[40K] World Eaters (part 1)
07/10/2013 in Warhammer 40K
A Warhammer 40,000 story by LoneLictor.
This story originally appeared on www.dakkadakka.com and is presented here with permission from the author.
We must no longer concern ourselves
with the God Emperor’s disapproval regarding our methods
In the service of Lord Khorne, we have found the perfect outlet for our rage
-Chaplain Xabreith of the XII Legion
The Long War
According to a series of papers written by the late Inquisitor Thrax, the armies of Khorne fight for the thrill of battle and the pleasure of vanquishing one’s opponent. This is not entirely true.
Slaughter Brother Erezak was a sight to behold. His armor was the vibrant blood red, brass edged plate of the World Eaters. Hydraulic tubing ran about his form, plugging into outlets that were carved to resemble the eight pointed star of Chaos. Skulls, some human and others daemonic, were mounted on trophy poles and swaying from rusted chains. The brass icon of Khorne and the outlandish symbol of the World Eaters, a verdant blue and green world caught in the maw of some sort of fanged beast, were built into every facet of his armor. In one hand he clutched a whirring chainaxe, it’s rending teeth stained a dark, gore red from 10,000 years of slaughter, and in the other hand he held an archaic bolter pistol, fed a by a belt of warp cursed ammunition.
He and a thousand other Berzerkers just like him came crashing into the Imperial Fists’ position, screaming bloody praise for their mad God.
Subtlety was not the World Eaters’ strong suit.
It was snowing ash following the initial orbital bombardment. The nuclear winter had blotted out the sun, pitching the world of Sekia III into eternal night. Sekia III’s only light source came from the orange hell-glow of it’s burning cities. Radiation poisoning had taken care of the Guardsmen regiments stationed at the miserable world, reducing proud veterans of a hundred campaigns to pale and bald, skeleton thin wretches begging for death. Now the only thing that stood between the Black Legion and Sekia III was the half company of Imperial Fists entrenched in what was once the Planetary Governor’s palace. So, by the decree of the Warmaster himself, the World Eaters had been unleashed.
Erezak leapt over a tank trap and charged his way through a patch of barbed wire. It tangled around him, catching on the spikes jutting from his armor. Not that he paid that any mind; all that mattered was blood. There was blood to be shed. A solid slug round ricocheted off his armor, throwing him off balance. He stumbled through the ruins, barely keeping his footing. The alarm runes of his heads-up-display blinked angrily as it pinpointed the source of the shot. ENEMY AT 3:34. He turned to see an Imperial Fists scout, decked out in mustard yellow carapace armor and a black cloak. The scout had taken up a position atop a small mountain of rubble, surrounded by the corpses of his squadmates and the Berzerkers they’d slain. He held a sniper rifle that was taller than him.
Red hot rage consumed Erezak. Rage towards this weakling for daring to fire upon him. Rage towards this weakling for being yet another pawn of the Corpse Emperor. Rage towards the Emperor for abandoning and betraying the Legions. Rage towards the Gods for the fate of the World Eaters.
Rage towards an ultimately uncaring universe.
Erezak came flying at the Scout, fueled by 10,000 years of festering bitterness and hatred. The Scout let his rifle fall to the ground, drawing a blade just in time to meet Erezak’s ax. Frothing into his vox-grill, the Berzerker knocked knocked the Scout’s blade back with his ax and raised his bolter pistol so that it was no more than an inch away from the Imperial bastard’s face. The bastard’s head disappeared, leaving behind a bloody mist. His carapace armor held his headless corpse up until Erezak attacked with his chain ax, sending the corpse tumbling down through the rubble.
There was no satisfaction to be taken from this carnage. Slaughter Brother Erezak was already moving on, prowling for another foe. The battle would be over soon and then the World Eaters would be rounded back up by their Black Legionnaire masters. There would be no fighting back against them; all of the Dark Pantheon, even Erezak’s patron deity of Khorne, were unified behind the Black Legion. Resistance would only squander the Traitor Legion’s resources and further draw out the Long War.
As stated earlier, the World Eaters do not fight for the thrill of it. Pleasure is anathema to them. They fight because hyponotrinsic conditioning, ‘psycho-implants’ surgically grafted to their cerebral cortexs and the dark blessing of Khorne have perverted them so that they know only rage. They fight because bloodshed and warfare should be an outlet for their rage, but it isn’t. The World Eaters can never cast off the rage that consumes their minds. They will never know true peace or happiness.
“BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!”
Lord Kaalek of the World Eaters 3rd Company had found another worthy skull to add to his collection.
He strode forth clad in a suit of crimson Tactical Dreadnought Army, easily dwarfing the Berzerkers around him. Every slow, deliberate footstep thundered against the metal grate floor. It seemed impossible that he could even support his tremendous bulk. While regular Berzerkers were terrifying, Kaalek’s appearance was more awe-inspiring. Those who looked upon him just wanted to look away, yet his presence demanded their complete attention. His head was slanted forward and feral in appearance, reminiscent of a Terran hound. Twin rows of trophy poles ran down the curvature of his hunched back. Each pole was around five feet tall and filled to the brim with skulls, only a small fraction of which were human. There were tusk mouthed Orks and leering, asymmetrical Daemon skulls adorning the poles too.
Erezak should have felt loyalty or at the very least, respect towards such an esteemed Champion of Khorne. Instead, he felt only rage. Lord Kaalek was unworthy and unfit leader, having led the 3rd company into ruin and handed over what was left of them to the Black Legion. A small part of himself understood that Kaalek had been handed an impossible task. The Berzerkers of Khorne couldn’t be led; they were incapable of taking orders or performing any battlefield tasks beyond blazing straight into the enemy. A quote from Kharn the Betrayer illustrated this well; “Attack is the only order worth remember.”
An Imperial Fists Captain, clad in yellow terminator plate not unlike Kaalek’s, was the last survivor of the World Eaters attack. In one hand he held a gore-encrusted chainfist, an Imperial Aquila engraved into the back of his hand. His other hand was missing, having been loped off by a power ax. He stood atop a pile of the Berzerkers he’d slain, beads of sweat running down his scarred face. The slaughter he’d inflicted on the World Eaters had made his skull a worthy trophy for Lord Kaalek.
Kaalek ascended the mound of corpses with unnatural speed. The Captain was ready for him, throwing a brutal punch at Kaalek the minute the World Eater came within range. Batting the his chainfist aside with a shimmering power-ax, Kaalek swiped at the Captain’s head with his lightning claw. The servos of his armor clanking and groaning at the unfamiliar movement, the Captain just barely managed to duck beneath the lightning claw. Kaalek swung straight past the Imperial bastard, throwing his balance off. It gave the Captain just the opportunity he needed. He jabbed his chainfist as Kaalek’s torso. Just as the rotating blades were about to meet the ceramite plate of Kaalek’s barrel chest, his arm went limp.
A crazed Berzerker had slit the tendons of his forearm with a well placed slash of a power blade.
Lord Kaalek put all his strength into the blow. His power mace hit the Berzerker hard, shattering his chest plate and sending him flying. The crater in his torso trailed dirty black smoke as he tumbled off the mound of corpses. He had stolen Kaalek’s kill, and he would have to pay for this. When the Berzerker hit the concrete ground his former comrades fell upon him like a pack of feral dogs. Erezak plunged his chainaxe into the Berzerker’s ruined chest and thrust it forward, into the pulpy remains of his organs. He was showered with chunky gore.
The Imperial Fists Captain, now missing both his arms, stumbled backwards away from Kaalek. He stared at the twin stumps where his hands once were in disbelief, then looked up just in time to see the power mace speeding towards his face. The collar of his terminator armor caved in, belching sparks and flame. His head more or less disappeared, leaving behind a thick past. Though the World Eaters’ bloodlust was far from spent, the battle was over.
Erezak heard a rough, grating voice in his head. It was familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He’d heard it before, somewhere.
It took him a moment to realize it was his own.
He’d been running so long on pure feral instinct that he’d forgotten what thinking was like.
Fear was lost to Erezak. He hadn’t been graced by it in over 10,000 years, since he was just a mortal ganger living on Terra. Though he was capable of paranoia, anxiety and worry, he could never feel true fear. When he heard something slithering around in his quarters in the middle of the night, he didn’t panic like a mortal would. Rather, he calmly assessed the situation and acted on his assessment, usually by flying into a rage and charging at whatever it was he heard.
He could remember fear though. To him, fear had been like drowning. You can’t breathe, you can’t think and you’re completely helpless. It was one of the most extreme sensations, one that he imagined would be euphoric compared to his unending rage. Erezak couldn’t help but think that his memory of it may have eroded over the years, and it hadn’t ever been as pleasing as he’d remembered it to be. The mortals who were still graced with the gift of fear seldom appreciated it. Most loathed it, even going as far as to envy Astartes like himself.
Furthermore, fear was forbidden.
Fear was sensation and sensation was anathema to Khorne. Rage, the kind of mindless blood-lust of the World Eaters, accomplished great things. It was rage that tore down the walls of the Imperium Palace and brought the Emperor to heel. Sensation on the other hand accomplished nothing. The sensory addicts of Slaanesh were thoroughly self-obsessed psychopaths, aspiring to and achieving little to nothing. Simultaneously, the World Eater’s rage was both a boon and a curse. It motivated them to do great things, at the cost of their sanity and eternal souls. They viewed it as one would view generosity; it is a self-destructive virtue, but its for a greater cause.
A rich man is morally obligated to give some of his wealth to a poor man.
A World Eater is morally obligated to give his chain ax to a poor man’s face.
Erezak sat in his quarters dead silent for many hours, fighting the temptations of sensation. He repeated the mantras of Khorne again and again to himself; “Sensation is self absorption. Self absorption is weakness. Weakness is failure.” Soon he had spoken the words so many times they had lost all meaning, becoming just an aimless string of syllables.
The mantras might have worked, had the World Eaters not been in the exact same situation as the Emperor’s Children. For all their rage and blood-lust, they were just as broken and weak. They were splintered into thousands of competing warbands, most of which were enslaved to the Warmaster’s Black Legion. Khorne had turned his favor towards the renegade Red Corsairs of the Maelstrom, as had Slaanesh, leaving their once chosen Legions.
Erezak stood up and approached his quarter’s sink, each step slow and deliberate. He clogged and the drain and turned on the faucet, which then began to pour filthy water. It was an orangish color, having been contaminated by rusting pipes. For about ten minutes Erezak watched the sink fill. When it began to overflow, he turned the faucet off and submerged his face in the water. There was the initial ‘shock’ of coldness that caused every muscle in his body to tense. On reflex he opened his mouth, struggling to breath, the water rushed in. His teeth ached horribly from the coldness, and the water’s bitter, polluted taste caused him to gag and cough uncontrollably.
It took only thirty seconds without air for his super-human body to begin suffering from the effects of oxygen deprivation. Fatigue and light-headedness consumed him. He couldn’t think, just like during the battle. Whenever Erezak needed his mind most, it left him. Unable to keep his head submerged any longer, the World Eater wrenched his head out of the water and stumbled back across his quarters, gasping for air.
He still hadn’t felt fear. True fear left you feeling completely helpless. Erezak was in full control of the moment; he could’ve brought his head up any time he wanted.
Erezak sat on his bunk, watching the seconds tick by on the blinking chronometer of his heads-up display. He mumbled fervent prayers to the Blood God, praying to be absolved all of all sin and all weakness. He prayed for the strength to resist the temptations of Slaanesh, and a painless death if he could not.
His eyes glazed over. Ten thousand years of warfare caught up with Erezak in an instant, and fatigue overcame him. His limbs felt too heavy to move. His breathing became slow and labored. Erezak had gone too long without combat. Without the din of battle to distract him, his body’s weakness had become apparent. He hadn’t eaten or slept for years. But Erezak couldn’t allow himself to rest and recuperate. He was still angry. Erezak’s rage wasn’t towards one particular thing, but the whole universe around him for condemning him and his Legion to such a miserable fate. He couldn’t just allow his rage to fester; he needed to go out and do something, anything. The Berzerker needed to claim yet more skulls for the Blood God and unleash the horrors and suffering on the Imperium he’d been promised. There were mortals to be slain and empires to be toppled. He was a Slaughter Brother of the World Eaters 4th Company, a soldier geneo-engineered to be the perfect killer and blessed by the God of Warfare himself; the universe was his for the taking.
Despite all this, Erezak remained seated on his bunk.
Slaughter Brother Zero-Zero-Five-Nine, stand up and place your hands on the wall.
Erezak blinked and his vision returned. His chronometer indicated that six months had passed. Six months of brooding in complete solitude. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. That didn’t make it any more bearable; it was always unnerving when time seemed to skip. Of course, time didn’t really skip. It had just passed without him. There were entire centuries he couldn’t remember, where he’d gone into trance-like states and suddenly entire years had passed him by.
Slaughter Brother Zero-Zero-Five-Nine, stand up and place your hands on the wall.
The voice was harsh and inhuman. It belonged to an adapt of the Dark Mechanicum. No agents of the Dark Mechanicum served the World Eaters. The Black Legion and Iron Warriors were the only Legions that held significant Dark Mechanicum presences. The other Legions relied on raids into the material or sorcery for their resources. In the case of the World Eaters and Emperor’s Children, they simply didn’t collect resources at all, being content to simply watch their Legions being whittled away by the years.
Slaughter Brother Zero-Zero-Five-Nine, stand up and place your hands on the wall. We are coming in.
Yes, he remembered where he was now. He was with the rest of the 4th Company, fighting in the service of the Black Legion somewhere in the Cadian sector. It was the 13th Black Crusade, which was very little different from the other ones. The Great Crusade, the Horus Heresy, the Armageddon Campaign, the Gothic War, and the 13th Black Crusade were all the same. Erezak killed because he was angry, as did his comrades, and when he could not kill he felt his mind giving way to insanity.
“My name,” he said. “Is Slaughter Brother Erezak.”
His quarters’ door slid open, hissing steam. A Black Legionnaire stalked inside, keeping his bolter fixed on Erezak’s head. Moisture clung to his bronze-trimmed warplate. On the surface, the Legionnaire was unblemished by mutation, but he stank of the warp. Beneath his warplate, the Legionnaire likely resembled a seven foot tall scaly abortion. Following the Legionnaire was an Adapt of the Dark Mechanicum, his form a mass of hydraulic cabling and swollen musculature held together by an adamantium frame. The Adapt’s face was slanted forward, making it reptilian in appearance. Wispy grey hair clung to his skinless scalp. He licked his cracked lips, revealing a mouth full of metal teeth.
Understood, Slaughter Brother Erezak. Stand up and place your hands on the wall. Please remain calm.
Erezak hadn’t heard the word ‘please’ in a long time. He reluctantly stood up, the servos of his armor whining after six months of lethargy. His limbs ached. Erezak put his palms flat against the wall and sighed, preparing himself for his upcoming humiliation. The Adapt retrieved a pair of over-sized handcuffs from one of the pockets of his heavy robes. It fit around Erezak’s wrists perfectly, locking into the ceramite plate of his armor. The worst was yet to come. Trying his best to keep his mannerisms and expression neutral, the Adapt procured a length of brass chain and locked it onto a metal loop jutting from the collar of Erezak’s armor. The Adapt had given him a leash.
Chuckling, the Black Legionnaire took the chain from the Adapt’s hands. He gave Erezak a light tug, gesturing towards the doorway.
“You will see the error of your ways when your skull is claimed for my master’s throne,” Erezak said. It was difficult to muster the patience to speak in full, elaborate sentences. Most Berzerkers were incapable of it.
“Considering that I’m the one holdin’ yer leash, I’d say that I’m yer master,” the Black Legionnaire said. He tugged again. “Come on, its time to go.”
“To war. I thought that’s what you guys liked.”
Oh thought Private Keele as the rotating teeth of a chainaxe tore into his brain. Oh my.
He had been born on the world of Mackan, which was of value to the Imperium because of its adamantium deposits. Keele’s parents were both miners. As a child, Keele had always dreamed of becoming a Space Marine. Mackan was the homeworld of the Rampagers, a Chapter of Land-Speeder riding hero extraordinaires. Their exploits were legend; it was said that a single Rampager can annihilate an entire Waaagh! barehanded. When those dirty xenos saw the flying red banners of the Rampagers, they sure wished they’d stayed in bed that day. The Rampagers recruited often from the local populace, but they never picked Keele. It wasn’t that he was unhealthy; he just wasn’t exceptional. Space Marines were supposed to be exceptional people, from exceptional swordsmen to exceptional rapists. Keele wasn’t really exceptional at anything. His mother was killed in a mining accident, and his father’s growing lung problems prevented him from work. To pay for his father’s medical treatments, Keele signed up for the Imperial Guard. How bad could it be?
As it turned out, very bad for an unexceptional person like himself.
Erezak wrenched his chainaxe free of Keele’s skull. He’d forgotten his helmet; he could feel the warm blood on his face. He didn’t like it; this battle wasn’t supposed to be a sensory experience. Some small part of himself did like it, and he didn’t like that either. Erezak would have to redeem himself with his next kill.
He slashed upwards through a Guardsmen’s groin, hoping to bisect him vertically. His chainaxe became jammed in the man’s abdomen. Blood and excrement fouled the man’s clothing as he fell into convulsions; the pain was too much for his mortal body to bear. Erezak yanked on his ax, pulling the man closer, and gave him a hard right hook to his jaw. His fist made contact and the Guardsmen’s jaw shattered. Another punch sent it flying clean off. Erezak then wrenched his ax downwards, clearing it from the man’s abdomen. The man’s intestines came spilling out in a bloody flow, piling at his feet. He made a strange noise that was his attempt at a scream. A good, clean ax blow to the neck shut the Imperial dreg up.
Looking around, Erezak saw that the last of the Guardsmen were dead. His pack was already moving on in search of more prey. Sergeant Nulr, his foetid daemon body barely contained by the red and golden plate of his armor, led them in this pursuit. He sprinted on cloven hooves, flapping his useless wings madly. Undersized leathery wings had grown from the exhaust vents of his backpack, too small for any practical use. Nulr didn’t seem to notice this. He gestured towards a wall of crumbling masonry.
“Blood,” Nulr said over World Eaters’ private vox channel with his wet, burbling voice. “Smell blood.”
As if on cue, a Hellhound came crashing through the wall. It went roaring over the mound of rubble left in the collusion’s wake, shaking dust and debris off it’s haul. Almost immediately, the Berzerkers flew into action. They charged as fast as their legs could carry them, yelling bloody praises to their mad god. The Hellhound’s hull-mounted, snub-barreled heavy bolter began blazing away. It fired the an ammunition similar to the one used by the Traitor Legionnaire’s bolter pistols: tiny rocket propelled grenades that were intended to lodge within a victim and explode inside, shredding the victim’s organs to a bloody pulp. Most of the round detonated harmlessly against the World Eaters’ armor. Even the rounds that penetrated were of little danger to an Astartes’ superhuman biology. Only a few Berzerkers fell, and in Erezak’s mind those that did were weak and therefore deserved it; losing them would be no major loss. Erezak felt a round hit his chest hard, knocking the wind out of him. He stumbled back, gasping for breath, and then renewed his charge.
Still speeding towards them, the Hellhound let loose its inferno cannon. A torrent of searing flame blinded all who saw it. Not renowned for their their tactical prowess, the Berzerkers chose to charge through it. Nulr lead the way, rasping and coughing over the vox as he made his way through the flames. The red and gold of his armor blackened, while the various trophies and fetishes that adorned it were incinerated. He hit the front of the tank hard and tumbled over it, landing besides its Inferno Cannon. Its cannon still blazing, the Hellhound went over a bump and nearly threw Nulr off. He lodged his ax in its armored hull, clinging on for dear life.
The Berzerker that followed Nulr wasn’t so lucky. Rather than tumbling over the Hellhound, he was crushed beneath its treads. At first the Berzerker was pressed into the rubble beneath him, and when he could sink no further his armor buckled in. A thick jam of gore was squeezed out through the cracks in the blood red ceramite. Qul, a Slaughter Brother Erezak recognized, leapt over the heavy bolter and took a round to the cabling that covered his abdomen. Oily hydraulic fluid mingled with his blood. Qul rolled straight over the Hellhound, falling somewhere behind it. His flame-weakened armor made a horrible cracking noise when he hit the ground; he was likely dead. When Erezak had been a Neophyte, he and Qul had been in the same squad. They had fought back to back on the world of Calos, surrounded on all sides by Orks. Qul had kept making bad jokes to try to lighten the mood and distract from the fact that the they were most likely doomed. Erezak was disturbed by how little remorse he felt for his comrade’s demise. For every Berzerker that managed to successfully leap onto the tank, another either missed it or was slain trying.
Erezak went through the flames like the rest of his comrades did. The fire wreaked havoc with his armor’s sensory systems, leaving him blind, deaf, and dumb. The only way to tell when he reached the Hellhound was when it ran into him, cracking the ceramite of his chest plate and snatching his breath from him. Like Nulr, Erezak was just barely able to roll over the blow. He tumbled blindly, grasping for handhold, but settled for the foot of another World Eater
The World Eater looked back at him. “Erezak,” he said through his vox-grille, rather than bothering to open up a private channel with him. “Brother. Much blood today.”
He didn’t recognize his comrade in the slightest. Erezak disregarded him, turning his attention towards the Hellhound. Six other Berzerkers clung to its armored hull. The Hellhound was plowing down a steep, debris-strewn hill an attempt to shake the Berzerkers off, but they refused to budge. After the trouble they had gone through trying to get on, they were by no means willing to get off. Nulr, wielding an energy-wreathed power claw punched his way through the hull. This forced the crew of the Hellhound to take a more drastic course of action. The tank’s Inferno Cannon turret swiveled towards Nulr, who was now peeling away the metal layers of the hull. Two Berzerkers dropped their weapons and grabbed onto the cannon, trying to wrestle it away from facing their Sergeant.
The Berzerker whose leg Erezak held unclipped a krak grenade from his belt. It had been forged in the visage of a screaming metal skull, its pin sticking out from its leering maw. “Perhaps today is a good day to die,” he said, pulling the pin free. “Blood for the Blood God!”
End of part 1