The Vakrah Jal, also known as the Chapter of Consecrated Iron, were a Chapter of the Word Bearers Legion whose member Chaos Space Marines were recruited from the survivors of the companies of the XVIIth Legion that were devastated on the killing fields of Istvaan V during the Drop Site Massacre. Argel Tal, the Crimson Lord of the elite Possessed Chaos Space Marines called the Gal Vorbak, gathered hundreds of leaderless Word Bearers warriors and gave them unity from ruination. Forsaking his oaths to the annihilated Chapter of the Serrated Sun, Chapter Master Argel Tal gained permission to raise a new Chapter for the XVIIth Legion, the Vakrah Jal, in its stead.
The Emperor of Mankind initially tolerated the deep religious belief of his son Lorgar that he was the one, true God of Mankind, but as the Great Crusade reached its height in the late 30th Millennium, the Emperor found himself increasingly frustrated with the slow pace with which Lorgar conquered and then brought worlds into Compliance for the Imperium. When the Word Bearers were formally reprimanded by the Emperor upon the world of Khur, their faith was shaken to its very core. Khur had been a world dear to the Word Bearers, who considered its capital, Monarchia, the "perfect city" because of the intense religious devotion of its citizens and the sheer number of cathedrals and monuments dedicated to the worship of the Emperor as a God. But the Emperor had ordered Roboute Guilliman and his Ultramarines Legion to raze it. Feeling betrayed by the Emperor, the Primarch Lorgar led his Word Bearers in search of those gods once worshipped on his homeworld of Colchis in ancient days who not only accepted the zealous worship of Mankind, but demanded it. Lorgar ordered his XVIIth Legion to find these gods, and so the Word Bearers undertook a sacred journey to the Eye of Terror to make communion with these entities in what became known as the Pilgrimage of Lorgar. Thus were the seeds of the Horus Heresy first sown amongst the Word Bearers.
Pilgrimage of Lorgar
Argel Tal, commander of the 7th Assault Company of the Serrated Suns Chapter of the Word Bearers Legion, was charged by his Primarch to enter the Eye of Terror in search of definitive proof that true divinities existed in the universe. Whilst they were in the Eye of Terror, the members of the Serrated Sun Chapter were all killed by a daemon, only to awaken some time later alive once more. All of the normal humans on their starship were dead and their vessel had sustained critical damage. During the 7-month-long journey that followed out of the Eye of Terror, many members of the Serrated Sun Chapter killed one another and survived the ordeal by drinking their fallen comrades' blood. When they returned to realspace and their waiting Primarch Lorgar, they were told that they had only been gone for only a few moments in subjective time. When the remnants of the Serrated Sun Chapter re-emerged from their sojourn, they brought back the Primordial Truth of the existence of Chaos to their Primarch. This truth made Lorgar realise that the Emperor of Mankind's Imperial Truth was the true lie and ultimately converted him and his entire Legion to the worship of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos. The survivors of the harrowing journey into the Eye of Terror were honoured and the Serrated Sun Chapter was renamed the Gal Vorbak, "the Blessed Sons" in the ancient dialect of the Word Bearers' homeworld of Colchis.
Lorgar and the Word Bearers spent the remaining years of the Great Crusade attempting to enlighten humanity about the true spiritual nature of Creation, ultimately resorting to manipulation and deception to sway nine of the Primarchs to the cause of Chaos as their Dark Gods demanded, the most notable being the Warmaster Horus. When it became clear that Mankind could not be enlightened by Chaos without first being forcibly weaned at a great price in blood from the Emperor's false Imperial Truth, Lorgar willingly helped orchestrate the terrible Istvaan III Atrocity and the Drop Site Massacre at Istvaan V as well as the larger Horus Heresy itself. When Horus openly declared his rebellion against the Emperor in the Istvaan System, the Word Bearers were once of the first Space Marine Legions to support him and his cause. The worlds they had conquered since their conversion to Chaos also joined the side of the Traitors, having been secretly corrupted to the worship of the Ruinous Powers in the final years of the Great Crusade.
Drop Site Massacre
During the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V when the Traitor Legions betrayed their Loyalist brethren, the Gal Vorbak underwent their final metamorphosis, one of many that they had endured since the Pilgrimage into the Eye. At the height of the battle, when Lorgar attacked Corax, the Primarch of the Raven Guard Legion, all of the members of the Gal Vorbak became true daemons. Their flesh and ceramite fused and warped into a new, bestial form, marking them out as amongst the first of the Possessed Chaos Space Marines. After the battle, the Gal Vorbak resumed the form of normal Astartes again, though the battle had proven costly. Only 5 of their number, which included Argel Tal, had survived taking on a Primarch in battle to continue to fight in the service of Chaos throughout the rest of the Horus Heresy. They were the last of the first Gal Vorbak, the true "Blessed Sons" of Chaos: warriors with daemons in their hearts because they had willingly mutilated their souls on the first treacherous steps into Hell, unlike the thin-blooded Daemonhosts that Argel Tal bred for Lorgar in the years following Istvaan V. These later incarnations were Gal Vorbak in name and blood, but not in spirit. They had not undertaken the Pilgrimage. They came to their power with no comprehension of what it had cost their brethren to earn it. Argel Tal's daemon-blooded brethren were as much animals as men. Few of these so-called "Blessed Sons" restrained themselves to the degree shown by their former commander, and most became petty warlords lording it over their own squads and Hosts, ruling in their daemonic form more often than not, issuing commands that originated not with the XVIIth Legion, but from the pantheon of Chaos Undivided.
Cull of the Word Bearers
As the Horus Heresy unfolded, Lorgar ordered his subordinates Erebus and Kor Phaeron to strike a vital blow against their most hated rivals, the XIIIth Legion, the Ultramarines. Unknown to Erebus or Kor Phaeron, their Primarch had a secret objective in mind when he had sent his two most zealous sons to launch a surprise assault on the Ultramarines' world of Calth. Lorgar's most trusted servants were more than willing to gain the chance for vengeance upon the Word Bearers' hated foes, pinning the enemy forces down in the Realm of Ultramar while the main forces of the Traitor Legions advanced on Terra under the command of Horus. After their humiliation at Khur, thousands of World Bearers within the XVIIth Legion detested the Ultramarines. The Urizen ordered a great gathering of his Legion while their fleet was already en route to Calth. The Primarch called for Argel Tal, the leader of the Gal Vorbak, and one other Word Bearer officer. These two loyal sons would eventually become commanders and apostles amongst the elite of the Vakrah Jal. The Primarch wanted their counsel on what to do with those amongst their Legion he no longer trusted.
The Word Bearers had culled their ranks down through the decades, removing such unrepentantly Loyalist elements as the Terran-born warriors of their Legion, but had carried out no purge like the Istvaan III Atrocity that the World Eaters' Primarch Angron was so proud of. Lorgar knew that the loyalty of his own Legion to both him and his vision of Mankind transformed through an embrace of Chaos was never in doubt, but competence was another matter entirely. Lorgar asked what should be done with those warriors of the XVIIth Legion he felt were no longer reliable; those whose hatred burned brighter than their sense. For tens of thousands of them -- whole companies, whole Chapters -- their rage was no longer pure. It was decided that these suspect elements of the XVIIth Legion would be gathered into a single host and ordered to undertake the "sacred" mission to Calth to assault the Ultramarines that they had so craved. They were led by Erebus and Kor Phaeron and were expected to martyr themselves in glory. The other Traitor Legions such as the Emperor's Children, Sons of Horus and the World Eaters might have purged their own ranks at Istvaan III, but the Word Bearers proceeded to purge their own during the Battle of Calth.
Though the XVIIth Legion achieved a monumental victory of sorts at Calth, it was all a matter of perspective. Piercing the veil of the Warp, Lorgar had heard the whisperings of the Chaos Gods and had witnessed the truth for himself. Yes, Erebus had successfully conjured the great Warp Storm known as the Ruinstorm at Calth which would help prevent the Ultramarines from reinforcing the other Loyalists on Terra as Horus' forces closed on the throne world. But ultimately, Erebus and Kor Phaeron had failed to achieve their overall objectives: Roboute Guilliman was still alive, the Word Bearers had lost half their fleet at Calth to an Ultramarines counter-attack, and tens of thousands of Word Bearers, including the Gal Vorbak and the mortal servants amongst their countless allied Chaos Cults, had been abandoned to a useless subterranean war beneath Calth's irradiated surface while the two Word Bearers commanders had fled. Though Lorgar was somewhat displeased, Erebus had more or less achieved the base level of success required of him; the Ruinstorm had been conjured and the rogue elements of the Word Bearers had been culled.
Rising From The Ashes
Thousands of the Gal Vorbak were left to die, alone and unsupported, on the surface of the devastated world of Calth when First Chaplain Erebus fled the conflict that the Word Bearers had fought against the Ultramarines on that benighted world. These Word Bearers had been left to die. They would never be reinforced. They would never be recovered. All those Gal Vorbak who spent months of their lives fasting, praying, scarring their flesh in preparation for a chance to taste the Divine Blood, were lost. Argel Tal was the sole surviving original member of the Gal Vorbak, having been seconded to the World Eaters Legion for temporary duty before the Word Bearers' assault on Calth. Argel Tal forsook his oaths to the annihilated Serrated Suns Chapter and gained permission from his Primarch Lorgar to form a newly constituted formation, known as the Vakrah Jal, the "Chapter of Consecrated Iron," who rose from the ashes of those Word Bearers companies devastated on the killing fields of Istvaan V. Argel Tal gathered hundreds of leaderless Astartes and gave them unity and new purpose.
Several hundred of the Vakrah Jal were birthed aboard the World Eaters' flagship Conqueror, where they trained for months in the World Eaters' gladiator pits, honing their skills to deadly lethality. Each member of the Vakrah Jal was given newly forged blades in honour of their new status. They went to war behind faceplates of burnished silver, marking them out as the elite amongst the warriors of the XVIIth Legion. The Vakrah Jal were also blessed with the priceless best of the Dark Mechanicus: built-in wrist-mounted Flamers that spat green alchemical fire. The Vakrah Jal became known as the "Bearers of the Jade Fire", for their use of this telltale weapon. This elite formation would go on to serve Argel Tal with unflinching devotion as well as serving as their Primarch's Honour Guard when duty demanded it. Following the events of the Horus Heresy, it is not known whether or not this elite specialty formation still exists within the ranks of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion in the late 41st Millennium.
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Aurelian (Novella) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Know No Fear (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Betrayer (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, pp. 4, 14, 27, 133-134, 146, 155, 199, 200, 205, 216, 230-231, 235, 237-238, 246, 263, 285