Zardu Layak, better known by his epithet as the "Crimson Apostle," was a Dark Apostle and the ambitious commander of the Chapter of the Unspeaking of the Word Bearers Legion during the latter years of the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia.
This Chapter was known to have largely retreated from the planet's surface during the final hours of the war, and would go onto further infamy in the Shadow Crusade.
Layak eventually went on to become one of the Primarch Lorgar's closest confidantes during the Horus Heresy before betraying his plans to overthrow Horus as the Warmaster of Chaos to lead the Siege of Terra himself.
Because of this treachery by his leading lieutenant, Lorgar was banished from Horus' command and it was Layak who commanded the contingent of Word Bearers who fought by Horus' side during the final Chaos assault on Humanity's homeworld.
At an unknown time after the end of the Heresy, Zardu Layak was slain but would be honoured as one of the great heroes of the Word Bearers Legion and of the forces of Chaos millennia later.
Known as the "Thrice-Born," "The Binder of Souls," and "The Voice of the Unspeaking," Zardu Layak's true name is now lost, but it is recorded in his Legion's lore that he was once an officer of the Ashen Circle, a Terran by birth, and a devout destroyer among the original Imperial Heralds Legion of all that pertained to false superstition and errant creed.
He oversaw the burning of a hundred temples and countless tomes of lies in the Emperor's service even after the primarch Lorgar was reunited with the XVIIth Legion and renamed it the Word Bearers.
But then came the Word Bearers' brutal censure by the Emperor and the destruction of "the Perfect City" of Monarchia on the world of Khur. As the Primarch Lorgar led his Legion into the wilderness after their punishment, Layak was contrite and ashamed, soul-sick and lost, and quickly a fervent convert to Erebus' and Lorgar's new teachings in which he sought solace, but even this did not fill the terrible void within him.
So it was that when he began to receive visions in which he believed his Primarch spoke to him directly. He concealed them from others for fear his shame had driven him mad. In those visions the golden-skinned apparition of Lorgar bade him to reconsider his work, not to burn the books and lore he encountered, but to read them, covet them, to search in them for the hidden truths that the Emperor had not wished His sons to know.
Word upon word, rune upon rune, glyph upon glyph was a new creature born, a creature who named himself from the Book of Lorgar using the ancient practice of Sortilege as Zardu Layak, the "Eater of Wisdom," but who came to be known more swiftly by his Legion as the "Crimson Apostle" for his fiery raiment and the scalding blood in which he daily daubed his armour.
After his rebirth, Zardu Layak donned a daemonic helm chained directly to the flesh of his face and pledged to never let any but the Chaos Gods themselves see his face again.
Assigned to the Chapter of the Ochre Gate as its Dark Apostle by the Legion's First Chaplain Erebus, who sought to channel his fervour, Zardu Layak quickly proved more than a mere voice of the Legion's First Chaplain. Soon the Chapter began to seek missions of its own, away from its parent Legion for long stretches, and each time it returned it was further changed.
Like a cancer, Zardu Layak had embedded himself deeper into its carcass, so that after a time, the Ochre Gate was no more and now the Chapter of the Unspeaking stood in its place, with Zardu Layak its de facto master.
Though First Captain Kor Phaeron was disquieted by the Crimson Apostle's growing power, much of which he would keep hidden until the atrocity on Calth, Lorgar pronounced himself pleased by Zardu Layak and his devotion to the word of the Primordial Truth.
Lorgar assigned the Chapter of the Unspeaking and their master to command a key assault at Calth, though so changed and mutated had they become by their interaction with the power of the Warp that complete concealment was needed for them until the hour came to strike.
After his participation in the Battle of Calth, Layak replaced both Erebus and Argel Tal as Lorgar's closest confidant in the later stages of the Heresy.
Plot Against Horus
After the Battle of Beta-Garmon had destroyed the last of the Imperial outer defences on the path to Terra, the Warmaster Horus ordered a general muster of all Traitor forces at Ullanor Prime, the site of the great Ullanor Crusade years before.
But by this time, Lorgar had come to view Horus as too weak and flawed to lead the forces of Chaos to victory over the Emperor. He had designed a plan to kill the Warmaster and take his place as the new and rightful leader of the Traitor forces. With the aid of Layak and the Chaos mystic and oracle disciple of Cyrene Valantion named Actaea, Lorgar journeyed with them and a small force of Word Bearers into the Webway in the hopes of finding the missing Daemon Primarch of the Emperor's Children Legion, Fulgrim.
They successfully navigated the Webway's treacherous corridors to enter the Eye of Terror, where they eventually entered the Realm of Chaos and found themselves before the Palace of Slaanesh itself. Within they discovered Fulgrim and the daemon N'Kari engaged in debauchery. Fulgrim refused to leave his delights and return to the war effort, forcing the two sides to battle. As Lorgar held off Fulgrim, Zardu Layak uttered the True Name of the newly ascended Daemon Primarch.
Layak had learned the name during a ritual Lorgar had conducted but due to the total amnesia it would eventually curse the name's bearer with, he had given the information to the Dark Apostle instead. Fulgrim was bound to Layak's will by the name's utterance, and Lorgar now had a powerful pawn with which to slay Horus.
Yet Layak had secretly begun to harbour his own doubts about Lorgar, and expressed resentment at his seeming enslavement by the Ruinous Powers. Layak worried that perhaps Lorgar's path was too intertwined with the desires of the Dark Gods.
After gathering the disparate Emperor's Children together, the two Legions arrived at Ullanor for Horus' muster.
Horus had by this point recovered from the incapacitating injuries he had suffered at Beta-Garmon thanks to the sacrifice of his longtime Equerry Maloghurst, and Lorgar revealed his plan to usurp the Warmaster.
After sacrificing large numbers of mortal servants, Lorgar planned to unleash a psychic scream that would disorient Horus, then have Zayak order Fulgrim to attack. The Word Bearers and Emperor's Children orbiting Ullanor would finish off the Sons of Horus Legion, leaving Lorgar in total command of the Traitors' war effort.
However Lorgar's coup quickly fell apart, as Actaea had already warned Horus of Lorgar's planned betrayal. Upon meeting Horus on Ullanor, Lorgar was immediately attacked before he could unleash his psychic assault, and Zardu Layak betrayed Lorgar by freeing Fulgrim from his sorcerous bindings instead of ordering him to attack.
Lorgar was beaten mercilessly by Horus, who threw him his weapon and demanded he stand and fight. Lorgar refused to fight, and instead expressed pity at the monstrosity Horus had become since his recovery, as Horus had gained an ever-shifting form with a maw of dark Chaos energy at its core.
Horus ordered Lorgar to leave his sight, pledging to kill him if he ever returned. The 5,000 Word Bearers of the Chapter of the Unspeaking under Lorgar's command who had followed Zardu Layak in his betrayal of Lorgar would continue to serve Horus. Lorgar left for destinations unknown, proclaiming that Horus was doomed to failure due to his weakness.
Layak later conversed with Actaea, revealing that he had already forgotten all of who he had been before the recent events. He also revealed that he knew Actaea was the one who had informed Horus of Lorgar's treachery before their arrival back at Ullanor.
Furthermore, Layak had investigated Actaea's past in the cult of Cyrene Valantion and found that nobody by that name had ever existed within its organisation. Layak asked just who or what exactly Actaea was, but she refused to answer.
Siege of Terra
Layak participated in the Solar War to cripple the spheres of defence surrounding Terra before the siege of the Throneworld could begin. Layak commanded the Word Bearers forces that remained loyal to Horus under the command of the Sons of Horus' First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon.
Displaying a new fanaticism in the service of the Dark Gods, Layak expressed his eagerness to be a martyr for the cause of Chaos. He accompanied Abaddon during the boarding and ultimate destructrion of the White Scars battleship Lance of Heaven, saving the Sons of Horus first captain's life from a powerful blast.
During the early stages of the Siege of Terra Layak was frequently seen at Horus' side within the Lupercal's Court throne room of the Warmaster's flagship the Vengeful Spirit. Abaddon increasingly blamed Layak's influence for Horus' aloofness from his fellow Heretic Astartes and complete subservience to the will of the Chaos Gods. However Abaddon was forbidden from killing the Dark Apostle, and his influence over the Warmaster remained strong to the end of his life.
Layak proved skilled at utilising Traitor propaganda and the Chaos religious faith in speeches that intensified the devotion of the Traitor forces to Horus' cause. His words were broadcast throughout the Chaos fleet and constantly highlighted the existing injustices of Imperial society to the mutants, Abhumans, normal humans, and Beastmen who served aboard the massive Traitor armada's vessels.
Alongside the Thousand Sons Primarch Magnus the Red, Layak aided in the sorcerous ritual that weakened the psychic barrier the Emperor had projected on Terra that prevented the summoning of daemons on the Throneworld's soil. During the ritual Layak appeared on an impermeable floating island of bone which rotated around the Imperial Palace complex in the Himalazian Mountains.
On this island of Warp energy, Layak gave yet another rousing address where he declared to the citizens of Terra that they would still be shown mercy if they joined the cause of the Warmaster Horus.
Afterwards, Layak confided to Abaddon that the combined power of the Chaos Gods focused through the body of the Warmaster were rapidly burning out Horus' soul with their power. Layak believed that no matter what happened no mortal being, no matter how powerful, could long serve as a vessel for such potent energies and that Horus was not likely to survive for much longer.
He hinted to the Sons of Horus' first captain that he knew that Abaddon had his own great destiny as the new chosen champion of Chaos Undivided and Horus' successor.
At some unknown point, Zardu Layak was slain. he was later honoured as a great hero of the Word Bearers and the forces of Chaos. Statues would be erected to his honour on the Word Bearers' Daemon Worlds alongside similar figures such as Argel Tal and the former Chaplain Xaphen, both members of the Gal Vorbak, the very first of the Possessed.
- Artificer Armour
- The Azurda Char'is - This weapon is Zardu Layak's Force Stave. Not a member of his Legion's Librarius, it is unknown how the Crimson Apostle acquired this potent psychic artefact, or by what hidden lore he has modified it to his usage.
- Panoply of Flame - An inheritance of his days as a Centurion-Iconoclast of the Ashen Circle of the XVIIth Legion, the Panoply of Flame serves both as a war banner to invigorate those under his command and as a weapon to turn on his enemies -- Zardu Layak's Warp-gifts allowing him to mould the unclean flame the Panoply now produces by will alone.
- Bolt Pistol
- Frag Grenades
- Krak Grenades
- The Horus Heresy - Book Five: Tempest (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 105, 250-251
- Slaves to Darkness (Novel) by John French, Chs. 8, 13-19
- Forge World website - Zardu Layak & Anakatis Kul Blade-Slaves (Image)
- The Solar War (Novel) by John French, Ch. 17
- The Lost and the Damned (Novel) by Guy Haley, Chs. 4, 25, 31
- Apocalypse (Novel) by John Reynolds, Ch. 19
- The First Wall (Novel) by Gav Thorpe (Limited Edition Artwork)