Primarch Discovery Order

Primarch Discovery Order

The Primarch Discovery Order
The Primarchs anthology cover art

One of the fascinating aspects of the Horus Heresy is the little mysteries that are deliberately seeded into the overall story. Clearly the biggest of these is the lost legions and unknown Primarchs, something which is consistently wondered over and asked about (at the recent Black Library Weekender there was a running joke about how long it would take for someone to ask about this). However Black Library have stated they are never going to explain this away, so the best we can hope for are more hints and teasers.

One of the mysteries that I hope and believe will eventually be cleared up is the order that the Primarchs were discovered in. At the moment, there are very few clear facts, and lots of hints and teasers dropped into various sources. This blog is going to cover the information and references that have been revealed throughout the body of material produced by Games Workshop.

So let’s start with a bit of a disclaimer. There is some contradictory information within the series regarding the Primarch discovery order. This is without question due to the way the series has been written by a number of different authors who each add their own layer of detail to the story.  In my opinion this is a clear indication that up until very recently there has not been a confirmed discovery order. I will explain the contradictions in due course, and explain how I would alter the given details so that there could be a logical discovery order.

I should also state at this point that after speaking to the mysterious Powers-That-Be at the Black Library Weekender, I do know they are compiling a list of any continuity errors, potentially to rectify them in future print runs of the Horus Heresy novels. I also believe that work has begun on producing a definitive canonical discovery order.  It is my sincere hope that this information will be released to us in the form of more delightful hints in future novels – I hope we don’t (and doubt we will) ever see a published list. No doubt, over the course of time, this will show the errors of my personal choices in all their glory.  But until then I will continue to hold faith with my selection, and look forward to updating my list with each successive piece of information.

Primarch Discovery Order Information

So onto the details. Let’s cover the clear facts that give us precise information first.

  1. All 20 Primarchs were recovered throughout the course of the Great Crusade.
  2. Horus was the first Primarch discovered (various sources, dating back throughout the history of writing on the Heresy).
  3. Rogal Dorn was discovered 7th (source The Lightning Tower short story).
  4. Alpharius was the last Primarch discovered (source Index Astertes: Alpha Legion).

There are numerous other pieces of information that allow us to piece together the puzzle. I’m going to cover these for simplicity in legion order, by Primarch..

I Legion Astartes ‘Dark Angels’ – Lion El’Jonson

  • After Magnus, Jaghatai Khan and Sanguinius – according to A Thousand Sons, these 3 Primarchs founded the Librarian order, and then introduced Librarians into other legions. In Descent of Angels, one of the Astartes who lands on Caliban (original home world of the Dark Angels) was a Librarian. Therefore the Lion must have be found after these three.
  • Before Mortarion – According to the short story, The Lion from The Primarchs anthology, Lion El’Jonson fought alongside the ‘newly renamed Death Guard’ legion during the Great Crusade.  The legion was only renamed as the Death Guard upon being reunited with Mortarion.

II Legion Astartes – Unknown

III Legion Astartes – ‘The Emperor’s Children’ – Fulgrim

  • Before Konrad Curze – Fulgrim mentored Curze when he was first recovered (Index Astartes: Night Lords)
  • Before Peturabo – in Angel Exterminatus there’s a scene where Peturabo reminisces about pledging his fealty to the Emperor. It records that Fulgrim had done this ‘years before’.

IV Legion Astartes ‘Iron Warriors’ – Peturabo

  • After Fulgrim (see above) and Magnus – during the same scene mentioned above from Angel Exterminatus, Magnus is also discussed.
  • Before Angron – in the excellent short story After Desh’ea (from Tales of Heresy), Kharn (a World Eater’s captain) is talking to Angron immediately after the finding of Angron, and he explains seeing the change in the Iron Warriors upon the discovery of their Primarch.

V Legion Astartes – ‘White Scars’ –  Jaghatai Khan

  • Before Lion El’Jonson – see above.

VI Legion Astartes – ‘Space Wolves’ – Leman Russ

  • Nothing known.

VII Legion Astartes – ‘Imperial Fists’ –  Rogal Dorn

  • Before Konrad Curze – the short story Prince of Crows details the first meeting between the Emperor and Curze at which there are 4 Primarchs present, one of whom is Rogal Dorn.

VIII Legion Astartes ‘Night Lords’ – Konrad Curze

  • After Rogal Dorn, Ferrus Manus, Lorgar and Fulgrim – from the aforementioned Prince of Crows short story.

IX Legion Astartes ‘Blood Angels’ –  Sanguinius

  • Before Mortarion – there is a passage in Flight of the Eisenstein where Nathaniel Garro (Captain in the Death Guard) recounts the recovery of a number of Primarchs before Mortarion is recovered – Sanguinius is one of these.
  • Before Lion El’Jonson – see above.
  • Before Angron – from the Forge World Betrayal sourcebook, it notes a comment made by Sanguinius about the Warhounds legion, which is the name of the World Eaters legion prior to the recovery of Angron.

X Legion Astartes ‘Iron Hands’ – Ferrus Manus

  • Before Mortarion – the same information in Flight of the Eisenstein listed above (under Sanguinius) mentions Ferrus.
  • Before Curze – see above.

XI Legion Astartes – Unknown

XII Legion Astartes ‘World Eaters’ – Angron

  • After Peturabo and Vulkan – detailed by World Eater’s Captain Kharn in After Desh’ea.
  • After Sanguinius – see above.

XIII Legion Astartes ‘Ultramarines’ –  Roboute Guilliman

  • Before Mortarion – the same information in Flight of the Eisenstein listed above (under Sanguinius) mentions Guilliman.

XIV Legion Astartes ‘Death Guard’ –  Mortarion

  • After Sanguinius, Ferrus, Guilliman and Magnus – detailed in Flight of the Eisenstein.

XV Legion Astartes ‘Thousand Sons’ – Magnus

  • Before Lorgar – Magnus is with the Emperor when Lorgar is first discovered.
  • Before Mortarion – see above.
  • Before Peturabo – see above.
  • Before Lion – see above.
  • After Mortarion, Corax and Rogal Dorn – Ahriman, First Captain of the Thousand Sons relays information about how these 3 Primarchs were against the use of sorcery by the legion prior to the recovery of Magnus.

XVI Legion Astartes ‘Luna Wolves’/’Sons of Horus’ – Horus

  • Nothing known.

XVII Legion Astartes ‘Word Bearers’ – Lorgar

  • After Magnus – see above.
  • Before Curze – see above.

XVIII Legion Astartes ‘Salamanders’ – Vulkan

  • Before Angron – see above.

XIX Legion Astartes ‘Raven Guard’ – Corax

  • Before Magnus – see above.
  • After both the ‘lost’ primarchs – in Deliverance Lost, the Emperor tells Corax that he has 17 (not 19) brothers, the implication being that two were already lost.

XX Legion Astartes – ‘Alpha Legion’ – Alpharius

  • Nothing known.

There are also references within the series to the number of years that certain Primarchs have taken part in the Great Crusade (the period covering the conquest of the Galaxy by the Emperor’s armies, and during which the Primarchs were rediscovered). This is problematic because, to my knowledge, there is no set time period for the Great Crusade. It also seems to me that in the early days of the series, the authors treated the length of the crusade fairly loosely, something which appears to have tightened up more recently (Botherhood of the Storm and Angel Exterminatus are both good examples of this).

By my best estimate the Great Crusade lasted around 240-250 years, from when expeditionary fleets left the Sol system (the system containing Terra) up to the start of the Horus Heresy. This would place the discovery of Horus himself around 235 years before the start of the Heresy, and the second Primarch’s discovery approximately 20 years later around 215 years before the start of the Heresy. This would then help to place some of the Primarchs who have been referred to as being around for a certain number of years:

  • Ferrus Manus – approximately 200 years.
  • Fulgrim – approximately 160 years (based on when his flagship was built – Fulgrim).
  • Peturabo – 150 years (Angel Exterminatus).
  • The Khan – 120 years (Brotherhood of the Storm).

The final piece of information I can offer is of a more speculative nature. It’s based on direct quotes from the novels, but the quotes themselves are open to interpretation:

  • According to Promethean Sun, Vulkan is found after ‘several’ of his brothers.
  • According to Deliverance Lost, ‘most’ of Corax’s brothers have already been found.

So, let’s return to the bone of contention.  Anyone paying attention to the details above will have noticed the contradiction within the discovery order. Magnus is found before Mortarion (according to Flight of the Eisenstein), but after him (according to A Thousand Sons). When trying to define a discovery order for the Primarchs this has to deal with this.

My belief is that Magnus is found before Mortarion. There is supporting information that Magnus is found before the Lion, who is found before Mortarion.  This would invalidate a sentence within A Thousand Sons which refers to three Primarchs who speak out against the Thousand Sons legion prior to the discovery of Magnus – Mortarion, Corax and Rogal Dorn.  Ignoring this sentence would also have the benefit of reconciling Corax’s position; he is discovered after most of his brothers according to Deliverance Lost, so havinghim before Magnus is problematic.

Well, that’s all the information I have managed to compile. If you do have anything that you think I have missed, or anything that you disagree with, please let me know at the usual place. So to leave you, I’m going to head away from the facts that we know, and head into the realms of speculation.

Marcus’ Best Estimate – Primarch Discovery Order
1. Horus – XVI Legion Astartes ‘Luna Wolves / Sons of Horus’
2. Leman Russ – VI Legion Astartes ‘Space Wolves’
3. Lost Primarch A – unknown
4. Sanguinius – IX Legion Astartes ‘Blood Angels’
5. Ferrus Manus – X Legion Astartes ‘Iron Hands’
6. Vulkan – XVIII Legion Astartes ‘Salamanders’
7. Rogal Dorn – VII Legion Astartes ‘Imperial Fists’
8. Fulgrim – III Legion Astartes ‘Emperor’s Children’
9. Lost Primarch B – unknown
10. Roboute Guilliman – XIII Legion Astartes ‘Ultramarines’
11. Magnus – XV Legion Astartes ‘ Thousand Sons’
12. Peturabo – IV Legion Astartes ‘Iron Warriors’
13. Jaghatai Khan – V Legion Astartes ‘White Scars’
14. Lion El’Jonson – I Legion Astartes ‘Dark Angels’
15. Lorgar – XVII Legion Astartes ‘Word Bearers’
16. Angron – XII Legion Astartes ‘World Eaters’
17. Mortarion – XIV Legion Astartes ‘Death Guard’
18. Corax – XIX Legion Astartes ‘Raven Guard’
19. Konrad Curze – VIII Legion Astartes ‘Night Lords’
20. Alpharius – XX Legion Astartes ‘Alpha Legion’

If you have any comments about anything I’ve written, please drop me a message on here or on twitter @Marcoos14

All the best,

6 thoughts on “Primarch Discovery Order

  • November 28, 2012 at 19:28

    Regarding the place of Lion El Jonson in the time line.
    The Lion is discovered in Decent of Angels and then an unspecified but likely a short amount of time passes to when we next see him in charge of his Legion, taking over from the White Scars. Without the book to hand I can’t be sure, but I’m relatively certain that it indicated this is one of their first, if not their first campaign since the Lions discover, I seem to some thoughts or conversation regarding how young they still are to the crusade compared to the White Scars, again need the book.
    Either way Fallen Angels then takes place fifty years after the end of Decent of Angels, and the Heresy is now in motion. In The First Heretic, the incident on Monarchia happens fifty years before the start of the Heresy, and by this point it’s fairly apparent that Lorgar has been in command of his Legion and on the Great Crusade for some time now, certainly not new.
    From this we can quite comfortably say that Lorgar was discovered many years, probably at least a few decades before the Lion was. Which also puts any Primarch discovered after the Lion as being found within the last fifty years of the Great Crusade.
    Personally I think this was the author not really thinking about how the fifty years between the two novels would effect the founding of the other Primarchs, as some of them will have taken part in very little of the Crusade before the Heresy broke out. Think the time needs to be scaled back at bit more, but well, what can you do.

  • November 29, 2012 at 16:35

    Thanks for the info! When first reading the Dark Angels novels I discounted the number of years being talked about because it seemed at odds with the historical information on the 1st Legion. However, you are correct in this, and unless retconned by BL it puts the discovery of Lion both after Lorgar and also Angron.

    I’ll have to revise my list at some point!

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  • December 19, 2012 at 08:50

    Hey, great run down of things!
    My thinking follows much the same line, my only bugbear would be the placement of Russ as ‘Number Two’. Given Russ’ character and the relative scarcity/lack of information around the early Space Wolves… I’m disinclined to have him so early on.
    Looking at the ‘top eight’ as listed, you get a very intriguing dynamic and role, given how things work out later in the Heresy and folks’ attitudes:
    – Sanguinius is widely regarded as a serious Warmaster-candidate. (Horus himself thinks as much, that ought be telling.)
    – Fulgrim’s a mentor to Kurze. Prior to the series being written, he was also sent to parley with Horus at Isstvan. (In those days it’d have been Istvaan…)
    – Ferrus Manus takes seniority at Isstvan.
    – Rogal Dorn is invited to be Custodian at Terra, little question or grumbling is made about him taking the de-facto Warmaster/leader mantle in the Emperor’s absence after Horus turns and Ferrus is dead.
    If that first-half were instead to go in this manner:
    1. Horus – XVI Legion Astartes ‘Luna Wolves / Sons of Horus’
    2. Lost Primarch A – unknown
    3. Sanguinius – IX Legion Astartes ‘Blood Angels’
    4. Ferrus Manus – X Legion Astartes ‘Iron Hands’
    5. Lost Primarch B – unknown
    6. Fulgrim – III Legion Astartes ‘Emperor’s Children’
    7. Rogal Dorn – VII Legion Astartes ‘Imperial Fists’
    8. Leman Russ – VI Legion Astartes ‘Space Wolves’
    9. Vulkan – XVIII Legion Astartes ‘Salamanders’
    And the rest follow as normal, you could have something of a ‘gap’ with the finding of Rogal Dorn. When there’s only somewhere between five and seven of them, Horus is ‘first’, but they’re all still learning. Fulgrim & Ferrus ‘team up’, so too do Horus & Sanguinius, but really there’s anything to play for.
    If, then, there were something of a gap of a few decades as the crusade plateaus and then, boom, a rapid succession of discoveries, you could have Russ, Vulkan, Guilliman, Magnus and Perturabo being found in relatively quick succession.
    Of course, that also allows for something of a massive divergence in ‘style’ – Vulkan is a bit wayward, Russ is deliberately obtuse/belligerent, Magnus has been ‘known’ all along (by the Emperor), but is basically ‘late to the party’, that quasi-familiarity would certainly account for his Legion’s resultant eccentricity. Guilliman, of course, buys into the ‘style’ of that first seven (five?) wholesale, and thus his Ultramarines, like Jonson’s later Dark Angels, heartily embrace a pretty straight-up, orthodox style of legion management (much like the Luna Wolves, Iron Hands, Emperor’s Children, Blood Angels, Imperial Fists…)
    But that’s very much speculative – if the authors were to come up with a more interesting arrangement and timing that allows for more interesting juxtapositions and quirks, that’d be even better!

  • September 20, 2013 at 15:38

    You’re wrong. Lion el’Jonson was the first primarch discovered so the Dark Angels are the firt legion. Read the ‘dex next time.

  • September 24, 2013 at 20:55

    Sorry Hobzrandall, but yours is a common misconception.  The Dark Angels are the 1st Legion because they were the first to be founded, not because their Primarch was the first to be discovered.  The two are not related.  It is well documented that Horus was the first Primarch to be found, both within Black Library and Games Workshop publications.

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