- "Scream for me, 'Master.' "
- — Zabrathiel, newly freed Daemonhost
A Daemonhost is an unholy creation of foul and dangerous rituals in which a powerful daemon of Chaos is bound into a living human or other mortal host body and enslaved to its creator's will. An utterly foul act, the creation of a Daemonhost condemns the soul of the host body to eternal torment and provides a lasting home in the material universe for a daemon to work its malignant evil.
Despite the horror of their creation, there are those within the Inquisition itself, it is said, who have dared to replicate the act, hoping to turn their creations against enemies of the Imperium. Unfortunately, Daemonhosts are not only the preserve of a handful of Radical Inquisitors. Insane dabblers in proscribed knowledge and the most powerful of Chaos Cults have also been known to create Daemonhosts to serve them in their designs.
Daemons do not rest easily under the will of any mortal, and to earn the enmity of such a creature is to gain an immortal enemy, so a Daemonhost's creator is faced with a dangerous conundrum: the more powerful the Daemonhost created, the weaker the bindings of the daemon.
On the Nature of Daemonhosts
Although it is possible for a daemon of Chaos to directly manifest itself within the physical realm, it is very difficult. The barriers between the Warp and realspace must be weakened by rituals and blood sacrifice, and even then the daemon can only appear for a comparatively short length of time.
Daemonic possession is a more common form of intrusion, where a daemon imparts some of its power and will into a physical host. Like manifestation, possession is normally limited in time, but can be extended almost indefinitely if certain ceremonies and procedures are performed at the time of possession. Those daemons that are dragged from the Warp and bound into the most likely unwilling flesh of a human for extended periods of time are known as Daemonhosts.
A Daemonhost is an almost indescribably foul entity. Only the most debased cultists and most Radical of Inquisitors and Acolytes might contemplate creating such an abomination. A Daemonhost can be a powerful, but dangerous tool. Even the most tightly leashed is still a mighty creature, stronger and more resilient than any human and with potent psychic abilities. Each is also immensely knowledgeable, often more so than the most learned of malefic scholars, for a daemon is not bound by the limits of reality. As a denizen of the Warp it knows the ways of the Immaterium and can see into the depths of men's souls.
Despite the numerous risks, there are still many reasons to create a Daemonhost. Cults might create a Daemonhost as an act of worship of the Ruinous Powers, or to grant the daemonic object of their veneration a method to walk amongst its followers. A cult might bind a Daemonhost as a way for its magister to show his power and favour in the eyes of the Dark Gods, or simply as a weapon to use against the servants of righteousness.
For those who serve as the Daemonhost's vessel, some are willing volunteers, members of Chaos-worshipping cults who give over their bodies so that their master may walk amongst them. Others are less self-sacrificing, having been captured by a cult and waking with a daemon living inside their mind -- an experience likely to drive even the most strong-willed into insanity.
Inquisitors, particularly those of the Ordo Malleus and their servants, could craft a Daemonhost for their own reasons. One Inquisitor might create one as a powerful weapon to wield in his fight against Chaos, believing that only another creature of the Warp can stand against its kind in battle. Another might bind a daemon purely in order to interrogate the wily creature, plumbing the depths of its impossible knowledge for secrets to aid him in his work, or for insight into the activities of his enemies.
A Daemonhost, like all daemons, is a liar. Although bound through powerful eldritch rites to serve its creator, a Daemonhost constantly plots and schemes against him and, depending on the strength and nature of its bindings, might cajole and threaten him. A Daemonhost might prefer to play the role of the obsequious servant, for example, biding its time until the opportunity arrives to break its fetters and wreak vengeance on its summoner. Regardless of how it behaves, no daemon willingly serves a human. Each Daemonhost despises and loathes its binders and masters and seeks constantly for some way to change the state of affairs.
A Daemonhost is a powerful creature, the walking embodiment of the Warp. With few exceptions, the daemon bound within a host is potent, on the level of a Herald or Daemon Prince, because the wards and bindings that enslave a Daemonhost also fetter its power. A Lesser Daemon bound to a host is weaker than that daemon would be otherwise, and seldom worth the risk of summoning and binding in the first place. A Daemon Prince, Herald, or Greater Daemon, however, even when bound, is almost unbelievably powerful. However, one who would create a Daemonhost faces a choice, as the more tightly bound a Daemonhost is, the less powerful, while the more loosely bound, the more free it is to resist its master and the more likely to escape its bindings altogether.
Instruction in the Malefic
The knowledge of how to create a Daemonhost is very hard to acquire. Besides being considered heresy of the highest order by the Imperium (outside the Inquisition, one could be executed for even knowing of the existence of such abominations), the information is simply not widely known and even less widely distributed. Some particularly devoted Chaos Cultists or Sorcerers may research Daemonhost creation, but their work is often fragmentary, or even dangerously flawed. Only the desperate or insane would trust their mad scribblings.
A scant few tomes do include detailed -- and somewhat reliable -- instructions. These books are filled with malefic and daemonic lore, and are often very rare and very, very old. Some may have even been inscribed when the Emperor still walked on Terra. Even if such a tome is obtained, a victim is still required. Although no two sets of instructions for creating Daemonhosts are the same, nearly all require a living, human victim. Normally, one cannot create a Daemonhost by binding a daemon within an animal or a corpse. If there are more specifications describing a suitable victim (such as male, female, or pure of soul), they will be described in the instruction set. How the victim is obtained, of course, is another matter entirely...
Once the summoners have obtained both the proper instructions and a suitable victim, they must determine what daemon they will bind. This is the most difficult part of the process. The summoners cannot randomly summon a daemon, then bind it within a host. They must know who the daemon is, specifically its name, if it is a follower of a particular Ruinous Power (or simply a being of Chaos Undivided, undedicated to a particular patron), a measure of its deeds and interactions with the mortal worlds, and other details.
Since the daemon will undoubtedly regard the binding as a hostile act, many choose to bind vanquished daemonic foes or rivals, well-known to them through prior encounters. After all, what sweeter revenge is there than having your vanquished enemy forced to do your bidding?
Once the pieces are in place, there are two steps to creating a Daemonhost. First, the actual bindings detailed in the instruction tome must be applied to the victim's body. This is done by inscribing the wards and phrases of containment directly onto the skin. The inscribing can be done in simple ink -- although considering the terrible consequences should the wards have even the slightest flaw, most prefer a medium that cannot be carelessly smeared or altered, such as tattoos or scarification.
Once this is done, additional bindings such as sanctified chains and locks, purity needles, and sigils of authority are added to the victim as well. The entire process is usually quite detailed and time consuming (although under duress, it can be accomplished quickly. Such sloppiness often leads to unpleasant results, however). A summoner can expect the procedure to take at least a full solar day, especially if the wards are etched into the skin, rather than drawn.
At the end of the process, the ritual's success will depend on the summoner's knowledge of daemonology. The basic difficulty of the ritual depends on how many levels of binding the summoner wants applied to the future host. If the ritual is successful, the bindings have been wrought correctly. However, for every degree of failure, miniscule flaws render the bindings one degree less than the summoner intended -- thrice-bound becomes twice-bound and so forth. The summoners will only discover how successful they were when they attempt to summon the daemon. However, successful or not, everyone involved in applying the bindings shares the essence of the Warp that will plant its seeds of corruption.
The next step is to summon the actual daemon. The summoning ceremony will also be described in the instructions, and while the specifics differ, all ceremonies involve aspects such as warded circles made of sanctified salt and blood, long ritual incantations, and probably a live sacrifice of some type. Once the daemon manifests, the summoner conducting the ceremony speaks the words of binding and engages in a battle of will with the daemon.
If the summoner loses the battle, the daemon vanishes back into the Warp, swearing vengeance. If he wins, there is a flash, a deafening crack, a sudden stench of ozone, and the daemon finds itself inside the host's body. Now, the summoner discovers how strong his bindings are. The ritual reveals the strength of the bindings. As long as the Daemonhost is at least once-bound, there is no immediate danger. However, if the daemonhost is unbound, it is not constrained by the summoner's orders. It will lash out, attempting to kill the person who summoned it, as well as anyone else in the vicinity.
Compelling the Daemonhost
Once the Daemonhost is bound and contained, the summoner who bound it can compel it to do his bidding. As long as the Daemonhost remains bound, it is unable to directly harm the summoner. However, how closely it follows orders depends on how strong its bindings are -- and how specific the summoner is with his directions.
When given basic instructions such as "protect me," or "follow me and be silent," the Daemonhost will obey the summoner without trouble. However, when instructing the Daemonhost on a specific set of orders (such as "go to this building, kill this man, let none see you"), the summoner's and the Daemonhost's volitions will clash once again. Provided the summoner wins, the Daemonhost will obey his orders to the letter. However, if the summoner shall show mercy, the Daemonhost will creatively interpret his orders with more liberty, preferably to the detriment of his master.
The Machinations of the Daemon
The summoner should make no mistake, a Daemonhost is no friend of whomever it serves. At best, it is a grudging servant, doing its master's bidding whilst taking any opportunity to delight in bloodshed, slaughter, and destruction along the way. Whenever it has the opportunity, however, it will cause trouble for its master in any way possible.
Most often, this comes in the form of bending its master's orders as much as it can without quite breaking them. As an example, a Daemonhost is ordered to go to a specific building and kill an individual while remaining unseen, but the summoner who created it did not mention anything else. The Daemonhost will still go to the building and kill the individual, but then perhaps it will kill everyone else in the building in a gory and obviously supernatural fashion, drawing the attention of the authorities and likely spoiling its master's plans.
All Daemonhosts are bound to not harm their master. However, if their master is weak-willed enough, a Daemonhost is free to ruin his plans, fail to aid him if not specifically ordered to, or even harm those around him. Needless to say, this makes Daemonhosts some of the most dangerous and fickle allies a band of Chaos Cultists can possess, and they should be treated with caution.
- Cherubael - Cherubael was once a Daemon Prince, worshipped as a god on the Feral World of Clanar II. When Inquisitor Quixos freed the Clanars from Cherubael's domination, he managed to enslave the creature into the body of one of the warriors. Cherubael served Quixos for many solar decades, until finally he was banished back to the Warp by the intervention of other, more puritanical, Inquisitors. However, he was never totally free, and once more he has been drawn back into a mortal body, serving Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn.
- Hedrodal - Also known as the "Twice-bound Daemonhost." Created by the false prophets of the Pilgrims of Hayte using the unwilling body of the fallen Interrogator Cripon, Hedrodal is a foul thing. A long purple snaketongue flicks from between its grinning teeth, glowing eyes burn with an icy light and its chain-crossed flesh is covered in rolling eyes and glistening boils. Everywhere Hedrodal passes there is the sound of nameless things scuttling, and lurking shadows of horrible visage can be seen inhabiting the darkness around it.
- Kapeth-Shem - Kapeth-Shem is a Daemonhost that was created by the Xanthite Inquisitor Selech of the Ordo Malleus. Having absorbed every scrap of knowledge that he could find, Inquisitor Selech determined that his most loyal servant, Imperial Guardsman Kapeth, would be the first to receive the honour of "illumination." Despite every one of the Inquisitor's precautions, the daemon had tricked him. It was not cast out, but lurked within the very deepest recesses of Kapeth's soul. When Inquisitor Selech announced the process complete and his servant cleansed, Shem regained control of the vessel, transforming it into a hideous parody of a man, and struck his summoner down. The thing that became known as Kapeth-Shem slaughtered Inquisitor Selech as well as his Banishers, and broke free of its bonds. Three dozen servants of the Ordo Malleus died before the Daemonhost was finally cornered and bound, deep within the Inquisitor's fastness in the wastes of Scintilla.
- Suvfaeras - Like all Daemonhosts, Suvfaeras is a foul and unholy thing, the very existence of which defies nature. Suvfaeras is unique in that, added to the silver chains and occult brands that bind its host body, charms and talismans of xenos origin adorn its blasphemous form. It is impossible to say if these objects were intended for such use or the Heretics that bound Suvfaeras repurposed them. While a daemon may on rare occasion deign to inhabit the flesh of a moral indefinitely, such a state is akin to imprisonment for most denizens of the Warp. Indeed, Suvfaeras was unwittingly created in its current form by parties unknown who clearly possessed powerful and damnable knowledge. Upon escaping its stasis prison, Suvfaeras was initially weakened, perhaps an after-effect of the psychic choir that kept him subdued. Ever spiteful and bloodthirsty, its first act was to slaughter its wardens. Now, it prowls the undertunnels of Hive Desoleum on the world of Desoleum, slowly regaining its strength and plotting against its captors. Even if this body is destroyed, the daemon within remembers every slight, and surely will return to revisit its vengeance.
- The Burning One - The Burning One is one of the most feared Daemonhosts in the whole Calixis Sector. The name of the Acolyte who became the Burning One is lost, as is the name of the daemon who resides within him. What is known is that he was created by the Radical Inquisitor Kal Xorn as a way to store vast amounts of forbidden lore without tainting the minds of his personal retinue. Originally thrice-bound, as only his mental faculties were required, the Burning One at some point acquired the knowledge of how to break his conditioning despite his inability to break the wards binding him inside his human host. The Daemonhost immediately slew Inquisitor Xorn and several of his retinue whose habits and weaknesses he had studied over a course of Terran years. It is believed that his first victim was a young Sanctioned Psyker who had been enticed to assist in his escape.
- Karnak Zul - The Daemonhost known as Karnak Zul has long been a slave to the Inquisition. Bound to mortal flesh more than 400 Terran years ago by Inquisitor Renthor, late master to Interrogator Crane, he was used for centuries as a tool to hunt down Heretics and rebels. Like all daemons, Zul knows well how to bide his time and while he chafed under the shackles of Renthor, he secretly plotted his revenge. Finally, after almost two centuries, his chance arrived in the form of a weak-willed Enginseer and a perilous emergency Warp jump. Manipulating events Zul was able to cripple the starship Chains of Judgement and escape his cell. His plans for freedom, however, were dashed during the chaos that followed, when, even as he struck down Inquisitor Renthor, he was trapped anew. For two standard centuries now he has languished in a warded circle while the vessel drifts aimless in the Warp.
- Black Crusade: Broken Chains (RPG), pg. 30
- Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pg. 113
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 355
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (2nd Edition) (RPG), pg. 437
- Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter (RPG), pp. 30-31
- Dark Heresy: Enemies Beyond (2nd Edition) (RPG) pg. 62
- Dark Heresy: The Radical’s Handbook (RPG), pp. 184-187
- Inquisitor Rulebook (Specialty Game), pp. 142-143