Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
Just as a reminder, in this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.
With our review of the Eisenhorn trilogy completed, we are shifting gears to focus in on some of the storied characters in Warhammer 40k (and 30k). For our first installment, I wanted to go over who (in my totally biased opinion) is one of the most dynamic characters in 40k: Mephiston, the Lord of Death. My very title of ‘Chief Librarian’ is inspired by the character, who was my first ever character model back when I was a wee novitiate.
Many hundreds of years ago from the current 40k timeline, a Librarian named Calistarius strode the ranks of the Blood Angels. He was well-liked by his Chapter comrades (as well as a psyker can be liked), and was even given special Terminator Honors to join with the Blood Angels 1st Company who strode aboard the space hulk “Sin of Damnation.” He distinguished himself well in the conflict that raged in the cramped halls of the hulk, aiding in the destruction of its ruling broodlord and making one of the first mental contacts with the gestalt hive-mind which rules over that terrible race. War would take Calistarius far and wide, but it was the Second War of Armageddon that would see him changed forever.
The Death of Calistarius
Before the battle of Hades Hive, Calistarius showed signs of falling to the Black Rage. The curse of the Blood Angels line created devastating madmen of incredible strength and ferocity out of even the most genteel battle brother, and Calistarius had the gifts of the Librarius at his command. No one can say for sure why he was spared outright execution – a common fate for psykers lost to the rage out of concern for the devastation they could wreak – but spared he was, and donning the black armor of the damned he met the Ork invaders in battle. During the fighting, Calistarius (among many others) was presumed dead as a mighty Ecclesiarchal building collapsed on top of him. Trapped physically by the rubble and left for dead, Calistarius faced the madness of the Black Rage alone.
Wracked by the death throes of Sanguinius’ final memories, Mephiston’s torment seemed that it would never end until – it is said – he saw a vision of Sanguinius. The Great Angel appeared to him and told him to take heart, and to overcome the madness that gripped his soul – to be an example to his brothers and to show them that the Rage could be conquered. With every ounce of his will, Calistarius fought against the rage until on the 7th day he exploded from the rubble in a torrent of psychic energy. What left the crater of his rebirth was not Calistarius as he had been. His gene-seed had awoken a new and terrible power within him, and the hapless Orks scavenging nearby were sorely unprepared for the destruction he would wreak among them. Punching out their leader’s heart with his fist and crushing it, the rest of the Orks scattered in fear at the warrior in broken black armor. Mephiston – the Lord of Death – had been born.
The Reborn Angel
Mephiston’s return to the Blood Angels came with a mix of hope and suspicion. None had ever returned from the throes of the rage before, and the old aspect of Calistarius was gone from the face of this revenant. Mephiston was subjected to every test conceivable, from bio-scourging tests of the body and mind-scouring tests of his spirit. The results were conclusive: Mephiston was not possessed by a demon (as was feared), but how he was alive none could tell. The testing failed to determine exactly how he had overcome the Rage, even as it verified that the living body walking among them had indeed perished at some point. His psychic potential had reached unbelievable heights, dwarfing his former power and placing him among the most powerful human psykers to ever live. Some even said his power was now second only to the Emperor in potency.
Declared free of corruption, Mephiston donned armor that suited his new aspect. Gone was the jovial, good-natured Calistarius. The dour aspect of death took his place. His armor was artificer-wrought in the shape of exposed muscle, an unused relic of the past that seemed inexplicably made just for him. He took up the relic force sword Vitarus – a weapon of terrible potency in even a normal psyker’s hands, and turned it to the ruin of the Imperium’s foes. He soon was elevated to the rank of Chief Librarian, and became one of Chapter Master Dante’s closest and most enigmatic advisers, and at once became a figure of inspiration and dread among his battle brothers. Some saw him as a symbol of hope that the Rage could be conquered. Some instead saw him as another form of damnation one step removed from daemonhood, and few could abide his close company for long. His face – so very much like Sanguinius’ own – was shadowed by a deathly pallor. His once bright eyes glowed with a transfixing gaze that rendered all but the most strong-willed lost in dreadful despair. Few allies could meet that gaze, and even fewer enemies. His sword brought death to all foes, regardless of size, and even the champions of the warp found themselves brought low by his overwhelming power.
The Defense of Hollonan: Mephiston and a task force of Blood Angels came to Hollonan to suppress a heretical uprising, only to find that it was an insidious genestealer cult. Accelerating the purge, the cult was wiped out but not before it was too late. A hive fleet tendril had reached the world and was preparing to feast on its population. Sending a desperate distress call, Mephiston’s strike force withdrew to the underhive in a desperate bid for survival.
The fighting was desperate and intense. Mephiston himself fought for days without rest, even holding off the Tyranid swarm single-handedly at a gate (like his angelic sire at the Eternity gate on Terra). After a long fight, Mephiston was finally struck down by a Trygon, but not before defeating the Hive Tyrant that led the swarm’s forces. Soon after, a strike force of Angels Vermillion and surprisingly the Ulthwe craftworld came to the defenders aid, destroying the hive fleet. Eldrad Ulthran himself came to the surface, only leaving once he had verified that the wounded Mephiston was still alive. Mephiston was gifted a unique banner of heraldry by the hive’s survivors in recognition of his bravery and skill.
M’Kar the Reborn
The demon prince M’Kar trapped Mephiston in the crystal caves of Solon V, and tried to lure him to the path of chaos. Mephiston broke free from his crystal prison, and then strangled the demon prince to death with his bare hands, swearing to never fall to the predations of the warp.
The Shield of Baal
Mephiston was present during the Shield of Baal campaign, serving with distinction as one of the few psykers who could withstand the overwhelming presence of the Hive Mind. Though injured at one point by the new psychic terrors the Hive Mind created, his ability to read and predict the swarm’s intentions proved tactically invaluable to Dante as he orchestrated the defense.
What’s Great About this Character
Mephiston is a great character because not only is he obscenely powerful, he is also incredibly mysterious. Not even he knows for sure how he overcame the Black Rage. He is often temped by demons and maligned by those close to him out of fear of his power, yet he never falters. It takes a captured star in the librarius to contain his power when he wants to let loose. Yet, where does his power come from? He thinks it comes from the great angel, and strives against all odds to use it for the good of mankind. He’s a character of great conflict, and I am excited to read the new book coming out with him in it later this month.
The Lord of Death is Only the Beginning
With so many epic characters, this series is just scratching the surface of the characters we have yet to explore. If you’re like me and can’t get enough lore about Mephiston, here are a few book recommendations for you:
Mephiston: Lord of Death by David Annandale
Mephiston: Blood of Sanguinius by Darius Hinks
The Shield of Baal Collection by various authors
Dante by Guy Haley
The Devestation of Baal by Guy Haley
The Blood Angels Omnibus by James Swallow
Space Hulk by Gav Thorpe
To Be Continued…
We will be continuing this series in the weeks to come exploring more of the great characters in 40k (there are so many to choose from), so if there is one you’d like to hear more about then please let me know! Some are older and have more lore and history than others, but I’ll do my best to give them justice. Mephiston has been around since 2nd Edition 40k.
Just as a heads up, be ready for a brief hiatus on my part. I’m getting married at the end of the month, so I’ll be resuming this series when I get back from the festivities. That’s still a ways off, so hold tight for next week’s installment of Tomes of the Librarius!
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!