Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Recent (Night Lords Series) Questions

Just a quick update on my lunch break to answer some questions that winged their way to my eyes and ears recently, mostly regarding the Night Lords series. These are an amalgamation of jazz from various recent signings (Games Day, as well as Dublin and Belfast), my forum inboxes, my Facebook inbox, and junk from the forum spread that I can’t resist visiting.

Spoilers kept to a minimum – or at the very least, no stronger than those in ‘The Core’.


  • “Who are the new characters in Blood Reaver?”

Blood Reaver features a few new major and minor players in the series. These are (in no particular order): Lucoryphus of the Bleeding Eyes, Variel the Flayer, Nonus, and Hound. Some of those you’ll know from their teasers in ‘The Core’, others you’ll have to guess.


  • “Is Blood Reaver about Uzas, the way Soul Hunter was about Talos?”

Naw. Here’s the thing.

The Blood Reaver is one of the many titles used by Huron Blackheart, probably because his name is a bit silly and he’s shy about it. Blood Reaver (the novel, not the guy) still features Talos as the primary protagonist, but he’s slowly changing from his desperately lost passivity in Soul Hunter. This is where he starts to realise that just surviving might not be enough in the Long War. With everything degenerating around the crew of the Covenant of Blood, perhaps it’s time to fight back or just accept defeat. Even though he has no desire for leadership, others in the Legion look to him for guidance, and it’s much harder to claim “Guys, I’m not Malcharion’s heir, honestly” when he’s actually carrying the war-sage’s bolter.

Time to nut up or shut up, you know?

Beyond that, the others in First Claw do show up a little more. Uzas, Xarl, Cyrion and Mercutian get a lot more screen time, as does Variel (obviously, because in Blood Reaver we see how he joins First Claw in the first place).


  • “I read on Forum X that one of First Claw dies in Blood Reaver.”

No, cupcake. You read that in one of the middle chapters, I accidentally killed one of them while indulging in a side-plot, and subsequently rewrote the entire chapter because it was stupid and irrelevant. (You’re starting to see why this novel is late, right?) I’d never give a spoiler that a character actually died – that would be ball-achingly lame.

That said, it’s war. Soldiers die in war. That’s what makes it a war, and not a particularly immersive game of Lazer Tag.


  • “What is the Exalted? A Daemon Prince? A Possessed? A Chaos Lord close to Spawnhood?”

This gets explored a little more in Blood Reaver, actually.

Seriously, as much as I cleave to the background as described in the codices, you’ve got to realise that the game’s rules don’t always represent the lore all that well. Chaos doesn’t just touch people and say “You’re X, you’re Y, you’re Z.” It’s Chaos. It’s chaotic. Chaos would infuse its victi– uh, its followers with whatever the hell it wanted. Most Chaos Gifts wouldn’t fit neatly into the army lists in the back of a codex, like.

That said, I can shed some light on this. Vandred (the VIII Legion 10th Captain)  is a lesser consciousness in the creature that is now The Exalted. Cyrion knows this – he comments on it in Soul Hunter. So the Exalted is something like a Daemon Prince in that he’s been, uh, promoted like they have. But with his ascension came possession, like one of the weaker “battlefield” Possessed. In short, he’s either a Daemon Prince that doesn’t fight the way most others do, or he’s a really, really powerful Possessed. Both are true. Or neither. I don’t care, leave me alone.


  • “Why do you always say ‘Astartes’ in your novels?”

Because I hate the way “Space Marines” sounds.

They’re post-humans. They’re technically a different subspecies, vaguely similar to the way a mule is different from a horse or a donkey, but has bits of both. They’re Homo Astartes (stop laughing, you at the back), not Homo Sapiens.

“Space Marines” connotes something very lame, very generic, to me. “Astartes” doesn’t.


  • “Why does Talos dream about the Eldar? / Will the Eldar prophecies feature in the third novel?”


I’ve been open and up front since the beginning on this one. The trilogy has a very distinct focus, split by both physical and the mental considerations. Mentally, the storyline is about facing up to responsibility in the face of temptation, vengeance, corruption, loneliness – or some combination of all four. All of the characters face that to some degree; it’s intrinsic to the whole deal. But physically, the narrative is about getting back to the Eye of Terror alive, albeit in a roundabout way, after the Legion wears out its welcome in Imperial space.

The third novel, probably called Void Stalker, is about the final stretch on the road home. At the end of Soul Hunter (and throughout Blood Reaver) Talos suffers increasingly violent premonitions about the Eldar. If you’d not already guessed they’d be fighting the Eldar at some point, then frankly, I suck at my job. But whatever.

The Night Lords have their sanctuary in sight by the end of the series. But what orbits the Eye of Terror? What colossal, half-ruined remnant of a fallen empire might just be in the way of them reaching home?

Exactly. Craftworld Ulthwe.


  • “If Talos is the Soul Hunter, Huron is the Blood Reaver, who’s the Void Stalker?”

Your mum.

I’m not telling you, stop asking. Just wait a year and a half.


  • “Why do the Night Lords eat other Astartes’ gene-seed?”

For a few reasons, and none of them are nice.

Firstly, it’s the threat of cannibalistic desecration. When you’re fighting other Astartes (an enemy that can’t feel fear) the best you can do is let them know that if they lose, you’re going to do some absolutely horrible things to their dead bodies. It might buy you a second’s distraction.

Secondly, it’s not an idle threat. It’s a vicious way of ensuring that your enemy knows his death will never serve his Chapter. Think about it this way: Astartes aren’t just warriors, they’re also incubators for progenoid glands – they carry the “seed” necessary to make the next generation, just in a sterile and sexless way compared to humans. By threatening to eat to eat an Astartes’ progenoid organs, you’re removing a massive piece of his legacy in the Chapter, as well as harming the Chapter’s future. You don’t just kill the warrior, you deny the creation of any others that would’ve followed in an unbroken genetic line.

Thirdly, Talos was an Apothecary. When he makes the threat, it’s something that shows the absolute depths of his hatred for the Imperium – and, by that virtue, everything that he once was.

And lastly, because of this: http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Creation_of_a_Space_Marine#Omophagea



October 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Om nom nom!

    Comment by Xhalax | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. You are win for doing this.

    Plus, ‘Astartes’ is a lovely word. Makes them sound almost poetic in their war-machine manliness.

    Does mean I’m getting wound up about Blood Reaver though. 🙂

    Comment by Raye Raye | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. My mum is not the void stalker! She can’t be, she works at a jeweller’s.

    Comment by Jonathan | October 27, 2010 | Reply

    • thats what she tells you, sounds like the perfect cover to me

      Comment by mitch pays | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. thanks for the heads up, will abbaddon be appearing again for his revenge?

    Comment by mitch pays | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  5. My mum’s the Void Stalker? I fucking knew it!!

    Comment by Richard Ford | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  6. *warning – the following comment is very, very lame*

    Regarding the ‘creation of a space marine’ article, maybe you should explain in a future book just how it is that an Astartes can breathe despite “the rib cage [being] fused into a solid mass of bulletproof, interlocking plates”. Something that’s always puzzled me.


    Comment by Graeme Baldwin | October 27, 2010 | Reply

    • That’s not lame.

      It is however the kind of thing I try not to think about, because I get annoyed when I dwell on crap that makes no sense.

      I curse you for pointing out the silliness, sir.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | October 29, 2010 | Reply

  7. The next book will have the Red Corsairs in it? I think I love you all over again. Not that I ever stopped, but this just restarted it.

    Comment by John the Great | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  8. I agree on the ‘Space Marines’ thing.
    It seems pretty homo. (no pun intended)
    I think only children of the 41st would grow up saying ‘Space Marines’.
    For example as I grew up I stopped saying ‘Army Men’ and just started to say ‘Soldiers’ instead.

    Way better, and totally not hom.

    Comment by Rob Ash Cypher White | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  9. Good fucking stuff. Shame the next book is half a year away.

    @ Richard Ford

    The keywords in what you quoted are “interlocking plates”. It *could* imply that the plates overlap one and another, allowing the chest to expand and contract during breathing. That’s how I understand it, at least.

    Hell, Astartes lungs could be modified with a pump that allows circulation that works in tandem with the third lung.

    Whoop, can’t wait for next book.

    Comment by Filip Holm | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  10. Making me more excited for Blood Reaver but one question? Are you going to do more Short Story crossovers with the Salamanders? I mainly ask because it was pretty awesome how they coincided.

    Comment by DrgnScorpion | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  11. I like how you’ve included other Night Lord forces and recognition of their differences and structures in your work. In The Core, Throne of Lies and Soul Hunter the Night Lords had forces in conflict from small numbers, to many thousands of Astartes and hundreds of battle tanks. It’s a nice bonus that sets up the dire circumstances of the tenth in relation to how the legion itself is faring. Although split and fractured, there is more left than just the shitty circumstances of a handful of companies.

    Including Dreadnought, princeps, war gear, navigator, and other astartes into the tenths snare really motivates and inspires me. Prior to reading about a former Corsair included in a NL claw I would have thought the idea to be ridiculed and impossible to work into an army. Prior to The Core i had planned squads to be entirely one faction. Now i’m playing around with other war-band Astartes being included. It supports the theme of renegades and chaos wonderfully and adds awesome dynamics. Hell Mercutian being of noble origin strikes a chord deep within me that i don’t find in anyone Else’s work.

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on keeping the 10th true to their original theme, or if their exploits may begin to mirror their success with fans. You’ve certainly reinvented what it means to be a Night Lord player.

    Comment by Dan theDman | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  12. I always write really long responses to your blog that I end up deleting and condensing.

    1) I always thought the Exalted was a daemon prince, especially so after seeing how it’s about half way between Fulgrim and Argel Tal. I was working on the assumption that daemon princes are “possessed” by their own daemonic souls.

    2) Eye of Terror and environs in Soul Hunter, Maelstrom in Blood Reaver and back to the Eye in Void Stalker. Have I got that right? If so, never mind Ulthwe, they’ll have to pass Terra and the Segmentum Solar, twice. Unless their taking a hell of a round trip.

    3) “Astartes” = Stars. Makes them sound a bit twinkly to me, but then what they actually speak probably sounds nothing like English (or pig Latin) and it has 10,000 years of different connotations to it, anyway.

    Comment by G | October 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Astarte was also the name of the Greek goddess of war (amongst other things).

      Comment by Patrick | November 3, 2010 | Reply

  13. After making me actually like the Word Bearers with The First Heretic I really think you should do a novel on the Iron Warriors or the World Eaters. Both of those chaos legions seem pretty straight forward but I feel like you could give them a lot of hidden depth.

    Comment by Nick Sharps | October 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Are you Nick Sharps as in “recent Amazon review” Nick Sharps? I got a notification somewhere(?) saying you’d done that review, and the past few days I’ve been trying to find it to reply to it.

      Anyway, dude, many thanks for that review. Your opinion was one of the ones I was definitely keeping half an eye open for, out of my perverse and masochistic sense of curiosity.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | October 29, 2010 | Reply

      • That was definitely me and I was glad to write it. You really earned it. It’s not often you read a book and become attatched to a legion and a primarch you cared nothing about previously. Can’t wait for the next one!

        Comment by Nick Sharps | October 29, 2010 | Reply

  14. Is it May 2011 already? The book is still an eternity away. I need more Talos. I’m so excited about Blood Reaver.

    Comment by dorian | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  15. MMMMMMMmmmm

    Thanks for all that.

    I don’t know wether to take that last comment as Night Lords craving human flesh (likely) or Night Lords doing it to gain strategic advantage (Also a likely reason for them to do it.), so I’m going to go with both. Shits AND giggles as it were.

    Comment by sycopat | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  16. I always saw the Exhalted as being at the crossroads from either becomeing a Prince or Spawn.
    I was curious to as if you wrote the Heresy Night Lords novel where would it focus?
    The attrocity that makes the Fists so squemish and calls for thier censure,The dropsite massacare,how Nostromo was feeding the legion criminals?
    Basically do you think you’ll focus on the earlier days or after when the Assassins are hunting him?

    Comment by BigWill | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  17. Damn I have to stop reading the comments as Im reading spoilers. XD I must ask, which novels does the Night Lords featuring their presence? In particularly 10th company as Ive heard there are some cross-overs. =O

    Comment by Forkmaster | October 28, 2010 | Reply

  18. Think you might enjoy this…



    Comment by Jonathon | October 28, 2010 | Reply

  19. @ Graeme Baldwin – the majority of the work of breathing occurs by the contraction and lowering of the diaphragm, not the action of the ribs.

    I guess I’m lucky that I grew up thinking the term “Space Marines” was cool, before it had any reference to anything else.

    I’m really looking forward to hearing more about Talos being an Apothecary (and then ceasing to be one).

    Comment by Ilmarinen | October 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Passive breathing, sure. But active breathing, the kind you might do while vigorously purging some heretics, I reckon you’d want actual ribs for that. Meh, who knows. No doubt their superlungs are ‘special’. 🙂

      Comment by Graeme Baldwin | October 29, 2010 | Reply

      • It is the accessory muscles that do the movement. We then see the ribs rising and lowering… and they are interlocking. Which suggest the rigs are like scale-mail.

        It is science fiction… dozens of ways to explain how it could work. Remember as Mr B-D said they are a new species of human. We can’t apply our current medical-surgical knowledge to them.


        Comment by Jonathon | October 30, 2010 | Reply

  20. hhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm geneseed (drools like a escaped lunatic) i wonder if it tastes like chicken 🙂 any ways really looking forward to blood reaver to see if huron and talos can get along unlike abbaddon who was an asshole

    Comment by J.Sibley | October 28, 2010 | Reply

  21. And now for something completely different: Aaron Dembski-Bowden, as a miniature:


    Much love goes out for DPA, who’s plog this is over on warseer.

    Comment by Joe Wright | October 31, 2010 | Reply

  22. I just wanted to briefly say that you are my favorite Black Library author and I love that you tell the tales of the Chaos Marines, excuse me, Astartes, that not a lot of other authors seem to want to. I mean to me the most interesting characters in a universe full of interesting characters are the ‘Traitors’. Anyway, thanks for writing so very well and I hope you continue to do so for many years to come. Thanks

    Comment by Brandyn Curd | November 10, 2010 | Reply

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