The Tragedy of Leman Russ


Continuing my series on the Primarchs, I thought I’d look next at the Wolf King, the Lord of Fenris and Primarch of the Space Wolves and inventor of a bad ass battle tank; Leman Russ.

I rather suspect that Leman Russ was at his happiest when he was on the ice fields of Fenris busting heads and uniting the clans under his rule. It was a simple existence that suited his martial prowess and his sense of courage and honour. It bore none of the burden that his true calling would entail.

Whereas all of Russ’ brothers possessed a facet of the Emperor’s magnificence to a greater or lesser extent; Lorgar possessing his father’s single-minded devotion, Vulkan his compassion. Russ was born apart on a genetic, physical and psychological level for the very simple reason that he was created to kill them. He was the Emperor’s executioner: held in reserve for the very worst foes faced by the Crusade fleets, capable of unleashing extraordinary amounts of violence but displaying a level of cold control that Angron’s bezerkers could never come close to. And when necessity demanded, that controlled savagery and channelled rage could be directed towards an entirely more familiar target.

Leman Russ was created to be fiercely, violently, loyal to the Emperor. He and his legion were the Emperor’s protectors just as much as the Custodian Guard. If not more so as the legion had to not only be ready to defend the Imperium from aliens but domestic threats as well. Although he was happy to wage war on Magnus and his Thousand Sons, because he above all other Primarchs loathed psykers, but because he was ordered to do so. The sheer scale and brutality demonstrated by the Space Wolves wasn’t killers gone mad, sociopaths unchained or even hate filled bezerkers slipped from the leash, it’s the understanding of the level of force required to stop a legion of Astartes. It’s also worth noting that it has been referenced that Space Wolves have a particular resistance to psychic influence which suggests the Emperor was very much covering all the bases.

Russ, I believe, was a pragmatic and philosophical soul, despite his outward appearance, and was very accepting of his role in the galaxy. He bore it with typical Fenrisian stoicism and understood more than any of his brothers that he was a product of a process rather than a son to a parent. And as such saw his relationship much more as master and servant forever separating him from his brothers but at the same time earning him no favour with his father which, despite everything, he still sought. And despite all that, Russ had a great fondness for his brothers despite their petty manoeuvring and imagined slights. However, his true calling prevented him from forging any strong bonds concealing it behind the borish and barbaric personae that all his brothers believed he possessed although that was as much a defence mechanism on their part as none could ignore the efficiency with which he and his legion broke the 2nd and 11th legions.

Had the Heresy not burned the galaxy from arm to arm Leman Russ knew that he and his legion had no place in a unified Imperium. Their method of waging war and their true purpose would become obsolete. They would be disbanded and cast amongst the galaxy as peacekeepers and enforcers being reduced to little more than tattle tailers and political heavies worse than an Imperial Commissar. The bitterest truth is that the destruction of the Thousand Sons was a manipulation by Horus and his cohorts to eliminate the two Legions that could truly oppose him. And in so doing Russ failed in his duty as both executioner and protector, unable to reach his master in time to prevent his demise or cut the head off the snake before it struck. And as the legion counted its dead above the burning remains of Prospero he knew it too. Russ would have been forced into impotency knowing that he would never reach his father in time, and caging an animal such as Russ is a cruel trick indeed.

The true tragedy of Leman Russ wasn’t that he was mistreated, delivered to a world in Chaos, given too much responsibility too soon or lacked the mental faculties to do what was asked of him. The true tragedy of Leman Russ was actually just as capable as Guilliman or Dorn and saw the patterns as the cogs of the Imperial Drama turned and is crushed his soul. So much so he chose to close his eyes to it lest he betray his orders and unleash his Wolves without orders. His own sense of honour and duty, and his genetically hard-wired obedience prevented him from acting as, for all the Space Wolves overt acts of rebellion, not a single one would ever defy the Emperor. Even in the 41st Millennium the Space Wolves are a law unto themselves but they would never defy an edict if they believed it in line with the Emperor’s wishes.

Leman Russ was arguably his greatest triumph – the pinnacle of what he was intended to be. But in reality, he was made too well, the yoke about his neck too tight and it choked him from giving the order he knew needed to be given.