Raven Guard: A Comprehensive History
is as close to a comprehensive article detailing the history and organization of the Raven Guard as I have been able to compile.
There is sadly just not that much information on what is in my opinion one of the coolest Space Marine Chapters Games Workshop
has created. Some find the chapter too one note and cheesy, but personally the Raven Guard are one of my all time favorites.
So for those of you who share my interest in the Angels of Deliverance, or those who just want to know more about the Raven
Guard, I hope this article proves interesting and informative.
The Origins of the Raven Guard
history of the 19th Legion, particularly where the Primarch Corax is concerned, is shrouded in a great deal of mystery. It
may well be that time and war have simply destroyed or lost much of the documentation of the time period, however whatever
the reason the accounts on the early life of Corax and the early history of his exploits and those of the Raven Guard are
few and far between.
To begin with the pale skinned infant Primarch Corax landed on Lycaeus, the mineral rich satellite
of the planet Kiavahr. Kiavahr is a technologically advanced world, covered in factories and machine shops of all shapes and
sizes, and the mineral rich moon provides the planet with the raw materials, as well as a handy place to dump exiles and criminals.
The moon was quite simply a massive penal facility, where the criminals of Kiavahr, or really anyone who displeased the decadent
rulers of the planet, were sent to work the mineral mines of the moon. The conditions were terrible and the oppression of
the workers was immense. The overseers of Lycaeus were heavily armed and cruel, watching over the slaves from a massive fortress
spire. The prisoner slaves could do little about their fate; that is until Corax came to the rescue, to deliver the downtrodden
to their salvation.
The tales about the discovery of Corax are many, what the truth is will probably never be known,
some tales tell of a fiery comet, others of a dying warrior giant delivering a babe, yet another talks of a massive cave in
revealing the child, whatever really happened, the result was that the slaves hid the black haired, pale skinned child from
their overseers. They named the child Corax, which translates roughly to “the Deliverer” and if names are prophetic,
that one certainly is. For Corax absorbed anything and everything the exiles could teach him, their varied backgrounds granting
the young Primarch knowledge on many aspects of leadership and war, including urban combat, demolitions and much more. Within
a few years Corax had matured into a strong and keenly intelligent man and the exiles rejoiced seeing the Primarch as an omen
of good fortune, perhaps heralding their freedom.
As the years wore on Corax began to put plans into motion, stockpiles
of weapons were placed at key strategic points, squads of trained slaves were organized, resources were prepared and Corax
began a campaign of attacks and riots that sapped the moral and resources of the guards. Finally when the situation on Lycaeus
had built to the brink of explosion Corax struck. Mining machines and equipment were turned on the jailors, power lines were
cut, habitation domes were vented into space, and an elite team of killers lead by Corax himself infiltrated the spire and
in a single night of fighting captured it. After centuries of oppression not a single jailor was spared and every last prisoner
Kiavahr was of course shocked at the fall of Lycaeus and immediately dispatched troops to quell the
uprising. However with the advantage of being in the gravity well of the planet, Corax and his warriors launched cargo containers
packed with crude atomic explosives at the industrial centers of Kiavahr. In short order the Tech-Guilds, starved of raw materials
and with their infrastructure falling apart, began to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. Even when
troops from Kiavahr landed on Lycaeus they were out fought at every turn. Within a short period of time the economy and infrastructure
of Kiavahr was in utter ruin and the short but brutal war came to an abrupt end as the Tech-Guilds of Kiavahr became simply
incapable of continuing the fight, too busy combating each other for the limited remaining resources left on the planet.
slaves renamed the moon Deliverance, in honor of Corax and all that he had done for them and the celebrations lasted many
days. It was during these celebrations that the Emperor arrived to be reunited with his lost son. While the details of this
momentous event go largely unrecorded, what the Librarians of the Raven Guard record is that when the Emperor descended to
the surface of Deliverance he was met by the waiting Corax. For a day and a night the Emperor and Corax spoke though none
know of what, the following day Corax took command of the 19th Legion of the Adeptus Astartes, on the condition that the Emperor
help him bring peace to the planet of Kiavahr. Through force of arms the remaining Tech-Guilds were destroyed utterly and
the Adeptus Ministorum took their place. In time Kiavahr was rebuilt with the guidance of the Imperium and mineral production
resumed on Deliverance under a much improved and just regime. The Raven Guard took the massive spire citadel as their home,
renaming it the Ravenspire.
The Great Crusade
During the Great Crusade the Raven Guard made a legendary
reputation. Corax’s ability to examine the structure of a planet, and then apply military pressure precisely where required
to topple the leadership or cripple the military. The Legion became peerless in infiltration, sabotage and covert operations.
So legendary became the skills of the Raven Guard that Horus himself called upon their aid many a time. However the records
of the Raven Guard are surprisingly few on these events. Historians theorize that the taciturn Corax was not at all pleased
by the boastful and manipulative politics of Horus. One account however asserts that the two Primarchs and their Legions almost
came to outright bloodshed, and would have had Corax not departed with his Legion. The next time The Raven Guard and the Luna
Wolves would meet would be on the blood soaked plains of Istvaan V.
The Horus Heresy
The assault on Istvaan
V is as legendary as it is terrible. For the event is known as the “Drop Site Massacre” with good reason. The
Raven Guard, Salamanders and the Veterans of the Iron Hands deployed in force to destroy Horus and his rebellion. With four
Legions close behind them to support the effort the loyalists believed Horus would be crushed outright. However while Corax
remained largely impassive and calm, and Vulkan remained in control, Ferrus Mannus of the Iron Hands would not be contained.
When the assault began the Iron Hands surged to the attack with the Salamanders and Raven Guard forging up the flanks. The
assault was costly and appeared to be succeeding when the reserve Legions arrived. When the Night Lords, Iron Warriors, Alpha
Legion and Word Bearers arrived and set up a fortified camp at the drop site the Salamanders and Raven Guard began to fall
back to recover and regroup, but the Iron Hands would not fall back. As the Raven Guard and Salamanders reached the camp they
were fired upon and the slaughter was horrendous, unprepared for the treachery of those they thought brothers in arms, the
Raven Guard and Salamanders were cut to shreds and precious few escaped the killing fields. The Iron Hands were apparently
killed to a man, Ferrus Mannus himself beheaded by the traitor Primarch Fulgrim.
Corax and the few survivors of Istvaan
V returned to Deliverance. In the Ravenspire Corax brooded, desperately seeking a way to rebuild his legion, for the Imperium
was on the brink of annihilation and the loyal warriors of the Adeptus Astartes were desperately needed, but the Raven Guard
had none to supply. Delving into ancient lore, dating back to the advanced genetic processes used to create the first enhanced
warriors that pacified Terra, Corax found ways to accelerate the creation of Space Marines and produce them at an astonishing
rate. However the processes were also extremely dangerous and warned that terrible monsters could result. Nevertheless Corax
was out of options and desperate to rebuild his forces. With a heavy heart Corax gave the order to the Apothecaries.
records of the first creations of the Apothecaries are sealed with oaths and sigils of immense power and none will speak of
them, not the Raven Guard, nor any of their successors. The later creations are shrouded in mystery as well. The Raven Guard
became very taciturn and isolationist during that period, fighting alone and invisibly, and few accounts from those times
exist. One such tale is recorded by the Rune Priests of the Space Wolves. Unable to breach the walls of an Iron Warriors fortification
after many attempts a force of monsters herded into battle by the black armored warriors of the Raven Guard smashed through
the enemy, shattering the defenses in one charge and slaughtering all inside. At the battle’s conclusion the monsters
and their tenders disappeared. Barely one in a hundred of the Apothecaries creations was stable enough to become a Space Marine,
the rest were twisted almost beyond recognition, drooling, insane monstrosities. Nevertheless there is really no proof, and
the Space Wolves did not report their brethren’s use of forbidden technologies either, perhaps because of the Space
Wolves experiences with the Curse of the Wulfen they were more sympathetic to the Raven Guard.
As the years passed
and the fires of war continued to burn across the galaxy, the Raven Guard slowly rebuilt, their skills in covert warfare and
black ops allowing them to offset their lack of resources. Yet it was almost a century before the Raven Guard could deploy
in any significant numbers. Nevertheless the cost was shockingly high, the Ravenspire was filled with the cries of the Apothecaries
abominations that filled the dungeons of the Ravenspire.
Corax decreed that the knowledge of what the Raven Guard
had paid to survive should never be known, and he personally delivered the Emperor’s Peace to every last one of the
Following the Horus Heresy Corax accepted without complaint the edicts of
the Codex Astartes, and the Raven Guard was split into three additional chapters, the Revilers, the Black Guard, and the Raptors.
However the fate of Corax is much more uncertain. Following the split of the legion he locked himself in the highest
room of the Ravenspire for a year to the day, praying for forgiveness from the Emperor for his actions. When he finally emerged
he was wild eyed and he departed on a course for the Eye of Terror that very night. The only word he gave as explanation was
“Nevermore…” and nothing more. The tragic Primarch has never been seen or heard from again.
official Fortress Monastery of the Raven Guard is the Ravenspire on Deliverance. However together the moon Deliverance and
the planet Kiavahr produce almost enough munitions and machines to equal the production capacity of a Forge World, and in
addition the quality of the weapons and war machines produced by the forges of Kiavahr are of the highest craftsmanship. However
due to centuries of pollution the atmosphere of the planet is extremely polluted and cases of mutation are significantly higher
than normal. While this stretches the tolerance of Imperial authorities the quantity and quality of the arms and munitions
produced by the planet buys more leeway than would normally be the case, and being the homeworld of the Raven Guard doesn’t
The Raven Guard themselves are slightly unusual in that they do mingle with the population of Deliverance
and Kiavahr and are close to the people that serve them. The Chapter draws many recruits from the billions of inhabitants
and are held in the highest regard by them.
"Knowing where to land your blow, so
that it achieves the greatest damage with the minimum force, is the key to victory in war."
Instructor Sergeant Alenpo,
-Index Astartes: Raven Guard
The above quote represents the combat doctrine of the Raven Guard perfectly.
Covert warfare and guerilla tactics are well known to the Raven Guard. The very skills that made them legendary during the
Great Crusade, and allowed them to survive the fires of the Horus Heresy now make up the greater part of the chapter’s
combat doctrine. While the Raven Guard are fully capable of deploying in force when necessary, recruitment is still slow and
dangerous and as such the chapter still relies on sabotage and stealth to a large extent. Captain Kayvaan Shrike is the pure
embodiment of these tactics and his campaign against the Orks of Targus VIII has become legendary.
The Raven Guard
adhere closely to the dictates of the Codex Astartes, however they rely on independently operating scout squads quite heavily
and their Dreadnaughts tend to deploy via Drop Pod very often.
While the Raven Guard organize
along the guidelines of the Codex Astartes, their application of this is subtly different. Following the Istvaan V Massacre
the Legion just did not have the resources to re-equip properly and had to make due with older arms and armor. Because of
this even in modern times the Raven Guard include a significantly higher number of ancient suits than most chapters and the
individuals that are lucky enough to be gifted with these suits view themselves as blessed by the Primarch.
to their armor, the Raven Guard are famed for their ease of deployment, as often the chapter will deploy in Drop Pods or be
generally mobile, the fighting forces of the Raven Guard can quickly assess and adapt to a rapidly changing battlefield.
level tactics and rapid deployment are aspects of the Raven Guard that are studied closely by other Chapters and which have
even worked their way into the doctrines of other Astartes Chapters. Sharing experience and knowledge is not necessarily uncommon,
but the extent to which the Raven Guard’s skill in these areas is acknowledged is impressive.
The Codex does
not dictate the size or disposition of the Scout Company however and some theories persist that the Raven Guard may make use
of significantly more scout squads, or organize them differently than many other Chapters. However if such actions are the
case they are perfectly legitimate along the dictates of the Codex Astartes and would not be that unusual and as such are
not really mentioned. But some argue that the reliance on scouts by the Raven Guard would lead to an increased number of them.
The Raven Guard do not venerate the Emperor with the fervor or zeal of many other Astartes Chapters,
viewing him as a distant figure, the master of the galaxy and the founder of the Imperium but little more. Corax is viewed
as a mighty leader capable of making tough decisions when the need was great.
The Raven Guard still follow the path
that Corax set for them, reviewing the data collected from each battle to learn it’s lessons and a great deal of the
tactical doctrines of the Raven Guard were learned and laid out from such examinations.
As for the leaders of the
Raven Guard, they emphasis initiative and tactical skill as much or more so than personal martial prowess. The Raven Guard
are much more likely to use a swift surgical strike, than to engage in long protracted battles. However this tendency causes
some tension with other Astartes Chapters who the Raven Guard consider blunt and clumsy, such as the Blood Angels.
genetic material of the Raven Guard was greatly damaged by the accelerated processes utilized following the Istvaan V Massacre.
Much of the gene-stocks of the Raven Guard were lost or irreparably damaged and as such a significant portion of the Chapter’s
genetic material comes from Terra. Additionally the process of transformation into a marine is notably higher in the Raven
Guard and many casualties early in training only add to the slow and limited recruitment process of the Chapter. Even further
degeneration in the gene-seed has caused several of the implants to fail, the Betcher’s Gland and Mucranoid no longer
exist within the gene-seed of the Raven Guard, and other defects cause recruits to over time have their skin become paler
until it is as white as their Primarch’s, and the eyes and hair of the Astartes will eventually become a deep black.
The Raven Guard do not make use of a battle-cry, perhaps because of their emphasis on covert
warfare. Instead the chapter makes use of the motto “Victorus aut Mortis” which translates simply to “Victory
The Istvaan V Massacre
-Noted as one of the most devastating
defeats in the history of the Adeptus Astartes, and certainly in the history of the Raven Guard, the battle nearly saw the
Salamanders and the Raven Guard utterly annihilated and only the quick thinking and initiative of the Raven Guard allowed
a bare few to escape that dreadful day.
-Captain Shrike and an elite team of infiltrators found
themselves cut off behind the lines of the Ork’s when their pickup Thunderhawk was shot down. For more than two years
Shrike and his marines fought a guerilla war deep in Ork held territory, stealing supplies and munitions, sabotaging Ork installations,
ambushing and slaughtering the greenskins whenever they could, as well as relaying vital intelligence to the Imperium’s
forces fighting in the campaign. Shrike’s actions brought the campaign to a successful conclusion decades earlier than
predicted and earning the legendary captain the Laurel Imperialis.
-The planet of Nimbosa is a hotly
contested world on the Eastern Fringe, where the Tau Empire and the Imperium have clashed on numerous occasions. Chapters
such as the Imperial Fists, Black Templars and Ultramarines are all reputed to have fought the Tau on the planet at one time
or another and the world has changed hands many times. The Raven Guard 3rd Company under the command of Shrike assaulted the
Tau positions on the planet and forced the xenos to retreat sometime during the Campaign, though the current status of the
planet is unknown, it is believed to still be contested.
Captain Kayvaan Shrike
of the 3rd Company, Shrike is a legendary figure in the Imperium for his many stunning victories throughout his career, emphasizing
the very qualities at the core of the Raven Guard’s combat doctrine with honor and prowess. Shrike also wields “The
Raven’s Talons” a pair of Master-Crafted Lightning Claws, said to have been forged by Corax himself following
the Istvaan V Massacre, and are reputed to be unbreakable.
Captain Aajz Solari
-Captain of the Raven Guard
2nd Company, Solari is famous as a very erratic but mostly successful officer, often going into battle at the head of the
Assault Marines. Few Astartes better exemplify the image of the Angels of Death descending on fiery wings of flame to deliver
the Emperor’s wrath to the foes of the Imperium.
The material on the Raven
Guard is really rather slim, despite the history (and in my mind coolness) of the chapter, little has been written about them.
Even the Iron Hands have had more works published on them than the Raven Guard, which is in my opinion a tragedy, nevertheless
that does not diminish the character or style of the Raven Guard, who are I think among the most interesting chapters of the
Adeptus Astartes. I hope this article has provided some insight into the history and organization of the Raven Guard, and
those who read it have both enjoyed the experience and learned something.
List of References
Codex: Space Marines 4th Edition