Shrine of the Emperor Ascendant, City of Martyrs, Mausoleum XII, Piscina Sector, Segmentum Obscurus 2766999.M41
Sister Superior Benedicta knelt in silent prayer before the altar of the Emperor Ascendant. The golden statue, depicting the Emperor at the dawn of the Great Crusade, attended by stylised representations of many of the Imperium’s greatest Saints from millennia later - including Sebastian Thor and Lord Solar Macharius - was relatively new, having been erected several decades ago when the City of Martyrs was rebuilt from the ashes of Artemis Prime, but the reliquary at its base, reinforced with rockrete bracings and sealed with adamantium locks, was impossibly ancient. Its contents were of unknown origin, artefacts from the Dark Age of Technology that, it was said, had been blessed by the Emperor when he first came upon the Grave Worlds and liberated them from the unnamed Xenos filth that had once held these most ancient of human worlds in their unclean thrall.
The area for several miles around where she now knelt had been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years but, fifty years before, it had all been levelled to the ground by the crude bombardment of Orkish invaders. For over a decade, the survivors had laboured under the cruel lashes of their new greenskin overlords until a War of Faith had finally swept through the system and thrown back the alien menace. Benedicta had not even been born when that happened. She had heard the tale of the Grave Worlds of the Mausoleum system for the first time when she was assigned to the Preceptory here. It had no place in the legends of the Imperium: it was just another nameless light in the void that, for a time, had winked out. As a child, in the Schola Progenium, and later during her training in the Convent Prioris on Holy Terra itself, her life had been full of the stories of the great battles and crusades of unnumbered Saints: the Macharian Crusade, of course, the Armageddon Wars, the sector-wide Gothic War, the dark days of the Reign of Blood and the role her own Order had played in it, but of the Grave Worlds the histories were largely silent.
Nonetheless, these worlds, the surfaces of each of which consisted of ruins built upon ruins built upon ruins, had now come to dominate her life. The spoor of the alien had been eradicated, but contact with Xenos always left the seeds of heresy in its wake. Two generations of humans had grown up knowing no life but servitude to the Ork, and bringing these blighted worlds back into the light of the Imperium and the Ecclasiarchy had been no easy feat. Vigilance was unending, as Abbess Alexandria had always told her.
Intoning the last few words of the Canticle of Mercy, Benedicta made the sign of the Aquila and rose to her feet. She sighed and turned to put out the nearest incense burner when she caught sight of Sister Antonia standing at the entrance to the shrine. The young Battle Sister’s face was grim. “Antonia? What is it?”
“Forgive me, Sister Superior - I didn’t wish to disturb you while you were at prayer.”
“I am no longer at prayer,” Benedicta said, growing immediately impatient and beginning to consider suitable penances to levy for her charge’s dallying, “just tell me what the matter is.”
“It’s the listening posts on Mausoleum VII’s eighteenth moon.”
“What of them?” Mausoleum VII was a gas giant, but two of its moons were inhabited and most of the others housed shipyards, defence networks and, on the barren rocky outliers like the nameless eighteenth, Astropathic listening posts that kept close watch on psychic chatter in the void.
“There are signals combing from the Rictus asteroid field.”
“No Sister Superior: the Astropath says the signals are…are Orkish in origin. The greenskins have returned.”
“Or they never left,” Benedicta said darkly, reaching for her bolter. The Rictus Asteroids had never been fully cleansed due to the difficulty of realspace navigation in the region. No doubt some spaceborne colony of the Orks had survived the crusade that had swept the rest of their kind from this system. And now, in the darkness, they had multiplied and finally grown strong enough to communicate over interplanetary distances. Soon, they would start to construct ramshackle ships and threaten the nearby worlds. If one fell, it could begin a new Waaagh! that would bury the Grave Worlds under another tide of blood. Penance would have to wait. "Have the Astropath contact the Canoness immediately and see to your battle gear. War is upon us."
I first started collecting Sisters of Battle back in 3rd Edition - I’d been considering them during 2nd Edition, but I didn’t have the budget to start a brand new army back then, so I ended up waiting until a year or two later and using the army list in the main rulebook. Then there were White Dwarf updates, the army list in the Chapter Approved compilation (with Necromunda Redemptionists as a Troops choice, for some reason!), then I coincidentally got back into the hobby just after Codex: Witch Hunters came out, so my Sisters became an Inquisitorial force for a bit. And, all the way through, I pretty much never expanded the force from the few squads I’d originally got for Christmas all those years ago. A couple of Battle Sisters units (when they came in squads of six…), two units of Seraphim, an Immolator, a Canoness and a handful of priest types. I got a few more Sisters to be Celestians but, really, there’s not enough variety in the army for anyone to need much besides that. Still, they were always sitting there, caked in enamel paint in the first instance, then repainted to my usual childhood standard (no, I won’t be posting pictures of that) and now, finally, with the advent of 6th Edition 40K I’m getting around to stripping and painting them.
The colour scheme is based on the Order of the Argent Shroud, which is how I repainted them eventually as a kid. I’ve modified it slightly though to give a more muted look. The bolters are usually red, but I’ve done them in black and my rule for this army is going to be “no red”. We’ll see how that works out. I’ve also done them all as blondes (rather than the uniform black hair of the standard colour scheme) because I think it complements the scheme better. Also, gentlemen prefer blondes and I’m nothing if not a gentleman.
Coming next is the Canoness, who’s languishing in the Dettol bath as we speak, and then whatever I feel like stripping next. I’ve got a Battle Conclave kitbashed up (my Arco-Flaggelants are quite clever, I think…) as well as the other Sisters squads and the old-style Immolator, plus the various Preachers, Missionaries, Confessors and so on. Should be fun.