Warhammer 40k’s Jaghatai Khan, gene-father of the White Scars Space Marines, stands alone from his brothers as one of the more unique Primarchs in Games Workshop’s sci-fi setting. The Great Khan is a figure who stands apart from his Primarch brethren, never content to meekly follow his father’s will like many of his siblings. His White Scars embrace war in a way entirely their own, and he became renowned for making decisions that often clashed with the Emperor’s wishes.
Neither barbarian nor scholar; neither a rebel, nor a servant, the Khan remains one of the most enigmatic figures in Warhammer 40k. Regardless, he and his White Scars are firm fan favourites in the setting, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Jaghatai Khan – The Young Warhawk Rides
When malignant forces scattered the infant Primarchs throughout the galaxy, the young Jaghatai Khan landed on the planet Mundus Planus (or Chogoris, as it’s known to its inhabitants). This world was covered with wide grassy plains, upon which a nascent empire carved a bloody swathe through the planet’s nomadic tribes, under the command of a man named ‘the Palatine’. On this world, Jaghatai was found by Ong Khan, a leader of a small tribe, who raised him to be a great warrior before Ong’s untimely death at the hands of a rival.
This death galvanised Jaghatai, leading him to unite his adoptive father’s troops and wage war on the rival tribe who’d slain his saviour. He swore to end the fighting that beset Chogoris, promising to end the purposeless tribal warfare that had taken the lives of so many. The Khan’s war saw his tribe – the Talaskars – grow its ranks with each victory, until they threatened the Palatine’s empire itself.
At long last, the Palatine brought his army into the field against Jaghatai – but made a dire miscalculation. The empire’s troops consisted of heavily armoured soldiers that couldn’t catch Jaghatai Khan’s swift, mounted warriors, leading to innumerable losses as they were outmanoeuvred and ruthlessly peppered with arrows. With the Palatine deposed, Jaghatai Khan was anointed Great Khan of all the tribes, bringing together the people of Chogoris for the first time.
Ultimately, however, the Khan found the task of running an empire a little troublesome, as his tribal citizens had no interest in being ruled from a central location. Slowly, over the coming months, the empire dispersed, its people returning to their old ways. It was a lesson the Great Khan would remember when he was visited by his birth-father, the Emperor of Mankind, and uplifted to help him rule the galaxy with the aid of his own legion of Space Marines – the White Scars.
Jaghatai Khan in the Horus Heresy
During the Great Crusade, Jaghatai Khan became very close to two Primarchs in particular: Magnus the Red and Horus Lupercal. It was his friendship with the Khan that made Horus believe Jaghatai and his White Scars would be the first to join him in rebellion. Alas for Horus, this was not the case, and the Great Khan remained true to his father throughout the Horus Heresy.
This was a surprise to many, as Jaghatai Khan had always resisted being ruled by anyone. The Edicts of Nikea, for example (which banned the use of Librarians throughout the Space Marine chapters) were summarily ignored in the ranks of the White Scars.
The Edicts only banned ‘Librarians’, you see, whereas – as the Khan and White Scars would solemnly explain – their psykers are ‘Stormseers’ so the Edicts can hardly apply to them. This tendency to interpret things his own way is core to understanding Jaghatai Khan – but he never lost faith in people, and, when time came to choose between sides in the Heresy, he stayed loyal to the Imperium of Man.
Throughout the Horus Heresy, the White Scars became a true thorn in Horus’ side, using their superior mobility on the battlefield and in space to harry and harass his forces, much as the mounted tribes once did on Chogoris. His legion had become utterly devoted to speed and manoeuvre, allowing them to launch surprise attacks and disrupt supply lines wherever they found them.
In the Siege of Terra and Solar War, he deployed his White Scars to counter flanking manoeuvres by the forces of Horus, both in space and on Terra itself. Despite being commanded by Rogal Dorn to stay inside the walls of the Imperial Palace, the Great Khan ignored his orders to lead sallies behind enemy lines, rescuing abandoned Imperial Army conscripts. Eventually, Dorn was forced to give Khan a degree of autonomy, allowing him to harry the besiegers and disrupt their attacks.
An attempt to retake a spaceport (and thus allow Ultramarines reinforcements to land) saw Jaghatai Khan come face to face with Mortarion, primarch of the Death Guard, now twisted with Daemonic powers.
Their duel ended with the Khan impaled on Mortarion’s scythe – but Jaghatai was not finished yet. Despite being near death, he was able to pull himself along the length of the weapon before finally beheading his Nurgle-sworn brother, seeing him banished to the Warp.
Where is Jaghatai Khan in Warhammer 40k?
The tale of the Khan does not end on Terra. His body was recovered, and, eventually, he healed from the grievous wounds dealt him by Mortarion. Jaghatai Khan returned to his White Scars, and took a leading position during the Great Scouring, ensuring that no traitor found safe haven in the Imperium while Horus’ battered forces fled.
Like many of the loyalist Primarchs, the location of Jaghatai Khan in Warhammer 40k is not currently known. During a battle against the Drukhari (Dark Eldar) he vanished through a Webway gate, leading a pursuit of the Xenos forces.
To this day, the White Scars blame the Dark Eldar for the disappearance of their Primarch, venting their fury on any Drukhari raiders they can find.