The Word Bearers are a Traitor Legion of the Chaos Space Marines. They were originally the 17th Legion and their Primarch was Lorgar. The Legion was initially the most eager and zealous in its support of the Emperor, but ended up being the first to turn to Chaos. It was through their efforts that the other legions and even Horus himself were corrupted.
The Word Bearers are renowned for being fiercely loyal zealots to their cause, be it towards the Imperium during the majority of the Great Crusade or towards Chaos after the discovery of the Eye of Terror, several years before the Horus Heresy. The Word Bearers embraced the powers of Chaos during the Horus Heresy, many allowing daemons to inhabit their bodies and enhance their abilities.
When Lorgar vanished from Terra, he appeared on a feudal planet called Colchis, which worshiped the Chaos Gods. Lorgar, a psyker, experienced visions of the Emperor's arrival and interpreted them as a fulfillment of a local messianic prophecy. By the time he was discovered during the Great Crusade, he had already subdued Colchis in a series of religious wars and forcibly converted the whole world to the Cult of the Emperor.
When the Emperor arrived on Colchis, Lorgar was overjoyed and celebrated his arrival and proclaiming him the god his people had been waiting for. The Emperor, having refused any divine mantle so far, was not happy, yet satisfied Lorgar by having him assume command of the Imperial Heralds. Lorgar renamed his legion The Word Bearers and joined the Great Crusade.
The Word Bearers venerated the Emperor, continuing to worship has a god despite the Emperors insistence that he was not divine. The Word Bearers would spend extra time on each world the brought into compliance building great monuments to the Emperor and converting the entire populace to share their beliefs. It was during the Great Crusade that Lorgar wrote the Lectitio Divinitatus, a biblical tome that reputedly was used for the creation of the Imperial Cult.
Eventually The Emperor decided that their religious worship of him had gone too far. He had the Ultramarines level a city that stood as a shining example of their accomplishments on the planet of Monarchia. The Emperor personally attended this event and ordered the entire legion, Lorgar included, to bow before the Emperor and the Ultramarines. The Emperor hoped that this would show Lorgar the error of his ways in treating the Emperor like a god.
For a time, they seemed to have taken this message to heart, bringing multiple worlds into compliance yet not establishing a religion on worlds they conquered. However inside they felt directionless and betrayed. It was this betrayal that led Lorgar to undertake The Pilgrimage, a quest to the edge of known Imperial space to search for the truth. His pilgrimage took him to Cadia, a planet of humans who worshiped the Chaos Gods just as the people on Colchis had long ago.
Lorgar was influenced by the Chaos Gods and the nearby Eye of Terror. He and his marines embraced the powers of Chaos. Lorgar decided that the Emperor was wrong and that he had to be taken down for the good of the entire galaxy. However they had to hide their newfound purpose from the rest of the Imperium.
Kor Erebus, a notable chaplain who took to Chaos easily, was sent away to other legions to spread the word of Chaos while instructing them to do the same. By the time the Horus Heresy had occured, half of the Space Marine Legions had fallen to Chaos, with Warmaster Horus taking the lead.
Word Bearers participated in the Dropsite Massacre of Istvaan V, which was the first official battle of the Horus Heresy. The Loyalist forces of The Iron Hands, The Salamanders and The Raven Guard expected relief, however the Word Bearers opened fire on those they considered their brothers and openly declared their status as traitors by siding with Horus. They continued to fight alongside Horus during the Heresy until Horus was defeated by the Emperor. They fled back to the Eye of Terror with the rest of the traitor legions and have resided there ever since.
Lorgar currently resides in the Eye of Terror as a Daemon Prince while the Word Bearers continue to zealously worship Chaos Undivided.
- Chambers, Andy et al. Codex: Chaos Space Marines. Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2002.
- Chambers, Andy et al. Index Astartes IV. Nottingham: Games Workshop.
- Merrett, Alan. The Horus Heresy Vol. II: Visions of Darkness. Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2004.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden, The First Heretic