Variel, also known as "Variel the Flayer," was the Apothecary Secundus of the Astral Claws Chapter and later of the Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marine warband who had been the favoured apprentice of the Corpsemaster Garreon.
Variel was dubbed "the Flayer" due to his habit of skinning his victims' faces and wearing them upon his shoulder pauldrons.
The Renegade Space Marine Variel had been a member of the Astral Claws Chapter before the Chapter was corrupted during the Badab War. Following the corruption of his Chapter he continued to serve as an Apothecary Secundus of the Astral Claws and later the Red Corsairs after the events of the Badab War ran their course.
It was Variel, his mentor Chief Apothecary Garreon and Armenneus Valthex who treated their mortally wounded Chapter Master Lufgt Huron in the wake of the Badab War. It was they who oversaw the reconstruction of Huron's severely damaged body, helping him to be reborn as the mighty Chaos Lord Huron Blackheart.
After the Astral Claws had been cast out of the bosom of the Imperium, and forced to flee into the hellish realm of the Maelstrom where they became the piratical Red Corsairs Heretic Astartes, Variel also undertook additional duties as an infamous torturer who oversaw interrogations, contriving inventively malignant punishments and keeping his "subjects" alive and lucid far longer than they wished to be.
This, alongside his preferred habit of skinning his victim's faces so he could wear them upon the pauldrons of his power armour, earned him the sobriquet of "The Flayer."
Joining the Night Lords
Late in the 41st Millennium, the infamous Talos Valcoran, called the "Soul Hunter", sergeant of the 1st Claw (squad) of the 10th Company of the Night Lords Legion, came with his warband to the Maelstrom seeking to repair his damaged vessel.
At this time, the conflicting loyalties of Variel's past and present persona began to emerge. Variel liked and respected Talos, who had saved his life some solar decades previously on a world called Fryga, far more than he did any of his fellow Red Corsairs or even Huron Blackheart himself.
Ultimately, Variel went on to betray Huron Blackheart and assisted Talos in reacquiring the Red Corsairs' warship Echo of Damnation, a former vessel of the Night Lords Legion that had been captured by the Red Corsairs.
Variel would faithfully serve under Talos' command, and would be one of only a handful of survivors of his warband when the Night Lords' former adoptive homeworld of Tsagualsa came under attack from the Asuryani of Craftworld Ulthwé, who sought to eliminate Valcoran, for their Farseers had seen through the mists of the Warp that Valcoran would one day become an even more powerful Chaos Lord.
Once in orbit, both of Valcoran's servants eventually escaped back to Tsagualsa's surface. This forced Variel to pursue them and attempt to claim the Navigator's child, who had been fathered by Septimus.
The Apothecary was badly wounded when he encountered the Asuryani Phoenix Lord Jain Zar, losing both of his legs in the battle. He had already lost one leg previously in an earlier encounter with a Broodlord and had it replaced with an augmetic; now both would require cybernetic replacements.
Following the events on Tsagualsa, Variel would continue to serve the Night Lords' 1st Claw. Variel harvested the slain Talos Valcoran's gene-seed which was used to create a new prophet of the Night Lords Legion named Decimus.
Variel would become one of Decimus' most trusted followers in the years to come alongside Lucoryphus, and would participate in the 13th Black Crusade.
Variel the Flayer earned his name through a brutal and merciless career. He rarely showed any bias as an Apothecary toward saving the lives of any of his brethren he felt did not have a high chance of surviving.
This detachment from his fellow Red Corsairs was obvious when he left the Renegade Chapter to join the Night Lords. He did not share the same strong level of disdain for the power of Chaos felt by many of the Heretic Astartes of 1st Claw.
Variel is an unusual Chaos Space Marine. He is surprisingly stoic and not externally moved by emotions, and keeps a tight control on his own, rarely displaying them overtly even while he takes action.
When a wounded Astartes in a triage station would not let go of his arm after two requests, he grabbed the warrior's arm and removed the offending hand with the laser-cutters and bonesaws on his Narthecium and calmly asked his brother, "What have you learned?"
Variel is intelligent even for an Astartes and in his own words, "dislikes ignorance." He takes time to study and learn new things he encounters, whether it be the Aeldari Lexicon (learned from Asuryani captives tortured in his time as a Red Corsair), or studying the unusual mutations of a brother Astartes.
Variel is a calm, efficient, competent, utterly ruthless medical officer, and possibly one of the best Apothecaries in all the Traitor Legions.
- Blood Reaver (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Chs. 10, 14, 21
- Void Stalker (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Ch. 30, Epilogue Primus