- "Speak the Words, and know the truth of Chaos. Know the truth of Chaos, and know the falsehood of reality. Know the falsehood of reality, and shout the Words to the heavens so all may know the truth."
- —Attributed to the Dark Apostle Amur Gholash, known better as Gholash the Orginator
Echoing throughout galactic history, the Words of Ruination are neither an artifact nor weapon but rather a language, one that carries the malignancy of Chaos in every syllable. It is a fell tongue designed to corrupt the mind and garner the attention of the Neverborn, all to enthrall new generations of followers in the name of the Dark Gods. Like a verbal plague it spreads and propagates throughout it's victims very souls at a truly terrifying rate, unstoppable unless all those who utter the Words are exterminated with extreme prejudice.
Gholash the Originator
Whether it is known as the Lexicon Chaotica or Scripture of the True Faith, Fourfold Utterance or Dreadvoice, in all the scattered and heretical accounts pertaining the origins of the Words of Ruination, one name stands out: Amur Gholash.
The bearer of the name in question was also in fact a Bearer of the Word, for Amur Gholash was once a proud son of the XVII Legion, and a revered Chaplain at that. Like his kinsmen he fell from the Emperor's Light and into the grip of the Ruinous Powers, trained by none other than the Arch-Heretic Erebus in the arts of the Daemonic, and thus was among the first to take up the dreaded mantle of Dark Apostle.
However, what made Gholash stand apart from his fellow zealots was his methodology. Before the fateful events of the Horus Heresy he was noted for his scholarly ways, pouring over ancient Terran scripts and tomes in between campaigns with a diligence more akin to a Thousand Son rather than a Word Bearer. He also fancied himself a philosopher of sorts, valuing the wisdom and teachings gleaned from ancient ways of the Grecians and Romanii. There was one line of philosophy he particularly enjoyed, attributed to Romanii scholar who's name had been lost to antiquity:
"It is not a nation we inhabit, but a language."
Gholash took that simple proverb to heart, for in his loyalist days he truly believed that in order for the Imperium of Man to prosper, it must build an empire united by a single culture, by a single faith, by a single language. In the aftermath of his Legion's conquests he would advocate for the construction of Scholams and Academia, using his formidable influence to sanction the creation of places of learning in which generations of impressionable young minds would be tutored in the ways of the Imperium of Man. Some of these monuments to higher education, such as the Colleges of Espine IX and the Sanctorium Scriptura of Delcadus, remain to this day unaware of their inherently tainted origins.
But however noble his intentions may have been, Amur Gholash's philosophies took on a much more insidious bent following the fall of the Word Bearers. The newly-initiated Apostle still believed in uniting the peoples of the galaxy through knowledge and language, but rather than teaching them to see the light, he would make them not just see but experience true enlightenment in the name of the Dark Gods.
Following the bloody Shadow Crusade that set the Five-Hundred Worlds of Ultramar alight with the pyres of war, Gholash and over 100 like-minded Traitor Asartes departed from the bulk of the Word Bearers' main force. They took with them sacrificial constituents, chattels of degenerate cultists, and stacks upon stacks of skin-bound tomes whose pages yet to be filled.
Together Gholash and his flock made planetfall on war-ravaged Calth, the stench of genocide still fresh in the ash-clogged air. Under the unholy light of the dwindling Ruinstorm they slit the throats of their mortal devotees with long knives of consecrated adimantium, and painted concentric circles of Colchisian runes in their spilled blood. Surrounded by dust, ruin, and the noise of a thousand disciples slowly choking and expiring in the dirt, the Word Bearers gathered around their freshly-wrought summoning circle and neatly placed their empty books in it's center.
Then they began to chant, Gholash leading his congregation in a specially-prepared invocation like some grotesque parody of a conductor. The air soon filled with the ozone stench of warp-sorcery, great rents appearing overhead at the Asartes' ceaseless chanting brought unspeakable evils to the fore. Then, without warning, ghostly appendages sprang from the rifts, ripping pilled tomes open and inscribing their pages with letters of unearthly ichor. The chanting swelled in intensity and the daemonic talons scribbled with an even greater fervor, spasmodically jerking and twisting as more and more foul letters where transcribed, books flying through the air in a hail of pages.
Then the chanting abruptly ceased, and the ghostly hands ceased as well, retracting back into their rifts and the fruits of their labors slowly re-assembled themselves. The rents in the sky dissipated, and the circle of blood became cracked and smeared as if it had aged a thousand years in a matter of minutes. All the while Gholash and his acolytes fell to their knees and rejoiced, their ultimate triumph stacked in neat rows before them.
Spreading the Words
Their fell work complete, the authors of the newly-christened Words of Ruination went from Calth to spread the new gospel of the Gods far and wide. His chosen each took with him a number of Ruinous Tomes, each a veritable vocabulary of elemental evil, and went forth into the raging conflicts that had split the galaxy asunder. Of these individuals there is little mention throughout history, save for what minor scraps of information the Inquisition have cobbled together over the millennia:
Nine tomes went to Irchomai, First Acolyte and right hand of Amur Gholash. Marching proudly alongside the venerated Chapter of the Serrated Sun, Irchomai would meet his end during the infamous Siege of Terra, but not before his Words drove thousands of Loyalist Astartes to their knees in paroxysms of agony, hands clasped to bleeding ears as their minds struggled to comprehend the verbal blasphemy that poured from the First Acolyte's lips.
Six tomes went to Xemal Torr, an aspiring Sorcerer who once trained on Davin at the foot of the Witch-Priests of the Serpent Lodge. Adding the Words to his already formidable arsenal of warp-magicks greatly increased his power, allowing him to summon hordes of ravening Daemons to annihilate the Imperial Army garrisons stationed on the Fortress World of Geshamex. It is said he dwells on that conquered planet even now, the Psyker-King of a Daemon World where city-states of the corrupted and damned make war upon each other and eternally vie for his favor.
Eight tomes went to Malus the Ancient, a Terran Veteran who in another age had burned profane books rather than exalted them. His ship, the Saint of Vharadesh, was shot down over the icy Death World of Kimerau by a vengeful Ultramarine fleet, eager to exact retribution for the atrocities enacted during the Battle of Calth. Lost with all hands, the Saint's shattered remains were entombed by glacial ice, left frozen and unremembered until his dark contents were unearthed nearly ten millennia later.
As for the Originator himself, Amur Gholash took with him ten tomes from Calth and vanished, from both the Horus Heresy and Imperial history. Some say he left to follow in his Primarch's footsteps, making a pilgrimage into the depths of the Eye of Terror from which he has yet to return. Other believe he was granted the blessing of ascension, becoming a Daemonic Prince of the Empyrean and carving out a principality within the Warp to serve as his domain, where he rules from a throne of parchment and dark iron. A few even state that Gholash died long ago, his bones moldering underneath some long-forgotten battlefield. Regardless of the veracity of any of these tales, the Ruinous Tomes he reportedly took with him have never been recovered nor even encountered since his disappearance.
As for the rest of the tomes birthed from that foul ritual, they have resurfaced time and time again throughout the galaxy. Some serve are the treasured possessions of infamous Arch-Heretics, beings like Abaddon the Despoiler and Ahriman assembling great collections of Gholash's unholy work at the expense of entire planets. Others are kept secret by the highest echelons of the Emperor's Inquisition, kept under lock and key in locations known to a precious few lest their contents escape to wreak havoc across the stars. However, the vast majority of the Ruinous Tomes and the Words they contain remain scattered and forgotten, waiting for some hapless soul to bring their heresy to the fore once again...
Incidents of Note
- Rise of the Blasphemer (248.M40) - The wretched Factory-Hives of the Cornithian Star-Cluster had always been a veritable dumping ground for the downtrodden, massive manufactorums who's sole purpose was to churn out bulk materials regardless of the cost in human lives. Looking back, Imperial historians can only wonder why rebellions were never instigated sooner, for in that cesspit of misery rose a threat that would tear the entire Star-Cluster asunder. He called himself the Blasphemer, a demagogue who's very words seemed to inspired zealous fervor in those who heard them. He preached sweet release from the torment of the factories, and the Hive-Workers answered in their millions, heedlessly throwing themselves at their one-time oppressors until their were practically crushed under a wave of desperate humanity. Soon after, the Factory-Hives became weapons workshops, churning out tools of destruction for the apocalyptic war that was to come, all in the name of the Blasphemer...
- Lambadan Technoclasm (690.M40) - Magos Shaelen Pygothrea of the Forge World Lambada-Phi had always held an interest in the arcane and the occult, but her curiosity finally got the better of her when she stumbled upon a skin-bound Ruinous Tome. Overcome by the power of the Words, Pygothrea polluted the noonspheric manifold of her own Forge World with corrupted code derived from the fell epistles that now ruled her mind. The result was carnage and madness on a planetary scale, as every Tech-Priest, every Servitor, every Machine-Spirit was overwhelmed by a form techno-heresy their mechanical minds simply could not comprehend. Bondsmen and Overseers alike slaughtered one another in an orgy of madness, Skittari and fell upon imagined enemies, and a refitted Warhound Titan from the Legio Scorpia ran rampant to add to the slaughter. Eventually the foul code wormed its way into Lambada-Phi's primary reactors, setting off a chain-reaction of thermonuclear explosions that utterly scoured the planet of life. By the time relief forces arrived, there was nothing left but ashes and ruin.
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Effects and Properties
- "...With bloodied eyes and fecund talons do we slash and writhe... A sea of regret, and eternity with no answer... We know of the First of the never-should-be, his wrath and his terror... We are the listeners, as the music of spheres guides us to damnation..."
- —The Translated Ravings of Effected Subject PL-124 (Herticus Extremis)
What many fail to realize is that it is not the Ruinous Tomes themselves that are the source of the corrupt power of the Words of Ruination, for they are merely receptacles designed to record it's many epistles and locutions. The Words themselves are inherently Chaotic in nature, each syllable a sorcerous incantation designed to reverberate throughout the Immaterium, bring it's speaker's mind that much closer to the attention of the Ruinous Powers with every word spoken. Those of weak will that hear or look upon the Words can succumb in a matter of minutes as the whispering building inside their heads becoming all too tantalizing to resist, and so they willingly throw themselves into the arms of Chaos Gods to become raving fanatics and zealous cultists, their minds having been utterly consumed.
Even more disturbing is what occurs when the Words of Ruination claim a particularly strong-willed individual. This effected person (often designated as an "Incanter" or "Wordsmith" by the Inquisition) becomes a ringleader for his fellow effected, a focal point which retains just enough free will to continue propagating the Words in various ways, some even going so far as to create their own variants of the Words of Ruination and thus making it all the more difficult to prevent widespread moral corruption.
To those already in the thrall of Chaos, the Words represent a convenient means of gathering new followers, and to those of who practice warp-sorcery, can even be used to bolster one's own fell might. The Words of Ruination were originally designed to attract the attention of the Neverborn like moths to a flame, and thus a particularly skilled Sorcerer could potentially utilize the Words to create entire Daemonic Incursions in mere days. Needless to say, these properties alone make the Ruinous Tomes highly sought-after artifacts for the forces of the Archenemy, though their extreme rarity alone makes them difficult to acquire.
However, while the Words of Ruination are present an incredible moral threat, there ways to counter their effects. Hexagrammic warding sigils (typically applied around the head and face) have proven to be effective at blocking out the corrupting influence of the Words. In addition, as mentioned before particularly strong-willed individuals are capable of resisting, though not forever, and some specially-trained Psykers are capable of constructing mental wards to shield both their minds and the minds of others. Pariahs have proven to be entirely immune to the effects of the Words of Ruination, due to their inherently anti-psychic natures.
From a linguistic standpoint, the Words of Ruination alphabetical characters are based off of a debased version of Colchisian cuneiform, that much being evident from their geometric design and their inherent similarity to other heretical scripts such as that contained within the Book of Lorgar.
It's vocabulary is a relatively simplistic one, based around groups of short, single-meaning phrases designed to be combined in various ways to form more complicated words. In this way, the Words of Ruination are incredibly adaptable and able to be translated, modified, and varied at the whim of the speaker. Truly, it was meant to be a universal language, easily spoken as to spread it's corruption far and wide.
Like any language, the Words of Ruination have a variety of sub-tongues and derivatives:
- ApoStatic - Originally created by the mad Magos Pygothrea, ApoStatic is a variant of Scrapcode derived from a binaric translation of the Words of Ruination, designed to hopelessly corrupt the mechanical mind rather than the organic mind. These nonsensical algorithms are anathema to any sacred Mech-Animus no matter how powerful, driving them insane as their cognators are bombarded with wave after wave of noonspheric heresy. Though Pygothrea died in the fires of his own Forge World, his works having been declared techno-heresy of the highest order, Apostatic still persists to this day in within the arsenals of many a powerful Heretek.
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- I originally got the idea for this article after reading this one 40k book (Malleus by Dan Abnett) in which a massive geode called "The Lith" was corrupted by Chaos and started propegating it's own little cult. I figured it the Ruinous Powers could turn a hunk of rock into a moral threat, surely a language could work the same way.
- Some other potential names for this article were Darkspeech, the Damned Catechisms, and the Fourfold Vocables.
- A friend once told me that Words of Ruination sounded like a name for a heavy metal band. Looking back, I'm inclined to agree.