Kalybos and half of his Host made landfall on Verrat, sanctifying their encampment with a full day of ritual, and within hours their slaves had raised a monument to the Dark Gods, a beacon to the warring factions already on the planet. Kalybos dispatched his most trusted lieutenants to entreat the most prominent Champions of the Powers with an invitation to join his Host and embark on his Ruinous Crusade.
The arrival of the Blood God's emissary was the most anticipated; Kalybos had sent his deadliest warrior, Bulledin Wrek of the Anointed, clad in blessed terminator armour, to achieve the treaty. After four hours, Wrek returned, beaten and bloody, alongside a hulking warrior dressed in the flayed skin of his enemies and dragging a colossal chain axe through the sand behind him. Warlord Graven had, after a brutal contest resulting in a stalemate, agreed to speak with Kalybos.
Salacious Hark, a Word Bearer gifted greatly by the Dark Prince with the speed of a striking snake and the silver tongue of a diplomat, was sent to entreat the leader of the Sabaoth Du'Thu'a. The Du'Thu'a had achieved something rare in their constant battles with Graven's bloodlusting warriors; a stalemate. Kalybos dispatched Hark to bring these formidable followers of Slaanesh to his side so that the Dark Apostle's skill and fervour might persuade them to set aside their age-old hatred.
Hark never returned. As night fell on Verrat, a speck of eldritch pink light appeared on the horizon, rapidly growing larger. A massive force of warriors and daemons was approaching the Host, cavorting daemonettes and slavering, sprinting Steeds making up the bulk of the army, while traitor marines in the gaudy colours of the Sabaoth Du'Thu'a marched alongside, led by their champion.
This, then, was the response from Carys Lustingclaw, dark mistress of the Sabaoth Du'Thu'a and devotee of Slaanesh, the God of Excess. Lustingclaw herself was at the forefront of this force, astride a luridly painted bike and flanked by a sextet of Fiends, with the ominous, beautiful form of a Keeper of Secrets following closely behind. As the Pleasure God's worshippers drew closer, the fate of Kalybos' final emissary was revealed; Salacious Hark had been chained to the front of Lustingclaw's vehicle, screaming in agonistic ecstasy, his ribcage cracked and split wide like some gory tome.
Marshalling his forces and galvanising them with a roaring prayer to the Pantheon of Chaos, Kalybos led his Host from the encampment and prepared to face the oncoming foe.
The two sides crashed together with the force of a thunderstorm. Eldritch energies flashed and crackled as sorcerers of both armies let fly with the gifts of their patrons and warriors of every calibre fought with the strength and speed of nightmares given form. As the battle raged on, Kalybos fought his way to the centre seeking the head of Lustingclaw, determined to take her life as payment for her insult to the glory of Chaos Undivided. Accompanied by Lord Wrek and the hulking brutality of Warlord Graven, the Dark Apostle smashed foes aside with his Accursed Crozius, reaping a fearsome tally among the followers of Slaanesh.
Without warning, Kalybos found himself face-to-face with Lustingclaw's most dangerous ally; the Keeper of Secrets. The Greater Daemon lashed out at the Apostle and his companions, sensuous beauty mixed with the grotesque touch of its master, flinging Lord Wrek - still enclosed within his terminator armour - aside as though he were a rag doll, and hammering its curved sword down onto Warlord Graven. The Blood God's champion roared with frustrated rage as he was forced to his knees and the tip of the daemon's sword sliced into his flesh, carving a line of gore from shoulder to hip. Graven collapsed at the Keeper's feet while the daemon bellowed its triumph and spun away, unconcerned by Kalybos' cries of zealous anger. With his dying breath, Graven reached up, grasping bloody-handed at Kalybos' robe, and implored him to give himself to Khorne. As his life ebbed away the fallen Warlord entreated the Dark Apostle.
"Give your life to Khorne, priest, and he will sunder your enemies. Succeed where I have failed," he croaked, spitting blood into his palm. He smeared the symbol of Khorne onto Kalybos' greave, choking on blood as he spoke his last.
"Blood for the Blood God.. Skulls.. for the Skull.. Throne..."
Confusion warred with fury in Kalybos' mind. The dying words of a berserker should mean nothing to a true follower of Chaos, but as his mind returned to the battle he saw that, miraculously, a ring of steel had formed around him. Lithe daemonettes clashed with lurching, roaring berserkers and the furious zealots of the Word Bearer Host. Blades and bullets flew everywhere, but Kalybos, Wrek and the corpse of the Warlord remained untouched. Perhaps there had been some weight to Graven's words.
Agony. Searing agony suddenly coursed through Kalybos' body and he stared down as the gore-streaked blade of the Keeper jutted from his chestplate. He could feel the massive trauma of his primary heart spitted on the blade and felt the disgustingly intimate touch of the Keeper's fingers against his armoured neck. As the monstrous daemon whispered words twisted by the power of the Dark Prince, Kalybos felt a surge of anger filling his soul. The agony of the Keeper's attack was burned away and the Dark Apostle gave vent to a roar that pierced even the clamour of the battle.
"All praise mighty Khorne! Blood for the Blood God!"
The Keeper reeled from the wounded Apostle, a sneer on its hideously beautiful features. Kalybos felt the burning rage of the Blood God coursing through his being, felt his blood boiling and a clap of thunder heralded the touch of the his new, true, patron.
Kalybos lead his Host, now a Horde of bloodlusting zealots devoted to the Lord of Skulls, in a rapturous crusade of slaughter and death. This began with a knife-thrust into the Gothic Sector, which, against all odds and perhaps at the fickle whim of his new patron, was met by a massed Imperial defence consisting of Loyalist Astartes from the White Consuls, Space Wolves and stoic Imperial Guardsmen of the Mordian Iron Guard. This combined force stymied and repelled the Horde's advance, spurring Kalybos into a fit of rage and despair which saw the death of another of his Hordemasters.
Desperate to atone for this failure, the Daemon Prince leads the Horde on a Death Crusade, believing that the only way to receive Khorne's forgiveness is to die in a truly epic battle. Thus the Horde of Kalybos was renamed the Doomseekers, painting their armour a combination of brass and blood-red, trimmed in bleached bone to signify their deathly fanaticism.
To this day the Doomseekers are still engaged in their heretical Crusade, roaming the depths of space in search of a death that might yet appease mighty Khorne.
In order to appease the Axe's battle-hungry spirit, every inch of the great vessel is sanctified with blood, the most precious of resources to the followers of Khorne. The great enginarium walls are decorated with the flayed and drained remains of sacrifices to both the machine-spirit and the Blood God, and on days of celebration the Horde gathers within the fleshy cavern of the enginarium, coralling hundreds of slaves and captives around the beast-ship's pulsating machine heart. The Doomseekers give thanks to the Axe and to Khorne by conducting the Rites Vitae and slaughtering every last captive in an orgy of religious violence. Channels carved into the floor of the enginarium funnel the sacred blood into the machine heart, glutting the Axe with sustenance and strengthening its bonds to the Horde.
"You can never have too many knives." - Aspiring Champion Golen
One of the Doomseekers' most feared and devastating tactics is the use of a ritual referred to as the Rites Vitae. This is a raucous, barking chant used by the Blood God's warriors during battle and is led by their Champions, which inspires the fearless warriors to feats of ferocity that rival those of their erstwhile allies, Khorne's Berzerkers.
Once the Rites Vitae are begun, no enemy, no intervening force, no ill-favoured bystander shall be spared the wrath of the Doomseekers. The recitation of the Rites results in swathes of destruction as the warriors of Khorne abandon all pretense of pious sophistication and enter a near-berserk state of fervour, and it is through this ritual that their greatest glories have been accomplished. The resolution of the Kainite Invasion would have been impossible were it not for the descent of the Doomseekers upon the Imperial lines, each warrior screaming the Rites Vitae as they burst from the jagged mouths of dreadclaw drop pods to slaughter their hated Imperial foes.
"He wields an axe that falls like lightning. When he takes to the field, skulls crack and blood runs thick. He hunts a mighty doom and by the Skull Throne, he will have it." ~ Hordemaster Wrek regarding the Doomhunter.
Lord Bulledin Wrek, the 1st Hordemaster, commands the Horde's elite, the Chosen. Garbed in crimson and bone-coloured suits of Terminator armour, these diabolical warriors are veterans of a thousand campaigns. Their prowess in close-combat is legendary even among their brethren. For them to have survived this long is considered a mark of Khorne's favour by some among the Horde, where others suspect them of unworthiness for their inability to find a fitting doom. Lord Wrek often leads Doomseeker warbands at his master's command.
There are eight Hordemasters in total, each commanding eight times eight warriors, paying homage to the holy number of the Lord of Skulls. Each Hordemaster is entrusted with the Doomhunter's commands and seeks out a mighty doom for himself and his warriors. Those who return with evidence of their brethren having died at the hands of a worthy foe have their skulls bronzed and placed in the Blood Chapel aboard the Horde's battlebarge, the Axe of God.
The Horde is constantly bolstered by new recruits; as the Doomseekers crusade across the Imperium in pursuit of their deaths, any mortals who survive their assaults are captured as slaves and serfs to serve as cannon fodder or sacrifices to their beast-ship and Khorne. As well as these mortals, it is not unusual for the Horde to attract members of other Chaos warbands to their banner in the name of slaughter. Squads of blood-crazed Khornate berzerkers sweep in and out of the Horde in search of battle, often reaping a vicious toll among the Doomseekers' own numbers in the process. Even loyalist Space Marines have been known to drop their false beliefs in the face of the Doomseekers' furious worship, and many have joined the Horde in recent decades; with them they bring fresh blood, weapons and armaments to be taken as the Horde's due when they fall in the service of their new, true patron deity.
"'Tis the finest death I have seen this morrow, for in truth, 'tis the only one!" - Hordemaster Rahab, discussing his murder of Redfang Planir, Champion of Khorne.
In the words of 3rd Hordemaster Turel,
"Ascension lies in glory, and the quickest route to glory is death. We will fight and die for the Blood God, we will kill and kill and kill until our armour is drenched in the blood of His enemies. We will hurl ourselves into the breach until we stand atop a pile of slaughtered foes or as part of it, and perhaps, just perhaps, we will receive His favour."The Doomseekers are encouraged in this pursuit by their leader, the Daemon Prince Kalybos, and his loyal lieutenants, the Hordemasters. Inspired by their horrifying Prince, the Doomseekers pay homage to Khorne by emulating Kalybos' desire for a death at the hands of only the worthiest foes. They praise Khorne with every swing of their blades, and indulge in their most sacred prayer to the Blood God by reciting the Rites Vitae as they enter the killing field. The Rites are one of numerous scriptures recorded in the Horde's most treasured possessions, the Eight Books of Blood, tomes crafted from the desecrated skin of Imperial priests. Supposedly the Books were written by Kalybos himself shortly after his ascension, which goes some way to explaining the dark nature of the texts, which drain the blood of the reader as the pages are turned.
For all their dedication to slaughter, the Doomseekers are still religious zealots at heart and spend a great deal of their time in prayer to Khorne. These prayers are most often led by Lord Derj Moloq, the Horde's most fiery orator and the Master of the Rites Vitae. Before the Doomseekers' rededication to the Blood God, Moloq was a Word Bearer tipped for greatness, possibly even initiation as a Dark Apostle himself. Ritual scarification and bloodletting are commonplace during the worship of Khorne and great services are conducted within the Axe of God's Blood Chapel, a massive, crenellated affair adorned with the flensed corpses of the Horde's enemies and tended by the Apostles of The Blood, warriors whose connection to Khorne and his red, rage-soaked realm allow them to wield tremendous power on the battlefield, calling flaming axes from the sky to tear and rend the Blood God's enemies, or performing battle sacrifices to summon deadly bloodletter Daemons. Readings from the Eight Books of Blood take place within the Blood Chapel, when slaves are nailed to the ceiling and bled through a series of tributaries that rain onto the congregation in a holy, cleansing rain. The bronzed skulls of warriors who have died a particularly notable death are mounted on the walls of the Chapel, inscripted with the fallen Doomseeker's name and blessed by the Apostles of The Blood.
To date, the Horde has a variety of gene-seed in its ranks thanks to the Chaos warriors who are drawn to the charismatic power of the Doomhunter and the crimson path of Khorne, not to mention the presence of renegade Astartes from Chapters still loyal to the weakling Imperium.
"Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!"
Edited by Odsox, 30 April 2012 - 11:32 AM.