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Ciaphas Cain

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Some of my fellow inquisitors may be shocked to discover that one of the Imperium's most venerated heroes was, by his own admission, a scoundrel and a self-seeking rogue; a fact of which, due to our sporadic personal association, I have long been aware. Indeed, I would go so far as to contend that it was this very combination of character flaws which made him one of the most effective servants the Imperium has ever had, despite his strenuous efforts to the contrary. For, in his century or more of active service to the Commissariat, and occasional less visible activities at my behest, he faced and bested almost every enemy of humanity: necrons, tau, tyranids and orks, eldar, both free of taint and corrupted by the ruinous powers, and the daemonic agents of those powers themselves. Reluctantly, it must be admitted, but in many cases repeatedly, and always with success; a record few, if any, more noble men can equal."
Amberley Vail, Ordo Xenos, in her introduction to the Cain Archive.[1a]

Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Imperial Commissar; for the Novel Series, see Ciaphas Cain (Novel Series).
Ciaphas Cain[12]

Ciaphas Cain ((Kai-a-fass[13] Kane)) was an Imperial Commissar. He was in active service in the last century of M41, and was over 200 years old when he was recalled into service during the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler, and it is certain that he survived more than a quarter of a century into M42. Propaganda made him out to be the hero of the Imperium circa late M41 although in truth he was mainly focused on surviving. (However he differed from many other Imperial Commissars in that he would not readily sacrifice soldiers unless it ensured his own survival.) Cain tried his utmost to avoid engaging in actual combat, but would have to anyway to maintain his status as a Hero of the Imperium, which ironically, would involve him in more dangerous situations than any he would usually see as a Commissar. He was responsible for many successful campaigns throughout his career and retired to become a professor at a Schola Progenium.[Needs Citation]

In M42 the Cain Archive was published among the ranks of the Inquisition. They are sequestered by order of the Holy Ordos, and are kept and organized as the Cain Archive by Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Amberley Vail with whom Cain had many encounters over his career, and shared a close working and personal relationship. It is worth noting, as Inquisitor Vail does in footnotes throughout his memoirs, that Cain was a skilled liar and dissembler, and therefore anything to which he refers that is not independently documented could well be a fabrication to maintain his reputation.[Needs Citation]


Origins & Early Life

Cain makes numerous mentions to his home world, apparently a Hive World, though he never mentions a name or any feature which could lead to it being identified.[1e] At one point in the archives, Amberley Vail speculates that Cain may not in fact know the name of his own homeworld. However, he shows a definite affinity for underground passages and has a natural sense of direction when underground.[Needs Citation]

According to Cain, his parents were killed by Kroot, which is why he was sent to be trained as a Commissar.[1d] He claimed that his parents served in the Imperial Guard, however, it has not been stated in which regiment they served.[1d] His record at the Schola Progenium where he was educated and trained shows that his marks were at the low end of average in everything save sports and combat training. He also had a clear disciplinary record, however, this probably means he didn't get caught.[Needs Citation]

Service History

Commissar Ciaphas Cain[14]

Cain's active service career can be roughly divided into four phases:

Throughout his service, Cain have served predominantly with regiments raised from the Ice World of Valhalla.[1d][1f] He picked up a number of their habits and slang terms[1d] along with an appreciation for tanna-leaf tea, although he never became enamoured to the cold they enjoyed, or their habit of taking showers in ice water.[1g] His loyal aide, Ferik Jurgen, was a Valhallan guardsman who happened to be a blank, and served Cain faithfully for many years. Also with him for many years was Jenit Sulla, who would eventually go on to become a General in the Guard. She often cited Cain as a great inspiration.[Needs Citation]

He began his service with the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery in 919.M41[Needs Citation], apparently as a Commissar attached to the command battery, but soon took up duties over the entire regiment. His first taste of battle was on Desolatia IV, where the regiment had been defending against Orks, but soon they were faced with a Tyranid splinter fleet, which they held out against until an Imperial fleet arrived to pick up the Imperial forces on the planet.[7]

His, and his regiment's, next destination was the planet of Keffia, where he spent a restful few years of the 920's, with the only major battle he participated in was assisting the local enforcers (calling themselves Custodes, though the title is unrelated to the Adeptus organisation of the same name) in unveiling a genestealer infestation in the sector and assisting in the defence of the enforcers' headquarters.[10]

From here, he went to Perlia, where he was first earmarked for greater things. After a space battle, he and his adjutant Jurgen were left isolated on the ground of Perlia, presumed dead after their escape pod crashed behind ork lines. From here, he raised an army and, in what became known as the March of the Liberator, successfully fought his way through the orks to the front line, killing the warlord personally. The Imperial forces took the opportunity to attack the remaining ork forces, who were in disarray.[4]

On Slawkenberg, he and two gunners were nearly possessed by a Slaaneshi priestess Emeli Duboir whilst accompanying forward artillery observers, but managed to destroy the enemy position with artillery after being broken free from her spell by Jurgen.[9]

From here, he was assigned to Commissariat command for a few years, which was at first a simple desk job, but his reputation meant that he was sent on risky missions, such as a trip to Interitus Prime, a Necron Tomb world, Viridia and Viridia Secundus, the cleansing of a space hulk, fought against the Eldar, and participated in the cleansing of Sanguia. He survived these purely by being able to keep his head down, and commonly being the only survivor. Before long, he requested transfer back to a regiment. Of these experiences Cain notes that his encounter with the Necrons was the most horrific, and left the most lasting impression on him.[8]

The Valhallan 597th

Currently the majority of extracts available from the Cain Archive tell of his time serving with the 597th Valhallan Regiment. While serving with them Cain appears to have been very close to the troopers, particularly with the senior officers, with which he had a personal friendship.[Needs Citation]

Cain was instrumental in the formation of the regiment as a fit fighting force. He was technically originally assigned to the Valhallan 296th/301st, an amalgamation of two Valhallan regiments (the 296th and the 301st) that had taken severe losses defending the planet Corania from the tyranids. He was introduced to the fractured regiment(s) aboard the troopship Righteous Wrath, where he found that the two components at each other's throats - even the senior commanding officers, Colonel Regina Kasteen and Major Ruput Broklaw, detested one another. Not long after his introduction to the regiment, Cain had to intervene to break up a mess room brawl that resulted in three deaths.[1b][1c] Having had enough of the lack of discipline, Cain forced the two regiments to integrate at the squad level, introduced training exercises that would force the Guardsmen from both components to rely on each other and even gave the regiment its new designation of the 597th (representing the combination of the 296th and 301st: 296 + 301 = 597). Cain's efforts eventually bore fruit, cohesion was restored and Cain became accepted by the Guardsmen.[1c]

Cain was present with the 597th Valhallan Regiment for their first action during the Gravalax Incident of 931.M41, where he was awarded the Order of Merit of Gravalax, Second class, for his part in preventing the T'au annexation of the planet (Cain was to joke in later years that if he had allowed the Tau to kill Governor Grice, the grateful populace would have given him the first class decoration). In truth, the planet had been infested by a Genestealer Cult who had been trying to spark off a meaningless war over a backwater planet between the T'au and the Imperium in order to distract them from the approach of the Tyranids. It was during this affair that Cain first encountered Inquisitor Amberley Vail, and also discovered that his aide Jurgen was in fact a Null: a trait which saved Cain's life as he duelled the Genestealer Patriarch.[1]

The next year, he served on Simia Oricalcae, defending a refinery against ork predations and an awakening Necron threat beneath the ice. Shortly after this, he was sent to Periremunda after a civil uprising occurred. It was discovered that Genestealers were behind it, and the infection was cleansed.[2]

After fighting Hrud on Skekwi and Orks on Kastafore, Cain arrived at Adumbria in 937, where he assisted in uncovering a Chaos ritual and defending against landing Chaos forces. His actions defeated a Daemon Prince and prevented the transformation of the planet into a daemon world. He later attended his court-marshal, initiated by Commissar Tomas Beije, for leaving the front line to attack the Daemon Prince's summoning, but Cain was cleared of all wrongdoing, and Beije was charged and later acquitted.[3]

Ghosts of Perlia

Cain's actions on Perlia would come back to haunt him on two occasions during the eighty years between the first and second sieges of that planet. The first occurred during the campaign on Periremunda, when Cain discovered that the Ordo Xenos and the Adeptus Mechanicus had been working on a secret project surrounding an artifact known as the "Shadowlight". This unusual artifact, which predated the existence of Mankind itself, activated the powers of latent psykers and boosted the powers of active ones. The Shadowlight had been contained in a secret Mechanicus shrine located within the dam in the Valley of Daemons on Perlia's eastern continent until it had been taken by a rogue tech-priest named Metheius, in the employ of Inquisitor Ernst Stavros Killian of the Ordo Hereticus. When Cain arrived in the dam - shortly before destroying it, flooding the valley and drowning scores of Orks - he had found that the tech-priests of the shrine had been killed with surgical precision, and found out later that this had been the work of Killian and Metheius, with the unwitting assistance of a squad of Adepta Sororitas Battle-Sisters.[5]

Killian had allied with a number of Chaos cults on Periremunda and intended to use the Shadowlight to boost their psychic powers, turning them into servants of the Emperor without their realizing. After Killian's death, the Shadowlight was returned to Perlia in the shrine set in the rebuilt dam in the Valley of Daemons, where it would remain for another sixty years.[5]

The other occasion was the Second Siege itself, in 999.M41. Cain had by that time retired and made Perlia his home, teaching at a Schola Progenium on the western continent, in a mountainous village near the planetary capital of Havensdown. Meeting with the rogue trader Orelius, whom he had met at Gravalax, Cain discovered that there was a Chaos force headed in the direction of Perlia, having overrun two neighboring systems. It was Cain's suspicion (and Vail's as well, as she had sent Orelius to meet with Cain) that the Chaos horde and their leader, Warmaster Varan the Undefeatable, had their sights set on the Shadowlight. Called once again to defend Perlia, Cain coordinated with the commanders of the Planetary and System Defense Forces, appearing in pictcasts calling for civilians to join the militia, and leading attacks against Chaos insurgents, culminating in a final showdown with Varan himself. Though Cain succeeded in killing Varan and effectively ending the Second Siege, the Shadowlight was taken by a necron scouting party, persumably to destroy it. From the Necrons' actions Cain and Amberly Vail theorize that the Shadowlight may have been built by the Ancients in order to combat the necrons, who have a documented fear of the warp and psychic powers.[6]

After the Black Crusade

Cain spent the years afterwards teaching at the Schola and writing his memoirs - both his public memoir To Serve The Emperor: A Commissar's Life, and the Cain Archive that Inquisitor Vail distributed among her colleagues.[1a]

Although his length of service and his achievements entitled him to the rank of Lord Commissar, Cain stubbornly rejected the few attempts by his students and colleagues to address him as such, and so remained listed as a Commissar until the end of his life.[Needs Citation]

Cain presumably died sometime in the first or second century of M42. Because of the number of times in his career when he was declared dead or missing in action, only to resurface later, the Departmento Munitorum adopted a standing regulation to list Cain as alive and active at all times, regardless of evidence to the contrary. As a result, he is the only person in the known galaxy to remain on the active duty roster even after being buried with full military honors.[Needs Citation]

After his actions on Adumbria, a small sect on Tallarn arose which worshipped Cain as a Prophet, a physical conduit of the Emperor's divine will. Vail noted that it was perhaps fortunate that Cain, so far as she was aware, never learned of this sect's existence.[Needs Citation]

Personality and Skills

Ciaphas Cain (Black Library limited edition miniature)

Although Cain performed acts in his long commissarial service that were nothing short of heroic, they were always - by his own admission - done reluctantly. He chose the posting with the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery specifically to avoid front-line combat, as artillery regiments generally remained at the rear of any army. After the events on Desolatia, however, Cain often made the observation that his commanders were bent on sending him into deadly situations simply on the basis of his reputation. The first thing on his mind was always his own safety, and how he would be able to escape the situation he was in.[Needs Citation]

Despite his unwillingness to engage in combat, Cain was by no means unprepared for it, as one of the things he focused on while at the Schola Progenium (in addition to sports) was combat training. He was described as an exceptional swordsman - a skill which "undoubtedly came from the sort of combat experience no amount of practice could emulate", in the words of Inquisitor Vail, though he still practiced his technique anyway. In his memoirs he describes his chainsword skill a habitual and instinctive one. He was also skilled enough with a laspistol to actually hit his target well beyond the weapon's operational range, even against Necron Warriors.[Needs Citation]


In his introductory note to the omnibus Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium, Sandy Mitchell said that both of Cain's names were "rather self-indulgent Biblical joke[s]."[13]:

  • In the Old Testament, Cain was one of the two sons of Adam and Eve, who became history's first murderer after killing his brother, Abel.
  • In the New Testament, Caiaphas (note the transposition of "a" and "i") is the High Priest of Israel and head of the Sanhedrin, who condemns Jesus Christ for blasphemy and hands him over for execution by the Romans.

Mitchell also said that the question he is asked most frequently by fans (followed closely by how to correctly pronounce Cain's first name) is what Cain's "true" character is - i.e., whether he really is a self-seeking rogue, or a better man than he gives himself credit for. Mitchell's answer is, he's not sure himself, and likely neither is Cain.[13]

Cain is often regarded by fans as the antithesis of Dan Abnett's hero, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt. At the 2012 Black Library Weekender, a panel of authors were asked to predict the winner in a series of hypothetical matches between various Black Library characters. When asked to match Cain versus Gaunt, the most popular answer, chosen by audience approval, was Graham McNeill's: "Neither one - a real commissar would show up and kick both their arses."

See also

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