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Age of Apostasy

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"Blackest of Ages, Saddest of Times. Let none give name to he that laid us low..."
The Chant of Days, Scrivener Obyss Mak

The Age of Apostasy was a second period of interstellar civil war that consumed the Imperium of Man in the early 36th Millennium. The terrible conflicts of the Age of Apostasy grew out of a political struggle between the Administratum and the Adeptus Ministorum for dominance over the Imperium. The period is usually divided into two separate major events by Imperial historians known as the Reign of Blood and the Plague of Unbelief. The stuggle began when control over the Imperium's government was essentially seized by a single man, the High Lord of Terra Goge Vandire, who commanded both the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy and ruled the Imperium according to his own wishes instead of in accord with the Emperor's will. Fortunately, his brutal reign eventually came to an end with the coming of the reforming preacher Sebastian Thor and his reborn Confederation of Light, a sect of the Imperial Cult based on the previous Confederation of Light's banned teachings, that sought to end Goge Vandire's corruption of Imperial theology. High Lord Vandire was in power for almost a standard century before finally being overthrown in the midst of the Terran Crusade and slain by his own bodyguards, the Daughters of the Emperor, who later became the Adepta Sororitas. Vandire was replaced as the Imperial Ecclesiarch by Sebastian Thor, who unleashed the Imperium's second major era of reform following the Horus Heresy. The end of the Reign of Blood resulted in a major reformation of the Ecclesiarchy, the creation of the Imperial Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus to police those enemies of the Imperium who lay within its own structures and the creation of the Adepta Sororitas to serve as both the Eccelsiarchy's new military force and the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus.

The Plague of Unbelief is considered to be part of the Age of Apostasy, although it occurred several decades after High Lord Goge Vandire's death and Sebastian Thor's ascension to the position of Ecclesiarch. Many false prophets appeared throughout the anarchic Age of Apostasy, some little more than madmen leading rebel armies, others spiritual demagogues who commanded worlds and armies. The most powerful of these was the Apostate Cardinal of Gathalamor, Bucharis, whose heresies reached such proportions they became known as the Plague of Unbelief, not to be confused with the Curse of Unbelief, a potent arcane disease spread by servants of the Chaos God Nurgle in the 41st Millennium and better known as the Zombie Plague. The Age of Apostasy is considered to be one of the bloodiest eras in the Imperium's history after the terrible civil war of the Horus Heresy.

Reign of Blood

At the dawn of the 34th Millennium the Adeptus Ministorum held nigh total power, which it used to ensure that every single subject of the Emperor of Mankind in the Imperium paid his dues, both spiritually and financially, to the duly appointed officers of the faith. Zeal eclipsed reason, and misrule reigned supreme. The word of the Emperor was subverted wholesale by corrupt ideologues, each struggling to usurp total control for themselves. In time, the Ministorum exercised such power that it began to dictate the policies of the Senatorum Imperialis of the High Lords of Terra. The Ecclesiarch came to be viewed as speaking with the authority of the Emperor Himself, and he influenced every aspect of the governance of the Imperium.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the other great bureaucracies of the Imperium should grow resentful of the Ministorum. The Adeptus Administratum in particular found its own powers greatly curtailed, for the Ministorum's tithes took precedence over its own raising of funds and resources, leaving little in the coffers to pay for the running of the Imperium. The Administratum's influence soon waned so far that the Ministorum was able to dictate policy in secular matters as well. The raising and deployment of armies, the prosecution of wars, the commitment of significant Imperial resources and the appointment of sector lords all fell under the effective control of the Ministorum. In time, other institutions began to distrust the Ministorum's power, and the Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Mechanicus in particular became increasingly estranged. This dark period of history in the 36th Millennium came to be known as the Age of Apostasy.

Seeds of Heresy

Over the course of the 35th Millennium, the Administratum managed to claw back some of its former influence, but only through a series of machinations that were ultimately to the detriment of the Imperium as a whole. By the insinuation of covert supporters into key positions of power across the Imperium, the Administratum slowly eroded its rival's power and ensured that those officials the Ministorum did succeed in placing were weak, incompetent or venal. Though this ruthlessly instigated policy regained some of the Administratum's lost power, it set in motion a series of events that would see the Imperium face its greatest catastrophe since the Horus Heresy. In an effort to reverse the decline in its fortunes, Ecclesiarch Benedin IV declared that the Ministorum's upper echelons would move from Terra to the planet of Ophelia VII, a world in the Segmentum Tempestus and one of the richest in the Imperium after Terra and Mars. Moving the operations of the Holy Synod to Ophelia VII was a vast undertaking, but the effort proved well worthwhile. Separated from the machinations of the Senatorum Imperialis by ten thousand light years, the Ministorum's power waxed anew. The Synod became a force unto itself, and freed from the interference of the other High Lords the Ecclesiarch was able to raise entire armies and fleets in order to enforce its newfound influence across the Imperium. These forces, known as the Frateris Templar, came to rival the conventional military armies and fleets of the Imperium, and they soon came to be greatly resented wherever they travelled.

Three hundred standard years into this new age of influence and power in the late 35th Millennium, Greigor XI was elected to the rank of Ecclesiarch. Heralded as a deeply spiritual individual who desired only that the faithful work together as one, Greigor announced that the Holy Synod would return to its rightful home on Terra, the seat of the Emperor and the heart of the Imperium. The cardinals opposed this course, not least because the Ministorum was so firmly entrenched upon Ophelia VII that a move would be a vast logistical exercise that would stretch the institution's resources to the limit. Subsequent history would prove the naysayers entirely correct, but none were able to deter Greigor from his grand undertaking. The relocation took over a decade to organise and carry out, and it was only possible due to a massive increase in the Ministorum's tithes. Greigor XI was discovered dead, the victim of food poisoning. The true cause of his death may never be known, but the anarchy deepened still further as the Ministorum's upper echelons continued as before, imposing more unreasonable demands on their congregations. Eventually, entire worlds buckled under the strain, their own populations starving to fund the reconstruction of the long-abandoned Ecclesiarchy palaces on Terra.

Age of Apostasy

As if the situation could not get any worse, the entire Imperium was soon plunged in the early 36th Millennium into even deeper despair. The incidence of Warp Storms, a phenomenon that cuts off vast swathes of the Imperium's space from interstellar travel, increased by an order of magnitude. The Warp began to seethe with roiling energies which bled forth into realspace, making travel between anything other than worlds in the same planetary system increasingly perilous. The central governance of worlds that was limited to only periodic contact at the best of times entirely collapsed. Seeing that their foes were tearing themselves apart, the myriad enemies of humanity struck. The Traitor Legions sallied forth from the Eye of Terror, using their own blasphemous sorceries to strike planets otherwise cut off from outside aid. Orks traversed the Warp in their ramshackle Space Hulks, uncaring where the tides of the Empyrean regurgitated them and wreaking havoc in regions previously beyond their reach. The Dark Eldar used their Webway to freely navigate the galaxy, and struck wherever they desired, dragging millions of captives screaming to their infernal realm of Commorragh, to suffer tortures and degradations beyond a sane man's imagination.

The entire Imperium was gripped by an apocalyptic frenzy of doom and anarchy. Countless new sects sprung into being, many proclaiming that the God-Emperor was enacting his final judgement upon Mankind and that the End Times were at hand. No world was untouched by the anarchy, as whole populations rose up in increasingly bizarre and extravagant acts of penance and self-flagellation. Anyone who dared attempt to reason with such doomsayers were declared Heretics, and world after world tore themselves apart in an orgy of bloodletting and violent penance.

Rise of High Lord Goge Vandire

Goge Vandire was the 361st Master of the Adeptus Administratum, a position he had attained in the early centuries of th 36th Millennium by the ruthless application of bribes, threats and outright assassination. A strident opponent of the Ministorum, Vandire had plotted against it for many years. Shortly before his ascension to the rank of High Lord of Terra, Vandire brought about the selection of a man of his own choosing to head the Ecclesiarchy, ensuring that none could stand before his subsequent rise. The new Ecclesiarch, Paulis III, was perhaps the weakest man ever to have served in that office, and soon after his ascension rumours regarding the myriad degeneracies in which he revelled began to circulate amongst the upper echelons of the Imperium's ruling bodies. As confidence in the new Ecclesiarch plummeted, Goge Vandire made his move.

Leading a band of his most trusted retainers, the Master of the Administratum forced entry into the Ecclesiarchal Palace, gunning down any who attempted to deny them access to Paulis' personal wing. It is said that when Vandire and his men came upon the Ecclesiarch, he was engaged in some vile debauchery that, were it known to the people, would bring eternal shame down upon the entire Imperium. Without trial or appeal, Paulis was slain. In a daring coup, Vandire proclaimed himself both the new Ecclesiarch and Master of the Administratum, claiming control of both institutions.

The next days saw the High Lord consolidate his power in a series of brutal purgings of the Holy Synod. Many Cardinals simply fled before Vandire's warriors could come for them, while others were defiant, mounting futile, if brave objections. These were slaughtered, to be replaced with men either so weak that they would obey Vandire's every word, or by cunning supporters who shared his own agenda. With his power base firmly established, High Lord Vandire was able to give free rein to the unfettered extremes of his ambition. Whether or not Vandire was unbalanced before his rise, after it was achieved he plumbed new depths of insanity. The High Lord claimed that he spoke with the authority of the Emperor Himself, and that he communed with the God-Emperor during the many trance-like fugues into which he would regularly fall. Coming out of these trances, the High Lord would enter a rage, insisting that his every utterance be transcribed by the army of clerks that waited on his every word. Many of these orders defied logic, with Vandire taking violent action against whole sections of the Imperium's population.

Breaking Lord Phaedrus

During this time, Vandire had considerable trouble bringing the Adeptus Astra Telepathica under his control. Lord Phaedrus, the Master of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, was a potent psyker and as such was not swayed by Vandire's charisma or charm. Phaedrus saw through Vandire's veil of lies and deceits, and understood the corrupt High Lord's true intentions. Vandire realised that Phaedrus was using his considerable psychic abilities to stay one step ahead of him, and simply killing Phaedrus would never do, for he would just be replaced by a powerful psyker of equal potency. To remove Phaedrus required a much more cunning plan.

Luring the Master of the Astra Telepathica into a trap, Vandire utilised the innate anti-psyker abilities of a Culexus Temple Assassin to nullify Phaedrus' psychic abilities. The helpless Phaedrus was then strapped into a specially prepared life-support machine, where the Culexus Assassin permanently severed Phaedrus' ability to tap into the Warp, making him incapable of using psychic powers. Such an operation would have normally killed the powerful psyker, but with the life-support system and a bribed Magos Biologis, Vandire was able to keep Phaedrus alive. Robbed of his psychic powers, Phaedrus was utterly distraught, which resulted in his multiple attempts to take his own life. But Vandire was always there to thwart him, removing the blade from his hand or to loosen the noose around his neck. In the end, Phaedrus was broken and Vandire achieved his aim: control over the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. If Phaedrus did his bidding, Vandire promised that he would not disclose the loss of his psychic capabilities to his subordinates, who would have immediately replaced him, and even worse, pitied him. With his powerful position put in jeopardy, Phaedrus had little choice in the matter and acquiesced to all of Vandire's heretical demands

Brides of the Emperor

Through trickery and manipulation, Vandire's grip on the Imperium increased still further when he managed to co-opt Alicia Dominica and her Sisters of the newly-discovered all-female religious order known as the Daughters of the Emperor from the world of San Leor into his personal bodyguard, renaming them the Brides of the Emperor. Vandire convinced the Daughters that he was personally blessed by the Emperor when he told Dominica to fire a weapon at him. The shot bounced off of the High Lord, who was secretly wearing a Conversion Field generator, though he pretended that it was the Emperor Himself who would not allow him to be harmed, earning the Daughters' absolute but naive loyalty. He then took the Daughters as his new Ecclesiarchal bodyguard back with him to Terra. From then on, the warrior women became his personal retinue of soldiers and companions, and Vandire called them the Brides of the Emperor. They were trained by the best mentors in the Imperial Guard to combine their own skills with the modern weapons of war. Word of their dedication to the protection of Vandire spread throughout the Imperium. They were his constant guardians and his silent executioners, who would kill with a word from their lord.

The Brides not only served as Vandire's bodyguard, but also as his servants and companions. They tasted the High Lord's food, fed him when he fell weak with illness, nursed his frail body back to health and entertained him with singing, dancing and other, more exotic, skills. For all their gaiety on occasion, the Brides of the Emperor were still hardened fighters, and when the Holy Synod of the Ecclesiarchy tried to have Vandire assassinated a few years later to rid themselves of the tyrant, the Brides went into the Synod's meeting chambers, locked the doors, and emerged an hour later carrying the severed heads of every Cardinal present.

Reign of Blood

This violent repression and wanton slaughter continued for seven standard decades after Vandire's ascension to the Ecclesiarchal Palace, and provided a new name for Vandire's rule -- the Reign of Blood. The immense resources of the Adeptus Ministorum were directed towards bloodthirsty pogroms against often imagined Heretics and the building of immense new monuments to the Emperor and Vandire. However, Vandire's insanity was always directed outwards, and though distant planets boasted mile-high spires and cathedrals, the Terran Ecclesiarchal Palace was allowed to fall into decay once more. Vast wings of the palace fell silent, none save the Brides of the Emperor daring to enter the presence of the High Lord, so erratic had his outbursts become. For the masses, there were only two choices. Submit utterly to the rule of High Lord Vandire, or be crushed by the Brides of the Emperor and the Frateris Templar. Those worlds not gripped by anarchy or locked within the deadly embrace of Warp Storms were entirely in Vandire's thrall, the toils of the populations directed towards his glory. Yet, in one distant corner of the galaxy, upon the once decimated world of Dimmamar, there sparked a glimmer of hope. That hope was a man, and his name was Sebastian Thor.

Sebastian Thor

Sebastian Thor was a supremely humble priest of the Imperial Creed, who never courted or coveted the immense power he would one day come to wield. He was a simple preacher, but the passion and wisdom of his oratory caused the faithful of Dimmamar to flock to him from far and wide. He spoke out against the injustice of the High Lord's rule, and while most who did so would soon be ruthlessly suppressed, his supporters always protected him from the attentions of Vandire's agents. In fact, many of the assassins dispatched to deal with the bothersome backwater rabble-rouser were converted themselves, and protected him against many subsequent assassination attempts. In a rage, Vandire mustered a vast army of the Frateris Templar at the Clax System, and dispatched them to Dimammar to reduce the nest of Heretics to ashes once and for all. The army never arrived, for the vessels of the fleet that carried it were torn apart as they traversed the Warp, by a Warp Storm so mighty it afflicts the region still, 4,000 Terran years later. Astropaths and others gifted with the psyker's power claim the screams of those slain in the so-called "Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath" can be heard there even now.

Soon, Thor had amassed a sizeable following, and people were even travelling from off-world to hear his impassioned sermons. It was then that members of the proscribed Confederation of Light came to Thor, men who had hidden their faith since the dark time of the First War of Faith in the 33rd Millennium. What words passed between Sebastian Thor and these hooded ambassadors may never be known, but Thor and the Confederation became as one, and those who had been so ruthlessly suppressed centuries earlier were once more a force in the galaxy.

Terran Crusade

The Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Mechanicus had both become estranged from Terra, fortifying their own fiefdoms while undertaking their traditional duties as best they could. Space Marines still stood against marauding aliens and the Forge Worlds of the Mechanicus still churned out the arms and armaments needed to defend humanity from its many enemies. Yet, both institutions did so according to their own judgement, rarely coordinating their long-term goals with those of Terra. The Mechanicus and the mighty Space Marine Chapters continued to play only a small role in the events of the Age of Apostasy. The vagaries of Warp travel made any long distance journeys hazardous at best and impossible in some areas. Instead, the Adeptus Astartes' Chapter planets and the Forge Worlds of the Adeptus Mechanicus became fortresses amidst a sea of anarchy. These organisations were on the defensive, protecting the few star systems they could from the ravages of the Age of Apostasy and the carnage of Vandire's Reign of Blood. With news of Sebastian Thor and the spread of his mighty army of the faithful -- the Confederation of Light -- many Space Marine Chapter Masters in the Segmentum Solar and the sectors nearest to Terra in the rest of the Imperium began voicing their support for this reform movement.

The Chapter Masters of the Adeptus Astartes and the Fabricators of the Adeptus Mechanicus began to voice their concerns. Gastaph Hedriatix, the Fabricator-General of Mars and the very highest of the servants of the Machine God, issued a demand to the Holy Synod of the Ecclesiarchy. The High Lord had to be immediately indicted and called to account for his deeds. In response, Vandire dissolved the Senatorum Imperialis, the Council of the High Lords of Terra, and ordered what forces he had left to assault those of the Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Mechanicus who questioned his authority. Needless to say, most of Vandire's commanders refused such a suicidal course of action, and the insane High Lord condemned these as Heretics. Finally, the Fabricator-General saw that he and his allies had no choice but to depose Vandire themselves. A vast army of Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-Guard, spearheaded by four Chapters of Space Marines -- the Imperial Fists, Fire Hawks, Soul Drinkers, and Black Templars, launched themselves towards Terra to besiege the Ecclesiarchal Palace in 378.M36 in what became known as the Terran Crusade.

Reign of Blood Ends

Ultimately, it was not the armies of the Space Marines and the Tech-Priests that brought about the doom of the High Lord Vandire. It was his most trusted companions, the sisterhood of the Brides of the Emperor.

Thoughout the Reign of Blood, one faction had remained apart from the bloodshed and devastation of the era. Within the secure walls of the Imperial Palace, the Adeptus Custodes, the guardians of the Emperor Himself, had continued their eternal vigil over the Golden Throne. To escape the anarchy that prevailed in the wider Imperium, and to ensure the protection of the Emperor, the Custodians had cut themselves off from the outside completely. Only scraps of information passed through the sealed walls of that most sacred of places in the galaxy, and it was only when the Space Marines and the Adeptus Mechanicus moved against Vandire that the full extent of the treachery perpetrated by the Renegade High Lord became known to them. In secret meetings with the commanders of the Space Marines, the Adeptus Custodes learned of the Reign of Blood and how the Brides of the Emperor defended the traitorous High Lord. The mysterious order advised the Space Marines to continue their attack while they would do what they could.

A small contingent of Custodians, led by a Centurion of the Companions, made its way into the very heart of Vandire's domain. Surfacing within the Ecclesiarchal Palace not far from Vandire's audience chamber, they were confronted by the Brides of the Emperor. Calling for a truce and a parley, the Centurion laid down his weapons and walked unarmed to meet the guardians of Vandire. For an hour he made an impassioned plea for the Brides to revoke their oaths, striving to convince them that they were fighting for evil, not the Emperor. However, they were not to be swayed by his arguments, and the nameless Centurion had only one option left. Leaving his men as hostages, the Centurion guided their leader, Alicia Dominica and her personal bodyguard of five female warriors (Arabella, Katherine, Lucia, Mina, and Silvana), into the center of the Imperial Palace itself -- the Sanctum Imperialis, to stand before the God-Emperor upon his Golden Throne.

What occurred in this most sacred of chambers is not recorded, but when the Brides of the Emperor stepped through the Eternity Gate once more into the Outer Palace, their eyes burned with unparalleled anger and hatred. Without a word. the Centurion led them back through the dark places of the earth, this time leading them directly back to Vandire's Audience Chamber in the Ecclesiarchal Palace. Alicia Dominica spoke of the treachery of Vandire and his depraved corruption of the Ecclesiarchy, but most of all she spoke of his twisted perversion of their own Order. Burning with shame and anger, they renounced the name of the Brides of the Emperor and once again became the Daughters of the Emperor.

Alicia Dominica and her vengeful Sisters confronted the corrupt Vandire within his own chambers. The words that she spoke during this confrontation are engraved upon the black marble of her sarcophagus:

"You have committed the ultimate heresy. Not only have you turned your back on the Emperor and stepped from His light, you have profaned His name and almost destroyed everything He has striven to build. You have perverted and twisted the path He has laid for Mankind to tread. As your own decrees have stated, there can be no mercy for such a crime, no pity for such a criminal. I renounce your lordship; you walk in the darkness and cannot be allowed to live. Your sentence has been long overdue and now it is time for you to die."

With this proclamation, Dominica drew her Power Sword and held it aloft for all to see. Vandire glanced around the assembled warriors, his brow knitted in confusion. Even at the end, the insane High Lord appeared so divorced from reality that he could scarcely comprehend Alicia's words. Shaking his head slightly, the High Lord whispered his last words, "I don't have time to die...I'm too busy!" The Power Sword slashed down, beheading the traitorous High Lord in one stroke. It is said that Vandire's Rosarius, which had protected him upon San Leor, now failed him, its gleaming form cleaved in two by Alicia's blow. The Reign of Blood had ended with a blade wielded by the hand of true faith.

Aftermath

With Vandire's death, order was restored to the Imperium. Sebastian Thor became the new Ecclesiarch, and he moved to dismantle most of Vandire's "reforms" and the political power base he had used to enact his tyranny. Independent High Lords were restored to all of the positions on the Senatorum Imperialis, and the Ecclesiarchy and the Administratum once more became autonomous, and highly competitive, Adepta. To restore the proper role of the Adeptus Ministorum in the Imperium, Thor dismantled the fanatical legions and fleets of the Frateris Templar, and issued the Decree Passive, which held that the Ecclesiarchy could maintain "no men under arms." However, seeing that the Ministorum still had need of armed protectors who could work the will of the God-Emperor and undertake Wars of Faith when necessary, Thor soon exploited the loophole in his own decree and transformed the Daughters of the Emperor into the Adepta Sororitas' Orders Militant, who became better known in the Imperial imagination as the Sisters of Battle. But Thor was not the only one who sought to restore balance to the Imperium's political structure. To prevent another tyrant like Vandire from ever again arising from within the Imperium's own internal power structure, two new divisions of the Inquisition were created: the Ordo Hereticus, tasked with eliminating all threats to the Emperor's will which came from within the Imperium, no matter how high up they were to be found, and the Ordo Sicarius, which was tasked with policing the Officio Assassinorum and ensuring that no Imperial Assassin would ever again get diverted from his task to serve his own ambitions. The Sisters of Battle were named the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus, for while they shared the faith of the Ministorum, their ultimate loyalty was to the God-Emperor alone -- and the Inquisition always spoke for the Emperor. In a clash between the Ministorum and the needs of the Imperium as defined by the Ordo Hereticus, the Orders Militant always looked to the Inquisition first.

The Plague of Unbelief

Early Conquests

Cardinal Bucharis controlled a small diocese of the Ecclesiarchy to the galactic southwest of Terra on a Cardinal World called Gathalamor. It was not a rich planet, and much of the population lived in poverty, but Bucharis was jealous and outraged by his peers' achievements. Bucharis vowed to build one of the biggest temples to the Emperor's glory in the galaxy. To achieve this, he enslaved the population of Gathalamor, treating them brutally, as if they were all slaves to jump at his command. Still Bucharis needed more resources and men to meet the ever growing need for his ambitious plans. In a radical move, he used a large group of thugs and cut-throats to conquer the nearby world of Rhanda. The planet had many rich mines producing all of the vital materials Bucharis needed to complete his designs. Also, the personal wealth of Bucharis grew from the profits made from the sale of precious ores and resources across his sector of the Imperium. Two other major players in the Plague of Unbelief were Admiral Sehalla, a flag officer of the Imperial Navy, and Colonel Gasto of the Rigellian XXV Imperial Guard Regiment. Bucharis met with both of them on Rhanda and they joined forces under the Cardinal's command. Now, Bucharis had both naval support and real soldiers to fight for him, and he used them to carve out a small empire to the galactic west of Terra. He conquered fifty planets in seven years, using their resources to reinforce his army and continue his building plans.

Bucharis' private empire was hidden from the Imperium by vast Warp storms covering the entire region and news of Sebastian Thor's ascension to the position of Ecclesiarch and the reorganisation of the Ecclesiarchy had not reached the general population. It had, however, reached Bucharis through his agents in the Ecclesiarchy. He used his control of his local portion of the Imperial Navy to make sure no news of this reached the population, as it would mean the end of his empire. He used his power to announce that the Ecclesiarchy had fallen and that it was corrupted by traitors and heretics. Taking after High Lord Goge Vandire, he declared himself to be the mouth of the Emperor and made himself the head of the Adeptus Ministorum in his little empire. He gave elegant speeches to the people of his world and they lapped it up, believing his words to be the Emperor-given truth. Terra was a lost cause and Gathalamor was the centre of the Imperial Cult's religion now. His speeches spread to other worlds he had not conquered and his teachings soon became dogma on many of these planets. People were taught by Bucharis to look after only themselves. Those who could not, or suffered from poverty or unemployment were less than human and did not deserve the concern of their fellow men. Bucharis' speeches were met with thunderous applause, and many people believed that this was the way humans would survive, by striving for their own selfish advancement. The weak and the poor and the undeserving would be left behind and only the strong and prosperous would survive.

After these speeches, Bucharis' planets were transformed into worlds where mobs ruled and fought amongst themselves, while petty nobles used their wealth and independence to rule. Neighbors often fought and families split over the spoils from the arising chaos. The strongest, who rose to power and caught the eye of Bucharis, were rewarded with more power, and often led units of mercenaries to enforce the will of Bucharis. Those who succeeded were rewarded with lavish gifts and those who failed were punished accordingly. Even though Bucharis' empire was growing, he was hesitant of getting too close to Terra. Therefore he forged a path directly to the galactic north, leaving a bloody trail of death and destruction in his wake. In the south, he stopped just short of the world of Bakka, fearful that Admiral Sehalla's fleet would draw more attention to the young empire. Far to the north, he gave Cadia and the Eye of Terror a wide berth, fearful of drawing the attention of the forces of Chaos and the Chaos Space Marines (although it is possible that the Warp storms were created by some evil machination of the Gods of Chaos, in an attempt to rend the Imperium apart even further than the Age of Apostasy already had done). Eventually, Bucharis had consolidated his power over every planet he conquered and so he moved on. Three more Imperial Guard Regiments joined him, and when he moved on Hydraphur, the Segmentum Pacificus Fleet bowed down, believing Bucharis' words. Bucharis' forces were now massed, and able to strike at the heart of the Imperium, using surprise and cunning to overwhelm the enemy before they brought their superior numbers to bear. Fortunately for the Imperium of Man, Bucharis made a fatal mistake.

Bucharis' Mistake

Bucharis' mistake was to challenge the Space Wolves. Eventually, as the armies of Bucharis moved north, they reached into the territories protected by the Space Wolves. As almost every Space Marine Chapter does, the Space Wolves protected a small number of planets within close proximity of Fenris, their homeworld. As Bucharis' massive fleet dropped out of the Warp, it encountered a Space Wolves strike cruiser called the Claw of Russ. After a brief battle, the cruiser escaped into the Warp, although not before it destroyed a rebel Navy cruiser and transport ship. Bucharis passed this off as a chance encounter, but this arrogance was to cost him. He ordered his starships to continue, taking planet after planet, until they jumped into the fifth star system. Here they met a surprise. This system contained the world of Fenris itself, the home of the Space Wolves, and as soon as the the rebel Navy forces powered down their Warp drives, the Space Wolves' fleet attacked. The Space Wolves were outnumbered and out-gunned, but even this didn't stop them. They tore a hole in the rebel Navy fleet before retreating to lick their wounds and begin a hit and run attack campaign. They managed to keep about two-thirds of Bucharis' fleet occupied, but his forces still managed to make a landing on Fenris. Hundreds of transport ships descended into the thick, stormy atmosphere of Fenris and several were destroyed by the storms alone, and more by the defensive laser batteries from the ground. Despite this, a landing base was established and thousands of rebel Guardsmen swarmed out onto the ice of the northern regions of the planet. Despite the poor conditions, the troops of Bucharis were enraged at the loss of so many of their compatriots and vowed to destroy the Space Wolves. Any Fenrisian captured was put to work supplying the Guardsmen and laying out makeshift roads across the glacial flats. Though they were enslaved, the Fenrisians were not to be kept down easily. Several regiments of Imperial Guardsmen were kept out of the fighting to keep the Fenrisian slaves from revolting. Bucharis had conquered most of the planet before he approached the vast polar fortress that served as the Space Wolves' fortress-monastery and was called the Fang.

The rebels surrounded it and waited for more forces to be shuttled down from orbit. The Space Wolves' fleet maintained its hit-and-run tactics, destroying rebel transport ships before they managed to reach orbit. Despite this, the hills were swarming with rebel Guardsmen. Gigantic cannons bombarded the Fang and orbital ships rained fire from above. The mountains shook, creating avalanches and much destruction. Still, the defenses of the Fang remained intact. This allowed the Space Wolves to sally forth and destroy the earthworks and giant cannons of the Apostate Cardinal. Wolf Scouts were dispatched to disrupt the rebel supply lines and many cannons fell quiet due to a lack of ammunition. The hills were full of tunnels that the Blood Claws used to reach deep into the enemy army, killing with their bare fists to save ammunition. Long Fangs were even known to blow apart mountains to crush the armored columns of the enemy. Space Wolf Dreadnoughts were used to smash into the heart of marching rebel columns. All of this dragged on for months. Bucharis sent in suicide missions promising great wealth for the first man to breach the walls of the Fang. After three years, millions had died as the Space Wolves had countered every attempted storming of the citadel. Bucharis drew in more and more of his rebel forces until even those on far away Gathalamor were down to a quarter of their normal strength. Bucharis believed his planets to be under his total control, so he felt he could draw so many Guardsmen away from their former occupation.

Fate, as it has a habit of doing, intervened again, except this time it would bring disaster for Bucharis. A vast Space Wolves force of battle barges emerged at the edge of the Fenris System. Bucharis' fleet was taken completely by surprise and the Space Wolves' fleet lto no time between arriving and attacking. Nearly half of Bucharis' fleet was destroyed in the first attack and, trapped between the new arrivals and the harrassing Space Wolves fleet, Admiral Sehalla ordered a retreat. The Space Wolves wasted no time in pursuit and moved directly on the relief of Fenris. The furious attack of the returning Space Wolves was vicious, and tens of thousands of rebel Guardsmen died. The attack from orbit was led by Kyrl Grimblood and the Space Wolves' reinforcements blasted the rebel Guardsmen from the mountainsides. Even those who escaped this attack eventually died in the inhospitable snowy wastes of Asaheim. They were attacked by the giant Fenrisian wolf packs that made Fenris such a deadly planet. In all of the chaos, Bucharis managed to escape on a shuttle and met up with Admiral Sehalla, who jumped out of the Warp briefly enough to pick up the Apostate Cardinal's shuttle. Bucharis decided to leave Fenris to the Space Wolves and retreated with his northern forces to bolster his defenses and consolidate his hold over the rest of his empire.

The Beginning of the End

The attack on Fenris had taken a heavy toll on the rebellious Imperial Guard forces, slowing, but not stopping, the expansion of the Apostate Cardinal's other armies. His many trusted sub-commanders were moving westward, taking more and more planets. Eventually, they arrived in one star system, Chiros. Here they would be stopped. Reports came back to Bucharis of major setbacks and problems faced by his forces on Chiros. It was not a poor planet, its surface primarily covered in forests with a human population of no more than a few million. Most of its wealth came from exporting luxury goods, furs, elixirs and narcotics. Bucharis could not understand why a planet would resist him and risk total destruction. Bucharis abandoned Fenris and, being fairly close to the homeworld of the Space Wolves himself, he ordered the rebel fleet to Gathalamor while he assessed the situation. Reports came in that, despite horrendous casualties, the Chirosians were no closer to surrender than they had been before the attack began. The commander of the rebel fleet in Chiros had restrained from the use of devastating orbital bombardments as he saw the planet as a good place for Bucharis to retire to, hoping to gain some favor by sparing it. Bucharis agreed with this idea, pleased at the foresight of his commander. He then sent three more companies of rebel Imperial Guard to aid in the conquest, certain that these forces would beat the Chirosians. Unfortunately for the rogue Cardinal, it was not to be. The commander soon reported back to Bucharis of his surrender to the Chirosians. Bucharis was stunned. He knew the Imperial Guard were not as elite forces as the Space Marines, but surely an entire regiment should have easily conquered such a small population. Eventually Bucharis' agents returned, bringing reports of what had happened. It appeared that the forces faced by the Imperial Guard were not just the usual small units of militia and Planetary Defense Forces brought together in times of war, but had included the entire population of the planet. Each had a hunting rifle or other weapon and spread themselves throughout the planet's surface, in the woods and jungles and hills. Millions of marksmen had wiped out wave after wave of invaders in destructive ambushes before retreating back to their hunting lodges, hidden deep in the woods. The whole planet had become a dangerous nest of guerillas. Supplies were intercepted and there was no respite. A suicide squad had run into the centre of the rebel expeditionary force's camp and detonated explosives, and after these casualties the rebel army had lost the will to fight on.

After the news of the defeat spread to other worlds in the Apostate Cardinal's empire, planet after planet began a revolt. First it was the mining planet Guryan. The miners had cut down their guards and strangled others with their shackles. After Guryan came Dolsia and Vaust. It seemed that the rebellion against the Apostate Cardinal was spreading, cutting a swath through his empire straight towards Gathalamor. On Colcha, Bucharis laid a trap and managed to destroy a small fleet of his opponents that appeared around the planet. One shuttle survived however, and landed on the planet. Fredreich Khust, the overall Imperial Commander of the sector who was loyal to Bucharis, was wary of the shuttle that had landed, and so kept his Imperial Guardmen and their tanks on the planet on full alert. A year after the shuttle landed, the population of Colcha went berserk. They burnt the fields, stormed the Imperial Guard's barracks but lost three quarters of their numbers before overcoming the rebel Guardsmen. They stampeded their vast herds of gigantic gorbeasts into tank companies, crushing the war machines under a thunderous storm of house-sized animals. They dammed rivers, flooding their own homes and whole towns where Khust's men were billeted. Even the elderly and young children hurled makeshift grenades made from the local distilled fuel, setting fire to the air vents of Leman Russ tanks and choking the crews inside. All across both continents of their world the people of Colcha stopped at nothing to rid themselves of their enslavers. Eventually, Khust's forces were overwhelmed and pushed from the planet. The populations of the planets of Lima Rogan, Troudor and many others revolted, pushing Bucharis' forces further back toward his capital world. Bucharis' coffers were emptying more rapidly than they could be filled. Many of his soldiers deserted and there was infighting and dissension even within the highest ranks of his army. Still the revolts continued, and finally, Methalor, the closest planet to Gathalamor, revolted, its principal hive city destroyed by an inferno started when the inhabitants overloaded the great city's geothermal power grid. Bucharis was worried now. He doubled the defensive cordon on his system and had all starships searched as they entered the system. After the fall of Methalor an Imperial messenger arrived at the Cardinal Palace on Gathalamor. With a defiant look and a stern voice, the messenger proclaimed himself to be the envoy of Confessor Dolan Chirosius. Confessor Dolan called for the immediate surrender of Bucharis to the Ecclesiarchy. The Cardinal was ordered to resign his position, renounce his heresies and throw himself on the mercy of the Emperor.

The Imperial messenger's remains were nailed to the gates of the Cardinal Palace of Gathalamor to be feasted on by rats and crows.

Confessor Dolan

Bucharis knew Dolan would be coming to Gathalamor soon and the Apostate Cardinal wanted his slaves' first glimpse of their supposed saviour to be one of a man bound in chains and whipped through the streets. Soon enough, Dolan's shuttle was boarded as it neared the world and the Confessor was taken into custody, charged with various acts of heresy and treason against the Emperor by Bucharis.

As Bucharis had intended, Dolan was chained and driven through the streets. Soldiers from his army whipped the Confessor with flails and hurled stones at him. They stuck hooks into his flesh and hung them with weights, driving him onwards with kicks and punches. The crowds, however, were not so impressed. There were no cheers of approval, but there were no cries of condemnation either. Dolan was dragged across the entire continent in this manner for over six months. All the while, however, his fiery stare would not diminish and he never bowed to Bucharis. Bucharis then ordered a public trial, but it was a complete sham and would only find Dolan guilty. After five months, the prosecution had finished and a thousand worlds waited for the results. Dolen represented himself and freely admitted to stirring up the people of all of the rebellious worlds to fight against Bucharis' rule. He used the time to appeal to the masses, although Bucharis didn't see this. It was Dolan's appeals to the masses that Bucharis allowed during the show trial that eventually led to his downfall. Bucharis had Dolan tortured for eight months. When at last the Confessor died, his maimed body was flung from the walls of the Cardinal Palace of Gathalamor for the scavenging dogs and birds to feast upon. Despite the horrendous torments inflicted upon his body, Dolan's face exuded a calm serenity and peace lay like an aura across his corpse. Those who saw it wept openly, even though any who exhibited such grief were themselves accused of heresy and put to death. The scavengers never had their meal: Dolan's body disappeared shortly after and was never found.

The End of an Empire

Cardinal Bucharis' plan to shame the Confessor backfired horribly. By allowing Dolan to speak he had given him the ability to rally the masses on all of the worlds ruled by Bucharis. When Dolan's death was announced, the entire Apostate empire erupted in rebellion. The populations of a thousand worlds overthrew their cruel overseers, almost at the same time. The men, women and children were inspired by the will of the Confessor and faced their enemies' guns with bare hands. Bucharis' Cardinal Palace was stormed as traitors from within his own ranks opened the gates. Bucharis fled the palace as a small handful of loyal warriors held back the tide of doom coming his way. He used tunnels to escape the palace and ran to the spaceport, giving up all he had worked for to save his own life. Just as he was boarding a shuttle, the inhabitants overran the electric fences by piling on them to make them short-circuit. He was captured in a wave of screaming mobsters and his body was torn to pieces. The remains of his body were never recovered, but when the mass of citizens moved away, the scattered ashes of a fire was all that was left to mark the place of his death. With the Apostate Cardinal's death, the Inquisition moved swiftly to conduct a massive purge of Bucharis' empire, sending tens of thousands of those who had served Bucharis to the Emperor's justice. The High Lords of Terra soon reestablished full control over the regions of the galaxy that Bucharis had controlled while the Ecclesiarchy established thousands of Missions on the worlds of Bucharis' empire to restore the true teachings of the Imperial Cult. The Plague of Unbelief, the final symptom of the Age of Apostasy, came to an end.

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