- "I beheld a raging beast, chained to that wall of bone by brazen and bloody chain. Its every bellow shook the ground upon which I stood; its every utterance fulsome with the fury of war. As the Daemon's gaze fell upon me, it demanded with booming voice that I set it free, that it might bring the glory of bloodletting to this realm once more. Momentarily I considered the beast's demands, for an ally in that dark realm would have been a welcome thing. But then I realised the folly of such a course; that Daemon had no place in its black heart for loyalty to one such as I; rage was its only master, and slaughter the only companion it would ever acknowledge. I left that place with speed, and prayed that the chains would hold 'til I was gone."
- —Liber Malefic.[1a]
Bloodthirsters, known by many bloody titles such as the Lords of Skulls, the Fists of Khorne, the Drinkers of Blood, the Eaters of Gore and Flesh, the High-Handed Slayers,[ 2a] the Deathbringers of Khorne, the Bloodied Ones and the Guardians of the Throne, are not only the most deadly of Khorne’s servants, but the mightiest of all Daemonic warriors. A single such beast is a harbinger of bellowing death, is destructive beyond telling, and lives only to slaughter, maim and destroy all that it encounters. It is the fury of war given form, the unfettered primal rage of the world made manifest. Such should be expected of a beast whose master is the god of bloodletting, slaughter and murder.[1a]
Those few who have confronted a Bloodthirster and survived commonly recall an overwhelming impression of vast size and unchecked barbarity, of roaring and snarling death riding upon stygian wings that eclipse the sun. A Bloodthirster’s ruddy skin is covered with coarse fur and brass armour, slick and gleaming with the blood of innumerable victims. This armour is forged upon the Daemon’s flesh by Khorne himself and thereafter becomes a living part of the Daemon, even whilst maintaining a brutal intelligence of its own. As such, even the Bloodthirster’s armour is wrathful and longs for slaughter. In one hand, the Bloodthirster carries an ensorcelled axe that thirsts for blood and slaughter; in the other, the Daemon wields a cruelly barbed lash, with which it can easily flay the flesh from a victim’s bones. These weapons are wielded with unbelievable force, propelled by muscles as hard as iron and driven by a timeless fury that neither slackens nor fades.[1a]
These Lords of Skulls are the greatest and most powerful servants of the Blood God. Indeed, they are the most favoured of all of Khorne’s servants. Their bloodlust extends far beyond mortal comprehension, and no amount of killing, no quantity of corpses is ever enough, for the Fists of Khorne ever want more death. One may talk with a Bloodthirster, for they speak all the tongues of mortals, every dialect, every strain. This is of little avail, for all that the Lords of Skulls wish is to slaughter the world and lay its steaming carcass at the feet of Khorne. The Bloodthirster exists only to kill, raising its head to the brooding sky to take in the stink of blood and death as it claims yet more skulls for the Skull Throne.[2a]
On the battlefield, the Bloodthirster is the master of war. He binds his legions to his murderous will, driving his forces to acts of greater slaughter that exalt the name of Khorne. They are beings of incredible cunning, instinctively capable of defeating the best and brightest mortal generals. They can sense which way a battle is flowing, instantly seizing the chance to use their blades and troops to the greatest effect. When they join the battle, they are terrifying opponents. With each sweep of their dreaded rune axes, they level entire regiments. Their mere presence scorches the earth with potential violence, and the beating of their wings stirs up violent storms as if awakening the very skies to the hatred that boils in Khorne’s veins.[2a]
It is especially dangerous in that it combines malign intelligence with brute strength. No man can stand against the Bloodthirster, for it throws itself into every fight with abandon, butchering anything it can with no regard for itself. It screams challenges to mortal foes, heedless of the consequences of its hate. What’s worse is the appearance of such a creature emboldens the other servants of the Blood God, inciting them to near suicidal frenzies. As walking Demigods of death, nothing short of an entire army can halt the progress of this implacable foe.[2a]
- "I’ve never seen so much carnage. It’s good for us, though—the lads in the army are always that much more eager for companionship when they’ve seen so much death, and you never get such good loot from corpses as when your army’s been facing Daemons, just because there are so many dead. As long as your lads win in the end, of course. It’s a fine balance."
- —Elke Rabe, Camp Follower, attached to the baggage train of the Imperial Stirland Guards.[4a]
The birth of a Bloodthirster into the Old World ravages the land, sending waves of rippling wickedness in all directions, infecting mortals with its hate and thirst for violence. For miles around, the sky darkens, taking on a ghastly hue as clouds, swollen with blood, race across the firmament, spilling torrents of crimson rain onto the land. Black lightning flashes amidst these stinking abominations, lancing from the Chaos-wracked heavens to set fire to the earth. As the Greater Daemon draws closer to its enemies, waves of its essence roll from its massive form, contaminating the hearts and minds of those mortals in its path. Tempers shorten, and emotions run wild.[2a]
Fights break out over minor or even just perceived offences, and as the Daemon draws closer, the conflicts turn violent as former friends struggle to kill one other due to the rage that burns in their hearts. Other phenomena testify to the Bloodthirster’s power. Animals turn rabid, acting strange and attacking without provocation. The Daemon’s presence causes plant life to change, growing thorns or even teeth that gnash at the air, searching for the flesh of the living. And worst of all, inanimate objects perspire. Beads of black blood dot the surface and run, dripping down the lengths of blades or mixing with the fluid in cups.[2a]
And then it comes. Black clouds spill over the land, blotting out the sun. Flashing within its cyclopean depths are flashes of red lighting accompanied by booming roars that unman even the boldest heroes or drive them to unearthly acts of violence. And when the acidic rains begin to fall, and when the wind drives the droplets horizontal, a massive entity drops from the eye of violence, unfolding as it does to reveal a Daemon, massive in size with oozing red skin and a mane of gore-encrusted hair. It is the personification of killing. It is the Bloodthirster. It flies on great pinions that beat with a slow rhythm, sending the stench of blood and brass with each stroke of its black wings. Its merest presence stirs the hearts of men to violence, evoking dark thoughts and a bloodlust that demands to be quenched.[2a]
The Bloodthirster is a massive dog-faced Daemon. It has crimson skin that perspires blood. It has the lower legs of a beast, blending the traits of a goat and bull, with the upper body of a man, though covered in thick curly black hair that’s sodden with gore. Atop its neck is a bestial tusked head fitted with two bull horns that spread to either side. The horns and head of this Daemon are decorated with profane symbols of Khorne. From its back spread two massive leathery wings, not unlike those of a Dragon. Covering its body are plates of Chaos Armour, bolted directly to its bone and fused to its flesh. Many Drinkers of Blood also tear the faces of their victims from their skulls to add them to their armour like some perverse purity scroll.[2a]
Most Bloodthirsters wield Daemonic Axes known simply as the Axes of Khorne. Said to contain the essence of failed Daemons, these weapons are noted for cutting through flesh and armour with ease. Some of these Daemons also wield great whips made from the cured hides of Slaaneshi worshippers, each snap sounding of moans and screams, the cursed souls languishing in eternal suffering.[2a]
The Bloodthirster emits a profane aura of wrath and hate that fuels the beast within all mortals, emboldening them to more daring acts of slaughter, but even the feelings of bloodlust do not stiffen the spines enough of those who see this Daemon in the flesh. Those who have witnessed first hand the might of a Fist of Khorne go mad from the experience, their minds destroyed by the sheer magnitude of its power and the implications of its purpose. When the Bloodthirster appears, it unleashes its awful roar, splitting the air with the sound of a thousand screeching souls wailing at once.[2b]
Those unfortunate to hear the call of the Bloodthirster find their souls shrivelled, consumed by the fires of hate. The reverberating noise drives all who hear it mad, forcing them into an orgy of slaughter, whereby mortals set upon each other with frightening abandon, slaughtering friend and foe alike. Though the carnage created by Human hands is horrid, nothing compares to when the Blooded Ones wade into the midst of their armies. Their massive forms blot out the sun; the stench of gore and death form choking clouds of decay that paralyse their enemies with nausea. The sweeping blows of their Daemonic Axes and whips cry out with each stroke, causing their victims to explode as if they were swollen sacks of blood. As the Bloodthirster kills, a cloud of crimson mist hangs in the air about it.[2b]
Bloodthirsters have no sorcerous abilities, for Khorne loathes such eldritch trickery and shuns the practice of the magical arts. Rather, a Bloodthirster resonates with an echo of his dark liege’s wrathful contempt. Indeed, the presence of a wizard amongst the enemy ranks inevitably makes a Bloodthirster fight with even more fury than is normal — if such a thing could be imagined. Set it is more than mere wrath that allows a Bloodthirster to eclipse other Greater Daemons. Neither does his irresistible strength guarantee primacy, nor skills earned in an eternity of battle.[1a]
Rather, it is all of these traits shackled to the Bloodthirster’s bestial and predatory nature. Within the Bloodthirster’s raging mind there is no thought, no deliberation, no appreciation of intrigue or manipulation — it thinks only of the hunt, of the blood to be spilt in Khorne’s name and the skulls to be gathered for the Blood God’s mighty throne. Thus is the Bloodthirster the most relentless and single-minded of all Daemons. Others will sometimes retire from battle if overmatched, to husband strength and bring more insidious talents into play, but not so a Bloodthirster. Should a Greater Daemon of Khorne find itself outnumbered, surrounded, mortally wounded or even beset by a hero empowered with divine might, it does not stop fighting. Such is the nature of a Bloodthirster: it does not retreat, does not falter, but roars fresh defiance with every blow, swinging its axe with ever more bloodlust and cleaving fresh skulls for Khorne with each unstoppable strike.[1a]
By the End Times, the Bloodthirsters were known by a selection of numbered hosts, each of which had a purpose to the Blood God.
Bloodletters of the Eighth Host, Lords of the Legions[3c]
The Bloodthirsters of Unfettered Fury are supremely skilled warriors. These rage-filled killing machines can smash enemy regiments asunder with a single bellowing charge, their violent onset enough to swing whole battles in favour of Khorne's legions. In one of their mighty fists, the Bloodthirsters of Unfettered Fury wield heavy-bladed axes. These murderous weapons thirst endlessly for blood and slaughter. Moreover, they are swung with such unstoppable force that they can easily hack a mortal foe in two, or demolish the stoutest shield wall. In the other hand, these Bloodthirsters wield a cruelly barbed lash. When sent whipping out, these dread weapons split the air with a deafening crack. Such whips can break a dragon's wing in with a single blow, or throttle the life from even the most tenacious foe.[3c]
Every daemon of Unfettered Fury is armed thusly, for these are the ritualistic weapons of the eighth host within the Blood God's legions; at any time there will be eight hundred and eighty eight of these monsters being in their master's service. This is not to say that the eighth host is somehow weak or lacking. Every one of these mighty daemons can hack a red path of ruin through almost any warrior foolish enough too face them. Across the ages, it has been the Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury that have most often taken to the battlefields of the mortal world. Indeed, in the minds of mortals they are the most renowned and therefore the most feared of all their kind. When Khorne's legions march to war, the often do so beneath the generalship of these raging daemons. Each Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury is an accomplished, if homicidally direct battlefield commander, forever driving their armies onward into enemy lines.[3c]
The strategies of these Khornate daemon-lords often seem crude or foolhardy to their foes, for they will hurl their followers into the most savage meat grinder with not a moment's hesitation. However, the Bloodthirsters know that sending their warriors into the teeth of the enemy's defences will lead to massive casualties on both sides. Indeed, they count upon it. Khorne only cares to see battle in his name, and the blood of his vassals satisfies just as well as that of foes. In victory or defeat, only the most psychotic and determined devotees of Khorne survive such tactics. These individuals, of course, are the ones whose service Khorne most desires. Thus it is no accident that a battle led by a Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury is an exacting crucible of butchery; these blood-hungry daemon-lords seek to hone their hordes as a headsman hones his axe – until only the lethal edge remains.[3c]
Beyond leading Khornate warhosts, the eighth host have numerous duties. Sometimes they will be dispatched, either alone or in the terrifying warbands known as Skullwrath Slaughterbands, to hunt down the greatest champions of the foe. These they lay low in battle, mastering them effortlessly and carving them to gory chunks before bearing their skulls back to the brass citadel. Beyond the walls of that vast bastion, it is the Unfettered Fury that acts as Khorne's first line of defence. To these Bloodthirsters falls the duty of prowling the blood-strewn wastes that lie within the citadel's furnace-hot shadow. It is these Bloodthirsters who lead roaming bands of Khornate daemons on endless, sweeping patrols, and they who watch over the approaches to the gates.[3c]
Bloodthirsters of the Sixth Host, Reavers of the Bloody Path[3d]
The Bloodthirsters of Insensate Rage are amongst the most terrifying of all their kind. The boom of their wingbeats jars brutally within mortal minds, shattering thought like a hammer-blow. Those engulfed in their shadow feel all hope desert them, gagging on the sudden taste of ash and blood that fills their mouths. The bellows of these beasts reverberate through reality, even the stoutest warriors quaking in fear at the sound. These greater daemons wield massive daemonic axes, grotesquely huge weapons several times the height of a mortal man. So heavy are these axes that even the Bloodletters of other ranks might struggle to wield them. Yet those of Insensate Rage are imbued with an endless fury that eclipses all else. Their boundless anger lends them such strength that they not only heft their axes with ease, but can fight on for hours, even days, at a time.[3d]
There is no fitness in the fighting style of the Insensate Rage. The fires of Khorne's great forge blaze within their chests, filling their veins with roiling firestorms of white-hot anger. Thus, their every word is a howled imprecation or bellowed war cry, and their every axe-swing is a wild sweep that strikes with the force of a meteor. A Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage can stave in a castle door with a single blow, or lop the head from the mightiest beast. Whole ranks of lesser warriors are scythed down with every swing, of flung through the air in broken, bloody ruin. Such a blood-mad fighting style leaves these Bloodthirsters open to attack. They give no thought whatsoever to their own defence. Indeed, the blows of the enemy barely register within the inferno of their thoughts.[3d]
Yet it does not matter. The sheer fury of these Bloodthirsters carries them through the worst that the foe can hurl their way. Rains of shot clang from their armour, or thud ignored into their smouldering hides. Eldritch spellcraft billows about them with no more effect than a gentle breeze, not halting their charge in the slightest. Once a Bloodthirster of the sixth host has built up momentum, lesser foes simple vanish beneath its pounding hooves, ground to bloody paste without ever being noticed at all. Only the greatest of foes can stand against the Insensate Rage. Even then, by meeting one of these beasts in battle they are only fulfilling its true purpose. The leadership qualities of these raging daemon lords extend little beyond forging a path for the hordes that follow behind. Their true task, the role allotted them by Khorne, is the slaying of great beasts.[3d]
It was a Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage that finally felled the six-headed ur-giant Behemogoth, claiming every one of that mountainous horror's skulls for Khorne. When the mighty dragon Syllokai was finally laid low, it was beneath the axe-blows of a Bloodthirster of the sixth host. With every passing day, the Bloodthirsters of Insensate Rage slay innumerable champions and mighty beasts, garnering great trophies that are mounted upon jagged brass spikes within the Blood God's throne room. On the rare occasions when these Bloodthirsters are recalled to the brass citadel, it is to provide their lord with entertainment. They have no assigned duties within Khorne's mighty fortress, for their uncontrollable fury precludes all but the most violent of tasks. Instead, the Bloodthirsters of Insensate Rage are hurled into the deep, spike-lined fighting rings of the Neverpit by Khorne himself. There, the Bloodthirsters fight for their master's pleasure, either against one another or battling the mightiest monsters from Khorne's horrific menagerie. So does the Blood God keep his mightiest berserkers occupied, until war most worthy calls them forth once more.[3d]
Wrath of Khorne
Bloodthirsters of the Third Host, Headsmen of Khorne[3e]
Khorne dreams of whole realms drowned in slaughter, and cares little for the fates of individual combatants, be they worshipper or foe. However, just as mortal champions may win Khorne's approval, so there are those whose defiance draws the personal ire of the Blood God down upon them. Punishing such individuals falls to the Wrath of Khorne, Headsmen of Khorne. Whether they are a hero who has defied Khorne's will, some brave priest who has banished Khorne's daemons, or simply one who has offended the Blood God, the victims of these Bloodthirsters will all meet the same doom. The Bloodthirsters of the third host are tireless executioners. They take vast pride in the successful completion of the hunt, stalking their prey across all of reality if they must. Dogged and relentless, the Wrath of Khorne live for the thrill of the hunt, their baying packs running the prey to ground, no matter how long or arduous the chase. It is a rare and fortunate quarry indeed that lives to tell the tale.[3e]
Sometimes these Bloodthirsters will fight alone, their pride driving them to prove their superiority over the prey unaided. However, these greater daemons know better than to court Khorne's wrath by risking failure. Where the target surrounds themselves with armies of defenders, the Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirsters will lead a mighty Blood Hunt to sweep them aside. Comprised of Khorne's most predatory daemons, these cavalcades of carnage thunder out from the Blood God's realm, baying for the skulls of their foes. As with the other hosts, the Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirsters bear distinctive armaments that mark them out. In one hand they carry axes of prodigious size, their hafts comprised of the skulls of champions. In the other, they wield long hammer-flails, each link forged from the armour of a slain hero. These weapons can be used to strike crushing blows against foes beyond arm's reach, or entangle and choke larger enemies such as other greater daemons or monsters.[3e]
Khorne knows that his headsmen's quarry often resort to the use of magic in their own defence, or else surround themselves with masses of expendable underlings behind whom they hope to hide. Thus, the Wrath of Khorne Bloodthirsters wear scorched crowns upon their brows. These baleful, rune-etched artefacts are powerfully warded against sorcery, allowing their wearer to shrug off all but the most potent spellcraft. Furthermore, these Bloodthirsters are able to channel their rage and hate into a roaring gout of hellfire, which they belch forth from between their gaping jaws to incinerate hordes of luckless victims. Once the Wrath of Khorne begin the hunt, there is little chance that their prey will escape the terrible fate that awaits them.[3e]
Bloodthirsters are the most deadly of all Khorne's Daemons -- they are fury given form and slaughter made manifest. Yet even amongst Bloodthirsters, the supreme deathbringers of the Blood God, there are some who stand apart. The most ferocious of their kind have been blessed by almighty Khorne himself, and are known as Exalted Bloodthirsters.
To have basked in the fiery rage of the Blood God, to be knighted by his double-handed sword, to then join the ranks of the Lord of Battle's honour guard is an unmatched mark of distinction. Such divine tribute swells the already immense Bloodthirsters to colossal proportions, their gigantic forms spilling out so much bloodlust that the air around them ripples as if overheated from some supernatural furnace.
An Exalted Bloodthirster can only cross from the Realm of Chaos into the material world through exceptionally large rifts, such that only occur in the most calamitous of events. When the veil is so torn that he can push through the barriers, an Exalted Bloodthirster announces his arrival by bellowing his presence with the sound of a thousand thunderclaps. This is a blood challenge -- a call to battle for anything that can hear his roar. Sparks and black smoke issue forth from his nostrils and his iron-hard hooves smite unnatural power. Single-handedly a match for an entire army, an Exalted Bloodthirster seeks only to fight, to unleash his limitless rage in combat unbridled, and to claim a veritable mountain of skulls for his insatiable master.
- Skarbrand -- Disgraced leader of the Eight Hosts of Murder, now in exile.
- Va'Kharr'oth -- Buried under deep ice.
- Z'rughl Ka'kadron'ath -- The Brass Bound; father of Ograx the Great.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos (8th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 28
- 2: Tome of Corruption (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 3: The End Times Vol V: Archaon Book 2
- 4: Old World Beastiary (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 4a: pg. 19
- 5: Storm of Magic (Supplement)