The Atlas Infernal is an ancient Imperial tome dating from before the Horus Heresy. It is an organic, adaptive map of the Eldar Webway created from the flesh of human psychic Blanks who possess the Pariah Gene. Like the mutants it is made from, the Atlas Infernal is also a psionically-negative item that radiates null Pariah energy when opened, a defence mechanism intended to keep the Eldar or creatures of the Warp from using the tome.
Sometime after the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium, this mysterious volume was taken by Eldar Harlequins and was deposited in the Black Library's Wraith Tower where it was considered one of the Black Library's most dangerous (to the Eldar) items. Millennia later, in the first century of the 42nd Millennium, the Atlas Infernal came into the possession of Inquisitor Czevak, its current owner. Czevak had read extensively about lost or forbidden human history when he became one of the only humans to ever penetrate to the hidden Eldar Craftworld that was the repository of all of that ancient race's knowledge of Chaos, a vessel located within the confines of the Webway that was known as the Black Library. He knew that for centuries before the start of the Horus Heresy, an army of Mechanicum Tech-priest specialists (known as Magi Ethericus and Artisans Empyr) were building the Emperor of Mankind's most secret and vital project deep within the bowels of the Imperial Palace: a Terran extension into the Eldar Webway that was intended to unite all the worlds of the Imperium without the need for Warp travel and initiate a new Golden Age for Mankind. Czevak assumed they were protected by companies of Custodians, and while building the transdimentional tunnels, were warded from the daemonic denizens of the Warp by the presence of squads drawn from the Sisters of Silence.
The Primarch Magnus the Red's catastrophic psychic visit to the Imperial Palace in the early 31st Millennium to warn the Emperor of the betrayal of the Warmaster Horus, as the Horus Heresy was first taking form, caused irreparable damage to the project and destroyed the construction force's way back to Terra. Czevak reasoned that their only way back to realspace was through the hostile and uncharted Eldar tunnel network. The humans constructed an atlas of their wanderings within the Webway and named it the Atlas Infernal. The Mechanicum crafted the pumping mechanism for the tome and used the donated battle plate of the Custodians to create the covers, clasps and interior frames. One or more Sister of Silence presumably willingly sacrificed themselves to provide the flesh necessary to create the atlas' pages. The Magi Ethericus, by some now lost process, then bestowed the "pages" with their adaptive and transformative abilities.
After being captured by the Harlequins, the book remained in the Black Library for millennia, but it was never opened by the Eldar because of its dangerous nature to fully psychic beings like themselves. In the first century of the 42nd Millennium the Eldar Guardian-Scribe Adara-Ke gave the Atlas to Czevak so that he could escape the Black Library, and also committed suicide by opening it. Czevak used the tome to escape, and has since frequently utilised it to traverse the galaxy through the Webway, evade pursuers and thwart opponents, especially his prime enemy, the Chaos Sorcerer Ahzek Ahriman. Ahriman actively seeks the book, though it is unclear how he hopes to deal with its Pariah properties. Czevak also used the volume to resist a pursuing Harlequin troupe which was seeking both the book and his death, killing a Shadowseer with it, and injuring several other members of the troupe.
The Atlas Infernal is a bulky but extremely lightweight volume with covers made of burnished, golden, and astonishingly resilient metal that possesses a strange sheen and was once a part of the battle plate of a Legio Custodes warrior. The volume's covers are engraved with ornate illustrations and markings in High Gothic, honouring the Terran Unification Wars. The book is held together by 3 clasps of the same metal and its spine houses an elaborate pumping mechanism that sighs rhythmically as it feeds oxygen to the book's still-living pages.
Instead of true pages, the volume is actually a stacked panel of golden frames, each of which is supporting a sheet of still-living Pariah flesh stretched to transparency. The flesh is alive thanks to the oxygen fed by the pumping mechanism. Its visible arteries, capillaries and veins are a representation of the Webway. By some unknown process, they can reconfigure to show the "reader" routes to various desired destinations within the Labyrinthine Dimension. The skin itself can change flesh tone depending on conditions likely to exist in the course of the desired route. Helpful writing, formed by bleached scars, may also appear on the skin.
Because of its psychically negative properties, the book radiates discomfort even to non-psykers when opened. It disrupts any nearby psychic field and can be deadly to psychic entities (it has claimed several Eldar lives). Paradoxically, the book's adaptable-mapping ability indicates some sort of telesthesiac or telepathic ability which would ordinarily imply that it is also psychically active. Even Czevak, with his vast knowledge of such matters, could not explain this property of the tome.
- Atlas Infernal (Novel) by Rob Sanders