"Unto those who in ignorance and stubbornness refuse the Word, bring the fires of hell. Sunder their flesh, and burn them of their impurity. Take vengeance upon them for their failings, and teach them the weakness of false idols. Thus spoke Lorgar, and so it shall be done. Open their veins that the truth might enter them. Cut upon them and let their blood flow. With holy bolter and chainsword we shall slaughter the unbelievers, and usher the word of truth into the world! ...Great powers of the Warp, guide the arms of your servants that they might let the blood of your enemies in your honour. Gird us with the strength and fortitude to do your bidding, and let our faith protect us from the blows of the faithless. Let your dark light shine upon us, filling us with purpose and belief. With thanks, we give ourselves unto you, pledging body and soul to your glory, for now and for time immaterial. Glory be."
He is a former first acolyte of the Dark Apostle Jarulek, becoming a Dark Apostle and the master of the Word Bearers' 34th Host in his own right in the late 41st Millennium after his former master was slain by a newly awakened Necron Lord on the world of Tanakreg.
Marduk helped to lead the Word Bearers' massive Dark Crusade in an attempt to seize control of the strategic Boros Gate System from the Imperium of Man during the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler, which the Word Bearers believed would herald the End Times and the final victory of Chaos in the galaxy.
The Battle of the Boros Gate in ca. 999.M41 proved to be a defeat for the forces of Chaos, but a personal triumph for Marduk, who uncovered and unraveled a ploy by the Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron to eliminate the loyalists of his rival Erebus for control over the Word Bearers Legion.
Marduk was born upon the Feudal World of Colchis in the decades after the Word Bearers had already been enlightened by the truth of the Ruinous Powers. He had been recruited from the Colchisian masses and found worthy to become a part of Lorgar's blessed Word Bearers Legion. His rise through the ranks was meteoric, and he soon found himself serving as the first acolyte to the Dark Apostle Jarulek.
Considered a specially chosen favourite of the Chaos Gods, Marduk had been granted their favour through the experience of prescient visions of many possible futures. He also demonstrated the innate ability to summon Daemons from the Empyrean to aid him in battle without the usual ritual summoning spells and extensive preparations and blood sacrifice.
When the Word Bearers turned from the light of the Emperor of Mankind in favour of the worship of the Ruinous Powers there were still those amongst their ranks that remained loyal to the "False Emperor." Those who refused to accept the XVIIth Legion's new creed were "purged" over the course of one solar week.
This involved the elimination of every one of the Terran-born members of the Legion as well as any Colchisian Astartes who refused to accept the new religious doctrine espoused by their primarch. This purge was carried out by "The Brotherhood," an internal sect secretly formed by the order of Lorgar, composed of his most dedicated sons.
The Urizen mourned the necessity of this betrayal and acted with great reluctance when this clandestine sect acted to kill so many of their battle-brothers. Marduk was a member of The Brotherhood and carried out the brutal purge of the Legion's unbelievers with joy in his black heart.
Swearing to utterly destroy their hated rivals, the Ultramarines, for destroying the "Perfect City" of Monarchia upon the world of Khur, First Captain Kor Phaeron led a Dark Crusade against the Five Hundred Worlds of Ultramar. As the first step in this assault, the first captain directed a full-scale invasion of the Calth System.
Marduk took part in the Calth campaign which devastated the planet and left horrific destruction in its wake. But in the end, Kor Phaeron had underestimated the Ultramarines' resolve and was defeated when the Loyalist Legion sent reinforcements from Macragge, driving the Word Bearers Astartes from the surface of Calth.
Kor Phaeron retreated all the way to the Maelstrom, a turbulent Warp rift similar to the much larger Eye of Terror, where the Immaterium of Chaos seeped through into the material realm of the universe. Like his Battle-Brothers, Marduk swore his eternal enmity towards the hated Ultramarines and everything they stood for.
Invasion of Tanakreg
In the latter part of the 41st Millennium, Marduk played an important role in helping his dark master Jarulek with the invasion of the Imperial world of Tanakreg, enslaving its populace. The surviving slaves were forced to build a colossal obelisk known as a Gehemehnet in order to channel enough Warp energy to shatter the crust of the planet, exposing a dormant Necron Monolith beneath its surface.
He accompanied the Dark Apostle into the subterranean depths of this Necron tomb to recover a powerful artefact known as the Nexus Arrangement. Similar in appearance to a Necron Resurrection Orb, this fell device was capable of creating a Warp Storm-like stasis field around a portion of space which would then blanket a planet in its Warp-disrupting effects. The stasis field effectively isolated the surrounding star system from the Immaterium, repelling Warp travel and communications to the affected area so that the star system affected by the field could not receive aid or reinforcements.
This allowed the device's users to wreak havoc on a target planet with impunity. Such an artefact would be a powerful weapon in the hands of the servants of the Dark Gods. When the pair of Word Bearers had reached their destination, which was the centre of the tomb, Jarulek turned upon his first acolyte and attempted to kill him in order to fulfill his dire prophecy, but Marduk had earned the favour of the Chaos Gods.
Unbeknownst to the pair of Word Bearers, as they fought one another a long dormant Necron Lord was resurrected from its slumber and slew Jarulek. Marduk seized the artefact and took up his former master's Accursed Crozius, and made good his escape.
Rise of the Dark Apostle
Now that Jarulek was dead and Marduk had risen to the leadership of the 34th Host, he still had to achieve something of worth to the cause of Chaos before presenting himself for approval before the Dark Council on their daemonic homeworld of Sicarus, located deep within the Eye of Terror.
This elite cadre of the most powerful Dark Apostles within the Legion were its main ruling body, enforcing the will of the Daemon Primarch Lorgar and the Chaos Gods. Marduk needed their approval before he could ascend to the ranks of the Dark Apostles. Therefore, he would carry on the quest of Jarulek, but in order to do so he would have to unlock the secrets of the Nexus Arrangement.
His quest to unlock the artefact's powers took him and his Host of Word Bearers into the middle of territory that was contested by both the Imperium and the alien Tyranids. Not only did Marduk have to negotiate his way through the two opposing forces but he also had to deal with a third force that lay hidden on the very planet where his quest would end.
Marduk sought the secrets of the Nexus Arrangement upon the Ice World of Perdus Skylla, which was being evacuated by the Imperium before the arrival of a Tyranid hive fleet. Though the Imperials knew that they could not evacuate all of the world's populace in time, they have been ordered to rescue as many as they could before an Exterminatus was ordered to deny the Tyranids their prize. It was estimated that the Tyranids would make planetfall in only three solar days' time after Marduk's arrival.
Racing against the clock, Marduk learned that somewhere on Perdus Skylla was an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator by the name of Daenae who had 800 standard years of knowledge hidden within her mind, knowledge that the aspiring Dark Apostle needed to unlock the artefact's dark powers. As Marduk and his brethren searched the icy moon, he constantly kept a wary vigil upon the Host's Coryphaus, Kol Badar, who hated Marduk with every bit of his black soul.
Through undisclosed circumstances, Marduk had killed Kol Badar's closest blood brother during the beginning of the Horus Heresy, and Badar refused to rest until he had gained vengeance against his hated rival. As the 34th Host tried to avoid their Imperial enemies in the midst of the massive evacuation, the Word Bearers also have to contend with the presence of the vile Drukhari, who were also on the doomed moon claiming bodies and souls to feed their hideous appetites.
After he obtained the knowledge he had needed from the mind of Daenae, Marduk and his Heretic Astartes fought their way through both the Drukhari and Imperial forces. Marduk and his Host barely made it out of the system as the hive fleet arrived to engulf the doomed world. Marduk then made for the Word Bearers' homeworld of Sicarus within the Eye of Terror to present himself before the Dark Council.
The Dark Council
When Marduk arrived on Sicarus, he made his way to the immense cathedral-fortress known as the Basilica of the Word and presented himself and the Nexus Arrangement before the Dark Council. Over the period of 3 solar months, Marduk underwent the rituals of testing and purification. He had been subjected to these rituals in order to prove his suitability as the next Dark Apostle of the 34th Host.
He had not spoken to a living soul, though his days were filled with acts of penitence, recitation of the Great Works and communion with the Dark Gods. He endured all manner of ritual debasement, as his soul was stripped bare and he was reborn into the dark faith.
He was subjected to solitary confinement for solar weeks on end, sealed within the ossuary sepulchre deep beneath the Basilica of the Word, interred within a crawl-space little larger than his body, walled in with bricks and blood mortar.
Hallucinogenic smoke had coiled around him in the tomb, and as he deeply breathed in the fumes, his body had passed into a catatonic state nearing death, allowing his spirit to soar free in the Empyrean. Marduk had fought an endless army of Daemons that sought to test his resolve. He knew not how long the Ruinous Powers subjected him to this test of endurance.
This was followed by endless days of ritual torment and study. Having successfully performed everything that was required of him, he was finally allowed to present himself before the Dark Council, to hear them render their judgment.
Passing this final test, Marduk received the blessing of Lorgar and was welcomed into the ranks of the evil priesthood who called themselves the Dark Apostles.
Having uncovered the means of the inner working of the Nexus Arrangement with the help of the Daemon-possessed Magos Darioq-Grendh'al, Marduk tested the artefact on the doomed planet of Palantyr V.
Satisfied that the device produced the expected effect, as his first act as a Dark Apostle, Marduk was charged by the Dark Council to lead a Dark Crusade into the vital Imperial sub-sector known as the Boros Gate, a protectorate system of the White Consuls Space Marines, a Successor Chapter of the hated Ultramarines.
The Word Bearers would be entering one of the Imperium's best defended regions of space, for only the Cadian Gate was more fiercely guarded. The system's defences were formidable, protected by a vast Imperial fleet and the largest space station within the Segmentum Obscurus. The devastatingly powerful space bastion that orbited system's capital planet of Boros Prime was a relic of the Dark Age of Technology.
Known as a Kronos Star Fort, it possessed enough firepower to destroy half the Word Bearers' crusade. But the true strength of this system's nigh-impenetrable defences lay in its ability to rapidly receive reinforcements from across the galaxy within solar hours as a result of the wormholes that existed within it.
These unusual, natural space-time anomalies were the sole reason Boros Gate was so hotly defended by the servants of the Corpse Emperor and so jealously regarded by the Traitor Legions that had been loyal to Horus.
Even for the Legions dedicated to Chaos, the Warp-routes through the Immaterium were often convoluted and difficult to navigate. Thousands of overlapping routes existed through the Warp, twisting and turning in constant flux. There were fast moving streams that wound their way through the Immaterium, allowing remarkably swift passage from one area of realspace to another, but also stagnant areas of null-time where a fleet could become becalmed for standard years or decades at a time.
However, there were some rare Warp-routes that remained stable and unchanging through all the passing centuries and millennia. Highly prized, and violently defended at their egress points, the most favoured of these stable wormholes allowed entire fleets to be shifted from warzone to warzone almost instantaneously, utilising these routes like mass transit highways that bridged the gaps between distant sub-sectors.
The Imperial system that the Dark Crusade was soon to descend upon was the hub of one such cluster of wormholes. If the Word Bearers managed to secure this system and take control of this transportation hub, it would provide them a waypoint that allowed nearly instantaneous travel over thousands of light years between almost two dozen other systems. One such location was only a relatively short jump from Terra, the birthplace of Mankind and the sacred capital of the Imperium itself.
The Boros Gate was to be the staging ground of the End Times, according to the Word Bearers prophecy known as the Rubric Apocalyptica. Marduk and his fellow Dark Apostles were to be the heralds and harbingers of the prophesied End Times of the Imperium when Chaos would finally triumph over all.
The Boros Gate was to be the staging ground for the fall of the Imperium. For ten thousand Terran years the forces of Chaos had tried to take this system, and for ten thousand years they had been denied. Several Word Bearers Dark Crusades had tried to gain control of the region, but none had ever returned.
In all, seventeen Hosts of the XVIIth Legion had been thrown against this system over the millennia and all had been wiped out. The Black Legion had lost double that number of Heretic Astartes trying to find a way around the heavily guarded Cadian Gate. Other Traitor Legions had suffered when attempting to strike at the region, most notably the Death Guard of Mortarion and the Iron Warriors of Perturabo.
To go against this region was not merely to go against one system's defences and its Astartes guardians, but rather to go against the fleet of an entire sub-sector. It was to go against the entire force of the Astartes Praeses, the order of Space Marine Chapters that permanently patrolled the flanks of the Eye of Terror, ever vigilant for incursions from within.
Utilising the wormholes of this region, the Astartes Praeses were a thorn in the side of the Traitor Legions, able to quickly manoeuvre their companies to wherever they were needed. However, Marduk had presented the Dark Council with the means to accomplish their grandiose objective; the Necron artefact known as the Nexus Arrangement.
The Warmaster Abaddon himself would be watching the Word Bearers' progress closely. He had already sent envoys to gather support, scouring the Eye and the Maelstrom for all those Renegades who would fight under his banner.
Rivalries and blood feuds were being put aside, for all could feel that the End Times drew nigh. The Word Bearers' triumph at the Boros Gate would herald the last of the Despoiler's Black Crusades, the 13th Black Crusade of ca. 999.M41. Because of Marduk and his fellow Dark Apostles, the heavens would burn and the Imperium of Man would be dust.
Beginning of the End
Thirteen immense battleships had been sequestered for Marduk's Dark Crusade. Five complete Word Bearers Hosts stood ready to embark upon the Dark Crusade against the hated Imperium. Marduk's flagship, the battleship Infidus Diabolus, stood ready amongst the deadly armada.
Between them, the four Dark Apostles commanded the loyalty of over 5,500 Heretic Astartes warriors. Together with the might of Ekodas' Grand Host, that number swelled to over 9,000. Add onto that the battle-tanks, Chaos Dreadnoughts, Daemon Engines and assault craft of the five Hosts and the number was swollen further.
Over a million fanatical Chaos Cultists of the Word accompanied the Hosts, brainwashed men and women crammed together like cattle in hulking slave vessels. These slaves' free will and resistance had long been broken, and they were now true devotees of Chaos.
Of little tactical worth, they would be herded into the guns of the enemy, across minefields and sacrificed by their Astartes masters, and they would go willingly for the glory of the Dark Gods.
The fleet was also accompanied by a single bulk-transporter, a grim vessel twice the size of Grand Apostle Ekodas' flagship, the Crucius Maledictus. Within its cavernous stasis hold resided a full demi-Legion of Chaos Titans: twelve of the most potent war engines ever constructed on the Forge Worlds of the ancient Mechanicum.
These were the Titans of the Legio Vulturus, who had once fought for the Emperor during the bygone era of the Great Crusade. They had declared their allegiance to the Warmaster Horus ten millennia before, turning upon their own brethren mid-battle and wreaking terrible devastation and chaos upon the war engines of the Legio Gryphonicus and the Legio Victorum, destroying over 40 Titans in one unexpected engagement. This particular demi-Legion had fought alongside the Word Bearers since the start of the Great Crusade.
The Word Bearers intended to take the five outlying planets of the Boros Gate in turn, and once they had fallen the five Hosts would converge on the central planet, Boros Prime, the lynchpin and heart of the Boros System.
If the Word Bearers could take this world then they would control the Boros Gate. This would leave the Traitor Legions an open path into the Segmentum Solar and the heart of the Imperium.
Battle of the Boros Gate
Using the Nexus Arrangement to unleash Daemons and disrupt the functioning of the Warp around the surrounding star system, the Word Bearers' assault on the Boros Gate initially devastated the defending White Consuls and Astra Militarum forces, who called for reinforcements from the Grey Knights, who could not arrive in the system due to the Warp-dampening effects of the xenos artefact.
As the Chaos Titans of the Legio Vulturus were deployed, Marduk attempted to demoralise the Imperial war effort by sending Burias Drak'Shal to assassinate the White Consuls commander Gaius Aquilius, who was beloved by the Astra Militarum regiments defending the planet. Thanks to the intervention of the White Consuls Chapter Master Titus Valens, Aquilius was saved.
In truth, the campaign was a plan by The Brotherhood of Kor Phaeron under the command of Marduk's latest subordinate, First Acolyte Ashkanez, to purge the Word Bearers Legion of his rival Dark Apostle Erebus' loyalists.
Under attack from both Necrons under the command of the Undying One seeking to recapture the Nexus Arrangement and the defending Imperial forces, Marduk put down The Brotherhood's plot. The Dark Apostle killed Ashkanez after his betrayal was revealed using his Meltagun and escaped by deploying a Vortex Grenade to destroy the Nexus Arrangement and then flee back to Sicarus aboard his vessel once its effects on the local Empyrean had ceased.
Marduk also betrayed the forces of the Grand Apostle Ekodas remaining in the system in order to further his own influence in the XVIIth Legion, letting Ekodas and his warriors die at the hands of the Grey Knights. Imperial casualties however proved heavy, as only 3 Loyalist Space Marines survived the engagement. But for now, the Word Bearers' prophecy of the End Times would have to wait...
Marduk wore an ancient suit of power armour that was a bastardised combination of Mark IV, V and VI pattern armour pieces, including a helmet gifted to him by The Warmonger which was bedecked with honorifics and artefacts of religious significance.
Burnished metal talismans, tiny shrunken skulls and Chaos icons hung from chains on Marduk's ornate, deep red armour. A scrimshawed bone of the Chaos prophet Morglock was strapped to his thigh with padlocked chains, and extracts from the Book of Lorgar, scratched upon Human flesh, hung from his shoulder plates.
- Dark Apostle (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Disciple (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Creed (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds, Chs. 3, 16-18