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In the year 963.M41 the Fire Hawks were sent to the Crows World subsector against Eldar pirates. The entire chapter-fleet, including the chapter's mobile space-fortress Raptorus Rex1, made a successful warp jump from the Piraeus system 120 light years from Crows World. The five ships, over eight hundred brethren, and two thousand other personnel expected to reach Crows World within no more than 12 hours. They never arrived.
Twenty years after the event the chapter was officially declared lost in the warp and presumed destroyed. The great Bell of Lost Souls tolled a thousand times, and it said that the Emperor himself ordered a Black Candle to be lit in the Adeptus Chapel of Fallen Heroes.
On 966.M41 a routine Imperial patrol passed through the Ork held system of Jakor-tal. The squadron uncovered altogether unexpected scenes of devastation. The limited facilities available to the patrol could uncover no clue to the identity of the attacking forces. The incident was noted and passed into the records of the Administratum.
A rash of similar incidents within the same and adjoining sectors aroused the interest of the Inquisition but no sign of the intruders was discovered for almost a year. Then, a patrol ship in the Maran sub-sector narrowly avoided a collision with a space-craft at the Cift jump-point. The patrol ship was entering the Cift system as the unidentified craft was leaving. Alerted by the close encounter, the patrol crew scanned the entire jump-area and discovered two long cylindrical objects within the intruder's projected flight-path. These were hauled aboard and proved to be standard space-coffins without identification markings.
The coffins were shipped back to earth and opened by the Adeptus Mechanicus. The coffins themselves were identified as belonging to the Absolute, one of the spacecraft from the vanished Fire Hawk fleet. Inside were the armored remains of two Space Marines. The unconventional armor colors and unofficial insignia puzzled the investigators, but serial numbers tallied with equipment made by or issued to the Fire Hawks. The armored suits were expected to house members of the lost chapter, and were carefully broken open. The bodies within were human, but further identification proved impossible due to their advanced state of decay.
Almost a year later a besieged Imperial research station received unexpected help. The garrison had been attacked by Ork pirates. After three hours of fighting the situation looked hopeless. Then, without warning, the Orks found themselves attacked from the rear. Within half an hour, several hundred Orks had fallen to the mysterious, power armored figures. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the warriors vanished. This time they left behind a banner - the gnarled chapter flag of the Fire Hawks - and inscribed upon it was the motto In dedicato imperatum ultra articulo mortis (For the Emperor beyond the point of death). As well as the banner there was a recorder and sundry other sealed items. These were shipped to Earth. The Fire Hawks Fate.
From the data contained in the recorder the Administratum was able to determine exactly what had happened to the lost chapter. Following their warp-jump the entire fleet had been caught within a warp-storm of terrific intensity and forced to endure the attacks of powerful warp entities. Ship after ship was destroyed. Soon only one craft remained. By a daring warp-exit maneuver the craft burst out of warp-space, emerging far in the galactic east, thousands of light years off-course and beyond even the psychic light of the Emperor.
The original survivors numbered two hundred brethren. All gene-seed had been lost, all initiates killed, and most of the chapter's masters were gone. None of the ordinary human staff have survived at all. To make matters worse the brethren had changed. This change became more obvious over the next few months. Skins began to blacken and blister, flesh began to fester and putrefy. Slowly they began to die. Within days of the transition into normal space it became obvious that the chapter had been exposed to some form of dangerous mutation or disease. It took many years to navigate a way back into the Imperium, during which time almost half the brethren succumbed to the malady. Those who remained were no longer sane. Pain and despair had driven even their hardened minds beyond the point of rationality. Doomed to agonizing deaths, they gradually became obsessed with their fate. Now they only wanted to die. But they were still marines, still loyal to the Emperor and humanity. They would not die without a purpose.
Legion of the Damned
So began the unstoppable war of the Legion of the Damned. The marines elected to remove all insignia from their armor. Instead their armor would be black, decorated by each brother with whatever emblems of death he chose. Most brothers employed a similar theme - skeletons, bones and skulls.
All ranks and companies were abolished, most of the chapter's officers were already dead and the remaining warriors were too few to make up a fully functioning chapter hierarchy. All brothers were to be equal before death - leveled by the certainty of their assured extinction. The warriors decided to expend their lives attacking enemies wherever they could be found. The disease had robbed them of their sanity, but not their loyalty
"They had painted their armor black and adorned it with the bones of their fallen and the flames of purgatory."
I hate to sound overbearing, but why did you post this? It's just copied and pasted from lexicanum
The only constant in the universe is change, adapt or die.