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Crusade of the Witnesses

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The Crusade of the Witnesses was an Ecclesiarchy Crusade, that fought on Iax during the final battles of the Plague Wars.[1a]


This page contains spoilers for: Dark Imperium: Godblight (Novel)

It was launched by the Militant-Apostolic Mathieu and was composed of Imperials who had witnessed manifestations of the Emperor's powers. After Lord Commander Guilliman's miraculous victory on Parmenio, where it is said the Emperor had intervened to save his Son, these Imperials sought out Mathieu. They asked for his guidance on what they had seen and the Crusade was formed after he became their spiritual leader. When Guilliman later led his forces to the Death Guard invaded world of Iax, to defeat his brother Mortarion and end the Plague Wars[1a], Mathieu was struck by a vision from the Emperor. The Militant-Apostolic was told that a great threat to Guilliman existed on Iax, which needed to be destroyed by the Crusade of the Witnesses. When this holy task was complete, not only would the Lord Commander be saved, but the Plague Wars would end as well.[1f]

Once Guilliman's fleet was above Iax, Mathieu immediately deployed the Witnesses, without permission, from the Lord Commander. Even as Guilliman was preparing his own forces' deployment, the Crusade's drop-ships raced towards their first target on their holy task - the void port of the capital city First Landing. While the city itself was still held by surviving Imperials, the void port was firmly in the hands of Heretics loyal to the Death Guard. Though Guilliman was furious at Mathieu for the Crusade's launch, he rejected Fleet Master Isaish Khestrin's offer to cripple their drop-ships. The Lord Commander explained that doing so would just provide the Ecclesiarchy with a martyr for their cause. It would also give proof to his detractors, that he had contempt for the Imperial Cult. After he was told where the Crusade was headed, Guilliman hoped that at least the Witnesses would save his own forces from having to reclaim the void port. The Lord Commander, though, ordered his fighter craft to safely escort the Crusade's drop-ships to Iax's surface. However Guilliman said he would deal with Mathieu, if the Militant-Apostolic survived the attack[1a]. While the Witnesses would suffer heavy losses fighting the Heretics, the Crusade did succeeded in reclaiming the void port[1b]. Afterwards the Crusade entered First Landing and Guilliman later confronted Mathieu, as he preached in front of a large crowd of the city's population. The Lord Commander told Mathieu, that he would stop any further actions by the Crusade, with violence if necessary, but the Militant-Apostolic warned Guilliman against doing so. Mathieu said that there had been many powerful Imperial detractors, who thought that Guilliman sought to replace his Father as Emperor of the Imperium. If the the Lord Commander ordered the deaths of the Witnesses, who only who sought to fight in the Emperor's name, then how many more people within the Imperium would be convinced that Guilliman did indeed seek to usurp his Father's position?[1c]

It was this threat that ultimately caused the Lord Commander to relent in his efforts to stop Mathieu. With Guilliman's reluctant permission, the Crusade soon left First Landing. Along with Colonel Odrameyer's Cadian 4021st Armoured Regiment and several Cardinals Crimson Crusaders, which had all joined the Witnesses before they reached Iax, Mathieu's preaching in the city had also gained the Crusade several squadrons of Adepta Sororitas. Most notably, though, was that despite Guilliman ordering First Landing's population to be evacuated to his fleet in orbit, in preparation for the Death Guard's assault on the city, thousands of its people joined the Witnesses instead. All this was due to Mathieu and with his War Train at the head of the Crusade, he began to lead the Witnesses on their holy quest for the Emperor[1d]. Their perilous journey took them deep into Iax's corrupted lands, that had been sickened by Nurgle and were held by the Death Guard, but the Witnesses were invigorated by their faith and the Crusade's pace was unrelentless. Throughout the journey, Mathieu remained jovial as he preached to the others and followed the Emperor's path, that lead to the treat the Crusade needed to destroy. However soon Nurgle's forces and diseases began to kill many of the Witnesses' members and some even abandoned the Crusade due to the harshness of the journey. Though this last group faced the anger of the Crusade, Mathieu calmed the situation and allowed them to leave. He explained that each of the Witnesses would ultimately serve the Emperor in their own way.[1e]

Despite these losses, Mathieu's vision finally brought them to a ruined medicae facility, that was held by the Great Unclean One Ku'Gath's Plague Guard. Within it was their target, the Cauldron of Nurgle, which unbeknownst to the Crusade was empowering the deadly Godblight disease[1g]. Even as they had neared the facility, Lord Commander Guilliman had confronted his brother, the Daemon Primarch Mortarion, to rid Iax of the Death Guard, but had instead been infected with the Godblight. As he lay dying[1h], the Crusade of the Witnesses rushed towards their destiny and attacked the Plague Guard. In doing so, they drew most of the Daemons focus on them, as a Novamarines strike force, led by Lieutenant Edermo, neared the facility. The Space Marines had also been searching for the Cauldron and Edermo used the Crusade's attack to his advantage. He then had some of his forces join the attack on the Plague Guard, while the Lieutenant led the other Novamarines into infiltrating the facility to destroy the Cauldron. By then, however, Nurgle's diseases had ravaged the Crusade and only those aboard Mathieu's War Train and a few of Colonel Odrameyer's Leman Russ Tanks remained alive. The War Train, though, had become so infected with Daemonic rust, that it began to slow and the vehicle's Energy Shields shut down. This allowed not only the Plague Guard to attack the Witnesses, but also Nurgle's diseases as well. After seeing the War Train being invaded, a Novamarines squad led by Sergeant Justinian Parris made contact with Mathieu. The Militant-Apostolic quickly responded and said the War Train was dying and if the Novamarines wished to serve the Emperor, then they would ensure that he reached the medicae facility[1g].

When he was informed of this, Lieutenant Edermo agreed to Mathieu's demands and ordered Parris to save the Militant-Apostolic. When the Sergeant boarded the War Train, though, he saw that all the Witnesses aboard it had either been killed by the Daemons or died from Nurgle's diseases. All except Mathieu, who was somehow miraculously unharmed. The two escaped from the War Train[1i] and under the protection of Sergeant Parris' squadron, Mathieu entered the facility and raced towards Nurgle's Cauldron. The group was then attacked by the Plague Guard and the Great Unclean One Ku'Gath as well, who barred their to the Cauldron. However, the dying Colonel Odrameyer ordered his tank, to enter the facility and he used it to banish Ku'Gath back to the Warp. The Colonel and his tank crew, who were the last of the 4021st Armoured, died afterwards from Nurgle's diseases, as Mathieu and Parris' squadron finally reached the Cauldron. As the Novamarines kept the pursuing Plague Guard at bay, Mathieu grabbed the Cauldron and destroyed it with holy power granted to him by the Emperor. The resulting explosion[1j] mortally wounded Mathieu[1l], but it broke the Godblight's hold on Guilliman, which allowed him to defeat Mortarion and save Iax[1k]. The Militant-Apostolic would later die from his wounds, but the Crusade of the Witnesses had succeeded in its task of saving the Emperor's Son.[1l]