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Ghesmei Kysnaros was an Inquisitor Lord active in the first half of the 41st Millennium. He is known to have participated in the First War for Armageddon in 444.M41 and commanded the Inquisition task force that sought to contain sensitive information regarding the existence and role of Chaos in that conflict from being revealed to the Imperium of Man at large. In the course of that operation, he led his Inquisitorial task force into violent confrontations with the Space Wolves Space Marines that threatened to erupt into a full-fledged civil war between that Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes and the Inquisition. During this turbulent internecine campaign, dubbed the "Months of Shame," Kysnaros died in early 445.M41 at the hands of Great Wolf Logan Grimnar of the Space Wolves.
Kysnaros was an aloof, secretive, and inscrutable figure, even to other members of the Inquisition, which has secrecy and inscrutability as part of its mandate and daily operation. No reliable information is known of his past prior to his involvement in the First War for Armageddon campaign and the purge that followed. During that operation it was rumoured amongst the members of his Inquisitorial task force that he earned his rank and title through a number of successful small-scale Crusades and minor, street-level planetary purges. However, the rumours were likely untrue, as it takes centuries to build the powerful alliances and friendships an individual needs to ascend to the exalted rank of a Lord of the Inquisition.
The mystery was enhanced by another unusual fact: Kysnaros was an Unaligned Inquisitor Lord, working outside of the existing Ordos of the Inquisition, and leaving no evidence trail available to them. His record, reports, and logs were likely filed with superiors acting in a non-Ordo capacity and position, such as a Sector Conclave Grand Master.
The Armageddon Containment
The First War for Armageddon in 444.M41 was fought and won for the Imperium under the overall command of the Space Wolves Chapter of Space Marines, and more specifically, their Chapter Master, the Great Wolf Logan Grimnar. The Inquisition, along with a force of Grey Knights, became involved when the nature of the enemy was revealed: millions of Chaos Cultists known as the Children of Sanguinary Unholiness, a Khornate army of Chaos Space Marines from the World Eaters Traitor Legion led by the Daemon Primarch Angron and his elite guard of 12 Khornate daemons, the Cruor Praetoria. A hastily mustered Inquisition force made swift passage to the planet in order to join the ultimately victorious fight.
Although Great Wolf Logan Grimnar should have known that the Inquisition would have to coldly and brutally suppress the truth of Chaos' role in the war after it was over, he made clear that he expected the Inquisitors not to because of the valour and selflessness displayed by Armageddon's defenders. As there was already mistrust and suspicion of the Space Wolves Chapter towards the Imperial hierarchy over past disputes, and the Space Wolves' constant disregard for Imperial authority, Grimnar's demand seemed either naive or an excuse to start a fight with the Inquisition. However, Grimnar was genuinely sympathetic to the human element on Armageddon, and questioned the wisdom of saving a planet if its inhabitants and defenders would then have to be "processed" by the Inquisition for the sin of knowing about the existence of Chaos or the secret Imperial organisations created to stand against it, like the Grey Knights.
The Inquisition would not be moved as it believed that it was by law and the Emperor's decree the ultimate arbiter of what was right for the Imperium and Mankind: the truth of Chaos and the existence of the daemonic had to be contained. In practical terms, it made sense to the Inquisition to contain the situation on the planet itself, as this would affect a relatively small number of Imperial citizens compared to the numbers who would have been mind-wiped or liquidated if any had escaped the planet to spread Chaotic corruption elsewhere. The Armageddon containment would consist of several initiatives: One was the sterilisation and quarantine of the entire surviving civilian population in Adeptus Arbites work-camps scattered across the galaxy. A similar fate, or even outright liquidation, awaited the human defenders of the Armageddon Steel Legion and the Armageddon Planetary Defence Forces, who had valiantly faced the Chaotic hordes that had invaded the planet. The use of Exterminatus against the world in order to keep the secret of Chaos' existence was not an option: the industrial capacity of the planet was too important to the Imperium to be destroyed.
Ghesmei Kysnaros was given overall command of the containment. His attitude to the Armageddon purge was typical of the Inquisition's pragmatic and calculating position: better to sterilise or kill millions on suspicion of a Chaotic taint than to eventually kill billions to keep that taint from spreading. As the war was winding down, over the objections of Grimnar which were broadcast to all Imperial forces in orbit, Kysnaros ordered the start of the first phase: Inquisitorial Storm Troopers began to evacuate the remaining hive cities and herd the population into camps for "vaccination" -- in reality, chemical sterilisation by injection. The civilians were told that the evacuation was a "temporary security measure."
The Space Wolves on the surface engaged in only minor disruptions -- as they were clearly overmatched on the ground by the more than 100,000 Storm Troopers and other Inquisition forces. However, they had the advantage in space, with 16 ships to the Inquisition's 12 -- and the Space Wolves' ships were generally bigger, better armoured, and better armed. Grimnar's plan was to help the human defenders and civilians escape the Inquisition by making sure their transports safely jumped into the Warp at the first opportunity.
War with the Wolves
Escape from Armageddon
Soon, the first such transport, loaded with defenders and civilians, was en route to the system's Warp jump-point, escorted by a Space Wolves frigate. The ship never made the Warp jump, as its Warp-Drive was disabled by a Grey Knights vessel; these were the first shots of the internecine war that followed. For their part, the Space Wolves did not retaliate against the firing vessel: Grimnar had wanted to see whether the Inquisition would actually go ahead with its plans -- one of the many miscalculations that occurred on both sides.
Following this episode, Grimnar ordered all the remaining loaded transports launched into orbit at the same time, each protected by his own vessels. The Space Wolves ships put themselves in the Inquisition ships' line of fire with orders not to fire back under any circumstance; with this strategy, at least some of the transports would safely make it to Warp jump-points. Kysnaros, who had tried to reason with Grimnar in an exchange that descended into insults and terrible threats, countered by ordering his fleet to fire at the interfering Space Wolves Escorts. However, before the order could be carried out, Space Wolves reinforcements lead by the Battle Barge Gylfarheim translated into the system, presenting overwhelming naval superiority. A triumphant Grimnar then bade Kysnaros to call off the attack and the chase, which the Inquisitor Lord had no option but to do.
With the witness-bearing transports now safely out of the system, the Inquisition plan initiated the appropriate contingency. Every person, installation, or world that came into contact with Armageddon escapees, even in the most temporary and fleeting manner, was now liable to be "cleansed" by the Inquisition. Kysnaros apparently had an extraordinary cross-Sector mandate and freedom of action, as his armada ranged far and wide, raining death onto anyone or anything whose misfortune was to have crossed paths with Armageddon survivors. At the same time, attached Grey Knights were frustrated over the course of events, and the fact that they were being used outside of their mission parameters. They gave the campaign the moniker "Months of Shame." In their eyes, the situation was made worse by the fact that Grimnar, even if misguided, seemed to hold the high moral ground as the Space Wolves never fired back during engagements. These sentiments were also held by others within the Inquisition forces. In the meantime, following Grimnar's strategy, the Space Wolves managed to safely disperse several human cargoes to a variety of far-flung systems.
After several months of the cat-and-mouse game, Kysnaros asked for a parlay, to which Grimnar agreed. The opponents decided to meet (with weapons and shields down) in Haikaran, a neutral system. Kysnaros was deeply mistrustful of the Space Wolves, who had in previous situations misled and waylaid a variety of Imperial servants. Having no prior experience with Astartes, he had relied throughout the campaign on the counsel of Lord Joros, the Grand Master of the Grey Knights' 8th Brotherhood, who was leading the Knights attached to Kysnaros' force. Joros had advised in favour of appealing to the Space Wolves' instincts, as they respected strength and boldness above all. The Inquisition should meet with them, at all times, from a position of strength. As the campaign stretched into months, Joros proposed that they capture Grimnar. In his opinion, this would result in the Chapter's capitulation, and Kysnaros readily authorised the plan. With this in mind, as soon as the Space Wolves' flotilla, consisting of Grimnar's flagship, the cruiser Scramaseax, and four Escorts, translated into Haikaran realspace, the assembled and waiting Inquisition force opened fire. The four Space Wolves Escort vessels were destroyed with all hands, while the Scramaseax was heavily damaged. Kysnaros then "invited" Grimnar to meet with him and discuss his surrender, the end of the conflict, and the reintegration of the Space Wolves into the Imperial hierarchy.
Grimnar agreed, or pretended to. He and his three remaining members of the Wolf Guard travelled to the Fire of Dawn, Lord Joros' flagship. All the Inquisitors under Kysnaros were present, accompanied by their retinues. Also present was the entire Grey Knights detachment, at company strength, lead by Lord Joros. Kysnaros tried to explain the reasons behind his betrayal of the terms of parlay, and offered the Space Wolves peace in exchange for their surrender, or endless and inevitably ruinous conflict if they did not. Grimnar however had not come to surrender or be captured -- but to find out who was responsible for violating the "sacred oath of armistice." Lord Joros admitted that he, with heavy heart, had given the order to fire on the Space Wolves vessels. In a blinding display of speed and ability, Grimnar then buried his ancient frost-axe Morkai into Joros's chest, killing him in one blow. As everyone on the Inquisition side was ready to fire on Grimnar, Kysnaros ordered them to hold. He again tried to alternately appeal to, and threaten Grimnar. The latter was unmoved. He treated the Inquisitor Lord with disdain, and had correctly guessed the feelings of the Grey Knights towards the containment campaign. Then, as the Grey Knights tried to psychically block them from escaping by teleporting, the Space Wolves shot four of the Grey Knights Justicars who were focusing their collective psychic power, their deaths breaking the binding attempt and allowing the Wolves to escape back to the Scramaseax. Kysnaros, outplayed and forlorn over the episode and the Space Wolves' intractability, let the badly wounded vessel and its passengers depart into the void.
After the failed parlay and attempt to capture Grimnar the conflict between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition intensified. In the months that followed, the Space Wolves no longer kept their wrath or their guns in check, and actively engaged the Armageddon containment forces, destroying several vessels, including Grey Knights starships with their crew and complement of Astartes. The Inquisition sought reinforcements, securing the support of the entire fleet and strength of the Red Hunters Chapter, a Space Marine Chapter that traditionally aligned itself with the Inquisition, among others; Kysnaros enlisted the Red Hunters because he wanted to show that the Space Wolves' actions did not speak for the entirety of the Adeptus Astartes, and also because he was becoming uncertain about the Grey Knights, of whom factions were beginning to either ignore or delay joining the campaign. Casualties on both sides mounted as the armed engagements escalated. In the meantime the Inquisition containment campaign continued with increasingly less success, even as the number of its victims reached into the billions. It was clear that the Armageddon containment was a failure: too many survivors had been dispersed to too many unknown destinations thanks to the Space Wolves' superior cunning and strategy. However this was a hollow victory, as it made the Chapter indirectly responsible for the deaths of the innocents later purged by the Inquisition.
Among the Inquisition's dissenters, things were reaching a boiling point. A widespread conspiracy to assassinate Kysnaros, supported by ranking Inquisitors and respected Grey Knights, was taking shape among elements of the containment armada. It was the belief of the conspirators that only Kysnaros' death would stop the internecine conflict and prevent it from developing into a full-fledged Imperial civil war. As the plan was gathering steam, Kysnaros finally tacitly admitted that his strategy had failed. In early 445.M41, after 8 months of campaigning, the Armageddon containment was abandoned. Kysnaros announced a new approach: all containment assets were ordered at speed to Fenris, the Space Wolves' lightly defended homeworld. In a last ditch gambit, Kysnaros intended to hold the planet hostage in order to force Grimnar to agree to the Inquisition's demands. These demands by now had nothing to do with Armageddon, and everything to do with limiting the independence of the Space Wolves Chapter.
Kysnaros' armada, including a multitude of Inquisition warships, Grey Knights vessels, and the Red Hunters Chapter fleet, arrived at Fenris and surrounded the planet in high orbit whilst targeting The Fang, the Space Wolves' fortress-monastery, for a devastating orbital bombardment.
The planet was virtually undefended as the vast majority of the Space Wolves and their Chapter fleet were dispersed on missions across the galaxy. Kysnaros, directing operations from his flagship, the commandeered Imperial Navy Battlecruiser Corel's Hope, again asked for a parlay with any ranking Space Wolf available. The few Space Wolves present agreed, and a delegation consisting of Kysnaros, the Grey Knights Battle-Brother Hyperion (who commanded respect amongst the Space Wolves for his role on Armageddon) and the Ordo Malleus Inquisitor Annika Jarlsdottyr, a native Fenrisian, arrived at The Fang for the meeting. The Space Wolves had awoken the Venerable Dreadnought Bjorn the Fell-Handed, a former Great Wolf of the Chapter, to deal with the Inquisitorial party. The ancient warrior, who had once fought beside the Primarch Leman Russ during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy, immediately received the unbidden respect and reverence of the Inquisitorial delegation, and was thought to be a more temperate and wise representative for the Chapter than Logan Grimnar.
Kysnaros asked for the Space Wolves' express obeisance to Imperial authority and the chain of command, and a Penitent Crusade to be undertaken to expiate the Chapter's guilt for attacking the servants of the Inquisition. In exchange, the Inquisition and the Imperium at large would take no other action or censure against the Chapter. Bjorn was not impressed, countering that Kysnaros was asking a proud, storied Chapter that had served Humanity for millennia to kowtow to faceless bureaucrats who ruled according to expedience rather than honour. Further, this was demanded while the Inquisition's guns were locked-and-loaded and targeting The Fang. He asked Kysnaros to make a more rigorous presentation of his case, but before the latter could start and to everyone's surprise, the Space Wolves' Chapter fleet under command of Logan Grimnar translated from the Warp near Fenris. The negotiations abruptly terminated, and the Inquisition delegation made haste to the Corel's Hope.
Following yet another short and fruitless exchange between the near-panicked Kysnaros and the snarling Grimnar over ship-to-ship Vox, an all-out close-quarters naval battle broke out over Fenris. Despite the presence of senior Imperial Navy officers, Kysnaros took command of the Inquisitorial fleet. His near-panic disappeared, and he exhibited remarkable calmness under pressure and intricate knowledge of large-scale, complex naval battle tactics. He ordered half of the Inquisition assets to commence conventional-only bombing of The Fang, and upon detection of Space Wolves boarding torpedoes, ordered the Red Hunters to counter-board the torpedo-firing vessels. Whilst the battle was raging, Grimnar had the Scramaseax come abreast of the Corel's Hope, where the Astartes' vessel's superior shields, armour, and broadside proved the deciding factors -- and indeed Corel's Hope's Void Shields failed first. Immediately, Grimnar and his Wolf Guard teleported from the Scramaseax to the bridge of Corel's Hope.
As the Wolf Guard caused mayhem on the bridge, Grimnar sprinted towards the command throne, where Kysnaros stood. Despite resistance by Hyperion and one other Grey Knight, and assisted by Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr, who was one of the anti-Kysnaros conspirators, the Great Wolf quickly reached the Inquisitor Lord. Kysnaros was unarmed, yet he was a powerful psyker with telekinetic abilities -- however, either he did not care to defend himself, or he did not have time to react, given the Great Wolf's speed and ferocity. Grimnar, in one swift move, unceremoniously decapitated the Inquisitor Lord.
Kysnaros' death was not enough to placate the enraged Space Wolves who continued their rampage, until shortly afterwards Bjorn the Fell-Handed teleported to the bridge of Corel's Hope and bade everyone to "stop this madness." Thanks to his timely intervention and mediation, hostilities ceased and a truce was declared amongst the combatants.
Kysnaros had no imposing physical presence, and avoided the display of arms, even ceremonial ones, carrying instead only his Staff of Office when it was appropriate. His stature was further diminished by his apparent youthfulness: extensive rejuvenat treatments made him look like a young man in his 20s. Apart from the Inquisition sigil he avoided ostentation of any sort. He kept his psychic abilities well hidden, and his past actions, history, and connections even more so. He showed undeniable tactical ability during the unconventional naval engagement over Fenris, proving he could see the larger picture during battle, though where he acquired such specialised knowledge remains unknown. Additionally, unlike other Inquisition Lords, he had no retinue of Acolytes or servants, and seemed to keep his own counsel. Kysnaros was a mystery, and perhaps not the right person to be dealing with the Space Wolves. He himself admitted that he had no prior experience in dealing with Astartes in general. Considering that the Space Wolves were among the most idiosyncratic of Astartes Chapters, this made his task even harder.
Following the ad hoc Inquisition conclave that decided (though not unanimously) to go ahead with the Armageddon containment, he proceeded as if the Armageddon containment this was a routine Inquisition purge. However, as the dissenters were pointing out, victorious Imperial forces had never been purged on this scale before. Secondly, Grimnar had made his intentions clear as soon as the Inquisition force translated into Armageddon space -- and then repeated them several times before the start of the containment. Fenrisian Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr called Kysnaros a "fool," implying that he completely misunderstood the Space Wolves and their ways. Indeed he seemed out of his depth when dealing with Grimnar, who outsmarted him at every turn, and was much better in getting his point across.
Hyperion, who was for a time an anti-Kysnaros conspirator bent on killing him, had a private audience with Kysnaros, and came away with the impression that Kysnaros was completely sincere in his belief that he was doing the right thing. Hyperion thought that Kysnaros acted "as if the weight of the Imperium's worlds rested upon his shoulders." Hyperion was probably one of the most potent psykers of his time, with stunning telesthesiac ability; he probed Kysnaros' mind in depth and found no deception present. At the same time he realised that Kysnaros was perhaps his equal in psychic power, and wondered why he did not use this power on Grimnar. Kysnaros, forever the pragmatist, had understood that such coercion was bound to be obvious, and it would do nothing to convince the Space Wolves to change their "heretical" ways.
Indeed Kysnaros was often shown to be holding back in the confrontations with the Space Wolves. He was paralysed with fear that he would cause another civil war within the Imperium like the Horus Heresy, and was visibly saddened when he heard the containment campaign referred to as the "Months of Shame." To his credit, he tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issues without undue violence, and absolved Lord Joros of all responsibility for the advice Joros had given him. He also recorded all his numerous flawed decisions in the reports to his unknown masters. His crowning mistake was threatening Fenris, a move that no Astartes Chapter Master would be expected to react to in any way other than with extreme and justifiable violence. It seemed that his interactions with the Space Wolves during the "Months of Shame" taught him very little. He paid for his continued ignorance with his life.
Bjorn told Grimnar that the internecine war between the Chapter and the Inquisition on behalf of the survivors of Armageddon had to stop. The Inquisitorial force should be allowed to leave Fenris unscathed, and the Space Wolves should reach an understanding with the Imperium. He then addressed Hyperion and Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr, as the ranking Inquisition representatives present, and told them that no Inquisition vessel should ever again appear above Fenris. Additionally, the Space Wolves who had acquired knowledge of the existence of the Grey Knights would not be mind-scrubbed, as was customary, though the remaining Armageddon survivors would be handed over for mind-wiping, sterilisation and dispersion across the galaxy. The combatants accepted the terms, and shortly afterward, the Inquisitorial force left the system.
Kysnaros' death and the cessation of hostilities did not settle the deep and bitter institutional dispute between the Space Wolves Chapter and the Inquisition. His behaviour clearly represented the broader agenda of the Inquisition for a number of reasons, including:
- While there was dissent within Kysnaros' task force and reluctance from other Grey Knights to join the campaign against their fellow Astartes, his armada kept increasing in size and lethality.
- He was able to commandeer Imperial Navy warships from Battlefleet Solar, rearm at least one of them with Exterminatus ordnance, and use such ordnance multiple times.
- He managed to summon an entire Chapter of Space Marines with their fleet.
- He prosecuted an 8-month violent campaign against a celebrated Loyalist First Founding Chapter of Space Marines.
- He had exclusive call on a Brotherhood-strength force of Grey Knights for the same time period, which apparently overrode any other demand made on them by other Inquisitors.
- He was using this Grey Knights force clearly outside of their mandate and mission parameters.
- He went as far as to threaten a Loyalist First Founding Chapter with the label of Excommunicate Traitoris, and besieged their Chapter homeworld.
No single Inquisitor Lord, no matter how powerful, can take such actions without the sanction of the highest echelons of the Inquisition. Grimnar, by defying the Armageddon containment edict, was in effect defying the authority of the Inquisition -- he was acting against the secret police force of an authoritarian state. The Inquisition, as varied and decentralised as it is, is the final, superseding authority of the Imperium of Man. No single Chapter, Chapter Master, or other organisation (even the High Lords of Terra), can hope to defy it without consequences.
This sad chapter of Imperial history is far from over. The terms of the truce reached at Fenris pleased neither side, and was accepted only out of necessity. Even as the truce went into effect, both sides were secretly keeping their options open. In fact, the Inquisition almost immediately started exploring other avenues of bringing the Space Wolves to heel.
- The Emperor's Gift (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden