Moritat was an unofficial designation given to certain Astartes of the ancient Legiones Astartes, who displayed suicidal urges and a blatant disregard for overall combat doctrine. Operating independently on the battlefield, these individuals were often employed as efficient shock assault troops and tactical assassins.
From its earliest days, the Raven Guard Legion employed more Moritats than did many others. The individuals assigned to this duty were often those considered extreme in their methods even by the cold-blooded Xeric, the original Terran techno-barbarian tribesmen who had composed the XIX Legion at the First Founding, and they were often used -- willingly -- to undertake missions from which they were not expected to return.
This bygone rank no longer exists amongst the Adeptus Astartes of the late 41st Millennium. But certain specialised Astartes formations such as the doomed Battle-Brothers of the Blood Angels' Death Company are akin to the bygone Moritat of old.
The ancient designation known as a Moritat harkens back to the era of the Great Crusade during the late 30th Millennium. Amongst the Raven Guard and the XIX Legion that preceded them, there was a tendency amongst combat veterans placed in situations of extreme stress to forsake all pretence of self-preservation, fighting with a terrifying, silent determination and the sole aim of causing as many casualties and as much destruction as possible before succumbing to their foe.
This strange blood-soaked ennui that drove many amongst the Raven Guard to sacrifice themselves in battle was known among the Terran members of the XIX Legion as becoming "Ash Blind", while the later Raven Guard Astartes native to the world of Deliverance knew it as the "Sable Brand," a condition heralded by the darkening of the entire eye to black.
Those warriors who survived their suicidal furies sometimes recovered, their brethren never mentioning the incident in a typically Raven Guard display of reticence, but more often these Astartes were evermore plagued in combat by the urge to slay until death took them, paying no heed to tactical plans. The XIX Legion, in the days before its Primarch Corvus Corax's return, made little attempt to organise the Ash Blind on the battlefield, relying on the flexible nature of their tactical doctrines to make the maximum use of their suicidal urges when they took hold.
The Raven Lord later turned this aberrant effect of his gene-seed into a valuable weapon in his tactical arsenal, forming those afflicted by the Sable Brand into units of Shadow Killers and employing them as shock assault troops and assassins. It was the employment of such unconventional troop-types that allowed Corax to best his brother Roboute Guilliman in several of his brother-Primarch's notoriously testing strategio-simulacra, an unexpected tactic that the lord of the Ultramarines had never faced before but was quick to adopt into the Legiones Astartes order of battle, creating the "Moritat" as it was later known amongst the rest of the Legions.
- Judiciar Aster Crohne - A veteran of the IX Legion, having served in the days before the return of Sanguinius to his Legion, Aster Crohne was recruited on the killing fields of Saiph. Few of those raised from the debased tribes of Saiph survived the battles that regularly laid waste to their world, and of those none other are known to have survived as many massacres and slaughters as Aster Crohne. A relic of a time and tradition that Sanguinius has oft lamented, Aster found little favour among the elite of the newly named Blood Angels and instead lingered in the role of Judiciar. While the bloody, practical skills he perfected were the terror of the foe, his true talent had always been sheer bloody-minded tenacity and an instinct for survival that defies belief. Of all the officers attached to the Blood Angels 94th Company, only Aster emerged from the fires of Signus alive. While the finest of Terran and Baalite leaders were overcome by the Warp-fugue and rage that followed in the wake of the Angel's fall during the Signus Campaign, the only Saiphan recruit held to some semblance of sanity and led his brethren to glory. Despite this, "the Shroudmaker" remains an outcast among his peers, for those whose actions and weakness in the face of the foe still haunt them find his strength of will a keen reminder of their failings.
- Moritat-Prime Kaedes Nex - A dark figure of gruesome repute amongst the tightly knit survivors of Deliverance, Kaedes was seen as an ill-omen by his brothers. On Kiavahr in his youth he was known as the "Blood Crow," an infamous murderer condemned to rot on the moon prison that would become Deliverance. There he remained, until Corvus Corax offered him freedom and a pardon if he fought alongside the other rebels and limited his targets to those chosen by his new master. After enduring the painful late transformation to a Space Marine, it was only by the continued favour shown to him by Corax that he remained within the ranks of the Raven Guard, with few of his brothers willing to tolerate his macabre obsession with the hunt. Yet, in the grim shadow wars fought by the Raven Guard in furtherance of the Emperor's grand plan, his murder-honed skills were employed with grim regularity. When the Raven Guard came to Istvaan V, Kaedes came with them, vanishing into the wastes to stalk the Traitors on his own terms. Nothing is recorded of his role in either the retreat from the Drop Site Massacre or the days that followed, and some maintain that not all of the Traitor craft to later leave Istvaan V carried only the followers of Horus, and that Kaedes continued his private war in the shadows of the Horus Heresy amongst the ranks of his enemies.
- Munokhoi - Munokhoi, known in the White Scars Legion's broken Imperial Gothic tongue as "the Black Hound," Kharakhor, was a Moritat killer who served in the Brotherhood of the Sable Wolf. After the death of Ulkanor Khan during the Chondax Campaign, he took command, making it his personal mission to track down and destroy the Alpha Legion Headhunters.
Notable Moritat Variations
- Deathsworn Packs - The Deathsworn were the dark heart of the VI Legion and theirs was a cause that was eventually to find its vent in the transfiguration of the flesh, but long before the first "Wulfen" emerged among the scions of Leman Russ, the descent into the depths of the beast and its predatory taint was found within the minds of those born of the Space Wolves' gene-seed. In every Legion it was said there were those for who the horrors of all they had witnessed and all the bloody deeds they had done in the name of the Great Crusade mutilated their soul and damaged their minds to such an extent that they were no longer men, no longer Space Marines in truth, but something hollow and murderous beyond reason. In some Legions, such things might go all but unnoticed, even perhaps mark one for advancement, while in others, the gift of final peace was offered, or perhaps outcast status as one of the so-called 'Moritats' or a place in the Destroyer units. But within the Space Wolves, such an all-consuming impulse to kill and kill again was better understood, and the ways of Fenris held the answer to such dark souls in the shape of the Cult of Morkai and its ministers, who ensured that those of the Death Wolf would be cast upon the enemies of Mankind with proper application of force. The warriors who gave themselves over to Morkai became known as the Deathsworn. Marked by wolf-skull helms, they were the embodiment of the spirit of death in the heart of the Space Wolves Legion.
- Judiciars - The Judiciars, like the Moritats of other Legions, brought terror and death to the enemy ahead of the main advance of the Legion. Sanguinius had long striven to change their role within his Legion, so that these warriors became agents of judgement, bringing his wrath to those he had chosen for death rather than spreading carnage freely.
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 134, 137, 153, 280-281
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 228
- The Horus Heresy - Book Eight: Malevolence (Forge World Series) by Neil Wylie and Anuj Malhotra, pp. 47-48, 59-60, 65, 71, 73, 97-98, 102, 210, 308