Sunday, 15 December 2013

Warbands of Chaos: The Harbingers of Ruin

And now for something completely different.

As a result of delays with other things there will be no review today. Instead there is this, just a side project i've been working on for a while which seemed worth sticking on here. It was mostly an experiement to see if a force could be written into the lore following Khorne's old ways. Back when he did have some semblance of martial honour and had some sign of caring where blood flowed from. This is the lengthy version, i'll probably write a shortened, simplified version for those who don't have the time to read 3K of text.

Name: Harbingers of Ruin
Origin: World Eaters
Primarch: Angron
Leader (Kriegsherr): Aurum Garrod
Chaos Dedication: Khorne
Battlecry: “Khorne eternal!”
Strength: Unknown

History: As with many warbands who bear the gene-seed of the Emperor’s traitor sons, the origins the Harbingers of Ruin link back to the days of the Heresy. Unlike many they saw little of the Heresy itself beyond the Gates of Terra, yet their founding extends far beyond the outbreak of war. Instead the seeds of their betrayal were planted at the moment of Angron's liberation from Nuceria.

The return of the War Hounds' primarch was a time of great turmoil. Even after his anger had been sated, the Emperor’s son saw a great many changes implemented within their ranks. Ever the Emperor’s slayers, their brutality was known throughout the Imperium’s forces and Angron’s arrival only enhanced that. As his new brand of savagery was imparted upon the legion, there were naturally brothers left behind. Legionaries who still embraced the old legion’s traditions to a degree, individuals who by genetic fault could not accept the euphoria offered by the butcher’s nails and others who resisted the change. In the months following Angron’s ascension, it became clear which legionaries derided their leader to the point of disloyalty.

The Red Angel would have decreed that these pockets of resistance would have been culled, rooted out and destroyed by Angron himself to ensure his position of power over the legion. Would have, were it not for the words of Kharn. Speaking to Angron of ensuring loyalty beyond mere executions, the Equerry convinced him to instead initiate a trial by fire. The rebellious legionaries were formed into a new Assault Company, the 26th, and tasked with pacifying a fortified system at the side of their primarch to prove their loyalty before him. Sent as a vanguard, the vessels of the 26th left for the system and entered a nightmare. Caught in the time shifting effects of the Warp, what had seemed like minutes for the assault company had been decades for the galaxy. Enough time for Chaos to find its way into the heart of Horus Lupercal and Heresy to take root.

The united Imperium they had left had been shattered to warring fragments. Legions clashed against one another in struggles for power and as the 26th, long thought dead, re-joined their kind they found twisted mockeries of those they had fought alongside. Enslaved to the nails, many had succumbed to the total berserker rages, reducing themselves to frothing madmen and the gene-father who had bought this about was now rage incarnate. A vast winged figure of brass and congealed blood, Angron now sat atop a throne of skulls, consumed by his joy of slaughter. All had become corrupted beyond recognition, driven only by their thirst for blood, and yet the 26th joined them none the less.

All of the 26th despised what the World Eaters had devolved into, but for many it was directed at the only one who retained the power to halt Angron's madness: The Emperor of Mandkind. As the War Hounds they had relentlessly fought in His name, against targets other primarchs viewed as beneath them. As the World Eaters they had fought with ferocity, as a necessary evil to ensure humanity’s dominance, accepting of their role. Yet this was how He repaid their loyalty? By willingly ignoring the XII as a deranged gladiator king’s desire for more slaughters led them to ruin, by apathetically allowing his sons to become the lobotomised killers which now populated their ranks. Whatever hatred they felt for Angron was eclipsed by the betrayal they found in their former lord.

The five thousand marines of the 26th Assault Company followed their legion to Terra. Barely eight hundred would leave the world alive upon Horus’ death, cut down either by the Imperial defenders or their own brethren’s berserker rages. More would fall in the battles which followed, until the final campaign of Skalathrax.

The sight of Kharn, the greatest of their number, massacring their brothers in his violent rampage was enough to convince the 26th to finally break away from their legion. Escaping off world during the fighting the warband took refuge in the Ruin of Kings, a Space Hulk randomly jumping through the Warp. Their time among their fallen brothers had affected them and many had come to worship Khorne. Unlike them, the sight of Kharn’s blind fury drove these astartes to value one aspect above all others: Self-control.

Through sorcery and self-discipline, the warband vowed not to repeat the mistakes of their legion. Rather than rampaging throughout space and insulting Khorne’s name with mass slaughters they would seek skulls worthy of being offered up to his throne. Retaining the tarnished colours of their legion, they embraced the gladiatorial ranks of Ancient Terra in mockery of Angron as they abandoned his teachings. Taking the name Harbingers of Ruin, the warband saw themselves as Khorne’s true champions, driven not by screaming insanity but tempered rage against those who had betrayed them.

Kriegsherr – Warband Master
Vormund – First Captain, Guardian of the Bestiarii
Lanista – Second Captain, Lord Inductor
Salii – Master of Rituals, Apothecaries/Sorcerers
Evocati – Veteran Sergeant
Thraex – Sergeant
Secutor – Initiate
Socii – Aspirant (pre gene-seed implantation)

Titles of disgrace:
Jager – Havoc marine
Bestiarii – Possessed, mutated hordes.
Aeternae – Dreadnought.

Combat Doctrine: As with almost all followers of Khorne, the Harbingers place great emphasis upon close quarter engagements, favouring massed drop pod assaults in order to achieve this. Long range bombardments from their vessels provide covering fire as the pods come in to land, teeming with chainsword armed zealots. While this is favoured they still possess the tactical sense not to allow their bloodlust to blind them and employ more strategies than blind all out assaults. Perhaps the most famous example of this was the slaughter on Variil VI in which the World Eaters stowed away upon captured Imperial transports to bypass the planet’s heavy orbital defence network. Any effective method is used to bring them into open battle with the enemy with as few casualties as possible, yet the warband has been repeatedly seen halting and allowing their foes to prepare to fight them. Rare indeed is the occurrence of the Harbingers storming and hunting down an unprepared enemy or refusing to face them in open battle. To initiate such a one sided massacre would be a poor offering to Khorne.

Due to the Harbingers placing little value in meaningless slaughter, many targets are frequently overlooked. As such they are known to target only military installations for battle, ignoring civilian populations and leaving cadet barracks intact. This is an act of pragmatism as much as their warband’s beliefs, leaving such locations unmolested allows for them to abduct worthy individuals to replace their losses. It is only through this approach that the warband has survived the years thanks to the high attrition of their numbers and against the much larger forces which oppose them. These abductees are utilised along with other elements to serve as cannon fodder and weed out the chaff from both sides. This is intended to leave only the strongest foes to be challenged by the Harbingers, and the strongest initiate alive to be considered worthy of gene-seed implantation.

Acting beyond the Eye of Terror or Maelstrom, and lacking the subtle methods of the Alpha Legion or Night Lords, the Harbingers have been seen to take great pains to disguise their allegiances. Many bare no outward markings or influences of Chaos, forsaking the usual sigils and iconography which would identify them as a fallen warband. This allows them to pass as a loyalist chapter among the outlying systems of the Imperium, especially those to who a space marine is little more than a legend. The only identifiable markings among their kind which might single them out as forces of Chaos are the defaced aquila which adorn their chest plates. This is often put down to the grime encrusted and battle scarred state of their forms however, leading to surprise when the seemingly loyal forces turn upon a world of the Emperor.

Beyond the outlying systems or agri-worlds targeted for mass recruitment, favoured battlefields of the warband are Mechanicum Forge Worlds. It is when assaulting such planets that the warband will join completely ransack a world and ally themselves in battle with others. Along with providing a worthy sacrifice to their patron deity, destroying beings who forsake both blood and the glories of war, the resources found are invaluable. The warband often salvages prized equipment within the ruins of the conflict, even newly manufactured suits of power armour on occasion.

Beliefs and Traditions: As with all warbands, the Harbingers ultimately follow the Eightfold Path. Through continual combat and seeking out worthy enemies, their warriors fight to earn the favour of their patron god and honour his name. While this is their ultimate goal, what has prevented the warband from turning in upon itself, fracturing or reducing their kind to slavering monsters is what unites all of them: Blood.

Every recruit successfully implanted with gene-seed undergoes the ritual of Harrespex’s Lineage. During this time the Salii ritualistically flay the skin from their bodies and surgically rebound it with the blood of their recently deceased brothers. Scarred and imbued with subtle sorceries, those who survive are mentally bound with their brethren in the warband. Along with creating a link where certain emotions and sudden reactions can pass from the mind of one nearby brother to another, it makes it impossible for one warrior to truly act against another. While remaining individual, in many respects they register as a single being. For one with the Lineage to raise his blade against another would feel akin to holding it against his own throat. This is the only true tradition among the Harbingers, but its existence brings greater meaning to many of their other defining traits and goals.

This method allows warriors to both fight as individuals and an army at once, following the Eightfold Path in a unique way. While they will individually vie for Khorne’s favour, they fight as a single entity against his enemies and not blindly turn their weapons upon one another.  Each astartes is still driven by a single goal which ultimately requires sacrifice: Ascending to demonhood. To be raised to daemonhood is an act which is regarded as being the highest honour Khorne can possibly bestow upon one of his warriors.

To become a being of the Warp is to serve as Khorne’s right hand and become one of his true champions. It is a path which consumes many but it is their ultimate ambition, leaving no room for warriors who fail to achieve such a lofty goal. Those who fall in battle are not honoured. While their teachings will be recorded, their armour and gene-seed taken, it is only so that another might succeed in their place.

Even among those who succeed in battle there are failures. For every one who bears a gift of the blood good of tireless endurance and skin which can break steel, others will display mutations. Countless blinking eyes, arms devolving into a mass of clawed tentacles, such random deformities are the sign of Tzeentch’s influence and the potential of devolving into a mindless Spawn. Those who cannot be healed by bionics or the administrations of the Salii are deemed lost causes. To prevent their growing madness spreading to their brothers, their gene-seed is taken and their link through the Lineage is severed. Caged within the bowls of the Ruin of Kings, they are guarded in their final days before being released into battle in suicidal charges in a final act to redeem themselves through death.

To the Harbingers the only path to ascension is through strength of arms and combat. It is the only way to ensure that their warriors are worthy to be picked out by Khorne himself and their divinity proven. To not do so would be to earn their place through falsehoods and sorcery as Angron did, earning his place only thanks to the machinations of the thrice damned Lorgar of the Word Bearers. It is perhaps due to their primarch's ascension that the Harbingers are swift to distrust any daemon who has not originated from their warband. Beyond the seven daemon princes who were once Harbingers, the only Warpborne servants of Khorne frequently seen among their ranks are his Flesh Hounds. Beings recognised for their abilities to hunt the Blood God’s enemies and those who abandon their brothers upon the battlefield, not for their duplicity and capacity for betrayal.

These views have earned them both ire and mockery among other Khorne Berserkers. Such efforts to refuse the totality of bloodletting and individual glory are acts which dismay many, betraying Khorne’s true will and is simply a manifestation of their desire to return to the days before the Heresy. This is seemingly supported by the warband’s armour and iconography, while visibly tarnished and ruined, matching that of the pre-Heresy World Eaters legion rather than the red others now bear.

Few realise that this is an intentional choice to mock both the Berserkers and the lapdog chapters of the Corpse Emperor they face in battle.

To their traitor brethren, their armour is a reminder of the days they were truly united as a single force. Whatever powers the Chaos Gods might grant them now cannot hope to compare to the sheer force of destruction they once were as Legio Astartes. Whatever splinter remains in the hearts of other surviving World Eaters is reawakened at the sight of their colours and serves as a reminder to how they have faded since the Emperor strode the stars. To the loyalists it, and the ruined insignia of the Aquila each of them bears, displays how even their best can ultimately fall to Chaos. That for all their pomposity, their declarations of purity and true service in the face of corruption, their very best can and will fall to what they oppose.

Organisation: The warband’s structure is, like all military forces, strictly hierarchical. Unlike most Chaos warbands however, there are strict lines of succession and roles dictated in order to maintain combat effectiveness. The blood ritual which ties each battle brother together allow for experiences, even knowledge to seep from one mind to the next ensuring that the teachings of the past are not lost to those who follow. Those who are ritually bonded to their superiors learn from them in more than just spoken works, with even memories dating even back to the days of the Horus Heresy residing in the minds of some new recruits. Those deemed to have succeeded their superior upon his death, judged by a Salii and Lanista or Evocati, take their blades and positions of authority within the Harbingers.

As a result of passing on weapons to successors, the warband lacks the coherent structures of some units and specialist equipment. Chief among these is the lack of squads of terminators. Lacking members of the World Eaters elite prior to disappearing into the Warp and having attained scant few suits since, they are a rare sight among their ranks. As a result these suits of armour are reserved for figures of prominence among the legion who have earned the right to wear them, often Thraex and those who command the Harbingers. The same goes for many fabled power weapons and items of Khorne’s favour, with low ranking Secutors often only armed with a chain weapon and bolt pistol beyond what they earn in battle. This makes them easy to identify among the legion style massed troop formations the Harbingers favour.

Not all such specialist equipment is reserved for places of honour however; heavy weapons especially are gifted to those who have failed the warband. The astartes who carry these, known as Jager are figures who have dishonoured themselves in some way and are required to atone for their actions. To do so, they are denied the glory of melee in favour of ranged firepower and tasked with destroying heavy armour which might kill their brothers before they can engage their foe. The Aeternae are the warband’s dreadnoughts, driven by those who failed on the Eightfold Path in some unforgivable manner. Denied the visceral joys of bloodshed, they are tasked with guarding the darkest secrets of the Ruin of Kings. Many are also placed under the command of the Charon, serving as jailors to the insane and hostile forces they command. Namely the warband’s possessed vehicles and the horrifically mutated Bestiarii between conflicts.

Notably lacking the presence of Warpsmiths and Techmarines, the Harbingers are only able to maintain their equipment thanks to a favourable alliance with several Dark Mechanicus sects. In exchange for certain services these priests maintain and replace the Harbingers' equipment, permitting the Harbingers to rely upon better basic wargear than many other followers of Khorne. The relative sanity of the Aeternae can likely be attributed to their presence, installing methods to stave off the madness which plagues many who become locked within their adamantium shells. While the exact terms of these alliances beyond a common hatred of the Mechanicus are unknown, the Harbingers have been seen serving as protectors for certain priests. Speculation has been made that the warband’s ownership of their vast and ancient space hulk, and the secrets contained within, likely plays a part in their good terms.

Gene-Seed: With many initiates implanted with the gene-seed of stolen chapters, it is hard to gauge the warband’s overall genetic stability. Many possess the shortcomings found in certain chapters such as the missing organs found in Dorn’s successors or pale completion of the sons of Corax. The exact number of space marines with Angron’s gene-seed within them is unknown.

The only known gene-seed not to make up their numbers are those originating from Sanguinius, beyond Russ obviously, something specifically avoided thanks to harsh lessons of the past. A failed attempt to merge the warband with the renegade Crimson Lords chapter nearly resulted in their destruction with the twin curses of the Black Rage and Red Thirst transmitting themselves through the psychic link. After the culling that followed of all Lords and afflicted Harbingers, they have refused inducting renegade astartes into their ranks.


  1. i really liked it , are you planning on a third part for iron hands supplement?

    1. Many thanks, it was just something I was working on between projects but glad to hear you enjoyed it.

      As for the Iron Hands supplement, there's not much more to add really. The only thing which would be worth suggesting is how they could have done things to save the book, but reading through it again the authors would need to strip everything down and start again. It's more likely i'll be going over an old codex like Codex: Assassins or the Sisters of Battle release from a while ago.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.