Literature / Word Bearers
Their walls will fall.
Their faith will fail.
Their flesh will tear.

Please resist the urge to put examples on this page or link to this page on tropes unless you are citing from 40K novels in which the Word Bearers feature. Examples which are specific to rulebooks and other in-universe fluff should go on either the 40K page or in the Space Marines section of the Warhammer 40000 Forces Of Chaos page.

The Word Bearers trilogy of books by Anthony Reynolds consists of Dark Apostle, Dark Disciple and Dark Creed, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. There are also a couple of short stories in the Horus Heresy novel series that act as backstory for several of the characters. The series focuses on the titular legion of Chaos Space Marines, rather than 40K's "good guys" like the Space Marines or the Tau. The books also go into more detail about the traditions and beliefs of the Word Bearers, expanding upon the threadbare picture of one of the most infamous legions in 40k canon.

The main plot focuses on a specific Host commanded by the Dark Apostle Jarulek and his apprentice Marduk on their search for an artifact that supposedly predates humanity. The prophecies say it will turn the tide of the war against the Imperium but other than that they know nothing. The remainder follows Marduk has he continues his master's work, eventually rising to become Dark Apostle himself and getting caught up in the machinations and intrigue of the Legion's higher-ups.

Also check out the character sheet.

Word Bearers contains the following tropes

  • A Father to His Men: Marduk is this in the manner that only Chaos can wrought. Of course, he's more or less a stern, irritable, psychopathic, mildly abusive father. Who will tear apart anyone who messes with those under his command.
    • General Havorn is this too.
  • Ass Kicking Equals Authority: This is how Marduk got his job. With a healthy dosage of Cold-Blooded Torture and Mind Rape to make sure he was quite up to standards after he had already established his copious asskicking credentials.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Par for the course in a Warhammer 40,000 series.
  • Ax-Crazy: Many of the Word Bearers but Burias and Khalaxis stand out even among them.
  • Badass Army: The Word Bearers. A single squad of Terminators manages to tear down a TITAN.
  • Badass Preacher: The Word Bearers have this as their hat.
  • Badass Grandpa: The Warmonger.
  • BFS: Marduk has a daemon sword known as Bohrg'ash. It's huge, can kill with the merest blow, and drinks blood. Possibly implying it is inhabited by a daemon of Khorne.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The inside of the Necron Monolith at the end of the first book. Even Marduk, a freaking Chaos Space Marine, is confused.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Nexus Arrangement is not only a significant plot device in the first book but ultimately becomes a key element in the third.
  • Cool Old Guy: While an outsider would view the Warmonger as horrific, the Word Bearers view him as a Cool Old Guy. Partly because he is Nightmare Fuel.
  • Cool Helmet: Kol Badar had one, which was wrought with the visage of a snarling daemon.
  • Crowning Moment Of Heart Warming: Marduk, of all people, managed to have one. When captured along with another Word Bearer then tortured and cut from his link with the Warp by Dark Eldar, the other Marines start to crack. Marduk, already angered to see one of his brothers in such a situation, comforts (or verbally slaps) him with some inspirational words and promises he will be avenged for what the Dark Eldar have done.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Darioq used creative thinking, a practice that is very much frowned upon by the deeply logic-inclined Adeptus Mecanicus. It took Kol Badar by surprise.
  • Demonic Possession: Burias and Darioq are the two main characters who are possessed. In Dark Apostle, Marduk sacrificed members of a subordinate cult so their bodies could be used in summoning the Kathartes.
  • Description Porn: All over the place. The rituals and actions of the reverent Word Bearers are some of the most prominently described.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Probably one of the reasons why the Word Bearers are one of the few Chaos Legions who have not split itself apart, despite being one of the most gleefully evil organizations in the setting. They still act in combat like an organized force, bringing suppressive fire to assist their close combat troops and attempting to minimize their own casualties. Also, some of the legionnaires show real brotherhood and friendship with each other.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Gehemehnet.
  • Field Promotion: Captain Laron, after Colonel Boerl is killed.
  • Four-Star Badass: Kol Badar serves as the Coryphaus, dragon and military second-in-command, to Jarulek, then to Marduk.
  • Genuine Human Hide: An old belief from Colchis (the Word Bearers original homeworld) holds that wearing the flesh of powerful individuals gives the wearer the dead's powers. What else do you expect from a feudal world which worshiped the Chaos Gods?
  • Human Resources: The Gehemehnet requires massive amounts of human corpses grinded into Blood Mortar.
    • Magos Darioq, seeing a waste of resources in terms of fuel and biological matter, asks Brigadier-General Havorn if he could use the troopers' bodies instead of having them cremated with honors. When asked why, he said that their bodies would be turned to nutrient paste to "feed" the combat servitors. Havorn was not pleased with this idea.
      • The Mechanicus can also grow more servitors in vats, and it's implied that they may be able to use a similar process as above to "recycle" a servitor instead of feeding one. They didn't make vat-grown servitors, however, since it was too time intensive.
  • Humble Hero Antagonist: Aquilius of the White Consuls in Dark Creed.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: After his old friend Namar-sin is killed fighting gene-stealers, Sabtec declares that in honour of his service, the surviving Word Bearers would eat of his flesh.
  • Kill 'em All: By the first book's end, of all named characters, we see only Kol Badar, Marduk, Darioq, Burias and the Warmonger survive.
  • Klingon Promotion: Marduk, but it was just as much self-defense at the time.
  • Mad Scientist: Darioq-Gren'dhal
  • Mauve Shirt: Boerl, partially Laron.
  • The Magnificent: Jarulek the Blessed.
  • Mle Trois: At the climax of Dark Disciple, the Undying One tries to kill Jarulek and Marduk just as Jarulek betrays Marduk. The ensuing fight left Jarulek dead, Marduk in a position to claim power over the warband, and the Marduk getting away from the Undying One.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Darioq.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In the first book. Nice job breaking it, Word Bearers. Now you've awakened the Necrons!
  • Oh, Crap!: Marduk's reaction at Calth when the station he is one is boarded by Guilliman's squad of Ultramarines. Seeing as it includes Guilliman himself and a BFS armed Aeonid Thiel, it's quite justified.
  • Old Soldier: The Warmonger, who was present at the Siege of the Emperor's Palace (in fact, he thinks he's still there most of the time) and serves as a pillar of spiritual support for the Host.
    • Kol Badar, who is noted to have been around since the Horus Heresy.
  • One-Man Army: All the Chaos Marines, but Marduk gets bonus points for going to the warp and fighting off an army of daemons to prove his strength as a follower of the Dark Gods.
  • Pet the Dog: Marduk is by no means a nice person, but when you add a certain amount of Fridge Brilliance, then a lot of his interactions with the Warmonger could be viewed as someone talking to a relative in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. When put in this light it makes the Warmonger's death at the hands of the Undying One and Marduk's subsequent reaction to it in Dark Creed all that much more of a Tear Jerker.
  • Punctuation Shaker: The names of daemons (Drak'shal, Gren'dhal).
  • Religion of Evil: This legion.
  • Real Men Love The Chaos Gods: The Word Bearers never lack for faith in the Dark Gods and are unstoppable killing machines all. This trope is also what has allowed the Warmonger to maintain some modicum of lucidity.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Narrowly subverted in Dark Apostle, the Word Bearers spare, but enslave the cult and the conspirators that help them invade the city. Not because that they don't trust them, but because they really don't respect normal humans, and they treat the ones that serve them little better.
  • Spirit World: This is the way the Warp is depicted for the Word Bearers. Even though Marduk isn't a psyker, he can still use his powers of sorcery enter spirit trances during which he can spy on and take control of people.
  • The Strategist: Kol Badar was this, having been capable of gaining victory in every battle he commanded due to his immense tactical genius.
  • The Starscream: Marduk to Jarulek in the first book. Ashkanez to Marduk in the third. The series goes out of its way from the beginning to cast Kol Badar as one as well so they can subvert it later when his loyalties to the Word Bearers were ultimately greater than his hatred for Marduk.
  • Supporting Leader: Since the Word Bearers are a religious institution before a military institution, leadership goes to the Dark Apostle. Kol Badar's position as Coryphaus puts him as the Dark Apostle's militant leader. While he's noted to have some difficulty with thinking laterally and unconventional tactics, Badar is very, very good at this.
  • Tin Tyrant: How do you show that you're a big, badass evil overlord in a setting where all your minions have Powered Armour? Simple. Don a suit of even larger Terminator Armour!. Not enough? The Warmonger, a former Dark Apostle himself, is one insane(ly badass) Dreadnought.
  • Villain Protagonist: All of them.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Played with, with the kathartes. In their visible form they look like terrifying daemon furies, but in the Warp they appear as angelic, predatory beings made of light. Of course, in order to appreciate something like that you'd have to go into the Warp, which means you have bigger things to worry about.
  • You Killed My Blood Brother: Kol Badr has it in for Marduk for killing his closest blood-brother during the Horus Heresy.