- "I do not doubt my Emperor's wisdom in creating a necessary evil such as these fearful warriors, nor do I doubt their effectiveness in battle. It remains my fervent hope however, that though I spend my life making war for the liberation of Mankind that I never again see such inhuman butchery as I have witnessed in the halls of Cerberus."
- — Bashar-Colonel Alves Scorn, Terran XXIInd Dracos Regiment
The War Hounds were the XIIth Space Marine Legion raised by the Emperor of Mankind on Terra at the dawn of the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium. After the Emperor discovered the Legion's Primarch Angron on an unnamed world, and gave him command of the War Hounds, Angron changed the name of the Legion to the World Eaters, in honour of the gladiator force he had led in rebellion on his homeworld whose warriors came to be known as the "Eaters of Cities" for their wrath and violence. Angron expected that his Legion would become the "Eaters of Worlds".
The Emperor of Mankind sought to unite all of humanity under one banner following the Long Night of the Age of Strife, and end inter-human conflict. Once united, the Emperor intended to begin the next stage of His great plan to ensure human domination of the Milky Way Galaxy, which He judged to be necessary if humanity was to survive the never-ceasing threats to its existence embodied by Chaos, myriad xenos races and its own fragile human nature. In time, when the Emperor's eye first began to fall beyond Terra, He began to raise new armies to fight His Great Crusade. He drew these new troops in part from the forces that had already unified Terra during the Unification Wars of the late 30th Millennium. To carry out the Great Crusade and reunite all the scattered colony worlds of Mankind beneath the single banner of the Imperium of Man, the Emperor created the genetically-enhanced superhuman warriors known as the Legiones Astartes, the Space Marine Legions. These elite forces would serve as the speartip of His Great Crusade, bringing the light of the secular Imperial Truth and enforcing Imperial Compliance with the new regime on every human-settled world encountered.
Such sources that survived the later Battle of Terra at the height of the Horus Heresy regarding the origins and formation of the XIIth Legion of the Legiones Astartes are fragmentary at best, and in compiling their record Imperial scholars were forced to rely on second-hand accounts from those who fought alongside them, and the apocryphal accounts handed down by those many who had cause to fear and resent this most feared of Space Marine Legions. It appears that the Terran origins of the XIIth Legion showed no particular bias as to the techno-barbarian tribe or city-state from which the initial influx of recruits were taken as there was in the case of the other Legions. There has been some circumstantial evidence that there may have been psychological screening used to single out the most inherently aggressive and competitive recruits in an experimental pre-selection program. Whether this came to pass is merely supposition, for it is apparent from such records that survived that the XIIth Legion were from the outset deemed a highly aggressive force, its warriors hot-blooded and savage. One of its most ferocious and promising candidates, Ibram Ghreer, rose quickly within the ranks of the nascent Legion, and eventually assumed command of the XIIth as its first Legion Master.
During the Unification Wars the XIIth Legion's first recorded engagement was during the Sa'afrik Liberation where they served as a spearhead of shock troops, mounting direct annihilation assaults on enemy forces, both in open battle and fortified positions, and able to carry the attack despite their then relatively small numbers by sheer courage and the fury of the violence they could unleash. After its initial battles, however, the nascent Legion seems to have been largely held in reserve by the Emperor during the latter Unification Wars and right through the subsequent re-conquest of the Sol System. This may have been done in case of a sudden reversal of the fortunes of war, or as certain veiled evidence implies, as a weapon to be unleashed in case of disloyalty amongst the Emperor's own.
During this time the XIIth Legion was kept in a state of constant readiness, relentlessly training and steadily growing in numbers. On the occasions when it was unleashed into battle, the Legion's Astartes performed with almost gleeful savagery, tearing apart whatever enemy they were given to fight without mercy or falter, heedless of the risk and uncaring of the Legion's own losses. It is believed that during this period that the Emperor Himself dubbed the XIIth Legion His "War Hounds" as a tribute to the savage and tenacious way they fought to pacify the narco-sprawls of the Cephic Hives, for the XIIth Legion reminded Him of the white war hounds the Yeshk warriors of the north of Terra had once used. In remembrance of this campaign and the Emperor's pride in them, the red hound became the XIIth Legion's new badge of war.
The Great Crusade
As the early decades of the Great Crusade progressed after ca. 800.M30, and the first of the Primarchs were discovered across the galaxy where they had been dispersed by the Ruinous Powers, the XIIth Legion was broken up temporarily into a number of independent sub-commands, each several thousand Space Marines strong. The largest of these, at some 8,000 War Hounds, along with dedicated assault and fleet support elements, was designated the 13th Expeditionary Fleet, or the "Bloody 13th" as it became quickly known. These detachments were sent as a mobile reserve where the fighting was fiercest on the Great Crusade's frontlines. There they served as frontline assault troops in glorious campaigns alongside the Space Wolves, Iron Warriors and Dark Angels Legions. Elsewhere they would often provide the killing-strike for larger Imperial Army formations in war zones where an impasse had been reached, breaking a strategic deadlock in a single furious attack which sent an enemy reeling.
The War Hounds developed a reputation for victory, although at a cost, and it was said every assault they conducted ended in only one of two ways: victorious slaughter or simple slaughter, either of which left the foe in no condition to resist further. However effective the Legion was, there were many who fought alongside them who found them also to be unpredictable, intemperate and dangerous to anything that stood in their path, combatant, civilian or otherwise. Rumours soon began to circulate that the War Hounds would put to the sword human auxiliary regiments of the Imperial Army they saw as failing them in battle, and they kept a guarded distance from other Legions. It was noted by outsiders that the War Hounds' officers enforced an unusually harsh code of discipline in their ranks which was indeed needed, as the Astartes of this Legion often proved fractious, and bloodshed between Battle-Brothers was far from uncommon.
The XIIth Legion was increasingly deemed by the Imperial War Council as being more suitable for use against targets where annihilation was the goal rather than Imperial Compliance or liberation, a task to which they seemed eminently suited. The War Hounds were brought together again under the banner of the "Bloody 13th" alongside a variety of units who, like the War Hounds, had gained a dark reputation for unrestrained violence rather than military discipline, or who were otherwise deemed as unusable for actions where collateral damage was to be kept to a minimum and liberation rather than destruction was the goal. They mustered on the harsh, volcanic world of Bodt which had been taken by the War Hounds as a training ground some years before, included regiments of Feral World head-hunters inducted into the Imperial Army and brute Abhumans on the edge of the Imperium's tolerated genetic deviance. To these were added units such as the Titans of the Legio Audax around whom a pall of suspicion had fallen ever since the Lorin Alpha Massacres, and the distrusted Numen Gun Clans -- nomadic techno-barbarians who had bitterly fought against Compliance for many standard years before their recent and grudging induction into the Imperium.
The Primarch of Wrath
- "Because we couldn't be trusted. The Emperor needed a weapon that would never obey its own desires before those of the Imperium. He needed a weapon that would never bite the hand that feeds.
The World Eaters were not that weapon. We've all drawn blades purely for the sake of shedding blood, and we've all felt the exultation of winning a war that never even needed to happen. We are not the tame, reliable pets that the Emperor wanted. The Wolves obey, when we would not. The Wolves can be trusted, when we never could. They have a discipline we lack, because their passions are not aflame with the Butcher's Nails buzzing in the back of their skulls.
The Wolves will always come to heel when called. In that regard, it is a mystery why they name themselves wolves. They are tame, collared by the Emperor, obeying his every whim. But a wolf doesn't behave that way. Only a dog does.
That is why we are the Eaters of Worlds, and the War Hounds no longer."
- — Eighth Captain Khârn, from his unpublished treatise The Eighteen Legions
A very great deal about the finding of the Primarch Angron remains unknown to wider Imperial record. There is in fact evidence that this information, including the true name of the world he was found upon was known but was kept deliberately secret by command of the Emperor and those close to Him. That which is known is a dark tale of the Primarch's brutal upbringing, murderous violence, and Angron's revolt against his cruel masters. How Angron came to be separated from the Emperor and Terra by the mysterious machinations of the Ruinous Powers and what planet they deposited him upon after he was stolen away as an infant through the Warp is unknown. Where this planet is located in the galaxy or if it even still exists is uncertain. Carpinus' Speculum Historiate tells of Angron's homeworld that it was technologically advanced and ruled over by a wealthy noble caste who lived in decadent opulence while the populations of their cities lived in abject poverty in the huge slums surrounding their palaces and villas. To distract the populace from their poverty, the oligarchic rulers of this planet held regular gladiatorial deathmatches in massive arenas, using cybernetically-enhanced gladiators who battled to satisfy the endless bloodlust of the oppressed people. It was on this world that the Primarch Angron was eventually discovered, though little else about the circumstances of how he came to be there remains known.
What is known is that Angron was discovered by a slaver who chanced upon the battered and bleeding figure of the young Primarch, surrounded by scores of alien corpses, high in the northern mountains of the world. History does not record what species these aliens belonged to, but many Imperial scholars believe them to have been Eldar who attempted to kill the Primarch, due to some psychic foreknowledge of the plague upon the galaxy he would one day become. Angron had been badly wounded in the combat, but remained alive. Taken as a slave, Angron was nursed back to health and bio-neural cybernetic implants were surgically grafted to his cerebral cortex. Relic devices from the Dark Age of Technology, these implants would boost a warrior's adrenaline, resulting in greater strength and aggression in battle. Angron was taken to the planet's capital city where his obvious potential as a gladiator was soon made apparent and he was bought by the largest and most popular arena in the capital. The cells below the arena were home to several thousand of these cyborg gladiators and Angron took his place amongst them.
After only a few months, Angron had become a proud warrior of fearsome skill and an even stronger sense of honour. He killed hundreds of other gladiators, but those who fought well he always spared. Although Angron seemed to enjoy the life of a gladiator and the adulation of the crowds, he secretly resented his slavery, and was always plotting to escape. He proved to be a troublesome champion, prone to attempt escaping whenever he saw an occasion, but such efforts always failed. Within a few standard years Angron's fame had spread to every corner of his homeworld. Under his training, the gladiators of his arena soon became the greatest their world had ever seen and none could stand against them. Yet Angron also learned, following a final failed escape attempt, that he would never succeed alone. His unbending warrior's code and sheer combat skill had made him a well-respected leader among the other gladiators and when the largest death games ever held on his world were announced, Angron planned his most daring escape attempt. For these new games, Angron was allowed to stage a vast combat that would involve every gladiator of his arena. As the crowd drowned out the sounds of battle, Angron's gladiators turned on their armed guards, butchering them and fighting their way to freedom. Against the guards armed with firearms, the gladiators' casualties were grievous, but nearly 2,000 survived to escape into the capital city, stealing what weapons and supplies they could before fleeing into the northern mountains where Angron had first been discovered. Over the next few years, the rulers of the world dispatched many armed forces to kill or recapture the rebel slaves, but all were destroyed in turn by Angron's leadership, martial skill and the cybernetically-enhanced fury of the gladiators.
But attrition and hunger slowly took their toll on the slaves and eventually only 1,000 men and women remained, half the size of the original force of escapees. On a mountain named Fedan Mhor, Angron and his forces were finally surrounded by no less than five large armies. Not even the Primarch could stand against such sheer numbers, yet it was at this time that the Emperor of Mankind came to this world, drawn by the psychic emanations of His gene-son the Primarch. The Emperor had observed Angron secretly from orbit for many months and had watched with pride as he had led his freed slaves in battle against the forces of tyranny. The Emperor descended to the world's surface and after the shock of the august meeting had worn off on the Primarch, the Emperor offered Angron the leadership of the XIIth Space Marines Legion, which had been created from Angron's own genetic material, and a place at His side in the Great Crusade. To the Emperor's disbelief, Angron refused, claiming that his place remained with his fellow slaves and he would die before deserting them. The Emperor retreated to His flagship, shocked at His son's refusal. Appraising the situation, the Emperor saw that for all of Angron's might as a Primarch and a leader, he would die in the coming battle. Losing one of His irreplaceable sons to the assault of rabble on a backwater planet soon to be brought into Imperial Compliance was simply unacceptable. Bringing His flagship into low orbit over the world, the Emperor teleported Angron away from the mountain of Fedan Mhor. Without their leader, the morale of the gladiators was destroyed and the next day they were slaughtered to the last man by the armies of the world's rulers. This was a deed for which Angron would never forgive the Emperor, and a stain upon the Primarch's honour that would never fade but fester into a soul-deep wound.
The exact records of the Emperor's intervention and Angron's acceptance of his new situation is a matter of shadowed rumour and conjecture, but what can be said with certainty is that Angron's first reaction to his new situation was rage. It was said with certainty that for some time any War Hound who came before him was met with a grisly death for their efforts. It is certain that at this time the Legion Master of the War Hounds, Ibram Ghreer, a respected general who had commanded the XIIth Legion for nearly three decades, disappeared without explanation from any record of the time and no explanation was given by his taciturn Legion for his absence. Apparently some sort of accommodation was reached and Angron swiftly took charge of his Legion. Angron renamed his Legion the World Eaters after he assumed command. Angron did this in honour of the gladiator force he had led in rebellion on his homeworld whose warriors came to be known as the "Eaters of Cities" for their wrath and violence. He chose the new name for his Legion when Dreagher, a Terran-born War Hounds Astartes who served as Captain of the Legion's 9th Company, promised Angron after meeting his Primarch for the first time that under his leadership the War Hounds would become "...the eater of worlds."
- Sa'afrik Liberation (Unknown Date.M30) - The XIIth Legion's first recorded engagement was during the Sa'afrik Liberation of the Unification Wars where they served as a spearhead of shock troops, mounting direct annihilation assaults on enemy forces, both in open battle and fortified positions. They proved able to carry the attack despite their then-relatively small numbers by sheer courage and the fury of the violence they could unleash. After its initial battles in the conflict the nascent XIIth Legion seems to have been largely held in reserve by the Emperor during the later Unification Wars.
- Pacification of the Cephic Hives (Unknown Date.M30) - The Pacification of the Cephic Hives was another early campaign of the XIIth Legion during the latter days of the Unification Wars. The Emperor Himself dubbed the XIIth Legion His "War Hounds" at this time as a tribute to the savage and tenacious way they fought to pacify the narco-sprawls of the Cephic Hives.
- Cerberus Insurrection (Unknown Date.M30) - The newly dubbed War Hounds were tasked alongside the Terran XXIInd Dracos Regiment of the Imperial Army to subdue the asteroid prison colony of Cerberus which had risen up in anarchic revolt in a state of near continuous rioting and mob violence. Initial attempts to impose order by Terran troops had been thrown back in disarray as it became apparent that among the insurrectionists was a renegade cadre of outlawed Thunder Warriors, long believed dead, calling themselves the Dait'Tar. With many of the Space Marine Legions already assigned to the first Expeditionary Fleets of the Great Crusade and en route to the stars, the Emperor Himself dispatched His War Hounds to Cerberus with explicit instructions to reclaim Cerberus colony and carry the Emperor's wrath to those that had defied Him. Within five hours, a signal was received from Praetor-Commander Calyb Hax of the XIIth Legion that Cerberus-Primary had been returned to Imperial Compliance. When asked by the leader of the waiting second wave how many prisoners to expect to transfer into custody, Hax replied that he had not been ordered to take any. The second wave of Imperial Army troops were tasked with the bleak task of clear-up operations in the wake of the War Hounds' assault, hunting down any survivors hiding in the warren of tunnels and passageways, of which there proved to be precious few. There were multiple reports of more than once coming across the hulking carcass of an armoured Thunder Warrior, often with three or four of his number in Astartes dead around him, of choke-points and defence posts turned into blood-soaked charnel houses and of scores upon scores of insurgents cut down from behind while fleeing in blind panic, their weapons abandoned.
- Nove Shendak Campaign (World Eight-Two-Seventeen) (Unknown Date.M30) - Nove Shendak was a world of worms; giant creatures, intelligent. Hateful. Their weapons were filaments, metal feathers that they embedded in themselves to conduct energies out of their bodies. The surface would roil with the filaments before the worms broke out of it almost at the Imperial defenders' feet. Thick as a man, longer that a person was tall. They had three mouths in their faces, a dozen teeth in their mouths. They spoke through the mud in sonic screams and witch-whispers. Early in the Great Crusade, the War Hounds Legion had found three star systems under their thrall, burned them out of their colony nests and chased them home. But on their cradle-world the XIIth Legion had found humans. Humans lost to humanity for who knows how long, crawling on the land while the worms slithered in the marsh seas. Hunting the humans, farming them. Killing them. The War Hounds, alongside their fellow Astartes Legion the Iron Warriors, and a large contingent of Imperial Army soldier were charged with exterminating the worms and liberating the humans of this world. Fighting the worms was next to impossible as the lunar tides dragged the mud oceans to and fro across the jagged stone continents, making the ground very unstable. The Imperial forces had to use sentries with high-powered lasguns to read the movements of the mud to hear the worms moving through it towards them. Explosives were seeded around the earthworks and allowed to sink to where the worms burrowed. Perturabo had his Iron Warriors build earthworks. They built trenches and dykes, penned in the mud seas and drained them, drove the worms back, reclaimed land the wretched humans could build on. And when the worms came out to fight the Imperials, they met the Emperor and His War Hounds. Though the casualties were horrendous, the War Hounds eventually emerged triumphant.
At its creation, the XIIth Legion, like almost all the Space Marine Legions of the time, followed the so-called "Terran Pattern" of organisation as formulated by the Imperial Officio Militaris at the outset of the Great Crusade, but even in this earliest period the Legion's procurement and outfitting showed a considerable bias towards direct assault and operations within the close and deadly confines of the kinds of battlefields designated as "Zone Mortalis" in Imperial strategic doctrine. During Angron's transition of command, this would continue, and the Legion's organisational structures were kept largely intact but often further streamlined, with its echelons being biased in make-up towards line infantry formations. These formations were a hybrid of tactical/close assault troops for the main part, supported by dedicated heavy assault units such as Terminators and specialised units such as Land Speeder squadrons. This organisation lent itself well to a highly aggressive strategic posture and belligerent tactics, which while extremely costly in terms of casualties, were also highly effective. The rank structure of the World Eaters under Angron remained simple and direct, the Primarch having little but scorn for the trappings of elites and pointless accolades and titles. It is said that Angron refused even to be addressed as "Lord" by his Astartes, but he did see the virtue of a reliable and transparent chain-of-command in war.
The War Hounds Legion was also known for its harsh enforcement of internal discipline and the hot-blooded temper of its Legionaries. Command within the Legion was gained through a mixture of martial prowess on the battlefield and displays of leadership on the front line, with specialists singled out by aptitude early on. No rank or role within the Legion was exempt from the expectation that they would fight as hard as the rest, however, nor was the desire to grapple with the foe and cut them down by blade-stroke discouraged if the opportunity arose, be the Space Marine in question an Apothecary or Artillerist rather than a frontline fighter. Compared to many of the other Astartes Legions, order and discipline did not come as naturally to those of this gene-seed as might be expected. Tempers often seethed, slights perceived or real were met with anger and more often than not violence would result should a War Hounds' sense of honour be impugned. All officers of the Legion knew they were expected to back up their authority by force if needed, and the punishment of infractors by an officer's own hands was the Legion's way. To disobey an officer's order in battle was a death sentence to be carried out without delay. Trial by combat soon became the Legion's preferred route for settling disagreements within its ranks, and bloodletting by warriors in open discord was an honourable thing both in Angron's eyes and that of his Legion. Here also could one of higher rank be challenged for the right of command, although such rare contests were always to the death.
Legion Combat Doctrine
Hand-to-hand combat was the XIIth Legion's preferred form of warfare, even before it took the Emperor-given name of the War Hounds for itself. This did not mean that the War Hounds lacked ability and competency in ranged engagements or armoured warfare and supporting artillery attack. Indeed, no lesser luminary in the arts of mechanised warfare than the Iron Hands' Primarch Ferrus Manus praised the War Hounds' armoured assault at Aldabaran Septus as the, "epitome of iron-clad rage given form", but for the War Hounds such things were a tactical means to an end. That end being successfully delivering the killing force of the Legion, its Space Marines, where they could inflict the most harm and come to grapple with their foe at close quarters. The War Hounds had a preponderance of close combat weaponry habitually carried by its rank-and-file. In addition to the use of the ubiquitous combat blades or gladius, even Legionaries attached to reconnaissance squads and vehicle crews commonly carried chainblades, flay-cutters and mono-serrated bayonets, back-up knives, hatchets and cleavers. In dedicated assault units this profusion of bloody killing tools was added to by a weapon that dated back to the techno-barbarian tribes of Terra, the broad-bladed Chainaxe.
Though the War Hounds had a reputation for ferocity in battle, they were also known to fight honourably and prided themselves on their fury and courage above all else. To the XIIth Legion, life itself was war, a conflict that never ended from cradle to grave and the Legiones Astartes was this concept in its purest form. Failure in battle was not tolerated, surrender was never countenanced and mercy was a quick death delivered to a foe that had fought with bravery. Cowards themselves deserved no more than savage butchery in reward for their fear. This simple but resolutely brutal code of war was the War Hounds' article of faith and they extended it to both their own number and their enemy.
Notable War Hounds
- Ibram Ghreer (Deceased) - Ibram Ghreer, a Terran-borne Astartes, was a respected general who commanded the XIIth Legion for nearly three standard decades until he disappeared without explanation from any record of the time and no explanation was given by his taciturn Legion for his absence. In truth, he was killed by Angron soon after his rediscovery by the Emperor so that the Primarch could assert his rightful command over the XIIth Legion whose Astartes had been created from his own genetic material.
The War Hounds wore blue coloured Power Armour with white on the shoulder plates and parts of the power pack. The Astartes of this Legion often modified their armour by adding large spikes on the shoulder plates to not only evoke fear but also to turn the armour's surface into a weapon in its own right. A brazen coloured helm would denote Veteran status.
The original XIIth Legion badge of the War Hounds was that of a large red hound, rampant, centred on a field of white. This symbol was reminiscent of the epithet given to them by the Emperor Himself, for the XIIth Legion reminded Him of the white war hounds the Yeshk warriors in the north of Terra once used.
- The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal by Alan Bligh, pp. 40-41, 44-47, 49-54, 58-59, 84-101, 250-255
- Betrayer (Novel) Aaron Debbski-Bowden