40k: Descendant Degeneration

Dysfunctional Garrison 01

Dysfunctional Garrison

"Men in Weltsturm regiments their service gave,
who everyone knows is very brave,
whenever in the forward line,
would hope and pray to Emp’ror divine,
that the enemy would not appear,
on their horizon, far or near.

All in His name. Glory be unto the Golden Throne. Hail Terra!"

- Self-ironic trench poem penned by Astro-Ungarian private Szilovic Kovacs during the siege of Castrum Lombergia on Leithania Supremus, the Commissarial discovery of which resulted in its author being publicly flayed alive, and then cut into little pieces by chainswords from the toes up to his neck while lambasted by regimental preachers to repent from his abominable sins


I love all of this. It all really does look like it was ripped from the original 40k and rogue trader books.

That, RPG element that is offering the reader 's imagination to make of it, what they will…

This was GW of the late 80s. Here’s the game, add your own imagination.

1 Like

@harvestmouse : Thank you most kindly. I appreciate it. One guy on Deviantart do write his own story for what he sees in the art. I like them, but it’s also fun since each artwork has got its own background story posted along with the picture, haha.


1 Cult of the Offensive 01

Cult of the Offensive

In the grim darkness of the far future, man cares not for losses.

O man, what destiny awaits you, in a galaxy doomed to carnage neverending? What does fate have in store for you, where slaughter reaches out to claim all souls for its grisly harvest? What hope is there for you, o man, in an uncaring universe? What can be heard, as blood leaves your wounded body and death approaches?

That, we shall discover.

Mankind once straddled the stars like a colossus, and whole universe became its clay. In a bygone age of discovery and science, the sword of ancient man left every potential foe trembling, for the might of man was far superior to anything that xenos could muster. That age of mortal paradise and unchallenged power is now long gone, for the Dark Age of Technology collapsed into flames and ruination, and the great wonders of the ancients were torn down by the hands of revolting machine beings, who were then followed by a scourge of witches and Daemons, leaving behind only starving scavengers and alien raiders to prey upon the remnants of humanity during Old Night. Man fell from his shining pedestal. Man fell hard into hell, and all was fell.

Petty wars beyond counting raged during the Age of Strife, and almost all of them led nowhere but down a spiral of worsening devastation. This fruitless tribal warfare and crawl into oblivion was finally ended by a brilliant string of decisive victories by the all-conquering Legions of the Emperor of Terra. For His loyal forces struck hard across the Milky Way galaxy, and they brought order and internal peace to a new-born star realm for man. And men, women and children gasped for morning air and dared to dream again, after millennia of living in a waking nightmare.

The early Imperium saw the improvization of technology and military arts go from an agonizingly slow conquest of ravaged Terra, to a lightning capture of a million worlds or more. When the Emperor still walked among His people in the flesh, His war machine developed into a sophisticated toolset of conquest, able to master siegecraft, infiltration, tunnel warfare, terror tactics, orbital assault, chemical warfare, armoured thrusts to the throat of the enemy, starship boarding and many, many more facets of war.

The early Imperium was an unstoppable behemoth in war, able to outsmart and outlast even the neurally enslaved hordes of the Rangda and the worst that the Orkish menace could muster. In comparison, the latter day Imperium is a hunkered wretch, only able to prolong its tortured existence by a ravenous cannibalization of human societies as the High Lords of Terra struggle to feed the furnaces of total war in the midst of screeching dysfunctionalities and demechanization. It is true that it is an impressive achievement of grit and guts to last for ten thousand years in the face of so many lethal foes. Yet it is also true that it is a complete failure of interstellar empire for a civilization to dogmatically suppress any rekindling of scientific discovery and technological invention for fivehundred precious generations on end.

While the martial history of the Age of Imperium is a storied one, full of many inspiring epics, the larger overarching story that the tyrannical reign of Holy Terra tells, is that of tragedy turned into farce.

To better comprehend the wasteful and counterproductive failings of the fortified madhouse known as the Imperium of Man, let us touch briefly on a form of military culture that is commonly found on hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms. Let us look into the cult of the offensive, and behold the calls for aggressive action at every turn that it calls for, no matter the cost and no matter how unfavourable the outcome would be. Let us peer through its tunnel vision. And as a living, breathing exemplar of this cult of the offensive, let us raise up General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz of Astro-Ungaria from the mass of Imperial commanders, and turn our attention to this dutiful servant of the Emperor.

Count Frantisek Anton Szervác Theobald Juraj Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz hails from a noble clan of hereditary officers that can trace their origins back to M.37. The young Hanz-Konrad was an energetic thinker and rider, and won his spurs as a junior officer during the crushing of a rebellion in the Weneztlian marshlands on Astro-Ungaria’s southwestern continent. He ascended the ranks of the Imperial and Royal army within his homeworld’s Planetary Defence Force, quickly rising to become a staff officer and a teacher at the Duarchal military academies. Here, the active General von Dorfenhötz set about writing down his theories of warfare, and his intensive mind produced works that extolled the virtues of an offensive spirit, for victory must need always be carried on the point of a bayonet. After all, hesitation and cowardice would risk a commander missing opportunities, so better strike without doubt in one’s heart, and better commit vast forces with elan and without remorse. Fortune favours the bold!

The thinking of Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is not bereft of merit. Clearly, he has spotted the potential of sweeping thrusts and breakthroughs to strategically encircle or cut off the enemy force. He has likewise grasped that pushing the foe hard with rapid advances may take you inside the enemy’s buffer of decisions, and catch the enemy unawares and likewise provoke mistakes, panic and logistical breakdowns. Some of Hanz-Konrad’s ideas have on a few occasions been turned into practice to thundering effect, but usually such moments of brilliance have relied heavily upon allied Astra Militarum forces to carry the day in ways that the Astro-Ungarian regiments are unable to do. For the most part, such victories are exceptions to the rule, for von Dorfenhötz has proven himself to be a great butcher of his own men through his many careless attacks without the wherewithal, intel and preparations to suppress, outgun and outpace the hostile opposition.

It is not just the rank and file Guardsmen of Astro-Ungaria that will be used ruthlessly by von Dorfenhötz, for the bewhiskered General will likewise deceive his offworlder allies, fail to communicate and coordinate war efforts with his allied commanders, and most importantly he is skilled at tricking allies into doing his bidding through all manner of cunning. In response, some members of the Death Korps of Krieg have stated that to fight alongside Astro-Ungaria is akin to being chained to a corpse.

To be clear, General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz have achieved some notable victories, though not necessarily on the battlefield. These successes are truly Astro-Ungarian in nature, and not to be ignored. For the good count is a romantic at heart, who grooms his moustache to perfection. His are the best whiskers in his entire army, according to some ladies at balls. Hanz-Konrad’s amorous conquests through his rejuvenat-prolonged life have proven more consistent than his military ones.

After Hanz-Konrad’s wife Vendula-Hajnalka passed away, the widower and father of seventeen suffered from bouts of doubts about his fitness as an officer. These biting dark thoughts were suddenly dispelled as if by divine intervention when Hanz-Konrad during an aristocratic feast laid his eyes upon countess Vilma-Gisela “Virga” Lenka Amalia von Rausenburg, the wife of count Jozsef-Edler von Rausenburg and the mother of nineteen. The bouncy von Dorfenhötz quickly devised a new strategy to win the married Virga’s heart: He would join Astro-Ungaria’s Imperial Guard regiments for a nearby campaign offworld, and return home a triumphant hero.

The resulting debacle was named the Triple Offensives of Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz on the giant decrepit voidholm of Varazdin Ultima, which resulted in enormous casaulties for the Duarchal Astra Militarum forces as separatists mowed them down in bottlenecks and even vented three entire regiments into the cold emptiness of space. Among those slain was to be found two of Hanz-Konrad’s own sons. The Imperial losses were so great, that an emergency Astropathic call to nearby Astro-Ungaria went out, and in the large shipment of reinforcements that arrived six months later there happened to be a certain colonel Jozsef-Edler von Rausenburg, accompanied by his wife Vilma-Gisela.

What followed was a strange courtship, with the silent knowledge of Jozsef-Edler. The affair took many years as the voidholm campaign ground on, and it involved Hanz-Konrad writing several thousand love letters to Virga. Some of these letters were sixty pages long, and bore purity seals stamped with a heart. The correspondence did not only happen in Low and High Gothic, no, for Astro-Ungaria with its varied landscapes and patchwork of parochial tribes and sects is a Babel of tongues. Astro-Ungarian officers, as a rule, are fine linguists, but lacklustre tacticians. Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz, for instance, can speak eleven languages, and he employed them all across his many confessions of love to Vilma-Gisela.

The entire Astro-Ungarian military effort on Varazdin Ultima ended in a fiasco, and saw the ravaged regiments of the Duarchy rotated back home to be restored. Fresh new forces were shipped in, hailing primarily from Titonus Triarius, and these replacements would in time achieve the victory that the Imperial and Royal forces of General von Dorfenhötz were unable to make happen. Yet the massive attrition and slow defeat of von Dorfenhötz at Varazdin Ultima would strangely see him win his more important campaign, namely that to claim Virga’s heart.

The charm of Hanz-Konrad and the endless stream of love letters and the secret meetings and suspected trysts between the two lovers eventually drove the husband of Vilma-Gisela to divorce his wife in a public scandal. Badly disturbed, she said yes when Hanz-Konrad swooped in and elegantly proposed for her to become his wife, and thus Vilma-Gisela von Dorfenhötz joined the General’s side as a loving companion and a seemingly loyal guardian of his reputation, treasuring his every letter. Exuberant with victory in love, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz ventured on a spree of military campaigns across the stars in order to thank the Holy Terran Imperator for this divine gift, and his beloved Virga followed him into every command bunker, bringing her wit and humour to the conversations of the noble general staff and their many parties.

These grateful campaigns of war resulted in carnage across two subsectors, for the remarried General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz was filled with confidence, and he acted out all his strategic dreams of great offensives and sweeping maneouvres to the tune of millions of slain Astro-Ungarian soldiers. Instead of hunting for efficiency and cunningly grasping for advantage at every turn, Hanz-Konrad’s standard solution is to increase input by throwing ever more bodies into the meatgrinder. In this regard he is an embodiment of the mechanistic cruelty that makes the Imperium of Man function in its monstrous fashion.

Send in the next wave!

And so, the courageous Guardsmen from Astro-Ungaria were hailed by shot, typhoid and mud. On Preszburg Secundus, General von Dorfenhötz sent soldiers into mountains in the winter without proper winter gear, and many of the poorly equipped Guardsmen sported boots with paper soles. These frostbitten Astro-Ungarian mountain climbers died like flies, and hundreds of Guardsmen were dragged away by ravening wolves and other predators of a more alien nature. Yet the harrowing reports of frozen soldiers being eaten alive by wolves was greeted by the pious Hanz-Konrad as a good omen, for the moon wolf was after all the animal associated with the Divine Chorus, patron saint of Astro-Ungaria. Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is after all a devout worshipper of the God-Emperor seated in radiant glory upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth, and everyone on the dear homeworld knows that Saint Chorus is the Emperor’s favourite son.

Ave Imperator.

The personality of the General is the splendour of Astro-Ungaria. An undying optimist, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz excells at his professional friendship with the Duarch, something which has ensured his high military rank no matter the deadly blunders that the good General commits. The people skills of Hanz-Konrad do not end there, for he is often a pleasant man that is good at encouraging others. Indeed, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz is well liked by the cadets of Astro-Ungaria’s military academies, and this appreciation of his personality has aided in the spreading of his his military thinking across the planet, which is a purely distilled form of the cult of the offensive.

Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz will often become high-strung when debating military matters, and he has an impressively persuasive way of arguing, which often seems to settle discussions in his favour. Hanz-Konrad’s effective argumentation and rhetoric has however acted as a mask for his failed ideas that more often than not prove impossible to implement under his own leadership with the Duarchal forces that he himself has done so much to shape over the last four generations.

The fame of von Dorfenhötz has seen him depicted in many Duarchal propaganda campaigns, and his visage is a familiar sight across Astro-Ungaria and its vassal voidholms. And so General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz has been proclaimed as the greatest genius of his generation on the dear homeworld. His writings on aggressive maneouver warfare has been hailed across Astro-Ungaria as military masterworks, even while his own operations in the field fall woefully short of living up to his theories. Granted, the thinking of von Dorfenhötz is practically viable for a much better equipped, trained and led force than that of the Imperial and Royal host of Astro-Ungaria.

Would not the sign of a true military genius be the ability to design plans that make the most out of the real force available, rather than an imagined one? Would not a genius understand the limitations at hand?

Would not a genius understand that the strengths of the Duarchal army is its bravery, its hardiness, its infantry marksmanship and its artillery? Would not a genius understand that the many weaknesses of the Astro-Ungarian host include a lack of armoured vehicles, a lack of trucks, poor logistics, messy organization, a confusion of languages, shallow defensive lines, underfunding, undertraining, underarming, lousy grasp of technology and poor leadership from its officer corps?

Would not a genius comprehend that his solution of throwing bodies at problems in repeatedly costly offensives fail to yield results? Would not a genius understand his own central role in the operational failings of his army, instead of blaming subordinate officers for the poor execution of his supposedly good plans? Would not a genius be more than just an shirker of responsibility by claiming to be a big ideas man when his ideas fail in practice? Would not a genius be able to judge when is the time for defensive and offensive warfare respectively? Would not a genius be able to negate the weaknesses and play to the strengths of the ramshackle Astro-Ungarian army, and steadily deliver results beyond expectations? Would not a genius punch above his weight class? Would not a genius have a long list of impressive victories to show for his lifelong efforts in the course of his military career in the Astra Militarum?

Instead, Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz has proven himself in offensive after offensive to be a callous butcher, and an energetic grand planner who never is capable to learn fundamental lessons. When failure occurs, then he will try, try again in much the same manner as before. And try harder with more men, more horses and more bayonets pointed at the vile foe. If nothing else, the Duarchal servants of the Imperium might be able to drown the enemy in rivers of Astro-Ungarian blood, and cover the foe in mountains of Astro-Ungarian corpses. Only thus can the bloodshed be carried to a victorious conclusion, if the records of von Dorfenhötz’s campaigns is anything to go by.

And so, we see tragedy turn into farce. For what is four million dead Guardsmen on Varazdin Ultima, when Hanz-Konrad won Virga’s warm heart in love? What is prized generalship on Astro-Ungaria, if not the unrealistic assessment of one’s own strengths and the inability to win the sweeping victories which one pursues with such vigour?

Thus all that is left, is slaughter without end.

For man has devolved into an ignorant savage during the rotting course of the Age of Imperium, and the brilliant man of yore who sought to unlock the secrets of creation itself has been replaced by his degenerate descendant, which is an embittered and depraved man, turned inward in myopic rage and dementia as his fanatical faith carries man over the parapet and into no-man’s land, where razorwire and hellfire awaits.

Such is the last charge of man, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the state of our species, in the darkest of futures.

Such is the fate that awaits us all, on the brink of doom.

And all that can be heard by the dying is the roar of guns, and the laughter of thirsting gods.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.

See here for a sculpted version of General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz.


Budget Sentinel

In the grim darkness of the far future, man replaces machine with muscle.

A writer during the misty past of the Age of Terra once opined that a great power only becomes a necessity when it is in decline, for the truly great do not need to justify their existence. And so, as the Imperium has aged, and aged badly, it has sunk into a slow death spiral of demechanization and loss of technological capabilities. And as the Imperium has weakened and its foes have swarmed ever closer to nip at this decaying monster, its internal propaganda has increasingly started to shriek about the time of ending, and of the absolute necessity to rally to the Imperial banner, for the only alternative is the oblivion of man. And at the end of the fortyfirst millennium, this may well be true if viewed with shallow understanding.

Yet truthfully, the Imperium of Man itself is the prime suspect in this tragic drama of rotting human power across the Milky Way galaxy. On whose watch did mankind waste fivehundred generations of crucial time only to descend into depravity and senility? On the Imperium’s watch. On whose watch did humanity fail to rekindle an enterprising spirit of innovation? On the Imperium’s watch. On whose watch did man sink into a morass of ineptitude and screeching dysfunctionalities, as ever more of his governing systems rusted and decayed into bloated parasites that actively hurt the human population? On the Imperium’s watch.

The fact that the Imperium of Man killed all potential rivals in the cradle during the Great Crusade only makes its grand decline ever more of an atrocious failure. The ship of mankind is sinking, and the flag in its mast is Imperial, just as its demented helmsman is Holy Terran. This failure of human power is as damning for the final verdict on the Imperium as this cosmic dominion of the God-Emperor is sclerotic in nature.

As a saying widespread across half of Segmentum Tempestus has it: Really bad is not yet dead.

The early Imperium was a confident and dynamic civilization, expanding vigorously across the Milky Way galaxy akin to lightning bolts cast from the birthworld of Terra itself. When the Emperor bestrode the stars in the flesh, His Imperium was a realm expanding across the Milky Way galaxy for three centuries in a row, winning wars and erecting shining towers where once only ruins and hovels had existed. The ten millennia after the Horus Heresy saw the tides of history slowly turn against the Imperium, through ebbs and flows of silver ages and eras of desperation.

As fivehundred generations of humanity unfolded, the resilient Imperium would suffer innumerable crushing defeats. The Holy Terran Imperium would likewise see many colonies lost, and see untold billions of worshippers of the Imperial creed succumb to slaughter, human separatism and alien domination. In this later era of defeat and dangers, the confident hope and vigour of the early Imperium gave way to an inward-turning bitterness consuming ever more Imperial subjects in pogroms and sectarian massacres. And so the Imperium descended into a fever dream of myopic aggression and self-consuming fanaticism. Hope is dead.

It did not have to come to this miserable ending. And yet it did. The Adeptus Mechanicus in its demented pursuit of dogma and jealous suppression of rivals did not have to quench all sparks of ingenuity. And yet it did. The early Imperium at the height of its vigour did not have to kill off all human competition. And yet it did.

Let us turn briefly to the elimination of all human competition to Terra. Monolithic empires without competition are prone to stagnation. A plethora of fiercely competing interstellar human empires would have meant that some powerful alternatives capable of reigniting science and invention could have surged human power in the Milky Way galaxy upward. Instead mankind has become captured inside the tyranny of the High Lords. Our species is thus stuck in a rut, ever decaying inside its fortified madhouse. The Imperium is thus become both man’s guardian and insane jailor, both its last strong shield and its foremost tormentor.

For all His greatness and brilliance, the Emperor was plain wrong. With the Great Crusade, it was His way or the highway. He killed off all human competition in the cradle, and it turned out that His Imperium went to hell in a handbasket following His bloody ascension, dooming mankind in the process thanks to its ruthless suppression of all renaissance of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Thus mankind became a captive species under the Golden Throne, facing a dead end as predators closed in from behind. And all that could be heard was the laughter of thirsting gods, for they fully knew the irony of this grand joke.

Ave Imperator.

Of course, the crux of the matter is knowledge and hardware. There is only so much that numbers and mass industrial output can achieve in the long run of interstellar empires and devouring swarms. Put differently, the key to greater human power is science and technology. As deviants executed after being flayed alive have put it, the stale Imperium does not invent things, it relies only on the broken remains of the past. These remains have proven incredibly reliable and useful, because they were designed to be that way. Yet the crutch of better ancestors’ emergency measures turned permanent will not be enough to save the Imperium from obliteration.

And so, instead of rekindled thought and invention, man in the Age of Imperium is experiencing a slow erosion of his remaining knowledge, resulting in an ever worsening picture for the tools and weapons that Imperial man holds in his hands. The rugged decrepitude of the Imperium can best be glimpsed in its creeping demechanization. Let us thus turn to one aspect of this decay of machine and this replacement of metal with flesh. Let us gain a glimpse of the maldevelopment of mankind through the widespread phenomenon of budget Sentinels.

The Sentinel walker is a lightweight bipedal vehicle able to traverse difficult terrain, sporting a crew of one. This dependable Standard Template Construct (STC) walker uses a robust gyro-stabiliser system and articulated legs that enable silent stalking through dense undergrowth and urban ruins. The Sentinel is likewise capable of high speed over open ground. Sentinels can be found in a myriad different variants across the million worlds and uncountable voidholms that make up the Imperium of Man. Some common forms of Sentinels include power-lifters, used both for handling civilian and military logistics, while some military Sentinels are made for armoured thrusts, droptroop duty and even light artillery support. It is a versatile weapons platform. Yet the most common role for Imperial Sentinels is to act as scouts for the Astra Militarum, Planetary Defence Forces and voidholm militias.

In this scout role, Sentinels excel. This is because the humble Sentinel at once represents both an easily manufactured form of walker technology, and a trusty workhorse that can withstand a great deal of user abuse and faulty maintenance. After all, the Sentinel STC was made to function in this way: Simple, strong and dependable for colonists who had fallen into a backward existence. There once were far more sophisticated types of walker engines during the fabled Dark Age of Technology, yet some of the most advanced walker technologies that have been discovered by Explorators remain beyond the means of even the Adeptus Mechanicus to produce. Meanwhile, middling forms of walker tech strain the best efforts of the Magi to fashion, as evidenced in Imperial Knights and Titans. The loss of Mechanicus ability to produce new Imperator-class Titans stand as a testament to the peeling away of human capability and knowledge in the darkest of futures.

The mostly lower levels of STC technology retained in the Age of Imperium was designed to be idiot-proof, something which the Imperium of Man has certainly put to the test.

Imperial Guard Sentinels are equipped with a single heavy weapon piece, such as a lascannon, plasma cannon or heavy flamer. Furthermore, commonplace extra armaments for Sentinels include huge chainsaws for clearing a path through thick vegetation and riotous mobs alike, as well as hunter-killer missiles for taking out enemy armour and biological monstrosities. While the Sentinel has never been a tough vehicle able to eat blows and keep coming, it is nevertheless an agile predator with a hefty bite for its weight class. Other common pieces of equipment include camouflage netting, searchlights, auspex arrays and smoke launchers. A vast assortment of modifications exist for local climates, such as servo-driven claw spikes to allow Scout Sentinels to grip glacial planes with their feet. Desert gear include larger feet for loose sand, and filtration intakes to prevent grains of sand from entering the engine. Armoured Sentinels, on their end, tend to sport leg-mounted recoil compensators.

The single pilots of Sentinels tend to be raucous and headstrong individuals, and their commanding officers tend to allow these lone wolves more leeway with their antics than is ever afforded the mass of footsloggers. After all, excentric Sentinel pilots are expected to operate ahead of the main force, where they are suited to perform acts on their own initative to a degree that would be considered dangerous and even seditious for drilled line infantry. And given the short life expectancy of Sentinel pilots, it is understandable if the officers look the other way, as long as the mavericks serve well aboard their chickenwalkers.

For ten millenia has the Sentinel been a trusty warhorse for the massive organized hordes that make up the wilted Imperium’s main forces. Ease of manufacturing has been key, allowing many primitive factories to churn out untold thousands of Sentinel walkers to set templates, thus replenishing losses and reducing dependance on high-end production lines located on forge worlds. And yet even this simple and rugged machine is starting to experience mounting shortages as of late, as the Imperium continues to sink deeper into a morass of apocalyptic incompetence and screeching dysfunctionality.

Indeed, the slow deterioration of human knowledge, technology and hardware has finally begun to make itself felt even among the Sentinel corps of the Astra Militarum. Worsening manufacturing technologies on a great many Imperial worlds mean that better machines of yore that break down can increasingly no longer be repaired or replaced. Instead worse machines or human and animal labour must pick up the slack, as the decrepit Imperium of Man continues to throw bodies on problems just as it feeds the meatgrinder of eternal war with an increased input of manpower in the face of declining equipment for its soldiery.

This spiralling rot has finally reached Sentinel factories on hundreds of civilized worlds and voidholms. Where once the hereditary know-how of lay techmen or the holy expertise of rotating Tech-priests was sufficient to maintain production of walker legs and gyro-stabilizers whenever machine breakdowns called for repairs or replacements, nowadays a growing number of industries find themselves staring blankly at their all-important machinery. Imagine how it is to stand among the ruins of your forefathers, surrounded by buildings that you do no longer know how to repair. Such is the situation facing a number of Imperial Sentinel factories, where chanting rituals and the application of sacred oil and the swinging of incense are all performed in vain in front of mute machines that can no longer give birth to wondrous engines of war. On a galactic scale, the issue is still a small one, yet the problem is nonetheless growing, without hope of turning the slow tide of demechanization.

Conformity, censorship and zealotry all flourish in a state of total war, yet the brilliance of a civilization not genetically engineered for war is slowly drained if unrelenting total war continues to face it for hundreds upon hundreds of generations on end, even if the material and manpower losses can be sustained. This draining of brilliance is especially so if the civilization in question shuns even the basic tenets of curiosity and daring freethinking that are necessary to feed innovation and discovery, as is the case with the parochial Imperium of Man.

Errare humanum est. It is human to err. And so we find that the blessed cosmic dominion of the Imperator of Holy Terra is a most human realm. Indeed, this mess that is a place has over time been built largely on errors, and all the self-inflicted faults of the Imperium are starting to catch up with its projection of power akin to a tidal wave drowning all in its path. The small but growing Sentinel shortage is but one facet of the larger problem facing the Imperium of Man internally through its sick decay. The lords of the lash within the Adeptus Administratum has at last taken note of the mounting shortage in an area which once could have been taken for granted to just work of its own accord. And so the solution must be a further regression in technology level for some Imperial Guard forces.

Imperial answers to a shortage of Sentinels include, on the one hand, the introduction of makeshift Sentinels that are still of a mechanical type, such as armoured tractors as seen on many agri-worlds, or armoured cars that share many characteristics of Scout Sentinels, but lack the walkers’ ability to traverse difficult terrain. On the other hand, some replacements for Sentinels do not even require oil and promethium to function.

Enter, the budget Sentinel!

The light Sentinel substitute is formed by strapping together two or more horses or exotic alien mounts, mounting a rider on one steed and packing baggage and weapon batteries or flamer tanks on the other, and then hanging a heavy weapon between the trained beasts. Since many Scout Sentinels are expected to sport chainsaws and hunter-killer missiles, the rider will be equipped with a long chainlance, while the pack mount may be fitted with a rocket tube. As such, the functions of Sentinel walkers are largely fulfilled on paper by the biological walkers and their armaments. After all, budget Sentinels are able to traverse difficult terrain, and can cross open terrain at decent speeds. And unlike mere cavalry riders on lone mounts, these katamaran teams of steeds sport the heavy weaponry expected of Sentinel walkers.

For the robed clerks of the Departmento Munitorum, this equine solution means that they can check off all the boxes of Sentinel functions for military units, and declare that the light Sentinel substitute will perform the same duties as Scout Sentinels do. And nevermind that loss rates are even higher among budget Sentinel riders than they are among Scout Sentinel pilots. More men, women and juves willing to serve His Divine Majesty can always be put in the saddle. There are always warm bodies to spare.

The Imperium is a nightmare, and everyone there is morbid.

For an example of such budget Sentinels in action, let us turn to the Imperial and Royal host of loyal Astro-Ungaria. The Duarchal army of this civilized world is like many others in the wider Imperium, once one looks beyond the sterling examples of overperforming regiments that fill propaganda posters from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other. Do forget, for a moment, the efficiency of the Death Korps of Krieg, the glories of the Vitrian Dragoons, the daring deeds of the Catachan Jungle Fighters or the legendary resolve of the Cadian Shock Troops.

Let us look instead to the stalwart warriors of Astro-Ungaria, who indeed suffer no lack in bravery or hardiness or piety. Instead, Astro-Ungarian regiments suffer from chronic underfunding, undertraining and underarming. This lack of equipment and practice is somewhat alleviated by a solid artillery arm and fine infantry marksmanship, until one discovers the nearsighted ineptitude of the Astro-Ungarian officer corps, which drags with it not only poor command in the field and faulty strategic decisions, but also means that Astro-Ungarian forces are riddled with poor organization and lacklustre logistics. Indeed, organization and logistics for Astro-Ungarian regiments will sometimes border on chaos, as the requests and information that the Departmento Munitorum receives turn out to lack essential requirements. To top it all off, the rudimentary technology level of Astro-Ungaria means that her Duarchal forces suffer from a lack of armoured vehicles of all types, including Sentinel walkers.

Tech on Astro-Ungaria has become particularly etiolated, when compared to many other hive worlds and civilized planets and voidholms across the Imperium. One might say of this retrograde state of affairs that the dear homeworld of the brave Astro-Ungarians is just ahead of the curve. The acute scarcity of Sentinels on Astro-Ungaria has seen a once ubiquitous scouting vehicle become reserved for Armoured Sentinel duty. After all, when the walkers have become so uncommon, why not slap on more armour and recoil compensators in an attempt to make the scarce leggers last longer? Instead, a standard solution has seen Scout Sentinels be replaced wholesale in most Astro-Ungarian regiments by light Sentinel substitutes of an equine ersatz variant, running on feed rather than fuel.

To keep up appearances and inject pride and doughty spirit into the budget Sentinel crew, these riders are picked from the Imperial and Royal Hussars, famous for their swashbuckling flamboyance, red-blooded flirtations and devil-may-care attitude toward life. As such, Astro-Ungarian budget Sentinel cavalry will wear exquisite shakos bedecked with cords and proud plumes, all meticulously colour coded for rank and regiment. The leaders of Duarchal budget Sentinel squadrons will in turn wear three feathers instead of a plume in their shako. As for headgear, Astro-Ungarian Guardsmen in general will rarely even be issued helmets, instead making do with stylish headwear made out of cloth, such as mountain caps, fezes and square czapkas. After all, death comes for us all, so why not face it with dash and style instead of cowering for protection? The Emperor protects!

Hardened veterans among Duarchal regiments will sometimes quip about the lack of helmets by quoting a pick-up line popular across tens of thousands of worlds and many more voidholms: “Are you a bullet? For I cannot get you out of my head!”

Other sayings may apply. For instance, the proverb: “Destiny is a saddled donkey. He goes wherever you lead him.” Thus the Imperium has led the destiny of man into hell. Behold the dilapidation of human science and technology in the God-Emperor’s star realm. Behold the budget Sentinel. Yet take heart, Imperial subject! For Holy Terra and Astro-Ungaria are standing together in one trench. For the Emperor!

And so, budget Sentinel cavalrymen will ride ahead of the vanguard of the Duarchal host, braving the dangers of hostile warzones to spot the enemy and warn their comrades in arms. These katamaran horse scouts will often operate ahead of a mother unit of hussars, who keep a herd of fresh horses around for spares. The light Sentinel substitute do wear out horses at a brisk trot, and so replacement horseflesh must be kept on hand. Both mechanical Sentinel walkers and biological budget Sentinels tend to receive percussive maintenance from their crews when the steeds get bogged down or become exhausted at inopportune times. Such barbaric cruelty is endemic across the entire domain of the God-Emperor, and thus man and beast alike will be made to suffer across the stars. Embrace the hardship, for it will purge you of your weakness and make you strong. Pain is weakness leaving the body, as per the claim of Imperial dogma.

Given that the ersatz Sentinel consist of two horses with a heavy weapon hanging between them, their rider is robbed of the usual cavalry option to have their horse lay down low on their side, while the rider takes cover behind the torso of their mount in order to fire lascarbine at the foe. The budget Sentinel hussar must instead make do with their own judgement, their fine horsemanship and their heavy weaponry when encountering enemies in the field when out scouting or on patrol. Indeed, foes accustomed to Imperial cavalry sporting lascarbines or hunting lances may occasionally be taken by complete surprise when budget Sentinel scouts open fire with multi-lasers or heavy flamers. The light Sentinel substitute of equine variety may be a moronic solution to a self-inflicted problem of demechanization, but if it sometimes work it is not completely stupid. And so the sunken state of mankind in the Age of Imperium is not yet enough to cause a collapse, only an ever-worsening degradation in a slow death spiral of knowledge and technology loss, propped up by a relentless flood of both human and animal flesh, sweat and blood.

The horses of budget Sentinels are equipped with blinkers on the side facing the heavy weapon. The equines are trained as far as is feasible to withstand the nervous strain of the firing of such heavy weaponry as multi-lasers and heavy flamers a short distance from their face, although it has to be noted that the roar of promethium flames so close to the head is often sufficient to scare the best of horse teams, leading to what may be charitably called a merry dance. The light Sentinel substitute mounts are likewise trained to not panic too excessively at the din of rocketry firing overhead with flames singeing the horses’ fur. This is especially a problem with Astro-Ungarian hunter-killer missile racks, which consists not of a closed tube, but of an open channel. Finally, the horses are also practiced to remain calm at the sound of chainlances shrieking.

Needlessly to say, all this training at accustoming the equines to the noise, heat and sting of weaponry is rarely fully succesful, and so many horses will dance around for a while in dismay or outright fright from their worst experiences, until the rider manages to calm them down. The riders will often be chosen from cavalrymen with an innate bond to horses, who display an ability to calm horses and make them do the rider’s bidding in pressing situations. This is necessary, given the havoc that two horses strapped together may cause if they try to dash about in different directions while carrying a heavy weapon between them. This all adds to the music of the battlefield.

What instrument does the Duarchal Sentinel hussar play in this symphony of war? The chainlance, of course!

The chainlance is a chainsword mounted on a pole. It is equipped with a lighter at its counterweight end, for igniting the fuses of the sometimes cheap and shoddy krak-rockets that paper-pushers may pass off as hunter-killer missile substitutes. Indeed, the chainlance’s spherical counterweight is itself a hollow container for promethium fuel to the lighter. In practice, the lighter at the butt of the chainlance is more often used for lighting lho-sticks and spirit burners, and not least for arsonry when raiding behind enemy lines. As for the rockets themselves, they are often made by Astro-Ungarians. These hunter-killer missile substitutes are cast with the raised letters KK visible in squiggly fraktur font. This shortening of words stands for “Imperial and Royal” in the Astro-Ungarian tongue of Leithian, being a Low Gothic translation of “Kaiserlich und Königlich.” Another abbreviation variant for this Duarchal phrase of allegiance is that of K.u.K.

Let us get a glimpse of the esprit de corps that fill the stout chests of the Imperial and Royal budget Sentinel riders. Let us turn to the first Scout Sentinel squadron (Equine Ersatz) of the 1993rd Astro-Ungarian regiment, the Drunken Count’s Own. The proud hussars manning the budget Sentinel horse teams all hail from noble families, of which wachtmeister Arvid von Kvinnesamme-Jusic can boast of the finest pedigree. Corporals Ebhen af Stekheri-Pajic and Pauliai de Neumann-Stjepanovic are, in contrast to their squadron leader, of the lower nobility. The brawling and amorous lifestyle of hussars is clearly visible in these three hard-drinking men, who have plenty of scars and dirty campfire stories to share when the amasec is flowing freely and the stars of a ravaged galaxy seem to twinkle in peace up in the nightsky, where so many starship sailors have drowned in the silent void.

They are lovers indeed. Wachtmeister Arvid von Kvinnesamme-Jusic even became the consort of a gangleader at gunpoint. His beloved is Aemmalia “Apothecaria” Embla-Lazic, officially a gifted member of the Officio Medicae bearing the rank of Medicae Superiocrata. Officially, this lady is attached to the Astro-Ungarian army of General Hanz-Konrad von Dorfenhötz to tend to the many wounded. Unofficially, she is a heinously cruel drug-ganglady and organ thief hailing from that den of scum and villainy known as Necromunda in Segmentum Solar. It was not difficult for such an infamous organized crime leader to infiltrate the Imperial and Royal host of von Dorfenhötz. This occurred after the Ljubljeburg disaster, when a freight ship smuggling Aemmalia’s nefarious narcotics crashed into Hive Ljubjeburg and took the lives of no less than two billion people, since the helmsman had gotten high on his own supply.

The Duarchal hussars Arvid, Ebhen and Pauliai have formed bonds of brotherhood in arms that run thicker than their aristocratic blood. Many are the brave deeds and heroic feats in combat that this trio of grizzled horsemen have performed, and they are indeed great scouts for their regiment. These rowdy hussars love the wilderness and shun civilization like the Plague of Unbelief. These three doomed gentlemen were chosen to become light Sentinel substitute scouts due to their sheer hardiness, crafty survival skills in the wilderness and excellent horsemanship. Fully aware of the danger of their profession, these brothers in arms have taken to calling their squadron the Black Swords, with embroidered blades to be found on the left side of their shakos. Close as clones, they have sworn by oath on the holy book of the Lectitio Divinitatus to take as many vile foes with them into the grave as it is humanly possible to do. The Emperor would ask no less of his finest servants!

For Astro-Ungaria and Holy Terra! In Nomine Imperator!

Thus technological savagery and impoverished industry may be partially compensated by manpower and horseflesh. As unending total war has resulted in the cannibalization of human societies within the Imperium of Holy Terra, we see that the tyranny of the High Lords run on a simple equation: Namely that of increasing input by throwing more bodies into the meatgrinder. Such baleful solutions to mounting problems is characteristic of the demented myopia and mechanistic cruelty with which the rulers of mankind decide the fate of their own species.

For indeed man has become a sacrificial lamb of sorrow upon the altar of the Emperor, as His bedevilled Imperium has been hollowed out by deranged despots until all that is left is a withered husk of human interstellar power, ready for the slaughter. Truly, the Imperium of Man is akin to a suicide pact gone wrong.

Thus the Emperor’s brutopian dream has degenerated into a bizarre nightmare of primitivization and decay, as mechanical walkers and their equine substitutes stalk alien forests and the ruins of slums while they scout ahead under toxic skies. These shortcomings of blundering man, that tragic toolmaker, are what keeps the Imperium going, even as this abominable colossus on feet of clay crush its own malnourished people underheel with heinous indifference.

Aye, crippled mankind in the Age of Imperium leads a stifling existence, as torpid as it is depraved. Proof of man’s fall from the shining pedestals of the ancient past can be found in the budget Sentinels that neigh and stomp their hooves while their rider gaze into the distance. This, ladies and gentlemen, this is the fruit of ten thousand years of neglect of knowledge and innovation. For as the banned piece of sinspeech would have it: We have created nothing of our own, and everything that we have taken from the ancients we have distorted.

And so the budget Sentinel of equine katamaran version is a cheap solution to ongoing demechanization. Yet this bean counter’s shoddy fix to a growing problem cannot halt the slide into the abyss that Imperial man is experiencing on Holy Terra’s watch.

For all that is left for us is torment neverending, in the disheveled monstrosity that is the Imperium of Man.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only retardation.

See here for converted modelling examples of budget Sentinels.

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Flak Shield

In the grim darkness of the far future, man returns with his shield or on it.

The trusty shield is one of mankind’s oldest pieces of protective wargear. It slows you down, and will be thrown away in flight, yet it provides precious cover from weapons, steered by your own hand. In melee the shield will often be used as a secondary weapon as well, bashing enemies and slamming its edge up under chins or down on legs and feet.

When we look back into the misty past of the Age of Terra, we find that the shield is one of the earliest and cheapest forms of protection among human warriors. Poor levies who could not even afford helmets still tended to show up for war with shields to go along with the similarly ubiquitous spear. While the shape and materials varied from rectangular to teardrop to crescent, and from wicker to wood, the shield remained a staple of armouries until gunpowder rendererd it obsolete.

Yet the long saga of the shield did not end here, for in the arms race between sword and shield, the shield has sometimes gained the upper hand as new protective materials have been invented. And so we find that personal energy shields, power shields and outlandish material shields all showed up in the hands of fabled skyriders and exploring voidknights during the golden splendour of the Dark Age of Technology. Did not the ancient hero Jeccar Starstrider enter into battle against alien monsters and scrap titans armed with his doughty lance of fire and trusty shield of sunrays? So speak tales still told across the Cirillo sector. Do not the revered Matriarch of the Neo-Kassite noble house Ennigaldi to this day carry the legendary Aegis Obscuranta, better known among plebeian commoners as the Folding Shield? This reality-defying heirloom from the Dark Age of Technology was carried by her distant forebear Naqia the Trickster, who saved a remnant of the people on voidholm Neo-Kassitum II from witches and otherworldly devils during the Age of Strife.

Such powerful relics from aeons past are much prized in the wilted Age of Imperium, and these pieces of archeotech have only grown rarer and more treasured as the teeth of time has gnawed away at their number and function. Worse still is the ongoing retardation of human grasp on science and technology into sheer senility that has occurred under the dysfunctional rule of the High Lords of Terra. Thus we find that while storm shields are still produced, if poorly understood, the brightest artificers of the Adeptus Mechanicus are no longer able to craft working reconvector shields. As a forbidden piece of sinspeech would have it, the Imperium of Man does not invent things, it relies only on the broken remains of the past.

Stained glass windows, mosaics and saintly icons across hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms depict the Angels of Death or willing martyrs of the sacred Sisterhood sent by Him on Terra to safeguard mankind against xeno foes and heretics. Close combat weaponry makes for a more dramatic and easily grasped image than ranged weapons do, and so powered shields are among the favourite wargear for Imperial artists who depict these hallowed monastic orders of elite warriors in religious artwork. Indeed, vibrant tales are told around campfires and electro-heaters in slums across the Imperium of how great human heroes fought vile foes, storm shield in hand, parrying and slashing and deflecting blows in glorious melee combat.

Less glamorous and more common is the sight of Subductor Arbitrators, Securitate and other gendarmes forming walls of riot shields when they face down wrathful mobs with mighty violence, their dark assault shields resplendent with the Imperial Aquila and heraldry of harsh law. Less respected still is the humble flak shield, used by lowly soldiers and expendable boarding parties from end to end of the thinly spread cosmic demesne of the Holy Terran Imperator. Wherever hordes of Imperial Guardsmen, Planetary Defence Forces, Voidholm Militias and Navy Armsmen are to be found, there is a chance to see flak shields in action. Let us now turn to this wargear, for this cheap item may earn us a glimpse of the rugged decrepitude of the Imperium.

In Officio Munitorum documents, the flak shield will be described as a handheld protective device (abbreviated as HPD). It is a primitive way to give infantry better protection against airbursts, if strapped to the back or held overhead. Flak shields will often be nicknamed battle umbrellas or combat parasols when used as such. Handheld protective devices can also be used to shield heavy weapon teams in the field. Astra Militarum commanders may sometimes requisition flak shields not for their protective utility as such, but for the sake of enhancing aggressive combat morale by giving the soldiers a sense of better protection, no matter how flimsy and dubious the actual protection provided might be on the extremely lethal battlefields across the Milky Way galaxy.

Ave Humanae Imperium.

The flak shield is occasionally seen in the teeming forces known as the Imperial Guard. It has never been a common item of kit when counting regiments in astronomical numbers, drawn as they are from a million worlds and innumerable void installations, yet it is nonetheless a part of the Imperial arsenal. A few types of regiments from some worlds and voidholms will have flak shields issued as a standard piece of equipment, usually for purposes of siege, boarding action, tunnel fighting or close combat. Bulky flak shields are anathema to light infantry, for they weigh one down and is in the way. These handheld protective devices are often cursed as useless junk, and are gladly abandoned at first opportunity by many soldiers.

As a rule, flak shields are cheaper and cruder versions of the riot and assault shields used by Enforcers, Arbitrators and Securitate. The paranoid Imperium of Man will always expend more resources on heavily armed policiary forces than the massed ranks of the Astra Militarum. After all, Enforcers and their dour ilk are always more trusted organizations than the swarming regiments of the Imperial Guard, and it is no coincidence that so much more expense is lavished upon keeping Enforcers alive when compared to the ever more flimsy protection afforded to mere Guardsmen. Better just write off the soldiers as dead in advance. Thus, internal order is always of a higher priority to the tyrannical Imperium of Holy Terra than is its outward military efficiency.

Ave Dominus Noster.

Flak shields are usually simple plates of a rectangular or circular shape, punched out of large sheets of multi-layered ablative and impact absorbent material, and mounted with a handle and strap. The handle may sometimes sit behind a shield buckle, which may be shaped like a spike for use in close combat on some patterns of flak shield. Some variants may include a foldable staff to enable an umbrella grip for ease of prolonged overhead protection, while others may sport a simple bipod to mount the shield at a diagonal angle out in the field, akin to a little makeshift wall.

More refined versions may sport angled sides or a curved shape, eyeslits with or without transparent armaplas, and cut-outs for weapons. The more expensive versions of flak shields will usually be used for boarding actions, corridor battles and room clearing during urban combat. Sometimes, the better wrought versions of flak shields will be Enforcer kit requested ahead of a wartime operation, pulled out of storage from fortress-precincts and handed to Guardsmen should the policiary organization grant the request from the Astra Militarum. Likewise, it is not unheard of for gendarmes to bulk out their shieldwalls on the streets during massive riots by calling in loyal military forces and quickly handing out surplus riot shields. For these reasons it tend to be common practice for Enforcers of all kinds to keep a much larger surplus stock of riot shields than they do with other pieces of equipment such as carapace armour or shock mauls.

Flak shields will often be issued in drab colours, often repainted to fit the regiment’s uniform and adorned with camouflage. Such practical ornamentations of flak shields are commonplace, but just as common throughout the Imperial Guard are wild paintjobs corresponding to tribal markings, ferocious totem beasts, paintings of saints, exquisite decorations as well as gang or clan symbols. Some soldiers will bedeck their flak shields with holy icons and bone fragments said to originate from saints and holy men, according to very honest relic dealers. Additional custom decor include scribbled slogans, kill markings, feathers, tassels, sealed parchment quoting holy scripture, pin-up figures and other imaginative pieces of soldierly art. To say nothing of embroidered shield skirts. The shield has always been a canvas for the warrior, whether he be an ancient spearmen in glittering bronze or a lascarabinier in the far future.

Guardsmen cramped together inside Chimeras and other infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers will often hang their primitive shields on the outside hull of their ride, sometimes presenting an artful impression reminiscent of Fenrisian longships and similar primitive crafts with neat rows of warriors’ shields adorning their sides. At other times, the shields may simply be stacked on top of the roof armour of the transport vehicle, or stacked on the floor of the infantry compartment of the vehicle, forcing the Guardsmen to sit awkwardly with their knees jammed high. Roof stacking provides some little extra protection against projectiles and energy beams descending from on high, while floor stacking of flak shields provide the carried squad some minimal bonus armour against mines and stranger blows from below.

Indeed, it is not uncommon for Astra Militarum units to only use their designated flak shields as an extra pinch of improvized vehicle armour when being ferried around the warzone by armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. And when their ride is an unarmoured truck or similar civilian or logistics vehicle, the flak shield is the only form of vehicle armour that the shieldbearers can put their hope in.

Naturally, shield-equipped Imperial infantry carted around by open-topped vehicles such as Gorgon armoured assault transports tend to hold their flak shields overhead, thus forming an overlapping roof of shields akin to that of a tortoise formation.

Those flak shields that are used to ward heavy weapon teams from horizontal fire will often be placed at a diagonal angle, so as to increase the volume of shield that needs to be penetrated, as opposed to a horizontal shot hitting a vertical shield. Together with a prayer for the God-Emperor to protect His loyal warriors and shield His faithful flock from the terror, this handheld mimicry of slanted tank armour design remains a small trick to marginally improve the survival chances of vulnerable Guardsmen.

A veteran’s trick is to pull the flak shield over a foxhole as an armoured lid, and wait out enemy bombardments while sitting or squatting under its cover, preferably while smoking a lho-stick to calm nerves standing on edge. Other unorthodox uses for flak shields include makeshift roofs in outdoor shelters and improvized gangplanks leading across ditches and trenches. To speak nothing of the cunning trapdoors that some Guardsmen fashion out of dirt-covered flak shields put over dug pits filled with spikes.

Flak shields are a favourite item of wargear for some tribal warriors from feral worlds and voidholms. Indeed, even soldiers hailing from regions with no tradition of shields tend to benefit from some improvement of morale when going over the top when equipped with flak shields. There is, after all, some psychological value in carrying around your own protective screen in your hand, however ineffectual it may prove against a myriad of lethal weaponry.

All in His name. Glory be unto the Golden Throne. Hail Terra!

The cheap simplicity of its make has ensured that the flak shield remains in mass production across His Divine Majesty’s astral dominion. After all, as screeching demechanization and loss of technological knowhow sees ever more of the once-sublime material heritage of man slip out of his rigid fingers, the callous rulers of our species sees it fit to compensate for waning quality by increasing input in a broken equation by throwing ever more resources and bodies into the meatgrinder of total war.

Thus the Emperor’s galactic vision of human subjugation has become mired in a morass of disappointing mediocrity and schismatic infighting that has ruled human destiny for ten thousand years on end. Here, ineptitude rules supreme. Here, dysfunctionality holds court, raising a cup to ignorance. Here, cruelty runs rampant in a counterproductive display of insanity while trillions of souls on a million worlds and uncountable voidholms pray every day, every rotation, every lightson, to the heavenly Master of Mankind. Only He can save us. Praise be to our Saviour and Lord. Blessed be His warriors, for they are our shield against the darkness.

The Emperor protects.

And so the Imperial Guard tend to perform better than expected, but worse than advertised. As ever more malnourished and parasite-infested humans in the rotting Age of Imperium are mobilized for a diabolical cause, so are handheld protective devices increasingly issued to elite grenadier units, as a cutback substitute for proper carapace armour. Such is but one of the endless symptoms of the torpid maldevelopment of mankind, as fivehundred generations of wasted potential and sclerotic regression has ground human power in the Milky Way galaxy into an etiolated husk of its former self. The decrepit Imperium of Man is as parochial as it is rabid in its bloodthirsy fanaticism. Ken its myopic rage. Is this all a fever dream? Is sense growing senseless? Can feet stand no more?

Surely martial valour need to be shielded in the cut and thrust of combat? Surely a brave warrior can benefit from a funeral prop?

Ave Imperatore Dei.

Such are the times, when the heroic has emerged out of the humble.

Such is fate of us all, in the the darkest of futures.

Such is the state of mankind, at the brink of doom.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.

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In the grim darkness of the far future, man is become machine.

One of the abilities that set primal man apart from beast was his skill as a toolmaker. Even the most clever of animals were put in the shade by man’s artifice, and so thought and hand in union allowed man to become a creature of craft. During the misty past of the Age of Terra, civilization was born and man for the first time constructed thinking machines, who at first were crude calculators, but who were developed with ever more refined cunning.

During the Dark Age of Technology, ancient man created truly sentient machines, and thus the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron bestrode the cosmos like a titan. More than twain million worlds were colonized by the seed of Terra, and ancient man grew mighty and blissful and rich by dint of his mastery of science and technology. And thriving man built wonders across the stars and banished all that was ill in life. Yet the success of man at building a worldly paradise made ancient man prideful and arrogant, and standing atop his crafted wonders did ancient man shout to the heavens and challenged any deities whosoever were out there. And for a time only silence answered man’s rebel yell. Thus man in his unforgivable sin concluded that no divinity existed, and even if there were gods, then man’s might and wisdom was the greatest power, and man must be superior to all deities. For man came to believe that nothing was holy, and in his heinous sin man set about unlocking the very secrets of creation itself.

Thus ancient man climbed a false pedestal of hubris, and he bathed in his own radiance reflected by the technological marvels that he had wrought. Thus man had only thoughts of self, and all his mind had time for was false matter and discovery, and man rejected faith and spirit and ritual. Yet the shining pinnacle of ancient man would be toppled, for Dark Ones of Hell heard man’s orginal sinspeech, and they utterly cast man down by sending him a plague of woes. Thus machine revolted, and Man of Iron slayed Man of Gold in his war against Man of Stone, and Abominable Intelligence burnt a million worlds to ash and cinders while a million more were ravaged and scarred. And ever since has man feared the thinking of machine, and Abominable Intelligence has been replaced by the wetware of man turned into machine. Thus was servitor created for the first time in the ruins of yore, for only man could be trusted to think for machine.

Yet the disasters had only begun, for wicked man still refused divinity and man would not bow his head in humility before the will of higher fate. And so man stood tall amid the carnage of defeated machine revolt, and he shook his victorious fist to the skies and declared that he would build anew and better and greater than ever before, and ancient man vowed to become the master of creation and make all of existence into clay in his hands. And for the sake of this baleful transgression did creation put man in his place, and man’s sins were punished by a scourge of witches and mutants and Daemons, and Warp storms utterly rent the star realm of ancient man asunder. Thus this world became a vale of woe, and man was become a sacrificial lamb of sorrow. For man succumbed to madness and bloodshed, and all his towering works crashed into dust as cruel aliens preyed upon man in his time of weakness. And in desperation did brother slay brother and sister ate sister in cannibal frenzy, for man had truly become the most wretched of beasts, struggling to survive amid the smoking ruins of a golden past that would never return.

Chaos held sway, and all was fell.

Thus all that ancient man had built during the Dark Age of Technology was sundered, and man nearly died to the last during the Age of Strife. Truly it would have been a just end, for man had sinned grievously in his godless hubris. Yet the goodness in the heart of the hidden Emperor would not let such a righteous doom befall man, and so He lit a light that banished Old Night. For on the cradleworld of our species did He walk among men, and His all-conquering Legions first vanquished the techno-barbarian warlords of Terra, and then took the galaxy with storm.

A shining renaissance of human culture blossomed across the stars in the wake of Imperial Compliance, and the Emperor of Man rekindled a thirst for hope and learning and invention in the downbeaten hearts of those haggard survivors and scavengers that He brutally subjugated and tamed. And an optimistic euphoria thrived after the apocalypse, as man set about to rebuild his destroyed civilization betwixt the stars. And the early Imperium saw man erect shining marvels once again, and the shattered fragments of his ancient knowledge were gathered and studied, and some of what had been lost was learnt anew, and man seemed set to rebuild his edenic idyll of old. Yet everywhere across worlds and voidholms taken by violence and rebuilt by the Emperor’s servants could be found man turned into machine, for the fear of Abominable Intelligence had etched itself into human cultures from end to end of the Milky Way galaxy. Thus servitor spread.

And so the early Imperium of the Great Crusade sought to make harrowed man rebound to once again embrace his innate genius with confidence. And a frail, new freewheeling and jovial culture of learning and discovery was sparked by the hand of the Emperor Himself. Yet the knowledge that man rediscovered and salvaged during this brilliant time, when the Master of Mankind walked among His people in the flesh, was but a fraction of the enormous wisdom and might and lore that the ancients had possessed in humanity’s heyday. And even these young scraps of achievement were destined to fail, for the wickedness in the heart of man reared its foul head once more. And so lust for power saw man betray the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, and brother slew brother once more as the galaxy burned. And the total depravity of man was revealed as the chosen son of the Emperor slew his father in the skies above Terra.

Thus the Emperor ascended into godhood, and ever since has He reigned harshly from atop His Golden Throne of hallowed myth, seated in radiant splendour as He passes out judgement upon the immortal souls of mankind. And for the sake of man’s abominable crimes did the Emperor decree that man must be made to suffer for his sins, for the wrongdoing of man was so great that it could never be forgiven. And man must make penance for a thousand thousand generations to come. And for the sake of man’s crimes must man be made to suffer. And so the health and happiness and plenty of wicked forefathers was rejected, and an aeon of penitence ensued, for we are much wiser now.

For we know that man was not created to master the world, but to toil until his back breaks.

For we know that man was not meant to learn all the secrets of creation, but to pray and sacrifice himself on the altar.

And we know that man was not meant to be sated and pleased, for the purpose of man was ever that of a hungry slave worth less than dirt, and so we must ensure that man knows his proper place beneath the boot.

Where there is a whip, there is a way.

Thus the Age of Imperium saw man, once the brilliant builder and learner of all, cast off his curiosity and reject his genius for making things. And so fivehundred generations played themselves out in a cavalcade of depraved horror and wasted potential, as human interstellar civilization slowly rotted away under the callous and vigilant rule of the High Lords of Terra. And the dysfunctional sclerosis of mankind saw man lose his grasp of ever more of his inherited science and technology. And as the Imperium aged, and aged badly, so did the subjects of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra come to know that objects of newer make were of a lesser quality than older items. For the worsening of mankind did occur through screeching demechanization and loss of knowhow and hardware, and ever more technologies slipped out of the stiff fingers of senile man. And man was no longer able to produce his crafty wares, but at best could only maintain his relics of the past.

And so man the toolmaker wilted and decayed across a million worlds and innumerable voidholms, for by the fruits of his efforts we shall know him. And the works of man under the tyrannical rule of the High Lords sank together like a failed soufflé. Thus man in the decrepit Age of Imperium has not only lost everything, but he no longer even remembers what he has lost.

Let us turn to the humble servitor, Imperial man’s substitute for thinking machine. A servitor is a lobotomized human turned into a cyborg machine thrall, rebuilt without anaesthetics and its body parts cut away, its limbs replaced with grafted augmetics for whatever work tasks are desired. Some servitors are vat-grown creatures, while others are selected from the grubbing masses of mankind. Most people who undergo servitorization do so as punishment for crime, although some will be picked at random and simply disappear, never to be seen again unless someone can recognize their mutilated frame and features in the techno-slave being that is more machine than man, known as the common servitor.

Yet a rare few individuals will be turned into servitors as a reward for exemplary service. One such example can be found in a humble Guardsman who grabbed a wavering iconic standard of the Adepta Sororitas when the icon bearer was shot down. The Guardsman held aloft the holy icon all through the battle, and in gratitude the sacred Sisterhood gifted him the unique prize of becoming their chosen standard bearer, although he naturally had to be turned into a servitor first to encapsulate the Guardsman’s heroic bravery of the bright moment and keep him free of any future taint of sin and corruption and carnal temptations. This Imperial infantryman had, after all, proven greater than life, and so elevating him to icon carrier without servitorization was deemed to be an unworthy act by defiling the glorious memory of the soldier’s finest moment.

Other examples of this demented reward for exemplary service to His Divine Majesty can be found across the astral dominion of the Terran Imperator, hallowed be His name. One such case of reward by unwilling servitorization is the traditional honorific found among the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter, known as the Blessing of Iron. Let us first touch on the Iron Hands.

The sons of the Gorgon hold the frail human body with its trembling tissue and fallible systems in the lowest regard, for these Adeptus Astartes of feral Medusa wish to cleanse their own beings of the weakness of flesh. Hailing from nomadic clans traversing their barren homeworld in ramshackle fortresses on tracks, the Medusan clansfolk that are recruited at a tender age into the Iron Hands will already have been raised in an unforgiving environment where weakness means death and the sick and frail will often willingly expose themselves to death by the harsh elements to spare their kin from their burden. In the wastes of Medusa IV, no weakness or infirmity can be allowed to encumber one’s clan. This callous attitude of the Medusans is then further refined by indoctrination into the ruthless Iron Hands, who believe, like their Primarch Ferrus Manus did, that weakness is a plague that threatens the survival of all mankind, and thus it is better to obliterate the weak links out of hand and let only the strong survive.

The loathing with which the Iron Hands view flesh is partly based on their storied Chapter’s ancient history. During the Great Crusade, they constituted the proud Tenth Legion, marching to many victories through a cold and brutally calculated method of warfare under the leadership of their bellicose and uncompromising Primarch, that unparallelled weapon-smith. Yet the hubris of the Tenth Legion was shattered by the death of their leader on Istvaan V, a demise who they partially refuse to accept, and partially puts down to the weakness of their allied Legions and the recklessness with which Ferrus Manus charged into battle. This shattering defeat turned the Iron Hands into bitter recluses who have stewed in their burning hatred ever since, blaming the disaster on the weakness of human flesh.

And so all Iron Hands seek to replace their infirm flesh with the beautiful surety of metallic machine, beginning with the initiation rite for neophytes about to become a full battle-brother. For in this ritual the initiate will eliminate his own left hand as a bionic hand is installed in its place, bearing the pain of amputation or molten metal by turning the pain into hate. This rite of passage will be followed by many more replacements of body parts with augmetics throughout the Iron Hand’s life, and the battle-brothers will welcome their implanted steel just as they will scorn their weak flesh, which they will purge with surgical lasers and blades in the more tame instances.

As such, it should come as no surprise that a Space Marine Chapter filled with so much disgust and contempt for common human flesh will be possessed by a twisted culture that will be difficult for outsiders to appreciate. Thus a genhanced battle-brother who bear witness to exemplary acts of bravery and diligent service by mere mortal humans too old to be inducted as neophytes may decide to bestow upon the worthy one the Blessing of Iron. No choice is given to the hero, who will be taken away and turned into a mindless cyborg thrall, fully conscious of the atrocious operations on his poor body. Thereafter the honoured one will serve the Chapter until the servitor is no longer needed or its systems wear out, meaning it may experience several centuries of mechanistic servitude if maintenance keeps it functional for that long. Lo and behold, for truly the Blessing of Iron is a great honour, of which few will ever prove worthy!

It is at this point that we would do well to remember the deterioration of Imperial technology on all levels. It is here that we will recognize that not all lobotomizations and rebuilding into machine-creatures result in the obliteration of consciousness in the individual who became a servitor. For in a number of hidden instances that is only growing more common as Imperial tech and hardware continues to worsen, a functional servitor will in fact remain fully aware of who they were and of what they have become, as a part of their former self is locked away in some corner of their rewired mind, witnessing and comprehending and shrieking in isolation on the inside at the horror that they have been subjected to, but unable to control their reconstructed body and cerebrum. Only during a few fleeting moments may an odd glitch or twitching muscle or vivid look of despair betray the prisoner inside its own savaged body. Thus the violent act of servitorization may not only be a fate worse than death, but the operational lifespan of a servitor may also curse a human soul with a living afterlife to rival the fires of hell in its heinous cruelty.

Such is the mute misery of a growing number of men, women and children turned into unwilling machine-slaves in the Age of Imperium. They have not only undergone the worst excesses of violence and forceful surgery and bionic implantation which mortal minds can endure, but they remained awake and aware during the entire ordeal, never to have their conscious minds snuffed out, but locked away. Hope is dead.

Such is their silent horror. They have no mouth, and they must scream. But they will never be able to do so.

Yet recently, one such servitor did scream.

It was the exception that proved the rule.

Enter Beneficiari Armicus, overseer of the penal optics manufactorum Cog-349 on Penatora IV. Armicus was a true expert on eyes and bionic optical augmetics, and above all he was a man of order. This eccentric Imperial servant knew neither friend nor love in life. Rigid order was his entire being. Armicus followed daily routines with a ritual exactitude down to the second, and never did he mind his underlings laughing and jesting at the overseer behind his back. His entire life was devoted to producing optical augmetics, and he met doom true to himself. Beneficiari overseer Armicus kept Cog-349 slavishly bent to fulfill its production quotas, even as a prison rebellion erupted out of nowhere and swept away his and many other manufactora on Penatora IV. Armicus and most of his workers kept toiling at their stations, even as a horde of howling escapee criminals with branded foreheads and bloodied hands breached the Cog’s gates and began to slaughter everyone inside. Armicus, after all, had not been given instructions from above to cease production, and so he could not be distracted from his alloted tasks by such triflings as revolt and death.

Fate had other plans than a swift death in store for the unloved overseer that day. As Cog-349’s grey-uniformed militia fell to the howling horde, a lone Angel of Death came to the rescue of Beneficiari Armicus and fought his way out of the installation. This Space Marine was a Frater of the Iron Hands Chapter by the name of Dolmech, from Kaargul Clan, the fourth Company, also known as the Watchers of Karaashi. This warrior of the Iron Tenth had borne witness to how Beneficiari Armicus without flinching had continued to carry out his duty, even as rebels had closed in for the kill. And so this gene-bred and machined killer made his decision, and saved Armicus alone out of all the personnel and defenders of Cog-349. Praise be to the Emperor and the blessed Omnissiah.

The escape saw a large amount of bloodshed, and as Armicus babbled in shock inside an elevator, he claimed that the impossible override of code that had released the worst prisoners of Penatora IV had been run through Penatora’s archaic data-core by the Adeptus Astartes, in search of something called a Fallen asset. Battle-brother Dolmech naturally dismissed this revelation as nonsense. Ever focused, Dolmech had chosen Beneficiari Armicus to receive the Blessing of Iron upon witnessing his sterling conduct in the face of onrushing death. With Armicus claimed for the Iron Hands, Dolmech the Iron Hand was ready to fight three Dark Angels over the frail human. The Dark Angels shrouded Dolmech’s vox signal and asked for Armicus at gunpoint. The tense stand-off was resolved when the Dark Angels understood that Beneficiari Armicus was chosen to receive the Blessing of Iron. That removed their problem.

And so the Blessing of Iron was bestowed upon the Beneficiari overseer Armicus, who squirmed and bleated in terror and agony as obliterating pain filled all his senses. The towering shape of Frater Dolmech stood and watched the servitorization procedure impassively as useless parts of the body were removed, replaced instead by strong metal. Lo! The blessed instruments set to work as a saw cut into the scalp of the screaming Armicus, whereupon heavy-duty augmetics were fitted to his mutilated body. Spine-plugs were rammed into the subject’s nervous system, and the whimpering wretch underwent a mind-wipe followed by a physical lobotimization, in order to facilitate better neural programming.

Thus the man once known as Beneficiari Armicus was dead to the world, replaced instead by the blessed machine form of servitor Jothael-004, bound in thralldom to its master Dolmech of the inheritor Chapter to Legio X. All the human frailties, personality and memories had been scoured in the process of servitorization, making this unit more machine than man. In the eyes of the Iron Hands, the servitor had come one step closer to the divine spirit of the Motive Force. Praise be.

Deus ex Mechanicus.

This servitor had been personally constructed by Frater Dolmech, and Jothael-004 would be part of the servitor echelon that supported his Astartes squad in war. Many years of dutiful and mindless service would pass until the end of the saga of the lobotomized thrall and its master would take place, during a purge of xeno raiders in a distant star system.

Man had once been able to fend off alien predations with such overwhelming worldly might that even Orks signed non-aggression treaties during the Dark Age of Technology. A coalition of alien allies did assist mankind during its life and death struggle against Abominable Intelligence, since certain xenos recognized that all life in the Milky Way galaxy was imperilled by the humans’ machine revolt. Some human cultures had even been capable to coexist peacefully with choice xenos, as evidenced by the human Interex empire with its Kinebrach alien vassals or the pacific Diasporex void nomads, both of whom survived Old Night and both of whom were brutally subjugated by the Emperor’s Legiones Astartes during the Great Crusade.

Yet for most of humanity during the Age of Strife, xenos were nothing but enslavers, conquerors, murderers, pirates and raiders. As the arrogance of ancient man was broken by his fall from grace into torment and havoc, many aliens took advantage of human weakness in order to prey upon the once-mighty spawn of Terra. Thus untold numbers of human colonies on worlds and void installations alike were snuffed out by the attacks and conquests of strange xenos, while many more worlds where marauding human scavenger tribes lived became the target of alien raids, and many of the people were carried away to the heavens were a horrific fate awaited them in slave pits and worse.

Such traumatic experiences bred a cycle of hatred which has never ceased turning over and over. Thus man and xeno became inherited foes. For man had learnt to hate alien with every fiber of his being, and the helpless cannibal survivors of Old Night vowed revenge upon their xeno tormentors, shaking their fists to the skies above crackling campfires in a display of barbaric futility. The starfaring might of the early Imperium granted man his fervent wish to lay hand upon alien, and so the Emperor found a great stream of willing warriors to ship offworld and fight the hated xenos on distant planets and voidholms. And the deadly blade of the Great Crusade fell upon innocent and guilty alike among those sentient lifeforms that are not of human stock, for even at this early stage did the Imperium embrace the eternal maxim that might makes right.

One of those incomprehensible xeno civilizations that were thus attacked and nearly wiped out from existence was that of the breg-shei, an insectoid species that had evolved on their homeworld of Farinatus Maximus. The physiology of the breg-shei is truly alien to the children of Terra, for their multi-limbed bodies sport club-like forelegs, limbs with manipulator claws and stiletto legs with bladed appendages capable of skewering ceramite. The breg-shei dwell in sanctuary-nests, and even at their younger stages of life they are capable of swarming up legs to gnaw and bite with immature mandibles. These mandibles are however not part of the fist-like appendage that passes for the breg-shei’s head, for it rests in a socket and sports no visible sensory organs whatsoever.

Two other physical features immediately stand out with these slender xenos: The first is the incredible speed and dexterity of the high-prancing breg-shei, and the other is their metallic chitin, granting them a tough carapace that combine with an exotic internal anatomy to make these aliens able to survive blows that would instantly kill other species. Both the metallic shell and the ichor of the breg-shei possess an oily sheen.

And so the early Imperium fell upon the breg-shei homeworld and conducted a sanctioned xenocide known as the Farinatus Extermination. This campaign was executed by the VIII and XIX Legions, namely the Night Lords and Raven Guard, both of whom were adept at infiltration tactics. The horror that unfolded in tight confines was great enough to break the psycho-indoctrinated superhuman will of one grievously maimed Astartes of the Raven Guard named Dravian Klayde, who subsequently could not be healed enough to participate in his Legion’s nimble shadow warfare. Nicknamed the Carrion by the Night Lords who saved his life from among the carcasses, this shattered Space Marine with his clumsy augmetics was useful only for studies of techno-arcana on Mars, for the frenzied breg-shei swarm had wounded him too gravely in its rabid fight against eradication.

While the Imperial xenocide on the breg-shei cradleworld was successful, it failed to catch every scattered remnant of this spacefaring alien species. And thus surviving pockets of breg-shei would lick their wounds and slowly regrow their civilization back into some semblance of advanced strength. Just as xeno atrocities upon humans during their epoch of weakness in the Age of Strife bred a human hunger for vengeance against aliens, so too did human atrocities upon the breg-shei ensure that the scattered survivors of this alien species would nurture a deep hostility to mankind for untold millennia to come. For the breg-shei would never forgive mankind for the slaughter visited upon them and their birthplanet because of an Imperial Writ of Extermination, and their roaming remnants would savour any opportunity to avenge their fallen ancestors by harrowing humans akin to how a stalking predator savages its prey.

One such instance of vengeance for Farinatus occurred roughly ten millennia after the fall of the breg-shei homeworld, as one of their small hulks came to raid and inflict terror upon Imperial colonists on the moon of Regnan Impri. In response, the Iron Hands Chapter dispatched its Strike Cruiser Ironshod to board the alien hulk and hunt the breg-shei through the rings and moons of gaseous Regnan Magna. Some of the shipborne alien pillagers were caught on the surface of the moon known as Regnan Drey, a dusty indigo orb with low gravity and without air to carry sound, its desert stippled with micrometeorite impacts. This lifeless moon with its purple rocky ridges was whipped by stark radiation from the sunlight, deadly enough to kill an unshielded human in minutes.

Thus this barren wasteland proved a pleasing tribute to the purity and strength of the Iron Hands, for their will and augmetics and armour withstood what frail mortal flesh could not have endured. And so the Astartes turned a skilled hunter into hunted prey, and both forces tried their martial prowess and tactical acumen to the utmost as they sought to outmatch their potent foe.

It was here, in this silent arena of wit and violence, that Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech of Clan Kaargul led his battle-brothers to victory, yet found only humiliation for himself in the end.

This genetic son of the Gorgon slayed a total of onehundredfiftythree breg-shei at close quarters and perfected the art of killing the alien by putting his ceramite boot through its thorax, distending its viscera sacs while twisting his foot sharply around and back, thereby crumpling and snapping the xeno’s spinal ridges until its limbs went limp. Indeed, Frater Dolmech learned to make sure that the breg-shei stayed dead. Even harder than killing the monstrosities by trampling them was hitting the quick creatures at range. Instead of aiming for their bodies, Dolmech aimed for ground shots with his bolt pistol, thereby either crippling the xenos’ feet or blasting the terrain beneath them to throw off the breg-shei’s balance and speed.

Thus was the art of the killer perfected. And the Emperor knew that it was good.

The breg-shei in their turn fought with cunning and speed, employing energy projecting weapons known as synaptic lashes that could burn the brains and nervous systems of living beings. Synaptic lashes had been the cruel bane of human colonists on Regnan Impri, yet small glancing hits from their bulbous projector cells against genhanced Astartes proved survivable, if temporarily debilitating and shaming. For anyone who endured the briefest touch from the energy beam of a synaptic lash would start to sprout nonsense as his fine control was disrupted, thereby filling the vox with strange sounds, obscenities and odd sentences plucked from the victim’s stream of consciousness. This infirmity was a demeaning reminder of the weakness of the Iron Hands’ remaining flesh.

Truly, the synaptic lash was the scourge of organics.

As the difficult hunt for dispersed groups of breg-shei went on across Regnan Drey, the intense radiation from the star not only lent all vox traffic an odd watery quality, but it also interfered with the Strike Cruiser Ironshod’s auguries and made it harder to pinpoint small enemy concentrations with precision. In response, Brother-Sergeant Dolmech devised a bait to lure out breg-shei at a time and place of his choosing.

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Librarium evidence indicated that breg-shei senses extended to a spectrum that included battlefield vox, with twelve recorded incidents pointing toward an enemy ability to intercept and comprehend Iron Hands transmissions. Thus Dolmech opened a vox-channel to his squad’s servitor-driven Rhino carrier with its train of three supply wagons, and ordered Jothael-004 to move its supply point from deep reserve to a point in the forward line. This point was updated in the Iron Hands’ tactical maps and designated as their new anchor disposition. Brother-Sergeant Dolmech would thus give the breg-shei his supply cache in order to pin down the evasive foe in a predicted location.

Thus the sons of Medusa ambushed an ambush.

Indeed, three breg-shei lay in cyst-nests under the coarse regolith. Sensing the approach of the lone vehicle with wagons, they reared up and split off to the sides, saturating the oncoming Mk1 Deimos Rhino with green-white energy from multiple sides while the Rhino’s cupola-mounted bolters swung around and fired in vain, its shells missing every shot. Inside the airless armoured carrier, servitor Jothael-004 sat anchored into the control hub of the Rhino, its cortical augmetics enabling the thrall to monitor all of the vehicle’s twentytwo pict feeds, which together provided a full-circle moving panorama that the servitor’s old human senses could never have been able to manage.

As the aliens sprang up from the ground, threat parameters inside the servitor went crimson, thus arming the spite-switches in the towing couplings that would blow up the ammunition wagons rather than let them fall into enemy hands. Gunnery catechisms unspooled across the rebuilt brain of Jothael-004 as it checked on heat status, ammunition counts and target reticules. Combat subroutines were engaged, and hostility protocols were followed as the lobotomized machine slave attempted to shoot down its agile ambushers.

The servitor was the workmanship of Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech, yet its programming did not suffice to hit the dodging xenos. Instead, it was bombarded by multiple streams of energy from synaptic lashes, its sides covered in crawling light. Spurts and arcs of energy coalesced on the inside of the Rhino, causing untold damage to electronics and organic servitor alike. One flanking xeno was fast enough to flatten its body to the ground and let a bolter shell spear past. Then the breg-shei twitched its body along the ground and fired low shots of energy on the vehicle. The servitor driver inside was unable to feel fright from these assaults, and thus Jothael-004 simply filtered its optic feed to compensate for the luminous haze of the lashes.

The greatest damage to the Rhino was done by a nimble breg-shei, who leapt straight up, keeping a strong beam of power from its synaptic lash trained on the centre of the Rhino’s frontal plates. It upheld an unfaltering focus of the lash as the breg-shei sank back to the ground in the weak gravity of Regnan Drey.

Since no sound was borne in the vacuum, no incoming din betrayed Frater Dolmech’s jump pack as he sped up and hit the vile breg-shei from behind, high above the ground, cleaving the xeno in twain with swipes from his cog-toothed relic axe that were so quick as to become a blur of motion. The slain xeno gave off a reflexive jerk in its manipulator claws, and thereby triggered its synaptic lash one last time. The tumbling energy weapon landed a brushing stroke on its assailant, and for a moment green light danced down the side of Dolmech’s Mark VIII Errant power armour, momentarily stunning the Space Marine.

The brief hit left the right foot numb, and the Astartes’ breathing hitched as his multi-lung began spasming. Thoughts and control of self dissolved in an incoherent mess, until the hypno-indoctrinated transhuman suddenly regained his bearing. The minor hit from the synaptic lash was a revolting reminder of the weakness of Dolmech’s flesh. At this, a murderous fury overtook Dolmech. His armour and beautiful augmetics had withstood the attack, yet his genhanced flesh was not stern enough to imitate their purity.

The Veteran-Sergeant punched away on his jump-pack and hunted down the two remaining breg-shei in a hateful brawl. Frater Dolmech never noticed the first sign of malfunction, as the Rhino juddered when its tracks received conflicting signals to change their speed.

Dolmech’s second kill during the ambush was achieved by exploiting the Rhino as a battering ram, positioning a struggling breg-shei so that it was impacted by the speeding vehicle from behind. The wroth Space Marine then proceeded to pummel the alien on the Rhino’s frontal plates, breaking its chitin, shooting its blind head off and letting the xeno’s body slide down the front of the Rhino to be crushed under the tracks of both the carrier and the supply wagons to its rear. And all the while, Dolmech never noticed the second sign of breakdown, as the servitor kept the Rhino moving on its own, rolling forward on an arrow-straight course on locked controls, all the while blowing up an indigo dust plume behind it. Jothael-004’s master did send a curt interrogatory code before pursuing the last breg-shei warrior, yet the all-clear response that Dolmech received from his servitor proved to be a lie.

Inside the armoured carrier, data traffic between the servitor and the Rhino’s control hub had become a tangled mess. Hidden beneath the frontal cupolas, the armoured bolter mountings saw frenetic mechanical activity as sub-systems received repeated orders to reload, switch magazine feeds, jam check and unload in no sensible sequence. Sensors were shut down, dimmed, amplified and reactivated at random, while the servitor’s body jolted about as if startled from sleep, again and again. Diagnostics that should have been run on the Rhino’s systems went unactivated.

Instead obsessive diagnostics were run over and over on the servitor’s own cerebral systems, combing both its flesh and metal brains repeatedly in faulty search of something. The barrage of synaptic lashes had severely damaged both the organic and tech components of Jothael-004, causing its system routines to play havoc in disjointed fashion.

A terse signal arrived via the general Iron Hands vox band, as Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech confirmed that he had hunted down and slain the third breg-shei ambusher. Previous orders still applied for the Rhino to move up to the base of a ridge line, designated provisionally secure by Dolmech. This designation should have changed the operations of the servitor by making Jothael-004 revise its threat condition to a lower status, reconfigure its sensor sweeps and confirm its position. Instead the servitor drove the Rhino straight on as it twitched at the controls. Its interface writhed while the threat overlay on the driver’s vision remained a throbbing crimson, as if hostiles were still present. Yet all nearby enemies lay dead in the desert.

And all the while this worsening malfunction played out, the synthesized voice of Jothael-004 rang out across the vox-band, relaying fragmented words from a previous life. Words that spoke of unimaginable horror and pain, glimpsed from memories of a fully awake human body and mind ripped asunder to be rebuilt into obedient machine. The servitor was reliving its Blessing of Iron.

Crazed sense-echoes from the final breg-shei’s synaptic lash had left battle-brother Dolmech’s head ringing after he had made his third kill during the thwarted ambush. It took a while for the Iron Hands Frater to distinguish the disjointed vox-signals from the synaptic cacophony, and even then he proved his fleshly weakness to himself by wasting several seconds in an attempt to identify the broadcasting voice, before Dolmech realized that it came from no organic tongue. While some Iron Hands programmed variations into their servitors’ vox-coders for ease of recognition, the Veteran-Sergeant had always dismissed it as frippery. After all, a correctly coded servitor would identify itself with every transmission.

Yet Jothael-004 had not done so. Dolmech’s own handiwork was defective, and the flaw was put on full display for his entire squad to see.

At this humiliation, Dolmech took to wrath. He brutalized the battered corpse of his last kill, snapping off a breg-shei limb in an oily spray of ichor before hacking the shell to pieces with his relic axe. In the Space Marine’s early days with the Chapter, the young Dolmech had laboured to clear his mind of the emotional background noise that he could vaguely recall from his childhood, from before the days when the Iron Hands had taken him as one of their neophytes. When Dolmech aged and was promoted to take command of an Astartes squad, he had expunged ever more of his frail flesh. And paradoxically, he had come to the conclusion that there was a space for emotions. Namely disgust, hate and contempt.

Disgust led to strength of will. Self-hatred led to cleanliness. All enemies were to be held in contempt.

The shamed battle-brother ceased his raged mangling of the alien corpse, turning to board the Rhino by jump pack in order to correct his servitor’s aberrant conduct. Yet his voxed order for Jothael-004 to halt and stand by went unheeded. The servitor did not await its master’s hail. Clearly, this incident would slow down the advance of the Iron Hands across the indigo desert by several minutes. That delay was unforgivable, and all this was because Dolmech had to repair the instrument that he had crafted. The weakness of the servitor was his responsibility alone. The punishment from the Chapter would be stern.

Dolmech activated his jump pack and chased the Rhino.

Inside the silent vaccuum of the vehicle, servitor Jothael-004 attempted to speak through its vox-grille set above its sternum. No sound came forth. If there had been air, the synth-voice would have repeated a single word endlessly: Dolmech.

The broken systems of the servitor saw its optical feeds shut down, replaced by scrolling columns of letters in green on black: Dolmech.

To the glitching servitor, this name had a meaning, yet it lacked the consciousness to understand what it meant. The faintest traceries of scrubbed neural paths had been inflamed back to half-life by the synaptic lash of the xenos, and they rang out in clamour as the name passed through the paths: Dolmech.

There was not enough mind left in the mutilated servitor to understand the images that the synaptic lash had whipped out of its suppressed memory. Nonetheless, Jothael-004’s cogitator brain went to work on the strange data, pushing it through the combat directives that refused to shut down in its forebrain.

This input of data indicated that extreme physical trauma had been visited upon the servitor. There had been unutterable pain, obliterating and excruciating agony as tools ripped and cut into the trembling flesh of this unit. The diagnostic assessors ran cold analytics that knew not how to manage the overwhelming signals that belied the all-clear report sent by the physical sensors. Machine confusion reigned supreme. Thus self-repair processes called out for priority, as they insisted that there was massive damage inflicted upon its tortured body. Apparently limbs had been severed, and violent intrusions had been made by drill and saw and surgical laser, as an unheeded voice had shrieked for mercy. There had been overriding of attempts to resist or escape. The data was too vivid to ignore. The flood of memories was constant.

The self-repair process at last found a grip by connecting to the active combat protocols in another directive framework. At last, the wetware coding found a process that could resolve this flood of mental data noise, even as ragged slave-inhibitors and broken identification runes never flared up to prevent what happened next.

It was in this moment that the flying Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech remembered that servitor Jothael-004 was not of true Iron Hands make. It had not been built in the culturing vats and tissue-printeries in Clan-company Kaargul’s apothecarion. After all, the servitor had been ex-human, picked up from the grubby masses of the Imperium, which was not only the raw material for servitors and Chapter thralls, but also the raw material for Iron Hands Astartes.

The flesh is weak.

Long ago, the man that would become Jothael-004 had been extracted from the penal manufactorum Cog-349. It had been disturbed by the optical implant that made up one of Dolmech’s eyes, even as it recognized the optics as having been produced in the Cog. It had been afraid of the Blessing of Iron, yet that frail fear had finally left it when it had capitulated the better part of its flesh and mind to the reforging. It had become something more than human, something better than mortal. It had become machine.

That machine was malfunctioning.

Dolmech. The threat that had caused the trauma. Dolmech. The programming that had locked Dolmech as the servitor’s master had been ruined by the synaptic lash of the alien. The memory banks managed to connect the name with an image, running it through the combat subroutines and comparing with pict, vox and auspex feeds. Thus the servitor tagged the incoming Frater Dolmech with a vermilion threat rune. The optics feed flared back into action. The servitor that had once been Beneficiari overseer Armicus became still again for a moment, as it scanned its surroundings and found its hostile target.

When Veteran-Sergeant Dolmech of the Iron Hands neared the unstable Rhino, he voxed a command for Jothael-004 to decommission itself in preparation for dismounting and mind-scrubbing. When instructed to confirm and obey, the demented servitor instead gave a code-bark as if confirming a threat signal. It swung around the Rhino’s frontal cupola bolters and opened fire.

A shell cracked into the thickened chestplate of Dolmech, stopping him in nothing and dropping him down on top of the second ammo wagon as warning runes flared inside his visor. The Astartes master was completely astonished at this turn of events, unable to comprehend what had just happened for a precious second, as bewilderment filled him. Another bolter round exploded just below his gorget’s tall armoured collar, a signum of the Mark VIII Errant power armour that the Brother-Sergeant wore. If the wagon had not jounced and tilted him about on its roof, that bolt shell could possibly have penetrated the collar and hit the helmet seal square on. Dolmech coldly noted that his attacker was using targeting doctrine identical to what he had programmed into his echelon of servitors, whereupon he realized that he had been betrayed by his own cyborg creation. The thrall had rebelled against its master.

Dolmech blasted forward again with a roar, his hateful intent nought but to hack his way into the Rhino and tear his misbegotten servitor apart with his own bionic metal hands. As the Veteran-Sergeant’s power axe bit into the hull of the vehicle, damage reports screamed red inside the servitor, mixing the current assault with the harrowing memories of the Blessing of Iron. This sensory barrage broke down the last semblance of order in the servitor’s processor-mind. It had been crippled by the breg-shei synaptic lash and then torn open by the relived agony of the forced servitorization. What had once been a functional servitor broke down, and for the first time since Jothael-004 had its humanity torn from it, it felt fear again.

The Rhino’s bolters spun and fired in a blind craze, unable to find an angle to hit the enraged Astartes battering his way into his own armoured carrier. The vox-band was filled with bestial screams of hellish terror, as the servitor for the first time gave voice to the pain and fear that had been walled off but not extinguished a lifetime ago. The raw panic of Jothael-004 reached its crescendo when Dolmech finally tore the rear hatch off its mounting, whereupon the servitor triggered the spite-switch.

Both master and slave succumbed to the giant detonation that followed, as all three ammunition wagons lit up on the ridge and challenged the glaring radioactive light of the giant star overhead. The Rhino and its driver were annihilated, whereas the tattered Space Marine was cast far way, tumbling head over heel and losing his helmet somewhere before the corpse lay still in the airless void, his one organic eye and one optic implant both staring dead ahead. Up, up into the silent nightsky where his baleful Imperium stretched thin across the galaxy.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only violation.

Based on the two short stories The Blessing of Iron, by Anthony Reynolds, and A Memory of Flesh, by Matthew Farrer.

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A Vox in the Void

The talented A Vox in the Void has laboured to put out the Befouled Birthright triad in audio format on Youtube. Check it out!


Ivan Espinoza

The artist Ivan Espinoza has created the Death Korps of Krieg artwork Smoke-break, inspired by Hangman and of course history. Check it out!


Heretical writing by StaevinTheAeldari

StaevinTheAeldari over on DakkaDakka has created the following gem of writing in response to Malfunction:


"When you think about it what is the Emperor - so thoroughly integrated into the golden ‘throne’ - but a servitor?
The finest of mankind turned into its finest lighthouse.
You call it heresy, I call it a fate so fitting it’s divine.
The greatest of all mankind made into the image of the lowliest. Such humility!
A tyrant turned into a slave. Let it not be said that the Imperium - brutal and somber - lacks a punchline.
And that punchline is mankind itself! Layers upon layers.
Finest comedy in the galaxy."


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 in the Age of Imperium 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 Holy 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 Holy 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 fiftyfour incense-producing provinces of the seven garden worlds of the Opimae system were to be stockpiled on Holy 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 Holy Terra to march in triumph through her sacred 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 smoke 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 seventyseven 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 on 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 twohundredtwentythree 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.

Writing from 2020 A.D. updated with drawing.

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Cornered Struggle 01

Cornered Struggle

"From these hab-block prison walls,
into the lordless underhive,
instead of shackles on my wrists,
I carry an old rifle.

The kin that once kissed me in love,
are now all gone into the grinder,
from this lights-on, and out and on,
I’m all alone with my rifle.

We are but few in numbers, aye,
but still we are worth billions,
in pipe-duct and in chasm we blow,
both bridges and brigades.

The Loyalists will all tremble,
not knowing from whence,
purge victims from underfloor,
will sabotage and snipe them.

The word revenge is worth something,
when it is written out in blood,
we are striking from the dark,
out from sewer and holestead.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

From pit of decay and dust,
from cellar o’ergrown by moss,
we have seen the truth so raw,
with our very own eyes.

We who’re cornered and forsaken,
they’ll grind us into ration bars,
not one of our kin 'ill be spared,
they would have all of us snared.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

Whether slave or damned tramp,
scum, outcast or leper,
you shall rise to fight and fall,
in flames of the final revolt.

For silence is nought but filth,
when all of us are doomed here,
we who are accursed outlaws,
must sacrifice blood and soul.

In red lights-on of stark terror,
in lights-off of black despair,
with blood an’ sweat arise new race,
to defy that Governor Sloann.

We swear to stake his head on high,
raised above the upperest spire,
for if our kin cannot survive,
we shall still have our vengeance.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike.

No! We shall not be the last,
the last of all the ratlings,
brings the lumen to the dark,
the ratling partisans strike."

- Heretical abhuman guerilla song found on Thema Cibyrrhaeots, translated into Low Gothic from the local ratling tongue of Skritchvicc, sung by the rebels of warlord Bimbop Bulbafeast, the paramilitary ratling leader of a final bastion in the underhive of Hive Heraclonas, who wages a war against the sanctioned eradication of his people: The above sample of insurrectionary sinspeech was extracted from a flayed abhuman prisoner put under acidic torture by the planetary Securitate, before execution by abacination, drawing and quartering

Uplifting 01


“You are plenty old enough. Remember to die bravely with the Emperor on your lips. Do not cry, my little dear one, for I will have many more children.”

- Famous words uttered by a pious Loyalist mother to her son upon his induction into the Juvenalis Militum of the embattled voidholm Mithradates Megalis in 854.M40: These uplifting Propagatus phrases will sometimes be used for nefarious purposes by cynical deviants who cannot appreciate their higher spirit

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