"Huge he was, with eyes that burned beneath a wolf-skulled helm He took Asal and Haakon, though they were wounded until death. Then it was as if he turned into a flash of lightning, and he was gone."
- — Koloth, Headman of the Bear Claws
A Wolf Priest is a specialist officer unique to the Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter. A hybrid of the Chaplain and Apothecary roles found in Codex Astartes-compliant Chapters, the Wolf Priests administer to the physical and mental well-being of the Chapter's warriors and also choose the Aspirants to the Chapter from amongst the feral barbarian tribes of Fenris.
These dour warriors combine the attributes of both medics, trained in the arts of healing and the lore of genetics, and cult leaders, heavy with the accumulated wisdom of the ages. The Wolf Priests have no master save the Great Wolf himself, the Chapter Master of the Space Wolves.
The role of Wolf Priest harkens back to the bygone era of the Great Crusade in the last two centuries of the 30th Millennium. They were one of several subdivisions within the Priests of Fenris, the interconnected Orders which provided for the physical, spiritual and technological needs of the VI Legion. Occluded to outsiders beneath webs of what outwardly seemed superstition and barbarism, they were more than technicians and specialists, but instead the repositories of the Legion's true history, the keepers of its secrets and the masters of its lore.
There were several divisions of particular prominence, the greatest perhaps being the Speakers of the Dead. They were chosen from the most strong-willed and coldly self-controlled of their brethren to serve as its masters of discipline, instillers of its culture, wardens both of the gene-seed and the memory of the Legion. A Speaker of the Dead was charged with overseeing the implantation of the Legion's gene-seed into potential Aspirants as well as monitoring the physical and mental well-being of their fellow warriors. The Speakers of the Dead were also entrusted with the vital task of training new waves of the Legion's warriors and the watching over of its ranks for dangerous incidences of instability, either mental or physiological.
In battle, they carried a variety of sophisticated biogenic and alchemical tinctures whose use was masked in primitive ritual in order to temporarily abjure hideous injuries incurred on the battlefield. These priests walked the path that threaded between both life and death, memory and oblivion, and while their healing balms might bring a warrior back from the brink of death, their garm-blood vials symbolised the other side of that coin; in it was a bitter poison that brought on a terrible death. It was they who encoded the Legion's history within memetically-patterned "sagas," and who recorded and judged the deeds both of the living and the dead so that the honoured might be remembered and the dishonoured despised. Eventually this bygone specialty rank evolved into the role of the Wolf Priest for the Space Wolves of the late 41st Millennium.
As officers of the Space Wolves, the Wolf Priests are the most revered of their kind, holding such authority that even the proudest of Wolf Lords step aside at their passing. They are the guardians of the Chapter's genetic, spiritual and physical heritage. As the Choosers of the Valiant, it is the Wolf Priests who choose those who are worthy to undergo the transformation into a Space Wolf, taking responsibility for their charges as they progress through the ranks from a lowly Blood Claw to a venerable Long Fang and beyond. They can often be seen standing on a rocky pinnacle high above, watching the blood-pitched battles as the feral Fenrisian tribes fight their brutal wars against one another -- the Wolf Priests' penetrating gaze falls upon each warrior in turn.
Should one amongst their number prove himself truly exceptional during the day's fighting he may find himself visited by a vision out of a nightmare. After the conclusion of the battle, when the blood-soaked battlefield is littered with corpses, a looming, armoured figure, black as Morkai's fur and wearing a leering wolf skull helm, may emerge silently from the shadows. The figure beckons the chosen Fenrisian warrior to come with him, to walk away from the love and warmth of their family forever. It is said that no single tribesman has ever refused, for legends foretell that the Wolf Priests not only possess the ability to imbue true greatness but also hold the keys to the stars themselves. Even those chosen warriors who have suffered grievous wounds which would ordinarily prove mortal can be healed by the skills of the Wolf Priests if they have the will to live.
Learned in the ways of bio-mechanics and chirurgy, it is the Wolf Priests who oversee an Aspirant's long and dangerous transformation into a Space Wolf, monitoring their charges for signs of the Curse of the Wulfen, and administering the last rites over a Battle-Brother’s remains should he fall in battle. The first and last face a warrior will see in his career as a Space Wolf is the lupine skull-mask of a Wolf Priest, for it is he who guides a warrior's apotheosis in those early years, and who administers the Rites of Morkai when that warrior bleeds his last upon the field of battle. In essence, the Wolf Priests combine the roles and responsibilities carried out in other Chapters by Chaplains and Apothecaries, yet the rank is far more than the sum of those two roles. To the Space Wolves, the Canis Helix genetic sequence within their gene-seed is the direct inheritance of their Primarch, his blood pumping through their veins as his spirit and courage swells their savage souls. The Wolf Priests administer to body and soul as a whole, for to them both are one and the same.
In battle, the Wolf Priests serve as living embodiments of all their Chapter stands for: black-armoured incarnations of death whose very presence drives their charges onwards to ever-greater feats. Their battle cries resound across the battlefield, filling the hearts of the Space Wolves with savage joy and those of the enemy with unfettered terror. Should a Space Wolf fall, a Wolf Priest is there at his side, the Fang of Morkai ready to extract his Progenoid Glands so that his legacy is secured. Though they reap the gene-seed of the fallen in much the same way as the Apothecaries of other Space Marine Chapters, preserving the genetic heritage of his brethren is far from the Wolf Priests' only duty. They also function as cult leaders and spiritual guides in the manner of a Space Marine Chaplain, each a living conduit that maintains the Chapter's connection to the Imperial Creed.
Given their role as wards of the physical and spiritual health of the Space Wolves, it is a rare thing indeed for a Wolf Priest to take the Apocryphon Oath, and serve a Vigil of the Long Watch with the Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos. When they do choose this path, it is often early in their careers, in order that they might become adept at fighting the many alien foes the Deathwatch must face. In the ranks of the Deathwatch, the Wolf Priest faces enemies he might never otherwise have encountered, and in so doing earns great wisdom to pass on to his charges on his return to his Chapter.
In accepting a Wolf Priest into his Watch Fortress, a Watch Commander gains the services of an individual of unique skill and ability. His knowledge of both the Apothecary’s arts and the duties of the Chaplain are of course valuable. Yet the greatest of the Wolf Priests are able to extend their ministrations to all of the Battle-Brothers they serve alongside, inspiring each and every one to epic deeds of courage worthy of the greatest heroes of the Space Wolves and of the Adeptus Astartes as a whole.
The raiment of a Wolf Priest is more than an assortment of practical tools; each item represents some spiritual or traditional facet of Fenrisian culture or the Chapter Cult of the Space Wolves and include:
- Artificer Power Armour or choice of Terminator Armour
- Wolf Skull Helm - One of the most recognisable totems of a Wolf Priests' office, these fearsome and grotesque Artificer-made helms represents their connection with the cycle of life and death, the cycle that the Wolf Priests represent to the people of Fenris and the Space Wolves. These helms are constructed with an ingenious atmospheric interchange system that allows small portions of the surrounding air to be drawn into the helmet without compromising its protective seal. In addition, the helmet’s Auto-senses and Augur spirits are finely tuned to match the heightened sensory abilities of the Space Wolf wearing it.
- Crozius Arcanum - These winged, wolf skull-topped weapons are used as both a melee weapon and the primary badge of office of a Wolf Priest, and are fundamentally identical to the same weapons carried by the Chaplains of other Chapters. These heavy mauls are wreathed in crackling gravitic disruption fields, and more importantly, serve as a symbol of the bearer's status as a spiritual guardian of his Battle-Brothers.
- Wolf Amulet - The Wolf Priests bear potent amulets that protect both body and soul from the mortal blows and baleful energies alike. These amulets contain a potent force field generator capable of turning aside mighty blows and ravening energies. These amulets are fundamentally similar to the standard Rosarius worn by Chaplains in other Chapters and high-ranking members of the Ecclesiarchy.
- Fang of Morkai - As much as they are the spiritual guardians of the Space Wolves, Wolf Priests also maintain the physical well-being and genetic legacy of their brethren, and require tools necessary for that vital role. Unlike the Apothecaries of other Chapters, Wolf Priests do not carry complex Narthecium arrays, but prefer instead to bear an assortment of potions, balms and herbal cures and a vicious-looking, complex, multi-bladed device known as the Fang of Morkai, which allows the extraction of a dying Space Wolf's Progenoid Glands so that his essence may live on to fight once again in a new host. The Fang of Morkai functions exactly like a Reductor. The presence of a Wolf Priest in battle will fortify those Space Wolves nearby as he leads them forth to slay his chosen foes, for the Space Wolves known that the Wolf Priests will carry the worthy beyond the gates of Morkai, that they might fight the enemies of the Allfather forever more.
Notable Wolf Priests
- Ulrik the Slayer - Also known as Grandfather Lupus and the Guardian of the Sons of Russ, Ulrik is the Wolf High Priest of the Space Wolves Chapter and is the oldest of all the Space Wolves other than the Chapter's Dreadnoughts. His great mane is white as the slopes of Asaheim on the Space Wolves' Chapter homeworld of Fenris. Legend has it that Ulrik is older even than the mighty Logan Grimnar, the current Great Wolf of the Chapter, who has fought in the name of the Emperor for over 700 Terran years.
- Ranek Icewalker - Wolf Priest of the Chapter who served in Wolf Lord Berek Thunderfist's Great Company. Ranek was the Wolf Priest who chose Ragnar Blackmane to become a Neophyte of the Chapter and first saw greatness in him. Ranek was Blackmane's friend and mentor and was one of the few Space Wolves to praise Blackmane for losing the Spear of Russ to prevent the emergence of the Thousand Sons Daemon Primarch, Magnus the Red, from the Warp on the world of Garm. He has remained the young Wolf Lord's close mentor and confidante.
- Thrar "Wyrmblade" Hraldir - Wolf Priest of the Chapter during the 32nd Millennium. Hraldir was instrumental in the development of the genetic engineering program known as The Tempering -- the Space Wolves' effort to expunge the genetic deficiencies of the Space Wolves' gene-seed in order to create new Successor Chapters. Hraldir came closer than any other since the Emperor Himself at understanding the nature of the Canis Helix. During the First Battle of The Fang, he confronted the Thousand Sons Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red and was slain. With his death, the secrets of the Space Wolves' gene-seed and how to remove the taint of the Curse of the Wulfen died with him.
- Sigurd - A young Wolf Priest, Sigurd fought alongside Ragnar Blackmane during his time as a Wolfblade and would later fight at his side once more when he became the Wolf Lord of his own Great Company. Their initial relationship was inimical, partly due to Blackmane's bad reputation within the Chapter after losing the Spear of Russ, and partly due to Sigurd's own inexperience with his station and the Space Wolves' traditions due to his very recent ordaining as a Wolf Priest. Both Astartes would be forced to collaborate when they encountered the 13th Great Company, however, and both united to counter the machinations of the Thousand Sons Sorcerer Madox. Despite his inexperience, Sigurd managed to function as a stable anchor of sanity for those Space Wolves suffering from the Curse of the Wulfen, and to let go of his enmity toward Blackmane. Today, he is counted amongst that Wolf Lord's most trusted officers and valued counsellors, his ability and experience to deal with Wulfen-cursed warriors a blessing to his Great Company.
- Sternhammer, Warden of the Lost - A Wolf Priest who is known only as Sternhammer to the defenders of the Cadian Gate came to represent all the actions of the Space Wolves 13th Company during the 13th Black Crusade. He fell on the Forces of Chaos mercilessly and then withdrew before any Imperial force could make successful contact. Sternhammer was reported to have been in a great many different war zones light years apart from each other, leading a band of bestial warriors that he would unleash like giant hunting hounds upon the foe. He was reported to have saved the 143rd Cadian Regiment at Cadmus Binary. Alongside a powerful Wolf Lord, this Wulfen Guard slew the Night Lords Chaos Lord Sinax. Only a few days later and five light years away, Sternhammer was reportedly sighted once more, leading a boarding action aboard an Imperial Navy vessel that resulted in the scuttling of the Light of Fatidicus, so that the enemy would not capture it. More than a hundred victories were attributed to Wolf Priest Sternhammer and his warbands. Whether they were the same band, or many, and whether Sternhammer led them all himself is unknown, but the Defenders of the Cadian Gate remain both heartened and terrified at the memory of the mournful howls of the Wulfen he led into combat.
- Najot Threader - A Wolf Priest of the Horus Heresy era who fought during the Fall of Prospero.
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 35, 50
- Codex: Space Wolves (3rd Edition), pg. 6
- Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition), pp. 39, 48, 62
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 62-64
- Games Day Program (2003), "Sternhammer, Warden of the Lost"
- Index Astartes II, "Wolves of Fenris - The Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter" and "For the Emperor - Space Marine Chaplains"
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno by Alan Bligh (Forge World Series), pp. 84, 234-235
- Space Wolf (Novel) by William King
- Wolf's Honour (Novel) by Lee Lightner
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett