This notion of complete independence is not entirely accurate, for certain Dreadblades do indeed pledge themselves to various heretical warlords or profane demagogues, but such loyalty is fleeting, and these wandering Knights will swiftly betray their masters if it proves advantageous.
The horrors that cause a Knight to become a Dreadblade are as varied as the currents of Chaos themselves. Some are led onto this path of damnation through illusion and trickery. Others find themselves becoming roving warriors as a result of their growing insanity. Others still choose violent solitude of their own volition as a means to pursue revenge, and to fulfil their sworn oaths of murder.
Regardless of the underlying reason, a Knight that turns its back on the Imperium and its own house is forever outcast. Yet this only makes them more deadly. Freed from the bonds of fealty and subservience, there is nothing to stop a Dreadblade pursuing its own nightmarish desires, travelling from war zone to war zone to slake its lust for carnage, or hunting down and destroying all in the galaxy who have offended its twisted dignity.
A great deal of Dreadblades hail from houses that are still loyal to the Imperium and the Omnissiah. During the Horus Heresy, when the rest of their houses sided with the Loyalists, individual Knights felt honour-bound to maintain their fealty to the Traitors.
Countless such schisms occurred across the galaxy, and though many of the rebelling Knights were permanently silenced in titanic duels, others disappeared into the stars only to re-emerge alongside the armies of the Warmaster Horus.
Other Knights who become Dreadblades are those captured in battle, their allies wiped out and their suits damaged to the point that they can no longer fight. Handed over to the Hereteks of the Dark Mechanicum, a long and horrific fate awaits these warriors. Their minds and souls are gradually shattered through the use of sorcerous torture and daemonic rituals. Notions of loyalty and honour are replaced with the depraved ideals of their captors and a screaming desire for carnage.
Then there are those Dreadblades who, over the course of long and bloody campaigns, have lost the ability to perceive the path of righteousness. Surrounded by so much slaughter, their only notions of honour are tied to the killing strike of their blade or the obliterative blast of their Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon.
Many such Dreadblades are completely unaware that they have fallen from grace, their single-mindedness blinding them to the atrocities that they so wantonly commit.
- Sire of Doom (piloted by Kiro) - During the Mnos Catastrophe, which saw half a dozen Forge Worlds overrun by the Dark Mechanicum, the Knights of House Daitan were captured alive while trying to defend the servants of the Omnissiah. Their heretical captors took them into the screaming heart of a soul forge, where the Knights were wired into the colossal torture devices of the fiendish Magi. For a whole Terran year the Daitan Knights endured as agonising Warp currents were sent surging through them, but the Noble pilots could only take so much punishment. One after another they were consumed by their suffering, their bodies exploding from the sheer intensity of the pain. As each expired, their share of anguish was spread across those who were still alive, until only Kiro remained within his Knight, Sire of Doom. The Knight thrashed and roared, its circuits flooded with the tortured deaths of the Nobles of House Daitan. The hateful Dark Magi then finished their ritual by sealing Sire of Doom in this state of utter despair, blinding it to all other thoughts. Wherever it now marches, the last Knight of Daitan lashes out mindlessly at all who stand before it, seeing the scarred and twisted faces of its captors at every turn. Its Dark Mechanicum masters know this, and lead the tormented machine to wherever it will cause the most destruction.
- Incarnate Slaughter (piloted by Decima) - Once known as Incarnate Valour, this murderous Knight Rampager and its pilot Decima fell to Chaos in the throes of battle. They marched to war as part of the grand lance of House Merridon, in which every last Knight of the household strove to halt the rampant advance of Hive Fleet Hydra that was fast approaching their world. The bold, final charge was doomed to failure. Outnumbered by a factor of billions, each Knight was cut down and picked apart by the unending xenos swarms. Incarnate Valour was the last warrior standing, and in its Throne Mechanicum remained a single imperative -- kill. When the Knight was waist high in ichor and butchered alien flesh, a Warp breach appeared beneath its feet, drawing the raging engine into the Empyrean. Since then, Incarnate Slaughter has appeared on dozens of other worlds, arising from lakes of gore that have formed in battlefield craters and continuing its rampage. Though it is primarily drawn to worlds infested by Tyranids, the Knight Rampager will turn its rage on any enemy with which it is faced.
- Gilded King - The bellicose Knight Desecrator piloted by the Fallen High Monarchs of House Iyngor is called the Gilded King. In the distant past, the Knight suits of each of the monarchs' bondsmen bore a golden escutcheon upon which was emblazoned the house's sigil. These warriors were unfalteringly loyal to their liege, but at some point the royal line fell to Chaos and began executing its retainers. The Gilded King cut down the other Knights one by one, prising the Noble pilots from their Thrones Mechanicum and ending their lives on the edge of its massive Reaper Chainsword. The gold sigils were then stripped from each fallen engine and added to the carapace of the war machine. With the Noble household violently exterminated, the Gilded King set about eradicating all traces of civilisation from the surface of the Knight World. All records of the Gilded King before this time of madness were incinerated, as were the names of the royal Nobles who piloted it. The only monument that remained untouched by the Knight's wanton fury was the sprawling relief sculpture that stretched around the world's equator, which depicts the first bonding of the Gilded King. Many other Noble lines have since been savaged by this mechanical monstrosity, yet the true nature of who pilots it remains unknown.
- Hope's Shroud - In the 36th Millennium during the Reign of Blood, the former Freeblade known as Hope's Shroud pledged its loyalty to the Ecclesiarch Goge Vandire. In the name of the Imperial faith it massacred tens of thousands of soldiers who fought to depose the tyrannical High Lord of Terra, and was even sent to eliminate its master's greatest detractor and future successor, Sebastian Thor. But before Hope's Shroud could carry out its charge, Thor brought his armies to Terra and besieged the Ecclesiarchal Palace. Vandire was eventually slain by members of his own bodyguard -- the warriors who would go on to become the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas. Upon learning that its liege had been murdered, the Knight swore to slaughter every last Sororitas, and when Vandire was posthumously named a Traitor, Hope's Shroud turned its hatred against all who followed the reformed Imperial Creed. The Knight allied itself with whatever heretical warband could best aid it in its vendetta, and sought out the most faithful servants of the Emperor so that it could spill their blood in Vandire's name. The first targets of the excommunicant Knight's wrath are the Sisters of the Order of the Ebon Chalice, for it was their Matriarch Alicia Dominica that slew Vandire. After a series of escalating battles, Hope’s Shroud succeeds in claiming the head of the Order's Canoness Superior. Over the next two millennia, the fanatical Knight claims the heads of other Canonesses Superior, one for each of the six Matriarchs that turned on Vandire. The skulls are hung as trophies from the increasingly warped armour of Hope’s Shroud. On numerous occasions Hope's Shroud has fought alongside the Word Bearers, with some of the Ordo Hereticus believing that the Knight's pilots are now drawn from that Traitor Legion.
- Bleak Dawn - The Bleak Dawn is a Dreadblade who was among the Chaos forces that invaded the world of Belismar during the 13th Black Crusade. There, it attacked and single-handedly destroyed the Astra Militarum's unsupported Narsine 18th Infantry Regiment.
- Hatred of Krastellan - After the Horus Heresy, the Nobles of the Loyalist House Hawkshroud created a Knightly title, the sole purpose of which was for the bearer to take on a grave and harrowing duty. Whomsoever had this title would pilot the Knight suit called Hatred of Krastellan, and would answer and endure the most unthinkable calls to arms. It was the Hatred of Krastellan that attacked allies suspected of treachery, executing valiant generals alongside whom it had once fought and slaughtering those obedient soldiers who served the condemned. It was this Knight that meted out punishment upon planets where, due to hostile invasions, the populace had been unable to proffer their tithe of flesh to the Imperium. In the 34th Millennium, the Throne Mechanicum of the Knight could bear this dishonourable duty no more, and its remnant spirits cried out in collective fury. They declared themselves the true High Monarch of House Hawkshroud, for by the Code Chivalric, no king or queen would issue an order they themselves were unwilling to carry out. The Hatred of Krastellan was declared a traitor and enemy to Hawkshroud, and thus began its long descent into Chaos. It eventually became a Knight Desecrator. The Hatred of Krastellan eventually descended upon the planet of Oumo and opened fire on the siege walls of the Agri-world's capital harvester city. The Oumoans, having been granted the sworn service and protection of Hawkshroud, were caught completely by surprise. After sending an astropathic distress signal to the nearby Forge World of Mezoa, they received a reply from Tech-priest Dominus Telemetenos Vrae ordering them to cease all such communication. Vrae informed the Oumoans that it is a logical impossibility for a Hawkshroud Knight to be attacking them, and therefore firing upon this loyal Knight would be an act of treason against the Omnissiah. This message was disseminated across the planet, and the Oumoan regiments ordered to hold their fire. Without any form of resistance, the Hatred of Krastellan tore its way through the defences of Oumo's harvest cities one by one. Later, the Hatred of Krastellan aligned itself with the Renegade Space Marines known as the Company of Misery. Together they waged a harrowing campaign through the Dysephamine System, which culminated in them enslaving the populace of the world of Dyseph IX. The Company of Misery set about slaughtering every psyker on the planet, but not before a distress call was sent off-world. Yet this call for aid was not only anticipated but planned for by the Hatred of Krastellan. The Dreadblade's own message was added to the distress beacon -- a formal challenge to the Freeblade Sir Hekhtur and his Knight Canis Rex, the so-called "Chainbreaker." The Hatred of Krastellan then travelled to the sole moon of Dyseph IX, and on the barren surface awaited the coming of the renowned Freeblade.
- Litany of Destruction - The Freeblade Knight named the Living Litany was once the epitome of the questing champion. Driven by faith and honour, this lone warrior travelled from battlefield to battlefield, driving back xenos raiders and heretical foes alike with single-minded fervour. Yet even a pious soul is not immune to corruption. None know the truth behind the Living Litany’s fall to Chaos, and its subsequent transformation into the deranged monster known as the Litany of Destruction. Some say that a freak Warp Storm enveloped the pilot and his war machine during the apocalyptic Battle for Kranava Hexis. Others claim that the Knight was captured and exposed to a biomechanical contagion by agents of the Dark Gods. Some simply contend that the Living Litany’s lust for slaughter and devastation has become so all-encompassing that the allegiance of its victims has ceased to matter to the rampaging Knight. Whatever the truth, where once the Litany’s Vox arrays blared sermons of worship in High Gothic, they now howl deranged diatribes and hissing blasts of angry static that rise to an insane crescendo as the war machine enters the field of combat. The Litany of Destruction fought alongside Heretic Astartes of the Iron Warriors Legion during the invasion of the world of Tellerax Prime. Telleraxi infantry regiments established bristling defensive lines across the planet's sump fields and around key hive cities, but even with the support of an armoured detachment of the Ultramarines 3rd Company they were unable to repel the influx of Chaos warriors. A grinding siege ensued. The Iron Warriors pinned their foes in place with ceaseless orbital and land-based bombardments, allowing Litany of Destruction to rove freely, annihilating any Imperial forces unfortunate enough to be caught in its path. Only when the Knight Paladin Ever-Stalwart arrived to aid the besieged forces did the state of battle shift. Amidst the shattered remains of Hive Permillion, the Dreadblade and the Imperial Knight engaged in a titanic duel. After an hour of traded blows, the Litany of Destruction gained the upper hand, striking down its Loyalist opponent and readying the killing strike. But the Chaos Knight was denied its victory when a column of Predator tanks fired upon its flank. The Litany tore its way through the armoured column and retreated under the covering fire of the encroaching Iron Warriors, enraged at the Ultramarines for interfering with its rightful kill.
- Empyrean Scythe (piloted by Aesyr) - Once a vicious warrior of House Lucaris, the War Dog Empyrean Scythe betrayed its house during the Invasion of the Stygius Sector. After its pilot Aesyr heard whispers in the Warp, the War Dog turned on its masters and pledged itself directly to the Chaos pantheon.
- Bale Star - The Bale Star is a Dreadblade, who along with its fellow Dreadblade Hand of Mourning, were once Imperial Freeblade Knights. They fought to defend Nemendghast from an invasion by the Black Legion forces of Vorash Soulflayer before the War of Beasts. Despite their efforts, the Imperial world was conquered and the two Freeblades were captured and brought before the Soulflayer. The Master of Possession then subjected the Freeblades to horrific Chaos rituals for a year before each was finally being broken and swore fealty to Soulflayer. The first Freeblade and its pilot are subjected to agonising Warp exposure, their metal and flesh blasted with pure daemonic energies. Now reborn as Bale Star, the Master of Possession gave his loyal new Dreadblade a quest intended to increase his power. Bale Star was dispatched to slay the Barroness of Tanika, reputed to be the greatest duelist in the galaxy, and to drag her Knight suit back to Nemenghast.
- Hand of Mourning - Hand of Mourning was the other former Imperial Freeblade who sought unsuccessfully to defend Nemendghast from an invasion by the Black Legion forces of Vorash Soulflayer before the War of Beasts alongside Bale Star. Despite their efforts, the Imperial world was conquered and the two Freeblades were captured and brought before the Soulflayer. The Master of Possession then subjected the Freeblades to horrific Chaos rituals for a year before each was finally being broken and swore fealty to Soulflayer. The second Freeblade was pumped full of sludge rendered from the writhing corpses of the recently possessed, and the Knight and its Noble drowned in the viscous fluid. Now reborn as Hand of Mourning, the Master of Possession gave his loyal new Dreadblade a quest intended to increase his power. Hand of Mourning was dispatched with the true name of an ancient Daemon Prince, and told to bring the creature back to Soulflayer by any means necessary.
- Infernyx Ingloriam - Infernyx Ingloriam is a Knight Despoiler and one of the most feared Dreadblades ever to reave the battlefields of the Ishmar Sector. Its twinned Thermal Cannons have become the stuff of dark legend amongst the Astra Militarum forces fighting there.
- Death's Sabre - After nearly two and a half Terran centuries of ceaseless war, the Knight Rampager Death’s Sabre was covered in a thick layer of shredded skin and rancid fat claimed from its most worthy opponents. Throngs of cultists gather around the mad Knight in battle, displaying their loyalty through acts of increasing depravity. The continued slaughters perpetrated by Death’s Sabre soon drew the admiration of an even more bizarre sect of worshippers, as a teeming pack of Necron Flayed Ones emerged from their bleak dimension. After swiftly butchering the deranged human followers, the Flayed Ones fell to worship of the Chaos Knight, believing it to be a manifestation of the C'tan Llandu'gor. In its own state of savage madness, Death’s Sabre did not even notice its xenos thralls.
- Codex: Chaos Knights (8th Edition), pp. 24-27, 31-33, 38