The Apostasy Gambit
Imperial Guard Penal Legions are formed by those individuals who have committed capital crimes against the Imperium of Man but have been given a chance to redeem themselves by the Adeptus Arbites with their inevitable deaths in battle as warriors of the Imperial Guard.
The troopers sentenced to serve in the Penal Legions invariably have short lives. They must live under a tremendous burden of guilt – for they have not only committed crimes, but in doing so, they have also betrayed the Emperor. For those Penal Legionnaires who are genuinely repentant, the opportunity to alleviate this burden is fully embraced and many die on the battlefield in desperate attempts to atone for their crimes. In rare and exceptional circumstances, Legionnaires who complete their missions and survive may be absolved of their crimes and allowed to rejoin the ranks of the Imperial Guard.
The ranks of the Penal Legions are made up of the scum of the galaxy. Their ranks are swelled with rapists, murderers, traitors, mutants, and psychopaths, contributing to their disreputable aura; nonetheless, nearly every century a particularly brave (or lucky) Penal Legion is awarded freedom for their years of service, and their sins absolved before the Emperor. This is the only hope that the Legionnaires’ cling to as they bloodily die by the dozen, leaving behind the most violent and hardened of their number.
Reprieved from the death cells because of some talent or uncanny instinct, these dregs comprise the most vicious, ill-tempered and unstable group of psychopaths and killers in the Imperial Guard. New Legionnaires of the Penal Legion have their heads shaved and tattooed with their unit insignia. Discipline within a Penal Legion is necessarily harsh, even by Imperial Guard standards. A blind eye can never be turned from those that would kill each other by ‘accident’ or design.
The commanding officer or Custodian of the Legion has control of the detonator that is linked to the explosive collars that every Legionnaires’ must wear after they join the Legion, and he can use it to kill any Legionnaire he chooses, showering those nearby with sanguinous gore in an effort to retain order.
Penal Legionnaires are tasked with the most dangerous missions where their unorthodox abilities and unique skills are essential for victory. Though they are composed of the worst dregs of Imperium, amongst them are found some of the most skilled warriors of the Imperial Guard. Some of those who serve within the Legion want to die in battle and forget their disgrace. But often, its the toughest and most dangerous born killers that somehow survive.