The Hrafnkel was a highly modified Gloriana-class Battleship that served as the flagship of Leman Russ, the Primarch of the Space Wolves Legion, during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia.
The Hrafnkel was one of the oldest and largest Gloriana-class Battleships, surpassed only by the Vengeful Spirit, the Iron Blood and the Conqueror in size after its extensive reforging, an impression confirmed by ancient texts written by Imperial Remembrancers accompanying the VI Legion that described the scale of the Hrafnkel as incredible. If the smaller Escorts and fleet tenders of the Space Wolves' ancient fleet were blunt-nosed slabs like slices of mountain cliff, the principal Space Wolves capital ships were shockingly vast, veritable mountains in themselves.
Yet, the Hrafnkel was a slate-grey monster with a ploughshare prow that surpassed even those mighty vessels in scale and power. The Hrafnkel served as an apex predator, the alpha of the Space Wolves' fleet. The Hrafnkel is known to have transported the Wolf King Leman Russ when he led the vast flotilla that carried out the Scouring of Prospero, the sanctioned Imperial military reprisal against the Thousand Sons Legion's homeworld of Prospero at the start of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium.
This action was carried out by the Space Wolves Legion and elements of the Legio Custodes and the Sisters of Silence as a punishment for the Thousand Sons' flagrant violation of the Emperor of Mankind's edicts against the use of psychic powers and sorcery made at the Council of Nikaea. The Hrafnkel was seriously damaged during operations in the Alaxxes Nebula later in the Heresy when the Space Wolves were being chased by the fleet of the Alpha Legion, but still it endured, and ultimately met another Gloriana-class Battleship, the Alpha, in combat.
Though all Gloriana-class vessels followed a similar pattern of interior construction, the Space Wolves had made the ship their own as much as they possibly could. They tore it bloodily from the grasp of reason and refashioned it in their superstitious tribal image. Other Space Marine Legions favoured polished stone, gleaming metal and glass to line their halls. The Space Wolves covered the metal walls of their flagship with carved wood and bone sheets so large they could only have been harvested from monsters.
The greater halls had elaborate interiors of wolf-headed posts and wooden panelling decorated with entwined beasts whose contortions inevitably ended in the fanged mouths of their fellows. Even lesser hallways too unimportant for wholesale decoration acknowledged the barbaric character of the VI Legion: mossy rocks in bubbling pools of water, bunches of dried herbs tied up in bundles hanging from the ceiling, primitive weapons chained to the walls, as if imprisoned.
For all its size, the Hrafnkel had the atmosphere of a Fenrisian tribal chieftain's hall, giving the illusion of a savage kin's demesne. The air was scented with smoke and poorly preserved meat, herbs, burned fat, wet fur, and the hot, musky smell of animals sleeping in their dens. Its corridors were as likely to be lit by flickering torches as they were lumen strips or biolume panels. Fire bowls guttered in the suction winds of atmospheric recycler units, the walls behind them furred with soot. The Vlka Fenryka, the Space Wolves themselves, preferred the ship's interior to be dark, for they believed too much light dulled the senses.
The deck spaces of the Hrafnkel, vast as cityscapes, constantly heaved with activity. Hundreds of thousands of naval ratings, Space Wolves thralls and Servitors worked to status-sweep the colossal voidship from its last translation out of the Warp and prep it for the next immaterial transfer. Deck plates and interior struts were constantly examined and reinforced. Powerlines were tested. In some stretches of companionway, inspection plates would be lifted in forty or fifty-metre-long trenches. In the lofty arming chambers, veritable cathedrals of war, automated hoists raised payloads of void munitions from the armoured magazines to delivery points where gunnery trains coiled like sea-worms, waiting to thread the service arteries of the ship and deliver the titanic warheads to the Hrafnkel 's batteries.
Regiments of men, dwarfed by the arched vaults, would unpack weapons and lay them out in rows along the deck to be stripped and hand-checked before distribution to the troop contingents. The moaning shiver of the warship's vast engines would rise and fall, swelling and dying away, making the intensity of the deck lights rise and fall as its powerful Warp-Drive was tested.
Along the mighty vessel's spinal hallway, the great stem-to-stem thoroughfare that all grand Imperial starships possessed, below the towering windows, a transit monorail continuously ran with shushing haste, while ornate gates led to the palaces of astrotelepathy, astrogation, weapons control, the enginarium and other vast domains. Everywhere aboard, the sense of a primitive settlement remained strong. Every few hundred metres carved menhirs, their bases still dirty with alien soil, stood sentinel in recesses which in other Legions' ships statues might occupy.
Upon reaching the command spire, one would follow the vast corridor that led towards the Wolf's Hall, Leman Russ' throneroom. The long defensive corridor leading to the hall was lined solely with enormous sheets of ivory. This place was occupied by the Varagyr, who other men called the Wolf Guard. These heavily decorated Space Wolves Veterans stood guard outside the hall, though most Legionaries from visiting Legions would apply this term only loosely, because they often did not stand at rigid attention, but congregated in clumps of two or three, talking with each other in their uncouth Fenrisian tongue as loudly as revellers, seemingly inattentive to their task.
Though there was no sense of discipline to them at all, wiser folks knew this concealed a terrifying prowess in war. The Wolf King did not stand on ceremony and his warriors didn't do parades. The Space Wolves believed it better to be loyal and a little rough than polished drillmasters with treacherous hearts.
The command bridge of the vessel was a multi-levelled vault that reminded visitors of a palace's throne room. Despite its sheer size, the presence of the Primarch Leman Russ dominated the vast space. Officers and Servitors attended control positions wrought from brass and gold which encircled the great dome of the bridge and plugged into the bulkhead walls with fat braids of gilded cables, circuits and tubes. These extending fans of tubework made the consoles resemble giant pipe organs. To reinforce the mental image, most control positions had triple or quadruple sets of keyboards. The keys were made of bone, inlaid with instructional marks. Use and age had yellowed some. They looked like the grin of old teeth and the keys of a battered clavier.
Hololithic screens, many projected from overhead or underdeck emitters, turned the central part of the command area into a flickering picture gallery. The crew moved among the images, surrounding some for study, adjusting the data flow of others with finger touches of their reactive gloves. Some images were large, others small, or arranged in stacked series that could be flipped through with a deft gesture. A junior fleet officer would often slide a luminous rectangular map of fleet dispersal through the air for his superior's attention. Some of the slightly incandescent images would show topographical maps, contour overlays, positional guides or course computations. Others scrolled with constant feeds of written data, or showed, in small frames, real-time pict-links to the talking heads of other ship commanders of the Space Wolves' fleet as they reported in.
The air was filled with the constant mechanical chatter of machinery, the brittle stenographic clack of keys, the crackle of Voxed voice messages or Mechanicum vocalisers, the drone of background chatter. Command officers with cuffs and high collars stiff with gold braid would rasp orders into Vox-mics that were attached to the consoles by flex leads. Cherubs, giggling at private jokes, would buzz through the bridge hustle, carrying messages and communiqué pouches. Insectoid robotic remotes, as perfect and intricate as dragonflies, kept obedient station in the air at the shoulders of their Mechanicum masters, their wings droning in hover-mode at a disturbingly low vibrational threshold.
In the centre of the command bridge was a massive brass and silver armature, an instrument designed for complex celestial display and calculation. It resembled an orrery with its skeletal metal hemispheres and its surrounding discs and measuring orbits, but it was ten metres in diameter and grew out of the desk grille on a stand as thick as a tree trunk. Attendants manned small lectern consoles around it, tapping out adjustments that caused the main frame of it to turn, realign and spin in subtle measures.
The hemispheric theatre of the planetarium was often used to display a large-scale hololithic image of a target planet. The glowing topographical light map, three dimensional and rotating in an authentic orbital spin showed day and nightside and was contained inside the moving, spherical cage of the brass instrument. Smaller side projections hung in the air, enlarging particular surface details, and various declinations, aspectarians, and astronomical ephemerides. As an individual got closer, they would see that the vast image was actually a mosaic compiled from thousands of separate detailed pict scans, a work composition that suggested a vast effort of careful and systematic intelligence gathering.
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by by Dan Abnett, pp. 327-330
- Wolf King (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Wolfsbane (Novella) by Guy Haley