Proscription List

In a dark age of ravenous madness, doom may come at the stroke of a quill.

An enduring hallmark of His Divine Majesty's astral realm is its tendency toward cannibalizing ancient technology and society alike, feeding hungrily on hidden reserves and sometimes hollowing out its own foundations. The modus operandi of the Imperium of Man is one of answering challenges to its power with an increased input of manpower and resources fed into the meatgrinder, applied inefficiently at the best of times with a callous disregard for any human suffering thus inflicted. Oftentimes, the resultant hardships, mass death and agony will be met by Imperial masters with utter contempt for the unbecoming weakness and wretchedness on display, or even with a cruel glee at the righteous cleansing of the frail and the deviant.

One widespread phenomenon of such an Imperial eagle's eating of its own children, is that of proscription, namely a decree of condemnation to death and outlawry (or in rare cases banishment) of undesired Imperial subjects of means. Proscriptions are death lists placed in public places, which declare all enlisted names of those damned to have been deprived of all privileges, property and rank, and to be abandoned by the God-Emperor's holy light. Proscription decrees likewise invites any enterprising and loyal Imperial subjects to participate in manhunts to root out and kill outlaws in order to receive fine rewards in exchange for presentation of proof of deed fulfilled, such as decapitated heads of the proscribed ones.

Naturally, all estates, vessels and fortunes of proscripts will be seized by those Adepts or local rulers which issued the decree. This confiscation of property is quite often followed by grand public auctions in order to bring in funds quickly, during which vast tracts of real estate, manufactoria ownership certificates, collegia shares and other lucrative possessions can often be purchased at very low rates by ruthless speculators and moneyed vultures of others' demise. Whoever offers proof of slaying the proscribed gain either a small share in this looting of the victim's belongings, or a handsome set bounty.

Oftentimes, the strenuous demands of total war on ten thousand different war fronts will act as a spur for both the Adeptus Terra and rulers of worlds and voidholms alike to seize resources of Imperial subjects and swiftly raise additional funds for a treasury in crisis through extraordinary means of declaring opponents and propertied unfortunates to be outlaws. At other times, internal power struggles among rulers, with their combined need for more revenue and the elimination of both rival factions and emerging centres of power alike may result in decrees of proscription. It is likewise not uncommon for such enlisting of condemned outlaws to be born out of insanity, paranoia or a sadistic wish to display great power among planetary governors, voidholm despots, regional satraps and other high-ranking masters and betters.

As a rule, proscriptions do not touch the very highest of noble houses since they are too powerful and too dangerous to fall for such a common, petty ploy. Instead, proscriptions tend to prey upon thousands upon thousands of middling guilders, nobles, officials and military potentates, many of which may constitute part of some rival upper nobility house's support base, not seldom in a client-patron relationship. Thus proscriptions may indirectly target the supporters of higher nobility rivals to the ruler in a vicious attempt to undermine their influence, without being so tactless and blundering as to directly including any of the highest aristocratic enemy houses' names on the condemnation lists.

The posting of proscription lists in fora and other public places is the signing of a death note, sparking frenzied activity on the streets as professional bounty hunters and enterprising Imperial subjects alike scramble to hunt down those marked for death and destruction. Sometimes, mobs of manhunters need to overcome deadly bodyguards and noble house armsmen in frantic shootouts or even outright outbursts of urban warfare, yet more commonly the guards themselves will turn their weapons upon their master or mistress since they happen to stand in a prime position to reap the proscription rewards ahead of the greedy competition. That competition is indeed fierce and many-headed, because special grants of legal privileges, debt annulment and manumission from slavery and indentured servitude in exchange for handing in the head of a proscript traitor remain potent and tempting rewards for the lowliest of thralls and menials among the filthy, teeming masses of humanity.

On hundreds of thousands of Imperial worlds and uncounted void habitats, there exist a vast flora of tales of fleeing and hiding proscripts, facing wildly different fates. Some outlaws are ratted out by servants or by their own family and friends, while many hide in ingenious or disgusting places for months or years on end. Others are mercifully spared due to their youth by one benevolent group of manhunters, only to be ceaselessly stalked by a second band, and end up offering themselves to the first group as a way for their death to reward the more worthy beneficiaries. Yet others go underground or flee into the wilderness, slag glacier or Underhive, and these exiles tend to change their appearance with new hairstyles, the growing of beards, tattoos, bionics and a plethora of other means; sometimes ending up as members or even leaders of criminal gangs, and occassionally being found out and exterminated many years after the original proscription list was first posted. The stories are endless, yet most end with a grim fate in store for the running proscripts and hiding outlaws, who eventually succumb to overlord-approved murder, often of a tortuous nature.

As a rule, the announcement of a proscription decree is accompanied by children, grandchildren and other kin and descendants of the outlaws being both marked with infamy and forbidden to seek public office or rank, and likewise it is not possible to inherit any property of proscribed people. Large proscription campaigns may often leave a shunned caste of untouchables behind, whose damning status as the seed of proscripts will continue to brand their descendants for untold generations to come. In some cultures, the spouse of the outlaw may not marry again, and all their children are rendered illegitimate with all the stigma thus attached.

Many variants of proscription decrees go so far as to condemn the entire clan, house and extended family of proscriped ones to the same bloody end as the intended individual targets (usually the masters of households or clan leaders). Thus unnumbered bloodlines have met their collective end at the hands of greedy mob violence, treacherous bodyguards or stalking bounty hunters, all pursuing the high prizes of death lists in a violent field day where one man dead is another man's bread. Most victims of proscriptions are beheaded by their banes, and these bloody trophies and proofs of deed are often proudly displayed in a city's Forum Imperialis or other esteemed public locations.

It goes without saying that the most abominable punishments are reserved for any misguided weaklings and malcontents who would seek to help and hide the condemned proscripts, for the Imperium cannot abide such treachery toward the sacred order of Him on Terra.

Thus the Imperium of Man is characterized by inevitable, mechanistic cruelty, playing out in repeating cycles of purges, plundering and bloodbaths. Here, no amount of wealth, title and influence can truly shield you from the horror and ruin of a sudden downfall, and no amount of claiming your rights nor protesting your innocence can protect you from a righteously delivered death by better Imperial subjects than yourself. To find your name on an Imperial proscription list is to lose everything you own and everyone you hold dear, for even an unlikely survival as a wretched outlaw in the gutter will mean surrendering all that was precious to you, except your own life.

And so the creaking and rusty wheels of Imperial power continue turning with an unstoppable momentum, grinding hopes and families beneath their oppressive weight, and crushing guilty and innocent alike with an indifferent heart of stone. Century after century, they grind on, their long route one of barbaric cruelty and demented sacrifice leading toward nought but a dead end. Millennium after millennium, the wheels of Imperial power keep on turning, lubricated by the blood of its victims, their names forgotten by a faceless tyranny that was never shy of devouring its own people. Such is the Age of Imperium.

Such is the depravity of man.

Such is the future that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is nowhere to hide.