“Repent, for tomorrow you die!”
–Battle cry of the Dark Angels Chapter
The Dark Angels stand first amongst the Space Marine Chapters, as they have done since their very inception.
Theirs is a proud Chapter, with traditions and rituals that date back to the earliest days of the Imperium. The origins of the Dark Angels Chapter are shrouded in mystery, however.
Few records of its beginnings exist, nor are there many mentions of the part it played in the Emperor’s Great Crusade. Most references in the histories of the Imperium to its deeds during the accursed times of the Horus Heresy have been expunged. But 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 Chapter’s feats of valour, leaving an enduring stain upon the Chapter’s honour. Such is their shame that from that time onwards, the Dark Angels have borne the mark of the Unforgiven and must strive for absolution from the sins of millennia past.
Their terrible secret is that during the Horus Heresy, some of the brethren were turned to the side of Chaos. The renegades were defeated in a battle that destroyed the Dark Angels’ home
world, Caliban, but many of the traitor Dark Angels survived to be cast through space and time by the intervention of the Chaos Gods. These survivors are known to those few Dark Angels
granted knowledge of their existence as The Fallen. In the eyes of the Chapter’s leaders, there is only one way that the Chapter can ever atone for its shame, restoring its honour and trust in
the eyes of the Emperor: that is, if all of the Fallen are found and either made to repent, or slain.
The story of treachery and betrayal is the Dark Angels’ hidden shame, and their secret mission to destroy all of the Fallen is now their only hope of salvation. No one knows of this other than the Dark Angels, their successor Chapters and, perhaps, the Emperor himself on his Golden Throne.
The Chapter has been shaped by its dark past and is secretive and monastic in nature, with much time given over to worship and prayer. There are many different levels within the Chapter which individuals may gradually rise through. On attaining each new level, they are granted a little more knowledge of the truth behind the Dark Angels’ origins, but only the highest-ranking
members of the Chapter know the terrible, shameful secret of what occurred ten thousand years ago.
Caliban, the home world of the Dark Angels, was once a verdant world of dense forests. Yet, those forests seethed with mutation and corruption, the baleful influence of the nearby Eye of Terror cursing Caliban and making it one of the deadliest worlds in the galaxy. The original inhabitants of Caliban are said to have been a proud, martial people, brought up to live and die by the sword. The lush forests were inhabited by all manner of terrifying beasts that had been warped by Chaos. The ferocity of these creatures forced the inhabitants to build brooding stone fortresses in huge clearings hacked from the forests, in which the warrior-elite dwelled. It was from this ruling class, called the Order, that the Dark Angels Legion was formed.
During the titanic wars of the Horus Heresy, the entire planet of Caliban was torn asunder, reduced in a cataclysmic battle to scattered debris. All that remained was the rock upon
which stood the ruins of the Order’s fortress monastery. In the millennia since the destruction of Caliban, the Dark Angels have drilled deep into the bedrock and rebuilt the fortress ruins. The dead asteroid was transformed into the Dark Angels home, called the Rock, while the rebuilt monastery is referred to as the Tower of Angels. Countless tunnels, halls and chambers were constructed and, in time, even warp engines were fitted to allow the Rock to move from star
to star. As a result, the Rock does not stay in any one place for any length of time, and the Chapter recruits from a variety of different worlds.
Many dark secrets lie deep within the Tower of Angels. Dungeons that have remained sealed for centuries and secret caves shut behind adamantium doors and bound with holy sigils conceal vast repositories of ancient archeotech. Only the most senior of the Dark Angels, the Masters and the Inner Circle, are aware of the chambers and may unlock their dread secrets.
the inner CirCle After the fall of Caliban, the senior members of the Legion assembled in secret conclave. They decreed that knowledge of the fall of their brothers must remain undisclosed for all time, that no outsider must ever learn of the schism that had split the legion or that some
Space Marines of the Dark Angels Legion had turned to the Ruinous Powers. Should this dreadful truth ever become known, they feared, the Dark Angels would be reviled as traitors, and all hope of expunging the stain to their honour would be lost forever. An Inner Circle of the Legion’s most senior officers was formed to forever guard this dangerous knowledge, and each member swore oaths of unspeakable binding.
The Grand Masters of the Inner Circle swore that so long as even one of the traitor Fallen remained alive and unrepentant, the Dark Angels would be Unforgiven, cursed by their own brothers to atone for all eternity for the sins of the past. Until every last Fallen Dark Angel was captured and made to repent, there could be no peace for the true sons of the Lion. This would be the true mission of the Inner Circle, and, through its machinations, that of the entire Chapter. The Inner Circle passed on their terrible knowledge only sparingly. The truth of what occurred on Caliban is withheld from new recruits, and only told to the Battle-Brothers one
passage at a time. Much of the Dark Angels’ teachings to their brethren are couched in allegory and myth, the same essential truths told and retold, in one form after another. The first such allegory a Dark Angel is told recounts the so-called Tale of Two-Heads-Talking, in which a band of Deathwing Terminators returned to the planet of their birth to find their people enslaved by hideous xenos overlords. Daubing their armour white, as was the tradition of their people, the
Terminators began their death-quest. They defeated their enemy, but at the cost of the life of their beloved librarian.
Similar tales are told at every stage in a Dark Angel’s progression through the ranks, the details changing from one story to the next, but the essential truth remaining. Each
tells of a group of heroes returning to their home world to find their people enthralled by a traitor, and only at the cost of eternal shame are the enemies defeated. Even then, some
Only on his ascension to the First Company, called the Deathwing, does a Battle-Brother begin to learn the truth of the events that transpired at the very dawn of the Age of the Imperium. Rising through the intricate and convoluted ranks of the Inner Circle, he learns more and more, the secrets one by one unveiled as his masters’ trust in him increases.
Only upon ascension to the rank of Grand Master is the truth revealed, and even then, it is likely that there remain revelations known only to the holder of the title of Supreme
Grand Master, the Chapter Master of the Dark Angels. Only the most trusted of brethren are considered for membership of the Inner Circle. These Space Marines are observed from afar, and it may be many decades before they are finally approached. Only warriors who have fought
through the ranks for many years and have proved their loyalty to the Chapter time and time again are allowed to progress. Silent and hooded brothers lead them before the
Inner Circle for judgement, and soon after they are elevated to the Deathwing—or else they disappear forever.
With the breakup of the Space Marine Legions after the Horus Heresy, the Dark Angels were split into Chapters according to Roboute Guilliman’s Codex Astartes. With the exception of the Deathwing and the Ravenwing, the Dark Angels follow standard Space Marine combat doctrine, and their dogged resistance against overwhelming odds is legendary. In situations where even other Space Marines might withdraw and redeploy, the Dark Angels will fight to the bitter end
rather than give ground to their foes. This is also reflected in their stubborn refusal to move in the face of the enemy, even in situations where it would sometimes be tactically beneficial
for them to do so.