The City of Sight was the portion of the Imperial Palace that served as the headquarters of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica during the Great Crusade and the early days of the Horus Heresy in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia.
Before expanding the Great Crusade to the stars beyond the Sol Sector in the late 30th Millennium, the Emperor of Mankind first ordered the construction of the Astronomican on Terra. The purpose of this colossal endeavour was that the entire device was to serve as a focus through which the Emperor could direct his fathomless psychic energies to generate a partly self-sustaining navigational beacon for the commercial and military starships of the Imperium. The psychic navigational beam generated by the Astronomican was able to cut through the Warp across the galaxy and those attuned to its frequencies and modulations, the sanctioned human mutants known as Navigators, were able to use it as a beacon and pole star when plotting journeys through the Immaterium.
In addition to this invaluable beacon among the stars, the forging of the Imperium during the Great Crusade would not have been possible without the creation and skills of the Astra Telepathica. This special corps of inter-stellar telepathic communicators was created by the Emperor during the final months of the Unification Wars, as the Emperor had foreseen the absolute future need for a means to communicate across the depths of space if a new interstellar human empire was to be created. As a psyker Himself, the Emperor favoured the use of psychic talents in others, and was well aware of the dangers inherent in any contact with the Warp. The Age of Strife on Old Earth had been afflicted by many "witch-kings" and daemon-possessed psykers whose existence embodied those dangers, some of whom the Emperor had personally slain. However, He was able to identify those psykers strong enough to resist the temptations of the Warp. These men and women were then employed in a variety of special roles in the newborn Imperium. Amongst these so-called "Sanctioned Psykers" were the Astropaths, "astro-telepaths," capable of telepathically communicating with others of their kind over vast inter-stellar distances through phantasmal visions, empathic transmission and oenological vision allegory rather than words. This was an essential talent for the success of the Imperium due to the vast distances that separated its inhabited worlds. The only practical means for the Imperium to maintain any semblance of unity across interstellar distances was to make use of Astropaths, but such communication could prove as temperamental as the Warp itself.
Located on ancient Terra, the City of Sight was built within a section of the Emperor's own Imperial Palace in the Himalazian (Himalaya) Mountains. There was no trace that anyone lived in that forsaken part of the palace. Potential Sanctioned Psykers spent many years within its bleak towers, learning how to harness their abilities for the betterment of Mankind. Where other regions of the palace were celebrations of the Unity wrought by the extension of the Emperor's rule over all of Terra, the builders of the City of Sight seemed to have gone out of their way to craft something calculated to weigh on the soul. Beyond the domain of the astro-telepaths, the architecture of the palace was raised up in glorification of Mankind’s achievements, its statuary fashioned to remind the grateful populace of Terra of all that had been rebuilt in the wake of the terrible, world-spanning wars that had almost dragged the species down into extinction. But none of this could be found in the City of Sight.
Notable Areas of the City of SightEdit
- Obsidian Arch - Beyond the threshhold of the main entrance to the city that was known as the Obsidian Arch was a forest of iron towers, lightless garrets and silent thorough-fares. The streets of the main portions of the palace beyond the glossy black archway were alive with the heaving, vibrant mass of humanity, but only solitary ghosts in hooded green robes populated these streets. The students and Adepts of the Astra Telepathica mostly travelled by means of a network of tunnels and crossways cut into the rock beneath the city. Very few came above ground if they could help it, for the feeling of sunlight on their skin was just another reminder of what they had lost. The city walls and the rock below were also threaded with psi-disruptive crystals, which made it quieter as well. Travelling above ground was noisy for an Astropath. They were inundated with the noise of undisciplined thoughts, random chatter and wild emotions. Though they were taught to tune this psychic cacophony of thought out, it was always in the background of their minds. It was easier for the telepaths to travel where they did not have to hear it.
- Gallery of Mirrors - Within the City of Sight, its gloomy precincts had few statues raised there. Though many of the pale, columned buildings within were grandly shaped and heroically proportioned, they were brooding, monolithic structures that pressed down on the skin of the mountains, absorbing all the available light and warmth of the day. A notable building within the City of Sight was the Gallery of Mirrors, a vast, cathedral-like building through which successful Initiates passed on their way to the awe-inspiring caverns beneath the city. Far beneath the palace, they would kneel before the Emperor and undergo the painful Soul-Binding ritual, to have the impossibly complex neural pathways of their mind agonisingly reshaped to better resist the dangers of the Warp. It is speculated that the mirrors were there to give the Aspirants a last look at their faces before their eyes were seared from their sockets by a force so potent it was beyond imagining.
- Whispering Tower - Another notable structure was the Whispering Tower. It shone with a warm lattice of silver light, though it was a light that existed beyond the sight of most mortals. Yet for all its brightness, its glow was eclipsed utterly by the burning lance of light of the Astronomican that speared from the hollow mountain and into space, like an interstellar beacon for those Imperial starships that traveled the myriad currents of the Immaterium. The vast chamber at the heart of the Whispering Tower was fashioned in the form of a great amphitheatre, shaped by the ancient cognoscynths who had first raised the City of Sight many thousands of standard years earlier. Their unrivalled knowledge of psychically-attuned architecture had been hard-won in a long-forgotten age of devastating psi-wars, but their arts were long dead, and the skill of crafting such resonant structures had died with them. Amid the blackened mindhalls of the City of Sight, the Whispering Tower was able to reach the farthest into the gulfs of space between the stars, utilising thousands of high-ranking Astropaths seated in ever-ascending tiers to sharpen the focus of their gestalt-consciousness.
- Oneirocritica Alchera Mundi - Rising through the central spine of the Whispering Tower was a long spiral staircase that led to the upper wing that housed the Oneirocritica Alchera Mundi, the great dream library of the City of Sight. Towering shelves, rearing hundreds of metres into the air, filled the sections of the Oneirocritica Alchera Mundi. Groaning stacks radiated from the central hub filled with interpretive texts, dream diaries, vision logs and the many books of common astropathic imagery. Every vision received and sent from the City of Sight was stored within, a complete record of communication that passed between Terra and the wider galaxy. Scores of hunched Astropaths drifted through the stacks like green ghosts, seeking clarification for a vision, while elder telepaths added freshly approved symbols to the ever-growing library.
- Novitiates' Level - The lowest level of the Whispering Tower was the Novitiates' level. This chamber had been hacked from the bedrock of the mountains and faced with ceramic tiles of bottle green. It had the feel of a medicae chamber, and a number of locked doors led deeper into the guts of the tower. Some led to the novice libraries, where new additions to the tower learned astropathic shorthand, common symbols and the basic mantras of the nuncio. Others led to the novices’ cells, some to communal facilities for eating and ablutions, and the remainder ended in hermetically-sealed isolation chambers. Not everyone who navigated these passages was blind, and bare lumen globes hung from the brickwork ceiling on linked loops of brass cabling. Along the long passageway that led to the Novices' cells were reinforced doors that punctuated its length, each one marked with a number and a name. Each marked cell was where an Initiate of the Scholastica Psykana slumbered, meditated and prayed. The interior of these cells were bare and devoid of anything that might have indicated who had lived there before. This was sensible, for any lingering sense of a previous occupant would influence an Initiate's dreaming. A cot bed usually lay along one wall, with a simple footlocker at its base. A small writing desk and chair sat opposite the bed, and a black notebook lay on a blotting pad, next to an inkhorn and pen. Empty shelves lined the wall above the desk, ready to be filled with an Astropath's steadily growing oneirocritica collection. The shelves were short, for a novice would take time to build a comprehensive library of imagery, symbolism and dream recordings.
- Cryptaesthesian - Within the depths of the Whispering Tower was a domed chamber known as the Cryptaesthesian that continuously echoed with the myriad voices of an Astropathic Choir. At the dome's apex was a crytalline lattice pulsing with internal illumination that cascaded from its multi-angled facets in a waterhall of shimmering light. Within this chamber, Astropaths trained in the art of the Cryptaesthesian could interpret meaning from the psychic waste of every communiqué that passed through the City of Sight. To sift through the vast quantity of psychic debris that was left in its wake was a task few relished. Following the treachery of the Warmaster Horus and the start of the civil conflict known as the Horus Heresy, the Astropathic Choirs operated beyond capacity to satisfy the demands of waging a distant war against Horus Lupercal's rebellion. Aetheric space was continuously awash with telepathic communication, and messages were hurled into the void that screamed for help or simply blared hatred. The trap chambers beneath the iron towers of the City of Sight were filled with psychic residue from the thousands of messages, and the cryptaesthesians could barely keep up with the brutal pace. In the face of treason, every message sent to Terra had to be carefully scrutinised, no matter how mundane it might appear. The bleed of psychic waste within the Cryptaesthesian was scoured for signs of encryption that might be a communication intended for embedded agents of Horus within the Imperial Palace itself.
- The Conduit - At the Heart of the City of Sight lies the Conduit, the nexus of all intergalactic communication for the Imperium of Man. Originally carved out of the limestone by an army of servitors, these high-roof chambers are filled with black-clad infocytes plugged into their cogitators and arranged in hundreds of serried ranks. Once a telepathic message is received by these infocytes and interpreted and sifted by the cryptaesthesians and is then passed on by the Conduit to the recipient via pneumo-tubes. Those of the Administratum who have seen the Conduit find the sight of utterly soulless and monstrously depressing. Those that return to the Conduit prefer to turn a blind eye to its harsh necessity.
Following the great Imperial conclave on Nikaea, new strictures were laid down by the Emperor in regards to the use of psykers within the Imperium. It was decreed that the Astropaths within the Whispering Tower would remain under the constant vigil and scrutiny of the Black Sentinels, a specially trained force of psyker killers, gaolers and executioners all in one. Each of these stalwart warriors was encased in beetle-black armour with contoured breastplates of burnished obsidian, their faces concealed by a reflective tapered helm, not unlike an early make of Space Marine Legion Power Armour. Their helmets were specially lined with psi-shielding to protect them from the latent mental pressure generated by the innate powers of the psykers within the City of Sight. Each Black Sentinel was armed with long, black-bladed lances, their hafts topped with sparkling crystalline spearheads. But they were also trained in the use of the extensive arsenal of weapons possessed by the Imperium's armouries. The Black Sentinels were also responsible for protecting the physical aspects of the city from any threat without, as well as the psyker threat within.
- The Outcast Dead (Novel) by Graham McNeill