"Because we couldn’t be trusted. The Emperor needed a weapon that would never obey its own desires before those of the Imperium. He needed a weapon that would never bite the hand that feeds. The World Eaters were not that weapon. We’ve all drawn blades purely for the sake of shedding blood, and we’ve all felt the exultation of winning a war that never even needed to happen. We are not the tame, reliable pets that the Emperor wanted. The Wolves obey, when we would not. The Wolves can be trusted, when we never could. They have a discipline we lack, because their passions are not aflame with the Butcher’s Nails buzzing in the back of their skulls. The Wolves will always come to heel when called. In that regard, it is a mystery why they name themselves wolves. They are tame, collared by the Emperor, obeying his every whim. But a wolf doesn’t behave that way. Only a dog does. That is why we are the Eaters of Worlds, and the War Hounds no longer."
- —Captain Khârn of the World Eaters Legion's 8th Assault Company, from his unpublished treatise The Eighteen Legions
Khârn the Betrayer is a member of the World Eaters Traitor Legion of Chaos Space Marines, and the greatest Champion of Khorne after the World Eaters Daemon Primarch Angron himself. He wields a Chainaxe known as Gorechild (which, along with its twin Gorefather, was wielded by Angron during the Horus Heresy), rimmed with the unbreakable teeth of a Mica Dragon. He is the avatar of Khorne, embodying the Blood God's indiscriminate rage and bloodlust in the realm of mortals. Like his World Eaters comrades, he emerged from the gruesome psycho-surgery experiments of Angron having underwent ritual lobotomisation, with all sense of fear and danger removed so that the rush he experienced in combat was greatly enhanced. His love of murder was so great that Khârn actually had an ancient death-counter installed in his helmet which registers the number of kills he has made in the helm's eye lenses.
Since the end of the Horus Heresy, Khârn has been an unstoppable and bloody avatar of Khorne. After the Battle of Skalathrax where he shattered his own Legion's unity, Khârn hunted the Eye of Terror as the head of a World Eaters warband, slaughtering any worthy enough to be killed in Khorne's name. Ten millennia later, during the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41, his wrath was unleashed upon the Imperium of Man once more, as Khârn joined a few of the most insane of the Khornate Berserkers, battling those legions of the Emperor's warriors flocking to the defence of Cadia.
Khârn had been a member of the XII Legion when it was still known as the War Hounds. He was born upon Terra, the cradle of humanity, and was one of the first Neophytes to be recruited, becoming a part of the nascent War Hounds Legion. After his selection, he was trained under the scrutiny of Centurion Gruner upon the training grounds of the War Hounds' vassal world of Bodt, along with the other Neophytes assigned to his instruction. A Terran-born veteran of Jermanic descent of the Unification Wars, the grizzled Master of Neophytes was a formidable warrior within the Legion. Gruner's torso rippled with superhuman strength, sporting an elaborate tattoo of a canine predator tearing into its prey. Though the Neophytes' own enhancement surgery scars were still fresh, they were deemed ready to begin their Legionary training. Gruner introduced Khârn to "The Contest," an ancient and already well-established tradition of the XII Legion. All War Hounds were expected to compete in The Contest and the rules were simple: the first Astartes to reach 1,000 skulls won. When one of Khârn's fellow Neophytes inquired about the prize, Gruner merely shrugged his shoulders in response, for he did not know. No one had ever come close. When Khârn tentatively inquired where they were supposed to acquire the skulls from, the tattooed giant roared with laughter, drawing the attention of those other Battle-Brothers and Neophytes close enough to witness Khârn's first humiliation. It would be a lesson he would carry with him for the rest of his days.
This event did not prevent Khârn from surviving the trials to become a full Astartes, and he swiftly rose in rank. His impressive talents for close quarters assault and hand-to-hand combat made him stand out amongst a Legion composed of the most savage, efficient and ruthless killers in the nascent Imperium of Man, and by the time the Great Crusade rediscovered the Primarch Angron, Khârn was Centurion of the XII Legion's elite 8th Assault Company. At that time he was described as a deeply bronzed warrior, with a long and noble face.
The War Hounds' reunion with their Primarch was far from a joyous event for the XII Legion, however. Angron, enraged at his "rescue" at the hands of the Emperor of Mankind which he perceived as the basest of betrayals toward his fellow gladiators, had locked himself in his quarters after being brought aboard the XII legion's flagship Adamant Resolve, and in his rage brutally slaughtered, rended and dismembered any who dared come into his presence. Khârn ultimately took it upon himself to convince Angron to take his ordained place at the head of the Legion the Primarch would rename the World Eaters, and entered Angron's quarters. Angron immediately fell upon him, and both warriors engaged in a brutal hand-to-hand brawl. Khârn put up an intense and spirited fight, but as a mere Astartes, he could not hope to match a Primarch, and soon he found himself supine, battered and broken at Angron's feet. Despite this, Khârn remained defiant, neither yielding nor begging mercy. With this show of courage, he managed to reach out to Angron, who stayed his hand, realising that the Space Marines of the XII Legion were not the honourless rabble of worthless warriors he believed them to be.
Khârn's already impressive reputation became legendary when Angron promoted the man who had shaken him out of his despair to the position of Equerry (a rank combining the roles of squire, councilor and personal confidante). Yet there were many, both amongst the World Eaters and outside it, that, while they respected Angron's choice, doubted its wisdom: the Equerry's primary role was to serve as a counterpoint to the Primarch's personality and a foil for his decisions. For all his qualities as a warrior, Khârn was neither patient nor particularly subtle, nor a great orator, and, instead of guiding and tempering his Primarch's words and decisions with wisdom, he often was second into the thickest of the fray right behind Angron, slaying anything which had escaped Angron's twin Chainaxes. Any words of tempering he might have uttered were quickly forgotten in the rush of battle.
The first depiction of Khârn as a follower of Chaos came during the massacre of the Loyalists on Istvaan III where the infamous World Eater was described as a man swamped by "dark madness" during a battle with Garviel Loken (a Loyalist Sons of Horus Captain). The process of his corruption is not detailed -- "I am the eight-fold path," he tells Loken, a description of the Khornate philosophy dedicated to freeing the individual from attachments and delusions ending in an understanding of the truth of all things (eight is the sacred number of Khorne). This is the only explanation offered by Khârn for his sudden transformation .
Before the Horus Heresy, Khârn rose to the esteemed position of Captain of the 8th Assault Company of the World Eaters Legion, and also served as the personal Equerry of Angron -- where he was supposed to play the role of "cool head" who tempered his Primarch's bloody rages. Despite this, Khârn was known even before the Horus Heresy as a brilliant but unstable warrior. During the massacre of the Traitor Legions' remaining Loyalist Astartes on Istvaan III, Khârn was believed killed in action while fighting Captain Garviel Loken of the Luna Wolves, a Loyalist determined to stop Horus from attacking Terra by holding his former Legion from completing its massacre of its own Loyalists on that world. Khârn engaged in close combat with Loken, only to be thrown against the dozer blades of a nearby vehicle, impaling his chest. It was believed that the blow was fatal, but this was later proven wrong.
Six months after the Emperor sanctioned the Scouring of Prospero, Thousand Sons Captain Menes Kalliston lead a squad of his Battle-Brothers to the ravaged surface of their homeworld to search for any signs of survivors or of their Primarch Magnus the Red. Instead, the squad of Thousand Sons was taken by surprise when they encountered a much larger force of Traitor World Eaters who were also on Prospero for their own nefarious reasons. In the ensuing conflagration, the majority of the squad was killed, and an unconscious Kalliston was captured by Khârn. When Kalliston finally came to, he discovered that he had been shackled to a chair, his innate psychic abilities severely weakened. He was interrogated by an individual who remained in shadow. Catching furtive glimpses of his tormentor, through bleary eyes Kalliston thought he made out grey-coloured Power Armour, and assumed that his captor was one of the hated Space Wolves Astartes who had destroyed his homeworld. Kalliston's tormentor desired to know the Thousand Sons captain's purpose for returning to Prospero.
Kalliston eventually realised that his tormentor’s armour, which he had thought to be grey in the near-total dark, was actually a dirty white. The shoulder-guards were once a bright blue colour, though every exposed surface on the battle-plate was covered by a translucent layer of brown-red filth. His captor was a War Hound of the XII Legion, or, as he believed they had started calling themselves, a World Eater. To Kalliston the new name was ludicrous, a perversion of everything the Legiones Astartes stood for. As Kalliston's clarity returned to him, he slowly realised that his interrogator stood on the brink of madness. As he scrutinised his tormentor further, he could make out a series of iron studs implanted under the flesh, further up on the scalp. These neural implants had been forbidden by the Emperor to be used by Astartes and had been prohibited for good reason. They accelerated an Astartes' aggression and stoked it, amplifying an already testosterone-charged superhuman killer into a truly savage murderer.
Kalliston realised he was in the presence of the savage Khârn, the Captain of the World Eaters' 8th Assault Company and Equerry to Angron himself. Withdrawing an iron pendant from his armour it was fashioned in the shape of a wolf's head howling against a crescent moon. Khârn explained to his captive that the World Eaters had come to Prospero on behalf of Horus to collect this item, known as the Moon Wolf. Once a part of the Warmaster's Power Armour, it had been used as part of a sorcerous ritual by the Thousands Sons' Primarch Magnus the Red to make contact with Horus, and could be used to do so again. But Kalliston quickly realised that there was another reason that the World Eater had come to Prospero for Khârn seemed to burn with agony. An agony that could only be discharged by murder.
Biding his time, Kalliston goaded Khârn into revealing his true intentions. As the Thousand Sons captain pressed the agitated World Eater for answers, his psychic powers slowly began to return to him. Kalliston attempted to manipulate the situation by subtly swaying Khârn with his words and his innate psychic abilities. Kalliston realised that the World Eater had come to Prospero seeking certain arcane devices that might be able help him find a cure for his affliction. Kalliston explained to Khârn that there was still time. For though the sorcerous devices once used by the Thousand Sons had all been destroyed, he possessed the necessary knowledge to replicate their functions. He could help heal the World Eater's broken mind, remove the neural implants and restore his ebbing humanity. Kalliston could help take away the fire that drove him onwards, goading Khârn on to the acts of random violence he abhorred.
Kalliston knew that the World Eater was lost in a universe of pain, one that was only temporarily forgotten during the act of killing, a common affliction for those who fell to the corruption of the Blood God Khorne. He knew that his words had reached the sliver of Khârn's old self that still endured. But suddenly, the rage took over and Khârn snapped back to the reality of his painful existence. He attacked the Thousand Son captive with a roar, intent on rendering him limb from limb. Kalliston desperately called upon his remaining psychic reserves of power and managed to free himself from his bonds and launched a series of mental attacks against the enraged World Eaters officer. But it was all for naught, for the berserk Khârn possessed little of his remaining sanity and would not be persuaded by any means to stand aside from his intended kill. As Kalliston was being pummeled to death, he reflected that he had given Khârn every opportunity to choose his path, and that when the murder and madness had finally subsided, he would have the leisure to reflect on this choice -- he could have turned back. Kalliston foresaw that in the near future, Khârn would be uncontainable, and would turn on whatever force had sought to channel his rage for their own purposes. None would ever master him, for he had lost mastery over himself and become a true mortal embodiment of the Blood God's unending thirst for death.
At some point during the Horus Heresy while taking part in the Traitor Legions' Shadow Crusade against the Realm of Ultramar, fighting alongside the Word Bearers Legion, the World Eaters fought in a campaign against the Ultramarines Legion upon the War World of Armatura. During the brutal assault, the Ultramarines managed to lure the enraged World Eaters into a trap as they assaulted the main quarter of the ruined capital city, collapsing buildings and burying many of the World Eaters and their Primarch Angron in tons of rubble. The Primarch's twin Chainaxes were ruined, as they had lost their teeth during the brutal fighting. After Angron managed to crawl from the strewn rubble, he threw his axe Gorechild away, for it would never function again. In the aftermath of the battle Khârn found the discarded weapon and picked it up. He knew he risked his Primarch's wrath by violating Angron's superstition of inherited weapons bringing ill luck. This was a gladiatorial conceit taken from Nuceria.
Khârn ignored his Battle-Brothers' protests and gave the discarded weapon to the Dark Mechanicum detachment attached to the XII Legion's fleet, and ordered the senior Magos to restore the weapon to its former glory. He also ordered the Mechanicum's menials to have the area on Armatura excavated to find the chainsaw teeth made from the fangs of the Mica Dragons of the world of Luther Mcintyre, in order to resurrect Gorechild as the formidable weapon that it had always been. Not all of the teeth were found, as the planet was terminated in cleansing fire before the excavation was completed. Khârn improvised, most likely taking a hammer to the skulls of the Mica Dragons housed in the Legion's Museum of Conquest aboard the XII Legion's flagship Conqueror, no doubt stealing the teeth for use in the weapon's resurrection. Since that bygone era, Khârn has used the mighty weapon ever since, and his fearsome skill at butchering any who dare stand in his path has grown legendary amongst all the servants of the Ruinous Powers.
When the Horus Heresy finally culminated at the Siege of the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra, Khârn was at the forefront of every assault made by the World Eaters. At the moment of Horus' defeat, Khârn already lay dead upon the mound of Traitor Marine corpses piled high before the walls of the Inner Palace. His fellow World Eaters carried his corpse away with them as they fought their way back to their landing ships. Once on board, they discovered that by some dark miracle of the Blood God Khârn still lived. Whether Khorne himself breathed life back into the Berserker's body or whether the relentless clamour of battle revived his blood-lusting spirit remains a mystery, but since the Heresy Khârn has survived the bloodiest battles across ten millennia and has never come so close to death again. Khârn vowed that the sons of Angron would never again know defeat, for he would not allow it. Their foes would fall, or they would offer themselves to Khorne in their stead.
The story of the World Eaters' search for a homeworld in the Eye of Terror is a defining point in the history of Khârn. Shortly after the conclusion of the Horus Heresy, when the Traitor Legions had fled into the Eye of Terror, Khârn would earn the enmity of his Legion for his infamous actions upon the Daemon World of Skalathrax. At the Battle of Skalathrax, Khârn became both legendary and infamous amongst the berserk warriors of his Legion. The World Eaters and the Chaos Space Marines of the Emperor's Children Legion fought one another amidst the bone chilling cold of the frigid Daemon World. After a full day of vicious fighting, the terribly frigid Skalathrax night began. Horrified by the conditions that affected even their superhuman metabolisms, the Astartes of the Emperor's Children and the World Eaters agreed to a temporary ceasefire, and both sides took to their shelters, for the freezing night brought conditions so severe that they could kill even a Chaos Space Marine in a matter of mere moments during the deepest portion of the night. Khârn fell into a terrible rage over the idea of being delayed from his slaughter for even a single night. Enraged when he saw his fellow Legionaries creeping back to their shelters like cowards, he took up a Flamer and burned them to ash, slaying with his Chain Axe Gorechild any who tried to stand against him.
During the ensuing chaos, Khârn was assaulted by three unknown assailants. Undeterred, the berserker lept at his foes. A stray Bolter round struck Khârn in his breastplate, sending his leap wide, forcing him to despatch the concealed warrior with an improvised backhand strike of his Chain Axe. He then whirled around and clove through the boltgun of the third assailant before slamming him insensible to the ground. He then quickly hurled Gorechild to his left. The Chain Axe bit deep into the throat of the last Astartes, arterial blood spraying into the air. Standing over the prone warrior as he attempted to scrabble for his weapon, Khârn recognised the face of his assailant -- it was his old Centurion Gruner. Backed into a corner amongst the bodies of their fallen brethren, Gruner spoke of madness and betrayal, cursing Khârn for daring to strike down the Battle-Brothers of his own Legion. As the foremost berserker champion of the XII Legion, Khârn had stood upon the walls of the Imperial Palace. He was the last to be borne away from Terra, his body broken after he had slain one million of the False Emperor's lackeys through the breach at the Lion's Gate. None would ever surpass his tally of kills. The Contest was finally over, and he had been its victor. Khârn believed that the weakness of his fellow Chaos Space Marines was the reason that they were defeated during the Battle of Terra -- the weakness of the other Traitor Legions as well as that to be found amongst the World Eaters. Filled with disgust for his fellow Astartes' weakness, the Chosen of Khorne continued to slay Emperor's Children and World Eaters alike, earning him the title of "the Betrayer," and ultimately shattering his Legion's unity and reducing it to scattered, individual war bands of Khornate Berserkers. These shattered remnants of the Great Companies of the XII Legion would never reunite and would remain scattered for the next ten millennia.
Since the end of the Horus Heresy, Khârn has been the unstoppable and bloody avatar of Khorne. After the Battle of Skalathrax where he shattered his own Legion's unity, Khârn hunted the Eye of Terror as the head of a World Eaters warband, slaughtering any worthy enough to be killed in Khorne's name. Ten millennia later, during the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41, his wrath was unleashed upon the Imperium of Man once more, as Khârn joined a few of the most insane of the Khornate Berserkers, battling those legions of the Emperor's warriors flocking to the defence of Cadia.
Before the Horus Heresy, Khârn was a loyal servant of the Emperor of Mankind, who warily believed that the excessive means the World Eaters employed in battle were necessary for the ultimate success of the Great Crusade. Following the Heresy, Khârn was a Khornate Berzerker, easily enraged by others' perceived weakness, and eager to kill others for Khorne, irrespective of whether or not they were also his allies.
Khârn is one of the most deadly yet unstable melee fighters in the galaxy and he is just as likely to attack his own allies in a berserk fury as he is the enemy. Armed with a Plasma Pistol and his ancient Chainaxe Gorechild, he is able to tear through armour, flesh and bone with ease. To emphasize that he is truly favoured by Khorne, he is subject to the Blessing of the Blood God, and as a result he is immune to the effects of psychic powers.
- Gorechild - Massive and ancient; Gorechild is an artefact Chainaxe from the time of the Great Crusade, an inheritance to Khârn from his Primarch Angron which he had reconstructed to match its former glory after Angron lost the weapon and its mate on the War World of Armatura during the World Eaters' Shadow Crusade alongside the Word Bearers into the Realm of Ultramar in the early days of the Horus Heresy. Gorechild's jagged whirling teeth were torn from the jaws of Mica Dragons on the Death World of Luther Mcintyre and its shaft is forged of adamantium. Even in the hands of an unskilled user (which Khârn is clearly not) the axe can split an armoured Space Marine from head to crotch. In the hands of the Betrayer, it can deliver devastating blows with deadly accuracy.
- Death-counter - Khârn's helm incorporates an archaic device known as a death-counter. The ancient High Gothic lettering of the digital death-counter is superimposed on Khârn's field of vision and tallies the number of the crazed berserker's kills as he makes them. Khârn was proud of this archaic device, presented to him by the Warmaster Horus himself in ancient times. Its like could not be made in the current degenerate age due to the Imperium's slow loss of technical and scientific acumen.
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), p. 59
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), p. 48
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), p. 49
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Codex), p. 26
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition), pp. 100-101
- Index Astartes III, "Chosen of Khorne - The World Eaters Space Marine Legion"
- White Dwarf 230 (US), "WH40K 3rd: Bitter and Twisted - Khârn the Betrayer", p. 42
- White Dwarf 227 (US), "Chapter Approved: Chaos, Khârn the Betrayer", pp. 73-80
- White Dwarf 201 (US), "The Betrayer", pp. 87-90
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- Tales of Heresy (Anthology) edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley, "After Desh'ea" by Matthew Farrer
- Butcher's Nails (Audio Drama) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
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