Low; the dead far outnumber the living
Certus-Minor is an Adeptus Ministorum Cemetery World located in the Praga Sub-sector of the Segmentum Obscurus. It became a very popular place for the burial of the Imperium's great and good after the construction of the Umberto II Memorial Mausoleum, dedicated to a very famous and pious former Ecclesiarch of the Ministorum and High Lord of Terra, Umberto II. Certus-Minor's administrative capital, Obsequa City, was staffed only by the Ecclesiarchy priests, serfs, indentured servants and other personnel needed to maintain the funerary monuments and bury the newly-arrived dead within the vast necroplex which extended across the planet. This world of the dead was the site of a great battle between the 5th Company of the Excoriators Chapter of Space Marines and the Cholercaust Blood Crusade, a vast legion of Traitors, Heretics and daemons dedicated to the Blood God Khorne which emerged from the Eye of Terror following the path of the crimson Keeler Comet every 10,000 Terran years. The Cholercaust was on a direct route for the sacred soil of Terra until it was stopped by the Excoriators with the unexpected and nearly miraculous aid of the revenant Astartes of the Legion of the Damned.
Certus-Minor's surface was a vision of towers, steeples and spires. Stained-glass and rockrete, dark with age, thrusted forth towards the heavens with reverent majesty. With nearly every square metre of dirt on Certus-Minor devoted to the dead, even the capital city was considered an extravagance. Like a tiny, ecclesiastical hive city, Obsequa City comprised basilicas and cathedrals that were built tall and tight. The narrow alleys and passages were steep and cobbled, leading up to the crowning monument -- the heart of the city in both a physical and spiritual sense -- the Umberto II Memorial Mausoleum. Nestled at the heart of the devotional architecture and adorning the metropolis like a crown was the enormous roof-dome of the sacred vault that dominated the city skyline -- the largest and tallest building in Obsequa City. A colossal archway-barbican decorated the entrance to the memorial mausoleum. The pillars of the stately sepulchre were thick and tall, and the darkness of the threshold beckoned Imperial pilgrim and cleric alike.
The funereal beauty of the Mausoleum was astounding: the intricate scrolling on the wall internments; the silver lettering adorning the floor slabs, recording the names of past pontiffs and cardinals of the Ecclesiarchy; loggia supports and fat sculpted pillars reaching up to the exquisite detail of the Mausoleum’s domed ceiling – each hand-painted illustration a depiction of Umberto II’s long and spiritually-productive life. Candles and incense burned from a thousand suspended sconces, and stern statues of Ecclesiarchs already elevated to sainthood by the Imperial Cult adorned the sepulchre space in a ring around a simple block-crypt of obsidian brick. A silver-plated elevator was used to transport clerics and Adepta Sororitas guardians deep below the sepulchre to a small complex of condition-controlled crypt chambers residing behind a thick vault door. Within, laid out for private pilgrimage and display, were the surviving remains of Umberto II, the ruling Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum and High Lord of Terra. A circular gallery spiralled about the sepulchre’s exterior, made up of marble steps and landings, providing access to the wall-combs, vaultia and the upper stories of the Mausoleum.
Imperial mortuary lighters brought an unending supply of the Imperium's noble dead from necrofreighters down to the Certusian surface. The prestige of spending just a century in the same precious earth as Umberto II drew cadavers from light years around. Senior officers of the Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy, members of of Hive World noble houses, powerful merchant lords, Navigators, other planetary nobility and devoted members of the Ecclesiarchy itself were all buried in Certus-Minor’s sacred topsoil. Coffins and sarcophagi were dug up for shipment back to the families following the expiration of their leases in an unending cycle of inhumation and exhumation on a planetary scale.
Umberto II was the Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum and a High Lord of Terra during his lifetime. Under Umberto's leadership, the common faithful of the Imperium of Man rose up and took the fight back to the corrupt followers of the Ruinous Powers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers and sisters in the Imperial Guard and the Space Marines. Ancient Terran scholars ascribed the near two thousand standard years of uneasy peace between the 11th Black Crusade in 301.M39, and the Gothic War in 139.M41, largely to the legacy of Umberto’s efforts and Wars of Faith in the Segmentum Obscurus.
When Umberto II died, his body was interred on the planet of his birth, the Ecclesiarchy's Cemetery World of Certus-Minor located in the Praga Sub-sector. Grave markers, tombstones and statues of every crafted tradition, built almost one on top of the other, crowded the landscape with barely a scrap of precious earth between them. Vaults, mausolea and private crypts sprouted from the sepulchrescape, dwarfed only by the ancestral tombs and necropoli of power Imperial noble families. It was the Ecclesiarch’s dying wish that his body be returned there upon his death. Such a prestigious burial ground was secured at a premium by the great and good of the Imperium. Umberto II was buried with full Imperial honours and ceremony in the beautiful, baroque metropolis of the dead known as Obsequa City within his own mausoleum.
The Defence of Certius-MinorEdit
The entirety of the Excoriators Chapter of Space Marines' 5th Company was lost in garrisoning Certus-Minor against the predations of the Chaotic Cholercaust Blood Crusade. Certius-Minor lay directly in the path of the Keeler Comet, an ancient blood-red comet whose strange path out of the Eye of Terror embodied the will of the Chaos God Khorne, leading the Traitors, Heretics and daemons of the Cholercaust across the stars in a celebration of slaughter for the Blood God. That was until the comet appeared in the skies of the tiny Ecclesiarchy Cemetery World in the Praga Sub-sector. The 5th Company did request reinforcement from the rest of the Chapter but had little expectation of its arrival in time to make a difference. The 5th Company sent long-range astrotelepathic requests to the regiments of the Imperial Guard's Viper Legion at Hellionii Reticuli, the 2nd Company of the Novamarines Space Marine Chapter stationed at Belis Quora and the Angels Eradicant Chapter at Port Kreel. They even sent a message to the Vanaheim Cordon where Imperial forces had gathered to face the oncoming Cholercaust, in full knowledge of its futility, for the Imperial Fists, Exorcists and Grey Knights Astartes stationed there would not leave the line of defence for fear that the Keeler Comet and the trailing Cholercaust Crusade might resume its progress on towards Terra. The Adeptus Astartes contingents stationed at Vanaheim would never leave the sacred soil of Terra open to attack to help defend a tiny Cemetery World. The Excoriators' Battle Barge Certius attempted to reach the Cemetary World to answer their Battle-Brothers' call and halt the progress of the Cholercaust, but they were delayed by strange Warp currents in the wake of the crimson Keeler Comet. Much to the 5th Company’s dismay, their commanding officer, the disgraced Corpus-Captain Zachariah Kersh, ordered them to make a defiant last stand against the invaders, and stranded his forces on the world by sending their Apothecary and their crippled Strike Cruiser the Angelica Mortis to a nearby Forge World out of the comet and the Blood Crusade’s path, taking the 5th Company's precious gene-seed with it to be used to create future generations of Excoriators after they had been slain. Kersh commanded less than half of a full company of Astartes as well as an Imperial Guard regiment of Certusian Charnel Guard against a legion of Chaotic Traitors, daemonic Bloodletters and Khornate Berserkers. Despite the odds, Kersh formulated a plan worthy of his Chapter's ancestors who had defended the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra, and he led a bold last stand by the Imperial defenders at Certus-Minor's capital necropolis of Obsequa City. The weight of the Khornate assault far exceeded even Kersh’s estimates, and things began to look grim for the Imperial forces. The doomed 5th Company faced their inevitable deaths at the hands of the Forces of Chaos, and in desperation sent a last, prayerful plea to the Emperor of Mankind for assistance of any kind. For a miracle. Beyond all hope, their prayers were answered. The Blood God's butchers soon became the butchered as they were completely wiped out by the timely intervention of the mysterious Astartes who called themselves the Legion of the Damned, whose mysterious vessel (more than likely the Fire Hawks' ancient Void Fortress Rapturous Rex) unexpectedly arrived to destroy the Keeler Comet which took much of the Cholercaust's warfleet with it. Yet the price was high, as all the Space Marines of the 5th Company valiantly lost their lives in the effort, save for their commanding officer, Corpus-Captain Zacariah Kersh. Kersh would go on to become Chapter Master of the Excoriators after this pyrrhic victory.
- Legion of the Damned (Novel) by Rob Sanders