"A hurricane of anger and madness imprisoned in a body of flesh-cursed steel."
- —Anonymous Loyalist Techmarine
A Helbrute is a variant of the Chaos Dreadnought that is a twisted mockery of the Space Marine Dreadnought he used to be, combining the firepower of a small main battle tank with the mind of a frenzied psychopath.
Each Helbrute holds a living Heretic Astartes within its plated metal chest -- a Chaos Space Marine driven over the edge of madness by the never-ending cycle of battle that defines the Long War. A Helbrute is piloted by a warrior who, like his Loyalist Dreadnought counterparts, has suffered extreme bodily damage in combat.
The critically injured Heretic Astartes is then bound into an amniotic sarcophagus at the combat walker's heart, connected by cybernetic nervous system implants and a Mind Impulse Unit to the controls of the war machine.
However, while Loyalist Space Marines of the Adeptus Astartes consider it an honour to serve their Chapter for eternity as a Dreadnought, Chaos Space Marines consider such a fate to be little more than a living death -- a torturous, mocking punishment from the Ruinous Powers.
They abhor the thought of such a miserable half-life locked away in a dank and imprisoning cybernetic womb, where they can no longer drink in the sights of battle with their own eyes or feel the kick of a Bolter in their own hands. For Chaos Space Marines, it would be better to die and find final release in the maelstrom of the Warp than to spend eternity locked in a hard, adamantium shell.
As a result, most Helbrutes are completely psychotic, even before the Warp melds the metal of their hated prison with the flesh within. A creeping insanity, mingled with desperation and fury, eats away at them over the long passage of the millennia.
Between battles, the sarcophagus containing the Helbrute's pilot is disconnected and dragged clear of its armoured shell to lie inert and seething in the darkness. The Helbrute is chained like a beast when it is not actually fighting, for fear that some residue of the pilot's soul may send it into a berserk rampage.
As the ships of a Chaos warfleet approach their prey, the Helbrute's heavy weapons are prepared and loaded, its power scourges and hammer-like fists are daubed with fresh blood and its sarcophagus is installed.
The madness of the Chaos Space Marine within burns ever fiercer as he rises from the depths of his dormancy. Once the warfleet's warriors have landed at their target, the Helbrute is unleashed, a lunatic beast of flesh and metal intent upon venting its rage on everything in its path, friend and foe alike.
"No. NO! Not the sarcophagus! Khorne damn you, you disloyal curs, just kill me! JUST KILL ME!"
- — Khalos the Ravager, last words prior to Helbrute internment
Helbrutes are nightmarish mechanical monsters. Twisted amalgams of Warp-wrought metal and writhing flesh, they stand several times the height of a man. They are bipedal, armoured war machines similar to the Dreadnoughts of the Adeptus Astartes. Indeed, the oldest amongst their number were once the venerated ancients of the original Space Marine Legions.
However, a skewed resemblance and a shared heritage is where the similarities end. Interment into a Dreadnought sarcophagus is a great honour for a Loyalist Space Marine, transforming a mortally wounded hero into a living relic. By comparison, imprisonment within the raw, rancid womb of a Helbrute is nothing short of living hell.
The infernal machineries of a Helbrute sarcophagus are pseudo-parasitic. Their interface subjects the pilot to an agony-wracked waking nightmare that swiftly drives them to the blackest depths of madness. Such is the rage of a Helbrute pilot that, between war zones, they must be chained down and their weapons forcibly removed, lest they vent their homicidal desires upon their creators.
Despite the difficulties of maintaining such dangerous war machines, Helbrutes are powerful blunt instruments, effective weapons of indiscriminate destruction. Indeed, they present such a powerful asset to any Champion of Chaos that wars have been fought over the facilities to achieve their creation.
For the Imperium, the crafting of a single Dreadnought is a major undertaking, an effort of artifice that is as much spiritual as physical. By comparison, Helbrutes are spat from the daemonforges in great numbers, their industrial production overseen by conclaves of Warpsmiths. Malformed and twitching, these foul engines of war possess a crude Machine Spirit sentience even before they claim a pilot. Indeed, they give off a sense of dark malevolence even when quiescent. However, it is only when a victim is implanted within it that a Helbrute truly comes to life.
Unlike the armoured reliquaries around which Loyalist Dreadnoughts are built, Helbrute sarcophagi are terrifying places to be trapped. Many are closed off boxes of rusted iron, blank and featureless but for the bloodstained nests of wires that pack them tight.
Others, especially those of Helbrutes long exposed to the mutating powers of the Warp, are sucking masses of mottled flesh and slithering folds that consume their screaming implantee with apparent relish. Jagged spines and fanged pseudopods bite deep into the new pilot, black, greasy worms burrowing through muscle and bone to bind them into the Helbrute's foul innards.
From that moment forward, the nervous system of the interred victim is twinned with the artificial nerve-bundles of the Helbrute. The seething strength that pulses through its bunched muscles, the furnace-hot beat of its reactor heart, the cold implacability of its armoured hide, all become a part of the pilot forevermore.
Yet the process of implantation is brutal and highly traumatic, leaving the implantee trapped in a perpetual war that they can never stop fighting. Never again will they know the simple sensations of taste, smell and touch. Never again will they have the chance to strive for glory in the eyes of the gods. Small wonder that all but the strongest willed are driven swiftly and irrevocably insane.
Any Chaos Space Marine can end his days within a Helbrute's shell. Some fail an appointed task, but have the temerity to survive. Some threaten their master's power, and must be removed. Others are simply unfortunate enough to be too injured to fight back when the Warpsmiths begin their post-battle harvest. Many implantees go mad within solar days, or even hours, their minds turning inward and tearing themselves apart.
Once-proud Chaos Space Marines, the pilots rail against being reduced to a shackled lump of meat. Limbs truncated, bodies stuffed with pulsing cables, they can do nothing to free themselves as claustrophobia deepens to absolute, mind-numbing horror. Tortured by an awareness of the freedom they once possessed, and the ignominious fate they now suffer, the Chaos Space Marine implantee soon degenerates into a raving lunatic.
Weapons of Indiscriminate Destruction
"There is no greater weapon in this whole miserable galaxy than pure, unalloyed hate. That is why we will defeat the Imperium in the end; we hate as they never could."
- — Gharalox Ironbreed, Warpsmith of the Shadowstar Forge.
Once bound within the confines of a Helbrute, a pilot's only meaningful interaction with the world around him comes through violence. Their inherent psychoses -- coupled with a desperate need for catharsis through carnage -- makes Helbrutes wildly unpredictable. Only the most coherent amongst them can comprehend any form of orders.
Even those few are unlikely to follow them once the bullets start flying and the blood starts flowing. Most commanders will therefore loose Helbrutes upon their foes almost as though they were heavily armoured Chaos Spawn. They rely upon the bellowing machines only to cause terror, and to spread indiscriminate destruction.
If nothing else, a Helbrute is an excellent linebreaker -- their physical appearance and maddened howls alone are enough to send lesser foes fleeing in fear for their lives. Furthermore, their thick armour plating renders them completely immune to small arms fire. Horrified enemy infantry are left clutching impotent weapons as the Helbrute storms into their midst.
The sheer scale of the damage an enraged Helbrute can cause is a psychological weapon in itself. Many mount tank-busting heavy weapons that can flatten a bunker or hammer swathes of infantry into red mist. Others tear their enemies apart with massive powered fists, or crush them to paste with piston-driven hammers.
The more damage a Helbrute sustains, the more enraged and erratic its behaviour will become. Some will plant their feet and howl their fury as their weapons blaze, losing the ability to distinguish between friend and foe. Others will charge with frightening speed into the teeth of the enemy guns, heedless of the odds they face or the distance between themselves and the victim they wish to tear limb from limb.
Such unpredictability makes Helbrutes a terrible danger to their foes. Yet it also necessitates clever usage by their own commander. A Chaos Lord who relies upon a Helbrute to complete a specific task -- or indeed to survive the battle into which it is sent -- is liable to see their plans reduced to tatters.
The most canny Renegades will factor their Helbrutes into their plans in only the loosest sense. Such commanders exploit the devastation they cause and treat their Helbrutes as expendable fodder for the enemy guns.
Indeed, there are those Traitor war leaders who have gone even further, developing specialised tactics to turn the unstoppable fury of Helbrutes to their advantage. Some Traitor factions, such as the Night Lords or Alpha Legion, make significant use of stealth or terror tactics. Amongst these Traitor Legions it has become common practice to deploy whole packs of Helbrutes via the teleportariums of low-orbiting battlecruisers.
These formations, commonly known as Mayhem Packs, are goaded to a killing fury and then hurled into the very midst of the foe. Few Helbrutes will long survive appearing in the midst of the enemy guns. However, the panic the war machines' sudden arrival sows -- not to mention the mindblowing levels of destruction they cause -- is more than adequate compensation for their loss.
A different approach is often seen amongst the more zealous Chaos Space Marine warbands, such as the Word Bearers and their ilk. These Traitor Legions will use their Helbrutes as mobile armoured idols, encouraging great masses of Chaos Cultists to clamour around the armoured walkers and follow them into battle. Such an approach adds a hard edge to the Cultists' onset, complimenting their prodigious numbers with the armoured might of the Helbrute in their midst.
Furthermore, following a roaring, striding embodiment of Chaos into battle is a rapturous experience for the cultists. Their faith in the Ruinous Powers waxes strong, bolstering their fervour to manic extremes. Of course, surrounding a Helbrute with a jostling mass of noisy cultists is a calculated risk.
The occasional slaughter occurs when an adoring flock find their idol turning upon them with guns blazing. However, the loss of such menial warriors is of little matter to the Lords of Chaos, many of whom view even these deaths as a suitable offering to the gods.
Thanks to their omnipresent madness, it is possible to generalise about the battlefield roles of Helbrutes. However, no two of these roaring metal beasts are ever exactly the same in appearance. The influence of the Chaos Gods, coupled with the pilot's own dark dreams of glory, will twist each Helbrute's physical form within the Warp.
Meanwhile, the warband to which a Helbrute owes allegiance will decorate the beast's armoured hide to their taste. Many emblazon their warband's iconography upon their Helbrutes, and bedeck them in the trappings of their twisted faith. Others leave the maddened machines to mutate however they will, believing it against the will of the gods to interfere in the Helbrute's apotheosis.
Thus a Helbrute of the Death Guard may degenerate into a bloated hulk of rusting metal and suppurative, weeping flesh. Conversely, one fighting amid the zealous ranks of the Word Bearers will become a crimson-armoured shrine to war, hung with devotional scrolls and wreathed in daemonic flame.
Whatever their outward appearance, every Helbrute is the same at its core: a screaming whirlwind of madness and hate that seeks to crush the life from everything in its path. These weapons must be used with caution, for their insanity and self-loathing may turn them upon their own. Yet none who has witnessed the trail of bodies and blazing wrecks left in a Helbrute's wake can deny their overwhelming potential for destruction.
"They are mighty warriors, true, but also cursed beyond imagining. To be trapped in a rotting box, no arms, no legs, nothing but darkness and foetor for ever and ever until death comes to claim you at last? No wonder the poor bastards eventually go mad. Give me the most painful death imaginable over such a fate."
Helbrutes are usually "deployed" (or more appropriately, "set loose") on their own by the Chaos Space Marine warband that owns them, but some warbands use them in a more specialised role:
- Mayhem Pack - When Chaos Space Marine warbands gather in force, they will often pool their resources in order to maximise the damage they can cause. Helbrute Mayhem Packs are one such example of this, a concentration of armoured ferocity that is harrowing to behold. Mayhem Packs are cast into battle using teleport technology, materialising in the very midst of the enemy with little or no warning. Before deployment, the Helbrutes of a Mayhem Pack are goaded to heightened states of madness, tortured and tormented until their rage towers even above their normal apoplectica. The sudden appearance of these furiously homicidal Daemon Engines spreads utter panic amongst the foe. At worst, this will provide an excellent distraction until the Helbrutes are destroyed, while at best the rampaging engines may tear the heart from the enemy army.
- Helcult - Helcults consist of a single Helbrute, surrounded by a mass of frothing Chaos Cultists. The Cultists follow the Helbrute into battle screaming the praises of the gods, for they worship the war machine as a divine living idol of the Ruinous Powers. The Helbrute, for its part, pays little attention to the flesh-things scurrying around it, for it is too busy slaughtering the foe. Should it turn its mind to them, the Cultists too may feel the Helbrute's wrath. However, the risk is considered more than worthwhile -- the combination of numbers and armoured might this formation presents can overwhelm most enemy battle-lines. Meanwhile, even should the Helbrute slaughter its hangers-on, the bloodshed to follow is just another tribute to the Ruinous Powers. After all, the galaxy does not lack for petty Heretics.
- Helfist Murderpack - When several Traitor Legions go to battle alongside one another, they may choose to form their Helbrutes into a single pack of murderous machines. In such cases a strange phenomenon sometimes occurs, the Helbrutes rallying around the most ancient and powerful of their number. Such an Alpha Helbrute will normally contain the remnants of an especially mighty Chaos Champion. These individuals often retain ghostly memories of their old power and authority, curdled dreams of glory that rise to the surface when surrounded by more of their kind. Even through their madness, such a Helbrute may quickly come to dominate its fellow machines. The remaining machines in the pack find their madness abating a little, held at bay by the simple act of following rudimentary commands once again. At times these Helbrutes may behave in a coherent fashion, even exhibiting an ability to follow simple orders relayed via their newfound master. Of course, should an Alpha Helbrute fall in battle, the remainder of the Helfist pack will embark on an immediate rampage, their madness reaching new heights as it breaks its shackles once again.
- 1 Helbrute
Optional Wargear (Multi-Melta)
The Multi-Melta may be replaced with any of the following:
- Additional Power Fist (Dreadnought Class)
- Twin-linked Heavy Bolter
- Reaper Autocannon
- Plasma Cannon
- Twin-linked Lascannon
Optional Wargear (Power Fists)
Up to two of its Helbrute Power Fists can incorporate one of the following:
Any Helbrute Power Fist can be replaced with one of the following:
- Thunder Hammer (Dreadnought Class)
- Power Scourge (Dreadnought Class)
- Missile Launcher armed with Frag Missiles and Krak Missiles
- Mortis Metalikus - Mortis Metalikus is the name given to a Helbrute of the Crimson Slaughter warband of Chaos Space Marines. Formerly known as Sevarion Kranon, he was the birth brother of Sevastus Kranon, the Chapter Master of the Crimson Sabres. Refusing to give into the bloodthirst that possessed his fellow Battle-Brothers during the massacre of Umidia, Sevarion was imprisoned by his brother for his disobedience. However the curse his entire Chapter came under from Khorne eventually drove this once noble soul completely mad during his confinement. Eventually, Sevarion was imprisoned within the cold cybernetic shell of a Helbrute. He was consumed by murderous rage and grotesquely corrupted by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. Metalikus was finally slain in the days before the 13th Black Crusade, a fate he welcomed as release from his tortured existence.
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Chaos Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 78, 138
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Death Guard (8th Edition), pp. 46, 82
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 56, 97
- Dataslate - Helbrutes: A Codex Chaos Space Marines Supplement
- White Dwarf Weekly 6 (March 8, 2014), "Helbrute", pp. 8-9