Maeleum Datum : 200.M36
In the Eye of Terror, news of the Ascension Wars were met with a mix of disbelief, outrage, and glee. The Word Bearers were enraged at this blasphemy, performed by one of their own gene-line no less. But Moriana remained protected by Lorgar's word, and the Unfettered's soul eluded all attempts by the Seventeenth's Sorcerers to summon it back from the Empyrean for punishment.
The rebellions she left in her wake, however, were not part of that arrangement, and so the Dark Council, ruling body of the Word Bearers in the Daemon Primarch's absence, activated many assets in Segmentum Obscurus to destroy the Transcendent Ones and the heretical lore that had created them. Operatives that had infiltrated the Ecclesiarchy rallied the hordes of the Imperial faithful, making great speeches decrying the monstrosity of the Transcendent Ones, describing them as heretics who had destroyed their own immortal souls to gain power for their selfish ends.
The Dark Council also sent many Diabolists and Chaos Marines through Warp Portals : these kill-teams targeted the Transcendent Ones who successfully performed the ritual, destroying their incarnated forms and sending them to the Dark Gods for punishment. In an ironic turn of fate, some of these kill-teams disguised themselves as loyalist Space Marines, fighting side by side with faithful Imperial citizens against the rebellious allies of the Transcendent Ones so that they might reach their true targets.
Meanwhile, the other factions of the Eye of Terror took action as well. Through their cults and rebel cells, they obtained copies of the Unfettered's incomplete research which Moriana had spread throughout the Segmentum. Of course, unlike the fools taking part in the Ascension Wars, they knew very well the doom that awaited the so-called 'Transcendent Ones' upon being banished to the Warp, so none of them attempted to perform the rituals themselves, but the insights into the nature of the Warp and its relation with the human soul were greatly valued in and of themselves. In research facilities across the Eye, the Unfettered's work continued, though with different goals.
"An interesting approach to be sure, even if it only leads to an evolutionary dead end. I would've liked to speak with that colleague of mine : among Lorgar's zealots, he might've actually had something of worth to bring to my great work. It's a shame he died, but then, genius always breeds jealousy. I'll honor his memory by making sure not to share his doom."
Fabius Bile, the Primogenitor, on the subject of the Transcendent Ones
One of the flashpoints of the Ascension Wars was Medusa, homeworld of the Iron Hands, in Segmentum Obscurus. The Hour of Revelations had caused the Tenth Legion to withdraw from the rest of the Imperium, but the many atrocities they had committed in the Inquisition's service hadn't been forgotten. A coalition of Transcendent Ones and their followers attacked Medusa, and while their first assault was repelled, the entire system soon found itself under siege by rebel armies and their demigod leaders. This at least ended the debates and feuds that had divided the Iron Tenth since the Hour of Revelations, as all efforts were focused on defending their homeworld.
The Ascension Wars raged on, threatening to consume the entirety of Segmentum Obscurus. Thousands of worlds were thrown into war, and the Imperium was forced to pour more and more resources into fighting the rebels as well as the opportunistic xenos raiders and would-be conquerors taking advantage of the confusion. The Chaotic factions also made sure to fan the flames whenever they seemed to die down, ensuring that the Wars would be as long and painful for the Imperium as possible – but not even Horus himself could've guessed just how damaging they would prove to be in the long run.
Six years after the Festival of Transcendent Souls, the tides of violence reached the Imperial world of Caldera. Caldera's people lived modest lives as denizens of a feudal world, and had remained untouched by Horusian schemes, but now their planet became a battleground between the Transcendent Ones and the Imperial forces, each fighting to deny the planet to the other. In truth, there was little reason for the conflict to take place there beyond Caldera's convenient location at a crossing of several Warp corridors, making it suitable as a staging ground.
The moment word of Caldera's plight reached Terra, Vulkan took action. When the Primarch had brought Caldera under the Imperial aegis during the Great Crusade, he'd made a promise that he would protect its people, out of the guilt he'd felt for his actions during the conquest. Vulkan called his Legion to his side, summoning the might of the Salamanders to battle once more.
Since the Heresy, Vulkan had remained on Terra, helping rebuild it in the wake of the disastrous Siege and slowly regaining the trust of its people, whose very souls had been marked with transhuman dread by the Siege's unrestrained violence and horror. Thanks to his efforts and those of his sons, Humanity's brutalized homeworld had begun to recover from the wounds inflicted by Horus and his cohorts. Meanwhile, the Salamanders had rebuilt their numbers, drawing on the blood of their Primarch to replenish their stores of gene-seed. On Nocturne, the Legion's homeworld in Ultima Segmentum, thousands of promising children had been inducted into the Legion's ranks.
A great host mustered in answer to the call of the Lord of Drakes, with the High Lords placing considerable resources under his command in the hope that these reinforcements would be enough to turn the tide in Segmentum Obscurus. And so, the Eighteenth Primarch and his Legion departed Holy Terra to honor a vow made in another, more innocent – if still gilded with comforting lies and damning ignorance – age. Not only did the Primarch intend to rescue Caldera's people, he was also determined to put an end to the Ascension Wars once and for all.
It was a mistake Vulkan would live to regret, for there was a serpent on Holy Terra that was now free to strike in the absence of the Throneworld's mightiest protector : Goge Vandire, the current Master of the Administratum.
Since the Hour of Revelations in 587.M35, the Ecclesiarchy had increased its pressure on the Imperium even more. The Ecclesiarch of the time, Greigor XI, had been forced to use exceptional measures in order to enforce the hold of the Imperial Creed, ultimately leading to his assassination by his disgruntled opponents within the Ecclesiarchy itself. In the centuries since, the Ecclesiarchy had tightened its grip on the soul of Humanity further and further with each successive Ecclesiarch. Any deviation from orthodoxy was punished by death, even as the sheer size of the Imperium meant that new interpretations of the Imperial Creed inevitably appeared on isolated worlds as fast as the Ecclesiarchy could put them down.
As the Ecclesiarchy's power grew, so did its corruption. Enormous tithes were raised to finance the construction of ever more grandiose palaces and monuments, with the Cardinal World of Ophelia VII in particular becoming known as the richest planet in the entire Imperium bar Holy Terra and Mars themselves. It was said that the palaces of Ophelia VII rivalled the Imperial Palace in size, if not in magnificence – for the techniques by which the Master of Mankind's resting place had been erected had long since been lost, with only Rogal Dorn still remembering them.
Though the Ecclesiarchy was vital in maintaining the unity of the Imperium against the heretics of the Eye, its growing influence raised concerns in the highest spheres of power. The tributes and tithes it demanded were also starting to be considered excessive even by the standards of the High Lords, who decided the fate of entire star systems every day. Therefore, when the high-ranking Administratum adept Goge Vandire of the wealthy and powerful Vandire Clan plotted to ensure the rise of the weak-willed Paulis III to the position of Ecclesiarch following the suspicious death of the previous incumbent, he was met with little opposition from the other movers and shakers of the Imperium. It was the hope of the other High Lords that Paulis III would be easily manipulated, allowing them to curtail the power of the Adeptus Ministorum and restoring a measure of balance to the delicate equilibrium of Imperial high politics.
When Vandire took up the mantle of 361st Master of the Administratum, his ascension was once again accompanied by the strange demises of several of his rivals, but such was hardly unheard of on Holy Terra : indeed, it was considered a mark of one's ability for intrigue. Vandire had taken care to appear to be a staunch opponent of the Ecclesiarchy's dominance while also maintaining the image of an impeccably pious servant of the God-Emperor, desiring only that the Ministorum focus on its duties as shepherds of His flock instead of scheming to accrue material wealth and power. But this was only a mask, carefully crafted to conceal his true ambitions.
In 200.M36, several years after Vulkan and the Salamanders had left Terra and joined the Ascension Wars, Vandire finally made his move. At the head of a group of Astra Militarum officers and Administratum enforcers, he stormed the Ecclesiarchal Palace and confronted Paulis III. Accusing the very Ecclesiarch he had placed on the throne of being a heretic and blaming him for the disquiet and heresy that ran rampant throughout the Imperium, he personally shot the man to death and seized control of the Ecclesiarchy through what amounted to a military coup. Those who opposed his takeover within the Terran Ecclesiarchy were promptly rounded up by Vandire's agents, and within a few weeks of Paulis III's death Vandire was effectively both Master of the Administratum and Ecclesiarch, holding control of two of the Imperium's most powerful institutions.
With such power at his command, Vandire's true nature as a megalomaniacal tyrant was soon revealed, and the period that would later be called the Reign of Blood began. He cemented his control of the Ecclesiarchy through bloody purges, including the destruction of entire hive-cities and even planets in order to suppress all opposition to his rule. Vandire ordered that his every word be recorded for posterity, and seemed to have convinced himself that the Emperor spoke through him, and as such, nothing he did could possibly be wrong – though whether he truly believed this or simply used it to justify his deeds to his followers was and would forever remain unclear.
The Ordo Hereticus attempted to curtail Vandire's power, but to no avail. Mad or not, Vandire was one of the greatest political minds Mankind had ever created, and he expertly manipulated things to weaken the Inquisition's influence instead, playing on the revelation of their use of the 'traitorous' Iron Hands since the Heresy, as well as subtly shifting the blame for the current state of affairs in Segmentum Pacificus and Obscurus on the self-appointed guardians of the Imperium's purity.
The Sundering and Ascension Wars were, Vandire claimed, signs that Mankind had lost the favor of the God-Emperor, and only through unquestioning obedience and devotion to him, His chosen prophet, could the Imperium hope to regain its former glory. Segmentum Solar and Tempestus were bled dry of resources and manpower by ever-growing tithes enacted by the Administratum and Ministorum, which were then sent to support the Ascension Wars or the grandiose monuments to Vandire's vanity. Out of fear of the Primarchs, Vandire also made sure that none of the four sons of the Emperor who yet remained active – Rogal Dorn, Sanguinius, Vulkan and Corvus Corax – learned the truth of the Reign of Blood, keeping them busy with the Ascension Wars and the other perils besetting the Imperium.
When news of Vandire's ascension and exactions reached him, Horus Lupercal wondered which of the Eye's factions had sponsored the tyrant's rise. To his surprise, his spies found no sign that any of the Chaotic factions had anything to do with Goge Vandire, which the Prince of the Eye found hard to believe. Upon questioning Greater Daemons of each of the Dark Gods, it appeared not even the Ruinous Powers had anything to do with the new Ecclesiarch's crimes : he'd chosen this bloody path all on his own, and would not let anyone stop him.
In time, Vandire's network of spies brought him word of a small sect of the Imperial Creed based on San Leor, an agri-world on the edges of Ultima Segmentum : the Daughters of the Emperor. This all-female sect worshipped the God-Emperor without question, but had cut ties with the Ecclesiarchy in the decades prior to Vandire's ascension. Struck by one of his ideas that straddled the line between genius and madness, Vandire immediately departed for the remote agri-world.
On San Leor, Vandire met with the leaders of the Daughters of the Emperor, who, in spite of his overwhelming power, refused to show him fealty, honoring the commands of their forebears who had distanced themselves from the Ecclesiarchy. Vandire's followers fully expected their lord to command them to slaughter the Daughters and put all of San Lear to the torch as an example, but before Vandire could answer the insult, both parties were attacked by assassins belonging to a Chaos cult of the Seventeenth Legion that had managed to avoid detection on San Leor for generations, but couldn't miss the chance to kill an Ecclesiarch.
Vandire's personal force-field protected him from the cultists' pathetic weapons, but to the Daughters of the Emperor, such technology seemed miraculous. After the ambush was defeated, the High Lord led the Daughters into a purge of San Leor, rooting out the cult and burning its members along with ten times that number of innocent civilians. Vandire made sure that the pyres were lit by the Daughters of the Emperor, forging their loyalty to him through shared murder – a tactic he'd used many times before as he sent mobs of fanatics to lynch Imperial officials who refused to obey his every order without question, from lowly clerks to Governors.
When they were done, what remained of San Leor's population was free of heresy, and the Daughters of the Emperor pledged their loyalty to the Ecclesiarch who had led them to cleanse the taint that had festered right under their noses, and followed him off-world.
With Vandire's support, the newly-renamed Brides of the Emperor expanded their ranks massively, recruiting thousands of young women and indoctrinating them into blind obedience of the Ecclesiarch. Mirroring the distantly occupied Space Marine Legions, they were armored in ceramite and armed with bolters, and became the most powerful military force under Vandire's command, each of them capable of facing an entire squad of Guardsmen and emerge victorious so long as she held her faith to the God-Emperor and His prophet Vandire in her heart.
Back when Vandire had killed and usurped Paulis III, there had been genuine support for his actions among the other High Lords and their entourage, both for pragmatic and religious reasons. Now, even the most cold-blooded schemers were starting to have doubts, but it was too late : Vandire's control of the Ecclesiarchy was absolute, and he even had his own army of power-armoured killing machines to help enforce his will. When the Cardinals of the Holy Synod attempted to depose Vandire using ancient laws of the Ecclesiarchy that hadn't been used in millennia, the Brides of the Emperor stormed the ancient building on Terra and slaughtered them all, save for those Vandire had marked as his allies – a number that was much smaller than the actual number of those who hadn't voted against him.
"We thought we could control him, use him to make the Ecclesiarchy into the instrument of order it was supposed to be when it was created. We were wrong. He is a monster, one of our own making, and he will destroy us all as surely as Horus if he is not stopped."
From the private writings of Inquisitor Jaëger, Ordo Hereticus, three days before his arrest and summary execution by the Brides of the Emperor for heresy and sedition.
The Terran elites, who had lived safe from the wars and rebellions ravaging the Imperium, found themselves trapped, at the mercy of an all-powerful lunatic and his army of fanatical followers. They desperately clung to the familiar, continuing to throw lavish parties despite the threat of a single false step or misspoken word drawing the ire of the mad tyrant and dooming their entire bloodline to excruciation in the Ecclesiarchy's torture chambers. As Vandire descended further and further into madness, Segmentum Solar was subjected to pogroms and horrors of a scale not seen since the Heresy – except the Reign of Blood lasted for decades instead of a mere handful of years. Those heretical organizations that managed to escape the purges took full advantage of the situation by helping refugees flee from Ultima Segmentum, where they spread word of the atrocities inflicted by their Terran overlords to the small, isolated populations where the cults brought them.
Even the other High Lords were not beyond Vandire's reach : when the Master of the Astronomican dared to speak up against Vandire, he was kidnapped and held captive for days by Culexus assassins, whose soul-devouring aura extinguished his psychic power entirely and broke his will, reducing him to Vandire's puppet. The Assassins themselves had fallen under Vandire's control when his ally Tziz Jarek, Master of the Callidus Assassins, had killed and replaced the Grand Master of Assassins, succeeding in this plot thanks to the liberal use the High Lords had made of the Officio's services over the centuries to quash rebellions having left the organization weakened.
Gastaph Hediatrix, the Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus, left Terra soon after Vandire's return with the Brides of the Emperor, and remained on Mars, refusing to depart the Red Planet's safety and sending emissaries to attend even his most important duties on the Throneworld. Hediatrix knew that the Mechanicus was the only power left in Sol that rivalled that of Vandire, and refused to risk falling in the clutches of his insane peer.
There remained only one group on Holy Terra able to oppose Vandire's mad reign : the Adeptus Custodes. In another time, perhaps they would have reacted more swiftly, but anomalies had started to manifest in the unthinkably complex machinery of the Golden Throne, following the loss of knowledge required for its maintenance in the aftermath of the Prophet of Cogs' departure from the Red Planet. In addition, the Custodes had long grown disillusioned with the Imperium's current state, as their brotherhood still honored the ideals of the Great Crusade, which had been trampled upon in the name of survival.
Still, as their informants reported more and more of Vandire's atrocities, the Custodes decided to take action, despite the risk of drawing the attention of the mad tyrant – for at this point, it was unlikely Vandire would hesitate to attack even the Custodes themselves. Nearly a century had passed since Vandire's ascension when their envoy slipped out of Sol unseen by Vandire's many spies and fled through the Warp, bound for Segmentum Obscurus and carrying a message meant for the ears of the Primarch Vulkan – whom, perhaps alone of the Emperor's sons, the Custodes genuinely respected.
Naz'Gher'El saw the ship, so small against the tides of the Warp. It was damaged, struggling against the storms. If nothing changed, it would soon be destroyed, and the message it carried would be lost.
This displeased the End of Empires, for whom truth and unwelcome revelations were sacrosanct. So the Daemon Prince of Nurgle reached out and pushed the storms aside, clearing the way for the ship to reach its destination.
Naz'Gher'El could already smell the ashes and devastation that would come as a consequence of its actions, and it smiled.
In the decades since Vulkan's departure from Terra, the Ascension Wars had almost been brought to a close. Vulkan's personality had helped quell rebellions less violently than had become typical for the Imperium, earning him the adoration of entire Sectors, and his repeated defeats of the Transcendent Ones in single combat had earned him the title of 'Imperial Dragon'. At several points during the conflict, Vulkan had even had the chance to fight alongside his surviving brothers once more, though their duties had soon taken them on separate paths again.
Of course, Segmentum Obscurus was far from being at peace, but the threat of the Transcendent Ones at least had been curbed for now. Yet as Vulkan reflected on all that had been achieved in the last hundred years, the Custodes' messenger finally found him, and delivered to him the full report compiled by the Eyes of the Emperor on what had occurred during the Reign of Blood while he and his sons were off fighting.
It had been many centuries since Vulkan had been driven to rage, but this revelation was more than enough. The Lord of Drakes immediately set off for Terra, determined to bring the mad High Lord to justice – and woe betide any who stood in his way. Those few souls brave enough to advise caution in the face of Vulkan's wrath were ignored, though even in throes of righteous fury the Primarch retained enough of his strategic mind to avoid recalling all of his forces from Segmentum Obscurus. Instead, Vulkan left the last battlefields of the Ascension Wars with his elite Pyre Guard : over a thousand veteran warriors, each clad in master-wrought Terminator armor. Alongside them came an entire Navy battlegroup and many Astra Militarum Regiments, for the messenger had described in no uncertain terms the might Vandire had gathered at his side.
Vulkan's flagship, the Flamewrought – so named in homage to the Legion's original Gloriana-class battleship, lost in orbit of Isstvan V – led this armada of retribution on the way back to the Throneworld. The fleet sailed through the Warp with terrible purpose, and the Navigators claimed that it was as if the very tides of the Empyrean were parting before them. Within only a few months of their departure, the fleet emerged in Sol, with Vulkan proclaiming his intent for all to hear, all but daring Vandire to try and stop him.
"To the man calling himself Goge Vandire, I say this : you have betrayed every oath you have ever made, and turned your back on my father, the Emperor. You have perverted His Imperium, and I would call you Horusian if I didn't know my fallen kinsman enough to know that even he would be embarrassed to be associated with one such as you. Know that all the power you have bought with the blood of others will not protect you from my wrath, for I am the Emperor's wrath come for you at last, and there is nowhere you can hide that the fires of judgment will not find you."
Message of Vulkan upon his arrival in the Sol system, 303.M36
For the first time in decades, Vandire knew fear as he saw the Flamewrought approach. Terror pierced the veil of madness, and the High Lord ordered every force under his command to stop the approaching judgment. The vast fleet tasked with Holy Terra's protection had long been suborned to his will, with the officer corps of the Imperial Navy being riddled with his supporters – cruel and vicious men, who didn't hesitate to murder their superiors to climb up the ranks. But the crews of the hundreds of ships were not so easily ordered to open fire on a son of the Emperor, and when the news of Vulkan's return had reached Mars, Fabricator-General Hediatrix had immediately voiced his support for the Lord of Drakes' cause.
All across Battlefleet Terra, bridge crews and tech-priests mutinied against the servants of Vandire. They weren't always successful, but the chaos they caused was enough to clear Vulkan's path to the Throneworld's orbit. In a flash of teleportation, the Primarch of the Salamanders and one hundred of his Pyre Guard made planetfall in the very heart of Vandire's power : the Ecclesiarchal Palace. Guided by intel discreetly provided by the Custodes, Vulkan made straight for the mad tyrant, ripping through the Frateris Templars who sought to block his path until he finally confronted Vandire, surrounded by a cadre of Brides of the Emperor.
Driven to new paroxysms of rage by the decadence he'd witnessed on his way to the chamber, Vulkan let loose the fullness of his awesome power. The Brides were scattered before him like children before a furious father, and within seconds the Primarch towered over Vandire, his crimson glare pinning the man who had orchestrated the death of trillions in place. Then, without giving the High Lord time to try anything, Vulkan ignited the Gauntlet of the Forge mounted on his armor, and burned Vandire to ash, his expression remaining utterly still as the madman finally perished.
"I don't have time to die … I'm too busy !"
Last words of Goge Vandire (allegedly)
Yet the greatest horror of the Reign of Blood was yet to come. With Vandire's death, Alicia Dominica, leader of the Brides of the Emperor and witness to her liege's fiery demise, plunged head-first into madness herself. In the throes of her delusions, she denounced Vulkan and his Salamanders are heretics and mutants, their skin burned to charcoal by the God-Emperor as a warning that His faithful had failed to heed. Under her command, the rest of the dead High Lord's followers sought to avenge their martyred master, and Terra was plunged into civil war as all hopes of a semi-peaceful transition of power and return to normalcy was silenced by power armoured figures clashing once more across the Throneworld.
The Brides of the Emperor were far from a match for the Pyre Guards one-on-one, but they far outnumbered the sons of Vulkan, and there were millions of Frateris Templars on Terra responsible for enforcing Vandire's will. Blood flowed in torrents, and agitators and doomsday prophets raised entire mobs of terrified civilians, sending them to die at the Salamanders' guns.
To prevent things from escalating, the Custodes finally involved themselves in the conflict, with Shield-Captain Amon Tauromachian leading a host of three hundred Custodes out of the Imperial Palace to join the Imperial Dragon. The sight of the golden warriors fighting alongside the Salamanders was enough to break the will of many of the rioters and turncoats, but not all.
So trapped in a spiral of self-deceit was Alicia Dominica that not even the sight of the Emperor's own Custodians fighting alongside the Lord of Drakes was enough to make her realize the depths of her folly. Instead, she convinced herself that all hope was lost, and that even the Emperor's closest companions had been turned against Him by Vulkan's lies. In her madness, she enacted Vandire's direst contingency plan, designed in the deepest throes of paranoid madness by the dead usurper.
Alicia led a contingent of the surviving Brides to the Astronomican itself, bringing with her tech-priests whose loyalty was enforced by the threat of bolters and heretekal devices implanted inside their augmented brains. With them was a relic of the Dark Age of Technology, a bulky and ugly thing that hummed ominously and had spent millennia locked away in the deepest vaults of the Mechanicus. What its initial function had been, none living now remembered, but it had been rigged by Vandire's servants into an enormous bomb, meant to ensure that if Vandire couldn't rule over Terra, then nobody else would.
Warned of the danger by the Custodes and his own Librarians, Vulkan rushed to the Astronomican's defense, but it was too late. Seeing the Lord of Drakes approach as the gates of the Hollow Mountain were within sight, Alicia activated the device and the bomb detonated. As it was still outside the Astronomican's projection chamber, the worst-case scenario was adverted, but the Dark Tech device was still powerful enough to irreparably damage the complex and ill-understood machinery of the Beacon, which spread far beyond the Hollow Mountain itself.
The light of the Astronomican died. All across the galaxy, the beacon on which Navigators relied to guide ships through the madness of the Sea of Souls suddenly went dark. On Terra, the psychic backlash was immense, scouring an entire continental mass almost completely clean of sentient life – a mass graveyard of ruined buildings, amidst which the regenerating form of the Imperial Dragon soon emerged, howling in horrified grief at what he'd failed to prevent.
The Collapse had begun.
He sits on his gilded throne, built of the still-twitching corpses of his foes. Around him, his servants scurry in the dark, bringing him pieces of meat to feast upon and cowering from his wrath. None can challenge his might, and yet he isn't content, his belly forever gnawed by hunger even as his feverish mind sees enemies in every corner.
In his anger, he lashes out, condemning those who have the misfortune of crossing his gaze at the wrong moment to death. He tears them apart with his claws and devours their entrails, but this only brings him a short respite before he sees more threats.
On and on this goes, the hunger and the fear growing worse and worse, until both reach a paroxysm where he's constantly eating and killing, until there is no one alive but him, bloated and bloody. Then, for the first time, there is light, as the fire of a great scaled beast burns through his lair, cleansing it all in flame and burning him alive, his screeches and squeaks silenced at last.
Then he wakes up, a king of rats on a verminous throne once more, and the whole cycle begins anew : a short and bloody reign, and then punishment in fire.
This is the fate of Goge Vandire's thrice-damned soul, now and forever.
AN : And here we are, at last.
Sorry, Sisters of Battle fans. On the plus side, at least in this timeline the Daughters of the Emperor didn't get deceived by a freaking force field. I mean, really ? None of them realized it had been a trick over the next decades of living in the very heart of the Imperium and using the very best tech Vandire could provide to arm them with ? Truly, fanatical belief does bad things to your brain.
The last scene of this chapter was inspired by the Ravenloft setting for D&D, specifically the various curses of the Darklords. If there's any soul in 40k that deserves such a fate, Vandire is certainly high in the contention (there's Erebus too, of course, but the bastard is still alive, much to the dismay of everyone who has ever heard of him in-universe).
The end of this story is in sight. The next chapter will depict the aftermath of the Collapse on a galactic level, and then the Epilogue will bring this story to a close. As always, I look forward to your thoughts on this chapter and the story in general.