"True power cannot be earned without sacrifice, without pain. And you will know such pain as you have never experienced, brother, that I promise you. I will burn the weakness from your soul, and pour the molten potentiality of the warp into the hollow chambers that remain. Embrace the agony, and you will know a most glorious transcendence."
- —Hyasphus Kul, Master of Possession
A Master of Possession is a Heretic Astartes Chaos Sorcerer who is well-versed in the forbidden art of using living hosts to contain the daemons of the Warp and often serve as the leaders of Daemonkin warbands.
Masters of Possession are also potent psychic sorcerers whose abilities can provide substantial support to Chaos Space Marine forces in battle.
Masters of Possession lead warbands of devoted warriors in pursuit of untold power. These sorcerous figures have mastered the darkest and most blasphemous lore: the art of using hosts of living flesh to house daemonic spirits. It is they who perform the profane ceremonies of binding that imbue the Daemonkin with their Warp-born power.
Gouging a breach in the fabric of realspace through the use of sorcery, the Master of Possession draws a willing entity from the Immaterium, channelling its terrible energies into the body of a supplicant or the chassis of a war machine. So thoroughly are these dread figures steeped in blasphemous sorcery that where they walk, reality itself recoils.
In battle they bolster their daemon-possessed followers, stitching together rents in fleshmetal carcasses, or imbuing their creations with a demented, predatory fury. Enemies are despatched with bolts of searing Warpflame, or with precise shots from a Bolt Pistol sidearm.
With a touch from their corrupted staves, Masters of Possession can even blast asunder the souls of their foes, spilling daemonic energy into the now hollow shell. This hideous act can cause mortal frames to erupt with hellish energies, transforming the unfortunate victim into a slavering Chaos Spawn, or a willing Chaos Champion into a towering Greater Possessed.
All amongst the Daemonkin believe that by trafficking with the creatures of the Warp they can gain true power. Their insistence that the daemonic possession of mortal flesh is the most effective method of achieving this enlightenment is a cause of contention amongst their Chaos allies.
This divide is most clearly observed in the long-held rivalry between the Masters of Possession who act as the spiritual leaders of the Daemonkin, and the Warpsmiths who scorn doctrine in favour of cold, merciless logic. Masters of Possession are inclined towards traditionalism, believing that the bonding of mortal flesh with a daemonic spirit is the most potent and sacred form of ascension.
For them, Daemon Engines are valuable assets, but little more than crude creations of necessity. It is raging emotion that grants power, not the iron resolve of the machine. Masters of Possession often demonstrate how effectively hatred fuels a Daemon Engine by ripping apart the soul of a nearby combatant and using the wrathful shreds to reinvigorate the monstrous construct -- such sacrifices are particularly fruitful when the raging soul is taken from a rival Warpsmith.
Warpsmiths scoff at such limited ambition. To these techno-arcane engineers, flesh is just another material to be moulded and shaped in the pursuit of perfection; it is no more hallowed than the metal hull of a battle tank or the rivets that hold together a Macrocannon.
On many occasions this mutual enmity has spilled over into outright hostility, igniting vicious internecine battles amidst the charnel wastes of the flesh-factories. These contests are fought between mutated monstrosities and prowling Daemon Engines, each faction seeking to prove theirs is the true path to ascension.
This antipathy is only grudgingly set aside when the great lords of Chaos embark upon one of their dark crusades into Imperial space. In such times, Masters of Possession and Warpsmiths work alongside each other to create nightmarish legions of frenzied flesh-moulded warriors and sulphur-spewing Daemon Engines, terrifying invasion forces capable of crushing the defences of any world. When the Masters of Possession and Warpsmiths put aside their mutual hatred and fight under the banner of a Chaos Lord, their combined strengths make them all but unstoppable.
Masters of Possession are viewed by their fellow Heretic Astartes with a combination of awe and bitter suspicion. They are prophet-like figures, often speaking of when and where great Warp breaches will appear to spill daemonic beings into realspace. Yet they speak in riddles, twisting their own words to have multiple and contradictory meanings.
They may foretell of a world upon which a great sacrifice will bring forth the denizens of the Warp in plenitude, and a Chaos Lord, learning of this and seeking to bolster his warband with daemonic forces, might travel to this world and eradicate the populace of a bustling hive city in a profane mass sacrifice.
But the truth of the Master of Possession's prophecy may be that the Chaos Lord themselves is destined to become the sacrifice, their tainted soul consumed to create a rupture in the fabric of reality. In their arrogance, most heretical champions are sure they will not succumb to such a fate, and risk treating with a Master of Possession in the hopes of adding daemonic warriors to their ranks.
Should this lead to the demise of the Chaos Lord, the Master of Possession will swiftly take their place and begin their own tyrannical reign.
The Creation of Damonkin
Binding a daemon into a mortal frame is no simple act. To gain the knowledge to perform such a ritual, an aspirant must tirelessly study the darkest of lores, and open their mind to the most terrifying secrets, risking insanity and obliteration in the process.
It is not enough to merely gaze into the Warp -- one must submerge oneself entirely in its maddening tides, and learn to channel that infinite and overwhelming power through one's own being. Thus, even amongst those who practice Warpcraft, the Masters of Possession are regarded as being far removed from mortality, and as untrustworthy as the most duplicitous creature of the Immaterium.
These sorcerers are utterly dedicated to the unholy creed of the Dark Gods, and pledge their lives to bringing down the barriers between reality and the Warp, allowing the Chaos pantheon to reach forth and claim vast tracts of realspace.
Methods by which a warrior may be daemonically possessed vary greatly. The most straightforwardly brutal is to commit such varied and horrifying acts that the immortal servants of the Dark Gods are empowered sufficiently to cross over into realspace.
This method is fraught with dangers, for a willing supplicant might easily be overwhelmed by the untrammelled power of the Warp. Many are the Daemonkin warriors who have been transformed into bloated, hideous Chaos Spawn by the unpredictable surge of empyric energies. Others simply erupt in an explosion of gore as their bodies collapse under the intense pressure of the possession, unable to contain such power.
The rituals enacted by Masters of Possession channel the roiling energies of the immaterium with far more focus, ensuring that the subject does not drown in the flood of Chaos power. Blood rites and sickening sacrifices open the path, tempting the beast forth with a tribute of agonised souls. Once it has crossed over into realspace, the daemon is trapped amidst an intricate arrangement of rune-carved binding stones, each marked with the abomination's True Name.
Such a prized secret is not easily uncovered; daemons guard their names zealously, for they know the power such knowledge grants their foes. Sorcerers may spend Terran centuries searching through abandoned temples and repositories of lore, hunting for the merest fragment of a True Name.
Others conjure forth Lesser Daemons and imprison them in flaming, bronze cages, excruciating them until they reveal the secrets of their masters. Once gained, a True Name is used to weaken and dominate the summoned Warp entity, rendering it momentarily vulnerable.
Only then does the Master of Possession begin to work his profane art, offering up willing flesh for the raging daemon to claim as its own. Some do so willingly, relishing the opportunity to indulge their appetite for destruction in the material realm. Others must be goaded and coerced in a process that can take several solar days to see through, during which the mortal recipient suffers unthinkable agonies.
Such ceremonies cannot entirely eliminate the potential for gore-splattered error, but these sorcerers always ensure their rites of binding are observed by Venomcrawlers ready to pounce upon any daemonic essence that attempts to break free of the summoning circle.
In a horrifying industrialisation of this process, the Daemonkin spawn all manner of twisted horrors, from the mutated shock troops of the Possessed to flame-spitting Heldrakes and the winged hunters known as Warp Talons. Planet-wide flesh-factories echo to the screams of slaves and tormented thralls, whose blood and pain power the hellish mechanisms towering around them.
This chorus of agony is rivalled only by the thundering cacophony of forge pistons, hammering together fusions of flesh and metal to cage the horrors of the Warp. From the depths of the summoning chambers the Masters of Possession oversee this unholy mass production, spending billions of souls each day to see their dark designs made manifest.
Amongst the Daemonkin it is only the followers of Khorne who scorn the guiding hand of the Masters of the Possession. These battle-crazed butchers have nothing but contempt for those so weak they must rely on sorcery and ritual to embrace the daemonic; it is through battle and slaughter alone that the Khorne Daemonkin draw the gaze of the Blood God. If many must die because they are unable to channel the searing rage of Khorne's foot soldiers, then so be it -- they were unworthy in any case.
Only a scant few mortal souls possess the strength of will to attain ascension and be blessed by the Dark Gods with the immortal gifts of a Daemon Prince. The rest are doomed to be supplanted by the Warp-born creatures they willingly invited into their bodies, hollowed out and left as nothing more than frames of flesh and bone for the entity to inhabit.
The most devoted and zealous accept this damnation gladly, so desperate are they to prove their devotion to the Chaos Gods. For the rest, they are granted one final moment of horrified realisation, one last instance of regret, before their soul essence is devoured by the Warp.
It is not solely living subjects that the Daemonkin pollute with Warp-spawned corruption, but also the iron hearts of war machines. With the aid of Venomcrawlers, daemons are extracted from the Warp and ensnared. Few willingly accede to this process, for they gain little succour from being imprisoned in a cage of screaming metal. Yet through violent ritual and forbidden alchemy they are beaten and goaded into submission, forced to serve the Heretic Astartes as enslaved beasts of war.
Battle tanks and other vehicles salvaged from butchered opponents are imbued with corruption, their Machine Spirits twisted beyond all recognition. Transformed into predatory, smoke-belching monsters, they provide Daemonkin armies with rugged transports and heavy armour.
Perhaps more terrifying are the Daemon Engines created through a grudging alliance between Masters of Possession and Warpsmiths, the masters of mechamorphosis. Their hulking creations move on piston-driven limbs, their bodies rippling with all manner of hell-forged weaponry.
Woe betide those they are unleashed upon in battle, for Daemon Engines are fury incarnate, driven to a monstrous frenzy by their rage and hatred. With screeching blasts of ectoplasma or the lashing of flamespitting magma tendrils, they render their prey into mounds of charred meat.
So steeped are they in the power of the Warp that Daemonkin warbands are invaluable assets to any Chaos Lord with ambitions of conquest. Each of the Traitor Legions possess their own cults of Daemonkin, often looked upon with a mixture of reverence and unease by their fellow apostates.
Nevertheless they play a vital role upon the battlefield, for they wield the ferocious savagery of Possessed warriors and the thunderous advance of Daemon Engines. Those Renegade Chapters who lack the facility to create such potent shock troops -- and have not formed a pact with the mercurial Dark Mechanicum -- often seek to gain the favour of an autonomous Daemonkin warband, typically by promising a never-ending crusade of slaughter and debasement for them to savour. Other Daemonkin cults roam the stars alone, beholden to no master save their own demented whims.
Masters of Posession Psychic Disciplines
Masters of Possession have studied the profane lore of conjuration, learning how to draw forth daemonic beings, taint their surroundings with the mutating energies of Chaos, and blast asunder the souls of their foes.
- Incursion - The psyker opens a portal to the Realm of Chaos, allowing the Warp's daemonic denizens to spill forth into reality.
- Sacrifice - The psyker uses a sacrificial soul to remould and repair an unholy daemon-form. The tainted spirits of Warpsmiths are particularly invigorating offerings to those Daemon Engines that are in their charge.
- Mutated Invigoration - A wave of insanity and mutation flows from the psyker's fingers, enveloping their Daemonkin allies with bountiful "gifts" that enhance their combat capabilities.
- Possession - The psyker blasts away their enemy's soul so that the spiritless shell left behind can be possessed by a daemon, who quickly transforms it into a more pleasing form using the energies of the Warp. Vehicles so possessed are typically unable to contain the daemon within, and explode in a scream of empyric energy.
- Cursed Earth - The psyker becomes a conduit through which the energies of the Warp flow, tainting the very ground and sustaining the Daemonkin that walk upon it, granting them great resistance to damage and other environmental effects.
- Infernal Power - The fell power of the Immaterium flows from the psyker, imbuing the daemons that reside within his followers' bodies with even greater ferocity, increasing their chances of striking true in combat and weathering the blows of the foe.
Notable Masters of Possession
- Vorash Soulflayer - Vorash Soulflayer is a Master of Possession and a member of the Black Legion, who commanded the flesh-factory known as the Forge Infernus on the asteroid world of Nemendghast in the Vigilus System. His work was finally discovered by an Ultramarines Vanguard Space Marines strike force as the War of Beasts raged on the nearby Sentinel World of Vigilus. Though the strike force was heavily outnumbered by Soulflayer's Daemonkin warriors, the Ultramarines managed to cripple the production of the Forge Infernus. However, only the Librarian Maltis was able to escape and warn his Chapter Master Marneus Calgar of the threat lurking at the edge of the Vigilus System.
- Bruakh Athkor - Athkor is a Master of Possession of the Black Legion and Daemontwister of the Screaming Void, who commands the Athkor's Destroyers Chaos Space Marine warband.
- Zhune Tsang - Zhune Tzang is a skilled Black Legion Master of Possession who enjoyed the favour of Abaddon the Despoiler for several solar months before the War of Beasts. During that conflict on Vigilus, Zhune Tzang and the Chaos Lord Thorosgar Bear-fist led their forces in an attack on the Mortwald Hivesprawl.
- Praxis Empyrealus - Praxis Empyrealus is a Master of Possession of the Night Lords Traitor Legion who served as an adviser to the Chaos Lord Varrus Hekatos. However the two hated each other and during the War of Beasts on Vigilus, Praxis found the ideal time to rid himself of the Chaos Lord. It was after the Night Lords had been forced to retreat from the Genestealer Cult-infested Dirkden Hivesprawl and then attacked the eastern borders of the Hyperia Hivesprawl. From a hidden base, Hekatos had been coordinating the Night Lords' attack against the Dark Angels' 4th Company, when Praxis secretly lit several fires within the base. This alerted the Dark Angels' Ravenwing company to the existence of the Night Lords' base, which they assaulted after discovering Hekatos was there. Though it proved costly to the Dark Angels, the Chaos Lord was killed and afterwards Empyrealus summoned forth daemons and launched a series of Warp-based attacks which destroyed the Ravenwing's forces. Soon after, elements of the Dark Angels 3rd and 4th Companies attacked, but the surviving Night Lords killed five Loyalist Astartes for every one of their own losses. This slaughter pleased Abaddon the Despoiler enough that he overlooked the Night Lords' disastrous attack upon Dirkden and they were able to withdraw from War of Beasts' front lines.
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Chaos Space Marines (8th Edition) (Revised Codex), pp. 59, 126
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Daemonkin (8th Edition), pp. 4-7
- Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant (8th Edition), pg. 122
- Imperium Nihilus - Vigilus Ablaze (8th Edition), pp. 59, 83