The Red Grail is a sacred relic of the Blood Angels Chapter of Space Marines and its Successor Chapters which is used to preserve the blood of their Primarch Sanguinius in the wake of his death during the Horus Heresy. This blood is drunk during certain rituals of the Chapter, including the one known as Insanguination when an Aspirant is preparing to begin the process of becoming a true Astartes. The Primarch's blood, preserved within the bodies of the Chapter's Sanguinary Priests, is used as a necessary catalyst to activate the recently implanted gene-seed organs.
The ritual involving drinking from the Red Grail for any reason is always administered by a Sanguinary Priest, the name given by the Blood Angels and their Successors to the Apothecaries of their Chapter. The leader of the Blood Angels' Sanguinary Priests, currently Corbulo, often carries the Red Grail into battle, where the relic has been incorporated with a powerful Conversion Field emitter to provide its wearer with enhanced protection from attack.
While this vessel is a key part of the induction mysteries of the Sanguinary Priests, it is also a potent relic upon the field of battle. Blood Angels and Astartes of their Successor Chapters in the presence of the Red Grail find themselves reinvigorated, the physical and psychological aspects inherited from their Primarch enhanced in some unknowable way. Impossible though it may seem, perhaps some residual trace of Sanguinius' spirit lingers within the grail, allowing him even in death to exhort his scions to ever greater deeds.
Although it is known to but a few, the Blood Angels and their Successor Chapters are a dying breed, for they suffer from a dreadful genetic Flaw. It is true that the Blood Angels now shun the company of their fellow Astartes whenever possible. Some Blood Angels, it is said, are driven by a terrible deathseeking madness called the Black Rage, brought on by visions of the death of their Primarch at the hands of Horus during the Battle of Terra. Others are afflicted by the terrible Red Thirst, a craving for blood which some claim may be the first signs of corruption by Chaos.
It is known that some amongst the Blood Angels themselves spend much time seeking a cure for these conditions, although most have resigned themselves to the slow and terrible decline of their Chapter. Some savants say that it is because Sanguinius was more touched by Chaos than the other Primarchs during his gestation capsule's flight through the Warp after he and his transhuman brothers were stolen from the Emperor's gene-laboratory.
They cite the fact that he possessed wings -- an obvious mutation -- to support their case. Their argument runs that the gene-seed that was extracted from him was genetically flawed and corrupted even before the first Blood Angels Space Marines were created from it by the Emperor, and thus terrible consequences were preordained. Other savants of the Astartes deny this, citing that the Emperor Himself trusted Sanguinius implicitly, and personally oversaw the creation of the Blood Angels. Certain Heretics counter this with the argument that the Emperor also once trusted Horus above all others in His Imperium, and that even He could make mistakes...
Other Imperial scholars claim that the Flaw lies in the process that is used to create each new generation of Blood Angels Astartes. They assert that it has crept in through the generations because the Blood Angels use the process known as Insanguination to activate the implanted gene-seed organs within their Aspirants. All Space Marine Chapters use the gene-seed organs to unleash and control the metabolic processes that transform an ordinary mortal into a Space Marine.
The gene-seed is encoded with all the information needed to reshape ordinary human cell clusters into the special organs Space Marines possess in those instances where they are not directly implanted after being cultured in vitro. The gene-seed contains genetically-engineered viral machines which rebuild the male human body according to the biological template contained within it. However, even from the beginning of the Astartes' existence, there was never a set way to activate these functions of the gene-seed.
During the First Founding of the 30th Millennium when the Space Marine Legions were first created, the process was still highly experimental and many different ways of controlling and managing the transformation from mortal into transhuman Astartes were tried. This led to the Space Wolves using the ritual known as the Blooding, the Imperial Fists using the process called the Hand of Faith, the White Scars conducting the Rites of the Risen Moon and the Blood Angels using the ritual of Insanguination.
The process of Insanguination was originally triggered by injecting the Aspirants with tiny samples of their Primarch's own blood. This practice, of course, ended with the tragic death of Sanguinius at the hands of Horus during the climax of the Siege of the Imperial Palace. However, some of his blood was preserved within the Blood Angels artefact known as the Red Grail. The still-living blood could not be kept this way for long and so it was injected into the veins of the Sanguinary Priests. In this way they became living hosts to the power of Sanguinius. To this day, the drinking of the collected blood of the assembled Sanguinary Priests from the Red Grail is part of the induction ritual for all Blood Angels Sanguinary Priests as well as the Chapter's Aspirants.
It is from these Sanguinary Priests that blood is taken to trigger the transformation of Aspirants into Space Marines. It is possible that over the countless generations since the time of the Horus Heresy the cells within the Blood Angels' gene-seed have mutated, slowly at first but more quickly in recent years, and that cumulative errors in DNA replication have resulted in the Flaw and the gradual increase in the onset of its mentally debilitating symptoms. Whatever the reason for the Flaw, it is certain that its hold over the Blood Angels has become ever stronger, and their tendency towards self-destructive insanity greater. Unless it can be halted and reversed, the Chapter and all of its Successors are doomed to extinction.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Blood Angels (8th Edition), pg. 31
- Codex: Blood Angels (5th Edition), pp. 12-13, 49
- Codex: Blood Angels (4th Edition), pp. 8, 15
- Codex: Blood Angels (3rd Edition), pg. 19
- Codex: Angels of Death (2nd Edition), pg. 96
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 38
- Red Fury (Novel) by James Swallow