- "Your death shall slake my axe's thirst!"
Khorne Berzerkers are Chaos Space Marines dedicated to glorifying the Chaos God Khorne through brutal melee combat. Driven solely by their raging desire to spill blood and take lives, a Berzerker's sole purpose in life is to destroy their enemies in the name of the Blood God and take life in the most brutal and barbaric fashion imaginable. Berzerkers refuse to use most forms of ranged weaponry and usually make almost exclusive use of close combat melee weapons, in particular the Chainaxe, as the axe is the favoured weapon of Khorne. However, Khornate Berzerkers will use any weapon they can get their hands on, even their own bodies, as long as they can continue to engage in bloodshed.
The first Khornate Berzerkers amongst Mankind emerged from the gruesome experiments of Angron, the Primarch of the World Eaters Legion. Upon taking control of the XIIth Space Marine Legion, the bloody-handed Primarch enacted many changes. Knowing how successful his own cortical implants were at boosting a warrior's prowess in battle, Angron ordered his Apothecarion to insert the same Butcher's Nails implants within every Astartes of the World Eaters Legion to enhance aggression and pain tolerance far beyond that which even the gene-engineered flesh of a member of the Space Marine Legions was capable. The Nails removed all sense of fear and danger and then heightened the rush his warriors experienced in combat. The majority of those Astartes implanted with this technology were absorbed back into the XIIth Legion's line units, while those deemed perhaps too unstable for such tasks joined a growing number of near-berzerker assault units known as Rampager Squads, and even within these units, those too far gone to be anything but restrained as savages between battles became known as the Caedere or the "Butchers," a frightening portent of what was soon to come for the entirety of the XIIth Legion.
In the aftermath of the slaughter of the Dropsite Massacre on Istvaan V, an event that the masters of Bodt (the World Eaters' fief/muster world) learned of after the fact, a delegation of senior World Eaters Apothecaries, aided and advised by peers from the Emperor's Children and Word Bearers Legions, arrived there unannounced. They quickly assumed command of the induction facilities and instigated a series of revisions to the XIIth Legion's recruitment practices. It was long established that the XIIth Legion's implantation protocols sat at the extreme end of the spectrum of tolerance and there had been many calls from Terra and from other Legions to rein in these practices, but in the aftermath of the Dropsite Massacre and with the arrival of the new overlord cadre, all restraints were removed. It was said that the raw fuel for the new processes had been harvested from the blood-soaked killing fields of the Urgall Depression, ritually gathered up by the sons of Lorgar and alchemically rendered down by the fell genius of the Emperor's Children. It was to the World Eaters apothecaries that the final duty of implantation would fall, and the result was hideous indeed.
Using the raw material of the waste-dwelling Numen gun-clanners, the apothecaries created a new generation of recruits. Where the process of creating a warrior of the Legiones Astartes should ordinarily been painstakingly undertaken over a period of years, this new generation was brought into being in months. The process was shockingly wasteful and while many aspirants simply perished in the bio-vats, many more underwent catastrophic biological destabilisation, necessitating the purging of the implantation chambers by fire and radiation. Those few who survived fell far short of the trans-human ideal the Emperor had intended for the Legiones Astartes. Even for the World Eaters, these were monsters made flesh, their bodies swollen by forbidden processes and their brains flooded with burning autonomic stimulators that, in conjunction with the so-called "Butcher's Nails" implants standard throughout the Legion, induced a permanent state of hyper-aggression. Furthermore, the flash-indoctrination protocols to which each aspirant was subjected invested him with the stolen memories of a hundred thousand kills, a flickering montage of other warriors' lives and deaths cycling through their consciousness in an eternal loop. From the moment each awoke from the gene-vats, he believed himself a red-handed champion and a veteran of countless wars. His only desire was to shed blood -- his enemies' or his own -- in the name of his Primarch. This was the birth of the first Khornate Berzerkers.
When the World Eaters Legion swore itself to the bloody worship of the Blood God Khorne, the Berzerkers were no longer bound to Imperial battle doctrine and were given full reign to exercise their bloodthirsty skills. They have since become the ultimate close combat shock troops, entering an uncontrollable frenzy in the heat of battle.
Those Chaos Space Marines who wish to fully dedicate themselves to Khorne usually join the World Eaters to undergo the complex psycho-surgery they employ. Once the procedure is complete, they are one with their angry Chaos God, feeling nothing but the desire to kill, maim and burn. After the World Eaters Legion was sundered at the Battle of Skalathrax, most Khornate Berserkers formed separate warbands, and many bastardised practices of lobotomisation spread to other Chaos Space Marine forces alongside them. Abaddon the Despoiler, in particular, has recruited a number of highly-skilled Berzerker-surgeons to his cause, and only the Black Legion is even close to the skill of the World Eaters' Apothecaries in their perfection of this barbaric practise.
Khorne's Berzerkers are rightly feared by their allies and their enemies alike. Having sworn their souls to the God of war and murder, Berzerkers find the need to spill "Blood for the Blood God" simply overpowering. Denied the chance to engage in constant slaughter, a Berzerker will become almost uncontrollably enraged and will turn on any living thing whose life can be extinguished to satisfy his sheer need for carnage. Khornate Berzerkers will gladly slaughter even their own allies when their blood lust has been stoked by the thrill of battle or simply because they have run out of enemies. This situation most famously engulfed the mightiest of the Khornate Berzerkers, Khârn the Betrayer, a Captain of the World Eaters Traitor Legion. Khornate Berzerkers' sheer bloodthirstyness has earned them a fearsome reputation, yet their uncontrollable urge to slaughter and kill often leaves them being unable to form a cohesive and mutually supportive military unit. This inability as well as the Berserkers' needs to kill using primarily melee weapons often leaves them at a disadvantage when facing opponents who are willing to use basic strategy against the Berserkers' unreasoning savagery and sheer ferocity. Berzerker warbands show a wide variety in numbers and unit strength and will essentially lend their aid to whichever side in combat offers them the greatest chance to kill and slaughter in the Blood God's name, even if these actions actually aid the Imperium or another of Chaos' mortal enemies.
Savage fighters that revel in the bloodiest hand-to-hand fighting in the perpetual quest to offer up blood and skulls to Khorne, Berzerkers carry many vicious close combat weapons into battle. Many wield roaring, adamantium-bladed Chainaxes, although the Chainsword is equally favoured. The Chaos Champions that lead each Khornate warband can sometimes be seen hefting heavy, baroque weapons lined with diamond-hard teeth that can chew through enemy vehicles and get at the crew inside. Ritual knives and scimitars are often worn into battle, the blades of which are only ever used to hack head from neck. After they have taken the heads of every enemy soldier within arm's reach, the warriors of Khorne will even decapitate their own fallen and offer their skulls to their brazen Chaos God before plunging back into the fray. The stark truth is that the brethren of the Blood God care little how they spill the blood of those around them. As far as the Berzerkers are concerned, bare fists or a heavy rock will do if nothing else is available. The Berzerkers of Khorne relish their role as the Blood God's sacred destroyers and are fanatical in the extreme. Their delight in pain and death is so strong that they have been known to attack their comrades in blind rage and, if no other opponent is present, even to fall upon their own weapons as sacrifices to Khorne.
Even though Khornate Berzerkers "suffer" from this feral bloodlust, they are still Astartes at heart, and most can draw on the experiences of millennia of battle and slaughter to remain alive and overwhelm their foes. Berzerker tactics are anything but subtle, usually consisting of a massive frontal charge coupled with flanking manoeuvres from the fastest amongst them, with warbands often transported to the battle in a Rhino, Land Raider, or on Assault Bikes. It is also a common sight to see Bezerkers make heavy use of Drop Pod assaults where their unexpected arrival can spell doom for the unprepared. In battle, Berzerkers work themselves into howling frenzies of insane fury and bloodlust, before charging straight into the heart of their enemy’s ranks where they can quickly bring their melee weapons to bear. The danger of such suicidal tactics is of no consequence to these traitor Space Marines, and they willingly brave all manner of enemy fire and hazards to come to grips with their foes. However, some Champions of Khorne are in nominal control of their rage and their warriors, and can display a feral cunning that one would never expect from blood-crazed madmen. These strategems include ambushes where Berzerkers lie in wait for their opponents and attempts at infiltration before unleashing their blood-crazed fury.
Notable Khornate Berzerkers
- Khârn the Betrayer - Khârn was once the Captain of the XII Legion's 8th Assault Company. He became a Chaos Champion of Khorne soon after the World Eaters turned to the service of the Chaos Gods. Khârn stood in the forefront of the World Eaters' assault of the Imperial Palace at the Battle of Terra during the closing days of the Horus Heresy and was killed during the vicious, hand-to-hand fighting before the Palace's Eternity Gate. His battered body was discovered laying atop a large mound of Loyalist corpses. When the assault was broken by the defeat of Horus at the hands of the Emperor, his fellow World Eaters found Khârn's body and carried it away. Soon after, they found that Khârn had apparently been resurrected by his patron God, Khorne. After the World Eaters had been driven into the Eye of Terror the entire XII Legion was ultimately consumed by the bloodlust of Khorne and became his most potent mortal servants, often fighting his eternal battles against his hated rival Slaanesh and the Prince of Pleasure's favoured mortal servants, the Emperor's Children Legion. The Daemon World of Skalathrax in the Eye of Terror was one of the places contested by both Traitor Legions shortly after the end of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium. After a full day of vicious fighting, the terribly frigid Skalathrax night began. Horrified, Emperor's Children and World Eaters alike ran to their shelters, for the freezing night would kill even a Chaos Space Marine in a matter of moments. Khârn raged over being delayed from slaughter for even a single night. Filled with anger when he saw that his brother Traitor Marines were creeping back to the shelters, he took up a Flamer and burned them down, slaying with his Chainaxe Gorechild any who tried to stop him. The night was filled with the screams of the dying and the freezing as Khârn strode the streets of the dead city of black stone, killing Emperor's Children and World Eaters alike, burning any shelters he found. The night was lit by flames as the Emperor's Children and the World Eaters fought each other and themselves for the few remaining shelters. By morning, most of the World Eaters were dead, the survivors split into small warbands, the shattered remnants of the once great companies of the XII Legion. The Legion would never fully reunite and would remain scattered into warbands for the next ten millennia until they were briefly reunited during the First War for Armageddon by their Daemon Primarch Angron.
- Akraghar, Berzerker Champion - It was Akraghar, Berzerker Champion of the World Eaters, who first harnessed a Defiler and bound it to his savage will. During the war for Eclipsion Prime, Akraghar leapt from the flames of a burning hivespire onto the legendary Defiler known as "Slaughterfiend" and forced the daemon within the hell engine to submit to his will. He rode the Daemon Engine through the shattered hive city like a dark knight upon a hellish stallion, descending upon his foes in a vengeful maelstrom of fire and blade. To the present day, the most reckless Chaos Space Marine Berserkers will attempt to emulate Akraghar's deed and capture a Defiler and ride their own Slaughterfiend to war.
- Roghrax Bloodhand - This formidable Khornate Berzerker has amassed more human skulls than he knows what to do with. He has sworn to collect a skull from every warrior species in the galaxy and offer them up to the Skull Throne of his master, Khorne. Bloodhand's masterwork took a dramatic turn when he was presented with a new opportunity to test his martial skills in 992.M41, with the coming of the Tyranid fleets. Hastening to the Eastern Fringe, the maniacal trophy collector led his Chaos warfleet directly into the path of Hive Fleet Kraken. Bloodhand is delighted at the prospect of collecting such large and impressive xenos skulls, and soon reaped a grisly bounty from the foul aliens.
- The Headsman of Cellebos - "The Headsman" is one of the most brutal of all of the World Eaters Chaos Space Marines known to be active in the Jericho Reach. This individual, whose true name is unknown, has earned the dire moniker "The Headsman" by the countless bloody deeds he has perpetrated across a hundred battlefields and more. First witnessed on the world of Khazant, The Headsman has been encountered leading a warband of his fellow Khornate Berserkers. Of all the bloodthirsty murderers fuelled by the savage essence of Khorne, The Headsman is feared as the most savage and unrelenting. He wields a mighty two-handed Chainaxe with which he beheads his foes, often a dozen with a single sweep. His features are obscured by an executioner’s hood, with little more than his baleful eyes visible. However, it is not just his appearance that has earned The Headsman his title, and it has been noted that his deeds are neither mindless nor random. Rather, The Headsman announces to his followers and all who will listen who his next target will be, and then sets out to slay them at any cost. Such targets are often the leaders or champions of the Imperium’s armies in the Jericho Reach, though on occasion they have been spiritual leaders or even high administrators or nobles. None can discern any pattern in The Headsman’s choice of target, but once the name is announced the victim’s doom is all but sealed. To date, The Headsman has announced the name of, and subsequently slain, three Space Marine Company Champions, a Chaplain, seven Imperial Guard Colonels, two Adeptus Titanicus Princeps, a Cardinal-Aquilus, and a Commissar-General. The Chamber of Vigilance of Watch Fortress Erioch has received intelligence that the Headsman has recently embarked upon a new hunt, but as yet the identity of the target is unknown. Whose skull shall be heaped at the base of the Blood God's throne next is a question to which several senior Inquisitor Lords of the Ordo Malleus have recently turned their attentions.
- Kossolax the Foresworn - Kossolax was a Chaos Lord who supported the 13th Black Crusade and lead a large Khornate warband known as the Foresworn. One particular Chaos Rhino, belonging to the World Eaters Legion, was reportedly present at the Battle of Terra during the Siege of the Imperial Palace, and has been identified on numerous occasions over the millennia since as being the vehicle of Kossolax the Foresworn. The vehicle, identified as Barbarus by its nameplate, is covered in iron spikes, each adorned with the severed head of an Imperial warrior. The records of the Ordo Malleus state that Barbarus belonged to the squad of Sergeant Solax of the World Eaters' 3rd Assault Company before the Horus Heresy, and this individual is thought to be the beast now known as Kossolax the Foresworn. If this is indeed the case, Sergeant Solax has risen to the command of an entire company of Khornate Berserkers in the form of the Foresworn, and Barbarus has served with him and his warband across ten millennia fighting the eternal Long War.
- Scyrak the Slaughterer - During the Horus Heresy, Librarians in the other Space Marine Legions that dedicated themselves to the Ruinous Powers were granted new psychic abilities and malefic powers. The only exception were the Librarians of the World Eaters. As part of a bloody sacrifice to their new master, the Librarians of the World Eaters were hunted down and slaughtered by their brother Astartes, as Khorne despises all practitioners of the sorcerous arts. The killing came to a head when the World Eaters hero Scyrak the Slaughterer slew the XII Legion's Chief Librarian, thus removing the last obstacle to the Legion's bloody fall to the Eightfold-Path and their service to the Skull Throne. There is some dispute to Scyrak's odious claim that he slew the last Librarian, but since the truth of these events surrounding the eradication of the Legion's Librarians occurred ten millennia ago, only those who were there would be able to confirm the veracity of his claims.
- Zhufor - Zhufor, also called Zhufor the Impaler and the Butcher of Vraks, is an infamous Chaos Lord of Khorne who led a mighty warband of the World Eaters known as the Skulltakers during the Siege of Vraks. Millennia ago, he was known as Balzach, a former Sergeant of the Storm Lords Chapter. During the sacking of the hive cities of Paramar, Sergeant Balzach was severely wounded and taken captive by the Traitor Marines of the World Eaters Legion. Balzach was then drugged and subjected to torture and psycho-corrective surgery to alter his brainwave patterns in order to break his Imperial indoctrination. He was turned into a raging psychopathic killer, tall and muscular beyond even his normal Space Marine physique, and reborn as Zhufor.
- Urkrathos - Within the ranks of the Black Legion are those who are bloody-handed servants of Khorne. Though not a single unified warband within the Black Legion, they are collectively known as the Hounds of Abaddon. Urkrathos, the current Lord Purgator of the Chosen of Abaddon and commander of the Legion's Black Fleet, claims all followers of Khorne within the Legion as his own and directs them according to the will of Abaddon the Despoiler.
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Blood (RPG), pp. 28-29
- Black Legion: A Codex: Chaos Space Marines Supplement (Digital Edition), pp. 55-63
- Citadel Journal 20, "The Slaughterer of Khorne: Scyrak The Slaughterer, Chosen of Khorne," pp. 91-96
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 36
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition), pg. 11
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, Revised Codex), pp. 29, 47-48
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 82-83
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pg. 115
- Liber Chaotica: "Khorne: Berserkers"
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pp. 9, 13, 21-22, 32-33
- Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pp. 17-18, 88, 174
- Index Astartes III, "Chosen of Khorne - The World Eaters Space Marine Legion"
- The Horus Heresy - Book Six: Retribution by Alan Bligh, pp. 106-107
- White Dwarf 313 (US), "Frenzy of the Blood God", pp. 126-129
- White Dwarf 230 (US), "WH40K 3rd: Bitter and Twisted - Khârn the Betrayer", pg. 42
- White Dwarf 227 (US), "Chapter Approved: Chaos, Khârn the Betrayer", pp. 73-80
- White Dwarf 201 (US), "The Betrayer", pp. 87-90
- White Dwarf 153 (US), "The World Eaters: Chaos Space Marines", pp. 4-10
- Galaxy In Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter
- Chosen of Khorne (Audio Drama) by Anthony Reynolds