As Chapter Scourge, Zachariah Kersh, known as "the Scourge" amongst his Battle-Brothers, had spent a lifetime at his Chapter Master Quesiah Ichabod's side, fighting experienced warriors of all creeds and species, defeating the best the enemy had to send against him. It had been his singular honour to slay them before they could slay his master. Until the day Kersh failed to stop the Alpha Legion's nearly-successful assassination attempt and crippling of Ichabod, and their theft of the Stigmartyr, the ancient and revered Chapter standard of the Excoriators dating back to the days of the Second Founding. This was a devastating blow to the Excoriators' morale, and the cause of many problems for the Chapter. These tragic events marked Kersh as a disgraced failure in the eyes of his Battle-Brothers. To make matters worse, Kersh continually found himself afflicted by Dorn's Darkness -- a condition in which he constantly relived Dorn's darkest hour when he discovered the mortally wounded Emperor on the bridge of the Warmaster Horus' Battle Barge, the Vengeful Spirit. While it is not clear whether the Darkness caused Kersh's recent failures or was triggered by them, the implication is that this is not a unique occurrence, although far from the inevitable Black Rage or Red Thirst which consumes the Astartes of the Blood Angels.
Feast of Blades
As punishment for his failure to protect the Chapter Master, Kersh was placed in a stasis coffin, only to find himself begrudgingly awoken by his peers when his skill as a warrior served as the Excoriators' last chance to win the 816th Feast of Blades, a desperate bid to restore some of the Chapter's rapidly declining morale. The Chapter had decided to risk waking Kersh only after seven of their competitors had been defeated early in the tournament, and the remaining two were hopelessly outclassed by their match-ups. Kersh's premature awakening required a risky alteration of his Catalepsean Node by the Excoriators' Apothecary Ezrachi in order to bring Kersh out of the Darkness, and into something resembling a functional state. Shortly after his awakening, Kersh began to see things -- a revenant in midnight black Power Armour that shadowed him at every step -- and questioned the effectiveness of the procedure. Still, despite all his concerns and protests, the reluctant Kersh was pressed into fighting in the Feast of Blades by the very Battle-Brothers who still despised him for his dishonour. His superlative performance in the tournament allowed the Excoriators to win the Feast of Blades for the first time in the Chapter's history, despite a debatable move that pitted Kersh in a three-way duel with the chosen champions of the Black Templars and Imperial Fists Chapters. The victorious Kersh was scheduled to return to Eschara with the prized Dornsblade, a revered relic of Primarch Rogal Dorn that brought great honour to the Successor Chapter of the Imperial Fists Legion allowed to hold it until the next Feast of Blades was called. However, new orders from Chapter Master Ichabod changed things for Zachariah, as he was made the Captain of the Excoriators' recently devastated 5th Company. The 5th Company was only at half-strength and lacked a captain after a mission undertaken to the world of Veiglehaven to retrieve the Stigmartyr had turned out to be a carefully planned Alpha Legion ambush. Kersh was given command of the battered remnants of a company that hated him, with only Apothecary Ezrachi, who had brought him back from the brink of madness, as an ally. To make matters worse, Kersh was constantly questioning his own sanity -- due to the continued visions of a revenant Astartes -- as well as his suitability for command.
Cholercaust Blood Crusade
His first mission as Corpus-Captain was not the revenge against the Alpha Legion that every Battle-Brother of the Excoriators longed for, but a distress call from the obscure Cemetery World of Certus-Minor, in the Praga Sub-sector, where a beacon to the followers of the Blood God Khorne -- a pyramid of skulls -- had just emerged from the lake. The world held no strategic importance for the Imperium whatsoever. However, ancient oaths between Certus-Minor's Ecclesiarchical administration and the Imperium, as well as the fact that a tomb of a very important Ecclesiarch and High Lord of Terra, Umberto II, was located there, contributed to Chapter Master Ichabod's decision to deploy the 5th Company to defend such an ignominious target. To make matters worse, Kersh learned that a sizeable Khornate Crusade, known as the Cholercaust Blood Crusade, was making its way to Certus-Minor trailing a blood-red comet known as the Keeler Comet which had emerged from the Eye of Terror after ten millennia. Much to the 5th Company's dismay, Kersh ordered them to make a defiant last stand against the invaders, and stranded his forces on the world by sending their Apothecary and their crippled Strike Cruiser the Angelica Mortis to a nearby Forge World out of the comet's and the Blood Crusade's path, taking their precious gene-seed with them to be used to create future generations of Excoriators after they had been slain. Kersh commanded less than half of a full company of Astartes as well as an Imperial Guard regiment of Certusian Charnel Guard against a legion of Chaotic Traitors and Khornate Berserkers. Despite the odds, Kersh formulated a plan worthy of the Chapter's ancestors who had defended the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra, and he led a bold last stand by the Imperial defenders at Certus-Minor's capital necropolis of Obsequa City. The weight of the Khornate assault far exceeded even Kersh's estimates, and things began to look grim for the Imperial forces until the mysterious Legion of the Damned made an unexpected appearance, stopping the Cholercaust's Blood Crusade dead in its tracks. Kersh was the sole survivor of the slaughter on Certus-Minor. He later succeeded Ichabod as the new Chapter Master of the Excoriators after Ichabod succumbed to the Alpha Legion's toxin.
- Legion of the Dammed (Novel) by Rob Sanders