Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section23
Section 23: The Cognate (200.M43 - 992.M48)
The triumphant death howl of the Emperor upon his destruction was as a grand gale of psychic force. As with the first Age of Strife, psykers sprang up with ever increasing frequency. It was said not a single world in the galaxy didn't have a psyker living upon its surface. Many were cruelly murdered by the ignorant barbarians of their now fully-isolated primal (and, in some extreme case studies, more developed industrial and hive) worlds. Often the reverse was true; psykers rose up to drown their worlds in madness and blood.
The black ships visited worlds less and less frequently, eventually, by M46, ceasing their rounds entirely. Thus, the psyker epidemic was further exacerbated. Daemons and other warp devils took advantage. Hundreds of worlds, both within Petty Imperiums and beyond, were utterly consumed by ravening warp energies, capering daemons, and all manner of heinous things. Vampyres openly rose up on a dozen planets, draining thousands upon thousands of people dry, their eternal thirst for psychic sustenance unbearable. Mind-walkers and Psyconkunien wasps spread from world to world, as croatalids migrated in ever greater numbers.
On one world, the warp was so disturbed, it was claimed that an element of the Nex-
- and the entire sector was utterly removed from existence. Luckily, the vile essence of the deep warp did not crop up again, throughout the entire period. We can only pray it never does…
Anyway, even as the petty Imperiums squabbled and made war against one another, and as xenos, rogues and chaotic armies rampaged across the milky way, this subtle increase of psykers caused untold damage, beyond the realisation of these ignorant little empires and power magnates.
Yet, with every rule, there is an exception. Upon the world of San-Vaagar there had always been a tradition of Psychic disipline. When the warp was thrown into turmoil this discipline was kept intact. Though their astropaths and navigators died or went mad, the disciplined psyker-priests of the world did not go berserk, and in fact managed to bring the newly created psykers under their control, and saved the planet from destruction. This, unfortunately, was not to last. Across the planet, a virulent disease began to spread. Some claimed it was a daemon virus, spread by a travelling troupe of Nurglitch cultists, disguised as pleasure girls, who were prevalent across the world, travelling across national and cultural boundaries seemingly at will. Whatever the cause, the virus began to kill everything on the planet, spreading from the crotch outwards, rotting the victims internally as they screamed, aghast at their fates.
Only the psyker monks managed to stave off corruption. Their minds drove away the daemon virus, pulverising the microscopic daemons, which surged invisibly across the entire planet. Some were consumed physically. However, such was their psychic might, that their minds, impossibly, remained, disembodied and screaming silently. However, most managed to seal themselves within their towers, fashioning wards of unimaginable power. The daemon virus, frustrated at being denied, possessed the countless dead of the planet, fashioning itself a host of billions. The army of corpses assailed their magical towers for decades, until the warp energy accumulated by the virus dissipated, and the daemon was banished, leaving a world of corpses.
The priests vowed that this would never happen again. They saw that the plague was a sign: psykers were the future of humanity, and only they were worthy. Across the warp they pooled their powers, and sent out a message, to any witches or psychics in range:
"The Cognate is come! Gather at San-Vaagar. Bring only your mind and your magicks. The future starts now."
Over the next few decades psykers of varying powers and specialities began to arrive. Some had stolen tiny transport craft, using their own powers to guide them through the sea of souls. Others chartered ships who became becalmed or lost in the warp, leaving the psykers to escape in pods. Some had banded together and traded for a vessel, and collectively piloted it to the planet.
Thousands of psykers came. Then came the trials. The first was the planet itself. Swirling with despairing souls, the psykers had to travel through the mountains of rotten dead, to reach the towers. Many went insane. Many did not. The second was the corruption trial. The priests tested each psyker who came, scrying through their minds with their powerful abilities. Those who were corrupt, were destroyed.
When the trials were complete, the Cognate began to take shape. A series of tiers made up the ranks of the psychic organisation. The first tier were the oldest and/or most powerful members of the Cognate. Those of the original priests, the Alpha Level psykers and above, and some of the most powerful psyker-wraiths. The second tier ranged from the Beta psykers down to the Delta levels. Beneath them were all the rest, the third tier. The first tier decided upon topics of research, and judged the others. The second tier researched the topics, and gathered power and sorcerous magicks. The third tier did the grunt work, serving the upper tiers, maintaining the towers and forming the Sacren, an army of warrior psykers to defend the Cognate, using a combination of captured PDF weapons and their own warp-spawned powers.
The centuries wore on, and the Cognate turned all its sorcery, knowledge and unthinkable power into learning and developing their understanding of the warp and their powers. Devices were fashioned and artefacts crafted in the deep vaults of the Cognate's towers. As a soul is a firefly, flickering in the warp, the world of the Cognate was a vast unreal sun, blazing with soul-fire and leeching ever more energy from the warp. Daemons and Angyls flocked around the world like a warp-spawned miasma. Only the titanic wards crafted by the founders kept the madness at bay, locked behind a colossal conceptual wall of hexes and runes. Words and whispers travelled, across the churning sea of chaos, through the realm of the soul. Rumours became literal beasts which scampered through the madness, bringing their diabolical message to any who had the power to comprehend it.
Languishing in his realm of crystal and glass, the message-beings gathered around the great Red Sorcerer's warp-bound listening horn. Magnus, the vast lord of the Thousand Sons, became aware of this clan of psykers. He looked upon their world through his singular warp sight, and he grew envious. He must possess their knowledge!
In 992.M46, after centuries of fraught travel through the even more insane and hazardous warp, visitors arrived upon San-Vaagar. The Cognate became aware of them when a vessel inscribed with curious, forbidden runes entered orbit above their world. Within that same week, a party of nine landed upon the psyker world. These nine passed across the surface of the world, without being driven insane by the howling wraiths. When they reached the gates of the sixty-six towers of the Cognate, they, unbelievably, bypassed the powerfully warded barriers, their sorcery allowing them to step through a shimmering portal, directly into the central hall of the Cognate, to the astonished gasps of the psyker-lords themselves.
Before them stood nine towering giants, bedecked in glimmering gold and blue plate. Eight of the party stood perfectly still, their hollow helms staring impassively, as they held their bolters perfectly still. The ninth was obviously a sorcerer, his armour even more ostentatious than his comrades, his staff held loosely in his heavy gauntlets. This was Lord Severanus, the latest in the line of chief Librarians of Magnus' personal Cabal of heathen warp-channelers and psykers. Arrogantly, he addressed the Cognate's leaders directly, ignoring protocol entirely.
"My dear witch doctors and soothsayers," he was said to have uttered. "My Lord, Magnus the omniscient, the Red Cyclops of the all-knowledge, has looked upon your great works, and is impressed. Should you wish it, he would gladly allow your highest thinkers into his own great Cabal. All that he asks for in return, is knowledge. Is this not a grand and merciful gift?"
The second tier were outraged, and the psykers had to concentrate in order to repress such murderous thoughts. The grim, hooded figures of the council of Sixty-Six, the greatest of all the Cognate, were quiet. Of course, none of the Cognate truly spoke verbally anymore, but even their minds were silent, as they considered the disgusting proposal of Severanus. Eventually they responded, as a single voice, or dread power.
"We recognize your master not. His god is not our god, and his authority does not hold sway here. Be gone, insect!"
At this, it was said Severanus erupted into a fit of hysterical laughter. "Not his realm? The Lord of all Change has dominion over all things! Think not that even you, walled up in your towers, are unassailable. Reconsider, or you shall surely perish! By the very well of eternity, your Cognate shall fall, without my master!" the slimy villain proclaimed.
Again, the Cognate dismissed him. In a fit of rage, his patience exhausted, Severanus lashed out with his venomous mind, striking at the leader of the Cognate himself. Suddenly, the central hall was in uproar and madness, as the Thousand Sons turned their bolters upon the surrounding witches and psykers, who in turn lashed out with their own powers. Severanus was a tornado of power, arcs of blue and pinkish fire erupting from him in devastating arcs, as lightning and blazing darkness poured from his talon-tipped gauntlets. Bodies were blown apart by gunfire, Astartes were blasted to pieces or forcibly banished from the hall, and warp power flowed like oil throughout the room. Yet, while Sveranus was as a tornado, the lords of the Cognate were as hurricanes. Mechivoe, a master pyrokine, speared warp fire across the evil Sorceror, burning him to his very soul. Lord Severanus hissed in utter agony, only just managing to teleport from the hall and back to his waiting ship in orbit.
Back upon his vessel his own cabal of sorcerers, both human and Thousand Son, began to weave their own devastating magicks in response. While they prepared, the Astartes Strike Cruiser unleashed a barrage of scorching bombardment shells upon the sixty-six towers of the Cognate. Yet, even as the munitions neared, invisible forces plucked them from reality, or crushed them in mid air, detonating them harmlessly miles above the towers. The powers of the Cognate were mighty indeed.
Then the Thousand Sons unleashed their sorcerous return fire. Like two ships duelling in the void, the two Cabals battled across the psychic plane, unleashing hellish powers and terrible energies upon each other. Mewling spawn monsters were created which battered the towers, only to be destroyed by dozens of vortex portals. Wraiths were weaponries, some were banished. Over six years, the two psychic forces fought each other to near exhaustion. Yet, the Cognate landed the final, decisive blow. A great warp-borne wind swept impossibly across the void, buffeting the entire star ship away from their world, forcing it to enter the warp against its will. Severanus, howling curses, was denied. Little more than a charred skeleton supported by scorched, enchanted power armour, Severanus looked like the face of death, as he fled back to his master in disgrace.
It seemed as if the Cognate had defeated Severanus' prophecy, and had survived. However, the war had taken its toll. The Cognate found that its numbers dwindled over the following two thousand years. Null ships would sneak into their territories, and greedy bounty hunters and mercenaries would steal psyker children from their beds, to be sold into slavery for the many Petty Imperiums, who paid handsomely for Cognate-trained psykers. Daemons constantly assailed them from the abyss, desperate to devour the succulent souls within their hard shell. Likewise, chaos warbands, eager to test their meddle, would constantly send warriors to assail the world, stretching the power of the Sacren wafer thin, as they fought off threat after threat.
As with all empires in the Second Age of Strife, they were gradually eroded, like a tide erodes a beach. No matter their power, they were not all powerful. Desperate for new recruits and new blood, the Cognate sent out ambassadors across the warp, blindly hoping these ambassadors would bring new recruits, or hire themselves out to local Imperiums. However, few ever returned. Most were simply killed in the warp, as without the Astronomicon long distance travel was essentially suicide. Those that survived often found they did not wish to make the return journey, and instead offered their services to any who could offer them security, or pay. Often they were simply enslaved or tortured. A scant few were employed by powerful lords of entire petty imperiums, or became captains of great vessels.
Meanwhile, the Cognate became weary and distressed. The second tier became disillusioned with the top tier, and many civil wars erupted intermittently, costing yet more lives they simply couldn't spare. Eventually, in 992.M48, when a group of the league of the Purge entered the system, the psykers (most of whom were now just second tier or lower) were unable to prevent the Purge from callously launching multiple virus bomb assaults upon the world, utterly killing everyone on the world. Such is the price of hope in the Post-Imperial galaxy.
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 05: The Adamantine Worlds: The Adeptus Mechanicus, The Awakening, and The War of Two Spheres
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 07: The Crusade of Insanity: The Templars on the Rampage
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 08: Ravagers and Rogues: Piracy in the Second Age of Strife
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 12: Warriors of Fortune: Mercenaries in the Second Age of Strife
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 15: The Dying: Biel-Tan, the Eldar, and the Lord of the Dead
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 18: The Xenos Resurgent: Alien Empires of the Second Age of Strife
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 20: The Hammer Shattered: What Happened to the Imperial Guard?
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 21: The Psychic Apocalypse, The Black Ships, and the Nex…
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 22: The Blood and the Sword: Blood Knights of Baal, and the Legacy of Mephiston the Undying
- The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 23: The Cognate (200.M43 - 992.M48)