DAEMONS OF THE WARP
Daemon - the mere utterance of the word is enough to instill fear into the stoutest heart, and rightly so. For humanity's great nemesis, Chaos, has no purer form, and the countless millions of hideous blasphemies that populate the Warp desire nothing less than the utter destruction of the Imperium.
The very fabric of Chaos is inconsistent and unpredictable, so it is impossible to list the myriad forms of Daemons. Nevertheless, despite the inconsistent nature of the Warp, it is thought that the major Chaos deities value certain physical aspects relevant to their peculiar ethos. As such, it is possible for a learned Chaotician to distinguish a Daemon's patron deity from whatever perverse form it chooses to manifest in the material realm, It is widely believed that the features shared by the entities of a particular Chaos power give clues as to the preferred forms of the deity in question.
The Daemons of Khorne, the Blood God, are commonly the color of dried gore, massively built, and brutish in appearance. Even the smallest of these Bloodletters stand head and shoulders taller than a Space Marine, and their heavily muscled physique is honed with the sole intention of massacring every living thing that they encounter. Very few actual reports of these Daemons are to be found, for the blood kin exist purely to kill. As such, the vast majority of knowledge concerning these Daemons is forensic. The following is a transcription of Inquisitor Leshra's findings after the Eyrian Arena massacres.
The floor of the chamber is awash with blood...it is astounding that a mere eight bodies could relinquish so much. They have been crudely and violently dismembered. The walls are spattered with blood to an amazing extent; barely a square Inch of the original fagade remains unsullied. Long, rope-like tendrils of gore dangle from the ceiling and speak of the terrible energies with which this slaughter was perpetrated. My servitors, in piecing together the bodies of the fools that summoned this beast, found that all body parts were still present except the skulls of the slain, of which there are no traces.
The Daemons that owe their allegiance to Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure, are the antithesis of the Bloodletters, for they are said to be creatures of striking and ethereal beauty. A weak man that so much as glances one is lost forever; no matter how fervently his conscious mind warns him of danger, he will be powerless to resist the base instinct to succumb to these creatures and to serve them for an eternity of humiliation as a mindless slave. But there are some who have passed the test of witnessing these beings whose souls have not been ensnared by their sinuous dance and promises of paradise. They describe these Daemonettes as resembling nubile young females. Horrific mutations such as bony protuberances and cloven extremities in no way diminish their hypnotic beauty. That these blasphemies can transmute a natural reaction of revulsion and terror into uncontrollable desire is testament to their subtle powers. And yet it is said that still greater servants of Slaanesh exist, the Keepers of Secrets. Despite the vast size of these many-limbed nightmares, their lithe grace surpasses even that of the lesser order of Slaaneshi Daemon, and they revel in consuming not only the bodies of their prey but also their souls.
Perhaps the foulest of all Daemons are the minions of the Lord of Decay, Nurgle, as they are putrefaction given form. Why any member of Humanity should worship a deity of pestilence is an enigma to the sane, but nevertheless this ancient god is one of the most powerful of the blasphemous pantheon. His servants are the tally-men of disease, ceaselessly counting every contagion to have ever blighted the universe, An ancient vox record from the Apothecarium Maloris, dating back to the Drellian Plagues and kept locked away in the Library Sanctus, contains a sample of their droning, sonorous chant. All who have heard it have fallen ill and died.
All known Daemons of Nurgle exhibit every outward sign of decay and leak a hissing gruel of pus and diseased viscera wherever they drag their foul-smelling carcasses. The only sure way of cleansing an area tainted by such beasts is with righteous, purifying flame.
To try to classify the Horror Daemons of Tzeentch by their physical characteristics is futile. Every one of the servants of the Lord of Change can mold its form with the slightest thought, and the majority of these beasts are nothing more than a roiling mass of clawed limbs and fanged mouths. From within these fleshy, ever-changing beasts hatch larval versions of the original that clamber screaming from the mouths of their previous incarnation. Men have been driven insane merely by witnessing these monstrosities, and many have died in agonizing pain as the balefire that serves as these Horrors' lifeblood consumed them in a conflagration of psychic energy.
As with all Daemonkind, when the tide of battle turns against them, they will begin to fade from existence, the bonds tying them to the physical realm dissolving instantaneously. The Ordo Malleus and the Ecclesiarchy are well aware that true faith accelerates this process, as do canticles of abjuration and exorcism.
Daemonic creatures have no homeworld as such, since outside the Immaterium, they require vast amounts of warp energy or a host body to exist. As such, the only planets where Daemons can exist without fear of being cast back to the warp are those within the Eye of Terror itself, where the Immaterium spills into the galaxy in a maelstrom of warp energy. In this region of space, worlds exist where the laws of physics and nature do not apply, and the landscape is constantly shifting at the whim of the Chaos power that rules the planet.
Each of the Chaos powers is master of an uncounted number of Daemon worlds within the Eye of Terror, and their realms are a twisted reflection of their blasphemous aspects. A journey within the Eye of Terror is a voyage that only the heretic or the insane would dare undertake. The little reliable knowledge that does exist has been gleaned by the most powerful psykers of the Imperium who have reported dreams or visions where the worlds of Chaos have been revealed to them. The worlds of Nurgle are filth-ridden plague pits where Daemons shuffle across the necrotic surfaces and dolorously count the contagions unleashed by their scrofulous patron. Slaanesh's worlds, cloaked in the heady musk of indulgence, throb with every form of excess imaginable, while those of Khorne echo with the screams of those slaughtered by the bloodthirsty warriors of the Blood God. Tzeentch's worlds are monstrous, ever-changing labyrinths where the landscape barely has solidity before it is reshaped into some new nightmarish form.
There are a multitude of other worlds within the Eye of Terror: planets like flat sheets of black glass, worlds girt by fire, and others where bloody rain pours upwards from the surface. On one world, a black sun stands in a white sky, and smoky threads pour from it onto a tangled dark city of nightmare fortifications - said to be the world of Medrengard, dwelling place of the Iron Warriors' Daemon Primarch Perturabo. Another world is swathed in lakes of boiling blood from which spheres of fire float into the sky and spread their light across the firmament. There are an unknown number of worlds within the Eye of Terror and an infinite number of realities that exist as potentials in the swirling Chaos of the Eye.
It is impossible to know for certain when Mankind's first contact with the daemonic first took place, since - if Chaoticians are correct - the energy that creates such monstrous beasts has existed for as long as humans, if not before. The Warp, sometimes known as the Sea of Souls, is a churning mass of raw potential energy, which humans with psychic talent can tap to use sorcerous powers. Since the dawn of time, there have been those who could shape that power to their own ends, and their legacy has been recorded in dark myth since those times.
The volcanic caverns of Hnang-Mei, beneath the vast mountains of a region of Terra whose name has long been forgotten, bore witness to what may have been the first recorded instances of daemonic intrusion. Before their destruction during the Great Betrayer's assault on Holy Terra ten thousand years ago, the murals and daubings on the cave walls depicted primitive humans and crude, but unmistakable, images all too familiar to the Daemonhunters of the Ordo Malleus.
The chosen style of warfare varies between each class of Daemon and is largely dependent upon their patron deity. Just as the Daemon's form is determined by its allegiance, so too are its strengths in combat and therefore also its weaknesses. The Bloodletters fight with massive brazen axes, wrought in the likeness of skulls or the symbol of their patron deity, Khorne. It has been speculated that the bronze axe was one of the first tools of war manufactured by Mankind and hence has a particular resonance with Khorne. These weapons are thought to be imbued with limited sentience and may even have vampiric qualities, as many of the victims of the Bloodletters have been found utterly drained of their blood. The axes of Khorne are also widely used by the mortal devotees of the Blood God (cf. 934.457.WorldEaters). In conjunction with the loodletter's unnatural strength, these deadly weapons can penetrate even the armored flanks of a standard pattern Rhino. It is known that there exists one Daemon creature steeped further in the favor of Khorne, the monstrous Bloodthirster. This immensely powerful creature towers over its minions and is possibly the most formidable of all Greater Daemons. It is consummately skilled in the arts of war and can smash apart an armored bunker with one blow. Inordinately powerful, none can best this behemoth at close quarters; for it is war incarnate.
The Daemons of Slaanesh are slight in build, but their size belies their lethal prowess at close quarters. The long, razor-sharp claws of the Daemonette, akin to the diamond-hard chitin of the Tyranid Genestealer, are capable of slicing through adamantium. Along with the greater form of the Slaaneshi Daemon, the many-armed Keeper of Secrets, these beasts are thought to exude a strong musk that dulls the senses and erodes the free will of their prey. Comparatively small, even the las-fire of Imperial Guardsmen has proven to be effective against them. However, unlike their Khornate counterparts, the Daemons of Slaanesh are cunning and attack with guile and speed rather than ferocity and strength.
Conversely, the maggot-kin of Nurgle have proven to be exceptionally durable on the field of war and range from the size of a human infant to that of a battle tank. Among all the Daemons of Chaos, they may have the strongest link to the physical realm, for their plague-riddled forms can shrug off heavy bolter shells as though they were mere stubber rounds. It is likely that their addled physiology cannot feel pain. The rotten, rusted blades used by the blighted hosts of Nurgle carry virulent poisons and fast-acting bacteria that, when brought in contact with exposed flesh, cause the affected areas to wither and slough off as the contagion spreads throughout the victim's nervous system. These Daemons also harbor Nurgle's Rot, a corruption of the soul that can potentially infect any living thing in the Daemons' vicinity. There is no defense against these Daemonic infections other than true faith, and even an Ogryn's stalwart metabolism is no match for such potent afflictions.
Still more nauseating is the propensity for the Daemons of Nurgle to eject torrents of infected bile at close range, seeping into and burning through all materials up to and including standard issue flak armor. Even vanquishing such beasts with power fists and thunder hammers is folly, for the merest spattering of the ichor that serves as their blood can lead to a painful, plague-riddled death.
The Tzeentch entities nicknamed "Horrors" and "Flamers" are the only manner of Daemonkin known to manifest a ranged attack. This generally takes the form of multicolored daemonic flames ejected from the Horror's eyes, mouth, or hands. The effects this balefire has upon its target vary wildly. The aftermath of the Balsoir Symposium in 885. M37, extensively investigated by the Ordo Malleus and the Relictors Chapter, remains the archetypal illustration of what these Daemons are capable of. The corpses of the heretics present at the symposium ranged from severely burnt to mutated beyond all recognition. Among the bodies were mewling, ravaged mounds that had once been men. Countless eyes and mouths opened across blistered flesh to plead for a merciful end to their newfound existence. Several of the altered had grown in part to resemble animals, insects, or the Horrors that had wreaked such carnage upon them. Others were reduced to stringy puddles of fibrous gore or hung in mid-air, their dangling organs arranged to spell out eldritch Tzeentch runes. Once the investigation had been concluded, the entire complex was put to the torch.
Alone among the daemonic species, the minions of Tzeentch are vulnerable at close quarters. Although their scrabbling claws and many-fanged mouths can tear apart a guardsman with ease, they are no match for the Adeptus Astartes. Their propensity to split and reform in an accelerated form of asexual reproduction is alarming but ultimately a mere distraction to a determined assault.
Due to the fact that all Daemons tend to manifest suddenly and unexpectedly in the heat of battle, it is extremely difficult to mount a defense against them with ranged weaponry. Therefore, the only measure of safety an Imperial trooper can have against these diabolic foes is unshakable conviction and faith in the Emperor, bolstered by a thorough knowledge of the Imperial creed.
Daemons appear to have no concept of technology, and understandably so. For their actual forms are optimized for the furtherance of their god's whims, and they need nothing so human as tools to achieve their goals. However, there remain a few notable exceptions. Chaos Space Marines that have ascended to daemonic status sometimes retain twisted and malformed versions of their original weaponry and armor, often fused into their very form until the two become indistinguishable, to a greater or lesser extent cf.094.476.technovirus. Obliterator). Far from standard pattern bolters and close combat weapons, these accouterments have twisted and changed over the millennia until they are virtually unrecognizable and can even sprout from the flesh of the entity in question. Daemon Princes the size of Dreadnoughts have been described as still sporting a mockery of their original power armor, whether it has grown with them as part of their form or is some kind of daemonic exoskeleton is unknown.
Perhaps the closest parallel to technology available to the daemonic is the Daemon weapon. These are created by taking a sword or some other tool of war and debasing it with profane, sacrilegious runes until it is possible to imprison a Daemon within the fabric of the weapon itself. This adds a tremendous degree of potency and magical power to the artifact in question, although this invariably differs from item to item. A variation of this process has even been applied to standard pattern Imperial vehicles by imprisoning a daemonic entity within the hull of anything from a Dreadnought to a Land Raider. It is even suspected that the minions of Chaos create mechanical vessels purely for this purpose (cf.016.924.Defiler).
The threat of the daemonic cannot be underestimated, and it is the sworn duty of every member of the Ordo Malleus to destroy any trace of such entities. There can be no rest in the persecution of daemonic creatures or those who would traffic with them, and entire worlds have been sacrificed to prevent catastrophic daemonic incursions and irreparable damage to the barriers separating warp space and real space.
Some believe that the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus and (by extension) the Grey Knights are too zealous in their use of lethal force and cite the destruction of valuable planetary systems that have been suspected of being under daemonic influence but were later found to be free of corruption. But these opinions are voiced by those who have never seen the horror wreaked by even one daemonic entity. Even a single, unprotected psyker can unwittingly provide a gateway for a Daemon to breach the barriers between the Immaterium and real space. And where one Daemon travels, others can follow, as its very presence weakens the fabric of reality.
Upon detection of a daemonic incursion, the Ordo Malleus can call upon any and all local resources to aid them in their fight against the spawn of the Warp. Should the threat prove serious enough, and there are Grey Knights near, an Inquisitor can call on the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus. An Inquisitor and his allies have the full remit of the High Lords of Terra to requisition any and all resources they deem necessary in order to meet the threat of the daemonic.
To the Ordo Malleus, there is no measure too extreme that can be taken in the fight against the creatures of the Warp, and any collateral casualties among civilian populaces near the fighting are seen as the inevitable consequence of combating such evil. The ultimate sanction of Exterminatus, whereupon an entire planetary biosphere is destroyed, is also available to an Inquisitor. Such measures are never undertaken lightly, but no Inquisitor would shy away from their use should the situation warrant.
Even after the daemonic incursion is defeated, the work of the Ordo Malleus is not complete, as every trace of the corrupted ground must be ritually purified. Every living thing touched by Chaos must be destroyed in cleansing flames, and the area must be quarantined for decades or even centuries before it is declared safe.
The daemonic legions exist in a fairly well established hierarchy, although this is by no means rigid, as a daemonic entity can rise and fall in the favor of his patron god over the course of a single day. At the lowest end of the hierarchy are the Spawn, those who have failed in their quest to become a Daemon Prince and have been transformed beyond all recognition by their fickle gods into a vile, flailing mass of limbs, mouths, spikes, and ectoplasm. At a similar level are Daemons such as the pustulant Nurglings, entities that gibber and cavort in the wake of the scions of their putrid god.
Above them are the daemonic beasts, to whom notions of status are irrelevant. The Juggernauts of Khorne, part infernal machine and part daemonic flesh, are used as mounts by the Berzerker champions of the Blood God. The Slaaneshi equivalents, serpentine fiends with long, lashing tongues, are almost as deadly; their hypnotic musk debilitates the victim before the warrior mounted upon it strikes the killing blow. The riding Daemons of Tzeentch, although sentient, have the appearance of a metallic disc and the temperament of a shark. Sorcerers of Chaos often employ these strange creatures to convey them into the midst of battle, accompanied by screeching, blade-winged Screamers that are attracted to the magical energy of their masters. The Furies, winged Daemons that descend upon their prey in a cloud of sharp fangs and slicing claws, are thought to owe allegiance to no given Chaos power and fight purely for the love of carnage and death.
The majority of daemonic entities occupy the next step in the hierarchy and are the beasts most likely to answer the summons of the heretic. These are the daemonic foot soldiers of the Chaos powers and comprise the Daemonette. Bloodletter, Horror, and Plaguebearer (see Physical Characteristics, above).
At the upper echelons of the daemonic hierarchy are the Greater Daemons, those who are truly the closest in nature and spirit to their overlords. Physical manifestations of the evil and despicable Chaos powers they serve, Greater Daemons have the power to command whole hosts of their lesser kin. Only those with the favor of the gods may summon a Greater Daemon to the material plane, and such an action invariably costs the life of those foolish enough to try.
At the pinnacle of daemonic society are the Daemon Princes. To a follower of Chaos, the ascension to the status of Daemon Prince is the ultimate accolade. Although many are less powerful in the field of battle than the Greater Daemon, there are those have the capacity to enslave worlds to their whim, or change reality with a glance. For unlike the Daemon created from the stuff of the Immaterium, the Daemon Prince was once mortal and has proved himself through countless centuries of slaughter and sacrifice to be a truly worthy servant of Chaos. Daemon Princes retain the driving ambition and ruthless cunning that elevated them to Daemonhood, and the qualities that gained the favor of their deity are magnified a hundredfold. Each of the worlds in the Eye of Terror is ruled by a Prince of puissant power and influence, and the Princes answer to their god alone. It is even rumored that among the ranks of the Daemon Princes are the Primarchs that turned against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, a true testament to the power that some of these diabolic individuals now wield.