The Shadowlords are a Third Founding Successor Legion of the Raven Guard which took place at the dawning of the 34th Millennium, but this Legion's origins actually lie much further back, just before the dark days of the Horus Heresy during the latter 30th Millennium. When the Raven Lord was finally reunited with his Legion, he was quick to impose the style of war he had perfected on Lycaeus over that which had come to define the XIXth Legion, melding stealth and guile with vigilance and swiftness. It was during these early years that much of the native demeanour of the old XIXth Legion, particularly the more cold-blooded ways of the Terran Legionaries, was purged. This event took place during the xenocide campaign against the xenos dubbed the "Unsighted Kings" within the Akum-sothos Cluster.
During the climatic Battle of Gate 42, Corax's Legion was ordered by the newly-instilled Warmaster Horus to lead the vanguard force. Corax hand-picked this assault unit which was primarily composed of Terran-born Legionaries, to lead the speartip. Thousands of the Terran Legionaries of the Raven Guard gave their lives in order to achieve victory. Those who survived the near-suicidal assault were not feted, but were instead marshalled into Crusade fleets and dispatched into the north-eastern reaches of the Ghoul Stars to bring the light of the Emperor to the outer darkness. The fate of these Terran-born Legionaries wouldn't be revealed until nearly two millennia later, in the wake of the dark times of the Nova Terra Interregnum.
"The Emperor consigned us to the care of a tyrant who sought to see us dead and forgotten; now the Raven Lord himself is dead. Despite being forgotten by our former brethren, we shall endeavour to bring the light of the Emperor to the outer darkness, and prosecute the Great Crusade as He envisioned."
― Praetor Narat Kirine, Lord of the Shadowlords, 011.M31
The Shadowlords can trace their lineage to when they were originally the 18th Chapter of the Raven Guard Legion during the Unification Wars, Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras during the 30th and 31st Millennia. Comprised of several thousand legionaries, near every one was a Terran-born veteran of the old XIXth Legion, before their reunification with their lost Primarch Corvus Corax, upon the world of Deliverance during the Great Crusade. Following Horus Lupercal's elevation to the rank of Warmaster, the Raven Guard was recalled to take part in a joint campaign in the Akum-sothos Cluster, which had fallen to a form of mass-psychosis and violently rejected unity with Terra. During the Battle of Gate 42, Corax knowing their particular demeanour would carry them forward, the Primarch assigned many of his Terran-dominated companies to the vanguard, in particular those whose captains appeared the most willing to play their part in the Warmaster's plan. The 18th Chapter, 'Shadowlords', was utilised by Corax in a stratagem that involved a flanking manoeuvre around a sacrificial unit left in the open to attract the enemy's full might. The 'Shadowlords' were selected for the dubious honour of acting as the sacrificial unit at the heart of this strategy. The assault that followed was hailed as the Legion's darkest hour, a grim honour that, tragically, would be displaced just a few years later at Istvaan V.
The Battle of Gate 42 has often been noted by Imperial scholars of the First Great Crusade as the pyre that Corvus Corax hoped would burn his Legion clean of what he saw as the unwelcome taint of many of the Terran recruits. However, if such was his intent then it was not entirely successful, for some few among those who Corax had placed amongst the vanguard yet survived. Several thousand of the 18th Chapter remained, near every one a Terran-born veteran of the old XIXth Legion, and many were angered by the callous disregard the Raven Lord had shown for their lives and record of loyal service to the Imperium. In the aftermath of the battle, they were marshalled together, and instead of receiving honours bestowed upon them for their service during this grueling campaign, the Raven Lord formed the vast majority of the remaining veterans of the old XIXth Legion, along with those freed from Deliverance whose crimes and demeanour left them ill at odds with the Primarch's perception of his Legion, and formed them into Crusade fleets. These fleets were dispatched into the dim stars of the north-eastern galactic fringe, known to explorers of the time as the Ghoul Stars, there to bring the light of the Emperor to the dark at the edges of the galaxy, far from the eyes of the fledgling Imperium and the brooding lord of the Raven Guard.
Full research into the origins of the Shadowlords fleet notes that they were despatched on-Crusade in 002.M31. This Raven Guard fleet turned not to the service of the Warmaster's dire schemes during the galaxy-wide conflict that would later engulf the length and breadth of the galaxy, but rather to a mandate of survival and deadly intent. With an original complement of thirteen capital craft, a score of smaller ships and some 4,000 of the Legiones Astartes assembled from the survivors of the fighting in Akum-sothos, the fleet was a significant force, even assuming that nine years of Crusading had taken its toll on the fleet. In fact, it is this slow bleeding of resources and manpower over the course of their exile that likely led to the tactics displayed in the few records the Imperium possesses of their actions, all of which seem to have been focused on the acquisition of resources, munitions, and recruits. At the close of the Horus Heresy, with the recommendation of the Divisio Militaris, the High Lords of Terra issued an edict declaring several adjoining sectors in the north-eastern fringe a forbidden zone to Imperial craft, save those with special dispensation. The borders of the Imperium contracted and a great swathe of space was abandoned to the ravages of xenos predators and the few scattered bands of rebels that lingered on remote worlds. With the final fate of the Shadowlords undocumented, many Imperial scholars speculated that they might also have lurked somewhere within these forbidden stars, far from the eyes of the Imperium, and that those worlds brought to Compliance by their final Crusade still survived.
What became of the Shadowlords is subject to much conjecture, but extant sources revealed that the Shadowlords became an independent Blackshield raiding force, that nominally fought for the Emperor during the Horus Heresy. What became of them following the end of the galaxy-wide conflict, wouldn't be revealed until over two millennia had passed, during the tumultuous era of history, known as the Nova Terra Interregnum.
The Nova Terra Interregnum was a time of extreme civil unrest and rebellious conflict in the Imperium, when the Ur-Council of Nova Terra declared independence from the rule of the High Lords of Terra, and declared the whole Segementum Pacificus independent of Imperial rule. This period of divided rule would last for nine standard centuries. They had grown disenfranchised with the burgeoning Imperial state religion, in the form of the religious organisation known as the Ecclesiarchy, that zealously promoted the worship of the Emperor of Mankind as the one, true God of Humanity. As the power of the Ecclesiarchy waxed strong, the Ur-Council of Nova Terra foresaw the dangers of having a religious organisation possess so much power and influence over the citizens of the Imperium. They felt that the Imperium had lost its way and no longer followed the tenants of the Emperor's enlightened philosophy of the Imperial Truth. The Imperium of Man no longer upheld the core values of reason, science and secular progress. Instead, they had fallen back on the old ideas of religion, superstition and faith. To compound the secession of the Segmentum Pacifucs, two Space Marine Legions, the feral Space Wolves and the stoic Iron Hands joined the rebellious Ur-Council of Nova Terra. The two Primarchs are later followed by a number of Legion Masters as well, who also join the Secessionist's cause. In response, the High Lords of Terra call for a new Founding to take place. The Third Founding, known also as the 'Numroi Founding', takes place in 098.M33. Utilising accelerated gene-culturing techniques not used since the First Great Crusade, three Space Marine Legions were created in record time. These few Legions were created to be massive, hosting hundreds of thousands of Legionaries within their ranks. But the shortcuts taken in their creation would have unforeseen flaws.
The conflict ensued over the next eight centuries, and threatened to tear apart all that the Imperium of Man had rebuilt following the Age of Darkness of the Horus Heresy. Not since those dark days, had Legion been pitted against Legion. Several of the Legions that had gone over to the Secessionist cause were annihilated by the rampaging Loyalist Legions. But as the centuries dragged on, several more Legions joined the conflict, both for and against the Secessionist cause. By the mid-900's, both sides had been bled dry by the neverending conflict. Slowly the Secessionists had pushed back the Loyalist forces, inflicting a staggering number of casualties. Lacking the ability or the will to end the conflict, the Loyalists set up a blockade, to contain the threat of the Secessionists. Sensing death, like carrion birds flying above a slowly dying creature, an ancient force of deathseeking predators slid out of the blackness of the outer void. Arriving without warning in 970.M33, the sudden appearance of the Shadowlords' Legion fleet caused alarm for both the Loyalist and Secessionist forces operating within the Segmentum Pacificus. It was unknown if the unidentified Space Marine force had come to offer its aid to the Loyalist's or Secessionist's cause. When both sides ran the ident checks of this mysterious Space Marine fleet, they identified this Legion as the Umbra Dominii, using the ancient High Gothic form of their name, or the "Shadowlords" in Low Gothic. They had arrived in the war zone to draw blood. As suddenly as they arrived, the Shadowlords fleet quickly slipped back into the void and disappeared. But their foreboding presence would be felt soon enough.
Not long after their unannounced arrival, the Shadowlords officially entered the conflict during the Siege of Verghast, where forces from two opposing Legions, the Knights of the Hunt and the Soul Drinkers, were locked in a bitter, long running and highly protracted conflict with one another. The Shadowlords cared nothing for the causes of both sides, and attacked in full force, catching the combatants unprepared and decimating a number of vessels on both sides with their initial strike. A self-contained fleet-based Legion, the Shadowlords were operating fully equipped and at peak strength. They fought as a single cohesive force that struck like a series of brutal thunder hammer blows.
The scattered records of the Shadowlords imply that the Legion has no set home world. This is not uncommon for a Space Marine Legion to operate solely as a warfleet on a perpetual Crusade. However, The Shadowlords do not follow the standard Crusade pattern of operation when it comes to a Fleet based Legion. The Legion functions exclusively on a much rarer operational strategy for its warfleet known as the 'Nomad-Predation' pattern. This pattern utilised by the Shadowlords has matured over the millennia when operating beyond the Imperium's boundaries for prolonged ages of time. The Nomad-Predation pattern has allowed the Shadowlords to be an entirely sovereign force that could sustain itself without any support whatsoever. Their Legion fleet contains as many support vessels as true warships, and is said to also contain a number of voidships capable of both combat and maintenance/repairs. Given the bellicose Shadowlords' propensity for combat, it seems unlikely they would tolerate vessels in their fleet's ranks that could not hold their own on the battle line. As a Nomad-Predation fleet, the Shadowlords voyage indefinitely, tarrying only to identify and engage the foes of man. Once a target is selected as prey, the fleet descends quickly, engaging and destroying potential threats. The fleet acquires resources from the annihilated foe before vanishing, safe from any potential retaliation.
The common form of recruitment utilised by the Shadowlords given to their preferential mode of operation is to cull potential initiates from the young of the survivors of their assaults where practical, provided those survivors are human and free of the corrupting influence of the Warp. The young males are then forced to fight to the death to prove their worth. Those initiates who survive are then subjected to intensive hypno-conditioning and other harsh procedures designed to strip away any past loyalty, and replacing it with the will and attitudes of the Shadowlords Legion.
As masters of stealth, infiltration and sabotage, the Shadowlords Neophytes are trained by the finest Shadow Masters of the Legion. Despite their transhuman-enhanced physiology and their cumbersome armour, they are taught to move with silence and invisibility, shifting from one pool of darkness to another within the shadows. This art of silent and stealthy movement particular to the Legion is known as wraith-slipping. Shadowlords Neophytes are taught this art in the labyrinths of the Spectrum Mortis, located within the bowels of the Legion's flagship. They learn how to muffle the noise they make, first with rags and packed earth, then with acoustic dampeners and pure skill at movement. They later use these techniques to baffle the sounds created by their own power armour, in what are known as the secret rites of silence, as every Shadowlord must have mastered these abilities once they become full Initiates of the Legion.
Each Shadowlords warrior moves silently in his own way, and it is each warrior's understanding of the empty spaces between sounds that allows them to occupy them. Every Shadowlord who practices the arts of wraith-slipping tests themselves, for without testing, the ability to wraith-slip begins to erode. Only by becoming one with the shadows can a warrior move through them without revealing himself. Only by being hunted can he reach that place within himself that allows the wraith-slip to become perfect camouflage. Such protection is not infallible, and no member of the Legion is ever truly invisible, but veteran Shadowlords Legionaries, such as the Shadow Captains, possess such an affinity for the dark that they might as well be.
The Shadowlords still nominally follow the ancient and far-reaching vision of the armies of humanity and their structure of the Officio Militaris as laid out by the Emperor in the Principia Bellicosa. The original XIXth Legion was divided into Chapters, Chapters into battalions, battalions into companies and companies into squads. Like their forebears, the Shadowlords legionaries consider themselves members of a given company rather than a Chapter, as the company is the preferred level utilised for most independent operations. From the earliest formation, the Legion's officers devolved command responsibility towards the lower echelons, allowing sub-commanders to take the initiative and make tactical decisions according to immediate needs without interference from high up in the chain-of-command. This mindset is a direct result of the practices of the Shadowlords' ancient Xeric tribal ancestors, who conducted their wars against far more numerous foes and were therefore well-practiced in a wide spectrum of unconventional tactics. Individual units tended towards the smaller end of the scales and passed down by the architects of the Emperor's armies, but each was a tightly-knit band of warriors trained and equipped to operate on their own for extended periods. They were well able to live off of the land, taking what few resources they needed from their environment or when opportunity or necessity dictated, from defeated enemies.
As the XIXth Legion expanded they began to integrate numerous smaller formations into its structure, allowing them to take its place in the hosts of the First Great Crusade and to confront the countless enemies of Mankind that would deny the Emperor's manifest destiny to rule the stars. While retaining its expertise in stealth and infiltration, the XIXth Legion integrated formations of battle tanks, super-heavy war machines, artillery, assault vehicles and assets, mastering each with the skill engineered into them by the genius of the Emperor. Nonetheless, the XIXth Legion's favoured method of war focused on rapid strike, flanking, mobility and, where possible and desirable, stealth. Maintaining many specialised units, there were certain formations the XIXth Legion favoured over others. The Legion is noted in historical accounts as fielding more Legion Reconnaissance Squads than any others, every Legionary being cross-trained to fulfill his assigned role, as well as that of the reconnaissance units. Indeed, the line between Legion Tactical Squad and reconnaissance squad seems to have become blurred, the two often operating using similar tactics and even specialised equipment.
Ancient records of the XIXth Legion, in the times before Corax took command, indicated that they fought under the patronage of Horus Lupercal. These records note that among the chapters of the XIXth Legion there was a chapter by the name of the 'Shadowlords', a name carried over from the Xeric tribes that these fierce warriors were recruited from. The Raven Guard of modern times hold no record of these warriors. Indeed, of the original Terran recruits of the Legion little is known. Upon assuming command of his Legion, Primarch Corvus Corax took it upon himself to expand the methods of warfare he had employed against the slave-lords of Lycaeus with a series of tactical and strategic initiatives by which the Raven Guard would operate. In this regard, these doctrines meshed well with those the XIXth Legion had already been operating under throughout the Great Crusade, casting that particular aspect of the Primarch's assumption of command. It is remarkable that as soon as he was able, Corax assured that many of his senior commanders were drawn from Deliverance. It appears that Corax bore a measure of ill-will towards the Terran recruits within his Legion - both their time under the tutelage of Horus and their heritage as slavery-warlords in the asiatic dustbowls of Ancient Terra marked them out as unworthy in the eyes of their new master.
The forces of the Shadowlords have demonstrated a number of highly distinctive traits and trappings that set them apart from their fellow Legions. Their Legion fleet is extensive but is of inconsistent makeup, and within its line of battle are numerous examples of vessels either very ancient, salvaged or extensively repaired. It has also been noted that much of the Legion's arms, vehicles and wargear is of ancient provenance. They also utilise other weapons and equipment of designs and patterns that cover the span of the last eight millennia. The Shadowlords also possessed a considerable number of scouts used flexibly to assay targets for attack by their elite veteran formations.
The Shadowlords operate almost exclusively as a rapid-strike force, disdaining any kind of protracted engagement wherever possible, preferring to approach their targets either with extreme speed or by stealth, allowing them to strike with the element of surprise on their side whenever possible. When on the offensive, the Shadowlords endeavour to close and engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat or unleash their firepower at near point-blank range. Many of those who have fought alongside the Shadowlords' forces, later reported that their tactical deployments and use of shock-assault stratagems indicated an overriding and implacable desire to close with the enemy and shatter their foes in bloody personal combat. Their combat style of striking hard and fast to inflict the maximum damage possible in the shortest span of time has proven both effective and brutal in the extreme. If the enemy survives their initial strike, the Shadowlords will fade away only to attack again, bleeding the foe white until they can no longer resist and are destroyed. Once the enemy has been massacred, they will then move on without pause to the next target, and repeat this tactic until nothing surrounds them but an abattoir of their slain foes.
The Legion's second core strategy is the use of hit-and-run tactics. The Shadowlords are exceptionally well-equipped with assault bikes, land speeders and jump packs. Whenever possible, the Shadowlords' Legion Reconnaissance Squads favour the use of guerrilla tactics and ambushes to deplete enemy forces prior to a more traditional engagement. Millennia of refining their techniques has enhanced their abilities to the point that these Battle-Brothers are often able to decimate enemy forces through precision surgical strikes, minimising the enemy forces present in future conflicts. When these tactics are used in combination with the Legion's brutal rapid-strike assaults, the Shadowlords are nigh unstoppable in battle.
The Shadowlords are a fleet-based Legion which is also noted for utilising the ancient and rare 'Nomad-Predation' pattern, which is used almost exclusively by Space Marine Legions operating for long durations beyond the Imperium's borders. This type of pattern refers to an entirely self-contained force which is able to operate without recourse to the Imperium for support at all. The Shadowlords voyage without end, pausing only to engage an enemy that are within their means to do so without threatening the overall viability of their Legion as a fighting force. By fighting in this fashion, the Shadowlords are able to sustain itself and exterminate future threats to the Imperium, and at the same time avoid or raid enemies too powerful for them to directly attack in force.
The Shadowlords gene-seed bears the markers of their Raven Guard bloodline, though there has been some genetic drift due to their millennia of isolation. They possess the commonly pale, deathlike pallor as well as possessing jet-black coloured eyes, with no visible iris, similar to their forebears. Like their progenitors, the Shadowlords also do not possess a functioning Betcher's Gland or Mucranoid. Beyond this, there are no common genetypes amongst encountered Shadowlords Legionaries, suggesting that they recruit from a wide variety of sources, and that their skin and eye mutation is a result of their gene-seed.
Shade Lord Nerat Kirine - Nerat Kirine was a Terran-borne Legionary of the original XIXth Legion. Through his brutal efficiency and superlative skills, Nerat quickly rose through the ranks, achieving the senior rank of Praetor of the 18th Chapter, known as the 'Shadowlords'. Following their reunification with their brooding Primarch Corvus Corax, and the restructuring of the XIXth Legion, Praetor Kirine soon found himself, along with his fellow Terran Legionaries, as no longer favoured. During the Akum-sothos Cluster campaign, Praetor Kirine and his Chapter were hand-picked by the Primarch as the vanguard force that attacked the enemy stronghold during the Battle of Gate 42. Only through his tenaciousness and superior fighting skills, did Praetor Kirine and his fellow Terrans survive the suicidal attack. Following the conflict, the surviving Terran Legionaries were marshalled together and formed into Crusading fleets. Praetor Kirine became the defacto leader of the 'Shadowlords' crusade fleet, and was recognised with the esteemed rank of Shade Lord. Only through his skills as a leader and strong will to live, did the exiled Raven Guard fleet survive the horrors they encountered within the uncharted Ghoul Stars beyond the north-eastern galactic fringe. Shade Lord Kirine led the newly-dubbed 'Shadowlords' Legion for over three centuries, until he was killed during a xenocide campaign on the oxidised worlds known as the Bloodmoons of Thex Prime, while fighting against the vile xenos known as the Thexian Elite.
Shade Lord Phobetor Corvinus - Phobetor Corvinus is the current Shade Lord (Legion Master) of the Shadowlords Legion. Corvinus is a fearsome, iron-hearted warrior with few equals. His honourific, the "Shadowdancer," is well founded. Blending in with the surrounding shadows, Corvinus remains unseen and unheard, until just the right moment. Then without warning, he strikes like a thunderbolt, his form a blur of motion as he carves his foes to bloody ruin with his pair of artificer-wrought lightning claws without hesitation or remorse before disappearing into the shadows once more. Little is known of the mysterious and shadowy Legion Master of the Shadowlords, save that he is rumoured to have been recruited from somewhere within the Ghoul Stars on a world called Nyx Primus, a savage and night-shrouded death world. His murder-honed skills as well as his innate skills in infiltration and 'wraith-slipping', saw him rise rapidly within the ranks of the Shadowlords Legion. Though Corvinus is hardly the most charismatic leader within the Shadowlords' long history, his authority is absolute, and he remains a highly effective commander who is deeply respected by the Legionaries who follow him.
The Shadowlords Legion fleet during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras was known to contain the following vessels:
Spectrum Mortis ("Spectre of Death," Gloriana-Class Battleship) - The Spectrum Mortis is the Shadowlords notorious flagship during the Horus Hersey and serves as the Legion's mobile fortress-monastery.
Velox Umbra ("Swift Shadow," Desolator-Class Battleship) - The venerable Velox Umbra is one of the only known ancient Imperial Battleships that has remained both loyal and still serves the Imperium of Man. This ancient Battleship has served the XXth Legion since the start of the Second Great Crusade into the present of the 41st Millennium.
Bellum Philo ("War Claw," Repulsive Grand Cruiser) - A primeval Grand Cruiser that can still be found in the XXth Legion's Nomad-Predation fleet, that has served with distinction and valor.
Lapis Corvus ("Stone Crow," Devastation-Class Cruiser) - A fleet-support carrier used by the Forces of Chaos that was captured and has been heavily-refitted by the Shadowlords somewhere within the north-eastern galactic fringe. It now functions as the XXth Legion's main support ship, launching attack squadrons to reinforce the rest of the fleet. Once its attack craft are launched, the Lapis Corvus is able to further support the fleet with long-ranged fire.
Alas Mortem ("Wings of Death," Battle-Barge)
Nigrum Praesidio ("Black Guard," Battle-Barge)
Tenebrae Aquila ("Dark Eagle," Battle-Barge)
Philos Regni Ira ("Claws of Wrath," Grand Cruiser)
The Shadowlords Legion wears black-coloured Power Armour. Their Legion iconography consists of a large black raven with a white raven skull painted on their left shoulder plate. All-white shoulder plates indicates a regular Shadowlords Space Marine.The right shoulder plate's symbol along with a Legion Marking that denotes which type of squad the Astartes serves in. Some Shadowlords Force Commanders or high-ranking Veteran officers and Sergeants have a copper trim for their shoulder plates.