Unforgiven icon

Iconography of the Unforgiven

The Unforgiven is the name given to the Dark Angels Chapter of Space Marines and all of their Successor Chapters. Each of the Unforgiven Chapters traces their genetic lineage to the Primarch Lion El'Jonson and his Space Marine Legion. The Unforgiven have come to hold this name because of the events surrounding the death of their Primarch at the hands of his second-in-command Luther and a contingent of the original Dark Angels Legion which turned to Chaos at the end of the Horus Heresy. Luther and the Lion met in single combat upon the surface of the Dark Angels' original homeworld of Caliban where Luther used the powers of Chaos to assault his former friend. However, Luther repented of his actions upon seeing the Lion mortally wounded at his feet. In their rage, the Ruinous Powers initiated a massive Warp Storm that tore the world of Caliban apart and transported every one of the Chaos-tainted Dark Angels through time and space after drawing them into the Warp. These Traitor Marines are known today to the Unforgiven as the Fallen Angels.

The officers and most Veteran Space Marines of each Unforgiven Chapter, collectively known as the Inner Circle, swears an oath that they will not again know the forgiveness of the Emperor of Mankind for the I Legion's disloyalty during the Horus Heresy until every one of the Fallen has repented their crime or received the Emperor's Peace. However, the Astartes of the Unforgiven who have learned this secret will pursue this quest to the exclusion of all other duties, even their defence of the Imperium. As a result of this obsession, some in the Inquisition have begun to fear for the Dark Angels' and their Successor Chapters' loyalties as there have been instances where they have even disobeyed a direct order of the High Lords of Terra. Because of this secret, the Dark Angels do not mix openly with Space Marine Chapters outside of the Unforgiven even when fighting alongside them as allies. In turn, the Unforgiven are deeply distrustful of the Inquisition, for they will do anything to avoid having their secret shame discovered by outsiders, and ferreting out secrets is the very reason for the Inquisition's existence.


The Dark Angels stand first amongst the Space Marine Chapters, as they have done since their very inception as the I Legion of the bygone Space Marine Legions. They are a proud Chapter, with traditions and rituals that date back to the earliest days of the Imperium of Man. The origins of the Dark Angels Chapter remain shrouded in mystery. Few Imperial records of its beginnings still exist, nor are there many mentions of the part it played in the Emperor's Great Crusade during the late 30th and early 31st Millennia. Most references in the histories of the Imperium to its deeds during the accursed times of the galaxy-wide insurrection known as the Horus Heresy have actually been expunged. Yet a legend persists that at one point the Dark Angels teetered on the very brink of heresy and that an act of the most terrible betrayal dishonoured all of the I Legion's feats of valour, leaving an enduring stain upon all of its Successor Chapters' honour.

Fall of Caliban

Luther - Great Betrayer

Luther, the Great Betrayer and leader of the Fallen Angels

Destruction of Caliban

The Primarch Lion El'Jonson during the destruction of Caliban

In the aftermath of the Horus Heresy, the surviving Loyalists rallied the reeling Imperium. The Dark Angels took a significant part in these battles, which later came to be called the Great Scouring. As they pursued the rebels, the Legion diverted to their nearby homeworld of Caliban, which had been enshrouded by Warp Storms since Horus' betrayal. For Lion El'Jonson, one final act of treachery remained to be discovered. Upon the Dark Angels' arrival in orbit, they were fired upon from the surface. Pulling back the Legion fleet, El'Jonson tried to find out what had happened, and discovered that Luther, Jonson's second-in-command, had become embittered by what he perceived as El'Jonson always taking all the glory. Knowing the hearts of men, Luther utilised his superb oratory, and poisoned the minds of the Dark Angels garrison and the new recruits that had been left on the planet against their Primarch. Correctly believing that Luther and the planet-side Dark Angels had actually been tainted by Chaos, an infuriated El'Jonson ordered that Caliban be bombarded from orbit, destroying the planet's defences.

El'Jonson then led his forces to the surface and assaulted the Order's fortress-monastery, where he confronted Luther in single combat. Luther, transformed into a Chaos Champion by the power of the Chaos Gods, was now evenly matched in strength with the enraged Primarch. The battle between the two levelled the Order's fortress-monastery as the planet was coming apart around them, the orbital bombardment taking a heavy toll on the surface. El'Jonson managed to wound Luther, but could not bring himself to kill the man who had been his brother and mentor. Luther lashed out with a powerful sorcerous attack that mortally wounded the Primarch. As he saw what he had done, Luther felt a veil lift from his eyes, and the Chaos Gods -- seeing that once again their chosen Champion had failed to defeat the lackeys of the Emperor of Mankind -- lashed out with the powers of the Warp. The followers of Luther, the Fallen Angels, were scattered throughout space and time, and Caliban tore itself apart under the strain of the Ruinous Powers' assault. The only portion of the planet remaining intact was the rock on which stood the fortress-monastery in which Luther and the Lion had duelled. The Dark Angels entered the shattered monastery and captured the broken Luther; of El'Jonson himself, however, there was no sign.

Age of the Imperium

The aftermath of the Horus Heresy was a time of great mistrust. On Terra, the Emperor's silenced body was sustained only by the life-giving machineries of the Golden Throne. The newly envisioned realm of Mankind was now governed in the Emperor's name by the High Lords of Terra. Their first orders were to seek out the hidden roots of the rebellion, to search for collaborators, and to follow up on the retreat of the Traitor Legions that had joined the treacherous Warmaster. All across the Imperium, a tangled web of suspicion hung over everything, misdoubts that were only made worse as further investigations revealed yet deeper corruption. Thus began the Age of the Imperium, an era steeped in paranoia, recriminations and vengeance. It was in this new age of fear and doubt that the remaining Dark Angels assembled to pay tribute to their lost Primarch. Internalising their grief, the Dark Angels pulled together, their Masters forming a plan of action. They were still the Sons of the Lion -- tenacious warriors who, once stirred to action, were never short of zeal. In a way, the Dark Angels were born again, single-mindedly rededicating their lives to the service of the Imperium.

The Inner Circle

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A Dark Angels Grand Master of the Inner Circle

With their Primarch missing and their Battle-Brothers on Caliban having betrayed them to Chaos, the Dark Angels swore to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Emperor and force the Fallen Angels to repent or die. They decided the true story of treachery behind the destruction of Caliban must remain secret; no outsider must learn of the schism that had split the I Legion, or that any Dark Angels had ever turned to the service of the Ruinous Powers. Should the truth be revealed, the Dark Angels would be labelled Excommunicate Traitoris and never given a chance to redeem themselves. The senior members of the Legion formed a secret conclave -- an Inner Circle of the Legion's Masters. They created an overlapping system to watch over their own Battle-Brothers, and also themselves. Everyone must be scrutinised for signs of corruption. Thus started a spiral of mistrust and secrecy that continues to this day.

Such was the scale of the disaster of the Fall of Caliban that there could be no hiding it. Psykers across the galaxy had sensed the Warp Storm that ripped the world apart, and the titanic flash of the tempest meeting the indomitable force field surrounding the Dark Angels' fortress-monastery had blazed like a supernova. However, the Dark Angels erected a systematic cover-up of the truth, for each remaining Battle-Brother of the I Legion had taken stringent vows of unspeakable binding to never reveal what really took place on Caliban. Their story might not have held up under an intense inquiry, but it was a time of great upheaval in the Imperium and the retreating Traitor Legions were bolder near the Eye of Terror: the Night Lords, in particular, laid many ambushes that took a high toll on their Imperial pursuers. That a Warp Storm had claimed the Dark Angels' homeworld, and so many of their brethren, was but another tragedy in a deluge of grim tidings.

The Dark Angels split their remaining Legion fleet in an attempt to answer the many distress calls that reached them. In the Cadian Sector they joined the Blood Angels, themselves still reeling from the loss of their Primarch Sanguinius during the Battle of Terra. Together, like vengeful angels, they drove the Traitors and daemons alike into exile. On Seption Prime, Dark Angels Terminator companies arrived just in time to provide a rearguard action, allowing the Ultramarines to extract their forces before that Plague Planet lost to the pestilential whims of Nurgle was destroyed by Exterminatus. All who fought alongside the Dark Angels lauded them as steadfast warriors, utterly dedicated to the destruction of the Emperor's enemies.

Upon their return to their newly constructed mobile fortress-monastery, The Rock, the much-depleted Dark Angels found disturbing news. At the time of the Fall of Caliban, the Dark Angels thought their traitorous brethren had all been destroyed, vanquished in the Warp Storm that blossomed in the death throes of their homeworld. The Fallen Angels had been swept into the vortex of that horrific rent in the galaxy, but the fury of the Dark Gods had not slain them. The scryings of the Legion's Librarians searched long and hard for their missing Primarch and of him they could read no signs. They did, however, pick up traces of the Fallen and determined that the Traitors yet lived, although what remained of their psychic signatures were widespread, and the connections were already fading out of mindsight.

The Hunt Begins

The Masters of the I Legion greeted this new shock with typical stoicism, despite the inner turmoil it created. On the one hand, they feared their nightmare would be revealed -- that while the Fallen lived, knowledge of their Legion's treachery against the Emperor might be spread throughout the galaxy. On the other hand, the continued existence of the Traitors offered hope, for if the Renegades could be tracked down and forced to repent, then the sins of the Legion might be absolved, washed away in the blood of the Fallen. The Grand Masters of the nascent Inner Circle swore that so long as even one of the Fallen remained alive and unrepentant, the Dark Angels would be Unforgiven, cursed by their brothers to atone for all eternity. So began the secret mission that would prove the driving force behind the Dark Angels' and their Successors' actions for millennia to come. To this day, the Dark Angels and their Successor Chapters of the Unforgiven continue to wage a war of repentance to wipe this secret stain from the honour of the old I Legion. They can never truly rest until every one of the Fallen has been eliminated. Dark Angels hold the duty of capturing or killing the Fallen as their most important duty, superseding all other necessities. There have been cases where the Dark Angels have literally left the battlefield in the middle of combat against the Emperor's foes in order to chase down a suspected sighting of a Fallen Angel.

The Second Founding

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The Dark Angels hunt for the elusive Fallen Angels

Many changes were happening within the Imperium during these darksome days. Although Horus had been defeated and his remaining Traitor Legions driven into the Eye of Terror, the High Lords of Terra and the remaining Primarchs still dreaded the resurgence of Chaos. They had all recoiled in horror at the full realisation of how insidious the betrayal had been, how far across the galaxy the roots of corruption had spread. Never again could the Imperium be subjected to such widespread rebellion; drastic measures had to be undertaken. To avoid the threat of the Space Marine armies, Mankind's most elite warriors, falling under the influence of the enemy, the remaining Legions were sub-divided into a number of smaller Chapters. Before the Horus Heresy, a Space Marine Legion might count ten thousand or more warriors under a single command, but under the new structure each Chapter's size was limited to a thousand warriors.

The organisation, tactics and roles of the new "Chapters" were defined in the sacred tome of tactical knowledge known as the Codex Astartes. Roboute Guilliman, the Primarch of the Ultramarines, almost single-handedly wrote the Codex Astartes, which laid out in painstaking detail the order of battle for a standard Space Marine Chapter as well as the tactics required to meet almost every combat situation. These proscriptions not only lessened the risks of a single Traitor once more using the power of the Astartes to assault the Imperium, but also allowed the limited number of Space Marines remaining after the Horus Heresy to be more flexible and more spread out across the galaxy to confront Mankind's many remaining enemies. The first act of creating smaller, more versatile Chapters out of the original Space Marine Legions was known as the Second Founding, and the new Chapters were known as Successor Chapters of the original First Founding Legions. Although autonomous, Successor Chapters naturally claimed close ties to the Chapter which retained the original name and traditions of their originating Legion, and this proved especially true with the Dark Angels. It is unknown exactly how many were created, as some have since been destroyed and the records of that time have been lost.

The Dark Angels acquiesced to the order of Guilliman to split into Successor Chapters, as doing otherwise would have raised suspicion at a time when they could ill afford any scrutiny. From the I Legion, they sired the Angels of Absolution, the Angels of Redemption and the Angels of Vengeance, each new Chapter led by its own Grand Master. While maintaining the facade of full autonomy, the Dark Angels' Successor Chapters regularly met, in clandestine fashion, to take their lead from the Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels Chapter -- for although they had been divided, the Successor Chapters too had witnessed the Fall of Caliban, and thus remained Unforgiven in the sight of the Emperor.


The Unforgiven do not only share the secret of the Fallen Angels existence with their progenitors; they also share a common military organisation and order of battle that closely mirrors that of the Dark Angels' unorthodox structure. Each Unforgiven Chapter is governed by a secretive Inner Circle of officers who make use of the same titles as the Dark Angels and each usually maintains company formations that are identical in doctrine and composition, though not necessarily name, to the Dark Angels' elite Deathwing (1st) Company of Terminators and the Ravenwing (2nd) Company of highly mobile, fast attack squadrons. Because of their shared secret, all of the Unforgiven Chapters maintain an unusual level of coordination with one another as they seek out leads on their Fallen Angel targets. It is not unknown for the Supreme Grand Masters of all the Unforgiven Chapters to gather at relatively regular intervals for secret convocations on The Rock, the asteroid and mobile fortress-monastery that is all that remains of Caliban.

Notable Unforgiven Chapters

When the Space Marine Legions split into Chapters after the Horus Heresy as recounted above, the Dark Angels Legion sired at least three new Chapters, but more are rumoured to exist. Although frequently passed over in subsequent Space Marine Foundings, the Dark Angels have periodically been requested to give gene-seed to found new Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.

The Dark Angels' Successor Chapters collectively call themselves the Unforgiven, for their own Inner Circles are fully aware of the ancient I Legion's checkered history and they, too, seek to absolve themselves of their ancient failure. As noted, each of the Unforgiven Chapters follows the Dark Angels tactical organisation almost exactly, and maintain formations identical to the Deathwing and the Ravenwing, though they are not always named as such. The Unforgiven coordinate their actions, and it is not unknown for the Supreme Grand Masters of all the Chapters to gather for regular summit meetings on The Rock, often to discuss their progress in the hunt for the Fallen. Although duty-bound to run their Chapters autonomously, it is strongly suspected by some within the Imperium, especially the Inquisition, that the Dark Angels' Successor Chapters show too much deference to the Supreme Grand Master of their originating Chapter. It is, at least partially, this rumour of forbidden "Legion-building" that often persuades the High Lords of Terra to overlook the Dark Angels gene-seed when seeking to create new Foundings.

Chapter Name Founding Notes Chapter Icon
Dark Angels First Founding The Dark Angels were the inheritors of the I Legion's name, iconography, mantle and traditions. As the custodians of The Rock, the last remnant of lost Caliban in the universe, the Dark Angels are automatically looked upon as the leaders of the Unforgiven. The wishes of the Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels can sometimes be decisive in determining the course of action undertaken by the other Unforgiven, especially in the hunt for the Fallen Angels.
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Angels of Absolution Second Founding The Angels of Absolution have fought throughout the known galaxy, most often alongside the Dark Angels Chapter, in joint operations such as the Crusade against the Ork Empire of Charadon, the Battle at Archangel VII or the bloody suppression of the Rasputin Uprisings. In doctrine and temperament, the Angels of Absolution are very close to the Dark Angels. The two Chapters' teachings are largely consistent -- the only divergence lies in the emphasis placed on the Chapter's guilt concerning the Fallen. Though it is a subtle distinction, the Angels of Absolution consider their own sins expunged by their forefathers' actions in the Fall of Caliban. Though the Angels of Absolution fear no damnation from the consequences of that Fall, they still consider themselves responsible for meting out the punishment upon the Traitors. Currently, the Angels of Absolution are wholly committed to stopping the 13th Black Crusade, and all ten companies are deployed in some fashion on those battlefields around the Eye of Terror as they seek to contain the aftereffects of Abaddon the Despoiler's latest assault upon the realm of Mankind. The Angels of Absolution have reported back to The Rock the confirmed presence of several members of the Fallen amongst the Forces of Chaos that emerged from the Eye with the Despoiler.
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Angels of Redemption Second Founding Nothing can dissuade the Angels of Redemption from their mission to hunt down the Fallen, and it has been noted that the Chapter has, on occasion, withdrawn from a campaign in order to pursue their own undisclosed ends. It was at the height of the Defence of Gaitlinghive that the Angels of Redemption redeployed at the moment of the Orks' final assault, leaving seven brigades of Gaitlinghive militia alone to face an Orkish horde three million Greenskins strong. The Angels of Redemption were never called to account for this act, as there were no survivors to press any formal inquiry. The Angels themselves embarked upon a hunt that led them to capture a Fallen Dark Angel -- a victory, to them, worth the lives of the Gaitlinghive militia, and the population of the hive city they fought to protect. Perhaps due to this incident, and other similar events, Imperial forces have actually declined the aid of the Angels of Redemption. The consequences of their reputation have yet to emerge, but could range from Inquisitorial censure to outright excommunication, depending upon the Chapter's actions in the coming years.
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Angels of Vengeance Second Founding The deeds of the Angels of Vengeance are even less well-known than those of the other Unforgiven Chapters, for they shun fame and laurels, instead concentrating on their duties to the exclusion of all else. They are a grim and dour organisation, with all of their companies wearing Power Armour of jet black. This is a tribute to the panopoly worn by the original Dark Angels Legion, when they first set out from Terra on the Great Crusade in ca. 800.M30.
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Angels of Vigilance Second Founding/25th Founding (Disputed) The Angels of Vigilance are a monastic Chapter of Loyalist Space Marines whose mysterious origins may go back to the bygone days of the Second Founding during the 31st Millennium. It is unknown from which Space Marines Legion their gene-seed was drawn, though the Angels of Vigilance themselves believe they are descended from the Dark Angels. They have stood silent vigil over the Eye of Terror as sentinels against the encroaching Forces of Chaos for nearly ten millennia if the rumours about their origins are true.
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Consecrators Second Founding The Consecrators Chapter is a mystery. No record of their existence is to be found prior to the third century of the 40th Millennium. The Chapter's first appearance is in the works of the field notary Corwen Quilp, in his account of the Second Kuppukin Schism. At the height of this terrible war, Loyalist forces were surrounded by the foe when the entire Consecrators Chapter deployed in their support. Though never answering friendly transmissions, the Consecrators launched an immediate attack upon the enemy and, within six hours, the Consecrators had wiped out the schismatists' entire high command structure, breaking the back of the rebellion, and essentially winning the war. Their task complete, the Chapter withdrew, not to be seen for another three decades, when its 4th Company fought alongside the Dark Angels at the Arrulas Intervention. Though his descriptions are vague, Quilp is very specific about one element of the Consecrators' appearance -- he noted that the brethren of this Chapter bore all manner of sacred relics, and used the most ancient patterns of Imperial armour, weaponry and vehicles. It was as if, Quilp commented, the Consecrators had inherited the most revered arms of the ancient I Legion, preserving them lovingly, and bearing them down the ages against the foes of the Lion and the Emperor.
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Disciples of Caliban Unknown Founding The Founding of the Disciples of Caliban is shrouded in controversy. It is believed that Dark Angels Supreme Grand Master Anaziel made a strong request of the High Lords of Terra for a Chapter to be raised late in the 37th Millennium. Much debate followed, for it is highly unusual for a Chapter Master to make such a request, though it was eventually granted and the Disciples of Caliban were founded. Some have suggested that Anaziel must have had some sort of leverage over at least one High Lord to achieve such a thing. The Disciples' Founding gene-seed was of the highest pedigree held by the Dark Angels at the time, and scrutinised to a standard far beyond even that required by the Adeptus Terra. To this day, the purity of the Chapter's gene-seed is constantly monitored for the slightest sign of corruption or genetic degradation, and it has the most exacting standards of recruitment of any of the Unforgiven Chapters. There have been whispers that Anaziel had the Disciples of Caliban created to fulfill a specific purpose, often rumoured amongst the other Unforgiven to be for the single-minded pursuit and capture of the Renegade known as Cypher. The Disciples of Caliban are a fleet-based Chapter, which has greatly aided the rapidity with which they can traverse the Imperium. Their flagship houses great reliquaries celebrating the success of their forebears. Each company has several Relic Bearers who carry the Chapter's most sacred artefacts to war to inspire the brethren. The most precious of these relics is the Lionus Censum, an immense scroll that details the names and deeds of the Chapter's most decorated Battle-Brothers.
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Guardians of the Covenant Unknown Founding It is not known from what Founding the Guardians of the Covenant came, only that they too are part of the Unforgiven. Their adopted homeworld, Mortikah VII, lies near the western rim of the Imperium, and their mountain-top fortress-monastery takes the form of a mighty Imperial cathedral, its great spire piercing the clouds. The Guardians of the Covenant have fought most of their battles within Segmentum Pacificus. They are known to have spearheaded a number of Imperial Crusades into the Halo Stars and the Veiled Region. The Guardians of the Covenant gained special honours for their deeds during the Lelith Incursion, when they saved an entire Sub-sector from a particularly appalling brand of xenos subjugation. The Chapter is known for its exceptionally monastic character. True warrior-monks of the Emperor, they are assiduous in studying the teachings of the Emperor and of their Primarch. Their banners, armour and the flanks of their vehicles are covered in spidery, handwritten and illuminated High Gothic text extracted from the pages of the Codex Astartes, the Requiem Angelis and many other tomes held sacred by the Adeptus Astartes.
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Knights of the Crimson Order Unknown Founding The Knights of the Crimson Order are a Successor Chapter of the original Dark Angels Space Marine Legion. Almost nothing is known about the Knights of the Crimson Order in Imperial records save that they exist and that they too are numbered amongst the ranks of the Unforgiven. Not listed in current Imperial records.
Lions Sable Second Founding The ill-fated Lions Sable Space Marine Chapter was the last of the Second Founding Successor Chapters of the Dark Angels. During the unspoken period of history known as the Forgotten Wars (580.M31-632.M32), the Lions Sable were completely annihilated during a disastrous campaign into the Eye of Terror whilst in pursuit of the notorious Fallen known as Cypher. Their subsequent fate and entire Chapter history was deliberately destroyed by the Dark Angels. Ironically, by the 33rd Millennium, when the great and holy document known as the Apocrypha of Davio was written in an attempt to list all of the known Second Founding Chapters, the name Lions Sable had already been lost. Not listed in current Imperial records.
Persecutors of Darkness Unknown Founding Almost nothing is known about the Persecutors of Darkness in Imperial records save that they exist and that they too are numbered amongst the Unforgiven. Not listed in current Imperial records.


  • Codex: Armageddon (3rd Edition), pg. 32
  • Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pp. 12, 24-27
  • Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition)
  • Dataslate: Cypher - Lord of the Fallen, pp. 15, 17-18, 20-22, 28
  • Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse (6th Edition), pg. 319
  • The Unforgiven (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
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