"My sons, the galaxy is burning. We all bear witness to a final truth -- our way is not the way of the Imperium. You have never stood in the Emperor’s light. Never worn the Imperial eagle. And you never will. You shall stand in midnight clad, your claws forever red with the lifeblood of my father’s failed empire, warring through the centuries as the talons of a murdered god. Rise, my sons, and take your wrath across the stars, in my name. In my memory. Rise, my Night Lords."
- — The Primarch Konrad Curze, at the final gathering of the VIII Legion
Konrad Curze, better known as Night Haunter, was one of the 20 superhuman Primarchs created by the Emperor of Mankind in the late 30th Millennium and was the commander of the Traitor Legion of Chaos Space Marines known as the Night Lords. Night Haunter was tortured all his life by terrible, dark visions of the future, and this generated a level of psychic anguish and despair that set him apart from his fellow Primarchs. His psyche damaged by the difficulties of his early life, Curze never recovered his psychic balance and sought only oblivion from the pain of his reality. He was a brutal warrior who believed in the use of fear as the most potent weapon against one's foes, and he taught his Astartes to be as brutal and savage as necessary to put down the enemy. Night Haunter did not enjoy his role as an Imperial war leader and was the only one of the Primarchs who showed little affection for the Space Marines of the VIII Legion that had been created from his genetic template. He was slain, some believe willingly, by the Callidus Assassin M'Shen on the world of Tsagualsa in the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy immediately following the end of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium. His VIII Legion, without his leadership, then broke up into competing warbands and fled into the Eye of Terror with the rest of the Traitor Legions.
The child that would come to be known as Konrad Curze was first recorded in Imperial records when his gestation capsule penetrated through the surface and into the core of the night-shrouded world of Nostramo following the Primarchs' mysterious abduction through the Warp from the Emperor of Mankind's gene-laboratories on Terra as a result of the efforts of the Chaos Gods. Nostramo was a human-settled world that circled a dying sun whose light now only barely reached the world, leaving it trapped in perpetual darkness. The crust of Nostramo bore high quantities of the strategic mineral adamantium, which provided the basis of the planet's immense mining and refining industries and supported the economies of its large hive cities. The vast majority of the planet's population lived in abject poverty, toiling in the mines while the rich grew in affluence, exploiting the already downtrodden workers. Crime ran mostly unchecked, depression was inescapable because of the constant darkness, and overpopulation was kept in check more by suicide than by any other measure. Unlike many of the other Primarchs, Konrad Curze was not taken in by any family and was left to raise himself in the vast underhive of the largest hive city on the planet, Nostramo Quintus. He spent his early life surviving off his wits and determination, feeding himself by hunting the feral animals that roamed through the vast hive city of Nostramo Quintus. He was continually plagued by visions of the darkest possible future, horrifyingly potent waking dreams that would curse him throughout his life.
During his short youth, Curze was pitched into a destructive cycle of persecution and murder, focusing on the criminal elements of Nostramo's society. His vigilante actions began small, intervening when he witnessed something he believed to be wrong, but rapidly escalating into hunting down those he believed had committed transgressions. At first, several people prominent within Nostramo Quintus' corrupt civic hierarchy disappeared. Leaders of the most vocal opposition to the status quo vanished in similar circumstances. Bodies of known criminals began to appear, gutted like fish by some cruel assailant. Corrupt officials were found hung from high windows. Body parts blocked storm water drains. Many of the corpses found were so horribly beaten by their assailant that identification was impossible. Within the year, the crime rate of Nostramo Quintus fell to near-zero.
The Night Haunter eventually called upon the nobility of Nostramo who had survived his vigilante purge to give into his demands. He explained his actions and the reasons behind them. He had learned how the hearts and minds of the people of Nostramo functioned. With this lore, he had helped raise them above their savage natures, taking on the burden of sin that his people may be sinless. Though he had brought peace and order, it was at the cost of freedom. Every sin was punished by death, no matter the crime. No matter the scale of the sin. The people lived in silence, lest a single word earned them death for speaking out against him. The Night Haunter had ushered in the peace of the graveyard. Peace, at the cost of surrendering all choice, all freedom. But Curze wanted more, he wanted more from city of Notramo Quintus. More from its people and more from the world he called home. He would be their king, their dark king, becoming the first monarch of Nostramo.
A Dark King
Nostraman society underwent massive changes under the rule of the Konrad Curze, the most notable of which was the self-imposed curfew that came into being. Mothers began to threaten children that if they continued to misbehave, the Night Haunter would come for them. This term quickly came into common usage, describing a dark creature that stalked the city, ready to disembowel anyone it believed to be a criminal or heretic with dirty, razor-sharp talons. Curze saw hope for the inhabitants of his world. He had become the only object of fear and hate within the city. He assimilated knowledge almost greedily, and became considered a fair and temperate, if absolute, ruler, until word of some injustice reached his ears. He would then hunt the guilty through the streets, wearing them down and then killing and mutilating them. The unpredictable pattern of benevolent wisdom and hideous vengeance ushered in a new level of efficiency and honesty. The other hive cities around the planet followed suit, in an attempt to keep the Night Haunter from their doors.
After a few decades he no longer had to hunt as the passing years had stolen the need. Curze's city had become a silent hive, illuminated by the light of progress. No crime, no sin, had been committed in decades. The last vestiges of anarchy and resistance had died out soon after he began to broadcast his mutilations across the city via the picter interfaces available in every home, transmitting his victims' screaming over the planetary communications network. Those executions, recorded in his throne room, ended what little crime remained. His people knew their ruler would take to the streets in vengeance at the slightest provocation. In their fear, the last souls holding out finally accepted the salvation he offered them. Nostramo continued to trade its abundance of adamantium with the worlds in neighbouring star systems, which they had done for generations, though under the Night Haunter's kingship, planetary exports rose to unparalleled levels, as did the profits of such endeavour. The city's foundries and forge fires burned hotter, the refineries and processing plants spread across the urban sprawl, and the mines clawed ever deeper into Nostramo's priceless crust.
Coming of the Emperor
Curze foresaw the coming of his father, the Emperor of Mankind, for he knew all things. The answers came to him as they always did: in his dreams. Now master of his world, he found his post-mortal senses sharpening beyond anything he had ever imagined possible. He knew, on some voiceless level, he was becoming something, ripening, maturing into whatever he was born to be. The Emperor had watched the way that Nostramo worked from His divine auguries. The citizens were clean and efficient, working towards a common good with determination and silence. The night-shrouded streets were completely empty as the entire planet slept. Though they lived in ignorance of the glory of the Imperium of Man, the Dark King undoubtedly possessed great authority and was able to command unquestioning respect and had moulded his society into a model of productivity -- matchless productivity, natural conformity and total obedience.
A short time into the reign of Night Haunter as Nostramo's "benevolent" dictator, the Emperor's Great Crusade finally reached the outskirts of the Nostraman star system. The coming of the Emperor of Mankind was an event that had been prophesied in Nostramo's history: an event that would lead to the planet's downfall. The Emperor landed on Nostramo, and led an Imperial delegation to the centre of Nostramo Quintus on foot. The citizens of Nostramo, adapted to the near-constant darkness, could not bear to look upon the sheer radiance of the Emperor. The city wept at the Delegation of Light, weeping collectively, every man, woman and child gathered in the streets, their pale faces staring at the strangers in their midst, as the sky was brightened by the false stars of voidship engines.
Most wept as the healing light the Emperor projected reflected off the rain-slicked streets into their faces. The strangers walked in a slow, regal parade. The ground trembled, quite literally, with their rhythmic tread. They walked in great, grinding phalanxes, different formations wearing armour of black, of gold, of royal purple or earthen grey. Giants led them. Giants towering above their warriors, just as their warriors towered above mortal men. Leading the giants was a sun incarnated in human skin; a god in a man's flesh; his soul-fire uncontainable in a sheath of flesh and bone. Those brave enough to look upon Him directly were blinded for daring to gaze at His radiant countenance. Those afflicted spent the rest of their lives sightless but for the image of the living god flash-flamed into their dead retinas. At the end of the broad road leading to Night Haunter's palace at the city's heart, the Primarch stood, waiting for the delegation to approach.
The army of strangers ceased as one, every single one of the quarter-million soldiers standing motionless in the same moment. The four giants stepped forwards. The blazing god led them. The first demigod, clad in wrought gold, inclined his white-haired head in majestic acknowledgement -- a king greeting an equal. He introduced himself as Rogal Dorn. The Night Haunter said nothing, but in his mind's eye, he saw the giant die, dragged down by a hundred murderers in a dark tunnel, their knives and swords wet with the warrior's blood. The second giant wore armour of patterned grey, etched with ten thousand words, as if a scholar had taken a quill to a stone. He nodded his shaven, tattooed head, likewise inked with scripture -- the lettering gold upon the tanned skin. He introduced himself as Lorgar Aurelian, his voice a hymn where Dorn's had been a measured, stately demand. There was sorrow in his otherwise kind eyes -- sorrow at the dark city, its unhealthy people, the obviousness of their colourless, exhausting lives.
Again, the Night Haunter said nothing. He saw this warrior crowned in psychic fire, screaming up at a burning sky. The third giant wore armour of riveted, dense black. His arms were solid silver, yet contoured and moving as living limbs. His voice was the steely grind of a foundry’s bowels. He introduced himself as Ferrus Manus. His eyes were dark, but not cold. The Night Haunter remained silent, seeing within his mind an image of the future in which this warrior's head was clutched by its empty eye sockets in another man's armoured fingers. The last giant wore armour painted the violet of an alien sunset. His hair was silvery, long and elegant. He alone smiled, and he alone met the Night Haunter’s eyes with warmth in his own. He introduced himself as Fulgrim. The Night Haunter still said nothing. In the future that played out over and over, he saw this final giant in only the faintest of images; always slithering and laughing, never entirely visible.
At last, the golden god Himself stepped forwards, His arms wide open. He drew to speak, but as He did, Curze succumbed to a vision so potent and horrifying that he went to his knees and tried to claw his own eyes out, but was stopped by the Emperor. He felt a hand upon his head, the excruciating pain died in a pulse, restoring his sanity in a moment of mercy. The Night Haunter then looked up to see the golden god, faceless and ageless, resolve into the image of a man. The following words were recorded for posterity by those who witnessed this fateful meeting and still echo with terrible import across the gulf of time:
"Be at peace, Konrad Curze. I have arrived, and I intend to take you home."
"That is not my name, father. My people gave me a name, and I will bear it until my dying day. And I know full well what you intend for me."
Night Haunter quickly adapted to the teachings of the Imperium, studying the complex doctrines of the Legiones Astartes under the Primarch Fulgrim's tutelage. Night Haunter was soon accepted as the leader of the VIII Space Marine Legion that had been created from his genome, which he named the Night Lords. Although Curze and his Legion excelled in many theatres of war, a tendency soon became apparent that the idea of negotiation and parley was completely alien to him. It simply did not occur to him to use anything other than complete and decisive force against his enemies. The Primarch believed that such tactics not only destroyed the transgressor, but made sure that his confederates would remain obedient due to fear of reprisal. The Night Lords used any means available to crush their foes, and killed without a second thought. They were utterly ruthless and without pity or remorse, often razing entire continents to defeat their opponents. These tendencies spread quickly throughout the Night Lords' upper echelons until it was accepted without question. Over the first few years, the Night Lords were molded by their Primarch into an efficient, humourless force, possessing the fanatical thoroughness of Witch Hunters. Night Haunter even encouraged his sons to adorn their armour with portents of death and violence, including winged skulls, death masks, and the shrunken heads of their victims, graven images designed to inspire fear and dread in the enemy. This tactic proved to be incredibly effective. Soon, rumours of the impending presence of the Night Lords would cause a star system to pay all outstanding Imperial tithes, cease all illegal activities and put to death any mutants and suspected heretics.
As it became necessary to recruit additional Space Marines to replace those who fell in battle, Neophytes were brought from Nostramo to fill the gaps in the VIII Legion's ranks. However, the planet had fallen back into its corrupt and decadent ways soon after the Night Haunter's departure, and only the strongest and most ruthless Nostraman criminals were now fit to join the Night Lords. Amoral and vicious, they served only to further poison the VIII Legion and push it to increasing levels of cruelty that made Curze's fellow Primarchs grow uneasy. Night Haunter began to lose some of the control he held over his Legion, and the prescient visions that plagued him increased in both lucidity and quantity. Curze continued to be plagued with visions of his own death and of his Legion fighting its brother Astartes. As his mental anguish grew, so did his Legion’s dark reputation.
Learning of the fate of his homeworld, Night Haunter tried to confide in his brother Primarchs, but had never been close to them, and their reaction was less than favourable to his claims. Events reached a head following the pacification of the Cheraut System, a joint-Imperial Compliance action conducted by the Night Lords, Emperor's Children and Imperial Fists Legions. Suffering from one of his violent fits, Fulgrim rushed to Curze's aid. The Night Lords Primarch then confided in his brother of the dire visions that he had seen; his death at the hands of their father, that many of the Primarchs would die fighting amongst themselves, and that the light the Emperor brought to his homeworld of Nostromo would destroy it forever. Troubled by these dire portents, Fulgrim confided in his brother Rogal Dorn. Dorn took exception to this slight on the Emperor's name and confronted Curze. Shortly thereafter, Dorn was found unconscious and bleeding with great gouges of flesh ripped away from his torso. Crouching above his fallen brother was the pallid form of the Night Haunter, weeping. Wracked with self-loathing and guilt, Curze was taken into custody and exiled to his chambers, while his brother Primarchs discussed what actions to take against their deeply disturbed brother. Hours later, when the council of Primarchs finally disbanded, they found Night Haunter missing and the Imperial Fists' Huscarl Honour Guard that had been watching over him butchered. By the time the Primarchs gave chase, Night Haunter had already disappeared with his Legion into the Warp.
Death of Nostromo
Without the supernatural skill and incredible prescience of the Emperor's Primarchs, many of Night Haunter's pursuers could have been lost that day as the rogue vessels delved deep into the heart of the Empyrean. The journey, malleable within the Warp, may have taken hours or months; no reliable records exist. But one thing was certain, despite their valiant pursuit, Kurze's brothers arrived too late. As they arrived in-system, they found the Night Lords' fleet orbiting Nostromo, hundreds of weapons trained on the shrouded planet. Then simultaneously, the Lances and mass drivers of Night Haunter's flagship Nightfall opened fire upon the planet. Beam after beam of incandescent light joined the fusillade, all concentrating upon the same point, a weak spot in Nostramo's adamantium crust theorised to be left by the Primarch's initial landing in his gestation pod when he first arrived on the bleak world. The lasers of the Night Lords' warships focused a blinding lance of pure energy into the planet's core, and with a cataclysmic explosion, the dark planet burst apart.
After this atrocity, Curze and his Legion left a trail of violence and atrocity across the sectors they conquered. They now killed merely for the sake of causing pain and suffering, while spreading fear and death in their wake. The Night Haunter also began to change, denouncing the Emperor of Mankind as a weakling and a hypocrite, and transforming into a hunched and terrible predator. Many believe it was during this period that the Primarch began to heed the whispered temptations of Chaos.The campaigns of the Night Lords became less justifiable, little more than terror campaigns that left behind devastated worlds across the galaxy. Night Haunter no longer crusaded in the Emperor's name, instead fighting only in the name of death and fear. Eventually, the Emperor was forced to order the recall of Night Haunter to answer charges laid against him and his warriors by the other Primarchs and the citizens of various worlds that had felt the terrible onslaught of the Night Lords Legion. But before the Night Lords reached Terra, a new crisis for the Imperium erupted. When the Horus Heresy broke out at Istvaan III, Night Haunter was quick to swear his Legion to the service of the Warmaster Horus as he felt that the Emperor was a hypocrite to condemn him for his brutality even as the Imperium of Man expanded as a result of the forced reunification of humanity under the Emperor's banner.
Drop Site Massacre
After the news of the Istvaan III Atrocity was brought to the Emperor by the Loyalists aboard the Death Guard Frigate Eisenstein, He ordered the combined forces of seven Space Marine Legions to assault the positions of Horus and his Traitor Legions in the Istvaan System. Horus had decided to make his stand on the surface of Istvaan V. The Imperium of Man had sent 7 Legions to kill its wayward scion, little knowing that four of them had already spat on their oaths of allegiance to the Imperial Throneworld and its master. The Fidelitas Lex, Lorgar's flagship, played host to a secret gathering of rare significance. There were commanders from the Night Lords, Alpha Legion, Iron Warriors as well as three additional Primarchs: Night Haunter, Alpharius and Perturabo. Lorgar strode to the centre of the gathering of Traitors. He proceeded to impress upon the gathering of his sons, brothers and cousin Astartes the importance of their cause, and of the significance this day would hold in history. The Word Bearers and their allies believed that the Imperium had failed them by being flawed to its core, imperfect in its pursuit of a perfect culture, and in its weakness against the encroachment of xenos breeds that sought to twist humanity to alien ends. And it had failed them, most of all, by being founded upon the lies of rationalism and atheism that defined the Imperial Truth. The Imperium had been forged under the aegis of a dangerous deceit, demanding that its citizens and their defenders sacrifice truth on the altar of necessity. This was an empire that deserved to die. And on Istvaan V the purge would begin.
From the ashes Lorgar promised would rise the new kingdom of Mankind: an Imperium of justice, faith and enlightenment. An Imperium heralded, commanded and protected by the avatars of the Chaos Gods themselves. An empire strong enough to stand through a future of blood and fire. Now the Traitors would declare their intentions openly. There would be no more manipulating fleet movements and falsifying expeditionary data. Now the Alpha Legion, the Word Bearers, the Iron Warriors and the Night Lords would stand together with their comrades in the Sons of Horus, World Eaters, Emperor's Children and Death Guard Legions – bloodied but unbowed beneath the flag of the Warmaster Horus, the rightful second Emperor of Mankind. The true Emperor. When Lorgar had finished speaking, First Captain Sevatar of the Night Lords Legion declared, "Death to the False Emperor!" In so doing, he became the first living soul to utter those words that would echo from the throats of countless others through the millennia of the Long War that was to come. The cry was taken up by other voices, and soon it was cried in full-throated roars, "Death to the False Emperor! Death to the False Emperor! Death! Death! Death!"
The Traitor forces composed of the World Eaters, Death Guard, Sons of Horus and Emperor's Children deployed throughout the defences constructed along the ridge of the Urgall Depression, making ready for the howling storm of battle that was soon to descend upon them. Behind them, long range support squads manned the walls of the fortress, and Traitor Army artillery pieces waited to shower any attacker with high explosive death. The Legio Mortis Imperator-class Titan Dies Irae stood before the wall, its colossal guns primed and ready to visit destruction on the enemies of the Warmaster. Nearly 30,000 Astartes hunkered down on the northern edge of the Urgall, their guns ready and their hearts steeled to the necessity of what must come. For long minutes, the forces of the Emperor that had moved into orbit over Istvaan V pounded the Urgall Plateau from orbit, a firestorm of unimaginable ferocity hammering the surface of Istvaan V with the power of the world’s end. Eventually, the horrific bombardment ceased and the drifting echoes of its power faded, along with the acrid smoke of explosions, but the Emperor’s Children had performed perfectly in creating a network of defences from which to face their former brothers, and the forces of the Warmaster had been well-protected. From his vantage point in the ruins of an alien-built keep, Horus smiled, and watched the sky darken once again as thousands upon thousands of Drop Pods and Stormbirds streaked through the atmosphere towards the planet’s surface to carry out the initial Loyalist assault.
The first wave was under the overall command of the Primarch Ferrus Manus and besides his own Iron Hands Legion, the Salamanders led by Vulkan and the Raven Guard under the command of their Primarch Corax joined him. Vulkan's Legion assaulted the left flank of the Traitors' battle line while Ferrus Manus, the Iron Hands' First Captain Gabriel Santor, and 10 full companies of elite Morlocks Terminators charged straight into the centre of the enemy lines. Meanwhile, Corax's Legion hit the right flank of the enemy's position. The odds were considered equal: 30,000 Traitor Marines against 40,000 Loyalists. Horus was aware of the location of the Loyalists' chosen drop site and his troops fell upon the Loyalist Legions. The battlefield of Istvaan V was a slaughterhouse of epic proportions. Treacherous warriors twisted by hatred fought their former brothers-in-arms in a conflict unparalleled in its bitterness. The mighty Titan war engines of the Machine God walked the planet’s surface and death followed in their wake. The blood of heroes and traitors flowed in rivers, and the hooded Heretek Adepts of the Dark Mechanicum unleashed perversions of ancient technology stolen from the Auretian Technocracy to wreak bloody havoc amongst the Loyalists. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Traitors had been slaughtered in the opening moments of the assault. All across the Urgall Depression, hundreds died with every passing second, the promise of inevitable death a pall of darkness that hung over every warrior. Thousands were dying every minute, the slaughter terrible to behold. Blood ran in rivers down the slopes of the Urgall Depression, carving thick, sticky runnels in the dark sand. Such destruction had never yet been concentrated in such a horrifically confined space, enough martial power to conquer an entire planetary system having been unleashed in a line less than twenty kilometres wide.
The slaughter continued unabated, on a scale never before seen, with neither side able to press home their advantages. The Traitors were well dug-in and had defensible positions, but the Loyalists had landed almost directly on top of them with numerical superiority. The bloodletting was a truly horrific sight as warriors who had once sworn great oaths of loyalty to one another fought their brothers with nothing but hatred in their hearts. No Legion fared well in the slaughter, as the scale of the fighting rendered tactics meaningless as the two armies battered each other bloody in a remorseless conflict that threatened to destroy them all. The Traitor forces held, but their line was bending beneath the fury of the first Loyalist assault. It would take only the smallest twists of fate for it to break. The forces on the surface were in combat for almost three hours with no clear victor emerging. The Loyalists waited for the second wave of "allies" to make planetfall, believing they would be reinforced for their final advance. The Traitors all knew the parts they had to play in this deadly performance. They were all aware of the blood they needed to shed to install Horus as the Master of Mankind.
Though the Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders had managed to make a full combat drop and secure the Loyalist drop site, known as the Urgall Depression, they did so at a heavy cost. What had begun as a massed strike against the Traitors’ position was rapidly turning into one of the largest engagements of the entire Great Crusade. All told, over 60,000 Astartes warriors clashed on the dusky plains of Istvaan V. For all the wrong reasons, this battle was soon to go down in the annals of Imperial history as one of the most epic confrontations ever fought.
The Urgall Depression was churned to ruination beneath the boots and tank treads of countless thousands of Astartes warriors and their Legion’s armour divisions. The Loyalist Primarchs could be found where the fighting was thickest: Corax of the Raven Guard, borne aloft on black wings bound to a fire-breathing flight pack; Lord Ferrus of the Iron Hands at the heart of the battlefield, his silver hands crushing any Traitors that came within reach, while he pursued and dragged back those who sought to withdraw; and lastly, Vulkan of the Salamanders, armoured in overlapping Artificer plating, thunder clapping from his warhammer as it pounded into yielding armour, shattering it like porcelain.
The traitorous Primarchs slew in mirror image to their brothers: Angron of the World Eaters hewing with wild abandon as he raked his Chainaxes left and right, barely cognizant of who fell before him; Fulgrim of the lamentably-named Emperor’s Children, laughing as he deflected the clumsy sweeps of Iron Hands warriors, never stopping in his graceful movements for even a moment; Mortarion of the Death Guard, in disgusting echo of ancient Terran myth, harvesting life with each reaving sweep of his great Warscythe.
And then there was Horus Lupercal, the Warmaster of the Imperium, the brightest star and greatest of the Emperor’s sons. He stood watching the destruction while his Legions took to the field, their liege lord content in his fortress rising from the far edge of the ravine. He was shielded and unseen by his brothers still waging war in the Emperor’s name. At last, above this maelstrom of grinding ceramite, booming tank cannons and chattering Bolters -- the gunships, Drop Pods and assault landers of the second Loyalist wave burned through the atmosphere on screaming thrusters. The sky fell dark as the weak sun was eclipsed by ten thousand avian shadows, and the cheering roar sent up by the Loyalists at the arrival of their comrades was loud enough to shake the air itself. Like fiery comets from the heavens, the thrusters of countless drop-ships, landers and assault craft broke through the fire-shot clouds of smoke and descended to the Loyalist landing zone on the northern edge of the Urgall Depression. Hundreds of Stormbirds and Thunderhawks roared towards the surface, their armoured hulls gleaming as the power of another four Legiones Astartes came to Istvaan, their heroic names legendary, their mighty deeds known the length and breadth of the galaxy: the Alpha Legion, Word Bearers, Night Lords, and Iron Warriors.
The Traitors, the bloodied and battered Legions loyal to Horus, fell into a fighting withdrawal without hesitation. Overwhelmed with rage, the headstrong Ferrus Manus disregarded the counsel of his brothers Corax and Vulkan and hurled himself against the fleeing rebels, seeking to bring Fulgrim to personal combat. His veteran troops -- comprising the majority of the X Legion's Terminators and Dreadnoughts -- followed.
The second wave of "Loyalist" Space Marine Legions descended upon the landing zone on the northern edge of the Urgall Depression. Hundreds of Stormbirds and Thunderhawks roared towards the surface, their armoured hulls gleaming as the power of another four Astartes Legions arrived on Istvaan V. Yet the Space Marine Legions of the reserve were no longer loyal to the Emperor, having already secretly sworn themselves to Chaos and the cause of Horus. The Night Lords of Konrad Curze, the Iron Warriors of Perturabo, the Word Bearers of Lorgar Aurelian, and the Alpha Legion of Alpharius represented a force larger than that which had first begun the assault on Istvaan V. The secret Traitor Legions mustered in the landing zone, armed and ready for battle, unbloodied and fresh.
The Iron Warriors had claimed the highest ground, taking the Loyalist landing site with all the appearance of reinforcing it through the erection of prefabricated plasteel bunkers. Bulk landers dropped the needed battlefield architecture: dense metal frames fell from the cargo claws of carrier ships at low altitude, and as the platforms crashed and embedded themselves in the ground, the craftsmen-warriors of the IV Legion worked, affixed, bolted and constructed them into hastily-rising firebases. Turrets rose from their protective housing in the hundreds, while hordes of lobotomised Servitors trundled from the holds of Iron Warriors troopships, single-minded in their intent to link with the weapons systems’ interfaces. The Word Bearers bolstered their brother Legions on one flank of the Urgall Depression while the Night Lords took positions on the opposite side. Down the line, past the mounting masses of Iron Warriors battle tanks and assembling Astartes, First Captain Sevatar of the Night Lords and his 1st Company elite, the Atramentar, took up defensive positions. Both the Word Bearers and the Night Lords were to be the anvil, while the Iron Warriors would be the hammer yet to fall. The enemy would stagger back to them, exhausted, clutching empty Bolters and broken blades, believing their presence to be a reprieve.
Dragging their wounded and dead behind them, Corax and Vulkan led their forces back to the drop site to regroup and to allow the warriors of their recently arrived brother Primarchs of the second wave a measure of the glory in defeating Horus. Though they Voxed hails requesting medical aid and supply, the line of newly-arrived Astartes atop the northern ridge remained grimly silent as the exhausted warriors of the Raven Guard and Salamanders came to within a hundred metres of their allies. It was then that Horus revealed his perfidy and sprung his lethal trap. Inside the black alien fortress where Horus had made his lair, a lone flare shot skyward, exploding in a hellish red glow that lit the battlefield below. The fire of betrayal roared from the barrels of a thousand guns, as the second wave of Astartes revealed where their true loyalties now lay. The Loyalists' supposed "allies" opened fire upon the Salamanders and Raven Guard, killing hundreds in the fury of the first few moments, hundreds more in the seconds following, as volley after volley of Bolter fire and missiles scythed through their unsuspecting ranks. Even as terrifying carnage was being wreaked upon the Loyalists below, the retreating forces of the Warmaster turned and brought their weapons to bear on the enemy warriors within their midst. Hundreds of World Eaters, Sons of Horus and Death Guard Astartes fell upon the veteran companies of the Iron Hands, and though the warriors of the X Legion continued to fight gallantly, they were hopelessly outnumbered and would soon be hacked to pieces. The Iron Hands had damned themselves by remaining in the field instead of retreating like their fellows.
The Raven Guard's front ranks went down as if scythed, harvested in a spilling line of detonating Bolter shells, shattered armour and puffs of bloody mist. Black-armoured Astartes tumbled to their hands and knees, only to be cut down by the sustained volley, finishing those who fell beneath the initial storm of head- and chest-shots. Seconds after the first chatter of Bolters, achingly bright laser beams slashed from behind the Word Bearers as the cannon mounts of Land Raiders, Predators and defensive bastion turrets gouged through the Raven Guard and the ground they stood upon. The Iron Warriors and Word Bearers kept reloading, opening fire again, hurling grenades and then preparing to fall back. The Word Bearers Legion had taken up landing positions on the west of the field, ready to sweep down and engage the Raven Guard from the flank.
Taking stock of their dire situation, the Primarchs Corax and Vulkan differed over how to salvage what they could from the situation. The Salamanders' Primarch suggested that the Loyalists attempt to make a tactical withdrawal to their respective drop ships and dig in to resist any further attacks. Corax advocated instead that the Loyalists should do whatever they could to make good their escape from the slaughter as the battle was lost. Neither Primarch could agree with the other, and so Corax turned from Vulkan and ordered his Legion to retreat. A short while later, a direct artillery strike hit the Primarchs' position. By the grace of the Emperor, Corax somehow managed to survive, but the fate of his brother Vulkan was unknown.
Amidst the carnage and the slaughter, Lord Corax, Primarch of the Raven Guard charged into the ranks of the Traitorous Word Bearers, a blur of charcoal armour and black blades, butchering with an ease that belied his ferocity. Soon the voices of dying Word Bearers became a conflicting chorus over the Vox as they screamed for help. Soon the raven met the heretic in a clash of crozius and claw. The Primarchs fought in furious combat -- Corax fighting to kill, while Lorgar fought to stay alive. Corax lashed out furiously with his pair of Lightning Claws across Lorgar's face, cutting the meat of his cheeks deeply. Even should Lorgar somehow manage to escape his ultimate fate this day, he would bear these scars until the day he died.
The two Primarchs traded vicious blows, but the Raven Lord had the advantage not only of speed and finesse, but of also being a penultimate warrior with decades of fighting experience. Lorgar did not, for he had always been more of a scholar than a warrior, and his lack of experience cost him dearly as Corax impaled Lorgar through his stomach, the tips of his metre-long talons glinting to the side of his spine as they thrust out his back. Such a blow meant little to a primarch – only when Corax heaved upwards did Lorgar stagger. The claws bit and cut, sawing through the Word Bearer’s body. Lorgar fell to his knees, hands clutched over the ruination of his stomach. As Corax stepped closer, he raised his one functioning claw to execute his brother. Lorgar screamed his defiance at the raven. As the claw fell, it struck opposing metal.
Corax looked to meet eyes as black as his, in a face as pale as his own. His claw strained against a mirroring weapon, both sets of blades scraping as they ground against each other. One claw seeking to fall and kill, the other unyielding in its rising defence. Where the Raven Guard Primarch’s features were fierce with effort, the other face wore a grin. It was a smile both taut and mirthless -- a dead man’s smile, once his lips surrendered to rigor mortis. It was the Night Haunter. Corax sought to wrench his claw free, but Curze’s second gauntlet closed on his brother’s wrist, so that Corax would be unable to fly away and escape his fate. Curze looked upon his prostrate brother and ordered him to rise from his knees, disgusted at his cowardice. Corax was not idle as this exchange took place. He fired his flight pack, burning his fuel reserves to escape Curze’s grip. The Raven Lord’s claw ripped free, and Corax soared skyward, carried on jet thrust away from Curze’s rising laughter. Curze then shoved Lorgar back towards his Word Bearers.
Though grievously wounded, Lorgar would live. The Traitors had carried the day and dealt the Emperor and the Imperium a grievous blow. As the Horus Heresy began in earnest, Horus now possessed nine Space Marine Legions and had all but destroyed three of the remaining nine Loyalist Legions. The path to Terra was wide open, and the decisive Battle of Terra and the Siege of the Imperial Palace would follow after seven more years of blood and terror as the Traitor Legions penetrated to the very heart of the Imperium of Man.
Following the victory of the Drop Site Massacre, Horus called a meeting of the Primarchs of all 8 of the Traitor Legions aboard his flagship, the Vengeful Spirit. Five of the Primarchs, including four who had fought at Istvaan V, met in person, including Horus, Fulgrim, Angron, Mortarion and Lorgar. Three appeared through the use of hololithic emitters that transmitted their signals through the Warp, including Perturabo, Night Haunter and Magnus the Red, who had only recently joined the Traitors after the Scouring of Prospero when the broken remains of his XV Legion had been transported by Tzeentch into the Eye of Terror to the Planet of the Sorcerers. The Thousand Sons, bitter at what they perceived as their betrayal by the Emperor, now willingly became the eighth Traitor Legion. The council of Traitor Primarchs made their plans for the next step in their war against the Emperor and then each Legion went its way according to its assigned role. The Night Haunter’s fleet had already departed, bound for the planet of Tsagualsa, a remote world in the Eastern Fringe that lay shrouded in the shadow of a great asteroid belt. From there, the Night Lords’ terror troops would begin a campaign of genocide against the Imperial strongholds of Heroldar and Thramas, star systems that, if not taken, would leave the flanks of the Warmaster’s strike on Terra vulnerable to attack. This campaign would also delay the Dark Angels Legion from reinforcing the Loyalists. The Thramas System was of particular importance, as it comprised a number of Mechanicus Forge Worlds whose loyalty was still to the Emperor.
This bitterly contested campaign dragged on for nearly three standard years. In an attempt to sway his brother Lion El'Jonson to Horus' cause, the Night Haunter left a deep-void beacon in the patrol path of one of the Dark Angels' outrider vessels. The beacon was set to transmit coordinates in advance, so that the two Primarchs could meet and parley on the planet of Tsagualsa. Night Haunter wanted to break his former brother either mentally, physically or both to obtain his objectives. The Primarchs were accompanied by two warriors from their personal Honour Guards to the parley. The meeting began amicably enough between the two as they conversed with relative civility. This amity lasted only until the Night Haunter slandered El'Jonson, and in return the Lion struck his former brother. This melee further degenerated into an all-out brawl between the two sides. As the Night Haunter strangled the life out of El'Jonson, one of the Dark Angels Honour Guardsmen ran his sword through the Night Haunter's back, saving his Primarch's life. Eventually both Legions sent reinforcements in response to this incident. Each side dragged away their respective Primarchs from the scene of the combat. Both Primarchs survived this brutal confrontation and went on to continue the contest between their Legions for control of the Aegis Sub-sector.
When next they fought, the Dark Angels executed a meticulously planned ambush on the Night Lords' fleet while it was in transit across the sub-sector that saw the back of the Night Lords Legion broken and their Primarch mortally wounded after having faced his brother El'Jonson once again in mortal combat. Thanks to the skilled coordination and superb execution by the Lion, the Night Lords fleet was devastated, losing dozens of capital ships and approximately one-quarter of their Legion fleet to the Dark Angels' assault. Unfortunately, the remainder of the Night Lords fleet fled the Dark Angels' wrath, while the recently recovered Night Haunter, First Captain Sevatar and the elite Night Lords Atramentar Terminators led a desperate boarding assault action upon the Dark Angels' flagship Invincible Reason. This resulted in the death of all but a dozen of the Atramentar and the capture of Sevatar and the remaining survivors. Konrad Curze fled El'Jonson's wrath, evading the Dark Angels for months, stalking the shadows within the bowels of the mighty capital ship. Somehow, the remaining Night Lords managed to affect their escape and fled into the void.
Death of the Night Haunter
The VIII Legion sided with none of the Chaos Gods, instead using the Forces of Chaos as tools in their terror campaigns. Slowly but surely, the Night Lords, now almost entirely comprised of murderers and criminals recruited from Nostramo before its destruction, began to carve a bloody path towards Terra alongside the other Traitor Legions. After the invasion of Terra by the forces of Chaos and the death of Horus at the hands of the Emperor, the Night Lords did not splinter and flee into the Eye of Terror like the rest of the Traitor Legions. Instead, they continued to attack the Imperium in its Eastern Fringes, however, their tactics seemed to change, betraying a self-destructive desperation. The Emperor himself, wishing to disband the Night Lords forever, dispatched half the Callidus Temple of Assassins to terminate the renegade Primarch. Legend has it that a lone agent, named M'Shen, was purposely allowed to infiltrate the Legion's lair on the world of Tasagualsa and confront the fallen Primarch, now a naked and hunched monster. Before his death, M'Shen's video-log records Night Haunter's enigmatic last words:
"Your presence does not surprise me, Assassin. I have known of you ever since your craft entered the Eastern Fringes. Why did I not have you killed? Because your mission and the act you are about to commit proves the truth of all I have ever said or done. I merely punished those who had wronged, just as your False Emperor now seeks to punish me. Death is nothing compared to vindication."
The final remembrance of Konrad Curze is of mad, black eyes and a cruel, lip-less smile, aware that his horrific visions had all come to pass. The vid-log of the event then shows M'Shen leaping forward at the Primarch. However, the kill was never confirmed, as the video feed cut out right before the fight ensued. It is believed that Night Haunter allowed himself to be killed: he saw himself as a murderous and corrupt villain, the very thing he sought to destroy. Regardless, his final words are considered one of the great enigmas in the Imperium's history.
"It has been said by tacticians throughout the ages of mankind that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I do not waste my time countering the plans of my foes, brother. I never care what the enemy intends to do, for they will never be allowed to do it. Stir within their hearts the gift of truest terror, and all their plans are ruined in the desperate struggle merely to survive."
- — The Primarch Konrad Curze, explaining his beliefs to his brother Sanguinius
Konrad Curze was a very complicated individual, to say the least. Though he was one of the Emperor's genetically superior, modified gene-sons, he was still human in a very real sense. In the novel "Lord of the Night," pg. 170, it is implied that Konrad Curze had a dual personality:
"He knew that he was two men. One was... just and righteous-" the daemon spat the words, disgusted, "- whilst the other... mm... the other had felt the kiss of Chaos all its life. One thrived on focus. The other ate fear!"
There were two sides to Curze's personality: Konrad Curze, the great military strategist, ruthless and efficient and a righteous follower of the Emperor's will, and the Night Haunter, a bloody-handed murderous vigilante, who fed on fear and dread, who savoured preying upon the weak. Curze's prescient visions were known to have granted him the terrible power to foresee the worst possible outcome to any given series of events. The mental strain of knowing such knowledge placed a terrible burden upon the Primarch's shoulders, which grated upon his psyche, and over time caused his sanity to slowly deteriorate under the strain. In the novel "Blood Reaver," Ch. 14, pg. 79, it was also suggested that the Emperor's DNA, which was a part of every Primarch's genetic code, might not have proven entirely stable within Curze's genome, explaining why he was so mentally unstable by the time of his death, not to mention the corpse-like, monstrous appearance he had developed by the end of the Heresy.
In the anthology "Shadows of Treachery" in the short story "Prince of Crows," Ch. 6, pg. 167, it was confirmed that Konrad Curze hated his own Space Marine Legion. He mentioned to his First Captain Sevatar how he had spoken to Angron and Lorgar following the Istvaan III Atrocity, and was told of how they had purged their Legions, cleansing the untrustworthy elements of the World Eaters and the Word Bearers. The sheer absurdity of the idea was laughable to the Night Haunter, for his brothers knew exactly when to stop the killing of the weak, the treacherous and the corrupt within their bloodlines. He had no idea where to begin culling the Night Lords' ranks. His sons were no longer cast in his image. Less than a decade after he had departed Nostramo that world had sent him nothing but filth to integrate into the VIII Legion as Neophytes; the disgusting dregs of humanity his own Apothecaries had infused with his genetic material and reforged into transhumans. The VIII Legion had become poisoned by their presence. The VIII Legion was now composed of warriors who were murderers in the Primarch's own image, yet devoid of his conviction. The Night Lords had become nothing more than killers and abusers, bleeding the weak for their own amusements because they enjoyed it as good sport. Fear became an end unto itself, and its propagation was all the Night Lords desired as they fed upon it. The final chapter of the novel "Soul Hunter" Ch. XXI, pg. 216, is quite clear on this point:
"Many will claim to lead our Legion in the years after I am gone. Many will claim that they - and they alone - are my appointed successor. I hate this Legion, Talos. I destroyed its world to stem the flow of poison. I will be vindicated soon, and the truest lesson of the Night Lords will be taught. Do you truly believe I care what happens to any of you after my death?"
Curze's name is inspired by the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, where a former ivory trader in the Belgian Congo named Kurtz rules over the native population as a charismatic demigod even as he degenerates into a barbaric and inhuman tyrant. The book was later adapted into the 1979 film Apocalypse Now in which the character of Kurtz was modified into U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Blood (RPG), pp. 26-27
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 10, 12, 80
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 13, 21, 70
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 42
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition), pg. 14
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 80-81
- Index Astartes II, "Bringers of Darkness - The Night Lords Space Marine Legion," pp. 20-27
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition)
- White Dwarf 332 (US), "Chaos Space Marines Design Notes - Night Lords", pp. 16-29
- White Dwarf 261 (US), "Lords of the Night: Cityfight, Night Lords vs. Imperial Guard"
- White Dwarf 260 (US), "Index Astartes First Founding: Bringers of Darkness, The Night Lords Space Marine Chapter"
- White Dwarf 200 (US), " 'Eavy Metal: WH40K Chaos", pg. 8
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Age of Darkness (Anthology), "Savage Weapons" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- The Primarchs (Anthology), "The Lion" by Gav Thorpe
- Shadows of Treachery (Anthology) edited by Christian Dunn, "Prince of Crows" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Lord of the Night (Novel) by Simon Spurrier
- Night Lords Series:
- Hammer & Bolter 11, "Shadow Knight" (Short Story) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Soul Hunter (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Blood Reaver (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Void Stalker (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- The Dark King (Audio Book)
- Throne of Lies (Audio Book)
- Fear The Alien (Anthology), "The Core" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Sons of Fenris (Novel) by Lee Lightner
|Horus • Leman Russ • Lost Primarchs • Ferrus Manus • Fulgrim • Vulkan • Rogal Dorn • Roboute Guilliman • Magnus the Red • Sanguinius • Lion El'Jonson • Perturabo • Mortarion • Lorgar • Jaghatai Khan • Konrad Curze • Angron • Corvus Corax • Alpharius Omegon|