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- "Peace? There cannot be peace in these times."
- —Lord Solar Macharius
This article briefly summarises the known historical events of the Milky Way Galaxy from human prehistory up to the end of the 41st Millennium in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Throughout, comparative references to present dates will be made with respect to the approximate decade 990.M41 - 999.M41 of the Imperial Calendar. This is the time period in which the perspectives of the Imperium of Mankind and the Eldar are particularly relevant and it represents the present time. All dates are given in the format 999.M41, which should be read as the year 40,999 AD in the Gregorian Calendar.
Birth of the Star Gods
The birth of the entities known as the Star Gods occurred at the same time as the moment of Creation itself, as they formed from the vast, insensate energies first unleashed by that churning mass of cataclysmic force. In that anarchic interweaving of matter and energy, the sea of stars began to swirl into existence and for an eon the universe was nothing more than hot hydrogen gas and light elemental dust ruled over by the gravitic force of billions of newborn suns. Long before the first planets had formed and cooled, the very first truly self-aware beings emerged, their thoughts encased within the lines of force produced by the plasma and electromagnetic flares of the stars themselves. In later times, these entities would become known as the C'tan, but early in their existence they were nothing like the malevolent beings they would eventually become. They were little more than monstrous energy parasites that suckled upon the solar energies of the stars that had brought them into existence, shortening the lives of otherwise main-sequence stars by millions of standard years. In time, these star vampires learned to move on the diaphanous wings of the universe's electromagnetic flux, leaving their birthplaces to drift through the cosmic ether to new stellar feeding grounds and begin their cycle of stellar destruction once more. Beings of pure energy, they paid no mind to the hunks of solid matter they passed in the vacuum of space, the blazing geothermal fires and weak geomagnetic fields of these nascent planets insufficient to be worth feeding even their ravenous hunger.
The Old Ones
Just as the stars gave birth to their children so the planets of the newborn galaxy eventually gave birth to lifeforms composed of matter which began the long evolutionary climb to self-awareness. The first sentient beings of the Milky Way Galaxy known to have developed a civilisation technologically advanced enough to cross the stars was a reptilian race of beings called the Old Ones by the Eldar, who knew them best. They possessed a slow, cold-blooded, but still deep wisdom, having long studied the stars and raised astronomy and physics to such a level that their science and technology appear to humanity like an arcane art. Their understanding of the workings of the universe were such that they could manipulate alternate dimensions and undertake great works of psychic engineering. Their science allowed them to cross the vast gulfs of space with only a single step through the myriad Warp Gates they built to connect the worlds of the galaxy in a vast network much like the Eldar Webway of today, though on a much larger scale. The Old Ones spread their spawn to many places in the galaxy, but they also knew that all life was precious. Where they passed, they seeded new intelligent species and reshaped thousands of worlds to make them their own according to their predetermined environmental and geographic criteria. It is believed by some in the Adeptus Mechanicus that even Terra felt the Old Ones' touch long before humanity's rise to self-awareness, though this notion is considered heretical at best by the Ecclesiarchy, as the Imperial Creed teaches that Mankind was made in the image of the God-Emperor before his spirit was incarnated in physical flesh millennia ago.
The Old Ones' civilisation reached its height in excess of 60 million years ago. The Old Ones were responsible for the creation or genetic advancement of most of the currently active intelligent species of the galaxy, including the Eldar, the Krork (the Orks' precursors), the Slann and the Jokaero, though it is unknown if they played any role in the evolution of humanity. The Old Ones were potent psychics who routinely used the powers of the Warp for a wide variety of technological applications. The Old Ones constructed a system of instantaneous faster-than-light portals through Warpspace that were ultimately adapted to create the Eldar's Webway (and was its more advanced precursor). These portals connected all of the Old Ones' colony worlds across vast swathes of interstellar space.
The Necrontyr and the Wars of Secession
The humanoid species that would become the Necrons began their existence under a fearsome, scourging star in the far reaches of the galaxy known as the Halo Stars region, billions of standard years before Mankind evolved on Terra. Assailed at every moment by ionising solar winds and intense radiation storms, the flesh and blood Necrontyr became a morbid people whose precarious life spans were riven by constant loss. What little information the Imperium of Man has recovered on the Necrontyr tells that their lives were short and uncertain, their bodies blighted and consumed at an early age by the terrible cancers and other illnesses linked to the high levels of ionising radiation given off by their sun. Necrontyr cities were built in anticipation of their inhabitants' early demise, as the living were only brief residents living in the shadow of the vast sepulchres and tombs of their ancestors. Likewise, their ruling dynasties were founded on the anticipation of demise, and the living were thought of as no more than temporary residents hurrying through the more permanent and lasting structures raised to honour the dead. On the Necrontyr homeworld, the greatest monuments were always built for the dead, never the living. Driven by necessity, the Necrontyr escaped their crucible-prison and struck out for the stars, hopeful of carving an empire in which they could realise their species' potential free from the lethal energies of their birth star.
Unable to find peace on their own world, the Necrontyr blindly groped outward into the universe to explore other stars. Using stasis crypts and slow-moving antimatter-powered torch-ships that were clad in the living metal known as necrodermis to resist the millennia-long journeys through the void, the Necrontyr began to colonise distant worlds. Little by little, the Necrontyr dynasties spread ever further, until much of the ancient galaxy answered to their rule. From the earliest days, the rulers of individual Necrontyr dynasties were themselves governed by the Triarch, a council composed of three Phaerons. The head of the Triarch was known as the Silent King, for he addressed his subjects only through the other two Phaerons who ruled alongside him. Nominally a hereditary position, the uncertain life spans of the Necrontyr ensured that the title of Silent King nonetheless passed from one royal dynasty to another many times. The final days of the Necrontyr Empire occurred in the reign of Szarekh, the last of the Silent Kings.
Sometime during their slow expansion, the Necrontyr encountered an ancient species far older than any other in existence in the known galaxy. Collectively, these beings were known as the Old Ones, and they were absolute masters of forms of energy the Necrontyr could not even conceive of, yet alone wield. The Old Ones had long ago conquered the secrets of immortality, yet they refused to share the gift of eternal life with the Necrontyr, who yet bore the curse of the bitter star they had been born under. The colonisation of much of the galaxy by the reptilian mystics had been immeasurably swifter and more expansive than that of the Necrontyr because of their Warp Gates and mastery of the Immaterium. That, and the Old Ones' incredibly long, if not downright immortal lifespans, kindled a burning, jealous rage in the Necrontyr, which ate at their culture spiritually as much as their physical cancers consumed their bodies. The Necrontyr were astonished to learn that another intelligent species enjoyed such long lives while their own were cut so brutally short.
But as time wore on, further strife came to the Necrontyr. Each dynasty of the Necrontyr sought to claim its own destiny and soon the great houses were engaged in all-out conflicts known as the Wars of Secession. Had circumstances remained as they were for but a generation more, it is possible that the Necrontyr would have wiped themselves out, as so many species had before them and shall do in the future. As their territory grew ever wider and more diverse, the unity that had made them strong was eroded, and bitter wars were waged as entire realms fought to win independence. Ultimately, the Triach -- the ruling council of the Necrontyr Empire-- realised that the only hope of unity lay in conflict with an external enemy, but there were few who could prove a credible threat. Only the Old Ones, the first of all the galaxy's known sentient species, were a prospective foe powerful enough to bind the feuding Necrontyr dynasties to a common cause. Such a war was simplicity itself to justify, for the Necrontyr had ever rankled at the Old Ones' refusal to share the secrets of eternal life. So did the Triarch declare war on the Old Ones. At the same time, they offered amnesty to any secessionist dynasties who willingly returned to the fold. Thus lured by the spoils of victory and the promise of immortality, the separatist Necrontyr realms abandoned their Wars of Secession and the War in Heaven began.
It was the last of the Silent Kings who headed the Triarch of the Necrontyr Empire, Szarekh, who formulated the plan that would change everything forever and have consequences that would echo through history for countless millions of years. In a typically bitter act of jealousy and resentment for the Necrontyr race, it was the Silent King who used the Old Ones' refusal to share the secret of immortality as a pretext for war, forcibly uniting the entire Necrontyr species beneath the rule of the Triarch against their common foe. War erupted across the stars, yet while the Silent King succeeded in uniting his hateful people, it was a war the Necrontyr could not win. Not on their own.
The War in Heaven
The terrible wars between the Old Ones and the Necrontyr that followed, known later in Eldar myth as the War in Heaven, would fill a library in their own right, but the Necrontyr could never win. Their superior technology was consistently outmanoeuvred by the Old Ones thanks to their mastery of the Webway portals and Warp Gates. The Necrontyr were pushed back until they were little more than an irritation to the Old Ones' dominance of the galaxy, a quiescent threat clinging to their irradiated world among the Halo Stars, exiled and forgotten. The Necrontyr's fury was cooled by their long millennia of imprisonment on their homeworld, slowly transforming into an utter hatred towards all other forms of intelligent life and an implacable determination to avenge themselves upon their seemingly invincible enemies.
But in the face of defeat, the always fragile unity of the Necrontyr began to fracture once more. No longer did the prospect of a common enemy have any hold over the disparate dynasties. Scores of generations had now lived and died in the service of an unwinnable war, and many Necrontyr dynasties would have gladly sued for peace with the Old Ones if the ruling Triarch had permitted it.
Thus began the second iteration of the Wars of Secession, more widespread and ruinous than any that had come before. So fractured had the Necrontyr dynasties become by then that, had the Old Ones been so inclined, they could have wiped out their foes with ease. Faced with the total collapse of their rule, the Triarch searched desperately for a means of restoring order. In this, their prayers were answered, though the price for their species would be incalculably high.
It was during the reign of the Silent King Szarekh that the godlike energy beings known as the C'tan first blighted the Necrontyr. It is impossible to say for certain how the Necrontyr first made contact with the C'tan though many misleading, contradictory and one-sided accounts of these events exist. The dusty archives of the Tomb World of Solemnace claim it was but an accident, a chance discovery made by a stellar probe during the investigation of a dying star. The Book of Mournful Night, held under close guard in the Black Library's innermost sanctum, tells rather that the raw hatred that the Necrontyr held as a race for the Old Ones sang out across space, acting as a beacon that the C'tan could not ignore.
Another account claims that from the earliest days of their civilisation, Necrontyr scientists had been deeply engaged in stellar studies to try to understand and protect themselves from their own sun's baleful energies. After long, bitter centuries of searching for some power to unleash upon the Old Ones, the Necrontyr researchers used stellar probes to discover unusual electrodynamic anomalies in the oldest, dying stars of the galaxy. In the complex skeins of the energetic plasma of these suns, the Necrontyr found a sentience that was more ancient than that of any of the corporeal species in Creation, including the Old Ones, entities of pure energy that had spawned during the birth of the stars eons before. These entities had little conception of what the rest of the universe entailed when the Necrontyr first found them, feeding upon the solar flares and magnetic storms of these bloated red giants. Here was the weapon the Necrontyr had long sought to bring about the downfall of the Old Ones, beings they believed were the progeny of the death-god they worshipped. Howsoever first contact occurred, the shadow of the C'tan fell over the oldest Necrontyr dynasties first.
The power of these star-born creatures was incredible, the raw energy of the stars made animate, and the Necrontyr called them the C'tan or "Star Gods" in their own tongue. The C'tan were dispersed across areas larger than whole planets, their consciousnesses too vast for humanoids to comprehend. How the Necrontyr ever managed to communicate with them is unknown to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Understanding that such diffuse minds could never perceive the material universe without manifesting themselves in a material form, some Necrontyr actively sought the C'tan's favour and oversaw the forging of physical shells for the C'tan to occupy, cast from the living metal called necrodermis that they had once used for their colony torch-ships. Fragmentary Eldar legends tell of translucent streamers of electromagnetic force shifting across space as the star vampires coiled into their new bodies in the physical realm across an incorporeal bridge of starlight. Thus clad, the C'tan took the shapes of the Necrontyr's half-forgotten gods, hiding their own desires beneath cloaks of obsequious subservience.
Incomprehensible forces were compressed into the living metal of the necrodermis bodies which the Necrontyr had forged as the full power of the C'tan at last found form. As the C'tan focused their consciousnesses and became ever more aware of their new mode of existence, they came to appreciate the pleasures available to beings of matter and the other realities of corporeal life. The deliciously focused trickles of electromagnetic energy given off by the physical bodies of the Necrontyr all about them awakened a new hunger in the C'tan very unlike the one they had once sated using the nourishing but essentially tasteless energies of the stars.
So it was that one of the C'tan came before the Silent King Szarekh, acting as forerunner to the coming of his brothers. Amongst its own kind, this C'tan was known as the Deceiver, for it was willfully treacherous. Yet the Silent King knew not the C'tan's true nature, and instead granted the creature an audience. The Deceiver spoke of a war, fought long before the birth of the Necrontyr, between the C'tan and the Old Ones. It was a war, he said, that the C'tan had lost. In the aftermath, and fearing the vengeance of the Old Ones, he and his brothers had hidden themselves away, hoping one day to find allies with whom they could finally bring the Old Ones to account. In return for this aid, the Deceiver assured, he and his brothers would deliver everything that the Necrontyr craved. Unity could be theirs once again, and the immortality that they had sought for so long would finally be within their grasp. No price would there be for these great gifts, the Deceiver insisted, for they were but boons to be bestowed upon valued allies.
Thus did the Deceiver speak, and who can say how much of his tale was truth? It is doubtful whether even the Deceiver knew, for trickery had become so much a part of his existence that even he could no longer divine its root. Yet his words held sway over Szarekh who, like his ancestors before him, despaired of the divisions that were tearing his people apart. For long months he debated the matter with the other two Phaerons of the Triarch and the nobles of his Royal Court. Through it all, the only dissenting voice was that of Orikan, the court astrologer, who foretold that the alliance between the Necrontyr and the C'tan would bring about a renaissance of glory, but destroy forever the soul of the Necrontyr people. Yet desire and ambition swiftly overrode caution, and Orikan's prophecy was dismissed. A Necrontyr year after the Deceiver had presented his proposition, the Triarch agreed to the alliance, and so forever doomed their race.
For their part, the Necrontyr soon fell into awe of their discoveries and the C'tan moved to take control over their benefactors. The powers of the C'tan manifested in the physical world were indeed almost god-like and it was not long before the C'tan were being worshiped as the Star Gods the Necrontyr had named them. Perhaps they had been tainted by the material universe they had become a part of, or perhaps this had always been their nature even when they were bound to the suns they fed upon, but the C'tan proved to be as cruel and capricious as the stars from which they had been born. They soon revelled in the worship of the Necrontyr and feasted upon the life energies of countless mortal slaves.
Biotransference and the Rise of the Necrons
- "When the Silent King saw what had been done, he knew at last the true nature of the C'tan, and of the doom they had wrought in his name."
- —excerpt from the Book of Mournful Night
Armed with weapons of god-like power and starships that could cross the galaxy in the blink of an eye through the use of quantum phase technology, the Necrontyr stood ready to begin their war against the Old Ones anew. But the C'tan had another gift for their mortal subjects. They offered the Necrontyr a path to immortality and the physical stability their race had always craved. Their diseased flesh would be replaced with the living metal of necrodermis that made up their Star Gods' own physical forms. Their discarded organic husks would be consumed and their cold, metal forms would then be free to pursue their great vengeance against the Old Ones and the rest of a hateful universe, freed forever from the weaknesses of their hated flesh.
With the pact between Necrontyr and C'tan sealed, the Star Gods revealed the form that immortality would take for the Necrontyr, and the great biotransference process began. Colossal bio-furnaces built by Necrontyr artifice roared day and night, consuming weak-bodied flesh and replacing it with enduring machine forms of living metal, much like the C'tan themselves. As the cyclopean machines clamoured, the C'tan swarmed about the biotransference sites, drinking in the torrent of cast-off life energy and growing ever stronger.
Whether the Necrontyr actually realised the price they would actually pay for accepting this pact with the C'tan is not known. The immortality the C'tan promised would be delivered unto the Necrontyr by way of the arcane and terrible process of bio-transference. Vast bio-foundries were constructed, and into these the Silent King's peoples marched according to the terms of the pact he had made with the C'tan. What blasphemous procedures the Necrontyr were subjected to within the raging bio-furnaces cannot be known, but certainly, each was stripped of flesh and of soul, his body replaced by a shell of living metal animated by what remained of his guttering self. Above each furnace swooped and dove the ethereal true-forms of the C'tan as they glutted themselves on the spiritual detritus of an entire species. It was only when the Silent King himself emerged from the bio-transference process and looked upon what had become of his people that he saw the awful truth of the pact he had made. Though immortality and nigh godlike strength and vigour were his, it had come at the cost of his soul, the effluvial remains of which had already been sucked down the gullet of a circling C'tan.
As Szarekh watched the C'tan feast on the life essence of his people, he realised the terrible depth of his mistake. In many ways, he felt better that he had in decades, the countless aches and uncertainties of organic life now behind him. His new machine body was far mightier than the frail form he had tolerated for so long, and his thoughts were swifter and clearer than they had ever been. Yet there was an emptiness gnawing at his mind, an inexpressible hollowness of spirit that defied rational explanation. In that moment, he knew with cold certainty that the price of physical immortality had been the loss of his soul. With great sorrow the Silent King beheld the fate he had brought upon his people: the Necrontyr were now but a memory, and the soulless, undying Necrons had been reborn in their place.
Yet if the price had been steep, biotransference had fulfilled all of the promises that the C'tan had made. Even the lowliest of the Necrontyr was now blessed with immortality -- age and hard radiation could little erode their new mechanical bodies, and only the most terrible of injuries could destroy them utterly. Likewise, the Necrons now enjoyed a unity that the Necrontyr had never known, though it was achieved through tyranny and the complete loss of individuality and emotion rather than by consent. The biotransference process had embedded command protocols in every Necron mind, granting Szarekh the unswerving loyalty of his subjects. At first, the Silent King embraced this unanimity, for it was a welcome reprieve from the chaos that had consumed the Necrontyr Empire in recent years. However, as time wore on he grew weary of his burden but dared not sever the command protocols, lest his subjects turn on him seeking vengeance for the terrible curse he had visited upon them.
Thus the Necrontyr became the Necrons, cursed to the eternal servitude of their Star Gods. The C'tan feasted upon the entire Necrontyr race's life energies even as they made the transfers, leaving behind only the ghostly echoes of the Necrontyr's consciousnesses. Only a few of the most strong-willed Necrontyr retained their intellect and self-awareness and even they were but shadows of their former selves. They had been purged of so much of what had made them unique individuals. The Necrons cared not at all for their loss; all that mattered to them was that they would live forever without disease or death as their Star Gods had promised.
Nevertheless, the Necrontyr species was united as never before. The process imbued in every one of the Silent King's subjects the command protocols with which he would rule over them with an iron hand. The entire species was his to command, and so it fell upon the Necrons to honour their side of their terrible bargain. Renewed by their devouring of the souls of an entire species, the C'tan were unstoppable, and with the legions of the Necrons marching in their wake, the Old Ones were doomed. Only one thing truly remained of the old Necrontyr -- their burning hatred for all the other living, intelligent species of the universe. Legions of the undying living metal warriors set out into the galaxy in their Tomb Ships and the stars burned in their wake. The Old Ones' mastery of the Warp was now countered by the C'tan's supremacy over the physical universe and the ancient enemies of the Necrons suffered greatly in the interstellar slaughter that followed.
The Necrons Ascendant
With the C'tan and the Necrons fighting as one, the Old Ones were now doomed to defeat. Glutted on the life force of the Necrontyr, the empowered C'tan were nigh unstoppable and unleashed forces beyond comprehension. Planets were razed, suns extinguished and whole star systems devoured by black holes called into being by the reality-warping powers of the Star Gods. Necron legions finally breached the Webway and assailed the Old Ones in every corner of the galaxy. They brought under siege the fortresses of the Old Ones' many allies amongst the younger intelligent races of the galaxy, harvesting the life force of the defenders to feed their voracious C'tan masters.
In the closing years of the War in Heaven, one of the primary factors that led to the Necrons' ascendancy was their ability to finally gain access to the Old Ones' Webway. The C'tan known as Nyadra'zath, the Burning One, had long desired to carry his eldritch fires into that space beyond space, and so showed the Necrons how to breach its boundaries. Through a series of living stone portals known as the Dolmen Gates, the Necrons were finally able to turn the Old Ones' greatest weapon against them, vastly accelerating the ultimate end of the War in Heaven.
The portals offered by the Dolmen Gates are neither so stable, nor so controllable as the naturally occurring entrances to the Webway scattered across the galaxy. Indeed, in some curious fashion, the Webway can detect when its environs have been breached by a Dolmen Gate and its arcane mechanisms swiftly attempt to seal off the infected spur from the rest of the Labyrinthine Dimension until the danger to its integrity has passed. Thus, Necrons entering the Webway must reach their intended destination through its shifting extradimensional corridors quickly, lest the network itself bring about their destruction.
Of course, in the present age, aeons have passed since the Necrons used the Dolmen Gates to assault their archenemies. The Old Ones are gone, and the Webway itself has become a tangled and broken labyrinth. Many Dolmen Gates were lost or abandoned during the time of the Necrons' Great Sleep, and many more were destroyed by the Eldar, the Old Ones' successors as the guardians of the Webway. Those that remain grant access to but a small portion of the immense maze that is the Webway, much of that voluntarily sealed off by the Eldar to prevent further contamination. Yet the Webway is immeasurably vast, and even these sundered skeins allow the Necrons a mode of travel that far outpaces those of the younger races. It is well that this is so. As a race bereft of psykers as a result of the loss of their souls during the biotransference process, the Necrons are also incapable of Warp travel, and without access to the Webway, they would be forced to rely once more on slow-voyaging stasis-ships, dooming them to interstellar isolation.
In the wake of these victories, the C'tan and their undying Necron servants now dominated the galaxy. The last planetary bastions of the Old Ones were besieged and the intelligent races they had once nurtured became cattle for the obscene hunger of the C'tan. To the younger sentient species of the galaxy, the Necrons and their Star Gods were cruel masters, callously harvesting their populations at will to feed the C'tan's ceaseless hunger. The C'tan were figures of terror who demanded their adoration and fear in equal measure. For unknown reasons, but probably because their individual hungers for mortal life energies knew no bounds, the C'tan ultimately began to fight amongst themselves for both sport and out of spite as they unleashed destructive forces beyond mortal comprehension. Among the Eldar, an ancient myth holds that their Laughing God tricked the C'tan known as the Outsider into turning on its brothers and beginning their long war for ascendancy. In the course of the C'tan's struggle against one another, whole planets were razed, stars were extinguished and whole solar systems were devoured by unleashed black holes. New cities were built by the efforts of millions and then smashed down once more. As the "red harvests" of the C'tan and their Necron servants grew thin, C'tan eventually devoured C'tan, until only a few were left in the universe and they competed amongst themselves for a long age.
Eventually, even the Old Ones, who had once been defined by their patience and unstoppable will, became desperate in the face of the Necron assault. They used their great scientific skills to genetically engineer intelligent beings with an even stronger psychic link to the Warp, hoping to create servants with the capability of channeling psychic power to defend themselves. They nurtured many potential warrior races, among which are believed to be the earliest members of the Eldar species and many other xenos races, including the Rashan, the K'nib, the Krork and many others. Millennia passed as the Old Ones' creations finally bore fruit and the C'tan and their Necron servants continued to extinguish life across the galaxy.
The Tide Turns
The Old Ones' psychically-empowered servant races spread across the galaxy, battling the advanced Necron technology with the psychic power of their Warp-spawned sorcery. Facing this new onslaught, the C'tan's empire was shattered, as the psychic forces of the Immaterium were anathema to soulless entities whose existence was wholly contained within purely physical patterns of electromagnetic force. For all the destruction they could unleash, they were unable to stop the Old Ones and the younger races' relentless advance across the stars.
The C'tan, unified by this great threat for the first time in millions of years, sought a way to defeat the soul-fuelled energies of the younger species. They initiated a great warding, a plan to forever defeat the psychic sorceries of the Old Ones by sealing off the material universe from the Warp, a plan whose first fruits can still be found on the Imperial Fortress World of Cadia in the form of the great pylons that litter the surface of that world in intricate networks and create the area of space-time stability near the Eye of Terror known as the Cadian Gate. With their god-like powers, it was only a matter of time until the C'tan succeeded and the greatest work of the C'tan was begun. But before it was complete, the seeds of destruction the Old Ones had planted millennia before brought about an unforeseen cataclysm. The growing pains and collective psychic flaws of the younger races threw the untapped psychically reactive energies of the Immaterium into disorder. War, pain and destruction were mirrored in the bottomless depth of the Sea of Souls that was the Warp. The maelstrom of souls unleashed into the Immaterium by the carnage of the War in Heaven coalesced in the previously formless energies of the Warp. Older entities that had existed within the Immaterium transformed into terrifying psychic predators, tearing at the souls of vulnerable psykers as their own environment was torn apart and reforged into the Realm of Chaos.
The Enslaver Plague
The denizens of the Warp clustered voraciously at the cracks between the Immaterium and the material universe, seeking new ways to enter the physical realm. The Old Ones brought forth new genetically-engineered warrior races to defend their last strongholds, including the technology-mimicking Jokaero and the formidable, green-skinned Krork who were the ancestors of the present day Orks, but it was already too late. The Old Ones' intergalactic Webway network was breached from the Immaterium and lost to them, several of their Warp Gates were destroyed by their own hands to prevent the entities of the Warp from spreading to uncorrupted worlds and Old Ones' greatest works and places of power were overrun by the horrors their own creations had unleashed. The most terrifying of these horrors were the Enslavers, Warp entities whose ability to dominate the minds of the younger races and create their own portals into the material realm using transmuted possessed psykers brought them forth in ever greater numbers. For the Old Ones, this was the final disaster as the Enslavers took control of their servants. The Pandora's Box unleashed by the creation of the younger races finally scattered the last of the Old Ones and broke their power over the galaxy once and for all. Life had stood at the edge of an apocalypse during the War in Heaven between the Old Ones and the C'tan. Now as the Enslavers breached the Immaterium in epidemic proportions, the survivors looked doomed.
Ultimately, beset by the implacable onset of the C'tan and the calamitous Warp-spawned perils they had themselves mistakenly unleashed, the Old Ones were defeated, scattered and finally destroyed. Whether the species went extinct or simply fled the galaxy to seek a new haven elsewhere is unknown.
The Silent King's Betrayal
Throughout the final stages of the War in Heaven, Szarekh bided his time, waiting for the moment in which the C'tan would prove vulnerable. Though the entire Necron race was now his to command, he could not hope to oppose the C'tan at the height of their power, and even if he did and met with success, the Necrons would then have to finish the War in Heaven against the Old Ones and their increasingly potent allies alone. No, the Old Ones had to be completely and utterly defeated before the C'tan could be brought to account for the horror they had wrought. And so, when the C'tan finally won their great war, their triumph proved short-lived. With one hated enemy finally defeated, and the other spend from hard-fought victory, the Silent King at last led the Necrons in revolt against the C'tan masters.
In their arrogance, the C'tan did not realise their danger until it was too late. The Necrons focussed the unimaginable energies of the living universe into weapons too mighty for even the Star Gods to endure. Alas, the C'tan were immortal star-spawn, part of the fundamental fabric of reality and therefore nigh impossible to destroy. So was each C'tan instead sundered into thousands of smaller and less powerful fragments with a similar energy signature. Yet this was sufficient to the Silent King's goals. Indeed, he had known the C'tan's ultimate destruction to be impossible and had drawn his plans accordingly; each C'tan Shard was bound within a multidimensional Tesseract Labyrinth, as tramelled and secured as a Terran djinn trapped in a bottle. Though the cost of victory was high -- millions of Necrons had been destroyed as a consequence of the rebellion, including all of the members of the Triarch save the Silent King himself -- the Necrons were once more in command of their own destiny.
The Great Sleep
The Necrons had been vindicated in their pursuit only of science and control over the material realm and certainly took pleasure in seeing the Old Ones' civilisation collapse as a result of their over-indulgence of psychic power and the end of the C'tan's domination over their race. Yet even with the defeat of the Old Ones and the C'tan alike, the Silent King saw that the time of the Necrons in the galaxy was over -- for the moment, at least. They would allow the Enslavers to take what was left of the sentient life in the galaxy and let it become an interstellar wasteland; the psyker swarm would then die away and in time the galaxy would evolve new lifeforms who would be less sophisticated and easier to dominate. In addition, the Necrons understood that the mantle of galactic dominion was soon to pass to the Eldar, one of the psychically-potent races that had fought alongside the Old Ones throughout the War in Heaven and had thus come to hate the Necrons and all their works with the burning passion that is the defining characteristic of that species. The Eldar had survived where the Old Ones had not and the Necrons, weakened by their expenditure of lives and resources in overthrowing the rule of the C'tan, could not stand against them. Yet the Silent King knew that the time of the Eldar would eventually pass, as it must pass for all those beings still cloaked in the flesh. It would take millions of Terran years for the Eldar's power to fade, but what mattered is that the Necrons would be there to take advantage of it.
So it was that the Silent King ordered the remaining Necron cities to be transformed into great tomb complexes threaded with stasis-crypts. Let the Eldar shape the galaxy for a time -- they were but ephemeral, whilst the Necrons were undying and eternal. The Silent King's final command to his people was that they must sleep for the equivalent of 60 million standard years but awake ready to rebuild all that they had lost, to restore the Necron dynasties to their former glory. This was the Silent King's final order, and as the last Tomb World sealed its subterranean vaults, Szarekh destroyed the command protocols by which he had controlled his people for so long, for he had failed them utterly. Without a backward glance, Szarekh, the last of the Silent Kings of the Triarch, took ship into the starless void of intergalactic space, there to find whatever measure of solace or penance he could.
Meanwhile, aeons passed and the Necrons slept on, their machine slaves and constructs guarding them while they slept on Tomb Worlds that had been purged of all life to keep the Enslavers from their door. This plan worked with an amazing degree of success until the Necrons were awakened by the forces of the Imperium of Man in the late 41st Millennium to plague the galaxy once more. They discovered a new and unexpected age of interstellar civilisation and war much like the one they had left behind 60 million years before. The galaxy is blossoming with life once more but is still overrun with latent psykers and worshippers of the infernal Chaotic Warp energies unleashed during the War in Heaven. It will take time and a great many machinations for the Necron dynasties to regain their rightful place as the rulers of the galaxy; the agents of Chaos must be overthrown; the dangerous Eldar, inheritors of the Old Ones' mantle, eliminated; Mankind subjugated and the great work cutting off the material universe from the Warp completed before a new age of Necron dominion can truly begin. But the Necrons are ageless and undying, their technology still unmatched by any of the younger races. And time is always on their side...
The Rise of Mankind
The Age of Terra and the Stellar Exodus
For millions of standard years after the Necrons and their C'tan masters went into hibernation on their Tomb Worlds, the devastated sentient populations of the galaxy slowly recovered from their "red harvests." In time, the Eldar emerged as the most dominant civilisation in the galaxy, with the core of their star-spanning empire located in the region of what would later become the Eye of Terror Warp rift. But on the planet called Earth and later Terra by its inhabitants, a humanoid species known as Mankind was rising to prominence over 40,000 standard years ago. During the Age of Terra, or the Age of Progress as it is sometimes called by Imperial historians, the human race advanced beyond its ancient pre-industrial past to obtain spacefaring capability and began to slowly settle the habitable worlds in its own solar system and in the star systems near its homeworld using massive sublight starships.
The Stellar Exodus which occurred during the Age of Terra is a poorly-understood period of human history which is generally accepted to cover the majority of Mankind's initial forays into interstellar space and the genesis of most of the oldest human colonies, beginning at some unknown point in the mid-to-late 3rd Millennium. This period is generally understood to lead into the Dark Age of Technology sometime around the 15th Millennium. During much of the Stellar Exodus, humanity lacked any knowledge of the existence of the Warp or Warp drive and so was forced to travel between the stars in great sublight generation ships or using cryogenic hibernation.
Dark Age of Technology (M15-M25)
Much of the era of human history known to Imperial historians as the Dark Age of Technology that lasted between approximately the 15th Millennium and the 25th Millennium is mysterious. It was in this time that the psychic mutants called Navigators were first born, and combined with the invention of the Warp-Drive, allowed humanity to travel between worlds faster than the speed of light by using the dangerous hyperdimensional, psychically-reactive medium of the Immaterium or Warp. The existence of rapid interstellar travel allowed human colony worlds to interact on a normal timescale for the first time and interstellar commerce and communication became possible, allowing like-minded human worlds to join into political and economic combines for their mutual benefit. Eventually, at some point during this era, all of humanity was united beneath some form of federated interstellar government. What is also known (largely from the works of Keeper Cripias) is that a group known as the Golden Men relied on the works of the Stone Men in order to create a fantastically prosperous interstellar society, but one devoid (by later Imperial standards) of spirituality or piety, focused instead upon the advancement of science and technology. The Stone Men are known to have created a third group, the Iron Men, postulated to be some form of artificially intelligent robots, in order to assist them in their labors and carry out military duties. The Iron Men became uncontrolled and rebelled against their human creators, and a cataclysmic conflict broke out, resulting in a partial Malthusian Catastrophe across much of the settled galaxy in which there were no longer enough resources to support the vast populations of human beings. Even worse, following the destruction caused by the war against the Iron Men, human psykers began to appear in large numbers across many human colony worlds, one of the harbingers of the final decline of the Eldar empire which controlled even more of the galaxy than mankind did in these years. The result was humanity's first introduction to the daemonic horrors of the Warp and the ultimate collapse of human interstellar civilization during what became known as the Age of Strife.
The Age of Strife (M25-M30)
During the so-called "Dark Age of Technology," humanity had reached its scientific and technological peak. The "Standard Template Construct", or STC, a computer database of schematics for all known advanced human technologies, had been perfected by human scientists and engineers and allowed an unprecedented expansion of humanity throughout the galaxy. One of the reasons humanity was so successful at conquering a large part of the galaxy was the development of the artificially-intelligent constructs now only known in Imperial legend as the "Iron Men". These powerful and fully intelligent combat robots won many wars for humanity, but for some reason turned against their masters at the end of the Dark Age of Technology. The war was eventually won by humanity, but at a great cost. The damage was catastrophic and had shattered much of humanity's power. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of mankind's misfortunes.
As humanity became widely dispersed across the galaxy during the Age of Technology, the ancient Eldar empire began its decline; the great success of the advanced Eldar race had led to decadence and hedonism on a grand scale. Within the immaterial, psychic universe of the Warp, the spiritual corruption of the Eldar civilization was reflected in the forming of a new Chaos God, Slaanesh, which in turn caused massive disturbances in the Warp; parts of the galaxy became isolated by these Warp Storms, making Warp travel and telepathic interstellar communication increasingly impossible as the years passed, cutting off many human colony worlds from one another, including those of the Solar System.
Towards the end of the Age of Technology psykers first appeared among humanity. While persecuted on many backwards, regressive human worlds as witches, in enlightened and progressive societies these psykers were at first protected and accepted. The initial intolerance for psykers would later seem prescient, as many human worlds fell to the dominance of daemons and other Warp creatures using possessed psykers as gateways into the physical world. Only worlds which had rigorously suppressed psykers survived the Age of Strife.
The Age of Strife followed the Age of Technology, as human civilisation collapsed in widespread insanity, daemonic possession, anarchy and inter-human civil war. Terrible weapons of the golden age of technology were unleashed, devastating many human colonies and turning once-verdant worlds such as Baal Secundus into irradiated desert planets. Many isolated and vulnerable human-colonized worlds also became prey to hostile alien races, such as the Orks.
In a relatively short span of time, the once galaxy-spanning human civilization was brought to its knees, and was forced to endure nearly five millennia of anarchy, terror, war, genocide and slavery. Other than tales of great suffering, little information concerning these long years survived this dark time to be known to the men and women of the Imperium.
The Fall of the Eldar (M25-M30)
Before the Fall of their potent interstellar empire, the Eldar were a technologically and psychically advanced humanoid species, generally considered the most powerful intelligent race in the entire galaxy. Their technology had advanced so far that little or no labour was required by individual Eldar to provide the daily necessities of life, and as a result of the sheer bordeom and ennui that resulted, at some point during the 25th Millennium, groups of Eldar began forming what were known as Pleasure Cults that were dedicated to the pursuit of experiencing every pleasure and sensation that life had to offer their kind.
Despite the prediction of the reclusive Eldar Seers that warned of impending doom if the Eldar did not change their hedonistic ways, government within the Eldar empire soon collapsed and the moral degeneration of their homeworlds and various colony worlds continued unimpeded. As the pursuit of ever more extreme experiences reached its height, death reigned in the streets of Eldar cities, hunter and hunted each being part of a twisted ritual of destruction that consumed millions in orgies of savage bloodlust and excess. Some Eldar were able to see that their now-corrupt society was destroying itself, and fled in disgust; these refugees would settle in the distant, rural colonies of their empire, and would later be known as the Exodites or take to the massive, world-sized Eldar Craftworlds and sail amidst the stars as merchants and explorers, far from the scenes of hedonistic excess that were destroying the heart of the Eldar empire.
Upon dying, the soul of all deceased, sentient beings traverse the bounds of the physical realm and go to rest within the hyperdimensional realm of psychically-reactive energy that undergirds all of reality known as the Immaterium or Warp. As more and more corrupt Eldar died, their souls began to coalesce into a larger entity within the Warp, a living representation of the hedonistic corruption that had taken their lives. This growing presence in the Warp caused massive Warp Storms to aggregate across the galaxy, eventually making interstellar travel and communications impossible for the colonies of humanity, bringing on Makind's Age of Strife. This collection of corrupt Eldar souls gained sentience sometime in the late 30th Millennium, creating the powerful new Warp entity known as the Chaos God Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure, called "She Who Thirsts" by the Eldar. When Slaanesh came to be, an ethereal explosion occured that spanned the extent of Warpspace within the Milky Way Galaxy, with the epicentre being located within the Eldar homeworlds. All Eldar caught in the immense psychic blast were instantly killed, their souls consumed by Slaanesh. Most of the remaining Eldar gods who existed within the Warp were destroyed by Slaanesh. Kaela Mensha Khaine, the Eldar God of War, attempted to combat the new Chaos God, but Khaine's form was shattered and exiled to the mortal realm where it came to rest in the Infinity Circuits of the Eldar Craftworlds but could be embodied in the form of animated constructs called "Avatars", which rested in the hearts of the various Craftworlds during times of grave peril. The only other Eldar Gods to survive the Fall were the trickster god Cegorach (also called the Laughing God), who hid himself within the Eldar Webway, and Isha, who was ripped from the jaws of Slaanesh by the Chaos God Nurgle, who now keeps her as a slave.
The Fall utterly destroyed the once vast interstellar Eldar empire, leaving scattered bands of Eldar fighting for survival. Before the Fall, vast spacecraft called Craftworlds were constructed, enabling those wishing to escape the degeneration of the Eldar homeworlds to flee, along with samples of their lost worlds' flora and fauna. When the Fall occurred, the various Craftworlds rode out the ethereal shockwave in the Warp, some being destroyed in the process. The Exodite worlds, far from the epicentre of the terrible catastrophe, were largely untouched by the birth-scream of Slaanesh. In order to prevent the events of the Fall from ever recurring, the Eldar devised the Eldar Paths system, by which every Eldar would follow a strict, almost fanatical life path pursuing a specific activity, such as crafting or war, for a portion of their long lifespans, before switching to another Path when the previous one grew stale. In this way, the Eldar hoped to control the extreme emotional and psychic sensitivity that had left them open to corruption by Chaos in the first place. However, some corrupted Eldar did survive the birth of Slaanesh by taking refuge within the Webway itself, which had long been home to a nearly infinite cavalcade of hyperdimensional sub-realms that were protected from Slaanesh's predations by the psychic wards erected within the Labyrinthine Dimension to keep the dangers of the Warp at bay. These sadistic beings became known as the Dark Eldar, the inhabitants of the Dark City within the Webway called Commorragh, and they later preyed on humans and Eldar alike to find souls they could devour to keep their own lives from being consumed by Slaanesh.
The Great Crusade (c.798.M30-004.M31)
The Great Crusade of the Emperor of Mankind began as the Age of Strife came to an end for humanity. The Warp Storms isolating the human colony worlds for 5,000 Terran years had finally disappeared with the birth of Slaanesh and the Fall of the Eldar in the 30th Millennium, and the Emperor of Mankind, who had united Terra under his rule during the Unification Wars at the end of the Age of Strife, was ready with his genetically-enhanced Space Marines and the Imperial Army to reunite all of humanity under his enlightened rule and the rationalist philosophy of Imperial Truth. Making a pact known as the Treaty of Mars with the Cult Mechanicus of the Machine God on Mars in the late 30th Millennium the Emperor promised to spare their lives (the Emperor despised their use of bionics and rigid adherence to organized religion as being against everything that he stood for) so long as they aided him in his mission to reunite humanity across the galaxy. The Emperor was a man of enormous skill in the practice of science and the development of new technology, and so in him many members of the Cult of the Machine saw the coming of the Omnissiah that had been prophesied by their faith. In the treaty they signed with the Emperor, the Mechanicum of Mars pledged their support to the creation of a new Imperium of Man in which they would serve as the Adeptus Mechanicus, and the symbol of the Imperium changed from the lightning bolt used by the Emperor during the Unification Wars on Terra to the double-headed eagle known as the Aquila, to symbolise the union of the empires of Earth and Mars. With the forge factories and industrial output of Mars, the Emperor was able to refit his armies, and more importantly, he now had the use of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Titan Legions, giant robotic war machines with the potential to dominate the battlefield.
At first, the Imperium's expansion into interstellar space was slow, since the Imperial Army was still small, and more importantly the Emperor's 20 Space Marine Legions were inhibited by the absence of their Primarchs, which made the enhancement time for the creation of a new Space Marine much longer. However, this was to end, as on Cthonia, a planet in a star system not far from Terra, the Emperor for the first time was reunited with one of his missing Primarchs, Horus. Having been discovered at an early age, the Emperor took Horus under his wing and taught him all he knew. Horus and the Emperor had a truly unique bond, that of father and son, and many times they saved each others' lives. But after 30 years, the Emperor discovered another of the Space Marine Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman. Although Horus was pleased at the discovery of one of his brothers, he secretly hoped to always be the Emperor's favorite son.
In time, all the Primarchs were found on the worlds they had been sent to by the machinations of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos, and each was placed in command of their respective Space Marine Legions. The Legions as a result were massively expanded with new recruits from their Primarch's adopted homeworlds, and new Space Marines could now be produced within only a single Terran year. But this acceleration produced fundamental defects within the psyche of each Space Marine which was later to prove fatal to many.
The Great Crusade lasted for 200 standard years, into the early years of the 31st Millennium, and brought many long lost star systems into the fold of the newborn Imperium of Man. Under the command of the War Council of the Emperor and his rediscovered Primarchs, vast Expeditionary Fleets comprised of the Imperial Army and the twenty Space Marine Legions fought back aliens, feral human tribes, petty human dictators and the Warp-tainted forces that had gained control of large portions of human-settled space during the Age of Strife. Once a human-settled world had been pacified, it was brought into "Imperial Compliance" by a new Imperial Planetary Governor chosen by the Emperor. Part of this process included the rooting out of any superstitious or religious beliefs of the population with a respect solely for reason and the measured advancement of science and technology, an atheistic belief system known as the Imperial Truth. It was often occupied by a unit or units of the Imperial Army that were left behind to complete the integration of the planet into the Imperium while the Expeditionary Fleet, led by Astartes, moved on to its next target. As the Primarchs took control of the Space Marine Legions that had been crafted from their gene-seed, the Great Crusade separated, moving in many directions and reaching far across the galaxy.
After the Imperial Crusade on the world of Ullanor concluded upon bringing that planet into "Imperial Compliance," the Emperor claimed it as the greatest victory of the Imperium to date, and that Horus should be given all credit. Hailing Horus and his Luna Wolves Legion (later renamed the Sons of Horus), the Emperor stated that he would have to leave the expeditionary fleets behind and return to Terra to begin the next, secret phase of his plan to ensure humanity's domination of the galaxy, and that in his place Horus would be declared Warmaster, the de facto commander of all the Emperor's armies on the Great Crusade. Although Horus was troubled that the Emperor should leave him and his brother Primarchs to carry on alone for some unknown reason, with Horus as their new commander, the Imperium's armies and Space Marines continued to expand ever outwards, rediscovering lost human worlds and bringing them into the enlightened Imperium's fold. This situation lasted until the outbreak of the terrible Horus Heresy.
The Horus Heresy (c.005-014.M31)
Eventually, the Imperial Warmaster Horus fell to the temptations of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and attempted to destroy the Imperium from within by usurping the power of the Emperor. The treason of Horus, known in later centuries as the Horus Heresy, spread to embrace approximately half of the Imperium's military forces, including small Planetary Defence Forces, many regiments of the Imperial Army, the 9 Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions and several of the Adeptus Mechanicus' potent Titans, forming the core of dark Mechanicum Adepts who chose to serve the Ruinous Powers and were later called the Dark Mechanicus. The terrible civil war lasted for 7 standard years and culminated in a massive seige of the Imperial Palace during the climactic Battle of Terra. After 55 days of fighting, the war was ended by the Emperor of Mankind and Horus dueling in single combat aboard Horus' flagship, the Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit, in orbit of Terra, before futher Loyalist reinforcements could reach the world and throw the Traitor forces back from their prize. Although mortally wounded during the final battle with his favoured son, who had become swollen and immensely powerful with the favour of the Chaos Gods, the Emperor was able to strike down Horus using the full gathered might of his awesome psychic powers and obliterate Horus' soul from the Warp, preventing him from being resurrected to serve the Ruinous Powers once more. Without their leader, the unity of the Forces of Chaos soon crumbled and as Loyalist reinforcements led by Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines arrived in the Solar System, the Chaos Space Marine Legions and their allies retreated to the massive Warp rift in the Segmentum Obscurus known as the Eye of Terror. At his own direction, the crippled body of the Emperor was installed into the cybernetic life support mechanisms of the psychic amplifier known as the Golden Throne, so that his mind would continue to have an anchor in realspace from which his potent mind in the Warp could battle the influence of the Chaos Gods and continue to direct the Astronomican, the psychic beacon that was the lifeblood of the Imperium's communications, commerce and interstellar travel.
Effects of a small battle of the Heresy on the Planet of Sotha drew the attentions of the Hive Fleets of the Tyranids to the galaxy, It was during these days, that they started moving towards this new prey.
The Great Scouring (c. 014-021.M31)
The Great Scouring, or simply The Scouring, was the Imperium of Man's great counter-offensive against the Traitor Legions. It began immediately after the end of the Horus Heresy following the death of the Warmaster Horus and the failure of his Siege of the Imperial Palace during the Battle of Terra in the early 31st Millennium. It succeeded in driving the Forces of Chaos from Imperial space into finding a refuge in the permanent Warp Storm known as the Eye of Terror. Before actually being confined for all time within the life support mechanisms of the Golden Throne, the Emperor had pronounced judgment on the Traitors: he declared them Excommunicate Traitoris, and determined that they were to be driven into the hellish region of the Warp rift called the Eye of Terror, which would hold them for all eternity. All records and memory of the Traitor Legions were to be expunged from the Imperial archives. Worlds such as Istvaan V and Davin would be scoured clean of all life because of their corruption by Chaos. The Traitor Legions' associated troops from the Dark Mechanicus, the Titan Legions or the regiments and starships of the Imperial Army and Imperial Navy that had turned to Chaos were to be destroyed or driven into the Eye. It would be as if the Traitor Legions had never existed to sully the Imperium with their betrayal. After the death of Horus, those Traitors who had not been slain outright during the Siege of the Imperial Palace fled before the vengeful wrath of the Loyalist forces. Many made good their escape into unexplored space or disappeared into the Eye of Terror or other, lesser-known Warp rifts such as the Maelstrom. Fighting continued for another seven standard years after the Heresy had ended with Horus' death on the bridge of his great flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, before the Traitor forces were wholly destroyed or exiled into the Eye of Terror. Many Chaos-corrupted star systems were cleansed and placed under the watch of the newborn Inquisition. The Emperor's dream of a new age of enlightenment, a time when Mankind was freed from superstition and ignorance, would turn into something far different. The Great Scouring would be followed by the ten millennia long era known as the Age of the Imperium.
The Second Founding (c.021.M31)
In the midst of the Great Scouring campaign, the Second Founding occurred. The remaining 9 Loyalist Space Marine Legions were disbanded to form the far smaller 1,000-man organisations known as Chapters, in accordance with the established dictates of Primarch Roboute Guilliman's Codex Astartes. A portion of the Space Marines, now collectively known as the Adeptus Astartes, maintained their parent Legions' original names, badges and colours whilst the remaining Chapters took on new names and heraldry. The majority of these Second Founding Chapters still serve the Imperium today.
The Age of the Imperium (M31 - Present)
The Age of the Imperium is the time period that began with the end of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, and is typically referred to in the present tense. The approximate time period begins in the 31st Millennium, and continues forward, with the last year represented in Imperial records being 999.M41. The Age of the Imperium is generally conveyed as spanning from the end of the Horus Heresy to the narrative present - a space of approximately ten thousand Terran years.
Time of Rebirth (c. M31 - c. M32)
During the Time of Rebirth the Imperium of Man slowly recovered from the Horus Heresy. The myriad wars of the Great Scouring were fought in the years immediately after the end of the Horus Heresy and the death of the traitorous Warmaster. In a lengthy campaign, the Imperium's forces hunted and banished the remaining Traitor Legions from the occupation of human space. Eventually the Chaos Space Marines and the Ruinous Powers' other followers among the Forces of Chaos found refuge in the massive Warp rift known as the Eye of Terror. For a time the Imperium knew peace from the corrupted followers of the Chaos Gods. At the same time, many alien races that had been fought during the Great Crusade reappeared in human space to take advantage of the disruptions caused by the Horus Heresy and plagued the vulnerable worlds of Man.
In order to prevent a single person from controlling as much military power as Horus had mastered and eliminate the risk of another large-scale civil war, numerous reforms were enacted at the hands of Roboute Guilliman to reshape the Imperium's political and military structure. In this way the men and women of the Imperium could face the new post-Heresy realities of an interstellar government where the Emperor was no longer capable of carrying on the day-to-day tasks of interstellar governance. The Imperial Army was divided into the land-based forces of the Imperial Guard, and the space-based forces of the Imperial Navy, each with a separate chain-of-command structure and bureaucracy. The remaining nine Loyalist Space Marine Legions adopted the Codex Astartes written by the Ultramarines' Primarch Roboute Guilliman and were split into the many smaller Space Marine Chapters of the Second Founding that were comprised of only 1,000 men each along with their own supporting spacecraft and planetary fiefdoms.
The Orks rampaged across the Imperium on a massive scale in 544.M32. The number of Greenskin attacks grew until it became the greatest Ork invasion that the galaxy had ever know, eclipsing even the Ork WAAAGH! defeated by the Emperor and Horus during the UIlanor Crusade, which had earned Horus the title of Warmaster. Nothing was safe from the Orks' primal desire to conquer the galaxy and their widespread advances were only halted when the Imperium resorted to the use of the most extreme measures, at great cost to the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.
The byzantine politics of the Imperium took a calamitous turn in 546.M32 in an event remembered as The Beheading when the High Lords of Terra, the successors of the Council of Terra that had been established to administer the day-to-day affairs of the Imperium and now ruled in the Emperor's name, were slain to a man on the orders of Drakan Vangorich, the Grand Master of the Officio Assassinorum. A Space Marine retribution force drawn from the Halo Brethren, Imperial Fists and Sable Swords Chapters tracked the Grand Master to an Assassinorum temple. The commander of the Astartes strike force was assassinated as soon as he made planetfall, but the remaining Battle-Brothers carried out the attack without him. Inside the temple they were attacked by 100 Eversor Assassins. Only a single Space Marine survived to reach Grand Master Vangorich and end his life with a Bolter. The Imperium descended into anarchy for several years as new High Lords rose to power.
The Forging (c. M32 - c. M35)
The Forging is also sometimes known to Imperial historians as the Golden Age of the Imperium. During this period the Adeptus Terra brought the most important human-settled star systems of the galaxy that had not been reached by the Great Crusade under Imperial control and expanded the interstellar borders of the Imperium. Internal stability was gained with the establishment of Astropath Choirs on countless worlds, with major hubs established on the best-garrisoned Imperial worlds, including Armageddon, Bakka and Macragge. This allowed a reliable network of interstellar superluminal communication to function using the power of an Astropath's telepathy to send and receive messages across light years. This period also saw the slowing of the decline in the Imperium's technology and the growth of the interstellar economy due to the rediscovery of a valuable Standard Template Construct (STC) database from the Dark Age of Technology in the Cana System as the Imperium expanded. Once more the Imperium repelled the forces of Chaos Renegades, Heretics and aliens alike across the galaxy and reclaimed countless lost and rebellious regions for the human race.
The Emperor, always an object of veneration, only increased his devoted following of worshippers after being joined to the Golden Throne. Many Imperial cults dedicated to the worship of the Emperor as the God of Mankind arise over the following centuries, the majority of which were united into a centralised religious body known as the Ecclesiarchy. This powerful church gains momentum until, in the 32nd Millennium, it is finally granted the status of the official state religion of the Imperium and the title of Adeptus Ministorum. It is only a few centuries later that Ecclesiarch Veneris II receives a seat amongst the High Lords of Terra, and after 300 standard years, the seat reserved for the Ecclesiarch is made permanent within the ranks of the Senatorum Imperialis.
In 646.M32, Agnathio, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, unites over 50 leaders from other Chapters of Space Marines and arrives upon Terra. Such a show of power and faith puts an end to the squabbling for the contentious seats of the High Lords of Terra that has consumed the differing factions since The Beheading. In locked council with the mightiest of Mankind's warriors, such matters were quickly sorted out. None know exactly what was done or said, but when the Space Marines departed back to their far-scattered missions, there once again sat twelve High Lords of Terra. If there was further dissension, none dared speak it aloud.
In 888.M32 the Imperium was consumed by the event known as the Astropath Wars. There is no further information on this conflict available in Imperial records.
In 910.M32 the event known as The Firestorm unfolded. There is no further information on this conflict available in Imperial records.
Sometime during the 33rd Millennium, the War of the Confessor unfolds when in a particularly violent display, the Adeptus Ministorum exerts its newfound political strength. Many key Shrine Worlds are added to its holdings during this first of many wars of faith to come.
In 265.M33, Admiral Usurs of the Imperial Navy was cast down by the High Lords of Terra for becoming too ambitious. However, he is still too powerful within the Navy to be executed without initiating a costly civil war, so he is instead despatched on an Explorator mission to the intergalactic gulf beyond the Milky Way. For the following decade, Usurs' reports reach Terra by Astropath, detailing the conquest of new star systems for the Emperor. After two decades, these reports finally cease. Contact is never reestablished with the star systems Usurs mentioned in his reports.
In 313.M33 the Siege of Eternity's Gate unfolds.
In 615.M33 the Blade of Infinity, a pre-Heresy Cruiser, emerged from the Warp, its re-entry signature suggesting that it had left realspace over 20,000 standard years before. This period predated even the Warp-Drive's invention in the Age of Technology and suggested a radical time stream disorder. Vox transmissions picked up the from the vessel suggested that the Blade of Infinity was trying to communicate some type of warning, but before much could be deciphered, the ancient starship disappered once again into the Warp. In its wake arrived an invasion fleet of Chaos Space Marine Legions, the Archenemy of the Imperium who wreaked much havoc. The Blade of Infinity reemerged from the Warp several more times in subsequent years, always as a harbinger of further incursions into Imperial space by the Forces of Chaos from the Immaterium.
In 831.M33, during what became known as the Year of the Ghosts, the honoured dead rose up in the Segmentum Solar to drive back the terrors of the Warp.
Sometime during the early years of M34 a great threat to the Imperium arises beyond the Ghost Stars. Even today, its true nature remains suppressed. The ravages are said to cause the extermination of a score of Space Marine Chapters and souls unnumbered. Much of the extant evidence relating to this threat has been censored or purposely destroyed by the Inquisition, but there are contradictory indications which describe the nature of the threat as both a "star-spawned plague" that swept away scores of worlds and to "Nightmare Engines" that slaughtered the populations of whole sectors. This threat is remembered only as the Pale Wasting.
In 401.M34 the terrible crisis known as The Howling unfolded. Black Templar Space Marines ended the Catelexis Heresy by executing the Cacodominus, an alien cybernetic psyker whose formidable powers allowed it to psychically control the populace of thirteen hundred star systems. Unfortunately, the Cacodominus' death scream was amplified by the Warp and burned out the minds of a billion human Astropaths while it also distorted the beacon of the Astronomican. Millions of starships were lost in the resulting upheaval and entire Sub-sectors of the Imperium slid once more into barbarism without the dictates of the Adeptus Terra to guide them. It is a terrible price to pay for victory.
Following a fierce Warp Storm bursting from the Eye of Terror in 666.M34, the first of many Warp Stars are sighted. The tendrils of their power pulled any starships or small planets that fell within their reach to a grisly, if spectacular, doom.
In 934.M34 came the Warnings of the Craftworld Ulthwe to the Imperium.
The Nova Terra Interregnum (c. Mid M34 - Late M35)
The Nova Terra Interregnum is also known as the Time of the Twin Empires and was a troubled period in Imperial history when the Imperium of Man fractured for a time into warring factions for over 900 standard years during the mid-34th through the late-35th Millennium. During this period the rebellious Ur-Council of Nova Terra dismissed the authority of the High Lords of Terra and claimed separate rule over the Imperium's Segmentum Pacificus.
During the dark days of the Nova Terra Interregnum, this period in human history of division and civil war fractured the Imperium into a number of different warring factions. The Adeptus Mechanicus was also affected during this Interregnum by division and internal warfare brought about by doctrinal differences and competing centres of power. One of the most discordant of these conflicts was the Moirae Schism which occurred sometime in M35, a dogmatic battle between the Martian Orthodoxy of the standard Cult Mechanicus and a far more radical creed based upon the prophetic writings of a triad of tech-mystics from the minor Forge World of Moirae. The Moirae Schism was one of the most divisive and widespread doctrinal conflicts to afflict the Adeptus Mechanicus since the Horus Heresy. Moirae was eventually blasted into dust, but not before heretical writings from that world spread like wildfire through the domains of the Mechanicus even after Moirae was reduced to a cinder by the Fabricator-General of Mars' rectification fleet, but not before the schism spreads throughout the Cult of Mars, the Titan Legions and several Space Marine Chapters with close ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus such as the Iron Hands. Over 2,000 Terran years of bloody strife pass before the baleful doctrine is considered purged.
After almost a millennium of low-grade civil war and political maneuvering, the Cataclysm of Souls in 975.M35 reunited the Imperium. In that year, the Ecclesiarchy tried to transform the Imperium into a theocracy where political differences would be submerged by usurping the power of the rest of the High Lords of Terra. Their efforts ended only in stirring up massive religious civil wars against the Ur-Council of Nova Terra who were denounced as Heretics who stood in defiance of the will of the God-Emperor when they rejected the Ecclesiarchy's attempts to increase its power over the state. This religious rebellion on many worlds of the Segmentum Pacificus ultimately overthrew the Ur-Council and restored the rule of the High Lords over the entirety of the Imperium's territory, though billions died in these religious wars and the power of the Ecclesiarchy had been increased throughout the Imperium to a dangerous level as a result.
In 980.M35 the galaxy suffered from the onslaught of the massive Hrud Rising.
In 991.M35, the 21st Founding, later known as the Cursed Founding, occurs. The Cursed 21st Founding was the largest Founding of Space Marine Chapters since the Second Founding following the Horus Heresy. It had taken place in the 35th Millennium shortly before the start of the Age of Apostasy. Upon the world of Inculaba, a secret geno-lab was the site of the secret project known as "Homo Sapiens Novus," where Mechanicus Genetors attempted to perfect and remove the existing, identified deficiencies in flawed Astartes gene-seed, and ultimately begin the production of new and improved Primarch-like Space Marines. But their project was doomed to failure as the Genetors proved far less skilled in the genetic sciences than the Emperor of Mankind, and their efforts resulted in the development of seriously flawed gene-seed that was used to craft the organ implants for the new Chapters. Worse still, some of these Chapters have developed unexpected genetic idiosyncrasies, mutations that strain the tolerance of the Inquisition and threaten the Chapter's survival. The most seriously afflicted Chapters suffer the wrath of the Grey Knights after they are called in by the Inquisition to expunge the threat. Some escape this fate and flee, eventually turning Traitor and swearing themselves to Chaos.
In 104.M36 the War of Recovery unfolded when patchy reports of technological wonders on the planets of the Mortuam Chain reach Mars. Hoping that it might be possible to recover new STC databases, the Adeptus Mechanicus launched an expedition which began an escalating war that lasted for over a standard century. Aided by the advanced weaponry they recovered, the forces of the Mechanicus freed the human colonies of the region from xenos occupation and several first generation copies of STC databases concerning certain technologies were returned in triumph to Mars.
Age of Apostasy (M36)
Foreshadowed by the deep political divisions of the Nova Terra Interregnurn, a new age of dissent and power struggles cosumed the Imperium in the 36th Millennium. Zeal eclipsed reason, and misrule reigned supreme. The word of the Emperor was subverted wholesale by corrupt ideologues, each struggling to usurp total control of the Emperor's realm for themselves. This era is known as the Age of Apostasy, a time of brutal Imperial civil war, and is considered to be one of the bloodiest times within the Imperium's history after the Horus Heresy. Around 200.M36, the Age of Apostasy is marked by the Reign of Blood, when the High Lord Goge Vandire, an insane tyrant, became both the Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum and the High Lord of the Adeptus Administratum through bribery, blackmail, coercion and murder. During Vandire's Reign of Blood, multiple wars of faith were fought as Vandire attempted to gain control of the Imperium. The Reign of Blood lasted for 70 Terran years before a messenger delivered the news that heralded its end. On the world of Dimmamar, a man named Sebastian Thor and his sect of the Imperial Cult, the Confederation of Light, denounced High Lord Vandire as a traitor to the Emperor. As an accomplished orator, Thor was able to sway billions to his cause. Eventually Vandire was besieged on Terra by several Space Marine Chapters and several Imperial Guard regiments. The Space Marines' fleet unleashed a massive orbital bombardment which caught most of the Traitors in the open. Lord Vandire was killed by his bodyguards, the Brides of the Emperor, who were convinced that they had been tricked into betraying the Emperor by Vandire. In the aftermath, the Ecclesiarchy was reformed, and the Brides of the Emperor were transformed into the Adeptus Sororitas, the Sisters of Battle, the armed forces of the Ecclesiarchy and the Chamber Militant of the Inquisition's new-formed Ordo Hereticus. The Ordo Hereticus was intended to root out the internal enemies of the Imperium, watch over the Ecclesiarchy and prevent the emergence of another Goge Vandire who sought to serve his own selfish ends rather than the will of the Emperor.
In 310.M36, the event known as the Plague of Unbelief is also considered part of the Age of Apostasy of the 36th Millennium, 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 entire worlds and sector-spanning 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 Plague of Unbelief came to an end after the heroic sacrifices of the Imperial Saint known as the Great Confessor, Dolan Chirosius, who willingly martyred himself on Gathalamor. Chirosius' example proved so potent a display of faith in the God-Emperor that the entire population of the world rose up and cast down Bucharis, restoring Imperial rule and the orthodox faith of the God-Emperor.
In 754.M36 the Imperium was struck by the Web of Intrigue Disaster. There is no further information in Imperial records concerning this event.
In 989.M36, as the Eye of Terror and other Warp rifts visibly expand, the Tech-priests servicing the Golden Throne demand an increase in the number of psykers needed to fuel the Emperor's growing appetite and maintain the Astronomican. The Black Ships increase in number and the frequency of their voyages to collect their tithes of psykers from across the Imperium. According to some records, four times the number of psykers are sacrificed daily to maintain optimal levels of power to the Golden Throne.
Age of Redemption (c. M37)
The Age of Redemption marked the era when the Imperium recovered from the sins of apostasy in a rain of blood and tears. The Imperial Cult grew in zeal as never before. Heretic pyres burned night and day on a thousand Imperial worlds as the people of the Imperium sought to mortify their sins against the God-Emperor through the scourging of the flesh of others. Crusade after Crusade was launched by the Space Marines and other Imperial military forces to recapture the lost wealth of the Imperium and push back the hordes of Chaos, Orks and other alien threats to humanity. This religious fervour eventually peaked in an orgy of fanatical devotion to crusading in the Emperor's name and thousands of worlds were left with inadequate defences as sector fleets of the Imperial Navy, Space Marine Chapters and Imperial Guard regiments are drawn into longer and more terrible Redemption Crusades spurred on by this religious fanaticism.
In 010.M37 the Wrath of the Chaos Sun fell upon the Imperium when the red giant star at the heart of the Maxil Beta System explodes in an expanding cloud of Warpflame. The inhabitants of every world for hundreds of light years are either mutated beyond recognition or possessed by the denizens of the Warp. In response, the High Lords of Terra ordered the mobilisation of whatever Imperial forces were close at hand. So it is that the Grey Knights are joined by a dozen other Chapters, countless Imperial Guard regiments and the nascent Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas. The resulting battle does much to heal the remaining wounds in the Imperial body politic that had been opened by Goge Vandire's treachery.
In 020.M37, the High Lords of Terra, in their mercy, begin a systematic and deadly purge within the ranks of the Adeptus Terra and on many worlds across the galaxy to ensure that such a corruption of faith as occurred during the Reign of Blood can never happen again. This becomes known as the Great Cull.
Among the most devastating of the conflicts unleashed during the Age of Redemption were the Abyssal Crusade and the Occlusiad War. The Abyssal Crusade of 321.M37 began when Saint Basilius found thirty Space Marine Chapters wanting in their devotion to the Emperor. The guilty embarked upon a crusade into the Eye of Terror to earn their salvation and purge those human-settled worlds stolen from Mankind by the birth of the Dark Prince of Pleasure, Slaanesh. The Occlusiad of 555.M37 started when the northwestern fringe of the galaxy was ravaged by the Heretics known as the Apostles of the Blind King, rogue Tech-priests who viewed humanity as an utter affront to the Machine God. The Apostles had uncovered wondrous artefacts from the Dark Age of Technology that made possible the transformation of ordinary stars into supernovae. The constellations of the galaxy were changed forever when the Apostles purged the outer Segmentum Obscurus of human life using these weapons. War raged for a decade until the Navigator Joyre Macran discovered the palace-warship of the Blind King hidden in a fold of the Warp. Escaping with this crucial intelligence, Macran guided the Imperial Navy's Emperor-class Battleship Dominus Astra to the palace's location. The Blind King was killed and the genocide ended when the Dominus Astra 's Lance batteries pierced the palace-warship's hull and without his psychically prescient leadership the Apostles were swiftly overcome and their weapons hidden away in the vaults of Mars.
By 754.M37, on thousands of planets, menials rebel against their dreary drudgery with wild-eyed leaders espousing a better way of life -- a galaxy of tolerance. The movement is especially popular amongst the youth of the Imperium, earning it the title of Children's Crusade. Billions of earnest pilgrims are lured to seek transport to Terra; some are waylaid by pirates, but the majority disappear into the Warp. They became known collectively as the Lost Crusade.
In 956.M37 the Heavenfall Massacres unfolded. Little else is known about them in the Imperial records.
Emergence of the Tau Empire (M37-M41)
In the late 37th Millennium the humanoid Tau race, located on the arid world of T'au in the Ultima Segmentum, was united under the collectivist ideology of the Greater Good and underwent rapid technological development and a large expansion outwards into interstellar space where they established a new interstellar empire and settled many worlds in the Eastern Fringes of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Imperium of Man only came into contact with the Tau Empire in 963.M41 when the Ultramarines clashed with a Tau expeditionary fleet for control of the cursed planet of Malbede. As a result of this late first contact, the number of conflicts between the Imperium and the Tau have been minimal compared to the wars fought between Mankind and the other, more numerous and widespread interstellar alien species like the Orks and the Eldar. The expansion of the Tau Empire also caused several other intelligent alien species to be incorporated into its ranks, such as the Kroot and the Vespid.
The Waning (c. M38 - c. 750.M41)
With the Imperium's military forces in every branch utterly exhausted by the Redemption Crusades, star system after star system fell to Ork invasion, Chaos insurgence or sheer rebellion. Anarchy throughout many sectors of the Imperium was rife during a dark period in Imperial history that is now called the Waning. Ever more star systems are turned over by the Administratum to direct rule by Space Marine Chapters to preserve stability as only the Astartes possessed the inviolable military strength required to restore Imperial control in the more lawless regions of the galaxy.
Having purged more than 400 worlds within the Eye of Terror, the survivors of the Abyssal Crusade returned to Imperial space in 112.M38. Without pausing to claim the honours due for such a successful and protracted Crusade, Chapter Master Konvak Lann of the Vorpal Swords declares the now ancient Saint Basillius a false idol and adoration of him tantamount to betrayal. In less than a standard year, every known sepulchre and shrine dedicated to the false saint is destroyed. After his execution, his bones, along with countless relics, books of doctrine and thousands of living worshippers, are placed on a derelict bulk-freighter and launched directly into a nearby star.
During the Grim Harvest in 666.M38, a great armada of misshapen Space Hulks drifts out of the Warp near Terra. Some of the twisted and fused starships can still be identified as transports carrying pilgrims from the Lost Crusade. The Inquisition works feverishly to cover up the fleet's existence and its cargo of mutant and daemon-possessed abominations.
In 001.M39 the Conflict of Helica unfolded.
In 103.M39 the Mausolean Cataclysm struck the Imperium.
In 131.M39, the Redemption Crusades begin. In each of the Segmentums of the Imperium a great hero emerges. Like unto the Primarchs of old are these warriors, and the combined efforts of their Crusades push back the borders of the Imperium further than they have been for nearly 500 standard years. And then, 50 Terran years later, the five heroes vanish without a trace, spurring Ecclesiarch Inovian III to declare them Imperial saints returned to the Emperor's side.
A Black Crusade is the term used to describe a number of mass incursions by Chaos Space Marines and the other Forces of Chaos into Imperial space from the Eye of Terror. The most prominent of these are the Black Crusades led by the Black Legion's Warmaster and Horus' successor as the greatest Champion of Chaos Undivided, Abaddon the Despoiler. In 139.M41, the 12th Black Crusade, or Gothic War, was a vast campaign launched by Abaddon that engulfed the Gothic Sector of the Segmentum Obscurus after that sector was cut off from Imperial reinforcements and communications by a series of massive Warp Storms produced by the will of the Ruinous Powers. It consisted of hundreds of planetary invasions and naval battles spanning the time period 139.M41 - 160.M41 and only ended when Abaddon and his Chaos Space Marines, Renegade Chapters, daemonic hosts and rebellious Chaos Cults were forced to retreat into the Immaterium with the arrival of Imperial reinforcements as the Warp Storms that had provided cover for their invasion finally dissipated just as mysteriously as they had begun. On the Imperial side, dozens of Space Marine Chapters, nearly 100 Imperial Guard regiments and the better part of three Titan Legions take part, along with every naval vessel the Battlefleet Obscurus can muster. The conflict saw the destruction of several planets and four of the six irreplaceable ancient alien artefacts known as the Blackstone Fortresses as well as the deaths of millions, if not billions, of Imperial citizens. Most significantly, the events of the Gothic War revealed the true nature and purpose of the ancient spaceborne alien artefacts known to the Imperium as the Blackstone Fortresses, which had been created by the Old Ones to be used against the Necrons and were capable of destabilising stars and destroying entire solar systems. Most importantly, Abaddon and the Forces of Chaos were able to escape back into the Eye of Terror with one of the Blackstone Fortresses, which was then possessed by a splinter of the mind of the Chaos God Slaanesh.
This period saw the Macharian Conquests (also called the Macharian Crusade) of 392-399.M41 during which Lord Commander Solar Macharius, the Lord of the Segmentum Solar, mustered the greatest human army the galaxy had seen since the Great Crusade. In only seven standard years, Macharius reconquered a thousand worlds on the western reaches of the Imperium and his glory carried him into the darkest sectors, places where the Emperor's light had never been known. Upon his death, the whole Imperium wept for the lost commander, but Macharius' conquered territories soon collapsed into rivalry and civil war. The Macharian Heresy, as this time is now known, lasted for seventy standard years and was only ended through the combined efforts of one hundred Space Marine Chapters.
In 500.M41, in an event known as the Tears of the Emperor, the Imperium was swept by visions of the Emperor's tears. From backwards feral planets to the most densely populated Hive Worlds, a million versions of the same story are told by holy men, street agitators, shamans, priests, and mystics. Primitives point to storm-filled skies, claiming that the drops falling from them are the tears of their mighty god. Upon Ecclesiarchy Cardinal Worlds, Arch-Deacons to lowly pilgrims claim to have seen statues of the divine Emperor shed tears. Chapter Masters and hive city urchins alike have visions of the Emperor stirring upon his throne, tears running from his empty sockets. Although the dreams take myriad forms, all know that the Emperor weeps not for himself, but for the plight of Mankind.
The Great Awakening (M41)
In the late 41st Millenium the dormant Necrons have finally awoken from their long sleep to begin their conquest of the galaxy once more. In many cases their Tomb Worlds had been resettled by the unsuspecting humans of the Imperium, leading to horrific scenes of devastation as the newly awakened Necrons cleansed whole planets of their populations of fragile human souls. The reason for the Necrons' awakening from their long sleep in the late 41st Millennium is debated amongst the Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Possible catalysts include the Tyranid Hive Mind's Shadow in the Warp or an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet that disturbed one of their Tomb Worlds, though the a major contact between the Imperium and the Necrons came in 963.M41 during the confict between the Ultramarines Chapter and the Tau over control of what turned out to be the Tomb World of Malbede. In that instance, the Ultramarines' Chapter Master Marneus Calgar ordered the use of an Exterminatus against Malbede after allowing the Tau forces to get off-planet to eliminate the much greater Necron threat, but Necrons soon began awakening on their Tomb Worlds all across the galaxy after this event. Regardless of the reason for their awakening, the Necrons proceeded to reap havoc amongst all the peoples of the galaxy.
None can say for sure how many Tomb Worlds entered the Great Sleep some 60 million standard years ago, but it is certain that a great many did not survive into the late 41st Millennium. Technologically advanced though the Necrons were, to attempt a stasis-sleep of such scale was a great risk, even for them. For 60 million Terran years the Necrons slept, voicelessly waiting for their chance to complete the Silent King's final order: to restore the Necron dynasties to their former glory. As the centuries passed, ever more Tomb Worlds fell prey to malfunction or ill-fortune. For many, the results were minor, such as a disruption to the operation of the Tomb World's chronostat or revivification chambers, causing the inhabitants to awaken later than intended -- but some of the Tomb Worlds suffered more calamitous events.
Cascade failures of stasis-crypts destroyed millions, if not billions, of dormant Necrons. Some Tomb Worlds were destroyed by the retribution of marauding Eldar, their defence systems overmatched by these ancient enemies of the Necrons. Other Tomb Worlds fell victim to the uncaring evolution of the galaxy itself. Tectonically unstable planets crushed Necron strongholds slumbering at their hearts; stars went supernova, consuming orbiting Tomb Worlds in their death throes. And everywhere, inquisitive lifeforms scrabbled and fought over the bones of Necron territories, causing more damage in their unthinking search for knowledge than the vengeful Eldar ever could.
The Great Awakening has been far from precise, and the Necrons have not arisen as one people but in fitful starts over scattered millennia, like some gestalt sleeper rising from a troubled dream. Errors in circuitry and protocols ensured that a revivification destined to take place in the early years of the 41st Millennium of the Imperial Calendar actually began far earlier in a few cases, or has yet to occur at all in others. The very first Tomb Worlds revived to see the Great Crusade of the Emperor of Mankind sweep across the galaxy in the late 30th Millennium. A handful stirred in time to see the Nova Terra Interregnum, when Nova Terra challenged the might of the Golden Throne in the 34th Millennium for 900 years, or arose at the hour in which the Apostles of the Blind King waged their terrible wars that began in 550.M37. Some have still never awoken. Even now, at the close of the 41st Millennium, billions of Necrons still slumber in their stasis-tombs, silently awaiting the clarion call of destiny.
It is rare for a Tomb World to awaken to full function swiftly. With but the slightest flaw in the revivification cycle, the engrammatic pathways of a Necron sleeper scatter and degrade. In most cases, these coalesce over time to restore identity and purpose, but it is a process that can take decades, or even centuries, and cannot be hurried. Sometimes recovery never occurs and the sleeper is doomed forever to a mindless state.
There are thousands of Tomb Worlds scattered throughout the galaxy whose halls are thronged with shambling automatons, Necrons whose minds fled during the long hibernation, and whose bodies have been co-opted by a Tomb World's master autonomic program in an attempt to bring some form of order to their existence. Other Necrons refer to such places as the Severed Worlds, and they loathe and fear their inhabitants in equal measure. None of this is to say that even an individual lucky enough to achieve a flawless revivification awakens alert and aware.
One of the hidden tyrannies of biotransference was how it entrenched the gulf between the rulers and the ruled, for there were not enough resources to provide all Necrontyr with living metal bodies that possessed the density of engrammatic pathways required to retain the full gamut of personality and awareness. Thus, as was ever the case, the very finest necrodermis bodies went to those individuals of the highest rank within Necrontyr society: the Phaerons and Overlords, their Crypteks and Nemesors. For the professional soldiery, the merely adequate was deemed appropriate. As for the common people, they received that which remained: comparatively crude mechanical bodies that were little more than lobotomised prisons for their minds. Numb to all joy and experience, they are bound solely to the will of their betters, their function meaningless without constant direction. Yet even here a tiny spark of self-awareness remains, enough only to torment the Necron with memories and echoes of the past it once knew. For these tortured creatures, death would be far preferable but, alas, they no longer have the wit to realise it or the autonomy to search it out.
A Tomb World is at its most vulnerable during the revivification process. The colossal amounts of energy generated are detectable across great distances, and are an irresistable lure to the inquisitive and acquisitive alike. In these early stages, it is unlikely that the army of a Tomb World proper will have awoken to full function, so defence lies in the hands of the Necrons' robotic servitor constructs -- the Canoptek Spyders, Scarabs and Wraiths. Initially these defenders will be directed by the Tomb World's autonomic master program, whose complex algorithmic decision matrix allows it to calculate an efficient response to any perceived threat. As the threat level rises, so too does the intensity of the master program's countermeasures, prioritising the activation of the Tomb World's automated defences and the revivification of its armies according to the needs of the situation at hand. If all goes well, the master program's actions will be sufficient to drive out the invader, or at least stall their progress until the first Necron legions have awoken -- at which point the master program surrenders command of the facility to the Tomb World's Necron nobility.
When a large population centre of a younger race of the galaxy has evolved or expanded across the stars close to a Tomb World, the encoded programming delves deep into its data archives and armouries in order to conduct an aggressive defence. Such Tomb Worlds are the ones that have expanded their spheres of influence most rapidly, for its rulers have awakened to find their full military might already mobilised and awaiting their commands. Indeed, the speed with which many Tomb Worlds of the Sautekh Dynasty have recovered lost territory is chiefly attributable to the (ultimately doomed) wave of Ulumeathi colonies established on their coreworlds during the late 39th Millennium.
To external observers, the behaviour of awoken Tomb Worlds must seem eclectic almost to the point of randomness. Some Necron Lords send diplomatic emissaries to other worlds, negotiating for the return of lost territories and technological artefacts, or cast off into the stars, searching for distant Tomb Worlds not yet awoken. Others focus attention inwards, avoiding unnecessary conflict with alien races to pursue internal politics or oversee the rebuilding of their planet to the glory of 60 million years past.
The vast majority of Tomb Worlds, however, take a more aggressive tack, launching resource raids, planetary invasions or the full-blown genocidal purges the Necrons' former C'tan masters once called "red harvests." Yet even here, it is impossible to predict the precise form these deeds will take. Sometimes the Necrons attack in the full panopoly and spectacle of honourable war, rigorously applying their ancient codes of battle. At others, every possible underhanded tactic is employed, from piracy and deception, to assassination and subornation. On other occasions, the campaign is less a martial action than a systematic extermination, the swatting of lesser lifeforms as they themselves would swat insects.
All of these acts, diverse though they are in scope and method, are directed towards a single common goal: the restoration of the Necron dynasties to rule over the galaxy. Yet, with the Triarch long gone and huge numbers of Tomb Worlds lying desolate or still dormant, there can be no galaxy-wide coordination, no grand strategy that will bring about Necron ascendancy. Instead, each Tomb World's ruler must fend for himself, pursuing whatever course he deems most suited to circumstance. For some, this is the domination of nearby threats and the sowing of terror on alien worlds. For others, it might be the recovery of cultural treasures of the lost Necrontyr, the stockpiling of raw strategic materials for campaigns yet to come, or even the search for an organic species whose bodies might prove to be suitable vessels for Necron minds, thus finally ending the curse of biotransference. Indeed, this last matter -- the apotheosis from undying machine back to living being -- is the key motivating factor for many Necron nobles and royals, for its possibility weighed heavily on the Silent King's mind at the moment of his final command.
All this is further complicated by the fact that the departure of the Silent King and the dissolution of the Necrontyr Empire's Triarch left no clear succession. As a result, the rulers of many Tomb Worlds see an opportunity not only to restore the dynasties of old, but also to improve their standing within the galaxy-wide Necron political hierarchy. The motives of Necron nobles and royals are often muddied by the pursuit of personal power, making accurate divination of an individual's intentions -- and therefore of the campaigns conducted by his undying legions -- nigh impossible.
Having slumbered in dusty stasis crypts scattered across the galaxy, the Necrons have been slowly awakening, one Tomb World at a time, for several millennia. The process is far from stable, however, for the legions have lain immobile and undreaming for 60 million standard years. It is a staggering feat of science that any Tomb Worlds have survived at all, and many have fallen prey to corruption in their arcane systems, planetary upheaval, and the actions of other species, most of them in ignorance but a few very deliberate indeed. Throughout the long aeons of slumber, the Tomb Worlds' autonomic systems have worked tirelessly to maintain these vast structures and to defend them against the intrusions of the lesser species of the galaxy. It is not known to the Imperium exactly when the first Tomb World initiated its revivification protocols, and it is quite possible that some did so in error well before the ordained time. Only now, as more and more Tomb Worlds awaken, is a pattern becoming visible to those whose mission it is to stand watch upon the trackless reaches of the galaxy and beyond. Piecing together scattered accounts of skull-faced reaper-machines rising from the dust of Dead Worlds the length and breadth of the galaxy, the xenos-savants of the Inquisition are faced with a stark realisation. What at first appeared to be unrelated alien raids serving no overall purpose were, in fact, the heralds of a disaster of galactic proportions.
Having slept so still and for so long, it is not possible for a Tomb World to awaken quickly into a fully alert state. While dormant, each is controlled by a master artificial intelligence program that oversees its essential maintenance and defence, mobilising what resources it judges appropriate to any given situation or threat. As the long awaited time of awakening nears, as best can be judged by the master program, more of its systems are brought online and more of the interred revived. Often, it is the lower order of Necrons, the Necron Warriors and Immortals, that are awakened in the initial phases. These nearly mindless automatons following their lifeless protocols are brought online first, so that the way might be prepared for the more senior members of the dynasty. As each tier in the Necron dynasty's hierarchy is revived, each more intelligent and bearing more individuality than the last, the whole process gradually begins to appear more like the workings of an ancient civilisation and less like that of some great machine. At the allotted time, a Necron Overlord is awakened, and upon his full revival the master program cedes power to its creators. From that point onward, a truly ancient mind leads the Tomb World, and what happens next depends entirely upon his character and ambition.
Some Overlords are cunning and patient, seeking to muster every resource at their disposal before launching the legions into the void to fulfil the destiny of the lost Necron Empire. Others are bellicose and impatient, launching a string of attacks before those other starfaring races settled in the region discover the Tomb World's awakening. While most are likely to assault nearby worlds occupied by sapient races, some have been known to offer such worlds an ultimatum -- serve the Necrons, or die. The process of awakening presents a massive danger to a Tomb World. If anything other than miniscule numbers of Necrons are revivified at once, a staggering amount of energy is unleashed, which can be detected within light years and inevitably leads to investigation by ignorant and curious mortal species. Thus, should a Tomb World awaken to find itself lying near (or even beneath!) the territory of a younger species, the massive energy spike might draw such attention that it is overwhelmed before its warriors are able to respond.
Having been awakened and control turned over to an Overlord, the Tomb World must in time take its place in the domains of the Necron dynasty that created it. While many dynasties have never awakened and, due to a variety of disasters never will, many are slowly piecing together their former domains. One world at a time, empires that vanished aeons ago are being rebuilt and long-dormant hierarchies are reasserting themselves once more. At the centre of each of these risen empires is a crown world, the glorious capital and seat of the Phaeron who rules an entire dynasty. Below it are numerous lesser Tomb Worlds and other Necron holdings, though rarely are these anywhere near as extensive as they were in their full glory 60 million years ago.
Time of Ending (750.M41 - 999.M41)
As the threats to the Imperium grow, Mankind stands on the precipice of utter extinction. The Time of Ending is the era of humanity's judgment, where faith shall be tested by fire and all men's courage will be pushed to its limits -- and well beyond. Secession, rebellion, Chaos corruption and heresy are now rife within every corner of the Imperium. Sensing weakness, alien empires ancient and new to humanity's experience -- Orks, Eldar, Tau, Necrons and perhaps worst of all, the Tyranids -- close in from every side. Zealots rant that the xenos are Mankind's punishment, his just consequences for straying from the Emperor's guidance. The rise of mutants and witches is yet another sign of humanity's sin. Desperate messages from across the galaxy echo through the Warp. Astropaths work feverishly to pull the transmissions from the Immaterium and transalte them, to sift the meaning from the garble. The messages are increasingly dire: Planetary Governors send desperate pleas for aid, Imperial Guard officers call for reinforcements, fleet commanders issue ominous warnings of enemy starship movements. The forces of the Imperium fight with the valour of ancient heroes, defending humanity from within, without and beyond -- but they cannot be everywhere at once.
The Space Marines and Imperial Guard are at war as never before, even during the Horus Heresy, defending humanity from threats within, without and beyond the boundaries of reality. The news grows worse daily, the attacks on the Imperium steadily increasing. Most ominous of all, the prescient foretell of great ripples in the Warp, like a swell in the water disturbed by some colossal but unseen menace in the depths below. Fell things are gathering that dread realm, straining as never before to break the bounds of reality.
This is surely humanity's darkest hour...
The Imperium made official first contact with the Tau during the Damocles Gulf Crusade, also called the Damocles Crusade, which was the first military conflict fought between the Imperium of Man and the rapidly expanding Tau Empire in the Lithesh Sector of the Ultima Segmentum in the galaxy's Eastern Fringes during the late 41st Millennium. The conflict essentially ended in a stalemate, as the Imperium was forced to conclude its military offensive early to deal with the encroaching Tyranid threat while the Tau sought to begin diplomatic negotiations with the Imperium to show humanity the benefits to be had by accepting the Greater Good. Members of the Tau Water Caste had established trade agreements with Imperial worlds on the frontier of the Tau Empire, near the Damocles Gulf region of the Ultima Segmentum in the galactic east, and exchanges of goods and technology were common. Alarmed by the threat of alien contamination, the Administratum readied a suitable response and almost a century later, the Damocles Crusade smashed into Tau space, destroying several outlying settlements and pushing deep into the Tau Empire. When the Imperial fleet reached the Tau Sept world of Dal'yth Prime, however, the Crusade ground to a bloody stalemate as the formidable numbers and high technology of the Tau and their Kroot allies thwarted every attempt to capture the world or its star system. Many months of terrible fighting ensued with nothing gained on either side. By late 742.M41 the Crusade's commanders eventually agreed to requests from the Water Caste for peace talks. The negotiations were successful and the Imperial fleet withdrew from Tau space unmolested, primarily due to the impending approach of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth.
The Time of Ending earned its name in 744.M41 when Taggarath, the Seer of Corrinto, proclaims the approach of the End Times. He prophesies a time of unprecedented upheaval, in which even the light of the Emperor is swallowed in darkness. Taggarath is swiftly executed by the Inquisition for heresy -- and to keep his prophecies unknown by the wider Imperial public, but the doomsayer's cry is picked up by other psychic sensitives on planets beyond count across the human-settled galaxy.
In 745.M41 the Tyranids first enter the galaxy and the Tyrannic Wars begin. Hive Fleet Behemoth destroys the Imperial star systems of Tyran (for which the Tyranids are named) and Thandros. Later that same year, Hive Fleet Behemoth descends upon the Realm of Ultramar, the fief of the Ultramarines, laying waste to several worlds and badly damaging the Space Marines' greatest Chapter. The bold deeds done during the Battle of Macragge are one of the most enduring of the many legends of the Ultramarines. The immediate threat presented by Hive Fleet Behemoth is ended under the guns of two entire Imperial Navy battlefleets.Still reeling from the terrible wounds, Imperial Commanders across the Ultima Segmentum look to their borders with growing unease.
The Blood Star Campaign unfolds in 748.M41, when the star Ares turns blood red. It heralds increased daemonic activity in the Scarus Sector. Before the brutal campaign ends, it claims untold lives, including three Chapter Masters and the Fleet Admiral of Segmentum Obscurus.
In 750.M41 the Great Exodus occurs. A strange swirling phenomenon in the Argos System is only a curiosity until the sudden appearance of six Eldar Craftworlds. By the time the Imperial Fleet arrives, both the swirling mass and the Eldar are gone, yet in their passing all prime suns within sixty light years are extinguished. The Imperial Fleet and innumerable transports attempt to ferry the countless billions of Imperial citizens to neighbouring star systems, in what is the largest exodus ever attempted by the Imperium. It is estimated that nearly 12% of the population and 32% of the heavy industry of the region are safely removed. The ring of dead planets and suns is now known as the Deadhenge, a salvager's paradise and refuge of pirates.
The year 757.M41 saw the first recorded incidence of the dread Zombie Plague erupting on the world of Hydra Minoris. A quarantine is imposed by the Imperial Navy, trapping 23 billion uninfected people alongside a rising tide of the hungry, contagious and mindless undead children of Nurgle.
In 766.M41, many Imperial watch stations and listening posts in the Catachan and Ryza Systems are attacked by Eldar pirates under the command of Yriel. Without their early warning "eyes and ears," this leaves both star systems vulnerable for decades to come.
In 783.M41 Eldar from the Ulthwe Craftworld destroy a Mechanicus Explorator fleet above the Dead World of Maedrax, but not before several probes have been released. Space Marines from the Blood Angels Chapter are dispatched to investigate the loss of the fleet and instead become embroiled in a battle between the Eldar and the Necrons who had just recently awakened on Maedrax.
An uprising in the Krandor System in 795.M41 is harshly put down by the 23rd Cadian Regiment. Several of the Chaos Cults involved in the rebellion, notably the followers of the Shining Deity, the Cult of Many Tentacles and the red-robed Brotherhood, had not been seen since the Fourth Quadrant Rebellion. Although both military and civilian losses are high, the Krandor Rebellion's quick subjugation is vital. The Imperium could ill-afford to lose the resource-rich Krandor System, which held planets strategically vital to the whole of the Segmentum Obscurus.
Throughout the Segmentum Ultima, in 797.M41, countless Ork invasions threaten to mass into a single colossal WAAAGH! The forces of the Imperium are stretched to their utmost to contain each individual war zone. Notable actions include Marneus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, holding the gate alone for a night and a day against the Greenskin hordes during the Siege of Zalathras and the 2nd Company's utter devastation of Warboss Brug's planetary stronghold.
In 801.M41 a brief flicker in the Astronomican throws thousands of ships off course, dooming them to destruction in the Warp. The incident indicates that the Emperor may be weakening.
The lamentable campaign known as the Siege of Vraks occurs from 813-830.M41. The Apostate-Cardinal Xaphan leads the Armoury World of Vraks Prime into the service of the Ruinous Powers. As the forces of the Imperium arrive to quell the rebellion, they are immediately met in battle, followed by a rapid escalation of forces on both sides. The seventeen-year-long campaign ends in a full-scale daemonic incursion and, finally, the intervention of the Ordo Malleus and the Grey Knights. By the end, Vraks is entirely laid waste, its entire population exterminated.
In 822.M41 the Chaos Warmaster Abaddon the Despoiler raids the Eldar Maiden World of Ildanira, seeking a long-lost Chaotic artefact. He is driven away by the forces of the Alaitoc Craftworld. Such an action is only minor compared to the many wars consuming the galaxy at this time, but its portents loom large in hindsight.
By 853.M41, the uprising against Imperial rule on Krandor III, thought to have been successfully suppressed over fifty standard years previously, had once more grown strong. Mutants, psykers and all manner of outcasts had been nurtured in darkness and corruption by the whisper of cowled Chaos Cultists. Even as the surging rebellion takes over the planet's surface, hive city by hive city, the orbital sentinel stations and moon-based defence lasers are captured by Chaos Space Marines accompanied by loathsome creatures, neither man nor mutant but wholly daemonic. Three Space Marine Chapters, led by the stoic Imperial Fists, secure resources, Imperial artefacts and a few Adeptus Administratum officials before an Exterminatus is mercifully delivered. Some 42 Imperial Guard regiments from Krandor III still exist, the only survivors of their lost and benighted world because they had been shipped to distant war zones before the rebellion began.
In 863.M41 the Saint Cyllia Massacre occurred whrn the Adamant Fury Titan Legion betrayed the Emperor and fell to Chaos. The Traitor Titan Legion turned its guns upon Loyalist regiments of the Saint Cyllian Planetary Defence Forces before making good their escape off-world. The loss of a full Titan Legion sends ripples of concern through the Imperium and great effort is exerted to find and destroy it, particularly by the Mechanicus and its Collegia Titanica.
In 876.M41 Chaos came to the world of Van Horne in the event later known as The Bloodtide to the Inquisition. The Bloodthirster Ka'jagga'nath, Lord of the Bloodtide, broke free of his bonds and unleashed a tide of gore that corrupted everything it touched. For eight days and nights, the orgies of blood continue, each fresh death luring yet more daemons to the mortal world as the barrier between the Materium and the Warp breaks down. Only when the Grey Knights' 4th Brotherhood arrived was the Bloodtide abated, and then only at great cost. Ka'jagga'nath is cast back into the Warp. The psychic backlash also banishes the Bloodtide and the daemons it had drawn forth.
In 883.M41 the 423rd Cadian Regiment's spearhead, led by Knight Commander Pask, was the largest armoured assault undertaken by the Imperium since the Tallarn during the Horus Heresy. Over 8,000 Imperial tank companies and 35 super-heavy tank detachments were annihilated during the near total destruction of the Renegade Adamant Fury Traitor Titan Legion upon the Planus Steppes.
In 891.M41 the worlds of Persya suffer attacks from Eldar Corsairs during the Long Midnight who swathe their targets in utter darkness before pillaging and salughtering at will. The vicious raids only cease upon the arrival of the Praxion Patrol.
In 897.M41, the fortress-convent known as Sanctuary 101 is destroyed, with all the Sisters of Battle within, by the Necrons. No survivors or signss of the perpetrators are left behind. Some few savants in the Imperium begin to understand the vast threat that the awakening Necrons might become to Mankind.
In that same year, 897.M41, a new Tyranid menace, code-named Hive Fleet Gorgon, is spotted by Imperial outposts, heading directly for the growing Tau Empire in the Eastern Fringe. No warnings are given to the Tau of what is to befall them.
In 901.M41 the terrible civil conflict known as the Badab War begins when Lufgt Huron, the Chapter Master of the Astral Claws Space Marines, refuses to hand over his Chapter's tithe of gene-seed to the Administratum and instead announces his secession from the Imperium, declaring himself the Tyrant of Badab. Twelve standard years of intersystem war follow, wreaking havoc on shipping lanes in the Maelstrom Zone and embroiling more than a dozen Space Marine Chapters. With much loss, Badab Primaris finally falls to the Loyalist forces, but Lufgt Huron and some 200 of the Astral Claws escape to take refuge in the Maelstrom of the Ultima Segmentum. There, they become Chaos Space Marines and change their name to the Red Corsairs. They become dreaded pirates and raiders of Imperial commerce. Huron adopts the title of Blackheart and continues to recruit more Astartes Renegades to join his growing Chaotic empire.
In 907.M41 Ork WAAAGH! activity rises throughout all five Segmentums of the Impeium, forcing the Novamarines, Raptors and Howling Griffons to be redeployed away from the Badab War to counter the growing Greenskin threat.
In 920.M41 Eldar pirates attack the advance Escort of a fleet of Black Ships as they exit Warpspace in the Thanos System. The pirates destroyed three Frigates and captured the troopship Emperor's Faithful, the pirates quickly disappeared, taking with them a vast complement of Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy personnel. As a result, the fleet of Black Ships is left vulnerable and is picked off one by one in further raids.
In 926.M41 during the Vaxhallan Genocide, a Chaos Space Marine warband known as The Purge slaughtered over 14 billion Imperial citizens and claimed the planet Vaxhall as their own. Vaxhall served as an Astropath relay hub and as an Imperial Fortress World, the buttress of the Herakles System.
In 937.M41 Inquisitor Pranix lead 5 companies of Space Wolves and units of the 301st Cadian and the 14th Tallarn Imperial Guard regiments in an attempt to reclaim the 9 Hollow Worlds from the clutches of the Chaos Lord Huron Blackheart and his Red Corsairs warband. The Imperium's forces are stunned to see how quickly the Red Corsairs have expanded and how vast their Renegade empire of pirates has grown.
In 941.M41 the Second War for Armageddon began when the largest and most powerful Ork in millennia, the Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, leads a vast WAAAGH! that, after much rampaging, meets its match upon Armageddon, a Hive World of vital strategic importance to the Imperium in the Segmentum Solar. The Orks are defeated only by the stubborness of the defenders, the combined might of three Space Marines Chapters and the legendary heroics of Commissar Yarrick. Ghazghkull escapes and vows to return one day.
In 963.M41 the Imperium ran afoul of the Tau Empire when the Ultramarines clashed with a Tau expeditionary fleet for control of the cursed planet of Malbede. When the conflict awakened the Necrons whose tombs were hidden on Malbede, the Ultramarines joined the Tau in a temporary alliance to defeat the emerging Necrons. In the wake of the battle, Exterminatus is proclaimed on Malbede by the Ultramarines' Chapter Master Marneus Calgar, but he generously allows the Tau to evacuate before the surface of the planet is destroyed. The planet's destruction sets off a brief flicker of unknown energy on dozens of planets throughout the galaxy. Many fear that more Tomb Worlds are awakening. Unfortunately, the Imperium of Man now finds itself facing two more alien enemies -- the humanoid Tau who seek to expand their growing interstellar empire to "serve the Greater Good" and the Necrons who seek to reestablish their galaxy-wide empire of ages past.
In 969.M41 the ancient starship Blade of Eternity is once again sighted, this time near the Cando System. As it is approached, the ship is mysteriously replaced by the infamous Death Guard Plagueship Terminus Est. The Zombie Plague sweeps across the system. Infected refugees carry the Chaotic foulness far and wide across the Imperium.
In 973.M41 a violent Warp Storm troubles the dreams of men across the galaxy -- for those more psychically aware, the storms prove catastrophic. Nightmares crack the barrier between realspace and the Warp, slaying many psykers and creating rifts between the Immaterium and reality. Although brief, thousands of daemonic incursions cause untold damage and many dark seeds of corruption are planted.
In 975.M41 the Bloodthirster Skarbrand materialises on the Cadian Fortress World of Lutoris Epsilon. His berserk rage infects all he surveys and soon the fortifications are drenched in blood as the Imperial Guardsmen turn upon each other in crazed bloodlust. Lutoris has since been considered cursed and is currently classified as a quarantined Forbidden World by the Inquisition.
In 976.M41 a massive Ork invasion smashes into the western sector of Segmentum Ultima. WAAAGH! Grax is denied taking the Forge World of Ryza, but the surrounding sectors suffer great devastation.
In 989.M41 WAAAGH! Snagrod rampages across the Loki Sector, culminating in an assault on Rynn's World that nearly wipes out the venerated Crimson Fists Chapter of Space Marines when an unfortunate accident destroys their fortress-monastery. Imperial forces retake the Agri-world in 991.M41 and the Crimson Fists begin the long process of rebuilding the Chapter back to full strength.
In 992.M41 Eldar forces attack Cadian holdings on the world of Aurent, only to be utterly defeated through the inspired tactical genius of Ursarkar E. Creed.
In 993.M41 the Ultramarines crush a rebellion on the industrial world of Ichar IV, only to find themselves in the forefront of a desperate defence against the arrival of the Tyranids' Hive Fleet Kraken. Elsewhere, the Eldar Craftworld Iyanden is simultaneously ravaged by other tendrils of the Kraken. Two Space Marine Chapters--the Scythes of the Emperor and the Lamenters -- are all but wiped out by the Hive Fleet and hundreds of Imperial worlds are lost to the ravenous Tyranids before the incursion is finally halted.
In 138.997.M41 humanity peers into the abyss when the twin tendrils of Hive Fleet Leviathan emerge from intergalactic space and strike at the underbelly of the Imperium from below the galactic plane, cutting a swathe of truly horrific destruction through Segmentum Tempestus, Ultima and Solar in what is sometimes called the Third Tyrannic War. It becomes clear that the two previous Tyranid incursions into the galaxy were only reconnaissance expeditions for the main Hive Fleet.
In 221.997.M41 the world of Piscina IV is invaded by Orks under the joint leadership of Ghazghkull Thraka and the Bad Moons clan Warboss Nazdreg. Orkish teleportation technology is employed in a surprise attack and only the stout defence command by Master Belial of the Dark Angels Chapter and the timely arrival of reinforcements ends the Ork threat. Although the Imperial victory is great, several Imperial commanders, including Belial, feel that Ghazghkull has another trick up his sleeve.
In 509.997.M41 elements from the Ultramarines and Mortifactors Space Marine Chapters make a stand against one spur of Hive Fleet Leviathan on the world of Tarsis Ultra. The defenders defeat this tendril with the use of a genetically-engineered biological plague, but the remainder of the enormous Hive Fleet rampages on unaffected.
In 601.997.M41 Ghazghkull Thraka comes face-to-face with his old human nemesis, Commissar Yarrick, on the battlefields of the world of Golgotha. Yarrick is captured by the Orks but ultimately released as Warlord Ghazghkull is planning to invade Armageddon once more and wants to ensure a good fight. Greenskins flock to Ghazghkull's WAAAGH! in every greater numbers.
In 977.997.M41 the small but vibrant Tau Empire begins its Third Sphere Expansion. The Tau forcibly capture half a dozen more Imperial worlds on the Eastern Fringe and several more join the Tau Empire willingly to serve their Greater Good.
In 757.998.M41 Ghazghkull finally returns to Armageddon for his long awaited rematch in the Third War for Armageddon at the head of a new, even grater Ork WAAAGH! Ghazghkull has further perfected the teleportation technology that he experimented with on Piscina IV and begins the campaign with devastating victories over the Imperial defenders. Imperial Commanders, having learnt from their previous encounters with this wily Ork Warlord, committ massive numbers of troops and quickly send out the call for nearby Space Marine Chapters and further reinforcements. Several months into what rapidly becomes a battle of attrition, Ghazghkull grows bored with the grinding stalemate and leaves his minions behind to finish the fight while he sets off to conquer the surrounding planets. he is pursued by Commissar Yarrick and the Black Templars, who swear an oath to finally bring the Greenskin to heel.
In 718.999.M41 Hive Fleet Leviathan invades the large Ork empire based in the Octarius System. War between Tyranids and Greenskins rages on with no signs of stopping. Imperial Navy scout patrols keep a close eye on the conflict, for should a victor emerge, there are precious few forces of the Imperium on hand to counter whchever enemy should arise out of the sector-wide bloodbath.
In 884.999.M41 the Dark Angels' 5th Company battles elements of the Crimson Slaughter Chaos Space Marine warband for the control of the artefact known as the Hellfire Stone. The Nephilim Sector trembles as the hated foes clash...
In 975.999.M41 the light of the Astronomican grows noticeably dimmer, while contact is lost with Ultima Macharia and is intermittent with Macragge and Cypra Mundi. Some Imperial savants theorise that this is because of delays and losses amongst the Black Ships, while others point to omens of impending doom and the weakening of the Emperor.
In 980.999.M41 the Red Corsairs launch a major raid from out of the Maelstrom, bringing the Chogoris, Kaelas and Sessec Systems under siege. Rumours report Huron Blackheart has grown his group of Renegades as large as the full Space Marine Legions of ancient times. The Chaos Lord now wields military power unseen since the time of the Heresy.
In 982.999.M41 The Great Awakening occurs, when a ripple of psychic activity passes through the Imperium, awakening the dormant powers of countless latent psykers. The resulting backlash creates innumerable Warp rifts and a thousand worlds are lost, hopelessly embroiled in Daemonic incursions.
In 987.999.M41 the Necrons rise to strike the Cypra Segentus System -- the first recorded Necron attacks within only 2,000 light years of Terra.
In 989.999.M41 the Ultramarines' 3rd Comnpany liberates the Lagan System from the Tau Empire during the conflict known as the War of the Rising Sons. Even while they do so, several key worlds of the neighnouring Dolmac System capitulate without firing a shot to Tau ambassadors and join the Tau Empire.
In 990.999.M41 the Devastation of the Octarius Belt occurrs when Eldar from the Biel-Tan and the Saim-Hann Craftworlds assault many worlds surrounding the Octarius System with the intent of denying crucial biological resources to Hive Fleet Leviathan. Many are ork-held worlds, but quite a few were colonised by the humans of the Imperium. The loss of human life is substantial, as is the loss of tithes that the planets would have paid to the Imperium in its time of need.
In 992.999.M41, the Night of a Thousand Rebellions occurs. Uprisings and discord strike countless planets across the Imperium. Unrest races like wildfire, consuming many outlying planets, but also supposedly secure worlds like Enceladus, Darkhold, and Minisotira. Even the homeworld of the Lions Defiant Space Marine Chapter is lost to anarchy caused by secret cults and frenetic agitators. Contact is lost between Terra and large swathes of the Segmentum Pacificus.
In 993.999.M41, wave after wave of Astropathic pleas for help flood at once from all across the galaxy, though there is only an eerie silence from the Segmentum Pacificus. So powerful is the influx, so overbearing is the psychic current, that theAdeptus Astra Telepathica suffers serious personnel losses amongst their Astropaths. Whole choirs collapse at once, driven mad or slain outright, their minds bursting. Vast breakdowns in Imperial communications ensue, increasing both anarchy and panic as the endless psychic screams for help echo across time and space.
In 995.999.M41, Abaddon the Despoiler launches the 13th Black Crusade out of the Eye of Terror with the intent to seize the world of Cadia and the surrounding worlds of the Cadian Gate it defends and so allow the Forces of Chaos to assault the heart of the Imperium for the first time since the Horus Heresy. The forces of the Chaos Gods read like a roll call from epic battles of past ages. Always in the vanguard are the Black Legion, followed by the Death Guard, World Eaters, Alpha Legion, Thousand Sons, Night Lords and others from the annals of the Imperium's blackest days. Legions and Renegade Chapters of Space Marines long thought extinct renew their assaults on the realm of the hated Corpse Emperor. Before them run infected, plague-ridden Chaos Cultists, deranged mutants and traitorous scum in numbers too great to be counted. Behind them tower Daemon Princes, Daemonhosts and other Warp creatures eager for the slaughter to be found in the mortal realm. Astropaths everywhere cringe to open their minds to receive messages, for the Empyrean rings with mind-splitting peals, possibly the sound of the myriad tears ripping in the barrier between the Materium and the Warp, or perhaps it is simply the laughter of the Dark Gods. The Imperium is forced to mobilise the largest military force in its history since the Heresy to meet the massive Chaos assault. The valour of the Imperial defenders is ultimately rewarded. Though the Forces of Chaos manage to secure a foothold on the surface of Cadia, the Imperial Navy defeats the Chaos warfleets in orbit of the Fortress World and traps the Chaos armies on the world below. As long as the Imperium can maintain its orbital superiority, a stalemate will be maintained. Astropaths everywhere cringe to open their minds to receive messages, for the Warp rings with mind-splitting peals, possibly the sound of the myriad tears ripping in the barrier between the material world and the Warp, or perhaps it is the laughter of Dark Gods.
Defending that stalemate grows more difficult with every passing month as the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Leviathan march ever closer to Terra, drawn by the light and power of the Astronomican in the Warp, inevitably towards the heart of the Imperium. The heroism of the Space Marines and the Inquisition manages to slow down the progression of the massive Hive Fleet, but its ultimate objective is never in doubt.
Finally, even as multiple calamities loom over the Imperium, the Adeptus Mechanicus learned a terrifying secret in 986.999.M41: the mechanisms of the Golden Throne have begun to fail and they no longer possess the knowledge required to repair that ancient piece of technology. Unless something can be done, the God-Emperor will die and then humanity will face the drawing darkness alone...
The Tyrannic Wars (745.M41 - 999.M41)
Hive Fleet Behemoth (745.M41)
The first recorded encounter with the Tyranids occurred in the Eastern Fringe of the Galaxy and was documented in reports from the planet Tyran. An Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator station at Tyran identified a collection of worlds in the area that had been stripped bare of their biomass and atmosphere. The station was subsequently attacked and consumed. A year later, an Imperial Inquisitor named Kryptman, who received information regarding the attack, arrived on Tyran to investigate. After searching the planet he chanced upon a data codex hidden deep within Tyran's crust, which contained information about the invaders. The information collected by the Explorators on Tyran allowed Kryptman to identify the pattern of attacks and predict the course of the hive fleet. However, these predictions came too late: several more civilisations were wiped out, largely because astropaths could not send psychic requests for help because of a phenomenon known as the "Shadow of the Warp" - somehow, the presence of a Tyranid Hive Fleet near a planet stops psychic communication and transportation through the Warp, which is the primary method of interstellar communication and transport used by the Imperium's astropaths and Warp-Drive-equipped starships.
The Tyranid force, dubbed Hive Fleet Behemoth in a rare moment of literary imagination at Imperial Command, cut a swathe through the Ultramar Sector, the realm of the Ultramarines Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. Undeterred by the Space Marines' Chapter fleet, Behemoth reduced Prandium, the Garden World once known as the "Jewel of Ultramar," to bare rock.
Eventually, Chapter Master Marneus Calgar mustered his entire force for a last-ditch defense of the Ultramarines' homeworld of Macragge. Here, during the Battle of Macragge, the hive fleet was completely destroyed. However, the Ultramarines suffered heavy losses, losing their entire Veteran 1st Company in a last stand at the northern polar fortress.
Hive Fleet Kraken (993.M41)
The second wave of Tyranids to fight against the Imperium was known as Hive Fleet Kraken. Instead of throwing one mass of troops against the human armies, this swarm split into countless smaller fleets, each one enveloping whole systems before reinforcements could arrive. Kraken was finally brought to battle on a grand scale at Ichar IV, an Imperial Hive World, in 993.M41. The brunt of this attack was borne by the Scythes of the Emperor and Lamenters chapters of the Space Marines and the Eldar Craftworld Iyanden, all of whom suffered very heavy losses. According to Lieutenant Kage of the Last Chancers Penal Regiment, the Imperial Guard "lost over a million men at Ichar IV", though this may serve simply to illustrate in a very broad sense the scale of the combat against the Kraken, as numerically speaking a million soldiers is not a great burden for an entire Hive World to expend in its defence since it is home to billions of people. The Kraken was not fully destroyed though, and split into several splinter fleets which have continued to represent major threats to the Imperium as they spread and grow like a xenos cancer upon the galaxy. There was little respite for the Imperium after Kraken's near destruction as a new hive fleet emerged soon after.
Hive Fleet Leviathan (997.M41)
The third wave of Tyranid attacks, Hive Fleet Leviathan, appeared from below the galactic plane and attacked from two points in 997.M41, cutting off large portions of the galaxy from Imperial reinforcements. In order to buy some time, the Imperium, under the command of Inquisitor Kryptman, attempted to redirect the attacks of this fleet towards the Ork-held worlds of the Octavius System. While the plan was a success, the Tyranids have since been steadily working their way through Ork space, suffering massive losses, assimilating everything that stands before them. The Imperium has bought itself a century at least to prepare for the next attack, but there is no telling how the Tyranids may evolve thanks to the newly-harvested Orkoid DNA.
Hive Fleet Leviathan also attacked around the same time as Hive Fleet Kraken, making both fleets difficult to deal with for the Imperium as the elements of one or the other would provoke some sort of uprising provoked by Genestealer Cults or invade Imperial worlds outright in the Great Devourer's eternal quest for more biomass to enhance its Hive Fleets' reproduction rates. To date, Behemoth is the only Tyranid Hive Fleet that did not divide its mass into different "tendrils" that attacked Imperial space from several different locations at once, and it suffered the consequences of being less strategically-minded than its successors.
13th Black Crusade (999.M41)
The 13th Black Crusade is the most recent and the greatest of the incursions launched against the Imperium by Abbadon the Despoiler, and was the greatest conflict fought between the Forces of Chaos and the Imperium of Man since the Horus Heresy. Every major faction of the Milky Way Galaxy race fought on one side or the other during this Black Crusade, including the Tau, who used the re-deployment of Imperial forces to the Segmentum Obscurus initiate the Third Sphere Expansion of their empire in the Eastern Fringes of the galaxy, unleashing what became known in Imperial records as the Zeist Campaign. The war led to massive casualties amongst the Imperium and the xenos forces like the Eldar engaged against the Chaotic tides. One of the greatest losses was the presumed death of the most powerful and ancient of the Eldar Farseers, Eldrad Ulthran, who sacrificed himself in an attempt to recover a Blackstone Fortress that had been used to devastating effect in the space battles surrounding the world of Cadia, the capture of which was the ultimate goal of the Forces of Chaos since it would allow them to create a forward base for a new drive upon Terra to topple the Emperor from the Golden Throne. In the end, the Forces of Chaos were forced into a stalemate with the Imperial forces on the surface of Cadia as the Imperial Navy's combined Battlefleets Obscuras, Solar, Gothic and Pacificus retook control of the Cadian Gate and the orbital space above Cadia, trapping the Chaotic troops on the surface of the Fortress World. But should the Imperial Navy be dislodged from its perch, then Abaddon and the minions of the Ruinous Powers will have a clear path to sweep across the galaxy and dislodge the hated Corpse Emperor from his rule over Mankind. And on Terra, the Adeptus Mechanicus secretly reports to the High Lords of Terra in this same year that the mechanisms of the Golden Throne are failing and they do not possess the knowledge required to repair its ancient technology.
- Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition)
- Codex: Eldar (4th Edition)
- Codex: Necrons (6th Edition)
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition)
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition)
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG)
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG)
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 166-177
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition)
- Pharos (Novel) by Guy Haley