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Age of Apostasy

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Age of the Imperium Age of Rebirth - The Forging - Nova Terra Interregnum - Age of Apostasy - Age of Redemption - The Waning - Time of Ending - Age of the Dark Imperium

The Age of Apostasy was one of the largest and most destabilizing periods in the history of the Imperium, occurring in M36, five millennia after the Horus Heresy. It grew out of the power struggle between two Imperial organizations, the Ecclesiarchy and the Administratum.

Early Confrontations

The Ecclesiarchy is the ruler of the Imperial Cult, the bearer of the sacred word of the Emperor. It spread into the lives of every citizen and servant of the Imperium, from the most humble miner and scribe, to the greatest heroes and the most influential officials, including the High Lords of Terra. The High Lords believing, like every other citizen, that the Ecclesiarchy was speaking for the Emperor, would often follow their words in directing the Imperium. Though they did not actually speak the words of the Emperor, the Ecclesiarchy did little to retract this image, and soon they were indirectly controlling the fate of the Imperium, influencing legal changes, military deployments and organization, threat priority decision-making and where Imperial resources should be directed, often towards themselves.

Eventually, the power of the Ecclesiarchy grew too much and the Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus, along with a group of Space Marine Chapter Masters rallied together, and eventually the Administratum joined, to fight against the strength, will and control of the Ecclesiarchy.

The Administratum, often thought of as the centre of the Imperium, was angered at its loss of power. This began a feud that lasted for at least 7,000 years, has continued to the present day, and is likely to continue far into the future. The Administratum began to use its position to undermine the power of the Ecclesiarchy. They could influence voting and position its own loyal followers in other departments. From M34 to M35, the power of the Ecclesiarchy waned and, following the election of a series of weak Ecclesiarchs, the Administratum managed to wrestle back control of the Imperium. They continued to gain power at the expense of the Ecclesiarchy, although allowing them to keep their external image as dictating the words of the Emperor and ruling the Imperium, while the Administratum actually had the power.

In a desperate attempt to escape the iron grip of the Administratum, the entire Ecclesiarchy was moved from Terra to Ophelia VII in the Segmentum Tempestus. The Ecclesiarch at the time was Benedin IV and he moved here for two reasons: it was his diocese when he was a Cardinal, and it was probably the wealthiest planet in the Imperium, after Mars and Terra. The magnificent Ecclesiarchal Palaces on Ophelia covered 90,000 square miles of surface and soared 4,000 miles into the sky, rivalled only by the palaces on Terra. As they were separated from the Administratum by sheer distance, the power of the Ecclesiarchy grew again and they raised huge tithes to pay for massive works commissioned by Cardinals across the galaxy, a breakneck competition to build the greatest monuments. Also, purges of heretical cults increased significantly, and any resistance to the Ecclesiarchy was viciously put down.

The Ecclesiarchy also began to form its own armies and naval fleets. These forces became known as the Frateris Templars, and they contained fleets of commercial transports and warships, and armies which rivalled the Imperial Guard in strength. As the Ecclesiarchy rebuilt its power base on Ophelia, the monuments on Terra withered and crumbled.

Nearly three hundred years after the Ecclesiarchy left Terra, Greigor XI was elected Ecclesiarch and one of his first commandments was to move the Ecclesiarchy back to Terra again. None could dissuade him, as he thought the home of the Imperial Cult should be at the Emperor's side. It took twelve years to bring about the move, but the doors to the Ecclesiarchal Palaces on Terra were finally opened again. The move stretched the funds of the Ecclesiarchy, and the refurbishment of the palaces did so even further. The Ecclesiarchy was forced to raise tithes again to pay for it all.

Greigor also put forward radical changes in the Ecclesiarchy, although he died of food poisoning before he could implement them. Millions walked past his coffin and tears were shed, but no sooner was Greigor dead and buried than a new, more conservative Ecclesiarch was elected. Despite Greigor's ideals, the Ecclesiarchy was very resistant to change and had an internal mechanism for allowing Ecclesiarchs to do as they desired.

Further Descent

Yet again, the demands for palaces and statues grew, forcing further increases in tithes. The people, already disgruntled, saw this increase as exorbitant and the population of many worlds across the Imperium rebelled against the rule of the Ecclesiarchy and refused to pay any tithes. Even Planetary Governors spoke out against the tithes and redirected the funds to their own purposes, although their pleas went unheard.

The Ecclesiarchy responded violently. They dispatched the Frateris Templar to crush the revolts and executed the higher-ranking officials as heretics. Ecclesiarch Alexis XXI used the Officio Assassinorum to remove several governors who redirected their tithes to arming their Planetary Defence Forces in an attempt to hold back the Frateris Templars. Even with the revolts, the palaces and temples grew bigger and more elaborate, the funds lined the roads of entire planets with statues of past Ecclesiarchs and decorated the biggest temples with gems. The uprisings continued in massive swathes through the Imperium, only for the Frateris Templars to put them down. All who disobeyed the Ecclesiarchy were declared heretics and executed. Some questioned the methods used but kept quiet, fearing those methods they spoke out against.

Even while the Imperium was collapsing under the weight of rebellion, further dangers befell humanity. In early M36, warp storm instances increased and warp travel became impossible between most planets. With the resources of the Administratum and Ecclesiarchy centred on the power struggle, massive areas fell to anarchy as they were cut off. Those planets which could still be reached by starship were patrolled and controlled by the Ecclesiarchy with an iron fist. Burnings and executions became commonplace of all but the most faithful.

Chaos raiders poured from the Eye of Terror, Ork Warlords rampaged across the galaxy and nobody could halt them. On the isolated worlds, Chaos and Genestealer Cults grew up, overthrowing the governments. Those worlds not overrun struggled to survive and eventually even the greatest of the planets collapsed. Even worship of the Emperor collapsed without direct leadership, most people splitting into cults that worshipped the Emperor in their own way and tried to force their ideas on the other cults forcefully.

Crazed zealots across the galaxy denounced the Ecclesiarchy and preached that the Emperor was displeased with their greed and excesses, sending the warp storms as a test of the most faithful. Citizens turned to flagellation and self-mutilation to prove their love of the Emperor. The cults grew and fought and settled into seething masses of discontent, while some preached extreme measures, creating bloodthirsty pogroms to eradicate many innocents. Sometimes, whole populations were slaughtered for the heresy of just one person.

The rise of High Lord Vandire

Goge Vandire is the name most closely associated with the Age of Apostasy, and the Reign of Blood. He was the 361st High Lord of the Administratum and had a reputation as a staunch resistor to the dominance of the Ecclesiarchy. It is said he used assassins to gain his position, but any who spoke out against him mysteriously disappeared or were found dead, so none dared oppose him. Shortly before his rise, Vandire was instrumental in the rise of Ecclesiarch Paulis III, an incompetent who was easily controlled by Vandire and his followers.

Once he had taken full control of the Administratum, he used his powers to undermine the Ecclesiarchy, while he led a group of Imperial Guard officers into the Ecclesiarchal Palace and overthrew Paulis III in what can only be described as a military coup. He declared Paulis a heretic and had him shot. He then moved in and took control of the Ecclesiarchy, effectively controlling both at once as High Lord of the Administratum and Ecclesiarch.

The Ecclesiarchy could do nothing to stop Vandire, shaken and battered as they were. Vandire purged the Ecclesiarchy of any who opposed him. Those Cardinals who had not already fled gathered onto a single ship and set off for Ophelia VII in an attempt to escape Vandire. Their ship was, however, engulfed by a gigantic warp storm and never seen again just as they entered the warp. Vandire used this as evidence to claim that it was the Emperor's will that they should die and that he himself should lead the faith of the Imperium. Vandire then elected Cardinals of his own choosing to fill the benches, including many weak-minded fools and several brilliant geniuses who were just cruel enough to follow Vandire. He now had total control of the two most powerful facets of the Imperium.

The Reign of Blood

As time went by, it became increasingly clear that Vandire was insane. He was a paranoid megalomaniac who saw traitors and conspiracy everywhere. His mind was twisted in every way and he enjoyed personally torturing people, declaring to onlookers that he was purging their souls for the Emperor. He had his every word recorded for posterity and had a long trail of scribes whose job was to note anything he said and to note any particularly ingenious torture methods. He performed his tortures in the underground catacombs of the Ecclesiarchal Palace. His mood was particularly volatile and would swing from laughing one moment to murderous the next. He would often fall into a trance-like state during which, according to him, he was receiving the words of the Emperor, although he was actually mumbling arguments with himself and occasionally shouting out loud for no reason. These periods were often followed by bouts of excessive violence; possibly in these trances he was rehearsing his torture methods and his random screams were those of his victims. He had a huge map of the galaxy plotting the up to date warp storm movements so that whenever a new planet was revealed, he could send out a fleet to reinstate his will.

There were those under his command who would obey his every whim, including bombarding the Hive World of Calana VII without reason. He also ordered them to invade the farmlands of Boras Minor and enslave every female child under twelve years of age and melt the ice caps of Jhanna with the orbital defence cannons, drowning nearly four million people. All of his orders were meticulously recorded for posterity, including the deaths of millions. He would dictate long speeches bemoaning the state of the Imperium and demanding justice.

Daughters of the Emperor

Vandire had a vast network of spies that notified him of cults that were not under his control. One of these was a small cult of perhaps only five hundred members on the little known agri world of San Leor. Naturally, Vandire was furious at this; people were worshipping the Emperor in a way he didn't control. But the more he heard the more he began to covet this knowledge. The sect was called the Daughters of the Emperor and was open only to women, who devoted themselves to the worship of the Emperor through inner purity. They studied the arts of war tirelessly and honed their skills throughout their entire lives. Vandire saw this as an opportunity, but didn't say what for. He ordered a ship ready and announced he would be visiting the planet.

He took with him almost 100 soldiers and servants to San Leor. The mile-long procession weaved its way to the temple of the Daughters of the Emperor as Vandire's agents moved ahead of him, forcing the population to line the streets and show respect. Those who resisted were executed as heretics, no matter whether they were or not. Even newly born babies and the aged were forced to go. The crowd were supplied with laurels and gifts to present to Vandire at gun point. Holo-vids of the proceedings were sent across the galaxy as propaganda to the masses.

When Vandire reached the temple, he found the gates barred against him and was informed by a young Daughter that he was not recognized by the cult. His servants, knowing Vandire's temper, believed they were all doomed, but Vandire had expected this and ordered them to witness an example of the strength of the Emperor in him. With a small bodyguard, Vandire entered the temple and clutched his Rosarius while kneeling to the Emperor, praying for protection. He then stood and ordered one of his guards to shoot him. The officer refused at first, unwilling to endanger himself, but Vandire persuaded him that he had the Emperor's protection. The officer loaded his laspistol and shot Vandire in the chest. There was a blinding flash of light and when it faded, Vandire was still standing, unhurt. As one the warriors in the temple fell on their knees to him. Later, Vandire boasted to his scribes that he assumed the Daughters would not have heard of a Rosarius and the conversion field it created.

The Daughters took oaths of fealty to Vandire and he elevated them to the position of Ecclesiarchal bodyguards, taking them back to Terra. From then on they were the bodyguards and closest companions to Vandire, and he renamed them the Brides of the Emperor. They were trained by the best soldiers of the Imperial Guard and given the most modern weaponry, and word of their dedication to Vandire spread throughout the Imperium. They would perform any action that their lord wanted, at any time.

Not only were the Brides Vandire's bodyguard, but also his companions and servants. They tasted his food, fed him when he fell ill, nursed his frail body and entertained him with singing, dancing and other more exotic skills. Even though they were used in this way, they were still hardened fighters. When the Ecclesiarchy tried to assassinate Vandire, the Brides entered the meeting chamber of the traitorous Cardinals and locked the doors behind them; one hour later they emerged with the heads of every cardinal present.

Sebastian Thor

For seventy years did the reign of Vandire mar the Imperium. The resources of the Ecclesiarchy were directed towards Vandire's perverse orders and the construction of new, huge monuments to the Empire and Vandire himself. But, Vandire's insanity was only ever directed outwards. Though other planets had spires reaching to the stars, the Palaces on Terra were falling into decay again. Whole wings collapsed from the weight of centuries and the huge chandeliers and incense burners in the audience chambers were allowed to go out. Dust lay at knee depth in some places, and holy relics fell into disrepair. Tapestries were ripped and chewed by rats, who used the priceless carpets for nests. Occasionally a candle would be lit and footsteps could be heard, testifying to the vigilance of the Brides. Even during the day, the rooms were dark due to the horrible amounts of dirt on the windows, blocking out the sun. When it rained and cleaned the windows, the light would pour in and Vandire would retreat to his chambers and sit in silence for days at a time. He would often fall into long, nightmare-ridden sleep and would cry out in hysterical screams. His body was ancient and was pumped full of drugs to keep the diseases away. His scribes, in Vandire's more lucid times, noted his ever-increasing fear of life.

It was now that a young agent arrived, with fear, on Terra, bringing a report from the distant world of Dimmamar. His report was merely disturbing, but Vandire burst into an apocalyptic rage. Dimmamar had denounced Vandire as a traitor to humanity, and one name was to be heard many times across the Segmentum Obscurus: Sebastian Thor.

No one knew where this man had come from but the High Lords raged in debate for over a month on what should be done. Vandire fell more into himself and was seen huddled on the velvet throne in the meeting chamber, flanked by his Bride bodyguards. Within three months, eighty planets had fallen to the new Confederation of Light and only the power of the Frateris Templars held other populations in check. The most trusted of the Templar Frateris were dispatched to raze Dimmamar to the ground.

Soon after the war fleet jumped into the warp from the base on Clax, it was destroyed by a gigantic Warp Storm. The last astropath reported white arcs of light tearing the ships apart, literally, as well as the soldiers on board. The Clax system has been cut off since, by the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath.

With the death of a vast fleet, the whole of Segmentum Obscurus burst into rebellion. The Cardinal Palaces were stormed and the beautiful hangings were destroyed. No one knew who Thor was, and many suspected him to be a daemonic entity, but he was just a man, born in a Dimmamar Schola Progenium habitat. Thor claimed also to have had visions from the Emperor and warned that humanity was falling. He had an eloquence and charisma that none could match or understand and could reach into the hearts and minds of the people.

Quickly, thousands travelled to hear Thor speak and preach and went away again, spreading the message themselves. Governor Gaius Welkonnen of Dimmamar was so impressed that he placed the army of Dimmamar at Thor's command. Anarchy followed. Most of the Segmentum Obscurus fell and many of Vandire's spies were sought out and driven away, although he still knew that Thor's army had grown to at least five million. He also knew it was slowly making its way to Terra.

There were many tales of his trip to Terra. Each planet he passed pledged their loyalty to him, mostly through his oratory skills. Though the rest of the galaxy was still covered by warp storms, Thor's ships had no hindrance as they moved from planet to planet. The Paternova of the Navigators dubbed him Abstracta Preomnis, Master of the Warp. Soon, in the far reaches of the galaxy, Thor was being hailed as a god-like figure. The Ecclesiarchy could do little to stop him after the destruction of the Frateris Templar, but the Cardinals and Confessors put up a resistance, though their populations were eventually converted to the Confederation of Light. Now, the masses moved against Vandire, as he had pushed them too far, and this time, they had a leader to unite behind.

The End of Empire

The most disturbing news was yet to reach the High Lords and Vandire. They soon learned that the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus had been kept distant by the problems with warp travel. They found that their worlds had become bastions of the old faith and were protecting the people from the invasions of Vandire. Many Chapter Masters voiced their praise of the Confederation of Light and the Adeptus Mechanicus called for the High Lords to account for themselves and to execute Vandire as a traitor. Vandire, in response, dissolved the High Lords and ordered his remaining forces to attack the revolting Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus forces. Many of Vandire’s officers refused and were hung or burnt as heretics and replaced by more loyal leaders, but by this time Vandire had been revealed as the fraud he was. Gastaph Hediatrix, the Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus ordered his Martian Tech-Guard to transport to Terra and was soon joined by units from the Imperial Fists, Fire Hawks, Soul Drinkers and Black Templars.

Though Vandire had let some of the Ecclesiarchal Palace to fall into ruin, the central chamber was still an almost impregnable fortress. Images were set up relating to the Horus Heresy, except this time the other way around, the heretics within the palace. The huge cannons of the Adeptus Mechanicus pounded the walls, but the Brides of the Emperor, numbering around 10,000 by now, defended with all their might. Eventually, however, it was to be from within that the greatest threat came.

The Fall of the High Lord

There was one other organisation that had remained distanced from the activities of Vandire and the High Lords, although they were at the heart of his domain. The Adeptus Custodes had maintained their vigil over the body of the Emperor, but had closed themselves off for protection. It was only when the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus moved on the Imperial Palace that the Custodes learned of the full extent of Vandire's treachery. They had secret meetings with Space Marine commanders and advised the Space Marines to continue their attack while they would do what they could.

The defences were nothing to the Adeptus Custodes, as they knew every pathway and hidden passage in the building and a small unit led by a Centurion of the Companions infiltrated the palace, emerging close to the inner sanctum of Vandire. There, the Centurion met with a unit of the Brides of the Emperor and attempted to show them that they were fighting for evil, not the good of the Imperium. The Brides were not to be swayed however, and the Centurion had to find another way to persuade them. Eventually the Centurion came up with a plan and, leaving his men as hostages, led the leader of the Brides of the Emperor away into the tunnels under the palace. No record exists of what happened there, but it is commonly believed he led her to the Golden Throne of the Emperor himself, and upon seeing his blessed form came to realize the truth in the matter. It is a matter of record that after whatever may or may not have occurred with the Centurion, the leader of the Brides personally executed the traitor Vandire.

The Aftermath

Officially, the Age of Apostasy ended with the death of Lord Vandire, though the turmoil within the Imperium would last for centuries to come. The significant changes include:

  • Sebastian Thor was tried as a traitor to the Imperium, found innocent and named Ecclesiarch.
  • The Ecclesiarchy was forbidden from retaining men at arms.
  • The Brides of the Emperor were re-formed into the Adepta Sororitas, a.k.a. the Sisters of Battle, becoming the military wing of the Ecclesiarchy without violating the letter of the prohibition against "men under arms."
  • The Holy Synod of Terra was created by Sebastian Thor.
  • The Wars of Vindication ensued within the Officio Assassinorum.

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