Nobledark Imperium Imperial Society and Culture

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This page is part of the Nobledark Imperium, a fan re-working of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. See the Nobledark Imperium Introduction and Main Page for more information on the alternate universe

With over a million worlds representing over a hundred different member species, cultural traditions and society vary wildly across the Imperium. Most of these traditions are unique to, or may not even be dominant on, a single planet. However, there are some notable traditions or cultural events that go beyond the confines of a single world and affect a multitude of worlds or even the Imperium as a whole.

Aspects of Steel[edit]

ASPECTS OF STEEL (selected passage from the article Entertainment In The Imperium: An Overview, available from the Rhetor Imperia’s Socio-Analysis Indices, or Trazyn The Infinite’s Necron-nomicon)

A holo-film series of the old “buddy-Arbiter” genre, its ten installments (although not even the producers will acknowledge the studio-mandated attempted reboot that was the sixth film), five mini-series, and whole host of graphic novels and literary works, focuses on an investigation team made of a young and brash Aspect Warrior, and a cynical, retired, Space Marine assigned to the (fictional) Arbites Department of Special Investigations. Originally lauded by critics for its flipping of the traditional Eldar/Human stereotypes, and its accurate showing of inter-species relationships in the Imperium, the series also features large explosions, cheesy (yet memorable) dialogue, and sensible tactics, all wrapped together in a near-propaganda package whose tone has been described as, in the words of one review, “Imperium, FUCK YEAH!”. Major characters in this series include:

Brother Yakov - Last survivor of the (fictional) Steel Heralds chapter. A world-weary, cynical man seeking revenge against the mysterious forces that destroyed his chapter while he was on leave, he often gets the best lines, most of which are improvised by his actor, who is an actual Astartes who was forcibly retired from frontline duty. Yakov is the stabilizing force of the series, bringing hard-earned wisdom to the other characters.

Aspect Warrior Loriel Zig - Young, brash, and slightly naïve, his often ill-considered actions tend to make the plot more complicated. He joined the Arbites because, in his own words from the first film, “I have a burning need for GREAT JUSTICE!” (The famous response from Yakov? “The Medicae have many treatments for burning sensations.”)

Senior-Sister Katana, of the Convent of The Watchful Sword - Obsessed with Brother Yakov, who fought beside her mother in the ambush that wiped out the Steel Heralds, this young hot-shot from an Convent Securitas is a capable investigator. However, her desire to prove herself to Brother Yakov often leads to her investigations working at cross-purposes to his. Part rival, part ally, all unrequited love interest, she pushes Yakov into uncomfortable situations while he tries to mellow her out. Her character has become more nuanced over the film series, going from a one-dimensional stalker who, in her words "is the kind of person that get called to put rebel Astartes down" to a more competent, if still quirky, associate. The producers are well aware of the fans that want them in a relationship, and constantly torment them with teases such as almost-kisses and failed seduction attempts. The closest the two have ever come to having an actual romantic moment is the two holding their helmets together right before the big space combat scene of the tenth film.

Interestingly enough, there is an Securitas focused Convent named the Watchful Sword, and it does count amongst its sisters one Senior-Sister Katana. Who looks and acts nothing like the character, and refuses to change her appearance to match. That job, she argues, belongs to her younger sister Tanto, who does look and act like the character, but is a Hospitaler.

Rilus Vespid - Introduced first in the failed reboot that was the six film after representation issues were raised, he was just about the only part of said film that was actually liked by audiences and was therefore reintroduced in the seventh (with a slightly modified backstory). Rilus is a Tau Inquisitor of the Minor Ordo Altum, and has that very Tau cynical optimism. He often teams up with Katana, and his character alone has tripled the number of explosions seen on-screen, as he uses drones to drop detpacks on his enemies. His actor is just as good at improvising lines as Yakov’s, leading to them combining forces to use the official sets and props to film their own parody of the series in the middle of filming the eighth film.

The Shattered Banner - The conspiracy that serves as the driving antagonist of the series, seeking to break the Imperium apart as it thinks the entire setup is too large to succeed.

Explosions - Seen so often that even the cast references them as a character in actor commentaries. Currently the biggest explosion of the series comes from the climax of the tenth film, where the main characters smuggled an Exterminatus warhead onto a Chaos-corrupted battlecruiser trying to crash into Craftworld Altaioc, and used the ensuing shockwave to propel themselves to safety atop a hullplate.

In greater Imperial culture, the series is best known for its very memorable lines, which often find their way into even the Emperor’s speeches (he has, unintentionally or otherwise, quoted the entirety of Brother Yakov’s “Fuck The Apocalypse” speech from memory on three separate occasions). One line that has been quoted by almost every Astartes alive is “Nowhere in the Codex Astartes does it say that I have to put up with your shit”, to which nearby Eldar respond with “Yeah, but you have to put up with yours until the new filters get here”. If nothing else is released, this series has still earned its place in history.

The Book of Lorgar[edit]

Perhaps more than any of the other primarchs, Lorgar reacted the most negatively when he learned of the existence of Chaos and the Chaos Gods. Lorgar considered himself first and foremost a man of peace, a man of unity, and here were a group of beings that not only profaned everything civilization stood for, but in their own way profaned the very virtues that made mortals great. As a result, within days of being told of the true nature of Chaos by the Steward, Lorgar was at the Steward’s quarters imploring the Steward, with all the fire only an inspired zealot could bring, to allow him to write a book to teach mortals how to steel themselves and fight off the depredations of these false gods. Here was an enemy that not only represented to him all that evil in the universe, but one that he could fight with his most powerful weapons: his words.

At first, the Steward was reluctant to give Lorgar his blessing to write such a book, given that he did not want to set up any state-sponsored religion and Lorgar had very prominent Katholian leanings, until it was pointed out to him by Malcador that the only other person really qualified to write a book for Imperial citizens on how to resist Chaos was Magnus the Red, who would probably write a version that would be considerably more…chummy than the Steward would have wanted. (Indeed, it may have been this conversation that inspired Magnus to write his “Gods and Daemons: A Spotter’s Guide”, for people who dealt more closely with warp-related phenomena and would probably be interested in more specific knowledge than how to ward off Chaos in general).

The Book of Lorgar (or as it is sometimes sarcastically referred to: “Resisting Chaos 101”), is the average Imperial citizen’s go-to guide for how to deal with Chaos and other commonly encountered warp phenomena. The book does not go into technical detail about many aspects of Chaos, but acts more as a survival guide: summarizing what you are facing, why it is bad, and how you can survive it. Although it is primarily considered a work of Lorgar (to the point that it is called the Book of Lorgar, rather than its official, much longer title) the work was also partly a product of Magnus the Red, with whom Lorgar consulted extensively while writing the book. In addition, commentary on earlier drafts was sought from the Steward and all of the surviving primarchs, as well as some well-known Eldar individuals. The book has heavy Katholian leanings, largely in part due to having been written by Lorgar, but the book does take pains to point out that many of the methods proposed in the book are applicable to all religions and how to adapt them to most of the major religious beliefs practiced in the Imperium at the time it was published (this is thought to have primarily been the Steward’s hand at work, keeping Lorgar from getting too overly supportive of one religion).

It is said that late into the writing of the Book of Lorgar, the manuscript suddenly took a very surprising change in tone. This version, later known as the “Black Manuscript” claimed that not only was the Steward the savior of mankind, he was the avatar of a benevolent god or else a prophet for some higher power. It is not known who brought this version to the attention of the Steward (there are several possible options), but it is known that shortly after Lorgar finished these changes to the manuscript, the Steward requested to speak with Lorgar privately.

The Steward told Lorgar that for all his achievements, all that he had done for Earth, for humanity, and for the Imperium, he was not a god and did not want to be worshipped as such. At first Lorgar denied the Steward’s claims, but eventually the Steward convinced him otherwise. He told Lorgar that the entities that many less advanced beings would have called gods Lorgar had called nothing more than “bottled-up Warp farts”. And perhaps more poignantly, the Steward told Lorgar of his failings. Yes, the Steward had accomplished many great things in his lifetime, but he was far from perfect. A god, he told Lorgar, would have been able to avert the great armies of the Beast and have ended the war without subjecting the people of Earth to near-extermination. A god, he said, would have been able to save Sanguinius.

Having been convinced by the Steward’s words, Lorgar deemed all of the copies of the “Black Manuscript” heretical and ordered them burned. However, rumor has it that one copy of the “Black Manuscript” was secretly saved by Magnus the Red, for “historical posterity”. However, as of the 41st millenium no such manuscript can be located, and if it did exist, it is probably sitting in a dust bin on Ganymede.

The Cost of War[edit]

A squad of men with chemical sprayers walks over a burned field, churned by tank treads and artillery fire, clad in bulky grey protective suits and bug- eyed masks. One of them spots something, and points- a green fungal stalk, pushing its way out of the abused soil. They surround it and hose it down, the growth visibly withering under the fungicidal assault. One of them plants a small flag, marking the spot for follow- up crews. Dozens, hundreds of other squads walk beside them, in a loose line stretching out to either horizon.

In a half- forgotten underhive sump, a charnel mound of corpses a dozen deep, blood shaded black under red low- power lighting. An apparent Guardsman walks in and ambles over to the body pile, inspecting it. Suddenly, a charnel beast lunges from the center of the pile in a welter of gore, something like what you would get if a Catachan Devil fucked a bale of razor wire and then a surrealist madman tried to create a sculpture of the resulting offspring in obsidian, wrapping sadistic tendrils around the man and dragging him into the mound. Then the melta bomb embedded in the lifelike servitor's chest detonated. A dozen twists and turns back, a pair of enginseers prepared another suicide servitor; they weren't sure how many creatures there were.

The carbonized remains of spore towers rise high above the ground, the stench of promethium and phosphorus still thick in the air. A team of engineers bustle around the base of one, planting explosives, before retreating to a safe distance. With a muffled thump, the spore tower falls to the ground, crumbling, sending up a thick wave of choking black soot. Tens of thousands more remain, thin streams of ash drifting from their peaks in the wind.

Endless rows of holding cells, each containing a person. Bound and restrained in their beds, to prevent them from hurting themselves or the orderlies tending them, fed by IV lines. Lost deep in chaotic madness. Servitors move among the cells, refilling IV bags and changing bedpans. Monitoring machines beep and whir, filling endless reams of printouts with the jagged lines of brainwave and heartrate. Psykers and psychologists consult in low tones, flipping through thick case files. Several stories above, the Interrogator reads the summaries with a careful eye. He has two stamps; {MOVE TO LONG TERM TREATMENT} and {EUTHANASIA RECOMMENDED}. He uses the first hardly at all and the second a great deal. He is very, very tired.

An engineering vehicle beats the dirt with its mine flail, sending up sprays of dust punctuated by the occasional explosion. The engineering battalion had been here before a few months ago, when they laid the minefield down; now the battle was over, the enemy repelled, and they had to remove it. A mine that somehow escaped the flail detonated beneath the track, making the machine lurch; its hatches opened and its crew spilled out, shaken but unharmed, to make their way back to safety. A tank recovery vehicle moved into action, carefully traveling down the cleared track to haul the mine- clearing vehicle back out. The wrecks of two more vehicles left sitting at the edge of the minefield, enginseers fussing over them, show that this isn't the first time this has happened.

After the battle, cleanup. War is a messy thing, especially where most of the Imperium's enemies are concerned.

Orks and tyranids scatter spores wherever they go. Dark Eldar and Croneworlders delight in leaving behind an incredible array of hideous booby- traps. Nurgle's followers leave behind his myriad gifts, those of Tzeentch subtle sorceries. The Imperium itself tends to scatter unexploded ordnance when it goes to war, from land minds to dud artillery shells. Once the fighting has concluded, there is still a great deal of work to be done before the battlefields can be turned back to other purposes. Years, decades, sometimes centuries of work.

There is no unified authority for taking care of these issues. The Imperial Army has the Office of Battlefield Reclamation and its array of specialized engineering regiments. A number of Sororitas orders, both Militant and Hospitaller. The Inquisition deals with the human wreckage, sorting the still clean from the irremediably tainted. A great deal of the burden falls on the afflicted planets themselves.

No matter who does it, in every case it is a long, difficult, expensive, and often thankless task. And an endless one as well; there are always more battlefields in need of cleaning, more wounds on the face of the galaxy to be turned into scars. The work continues.

Plague and the Imperium[edit]

The Long War has a great many fronts. Far from the worlds where cannons crash and thunder, on worlds which have never known the touch of insidious cults, even there the war rages. For the enemy is one as old as life itself, present almost everywhere protein chains dare self-replicate:


The overwhelming majority of diseases are not directly influenced by Grandfather Nurgle's hand; even the creativity of a god can hardly match the sheer breadth and depth of evolution across a hundred million worlds. Still, the fruits of his cauldron are numerous. And just as a mortal follower of chaos may be elevated for monumental deeds, a particularly slaughterous mundane disease may find itself suddenly surging with warp- given power.

Public health is never far from the minds of the Imperium's decision- makers. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the best way to fight Nurgle's plagues is to prevent them from taking hold in the first place. On the worlds of the Mechanicus, medical servitors stalk the corridors, mosquito tendrils lancing out to take blood samples from random passerby for analysis. Quarantine gates divide hives into thousands of segments, ready to slam down in the event that an epidemic is detected, sacrificing the few to save the many. Starships demand everyone boarding to submit to a full exam, to prevent the spread of disease between worlds; stowaways are reviled as potential disease vectors. Thousands of varieties of animal are trained to sniff out ill health, with Biologis breeders splicing in new genes for ever greater sensitivities. Propaganda campaigns exhort citizens to wash their hands frequently, sanitize surfaces, check with a doctor for even slight fever or flu. Face masks and latex gloves are profitable businesses. Most bodies are cremated.

Where prevention fails, treatment steps in. The Biologis, the Orders Hospitaller, and thousands of smaller organizations across the Imperium work to develop cures and vaccines for mundane diseases. For supernatural diseases, the many devotees- both human and eldar- of Isha are frequently fighting even these back. At least in the early stages of infection. Where all else fails, the Imperium does its best to ease the victim's suffering. (Sometimes via a cyanide pill.)

And when things get really bad, there's always the Imperial Guard and their flamers.

At times, these methods are overzealous. Entire hives basically shut down over flu season, perfectly healthy people are quarantined for weeks or months of observation for a case of the sniffles, people get used to invasive random checks. Like the TSA, except the TSA doesn't demand blood or urine samples.

All too often, they are not nearly enough. As the long roll of dead worlds attests.

Hereteks and the nature of "Tech-Heresy"[edit]

Tech-heresy is a complicated thing in the Imperium. The popular image of a heretek, even within the Cult Mechanicus, is of the Dark Mechanicus, but while all Dark Mechanicus are hereteks, not all hereteks are part of the Dark Mechanicus. Technically, a heretek is anyone who does not follow the Credo Omnissiah and rejects the authority of the Cult Mechanicus. Exactly what constitutes a rejection of the dogma of the Mechanicus is up to the Fabricator-General of Mars to decide, and is therefore subject to how reasonable the Fabricator-General decides to be that day. ‘Heretek’ is effectively a political designation, and encompasses everything from tech-priests trying to build Abominable Intelligences to simply tampering with a pre-existing design slightly more than is deemed acceptable.

Thus, there are groups designated 'hereteks' without leaving the Imperium or even being doctrinally heterodox, for reasons of rejecting the political authority of Mars. This happens for a variety of reasons and takes a variety of forms, from simply blithely ignoring any orders emanating from Mars to outright declaring secession. Ferrus Manus even skirted the border of being declared a heretek in his later years when he flexed his political muscles by questioning whether the logic of one Fabricator-General’s decisions was emotionally compromised. Ferrus was always loyal to the office of Fabricator-General, though he wasn’t always to the person who held the office, especially one who was a fraction of his age and operating more on dogma than what was in the Mechanicus’ best interest. However, in this case the Fabricator-General saw reason backed down and “merely” accused him of suffering brain degradation from his advanced age, rather than picking a fight with one of the Mechanicus’ most revered figures (and possibly the second most influential individual in the Mechanicum after themselves). Doing so would be akin to the Catholic Pope of M1 asking a crusader king setting up a kingdom in the Levant what they had done for Christianity recently.

The secession of such ‘hereteks’ from the Mechanicus is often accompanied by a petition to join the Imperium as a subject of the Administratum, which places the organs of the Imperial state in a bind. On the one hand, the Charter of Unification which bound Mars and Earth together at the beginning of the Great Crusade clearly states that Mars has authority over all forge worlds; like the Imperium, the Mechanicus is not something you simply leave. However, there are precedents for worlds switching alignment between one member civilization and another, and prying a forge-world from the grasp of Mars and thus reducing its near-stranglehold on the Imperial economy is always a worthy goal. Such conflicts are always fraught with peril and unpredictability; the red tape generated will tie up bureaucracies for decades, and even minor armed conflict is not unknown.

Generally, hereteks have a better survival rate on the fringes of the Imperium, where the Mechanicus cannot be bothered to find nor care about them. Many such figures end up here, including the members of the Strogg family of Stillness. Technically, the Savlar Order would also be considered hereteks, but that would also imply they care about the dictates of Mars. Others get snapped up by Survivor Civilizations. Survivor Civilizations due to their status have more insulation from the retaliation of the Mechanicus, and can afford to patronize tech-priests, heretek or otherwise, who are out of favor with the ruling powers on Mars. The Hubworld League in particular saw a huge influx in refugees from the Legio Cybernetica after the Fabricator-General deemed their work too close to A.I. for comfort and demanded their constructs be destroyed. To the Legio Cybernetica this would be like asking them to euthanize their loyal and beloved pets, and they decided exile was better than compliance. That said, providing sanctum to hereteks in exchange for their knowledge is not always a safe practice. Not every heretek is excommunicated for simple political reasons or inventing a twin-linked lasgun. Some have been exiled for a very, very good reason.

Some of the more…ambitious and liberal tech-priests (though thankfully none in the highest echelons of the Mechanicus) have gone so far as to advocate declaring the Hubworld League, the Interex, the kinebrach, and eldar bonesingers hereteks. However, since all of these groups are not dependent on Mechanicus technology for survival, all this amounts to is the blustering of a paper tiger. Eldar bonesingers are especially hated by the Mechanicus, who see their beliefs as antithetical to nearly everything they believe in. Even more frustrating is the fact that the Mechanicus can’t even demonstrate how “righteous” their opinions are via intellectual superiority, as they can’t figure out how half of eldar technology works.

It is not just hereteks who end up on the fringes of the Imperium. Many aspiring, Omnissiah-fearing tech-priests who nevertheless tread the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy end up here as well. This is particularly true of those who are senior enough to be entrusted with the knowledge of how things actually work but still feel the need to push the boundaries of orthodoxy. Given the secret at the heart of the Mechanicum and how many tendrils history has revealed the Void Dragon to have throughout Mars, the inner circle of the Mechanicum hopes that keeping the individuals as far away from Holy Mars as physically possible reduces the chance of any creations of their being Void Dragon-inspired Trojan horses. And if their experimenting does get them killed, it’s less likely that anything of value will be lost with them.

The primary difference between “regular” hereteks and the Dark Mechanicus is that while hereteks may disagree with one or more of the decisions of the Fabricator-General, they are for the most part sane and their beliefs mostly overlap with that of Mars. The Dark Mechanicus completely reject anything resembling rules, Mars imposed or otherwise, caring only about pushing the limits of their work. It also goes without saying that most of them are aligned with Chaos in some fashion and are also completely barking mad. A heretek might think the Mechanicum of Mars is too uptight, but they wouldn’t go so far as to use daemon blood as engine lubricant. The Dark Mechanicus would.

Imperial Codenames[edit]

The practice of keeping files under obscuring names, or giving them a reference name, has been common to almost every race of the Imperium since they evolved even the basics of data warfare. Sometimes they are weak, sometimes they are strong, and sometimes... they're just weird.

The Adeptus Arbites has set the standard with a multi-part scheme: Certain classes of information are given a randomized three word subject structure (Metal/Color/Flower is used for files that deal with other Imperial organizations, while Color/Sector/Predator is used for criminal organizations), with a randomized adverb-noun combination. For additional security, the adverb-noun parts are passed around between unrelated files with a Two-digit+Letter ID attached.

The Imperial Guard and Navy prefer a more direct Adverb-Noun structure for operation names, and otherwise use the Arbites method, removing the information classes part, but assigning particular words in the first position to different subjects (Which lead to the 4th defense of Armageddon being designated as COBALT COBALT COBALT (Cobalt Cobalt 27Co) Operation BLUE METAL).

The Inquisition is a mixed bag, with each Inquisitor providing his own codenames. Many use the Arbites method in its entirety, while others go esoteric. One used very direct names, on the premise that nobody expected it. Another named their files entirely in insults (She applied "Operation Fuck the Fucking Fuckers" many times, and yet remained a virgin for almost her entire career), and yet another named every file after pornstars (This lead to great consternation when the JUBILEE BREEDER file was presented as evidence against a cult).

The Dark Carnival[edit]

Almost certainly not it's name in the High Speech of the Eldar people. It is an everlasting party that dates back as far as Imperial records can show and if the rumors of the Eldar are to be believed may have started in the old Eldar empire.

In the old days it traveled from world to world via the Webway and was the single greatest gathering of The Great Harlequin's followers in the galaxy. Now it travels across Imperial worlds and the Craftworlds lending weight to the Biel-Tan opinion that it is an Eldar Imperium and just coincidentally has a lot of humans living in it.

The Carnival is seen as a mixed blessing by most worlds. On the one hand it brings an upturn in business and tourism but on the other hand it brings with a lot of ninja clowns and hangers on.

Where does the drink and the music come from? Nobody but the clowns know and they claim that it is provided by their god.

The Carnival only ever visited Old Earth once in early M33. In that event, the Adeptus Arbites decided to retroactively issue every xeno involved with a temporary permit. It was either that or try and arrest them for trespassing as Old Earth is considered human holy ground.

Only once has an outright attack on the Carnival been committed and recorded and that was under the orders of Goge Vandire after he went off the deep end. Casualties were great and disturbingly one sided.

The Dark Carnival also traveled to Krieg once. Once. In defense of Krieg the Dark Carnival was only given a warning barrage, barely any casualties at all.

The Carnival goes where it wants, when it wants and respects no authority but their strange god. It is not outright malicious but should be considered dangerous if approached without caution. This does not stop revelry seekers, human and xeno alike, joining in the festivities. Harlequins join and leave the party as they see fit but the Carnival endures.

The Etymological Legacy of the Old Ones[edit]

As might be expected of beings of their stature, the Old Ones had a powerful effect on the languages of many species. Although most of the galaxy knew them as the Old Ones, the Old Ones typically referred to themselves as the Slaan or Slann. As a result, many of the uplifted races of the Old Ones began using the terms “Slaa-” or “Shaa-” into their own languages, typically meaning “mighty” or “god-like” (especially in the superlative sense). For example, the Hrud called the Old Ones “Slaa-Hai”, which roughly translated to “most mighty”, a term they eventually extended not only to the Old Ones but to any sufficiently powerful entity worthy of respect such as the Eldar gods and their own god Qah.

The extends to the Eldar as well. The Eldar referred to their homeworld as Shaa-Dome, something they only started doing after the Old Ones uplifted them and the previously Bronze Age society realized there was more than one planet in the universe. “Dome” in ancient Eldar (High Tongue having not been invented yet) meant many things, including “door”, “home”, “threshold of a house”, or “hearth”, depending on context. Shaa-Dome, in effect, means “hearth of/doorway to the gods”, referring to the fact that the Eldar saw their homeworld as intrinsically tied to their gods, a sort of Eldar Mount Olympus. This belief extended well into the waning days of the Old Eldar Empire, where Shaa-Dome was essentially a central junction and plaza that housed all the administrative and executive functions (as well as the most important temples of the gods) of the multi-planetary city that the Eldar called an empire.

A final example of the effect of the Old Ones on Eldar terminology is in the name of one of the Ruinous Powers, She Who Thirsts, Slaanesh. –esh is a common suffix in Eldar names, as seen in the Eldar folk heroes Eldanesh and Uthanesh, and essentially means “person”. “Slaanesh”, therefore, literally translates to “mightiest person” or “godliest person” in High Tongue. It is not clear whether Slaanesh’s name was chosen long before it’s birth or whether the entity adopted the name upon its creation. Either way, adopting a title that means “mightiest/godliest being” is entirely appropriate for such a narcissistic entity as She Who Thirsts.

The Iron Storm[edit]

Eldar are typically regarded as snooty, straight-laced, and prim sorts. The archetypal interaction between eldar and human (At least in the minds of humans that have never met Eldar) is the idea of the naive if psychically potent craftworlder meeting the rough and tumble world wise human. Hijinks ensue, misunderstandings are overcome, and the human learns to appreciate the finer things, and the eldar learns to relax and stop being so stuck up.

Any particularly enamored of this popular myth are due for a terrible shock if they ever meet the Eldar of Saim-Hann. Wild, aggressive, and barely civilized, the only commonality with the popular conception of eldar is arrogance, but it is not the quiet kind of arrogance that looks down its nose at you for choosing the wrong fork at a dinner table. It's the arrogance typical of the elite that have earned their position by risking death and coming away (Mostly) unscathed. Saim-Hann seem to have a contempt for death that unsettles their peers among the craftworld eldar. Every generation since the rescue of Isha burns with jealousy at their honored forebears that had the chance to raid Nurgle's Garden, and wish for a chance to prove their worth with glorious deeds.

Saim-Hann eldar don't particularly respect humans- then again, they don't particularly respect anyone. In a way that is almost egalitarian, they do their best to insult everyone- if you can withstand the constant barrage of verbal abuse, you will find that they are, mostly, well meaning if the situation calls for it. Getting mocked mercilessly as you bleed out by the Saim-Hann warrior attempting to rescue you is an experience that few forget. And they don't spare their own kind. A Saim-Hann warrior that wrecks his jetbike from a dangerous turn can look forward to years, perhaps decades of torment from his fellows.

Perhaps this, more than the sense of adventure, explains why there are so many Saim-Hann that forsake their craftworld to join the ranks of the Path of the Outcast or the Disciples of Kurnous.

But, for those respected by the Saim-Hann, there are few better friends. Though most famously expressed by their aggressive kinship with Leman Russ's get, there are many such examples of Saim-Hann friendships forged in the heat of battle or competition. That is one of the few begrudging virtues craftworld eldar can grant the Saim-Hann, they are not sore losers. As long as the competition is fair (Or rarely, if the cheating was particularly novel or brazen) Saim-Hann shall celebrate winners.

Which explains their love of racing. Though other craftworlds lost their traditions of racing from the Fall of the Eldar in light of the scourge of Slaanesh, Saim-Hann in their typical contempt of death embraced it and kept the traditions alive. From foot races through the deserted and dangerous lost webway cities to roaring races on jetbikes across the whole of the craftworld with no concessions for traffic, even to their own star vessels between battles seeking to round a system on a single solar wind, the Saim-Hann have made an art of the race. The only thing better for Saim-Hann warriors than victory in the race is victory in battle, and they are short of neither.

And yet, there is one competition that young Saim-Hann might dream of more than battle. The infrequent Saim-Hann tradition of "the Iron Storm." An inadequate and literal translation from the Eldar language into primitive Gothic. The Administratum, forced to keep track of it to properly record the damages and fatalities, have classified it under the relatively benign name of "The Saim-Hann Transgalactic Webway Race." Survivors call it "the Suicide Ride". Saim-Hann call it a good time.

The details are sketchy- the last time an "Iron Storm" race was invoked was three hundred years ago, and each race is far from uniform, however there is a rough idea of how it is supposed to go. Rumor has it, when the auspices are right and a hero must be chosen (Or, the more cynical theorize, when Saim-Hann scrapes together enough bribes to make the famously fickle and jaded followers of the Laughing God cooperate) the Harlequins shall send invitations to the most worthy and most daring to engage in a race. All participants must provide their own vehicle, but the definition of "Vehicle" is open for the individual participant's determination. At one point, history recorded, a particularly flamboyant eldar corsair brought a voidstalker battleship to the race- he fared poorly at the terrestrial checkpoints, but he got points for style. More than that though, this race is open to everyone. This includes other craftworlds, humans, space marines, tau, ork speed freeks, dark eldar kabalites, even rarely those tainted by chaos, and at one point there was confusion if the genestealer cult that had taken over an Imperial light cruiser that drifted into the starting line counted as a participant but the situation resolved itself tidily with them self destructing.

Saim Hann runs the race with the assistance of the Harlequins, having it start at their personal webway portal "The Serpent's Mouth." Tragedy once marred their competition as an attack from Crone World eldar once took advantage of their relaxed state at the start of the race and caused horrid damage. Saim-Hann did not stop their practice, but now they arrange a formidable security net before gathering. Any that try to take advantage of the festivities to attack the Saim-Hann earn themselves a terrible enemy for the rest of their short lives.

A season long celebration opens the festivities as racers of appropriate caliber are gathered. Unlike other races held by Saim-Hann where invitations are hard to gain, this race is quite open. Half of the participants are chosen by Saim-Hann, and the other half are chosen by the Harlequins who make the entire thing possible. The only qualification is that the racers are skilled. This can lead to quite a collection of species. Orkish Speed Freeks, Dark Eldar Kabalites, Kroot maniacs, Demiurge engineers, increasingly uncomfortable humans, and rumor has it other, darker sorts can be found in the collection. For the time being, the racers find themselves in the middle of a celebration solely for their sake, rubbing shoulders and avoiding sabotage.

As this occurs, troupes of harlequins roam the webway placing observers and checkpoints inside the webway and outside. They pray to Cegorach, invoke the Cosmic Serpent, and on occasion duck bullets as inevitably the guidance of the gods lead them to set the route through some of the most dangerous places in the galaxy. Warzones, the event horizons of black holes, through a tyranid swarm fleet, scraping along the Eye of Terror. It is designed to be a remarkably lethal affair. Oftentimes through the history of Saim-Hann, there are no winners, as every competitor has lost their life.

For some, the race is a chance at prestige, the ultimate test to have one's name in a select list of immortal names that shall ring through history. However, most that accept the invitation do so with the promise of the prize- almost always unique, and priceless beyond mortal comprehension. The previous race was rumored to have as a prize a day within the famed and mysterious Black Library of the Eldar, claimed by Ahriman of the Thousand Sons- though he has not yet reemerged into the public eye, people are confident he's still alive. A day is a matter of debate when it comes to the webway and warp.

The Starchild Prophecies[edit]

The "Starchild" prophesies of the Eldar and humans are a nebulous collection of texts transcribed from numerous sources, many not from origins considered conventionally sane.

Although they are all categorized under the title of Starchild the majority do not make mention of that theoretical entity by name although it is the most numerous outcome. Whether this is due to actual revelations or cultural osmosis imprinting a foreign concept into something the mind is familiar with is impossible to prove. Especially as most such prophesies are collected from scribbled scraps inherited postmortem. Indeed most of such would be considered "visionary static" were it not for some level of consistency across light years, cultural boundaries, time and even species.

The predictions are united in their belief that Isha will in time become with child with the child of the Emperor. The details and circumstances of conception vary wildly. Some make no mention, some claim it is part of some Isharite ritual, some say under auspicious omens and stellar alignments and some say that Him on Earth will die and this will be his final free act. Again, circumstances of death range wildly.

The child shall be born and there again the prophesies diverge. Some say it shall be some sort of Eldar death god/protector god of the dead but usually not actually malevolent, some say the child will be Eldanesh reborn, some say that it shall be the Perfect Child that shall succeed the Emperor be that had died before the birth or transferred his immortality and so died a single lifetime after. Some say that the child shall be the first of four that will ascend to the warp and throw the Dark Gods from their cruel thrones to take their place as better deities, Isha's final revenge for her captivity. Some say that the child will be stillborn and that with it all hope will die.

All that is known is that no prophet sane or mad has received the vision more than once and no two vision are completely identical.

The possibility that it is all a ruse by the King of Lies for unknowable ends is not to be ruled out.

All such possible visions are to be transcribed and an unadulterated copy sent to the nearest Adeptus Arbites collection point.

In nomine Domini.

The Trial of Idrathal[edit]

The events that led to what would be considered M33’s “Trial of the Millennium” began with what should have been an absolutely normal military operation on the planet of Thanoa. The planet was rebelling under the influence of the Dark Gods, though the Governor of that planet had been so disgruntled that it had only taken the merest of whispers from the Chaos to convince the planet to rebel. As a result, the fighting on Thanoa was less daemons and cultists and more booby traps and asymmetric warfare. The planet had an extensive series of bunkers and tunnels just underneath its surface, and as the Imperium fought to control the planet it was necessary for the Imperial Guard to clear out these networks to flush out the rebels.

In order to in clear the tunnels on Thanoa, the guard regiments stationed on the planet were divided into smaller groups in order to sweep the underground network of rebels and booby traps. One of these squads was composed of ten human Imperial Guardsmen and one Eldar auxillary named Idrathal. After clearing a chamber filled when actual members of the Lost and the Damned as opposed to merely rebels, Idrathal went to watch the entryway as his human comrades secured the room when he heard a tiny click. Idrathal had heard that sound far too often over the last few days to be able to recognize exactly what it was: the arming of an improvised bomb. Looking up, Idrathal saw he had activated a motion sensor tied to a cobbled-together anti-personnel mine. Time seemed to freeze in that moment. Idrathal was fast, but there was no way he could throw himself out of the way of the bomb in the close confines of the narrow passage, much less warn the others of the danger at the same time. Idrathal was just able to turn to his comrades and yell out “bomb” before everything went ploin-shaped.

However, at that moment, an Eldar Warlock appeared, grabbing Idrathal and dragging the two of them into the nearby hallway. All ten of Idrathal’s squadmates died in the blast. Idrathal was furious, and demanded to know why the Warlock had done what he did. The Warlock replied that he had some talent in seeing the future, and he had seen that Idrathal was about to die and did what needed to be done. It was not like Idrathal should be concerned, the only ones who died were mon-keigh. This did not assuage Idrathal, who said that it had been his choice to die in that moment, and the Warlock had no right to interfere the way he did.

That should have been the end of it. The battle for Thanoa had been so chaotic that no one would have noticed the death of ten humans to a booby trap. But Idrathal insisted on making a point, and there was just enough evidence of foul play that the Imperium could not sweep this incident under the rug. By his own request, Idrathal was arrested and to be tried by a military tribunal, for the purported murder of his ten squadmates. The jury would consist of twelve individuals, six human military officers and six Eldar autarchs. It was acknowledged that with an even number of jurors it was possible the trial would end in a deadlock, but it was the only way to ensure a fair outcome by the standards of both humans and Eldar.

The trial caused a ruckus in many aspects of human society. To human supremacists, particularly those who did not know that an Eldar had brought charges against himself, this was just further proof that the Eldar were only out to save their own skin, no matter how many bodies of their allies they had to step over to do so. For the Eldar, the implications of this trial were more grave. For many years, there had been a general sentiment among many sections of the Eldar populace that humans were considered expendable. “Better that a hundred mon-keigh die to save one Eldar” had been a common saying behind closed doors in many craftworlds. However, this aspect of Eldar society was something that had generally not been made public knowledge to the non-Eldar parts of the Imperium. Acting like a superior species was one thing, but actually going to far as to be willing to sacrifice your allies to save yourself was something that would threaten to tear the alliance apart. Even the Steward and Isha were asked for comment, though both said that they were not going to say something that would prevent justice from taking its course.

At the trial, several things rapidly became clear. Idrathal had been much closer to the deceased guardsmen than anyone had realized. He had not just been assigned to the same regiment as them, he had trained with them and knew them personally, to the point that the eleven of them had volunteered to form a squad when the division was split up to clear the tunnels. Additionally, although some had dismissed (or denied) the idea that a Warlock had been present, evidence indicated that the Warlock had actually been there. Although Idrathal had been offered a human lawyer or a representative of the Path of the Judge, he declined. A human lawyer would make it seem like the trial had been motivated by human interests, and an Enforcer would merely work to make sure Idrathal got off scot-free. As a result, Idrathal represented himself at the trial, though with a few legal advisors. Not having walked the Path of the Judge, Idrathal was prone to making legal blunders and over-representing himself, but had enough simple charisma (at least, by Eldar standards) to resonate with the jurors and the general public.

However, Idrathal was also canny enough to know the political implications of the trial, and use them to his advantage. This was best represented in the question he posed near the end of the trial, the one that would end being the most historic statement of the entire affair. Something that, although not directly referring to the topic of Eldar supremacy, struck deep at the heart of the issue.

“If an Eldar was willing to sacrifice their life in the knowledge that it would save a thousand other Eldar, would that be morally acceptable?”

Here was the same question that had plagued the Eldar all throughout the trial, but worded in a way that the Eldar could not simply dismiss with claims of being a superior species. Idrathal said that he worked with the humans he called comrades not only out of personal connection but because it was to the benefit of all Eldar to do so. Idrathal knew that those ten could accomplish more on the battlefield than he himself could, and that if he had to make the same choice he would have done it again, because it was for the good of the Eldar. If a choice had to be made between the two, it would have been more beneficial to the Eldar for his human comrades to survive, rather than himself.

The tribunal ultimately voted to convict Idrathal with a vote of 8-4, with one human and three autarchs voting no. Apparently something in that speech about an Eldar being willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of their race as a whole had resonated with three of the old autarchs. Idrathal was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment and to pay restitution to the families of those who had been unjustly killed by the actions on the battle, something Idrathal had personally been planning to do regardless of the outcome of the trial. It was little more than a slap on the wrist, but Idrathal felt that at least some sense of justice had been done.

After serving his somewhat self-imposed penance Idrathal joined the Path of the Warrior, eventually becoming an Exarch. However, he never attained much in the way of respect or military ranking, the specter of the trial constantly hanging over him his entire life. Many of the more anti-human Eldar saw him as a blood traitor for being willing to sacrifice his life for the lives of humans. Late in life Idrathal became a liaison between the Eldar military and the human parts of the Imperial Guard, his reputation actually working in his favor for once. In the mashed-up mess of customs and superstition one could almost call a religion in the Imperial Guard, Idrathal is seen as a figure of veneration. He is seen as a figure of military justice, representing the inescapable hand of retribution for those who died unjust deaths on the battlefield, no matter how long it takes.

As to the warlock who originally precipitated the whole turn of events, and for whom many would say was actually the guilty party in this endeavor, very little is known. The warlock mysteriously disappeared from the public eye shortly after the fiasco had occurred but before charges could actually be leveled at him, and never actually appeared at the tribunal. Some say that he went to join Craftworld Dorhai, where his views would be more readily accepted. Others claim that he was spirited away by some galactic Eldar conspiracy, and became one of the most powerful farseers in the Imperium. The truth, however, is perhaps far more anticlimactic. The warlock lived a full, if reclusive, life and died on the Path of the Seer, though he notably kept his head down to avoid getting on the greater Imperium’s general radar.


Isha Priestesses[edit]

The Discipleship of Isha is the most unifying force among the Craftworlds and Exodites as each of them, bar Dorhai and other warmongering malcontents, are under their nurturing influence. This is not to say that the Priestesses are themselves a unified force, indeed no they are not, but that they work to inspire some minimal unity in others. Temples are present on every craftworld and exodite colony and even in most of the larger eldar enclaves on predominantly other-xeno worlds (this includes predominantly human worlds).

The gutter media of the Imperium insists on depicting these temples as places of carnal excess and licentiousness. There’s an entire movie genre based on it on some worlds, full of light hearted innuendos and harmless if slightly titillating shenanigans. They depict the Isha Temples as places of light-hearted revelry and some degree of irreverent fun. This is usually quite far from the truth. Typically they never include the dying.

The Temples of Isha All-Mother are, among other things, the hospitals of the craftworld. Eldar usually right themselves and heal on their own if given enough time and somewhere safe and quiet but for those time the pain is too much and the wound too deep there is always the Disciple of the All-Mother. Missing limbs, sucking chest wounds, infection and a hundred other afflictions and maladies beyond number are brought to the temples, to the soft light and smell of leaves and gentle hands. For some, too many though if truth be told any number equalling or greater than one is too many, nothing can be done beyond comfort of the dying. Hold them close and sing songs of soothing summers past and yet to come as their souls join the infinity circuit where there the pain can’t follow them.

The All-Mother’s blessings to her priesthood are potent, there is much they can heal. But only to her children. Many believe that with the birth of the Impossible Child the strict divide between man and eldar will fade away, that the strange magics of healing will work on humans as they mingle with the eldar. Maybe they will, who can say?

The fertility aspect of the Disciples is not as exciting as bawdy tales make it out to be with maybe the exception of the Saim-Hann branches of the following. On Exodite worlds the locals are more interested in the effects the Disciples have on the land itself than what it has on themselves. The rituals of procreation are typically preceded by at least one and often more local day/s of fasting, prayer and meditation. Real fasting. If the rituals take days you had better have had a nourishing meal beforehand because this is not going to be pleasant for you and maybe that’s the point. It is not unknown for inexperienced eldar to pass out from hunger, they have to start again.

Following the fasting is a meal of fruit and leaf-vegetables. Each item of food has some symbolic value, some mention in some scripture. Over the ritual meal scripture is recited. Scripture of the old days in innocent times when all was new and vibrant and the gods walked among their progeny and found them full of joy and the cause of joy.

Then is the typically extremely unpleasant cleansing and bathing. The skin of the entire body is covered in ashes and cinders, then you must walk through fire, then you are washed in a mixture of saltwater and herbs administered by an abrasive brush.

Finally the eldar supplicant is permitted to engage in sexual activities with a member of the temple for the purpose of procreation. They are not typically permitted to choose who with.

The exact details of the proceeding vary between temples as there isn’t a very strict hierarchy. In theory each priestess is an authority unto themselves with only Macha-Isha, the High Priestess and Avatar of the All-Mother, above them. Priestesses typically congregate with likeminded member of their vocation for practical concerns and as needed the most senior takes control though nothing is written down anywhere sating that they have a right to beyond wisdom from years.

Typically each priestess has acolytes that she will train up in her own image to share her philosophies and interpretation of the scriptures. The training is demanding as each must know in great detail and surety the working of the eldar form and how to repair it from all that could ail it. There are no priests or male acolytes, there are adherents who are valued assistants in the arts of healing but they are not ordained in any way. The security of the temples is typically given over to the aspect warriors of Khaine and by his own offer as the nearest he could manage to an apology for killing Isha’s children uncountable years past.

The only exception to this is Saim-Hann whose priestesses offer themselves in reward to those of greatest in accomplishment and whose rituals are few and lax. The temples of more respectable craftworlds look down on them but Macha-Isha has inspected them and approved of their practices.

Exodite priestesses, by contrast, are less preoccupied with birthrates. The Exodites live in harder and more resource-poor environments than the Craftworlds and don't age very much. Ever new mouth to feed is not a successor as is with humans but is competition in times of poor harvest.

Due to the low birth rate and long life span they would be the ones conducting the marriages on those very rare occasions, under the wraith-tree/s for preference or by the standing stones if too remote. The exact nature of the ceremony varies from priestess to priestess because they don't have any sort of standardization.

Exodite Priestesses don't typically own more than they can carry. Often this is a back-pack of herbs and long lasting emergency food, bandages, needle and thread and maybe some clean under garments. They often have a sturdy stick to lean on. The stick is often adorned with paint or tokens but other than leaning on holds no great significance. Typically the priestesses stay with the locals and are looked after by the. It is considered a great honour to have one stay in your home.

When two Exodite priestesses meet they exchange traditional pleasantries and tell each other where they intend to travel so that they can avoid one another. They are not gregarious, at least not with their own kind. Typically you never see more than two in any given place unless it's a special occasion, a Priestess and an Acolyte. They might meet up for solstice and equinox celebrations, they might not. People dedicated to Isha tend to live closer to the upper end of the eldar natural life expectancy, her chosen are no exception to this and many of them are very, very old and knowledgeable. They tend not to mix well with their Craftworlder equivalents seeing them as soft and foolish women.

Religio Mortis[edit]

The religion is believed to have either one God that comes in the form of three figures or three gods acting the same. The first and oldest of three is Hal, which is the mistranslated of the word Hell, and that is an older mistranslation of the name Hel. In the form of Hal, the god is a female Human who wears a pitch black hood with matching cloke that light can't escape. It is she who reaps the dead to be tortured for eternity or lay them to rest in peace. How accurate and based off of Aza'gorod is Hal is anybody's guess, although the death cultist does worship and welcome death. Another form is Apepoatl the Dark Serpent with shadowy feathers who devour those that refused to transition to death from limbo. The name is thought to be from somewhere near Merika and Nord Afrika probably mistranslated. Said to follow the shadow of the sun, it brings with it war and chaos for those near the unwilling to die. The very nature of Apepoatl has made some to outlaw its worship as the Dark Serpent also required blood sacrifice from a heart to be summoned. Last and not least is the fiery red Germberus the Guard Hound who protect the dead from being disturbed as it is the first and last barrier between the living and the dead. Some also say Germberus also has multiple heads but that changes from planet to planet. It is thought Germberus to have the origins of Astral Hounds and myths of Ancient Terra. Almost all Space Marines and Eldar don't ever worship Germberus as the core tenet for this god is to never revive the dead in anyway.

As the religion itself has its foundations on Terra, it has becomes increasingly decentralized as it follows the expedition fleets of the Great Crusade. At M40, there are multiple different interpretations and variations on the depiction of the gods but there are common features most agree on. The most infamous Death Cultist is believed to be Mortarion but the question of him actually believing in death gods or worshiping them is entirely up in the air. These death cults do tend to collect the suicidal, insane, and serene zealots of the Imperium. The cultist themselves wish to die, spread death in the most efficient way possible, comes to term with death to find peace, or a combination. Unsurprisingly, the Assassin Temples also prefer to recruit from the death cults as these cultist have proven time and time again that they are willing go to any lengths to kill a target. Some worlds have also associated Religio Mortem with Chaos, specifically to Mala, Nurgle, and Khorne. It is not unusual for the Death Cults to be driven underground when some places outlawed them. Even the more criminal elements in a Death Cult will work as assassins for hire. The most famous use of Death Cultists is during the failed assassination attempt of the Traveling Court. This was when Inquisitor Fyodor, seeing how using death cultists worked so well for the Imperium when they turned the Assassins of the Salt Wastes into the Officio Assassinorum, convinced an isolated sect of Death Cultists to work for him when trying to kill the Imperial Family. The Imperial Army has also frown upon death cults within its ranks as it has the stigma that it turns soldiers' will weak and turns them into suicidal cannon fodder instead of effective warriors. That is not entirely true as even when these death cultist are suicidal, they will try to kill as many enemies as possible while dying.

Miscellaneous Idioms and Cultural Concepts[edit]

"Found It On Cthonia" - As a ringworld, Cthonia is a huge place. Despite the Imperium's best efforts not even a fraction of the superstructure has been explored. Cthonia is so vast that there are conspiracy theories that Fulgrim set up a secret pleasure dome somewhere on its surface or the Alpha Legion whisked the remnants of the Geno Five-Two Chilliad to a secret breeding colony on Cthonia to fix their genetic degredation, and given its sheer size they could very well be there and no one would notice. Saying one "found something on Cthonia" is a flippant non-explanation for where someone got something.
River Lotus - River lotuses are an important symbol of life and fertility to the Tau. The planet T'au is a much drier planet than Earth, and as such the most fertile, life-giving places tend to be around the rivers. Therefore, to the ancient Tau, if you see a river lotus (which grows in rivers much like Earth lotuses), you know you have found life. The cultural meaning of the river lotus has persisted throughout Tau history, even after they no longer were dependent on the watercourses for survival and spread to the stars.
"When Ahriman Brings Back Prospero" - A common phrase used in the Imperium following Ahriman's botched ritual to protect Prospero during the Fourth Black Crusade and Ahriman's subsequent vow to restore it or die trying. Originally used as a promise of hope, as the years ticked by and it became clear Ahriman was no closer to bringing back Prospero the phrase is now used in the same vein as "when pigs fly".
To "Curze" Something - Slang term for completely throwing a project out the window and starting from scratch. Named for Primarch Konrad Curze's method of changing society by ripping the metaphorical and literal head off and sewing a new one on in its place]]