"Through technology we thought to defeat the natural order. But the onset of eternity cannot be denied forever: the universe will see us humbled for our presumption. Yet its methods of attack are limited. We long ago removed our bodies from mortality's grasp and bartered away our souls for technological baubles and the trappings of power. Our minds, then, are all that remains for us to lose, and it is here that the next stroke against us will fall. Though our individual afflictions may take different forms, sooner or later we will all be lost to madness."
- — Szarekh, Last of the Silent Kings
Flayed Ones are twisted and ghoulish Necron terrors afflicted by an ancient infection that breeds a hunger for organic flesh in them. Flayed Ones act as specialised close combat troops. They appear from an unknown pocket dimension of their hideous kind to join the Necron armies in battle, though never by invitation from the Necrons themselves.
These loathsome creatures were once Necrontyr who managed to retain some of their original consciousness when they were transferred into their living metallic bodies of necrodermis, but were cursed with a terrible disease, manifesting a hunger for flesh that cannot be satisfied and that eventually drove them to madness.
Advancing before a Necron force, these stooped yet terrifyingly agile automatons excel at infiltrating and spreading terror like a plague within the ranks of their foes. They are quite capable melee fighters, and make use of flensing blades that extend from their fingers and can flay a man alive in seconds. Thin and wiry, they habitually adorn themselves with the still-wet pieces of skin and hide they have stripped from their victims, leaving behind the skinned corpses to sow fear and confusion.
In such a state they are a terrifying sight to behold, so much so that enemy combatants lose their nerve when they see pieces of old squadmates hanging from the undying machines approaching their lines. In addition to their wicked claws, some Flayed Ones utilise Necron Disruption Field technology that allows them to rip even armoured vehicles apart.
Some Necrons are stricken with a curse even more heinous than the madness of Necron Destroyers. The nature of this curse is little understood, even by the wisest of Crypteks, but its results are unmistakable. A victim of the Flayer Curse first loses its sanity. In the case of Necron Warriors, this may go unnoticed until far into the process, as a single malfunctioning Warrior amongst thousands is easily overlooked.
This madness first manifests as a drive to kill that can cause a Necron to ignore commands to cease fire or hold a position. While this urge to kill is held in common with the Necron Destroyers, the ultimate goal is quite different. Destroyers exist for the act of killing itself, with extermination of life being both the means and the end. Flayed Ones kill in order to sate an unnatural hunger for flesh and blood; they kill so that they might feast.
Of course, as machines, Necrons are incapable of consuming food or drink of any kind, and so this hunger can never be satisfied. Yet the Flayed Ones have devolved far beyond reason or logic, and as they cut down their prey they stop to smear meat across their unmoving jaws, as blood drips down their steel necks and dribbles through stained ribs to pool at their feet. This disease of the mind is accompanied by equally grotesque physical changes, as the living metal necrodermis of the afflicted Necron reconfigures to better serve its new purpose.
The fingers of a Flayed One morph into wicked, knife-like claws, while their legs often grow an additional joint, allowing for greater speed and in some cases quadrupedal movement. Yet the final transformation that would allow a Flayed One to quench its thirst never comes, giving credence to the legend that the Flayer Curse was bestowed by one of the ancient C'tan in its death throes.
Most bizarrely, Flayed Ones develop an ability to travel between dimensions. Many Crypteks believe the Flayed Ones inhabit an alternate reality all their own, inaccessible to other Necrons, in which they make their charnel palaces and heap the corpses dragged from battle.
Through unknown means, Flayed Ones are able to somehow sense when their Necron brethren are in combat, appearing to slaughter the enemy and take the grisly trophies from which they derive their name. Other Necrons do not welcome the presence of Flayed Ones, both for the risk of their passing on the Flayer Curse to others, and because they operate completely outside the chain of command. Even were a Nemesor brash enough to issue orders to a pack of Flayed Ones, they would only be ignored.
As Destroyers are engaged in battle more often than any other Necrons, Flayed Ones naturally tend to congregate around them. Destroyers, themselves shunned and avoided by their fellow Necrons, are much more likely to tolerate the presence of Flayed Ones than they are traditional Necron forces. In the eyes of the Destroyers, the devolved Flayed Ones are accomplishing the same goal, and unlike a traditional Nemesor, Destroyer Lords have no objectives in battle which might be compromised by the frenzied slaughter of the Flayed Ones.
Flayed Ones are victims of a terrible madness, a curse bestowed upon them by the C'tan known as Llandu'gor the Flayer. When the Necrons finally turned against the C'tan in the last days of the War in Heaven, the Flayer was destroyed by the Necrons; not simply splintered as were his brothers, but utterly obliterated. In his dying moments, the Star God inflicted a terrible curse upon the Necrons, tainting them with an echo of the fathomless hunger of its essence.
For aeons the Flayer's curse went unnoticed and unseen. By the time the true madness of the condition began to manifest, the afflicted Necrons had travelled far and wide, unwittingly spreading the disease to a thousand worlds. A Necron of whom the Flayer Curse has taken hold undergoes a slow and tortuous erosion of its sanity. Despite being a soulless machine, it begins to revel in the bloody ruin of fleshy foes, driven to take trophies of skin, sinew and bone.
As the Flayer madness intensifies, its victim is compelled by the uncontrollable desire to consume the flesh of its enemies. As a robotic construct, it cannot digest flesh in any sense, but is still driven to gorge itself in a doomed attempt to sate an unquenchable lust. The Necron's living metal shape warps into what is recognisable as the corrupt and grotesque form of a Flayed One. Ultimately, this accursed Necron disappears, drawn by an unknown instinct into a pocket dimension of their own, to dwell forever amidst the charnel palaces of the Flayed Ones.
Other Necrons loathe the Flayed Ones, for they fear they will contract the terrible disease they carry. Any Necron suspected of harbouring the Flayer infection is banished or destroyed before it can become contagious. However, the Necrons can never prevent a pack of Flayed Ones joining a battle already underway -- they can materialise from their pocket dimension at any time, hunting in search of blood and carnage.
They will commonly attack with little regard for strategy, wreathed in the dense stench of rotting flesh. Flayed Ones indicate no awareness of the odours given off by the bloody skins and fleshy trophies with which they adorn themselves, typically keeping such scraps upon themselves until completely decayed. They are not suicidal, however. If the enemy is strong, they will await the perfect moment to attack; if the enemy flees, they rarely pursue, preferring to feast upon the flesh of the fallen.
Necron Overlords and Nemesors rarely make an attempt to adapt their plans for the unwanted and unexpected appearance of the Flayed Ones on the battlefield, instead accepting any advantage their presence brings. Despite this, it is common for an Overlord to order the execution of any Flayed One survivors after the battle has been won. None but the most insane of these ghoulish beings are destroyed so easily, however. The rest slip back to their pocket dimension and their palaces of rotting flesh, laden with new trophies of dismembered corpses and reeking of fresh blood.
- Court of the Flayer King – Long ago, the destruction of the C'tan Llandu'gor the Flayer saw thousands of Necrons afflicted with a terrible curse. It is now impossible to say how many Flayed Ones there are in existence, dreaming their mad dreams of gore and donning their remnants of flensed skin. As debased creatures of feral instinct, Flayed Ones gravitate to the mightiest of their kind. These "Flayer Kings" have suffered less from the ravages of their curse, with their personalities largely intact. Sahtah the Enfleshed is one such fiend, his fortunes tied to the Royal Courts of Damnos. In his wake, blood-mad Flayed Ones sweep from the shadows, claws gleaming wetly as their sheer proximity to one another sees their gore-hungry madness reach new heights.
Legendary even before the War in Heaven for their savagery and malice, the Maynarkh Dynasty were bloody, ruthless agents of the Silent King. So it is said that, on the order of the Silent King, their hands were the ones to utterly annihilate the C'tan called Llandu'gor the Flayer.
Whether this is true or simply a legend from a time ill-remembered by the deathless Overlords who were there cannot be confirmed, but what is known is that this brutal dynasty was among the first to experience the "Curse of the Flayer," and its influence runs deep throughout the court. Even those not wholly twisted are marked by its passing, their rage and hunger a malignant, almost living thing that bends them.
Bone Kingdom of Drazak
On worlds lit by the cold rays of dying suns, located in the extreme northeast of the known galaxy, lie the Ghoul Stars, a realm where creatures tread out of a primal nightmare. Within this loathsome part of the galaxy are creatures so alien they seem to be born out of the supernatural.
Yet even here, one horror outpaces all others; the Bone Kingdom of Drazak, the haunt of Flayed Ones. These fiendish creatures stalk through Drazak's desolate streets, fighting over gobbets of rotting meat and shards of bone, desperate to sate their deluded senses. Only one amongst the planet's entire population has stood apart from the pervading madness of its denizens -- Valgûl, the Fallen Lord.
From his throne of splintered bone and tanned skin, Valgûl rules over this charnel kingdom, his one good eye ever fixed upon retaining what small measure of order he can. Valgûl seemingly remains untouched by the Flayer curse that has consumed his people, but no truly sane creature would willingly live amongst the gibbering Flayed Ones. It is not known if Valgûl remains out of a sense of duty, or if he is instead afflicted by a personal madness which has taken another, more subtle, form.
Whatever his reasons, Valgûl's rule is not founded on reason, for the devolved nature of his subjects makes such notions laughable. He maintains their allegiance through his ability to provide the gory bounty in which his subjects delight. Every few solar months, when no more meat remains, whether because it has been torn into fragments too tiny to scrabble over or simply due to inexorable rot, Valgûl announces a new "Time of Bounty," and dispatches the Necron fleets of Drazak to raid nearby worlds. These reavers of Drazak seek not riches nor conventional plunder, only tithes of gore and congealing blood.
- Apocalypse: War Zone Damnos, pg. 56
- Codex: Necrons (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 55, 78, 155-156
- Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pp. 15, 37
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pg. 17
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 136-137
- Imperial Armour Volume Twelve: The Fall of Orpheus, pg. 90
- Devourer (Shield of Baal Novella) by Joe Parrino, pp. 10, 14, 40, 49, 51-52