- "Dark it was. And dire of form. The beast that laid them low. Hrothgar sharpened front-forged blade. To deal a fatal blow. He stalked and hunted day and night. And came upon its lair. With sword and shield Hrothgar fought. And earned the name of slayer."
- — The Saga of Hrothgar the Beastslayer, as told by Jaegar Brittletooth
Lone Wolves are individual Space Marines of the Space Wolves Chapter who are the sole survivors of a Pack that suffered so terribly that it was reduced to a single survivor. A Lone Wolf is one who has lost his brothers to a man and yet has not earned a place in the vaunted Wolf Guard. A Lone Wolf is vengeance incarnate. The last survivor of his pack, he will stop at nothing to avenge his fallen kinsmen, hurling himself into the thick of the fighting without hesitation so that he may win great glory or earn a magnificent death in battle. Having sworn a mighty oath of vengeance, Lone Wolves vow to seek out the most monstrous foes they can find and slay them. The Space Wolves hold true to the belief that only through deeds of incredible heroism or sacrifice can such a warrior atone for his survival and restore the honour of his dead packmates. So does every Lone Wolf swear a mighty oath to seek out the mightiest foes and slay them in glorious combat, or die in the attempt. Those Lone Wolves who succeed in their quests and survive are almost always accepted into the vaunted ranks of the Wolf Guard, while the rest earn an honourable death in combat, earning back their lost Pack's honour and rejoining them in the afterlife with a final tale with which to greet their kin.
Sometimes Space Wolves do not emerge victorious, despite their skill and valour. With every new campaign it is not uncommon for each Pack to lose a few more good warriors, and even the rawest recruit understands that this is the natural order of things. Over the centuries most Grey Hunter and Long Fang Packs, reduced to only a handful of warriors, will continue to fight at a reduced capacity. But sometimes the fates are cruel and a Pack will suffer catastrophically, reduced to a single survivor. His packmates lost, the lone warrior has not yet earned his place in the Wolf Guard. In the Space Wolves, when one has no Pack, one has no rank, leaving the survivor left with nothing but bitter revenge. These fatalistic individuals are known as Lone Wolves -- warriors who are utterly dedicated to an unending quest for vengeance to regain the honour of their fallen packmates. A Lone Wolf will swear a great oath of vengeance over the bodies of his fallen Pack, painstakingly etching the names of his kin upon his blade or even into his flesh. As his oath of vengeance draws to completion, he vows to hunt down the most dire of foes he can find. He will slay this enemy in the name of his fallen brethren or die in the attempt. In this way the Lone Wolf will win back his lost Pack's honour and rejoin them beyond the veil in the afterlife. Often, such lone figures stalk through the mists, preceding a Space Wolves force's advance, each hunting a glorious death in combat.
Lone Wolves are a natural byproduct of the unique structural organisation and warrior brotherhood that forms the heart of the Space Wolves Chapter. Unlike standard Space Marine squads, as defined by the Codex Astartes, where individual squad members are frequently reassigned to replace casualties or grouped together according to their experience, Space Wolves fight together as a single pack until death claims them all. New Fenrisian recruits begin their lives amongst the Sky Warriors as large packs of youthful and brash Blood Claws, becoming Grey Hunters only when they are tempered by battle and highly skilled in every aspect of war. It is common for newly promoted Grey Hunter Packs to be half of their original size, sometimes even less. Should they survive long enough to become wise and venerable Long Fangs, their pack will inevitably have dwindled further still. Only elevation to the ranks of the Wolf Guard, or rarer still, the triumvirate of Space Wolf Priesthoods, will see a Space Wolf ever leave his Pack. Despite the great honour granted to these warriors by such a promotion, they will be sorely missed, and will not leave before being subjected to a suitably raucous send-off by their packmates.
The pack mentality of the Space Wolves grows ever stronger as the years pass, each band of warriors becoming many times the sum of its individual parts. So strong is this bond of brotherhood that every Space Wolf keenly understands the sense of loss left by the absence of his packmates. To so suddenly lose this kinship is a psychologically traumatic experience that few can fully comprehend. Though Space Wolves traditionally face death with jovial fatalism, to fight and die alone without their comrades is something that few of them relish. Only the Chapter's Ancients can truly empathise with the emotional plight of a Lone Wolf, having lost their kinsmen over the many centuries since their incarceration in a Dreadnought's sarcophagus –- they too walk a lonely path, fuelled by the need for vengeance on those that robbed them of a mighty death. But of all the Dreadnoughts, it is Bjorn the Fell-Handed who is most keenly familiar with their situation...
First of the Lone Wolves
- "Lo there, do I see my fallen kinsmen, Threads cut by the foe I now seek. In bloody battle I will engage him, And carve my vengeance from his flesh. No ale shall pass my lips, At no feast will I indulge. No foe shall stay my wrath, Until my brothers are avenged. Ever shall I hunt my quarry, Across the Sea of Stars. Whilst I yet breathe, I will not falter, Until Morkai claims his due."
- — Bjorn's Oath of the Lone Wolf
Few accurate records remain concerning the earliest years of the Space Wolves, and only one such tale exists regarding the first known case of a Lone Wolf’s quest for vengeance. The subject of this tale is none other than the legendary hero of the Chapter, Bjorn the Fell-handed. Some scholars believe this notion merely to be yet another improbable chapter in the saga of the ancient warrior, one fuelled by sentiment and lacking in credibility. Their cynicism may even be justified, for the tale does not take place until after the bitter wars of the Scouring in the early 31st Millennium, immediately following the end of the Horus Heresy. However, whether he was indeed the original Lone Wolf or not, it appears that Bjorn may well have been the first of his kind to earn redemption through his courageous actions.
During the Horus Heresy, Bjorn was a young warrior of great potential. He had excelled during the Fall of Prospero, and his Pack was often singled out to lead assaults where enemy resistance was expected to be at its heaviest. It was whilst undertaking one such attack on the acrid, volcanic world of Gryth that events were to take a tragic turn. Bjorn's Pack had humbled tyrants, butchered aliens beyond counting, and even hewn down their brother Space Marines who had fallen from the Emperor's grace; yet against the Daemon king, Arvax the Arch-slaughterer, they knew only death. That Bjorn actually survived the massacre of his kinsmen was a testament to his exceptional skills as a warrior, for all others who faced the mighty Daemon of Khorne that fateful day joined Bjorn's packmates in death. Though the arrival of the mighty Primarch Leman Russ saw the Space Wolves ultimately emerge victorious against the Daemonhost, it was Bjorn who finally drove the seemingly unstoppable Daemon general from the field.
Despite his victory of sorts, Bjorn never forgave himself for the loss of his kinsmen, nor the fact that he alone yet lived having been denied a magnificent death. In the hours that followed the battle, Bjorn became increasingly melancholy, refusing to accept the hearty approval of those that had witnessed his heroic battle against the Daemon king. As he witnessed his packmates burn atop the victory pyres, he gave voice to a long, mournful howl. Kneeling before the bodies of his burning kinsmen, he swore a grave oath of vengeance against their slayer.
To Bjorn's continued frustration, it was to be five long standard years before word of Arvax's location surfaced once more. Russ immediately led his Wolves to destroy the foul creature, determined to personally slay the Daemon king himself and avenge those who had died during their last encounter. Yet in this goal, the Primarch was to be denied, for Bjorn too sought out his nemesis and, as fate would have it, was the first to face Arvax in battle. As the Wolf-King tore through the Khornate horde towards his quarry, he witnessed Bjorn's duel first-hand. Russ could only look on in pride as Bjorn deftly rolled beneath a blow attempting to cut him in half, then clambered up the Daemon's towering frame to tear out the Arch-slaughterer's throat with his trusty Wolf Claw. In the aftermath of the battle, Russ came to Bjorn in person and exonerated him in front of the entire Chapter, holding his oath fulfilled.
Setting a precedent that still exists to this day, the Wolf-King promoted Bjorn to his personal Wolf Guard, naming him the "Fell-handed" in honour of his mighty deed. The Skjalds of the Chapter hold that it was the sense of loss and tragedy that Bjorn had already experienced and learned to master that influenced Russ' decision to leave him behind when he set forth on his last, fateful journey into the Eye of Terror. Of all of the Primarch's Wolf Guard, he alone had shown such strength of purpose and determination in his darkest hour; he alone would understand the lonely burden of command.
The Path of the Lone Wolf
A Lone Wolf invariably becomes somewhat estranged from the rest of the Chapter by the gravity of his oath. Swearing a great oath of vengeance over the bodies of his fallen Pack, he painstakingly etches the names of his kin upon his blade or even into his flesh. Vowing not to feast nor embrace the company of his fellows, a Lone Wolf leads a solitary existence until the moment of his destiny arrives. Despite this, the Space Wolves reserve a solemn respect, even reverence, for those that walk the path of the Lone Wolf. Every warrior readily accepts that a Lone Wolf's wyrd has led him to this point and that a mighty doom awaits him -- ultimate vengeance, or redemption in death. When a member of his Great Company takes the oath of the Lone Wolf, a Wolf Lord will traditionally accompany the doomed warrior to the Chapter armoury. There, he will be allowed to pick the wargear of his choosing to serve him in his quest. A Lone Wolf can even claim a suit of revered Terminator Armour in this manner, a privilege normally reserved exclusively for the Great Company's mightiest champions, the Wolf Guard. This custom also serves as something of an accord between the Wolf Lord and his warrior -- a sanction of sorts to walk the path of the Lone Wolf and fight his own way, in what is ultimately a violation of the Great Company's military organisation. From that point, the Lone Wolf is effectively freed from the chain of command and is able to dedicate himself utterly to the pursuit of his goal. The Wolf Lord may lose a subordinate, but in his place, he gains an implacable warrior who seeks to take on the very toughest missions in the battles to come.
When a Lone Wolf has taken his oath, he shuns the company of his fellows, spending every waking moment both physically and mentally preparing for the final battle. Even the Great Wolf himself will not obstruct or countermand the destiny a Lone Wolf has chosen for himself, for the Space Wolves take matters of honour and of kin very seriously indeed. The last survivor, alone in his cell, will take up his axe and shield, prepared to meet his death with a weapon in hand. The sagas of these Lone Wolves all too often end in their death amongst a bone-strewn lair of some vile monstrosity or under the heel of a xenos warlord. But on occasion, the Lone Wolf will achieve his quest for vengeance, emerging bloodied but triumphant. He then carries the head of his slain foe back to his Great Company, vengeance having been satisfied, with a grim smile upon his lips. These valiant individuals are almost always inducted into the Wolf Guard, their new comrades welcoming their fellow warrior at the feasting table with great jubilation.
Lone Wolves in Battle
Despite being relinquished from their Great Company's formal command structure, Lone Wolves still accompany their Battle-Brothers to war in order to seek their doom. They prowl at the forefront of the Space Wolf advance and will charge headlong into the thick of the enemy battle line, howling their vengeance. So terrible is their fury that Lone Wolves will often continue to fight long after suffering injuries that would fell any other Space Marine. As they tear into their foes, they pour all of their wrath and hatred into the single-minded destruction of their enemies, always focusing on attack and disregarding self-preservation. To face a Lone Wolf when the battle-rage is upon him is truly a terrifying prospect, a confrontation that only the foolhardy would relish. A Great Company rarely includes more than a handful of Lone Wolves at a time. For the most part, this is an inevitable consequence of the way they choose to fight, for most die amidst a whirlwind of extreme violence during their first engagement after becoming Lone Wolves. However, those that survive long enough will have fought against such odds, and in so many battles, that a place among the Wolf Guard is all but assured.
Honour and Redemption
Despite the honour granted to them by such an offer, it is not unusual for a Lone Wolf to refuse a place amongst their Wolf Lord's bodyguard. More often than not, this will be because the warrior has yet to avenge himself against the foe responsible for the death of his packmates. Only when his quarry lies dead by his hands will these Lone Wolves hold their oaths fulfilled. Yet there are others still whose bitterness and hatred runs even deeper. These Lone Wolves, though rare even amongst others of their kind, hold a smoldering resentment of the galaxy that robbed them of their closest kin. Only death will release them from their grief, though spilling the blood of their foes dulls the pain, for a while at least. By their own conviction, these tormented Space Wolves are beyond redemption, and will walk the path of the Lone Wolf until Morkai claims them.
Occasionally, a Lone Wolf joins the Deathwatch, his quest for death and vengeance in many ways compatible with the Apocryphon Oath. Yet, few Watch Commanders would willingly take on the services of one pledged to die in battle, for in so doing he may compromise a mission or endanger the lives of his Kill-team. More often, the Lone Wolf assumes the mantle of the Black Shield, obscuring his origins and compelling the Watch Commander to accept his service as tradition dictates.
With such a wide variety of weaponry at their disposal, Lone Wolves are akin to the Wolf Guard in terms of armament, each warrior's choice of wargear as unique as the man himself and guided by his preferred method of fighting. However, unlike the Wolf Guard, who sometimes utilise powerful heavy weapons, most Lone Wolves will eschew any form of ranged weaponry, preferring to fight their enemies in the manner of a true warrior -- up close and personal in bloody melee. With this in mind, a popular choice amongst Lone Wolves is to bear the traditional axe and shield of the tribesmen of Fenris, though this will often take the form of a Power or Frost Axe and Storm Shield. Other weapon choices favoured by Lone Wolves are a pair of raking Wolf Claws or the brutal Thunder Hammer. The following is a list of the most common weapons and wargear utilised by a Lone Wolf warrior:
- Power Armour or choice of Terminator Armour
- Close Combat Weapon (choice of Power Sword, Wolf Claw, Frost Blade, Frost Axe, Thunder Hammer, Chainfist or Storm Shield)
- Bolt Pistol or Plasma Pistol
- Storm Bolter when Terminator Armour is chosen
- Frag Grenades
- Krak Grenades
- Fenrisian Wolves - A Lone Wolf might vow to shun the company of his Astartes Battle-Brothers, but if he has bonded with a pack of semi-sentient Fenrisian Wolves, he will not be able to shun them. The great beasts care not for their human pack-brother's dishonour, and will keep on following him until the end, ferociously fighting at his side, and seeking to protect him or drag him away to safety should he fall.
Lone Wolves of Renown
- Torvald Fellhammer - From a very early age, Torvald of the Grimskull tribe was a skilled and ferocious warrior. By the age of six, he had mastered the fundamental principles of axemanship. By ten, he had killed his first man in a territorial skirmish against warriors of the Icehelm tribe. At a mere twelve years old, he was accounted amongst the deadliest warriors of his clan, a match even for the chief of the Jarl's guard. It was only a matter of time before the Sky Warriors came for him. As a Blood Claw, Torvald's weapon of choice soon became apparent after his Pack leader was slain in combat with a horde of Greenskins in the heavy fighting on Alaric Prime. Having followed their Wolf Lord Ragnar Blackmane's reckless charge into the heart of the Ork horde, Torvald's Pack found itself isolated and grievously outnumbered. By the time relief finally arrived, in the guise of Logan Grimnar and his battle-hardened Veterans, Torvald was the last survivor of his Pack. He was found amidst a roiling mass of Greenskins, laying about him with mighty sweeps of the Thunder Hammer he had wrenched from his fallen mentor's grasp. Torvald's every swing saw a handful of Orks laid to ruin by the weapon’s murderous impact. Now fighting as a Lone Wolf, Torvald strides fearlessly into battle, clad in a suit of formidable Terminator Armour, but still bearing the very same Thunder Hammer he first claimed on Alaric Prime. Torvald puts the martial skills he honed as a youth to devastating use as he smites the foes of the Allfather with relentless purpose. Countless are the foes he has slain with his honoured hammer and, though his tally grows with every battle, his wrath has yet to be sated.
- Olaf Silvermane - The saga of Olaf Silvermane began in the early years of the 41st Millennium. White of hair and long of tooth, this gnarled Veteran is one of the oldest warriors in the Chapter, and remembers the days when even Ulrik the Slayer was but a young whelp, hungry for glory. Over the centuries, Olaf has witnessed the death of each and every member of his Pack, feeling the loss of each kinsman more keenly than the last. Olaf now stands alone, the last Long Fang of his Pack. Yet it was two long years after the death of his last kinsman before Olaf became a fully-fledged Lone Wolf. The brutal campaign against the Death Guard was expected to drag on for many more months, and Olaf never truly expected, nor even wanted, to survive the war that had claimed the last of his packmates. As the eldest, and amongst the most respected, member of his Great Company, none sought to question his resolve, for despite fighting alone, he continued to do so with cold efficiency and undeniable determination. Yet as the war continued to grind on, Olaf became increasingly frustrated and reckless, often discarding his Missile Launcher and advancing to take on the loathsome Chaos Space Marines in close combat. However, no foe was up to the task of granting Olaf the glorious death he sought, and when the war was finally won, he was forced to take measures into his own hands in order to join his packmates in death. Olaf Silvermane, now an indomitable Lone Wolf, has since devoted his life to seeking a truly magnificent death -- one that will echo through the ages so that all will remember him and the brothers he once fought beside.
- Bulveye the Berserker - The first chapter in Bulveye's saga began during his Trial of Morkai. Alone and unarmed, the young Space Wolf was attacked by a fearsome ice bear. Faced with certain death, Bulveye unconsciously tapped into a power that had been lying dormant within him since he first ingested the Canis Helix. Roaring in agony as huge talons erupted from his fingertips, Bulveye hurled himself at the giant predator in a bid to drown out the pain. Bulveye later awoke, covered in congealed gore, amid a grisly scene that can only be described as a bloodbath. The ice bear's ribcage had been ripped open, its torn limbs and internal organs scattered across the surrounding area. He had little memory of what events had transpired, though he was relieved to see that his hands -- if they had indeed changed -- appeared to have returned to normal. After becoming a fully-fledged Space Wolf, Bulveye soon became renowned for his berserk rages in the heat of battle. Each time, the young Blood Claw's fingers would elongate into deadly, bestial claws, with which he would tear his enemies to shreds. It was clear to the Wolf Priests that he bore the Mark of the Wulfen and, over the years, they carefully monitored his progress for any sign of the curse fully manifesting itself. It was during the Assault on Hellmaw Spire, however, that Bulveye's career was to take a wildly different turn that no one could have predicted. Victory seemed to be at hand as Bulveye's Pack tore through the daemonic host that held the corrupted fortress, but in their fury, the young warriors continued to press on, eventually becoming separated from the rest of their Great Company. In the battle's aftermath, Bulveye was discovered alone, drenched in blood and ichor, and knee-deep in the dismembered bodies of the Daemonettes his pack had slain. But of his Pack, only Bulveye yet lived. The Blood Claws had all been messily torn apart, but whether by the vicious talons of the Daemons or the Wulfen claws of Bulveye, none could say. Some within his Great Company claimed that Bulveye slew his packmates, unable to distinguish friend from foe in his blood-mad frenzy. If this was the case, Bulveye would not speak of it, if indeed he even knew the truth of the matter. He took the oath of the Lone Wolf that same night, alone, whilst his Battle-Brothers celebrated at the victory feast. He swore to bathe his hands in the blood of his enemies in a hope of one day vindicating the loss of his kinsmen, whether he was responsible for their deaths or not. Bulveye has won great renown over the course of his quest for redemption. Never once has he borne a weapon as a Lone Wolf. In battle, Bulveye throws himself at the enemy lines, bestial claws manifesting in response to his frenzied rage, to rip and tear his foes apart. Monsters, beasts and Traitors beyond counting have fallen before his fury, their bodies rent asunder by the blood-maddened warrior. In the Battle of Magnir's Crag, Bulveye saved the life of his Battle Leader by slaying the Carnifex that had laid him low, virtually boring a hole through its midriff as he gouged great chunks from its flesh with every swing. To this day, Bulveye's detractors call him "kin-slayer" behind his back. However, not even the most hot-headed Blood Claw would dare to call him by that name to his face, though more than a hundred barrels of mead have been gambled on Lukas the Trickster being the first. The Wolf Priests continue to keep a close eye on Bulveye lest his inner beast thrive and consume him entirely. Few will be surprised if such an outcome is indeed his wyrd, yet Bulveye's dedication to his oath remains strong enough to control the beast -- for now at least…
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 29, 88
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 58
- Index Astartes: Lone Wolves (Digital Edition), pp. 3-4, 7-14, 16-17
- Bjorn: Lone Wolf (Short Story) by Chris Wraight