Goge Vandire attained the important position of Master of the Administratum, and thus a High Lord of Terra, through assassination and threats, and later manipulated the Ecclesiarch Paulis III to secure control over the Ecclesiarchy. He became known as a megalomaniac, and at the end, almost completely insane, triggering the Age of Apostasy that nearly tore the Imperium apart.
Goge Vandire came to power within the Administratum, part of the central Imperial bureaucracy, at some point during the 36th millennium. He arose during a chaotic period of time known as the Age of Apostasy, in which the Imperium was beset by massive corruption within the Ecclesiarchy, the administration ruling over the official Imperial religion. The powerful organisation, which was not answerable to anyone outside of the Emperor himself, demanded extraordinarily high taxes (called tithes) in order to build ever larger and more ornate cathedrals and monuments. When a planet would refuse to pay the demanded tithes, the Ecclesiarchy would send its armies to destroy the resistance; if Imperial governors (or other officials) joined in resisting, they would be declared heretics and executed.
Vandire was eventually elected the 361st Master of the Administratum, and from the outset, he opposed the power of the Ecclesiarchy. It was common practice for High Lords to subtly manipulate the other branches of the Imperial government, including the Ecclesiarchy; Vandire made no such attempt and openly sought to subvert it. He collected a cadre of loyal Imperial troops, attacked the Ecclesiarchy's palace on the planet Ophelia VII, declared the sitting Ecclesiarch to be a traitor and summarily executed him. Vandire then declared Paulis a heretic and murdered him, assuming the dual role as both leader of the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy.
As both Ecclesiarch and Master of the Administratum, Vandire became the most powerful individual in the Imperium. At the peak of his power he effectively controlled not only the Administratum and Ecclesiarchy but also the Officio Assassinorum, Adeptus Astra Telepathica, and Imperial Guard.
Upon seizing power in the Ecclesiarchy, Vandire began to systematically execute all Cardinals and Ecclesiarchy officials who opposed him. Many Cardinals attempted to escape Terra, but upon entering the Warp, a fierce Warp storm arose and destroyed the fleeing ship. Vandire declared this to be a sign of approval from the Emperor himself; he then set about replacing all vacant Cardinal seats with lackeys loyal to him.
The Reign of Blood
Despite Vandire's noble campaign to rid the Imperium of the Ecclesiarchy's undue influence, his own reign proved to be far worse. He quickly proved to be thoroughly insane, and would take great delight in torturing anyone, regardless of guilt or innocence, claiming he was 'purifying their soul'. It is said that he would fall into trances where he would mutter to himself or even shout out loud, and would claim that he had been receiving messages from the Emperor; these communications would be followed by extreme violence against his subjects.
Vandire's network of spies was quite extensive. His audience chamber contained a sophisticated map of the galaxy, which he would use to order attacks on any planet he felt was not fully under his control. The Imperial military was all too willing to aid him in his attacks, and atrocities were routinely carried out without question. The enslavement of entire populations, virus bombings of innocent worlds, even the use of planetary defence lasers to melt polar ice caps (thereby drowning the world's population)- all were done in Vandire's name without question.
However, some portions of the Imperium remained free of the horrors of Vandire's reign. The Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus maintained their own small, semi-independent states within the Imperium; for example, many Marine chapters rule over their own home planet(s), virtually independent from the central government of the Imperium. Vandire's tyranny was not felt in these enclaves. By the same token, these very powerful military forces of the Emperor steered clear of Vandire, allowing him a free hand everywhere else in the Imperium.
Discovery on San Leor
During one of his many briefings, Vandire learned of the existence of a secret cult on the planet of San Leor, which was dedicated to worshipping the Emperor. Vandire immediately flew into a furious rage (which was normal), but his advisors insisted on continuing their briefing. He was told that this sect, which had previously managed to remain hidden from the Ecclesiarchy, was an all-female group known as the Daughters of the Emperor, which dedicated itself to mastering ancient martial skills. Vandire's rage was suddenly abated, and he decided he would grant them the "honour" of a visit.
Upon arriving on San Leor, a truly massive procession (said to be "miles long") brought Vandire to the Daughters' temple. The Daughters refused him entry, stating that they did not recognise his authority. Rather than fly into a rage, as he normally would, Vandire calmly stated that he would prove that he held the Emperor's favour. The Daughters allowed him entry to their temple, wherein he made a short prayer, and ordered one of the soldiers in his entourage to shoot him. After an initial hesitation, the soldier did as ordered; however, Vandire was not harmed. There was a bright flash of light and the laser blast was dissipated.
Unbeknownst to both the entourage and the Daughters, Vandire carried the Rosarius of the Ecclesiarch, a sacred badge of office which contains a powerful energy field generator. The Daughters believed that he had been saved by the grace of the Emperor, and immediately swore loyalty to Vandire; they were renamed as Brides of the Emperor and were trained by the best Imperial military officials to be Vandire's elite bodyguard. Vandire would later secretly brag to his scribes about the gamble he took; he had hoped that the Daughters would not know of the Rosarius or energy fields.
Resistance to Vandire's reign
After the San Leor incident, the bloody reign of the insane Lord Vandire lasted another seven decades. Vandire did little to reverse the old Ecclesiarchy policy of building ever larger monuments and temples - now dedicated not only to the Emperor, but also frequently dedicated to himself. However, the city-sized Ecclesiarchy palace on Terra fell into a terrible state of disrepair. Vandire would wander the virtually empty palace, alone, muttering to himself in the dark halls about his increasing fear of 'the light'. His personal army of the Brides ensured that his reign continued unchallenged.
It was at this time, over seventy years after San Leor, that Vandire learned of a serious threat to the reign of the Ecclesiarchy. The planet Dimmamar had openly declared Vandire to be a traitor, and long-banned rituals of worship of the Emperor were being reinstated under the umbrella of the so-called Confederation of Light. The leader associated with this new resistance movement was known only as Sebastian Thor. Some High Lords feared he may have been a daemon seeking the destruction of the High Lords, or worse - the Imperium itself.
After a month of debate, the council of High Lords of Terra was unable to agree upon a suitable response to the rebellion. Vandire himself remained silent on the matter, and would simply stare blankly during meetings, surrounded by his retinue of Brides. Three months after the initial discovery of the Dimmamar revolt, over eighty systems had joined the movement; the number would have been higher if not for the military might of the Ecclesiarchy itself. Eventually a powerful, hand-picked fleet of Ecclesiarchy forces was sent to devastate Dimmamar and destroy all life on the planet. The fleet did not make it, however, as it was destroyed by a sudden, massive Warp storm; the region of space where this occurred is still regarded as being haunted, and is known as the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath.
With the destruction of the fleet, the entire sector which included Dimmamar erupted into open rebellion. Vandire's handpicked sector officials were lynched, and still more reports came to the High Lords of this mysterious man, Sebastian Thor, who was revealed to be simply a normal, pious man who claimed to be having visions granted by the Emperor himself. Thor's Confederation of Light swelled to over five million strong in just one year, and this army began to slowly make its way towards Terra. Planet after planet were swayed to join his Confederation of Light - even worlds still tightly gripped by Cardinals loyal to Vandire.
Resistance grows and Vandire's fate
With the success of Thor's movement, other branches of the Imperium began to wake up to Vandire's corruption. The Adeptus Astartes and the Adeptus Mechanicus, both of which had avoided interfering with Vandire's reign, began voicing support for Thor's movement, and demanded that the High Lords indict Vandire as a traitor. In response, Vandire dissolved the council of High Lords, and ordered his Ecclesiarchy forces to attack these new threats. However, this was a suicidal prospect, as the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus were simply too powerful; many officers refused to obey, only to be executed by Vandire. When the Ecclesiarchal forces finally attacked, it became clear to all that Vandire had betrayed the Imperium and would need to be removed by force.
The Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus ordered several regiments of Skitarii to attack Vandire's Ecclesiarchal Palace on Terra; this force was joined by Space Marines from several chapters, including the Imperial Fists, Black Templars, Soul Drinkers, and Fire Hawks. The assault on the impenetrable fortress that is the palace was difficult - not only due to the fortifications themselves, but also because the Brides of the Emperor had been expanded to a force of over 10,000 elite warriors. The campaign to remove Vandire from power bogged down into a lengthy siege.
Deep within the Imperial palace, eternally guarding the Emperor's body, stands the Adeptus Custodes, aka Custodians. To keep themselves completely pure of heart and mind, they voluntarily cut themselves off from the outside world, and, during the bloody reign of Vandire, they remained so. However, they learned of the assault upon Vandire's palace, and became aware of the events that had led to the invasion. Utilising secret passages known only to their order, a small contingent of Custodians was able to reach Vandire's inner sanctum, but was prevented by the Brides from seeing him. The Custodians requested a parley, and were granted the request, but, despite lengthy negotiations, were unable to convince the Brides to renounce their oaths.
The Centurion leading the Custodian band then made one final attempt to convince the Brides of their error. He eventually persuaded the leader of the Brides, Alicia Dominica, along with her bodyguard to follow him through the labyrinth of passages into the presence of the Emperor himself. It is unknown what transpired there (the Brides have been sworn to utmost secrecy), but Dominica was filled with righteous anger, as she had finally become aware of Vandire's evil. She returned to the Brides, spoke to her sisters of the treachery of Vandire and the perversion of their order; the order returned to their old name, Daughters of the Emperor. A ceasefire was reached with the invasion force.
Dominica then went into Vandire's inner chamber, where he stood alone with his galactic map, feverishly barking out orders to commanders and scribes who had abandoned him. She pronounced him a traitor:
You have committed the ultimate heresy. Not only have you turned your back on the Emperor and stepped from his light, you have profaned his name and almost destroyed everything he has striven to build. You have perverted and twisted the path he has laid for Mankind to tread. As your own decrees have stated, there can be no mercy for such a crime, no pity for such a criminal. I renounce your lordship, you walk in the darkness and cannot be allowed to live. Your sentence has been long overdue and it is now time for you to die.
Vandire's response to these charges was simply a feverish "I don't have time to die... I'm too busy!", and Dominica executed him on the spot with her own Power Sword, cutting his Rosarius in half and singlehandedly ending his bloody reign.
While Vandire's so-called "Reign of Blood" had ended with his execution, the Age of Apostasy continued for a time afterward. Vandire was found to have meticulously kept records of every deed done in his name, and every word that he uttered. The Fabricator-General who had led the invasion of the Ecclesiarchal palace insisted that every co-conspirator be brought up on charges, and many Imperial organisations took the initiative, purging their own ranks of those who had profited from Vandire's reign. New High Lords were chosen from among those officials who had joined the opposition against Vandire.
Sebastian Thor eventually became the new Ecclesiarch, and brought great reforms to the organisation which finally ended the Age of Apostasy. He permanently moved much of the organisation to Ophelia VII, as a sort of dual capital along with Terra. This would prevent another incidence of a High Lord taking control of the Ecclesiarchy, and aid in dissemination of Ecclesiarchal dogma. Dioceses were diminished into smaller areas, so that a single Cardinal would not have control over a very large area, and also increasing the overall number of Cardinals, something which would further dilute power.
One notable change was the Decree Passive of the High Lords, which declared that the Ecclesiarchy could have no men under arms. Thor complied with this, and all military functions of the Ecclesiarchy were disbanded, except for one - the Daughters of the Emperor remained, but were renamed the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas (aka Sisters of Battle). As "women under arms", they did not violate the decree; while the spirit of the decree may not have been followed, Thor believed that the Ecclesiarchy should have some military force of their own, so that it would not be completely reliant upon other Imperial military forces for its own defence.
A less noticeable yet very important development was the creation of the Ordo Hereticus within the Inquisition. This order of the secretive Inquisition is tasked with watching over the Ecclesiarchy and ensuring that its dogma and decrees conform to accepted Imperial standards, as well as preventing Cardinals from assuming too much power or otherwise going against Imperial policy. This mandate has since expanded significantly to include hunting down other internal threats to the Imperium, notably mutants, rogue psykers, and "heretics" (anyone deemed to be not in accordance with Imperial dogma). The Adepta Sororitas often work alongside the Ordo Hereticus, as they frequently share goals, notably in hunting heretics.
Vandire's loyal followers maintained their faith and rituals in secret, keeping the Temple of the Saviour Emperor alive under the Ecclesiarchy's nose. The "Temple Tendency" planted roots in the Calixis Sector, converting noble families to keep their faith and finance their operation. Their goal is to overthrow the Adeptus Ministorum and restore the secular and military might that their predecessors enjoyed before the reign of Sebastian Thor.
- Codex: Sisters of Battle (2nd Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition Rulebook
- Codex: Witch Hunters (3rd Edition)