Leman Russ, also known as the Wolf King and the Great Wolf during his lifetime, is the currently missing Primarch of the Space Wolves Chapter of Space Marines. He led the Space Wolves Legion during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy and is famed in Imperial history for his hatred of psychic powers and sorcery, which he viewed as dishonourable. Some recent rumours claim that he is the unknown Space Wolves Great Company Wolf Lord behind the recent return of the Space Wolves' 13th Company to realspace from 10,000 Terran years fighting the Forces of Chaos in the Warp during the 13th Black Crusade. Several tank variants used by the Imperial Guard have been named after him. The Leman Russ tank is the most prominent, and several sub-variants of that pattern of tank also exist in widespread use in the Imperium of Man, such as the Leman Russ Demolisher.
Arrival on Fenris
At the dawn of the 31st Millennium, following the Unification Wars that had established his rule over a united Terra, the Emperor of Mankind created the Primarchs, superhuman sons whose genomes were carefully crafted by mixing and matching traits from his own genetic template, each a paragon of humanity who surpassed normal men and women in every way. Each of these first-born sons of the Emperor were brought into being as future leaders of his Great Crusade to reunite all the scattered colony worlds of Mankind under one rule, warriors whose extraordinary physical prowess was tempered only by their equally great serenity, exalted charisma and unparalleled intellects. There are no Imperial records remaining which tell the tale of exactly how the Primarchs were accidentally so widely spread across the galaxy. What is known is that while the Primarchs were still incubating in their infant state in the Emperor's secret gene-laboratories far below the surface of the Himalayas Mountains, they were stolen into the Warp by the will of the Ruinous Powers despite the multitude of psychic wards the Emperor had placed on his laboratory and scattered to the far corners of the galaxy while still in their gestation capsules. One of the infant Primarchs came to rest in the far northwestern region of the galaxy, on a remote and frozen Death World named Fenris by its human inhabitants, the descendants of ancient colonists who had regressed to a primitive, pre-industrial state. Given the harshness of the Fenrisian climate, it is safe to say that a lesser being would have died almost immediately upon his arrival. It is suspected that the infant Primarch was adopted by a semi-sentient female Fenrisian Wolf; Leman Russ himself mentioned his lupine parentage on more than one occasion. He was raised amongst the Wolves, with his two original Fenrisian Wolf foster brothers "Freki" and "Geri" who would become his inseparable companions in later life.
The Imperium's records concerning the Space Wolves' heritage and Russ' origins owe much to the life's work of Gnauril the Elder, a contemporary of the ancient Fenrisian king Thengir. Gnauril's saga, The Ascension of the Wolf-King, tells of one fateful Helwinter, when the young Primarch joined his Fenrisian Wolf pack and attacked a human village to raid the settlement's food stores. The villagers fought off the Fenrisian Wolves, but the Primarch, who was on all fours like his feral Wolf-brothers, fought the villagers with unfettered ferocity to allow his fellow Wolves to escape with their lives before making his own escape into the frozen wilds. Having never seen such a fearful creature as the feral Primarch before, the people of the village petitioned Thengir, the King of the Russ, to rid them of this menace. Within a week the king sent a raiding party of hunters and villagers with drake-poison on their arrows and knives sharp enough to slice through oak to remove this unexpected threat for good.
The raiding party killed many members of the Primarch's pack, who were pierced by the spears and arrows of the hunters. They even managed to kill the venerable she-wolf that defended her wolf litter, impaling her through the throat. She still managed to end the lives of five of the hunters before she finally succumbed to their poisoned arrows. The strange, feral human wolf-child was spared as he crouched growling over the she-wolf's corpse, the poison slowly affecting his iron constitution, barbed arrows sticking like quills from his face and back. Leman Russ was subdued and brought, bound and gagged, before King Thengir.
Learning to be Human
The wolf-child was taken into the care of the royal household of the king, where his training in the ways of men finally began. Amongst his own kind for the first time, Leman quickly learned their skills, showing a natural aptitude for the way of the warrior. He learned to speak, and mastered their primitive weapons -- iron axes and swords. Though he was quick to roar with laughter or bellow tunelessly in song, the Primarch slowly realized that he was more human than wolf, but far superior to both. When Russ handed the Champion of the King's Guard his battle-axes during their third sparring session after disarming him, Thengir admitted to himself that the young man was destined for greatness. The Primarch soon spoke the Fenrisian dialect of Low Gothic with powerful eloquence, and one evening, King Thengir deemed him worthy to receive a true name. The King named the former wolf-child Leman of the Russ.
A Heroic Rise to Power
Much of what is known of Leman Russ' early years is borne of hearsay and legend as his fame quickly spread throughout the tribes of Fenris. It was said that he was able to turn back whole armies of the King's enemies by himself without a scratch, to tear whole oak trees from the ground and snap them over his back in twain, and to wrestle Fenrisian Mammoths to the ground and roast one whole for his meal that evening. When King Thengir died, there was no question as to who should succeed him as the monarch of the Russ. Therefore, King Leman of the Russ took the throne. In time, his leadership was recognised by all the tribes of the frigid world, for all sought to benefit from his wisdom and extraordinary skill at arms on a world where the weak did not survive for very long.
The Wolf King
Thus it came to pass that Russ was hailed as King of all Fenris, the Wolf King, his judgment considered to be as strong as his sword-arm and his authority indisputable. No man nor beast could best the Wolf-King. No tribe could stand against his armies. Within Russ' kingdom a truce existed between man and wolf. His court was attended by the fiercest of warlords and the most beautiful of maidens. Tales of his mighty conquests spread like forest fires, and it was not long before the eyes of Terra turned upon his deeds. When the fleets of the Emperor's Great Crusade neared Fenris, they heard tales of Fenris' extraordinary king and the Emperor believed that if the tales were not exagerrated, only one of his lost Primarchs could be their source.
The Emperor did eventually take it upon himself to meet with the Wolf-King of Fenris, recognizing that this mighty figure was one of his true sons. And so it was that the great, sky-spanning starships of the Emperor travelled to the center of the sea of stars, settling on the icy world of Fenris scant years after Russ' ascension to the throne he had forged by uniting all the fractious tribes fo his world.
The Emperor and the Wolf-King
The Emperor, disguised in a long, plain robe and cloaked in psychic runes of disguise and confusion entered the long hall of Russ. Those few natives that were sharp-eyed and sober, as well as the great Fenrisian Wolves, shrunk from this new, powerful presence. Russ refused to pay him homage as the Master of Mankind. The Emperor had known well that proud Russ would never bow to his rule without being beaten in a contest. The Emperor was convinced of his own power, and knew that such a challenge would be as nothing to him. Who could best a living god? Who could stand firm in the presence of Mankind's one true philosopher-king?
The Three Challenges
The strange wanderer approached the gnarled wood of the Wolf Throne and its gargantuan occupant, and stood firm, staring hard at where Russ was presiding over the feast. It was then that the stranger offered his challenge. The nature of the contest was for the Wolf King to decide. If he won, the stranger asked for nothing but to be allowed to drink at the right hand of Russ during the feast. Russ demanded that should the wanderer fail, he would serve at the king's behest for a year. Grimly, the stranger accepted.
Russ challenged the Emperor to a series of tests. The Wolf King did not wish to spoil a good feast; his first challenge was to an eating competition. The stranger ate well indeed, consuming many times more than the stoutest warriors present without pause. But when he looked up from his plate, Russ had already consumed three entire aurochs. The stranger had lost the first challenge.
But the king was enjoying his sport. He realised that the brown-cloaked traveller had the spirit of a Fenrisian. And so he challenged the outlander to a drinking bout. But by the time the wanderer had reached his sixth barrel of strong Fenrisian mead, there was no more to drink. The Wolf King had drained the entire feast dry. Once again the Emperor had lost. The light of anger appeared in the wanderer's eye.
Driven by disappointment in his offspring, the wanderer called Leman Russ a drunkard and a glutton, able to achieve nothing more in life than stuffing his face and bellowing hollow boasts. The Wolf King calmly laid down the consequences of his last challenge, and his court backed away as one. The court grew silent, daring not even to breathe as Russ drew his great sword from its scabbard and stepped onto the long banqueting table. For the third challenge Russ boasted he could defeat the Emperor in combat. The Emperor threw away his cloak, the hood falling from his face, his true form revealed. He stood far taller than any man present, swathed in light and clad in baroque golden Power Armour. This time, the Emperor defeated Russ, felling him with a mighty blow from his Power Glove. When Leman came back to consciousness within the hour, he admitted defeat and with a bloodied smile and a broken fang, he swore fealty to his true father, the Emperor of Mankind.
The VI Legion and the Great Crusade
Spiriting the great Wolf King away from Fenris, the Emperor began Russ' tutelage in the ways and technology of his star-spanning Imperium. The Primarch's teaching and training went swiftly; it was only a matter of weeks before the Emperor judged Russ worthy of leading his armies in the Great Crusade across the galaxy. Leman Russ was introduced to the warriors of the VI Legion of Space Marines who had been created through the implantation of gene-seed organs that had been grown from his own DNA. And so it came to be that Leman Russ became the father, progenitor and Lord of the newly named Space Wolves Legion of the Legiones Astartes and joined the glorious action of the Great Crusade. He was armed with a thrice-blessed suit of Power Armour and his greatsword was replaced with the legendary Frostblade Mjalnar, whose teeth were torn from the maw of the Great Kraken Gormenjarl and were then used in its forging. Reputably, the blade could cleave the ice mountains of Fenris in half. With his mighty Frostblade, Russ plunged headlong into the fighting at the forefront of every battle, vanquishing all before him. Throughout the long and difficult battles of the Great Crusade, the Space Wolves and their lupine allies drawn from amongst the Fenrisian Wolves were always at the front line. Russ strode at the head of his Legion, slaughtering all who dared stand before him, his coming announced by the howling of the pack.
Russ' actions in bringing new worlds into Imperial Compliance met with such rampant success that his conquests led him into the far corners of the galaxy, many light years from the Segmentum Solar. Many years passed, and thousands of human-settled worlds were brought into the Imperium, but eventually the Golden Age drew to its inevitable end. In an act that would scar the galaxy forever, Russ's brother Primarch Horus, the Warmaster of the Great Crusade and the progenitor of the Luna Wolves Legion as well as the most favoured son of the Emperor, turned from the light and embraced the Ruinous Powers to fulfill his dark ambition of replacing his father upon the throne of Terra. This great schism later known as the Horus Heresy would nearly rend the Imperium apart. Horus' trickery and deceit ensnared no less than nine other Space Marine Legions, whether by coercion, misdirection or outright corruption.
The Space Wolves, though not present for the closing days of the Heresy during the Battle of Terra, were intertwined in the foundations of the Horus Heresy. It was in the disastrous beginnings of this time that the Sons of Russ began their ages-long blood feud with the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion.
The Wolf King and the Burning of Prospero
In stark contrast to the feral and barbaric Space Wolves, the Thousand Sons Legion was fixated on the pursuit of lore and knowledge, particulalrly concerning the Warp and psychic sorcery. Their Primarch Magnus the Red possessed copper-skin, fiery hair and most striking of all, a single eye after the other was lost to his continued dabbling in sorcery. Magnus' strength was lauded as rivaling that of even Russ, but he preferred to expend his energies learning and pursuing ancient arcana than the arts of battle. His physical peculiarities were never remarked upon by the other Primarchs; after all, many of them bore some sort of physical peculiarity or another. Nonetheless, the Wolf King feared his brother's pursuit of sorcery, believing it to be inherently wicked and dishonourable. But the Emperor refused to hear Russ' suspicions, as Magnus was one of his own sons and the Emperor himself was the mightiest psykers ever known to Mankind.
As the events leading up to the Horus Heresy ripened into terrible fruition, Magnus the Red sent a psychic message to the Emperor, warning him that Horus had been corrupted by the Ruinous Powers. But for the message to reach his father, it had tobe powerful enough to disrupt the psychic wards that had been erected to surround the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor had been engaged in a highly secret project in the palace's lowest levels to open up the Eldar Webway to the use of Mankind. The disruption of the Emperor's wards allowed the malevolent entities of Chaos to penetrate into the Webway and put Terra itself at risk of a Chaotic assault. Greatly angered that Magnus had disregarded the Council of Nikaea's ruling that had made the use of sorcery illegal within the Imperium, the Emperor chose to believe that it was Magnus, not his beloved Horus, who had been corrupted by the Chaos Gods and was only seeking to make trouble for his brother.
The Thousand Sons had continued their practice of sorcery despite the Emperor's decree specifically forbidding it. Their guilt revealed, the Emperor saw no other choice but to send Leman Russ to the Thousand Sons' Legion homeworld of Prospero and bring back Magnus the Red with him to Terra to account for his actions and his violation of Imperial law. The Emperor believed Magnus and his Legion to be the true traitors and Russ was all too easily convinced likewise because of his own longstanding prejudice against sorcery and Magnus' unhealthy fascination with it. But once he and his Legion were in transit towards Prospero Horus "convinced" Russ of Magnus' treachery, and drove Russ into a furious rage against his brother. He further convinced the Wolf King that the Emperor had changed his orders and he wanted the Space Wolves and their accompanying forces from the Sisters of Silence and the Imperial Army to launch a full-scale planetary assault on Prospero to wipe out the Thousand Sons and slay Magnus before he could turn upon the Imperium. Horus' evil gambit proved all-too-successful and Prospero was assaulted and bombarded, killing thousands within days, its great city of Tizca, the City of Light, reduced to a shattered landscape of blazing pyramids. Ultimately, for all their wisdom, the Thousand Sons could not stand against the fury of the entire Space Wolves Legion and their Imperial allies on the field of war.
In the final titanic battle between Leman Russ and Magnus the Red, the sorcerous Primarch used sorcery to make himself stronger so that he could survive the Wolf King's assault. Enraged by this blatantly dishonourable trick, Russ gathered his strength and raised Magnus over his head and broke his brother's back over his knee. Summoning a Warp rift after calling out for aid to the Chaos God Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, Magnus and his surviving Thousand Sons then escaped into the Warp, where they would swear vengeance upon the Emperor and the Imperium that had treated them so unjustly and brought down the pyramids of fabled Tizca. The grudge between the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons would last for millennia, though the Space Wolves would be engaged far from Terra and would play no other major role during the most important battles of the Heresy.
After the Heresy, during the Second Founding when the Ultramarines' Primarch Roboute Guilliman sought to break up all of the remaining Loyalist Space Marine Legions into separate 1,000-man Chapters to prevent another attempt at rebellion and civil war from succeeding, Leman Russ successfully shielded his own Legion from falling to this fate through sleight-of-hand. He officially broke his Legion up into 13 "Great Companies", each led by a captain called a Wolf Lord. However, the Space Wolves were accounted to be a single Chapter under the new scheme even though they were many times the size of a Codex Astartes-compliant Chapter. In this way the Space Wolves retained their original size and power in a way matched by no other Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes.
The Disappearance of Russ
Years later, after Horus and the Traitor Legions had been defeated and the Space Wolves had successfully resisted being divided up into Successor Chapters, all of the Space Wolves' and their Wolf Lords, including the Great Wolf himself, were gathered for a feast on Fenris. The holiday, known as the “Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension," commemorated the day the Emperor defeated Horus and "ascended" back into the Immaterium on the Golden Throne. On this occasion, Leman Russ quieted the great hall of his warriors to speak, but then froze in place as his eyes glazed over as if seeing a vision. The assembled Space Wolves looked on in horror as their Primarch fell to his knees and called for his Wolf Guard and closest retainers to attend him, all save the youngest, Bjorn the Fell-Handed. Giving his closest companions his instructions, Russ turned and left the Great Hall with his bodyguard in tow, leaving only Bjorn behind. The tale of his disappearance is retold every thousand years by the Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed, the oldest Astartes Dreadnought still in service in the entire Imperium. It is believed by some Astartes amongst the Space Wolves that Russ left Fenris and journeyed into the Eye of Terror to find the fabled Tree of Life, a font of uncorrupted Warp energy hidden somewhere within the Immaterium that bears fruit said to be able to heal the Emperor and restore him to full life.
Every year after his disappearance, Russ' place was laid at the same feast. Every year his drinking horn was filled should he return. For seven long, painful years the Space Wolves waited patiently for their lost Wolf King to return to them, but when he failed to do so, Bjorn was elected the new Great Wolf and led the Chapter on their first Great Hunt to search for Russ. The Great Companies dispersed amongst the stars searching for their lord and Bjorn took his search to the Eye of Terror itself. There Bjorn was mortally wounded and entombed in a Dreadnought as the Space Wolves returned to Fenris. Over the various Great Hunts in the millennia since, many glorious victories have been won, each hunt beginning when Russ speaks through visions into the minds of the Chapter's Rune Priests, granting his sons his wisdom from time to time and sending them on new quests. None have succeeded in the final goal of recovering their gene-father, but Russ has assured his sons with his final words that he will return to them in time for the final battle of the Imperium against the Forces of Chaos, a period he called the "Wolftime." Many Space Wolves believe that time will soon beupon them and the Imperium of Man at the end of the 41st Millennium as various forces all seeking the destruction of Mankind begin their final assault upon humanity. Even now, reports of the 13th Great Company's return from the Eye of Terror during the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41 may portend the coming of the Wolf King...