the Maelstrom by Kairos Fateweaver and make his way to Terra.
- Reinhart - Reinhart was the Emperor's Champion during one of the Black Templar's many Crusades. Reinhart was the one who took the life of a Word Bearers' Sorcerer, named X'hal Urus of the Lords of Desolation, on the world of Sepharis Ultra.
- Renald the Retribution - Renald wore the mantle of the Emperor's Champion in the year of 301.M40. Renald was gifted with visions from the Emperor while gravely wounded and returning from the war zones of Helath. Renald was one of only a handful of Black Templars aboard the Space Marine Strike Cruiser Catechism of Fury. When the Fury's Gellar Field failed and the vessel was overrun by Daemons, Renald alone saved it from destruction. Bereft of Black Sword or Armour of Faith, and suffering festering injuries, the Emperor's Champion exacted a terrible tally upon the Daemons wielding only a Chainsword, until the Gellar field could be restored, and only then succumbing to his wounds. Though he never carried it in battle, a Black Sword was inscribed with his name to remember this great deed.
- Rynart the Unbowed - Rynart was the Champion of the Emperor in the year of 563.M38. On the storm-wracked world of Ismas, Rynart led the charge against the cursed Ork hordes of Warboss Slagrut. Astride his clanking, smoking war machine, the Ork leader assaulted the Imperial lines across the great Ismas Steam Bridge linking the vast central canal-cities together. Rynart walked across a river of xenos corpses to smite the alien warlord, his Black Sword smashing apart the pistons and gears of its war engine. In the end, only a blow against the bridge itself was enough and, rupturing the compression spire, Rynart sent the Ork warlord and his horde screaming into the black waters below.
- Torund the Thrice-Blessed - Champion of the Emperor in the year of 772.M39. When the cursed Sorcerer-Librarian Xenthuros claimed the Crystal Hives of Vard for his profane god, it was Torund that stood against him and prevailed. In the final Black Templars assault against Xenthuros' floating spire fortress, dozens of Battle-Brothers were driven mad by the mirrored buttresses and their hidden whisper-spells. Only Torund was untouched, three times Xenthuros tried to ensorcell the Emperor's Champion, and three times Torund spat back the enchantments with contempt. In the crystal throne room of the Sorcerer, Torund swept Xenthuros' bird-like head from his shoulders, the Black Sword cleaving through wards and Warp magick alike.
- Chapter Approved 2003, "The Emperor's Champion", pg. 76
- Codex: Armageddon (3rd Edition), pg. 22
- Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition), pg. 15
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pg. 108
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 118
- Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition)
- Deathwatch: Honour the Chapter (RPG), pp. 13-14
- Gathering Storm - Book One - Fall of Cadia (7th Edition), pp. 6-88, 96
- Gathering Storm - Part Three - Rise of the Primarch (7th Edition), pp. 4-70
- Index Astartes: Emperor's Champion (Digital Edition)
- White Dwarf 245 (US), "The Emperor's Champion" (leaf insert)
- The Emperor's Chosen (Digital Edition) by Mike Lee