"The Daemonic leads to two crimes. You turn away from the path of righteousness. And you abandon the Emperor as the object of your devotion. For the first, death is merely a just retribution. The second is a heresy so terrible that no punishment can be sufficient. Yet the search for an appropriate penalty continues, and it shall be found."
- – Malleus Daemonicus, The Declaration of Ecclesiarch Issus XLVII.
Zardu Layak (also known as the Crimson Apostle, Thrice-Born, The Binder of Souls," and The Voice of the Unspeaking) was a Dark Apostle and leader of the Unspeaking Chapter of the Word Bearers during the Horus Heresy. He was formerly a close confidant and leading lieutenant to Lorgar, but became disillusioned with his primarch later in the Heresy and ultimately turned on him to join with Horus Lupercal instead.
|This article contains spoilers! You have been warned.|
Zardu was originally a Terran-born legionary of the Imperial Heralds legion, even before Lorgar returned after the consequential tantrum of the Space Bitch Karen and renamed the legion to the Word Bearers. During the earliest days of the Crusade he was a member of the Ashen Circle, those who were tasked with rooting out lies about the Emperor, burning temples and churches, and crushing religions. He dogmatically followed the Imperial Truth, only to do a 180 on it the very second Lorgar returned to the legion. After the burning of Monarchia happened, obviously, Lorgar and the Word Bearers were a tad bit upset, thus changing their religious values again to a more chaotic version of their beliefs, as propagated by the baldest douchebag in the universe. Layak was crippled by the news and eventually went nuts, and then he began seeing "visions" of his own primarch speaking to him. In the visions "Lorgar" told him not to burn chaotic texts and foreign text that opposed the Imperial Truth, but to embrace them. He then began pouring blood on his armour when performing daemonic rituals, which earned him the name "Crimson Apostle". He also swore an oath that none but the Dark Gods would ever look upon his face again, and so began wearing a daemonic helm that ultimately fused with his face.
The Horus Heresy
By the beginning of the Horus Heresy, Zardu Layak had become a Dark Apostle in command of the Unspeaking, his own appointed chapter of possessed Word Bearers. His first major move during the Heresy was the leading assault in the invasion of Calth. After that, he temporarily replaced both Argel Tal and the prick who looks like a freshly circumsised dick as Lorgar's best buddy during the later stages of the Heresy. This didn't last for long, however, once Horus began preparing for the Siege of Terra. You see, by the time Horus destroyed the outer defenses of Terra, Lorgar had concluded that Horus was too weak and inept to destroy the Emperor and the Imperium (guess he was right all along), so he began plotting to kill Horus and replace him as the new leader of the Traitor Legions. To do that, he needed more firepower and another legion by his side, so began searching for Fulgrim (because that lazy cunt did nothing to aid his brothers anyway). Lorgar and Layak led a small force of Word Bearers through the Webway to find him. They somehow successfully entered the Palace of Slaanesh itself. There they found a fully daemonic Fulgrim and the daemon N'Kari engaging each other in debauchery. Fulgrim, obviously, refused to help because he was having too much fun and told them to piss off. His Slaaneshi smugness lasted as long as it took for Layak to utter his true name and force him to bend to Lorgar's will. After sacrificing a huge number of mortals, Lorgar planned to unleash a loud psychic scream that would disorient Horus, then have Layak order Fulgrim to kill Horus while he was incapacitated. After that, the Word Bearers and Emperor's Children would destroy the leftovers of the Sons of Horus Legion, giving Lorgar full control of the Traitors' uprising.
So where did Zardu screw over Lorgar? Well, he saw how Lorgar would use the Chaos powers to fulfill his own goals and began to doubt whether Lorgar's actions really aligned with the desires of the Ruinous Powers. When Lorgar attempted to enact his plan at Beta-Garmon, Horus had already been tipped off by a mysterious woman named Actaea, so Lorgar was immediately attacked before he could unleash his psychic assault and Zardu freed Fulgrim from his magical bindings instead of siccing him on the Warmaster. A furious Horus proceeded to beat the living shit out of Lorgar and told him that he would kill him if he ever saw him again. Lorgar took his legion and went home, but Layak and the five thousand members of the Unspeaking opted to join Horus and participate in the Siege of Terra. After this, Layak became a member of Horus' inner circle, giving the Warmaster advice and spiritual counsel and becoming known as the "left hand of Horus". First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon was displeased by this, believing that Layak's influence was to blame for Horus' increasing disinterest in the war effort and his corruption by Chaos. Abaddon even threatened to kill Layak, only for Horus to personally order him to leave the Word Bearer alone. Despite all this, Layak developed a habit of following Abaddon around like a weird-looking puppy, exasperating the First Captain to no end. When Abaddon finally confronted Layak, the Dark Apostle explained that Horus was dying due to the Chaos gods mainlining him with Warp mojo and that the Ruinous Powers had already chosen his successor: Abaddon himself. Layak therefore saw it as his duty to protect the future Chosen of Chaos.
Siege of Terra
Layak did quite a lot during the Siege of Terra. Here's a quick summary:
- Helped the traitor forces to destroy the spheres of defence surrounding Terra during the Solar War.
- Attended a ritual with the Thousand Sons to weaken the psychic barrier around the Imperial Palace.
- Helped Abaddon to destroy a large White Scars battleship named the Lance of Heaven.
- Helped Abaddon to destroy the genelabs on Luna.
- Excelled at producing propaganda for the traitor forces and inspiring devotion in the traitor forces. He also gave speeches to civilians on terra and claimed that their lives can be spared if they submit to Horus.
Layak was killed during the first battle for the Lion's Gate spaceport when he intervened to prevent Abaddon being killed by Rogal Dorn. Abaddon had gone after Dorn to try and save Kharn, and Layak realized that even Abaddon, as good as he was, wouldn't stand a chance against the Praetorian. As Layak knew that Abaddon had already been chosen as the new Warmaster of Chaos, he interposed himself between Dorn and Abby. He briefly managed to hold Dorn off, but the primarch ultimately killed his blade slaves and then struck Layak down. In his last moments, Layak spoke to Abaddon, explaining that this had always been his destiny, and that Abaddon himself would go on to much greater things in the service of Chaos. As he died he burst like a blister, unleashing concentrated warp energy that allowed daemons to manifest on Terra for the first time during the Siege. The Word Bearers consider him to be a hero even in the 42nd Millennium and have built many statues and monuments for his sacrifice.
Horus Heresy 1.0
Like Erebus and Kor Phaeron, Layak is a Diabolist Master of the Legion, so he fills 2 of the HQ requirements for Dark Brethren, and also gives a +1 bonus to rolls on the Dark Channeling table. The Daemon and Zealot rules compensate for a fairly low statline, and he's also a ML2 psyker that can generate (as of the FAQ) any power from Pyromancy or Malefic Daemonology. As a Warlord, he unlocks Ashen Circle squads as troops but forces them to buy Dark Channeling. He can also give them a +1 bonus to the roll, but you likely won't want to do this, the Daemon result is usually the worst one so don't try for it unless you really want to combo it with Cursed Earth. In addition to his Bolt Pistol, frag/krak grenades, and artificer armor, he wields the Azurda Char'is (a two-handed S+2 AP4 force staff which allows him to reroll a single failed attempt at manifesting a psychic power per game) and the Panoply of Flame (which gives all units with the Legiones Astartes (Word Bearers) rule within 12" a +1 bonus to combat resolution and Sweeping Advance rolls, and may also be used like a heavy flamer once per game). Like Erebus and Kor Phaeron, he can bring in an allied detachment of Chaos Daemons, which synergizes well with the Malefic Daemonology powers he can generate (and has a much safer time using than anyone else in this legion aside from Diabolists thanks to his Daemon rule). If he has one weakness though, it's that he only has 2 wounds, but there's plenty of ways to boost his survivability. With the Daemon rule and with access to Daemon bodyguards, he can boost all of their Invuln saves by +1 with his powers, which can be further boosted by a Deredeo Dreadnought (up to 3++).
|Anakatis Kul Blade Slaves||100||5||4||6||5||3||5||3||10||3+|
Anakatis Kul Blade Slaves: Layak's backup dancers who must remain with him at all times. For an extra 100 points, you get a pair of 3-wound combat monsters with Daemon, Rage, and IWND, with the only thing really holding them back being their 3+ armor save. They wield plasma pistols and the Anakatis Blades - AP3 Specialist weapons (so no +1 attack from the pistol) that gain AP2 anytime they roll a 5 or 6 to wound AND each unsaved wound inflicts two wounds that must be saved against separately (akin to Gets Hot! it's 2 autowounds that allow armor saves). However, if Layak is ever slain or removed from play they go nuts and try to charge the nearest Infantry or MC they can reach, focusing on whichever nearby unit has the most models in base contact with it - including your own units. If you go with these guys, either make sure to keep Layak alive or ensure that the Blade Slaves are closer to the enemy than they are to your own troops. The biggest downside of the Blade Slaves is the fact that you will have to fork out a transport cost for them & Layak, so while powerful these guys are going to be very expensive to use. The guys are also Chosen Warriors. Curiously, unlike Gal Vorbak, who are in perfect control of their transformation, minds and bodies, these quote Mindless Killers end quote do, in fact, get Legiones Astartes (Word Bearers). Does this mean that the Beloved Sons lost LA due to Brilliant Forgeworld Editing or that the Blade Slaves gained it by mistake?
Horus Heresy 2.0
For 300 points, you get an interesting little unit with a unique Praetor and his own built-in little squad of special Gal Vorbak. Layak has a Praetor's stat-line with the exception of having a reduced WS of 5 and an extra wound. He also has a bucketload of special rules: Relentless, Fearless, Hatred (Loyalists) as well as being a Psyker with his own unique discipline called Soul Binding, which is a bit meh on default squad but can be an absolute banger if you stick him in a Terminator deathstar, and the Aetheric Lightning power. He's equipped with an Iron Halo to stop him from bursting when he Perils (which he will) as well as two unique items. The first is the Azurda Char'is, a big weird staff-censer/torture device that translates to the table top as a S-User Unwieldy AP2 Force weapon. The second is the Panoply of Flame, which adds +1 to the result of assaults and sweeping advance rolls to all Word Bearers with 12" of Zardu.
Like many other HQs this edition, Zardu has gotten a new unique Warlord trait. The Eater of Wisdom gives up to three Corrupted units +1 Strength and Movement at the beginning of the game, but each unit must take a leadership test at the end of each of the controlling player's turn, suffering Perils of the Warp if failed. An additional reaction can also be made during the assault phase. This warlord trait has the potential to really ramp up the killing power of Gal Vorbak, Mhara Gal Dreadnoughts and Diabolists, with a few "buts". The problem is that you can only take Invulnerable saves against Perils and Gal Vorbak don't get those without Argel Tal, while a Mhara Gal's Tainted Claw has a fixed Strength of 9, leaving counter-intuitive squads like Breachers or Deep Striking Assault Marines as the safest picks for Zardu's special warp-dust cocktail.
His two backup dancers, the Anakatis-Kul Blade Slaves, are much better bonuses than his unique psychic discipline. They are a pair of Gal Vorbak with all the same rules but with lower movement and leadership, and gaining S6 in return. They are armed with Plasma Pistols and Anakatis Blades, which are Power Swords that lose Rending and gain Murderous Strike(5+) and Brutal(2) for molly whopping power armour and putting the fear of the Chaos Gods into automata. Note that unlike last edition, Layak isn't required to stay with his slaves, so nothing prevents you from putting him behind a Spartan with a Deathstar inside, embarking on turn 1 and riding off into the sunset.