Under a Sable Sky
For an outsider (such as a player) the Imperium can seem nearly incomprehensible and ridiculous in a broad number of ways. It would not be unfair (though it would be awfully tongue-in-cheek) to say the Imperium is ruled by a comatose hybrid of Zombie Jesus and the Battle Pope… though this would, of course, entirely miss the point. One must understand the history of humanity in the 41st millennium for the story of where they are now to make sense. While much of this is unknown even to most scholars of Imperial and Terran history, it is required for most people looking from the outside-in to understand. While some portions may seem bulky, the most attention and time was devoted to the periods of the Horus Heresy and the Age of Apostasy because of their lasting impact on the perspective and culture of humanity.
We will start with the current era (current for the players, not the characters), or “The Age of Terra” by Imperial standards. From the modern day of M3, until M15, we progressed through a series of rises and falls that are no longer well documented anywhere in the Imperial records. Wars were fought, the system was colonized to some degree (only Mars was fully terraformed, though it remained a cold desert world through most of its history), stations and colonies were built and lost… then rebuilt again. Technology was developed, manufactured, stolen, and forgotten only to be rediscovered or developed again decades, centuries, or millennia later. Through this time humanity had no direct contact with other species, and the only extra-solar colonies were developed through the use of generation ships referred to as Ohnyl Cylinders. Given the limits of communication and travel during this period of human history, once these vessels had travelled a sufficient distance, their fates would remain unknown forevermore.
The Dark Age of Technology is considered to have begun in M15, when the focus turned from the solar system to the galaxy as a whole, though a means of FTL travel was not to be developed until M18. Nearby colonies were developed more aggressively, as colony ships were sent to systems within 10 generations travel of Terra, until the development of the Warp Drive and the Geller Field (it should be noted that warp travel was likely developed a few time previous to this age, but limited human understanding of the warp, and the lack of a Geller field, may have been the cause of more than one human fall from progress). It was also during this time that artificial (or abominable, depending on your reference) intelligence was brought into widespread and common use, later resulting in yet another disastrous conflict for humanity when the “Iron Men” rose up against their masters (resulting in a severe ban on such technology that persists more than 10,000 years later). This age is referred to as a “Dark Age” due to what is believed to be humanity’s lack of ethics, morality, or wisdom in favor of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.
For all humanity has accomplished since this time, they have never regained the heights of technological acumen achieved during this era. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was around the time of the Warp Drive and Geller Field’s development that Psykers began to appear in much larger numbers than is suspected to have existed previously, and they became a scientifically acknowledged fact. It was shortly after these discoveries that the first Xeno species were encountered (most likely the Orks, and to a more limited extent the Eldar) and war erupted sporadically throughout the age. It was not until M22 that peace would be brokered with more than a dozen Xeno species (though not the Orks, the closest word to “peace” they have roughly translates to “timeout” or “break”) , coinciding with the development or discovery of the Navigator Gene that gave rise to the Navis Nobilae. With these navigators the ships of humanity could travel significantly farther and faster than ever before. Thus began the Golden Age of Man. For three thousand years humans spread throughout the galaxy in relative peace, security, and power. There was little reason to believe that the ignorance and darkness of their past would ever touch humanity again.
Of course that meant everything was to change, and it did so practically overnight. In M25 the warp suddenly erupted in the most horrific storm ever known before or since; the Eye of Terror opened in the “North by Northwest” region of the galaxy, consuming every star system in its expanse, and plunging the populations there into the warp unprotected, en mass. The storm persisted for nearly five millennia, with barely a break for even a single ship to slip through. Every Terran colony was cut off, left to fend for itself without the hope of trade, supply, or support. Many worlds died due to incomplete infrastructures, collapsed environments, and the least fortunate to Ork raiders (who have never been terribly troubled by the vagaries of the warp). Many fell to savagery and barbarism, with stories of Terra falling into legends, or forgotten completely.
Back in the Sol system, Mars and Terra had severe problems of their own. With the collapse of the human intersystem infrastructure, crucial supply lines for their native system were lost. Mars’ carefully maintained terraforming began to collapse, while the people of Terra balkanized into a number of small factions, quickly turning on one another due to conflicts over severely limited resources. It took little time for the Terrans to bomb each other back a few ages with of development, though as a side “benefit” they whittled their own numbers down to a manageable level equally fast. Meanwhile, a new religion was born on the dying world of Mars. As people took shelter in the few facilities capable of supporting life, those individuals that could keep the machines providing food, water, and air running became the only people that mattered, and all else were either their followers keeping them supplied and supported or their enemies trying to steal or usurp what they could not create or maintain themselves.
Over the centuries these engineers became holy figures, they were the life givers and preservers of their world, and the technology under their care became holy. In time, a prophesy of a herald of the Machine God descending from the heavens, an Omnissiah that would bear a mastery of technology that could only be divine, was born amongst this new Priesthood of Mars. Late in the age of strife, before the rise of the Emperor, the newly founded Mechanicum began sending colony ships with complete complements of troops, titans, equipment, and priests to distant worlds whenever the storms slowed enough to provide a chance of travel, and while many were lost this is what gave birth to the original forge worlds, though they would not be reunited with Mars until the time of the Great Crusade (and some not until well after). At the time, the destruction and barbarism of Terra was regarded as repulsive to the priesthood, and aside from occasional covert raids to reclaim lost technology, Terra was ignored.
After over three thousand years of techno-barbarian tribal warfare and intercene conflict, a powerful psyker and scientist emerged on Terra. This man quickly became a powerful warlord and began a campaign to unite Terra under his rule, a campaign now known as the Unification Wars. The campaign was bloody, long, and brutal, but the planet was brought to heel and the Imperium of Man was born. It took some time for the newly crowned Emperor of Terra to consolidate his power and the handful of resources that were still intact after three millennia of constant war. Once Terra was properly united and productive under his banner, the Emperor’s first stop was Mars. To this day, some (nearly heretical) members of the Adeptus Mechanicus still question the unusually well orchestrated arrival of the Emperor, and the precise manner in which his descent to Mars matched the prophesy of the Omnissiah. Most however simply take the precision of the prophesy as a matter of course for the coldly logical spirituality of the Mechanicum. Regardless, with the spiritual capital acquired by fulfilling the prophesy, and by becoming the Omnissiah in the eyes of the Priesthood of Mars, it was a comparably small matter to bring the Mechanicum into the Imperium. There was a brief civil uprising (too minor to be called a war) amongst the Mechanicum, as a few refused to accept the Emperor as their messianic figure, but they were small in number and quickly put down.
Of note in this partnership however, was the Mechanicum’s relative independence and autonomy under their alliance with the Imperium. The reason for this was twofold; first there was simple need that Terra had for the technology of the Mechanicum, the Great Crusade could never have happened without the steadfast support of the Martian production facilities. Second the religious nature of the Mechanicum, no matter how empirical and rational in practice, was not compatible with the fundamentalist atheism of the Imperial Truth under the Emperor’s guidance. By allowing the Mechanicum to operate as an autonomous vassal state, the natural philosophical and cultural conflicts were kept to a relative minimum. While it is not exactly a matter of forbidden knowledge, very few citizens of the Imperium in the 41st millennium are aware of just how severely the Emperor renounced his own divinity. During his active rule, some cases of religious observance were considered a criminal act when performed by an official of the Imperium.
After peacefully reuniting with the Saturnine Fleet, a militaristic and nomadic band of void-born inhabiting the stations and ships beyond the belt, the Sol system was fully united and the warp storms had abated. With the ability to reach out to the lost colonies of humanity, the Imperium began to grow once again. In preparation for his Great Crusade to unite humanity across the Galaxy under a single banner, the Emperor “birthed” 20 sons using technology he had, at least as theory goes, improved on from the Dark Age of Technology. These sons were modified and enhanced clones of the Emperor, though his psychic abilities were not retained (with the exception of Magnus the Red), at least not directly, they were nothing less than demigods in the more conventional power they gained from their sublimated psychic potential. Having already noticed the Emperor’s actions, the ruinous powers of Chaos briefly kidnapped and scattered his progeny across the galaxy. Though it may seem odd that these Primarchs always landed with one of the lost human colonies, it would later be seen just why this had played out in such a seemingly convenient manner. Each of these immortal men rose to positions of power on their adopted homeworlds, simply by virtue of the tremendous power and native intellect they each wielded.
Knowing his sons were alive, and somewhere amongst the lost colonies, the Emperor cast out his awareness to track them down. In a matter of just a few centuries the Emperor and his immortal progeny were reunited, during which the Adeptus Astartes were developed. The Astartes, commonly referred to simply as Space Marines, were to the Primarchs what the Primarchs were to the Emperor. While not true clones themselves, the very best warriors amongst humanity were raised up and implanted with the “gene seed”, a genetic derivative of one of the Primarchs. This seeding, along with a number of implants grown from the initiate’s own tissues, made the once mortal warriors into superhuman soldiers by rewriting their genetic makeup to echo their parent Primarch. Once the Emperor had united his surviving 18 sons, and had the Astartes legions that each commanded by his side, the Great Crusade was fully underway. System after system was reabsorbed into the Imperium, some welcoming their Terran ancestors with open arms as their rightful rulers, others negotiating a vassal relationship (though over generations their autonomy was eroded away to nothing), and a remarkable handful choosing to fight for their independence. Few of these resistant cultures were able to mount a defense worth noting, the power of the Astartes with the technology of the Mechanicum making any such gestures generally futile. Some however, due to holding an STC template of particular power, or simply due to having become too distant from the human ideal for reabsorbtion to be possible, were events worthy of marking in the Imperium’s history by the remembrancers (artists, writers, and the like employed by the Imperium for internal propaganda and historical recording).
After a few centuries of relentless expansion, worlds that had been hastily brought to heel under imperial rule began to rebel, and the legions found themselves returning to old battlegrounds just to reclaim worlds they had so recently won. It was in the midst of this conflict, that the final seeds of Chaos’ plans were sown. While the Emperor was all too aware of the ruinous powers of Chaos and their intentions for humanity, and all sentient life for that matter, even his own sons had only the vaguest inkling of the threat posed by the daemons of the warp and their foul gods. All his sons save two: Magnus the Red of the Iron Hands, and Lorgar of the Word Bearers. Magnus had come to this awareness on his own, and until forced by the Emperor to turn away he used this knowledge to try and protect the Imperium. Lorgar, on the other hand, had received this knowledge in a more direct manner. Lorgar was a man of great faith, and had foretold the arrival of the Emperor in religious prophesy. When the Emperor finally arrived, a religious following awaited him, and the Primarch and his follower’s worshiped him as a god made flesh. While Lorgar and his followers purged all religious icons and texts they found in the course of their part of the Great Crusade, they simply replaced them with works to worship the Emperor. Incensed at both Lorgar’s lack of progress and religious zeal in the face of the Imperial Truth, the Emperor admonished Lorgar personally, reprimanding him harshly for turning to the “false light of religion”. Lorgar took this admonishment poorly, and spent a month deep in mourning. It was during this period that his second in command and closest friend, Kor Phaeron, told him of gods that were both real and welcoming of such zeal. As the weeks passed, Kor Phaeron turned Lorgar to the following of the Chaos gods, giving birth to the worship of Chaos Undivided. This purpose, it would eventually be discovered, was the true reason for the Primarchs’ survival and eventual reunification… all planned by the gods of the warp (well, Tzeentch most likely) for thousands of years leading up to that moment. Worse still, the ruinous powers of Chaos were far from done.
Initially it appeared that the Word Bearers had taken the Emperor’s directives to heart, tearing down all religious trappings of the Emperor and aggressively conquering world after world in the name of the Imperium. All while Kor Phaeron, now master of the faith, had been entrusted by Lorgar to convert the entire Word Bearer legion to the worship of Chaos undivided, which he did with remarkable swiftness. Once the legion was united under Chaos Undivided, they set their sights on the rest of the Primarchs and their legions. First and foremost, they knew they had to corrupt the newly anointed Warmaster of the Great Crusade, Horus the first and favored son of the Emperor. When the Emperor turned command of the crusade over to Horus, he withdrew to Terra to continue contemplating his eternal battle against the Chaos Gods, and begin work on the Golden Throne. Deprived of any deeper knowledge of their father’s motivations, his newly reunited sons felt lessened and slighted by their father’s departure, and existing rivalries intensified without his guiding hand holding his sons together. Feeling that the time was finally right, the Word Bearers made their move. In a series of traps and manipulations the agents of the Word Bearers arranged for Horus to become deathly injured, and provided the care required to heal him so as to turn him from his father while he was weak of body, mind, and spirit. Once the seed of corruption and rebellion was planted in Horus’ heart, it was just a matter of time before he was able, with the help of Chaos’ manipulations, turn six of his brothers to his side against their father (the final two, Magnus and Alpharius, joined later due to events beyond Horus’ actions).
Horus revealed his treachery in the virus bombing of the rebel world of Istvaan III. While Istvaan III was certainly not a friend of the Imperium, Horus used the attack on the rebel planet as an opportunity to purge the ranks of the traitor legions of loyalists. Waiting until the attack was well underway, and all suspected loyalists were on site, the virus bombing to purge Istvaan III of all life began and 12 billion souls were consigned to the warp. Thankfully for the Imperium, a small band of loyalists escaped the purge, and fled to warn Terra of the Warmaster’s betrayal. The first battle of the Heresy would also reveal the full extent of the corruption; the Emperor ordered a coordinated assault between seven legions against his traitorous son on the planet of Istvaan V, but four of those legions had already turned to Horus’ side. The resulting bloodbath ended with the death of Ferrus Manus, the loyalist Primarch of the Iron Hands legion, and the consequent ascension of the traitor Fulgrim, of the Emperor’s Children legion, to Daemonprince. Corax, Primarch of the Raven Guard, was nearly killed and barely escaped the trap with a handful of his legion’s survivors, while Vulcan of the Salamander legion was missing in action. Only six Primarchs and their legions remained to resist Horus. The Emperor had done Horus’ work for him with Magnus, turning the Sorcerer Primarch of Prospero to Horus’ banner by denouncing his methods and claiming Magnus had already fallen to Chaos (which given that Magnus’ haste had caused him to inadvertently unleash a host of daemons into the Imperial Palace, was an understandable belief). Alpharius, on the other hand, simply appeared without explanation and swore to end the Imperium’s rule immediately at Horus’ side. So with the nine traitor legions strong and united, they descended on Terra to end the conflict with the death of their father. Less than 30 days passed before the system defenses had fallen, and the surviving loyalists held only the Imperial Palace by the 55th day of Horus’ assault on the system. It was at this point in the attack that the battle that would define the next ten thousand years or more of human history began to unfold. Horus learned of incoming reinforcements from the loyalist legions that had been kept bogged down and away from Terra during the assault, and made a desperate bid to end the conflict before his advantage was stripped from him. Lowering the shields protecting his barge, Horus lured the Emperor into a personal confrontation. The Emperor teleported himself, Sanguinius, Rogal Dorn, and a contingent of Astartes and Custodes to the barge, but were scattered in the transfer (a common problem in the ever unreliable case of teleportation). Sanguinius was the first to fall to Horus, though it is said that through the sacrifice of the Blood Angel, the Emperor was able to overcome his first son, despite the powers of the ruinous powers backing him. Unfortunately, the Emperor was crippled by the injuries he sustained and the betrayal he’d experienced, and though rescued from the Warmaster’s barge by Rogal Dorn, it was clear that the damage was irreparable. With little time left to preserve his species from the depredations of Chaos, the Emperor instructed Dorn to reconfigure the Golden Throne, and had himself interred within it, consigning himself to an endless state of agonizing undeath.
The impact of this event was both immediate and far-reaching, as the Emperor was vastly reduced in function once placed within the Golden Throne. Though the device was redesigned to keep every remaining salvageable cell of the Emperor’s body alive indefinitely, his ability to communicate and participate actively in the management of his Imperium was all but gone. His spirit and his will were unbroken however, and his tie to the Astronomican made even stronger through his bond to the throne (they are effectively in a symbiotic relationship, so deeply intertwined over the years that the Emperor and the Astronomican are now effectively one and the same). His will is the bulwark protecting humanity from the warp and the ruinous powers, and should he ever relent the Astronomican will be snuffed out, leaving humanity unprotected and without guidance. It is said that the Emperor still guides the Lords of Terra when matters of the materium are dire enough to draw his attention, and that he guides all humanity through the readings of the Emperor’s Tarot. As the centuries and millennia passed, the Emperor’s awareness become more removed and abstract, eventually having no clear connection to the world his body inhabited.
Marked by the death of the Warmaster and the breaking of Chaos’ forces against Terra, the era of the Great Crusade gave way to the Great Scouring. With the Emperor confined to the Golden Throne and the Imperium effectively leaderless, the forces of Chaos and other enemies of humanity laid waste to the worlds left sparsely defended in the wake of the Horus Heresy. In time the forces of the Imperium rallied and were able to push back against their enemies, though the cost in lives and equipment was staggering. The eventual emergence and survival of the Imperium through the Great Scouring and into the Age of Rebirth can be largely attributed to the leadership of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman, and the strength of his legion. Horus had successfully kept Guilliman’s legion tied up in conflicts far from Terra, which left them strong and numerous enough to defend the Imperium afterwards. It took centuries of costly warfare, but in time the tactics of Guilliman were successfully used to reclaim the territories that still existed and drive the forces of Chaos into the Eye of Terror. By the end of the Age of Rebirth, the belief that the Emperor was a divine entity had become accepted as fact throughout the Imperium, and even many of the Lords of Terra were affiliated with the Imperial Cult. In M32, the Golden Age of the Imperium began with the acceptance of the Imperial faith as the official doctrine of the Imperium. It was also at this time, perhaps due to their inability to accept life within an Imperium so vastly different from the empire they had fought for over the last few thousand years, that the remaining Primarchs left known space in search for their own answers.
The Golden Age of the Imperium lasted for nearly four thousand years as Astropathic Choirs were established throughout the known regions of the galaxy and previously lost STCs from Dark Age of Technology were discovered as the Imperium began to return to its former size and power. This period is remembered as a Golden Age primarily due to the steady growth and lack of internal upheavals accompanying the growth and development of the Imperial Faith. Despite the repeated efforts of Warmaster Abaddon and his first four “Black Crusades”, the end of the Golden Age would come from within rather than from any external threat. As the Ecclesiarchy grew in power and influence following the official acceptance of the Imperial Faith, the Administratum became incensed at their loss of control to the Ministorum (the feud between them would last through to the current day, and almost certainly beyond). From M34 through M35 the Ecclesiarchy became fat and complacent on the tithes paid to them, consequently electing a succession of weak, ineffectual, and mildly corrupt Ecclesiarchs. Seizing the opportunity, the Administratum was able to clamp down on the excesses of the Ministorum and regain a significant portion of their former power. In a bid to escape the growing influence of the Administratum over them, the Ecclesiarchy relocate their base of power to Ophelia VII in the Segmentum Tempestus. The Ecclesiarchy leveraged this distance, and the Administratum’s inability to adapt quickly, to raise huge tithes and begin assembling a military on par with the Imperial Guard, to be known as the Templar Frateris. Only three centuries later the newly elected Ecclesiarch, Gregor XI, decreed that the cult would return to Terra. This drained their financial reserves yet again, resulting in yet even higher tithes. Coincidentally, when he began to push for radical changes within the Imperial Faith, he died of food poisoning before any could be enacted. Once back on Terra with their own military power, the Ecclesiarchy felt comfortable raising tithes further still, to pay for more and more elaborate and larger palaces, statues, and the like. Finally many worlds could take no more, and revolted. Quietly backed by the Administratum, worlds refused to pay the exorbitant tithes and poured the funds into their PDF (Planetary Defense Forces), rather than be bankrupted by the Ecclesiarchy’s greed. The church’s response was swift and violent, as their military might was used to bring these rebellious worlds back into submission. Every governor and planetary official who resisted the demands of the church were executed as heretics, while any that were out of immediate reach were visited by the church’s agents from the Collegium Assassinorum. Despite the revolts, or perhaps as a reaction to them, the Ecclesiarchy only became more ostentatious.
Finally, in M36 the Age of Apostasy was marked by the rise of Goge Vandire, 361st High Lord of the Administratum, and the eruption of the most powerful warp storms seen since the Age of Strife. The Ecclesiarchy moved to consolidate their power on what worlds they could still reach, while the other planets fell to the depredations of Ork Waaaaghs! (Or is that Waaagh!s? Regardless, the exclamation point is considered by some to be part of the proper spelling, at least as far as something as precise as spelling can be applied to the Orkish kulture.) chaos raiders from the Eye of Terror, and Genestealer cults (though it would thankfully be five thousand more years before an actual hive fleet entered the galaxy). In the midst of such upheaval the Imperial faith balkanized into numerous small sub-cults on the worlds not directly controlled by the Ecclesiarchy, each having their own varied interpretations of the Emperor’s divinity and will. These cults denounced the excesses of the Ecclesiarchy, and some worlds erupted into civil-religious wars over such resentments. Vandire’s rise to power in the Adeptus Terra and the Administratum coincided with this weakening of the Ecclesiarchy, once having reached the position of High Lord he moved to take over the Ecclesiarchy as well, successfully deposing the Ecclesiarch Paulis III (which he had been subtly ensuring would rise to Ecclesiarch, as he was incompetent and easily manipulated into “forcing” Vandire’s hand) in a military coup, and executed every Terran who stood against him as heretics. A handful escaped on a vessel headed back to the planet Ophelia VII, though it was consumed in a warp storm, further validating Vandire’s power grab. Vandire’s insane and violent rule is remembered as the Reign of Blood, where hive worlds were bombarded into oblivion, entire populations were enslaved, and civilizations were wiped out in progressively more “artistic” ways, not for showing resistance or any related failing, but simply as a means for Vandire to mark his own history and express his absolute power. Vandire took up public displays of torture as a hobby, and eventually descended into a deep schizophrenia that he insisted was driven by the divine guidance of the Emperor (which was of course false… he was just brilliant, charismatic, and completely insane). Perhaps his deepest violation of the faith, and most historically relevant, was his laying claim to an order calling themselves the “Daughters of the Emperor”, a small all-female monastic warrior cult that devoted themselves to inner purity outside the guidance of any other religious authority. Using a Rosarius field generator (a semi-secret Ecclesiarchal device that looks like a normal holy symbol of the Emperor, but contains a powerful protective field generator), he was able to trick the Daughters into believing that he was divinely protected and held a sacred mandate. The Daughters lacked the technological brilliance required to recognize the “divine intervention” for what it was, and immediately converted to the slavish devotion of Vandire. He renamed the Daughters the Brides of the Emperor, and used them as bodyguards, assassins, personal servants, and concubines. After 70 years of hellish rule, Vandire’s madness finally began to cripple him. For all the wonders Vandire ordered constructed and maintained on worlds throughout the Imperium, his own Terran Palaces fell into filthy disrepair. Vermin, filth, and structural collapse became the norm in his home palace, while his body was wracked with drugs, disease, and wasting due to his increasing inability to function (think of a particularly evil Howard Hughes in his later years). He was still able to direct his agents to enact his insane plans however, regardless of the failings he faced in his personal life. It was at this time that, in the year 266.M36, many people believe that the Emperor finally moved to correct the direction of His Imperium. A rebellious religious leader named Sebastian Thor denounced the Ecclesiarch and High Lord as a traitor to humanity, and led The Confederation of Light to liberate eighty planets from the Ecclesiarchy’s control within a mere three months (an achievement that is particularly unprecedented due to the unusually cooperative warp currents Thor enjoyed during throughout his campaign). When Vandire ordered a strike team to burn Thor’s homeworld of Dimmamar to cinders, the fleet was ripped apart by a freak warp storm immediately after jumping from their staging point in the Clax system. What the few accounts received from the fleet, before contact was lost, reported sealed the rebellions faith in Thor; the fleet’s ships and the soldiers aboard them were shredded by arcs of white light that somehow bypassed the Geller fields entirely. Clax remains cut off from the galaxy to this day, the Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath a permanent reminder to those who would profane His Imperium.
Following the advent of the Storm, the entire Segmentum Obscurus rallied to Thor’s banner, rebelling against the corrupt Ecclesiarchy. Thor’s fleet progressed towards Terra, and every world he visited fell to his force of personality and the conviction of his faith. Despite the warp storms still raging across the galaxy, Thor’s fleet was able to pass quickly and without incident. The Navis Nobilae still call him Abstracta Preomnis, Master of the Warp. Worse still for Vandire was the return of the Astartes chapters and the Mechanicum forge worlds had been merely keeping out of the conflict because they were not yet united and were unwilling to commit to military action against Terra unilaterally. They held to a central faith in the Emperor, but thought little of Vandire’s corrupt empire or the pathetic Ecclesiarchy that had preceded him. With the arrival of the Confederation of Light, all of that changed, and as one they declared their support for Thor’s forces against Vandire, calling for the High Lords of Terra to execute Vandire as a traitor or be judged as traitors themselves. However, though already megalomaniacal, Vandire’s madness had robbed him of any rational self-awareness, he now believed he truly was invincible and held a divine mandate from the Emperor. So after he dissolved the Council of High Lords he foolishly attempted to set what remained of the Templar Frateris against the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus, which his officers quite reasonably refused to do. Even after a series of executions for treason and heresy, most of the replacement officers only went so far as to lead their forces to the targets they were given, but would not engage (mainly due to the fact that they would have torn to shreds without so much as bloodying their target’s nose, rather than out of any higher principals). Ignoring the few, admittedly pathetic, actual attacks suffered from the Templars, the Astartes chapters and the Mechanicum besieged Terra. The similarity to the events of the Horus Heresy was not lost on anyone, but now it was the Brides of the Emperor defending the palace from the loyal Astartes and Mechanicum forces. Though for all the forces against him it would turn out that Vandire’s fall would come from within, before the siege could even be said to have truly begun. The Adeptus Custodes (the Emperor’s personal guard, created before the Astartes with similar technology, few details of their creation are known except that none are psykers, and that they are each more powerful than any single Astartes) had withdrawn from the events surrounding Vandire, 70 years being a brief hiccup to these near-immortal guardians. When the siege of Terra began however, they were forced to act. Seeing Vandire for the despot that he was, the Custodes secretly coordinated with the chapter masters of the Astartes and worked to end the conflict from within the Imperial palace. Instead of simply going to war with the Brides in an assassination attempt, the Centurion and commander of the Custodes engaged Alicia Dominica, the leader of the Brides, diplomatically. Their discussion would ultimately prove fruitless, until he offered to leave his men as hostages and take Dominica before the Emperor himself. What happened in that meeting is unknown, but immediately after the Brides returned their order’s name to the Daughters of the Emperor and turned against Vandire as one, Alicia Dominica personally pronounced Vandire to be a traitor against the Emperor and heretic, executing him with the power blade he had bestowed on her when she became his personal guard.
The aftermath of Thor’s victory would begin the age of reformation, though the Plague of Unbelief spawned by the numerous false prophets and separatist rebels, created by Vandire’s corrupt policies before the rise of Thor, would need to be quelled before the reformation would be considered to be truly underway. A rebel empire had formed beyond the reach of Vandire “south” of Fenris and reaching all the way to Bakka, united by a heretical and violent will-to-power philosophy. Had it not been for their catastrophic error in challenging the Space Wolves of Fenris as they approached the chapter, and former legion, capitol system, they might have become another significant threat to Imperial rule. Instead the defeat began the rogue empire’s internal collapse, completely ceasing to exist as a political entity within a matter of just a few years of their defeat at the hands of the Space Wolves Astartes chapter. As this rebellion never touched Terra or Thor’s new Ecclesiarchy directly, the rest of the problem elements were largely brought back into the fold without exceptional trouble. The first order of business Thor had to face was his own trial. He had actually ensured his trial would fairly analyze and judge his assault on the Emperor’s palace, feeling that to do otherwise would jeopardize all his coalition stood for. Not surprisingly he was quickly found innocent, and installed as Ecclesiarch. A number of policies were put in place by the Lords of Terra, and by Thor himself, to ensure the Ecclesiarchy could never gain enough temporal power to threaten the stability of the Imperium again. The most significant of these policies was the Decree Passive, which prohibited the Ecclesiarchy from maintaining any “men at arms”, an intentional wording negotiated by Thor to allow the reformation of the Daughters of the Emperor into the Adepta Sororitas, so as to serve as the Ecclesiarchy’s chamber militant. It should be noted, however, that other clauses of the decree ensured that even this exception could not grow to a size large enough to function as an independent army (generally the Sisters of Battle are used in small-scale strike forces for tactical purposes, such as the purging of Chaos cults, or other overt support activity for the Ordo Hereticus). The Inquisition had also taken Thor’s message and the lesson of the Reign of Blood to heart as well, creating the Ordo Hereticus to watch over the Ecclesiarchy to ensure they never crossed the line into such heresy again (as may be obvious, their charter quickly expanded to cover all heresies and internal threats, eventually even including mutants and unsanctioned psykers). While the Ordo Xenos had the Deathwatch, and Malleus the Grey Knights, the Ordo Hereticus found themselves naturally affiliated with the Sororitas, due to both their identical goals and their similar foundings. Meanwhile Thor had made a number of internal changes on his own, first by reducing the size of each Cardinal’s dioceses and increasing the number of Cardinals (reducing their individual power and increasing their ability to check the Ecclesiarch), second he created the Holy Synod of Terra to further empower the Cardinals as a group, allowing them to overrule or even effectively sideline the Ecclesiarch if sufficiently united. Finally a series of lesser reforms were put in place throughout Thor’s time as Ecclesiarch, all intended to move it towards spiritual rather than political concerns when possible. When he finally felt he had done all he could, Thor left Terra to travel the Imperium, returning to the Coalition’s spiritual ideals of poverty and humble living, while also putting down heresy and educating the Imperial populace in the light of the Emperor. He finally, and briefly, returned to Terra before dying peacefully and contented at the age of 112 (he opted to refuse juvenat treatment in the belief that he’d done all that was required of him, looking forward to a brief retirement in his old age before joining the Emperor’s side). Since the Reformation of the Ecclesiarchy, no other serious changes to the structure of the Imperium have occurred, and the years that followed have unfortunately begun to be referenced, due to the rapidly dwindling resources of the Imperium, as The Waning. Eight more of Abaddon’s Black Crusades were launched against the Imperium, and while a few were as characteristically inept as the 2nd Black Crusade of M32, it was clear that Abaddon was only growing stronger and more capable as a leader of Chaos as the centuries passed in the materium. When not battling back Abaddon’s forces, the Imperium was dealing with rogue Tech-Priest blowing up entire star-systems, having to exterminate xeno psyker incursions, constantly fighting off Dark Eldar raiders, and enduring repeated and unpredictable Orkish Waaaghs!.
Finally, in the past few centuries things have gotten progressively worse. To those who have seen the signs and listened to the prophesies of Taggarath, Seer of Corrinto, the Waning has recently given way to the Time of Ending. In the year 742.M41, the independent establishment of trade relations with the Tau on a number of frontier worlds triggered a horrified Imperium to launch the Damocles Crusade into Tau space (apparently unsatisfied with the number of war fronts they already had to contend with). The Crusade was largely an abject failure, smashing the fringe outposts of the Tau but unable to do any real damage to their empire. Had it not been for the impending arrival of the Hive Fleet Behemoth, the crusade would likely have become a protracted, bloody siege with no end or victory for either side. Sadly, this still would have been preferable to both forces compared to the arrival of the Tyranid, which motivated both the Tau and the Imperium to quickly negotiate a peace and withdraw to their own regions of space to prepare. A short time later The Tyrannic War revealed the full and complete horrors for which the Genestealers had been a mere precursor. The Tyranid invasion forced the Imperium to develop entirely new principals and tactics in war, as the strategic doctrine of Roboute Guilliman favored the Tyranids so heavily as to make any conflict putting them into action a complete slaughter. Eventually the Ultramarines (Guilliman was far less adept with names than he was with tactics) did adapt, and with these Astartes at the fore of the attack on Behemoth, the Hive Fleet was broken and scattered in the year 745.M41, though it would take a full century for the Astartes chapter to replenish their numbers. Clearly, Imperial forces did not have time to rest with Behemoth’s destruction, even with the fleet destroyed the Tyranids never stopped cropping up in fragments after that, and can still be found heeding the summons of the Genestealer cults, even on the other side of the galaxy. More importantly, the rest of the Imperium’s enemies didn’t simply back off to let Imperial forces focus on the Tyranids (the Tau excepted, as they had to contend with the Hive Fleet as well); Orks, Eldar, and Chaos raiders relentlessly hammered any target they could reach. To further complicate matters, in 897.M41 yet another new and more terrible enemy appeared on the scene. One of the Sororitas fortress-convents on the eastern galactic fringe, Sanctuary 101, suddenly ceased response to all communications. When an investigatory force was sent to find out what had happened, it was immediately obvious that the fortress had been attacked and completely wiped out before anyone could signal for help. All that remained of the slaughter were the flayed corpses of the Sisters, and a single brief recording of silent blurred shadows, silhouetted by a sick green light. No other sign or record of the assailants could be found, aside from the structural damage wrought by some form of incredibly powerful and unknown class of energy weapon the assailants used. No corpses or genetic trace of the enemy were left behind, and no psychic signature could be sifted from the site beyond the pain and terror wrought on the Sisters by the enemy, itself highly unusual given the fearless nature of the Sororitas. Over 50 years have passed since the Sanctuary 101 incident, and it was not the only event of its kind. While the Ordo Xenos has managed to learn a measure of useful intelligence on this new threat, they have kept it under an unusually tight seal. While the mysterious video feed recovered from Sanctuary 101 was leaked through a number of channels, thanks to the panicked Naval investigators that first responded to the incident, anything more is circulated only to the Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos and others on a strict need-to-know basis.
So now we are in the year of 950.M41, the resources of the Imperium are running out and enemies are on every border, with new threats arriving faster than ever before. The Imperial Guard is draining the PDF forces of every world they can tap to replenish their numbers, only to leave the worlds so poorly defended that they must either take heavy losses to reclaim them or sacrifice the worlds entirely. Despite all of this however, hope is far from lost. Simple mortals, like the reknowned hero Commissar Caiphas Cain, have liberated entire worlds with the force of their personality and tenacity alone. The Astartes chapters have claimed new worlds as their domain to ease Terra’s burden, and humanity’s faith in their Emperor is, in many ways, stronger than ever. A turning point is approaching, that much is certain, but what comes next is far from simple predestination.
“As the dark days close in, Mankind stands before the precipice. Now is the time of judgment, where faith shall be tested in fire, and courage put to its very limits. Secession and rebellion are rife in all corners of the Imperium. Sensing weakness, alien empires close in from all sides. The Space Marines and Imperial Guard are at war as never before, defending humanity from threats within, without, and beyond. This is humanity’s darkest hour…” – Taggarath, Seer of Corrinto, before being executed for heresy. 744.M41
Credit to Aureus from Dark Reign: http://darkreign40k.com/forum/index.php?topic=1546.0