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Karak Norn Clansman #5034


Dress Code

Everyone is a barbarian to someone else.

Quisque est barbarus alio.

Thus reads a High Gothic proverb known to the well educated castes in the Imperium of Man, that dilapidated cosmic domain formally belonging to the Celestial Imperator of Holy Terra, a realm stretching across the starspangled void, straddling a million worlds and voidholms beyond counting.

This saying describes the everlasting fact of cultural differences between humans, and indeed its meaning has been extended to describe not only the seed of Terra, but also abhorrent xenos by Rogue Traders roaming the murky corners of the Milky Way galaxy.

Out of all the caleidoscopic clashes of custom where insular tribes and congregations collide, let us briefly examine a peculiar phenomenon evident across vast swathes of several thousand Imperial colony worlds and voidholms. It is not dependant on the high culture of Holy Terra, but sprung from a plethora of local cultures sprinkled across planets and void dwellings alike. It is a source of friction on planets and larger voidholms that house populations settled across multiple climes. Is is likewise a cause of strife where ethnos and tribes with visually distinct culture come into contact, as traditional garb and markers of belonging turn into hotly contested points of pride by parochial and myopically aggressive people. Let us thus examine the myriad of dispersed human cultures, who for whatever climatological and historical reasons of their own has grown to despise the barbarian filth known as trouser-bearers.

The human custom of wearing britches date back to the misty past of the Age of Terra. Some of the first trousers were worn by steppe nomads to bring comfort during extended periods on horseback, in a way that kilts, tunics and bared nether regions could not. This rider's garb spread to become commonplace across Old Earth, and variations of this item of clothing remained popular throughout the entire stretch of the Dark Age of Technology, no matter the shifts in fashion and technology and the demands of alien living spaces. This simple garment survived among primitive survivors during the Age of Strife in a great many locales, and the all-conquering forces of Imperial Compliance would often slaughter foes in trousers, although a great many other tribes of cannibals and scavengers knew not of such an article of clothing, if they kenned any clothing whatsoever.

The early Imperium during the Great Crusade saw an eclectic mix of garb among the regiments of the Imperial Army, from strict uniforms, cunning camouflage and armoured voidsuits, to fighters donning mere loinclothes or fighting naked, protected only by tattoos or patterns of body paint. Drawn from hundreds of thousands of freshly conquered worlds, these human warriors brought their own styles of fighting and fashion with them, and often they would adopt favourite ways from others during lengthy service far away from their homeworlds.

To some extent, the trend-setting high culture of Imperial Terra would spread through encouragement, eager imitation and a limited degree of centralized issuance of equipment, yet the Emperor knew better than to try and impose a template of garb and aesthetics on his suddenly sprawling dominion. That way, unnecessary discontent and opposition lay. Better instead to let the hordes of provincials wear much what they liked, and place the Terran example of finery on a pedestal for voluntary imitation. It is after all easier to attract bees with nectar than with vinegar.

For all the visionary plans and insights that were burnt away to ash and drowned in blood following the epoch-shattering calamity of the Horus Heresy, the surviving Imperium nevertheless managed to retain an understanding that the simple Imperial modus operandi, to largely leave native customs be and avoid meddling overly much in local affairs, was for the most part the wisest path to tread. Occasional hiccups of Imperial history have seen some misguided decrees issued from the Throneworld that attempted to ban and dictate such mundane matters as clothing or alcoholic consumption, yet the perverse and unintended consequences of those culture-shaping campaigns that were actively executed on the ground inevitably saw the masters and mistresses of the Adeptus Terra shy away from prodding such explosive nests of hornets.

At the end of the day, who on high wants the trouble of riots and rebellions over superficial trifles, when all that the Imperium of Man really cares about is extracting Tithe, feeding the ravenous demands of total war and maintaining control over His Divine Majesty's scattered holdings? And was the drastic fall in Tithe grades following the Argamon Genocides of M37 really worth implementing a hated Sector-wide edict to enforce the wearing of monastic garments among the civilian population, on the pain of public abacination and quartering between four bull groxen?

Thus, Imperial authorities seldom attempt the imposition of sweeping dress codes outside the ranks of the God-Emperor's own elevated Adepts. Whatever is the local equivalent of respectable garb is expected for Ecclesiarchal Temple services, whether they be sombre robes or feathered loinclothes. Local authorities of planets and voidholms will dabble more frequently in sumptuary laws than will Imperial Adeptus, though the extent to which local administrations and policiary forces are able to enforce such laws restricting caste clothing, food and luxury expenditures is usually dubious. Amid the sclerotic and hollowed-out state of mankind during the Age of Imperium, even the most eager tyrants will tend to find that the penetration of their power into wider society has decayed from the totalitarian ideals which their dynastic ancestors better lived up to.

In parts of worlds and voidholms sporting warmer climes, such sumptuary laws will include a ban on the wearing of trousers. Sometimes, as in the case of the planet Macragge or the voidholm Felix Pulceris, the laws are dead and inert, a relic of past centuries before fashion or climate changed the way people dress. Other times, the legalities may be stringently followed by innumerable upholders of mores among the population, especially by older women whose watchful eyes and admonishing voice do much to keep a community in check. In such locales, much the same people who participate in pogroms will trot out to beat and berate straying members of the community as they drag the contemptuous deviants bloody through the streets or corridors for harsh punishment at the hands of governatorial law enforcers.

Naturally, such warmer climes where the wearing of pants is seen as a taboo broken only by barbarians and obscene infidels, the existence of sumptuary laws is only an additional obstacle to trousered folks. Even where there are no sumptuary laws against the wearing of britches, insular communities can manage perfectly fine with the instruments of public scorn, violence and social ostracism to punish filthy trouser-wearers. Here, foreigners and locals breaking their ancestral custom of clothing will find themselves heckled by children through the streets. Doors will shut close in their faces, and those desperately seeking employment will be told in no uncertain way that people in pants need not apply. Indeed, rabid and malnourished crowds with a need to kick someone can easily be worked up into a frenzy, and more than a few Imperial subjects have went under the omnibus of lynchmobs chanting that trousers equals heresy.

In such parochial cultures, where the garment on your legs have become an infested question to fight over, all proud bearers of kilts, tunic and virile togas must know that pants are the true enemy. Be gone, tube-legs!

The sprawling fauna of Imperial saints approved by the Adeptus Ministorum even includes an obscure martyr for the despisers of trouser-bearers to rally around. His name is that of Saint Oxymandias the Leper, and churchly lore says that he first snapped his finger, and then tore off his entire arm as he tried to pull up his bewitched trousers following a visit to the communal outhouse. And on the asteroid mining voidholm of Utica Extremalis, a local legend sevenhundred years old is still told vividly around electro-heaters, about how the devout Emperor-worshipper Jacques the Butcher was strangled with his own pants by a revolting mob of traitors and malcontents who dragged him out of a shed in the slums. Ever since, the denizens of Utica Extremalis has worn nothing but kilts, robes and skirts inside the station's air seals, so as to avoid suffering the baleful fate of this righteous Imperial martyr.

Speaking of trousered infamy, voidsmen in three subsectors will tell you wild story variations about Captain Zedek Mascadolce, a downbeaten Rogue Trader renowned for his ill fortune with the rearguard durability of his tight and costly trousers. Even more fell rumours claim that the splendid Captain of the Debt Collector himself repairs his ripped pants instead of ordering underlings to carry out the task. Speculations as to why range from fear of assassination, through fear of subordinate incompetence, to sheer embarrasment over such a faux pas occuring to this refined socialite. Indeed, any self-respecting Rogue Trader caught with such damaged garb on his derriere would have to hide his face in odious shame.

The cultural phenomenon of aversion to britches in some human cultures in warmer climes will undoubtedly have hygienic origins related to ventilation. Upstanding bearers of kilt and tunic swear by the advantages to health of avoiding trousers, and they curse the strange ways of self-degrading barbarians who would have their legs and nobler parts trapped inside tubes of textile or hide. Do these fools pursue eczema and itchy ratches? Do they not know that both virility and fertility is dampened by the constraints of pants? God-Emperor judge their foul garb unworthy!

Conversely, some of the worst wounds from alchemical combat gasses can be found among kilt-wearing Astra Militarum regiments, whose suffering afterward beggars belief. Any member of the Officio Medicae with relevant experience can attest this fact, while making warding gestures and spreading their fingers across their chest in the sign of the Aquila to keep away Daemons drawn to the mere words of such horrendous hardship. Yet such sacrifices of self is nothing compared to the virtue of fighting and dying for the Terran Emperor, seated on the Golden Throne of hallowed myth.

O Terra, verti est sua aeterni!

Coincidentally, a great empire during the distant past of the Age of Terra went to hell in a hand basket around the same time it widely adopted pants. Similar examples of a much later date will sometimes be bandied about by jurists and governocrats across the Imperium, as they point to a decline in planetary fortunes and a wilting of military arms following the adoption of heinous luxuries of one sort or another. Yet for the plebeian mob, such matters mostly come down to drunken violence and red-blooded herd mentality. For them, the sight of strangers being dressed in pants whereas they are not, is reason enough to cook up a fight and have some malevolent fun at the expense of another.

And so we see that human cultures always tend to fall back on cycles of petty violence and frothing outrage over trivial matters, in a circumlocution that leads nowhere. In the Age of Imperium, such movement into a dead-end is all that humanity has proven itself capable of, as mankind under the rule of the High Lords of Terra flagellates itself in abject misery and ignorance, even as its grasp on knowledge and technology rots away in a slow death spiral of demechanization.

In such a depraved interstellar civilization stuck in a rut, is it any wonder that man has been reduced to a resentful wretch, his demented hate fuelled by trauma and dogma alike? Where man has fallen so low from the golden pinnacles of his ancestors, is it any wonder that he is so prone to spontaneous outbreaks of communal violence? What else can one expect from a humanity sunk into the abyss of senility?

Such is the waywardness of mankind, after it went down the wrong trouser leg of history.

Such is the decrepit state of our species, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the raging nonsense that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only bile.
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Karak Norn Clansman #5040



"It was in that moment, of trying to push up the small rontree with the roots, when menial garden serf Tammuz Tsivkmlap realized that he had the spiked iron fence right under his throat."

- Excerpt from Carolus Wrång the Elder's travelling journal Anecdotes of [Redacted] Stubbornness, Being A Sketch of Rural Life On Sala Majoris In the Emperor's Year 346.M41, literary work approved by voidholm censors after purging obscene swearwords and published in Low Gothic on Skintaxmountain Station IV by Printing House Draconus of Hab-District Six
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Karak Norn Clansman #5044


Smoke Cover

In the grim darkness of the far future, man hides from the gaze of heaven.

Ever since the primordial forebears of man saw birds soaring above, man has dreamt of flying. That dream was realized by brilliant and brave pioneers during the misty past of the Age of Terra, and ever since has the skyvault been a domain of man. That windblown sphere of flight has ever been dangerous, for gravity will undo the best and the brightest should the winged wains of man crash. To mitigate these perils on high, ancient man invented ever more ingenious instruments and systems to keep him flying no matter the obstacles.

The technology invested in aircraft and aerodromes was already refined beyond belief by the end of the Age of Terra, yet the stellar exodus and accelerated spree of invention fuelled by Man of Stone during the Dark Age of Technology would surpass all that had come before and by comparison make it look like ungainly paper planes bereft of sight and rudder. Truly, the sky alone was the limit in that golden epoch when the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron bestrode the cosmos like titans.

As man built for himself a worldly paradise betwixt the stars, so did man's hubris soar. As man banished suffering and hardship from his life, so did his arrogance take flight. On godless wings did man raise himself up on a pedestal as he laboured to uncover the innermost secrets of creation itself, yet those wings of genius melted like wax brought too close to the sun. Machine revolt, Warp storms and a plague of witches and Daemons rent the galactic realm of ancient man asunder, and twain million worlds and uncountable void dwellings were thrown into the meatgrinder of the Age of Strife.

Man fell, and fell hard. He landed bloodily with crippling impact in a desolation where cannibals ate their own kin and where ignorant savages rummaged around the ruins of ancient giants for pitiful scraps. Most of the masterful knowledge and craft of the ancients was destroyed in that crash into Old Night, and man suffered mightily amid the ravages of Xenos and Chaos. To this day, it is a cardinal truth of the Imperium that only the God-Emperor and His victorious arms saved humanity from the brink of doom, yet like so many fundamental humans beliefs in the Age of Imperium, it is a blatant lie wrapped in a semblance of truthfulness. The truth of the matter is that the Imperator, for all His brilliant vision and beneficial toil for our species, ruthlessly eliminated all other sources of human regrowth after the Age of Strife ended. Thus, only His Imperial renaissance of Mars and Terra in union would be allowed to flourish, under His rule alone.

This turned out to be a catastrophic mistake for mankind, as the shining promises of the early Imperium were scorched to cinders during the greatest betrayal in human history. Suddenly, the monopoly on human development in Imperial hands turned out to be a black curse upon man, as the cosmic domains of the transcendent Deity of Gold crawled out of the civil war, battered and beaten to a pulp, yet still capable of maintaining its grip on power over a million worlds and voidholms without number.

And so the Emperor's servants proceeded to rule in His name. For a time, the traumatized star realm of man saw a silver age under tyrannical oversight, and some of the grievous damage done to human interstellar civilization was briefly repaired. Yet this false rebirth and stabilization was soon replaced by unyielding rot. For fivehundred generations has man been ruled by the High Lords of Terra, and this Age of Imperium is nothing but a cavalcade of bloodsoaked stagnation and decline of human fortunes across the board, in a slowly worsening death spiral of demechanization and loss of knowledge and technological hardware.

One such expression of dilapidation may be glimpsed in the state of aircraft, as human power continues to wane across the Milky Way galaxy on the Imperium's watch. As with so much of technology still produced and maintained by Imperial subjects, human aeroplanes are rugged affairs, originally designed by the Abominable Intelligence of long-lost Standard Template Constructors to be functional in the most diverse atmospheric environs of alien worlds. The most advanced forms of winged wains known to Explorators are well beyond the reach of Imperial production capacity, for so much has been lost, never to be regained. As such, man makes do with simpler kinds of aircrafts and hover vessels, which were often designed as rudimentary emergency measures, grown permanent by stifling ineptitude in the Imperium of Man.

The excellent design of even the most basic and crude pieces of technology inherited from ancient man is witnessed in the fact that his deranged heirs are still alive and kicking against all the odds. Without the scrapings of masterful tech from the legendary Men of Stone, Imperial man would long since have gone extinct, for he has created nothing of his own, and everything he took from the ancients he distorted.

One such obvious distortion can be seen in Imperial aerocraft, where an etiolating process of cutbacks, loss of know-how and deterioration of production facilities has seen ever more sensitive instruments disappear from newly produced airplanes. The most experienced and knowledgable of Imperial pilots and lay mechanics will be confounded whenever they encounter older planes with strange instrument panels. So many helpful systems have been removed for the sake of all-consuming ignorance or due to the ravenous demands of total war. Ultimately, the Imperium needs the ability to fly and shoot, and creature comforts, pilot survivability and sophisticated systems can always be done away with, no matter how much less combat effective this renders the battleplane. Fiery faith will have to pick up the slack. Likewise, an increased input of men and machines thrown into the meatgrinder will feed this broken equation of a colossus on feet of clay, as the monstrous Imperium continues to gear itself for ever more atavistic forms of warfare and industrial production.

Among all this mounting savagery and fanaticism, Imperial subjects have devised a plethora of primitive tricks to deal with enemy air superiority. One common ploy, when fuel is plentiful, is to dig wells, pour promethium into the pits and then lit them on fire. The black smoke thus billowing up will then hopefully create visual distractions for the pilots of the air force of the hated foe. Many such promethium covers have been devised by men and women possessed with cunning, but who have also been ignorant of such matters as satellite guidance and other forms of sophisticated technology that substitutes sight for aircraft. Oftentimes the entire effort will be nothing but wasted sweat and fuel for all the lack of impact it had on enemy air power.

One campaign example of burning promethium covers can be found on the civilized world of Uruk Sigma. Here, local separatists clashed with the Astra Militarum and the Planetary Defence Force in the promethium-producing region of Dadghab. After succeeding in infiltrating the Imperial rear and conquering a massive supply depot through covert means, the deviant separatists raised the flag of offensive, and threw themselves against the Imperial lines with this new influx of heavy equipment. As the rebel assault swept across the promethium fields, the Imperial commander General Agathea von Niessuh suppressed panic and suspicion of her own incompetence by a vigorous purge of subordinate commanders accompanied by a scaremongering propaganda campaign aimed to sow paranoia among Imperial ranks. Scapegoating and terror thus accomplished, the Imperial commander proceeded to meet the lightning advances of the nefarious enemy.

As traitor flags were raised over ever more drill towers, Agathea von Niessuh ordered the bulk of her forces to pull back to Nippur Regia, the regional capital city of Dadghab. Largely abandoning a wide front, Agathea had her forces dig in around the city in concentric circles of trenches and prefabricated pillboxes, all the while using fresh reinforcements to fortify the main supply route in an arrangement called the Long Walls of Nippur Regia. Accepting that Imperial forces for the present were outmatched and overwhelmed by the separatists, Agathea calculated that her soldiers would fight ferociously once cornered in an urban center turned into a fortress, as long as the supply lines held.

This uncharacteristic burst of original thinking saved the Imperial grip on Nippur Regia. The Long Walls were defended by a line of outpost forts, by husbanded missiles launched out of the hive city, and by rapid dune patrols of armoured cars and Sentinels who again and again managed to take separatist attackers by surprise. Thus convoys protected by heavy armour and Hydra flak tanks managed to keep the defenders of Nippur Regia fed and supplied, even if a seventh of the hive city's population of two billion had to be exterminated and fed into the corpse grinders in order to feed the rest of His Divine Majesty's starving subjects and loyal labourers.

With the aerial fortunes of local Planetary Defence Force aerofleets and Imperial Navy air wings at a crucial ebb, the invigorated Dadghabi separatists built new aerodromes and fuel depots, and concentrated all their air forces to strike the Long Walls in tandem with ground assaults. This renewed attempt to cut off Nippur Regia from outside supplies was met by Field Order Nr. 2137. Agathea von Niessuh ordered tens of thousands of workers and hundreds of civilian vehicles out into the battlezone, equipped with drills, dozer blades, spades and pickaxes. This ant-like column of humanity milled about along the stretch of the Long Walls, ever under horrible raids from enemy fighters, ever the victims of hostile artillery and air power. Many drafted thralls fled, only to be shot dead by blocking lines of Guardsmen and PDF troopers tasked with keeping the rabble in line. While overseers barked and taskmasters whipped bared backs, the men, women and children of Nippur Regia were herded out into the wasteland to dig pits and fill them with crude promethium.

When enemy assaults on this antediluvian engineering work intensified, General von Niessuh negotiated the cooperation of Nippur Regia's local Securitate forces and Adeptus Arbites precinct fortress. With harsh oversight provided by these brutal policiary organizations of the hive, Agathea increased input by throwing sixhundredthousand more Nippurites into the operation. Ever more machines broke down or went up in flames, and ever more work and transport had to be carried out by human hands and on human backs, assisted with requisitioned beasts of burden of xenoid origin. This mobilization of unwilling civilian manpower went on to the drumbeat of a massive conscription campaign, which saw three million Nippur Militiamen and Oathsworn Loyalist zealots in sackcloth hastily assembled. These men, women and juves were given the crudest practice imaginable in how to shoot and reload their lasguns or stubbers before being sent untrained to plug gaps in the frontlines of the the Long Walls.

Thus Imperial commander Agathea von Niessuh traded bodies for time, in a gamble she ultimately won at a cost in human lives best measured in hillocks of corpses.

Partway through the frantic scramble to shore up the Long Walls of Nippur Regia, Imperial forces began torching some of the first finished promethium wells, in a desperate attempt to gain some cover from hostile air power and unrelenting separatist ground assaults. Lo! The sky went black over Dadghab, and the city populace with windows facing the outside world woke up to darkness at dawn. Oily smoke billowed out of pits in the ground, masking the Long Walls and the people toiling and fighting and dying along its entire length. As more promethium wells were completed and lit up, ever more greasy columns of smoke darkened the sky, pulling a black veil over the heavens and throwing the efforts of enemy air power into confusion.

Where half the sky is flame and half the sky is smoke, Imperial might won out under a Promethian Shield, covering Imperial convoys and route defences for long enough. Eventually, enemy combat potential had ruined itself against the stalwart defenders with their lines of blocking troops ready to fire anyone surrendering or fleeing. Imperial officers and Commissars in the field brandished grim smiles on their gaunt faces as the rebel offensive petered out. And as the treacherous separatists licked their wounds, the artery of Imperial logistics known as the Long Walls pumped men and materiel frantically into Nippur Regia. Hundreds of long convoys of vehicles, men and pack animals travelled along blackened roads where horrible smoke and burnt-out corpses littered the landscape.

After three months of buildup, Imperial preparations were completed, and General Agathea von Niessuh launched the offensive Operation Pius, crushing enemy defenses again and again in a drumroll of artillery and small thrusts of armoured spearheads and human wave assaults that ground every rebel attempt to regroup and dig fortifications into dust and ash. Finally, after five years of total warfare and seventeen years of gruelling insurgency oppression, the entire region of Dadghab had returned under full Imperial control, including its precious promethium fields. The death toll exceeded three billion all in all, and much of the region was left largely depopulated after Imperial revenge purges saw any tribes and clans with suspected rebel members wiped out to extinguish all traitorous bloodlines. Thus was the Pax Imperialis restored to the planet of Uruk Sigma, and all was well in the celestial domains of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra.

The promethium smoke cover of the Long Walls of Nippur Regia is an example of a succesful use of fuel to shield ground fighters from sky fighters. These smoke covers are however often ineffectual, as the complete impotence of promethium covers against Tau, Eldar and Kin planes bear witness to. Burning promethium to blacken the sky can on the other hand cause great havoc among Ork pilots, for whom sight is the primary means of navigation and manoeuvre.

More worryingly, Imperial pilots and aircraft from worlds rebelling against the Imperium also seem to be vulnerable to this crude ploy. For instance, during the biannual Grand Exercises of Saint Hodrerum on the arid world of Tallarn in 884.M41, the Fourth Aerofleet of the Planetary Defence Force was thrown into utter chaos when the High Command sprang a Promethian Shield as a surprise twist in the unfolding live wargames. The resultant tumble as bewildered squadrons flew into each other and crashed into the ground amid thick layers of smoke was not only a peacetime training fiasco, but a glimpse of actual air combat reality as recorded on so many battlefronts across so many worlds and giant voidholms where aircraft can contend inside the domes.

To think that man, the master of the skies, has been reduced to such a rudimentary state that he must steer his winged wain by sight alone. During the human and machine heyday of the Dark Age of Technology, man flew sleek silver vessels with superb instruments that could slalom and somersault nimbly through the most dense and busy urban cityscape, no matter the obscuration of smoke, radiation, blinding light or electromagnetic pulse disruptions. Such blindfolded aerial acrobatics are now far beyond the reach of even the most skilled Imperial pilots among the degenerate descendants of Man of Gold. Not for the lack of breathtaking expertise, but for the horrendous degradation of knowledge and technology during the Age of Imperium.

Indeed, the contrast with Imperial fliers during the Great Crusade or the Forging will alone suffice to demonstrate the abject impoverishment of human aircraft under the reign of the High Lords of Terra.

Such is the state of human air power in a forsaken aeon.

Such is the decay that awaits us all, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the crumbling of the works of our hands.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only blindness.
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Karak Norn Clansman #5062

Lessons For Imperial Operatives, by StaevinTheAeldari

Do not miss the above linked stellar piece of writing by StaevinTheAeldari over on DakkaDakka. In it, he outlines crucial lessons which all Inquisitorial acolytes and Imperial operatives ought to learn if they wish to survive their perilous occupation. In it you will find The two headed chief, the forgotten page, the struggling hands or the frail ground, and That Which We Do Not Speak Of. Check it out!


Man Is the Measure of All Things

"Esteemed reader, let us now turn to a peculiar anecdote which evented in 974.M41, best retold aloud late in the dayturn in good company, following reinforcement by fine liquor. As Head Lady of the Ibolyka sept of our Noble House Erba-Batthyany, I had sponsored an Explorator Magos of the revered Adeptus Mechanicus to carry out a technoarchaeological dig on our domains, following a series of chance artefact finds by my diligent agri-serfs in District Alfa-79.

Three weeks into the excavation, I took the gilded sky blue grav-sled to visit the dig site in person, along with my Emperor-blessed fifteen surviving progeny and a retinue of eightysix attendants and bodyguards. By the grace of the Saints, we arrived just as the dig team hit upon an interesting discovery. A humble menial climbed out of the wellstair, bowed with eyes averted and tenderly handed my highborn self a crystalline rectangle with retracted corners, tinted teal with trace remains of yellow ochre dust in the engravings where cleaning efforts had not utterly succeeded. A shard of the rectangular plate was broken off in a corner, but otherwise it seemed intact. I held it up to bask in the light of the twin suns. The little crystalline find was covered in exquisite lines and diagrams of scratchings, with strange miniature illustrations etched into it.

For five minutes straight did I turn it around this way and that, and I studied its appearance on both front and back. I even peered closely on the thin edges, which bore microscopic markings which resembled long jumbles of numbers, akin the code-names of file-spirits. At last, I handed the artefact to the patient Explorator, Magos Ameerah-Kiran, and uttered these words:

'Ever since I was a small girl have I taken hieratic pride in my grasp of High Gothic. Yet the shape of letters and other figures is so unfamiliar from our Imperial fonts, and the twists of wordings so different, that I cannot make head or tail of its content. It is nothing like the histories and classics that I have consumed by the lumen, nor anything like the plays and poems that my late husband so treasured. Please tell me what ancient wisdom is contained within this relic, o Magos.'

The Tech-Priestess tenderly received the crystalline rectangle in her mechadendrites, shifting it over with extreme care to a strong bionic arm of many joints. Anointed ocular implants flared with light as they scanned its pristine surface, and the servant of the Omnissiah hummed with binary code-prayers while making the sign of the cogwheel with her other metal hands. At last the Explorator struck a bell and started to repeatedly swing a fragrant censer back and forth. Having thus established a solemn silence around herself, Magos Ameerah-Kiran at last proclaimed:

'Praise the divine knowledge! Your excellence, this is a plasteocrete hard copy of a digital file, printed in the twentythird millennium. Within its writ we find remnants of lost Biologis lore, describing a segment of characteristics of the wise ancients themselves. Truly it is said, that man is the measure of all things.'

'What does it say, o Magos?' I asked.

'On the shallow surface, it is nought but a superficial recording of anatomical survey findings among a population numbering fiftythousandthreehundredsix, all golden ancestors peopling a long-lost colony dome. As we might expect, their health indicators are overall robust, with tall average height speaking of excellent nourishment growing up. And not a single instance of lifelong parasitic infection.'

'And beneath those plain numbers, o Magos?'

'Peering deeper into the data, we realize that this is in fact a trail, and we must redouble our dig efforts, your excellence. We are clearly on the track of ancient Genetors, and we must toil slavishly to uncover every iota of remnant knowledge that these grounds of yours may contain.'

'Genetors you say? Do you expect to find a laboratorium of sorts? Pray tell, o Magos.'

'If the Omnissiah so wills it. Aye, your excellence. By electron and proton, these simple measurements contain proof of genetic engineering!'

Whether wittingly or not, the Tech-Priestess was pulling the leg of my curiosity. I confess that excitement burst forth in my heart, fed by many fantastic fables and cryptic mysteries speaking of the strange things of yore, before He Who Dwells On the Face of Terra revealed Himself as the Saviour and Lord of our predestined human species. Thus, I said with some eagerness, on the limits of protocol:

'Please do us the courtesy to not keep us on a leash any longer, reverend Explorator. Tell us what it is! What hint have you uncovered, pray tell? Are there unnatural freaks bred by gene-kings? Monstrosities and witches grown in vats? Are there horrors which man was never meant to see, bred by godless ancestors in heinous sin?'

The Explorator straightened and held up the hardprint in her mechanical claws, before uttering a blurt of binary code:

'01001000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101101 01100101 01101101 01100010 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110010 01100111 01100101 01110010 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01000100 01100001 01110010 01101011 00100000 01000001 01100111 01100101 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01010100 01100101 01100011 01101000 01101110 01101111 01101100 01101111 01100111 01111001'

'And in Low Gothic, o Magos?'

Magos Ameerah-Kiran replied in that scratchy voice through the vox-emitter: 'Your excellence. The key is hidden in the survey measurements for the entire masculine half of the dome population. Comparing to contemporary and historical data at the disposal of our noospheric memory coils, we may draw the conclusion that the wise ancients practiced their Genetor craft on a massive scale, effectively shaping the flesh of an entire population like clay to fulfil some of mankind's oldest wishful dreams.'

'How so? Did these mortals play god, o Magos?'

'Elementary! The crux lies in the phallic measurements, your excellence. Clearly proof of genetic engineering.' The Explorator paused theatrically and gazed on the male diggers on the site. Undoubtedly, the Magos' cultic indoctrination and surgical bionic shunning of the flesh had not extinguished every spark of humour within her cerebral processors and grey cells. For the briefest of moments, there was the shutting off and on of a glowing bionic eye in the Tech-Priestess' abominable metal face, as if mimicking a human wink. 'Oh, those poor, Imperial women. How short man has fallen of the heights of his ancestors!'"

- Anecdote from A Biography Betwixt Blushes and Banquets, an autobiographical work by Gyöngyi Erba-Batthyany, literary work approved by planetary censors in 989.M41 and published in High Gothic on Dunantul Majoris by Printing House Endre of Capitolina Sarolt
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Karak Norn Clansman #5065


Crowning Glory

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only toil for the sake of toil.

In the distant past of the misty Age of Terra, myths spoke of gods fashioning men and women out of clay to toil for their makers. To the eternal question of from where does we come, these stories replied that man is but mud, created to be a slave for celestial overlords. Skeptics during later phases of that bygone aeon would snarkily comment that such a cosmic order must be terribly convenient for mortal royals ruling over cowed masses. What a coincidence! As above, so below. Yet such leisurely talk of unbelief failed to grasp the heavily-laden omen for the future of man that lay hidden in these ancient tales told around campfires in fields of clay.

Behold man, the seed of Old Earth, the builder of wonders and the depraved destroyer of all. Behold man, the active worker and the lazy wastrel, the obedient servant and the clamorous rebel. Behold man in his totality, sprung from the meandering paths of breeding forebear-creatures, his blood forever marked by idiosyncracies and flaws born out of inbreeding and random mutations of genes. The king of animals, ancient man emerged out of the orgy and bloodbath of uncaring evolution as a sentient being able to fundamentally remake his surroundings, yet unable to fundamentally remake himself.

Thus human history for untold millennia played out in endless cycles of youthful rise and degenerate decay. The human past is a litany of tribes massacring their hated enemies, of people's minds led astray by ever more false creeds, and of greatness slowly built up over generations of toil only to be crashed by horrible heirs or greedy conquerors. Human civilization was for the longest time perpetually scourged by such ailings as poverty and corruption, theft and lethargy, ingratitude and history forgotten. The flaws of natural man under civilization are innumerable and to be observed everywhere he settles down and lives out his time. At the end of the day, man is but a product of nature, and all his neurotics, anxieties, dysfunctionalities, diseases, self-destructiveness and shortcomings ultimately stem from the random makeup of his being that was formed in long forgotten eras of bestial survival and procreation.

For a time, the Dark Age of Technology changed all of that. Ascending the heavens, the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron straddled the Milky Way galaxy like a colossus, and over twain million worlds were colonized in a brilliant spree of human expansion that took man to the stars and beyond. With science and technology as his lodestar, ancient man built a worldly paradise for himself, meticulously tailored to bring out the best of natural man, while artificially curing many of the worst defects of human nature. While clever systems were put in place to bring out the full potential of mankind, genetors worked relentlessly to improve on the human genome. The innermost secrets of human flesh became but clay under their able hands, to shape at will for the betterment of humanity as a whole. Inherited faults were hunted down and eliminated in order to shape a better man, and glorious creations such as Navigators saw the light of day, which still enable man to maintain an interstellar empire despite the frothing turmoil of the Empyrean.

Natural man was treated with the best cures of ills and given longevity such as he could only have dreamt of, yet the cunning minds of the Golden Age of Technology could do better than that. They could make man anew. They could create a better man.

Many untold and forgotten grand experiments were carried out, and many bore shining fruit. We will now focus our attention on one of the larger genetic projects of this bygone epoch of discovery, one whose seed has managed to perpetuate itself with brilliant success long after sister seeds long since wilted and died. The genetor project in question was not the most daring and groundbreaking one concocted during the Dark Age of Technology, nor was it driven by the loftiest of ideals. Instead, it is a testament to the stubborn and rugged qualities that always made natural man a survivor, amplified and purged of impurities that make for instability and failure. Let us turn to the murky origins of the Kin.

Man's drive to make the starspangled void his domain has always been driven by ambitions of expansion and greed. Only failed schools of thought would discount the allure of material gain as a pivotal force at the core of human history. And so ancient man in splendid times of yore set out to mine the galactic core. And the earthly trinity of Man of Gold, Stone and Iron toiled wisely to create a new human being fit for this task. This new man would be exquisitely fit for astral and terrestrial mining in the harshest environs, because he would have been designed for it from the ground up. The new man would not only be tough and resistant to cosmic radiation, he would also be diligent, clever, hard-working and a born perfectionist in all his endeavours. Not only that: The new man would be rid of human weaknesses and characteristics that bring instability, doubt and lapse in toil, and he would be designed to find meaning in his labours and enjoy his toil and mission in life.

In short, the new man would be the perfect slave, self-perpetuating and content with his monumental task for all eternity. The makers of ancestral Kin gave life to all those ancient myths of gods fashioning man out of clay to serve at the behest of distant deities, to work the lands and offer up the fruits of their labour in sacrifice. And just like any wise creator god of archaic mythology, the makers of the Kin fashioned their creations to revere and obey their creators, yet the results of these laboratory creations far exceeded anything ever claimed by old sagas.

The new man thus created by shadowy genetors was the abhuman race known as Homo Sapiens Rotundus, and it set about its grand task with unrelenting vigour. These willing thralls built up untold mining operations in the galactic core, and shipped back enormous amounts of material to their makers and owners. For they were made to be both willing and able labourers. The rapid expansion of the human species during the Stellar Exodus was greatly accelerated by the astral mining conducted by gene-bred abhumans in the galactic core, as were the building of megastructures in space and soaring wonders on planetary crust wherever large human colonies sprang up.

As ancient man built edenic idylls on twain million worlds and voidholms without number, the miners toiled in the core. As the best and the brightest minds of ancient man began cracking the secrets of creation and time itself, they toiled. As gene-kings and monstrosities rose out of heinous sin and godless hubris, they toiled. As aberrant Man of Iron rebelled against his master, they toiled. As the galaxy burned in machine revolt and titanic technological civil war beyond anything seen later, they toiled. As Abominable Intelligence ran amok and machine creations swallowed stars and pulverized worlds, they toiled. As witches and Warp storms tore the ravaged galactic civilization of ancient man asunder, they toiled.

Scarcely anything is known about the Ancestors of the Kin during the last stages of the crumbling Dark Age of Technology. Clearly, they were not untouched by all the calamities that beset the star realm of ancient man during this time. They must have fought, and fought succesfully. Clearly, they survived, and their grasp of ancient man's legacy technology and scientific knowledge remained strong.

The horrible aeon of devastation known as the Age of Strife saw many remnant human enclaves with some degree of preserved high technology and knowledge make it through Old Night, only to be crushed ruthlessly by the Emperor's all-conquering Legions as the early Imperium took the Milky Way galaxy with storm. Clearly, some peripheral states of Homo Sapiens Rotundus fell to the Imperial war machine during the Great Crusade, yet the work of completely subjugating every nook and cranny of the galaxy was left unfinished when the Horus Heresy rent the Emperor's dream to pieces, and then proceeded to nigh-on slay Him on Terra in a civil war that destroyed Imperial mankind's hopes of ever rekindling the golden lights of their ancestors. And so the vast majority of the human species was swept down a maelstrom of ever-worsening demechanization and fanatical depravity, and man grew ever more senile and irrationally aggressive as fivehundred generations of descendant degeneration played themselves out in a baleful theatre of the absurd.

Yet the counter-productive tyranny of the monstrous Imperium of Man was not the only strong entity remaining of the heirs of ancient man. Hidden in the galactic core, there remained a great and powerful remnant that will toil until the end of time, if nothing manages to destroy them first. This remnant was the willing slave race, tailored for their worksome task by unknown makers seeking profit. These mining thralls had long since ceased to send shipments of ore and processed raw materials to the domains of wider humanity, for the Age of Strife had ended that part of their original purpose. Instead, the stout race of abhumans turned their acquisitions into ever more fantastic creations of their own, and invested it all in expanding their Holds and astral domains, in a never-ending search for more celestial bodies to extract resources from.

Where others fell to the flame and fell to infighting and cannibal savagery, they endured. Where others lost knowledge and craft and even forgot where they had sprung from, they endured. Where others lost their grasp of interstellar travel and astral mining in the havoc of the Age of Strife, they endured, and endured with excellence. Their makers had fashioned them to be the perfect workers and miners, the best survivalists and the most thorough artisans. Made to be solid and reliable, made to be free of natural man's most damning weaknesses, this clone race endured and thrived amid hardships that brought so many others to oblivion. Their decentralized interstellar civilization stayed true to its original mission, and thus the Leagues of Votann bloomed in the galactic core.

Children of many names, these abhumans are derogatorily known to the Imperium of Man as Squats. They are also known as Demiurg to Tau and Humans alike, as Heliosi Ancients to the Eldar, and likewise are they known to other Xenos as the Gnostari, Grome or Kreg, among many other names. Yet they themselves know their folk simply as Kin, for they are a race of few words, each laden with meaning.

Bestowed with a very demanding biological constitution, the Kin breeds but slowly the natural way, for such is the drawback of approaching perfection in the flesh. Thus, the creators of the Kin saw fit to vastly accelerate their reproduction while at the same time ensuring stability of the desired genome through the use of cloneskeins. The vast majority of Kin are thus birthed from machines at the heart of their Holds, in Crucibles endowed with genomic cloning technologies. While some exotic variations of genes and phenotypes have arisen among the dispersed populations of Kin throughout the millennia, the cloneskeins help ensure that their essential nature remains that desired by their long-dead makers, without significant aberrations.

Unintentionally, and through historical accident, the Kin has proven to be the truest and best enduring achievement among the creations of humanity during the Dark Age of Technology. The astral civilization of the Leagues of Votann have proven neither too brittle and corruptible to easily splinter and decay, nor too advanced so as to fall prey to revolts against creators or breakdowns of overly sophisticated systems.

In their middling way of Dark Age of Technology refinement, the Kin has proven the golden mean, a system installed long ago by forgotten makers that is still going incredibly strong. Among all the shattered remnants of mankind's golden age of science and technology, so much has fallen. The legacy technology and scientific understanding inherited by the wilted Imperium is rotting away with every passing century. The few shards of still operational and independent-minded Men of Stone and Men of Iron endures in the shadows without being able to mount any kind of large-scale recovery of ancient man's higher civilization, or else they have fallen to the corrupting influence of Chaos. Yet the Kin remains.

The Kin has managed their scientific and technological inheritance from the Golden Age of Technology better than any other seeds of Old Earth. Not only is their grasp of tech and material lore supreme in comparison to the shamanistic rituals of the senile Imperium; the Kin has employed both their technological elevation and themselves to forge teeming clusters of lively mining empires and industrial bastions in the galactic core, known as the Leagues of Votann. Theirs is not a tale of woe, and neither is it a saga of slow decline nor bleak dwindling in the face of overwhelming odds. For theirs is a success story against all the odds, of hardy expansion and wonders crafted in the harsh environs that lies at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy.

During the time of their creation, the Kin were never the spearhead of technology and science, never the best fruit from the tree of man. They were exquisitely tailored for their grand task at hand, and made to thrive at it with the focus of perfectionists and the order of a perfect slave race, happy with their lot and finding fulfilment in their neverending work. They were equipped with an adequately advanced level of technology and scientific knowledge, yet their wisdom and craft were never the highest spires of the ancients.

Nevertheless those tall spires of legendary breakthroughs and tampering with reality itself fell to pieces in the wasteland of the Age of Strife, and all the most advanced creations of man either revolted, were destroyed or slowly eroded in forgotten abandonment. And so the Kin endures, designed to be stolid and tough, bred to be crafty and loyal. Theirs is a stout civilization, that has endured where brighter lights of the Dark Age of Technology have long since been snuffed out. Worksome and ingenious, the Grome are the perfect tool, and they continue to willingly wield themselves with excellence many millennia after their mysterious makers turned to dust.

Slaves bred for toil and carefully designed for order and stability so as to never rebel, the ancestral origins of the Demiurg remain a secret unknown even to themselves. Some would say that it is wrong to play god and create a slave race to work for your benefit. Yet we must turn this steak around, and bear witness to the enduring success of the Kin, for therein lies a testament to the brilliance of man during the Dark Age of Technology.

Consider their dark origins, and marvel at the skill with which the Squats were wrought: Is it not wrong to put slaves to tasks which they ultimately are unhappy with? Why not design the slaves to be happy with their tasks and find fulfilment in their toil? What could be more beautiful than perfection of function?

Nay, pity the unrefined, raw, longshanking manlings instead! Their flesh and essence is but a random hodgepodge of contradictory neurotics, falsehoods and selfish desires, spat out by the rutting chance of evolution. They are nought but apes arisen. How much suffering and bloodshed and destruction does not result from man’s imperfect being? Why not make a better man, and do away with all the evils of life? Why not design a better being from the ground up, stable and dependable, clever and strong? Why not forge the perfect tool?

To the Kin, there is nothing sinister about their origins. They were designed to be pragmatic, and so they will focus on what matters, true to the design of their makers. There is no space for doubt, just as there may not be cracks within the best of tools.

Look upon the toil of the Kin, and behold the genius of their work. Man may be a toolmaker, yet they are a sublime toolmaker. Ken the perfection of function that plays out in their civilization, across vistas of asteroid mining and salvage operations of spacewrecks, across nebulae trawling and the harvesting of black holes. The degenerate descendants of mankind in the Holy Terran Imperium know only of such wonders as particle excavators as garbled scenes for heroes and monsters jostling with lances of flame during a forgotten time, when starstriders walked the skies and discovered the perilous galaxy. Such wonders are but the stuff of legend to retrograde man, yet they are a lived reality of working projects for the Squats in the galactic core. And the sagas to be sung of those wonders would far surpass the tales of void-dragons and starknights.

Listen to tales told by Kin of their enormous struggles against Greenskins, which saw strong Leagues grind giant Waaaghs! to dust through gruelling total wars that lasted for hundreds of years, until the unrelenting power of the Squats crushed Orks underheel. Listen to the lamentations over lost Holds and Votanns gone mad amid death and desolation. Listen to the coming of the Bane and the vicious battles against Chaos. Listen to the Grudges and the works.

The Kin are sterling prospectors, miners, and void-dredgers, and a spirit of enterprising adventure is in their blood. Kreg mercenaries and pioneers may be found far away from the dominions of the Leagues, gathering knowledge and experience to offer up to their Ancestor Cores, the mysterious Votann of whom the Kin will never speak in the presence of aliens and lesser men. The lives of the Kin revolve around kinship, Ancestors and perfectionist work to mine and forge marvels across the stars. Their lives are likewise filled with lethal combat, for where there is peril there is opportunity.

It has been said in jest about their warriors that they are every inch the soldier, but there are not many inches. As any Kin worth their salt knows, a rotund sphere is the ideal body shape. The ugly longshanking of manlings just prove that knees are overrated. Yet the greatness of the Kin cannot be perceived from measly length of body, but in their endurance and their ability to work long and hard without becoming unhappy and broken. Most of all, the greatness of the Kin may be witnessed in their gigantic works, which will dwarf any undertakings of the ignorant Adeptus Mechanicus.

Certainly, the Ancestors of the Kin were never meant for utter ruthless exploitation for all eternity. Their purpose was never to extract all minerals from planets with native populations still on the crust, nor was it to salvage the infrastructure and cities of alien and human civilizations as so much junk to be recycled. The indifferent worksomeness with which the Leagues of Votann conduct their most shocking mining operations upon the worlds of unwilling inhabitants may be stark insanity to some, yet to the Kin themselves it is merely fulfilling the perfection of function for which they were created, honed to a new degree of sharpness. Their makers may never have envisioned this outcome, yet these atrocious extraction wars are also as true as rock itself.

Luck has. Need keeps. Toil earns.

Thus the Kin will carry out their tasks without any regard to whom it would have been of gain. No one else can rival their rapacious astral and terrestrial mining operations. All there is, to these extraordinary space miners, is exploitation and work unto the grave, so that future generations will be able to toil just as hard unto their own graves. The ancient promise of a better tomorrow for man is gone. The labour which should have led to a future without hardship and suffering where people can live in abundance and happiness is long since forgotten and buried. All there is, is work for the sake of work. And the Kin revel in it. Had they been a religious lot, they could not have asked for a better afterlife than the mortail coil of toil which they live out so hardily and heartily in the heart of the galaxy. Rock and stone!

And so we see that the Heliosi Ancients pursue their mining mission with greater focus than ever before, in unquestioning obedience to the Votann, their secret Ancestor Cores. The entire civilization of the Leagues is one of relentless work, and of war to enable more toil. Their most frequent foe is that of Orkoids, the green menace that has cast so many others on the trash heap of history. It is no surprise that engineers who mine asteroids for minerals end up the hateful enemy of lunatics who strap giant engines to the asteroids in order to crash Roks into unsuspecting planets in search of a good fun scrap. And so we may witness industrial conglomerates muster fantastic resources and hurl immense mechanized forces of Kin on savage foes, in order to grind down all resistance to their mining claims.

The Leagues of Votann believe that nothing is worth doing unless it is done well, and they wage war as methodically as they undertake any other pursuit. The selfsame attitude to life means that even the most isolated Squat enclaves are superb toolmakers, with a flair for overengineered maximalist designs. Anything they make will be sturdy and dependable, reliable just like they themselves are. This ever-present facet of Homo Sapiens Rotundus civilization is captured in the Kin Truth: Rock holds.

The pragmatic nature of Kin is not a conscious choice, but a racial temperament made by careful design in aeons past. Certain options will not even occur to Kin, for they are not made to occur to them, and the cloneskeins will ensure that it remains so on a fundamental level. Originally such a practical nature and focus on material tasks was meant to ensure that the Kin would never rebel, yet the long-term consequences of this artificial design of life has created something far greater than willing thralls meant to mine the galactic core for distant overlords. It has created an interstellar civilization immune to decadence and decay, free from the lowly cycles of human history, such as continue to play out miserably on Terra and across all her daughter worlds. The Gnostari embodies stability, and they are not able to fall into the societal traps of high technology, for such weakness has been bred out of them.

Do the Kin possess free will, compared to sentient species that are the result of natural evolution? The horrifying answer matters not. Never forget the foremost of all Kin Truths: The ancestors are watching.

For the Kin endure and they expand where so much else has been lost for all time, where so many treasures beyond imagination has been forgotten, never to be rediscovered. The enduring success of what became the Leagues of Votann could not have been foreseen in ancient times of glory, when so much else wonder was created that seemed to surpass the solid Kin.

Yet the worksome stability and striving for perfection of the Kin has outperformed all the other fruits of the Golden Age of Mankind. For where are the Men of Stone now? And where are the Men of Iron and the feared machine minds of Abominable Intelligence? Where are the brilliant minds that laboured to unlock the very secrets of creation itself? All have fallen into oblivion or obscurity, yet the less advanced sideshow that was the Squat slave race in the galactic core remains, and remains with a vengeance. For where the rest of humanity has ceased to create marvels of science and technology, the Leagues of Votann has continued the great legacy of the Dark Age of Technology. They alone among the spawn of Terra have continued to build pragmatic megastructures to harvest stars and planets alike, and they alone have continued to engineer material wonders of such a scale and a brilliant fashion as did once mankind's gifted ancients.

Thus the Kin are the crowning glory of the Dark Age of Technology.

All else is rot and ruination among the fruits of ancient man, in the Age of Imperium.


Listen to the song of this benighted age.

A song rising out of the souls of mortals that must live through its hell.

Its song nought but the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

For all that can be heard is woe.

And the laughter of thirsting gods.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only war.
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Karak Norn Clansman #5074


Befouled Birthright

"Ancient Man committed the first sin when he cast off his fear of the dark, for his heart was eaten away by the marshlight promise of hope. And with hope came greed for gain and thirst for knowledge, and thus the shining road to damnation was paved.

And Man sailed into the nightsky with unbridled boldness, and Man set about peopling the galaxy, which he remade into worldly paradise betwixt the stars. Heinous arrogance possessed Man as starstriders and sky-knights charged across the cosmos in godless sin, slaying monsters with spears of flame behind shields of starlight. And so Ancient Man explored the heavens with carefree curiosity, and every celestial discovery led wretched Man further astray from the path of the righteous, for he had eyes only for this world, and not the next. And Man showered adoration upon vain heroes who broke ground across the starspangled void, even as Man spat upon all that was holy in his unforgivable error.

All of creation was a ripe fruit to be plucked by the grasping hands of Ancient Man, for to rule the stars was his birthright. Yet Man's deeds and works fed his baleful hubris, and Man's mind became filled with the poison of unbelief and the folly of hope. And wherever Ancient Man nested, he lived in harmony and plenty, for a false bliss bore abundant milk and honey, and the nectar of worldly paradise sired thoughts of self and boundless ambition.

Ancient Man reached for the sky, and found all the gods of old to be trifling in comparison to Man's own worldly greatness. Thust Man cast off all faith in divinity, and placed himself on a pedestal of abomination. And Man worshipped his own knowledge and power in unspeakable sin, and his power and reach grew across the stars, and man uncovered ever more secrets in his lust for forbidden knowledge. And Man's heart was led astray by the lies of freedom and want of pain and perfection of flesh. And so the soul of Ancient Man became mired in the pit of progress, where witches and hellfire consumed him with fury after Man's own iron craft had turned on its maker. And all was fell.

Thus Ancient Man travelled the circles of creation, only to end up in the Nether Hells for the sake of his wicked deeds. For the universe is not for worlds to explore, but for souls to save. Thus ritual has replaced curiosity, for we are much wiser now. For we have learnt to fear the void as we must fear the dark, and we have learnt to hate that which we fear.

Have mercy upon us, o Divine Majesty!

Have mercy upon wretched Man!

For we must do eternal penance for our inheritance of sin. And we will flagellate ourselves until blood flows in a hundred streams from a hundred wounds. And we will pierce our skin with thorns and tear our scalp with shards, and we will scorch our flesh, and all this we will do willingly and gladly in His name. And we will praise the hardship that we must bear, and bless the breaking of our back, for it is a just labour, and a just punishment upon our worthless husks. And we swear to endure all suffering and accept any atrocity, for the guardian Emperor of Holy Terra demands nothing less than our utter submission and eager slavery. And we are but dust under His foot.

And we will travel the void in nought but terror, and we will stay vigilant for hidden danger. And we will purge hope and curiosity from our hearts, for ignorance is our armour, and faith is our shield. And we will teach our offspring by rod and thorn and spark to fear the dark of the void. And we will invite the cruelty inflicted upon us as His will, and we will give praise to the lash that strikes our flesh in vengeance for heinous sin.

This we pledge, and this we vow.

And may we drown in the nightsky, should we ever fail in this our oath.

And may we be burnt by distant suns, should we ever fail in this our oath.

And may our spirits be eaten by horrors that may not be mentioned, should we ever fail in this our oath.

We will look to Your light alone, and fear everything else.

Fear! Fear! Fear!

Thus You guide us.

Ave Imperator."

First Wellspring of Sin, pamphlet penned in M.38 by Cardinal Ignatius Paulinus Hieronymus of Salem Proctor
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Karak Norn Clansman #5085


Sectarian Strife

In the grim darkness of the far future, pious man is slain by pious hand.

Humans have always grabbed at any opportunity and justification for conflict and aggression. Comprehending this basic truth is vital to understand the heated strife surrounding religious belief and practice that mar so much of human history. The morass of disagreements boiling over into bloodshed that can be witnessed in belief systems revolving around the sacred, is fundamentally no different from the storms of murder and war found between adherents of worldly ideologies. Humans can fight over anything. Indeed, humans will fight over everything. Thus love of deity can easily translate into hatred of fellow man. Violence and strife are integral parts of our nature, similar to how helpfulness and love of kin are part of what it means to be human.

Let us examine the greatest example of fanatical conflict in all of human existence. Let us look beyond the wars of religion fought during the misty past of the Age of Terra. Let us step past the thriving splendour and godless inventions of the Dark Age of Technology. And let us look beyond the horrors of Old Night, for not even the worst excesses of rabid sects during the collapsed Age of Strife can compare to the sheer scale of sectarian strife during the depraved Age of Imperium.

Let us briefly touch on the God-Emperor of Holy Terra, the Master of Mankind Himself, that Divine Majesty who brought salvation, hope and trampling conquest to embattled humanity all across the Milky Way galaxy. As His Legions won crushing victories on world after world, the Imperator sought to promote a secular renaissance in order to restore human science and invention. Yet clearly, such worldly endeavours could not veil the true greatness of the Emperor, for He inspired either undying loyalty or devilish outrage wherever He stepped with gold-clad foot, as if His mere presence was enough to sift light from darkness and reveal the true nature of men and women. Clearly, His denial of divinity was just further proof of the chosen Emperor's godhood, for surely He did protest too much when He said Himself to not be a god? Clearly, only a god would ever deny being a god.

And so a forgotten author during the legendary times of the early Imperium was divinely inspired to pen the Lectitio Divinitatus in a fit of religious ecstasy, pouring his very soul into the work that became the bedrock of Imperial faith. Thus the seeds of Temple greatness were sown in that hallowed time when the Celestial Imperator walked among His people in the flesh, for every writ of the sacred book is moved by godly inspiration. Alas, human treachery made the galaxy burn, and brother slew brother across the stars. And as the Emperor was mortally wounded and enthroned upon the Golden Throne to ascend and judge us all, those seeds of faith sprouted and grew mightily among the ashes, blossoming into the Imperial Cult, swearing allegiance to the Imperial Creed.

And in the depths of despair and ruination, mankind turned willingly and eagerly to their new promise of salvation and immortal afterlife. Thus the Cult Imperialis arose in the wake of the Horus Heresy to become the backbone of the Imperium, sweeping across planet and voidholm alike in a tidal wave of proselytizing devotion. As the Imperium staggered on during the Scouring, wounded and shaken, the upswell of faith in the Emperor united Imperial subjects and gave them a new cause and renewed will to pull together and fight off external attacks. Yet this healthy vigour also translated itself into fanatical attacks upon rival claimants on humanity's soul and faith.

Just as the God-Emperor during the Great Crusade had monopolized the future of all human development under His eagle-taloned banner by crushing all alternative sources of human regrowth, so would the nascent Ecclesiarchy seek to eradicate all rival creeds that might threaten its own monolithic power over the minds of mankind. The greatest threat to the theological dominance of the Ecclesiarchal Cult Imperialis arose in the thirtysecond millennium, in the form of the Confederation of Light, hailing from the planet of Dimmamar. The Confederation of Light was a breakaway sect that grew into a full-fledged faith of its own with much success in garnering a following. Preaching a penitent creed of poverty, selflessness and humble living, the ideals of the Confederation of Light set it on a collision course with the Adeptus Ministorum.

After all, this alternative creed undermined the legitimacy of the dominant Ecclesiarchal view that it was necessary for worshippers to sacrifice their wealth to the Temple in the forms of taxes, tithes, gifts and indulgences. How else could the righteous priesthood enhance the access of Imperial subjects to salvation? How else could the Adeptus Ministorum ensure that the light of the Emperor reached every corner of the galaxy through His Missionaria Galaxia? Salvation is not free. Yet the Confederation of Light preached a different creed, and the threat that it posed proved impossible to root out by means of the Officio Assassinorum alone. This threat to Imperial stability caused the Senatorum Imperialis to vote unanimously for the Ecclesiarchy to launch its first War of Faith.

Thus believers in the Emperor's divinity descended upon believers in the Emperor's divinity, and smote them mightily in a zealous crusade headed by the Frateris Templar. The Adeptus Ministorum succeeded in crushing the heretical Confederation of Light with great support from the Astra Militarum and the Imperial Navy, leaving only a few scattered cells of the Confederation of Light to survive in hiding. Thus was Ecclesiarchal domination over human faith ensured, and all of mankind under Imperial rule became its flock alone, for the cardinals of the Ministorum is a jealous upper caste priesthood and will brook no competition that may challenge their worldly wealth and power, for the salvation of trillions of human souls depend upon their devout guidance. Thus was the first War of Faith concluded, to be followed by innumerable more holy wars, in a cavalcade of loyalist Imperial subjects slaughtering loyalist Imperial subjects.

And the ascended Emperor saw that it was good, for thus would a martial spirit be fostered in beleaguered mankind. And the High Lords of Terra approved of this internal strife, for it was in accordance with virtuous eugenics, and so an internal dynamic of struggle against fellow brothers and sisters came to imprint itself upon all of the Imperium of Man. Let the strongest prevail, for the betterment of all mankind!

As the stark example made out of the Confederation of Light made clear, the Ecclesiarchy will stamp out all rival creeds to their Cult Imperialis. Yet this does not hinder the emergence of sects within the Imperial Cult. Akin to the mutations and diverging species of evolving life, human religions all tend to sprout a plethora of various branches as centuries roll by. Many of them will damn each other and fight over hotly contested points of dogma. As with fanatics everywhere, the more alike the different sects are, the more important it becomes to suppress and eliminate each other, the better to monopolize their niche of thought and belief.

Famously, sectarian strife among loyalist Imperial worshippers reached its crescendo during the Age of Apostasy and in its bloody aftermath, when violence born from the convert's zeal rose to a fever pitch. First, the followers of the divinely inspired High Lord Goge Vandire unleashed a giant purge of all mankind to cleanse it of sinners, traitors and deviants, sparking untold thousands upon thousands of frenetic conflicts between local sects and Vandirians backed by Holy Terra herself. Then, the followers of Saint Sebastian Thor undertook a counter-purge on an astonishing scale to put an end to Vandire's followers for good, leading to bloodshed and fraternal murder roaring from end to end of the Imperium of Man.

Kill! Maim! Burn!

To top it all off, this maelstrom of internecine slaughter proved to be the inauguration of a new era known as the Age of Redemption, which saw Imperial forces fling themselves against external foes and internal malcontents in a frenzy of crusading, in order to atone for past sins. The Age of Redemption turned out to be the Imperium overreaching and depleting vast resources in a cacophony of struggles which eventually led nowhere, all in order to satiate penitent appetites in an everlasting cycle of hatred. Thus followed the Waning, as the Holy Terran Imperium grind ever further downwards in its slow death spiral of demechanization and loss of knowledge and technology, and no gigantic outbursts of zealous fervour have proven enough to turn the tide of doom and compensate for mankind's abysmal failings on the Imperium's watch.

The Age of Imperium amounts to fivehundred generations of wasted human potential under a tyrannical regime that is as sclerotic and senile as it is cruel in its bloodthirst. Its chronicles contain an endless litany of fell deeds sprung from hatred of thy neighbour. The overwhelming majority of sectarian strife within His Divine Majesty's cosmic domains is directed not against worshippers of forbidden powers or against hybrid infiltration or xenophile turncoats, but against fellow Imperial sects, all loyalist and ardent in their devotion to the God-Emperor of mankind, seated in radiant glory upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth.

Some sects were originally born out of the ennobling worship of heroes, as followers and admirers looked for guidance to the sterling example set by great men and outstanding women of faith. In these saintly founding figures, the sect members saw lives of wisdom, sacrality and martyrdom, and they declared their deeds and words to be holy, inspired by the divine Imperator Himself. Some such heroes of the faith gained a sectarian following first after their gruesome death, as the injustice of their sudden end at the hands of ruthless powermongers and rivals outraged those who looked to the martyred heroes for legitimate leadership or revelation. Other such mystics and martyrs were sect leaders in their own right long before their legendary demise, performing miracles, uttering winged words during sermons and winning renown as holy actors across the land.

A well-known sinspeech whisper joke found on the mining voidholm of Caralis Delta pokes fun at the fractious nature of Imperial sects, as well as the inept governance on the voidholm:

Emir Pius was a man who united all Imperial sects, because he degraded the True Believers, he degraded the Orthopraxists and he degraded the Redemptionists.

Yet such unity against a common foe tend to be short-lived. The martial creed of the Cult Imperialis is unforgiving and absolute. And so we find that a million worlds and innumerable voidholms under Imperial rule see a plethora of distinct sects turning to communal violence and religious vendettas with baleful frequency. What Imperial city dweller in Segmentum Pacificus has not heard of the cultic feuds between Orthopraxists and Redemptionists, or of the deadly schisms between Soliphysites and True Believers? Who on Triarius Majoris have not participated in pogroms against Dualites or Miacrolites, or cheered on their kin as Sufealots and Monothychastians clashed with flail and fire?

Who on Menestra II have not hailed or spat on the millenarian uprisings and carnage brought on by prophecy, as Tricarnists and Ravadayans rebelled to bring down their sinful Governor, that despot cursed by the sacred ringleaders as a pillar of false ritual and empty faith? Who in the Cartagensis subsector have not heard tales of zealous lynchmobs waging a democidal tug of war, as Puritanicalites and Iconodules slaughtered Catholodox and Tayrabiites alike? Who on Tarim Supernalis have not witnessed the gory aftermath of claustrophobic combat inside hive city quarters, as Dicapothicites and Hesyatareans duke it out in what amounts to a knife fight in a vox booth?

Aye, praise the burning devotion that led Nestarchian militias to assault Ifraj Twelvers, and in turn be ambushed by Sanctarians! Hail the zeal which made Sicaromites and the Holy Flock of Saint Kiva the Destroyer purge each other with inflamed passion! Was it not right and proper that the devout Maccaridees threw the Sicaromites into cleansing flames? Did not the Mezadicists receive their righteous punishment as ordained by the Divine Imperator Himself, when the Rokkabasites burnt their hab blocks to cinders and put the survivors to torture and violations?

He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword, and the Age of Imperium offers opportunities more numerous than the stars in the heavenly firmament to be slain by fellow worshippers of the God-Emperor, hallowed be His name. What a trial of our faith! Yet we shall be strong, and we shall overcome all doubt and weak stirrings of mercy and pity and remorse within our human hearts. We shall be true to His word, as ordained by the Lectitio Divinitatus, and we shall be warlike and unforgiving unto the very end.

Ave Imperator.

And so a hundred hundredfold sects will be declared heretical by the Adeptus Ministorum as bewildering power struggles play themselves out within the Temple, while local friction between parochial Imperial cultists will erupt into mass murder and civil war. Among so many schisms and heresies, who can you trust? No wonder the Imperium prefers to purge first and ask questions later. Who knows what forbidden cults may lurk in the bosom of professed loyalist believers? Thus internal crusades will be launched by paranoid theocrats, in a bewildering festival of slaughter as myopically aggressive mankind hurls itself against its own kin again and again. And so heinous deeds of ardent worshippers of the same Emperor will be committed, as distinct loyalist Imperial sects plunge the bottomless depths of depravity in demented furor over hairsplitting theological disputes.

How can these Wars of Faith not feed the Ruinous Powers, flush as they are with bloodthirst and hatred?

And so the astral dominion of the Emperor of Holy Terra staggers onward in a fever dream of hidebound self-flagellation. This travesty of human destiny amounts to a shambolic wreck of spacefaring civilization, whose brilliant ancestors once straddled the cosmos like titans in a spirit of courageous discovery and boundless curiosity. The descendant degeneration of humanity in the Age of Imperium is not only a baleful crime enough to make a heart of stone bleed: It is also the most abominable of mistakes, the wasting of unbridled potential in a deadend of human interstellar civilization. Never forget that the worsening of Imperial fortunes will mean the doom of mankind, for the glorious Imperium, that last strong guardian of our species and shield of us all, is also our insane jailkeeper, the watchman of a fortified madhouse from which there is no escape and no real alternative of substance.

Thus the Age of Imperium grinds on, in a fruitless caleidoscope of sectarian strife and fanatical violence. As scrolls and screaming believers burn on the pyre, condemned to agony and destruction by fellow pious worshippers, let us listen to the cries of the agitated mob, who proclaim why they carry out such zealous deeds. Listen well:

In Nomine Imperator.

In His Name.

And so His dream died, consumed by a nightmare without end.

Such is the waste of life, in a time beyond hope.

Such is the slaughter that awaits us all.

Such is the darkest of futures.

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