|This article is about the event; for the novel by Guy Haley, see The Beheading (Novel).
Following the narrow victory of the Imperium in the War of the Beast, Grand Master of Assassins Drakan Vangorich was named Lord Protector by Lord Commander of the Imperium Maximus Thane, in effect acting as his proxy in absence. While Thane and the newly rechristened Imperial Fists swept away the last of The Beast's Orks, Vangorich was left to oversee the ineffectual High Lords of Terra. Vangorich, however, had grown highly contemptuous of the High Lords over the conflict, but was committed to working with them and having Inquisitorial Representative Veritus take his place. However, when Vangorich learned that Fabricator-General Kubik had secretly teleported the Ork capital of Ullanor instead of enacting Exterminatus, as Thane had demanded, in order to plunder their technology, Vangorich snapped. He realized that the High Lords would never put aside their personal ambition to protect Humanity. Faced with this depressing truth, Vangorich committed himself to destroying the High Lords and placing himself as ruler of the Imperium.[3a]
Vangorich struck swiftly, eliminating all of the High Lords in a single day:[3b]
- Co-Inquisitorial Representative Veritus was secretly poisoned by Vangorich days before. The poison was administrated in gas that mixed with Veritus' own life support chemicals to create a lethal mix. Veritus was originally only to be coerced into working for him much like Ecclesiarch Mesring, but Vangorich did not administer an antidote after becoming committed to his coup. The other Inquisitorial Representative, Wienand, was secretly given an antidote by Vangorich to protect her from the same poison. With his dying breath, Veritus urged Wienand to cooperate with Vangorich to avoid civil war and gave her the keys to the Citadel of Titan. There, Wienand met with Janus before returning to Terra to act as Vangorich's aid.
- Master of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica Abdulias Anwar and Master of the Astronomican Volquan Sark were both eliminated by the same Culexus Assassin.
- Paternoval Envoy Helad Gibran and his wife were both killed by his ambitious cousin Dovrian Ofar. The hit was approved by the Paternova, who was disappointed with Gibran's performance during the war. In the aftermath, Ofar became the new Paternoval Envoy.
- Speaker for the Chartist Captains, Juskina Tull, still guilty over the failed Proletarian Crusade, was goaded into committing suicide by her aid, Anastay, in truth an agent of Vangorich.
- Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard Abel Verreault and Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy Lansung were killed with each other's weapons by Master of the Administratum Tobris Ekharth. This Ekharth revealed that he was not the "real" Master of the Administratum but in fact an impostor, likely a Callidus Assassin. It is unknown what happened to the real Tobris Ekharth.
- Grand Provost Marshal of the Adeptus Arbites Vernor Zeck was killed by the assassin Beast Krule. However, Krule disagreed with the mission and Vangorich's ambition. He killed Zeck to stay close to Vangorich, but became secretly committed to his destruction.
- Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus Kubik was assaulted in his palace on Mars by an Eversor Assassin. His entourage was annihilated and he was confronted by Vangorich himself. Vangorich gave Kubik two options: die by his hand and have the Martian Noosphere and all of its data destroyed by an advanced computer virus or to voluntarily shut himself down and give his intelligence core over to Vangorich. Faced with the possible destruction of the Mechanicum's collective knowledge, Kubik complied and deleted his own consciousness. Vangorich installed his intelligence core into Eldon Urquidex, who took on Kubik's identity.
While on Crusade, Maximus Thane heard of the coup but decided not to act, considering Vangorich useful for the time and giving him a chance to rule.
Vangorich chaired the next meeting of the Senatorum Imperialis, unveiling his new High Lords. These were Lord Commander Militant Oskar Lowis, Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy Iryss Gelthor, Chancellor of the Estate Imperium Hektor Rosarind, Paternoval Envoy Dovrian Ofar, Ecclesiarch Ostulus, and Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes Beyreuth. Wienand remained Inquisitorial Representative and Tobris Ekharth continued to serve as Master of the Administratum while Eldon Urquidex continued to impersonate Fabricator-General Kubik. Vangorich maintained that Grand Provost Marshal Vernor Zeck was simply absent on other duties, but appointed an Arbitrator loyal to him known as Lady Haas to act as his "speaker". Due to his distrust of Psykers, the Adeptus Astra Telepathica and Adeptus Astronomica were not represented.[3b]
The Grand Master gave excuses for the absence of the missing High Lords, but none believed him. Instead, they were too afraid to speak out as Vangorioch unveiled hundreds of Assassin bodyguards who would now roam the Imperial Palace. The only opposition to Vangorich came from Beast Krule, who attempted to assassinate the Grand Master. Krule was bested in single combat by Vangorich and converted into an Eversor Assassin.[3b]
Vangorich ruled the Imperium for the next 100 years as a tyrant, but an effective one. Terra was refortified, the fourth Founding of Space Marines was successful, and the armies of the Imperium rebuilt. The last vestiges of The Beast's hordes were swept aside. However, after about 80 years of rule, Vangorich began to grow unstable. Unnecessary massacres, bizarre behavior, and random purges began to break out. Wienand, still working with Vangorich, knew the time for his fall was at hand. At the same time, Thane, still on Crusade, came to the same conclusion and made his move on Terra.[3b]
Thane arrived over Terra in the Phalanx, accompanied by 200 Imperial Fists as well as 200 Marines from the newly created Halo Brethren and Sable Swords. Thane declared that Vangorich's usefulness had run out and he was no longer fit to rule in His name. None on Terra rose to defend Vangorich save his own assassins, having become long fed up with his reign of terror.[3b]
After landing near the Great Chamber of the Senatorum Imperialis in the Imperial Palace complex, Thane's forces were assailed by hundreds of Assassins. Early in the skirmish, Chapter Master of the Sable Swords Qublicus Amar was killed by the bullet of a Vindicare Assassin. Ultimately, half the force of Space Marines were lost securing the Imperial Palace from the Officio Assassinorum.[3b]
Inside the Palace, Thane confronted the elderly Wienand who convinced him of her loyalty by giving him the information that Vangorich was in the Eversor Temple in the North Pole. Thane moved there at once, and once inside the Temple was assailed by a hundred Eversor Assassins as Vangorich proclaimed that he was not yet ready to abandon power.[3b]
The Eversors proved deadly, quickly annihilating the Space Marine force. By the end of the melee only three remained: Vangorich, Thane, and a single Eversor. Vangorich bid his goodbyes to Thane before ordering the Eversor to finish the Chapter Master, but the assassin stayed his hand. The Eversor was Esad Wire, who somehow had overcome his programming. This distraction gave Thane enough time to raise his Bolt Pistol. Vangorich asked if they would like to know the story of how Konrad Curze died before being shot dead by Thane. Of Esad Wire, there was no sign.[3b]
In the aftermath of Vangorich's fall, the Imperium fell into a period of anarchy. Agnathio, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, united over fifty other Chapter Masters and arrived on Terra to contain the anarchy that followed the incident. Putting an end to the political squabblings of who should succeed the High Lords, the Astartes sorted out the issues in a closed session of the Senatorum Imperialis. When they emerged, the new twelve High Lords had been chosen.
- 1: Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition Rulebook, pg. 124
- 2: Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook, pg. 169
- 3: The Beheading (Novel):