Finally, the Dark Angels are big news. Okay, they’ve been pretty popular for many years, but with their inclusion in the most recent Warhammer 40,000 boxed Dark Vengeance set they’ve become the focus of a lot of attention. Also, Codex: Dark Angels has just hit the shelves, including lots of lovely background material both old and new.
More importantly, this week sees the release in e-format of my first Dark Angels novel, Angels of Darkness. This tale of Interogator-Chaplain Boreas and former Chapter Master Astelan is also available from Black Library as a print-on-demand product if you feel the need to have something to hold and put on the shelf.
To celebrate this, I have also written a new Dark Angels story, Battle Brothers, that ties in with Ravenwing, charting an episode in the life of Sergeant Cassiel that happens ‘off-screen’ in that novel.
With this in mind it seems like an ideal time to talk a little about how I see the Dark Angels, their character and their motivations. That’s a lot to cover in one go, so instead I’m going to break it down into a series of posts. This one was prompted by an email I received a while ago (apologies to the fan identified as ‘AVLMP’ for the delay!)
There’s been a question festering in my head, giving me its share of fanboy grief and forum trolling bilious discharges: Are the Dark Angels heartless scumbags who divert precious scant Imperial resources to play huntsman across the galaxy? […] Lately they’ve been portrayed in a rather… alien way to what I imagined them to be though. Or maybe I’ve been nursing unreal expectations, I don’t know at this point. So, to rephrase the original question: do the Dark Angels (in their current iteration) ever engage in conflicts for the sake of the Imperium, or is the Imperium just a tool to utilize in the Hunt?
There is no short answer to this question, but the simplest answer is that for 99% of the time (and for 80%+ of the Chapter’s members) the Dark Angels are as much an Emperor-serving, xenos-slaying, mutant-loathing, witch-burning Chapter as the next one (or the Ultramarines). If you want an example of this, amongst many fine stories, you might like to try The Purging of Kadillus. However, for 1% of the time (and for 20% of their members) they have their own agenda: the hunt for the Fallen.
The Fallen is the flaw of the Dark Angels, every bit as debilitating and shameful as the Red Thirst is for the Blood Angels. The different with the Dark Angels versus their brothers from Baal is that their taint is self-inflicted and spiritual rather than physical. A long, long time ago their leaders faced a choice and, for reasons that hopefully will be explored at some point when we’re done with the Horus Heresy they decided to keep a secret. A really big secret. And they lied.
The problem with lies and secrets is that the longer you keep them, the worse it becomes if they get out. Thus, on occasion those of the Dark Angels who understand the truth about the Chapter’s past have gone to extreme lengths to protect the sanctity of that secret. It is important to remember that the Inner Circle keep the truth of what happened at the end of the Heresy from the battle-brothers, and even the whole truth from the Ravenwing and Deathwing. It’s my view that no one individual knows entirely what happened after 10,000 years of mystery and ritual. The various roles within the Inner Circle exist to keep the secret, even from each other sometimes. Your regular Tactical Space Marine has no more clue about past events than anybody outside the Chapter and is a faithful, zealous servant of the Emperor.
Some people ask what is the big deal and point out that nearly all, if not all, of the legions had some members turn from the Emperor. The big deal is that the Dark Angels chose to hide that fact and from this decision has stemmed 10,000 years of paranoia, lies and manipulation. For the most part the leadership of the Chapter, and their successors, are concerned with the day-to-day violence and mayhem that is all part of the fun of being a Space Marine, but now and then an opportunity arises to catch one of the Fallen, and that’s when priorities get skewed.
It is part and parcel of the Chapter’s leaders that they exist within this dichotomy, not fully understanding the true nature of their own treachery; they are unable to step outside the story they have created and see themselves for what they really are. To even question whether it is right to keep the Chapter’s secret is to invite heresy, and a Dark Angel is no more capable of that than an Ultramarine is of tossing away the Codex Astartes and saying ‘I think those Space wolves are on to a good idea’. It is literally unthinkable that the First Legion could be disloyal, because by their very nature they are the guardians of the truth and thus the arbiters of what constitutes loyalty.
That’s my approach, what do you think?
Next topic, coming soon: The Lion, what’s up with him?