Sacred Asphyxia Incident of 823.M40
In the dark future, the birthworld of mankind is branded by the works and failings of her children. Her ecosystem ravaged and built over, her oceans mysteriously gone, her very air dependent on imports and artifices now poorly understood. The weather systems of Holy Terra are dictated far more by the towering creations of humanity than they rely on the natural processes of her scarred form, yet degenerate mankind only possess fractions of ancient weather-lore to ken the intricate flows and barriers of the atmosphere which their edifices and craft dictate, wittingly or not.
Where once unfailing prognostications and marvellous tinkering to Terra’s weather held sway during the days of the early Imperium, nowadays the light has dimmed, and the adepts charged with overseeing the air and climate of prodigal Earth increasingly run into mysteries which they fail to fully understand, into fluctuations and errors which they fail to account for. The heartbeat and whims of Terra’s atmosphere has grown ever more complex while her spires has risen ever higher, while at the same time the knowledge of those charged with controlling her air moods has declined ever more. While the atmospheric processors of Holy Terra remain wonders of technology and stand as testaments to the genius of ancient Man, their modern guardians operate on a lower level altogether.
One example of the crumbling grasp of knowledge of Terra’s revered Anima Meteorologicii could be seen in their failure to predict and respond to the peculiar phenomena of weather which led to a deadly accident that has become known to history as the Sacred Asphyxia Incident of 823.M40.
When the Anointed Crusade to Reconquer the Nova Colchis sector began in 771.M40, Ecclesiarch Frontinus III decreed that all produce of the 54 incense-producing provinces of the seven garden worlds of the Opimae system were to be stockpiled on Terra in anticipation of the final victory of the Nova Colchis Crusade, not to be burnt until those good news of triumph arrived on the Throneworld. Unkown millions of tonnes of fragrant incense were dutifully transported to Sol and hoarded by the Adeptus Ministorum for half a century, filling grand storage basilicas until news of the Nova Colchis Crusade’s succesful conclusion reached Holy Terra.
The successor of Frontinus, Paulatus VII, announced a grand ceremony of thanksgiving and jubilation to be held as choice Imperial forces from the Nova Colchis Crusade arrived at Terra to march in triumph through her holy streets. Great logistical pains were endured to ready all the earmarked incense of Opimae to be consumed in one arduously long public ceremony. The Ministorum priests chosen to burn the incense were given blessed respirators, as were the hordes of serfs tasked with carrying up the fragrant incense to the braziers, for it was recognized by the wise of the Ecclesiarchal Palace that the sheer amount of incense smokes to be produced en masse could prove hazardous to those in close proximity to the great braziers as the days of sacral labour dragged on during the triumphal ceremony.
And so it was that 77 cathedral spires along the chosen road of triumph teemed with frenetic activity as tens of thousands of monks and serfs laboured to haul the incense up to the grand braziers. Choirs sang beautiful hymns and bells rang melodiously as clouds of luxurious incense smoke poured out of the majestic towers, misting over the throngs of people gathered for the parade below. Yet the usual dispersal of the incense fumes by winds did not take place. For instead of caressing most of the Throneworld with a thin shroud of incense blown across built-over continents and dry ocean beds alike, the regional weather currents that day seem to have locked most of the burnt incense in place and stopped it from escaping to the rest of the world. Sinking incense fumes hit a sluggish lid of thick smog clouds lower down in the stratospehere, and an unlucky combination of weather currents among the high spires chanced to hem the accumulating incense fumes in, akin to the still eye of a storm.
The effect was a local catastrophe, many kilometers above the planet’s distant surface. Most of the billowing incense smoke slowly amassed, its density growing by the minute. As the devout of the Ecclesiarchy continued burning tonnes of stockpiled incense, the fumes concentrated below their cathedral towers, blanketing the triumphal road and three districts of upper hive spires. The fragrant smoke first caused mass coughing and fainting, and eventually the inpouring incense smoke displaced breathable air completely. Panicked riots burst out, only to choke as vast swathes of wheezing humans collapsed to the streets, or threw themselves over balconies and railings in a desperate search for oxygen. No order was ever given to stop the burning of Opimae incense, and so the suffocating smoke clouds kept billowing from the blessed braziers.
The mass asphyxiation event on Holy Terra claimed a total of 223 million lives of Imperial subjects, including a majority of the non-Mechanicus and non-Astartes participants of the triumphal parade. Hillocks of corpses were dragged out of residential blocks for bio-reprocessing, and the whole accident caused some embarrasment for Ecclesiarch Paulatus VII and his retinue. Blame was quickly heaped on some mid-level clergymen who oversaw the quality control of the Opimae incense stockpiles, and they died horrible, shrieking deaths at the pyre, where they were still swathed in the suffocating incense fumes. Yet fortunately the low death toll meant that the Sacred Asphyxiation Incident of 823.M40 was of trivial importance to the intrigues and power plays of the corrupt Adeptus Terra, and so no rival faction in any organization ever attempted to win influence by exploiting the mass choking of so few faithful subjects.
Meanwhile, the learned mystics of the Anima Meteorologicii failed to find a convincing explanation for the unforeseen event, and thus it was filed away as but yet another of so many recent mysteries of weather, which their ancient predecessors likely could have decrypted and prevented by the superior grasp of their lore and craft.
The Holy Inquisition of His Divine Majesty the God-Emperor of Mankind contain a great many factions and sects, driven by a myriad of convoluted ideologies, raw fanaticism and harrowing revelations. One such obscure faction are the Monumentalists, regarded as blinkered and myopic by most other Inquisitors.
Monumentalists believe in purifying mankind’s devotion to the Emperor through backbreaking great works and the erection of titanic edifices. Monumentalists ensnare planetary elites, regional leaders of the Adeptus Ministorum, and other ruling oligarchies into initiating megalomaniac construction projects. These often require the mobilization of entire continents’, worlds’ or even systems’ worth of manpower, resources and logistical support networks. Swathes of planetary provinces, or even entire planets, are enslaved under the new gruelling dictates of quarrying, mining, transporting, laying foundations and building.
The purpose behind such an enormous mustering of people, industries and natural resources is not simply the creation of material glorifications to the Terran Imperator, but of putting humanity through a trial by toil. The massive suffering and death incurred by the giant construction projects themselves, and by the steep demands put upon the economy and an impoverished populace, are the primary means by which Monumentalists strive to realize their goals.
Monumentalism aim to challenge the loyalty and faith of man by driving him to the breaking point through despair, loss and neverending hardships. Only those truly devoted to the Golden Throne will be able to bear the brunt of endless taskmaster brutality, tax collector ruthlessness and cruel work regime (even by Imperial standards) without cracking and falling into sedition, thought of self, and heresy. As such Monumentalist Inquisitors take less interest in the architecture and engineering of the work itself, but focus instead on detecting, rooting out and crushing any deviants and dissatisfied Imperial subjects likely to emerge due to the harrowing human costs of gargantuan monument building.
To this Inquisitorial sect, the stunning edifices left behind by succesful Monumentalist operations stand as material proof of the spiritual purification of the local population through blood and toil. Beside the physical constructions, are also to be found the mountainous mass graves of starved people worked to death (their bones often incorporated into the monument itself), as well as the charred mounds of men, women and children publicly tortured and burnt to death for daring to protest and rebel against the harsh demands of their rightful overlords.
Regarded as obsessively narrow-minded by other Inquisitorial factions, Monumentalists are a Puritan sect with origins tracing back as far as M33, its roots intimately connected with the growth of the Ecclesiarchy and said organization’s temple building spree. One infamous smudge on the sect’s record is the fact that a majority of all Monumentalists energetically supported High Lord Goge Vandire’s insane and self-glorifying monumental building projects throughout the Imperium during its Age of Apostasy. To the blinkered minds of Monumentalists at the time, the decrees of Vandire were proof that the God-Emperor Himself had judged their cause to be righteous, as evidenced by His will, as carried out through His appointed representatives on Holy Terra, via His divine emanations.
Monumentalism among the Inquisition surged briefly during the Age of Apostasy, only to fall in numbers as cabals of vengeful Inquisitors tried and punished a considerable number of individual Inquisitors suspected of apostasy. Many of those within the Inquisiton thus put to torture and torch following Goge Vandire’s downfall were Monumentalists, but the ideology itself was never outlawed nor suppressed. Five millenia later, Monumentalism persists as but one demented school of thought among many others among the hallowed ranks of the God-Emperor’s Holy Inquisition.
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"You will haul your burdens until the palms of your hands bleed. You will shoulder your loads until your back breaks. You will toil away until your knuckles are flayed to the bone. You will grasp your tools until your fingers fall off. All this you will do willingly and eagerly.
And you will give up your sons and daughters for toil, and then their sons and daughters for like toil. And you will take heart upon seeing your kindred and loved ones fall dead from exhaustion, for theirs is a noble sacrifice. And you will thank the overseer for the lashes, for they purge your wickedness. And you will rejoice over this whole undertaking and give praise thrice to Him on Terra, for a joyous lot is yours.
Rejoice! Rejoice in your labour! Rejoice in the wonder you are erecting!"
- Monumentalist Inquisitor Vanessa Flavinia, during a rare voxcast publicae speech to the indentured work gangs constructing the colossal statuary of Sebastian Thor Appointed by the God-Emperor in Splendour, following the utter annihilation of 538 million insurgents in the equatorial quarries of Sejanus Minoris
Pictured: Ultvesa Rakori, the Mercantile Elixir Guild Junior Deputy Sampling Officiant of Satrapies for the Twohundred-Ninetyfourth Subdivision of the Hive City of our all-providing Hive Primus, Palatine Hive Cluster of our Imperium-Sworn planet of Necromunda, in Segmentum Solar.
+++ Thought for the Day: Suffering is the Cure of Woes +++
- The cartel organization of the Elixir Guild is the officially sanctioned corporate monopolizing body in Hive Primus, consisting of licensed merchant families specializing in the trade of medicinal products. Many of the Guilder mercantile clans sport ancient pedigrees, confirmed by genetocartographical sampling rites undertaken by vassal apprentices to Magi Biologis. As business dynasties, the Elixir Guilders have close ties to the Officio Medicae and the chemical industry in Hive Primus, the latter of which is largely controlled by House Escher.
- The Guild’s known and suspected distribution of meds include anaesthetics, combat drugs, narcotics, poisons, rejuvenat drugs, psychota, irrad-ointments, mutagenic tinctures, xenotaric serums, corporeal restoratives, necrodystaric tonics, neuroacids, aphrodisiacs, musculanta-expandotorics, antibiotics & vaccines. Due to considerations of manpower, population resilience to disasters and recolonization capability, contraceptives and abortions of baseline Human fosters are strictly outlawed by the Lex Imperialis, yet the Elixir Guild display more fervent zeal in maintaining this prohibition through violent crack-down on criminals than do most governmental bodies on over-populated Necromunda. After all, the larger the population, the larger will be the mass customer demand for medicines, as sold and controlled by the Guild. The unborn do not require cures, and neither do they fight.
- Ultvesa Rakori is the offspring of a consanguine marriage within the Rakori family, and thus considered to be of pure-blooded stock. As sampling officiant, it is Ultvesa’s duty to test Guild stock of meds and microbes, both via pharmaceutical auspex readings and via application on vat microbes, lab rats, Injection Servitors, condemned criminals, workhouse rejects and like organic test subjects. Likewise, sampling officiants are charged with monitoring the disease flora and medcine performance within their subdivision, a nigh-hopeless task given the teeming billions of the Hive City. Despite rigorous sealant rituals, Ultvesa was accidentally infected, during a disease sampling, by the nerve-consuming illness known as Helgr’s Rot. Extensive surgery and drug treatment barely saved her life, but left her bodily form a hollowed-out wreck. Transformed by costly bionic implantations, Elixir Guilder Ultvesa Rakori has been enhanced in the performance of her manifold duties as Sampling Officiant. Praise be!
"Prosperity is poison. Peace is poison. Pride is poison.
Tolerance is toxic.
Perfection through persecution.
Burn the blasphemer. Incinerate the infidel. To hell with the heretic.
Doubt is death. Deviation is death. Denial is death.
The higher will is to kill.
Faithful! Unite and smite."
- Praesentinus Copronymus
The Immortal Man
Four hundred years ago, a reclusive Cawdor street theologian living within the titanic bowels of Hive Primus emerged after a long session of fasting, flagellation and meditating over old tomes. His name was Chaddakus Korois, and he had once lived a quiet life of introverted zeal as a wandering beggar and cheap learned man, sustained by the charity of the devout poor and by donations from slightly wealthier people who were in search of answers for dilemmas of scriptural dogma. That was before the gutter scholar Chaddakus had discovered the Meaning of Man , a writ of the Imperological school, one tome among many thousands of contradictory pieces of pauper scripture that circulated in the streets of Hive Primus and other Necromundan cities. Applying esoteric numerology to the convoluted writings, the learned man uncovered a secret of the faith and emerged with fire in his eyes to spread the word.
With damning speech and swaying revelations, the Emperor-touched fanatic quickly gathered a following amid the habs and recyclatory industries of House Cawdor and founded his own sect within the Redemptionist movement. During a mass sermon in Crucible Square with twenty thousand believers attendant, Chaddakus Korois declared that it was the duty of the righteous to recreate the God-Emperor’s intended destiny for mankind by an endless cycle of sacrifice. According to street-preacher Chaddakus, He on Terra had been about to bestow the gift of fleshly immortality onto His sacred species, but for the sins of men He was instead felled in treacherous combat on high and ascended His Golden Throne as a divine saviour of humanity’s souls, leaving their sinful flesh to the ravages of death, only to be cleansed by faith and fire.
While this opening of the sermon clashed with some Redemptionist doctrines yet agreed with other strata of commonly adhered scripture, it did not cause an uproar. Instead, it was the next claims of preacher Chaddakus that rent a violent schism through the local Redemptionist movement, until the bloody convulsions of religious strife settled down and this new sect was accepted among the older ones by virtue of its baptism of fire, free to spread abroad.
What Chaddakus Korois revealed to his congregation was the mystery of the One Man, a spiritual entity to be formed by communal sacrifice of limbs and devout conduct, a being at the same time of spirit and flesh (the Achieved Unachieved) that is kept immortal by the constant adherence to dogma within the inner circle of believers, supported by the prayers of the outer circles of faithful. The purpose of the One Man is to kneel before the divine majesty of the Master of Mankind, and throw himself into the eternal fires of the dreaded hells, where the One Man burns forever in redemption, or at least for as long as the faithful continue to bleed and sacrifice of themselves to keep the One Man immortal as their ambassador of pain. In these flaming pits, the suffering of the One Man stands for the death of humanity’s intended worldly paradise for the sake of the sins of man, yet is likewise a sign of true redemption among the righteous, who have realized in the higher plane their God-Emperor’s original plan for man, only to sacrifice this perfect destiny, of immortal man made manifest, into the fires of hell. For while the punishment of mortal men is excruciating in the hells, it is a lesser form of pain and chastisement compared to the burning in hell of immortal man. Only by offering the manifest realization of our ultimate potential to the flames can mankind make true penance for its abominable sins.
Chaddakus then ended the public revelation of holy mystery by instructing his listeners of the correct practices to create the One Man and maintain this entity, all while drawing a chaindagger to miraculously cut off all off his limbs and then his head despite having severed both of his arms. This strong-willed demonstration upon himself of the new sect’s practices ended with Chaddakus Korois’ most faithful disciples flaying their master’s saintly form, casting his flesh to the pyre while consecrating the blood-dripping bare bones as relics in front of twenty thousand chanting devotees. Then, the six foremost male disciples of Saint Chaddakus each recited litanies and self-mutilated one extremity each to mimick part of their sect founder’s example, having the open wounds cauterized with red-hot iron. By a miracle, the body of the apostle who beheaded himself still lived when a devout Cawdor techman locked a domed relic, the Bronze Head, onto the holy man’s throat stump, whereupon the maimed one rose with a spark of light and prayed with metallic voice along with the rest of the vast congregation. The sect known as the Sacrificial Men had come into being.
Thus began the infamous Cawdor gang known throughout Hive Primus as the Immortal Man. This Redemptionist warrior group consists of the inner circle of six mutilated holy men, surrounded by unmaimed juves and adults who act as apprentices and attendants to these revered self-sacrificers. This inner circle is always kept at six in number, for whenever one of them falls, a willing attendant who has not previously lost any limb takes the fallen’s place by self-mutilating whichever extremity the deceased one lacked. Should he survive this ordeal, the God-Emperor is seen to have judged him worthy and pure of spirit. If not, another follower is selected by the gang leader for self-mutilation. Upon becoming a holy maimed man, a sect member forsakes his former name and identity, losing all ties of kin and former obligations in society in order to transcend to his sacred role in maintaining the One Man by his own living sacrifice, thereby taking up the proverbial mantle shouldered by one of Saint Chaddakus’ six original apostles.
Outside the fanatic sect of the Sacrificial Men, Redemptionists and infidels alike whisper of the great many failed self-beheadings which precedes any one succesful installation of the faceless Bronze Head upon a bleeding disciple. Indeed, many of the schismatic attacks on the first generation of Sacrificial Men were caused by rival sects considering the revival of the self-beheaded one to be stark, utter blasphemy and nothing short of necromancy. Though the sectarian feuds have mostly ceased, it is generally believed (by those who do not view the Bronze Head’s working implementation on a body to be a miracle) that the ancient device functions by striking the lightning spark of life into a corpse, thus raising the dead to a form of unlife more base than that of a servitor. Others speculate that the Bronze Head relic is the left-over remains of an outcast heretek’s baleful experiments upon live captives, from before Hive City Enforcers busted his Underhive death lab seven hundred years ago. Or they say it is a forbidden remnant from the Dark Age of Technology, its heinous purpose shrouded in mystery. Whatever the truth of the matter, the followers of Saint Chaddakus’ creed view the Bronze head as a unique vessel of holy wonders, and further point to the lack of optical instruments in the featureless Bronze Head as further proof of this sacred device’s miraculous nature, for how could something fully know its surroundings without eyes? Nevertheless, a leather mask with openings for eyes that are not there adorns the Bronze Head, as is demanded of any member of redeemed House Cawdor.
The six inner circle members of the Immortal Man gang each take their name from the bodily extremity which they themselves have discarded. Five of them are known by the names of Head, Right Arm, Left Arm, Right Leg and Left Leg. The sixth member is known as Hand, by way of a euphemism which accidentally mirrors speech in Terra’s truly ancient past. The gang leader is always the one who have been part of the inner circle for the longest time, with the exception of Head, who can never lead the Immortal Man. Furthermore, each inner circle member openly carries the bundled relic bones of that extremity from Saint Chaddakus’ maimed body which they themselves are known for. Hand carries Saint Chaddakus Korois’ pelvis bone. The gang leader is identified by the back-mounted reliquary which hosts Saint Chaddakus’ ribcage and spine. There is never a shortage of recruits to the outer circle of juves and attendants, for it is seen as the highest honour among the Sacrificial Men sect to be chosen as attendants for the Immortal Man.
With the exception of Head, no inner circle member may ever replace his lost body parts by bionic replacements, however crude. Instead long metal peglegs or crutches are used by Right Leg and Left Leg, while the Arms sometime have chains attached to their respective stumped shoulder, with which to swing globular censer bearers filled with counterfeit incense, or else chains with which to swing spiked mace heads, flails, hooks, blades or other crude weapons; but never chainblades or other machine-powered weaponry. The detailed ban on bionic prosthetics mean that firearms are never mounted Servitor-like on the stumps of any inner circle member, while two-handed firearms are instead supported at all times by shoulder straps or rigs on Right Arm and Left Arm. Likewise, both Arms of the inner circle tend to sport custom-made solutions to the problem of reloading trickier weaponry and handling other equipment.
The peculiar gait of these self-mutilated holy men add to the bizarre appearance of these nigh-legendary crusaders against the unbeliever, the mutant and the witch, as do their dependence on reverent apprentices, who accompany the inner circle of the Immortal Man into battle. All the masked Cawdor gangers of the Immortal Man are insane fanatics of the Redemption. They are often said to fully compensate for their missing limbs by sheer displays of faith unyielding in combat, yet the odds given by shady bookmakers in Hive Primus would seem to run contrary to this popular claim…
“The stronghold oldsters back at home might not have approved, but around these parts there aren’t any stronghold or oldsters. Or home, for that matter. Chap, in the Biker ‘guilds’ you’ll be your own man, with your own ride far away from safety and responsibilities. Us outriders have our own customs, so thus you’ll have me with this spiky, radical beard style, see? At least I didn’t tint it teal.”
“Life is a trampler. I like to keep a rug of a beard around to better receive life as it is in the hallway.”
“Pal, come now. Really? If you think I look weird now you should’ve seen me before the flamethrower accident.”
These are just some Squat faces I painted in acrylic whilst sick at home back in 2013 AD.
Squat Power Boarder
A mercenary prone to casual violence, Trough Mac Broigum has served the psychopathic Rogue Trader Tyrel “Destroyer” Cathek for over seven decades of ceaseless voyages between distant stars. As his master has cut a bloody swathe through long-lost Human colonies and Xeno worlds alike, so has the abhuman Trough served Cathek with savage glee.
Trough Mac Broigum has participated in more xenocides and extermination campaigns than most senior Inquisitors can lay claim to, and he has often been at the forefront of the burning and slaughter. Trough leads an sabotage squad of Squat clansmen who have mastered the difficult vehicle known as the power board, a self-propelled ride capable of great leaps and even some limited flight.
The Squat power boarders are experts at striking through backstreets and narrow alleys after heavier units have opened a breach, rushing through urban mazes and space station corridors to deliver a lethal cargo of demolition charges, incendiaries, gas canisters, neurotoxins or virus bombs to soft strategic locations (such as waterworks or aeroprocessors) in the midst of population centers. Trough and his ilk will celebrate every triumph of mass civilian extermination with strong beverages, and will constantly retell their most daring feats of martial power board acrobatics in the face of enemy resistance.
Drawn for Oldhammer Art Contest II. Usually I base my doodles loosely on official sources at best (these fictive worlds are always best for freewheeling exploration and imagination of one’s own), but this one was different. The Squat Power Boarder is a reference to three things from Book of the Astronomican: The tabards of Rogue Trader troopers, the signum of Tyrel “Destroyer” Cathek, and the power board of Stugen Deathwalker.
“Kickee Cool” on the boots was a nonsense catch-phrase which I used for a Shadowrun Dwarf kickboxer during a short RPG session. I know nothing about Shadowrun, but I made said dwarf (with neon hair & beard implants, constantly shifting glowing colours) with the wacky spirit of Rogue Trader 40k in mind.