A Defiler is a massive Daemon Engine in the service of the Traitor Legions of Chaos and it is a truly potent beast of war, mounted upon six massive spine-legs. It is twice the size of most other Daemon Engines and is possessed of a temper to match. Each Defiler is roughly tank-sized, and both extremely violent in its actions and indiscriminate with who bears the brunt of its wrath. Whether using its massive Battle Cannon to destroy entire formations or ripping apart enemies with its massive claws, this engine of war acts as a harbinger of utter devastation to its foes. Though their origins are lost to the ages, Defilers were created sometime after the end of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium on the orders of Abaddon the Despoiler to supplement the forces of the Traitor Legions, whose remaining Chaos Dreadnoughts were no longer the reliable heavy support units they had once been before their transformation into the insane cybernetic servants of the Ruinous Powers.
The Rise of the Daemon Engine
The first Defilers were created as a result of a pact between the Dark Mechanicum and Abaddon the Despoiler before his First Black Crusade. It is said that as part of Abaddon’s preparations, he quested to find an array of war engines to bring the Imperium to its knees. He desired constructs that had never before walked across a battlefield. Abaddon’s need for new and horrific machines brought him to Xana II, which lay deep within the Eye of Terror. There, the renegades of the Adeptus Mechanicus pledged their allegiance to Abaddon’s cause in exchange for rare artifacts, blood offerings and menials. As the Despoiler dismissed his dark servants out into realspace to fulfill their requests, the renegades of the Dark Mechanicum forged new creations within their citadels. Some of the oldest Defilers became legends within the slaughter-fields of Abaddon’s First Black Crusade. Though the Black Legion marched to war alongside countless daemonic war machines, few inspired as much terror as the scuttling packs of Defilers.
In 781.M31 the people of Urthwart were to experience the full force of this new horror. Interpreters of the Emperor’s Tarot foretold of a new iron monster that would come from the heavens. Soon a Chaos fleet entered into orbit, blackening the skies with their baroque ships. Numerous Cadian Chimeras rolled out across the landscape, carrying troops to reinforce important positions and defend key cities. A contingent of the Imperial Fists 4th and 5th Companies made planetfall shortly before the Chaos Warfleet’s arrival to help prevent the planet’s demise. The armies of Urthwart were at the mercy of an assault from a Black Legion warband that sought to bring nothing but mayhem to the world. Defilers churned up the waves of advancing infantry with withering gunfire, decimating bunkers and gun emplacements. Their far-reaching shells pulverised the reinforcements before they could get into the thick of the action. Whenever the forces of the Imperium fought back and a stalemate seemed to be reached on the battlefield, it was the uncanny speed and terrifying ferocity of the Defilers that broke the deadlock. The frenzied Daemon machines would surge forwards with an unnatural thunder, peeling open the metal hulls of tanks, and even dueling Dreadnoughts in jaw-dropping clashes.
After four days of combat, it took the full force of the Imperial Fists 4th and 5th Companies to hold back the warband on Urthwart and force a retreat back to the orbiting ships. Eventually the Chaos fleet vanished back into the Eye of Terror, but the legend of the Defiler had been forged in battle.
Abaddon the Despoiler was so impressed with the Daemon Engines’ devastating desire for blood and slaughter, and the amount of carnage that they could cause with relatively little support, that he demanded more be constructed within the soul forges. As the various traitor manufactorums hammered out even more Defilers, the Daemon Engines became aligned with different warbands and Legions -- not only Abaddon’s traitor force. New pacts were forged in the darkness. The arcane knowledge of the Daemon Engine soon spread throughout the soul forges, and Warpsmiths within thousands of Dark Citadels learnt of the debased arts of creating a Defiler.
The Lust for Slaughter
By early M32, the Defiler had become a mainstay of the forces of the Chaos Space Marines. warbands used them to lay waste to Imperial fortifications in lightning-fast raids. Legions who fought to destroy the hated Adeptus Astartes fielded the Defiler in some of the most protracted and violent conflicts since the Horus Heresy.
One of the earliest of these atrocities involved a warband of the Word Bearers. A host of traitor warriors assaulted an Imperial fleet as it brought military aid into Segmentum Tempestus against Abaddon’s Second Black Crusade. Though the Word Bearers had formed no specific allegiance with the Despoiler at the time, they nevertheless routed the fleet. After their own battleships destroyed Imperial vessels, the Word Bearers boarded five cruisers, unleashing Defilers on each of them. The Daemon Engines ripped through the passageways, crushed the crew members or torched them as they tried to flee. Ultimately the Defilers made quick work of the ships’ inhabitants. Before they disembarked to the Chaos vessels, the Word Bearers sent the ships spiraling back into the rest of the Imperial fleet, and the void of space filled with explosions.
Forged In Hell
Defilers are constructed in the soul forges, a huge sprawl of sulphurous worlds within the Eye of Terror. Within the Immaterium, millions of the Dark Mechanicum’s bleak forge-citadels ring with the abominable industry of Chaos. They are foul places. The warp-distressed spires of tainted foundries vanish up into skies choked with sorcerous smoke. The air on the ground is thick with garbled chanting, hideous pledges and foul incantations that would never be uttered by the sane. The stench of rank magicks lingers in labyrinthine passageways, mingling with the charred odour from protein farms. The corrupted servitors who slave away for their masters never see any light save that of the glow of magma or the spark of sorcery.
Such places are forever spawning new creations of flesh and metal to be unleashed by the Forces of Chaos in order to bring terror to the galaxy. On these old worlds, hidden in twisted metal and bone citadels and tainted manufactorums, Warpsmiths labour to create all manner of war engines. Their mechatendrils are forever whirring about them as they perform their forbidden art. And it is the Defiler that stands among the Warpsmiths’ most revered and feared creations.
Strictly speaking, the body of a Defiler is not manufactured from anything new, for the obscure processes of the Warpsmiths reconstitute it from Warp-tainted metal wrenched from other constructs. The Defilers’ ancient slab-sided metal panels have been known to possess the runic signatures of ancient Forge Worlds that fell during the Horus Heresy, and of Tech-Priests who had turned traitor. It is said by those within the Council of the Ordo Malleus that many such panels, as well as other elements of the Defiler’s technology, are originated from Dreadnoughts, perverted by the hands of Chaos and distorted by the Warp. During this process the Warpsmith may affix all manner of weaponry to the construct. As such, Defilers have been seen crawling across the battlefield armed with havoc launchers, power scourges, power fists and huge twin-linked heavy flamers. But central to the war engine is the battle cannon, which delivers death to all corners of a battlefield.
To Bind A Daemon
Much of the war engine’s actual construction remains incomprehensible to Imperial scholars. The only true knowledge that exists of its construction is of the vile ritual performed to infuse the metal shell with a Daemon. Binding a warp-horror to a Defiler is a complex process. To summon a Daemon, or even a trapped soul, from deep within the Immaterium requires a flesh sacrifice. Offerings can come in many forms, but for a sufficiently brutal Defiler to be manufactured, a victim of profound might is necessary.
It is a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes that a Warpsmith most frequently demands is brought into his hellish foundry, for the Ruinous Powers value these offerings more highly than sacrifices of mere mortals. A prize of such strength is not easily won, and many followers of the Dark Gods will fall before a living Space Marine can be brought in captivity from the slaughter fields and into the dark heart of the soul forges. After a Warpsmith has constructed the physical shell of the Defiler, the barely breathing Space Marine, stripped of his power armour, is bound with runic-chains to the war engine. In the red glow of magma-furnaces and the fug of toxic fumes, the Space Marine’s black carapace is violated by arcane weaponry and his blood oozes across the chassis of the inert Defiler. Base litanies are chanted, forbidden sorceries set free upon the victim; the loyalist’s hearts are stopped according to the whims of the Warpsmith. The death of the Space Marine heralds the birth of the Defiler.
The summoning of a Daemon is a precise art, but it is not unknown for a ritual to go disastrously wrong. A misplaced vowel within a litany can result not only in the instant death of the sacrifice, but of those around him. The infamous Warpsmith Draxar once invited a particularly powerful Daemon into the soul forge on the Daemon World of Phanomia, but failed to speak the words of binding correctly. The summoned Warp-horror materialised within the flesh of its Space Marine offering, and burst free from its sorcerous restraints. It then proceeded to slaughter Draxar as well as dozens of menials with the Warpsmith’s own power axe, before vanishing back into the Immaterium.
A Warpsmith will know that his ritual is complete when the war engine rises from its dormant state and snags against its glowing chains like a primordial beast. The Defiler’s exhausts roar with defiance. The machine beast thirsts for slaughter. But the Daemon Engine remains bound by its runic reins, kept captive to the Warpsmith amidst the smoke of the forge-citadels, waiting to be used in a dark bargain or in dark corners of Chaos battleships. The Defiler is never dormant. Chaos fiends continue to goad it, riling the Daemon within into a heightened state of fury, until finally it is time for the Defiler to stampede into combat alongside the forces of Chaos. Only then can it quench its thirst for carnage.
No matter which warband or Legion the Defiler fights alongside, each Daemon Engine becomes an integral part of that force. Irrespective of the different fighting styles of the various forces of Chaos, the Defiler is much sought after by Lords and Sorcerers, and is found in significant numbers among the traitor ranks. Those who fight for Khorne’s favour, such as the World Eaters, are ever keen to harvest more skulls for the Blood God, and they frequently take advantage of the Defiler’s hideous blood lust. The Iron Warriors fortify their dark frontiers with many Daemon Engines, and among them are numerous Defilers, always thirsting for the counter-attack. The Death Guard, too, deploy Defilers across the galaxy, each Daemon Engine capable of quickly eliminating obstacles that deny the spread of Nurgle’s maladies.
Out of a curious respect for the warp-horror within a war engine, the Traitor Legions and warbands may choose to issue Defilers with a name. Sometimes this is based upon the Daemon who inhabits the machine, or some archaic ritual within the ranks of Chaos, but more commonly it is a base declaration of what the Daemon Engine does. In other instances, an Imperial Guard regiment who face the Defiler’s onslaught will have given it a designation. Inquisitorial records detail atrocities conducted by Defilers throughout the ages, which are attributed to an eclectic array of names, including the Alpha Legion’s ‘Hellpincer’, the Purge’s Rot Crusher and the infamous Red Corsairs’ ‘Engine of Mael’x’.
Unlike the main battle tanks of the Imperial Guard and the Loyalist Space Marines, the Defiler is not operated by a human crew, but by the Warp energy of a daemon of Chaos bound within its metallic shell. Using complex sorcerous rites, the Adepts of the so-called Dark Mechanicus work with Chaos Sorcerers to draw forth the essence of a daemon from the Warp and trap it within the rune-bound mechanical body of a Defiler. Enraged by its imprisonment, the daemon needs to be sedated by spells of appeasement which are only lifted when battle begins. With its full anger at its imprisonment unleashed, the daemon drives the Defiler forward on its six legs, spewing death from its implanted weaponry. It rejoices in battle, ripping apart the enemy with its great claws while emitting terrible roars of rage and delirious battle-joy from its Vox-grilles. Unconcerned for its survival since it seeks release back into the Immaterium, the Defiler's bound daemon ignores the blasts of missiles and detonations of artillery and Bolter shells against its armoured body, advancing through the heaviest weapons fire without hesitation.
Over time, the multi-legged chassis that bears the Defiler has been adapted to include shearing claws and spiked armour plates. The Defiler's crab-like body supports a daemonic torso that carries an array of deadly weaponry, ranging from Reaper Autocannon to racks of highly explosive missiles. It is the Battle Cannon mounted in its chest turret, however, that is undoubtedly its most potent armament. Each hell-forged shell that thunders out from its growing muzzle is capable of crippling enemy squads in a single earth-shaking blast. Those foes fortunate enough to survive a Defiler's barrage of shells must then face its full fury at close quarters. Built with piston-driven claws to grab and crush the enemy and boasting whirring blades or whip-like flails mounted on articulated limbs, the Defiler charges into the foe, crushing and grinding as it smashes aside all opposition. Its mechanical growls drown out the cries of the wounded and dying; trampled corpses and mutilated limbs are left scattered in a red path behind it as the Defiler rampages through the enemy's ranks.
Although countless Defilers have been unleashed alongside numerous warbands and Legions, certain Daemon Engines have become notorious and their vile deeds have been recorded. Over the millennia, those infamous Defilers have fought their way into Imperial records.
- Engine of Plague - On the populous Hive World of Nucon VI, the Engine of Plague became the great enabler for the Death Guard to spread the putrid diseases of Nurgle. The world remained heavily defended by a robust Planetary Defense Force and a Cadian regiment , but the Engine of Plague, along with four other Defilers, tore apart tanks and gutted soldiers in key positions, gradually grinding down the Imperial forces. The Engine of Plague and its cohort eventually attracted the attention of the bulk of the planet’s forces, wallowing in slaughter while their traitor masters infiltrated behind enemy lines. Within days the filth of Nurgle had spread to over a hundred billion people on Nucon VI.
- Ghostcrusher - Ghostcrusher became legend due to the horrific deeds enacted on Craftworld Ila-Manesh. In 326.M33 a huge warband of the Night Lords descended from the darkness of the Warp on a mission of revenge. Their aim was simply to eradicate the world’s spirit stones, many of which had previously been stolen from the Crone World of Aesyl-Sar. While delivering justice for this past Eldar sin, the Night Lords unleashed several Defilers. One of these, Ghostcrusher, stood out as a particularly savage machine beast. The Daemon Engine spearheaded a Night Lords assault upon the Shrine of Eldanesh, incinerating ancient tomes, crushing sacred totems, destroying spirit stones and burning the Guardians who attempted to prevent the desecration. So thorough were the Night Lords in their assault on Ila-Manesh that they left the Craftworld a tomb, with no artifacts and no living Eldar remaining.
- Me'kallar the Insane - Me'kallar the Insane was considered by Imperial scholars to be one of the most ferocious Defilers ever created. In 899.M34 it was at the forefront of a savage attempt to destroy the Blood Tigers' Space Marine Chapter's Fortress Spire on the jungle moon of Tryjon II. A warband fleet belonging to The Tormented erupted out of the Warp in a rapid deployment. Twenty Defilers were among the spearhead on the ground, including Me'kallar the Insane. The Daemon Engine burned great swathes through the forest so that the Tormented could bring their war to the foot of the Fortress-Monastery's outer walls. While the Blood Tigers were forced to focus their efforts on the horror below, Heldrakes tormented the structure further up the fortress spire. Gunfire raged through the skies while great gouts of blood and flame soaked the humid jungle down below. Only one foe from the Warp managed to breach the armored walls, and that was Me'kallar the Insane. The Defiler wreaked havoc inside the fortress-monastery, crushing whole squads of Blood Tigers. Dreadnoughts finally reduced the Daemon Engine to smoldering wreckage, but not before it had caused significant damage. Only after Me'kallar's fall did the forces of the Tormented finally retreat into the Immaterium, and the Blood Tigers were left to count their dead.
- Slaughterfiend - Dedicated to Khorne the Blood God, a Slaughterfiend is a Defiler subjugated and ridden by a Khornate Berzerker. The first recorded instance of this reckless tactic came during the campaign for the world of Eclipsion Prime, when the Berzerker Champion of Chaos, Akraghar of the World Eaters Traitor Legion, jumped from the ruins of a hive city onto the eponymous Defiler, known as Slaughterfiend, and managed to subdue the daemonic machine to his own will and ride it like a monstrous steed. Ever since, Khornate Berzerkers have attempted to emulate Akraghar’s actions and carve rune-etched links about the throat of the infernal vehicle, binding it to the will and rage of Khorne. Competition to ride such beasts is fierce and though many try, few succeed. In battle, whole units of Berzerkers will attempt to clamber onto a nearby Slaughterfiend, if only to steal a ride into the fray. Typically Slaughterfiends renounce most ranged weapons in accordance with the preferences of the Blood God and are armed with additional close assault weapons. They are often also faster than other Defiler variants, as they are as filled with bloodthirst as the Bezerkers who ride them. Groups of Slaughterfiends are known as Bloodpacks.
- Desecrator - Dedicated by the Death Guard Traitor Legion to the service of the Plague Lord Nurgle, a Desecrator is a Defiler armed with a Vomit Cannon, Reaper Autocannons and Battle Claws.
- Debaser - A Debaser is a Defiler perverted to the Dark Prince of Pleasure, Slaanesh, by the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion. It is armed with a devastating payload of Sonic Weaponry, including Ultrasonic Disruptors, a Death Wailer and Blastmasters, as well as razor-sharp Battle Claws.
- Deceiver - When the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion dedicate a Defiler to the nefarious will of the Lord of Change, Tzeentch, it is called a Deceiver. Such vehicles make use of an array of confusing weapons such as Tzeentch Cannons, Ether Cannons and Heavy Flamers, as well as Battle Claws and Warp Flames which are used in close assault. Typically, Deceivers are more accurate in a ranged fire fight than other types of Defiler as a result of these modifications.
Ordo Malleus Departmento Analyticus Technical Specifications
The technical specifications of the Defiler have not yet been determined by the Ordos of the Inquisition.
- Apocalypse Reload, pg. 58
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Blood (RPG), pg. 116
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 53
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 41
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 37
- Imperial Armour Volume Thirteen - War Machines of the Lost & The Damned by Andy Hoare with Alan Bligh & Neil Wylie, pp. 112-113
- Warhammer 40,000: Index Chaotica - Defilers (Digital Edition)
- Garro: Oath of Moment (Audio) by James Swallow
- Fanatic Online (Defunct), "Death Guard Experimental Army List v1.0," "Thousand Sons Army List v2.1, " "Emperor's Children Experimental Army List v2.0"