Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section03

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Section 03: The 'Petty Imperia'[edit]

With the collapse of the Astronomicon and the fall of Terra, the Imperium, as previously noted, was shattered utterly. From M43 onwards, even the concept of a united human Empire became nearly impossible, as local powers and selfish megalomaniacs took their moments to strike. No longer was there an Imperium. That monolithic concept had died in the fires of anarchy. From now on, there were merely hundreds of petty Imperia and kingdoms. Some were the size of sectors, others merely consisting of a single world or system. Some of these Imperia claimed authority from Terra, and tried to unify, others abandoned the Imperium, declaring themselves avatars for Him, or even trying to supplant Him entirely. Some maintained the xenophobic stance of the old Imperium, while others grew lax or simply ignored the teachings of the church. Some, such as Ophelia, took their fervour too far. 

We must also remember that many, many Imperial worlds simply collapsed, as warp storms cut them off from essential supplies. This was particularly a problem for many hive worlds, who simply starved to death within a couple of years, as their agri worlds severed links with them, through warp storms, or through mad warlords stealing the supplies before they got there.

It would take years to explain every Imperium created at this time, and every situation that they entailed. However, I shall endeavour to depict the largest and most influential petty Imperia created (along with monickers created to differentiate between them. In reality, each of the petty Imperia merely called themselves 'The Imperium', as they refused to admit the legitimacy of their rivals).

1) The 'Rogue Trader' Imperium[edit]

The most eastern of the petty Imperia, the Imperium of Gerhed Lussor is possibly the most changed of the Imperia. During the first few decades of utter chaos following the Astronomicon's collapse, the extremely successful Rogue Trader, Lussor, was forced to break warp in the System of Corrin, along with his large, well stocked (and well armed) 'trading fleet'. Lussor was a shrewd and learned man, and the death of all his astropaths told him that the Imperium was no more. He wasted no time with incredulity or shock, but instead set to work. 

He knew that, in order to protect his assets in the wake of the collapse, he needed to form a base of operations, and to acquire territory and property. Corrin would have to do. He made planet fall on Corrin II, a populous hive world and the capital of the system, and discussed various 'protection' deals for the planet, entering negotiations with the Lord Governor's staff and government. His scribes and law-scholars, using complex litigation and jargon, managed to swindle Lussor into the governmental process, insinuating him into the essential position of Defense and culture chamberlain. Over the years, this role branched into other areas, like weapons manufacture and internal security, though he wisely kept the Adeptus Arbites on as enforcers, though now their role expanded to overall system security, rather than just enforcing of Imperial Law. Using his acquired wealth, and his vast resources, he bought the southern Hive spire for himself, and built himself a lavish apartment complex, with extensive grounds.

His ambitions went further, however. When the elections for the next governor came around, two decades later, Lussor was there, patronising a promising candidate for the role. The eventual governor picked was his man, and this gave him unprecedented power on the system. He integrated his fleet with the large fleets of monitors and system defence ships, before using them to secure other worlds in the system (such as the prison moon, orbiting Corrin V). Crucially, Lussor recognised the need for an effective fighting force, beyond the PDF, in order for him to secure territories beyond the Corrin system. Corrin was a roughly average system, except for the fact that, upon Corrin II, a vast Adeptus Mechanicus storage facility was located upon the western continent. Using the corrupted local law, he used his powers to order the storage yards searched. What he found there would alter the course of the 'Rogue Trader' Imperium's history notably. Thousands upon thousands of Corvus pattern suits of space marine power armour. He threatened to have the remaining Tech Priests upon the world destroyed, unless they adapted these suits for human soldiery. They, realising they were cut off from the rest of their brethren, accepted these terms. Pragmatically, Lussor realised he couldn't make perfect human-sized power armour from the suits, so had them combined with elements of carapace armour, in order to mass produce them better. 

However, he still needed bodies to fill. He did not want to deplete the PDF or their reserves, and refused to relinquish his own personal army for this task. Thus, he turned to the dregs of Corrin: the under-hivers of the hive worlds, and the convicts imprisoned upon Corrin V's cold moon. He persuaded many thousands to volunteer, offering pardons, free food, and the prospect of drugs and violence to these hard-bitten killers, in exchange for service. These brutes were trained by the very best soldiers on Corrin, and even the one Astartes upon Lussor's staff, Sergeant Procur of the White Scars. Their were equipped with the cheapest, oldest bolters Lussor could scrounge up (as they were the only one available). Even then, there weren't really enough, so many of the armoured shock troops had to make do with heavy calibre auto guns instead. Worried about loyalty, Lussor devised a cunning strategy. He gave the soldiers lots of combat-enhancing drugs and stimulants. This made them rather strong and fast, and had the added benefit of being rather addictive. These shock troops became dependent upon these drugs, and ensured their constant loyalty. Lussor, ever the rogue, presumptuously called them 'Space Marines'.

Within a few hundred years, the Corrin system Imperium faced a major problem. The reserves of food were running dangerously low, after so many years cut off from any trade with the local agri world. Fortunately, the warp storms had somewhat cleared by this point, and Lussor took this opportunity with both hands. He ordered his fleets to the agri world as swiftly as they could. Led by Locur, he also dispatched his 'space marines' as well. Using a series of short warp jumps, the fleet only took a couple of months to reach the agri world (which normally only took a week to travel too before the collapse of the Emperor's guiding light.)

Eventually, they made it to the agri world. Initially the world refused to submit to the 'Imperium', and so Locur led the space marines into battle. The sacking of the world took only a couple of weeks. The borderline psychotic and lethally efficient 'space marines' utterly bested the sparse and inexperienced PDF defenders. The planet was subdued, and trade resumed with Corrin within the year. This was to be the first action amongst many that the 'space marines' of Corrin would undertake. Over the next few decades, the petty Imperium swelled to over twenty five worlds. With this, the size of the Space Marine force expanded too, along with the auxiliary, non-power armoured Army that soon sprang up in their wake, which was used to garrison captured worlds. This empire under Lussor was a profoundly poor one, but was nevertheless ingenious. Any scraps of technology, no matter how bizarre and incomplete, were used by Lussor's captured Adepts, and made into things that could almost be called useful. Remote controlled bombs, converted land speeder chassis, poor-quality programmable robots, and various other bizarre pieces of technology. Everything found a use. He was also open in his recruitment, allowing mutants and scum into his 'Imperial Army', each with their own regiments.

Thus, a rogue became a ruler, and rebuilt his own little Imperium into something resembling civilisation.

Here's the rest of this background (pulled from my old computer, so it hasn't been proofread or anything. Apologies for any grammatical errors).

2) The 'Ophelian' Imperium[edit]

In those dark, chaotic early days of the cataclysm, when the Emperor finally died, it seemed as though the centre of the Imperial Church was ripped out forever, and stamped into the dust. However, the Ecclesiarch managed to flee Terra, even as the daemons began to pour from the Imperial Palace like a vile fanged tide.

Though the majority of his fleet were either destroyed in the escape, or were dragged into insanity during the insanely turbulent warp transit, the head of the Ministorum survived, and descended upon Ophelia, the second most holy site in the whole Imperium.

War and anarchy tore across the Imperium, and he quickly realised the Imperium needed a rallying point. Thus, the Ecclesiarch, Pius Guia, gathered together all the astropaths that had not been consumed by the sudden loss of their anchor point in the warp, and ordered them to send out a message.

This message was a summons to the Adepta Sororitas, ordering all of them, no matter where they were, to return to their spiritual centre. Over the next decade, the Orders made their way back to Ophelia, fighting through the consuming madness and chaos, to get back to their home. Over half of the Sisters of Battle, the militant orders, had died in the terrible wars against the new devourer, and less than half of these survivors, made it back to Ophelia. Most either died in transit, got stranded on isolated worlds, or were otherwise slain by the ravenous monsters that crawled from the depths of madness, the fall of the Imperium emboldening these terrors enough to act.

Yet, still, the Sisters came, and Ophelia was secured. Xenos and demonic forces were driven from the surrounding worlds within short-transit to Ophelia, and an Imperium of roughly thirty worlds was brought under the direct rule of the Ministorum-in-exile. Pius soon declared that his Imperium was the one true Imperium, and only his Imperium truly followed the dictates of the Emperor. He refused to acknowledge the Emperor's death, and merely reformed his Imperium's laws, making them fulfill the rules of the Church much more closely. His Imperium became a theocracy far more strict and powerful, than any Imperium before it. Broken Naval fleets who survived their warp transits, flocked to this new Imperium, and with them came a reasonable amount of Imperial Guardsmen, who were quick to convert to the Ophelian Imperium's new, more pious doctrines.

Pathetically grateful to their saviours, the humans upon these worlds swiftly re-converted to the Imperial church. Fanatics clogged the streets of every world, flagellants, doomsayers, ad receptionists filling the air with the fevered sounds of desperate prayers to their dead-god.

Ophelia itself, the vast world-spanning Cathedral, was filled with gibbering and despairing pilgrims and desperate civilians. They all demanded to understand why their god had forsaken them. How could the Emperor lose? Was not humanity the dominant force in the universe? Many Ascensionist cults arose on the Ophelian worlds. They held the view that the Emperor had not died, but had instead ascended to full godhood. The fall of the Imperium was His divine judgement upon Man.

Pius Guia, who had been steadily growing more and more unhinged, latched upon this idea. Canoness Superior Kiralicus, one of the Ecclesiarch's new ruling body, the council of three, recommended caution. Unfortunately, the final member of the council of three was Inquisitor Lord Karamazov, the infamous Pyrophant of Salem Proctor. He agreed with the Ascensionists and the Ecclesiarch, and so the new reforms were passed.

The Emperor, hence, had ascended, and He was punishing the decadent Imperium. This was the official view now. The only way to save their souls now, Karamazov declared, was sacrifice, and the punishment of the obvious heretics within their society. Mankind was lax and monstrous, and he had the cure: fire.

Across the Imperium, Poius' Sisters, and Karamazov's baying mobs of recently converted Frateris militia, invaded their own worlds, denouncing millions as heretics, before either beating them to death with rods and flails, or dragging them away on the Witch-ships of the Ophelian Imperium.

Night and day, Ophelia glowed with a baleful orange light, which played across the towering domes and noble, baroque spires of the holy world, as the furnaces beneath the giant Cathedral blazed near-constantly, as thousands of heretics were shipped in, only to be herded into the cleansing flames one by one. Priests stood on great lecterns either side of the horrific furnaces, babbling some insane rhetoric from the various holy books that Ophelia had hoarded over the millennia. Karamazov personally executed a thousand heretics, his throne of judgement in near constant use.

The people of Ophelia, however, did not resist these insane zealots. In fact, many of the most insane Ascensionists threw themselves into the fires, crying hymnals as their bodies blistered and burned to ash.

For twenty years, this reign of murderous terror continued. It was said that the process only stopped when a young girl, barely six terran years old, ran to the Ecclesiarch, evading guards, and kissed his feet, in religious adoration. Before he could respond, the girl was shot by a wild-eyed Frateris Militia-man. In a terrible rage, Pius ordered the man's innards boiled, and he was taken away to be executed. The genocide stopped soon after that day, as Pius realised his orders had destroyed even the faithful.

He had come to this realisation despairingly late, and the Ophelian Imperium was left severely weak following this period of witch hunts. Almost a third of the population was killed, and the Imperium's industry was terribly understaffed by then.

After another twenty years, the Imperium was still struggling, and it took the Tallarn War to open the new Ecclesiarch Honostorian's eyes to this conspicuous lack of resources.

It was in 234.M45, that the Ophelian Imperium first came into conflict with the Tallarn Empire. The Tallarns were located just to the galactic east of the Ophelians. The Tallarns had been a tiny empire under the rule of the original Imperium, and their greatest contribution to it had been merely desert-specialist Imperial Guard regiments. With the loss of the Imperium, Tallarn had survived surprisingly well, having already a small Empire with it's own resources. The lack of an Imperial Tithe for soldiers had allowed them to expand their PDF force far beyond what was once capable. In fact, so much did it expand, that they inevitably developed an active offensive force, and managed to maintain a fleet of star ships, using captured Ad Mech expertise and an abundance of natural resources on one of their periphery colonies, which soon became one giant ship yard. 

The Tallarn believed strongly in the Emperor, but their views were far more traditionalist than Ophelia's radical reforms. Thus, when Tallarn expanded westwards, and encountered Ophelian worlds, they offered these worlds an alternative to Ophelian insanity. Many civilians on these outlying worlds, disgruntled with the massive death toll of the Ophelian regime, openly pleaded to the Tallarn to save them (or so the Tallarn Empire claimed). Thus, when the Sororitas came to put down these revolts, the Tallarn fleets were there to engage them. And so, the war began. The Tallarn vessels were of poor quality, and most of their conscript armies were nowhere near as effective as the highly disciplined Adepta Sororitas. However, the Sororitas had incredibly weak supply lines, and their resources were woefully depleted. It was said at the battle of Caninie, the Sisters fought without bolters, for their supplies of bolter shells were so low. In contrast, the Tallarns had a well developed, and above all, extensive logistic train, with numerous way stations supplying their vessels between each short warp jump. Their ships were cheap and terrible, but numerous, and they overwhelmed the Sisters of Battle. The Ophelians lost sixteen worlds in the war, and were driven back from their former territory. All because of their depleted resources.

Thus, Honostorian instigated his 'heathen levy' reforms. These new Ecclesiarchal Bulls tasked the large Witch-ship fleets to change their tactics. They were to spread out from Ophelian space, and find heathen worlds. The populations of these worlds, due to their heresies, were to be subjugated. However, they would not be offered conversion as a way out. Instead, all non-Ophelian Imperial Cultists, be they Thorians, Haemovores, machine cultists or anyone else, were to be set to work as slaves and serfs. They would work the fields of the surviving Ophelian agri worlds, and they were put to work in the industrial worlds that the Ecclesiarch permitted to be built on worlds within the empire. 

"The Emperor," Honostorian was quoted as saying. "Desires the Imperium be rebuilt in His Divine image. He destroyed the old realm, so shall we rebuild it to His exaltations. Our penance has been paid now in blood and ash. Now, the time of reformation is at hand."

Thus began the second phase of the Ophelian Imperium. In many ways, this phase of the Ophelian Imperium was even more terrible than the initial phase. However, that is a story for a later date.

3) The 'Delphain' Imperium[edit]

Lord Inquisitor Delphain was a very powerful Inquisitor, and was leading a vast conglomeration of Imperial forces, in the cleansing of the Carpathis system, when the Astronomicon finally collapsed. Many thousands of his fleet's vessels were lost in the warp, and the rest were spat out somewhere within the Ultima Segmentum. Delphain's astropaths and navigators all died, save for one, named Orichi. Using her talents, Delphain discovered several nearby systems, and he persuaded the Fleet Admiral to make a series of short warp jumps to reach these nearby worlds. Within six months, they had made it to these systems.

The Inquisitor dispensed with pleasantries, and instantly seized the Governor's palace of the Capital world, Harken. When he discovered that Harken and its fellow in-system worlds, had all suffered losses of Astropaths, and widespread riots in the streets, he knew something very wrong had happened. 

This realisation became more and more evident as M43 continued onwards. For thirteen years, the Inquisitor and his crusade forces desperately fought off constant pirate attacks and xenos incursions, that seemed to be a near constant occurrence across the entire sub sector. As they fought, they unconsciously began to utilise Harken and its systems more and more. Reserves for lost Guardsmen came from within Harkenian PDF ranks, munitions and supplies were gifted by the Governors and provincial Lords of Harken and the outlying worlds in adjacent systems.

The Harken system was always in an unofficial league of governors, even before the death of the Emperor. Whereas before, the inquisitor would have probably destroyed the League due to the potential for subversive behaviour inherent to their league, he now openly encouraged it. The close ties between worlds was utilised to its fullest by the cunning Inquisitor. Using his crusade force of Red Hunters marines, Deathwatch, and vast regiments of Inquisitorial Stormtroopers and Imperial Guardsmen, Delphain kept the League of Planetary Governors (or LPG) relatively intact. However, it became clear that there was no one else coming to relieve the Inquisitor and his forces. The Emperor was dead, and so was his Imperium. Yet, this was not a particularly terrible problem for the pragmatic Delphain. Over years of fighting, the infrastructure of his crusade, and that of the governments of the LPG, had merged significantly. His crusade was divided, fighting on all fronts across the LPG's border's, and many of his generals had agreed to defence contracts with local power magnates and Lords, offering protection I exchange for supplies and limited leadership of the aforementioned provinces.

Delphain himself became famous, and many called him the 'breaker', due to a legendary battle on the borders, where the Inquisitor used his thunder hammer to smash the gates of a rebellious city open, allowing his troops to enter the city and slaughter the enemy. When the old Governor of Harken died, it was with popular support that Delphian, flanked by his Red Hunter Astartes bodyguards, entered the central city, and seized the leadership officially. Though the LPG technically was a council of equals, the Harken seat was always the most powerful. With Delphain on the throne, it became clear that this was no longer a mere alliance. It was an empire.

Delphain, intoxicated by his success in crafting a functioning state from the ashes of a shattered Imperium, declared that this was the new Imperium, the sole legitimate power in the Universe. And, in a bold move, he declared himself Holy king, chosen of the Emperor. While the more primitive worlds of his fifty world-Imperium could readily accept this, the more urban hive worlds and agri worlds became uneasy. During this period, there were hundreds of rebellions. Each was easily crushed by the feudal military of Delphain. The largest of these rebellions was led by Orichi, who was declared oracle of the future, and denounced Delphain as Apostate and anti-Emperor. Crucially, she gained the support of a number of Lords on the outskirts, who rallied around her. A large naval engagement over the world of Fancit decided this rebellion, and Orichi was killed during the battle.

Unified once more, the Delphain Imperium seemed set to maintain itself as a sated power. However, in 444.M45, the now-ancient Delphain finally died. The Vassal-Governors each claimed they should take his place, while the Red Hunters backed Delphain's son, Abar Delphain, as next in line. Unwilling to challenge the dread Astartes, the governors acceded without incident.

Abar was young and impetuous. Deluded by the distorted tales of the past Imperium told to him by his father, Abar declared that they must expand into the Galaxy, and re-establish the Imperium. However, he did not take into account the fact most worlds were still recovering from almost a century of civil war.

The belligerent King ordered expeditions into neighbouring systems. However, these 'occupations' could never work, as he hadn't the resources for such actions. In the end, these turned into raids and wars of plunder, where greedy former-crusade generals, power magnates and local Lords (who, increasingly, became indistinguishable from each other, so similar in power and prestige the three strata were) would make planet fall on various human and xenos worlds, smash their cities and slaughter hundreds of thousands of people in random, brutal slaughter, rape women and men, burn down perceived 'heathen' churches, and steal all things considered valuable. Abar Delphain allowed this practice, however, as it provided a ready stream of income into his Imperium.

However, it soon drew the attention of other powerful forces, who soon descended upon this Imperium. This Imperium, which considered itself so very mighty, but who would soon be proven entirely wrong…


The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section Navigation[edit]

  • The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 03: The 'Petty Imperia'

Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk