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Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

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Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:46 pm

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Feats
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Endurance

- Kharn displays the ability to Feel No Pain even before he is elevated to a Berserker of Khorne.
    A) Kharn is impaled onto a charging Land Raider:
    Spoiler
    “Loken backed away, fending off a flurry of blows from Kharn’s axe, until he was forced back against a slab of rubble. His foe’s axe buried itself in the stone beside him and Loken slammed the pommel of his sword into Kharn’s head. Kharn rode the blow and smashed his forehead into Loken’s face, grabbing his sword arm and wrestling him to the ground. They struggled in the mud like animals, Kharn trying to grind Loken’s face into the shattered stone and Loken trying to throw him off. Loken rolled onto his back as he heard the rumble of an engine like an earthquake and the glare of floodlights stabbed out and threw Kharn’s outline into silhouette. Knowing what was coming, Loken hammered his fist into Kharn’s face over and over again, pushing him upright with a hand clasped around his neck. The World Eater struggled in Loken’s grip as the light grew stronger and the roaring form of a Land Raider crested the ridge of rubble behind them like a monster rising from the deep. Loken felt the huge impact as the Land Raider’s dozer blade slammed into Kharn, the sharpened prongs at its base punching through the World Eater’s chest. He released Kharn’s body and rolled to the edge of the crater as the Land Raider rose up, carrying the struggling Kharn with it….” / Galaxy In Flames, pg.366 - **
- Kharn's invulnerability may protect him from wounds that defy logic.
    A) Daemonic Auras impart Chaos Marines with invulnerability:
    Spoiler
    Daemonic Aura - The model has a +5 Invulnerable saving throw, which it may use when its armour save is disregarded.” / Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3.5e), p.17 – Daemonic Gifts

    B) Individuals that are mystically shielded may shrug off tank-busting wounds:
    Spoiler
    “Some creatures or entities are protected by more than mere physical armour. They may be shielded by force fields, enwrapped by mystic energies, or have an alien metabolism that can shrug off hits which would put holes in a battle tank. Models like these are called Invulnerable, and always get their Saving throw even if the Armour Piercing value of the weapon hitting them ignores all Armour Saves, an invulnerable model gets to try to make a Saving throw as normal.” / Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (4e), p.25 – Invulnerable Saves

    C) Conventional weapons may be powerless against daemonic beings:
    Spoiler
    “The mightiest weapons in the arsenal of mortal armies are often powerless against the supernatural defenses of the fiends from the Immaterium.” / Codex: Chaos Daemons (4e), p.27 – Daemonic Forces
- Khorne's Blessing protects Kharn from all supernatural attacks.
    A) The Warp is the source of all supernatural energies:
    Spoiler
    “Humanity has long been able to use the power of the Warp - magicians, seers, witches, mediums, shamans and exorcists have all tapped into its power, although most likely they have done so without a true understanding of their abilities. In the 41st Millenium these individuals are known as psykers. Psykers use their powers by drawing upon the Warp, using their minds to siphon its unnatural energy to hurl blasts of power, teleport objects, send their thoughts across space and perform countless other 'miracles'.” / Codex: Chaos Daemons (4e), p.23 - Psykers and the Warp

    B) Khorne's protection absorbs all Warp energy and fortifies the bearer:
    Spoiler
    “The Collar of Khorne is a talisman forged in the heat of Khorne's rage at the very foot of the Blood God's throne of brass. The collar is able to suck the energy of the Warp from around it, fortifying the bearer against psychic onslaughts.” / Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3e), p.47 - Collar of Khorne

    C) Kharn's protection is more potent than that of the protection granted to bearers of Collars of Khorne:
    Spoiler
    “Khârn is immune to the effects of psychic powers, and force weapons count as normal power weapons against him.” / Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4e), p.48 - Khârn the Betrayer

Other

- Kharn is a Chaos Space Marine, and as such, he has attributes and feats that are comparable to other Space Marines seen here.

- Kharn gives name to the surgical implants of the legion, and the reason their name changed:
Spoiler
“'Because we couldn't be trusted. The Emperor needed a weapon that would never obey its own desires before those of the Imperium. He needed a weapon that would never bite the hand that feeds. The World Eaters were not that weapon. We've all drawn blades purely for the sake of shedding blood, and we've felt the exultation of winning a war that never even needed to happen. We are not tame, reliable pets that the Emperor needed. The Wolves obey, when we would not. The Wolves can be trusted, when we never could. They have a discipline we lack, because their passions are not aflame with Butcher's Nails buzzing in the back of their skulls.

The Wolves will always come to heel when called. In that regard, it is a mystery why they name themselves wolves. They are tame, collared by the Emperor, obeying his every whim. But a wolf doesn't behave that way. Only a dog does.

The moment we realised that truth, we changed our Legion's name. That is why we are the Eaters of Worlds, and the War Hounds no longer.'

- Eighth Captain Kharn,
when asked why the Space Wolves consider themselves the Emperor's 'Executioners'” / **, pg.** - **
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:49 pm

Profiles
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Codex: Chaos Space Marines - 4th Ed.
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    Khârn the Betrayer, p. 48
    Image
    Spoiler
    Lore Excerpt
      Khârn has dedicated his millenia-long existence to unleashing bloody carnage upon anyone and anything within reach. He is drawn by the scent of war as a hungering hound is drawn by fresh meat, and it has become impossible to tally his slaying. Even during the Great Crusade, when he fought in the vanguard of the World Eaters Legion's assault companies, Khârn was known to be a brilliant yet unstable warrior. When the Heresy came, Khârn gladly led his warriors against his brother Space Marines, most notoriously in the Itsvaan dropsite massacres.

      During the siege of the Imperial Palace, Khârn was at the forefront of the assault. When Horus was defeated, Khârn already lay horribly mangled upon a mound of corpses. His fellow World Eaters carried away his lifeless remains and fought their way back to their ships. Once aboard they discovered that by some dark miracle Khârn still lived. Whether Khorne had breathed life back into his Berzerker Champion or Khârn's own relentless spirit simply refused to leave, it is impossible to say.

      Khârn is called the Betrayer because of an incident on the daemon world of Skalathrax. Fighting against the Emperor's Children, the World Eaters needed just one more victory over Fulrgim's warriors and the planet would be claimed in Khorne's name. The battle had to be won before Skalathrax's long, frozen night drew in and killed victor and vanquished alike. Yet the World Eaters could gain no ground against their foes and were hurled back time after time by devastating sonic weapons. Khârn cursed his fellow warriors for abandoning the attack and seizing a flamer he torched the nearest building in a gesture of contempt. He cut down those that tried to stop him and marched into the gloom, the serpent's tongue of his flamer licking out again and again to consume the city. Through the mayhem strode Khârn, slaughtering all that he found, friend or foe. Anarchy engulfed the World Eaters as they fought each other, and the Legion was irretrievably split into hundreds of warbands. Since that bloody day Khârn has been Khorne's most ardent warrior, who lives to slay in the name of the Lord of Skulls.
    Profile
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    Wargear: Khârn is equipped with power armour, a plasma pistol, frag & krak grenades, Gorechild, Personal Icon and the Mark of Khorne (bonus included in his profile above).

    Special Rules: Independent Character, Fearless, 5+ Invulnerable save, Furious Charge.

    Gorechild: Khârn's huge and ancient chainaxe is an artefact from the Great Crusade. Gorechild's jagged whirring teeth were torn from the jaws of mica-dragons on Luther Macintyre, its haft is forged of adamantium, and its head is a full three spans across. Khârn's close combat attacks always hit on a roll of 2+. In addition, Gorechild is treated as a power weapon and, against vehicles, adds an extra D6 to Khârn's armour penetration rolls.

    The Betrayer: Khârn may attack anyone nearby in his berserk fury, friend and foe alike! Any of Khârn's to hit rolls of 1 in close combat have hit his own side. Resolve the hits on a random friendly unit engaged in the same combat, as if they were hit by the enemy, using Khârn's weapons and profile. If there are no other units in the same combat as Khârn, these attacks simply miss.

    Blessing of the Blood God: Khârn is immune to the effects of psychic powers, and force weapons count as normal power weapons against him.
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    Other Rules
    - Marks of Chaos, p. 25
      Mark of Khorne: Models with the Mark of Khorne gain +1 Attack.
    - Wargear, p. 81-88
      Frag Grenade ("Special Equipment", p. 85): Frag grenades are hurled at the enemy prior to an assault, causing a storm of shrapnel that drives opponents further under cover. See Warhammer 40,000 rulebook for details of using frag grenades.
      krak Grenade ("Special Equipment", p. 85): Krak grenades are specialist anti-tank explosives, designed to disable lightly armoured vehicles such as enemy walkers. See the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook for details of using Krak grenades.
      Personal Icons ("Icons of Chaos", p. 81): These Icons simply guide teleporting models and Daemons (see Icons and Deep Strike).
      Plasma Pistol ("Ranged Weapons", p. 83): Plasma pistols are the smallest variant in the plasma weapon family. Each shot from a plasma pistol contains all the destructive fury of a larger plasma gun, although the range and rate of fire is less. A plasma pistol can be used as a close combat weapon, though it confers no Strength bonus or particular armour penetration advantages.

      Range - 12" / Strength - 7 / AP - 2 / Type - Pistol, Gets Hot!
      Power Armour ("Armour", p. 86): Power Armour is the standard protection for Chaos Space Marines and its distinctive outline casts fear into the enemies of the Ruinous Powers. Made from thick ceramite plates and electrically motivated fibre bundles that replicate and enhance the movements of the wearer, power armour offers some of the best protection armour can provide.

      Models equipped with power armour receive a 3+ Armour Save.
    - Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (4e)
      Fearless ("Universal Special Rules", p. 74): Fearless troops never fall back and are assumed to automatically pass any Morale test they are required to take. They can never be pinned. This special rule is gained by any independent character joining a Fearless unit. Also, as long as a Fearless character stays inside a non-Fearless unit, he loses this special rule.
      Furious Charge ("Universal Special Rules", p. 74): Models with this skill are known for the wild ferocity of their charges. In a player turn in which they charged into close combat they add +1 to both their Iniciative and Strength characteristics. The ability does not affect sweeping advances.
      Gets Hot ("Special Weapon Characteristic", p. 30): If you roll a 1 to hit, the weapon has overheated and injured the model firing it. The model must make an Armour Save or it suffers a wound (an exception to the normal Casualty Removal rules) - the model with the overheating weapon must take the wound. Weapons on vehicles are not affected by overheating. It is possible for a model to hit with shots that also result in an overheat - the hits are still resolved as normal, even if the firer also falls victim to his own weapon.
      Invulnerable Saves ("Make Saving Throws", p. 25): Some creatures or entities are protected by more than mere physical armour. They may be shielded by force fields, enwrapped by mystic energies, or have an alien metabolism that can shrug off hits which would put holes in a battle tank. Models like these are called Invulnerable, and always get their Saving throw even if the Armour Piercing value of the weapon hitting them ignores all Armour Saves, an invulnerable model gets to try to make a Saving throw as normal.
Codex: Chaos Space Marines - 3.5th Ed.
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    - Khârn the Betrayer, p. 49
    Image
    Spoiler
    Lore Excerpt
      Even before the Horus Heresy, Khârn of the World Eaters Legion was known as a bloodthirsty and unstable warrior. During the Heresy he became a legend, his uncompromising ferocity knew no equal and he was in the forefront of every attack on the Emperor's Palace. Khârn fell atop a mound of his victims in one of the breaches just as Horus was defeated. Unusually the World Eaters were drawn to carry his body away with them although they were sure he was dead. His revival was perceived as the blessing of Khorne for a valued servant. Since this time Khârn has cut his way through the bloodiest wars known with no wound to match the one he received on Terra.

      Khârn earned his title as 'The Betrayer' when the World Eaters battled the Emperor's Children on Skalathrax. Seeing his brothers pause as the long night came to Skalathrax, freezing everything not under shelter, Khârn seized a flamer and forced them to fight by burning down the shelters. Khârn then stalked through the streets of Skalathrax's black cities uncompromisingly taking skulls for the Skull Throne of Khorne from both sides.

      Khârn's actions that long night split the World Eaters Legion into small self-sufficient warbands and only the most comitted and/or psychotic amongst them would ever fight alongside Khârn again. Khârn cares not; he is a tireless destroyer whose single, ovewhelming need is to slay in Khorne's name.
    Profile
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     7   5   4  4  4  5  5  10  2+

    A Chaos Space Marine army may include Khârn as long as it also includes at least one squad bearing the Mark of Khorne. If you decide to take him then he counts as one of the HQ choices for the army. He must be used exactly as described below and may not be given extra equipment from the Chaos Armoury.

    Wargear and Gifts: Plasma pistol, frag & krak grenades, Chaos armour, Gorechild. Mark of Khorne (bonus included above, Collar of Khorne, Talisman of Burning Blood, Rage of Khorne and Daemonic Rune.

    Special Rules:
      Furious Charge; Such is Khârn's ferocious enthusiasm to get to grips with the enemy that he may add +D6" to his move in the assault phase. However, he can only use this bonus if it will actually get him into hand-to-hand combat that turnand it may not be used if he cannot reach the enemy.

      Gorechild; Khârn's huge and ancient chain-axe, Gorechild, is an artefact from the Great Crusade. Gorechild's jagged whirring teeth were torn from the jaws of mica-dragons on Luther Mcintyre, its haft is forged of adamantium and its head is a full three spans across. Khârn is so skilled with Gorechild that in hand-to-hand combat the enemy's WS is ignored and all his close combat attacks hit on a roll of 2+. This aside, Gorechild is treated as a normal power weapon.

      The Betrayer; Khârn may attack anyone nearby in his berserk fury, friend or foe alike! To represent this, any of Khârn's to hit dice that roll a 1 will count as having hit his own side. Resolve the hits on the closest single friendly unit or independent character within 6" of Khârn as if they were hit by the enemy, but using Khârn's weapons and profile. Obviously, it makes sense for the Chaos player to keep Khârn as far away from models on his own side as possible!

      Independent Character; Khârn is an independent character and follows all the independent charcter special rules as given in the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook.
    "Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill!
    Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim!
    Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn!"


    Khârn of the World Eaters

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    Other Rules
    - Chaos Space Marine Armoury, p. 14-19
      Chaos [Daemon] Armour ("Daemonic Gifts", p. 17): The character's Chaos Space Marine armour has been blessed and sealed by the Chaos Gods and is therefore considerably more powerful. A model in Daemon armour has a +2 armour save.
      Daemonic Rune ("Daemonic Gifts", p. 17): The Chaos Champion has been gifted with a Daemonic Rune, a mighty symbol of the power of the Dark Gods. Their power flows through the rune demonstrating the favour conferred on the Champion. Such an individual has been marked for greatness and cannot easily be killed. Unsaved attacks whose Strength are at least double the model's Toughness will cause a single wound rather than instant death.
    - The Book of Khorne, p. 46-49
      Blood Frenzy ("The Mark of Khorne", p. 47): Models with Blood Frenzy:
        - Gain +1 Attack.
        - Are Fearless.
        - Must charge if there are any enemy (including vehicles or creatures they cannot hurt) in range at the start of the Assault phase.
        - At the start of their Movement phase, roll a D6 for each unit or independent character suffering from Blood Frenzy (do not roll for vehicles, Dreadnoughts, bikes or models using Daemonic flight) to see if they are gripped so strongly by the frenzy that they must rush towards the enemy. On a 1 or 2 they advance a normal move +D6" towards the nearest enemy instead of moving normally. If mounted in a transport they will disembark before moving.
        - Units that have made a Blood Frenzy move may not fire in the Shooting phase
      Collar of Khorne ("Armoury of Khorne", p. 47): The Collar of Khorne is a talisman forged in the heat of Khorne's rage at the very foot of the Blood God's throne of brass. The collar is able to suck the energy of the Warp from around it, fortifying the bearer against psychic onslaughts.

      As a result, force weapons lose their special ability ti kill the bearer outright, and psychic abilities that target the wearer or include him in their area of effect are nullified and will not work on a D6 roll of 2+.
      Rage of Khorne ("Armoury of Khorne", p. 48): The Champion is so consumed by the need for battle that its rage builds and builds until it can be released in the first frenzy of close combat. The model gets +D3 extra attacks for charging instead of the normal +1.
      Talisman of Burning Blood ("Armoury of Khorne", p. 48): When testing for Blood Frenzy, any model bearing this talisman, together with any unit bearing the Mark of Khorne that they are part of or have joined, rolls two dice rather than one to see if they enter Blood Frenzy. If either is a 1 or 2 they advance as described in the Blood Frenzy rule.
      The Mark of Khorne (p. 47): The Mark of Khorne can be bestowed upon an Independent Character for +10 pts or to every model in a unit for +5 points per model. A model with the Mark of Khorne fights in a blood-crazed frenzy, preferring to fight hand-to-hand than at range. These Berzerkers despise sorcery, needing no more than their ferocity and good chainaxe to defeat their enemies. Models with the Mark of Khorne may never have the Sorcerer ability and can never select from the Psychic Abilities & Equipment section of the Armoury.

      Models with the Mark of Khorne are all gifted with Blood Frenzy.
Codex: Chaos Space Marines - 3rd Ed. v2
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    - Khârn the Betrayer, p. 26
    Image
    Spoiler
    Lore Excerpt
      Commit to: Imperial Record AAA 05/1102
      Crossfile to: Berzerkers LK/Black Rage BA
      Input Date: 4787921.M41
      Input Clearance: Inquisitor Swinlok
      Author: Inquisitor Hellar
      Transmitted: LC III (classified)
      Transmitter: Astropath Primus Zuikka


      "Brother, my continuing investigations have revealed significant insights into that blood-soaked ravager Khârn, also known as the Betrayer, one of the most insane and deadly of the Khornate Berzerkers.

      Khârn has dedicated his existence to unleashing bloody carnage upon anything within reach. He is drawn by the scent of war like a hungering hound. In the Great Crusade he fought in the assault of companies of the World Eaters legion among whom he was reputed to be a brilliant but unstable warrior. Indeed the whole World Eaters legion was known to be excessively bloodthirsty and over-zealous in its campaigns. In the Heresy Khârn led his warriors against his Brother Marines, most notoriously in the drop site massacres on Istvaan V.

      Ancient vid-logs I have found of the siege of the Imperial Palace show him at the forefront of every assault. When Horus was defeated, Khârn already lay horribly mangled upon a mound of corpses at the walls of the inner palace. Yet by some dark miracle Khârn lived and since the Heresy he has survived the bloodiest battles of his age and never come so close to death again.

      He is called the Betrayer because he will slay those that follow him almost as readily as those that oppose him. Deep scans of captured Berzerkers has shown that the World Eaters learned that bitter lesson as they fought against the Legion of the Emperor's Children for possession of a Daemon World called Skalathrax in the Eye of Terror.

      On Skalathrax the World Eaters drove the Eperor's Children back from city after city with their bloody assaults. At the last and greatest city the World Eaters sensed that victory was near: they needed only to gain one more victory to claim the planet as their own. The battle needed to be won soon, for in the long, dark night of Skalathrax anyone not in shelter would freeze.

      The World Eaters hurled themselves at the foe with the strength of madmen until only a few pockets of resistance survived. There the attack was halted as darkness fell. But Khârn cursed his fellow warriors for seeking shelter while their enemies still lived. He burned the city and slaughtered anyone that he found, friend or foe.

      After that night of madness, the World Eaters were scattered into separate companies, fighting all across the Eye of Terror. Many still bear a burning hatred of Khârn for his actions but others admire his single-minded devotion to slaughter. Khârn has led warbands of Khorne Berzerkers and other forces in uncounted battles. Victory is always his but his followers seldom survive to see it. Now only the most dedicated, or insane, will follow him, but this is of no consequence to Khârn, who lives only to slay in the Blood God's name."
    Profile
    Code: Select all
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     7   5   5  4  4  7  4  10  2+

    A Chaos Space Marine army may include hârn as long as it also includes at least ten Khorne Berserkers. If you decide to take him then he counts as one of the HQ choices for the army. He must be used exactly as described below and may not be given extra equipment from the Chaos Armoury. He also may only be used in a battle where both players have agreed to the use of special characters. Khârn is an independent charcter and follows all the Independent Character special rules as given in the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook.

    Wargear: Plasma pistol, bolt pistol, frag & krak grenades, Chaos armour, Gorechild. Mark of Khorne (bonus included above), Collar of Khorne.

    Special Rules:
      Furious Charge; Such is Khârn's ferocious enthusiasm to get to grips with the enemy that he may add +D6" to his move in the assault phase. However, he can only use this bonus if it will actually get him into hand-to-hand combat that turnand it may not be used if he cannot reach the enemy.

      Gorechild; Khârn's huge and ancient chain-axe, Gorechild, is an artefact from the Great Crusade when the Space Marines reaved across the galaxy. Gorechild's jagged whirring teeth were torn from the jaws of mica-dragons on Luther Mcintyre, its haft is forged of adamantium and its head is a full three spans across. It is a deadly weapon capable of splitting an armoured Space Marine from head to crotch with one blow and is doubly dangerous in the hands of Khârn. He is so skilled with Gorechild that in hand-to-hand combat the enemy's WS is ignored and all his close combat attacks hit on a roll of 2+. This aside, Gorechild is treated as a normal power weapon.

      The Betrayer; Khârn may attack anyone nearby in his berserk fury, friend or foe alike! To represent this, roll to hit, but each player takes it in turn to distribute the hits, starting with the Chaos player (ie, the Chaos player allocates and works out the effects of the first hit, his opponent allocates and works out the effects of the second hit, and so on). The normal restrictions for allocating hits apply, so they must be allocated against models in base contact with Khârn first, then on models within 2" of him if all models in base contact are slain. Within these restrictions a hit may be allocated against any model, including Chaos models, so it makes sense for the Chaos player to keep Khârn as far away from models on his own side as possible!

      Fearless; Khârn is completely fearless and automatically passes any Leadership based tests he is called upon to take. In adittion he cannot be pinned by enemy fire.
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    Other Rules
    - Chaos Wargear, p. 20-21
      Chaos Armour (p. 20): Magically enhanced by one of the Chaos powers, Chaos Armour may be taken as an upgrade for a model wearing power armour, increasing the save to 2+. Note that although Chaos armour gives the same protection as Terminator armour, items that are 'Terminators only' may not be used with it.
    - Chaos Gifts, p. 28-29
      Collar of Khorne (p. 28): The Collar of Khorne that hangs around the model's neck is said to be forged from the heat of Khorne's rage at the very foot of the Blood God's throne of brass. The collar is able to suck the energy of the warp from around it, fortifying the wearer and also protecting it from psychic attack. As a result, force weapons lose their special ability to kill the wearer outright, and psychic powers that target the wearer or include him in their area of effect are nullified and will not work on a D6 roll of 2+.
    - Marks of Chaos, p. 29
      Mark of Khorne: Models bearing this Mark add +1 to their Strength.
White Dwarf, Chapter Approved - 3rd Ed. v1
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    - KHâRN THE BETRAYER: Chaos Lord, p. **
    Spoiler
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    Wargear: Plasma pistol, close combat weapon, bolt pistol, frag & krak grenades.

    Special Rules: 4+ Invulnerable save. Khârn and any squad he is with automatically pass all morale checks they are required to make.
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    Other Rules
    - Special Characters: You may include special characters in your army if both players have agreed beforehand, in which case they replace the character or troop type indicated. For example, Dark Angels players may take Commander Azrael instead of a Force Commander, Chief Librarian Ezekiel instead of a Librarian and so on. Special characters follow all of the normal rules for their troop/character type unless mentioned otherwise in their description. Unless otherwise stated, special characters may not have any additional wargear, but they may be accompanied by a Command Squad, Retinue or whatever, and these have all the usual options.
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:49 pm

Short Stories
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    Let The Blood Flow..., by Gav Thorpe & Alessio Cavatore
    "Codex: Chaos Space Marines", 4th Ed. - p. 49.
      Spoiler
      “Artillery on the ridge, Brother-Slaughterer!” Horkal barked through the vox-grille of his power armour. As if to punctuate his point, another shell exploded atop the roof of the half-ruined cathedral, showering dust and masonry down onto the assembled World Eaters.

      “Spotting teams in the chancellery, seventy meters, north-east,” added Thiron, as he peered out of the shattered stained glass window to the left of the barred doors. Flecks of blue and white paint from the cracking mural over their heads dusted the Berzerkers’ red power armour.

      Brother-Slaughterer Mandrathrax and his followers had been pinned down in the cathedral for almost half an hour. There were only five of them left now, after an ill-judged attempt to break out had seen fourteen of his warband cut down by heavy weapons fire a few minutes earlier. He weighed up his options.

      “When the next shell hits, we charge while they reload,” Mandrathrax declared. “Keep together, take out the spotters and send their souls to Khorne. Then we’ll wreak our revenge on these petty Guardsmen.”

      There were grunts and shouts of approval from the Berzerkers. They waited, crowding behind the splintered doors. Mandrathrax slid out the heavy iron bar and tossed it to one side.

      “Wait,” he cautioned, as he felt his bloodthirsty warriors pressing in behind him, eager to be free of the disquieting confines of the holy Imperial building.

      They waited impatiently for what seemed an age, and with a glance at the chronometer in his helmet display, Mandrathrax saw that five minutes had passed since the last shell had been fired.

      “Out of ammunition?” suggested Horkal, as he also realized how long they had been waiting.

      “Kill them all!” roared Mandrathrax, shouldering open the door and launching himself forward. He raised his bolt pistol, expecting an instant salvo of lasfire to engulf him, but there was nothing.

      The square outside the cathedral was deserted, except for piles of bodies and pools of blood. Thick smoke billowed from the ridge to the north where the artillery had been.

      “Impressive,” muttered Thiron as the others spread out, surveying the carnage.

      BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!

      The thunderous shout rang through the minds of the Berzerkers as much as it resounded in the autosenses of their armoured suits. Mandrathrax turned and saw an unmistakable red-armoured figure pounding around the corner of the cathedral towards them. Bloodstained chains hung from his arms and he wielded a massive chainaxe in one hand, its teeth glittering brightly, and a smoking plasma pistol in the other.

      “Khorne protect us,” whispered Horkal.

      “Khârn!” yelled Mandrathrax, but it was too late.

      The chainaxe swept the helmet of Urkan first, sending half of his head spinning away in a crimson spray. With a blinding blast Khârn fired his pistol, its incandescent shot smashing a hole through Thiron’s chest and hurling him backwards onto the cathedral steps.

      With a leap over Urkan’s sprawling corpse, Khârn swayed past Jorath’s chainsword and lopped off his arm with a casual backward sweep of Gorechild. Following through with the momentum of the blow, Khârn swung around and smashed the butt of his pistol into Jorath’s face, splintering his helmet and cracking back his head. A downward claving blow chopped the Berzerker in half.

      Bolts from Horkal’s pistol sparked from the Betrayer’s armour, leaving small craters in the blood-red ceramite. Khârn dropped his overheated pistol and grabbed one of Jorath’s legs, flinging the severed lower half of the Berzerker’s body at Horkal. Before Horkal could pick himself up, Khârn was on him with an underarm sweep of his chainaxe, Gorechild slamming up through Horkal’s groin armourand splitting him to the chest. With a fountain of viscera that spattered his armour, Khârn ripped his chainaxe free and turned on Mandrathrax.

      The Brother-Slaughterer knew he was doomed. He let his arms drop to the sides and stretched his head backwards to expose his neck to Khârn.

      “Accept this humble offering, Lord of Skulls,” said Mandrathrax, a moment before the chainaxe sliced through his neck in one swinging blow and sent his head clattering down the steps.

      Khârn stopped to pick up his pistol, and then headed off across the plaza in search of new sacrifices to Khorne, roaring his praise.

      SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!
    The Wrath of Khârn, by William King
    White Dwarf #231 - April, 1999.
      Spoiler
      “In the name of Khorne let the slaughter continue."

      "Blood for the Blood God!” bellowed Khârn the Betrayer, charging forward through the hail of bolter fire, towards the Temple of Superlative Indulgence. The bolter shells ricocheting off his breastplate did not even slow him down. The Chaos Space Marine smiled to himself. The ancient ceramite of his armour had protected him for over ten thousand years. He felt certain it would not let him down today. All around him warriors fell, clutching their wounds, crying in pain and fear.

      More souls offered up on the altar of battle to the Supreme Lord of Carnage, Kharn thought and grinned maniacally. Surely the Blood God would be pleased this day.

      Ahead of him, Khârn saw one of his fellow Berzerkers fall, his body riddled with shells, his armour cracked and melted by plasma fire. The Berzerker howled with rage and frustration, knowing that he was not going to be in at the kill, that he would give Khorne no more offerings on this or any other day. In frustration, the dying warrior set his chainsword to maximum power and took off his own head with one swift stroke. His blood rose in a red fountain to slake Khorne's thirst.

      As he passed, Khârn kicked the fallen warrior's head, sending it flying over the defenders' parapet. At least this way his fallen comrade would witness Khârn slaughter the Slaaneshi worshippers in the few delicious moments before he died. Under the circumstances, it was the least reward Kharn could grant such a devout warrior. The Betrayer leapt over a pile of corpses, snapping off a shot with his plasma pistol. One of the Slaaneshi cultists fell, clutching the ruins of his melted face. Gorechild, Khârn's Daemonic axe, howled in his hands. Khârn brandished it above his head and bellowed his challenge to the sick, yellow sky of the Daemon World.

      “Skulls for the Skull Throne!” Khârn howled. On every side, frothing Berzerkers echoed his cry. More shells whined all around him. He ignored them the way he would ignore the buzz of annoying insects. More of his fellows fell but Khârn stood untouched, secure in the blessing of the Blood God, knowing that it would not be his turn today.

      All was going according to plan. A tide of Khorne's warriors flowed across the bomb-cratered plains towards the towering redoubt of the Slaaneshi worshippers. Support fire from the Chaos Titan artillery had reduced most of the walls around the ancient temple complex to just so much rubble. The disgusting murals painted in fluorescent colours had been reduced to atoms. The obscene minarets that crowned the towers had been blasted into well-deserved oblivion. Lewd statues lay like colossal, limbless corpses, gazing at the sky with blank marble eyes.

      Even as Khârn watched, missiles blazed down from the sky and smashed another section of the defensive wall to blood-covered fragments. Huge clouds of dust billowed. The ground shook. The explosions rumbled like distant thunder. Sick joy bubbled through Khârn's veins at the prospect of imminent violence.

      This was what he lived for, these moments of action where he could once again prove his superiority to all other warriors in the service of his exalted lord. In all his ten thousand year existence, Khârn had found no joy to touch the joy of battle, no lust greater than his lust for blood. Here on the field of mortal combat, he was more than in his element, he was at the site of his heart's desire. It was the thing that had caused him to betray his oath of allegiance to the Emperor of Mankind, his genetic destiny as a Space Marine and even his old comrades in the World Eaters Legion. He had never regretted those decisions even for an instant. The bliss of battle was reward enough to stay any doubts.

      He jumped the, ditch before the parapet, ignoring the poisoned spikes which lined the pit bottom and promised an ecstatic death to any that fell upon them. He scrambled up the loose scree of the rock face. and vaulted over the low wall, planting his boot firmly into the face of a defender as he did so. The man screamed and fell back, trying to stem blood from his broken nose. Khârn swung Gorechild and ended his whining forever.

      “Death is upon you!” Khârn roared as he dived into a mass of depraved cultists. Gorechild lashed out. Its teeth bit into hardened ceramite, spraying sparks in all directions. The blow passed through the target's armour, opening its victim from stomach to sternum. The wretch fell back, clutching at his ropy entrails. Khârn dispatched him with a backhand swipe and fell upon his fellows, slaying right and left, killing with every blow.

      Frantically the cultists' leader bellowed orders, but it was too late. Khârn was among them, and no man had ever been able to boast of facing Khârn in close combat and living.

      The numbers 2243, then 2244, blinked before his eyes. The ancient gothic lettering of the digital death-counter, superimposed on Khârn's field of vision incremented quickly. Khârn was proud of this archaic device, presented by Warmaster Horus himself in ancient times. Its like could not be made in this degenerate age. Khârn grinned proudly as his tally of offerings for this campaign continued to rise. He still had a long way to go to match his personal best but that was not going to stop him trying.

      Men screamed and howled as they died. Khârn roared with pleasure, killing everything within his reach, revelling in the crunch of bone and the spray of blood. The rest of the Khornate force took advantage of the destruction the Betrayer had caused. They swarmed over the walls in a howling mass and dismembered the Slaaneshi worshippers. Already demoralised by the death of their leader, not even these fanatical worshippers of the Lord of Pleasure could stand their ground. Their morale broken, they panicked and fled.

      Such pathetic oafs were barely worth the killing, Khârn decided, lashing out reflexively and killing those Slaaneshi worshippers who passed too close him as they fled. 2246, 2247, 2248 went the death-counter. It was time to get on with his mission. It was time to find the thing he had come here to destroy – the ancient Daemonic artefact known as the Heart of Desire. "Attack!” Khârn bellowed and charged through the gaping mouth of the leering stone head that was the entrance to the main temple building.

      Inside it was quiet, as if the roar of battle could not penetrate the walls. The air stank of strange perfumes. The walls had a porous, fleshy look. The pink-tinged light was odd; it shimmered all around, coming from no discernible source. Khârn switched to the auto-sensor systems within his helm, just in case there was some trickery here.

      Leather-clad priestesses, their faces domino-masked, emerged from padded doorways. They lashed at Khârn with whips that sent surges of pain and pleasure through his body. Another man, one less hardened than Khârn, might have been overwhelmed by the sensation but Khârn had spent millennia in the service of his god, and what passed through him now was but a pale shadow compared to the battle lust that mastered him. He chopped through the snake-like flesh of the living lash. Poison-blood spurted forth. The woman screamed as if he had cut her. Looking closer he saw that she and the whip were one. A leering Daemonic head tipped the weapon's handle and had buried its fangs into her wrist. Khârn's interest was sated. He killed the priestess with one back-handed swipe of Gorechild.

      A strange, strangled cry of rage and hate warned him of a new threat. He turned and saw that one of the other Berzerkers, less spiritually pure than himself, had been overcomed by the whip's evil. The man had torn off his helmet and his face was distorted by a sick and dreamy smile that had no place on the features of one chosen by Khorne. Like a sleepwalker he advanced on Khârn and lashed out with his chainsword. Khârn laughed as he parried the blow and killed the man with his return stroke.

      A quick glance told him that all the priestesses were dead and that most of his followers had slain their drugged brethren. Good, thought Khârn, but part of him was disappointed. He had hoped that more of his fellows would be overcomed by treachery. It was good to measure himself against true warriors, not these decadent worshippers of an effete god. Gorechild howled with frustrated bloodlust, writhing in his hand as if it would turn on him if he did not feed it more blood and sinew soon. Khârn knew how the axe felt. He turned, gestured for his companions to follow him and raced off down the corridor.

      “Follow me,” he shouted. “To the slaughter!”

      Passing through a huge arch, the former Space Marines entered the inner sanctum of the temple and Khârn knew that they had found what they had come for. Light poured in through the stained glass ceiling. As he watched, Khârn realised that the light was not coming through the glass, but from the glass itself. The illustrations glowed with an eerie internal light and they moved. A riotous assembly of men and women, mutants and daemons enacted every foul deed that the depraved followers of a debauched god could imagine. And, Khârn noted, they could imagine quite a lot.

      Khârn raised his pistol and opened fire, but the glass merely absorbed the weapon's energy. Something like a faint moan of pleasure filled the chamber and mocking laughter drew Kharn' s attention to the throne which dominated the far end of the huge chamber. It was carved from a single gem that pulsed and changed colour, going from amber to lavender to pink to lime and then back through a flickering, random assortment of iridescent colours that made no sense and hurt the eye. Kharn knew without having to be told that this throne was the Heart of Desire. Senses honed by thousands of years of exposure to the stuff of Chaos told him that the thing fairly radiated power. Inside was the trapped essence of a Daemon Prince, held forever at the whim of Slaanesh as punishment for some ancient treachery. The man sitting so regally on the throne was merely a puppet and barely worth Khârn's notice, save as something to be squashed like a bug.

      The man looked down on Khârn as if he had the temerity to feel the same way about Khorne's most devoted follower. His left hand stroked the hair of the leashed and naked woman who crouched like a pet at his feet. His right hand held an obscenely shaped runesword, which glowed with a blasphemous light.

      Khârn strode forward to confront his new foe. The clatter of ceramite-encased feet on marble told him that his fellow Berzerkers followed. In a matter of a hundred strides, Khârn found himself at the foot of the dais, and some odd, mystical force compelled him to stop and stare. Khârn did not doubt that he was face-to-face with the cult leader. The man had the foul, debauched look of an ancient and immortal devotee of Slaanesh. His face was pale and gaunt; make-up concealed the dark shadows under his eyes. An obscene helmet covered the top of his head. As he stood, his pink and lime cloak billowed out behind him. Tight bands of studded leather armour girdled his naked chest, revealing lurid and disturbing tattoos.

      “Welcome to the Heart of Desire,” the Slaaneshi worshipper said in a soft, insinuating voice which somehow carried clearly across the chamber and compelled immediate, respectful attention. Khârn was instantly on his guard, sensing the magic within that voice, the persuasive power which could twist mortals to its owner's will. He struggled to keep the fury that burned eternally in his breast from subsiding under the influence of those slyly enthralling tones. “What do you wish?”

      “Your death!” the Betrayer roared, yet he felt his bloodlust being subdued by that oddly comforting voice.

      The cult leader sighed. “You worshippers of Khorne are so drearily predictable. Always the same tedious, unimaginative retort. I suppose it comes from following that mono-maniacal deity of yours. Still, you are hardly to be blamed for your god's dullness, I suppose.”

      “When Khorne has devoured your soul, you will pay for such blasphemy!” Khârn shouted. His followers shouted their approval but with less enthusiasm than Khârn would have expected. For some reason, the man on the throne did not appear to be worried by the presence of so many armed men in his sanctum.

      “Somehow I doubt it, old chap. You see, my soul has long been pledged to thrice-blessed Slaanesh, so unless Khorne wants to stick his talon down Slaanesh's throat or some other orifice, he'll have a hard time getting at it.”

      “Enough of this prattle!” Khârn roared. “Death is upon you!”

      “Oh! Be sensible,” the cultist said, raising his hand. Khârn felt a tide of pleasure flow over him, like that he had felt from the whip earlier but a thousand times stronger. All around him he heard his men moan and gasp.

      “Think! You can spend an eternity of pleasure being caressed by the power of Lord Slaanesh, while your soul slowly rots and sinks into his comforting embrace. Anything you want, anything you have ever desired, can be yours. All you have to do is swear allegiance to Slaanesh. Believe me, it's no trouble.”

      As the cult leader spoke, images flickered through Khârn's mind. He saw visions of his youth and all the joys he had known before the Rebellion of Horns and the Battle for Terra. Somehow it all looked so clear and fresh and appealing, and it almost brought moisture to his tear ducts. He saw endless banquets of food and wine. For a moment, his palate was stimulated by all manner of strange and wonderful tastes, and his brain tingled with a myriad pleasures and stimulation's. Visions of diaphanously clad maidens danced before his eyes, beckoning enticingly.

      For a moment, despite of himself, Khârn felt an almost unthinkable temptation to betray his ancient oath to the Blood God. This was powerful sorcery indeed! He shook his head and bit his lip until the blood flowed. “No true warrior of Khorne would fall for this pitiful trick!” he bellowed.

      "All hail Slaanesh!” one of his followers cried.

      “Praise to the great Lord of Pleasure!” shouted another.

      “Let us grovel and adore him,” a third said, as the whole force cast themselves down onto their knees.

      Khârn turned to look at his men, disbelief and outrage filling his mind. It seemed that they did not possess his iron-willed belief in Khorne's power, that they were prepared to betray him for a few tawdry promises of pleasure. In every face, in every posture, he saw slack-jawed worship of the posturing peac*ck on the throne. He knew that there was only one thing to be done under the circumstances.

      The Slaaneshi leader obviously felt the same. “Kill him!” he cried. “Offer up his soul to Slaanesh and unspeakable ecstasy shall be your reward!”

      The first of Khârn's comrades raised his bolt pistol and squeezed the trigger. Khârn threw himself to one side and the shell whipped past his head. The Betrayer rewarded the traitor with a taste of Gorechild. The chain-axe screeched as it bit through armour in a mighty sweep that clove him clean in two. The warrior gave a muted whine as his Slaanesh corrupted soul went straight to Hell.

      Suddenly the rest of the Berzerkers were upon him. Khârn found himself fighting for his immortal life. These were no mere Slaaneshi cultists. Newly tainted though they might be, they had once been worthy followers of Khorne, fierce, deadly and full of bloodlust.

      Mighty maces bludgeoned Khârn. Huge chainswords threatened to tear his rune-encrusted armour. Bolter shells tore chunks from his chest-plate. Khârn fought on, undismayed, filled with the joy of battle, taking fierce pleasure every time Gorechild took another life. At last, these were worthy foes! The body count swiftly ticked on to 2460 and continued to rise.

      Instinctively Khârn side-stepped a blow that tore off one of the metal skulls which dangled from his belt. The Betrayer swore he would replace it with the attacker's own skull. His return stroke made good his vow. He whirled Gorechild in a great figure-of-eight and cleared a space all around him, sending two more traitors to make their excuses to the Blood God. Insane bloodlust surged through him, overcoming even the soporific influence of the Heart of Desire and for a moment Khârn fought with his full unfettered power. He became transformed into an unstoppable engine of destruction and nothing could stand against him.

      Khârn's heart pounded. The blood sang through his veins and the desire to kill made him howl uncontrollably. Bones crunched beneath his axe. His pistol blew away the life of its targets. He stamped on the heads of the fallen, crushing them to jelly. Khârn ignored pain, ignored any idea of self-preservation, and fought for the pure love of fighting. He killed and he killed.

      All too soon it was over, and Khârn stood alone in a circle of corpses. His breathing rasped from his chest. Blood seeped through a dozen small punctures in his armour. He felt like a rib might have been broken by that last blow of the mace but he was triumphant. His counter read 2485. He sensed the presence of one more victim and turned to confront the figure on the dais.

      The cultists' leader stood looking down at him with a faint expression of mingled disbelief and distaste on his face. The naked girl had fled. The throne pulsed enticingly.

      “It's true what they say,” the man said with a delicious sigh. “If you want anything done properly, you have to do it yourself.”

      The insinuating voice drove Khârn's fury from him, and left him feeling tired and spent. The cultist strode down from the dais. Khârn felt almost too weary to parry his blow. He knew he must throw off this enchantment quickly The runesword bit into his armour and a wave of mingled pain and pleasure passed through Khârn like poison. Summoning his last reserves of rage, he threw himself into the attack. He would show this effete fop who was the true warrior here.

      Khârn hacked. Gorechild bit into the tattoos of the man's wrist. Gobbets of flesh and droplets of blood whirled away from the axe's teeth. The rank smell of hot bone filled the air as the hand separated from the arm – and began to crawl away with a life of its own. Khârn stamped on it and a rictus of pain appeared on its owner's face, as if the hand was still attached.

      Khârn swung. The cultist's head separated from its shoulders. The body swung its blade, a puppet still controlled by the strings of its master's will. It bit into Kharn and the wave of sensation almost drove him to his knees.

      “Nice trick!” roared Khârn, feeling the hand squirm beneath his boot. “But I've seen it before.”

      He brought his chain-axe down on the head and cleaved it in two. The body fell to the ground, a puppet with its strings cut. 2486, Khârn thought with some satisfaction.

      The Betrayer advanced upon the throne. It pulsed enticingly before him. Within its multiple facets he thought he saw the face of a beautiful woman, the most beautiful he had ever seen - and the most evil. Her hair was long and golden, and her eyes were blue. Her lips were full and red, and the small, white fangs that protruded from her mouth in no way marred her perfection. She looked at Khârn beseechingly, and he knew at once he was face to face with the daemon trapped within the Heart of Desire.

      "Welcome, Khârn," a seductive voice said within his head. "I knew you would triumph. I knew you would be the conqueror I knew you would be my new master."

      The voice was thrilling. By comparison, the cult leader's voice had been but a pale echo. But the voice was also deceptive. Proud as he was, mighty as he knew himself to be, Khârn knew that no man could truly be the master of a daemon, not even a fallen Space Marine like himself. He knew that his soul was once more in peril, that he should do something. But yet again he found himself enthralled by the persuasiveness of a Slaaneshi worshipper's voice.

      "Be seated! Become the new ruler of this world, then go forth and blast those meddlesome interlopers from the face of your planet."

      Khârn fought to hold himself steady while the throne pulsed hypnotically before him, and the smell of heavy musk filled his nostrils. He knew that once he sat he would be trapped, just as the daemon was trapped. He would become a slave to the thing imprisoned within the throne. His will would be drained and he would become a decadent and effete shadow of the Khârn he had once been. Yet his limbs began to move almost of their own accord, his feet slowly but surely carrying him towards the throne.

      Once more, visions of an eternity of corrupt pleasure danced in Khârn's mind. Once more he saw himself indulging in every excess. The daemon promised him every ecstasy imaginable and it was well within its power to grant such pleasures. He knew it would be a simple thing for him to triumph on its behalf. All he had to do was step outside and announce that he had destroyed the Heart of Desire. He was Khârn. He would be believed, and after that it would be a simple matter to lure the Khorne worshippers to ecstatic servitude or joyful destruction.

      And would they not deserve it? Already he was known as the Betrayer, when all he had done was be more loyal to his god than the spineless weaklings he had slaughtered. And with that the daemon's voice fell silent and the visions stopped, as if the thing in the throne realised its mistake, but too late.

      For Khârn was loyal to Khorne and there was only room for that one thing within his savage heart. He had betrayed and killed his comrades in the World Eaters because they had not remained true to Khorne's ideals and would have fled from the field of battle without either conquering or being destroyed.

      The reminder gave him the strength. He turned and looked back at the room. The reek of blood and dismembered bodies filled his nostrils like perfume.

      He remembered the joy of the combat. The thrill of overcoming his former comrades. He looked out on a room filled with corpses and a floor carpeted with blood. He was the only living thing here and he had made it so. He realised that, compared to this pleasure, this sense of conquest and victory, what the daemon offered was only a pale shadow Khârn turned and brought Gorechild smashing down upon the foul throne. His axe howled thirstily as it drank deep of the ancient and corrupt soul imprisoned within. Once more he felt the thrill of victory, and knew no regrets for rejecting the daemon's offer.

      2487. "Life just doesn't get any better than this," Kharn thought.
AquilaChrysaetos wrote:Don't make mata mad. Or he'll do this:\
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Mon Dec 20, 2010 4:58 pm

Short Stories(continued...)
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    After Desh'ea - by Matthew Farrer
    The Horus Heresy: Tales of Heresy - April, 2009
      Spoiler
      "You don’t have to do this," said Dreagher, breaking the long silence, and the relaxing of tension from the other War Hounds was audible even without Astartes senses. Khârn looked around the loose square of warriors and saw sneaking relief in their expressions.

      Someone had finally come out and said it.

      "You need not do it." Dreagher could not quite bring himself to step between Khârn and the doors, but his voice was steady. "You should not do it."

      But other signs gave the lie to the composure in Dreagher’s voice. Khârn watched his fellow captain’s respiration move at just below combat-preparation speed, watched the veins in his face and shorn scalp tick at an elevated rate, took in the motions of his eyes, the subtle shifts of his shoulders as his body went through the muscle-loosening routines that had been part of their deep conditioning.

      Dreagher’s skin carried the scent of scouring-gel but underneath it, coming off his skin, was the scent of adrenaline and the inhuman essences that the Astartes body made for itself when the danger instincts rang.

      They were all keyed up; Khârn’s own metabolism was escalated too. He could hardly have helped it. The air cyclers had not yet been able to carry away the tang of blood that had washed through the anteroom the last time the double doors had opened.

      As Khârn worked his palate and tongue, processing and tasting the air, he realised something else: the rest of the ship had fallen as silent as the anteroom they stood in. The anteroom’s semicircular outer wall opened through to the barrack-decks, and normally the broad colonnade was alive with sounds. Voices, the clank of boots and the softer tread of the menials and technomats, the distant sound of shots from the ranges, the almost subsonic buzz of the new power weapons, all gone now. The decks were as silent as the great chamber beyond the steel-grey double
      doors at Dreagher’s back. The strangeness of that silence tautened his nerves and muscles further still.

      Khârn ignored his body, letting it do what it will. He kept his eyes cold.

      "Eighth Company makes me the ranking captain aboard, now," he told them. "My rank, my oath and my Emperor. Together they close the matter. In case anyone is insolent enough to think there’s even a matter to close."

      "No," came a voice from beside him. Jareg, the Master Shellsmith from the artillery echelon. "The matter to close is that we must find a way to, to..." Jareg motioned wordlessly towards the doors, face twisted in distress.

      "We... don’t know how this will end," said Horzt, commander of the Ninth Company’s Stormbird squadron. Khârn watched the man’s hands form fists, shaking to match the shake in his voice. "And so we have to plan for the worst. One of us here, now, may need to command the Legion yet, and—"

      He broke off. In the space beyond the doors a voice, deeper than a tank-rumble, mightier than a cannon-blast, was roaring in anger. If there were words to it, they were blurred and muffled by the slabs of metal in the way, but still the War Hounds fell silent. They had shouted oaths and orders and obscenities over the clamour of gun, grenade and chainaxe, over the scream of Stormbird jets, over the keen and bellow of a dozen different xenos, but Khârn was the only one who dared to speak now over that distant, muted voice.

      "Enough," he said, and his voice was flat. "I’m not stupid enough to deny what we all think and know. You all owe Horzt a salute for being the only one to find enough Astartes guts in his belly to say it. The Emperor has brought us our lord and commander. The heartspring of our own bloodline. That is who is with us now. Our general. The one of whom we are echoes. Do you remember that? Do you?" Khârn looked from one to the next, and the War Hounds stared back at him. Good. He would have struck any of them who hadn’t met his eyes. On the other side of the scarred grey plate of the doors, the distant voice roared again.

      "Now, this," he went on, "this thing we are doing here, this is right. It is not for any Lord Commander, it is not for any highhelmed, gilt-edged custodian, it is not for anyone—" his shout stiffened their backs, widened their eyes "—to come between the War Hounds and their primarch and live. Only for the Emperor himself will we stand aside, and the Emperor has shown his wisdom. He has taken this duty and he has laid it on our shoulders."

      He looked at Dreagher again. Like Khârn, the man was dressed in white, bands of blue glittering across the high-collared tunic, boots and gauntlets a dark ceremonial blue rather than functional shipboard grey. The Emperor’s lightning-bolt emblem gleamed at his collar and shoulder. His dress matched Khârn’s own: the formal garments with which the War Hounds symbolised they were about their most solemn business. It was obvious why. Dreagher wanted to go in Khârn’s place. Wanted to go in and die.

      "We have our primarch now," Khârn told them, and even now he felt a little shiver at the words. All these years since they had launched outwards from Terra, watching as one mighty creation after another emerged from unreclaimed space to take their places in the ranks. Khârn had heard how the Salamanders had waited in orbit around the burning moon, waited for the Emperor’s word that the one he had found there was indeed their sire. He remembered the first sight of chilly-eyed Perturabo walking at the Emperor’s shoulder the day they took ship for Nove Shendak,
      and the change in the Iron Warriors when they knew who was to command them. Every Legion still with that empty place
      at its head felt the same longing, sharper with every voyage, every campaign. Would this next star be the one where their blood-sire lived? Would this ship, this communiqué, bring the news that their father-commander had been found, out there in the dark? And then that electric day when the word had come to the mustering docks at Vueron, the news that their own primarch had been found, their lord, their alpha, their... And it had come to this.

      "We have our primarch now," he repeated, "and he will lead his Legion in whatever manner he chooses. We are his just as we are the Emperor’s. What we wish or plan no longer matters. The commander of the War Hounds will meet the primarch of the War Hounds, and what happens will be as the primarch wills it. So be it. No more talk."

      Besides, he thought as Dreagher saluted and silently walked to the doors, I don’t suppose it will be long before he works his way down to you. He was surprised at the thought, but surprised also at the lack of emotion that came with it. For all that the War Hounds were a hot-blooded Legion, Khârn found his thoughts flat and colourless. He took a moment to wonder if this were how others felt, the enemies who had advanced to their doom under War Hound chainaxes, or the condemned men of the auxilia in the days before the Emperor had banned the Legion from decimating allies who disgraced them on the field.

      Dreagher worked the key controls and the doors swung silently outwards. Beyond them, oddly prosaic, a plain set of broad steps went down into shadows. Another roar, wordless and deepthroated, came echoing up from the gloom.

      Khârn shook the thoughts away, walked forwards, and let the darkness fold over him as Dreagher swung the doors closed at his back.
      ------------------------------------

      Khârn came down the broad, shallow steps into the great space that had been built into the ship as Angron’s triumphal hall. He had been in it many times but it was a different space now, even with most of it lost in the dark. It felt different. Khârn registered that sensation, of walking into a strange space unfamiliar to him, and wondered if any room that held a primarch could feel the same again.

      He walked three slow, measured paces onto the smooth stone chamber floor, and pushed his enhanced vision through its darkness adjustments – the primarch had shattered most of the lights, or torn them from their mountings. Here and there the survivors cast glow-pools that did little more than texture the darkness around them. Some of the glows showed dark spatters and puddles across the floor, but Khârn did not bother to look closely. Even if the smell of it were not drowning his senses, he had seen the aftermath of death too many times not to know it.

      He felt the urge to look around him for his brothers. Gheer, the Legion Master, who had come in here first when the Emperor had told the War Hounds they must take this duty upon themselves and then taken ship to meet the Thirty-seventh Fleet at Aldebaran. Kunnar, the First Company Champion, who had donned his formal cape, taken up his axe-staff and walked down the steps after the noises coming through the doors had convinced them that Gheer was long dead. Anchez, who had captained the assault echelon, had walked down next. He had joked with Khârn and Hyazn as the doors had been opened for him, despite the blood they could already smell on the air. The man had never known what fear was. Hyazn had been next, and two of the banner-bearers from his personal command coterie had insisted on marching down the steps into the dark with him. They had meant to block the primarch’s fury for long enough that Hyazn could speak with him. It hadn’t worked. Vanche, the master-at-arms to old Gheer, had insisted on being next, even though the next to inherit the Legion’s command, and so the duty of taking up embassy to their lord, should have been Shinnargen
      of the Second Company. The point was moot now. Shinnargen had met his end in here an hour after Vanche.

      I am, primarch, the servant of your will, thought Khârn, and I would never dare to pronounce you the servant of mine. But still, my newfound lord, if you would make your peace with your Legion while there are still any in your Legion to draw breath...

      He exhaled, and took another step into the room. For a moment he thought he could hear movement, the padding of feet, a rush of air that felt like breath before everything splintered and whirled and he crashed into a pillared wall to land hard on his back, gasping in pain.

      By the time the gasp had entered his lungs, reflex had taken over and he was up on one knee, turning to put his broken right arm and shoulder to the wall and holding and tensing his left arm ready to ward as he scanned for motion, eyes sifting the gloom, pushing into infrared to see the hulking shape hurtling forwards to fill his vision—

      Will overrode reflex, and with an iron effort Khârn forced his hand towards his side. Then he was skittering on his back across the floor, breath hammered out of his lungs and cracked clavicle flaring. Unthinkingly he drew his knees to his chest, turned the skidding tumble into a backwards roll. Training, determination and Astartes neural wiring let him shunt the pain to the back of his mind as he came up into a combat crouch.

      Then will took over again, and Khârn made himself stand upright and placed his hands by his sides. He looked back and found the spot where he had rested a moment ago, but the floor was empty, no shape or heat-trace.

      Was this how it was for the others? He caught himself wondering, and stopped thinking about it when the lapse in concentration started him swaying on the spot. He focused, half-heard movement closing in behind him and opened his mouth to speak, and a moment later was jerked up from the floor, the back of his head and neck in the grip of a hand that felt bigger and harder than a Dreadnaught’s rubble-claw. Will, will over instinct: Khârn stopped himself from kicking backwards, trying to wrench free.

      "Another one? Another one like the rest?" The voice in his ear was a rasp, a rumble, words like handfuls of hot gravel. "Warrior made, warrior garbed, uhh..." For a moment the grip on the back of Khârn’s neck juddered and his body shook like a Stormbird hitting atmosphere, then the animal growl from behind him became a roar.

      "Fight!"

      He was being carried forwards one-handed in long blurring strides across the width of the hall.

      "Fight me!" With the words, a slam into the wall hard enough to leave Khârn’s wits red-tinged and reeling.

      "Fight me!" Another slam and the red was shot through with black. His limbs felt sluggish and only half there. The voice was bellowing drowning his hearing, pouring into his head and trampling his jangled thoughts.

      "Fiiight!" Another steel-hard grip closed about his broken arm and for a brief moment Khârn whirled through the air. Another impact and his back was to the wall, his feet dangling, broken shoulder incandescent with pain as one of the great hands pinned him against the dark marble.

      It took a moment for things to clear. Astartes biochemistry stabilised his pain and his cognition, glanded stress-hormones
      slammed into his system and Khârn looked at his primarch’s face with clear eyes.

      Wiry, copper-red hair curled away from a high brow, pale eyes sat deep behind cheekbones that angled down like axe-strokes to an aquiline nose and a broad, thin-lipped mouth.

      It was the face of a general to follow unto death, the face of a teacher at whose feet the wise would fight to sit, the face of a king made for the adoration of worlds: the face of a primarch.

      And rage made it the face of a beast. Rage pushed and distorted the features like a tumour breaking out from the skull beneath. It made the eyes into yellow, empty pits, debased the proud lines of brow and jaw, peeled the lips back from the teeth.

      And yet it was a face so maddeningly familiar, the face of the sire whose template had made the War Hounds themselves. Khârn could see his brethren in the bronze skin, the set of the eyes, the lines of jaw and skull. Pinned there and staring, the thought that flicked into his mind was of the Legion’s battles against the capering xenos whose masks wove faces out of light, taunting them with distorted mockeries of themselves.

      The primarch’s grip tensed, and Khârn wondered if he had heard the thought – didn’t they say some of their sires had that trick? Slowly Angron’s other hand rose up before Khârn’s face. Even in this light he could see the crackling shell of quickclotting blood coating the fingers. The hand made a trembling fist before his face that seemed to hang there for an age before it slowly opened to make a stiff-fingered claw. Khârn could tell how the claw would strike: a finger in each eye, powerful enough to punch through the back of the socket and into his brain, the thumb under his jaw to crush his throat, the whole hand then ready to clench and rip away the front of his skull or pull his head from his neck. Astartes bone was powerfully made – did the primarch have the power for that in just one of his hands? Khârn thought he did.

      But the hand did not strike. Instead Angron leaned forwards, the snarling gargoyle-mask of his face closing, closing, until his mouth was by Khârn’s ear.

      "Why?" And his whisper was like the grate of tank-treads on stone. "I can see what you’re made for. You’re made to spill blood, just as I am. You’re not born normal men, any more than I was." A long, savage growl. "So why? Why no triumph rope? Why no weapon in your hand? Why do you all walk down here so meek? Don’t you know whose blood I really— eh?"

      They were close enough that he had felt Khârn’s smile against his cheek, and now he pulled back to see it. Angron’s eyes squeezed shut for a moment, then flashed open again as he twitched Khârn away from the wall and slammed him back again. It seemed to Khârn that he could feel the fingers of the hand that held him thrumming with checked violence.

      "What’s this? Showing your teeth?" Another slam against the wall. "Why are you smiling?" By the end of the question the voice was once again at that shattering roar, and even Khârn’s hearing, more resilient than human, rang for whole seconds before it cleared. And in those few seconds, he realised that the question had not been rhetorical. Angron was waiting for an answer.

      "I am..." His voice, when he found it, was hoarse and brittle. "I am proud of my Legion brothers." He swallowed to try and soothe his dry throat so that he could speak again, but before he could take another breath he was pulled from the wall and dropped. Angron’s kick lofted him into the air in a long curve that fetched him up against a cold, torn corpse. When Khârn dragged in a breath it was full of the reek of blood and offal. There was no way to tell whose the body had been.

      Bare feet thumped along the stone floor, counter-pointing growling heaves of breath as Angron closed the distance. He leapt and landed in a crouch beside Khârn as he tried to make his body move. The grip damped around him again, around his jaw and face this time, and he was dragged half-upright to stare into the primarch’s eyes again.

      "Proud." Angron’s lips worked as though he were chewing on the word. "Your brothers. No warriors. None of you will fight. Why... are... you..." He was shaping his words with difficulty, and one hand had risen to clutch at his head. "How, uh, how can, nnn..." And then he lifted Khârn by the front of his tunic and slammed him back down. The ragged remains on the floor gave a bloody squelch as Khârn’s back came down across them.

      "No pride!" roared Angron, in a voice that Khârn thought dizzily could finish the job of bone-breaking that his fists had started. "No pride in brothers who stand there with their wits slack! Dulleyed as a steer on a slaughter-chute! None of you fight! My brothers, my brothers and sisters, oh..." The grip on Khârn’s tunic lifted, and he blinked his vision clear and looked up. Angron was not looking at him any more. The primarch had sunk back onto his haunches, one great hand over his eyes. His voice was still a powerful rumble, but barely formed and harsh with accent. Khârn had to concentrate to make out the words. "My poor warriors," Angron was murmuring, "my lost ones." And then he dropped his hand and looked into Khârn’s eyes. The fury was still in his stare, but it had been banked like a furnace,
      glowing a dull vermilion rather than roaring crimson.

      "Your brothers," he said in a drained voice, "are not like my brothers, whoever you are."

      Whoever you are. It took a moment for the words to sink in, and the next thought was, He doesn’t know. How can he not know? Still flat on the floor, Khârn took a shuddering breath.

      "My name is Khârn. I am a warrior—"

      "No!" Angron’s fist shattered the floor beside Kharn’s head. Stone chips stung his skin. "No warrior! No!"

      "—of the Legiones Astartes, the great league of battle-brothers
      in service to our—"


      "No! Dead!" screamed Angron, his head back, muscles corded in his neck. "Uhhh, my warriors are dead, my brothers, my sisters—"

      "—beloved Emperor," said Khârn, fighting to keep his voice cool and level, facing down the urge to gabble and plead, "humanity’s master, our commander and general, by whose—"

      At the mention of the Emperor Angron had begun to shudder and now he threw his head back again, baying like a beast up into the dark, shocking Khârn into silence. Then, snake-fast, his hand closed around Khârn’s ankle and with a single wrench of his body he threw him spinning through the air.

      There was no time to twist in the air or curl. Khârn managed to get his arms around his head before he crashed into a chamber wall and dropped limp to the floor. Through the red-grey mist in his head he could hear Angron’s voice, still filling the chamber with deafening, wordless howls. Within his own body he could feel twitching and roiling as his implanted organs worked on his system: somewhere in there Angron had damaged something badly. Something for the Apothecarion to study, he thought. If they’re up to the challenge of identifying which scraps are mine after all this, he found himself adding, and the grim little mental chuckle from that thought was what gave him the strength to push himself, groaning, up onto his elbows and knees.

      Angron’s foot landed like a forge-hammer between his shoulder blades and flattened him back to the floor, cracked sternum sending out ripping bursts of pain, feeling the fused shell of his ribcage creaking as he fought for breath.

      "You don’t injure easily, do you, you meek little paperskins?" came Angron’s voice from above him, the words bitten out in curt growls.

      "Who makes warriors who won’t make war? Your murdering bastard commander, that’s who."

      More shifts in him as Khârn’s metabolism noted the dwindling breath in his lungs and changed its pace to use its oxygen more efficiently. He felt the tickle of pressure as his third lung shifted to higher functioning to take up the shortfall, and a warm sensation in his abdomen as his oolitic kidney worked on the heightened toxins in his blood.

      "Sends his cowardly little paperskins to die for him, oh yes, I know his sort." Angron’s words were running together into an almost continuous growl. "Hands that’ve never felt the heat of blood. Skin that’s never parted. Brain-pan that’s never been kissed by the Butcher’s Nails. Tongue that’s never... huh."

      The weight had shifted on Khârn’s back. Angron didn’t have the leverage to keep the crushing pressure with his foot, and his other foot had started to come up off the floor. Then suddenly the pressure was gone, and Khârn whooped for air with all three lungs as Angron kicked him over onto his back.

      "You’re not dying the way I’ve seen men and women die." Angron stood over Khârn for a moment, head high like a ceremonial statue, then began to circle where he lay, back bent and head thrust forward, a great hunting cat scenting prey. "You take wounds the way... hnnn..." He dug the fingers of one hand into scalp for a moment, and Kharn could see his fingers tracing the lines of deep, runnelled scars, "...the way I do. Your blood crisps itself like mine, it...smells..." His hands balled into fists, and Khârn saw the tension roll up the forearms, into the shoulders, into the neck and finally once again pulling the primarch’s features into the rage-mask. Slowly, clumsily, Khârn managed to sit up and onto one knee, braced for a new strike, but Angron kept circling him.

      "You carry yourselves like men used to iron in their hands, not air. If I were killing you on the hot dust, I’d know your names, because you’d have paid me the proper salute and we’d have turned the rope together." Around and around him the padding footsteps. Khârn could feel the primarch’s gaze on him like heavy chain draped over his shoulders. "Does it bother you, dying to one who will never know your names?"

      Did it bother him, Khârn wondered? But of course that wasn’t the question. He was an emissary, here to deliver a message, not to debate.

      "We are your Legion, Primarch Angron. We are your instrument and yours to command. The deaths of our enemies are
      yours to command, and so are our own."


      Not a punch or a kick or a grip, this time, but a ringing, openhanded clout to the side of his head that pitched him sideways. "Mock me again and I’ll crumble your skull in my fingers before your mouth has finished the words." Angron’s voice was shaking with a precarious restraint that was more frightening than a bellow. "My warriors. My brothers and sisters. Oh my brave ones, my brothers, my..." For several seconds Angron simply paced, his jaw opening and working soundlessly, his head twisting from side to side. "Gone they are, gone without me, I..."

      Angron’s fists began to move. He beat them against his thighs and chest, brought one fist and then the other around in long looping motions to smash into his mouth and cheeks. In the new quiet of the chamber the sounds of his flesh splitting and his grunting breaths seemed magnified, textured. Khârn watched, unable to speak, as Angron dropped to his knees, fists doubled in front of his face, muscles locked taut and body shaking.

      There was a silence. Finally, Khârn broke it.

      "We are your Legion. Made from your blood and genes, crafted in your image. We have fought our way from the world where you, my lord, were conceived. We have spilt blood and burned worlds, we have shattered empires and hounded species into oblivion. Searching for you."

      Just let me speak, lord, he thought as he felt the strength coming back into his voice. Just let me bring our petition to you and then my mission is fulfilled and I am content. Do as you will.

      "We do not fight you because you are our primarch. Not just our commander, but our blood-sire, our fountainhead. No matter what, I will not raise a hand to you. Nor will any of my battlebrothers. We are ambassadors to you now. We are here for our Legion and our... our Emperor," Khârn tensed, but this time Angron did not respond to the word. "We are coming before you to plead with you to take up the rightful place that was set for you at your creation."

      He began moving, wanting to shuffle closer to where Angron knelt and hunched and shook, but even now the violence that the primarch exuded like heat made him pause. Khârn took an unsteady breath. Pain from his wounds kept sawing at the bottom of his consciousness, nagging at him. He squeezed shut his eyes for a moment, pushed himself through the battlefield exercises that had been hypnoconditioned into him on the mountainsides of Bodt, smothered the pain with will.

      That gave him a moment to think, and with the respite he brought his mind to bear on this task the way he would a battlefield, a fortification, an enemy’s swordwork. He thought about his own mission, about the reports he had heard from the Emperor’s own flagship before and after the disastrous visit to the planet’s surface, about the primarch’s own words. There had been battle down there, they all knew that. Khârn felt a flicker of envy. The rebels now lying as corpses down there had already had the glory of their primarch, their primarch, leading them in—

      Understanding came in a flash, given a weird focus by the pain.

      "I envy them," he said quietly. "Those ones who fought with you. I wish I had known them. They followed you to battle. That is all any of my brothers and I ask of you, sire. The chance to fight with you as they did."

      Slowly the primarch’s hands lowered from his face. He was kneeling with his back to the nearest unbroken light, looming over Khârn in silhouette, but Khârn’s vision took in enough infrared to let him see the bitter little smile on the giant face.

      "You? No nails, no rope. Hope you’ve got a good head for mockery, Khârn of the so-called Legion. We’d have had sport
      with you in the camps. Jochura would have been merciless. Sharp-tongued, that boy was."
      The smile lost a trace of its bitterness. "I’d watch him bait the others. In the cells at first and then after, when we were roaming. He’d mock, they’d laugh, and he and the one he mocked would laugh harder than all the rest of them. It... was... good. Good to watch. Jochura always swore he would die laughing at his killer." The smile vanished and Angron’s mouth took a brutal downwards twist. "I told him... told him... uuh," and Khârn felt the impact up into his body as the great fists smashed into the floor again. He made to speak but the words were cut off as Angron’s arm shot out, quicker than sight, and then his hand was locked around Khârn’s neck and jaw, dragging him in.

      "I don’t know how they died!" Angron’s shout was so loud that the words seemed to fuzz into white noise in Khârn’s ears. The hand shook him like a sack. "We swore! Swore!" Kharn was being yanked backwards and forwards, and Angron’s other hand beat the floor in rime. Amid all the clamour a sharp new scent imprinted itself on his senses, and Khârn realised it was the primarch’s blood, freshly shed. Angron had battered his hands bloody against the stone.

      "We swore an oath," Angron went on, his voice dropping to a groan like wrenching steel. "On the road to Desh’ea I had each of them cut a new scar for my rope, and I cut theirs. And we swore an oath that by the end of all of our lives we’d cut the high-riders a scar that would bleed for a hundred years!" Despite himself, Khârn’s hands came up as Angron’s grip tightened around his neck and he fought the urge to try and grapple free. "A wound their great-grandwhelps would still cry from! A wound to haunt any of them who dared look on the hot dust again!" Angron’s grip shifted, and air flooded back into Khârn’s lungs. He hung half-kneeling with one of the primarch’s hands pressed into each side of his head. "All this," Angron said softly, "and even my sworn oath wasn’t enough." He parted his hands and let Khârn crumple to the floor. "Because I don’t even know how they died."

      When Khârn opened his eyes Angron was sitting cross-legged a little way from his feet, elbows on knees, head thrust out in front of his shoulders, watching him. He could no longer smell the primarch’s blood as fresh as he had – had he lost consciousness for a time? Or had he just lain disorientated in the gloom? Or did Angron’s blood clot and seal even faster than his own? He thought it probably did. He took a breath, torso flickering with pain, and pushed himself up on his elbows.

      "And so how do you meet death, paperskin?" The coolness in Angron’s voice was startling after the raving daemon that had battered and flung him like a puppet. "Do you make your salutes when you’re on the dust? Declaim your lineage like the highriders? Declaim your kills like us? Tell me what you do while you’re waiting for the iron in your hand to warm up to bloodheat."

      "We—" Khârn began, but the unbecoming sprawl was cramping his chest. He pushed himself the rest of the way up and knelt, sitting back on his heels, keeping his breathing steady and composing himself through the pain. Even slumped over as he was, Angron was taller than Khârn by half a head.

      "The oath of moment," he said. "Our last act before we embark for combat. Each of us prepares our vow to our brothers in the Legion."

      "What we will do for our, our Emperor," Angron snarled at the word, "our Legion and ourselves. We witness the oaths. Some Legions write them and then decorate themselves with the written oaths."

      "Did you take one of these oaths before you came in to see me?" Angron asked.

      "No, primarch," replied Khârn, slightly wrong-footed by the question. "I did not come in here to fight you. I say again, not one in the Legion will raise a hand to you. Oaths of moment are for battle."

      "No challenge," rumbled the looming shape. "You do not ask their names when you walk the dust, and you don’t give yours. No salutes and no showing of ropes. This is how they fight who say they are my blood-cousins?"

      "This is how we fight, sire. We exist to make the Emperor’s enemies extinct. We’ve no need of anything that does not serve that end. And we rarely fight enemies who have names worth knowing, let alone saluting. What the rope is, forgive me, primarch, I do not know."

      "How do you show your warriorship, then?" The puzzlement in the primarch’s voice seemed genuine, but when Khârn hesitated over his answer, Angron lunged forwards and punched him over onto his back.

      "Answer me! You little grave-grubber, you sit there and smirk at me again like some high-rid... uhhh..." The primarch had sprung to his feet and now he picked Khârn up by the throat, yanked him into the air and dropped him flat on his back again. By the time Khârn had shakily pushed himself back up, Angron had walked away to stand under one of the lights. He turned to make sure Khârn was watching, then turned and spread his arms.

      The primarch’s torso was bare, packed with inhuman musculature on the Emperor’s design, broad, heavy and angular to accommodate the thickened bones and the strange organs and tissues that Astartes legend said the Emperor had grown from his own flesh and blood, modified twenty different ways for his children. Khârn found himself wondering for a moment if Angron had grown up with the slightest idea of what he truly was, before he realised what the primarch was showing him.

      A ridge of scar tissue began at the base of Angron’s spine. It travelled up his backbone, then veered to the left and around his body, riding over his hip and curving around to his front. Angron began to turn in place underneath the light and Khârn saw how the scar seemed to expand and thin again, ploughing and gouging the skin, in some places vanishing entirely where the primarch’s healing powers had overcome it. The scar looped around and around Angron’s body, spiralling up over his belly, around his ribs, towards his chest. A little past the right of his sternum, it abruptly stopped.

      "The Triumph Rope," Angron said. His hand moved to indicate the upper lengths of the scar, where it was smoother, more continuous, less ugly. There were no healed patches in its upper reaches. Khârn jumped as Angron thumped a fist against his chest with a report like a gun.

      "Red twists! Nothing but red on my rope, Kharn! Of all of us, I was the only one. No black twists." Angron was shaking with rage again, and Khârn bowed his head. His thoughts were bleak: I’ve started this now, and I wish to finish it, but primarch, I don’t know how many more of your rages I can withstand. Then Angron’s hands had gripped his shoulders, cruelly grating the bones in the broken one, and the muscles in Khârn’s neck and jaw locked rigid as he worked to stop himself crying out.

      "I can’t go back!" came Angron’s voice through the pain, and the note in his voice was not fury now but an anguish far greater than the pain of Khârn’s injuries. "I can’t go back to Desh’ea. I can’t pick up the soil to make a black twist." Angron flung Khârn away and dropped to his knees. "I can’t... uhh... I need to wear my failure and I can’t. Your Emperor! Your Emperor! I couldn’t fight with them and now I can’t commemorate them!"

      "Sire, I, we..." Khârn could feel hide stings and blooms of heat inside his abdomen as his healing systems worked on wounds inside him. "Your Legion wants to learn your ways. You are our primarch. But we haven’t learned them yet. I don’t know..."

      "No. Grave-grub Khârn doesn’t know. No Triumph Rope on Khârn." Khârn kept his eyes on the floor but the sneer was all too audible in Angron’s voice. "For every battle you live through, a cut to lengthen the rope. For a triumph, let it scar clean. A red twist. For a defeat you survive, work some dust from where you fought into the cut to scar it dark. A black twist. Nothing but red on me, Khârn," said Angron, spreading his arms again, "but I don’t deserve it."

      "I understand you, sire," Khârn answered, and he found that he did. "Your brothers, your brothers and sisters," he corrected himself, "they were defeated."

      "They died, Khârn," said Angron. "They all died. We swore to each other that we’d stand together against the high-riders' armies. The cliffs of Desh’ea would see the end of it. No more twists in the rope. For any of us." His voice had softened to a whisper, heavy with grief. "I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be drawing breath. But I am. And I can’t even pick up the dust from Desh’ea to make a black twist to remember them by. Why did your Emperor do this to me, Khârn?"

      There was silence after the question. Angron, still standing, had let his head fall forwards and was digging his knuckles into his forehead and face. The lights made strange shadows across his skull, lumpy with metal and scars.

      Khârn got to his feet. He swayed, but his balance held.

      "It isn’t my place to know, sire, what the Emperor said to you. But we—" Angron wheeled, and Khârn flinched. The primarch’s eyes were alight, and his teeth were bare, but it wasn’t a snarl now, it was a broad, vicious grin.

      "Didn’t say much to me, no he did not. Think I let him? Think I did?" Angron was in motion again, prowling to and fro under the light, his head snaking from side to side. "I knew what was happening. I’d stood there and seen the high-riders' killers coming up for my brothers and sisters at Desh’ea, I knew, I knew. Ahhh!" His hands shot out and blurred as they clawed the air in front of him. "Had his own brothers, didn’t he, his kin-guard. All goldplated, fancying themselves high-riders even though their feet were in the dirt like mine. Pointing their little blades at me!" Angron spun, leapt, hurtled at Khârn and slammed him backwards with an open palm. "They drew weapons on me! Me! They... they..." Angron threw his head back, palms pressed to the sides of his skull as though sheer physical pressure could keep his boiling thoughts on track. For a moment he was frozen like that, and then he wrenched his body forwards and drove his fist into the stone by Khârn’s head. Stinging grains of rock flew out from the impact.

      "Killed one, though," spat Angron, rearing up and starting to prowl again. "Couldn’t put my hands on that Emperor of yours. Ahh, his voice in my ears, worse than the Butcher’s Nails..." Angron’s fingers swiped and rubbed across the metal in his skull. His gaze was transfixing Khârn again. "Took one apart though. One of those gold-wrapped bastards. No stomach for it, your Emperor, paper-skinned like you. Pushed me back, into that... place... the place he took me from Desh’ea..." The shadows over Angron’s face seemed to deepen at the recollection and his body hunched and folded inwards.

      "Teleport," said Khârn, understanding. "He teleported you. First to his own ship, and then to here."

      "Something you understand, maybe." Angron was still moving, further away now, harder for Khârn to pick out except as a smoke-warm shape in infrared. He had his head back and his arms out, as though he were addressing an audience in a high gallery. "My sisters and brothers and I, owned by the high-riders, floating over us with their crow-cloaks. Their maggot-eyes buzzing around us while we drew each others’ blood instead of theirs." He growled, punching and clawing the air above his head. "And you, Khârn, owned by the Emperor who draws your blood and puts his gold-shiny puppets into the fights he won’t..."

      Khârn was shaking his head, and Angron had seen him.

      "Well now," his voice rumbled out of the shadow, and all the menace was back in it. The sound reminded Khârn how weak he was, how wounded, how unarmed. "Khârn calls me liar. Khârn thinks he will question his primarch for the sake of his Emperor." Once again Angron came out of the darkness in a leap, landing in front of Khârn with one hand cocked back for a pulverising punch.

      "Admit it, Kharn," he snarled. "Why won’t you say it?" The cocked fist shook but did not swing. Angron pushed his face forwards as though he were about to bite Khârn’s flesh. "Say it! Say it!"

      "I saw him once," was what Khârn said instead. "I saw him on Nove Shendak. World Eight-Two-Seventeen. A world of worms. Giant creatures, intelligent. Hateful. Their weapons were filaments, metal feathers that they embedded in themselves to conduct energies out of their bodies. I remember we saw the surface roil with the filaments before the worms broke out of it almost at our feet. Thick as a man, longer than you, sire, are tall. Three mouths in their faces, a dozen teeth in their mouths. They spoke through the mud in sonic screams and witch-whispers. We had found three systems under their thrall, burned them out of their colony nests and chased them home. But on their cradle-world
      we found humans. Humans lost to humanity for who knows how long, crawling on the land while the worms slithered in the
      marsh seas. Hunting the humans, farming them. Killing them."


      Angron’s eyes were still narrowed and his fist still raised, but he no longer shook. Khârn’s eyes had half-closed. He remembered how the War Hounds’ blue and white armour glimmered in the worm-world’s twilight, remembered the endless, nervesapping sucking sounds as the lunar tides dragged the mud oceans to and fro across the jagged stone continents.

      "The Iron Warriors were with us too, and Perturabo landed with the assault pioneers after our lances scoured our drop-zone bare and dry. He worked out how to dredge and shape the ground. The earth there, well, there barely was earth. Just muddy slops, full of trace toxins, the bedrock deep enough that a man’d drown if he planted his feet on it."

      "How did you stop them?" demanded Angron. "If you couldn’t stand on the ground?"

      "Sentries with high-powered lasguns, sire, devices to read the movements of the mud to hear them moving through it towards us, explosives we seeded around the earthworks and allowed to sink to where the worms burrowed. Perturabo’s earthworks were a miracle. He built trenches and dykes, penned in the mud seas and drained them, drove the worms back, reclaimed land these wretched humans could build on. And when the worms came out to fight us, they met the Emperor and his War Hounds."

      "You’re speaking of yourself," said Angron.

      "Yourselves." Khârn nodded. "The War Hounds. XII Legion Astartes. Made in your image, as your warriors, primarch. He saw us fight in the Cephic hive-sprawls and named us for the white hounds the Yeshk warriors in the north used. He did us an honour with the name, primarch. We are proud of it, and we hope you will be too."

      Angron gave a growl, but he did not speak. The hand that had been a fist had opened again.

      "The southern anchor of Perturabo’s earthworks was a rock, the closest thing that place had to a mountain, the only one the sludge tides hadn’t been able to wear down. When the worms saw the Mechanicum begin to change the world’s face they mustered to break us under the peak. They buried themselves in the sludge beyond our range and came forwards under it to meet us." Khârn’s voice was speeding up as his memory filled with the sharp reek of the poisoned ground and the warning cries from the Imperial Army artillerists as the mud ocean heaved. Angron had backed away, his head pushed forwards and his eyes were full of concentration.

      "They first came in a wave," Khârn said. "They had skulked around the fringes of the earthworks, carried off some of the crews working the pumps and dredgers. We had not fought a decisive action against them for months. But now Gheer and Perturabo had read the patterns of their attacks and placed us for the counter-assault. We formed up among Perturabo’s aqueduct walls, only half-built they were and still blocked half the sky. We took our oaths of moment and primed our bolters."

      "Bolters?"

      "A firearm. A powerful one. The weapon of the Astartes."

      "Ehh. Get on with it. The worms came for the earthworks." Angron was staring over Khârn’s head, yanking his hands back and forth, shuffling his feet. It was a moment before Khârn realised the Primarch was playing the defence out in his mind, ordering the lines, mapping out the ground. "So they came up like chaerdogs at a spike-line? Stupid to rush a shield wall. Tell me what you did."

      Khârn closed his eyes, focusing past his injured body to run the conditioned routines that ordered his memories.

      "The first line of them broke the mud with their jaws and filaments," he said, "and they came at us behind a wall of their power-arcs. The mud steamed in front of them and where the arcs converged they shattered rock. They sent a rolling bombardment ahead of them. We worked to break it with thudd guns, dropping shells behind their blast-front, and we broke up the rock in front of them with grenades. We thought we had their measure when the counter-bombardment made their front lines shiver, but they were simply filling up our attention, measuring where our own line was wavering. When their blasts dropped away they came in force to the weak points. Drove wedges into our front. To flank and envelop we’d have had to go out onto the mud where we could barely walk, and where the mud was shallow enough for us to try it, they had second and third lines ready to drag the flankers under or cook them in their armour. To break the assaults we had to get them onto rock, where we could manoeuvre better than they. Perturabo had built traps into his earthworks. False outer walls, double emplacements, killing zones along the drainage canals."

      Angron nodded approvingly, looking up and down the dark chamber as though he could see the great rough walls, lit by orange bolter-flare and the blue-white power-arcs of the worms.

      "But still we had to bring them inside our lines to break them. Hold them back and then fall to second positions, one formation at a time, through the Army lines to where we were waiting to drop the axe. There were a lot of worms, primarch." Khârn grinned. His wounds throbbed as the vividness of the memory prompted his metabolism to begin glanding combat stimms. "Our axes weren’t dry for a month." In answer Angron growled again, making a quick double motion of his arm as though swinging a blade forwards and backwards at something below his own height. Barely thinking about it, Khârn’s warrior brain filed away the Primarch’s footing and balance, his arm and shoulder motions, noted where a riposte might land home. Then, still in his combat stance, Angron pinned Khârn with his gaze
      again.

      "The Emperor. You talk about fighting down there in the mud but you don’t talk about the Emperor. High-rode, did he? Hung above you, did he?" Angron’s voice was rising, turning ugly and ragged. "Laughed at you, did he? Called your blood-spills, did he? Admit it, Khârn!" In a blur he crossed the distance and knocked Khârn to one knee with a looping, glancing arm-sweep.

      "The Emperor," Khârn said, and couldn’t stop himself from smiling at the memory. "The Emperor was a golden storm descending onto Nove Shendak’s filth. When the worms were in amongst us he came down from the peak and it was as if he had brought a fragment of the sun down for us in amends for the sun we couldn’t see through those filthy fogs. He shone out over the battle lines like a beacon. His custodians were like living banners, the troopers rallied to them, but he..." Khârn closed his eyes, looking for the words.

      "Imagine, sire, did they fight in your home with grenades? Explosive weapons, small enough to hold in the hand and throw?"

      "High-rider weapons," snarled Angron. "Not fit for a warrior on the hot dust."

      "But imagine, primarch, some," he searched for the word Angron had used, "some paperskin who takes a grenade and simply grips it in his fist until it explodes. Imagine how it would destroy the hand, shatter the arm, ruin the body! Wherever the Emperor met one of their columns head on it shattered like that. He didn’t repel them, sire. Didn’t defeat them. He ruined them. Assault after assault, not even Perturabo when he came down to the lines for the final—"

      "You’ve said that name already," boomed Angron from behind him. "Who is he?"

      "Forgive me, sire. Another primarch. One of the first we found. I was new to the War Hounds when the message went through the fleets, and I almost didn’t understand what it meant. Not until I saw the Iron Warriors and how they reacted. The very air seemed to change around them. They and we and the Ultramarines, we were travelling together. We envied them. They had found their blood-sire and their general. Now we have found ours."

      "Another. Another one." Khârn risked a look around and up. Angron was standing still, hands pressed to his face again, teeth grinding as he concentrated. "Another one of me?"

      "Not like you, primarch. A brother to you. Made for conquest and kingship as you are. The Iron Warriors, they’re his Legion now."

      "Brave fighters?"

      "Brave enough," Khârn answered, "with a wall to sit on or a trench to stand in."

      "Walls." Angron growled the word. "Walls can be broken."

      "So we tell them, sire. Perhaps you can—"

      "Walls," Angron cut him off. "When we first broke out of the caves and walked on stone, not dust, we were nearly trapped within walls. We had the weapons we’d drawn one another’s blood with and they were ready for a change of flavour. The high-riders laughed, the way they always laughed as they looked down on us on the dust, and they called out taunts the way they goaded us when we fought."

      Angron whipped his fists through the air as though he were batting at insects. "Sent their voices through the maggot-eyes they watched us with. Voices, voices. 'Oh, do oblige, wonderful Angron!'—" Angron’s voice was suddenly, eerily imitating a higher, softly accented, singsong voice. "—'We wagered you’d take a wound from a dozen enemies, surely a single wound, won’t you oblige and bleed for us?'—"

      His tone shifted and he imitated another. "—'My son is watching with me, Angron, what’s wrong with you? Fight harder, give him something to cheer!'— The eyes, the voices. The Butcher’s Nails in my head... hot... smoke... in my thoughts..." A wolfish look stole over Angron’s face. "It was good to fight without the eyes and the voices. They tried to trap us but we wouldn’t stop for them. Every line they formed we rushed before they were in formation. They were everywhere but we were fast."

      Angron was suiting actions to words, loping back and forth, smashing and lunging and ripping at imaginary enemies.

      "Jochura with his laugh and his chains. Cromach, he fought with a brazier-glaive. Hah! I gave him the first black twist in his rope, and he and I burned the watchtowers at Hozzean together. Klester riding her shriekspear through the air, you should have seen her, Khârn, so fast, and ohh..." Angron was clutching at the metal tracery poking out through his mane. "Fast we moved, fast, not hanging between walls, entrapment is death, fast, trust and discipline... Never rest, always forwards, hunger for the enemy, that’s what they taught us... Uhh, my brothers and sisters, oh, if we had known how it would end, we didn’t know!" Angron fell to his knees and howled. "All that valour! The eaters of cities, they called us! All the mountain fastnesses, burning like beacons! All the Great Coast painted in blood! We devoured Hozzean with flames! Meahor! Ull-Chaim!" Weeping and roaring, he leapt to his feet, oblivious to Khârn looking on.

      "We broke them at the river before Ull-Chaim! Hung half a thousand high-riders and kin-guard from the vine bridges! The princelings’ heads floating on the river, down to the lowlands as our heralds! The silver lace from their skulls, ahh, ripped from their skulls, wrapped on my fists!"

      The furnace rage was back. Khârn thought to shuffle away, and dismissed the idea. He would not hide from Angron any more than he would fight him. And Angron would find him anywhere in this room anyway. And no sooner had he finished that thought than he had been wrenched from the ground by each arm and swung over the primarch’s head to be slammed into the floor. Stone cracked under him.

      "They paid! They paid! We made them pay!" Angron kicked Khârn across the floor, bellowing. "Paid for my brothers and sisters! Who will pay?"

      Dizzy, fainting, Khârn felt himself picked up and slammed down again, kicked again, grabbed by the neck.

      "Pay, War Hound! Pay! Fight me!" Something – fist? Foot? – crashed into his chest and Khârn sprawled on the floor, choking. "Get up and fight!"

      The end of it, then, Khârn thought. Well, I carried my embassy as well as a War Hound could. He tried to rise and couldn’t, so he lay full-length on his back and spoke weakly into the air.

      "You are my primarch and my general, Lord Angron. I swore that I would seek you out and follow you, and I will not fight you. And if I must die, then yours is the hand I will die by. I am Khârn and I am loyal to your will."

      While he waited, he faded from consciousness then jerked back as his system shifted itself to rouse him and the pain of his injuries sharpened. He could not see or hear Angron, but he could feel the stone floor underneath him and the cool air in his lungs. When it came, Angron’s voice was frighteningly close, almost by his ear.

      "You are warriors, Khârn," the primarch said. "I know warriors when I see them." Khârn tried to answer but pain rippled through his neck and chest when he tried to speak.

      "This... Emperor," Angron said, palpably struggling to keep his voice level. "He is the one you swore to?"

      "We swore to each other," Khârn managed to get out, "in his name and on his banner." His breath took a long time to come. "That we would not... raise a hand against you."

      Angron said nothing for a time. Khârn’s consciousness had begun to flicker again by the time he spoke.

      "Such devotion... from such warriors..." His voice tailed off, faded and returned. His hands were pressed to his head again. "A man who can... a man... to whom... your oaths... for him you would..."

      Minutes passed. Angron’s voice came again.

      "This room. I can leave it?" It took Khârn a moment to work out how to answer.

      "This is the flagship of the War Hounds. Our greatest vessel. It is the instrument of your will and yours to command, primarch, as are we."

      For a long time there was no answer, just quiet and dark, and just as Khârn was starting to feel his consciousness go again he felt himself lifted, slowly and gently now, and carried through the dark.
      ------------------------------------

      They had looked at one another when the booming knock came on the doors, unsure of what to do, but only for a moment. Then Dreagher worked the openers, and when the locks clanked and the portals groaned open he was there. The War Hounds gasped and moved back as the giant shadow on the steps grew, advanced, came into the light. With his right hand the primarch supported Khârn, battered and hanging barely conscious.

      Angron stood, wary, wound tight as a bowstring, his free hand opening and closing. His breath rumbled in his throat. For long minutes each War Hound in turn blanched under the primarch’s gaze, until Khârn managed to lift his head and speak.

      "Salute your primarch, War Hounds. Salute he who shed blood on the hot dust and made the high-riders pay for their arrogance. Salute your blood-sire and the general of the XII. Salute the one whose soldiers were named the Eaters of Cities. Salute him, Astartes!"

      And the War Hounds answered him. Hands and voices lifted in salute and axe-heads were crashed against the floor. Gathering around Angron, he towering silently at their centre, they shouted and saluted again, and again, and Kharn found the strength and voice to stagger to join the circle and add his shouts to theirs.

      "Primarch," said Angron. His voice was a murmur, but it cut the War Hounds’ voices straight to silence. "I am a general again."

      "Primarch!" shouted Dreagher in response, "General! Your warriors were the eaters of cities, lord, but with you to command us the War Hounds will be the eaters of worlds!"

      For a moment Angron swayed, his eyes and fists closed. But then he looked at Dreagher, from there to Khârn. And he smiled. "World Eaters," he said, slowly, tasting the sounds. "World Eaters. So you shall be, then, little brothers. You’ll learn to cut the rope. We shall bleed, and be brothers." This time they all met his eyes. Slowly, one of Angron’s great fists came up to return their salutes.

      "Come with me, then, World Eaters. Come down into my chamber and we will speak." Angron turned on his heel and
      walked back into his chamber.

      Silently, supporting Khârn in their midst, the World Eaters followed their primarch down into that darkness that stank of blood.
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:03 pm

Perhaps this belongs more in the Angron thread, but seeing as Khârn is a World Eater, I feel like we need to look at the Index Astartes entry for the Legion. Here we go...
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CHOSEN OF KHORNE
The World Eaters Space Marine Legion, by Graham McNeill - Codex: Index Astartes Vol. III, p. *
Spoiler
Of all the Space Marine Legions created by the Emperor to reconquer the galaxy during the Great Crusade, none were more feared than the World Eaters. At the forefront of the bloodiest assaults and most vicious battles, the name of World Eaters became a byword for bloodshed and terror on a horrifying scale.

Origins
--------------------------------------------
Kept chained within the deepest dungeon of the Library Sanctus on Terra, the bloodstained pages of the Liber Malum regards the tale of those who have Trod the path to damnation. To even mention its name is to risk madness.

- more incomming -

*M2C
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:00 am

Need to find the rules for this thing in particular, but this is Khârn's Character Sheet for Warhammer 40,000 Warriors (I think)...

The rules may give us a better understanding, but it may help us get a general idea of his physicality and fighting prowess if compared to the others of that series.
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Jwlynas » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:16 pm

I know its a little Necromantic, but I think its rather fitting that the Kharn thread brings itself back after being dead purely by its own will (and additional info)

Thats right Ladies and Gentleman, Kharn has reappeared in the canon. Still mid-heresy, but it does have him beating a precognicent psyker to death with his bear hands, and gives some insight into his psyche, which is handy.

Spoiler
Chris Wraight

Rebirth

I have no idea how long I’ve been out. I should have; my enhanced memory and catalepsean function should have retained some trace, but everything is blank. Presumably, that is part of the process. They want to induce doubt, to make me question whether I am up to this. If that is so, then they have succeeded. My total lack of recall preys on my mind. I do not like not knowing. It feels, certainly, like I’ve been ignorant of far too many facts for far too long. But I am alive, and my hearts beat. That is something. Since coming round, I have had several minutes to reflect on my situation. That is useful too, though also no doubt part of some planned sequence. I run down the basics, the physical aspects of my predicament. It helps, to force my mind into something mechanical. As I do so, I feel a degree of mental alertness returning.

I am in a chair. I am naked. My wrists, ankles, neck and chest are shackled with iron bands. No, not iron – I’d be able to break that. Something similarly blunt and uncomfortable. There is almost no light. I can make out the outline of my limbs dimly, but little else. My breathing is light, and there is an old pain behind my rib-fused chest. My secondary heart is still beating, indicating that I am recovering from some extensive trauma or exertion. I can feel no major wounds on my body, though there are many hundreds of bruises and abrasions, consistent with having been in action recently. I have no mind-sight. I sense no souls nearby. For the first time since ascending into the ranks of the Legion, I remember what it is like to be alone with my own thoughts.

At first, this is strangely comforting, like stumbling across a memento of a happy childhood. But I do not take comfort for long, since my non-psychic senses are not as truncated. As my body adjusts and my faculties return, I realise that I am not alone. There is someone in the chamber with me, invisible in the dark. I cannot see him, but I can smell him and hear him. There is blood on his hands, and it makes the air of this confined chamber sharp and unsavoury. He breathes in ragged, shuddering draughts, like a panting animal held briefly at bay. For the moment, that is all I sense. We sit in silence for a while longer, and I try to recall the events leading up to this moment. They come back to me only slowly, and in disconnected parts. It takes a long time for him to speak. When he does, the voice takes me by surprise. It is magnificent.

There is tightly-contained savagery in that voice, a throat-wet growl that slips round the words and underpins each of them with a precise degree of mordant threat. I suspect this is no charade to make me uneasy, but simply the way my interrogator talks. So the process begins the way these things always begin, the way a million interrogations have started since the dawn of organised violence. ‘Tell me your name and company designation,’ he says. And for a moment, for a terrible moment, I realise that I cannot remember.


‘Menes Kalliston, Captain, Fourth Fellowship, Thousand Sons.’ I remember that after a few moments, and the words come quickly to my parched lips. That is what one is meant to say, I believe – name, rank and serial number. Perhaps I should resist saying more, though I feel strangely reluctant to stay silent. They may have injected loquazine into my bloodstream, but I doubt it. I see no reason not to talk for a while. After all, I have no idea why I’m here, or what’s going on, or how long I will be alive. ‘What are you doing on Prospero?’ he asks. ‘I could ask you the same thing.’ ‘You could. And I could kill you.’ I think he wants to kill me. There’s something in the voice, some timbre of eagerness, that gives it away. He’s holding himself back. He’s a Space Marine, I guess. There’s very little else like that voice, rolling up from those enhanced lungs and that muscle-slabbed gullet and that great barrel-chest like water from a deep mill. We are brothers then, of a sort.

‘What do you know of the destruction of this planet?’ he asks. His voice hasn’t been raised yet. He speaks carefully, keeping the tide of violence in check. It would not take much to break that dam. ‘We were ordered to leave orbit six months ago,’ I say. The truth seems the best policy, at least for now. ‘Some questioned it, but I did not. I never doubted the orders of my primarch. It was only later, when we could not make contact, that we realised something was wrong.’ ‘How much later?’ ‘Weeks. We’d been in the warp.’ ‘Why did you not come back at once?’ Ah, yes. I have asked myself that many times. As the questions come, I remember more of myself. I still cannot recall what led me to this place, though. The blank is complete, like a steel mask over the past. There is an art to making such a mask, and it is not easy to master. I realise the calibre of those who have me captive.

‘I wanted to. Others did not. We made enquiries through astropaths, but our battle-codes were rejected whenever we made contact. Soon after that, our ships were attacked. By you, I presume, or those in league with you.’ Does my guess hit home? Am I nearing the truth? My interrogator gives no sign. He gives nothing away but the smell of blood and the hot, repeated breathing in the dark. ‘Did many of you survive?’ ‘I don’t know. Dispersal was the only option.’ ‘So your ship came here alone.’ ‘Yes.’ Should I be more evasive? I really don’t know. I have no strategy, no objective. None of the information I give him seems important. Perhaps it would do, if I could remember more of the circumstances of my capture. My mind-sight remains dark. To be confined to the five senses of my birth has become crippling. I realise then that the withdrawal will only get worse. I don’t know whether it’s permanent, or some feature of the chamber I’m in, or a temporary injury.

As an Athanaean, I have become used to picking up the mental images of others shimmering beyond their faces, like a candle flickering behind a cotton sheet. I’m handling its removal badly. It’s making me want to talk, to find some way of filling the gap. And, in any case, I don’t need psychic senses to detect the extremity of my interrogator. He’s cradling some enormous capacity for rage, for physical violence, and it’s barely in check. This is either something I can use, or it places me in terrible danger. ‘Even so, it took you a long time to come back,’ he remarks. ‘Warp storms held us. They were impenetrable for months.’ My interrogator laughs then, a horrifying sound like throat-cords being pulled apart. ‘They were. Surely you know what caused them.’ I sense him leaning forwards. I can see nothing, but the breathing comes closer. I have a mental image of a long, tooth-filled mouth, with a black tongue lolling out, and have no idea how accurate it is. ‘You were either blessed, or cursed, that you made it through,’ he says, and I feel the joy he takes in the control of my fate. ‘I have yet to determine which it will be, but we will come to that soon.’


‘So how did you feel, seeing the destruction of your home world?’ The question surprises me. What does it matter, what I feel about anything? If this is an interrogation by a member of the forces occupying the planet, I would have expected questions on the disposition of the remains of my Legion, on the lingering capabilities of the survivors – something, at least, about military matters. But then, there is much that is strange about this interrogation. I have the overwhelming feeling that I am not just here for the information I can provide. No, this unseen questioner wants something else. ‘Uncomfortable,’ I reply. ‘But nothing more than that. We knew something of what to expect. My deputy is a seer, and he had made us aware of what had happened in its broadest outline.’ At the mention of Arvida, I wonder if he still lives. Perhaps he is being questioned in a cell like this too, or maybe he lies dead in the glass dust of the city. ‘Uncomfortable?’ he repeats. The word seems to irritate him, and the breathing becomes more erratic. ‘You were spineless,’ he says, and the voice is harsh and accusatory. ‘You come back here, like damned reclamators, picking through the rubble of what you let be destroyed. If this had been my world I’d never have left it. I’d have killed any invader who dared come close to it, and damned be my primarch’s orders. You were weak, Captain Kalliston. Weak.’ He insists on the term, spitting it out. I sense his body coming closer. He is looming in the dark now, just beyond the ends of my chair-arms. Exhalations brush against my face, hot and caustic, like the breath of a dog. ‘If we’d known–’ I begin, starting to defend myself. I don’t know why I feel the urge to do this. It doesn’t matter what the questioner thinks of me, for my own conscience is untroubled. ‘If you’d known!’ he roars, cutting short my half-hearted response. Droplets of spittle hit my face. For a moment I think he’s flown into a rage, but then I realise he’s laughing.

‘Listen to yourself, Thousand Son. You’ve always been so proud, strutting across worlds conquered by the prowess of other Legions, glorying in your superior understanding of what we uncovered for you. Not for you the dirty work of fighting with your hands. Oh, no. There were always other fighters to do that for you, to take on the danger at close-quarters, freeing you up to spend those hours in your libraries. Did you ever guess how much we all held you in contempt?’ ‘We knew well enough,’ I say. It’s perfectly true – we knew just how much our brothers mistrusted us, and as a result worked hard not to provoke them. He’s entirely wrong that we gloried in our superior understanding. Instead, we hid it, tried to show it as little as possible. Those instincts, as it turns out, may well have been mistaken. ‘You knew? You could have fought like warriors, rather than drift into witchery. You had choices. I don’t understand you.’ Did we have choices? Prospero was a world soaked in the psychic possibility of the Great Ocean. We were all touched by it, for better or worse. I don’t think we could have turned down the opportunities that gave us, even though we knew it made the other Legions uneasy.

Ultimately, though, the question is pointless. We did what we did, and no power in the universe has ever been able to undo the past. ‘We fought,’ I reply, remembering the conquest of Shrike, when Magnus himself had led us in war. He’d been magnificent, unstoppable, just as much as Russ or Lorgar, every bit the vision of the Emperor’s most favoured son. ‘We played our part.’ ‘No longer,’ comes the riposte, savage with satisfaction. ‘Your part is over. Your pyramids are destroyed, and your bastard primarch’s back broken.’ He hates us. The hatred has not diminished with the humbling of my Legion. That may be why he brought me here. To gloat. My mind-sight is beginning to return, and I sense enormous frustration boiling within him. He has been left behind while others have departed for further conquest. This is one source of his anger. Soon, he will vent it on me. But I cannot believe that is the only motivation.

I am aware still how little I know. Why was Prospero destroyed? What, exactly, brought that doom upon us? The ignorance of that is more torture than anything this interrogator has planned for me. To die without uncovering those truths would be the most shameful way to go, and one that would vindicate Arvida’s doubts about coming back. Can I use the instability in my questioner to my advantage? Would he let slip secrets if I goaded him? A dangerous course of action – his cooped-up rage is like that of a beast, wild and indiscriminate. But then, there is little for me to lose. My Legion is scattered, my primarch missing, my home world blasted into a ball of lifeless slag. I would like some answers before he loses control of the furnace within him and ends this conversation for good.

‘Magnus is not dead,’ I say. ‘I would know if he’d died. It was in the hope of finding him that we came back here. You, though, seem to know everything about us and what happened to our planet. You hint at more, things that I can only guess at. Since you know so much, and I know so little, should it not be me asking the questions?’ In the near-complete dark, I make out only the sharpest flash of dirty-grey. A gauntlet plunges out of the shadow and grabs my neck. The fingers squeeze painfully, just below the chin and just above the metal band that holds my head in place. ‘You are prey for me, traitor,’ comes the bloody rumble of a voice. ‘Nothing more than that. Forget it, and I will end you with agony.’ The threat means little. As I struggle to breathe, though, I realise something else. My aether-drawn powers are returning. They are weak, to be sure, but they are creeping back to me in drabs. Perhaps he knows this, perhaps he doesn’t. In any case, I have a glimmer of a chance now. The longer this thing lasts, the stronger I will become. Maybe, just maybe, strong enough to break these bonds. The Ungifted Warriors have always underestimated what can be done with the mind, no doubt because we gifted have always been reluctant to use our skills unless pressed by necessity.

He releases his fist, and I gulp in draughts of blood-tanged air. He withdraws, though I can still feel him seething. He keeps his anger on an uncertain leash, as if it were a ravening predator continually tugging at its inadequate restraint. ‘How many were in your squad?’ he asks, recovering his poise with difficulty. That’s good. I hope he has many such questions. I will answer them all fully, all the while letting my control over the aether return. ‘Nine,’ I say, and though my speech is grudging and surly, in my mind there already kindles an eager anticipation for what is to come. ‘There were nine of us.’


‘Nine of you,’ he says. ‘Nine fools. You seem to have had few plans, other than to sniff around in the ruins and look for scraps. Did it never occur to you that the destroyers of Prospero would leave troops behind?’ ‘Of course it did.’ ‘And you still came.’ I briefly ponder whether to try my luck again. I can make him angry so easily, but there is the question of timing. For the moment, I restrain myself. ‘Yes. Our position was in any case bleak. We were alone, separated from what remained of our fleet. In such a position of ignorance, we were vulnerable. I decided to seek survivors on Prospero, perhaps the primarch himself. We knew that there were unlikely to be any, but there were other reasons to – as you say – sniff around in the ruins.’ There was a minuscule pause then, a slight catch in the otherwise metronomic regularity of the breathing. ‘Other reasons?’ I decide to keep talking, to stick to the truth. This interrogation will be coming to an end soon in any case. ‘Prospero was the greatest seat of learning in all the worlds of men,’ I say, and make no effort to keep the pride out of my voice. ‘There were libraries here that were the envy even of the ancient races. There were secrets in our vaults, secrets that even we hadn’t fully had the time to unlock properly. While you were sailing across the sea of stars, plundering and maiming, we were learning.’

As I speak, I recall using much the same words to persuade Arvida of the wisdom of returning home. He’d listened just as intently as my questioner did now. ‘You speak of witchery,’ I say. I dare a little more. ‘You know nothing of it. There are subtleties to the Great Ocean that only we understood. We could peer into the very stuff of the warp and make sense of the patterns there. We saw glimpses of the future, of possibilities more magnificent than there are words to describe.’ I begin to enthuse myself. I remember the devices that we used for learning, for discovery, for healing – the enormous potential that they had. We were like children, stepping into a dimension of wonder, our eyes glistening from the reflected glory. ‘I thought that, if some of those things survived, then we could retrieve them. If the fates determined that we were to be cast adrift, we could at least make some use of the tools that we’d accumulated.’

‘Did you find any?’ He is still eager, hungry for information now. The scorn has left his voice, replaced by something like need. Perhaps he has no idea how transparent he is. Odd, that he should be so brittle. I’d always imagined the Wolves being more sure of themselves. ‘No,’ I say, deflating his hopes as bluntly as I can. ‘We had no time. And, in any case, I doubt anything could have survived the mess you made of this place. You have destroyed everything. If I’d known it was you behind this carnage, I’d have expected nothing less. You are butchers and psychopaths, sadists and morons, the lowest of the–’ I know what I’m doing. His psychology is increasingly open to me. I raise his hopes, then dash them. I sense the fragility of his mind, and strike where I know the pain will be greatest. I only stop speaking as the fist crashes into my jaw. Even inured as I am to physical shock, it staggers me. He moves fast; far faster than I could have done. I feel bone breaking, my jawline fragmenting, and my head jarring back against the metal of the chair. Pain flares up, hot and bright behind my eyes. Then a secondary bloom of agony, rolling across my face. ‘You know nothing of us!’ he roars, and the voice is instantly unhinged with rage. Groggily, I realise I have unleashed something of incredible magnitude, and my stomach tightens.

He strikes me again, using his other fist, and my head bounces painfully from its bonds. What little vision I had disappears, to be replaced by a red-black, blotchy haze. Something else – a boot? – thuds into my exposed midriff, cracking my fused ribs and driving the plates in. ‘Nothing!’ he bellows, and a whole curtain of saliva slaps across my ruined cheeks. He is screaming into my face. I can summon nothing against this. I have moved too soon, and he will surely kill me. More hammer-blows impact, breaking my skin, tearing my muscles, shivering the bone beneath. My head rocks on my neck like a top, cracked back and forth by the casual, deadly fists. If it were not for my restraints keeping me in check, my neck would be severed clean by now. Then he stops. Merciful Throne, he stops.

I hear him raging still, incoherent with mania. He paces back and forth, trying to rein in whatever dark forces I have unleashed. I gasp for breath, feeling my punctured lungs labour. My head feels swollen with blood. The world reels around me, thick and dizzy with pain. His breathing is like an animal’s, ragged and laced with moisture. For a long time, he doesn’t speak. I don’t think he can. It takes time for the rage to subside. ‘You know nothing of us,’ he growls again, and the voice has resumed its terrifying, purring threat. I cannot respond. My own lips are puffy and cracked, and I feel my blood clotting in hard nodes within my wounds. ‘So certain,’ he spits, and I feel a slug of oily phlegm hit my body. ‘You’re so damned certain. And yet, as it turns out, you know even less than you think.

He comes close again, and I smell his sour aroma. That odour gives much away. There is a bestial quality to it, like the sodden flank of an old hunting dog, but there’s something else. Chemical, perhaps. ‘You still don’t know why I brought you here,’ he says. His contempt is needle-keen. ‘Time to shed some light.’ As he says it, wall-mounted lumens flare into life. The sudden exposure only adds more pain to the riot of it in my head, and my bruised eyes screw shut. It takes time for them to open again, gingerly, the lids trembling under flakes of dried blood. For the first time, I can see my questioner. As I look into his face, blurry and floating amid the harsh lights, I finally make out some detail, some identity. It is then that I realise, just as he said I would, that I know nothing at all.


My questioner’s armour, which I had thought was grey in the near-total dark, is a dirty white. The shoulder-guards were once a bright blue, though every exposed surface on his battle-plate is covered by a translucent layer of brown-red filth. So he is a War Hound. Or, as I believe they’ve started calling themselves, a World Eater. The assumed name is ludicrous, a perversion of everything the Legiones Astartes used to stand for. However, to the extent that I understand the ways of other Legions, it is perfectly accurate. They do devour planets. I have heard tales of outrages under Angron’s insane tutelage that make my stomach turn. The only Legion with a comparable reputation is the Wolves, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I found it so easy to believe I was held by one of Russ’s dogs. In the dark, I had imagined my interrogator being something akin to a beast, slavering on the edge of madness. The reality is only a little less disconcerting.

The World Eater’s head is uncovered, exposing the full distortion of his features. His flesh is bronzed and supple, though there are deep wells of shadow under his low brow. He has long cheekbones and a blunt, slabbed chin. His head is shaved bare, the scalp puckered with scars. There are regular marks on his temples and a series of iron studs further up on the smooth skin. In another Legion, those studs might have indicated long service, but I know their purpose on him. As with all his kind, there are implants under the flesh, implants long forbidden by the Emperor. The prohibition is for good reason. They accelerate the rage and stoke it, amplifying an already testosterone-charged kill-factory into a bringer of truly ludicrous levels of violence. And there is something else. The Space Marine before me is no ordinary World Eater, if such a thing could even be said to exist.

A few select members of that terror Legion have carved a name for themselves outside their closed, brooding brotherhood. This is one of them. I know, without needing to use my fractured mind-sight, that I am in the presence of Khârn, Captain of the Eighth Assault Company and equerry to the primarch. If I needed any confirmation that my death is close, I have it now. He stares at me. His eyes are the yellow of curdled milk, rimmed with red where the lids are pulled back. Veins pulse at his temples, bulging darkly against taut skin. He has a line of drool still, glistening against his chin. If I ever wish to conjure up the image of a psychopath again, I will have this picture to bring to mind. Khârn is almost a parody of himself, the apotheosis of martial insanity, a walking furnace of unfettered bloodlust. He was not always like this. Even in the stories I have heard, he was ferocious but not mad. Something has happened to change him. Something terrible.

‘Why have you brought me here?’ I ask. Khârn smiles, but there is no mirth there. It is as if his facial muscles pull naturally into a leer unless continually suppressed. ‘I am here for the same reason as you,’ he says. ‘Hunting through the wreckage, looking for something to salvage.’ Even in my weakened state, that image brings a choking, bitter laugh to my lips. I cannot imagine World Eaters salvaging anything. They are the soul of destruction and nothing else. ‘And did you find what you were looking for?’ Khârn nods. ‘There is a cavern, far below the surface of Tizca. You will know of it – the Reflecting Cave. We speculated that the Wolves might have missed it, despite their reputation for thoroughness. There was something down there I was ordered to retrieve.’ He withdraws an iron pendant from his armour. It is fashioned into the shape of a wolf’s head howling against a crescent moon. The metal is black, as if placed in a fire for too long. ‘The Moon Wolf,’ says Khârn. ‘Your primarch used it to make contact with Horus. It was a part of the Warmaster’s armour once, and so has a sympathetic connection with him.’

He speaks as if those words should mean something to me, though I struggle to see the significance of them. ‘It could be used again, and Horus has no wish to be reached for further discussions. It will be destroyed, and another potential chink in our defences will be closed off. Then, thank the gods, I shall be free to undertake more fulfilling work for the cause.’ ‘I do not understand,’ I say, and the passing reference to gods makes me uneasy. ‘What has Horus to do with this? What has happened here?’ Khârn doesn’t smile this time, but I can sense a vicious amusement cradling in him. I sense more than that, too. He is burning with agony, an agony that can only be discharged by murder. The Moon Wolf was not the only reason he came to Prospero. ‘You really know nothing,’ he says. ‘I had planned to torture you for your secrets, but I see that you have none. So I shall torture you another way.’ He leans forwards, and I recoil at the raw-meat stench of his breath.

‘Listen to me, Thousand Son, and I will tell you a story. I will tell you of the great movement that is taking place across the galaxy. I will tell you of the ruin of all your primarch’s hopes and the final triumph of the virtuous strong over the craven weak. And then, before I kill you, I will tell you of the final destination of this crusade, the crusade men are already beginning, in their infinite ignorance, to call the Heresy.’


I had always considered it a gift to be able to peer inside the veils of a man’s mind. I had always valued my ability to tell whether my interlocutor was lying or telling the truth, just as an ungifted mortal might make imperfect use of pulse-rates, sweating, or evasive gazes. Such a capability seemed to me one of the most precious of possessions, just one more piece of evidence for the ineluctable progress of mankind towards mortal godhood. Now I recognise the price for such perspicuity. I cannot doubt the things I have been told. I cannot reassure myself that Khârn is concealing the truth from me, because his mind is like a translucent vial and there is no concealment possible. So I must believe. I must believe what he says about the ruin of the Great Crusade and the turning of the primarchs to darkness, and the gathering storm that even now extends its pinions towards Terra. I must believe that my gene-father, whom I had revered along with the rest of my brothers, was guilty of the most terrible miscalculation, and has passed beyond the confines of the physical universe with the remnants of our Legion. I must believe that my survival is a pointless thing, a piece of unresolved business from a war that I have been denied any meaningful part in.

As he speaks, my recovery accelerates, and my ability to make use of my powers returns more quickly. My body embarks on the astonishing process of repair that it has been able to conduct ever since the implant of my enhanced organs. I am preparing to extend my life again, to resist whatever fresh assault comes my way. That is what I have been turned into, a vehicle for survival. Even in the face of such overwhelming trauma, my blood still clots, my sinews pull back into shape and my bones repair the cracks in their structure. By telling me these things, in such agonising detail, he has given me the space to become myself again. I have weapons. I have the ability to hurt him, perhaps even the ability to kill him. Does he know this? Is my degradation so complete that he no longer sees me as any kind of threat? He may be right. My spirit, my certainty is gone. The actions of Magnus are either incomprehensible or evil.

In either case, I cannot focus my thoughts on anything but the betrayal. Why did he send us away? He must have known we’d seek to return, or that the vengeful forces that destroyed this world would come after us in the void. He was the mightiest of us all, the magus, the one who saw the snaking paths of the Ocean most clearly of all. So I cannot put it down to simple omission. There are patterns here to be read. There are always patterns. ‘So, Thousand Son,’ asks my tormentor. ‘What do you make of that?’ He delights in my misery. It draws his attention from his own discontent. It is a cliché as old as the universe, the bully inflicting pain in order to send it away from himself. It won’t work. The pain will catch up with him in the end, even if he has to kill every other sentient life-form in the galaxy first.

‘You allied yourself with the traitor,’ I say, and I hear the hollow ring to my words. ‘You call him traitor. History will call him redeemer.’ ‘And you tell me the Wolves of Fenris did this to punish our treachery. Then why do you hunt us?’ ‘They came for you because they believed you had turned. We come for you because we know that you didn’t. Not truly. Not reliably. Our cause demands commitment.’ ‘So you never did believe in Unification? It was always a sham for you?’ Khârn grimaces. He is like a child, and his emotions play across his face nakedly. My mind-sight is overkill here – the rawest practicus could read him now. ‘We believed in it completely,’ he growls, and the raw emotion rises to just below the surface. ‘None believed in it more than we did. None laid their bodies on the line to the extent that we did.’

He comes closer. His eyes stare at me, glistening in the bright light. ‘We are fighters,’ he says. ‘We are made in the image of our primarch, just as you are made in the image of yours, and he has been betrayed and cast aside, even as the rule of the galaxy passes from the warriors to the slavemasters.’ I do not understand the reference to slavemasters, but it scarcely matters, for Khârn is no longer talking to me. ‘They will use us again to fight their battles while they remain in the audience, laughing. They are the audience, who watch as we come for them in their stalls. We will do to them what Angron should have done in Desh’ea. We will fulfill the potential within us.’

I see his pupils flicker, and can only guess at what scenes he is seeing. Like a prophet trapped in his own visions, Khârn is locked in a world of unreliable memory and paranoia. The damage done to his mind is heartbreaking. All that energy, all that raw potency, has been harnessed to an engine of lunacy. Enough. It is time to show him how much I understand. ‘You didn’t come here for the Moon Wolf,’ I say, keeping my voice quiet. ‘You came here because you knew what devices once existed on Prospero. You hoped to find a cure.’ That halts him. He glares at me, and a fleck of spittle shines on his hanging lip like a jewel. ‘There is still time,’ I say, knowing the danger it places me in. I begin to wonder if this encounter was foreseen after all. ‘The devices have all been destroyed, but I can replicate their functions. I can heal your mind. I can remove the implants and give you back your sleep. I can take away the fire that drives you onwards, the fire that goads you to the acts you abhor. Even now, I know that a part of you still abhors what you have done.’

The spittle hangs, trembling, on his unmoving flesh. ‘I can help you, brother. I can heal your mind.’ He remains locked, frozen in indecision. If I had been Corvidae, I could have seen the paths of the future bisect within him, one going left, one going right. He is at the juncture now, what the ancients called crisis. He has the power to choose, to pull back or to plough on. I cannot intervene. The slightest nudge now will unleash the inferno, one that would toss me aside like dried brush in the hurricane. I dare to believe in him for the space of a heartbeat. He looks at me, and I see the vindication of my guesses. He is lost in a universe of pain, one that is only temporarily forgotten in the action of killing. I know that my words have reached the sliver of his old self that still endures. I know he can hear me. And so we remain, alone, locked away somewhere in the ruins of Prospero, a tiny mirror of the battle of wills taking place all across the galaxy. And for that single heartbeat, I dare to believe.

‘Witch!’ he roars then, and the spittle flies from his lips. ‘You cannot heal this!’ Like a prey-beast springing away from the spear, he drags up a cry of tortured rage, shaking his head from side to side, flailing sweat from the bronze skin. He balls his massive fists, and I know they will come for me soon. His face contorts into a vice of bitter anguish, the expression that it will surely wear for millennia hence if I cannot stop him now. He has chosen. I cry aloud words of power, words I had forgotten existed until this moment. I am weak, crippled by the rigours of my captivity, but the lessons of my long conditioning are strong. I am Athanaean, a master of the hidden ways of the mind, and there are more weapons in the galaxy than fists and blades. My bonds shatter, freeing me to move. I rise from the chair, wreathed in the blazing light of the unbound aether, ignoring the protests of my broken limbs.

He comes at me then, the Eater of Worlds, and there is murder in his red-rimmed eyes. I have hurt him by exposing the source of his anguish, and I know then he will not stop until I lie dead and my blood paints every wall of this cell. But we are on my world, the wellspring of my Legion’s ancient power, and the very dust of Tizca fuels my mastery of the warp. I am more powerful than he guesses. He howls, this ruined abomination, as he thunders into strike-range. I meet the challenge, and my conscience is clear. I cannot cure him, so I will have to kill him.

His fists move in blurs of speed, backed up by the prodigious power of his massive body. He has no weapon, but that scarcely seems to matter. He is used to carving up his foes with his hands. He is always attacking, always looking for the way in. I parry as best I can, holding him back by attacking his only vulnerable part. I see his mind now as it will become in the future – a cauldron of seething, perpetual violence. The brief window I had on another Khârn has closed, and the corrupted half is all that remains. I can hammer away at that, flexing my telepathic muscles as he flexes his unnaturally stimmed physical ones, though I fear my attacks have little bite. He wades through warp-born attacks that would floor a lesser adversary.

I know I must be hurting him, but he brushes it off. Perhaps there is no pain I could inflict that is greater than the one he inflicts on himself. ‘Witch!’ he roars again, coming at me in a barrelling, swaying charge. I leap to the side, crashing against the metal walls of the cell, only evading his outstretched hands by finger-widths. I unleash everything I have then, a whirling torrent of memory-scorching agony capable of ripping the sanity from a man and dissolving it like magnesium in water. But there is so little sanity to rip away, and he barely stumbles. I make use of the gap I created, and throw a heavy punch at his exposed head. My fist connects. It is a well-aimed blow, and impacts with all the force I can deliver. His skull rocks back and blood joins the trails of saliva in the air. Then I am moving again, evading the furious response. He is like a whirlwind, a morass of hurtling limbs. I feel a heavy thud as his boot rises, catching me on my hip. There is a jarring crack as my pelvis fractures. I scramble away from him, sprawling face-down to the floor.

Another foot connects, breaking the femur in my trailing leg. Out of my armour, I have so little defence against attacks of this quantity and magnitude. The absurdity of my defiance is laughable. I roll over onto my back, spinning away from a floor-breaking fist-plunge. Khârn towers over me. Froth spills from his lips, and his eyes bulge from their swollen sockets. It is my pity that has doomed me. Pity is the only emotion he can no longer tolerate, the one that reminds him of what he once was. If I had not offered to cure him, perhaps I would have lived. Perhaps he would have persuaded me of the righteousness of his cause, and I would have joined the movement that he says will liberate the galaxy. It is that thought that persuades me I was right to try. As I gaze up into the mask of trembling fervour above me, I see what fate would have awaited me as a part of that dark crusade.

He has lost himself, and what remains is now much less than human. His clenched gauntlet swoops down, hitting me square in the face. The bones, already weakened, crunch inwards. I feel the back of my head drive a dent into the metal floor, and the hot stickiness of the blood in the well as it rebounds out again. The world tilts, rocking on an axis of nausea. I only dimly feel the second blow, cracking into my ribs. My body becomes a chorus of pain, resounding in discordant polyphony. Through blood-swelled eyes I see the fist coming that will finish me. It is fitting, to witness the cause of my own death. As a loyal son of the Imperium, I never wished for more than that. I have time for only one more thought before the end comes. I gave you the choice, Khârn. When the murder and madness are over, you will have the leisure to reflect on that. You could have turned back. That knowledge, I know, will haunt him. I dread to think what he will become when his rampage ends and he is forced to confront that. I can guess. I guess that he will become uncontainable, and will turn on whatever force has sought to channel his rage for its own purposes. None shall master him, for he has lost mastery over himself.

When the fist lands, that is what I am thinking. There is no comfort in it. And, of course, there will be no comfort in anything again.
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Matapiojo » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:05 pm

First, great yarn. Thanks for it.

Second, calling a contribution to a respect thread an act of necromancy is an oximoron.

Third, KHARN!!!!
AquilaChrysaetos wrote:Don't make mata mad. Or he'll do this:\
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Jwlynas » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:08 pm

If this is the angle they take with all world eaters I'll be most pleased. Honourable and skilled warriors being driven truly insane against their wills, raging against the unfairness even as they rage against the enemy... love it.
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Re: Khârn the Betrayer [Discussion]

Postby Commander Cross » Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:07 pm

Does Kharn possess a demonic form, if i may ask?

Also oddly enough, his name is actually Arabic for Betrayer if i read it right, from somewhere(I googled the name!) so basically he's Betrayer the Betrayer. :ugeek:
http://dragcave.net/image/n765.gif

Please help save the dragon egg.

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Reminds me of factpile in general!
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