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Thread: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

  1. #21
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Subversion

    In an age of darkness, fools will grasp for any seeming hope that is offered them, like fishes will with bait.

    During the Age of Terra, the bestial ancestors of man lived in packs, without which they were doomed to die alone. The forefathers of man dwelt in tribes and clans, each Human being an organic part of the communal organism to which they conformed. One of the worst fates to befall ancient man was to be exiled and cast out of the community, for what was man without his kin group? The rise of cities and technology would eventually diminish such natural ties, yet the organic bonds never disappeared even at the height of the Dark Age of Technology, when man in his error thought himself the master and remaker of all creation, including that of himself.

    There have always been those who feel themselves alienated from society, those inclined to disagree with their congregation, those unwilling or unable to follow the herd. These souls, doomed to deviate, will often find themselves under intense mental pressure from the petrified order, rigour and terror experienced by leading a bleak life in the tyrannical Imperium of Man, for Imperial rule have long since developed into crushing individuality and free thought for the betterment of public order. Such misfits are as varied as they are malcontent: They may be groups barely tolerated to live for the sake of slave labour, such as mutants or the descendants of some ancient rebels. They may be people driven nigh-insane by exacting labours which they were unable to stand anymore, seeking an escape from their living hell, no matter what it may be. They may be people who have had their worldview shaken by some traumatic experience, or by thinking too deeply. They may be rich nobles bored out of their senses by rigid protocol and ennui. They may be failed students or members of aspiring classes lusting for power, influence, privileges and salaried state employment. They may be those who dream of a better tomorrow. Some may simply be weak-willed minds, easily led astray by the next person they meet. Others still may be of a more spiteful bent, unsavoury characters who feel unweclcomed by society and in turn reject society themselves.

    Yet even such outcasts and deviants possess an innate need for a sense of belonging, and as such like will attract like in the seedy underbelly of cities and voidholms. Those lost to the flock by alienation will often seek radical experiences, pushing boundaries and abandoning mores and even sanity in a whirlwind of hedonistic partying and edgy experimentation among subcultures. In such a drug-poisoned morass of moral perversion, dangerous ideologies, harebrained sects and heinous thought of self thrive in that twilight zone where law and order seldom apply.

    Thus it is that such deviants and malcontents tend to break with Imperial dogma and desert the Ecclesiarchal flock to which they once belonged, drifting ever more down pathways to damnation. Many may eventually find a new community in the myriad of obscure and illegal groups infesting mankind's urban centers like so many rashes and boils. Here, dropouts of society and those who refuse to fit in will be scooped up and processed by a veritable jungle of sects, dodgy clubs, forbidden movements, secret societies, orgy circles, mystery cults and weird gangs. There, they will be exposed to a whole new world of banished belief systems, exotic talk, underground presses, suppressed lore and heady ideas. Thus twisted grills will be put in the heads of new members, usually denying the Imperial Creed and spitting upon the Emperor's sacrifice.

    Such are the paths that lead waywards into the clutches of such heretical cells as murderous Death Cults, crazed Chaos sects and hybridizing Genestealer Cults. A recent development out on the Eastern Fringe have also seen growing numbers of Humans won over by the insidious persuasion of stunningly eloquent Water Caste agents and their propaganda material advertising the grand benevolence of the Greater Good. Such foul apostasy have seen subjects of the God-Emperor transform into xenophile Tauists, those fifth columnist sympathizers of a hostile alien empire.

    Once fully indoctrinated into the movement, the deviants and malcontents will themselves go out and attempt to recruit others for their cause. Careful conversations in the street and workplace will serve as feelers to probe potential targets, to see if they are a good fit for the underground group. Once fine prey have been identified, an invitation will be extended, and so these illegal dens of discontent and subversion perpetuate themselves.

    Bolder still will be those sect members who act the part of the rabblerouser, braving gruesome retaliation by approaching passers-by openly, holding speeches, handing out heretical leaflets in the street and practicing the art of demagougery at constant risk of spontaneous lynching or arrest. Such underground propaganda will be accompanied by treacherous graffiti and posters sufficient to land the vandals in dungeons of unspeakable torture and torment. By all manner of manipulation will these salesmen of fevered ideas try to spread the disease of their minds, and oftentimes will they clash violently with rival sects in the streets of cities and corridors of voidholms. Indeed, it is common practice for hostile subverts to inform on each other to the authorities, using their much-bewailed planetary oppressors and Imperial bloodsuckers as a means to wreck the competition.

    Controlling what people read, hear and see is a powerful tool, and this is why independent mass media is such a limited and often nonexistent phenomenon in the million worlds and uncounted void habitats of the Imperium of Man. Most printsheets, vox-shows and pict-firms that do exist, do so in meticulusly circumscribed form, working under the heavy hand of censorship, never far from summary execution or far, far worse should they ever publish anything contrary to the wish of Holy Terra. After all, the existence of influential propaganda organs outside state control could pose a challenge to Imperial rule, through a daily grind of slanted reports, choosing to highlight particular happenings over others, lies, or outright omission of events and information which runs counter to the image which the chattering lot would wish to project. There would also be endless needling and gnawing critique of the powers that be, as well as the crying foul about supposed injustices and the subtle spreading of ideas counter to Imperial interests. Indeed such propaganda methods are usually reserved for the Adeptus Terra and loyal elites only. The Imperium know well the power of propaganda and obscurantism, for it utilize it as a tool of control all the time, and it will tolerate no rival centers of brainwashing.

    Yet such a war of words nevertheless rage under the surface on most Imperial worlds and voidholms, for in shady corridors and grimy streets will be found men and women brave, foolhardy, fanatical, desperate or insane enough to speak up for their cause. A cause altogether independent from the concerns of the greater Imperium, and which often runs counter to the Holy Terran cause. Maverick sects befoul Imperial settlements everywhere, but the same is also true for the all too common separatist groupings that want to cast off the heavy burden of Imperial yoke from their homeworld or voidholm. Imperial territories are likewise rife with innumerable angry movements which spring up because of particular grievances (such as an outrageously greedy and ruthless tax farmer, or certain dictates hampering the livelihood of people), and these particularists are concerned with addressing and righting those issues alone, often loudly professing loyalty and devotion to the Emperor for the uncaring ears of Imperial Adepta and warriors. Obviously, any and all challenges to rightful Imperial rule must be crushed without mercy.

    For the most part, the constant efforts of subverts and perverts to sway public opinion away from supporting the fearsome monolith that is Imperial governance, are doomed to fail. Stray recruits can always be gained among deviants, but true mass following is always difficult to obtain in a theocratic police state, even in one as marred by inefficiency, corruption and incompetence as the Imperium is. Repression and propaganda remain great strengths of the draconic Imperium of Man, even after ten millennia of bloated decay and rotten bureaucracy. For all the petty sloganeering and streetcorner rabblerousing which roach-like heretics and malcontents can muster, Imperial authorities, preachers and propagandists can answer with a colossal barrage of twisted messages, desinformation and rallying of support of their own, firmly rooted in the masses' upbringing having occurred under the all-pervasive Cult Imperialis with its zealotry and fiery oratory.

    Nevertheless, heretics and enemies of the Emperor everywhere know that they can count on one thing above all others in order to gain converts like a ravaging pandemic: Imperial failings. Grand mistakes and shocking mismanagement by the Imperium of Man remain the surest source of new cult members, for nothing readies man to switch saddles and loyalties so readily as when he bears the full brunt of fresh hardships and misery. When a new great famine reduces millions or even billions of Humans to skin and bone, and puts their children into mass graves or cannibal pots, some embittered survivors turn. When the tithe grows crushing like never before, and sees thousands upon thousands of innocent, hardworking people dragged off into debt slavery and lobotomization for cyborg-transformation into Servitors, some will turn. When faults and negligence higher up result in dozens of districts finding themselves in the dark without electricity or drinking water for months on end, leading to a nightmare of desperate looting, panic, predation and harsh suppression by arms, people turn. When the Arbites torture and kill entire families, the lone survivors turn. When lives are shattered, those who have nothing left to lose will take the plunge and give their valediction to mainstream society, or at least its rulers.

    Imperial cruelties and dysfunctionality is far more often the result of corruption, bureaucratic inertia and incompetence than it is the child of necessary evil and the overruling demands of defending the Human species in a hostile galaxy of total war and cosmic horrors. The evil that men do is eternal and inescapable, yet this abominable malevolence is unnecessarily multiplied and amplified a thousandfold under the harsh overlordship of the Imperium. And so it is that perverted manipulators will grasp any fertile opportunities to spread dissent by questioning Imperial legitimacy and haranguing the leadership of planetary elites or voidholm oligarchs. When the time is right, these hidden heretics will step forth and disrupt the cohesion of their culture and break down social control by venomous tongues and frantic action. They will infiltrate organizations and spread defeatism and doubt, and they will gnaw at the foundations of Imperial might.

    Rarely are there as prime opportunities for subverts as arise in the worst times of crisis. Especially so in the midst of the most draining wars of attrition that are also accompanied by rampant and visible incompetence, military disasters, massive shortages and baleful starvation on the home front. Moulding minds are usually best done during childhood and youth, yet the views of people may be reshaped like clay when they are at their most desperate and thirsting for some kind of solution to their woes. When they are begging for someone willing to promise your desires, someone able to inspire and make you dream big, yes, someone able to electrify the masses. Someone able to step forth and take the lead.

    And so the subvertive movements will manifest their will to power by passive resistance, boycotts, terrorism, assassinations and sabotage. Despite the lethal reply of Imperial authorities, there will be riots and the defacing of Imperial monuments, mob attacks on Imperial personnel in the street and the burning of Imperial scrolls and tomes such as debt registers and books of faith. Coups may be attempted, if infiltration and backroom deals have gone far enough. The surging tide of malcontents will rise into full insurrection, and the rebels will raise the banners of the their heinous revolution, simultaneously waging a gruesome civil war in the streets with loyalist neighbours and pious family members who refused to shirk from the righteous Imperium. Strife will play out, as it always has. Brother will slay brother, and sister will strangle sister in a madness of carnage and hatred.

    Such insurgencies are usually put down with overmighty force of arms, followed by bloodthirsty eradication campaigns and massive purges. Yet some revolts do succeed, at least for a while, and manage to topple Imperial rule. Then it will usualy be shown that the alternative to Imperial oppression is just another nuance of violent tyranny and rampant corruption under different flags, as one set of rulers is exchanged for another one during the exhilaration of a brand new revolution. The new men and women at the helm will pursue selfish interests, or worse yet pursue utopian pipedreams with fanatical zeal and lakes of blood staining the hands of the idealists in power.

    And so the worst flaws of mankind play out again and again, set to a choir of broken promises and stillborn hopes. Enemies are to be crushed, after all. And to gain support, it is advantageous to sell a false option. Hand the firebrands some grand words and an empty idea that they can believe in, and use those revolutionary zealots to suppress dissent and cement your power. Of course, to have power is when you are able to do something, and no one is able to stop you. Furthermore, power is intoxicating and addictive, and yesterday's dogged rebel that became today's leading liberator will often be tomorrow's toppled tyrant. As a learned man in the distant Age of Terra once opined: It is safer to be feared than loved, for the bonds of love are fragile and dependent on obligation which is broken at every opportunity for someone's advantage due to the baseness of man. Thus the arts of power are ones of cunning and cruelty.

    And all this is to say nothing of the otherworldly hell-orgy or certain doom at the hands of the Great Devourer that await those planets and voidholms who fall victim to revolts of Chaos or Genestealer Cults...

    Treachery, heresy and rebellion remain an everlasting scourge of His Divine Majesty's sacred domains across the stars, as the Horus Heresy and Age of Apostasy well attest to. Disunity and strife may yet prove the undoing of humanity, and so the Holy Inquisition will never rest in its mission to root out this disease in the body politic. It will find the taint and purge any suspected deviants with extreme prejudice. Inquisitors will scour entire star systems and leave billions dead in their wake in order to hunt down sects and eradicate the inner circles of heretical cults and movements. It is better that a hundred thousand innocents burn at the stake than one guilty man escapes the claws of Imperial justice.

    Retribution against rebels may not always be swift or efficient, but it will eventually occur with overwhelming force and a titanic input of resources. For the Imperium of Man will eradicate any threat to its security and power, and it will seek to enforce absolute obedience and blind devotion to the Emperor on Earth in its galaxy-spanning dominions.

    Thus decrepit human civilization in the grim darkness of the far future is ever plagued by those deviants and malcontents who would become subverts and heretics, and ultimately betray their species and lord. While all such traitors to the Golden Throne shall be exterminated in due time, the fact remains that ordinary subjects of the Imperator risk being entangled in lies and deceit of subversive manipulators. Honeyed words and harrowing revelations may be whispered in alleys, hooked bait waiting to snatch the unwary away from the God-Emperor's light. Who can you trust?

    Hope is the first step to disappointment.

    And so the Imperium undergoes an endless cycle of subversion, oppression, rebellion and retribution, for the enemy within must be obliterated without pity. Without remorse. Without mercy.

    As despairing souls look for alternatives to the grinding nightmare of drudgery and callous violence that constitute life in the Imperium of Man, they see the paths presented by the cults. All dead ends.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is no escape from the hellish horror that await our species.

  2. #22
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Under the Yoke

    In a distant time of darkness and decay, man once again toils like a beast of burden.

    Humanity reached its pinnacle of achievement during the Dark Age of Technology, for legends claim that mankind had banished drudgery and misery from its life, tasking machines with all burdensome labour and letting automation carry out all mind-numbing work. Man is said to have lived a life of paradisal bliss and scientific study, spreading his seed across the stars and bestriding the galaxy like a colossus. His knowledge was unsurpassed, his comfort unrivalled, his optimism unbound. It was a time of hope and plenty. Yet we are much wiser now.

    Man was toppled from his high pedestal by his own arrogance and his own creations, and his lush gardens and crystal palaces fell to fire and ruin across twain million worlds. Thus the Age of Strife humbled man and taught him to despair once again, for none of his artifice could save his realm from collapse and horror. And haggard bands of starved survivors huddled close around campfires, fearing the night and praying to higher powers for salvation. Their lot was one of baleful suffering and cannibal acts of self-preservation, as brother killed brother and feral tribes rampaged over the fallen wonders of a once all-powerful civilization.

    What is the great works and ingenuity of brilliant mortals to the mute void? What is the violence and hardships of depraved mortals to an uncaring cosmos? On a million worlds and more, men, women and children begged from the depths of their hearts for someone to end the raging chaos and gnawing misery. Their star-sailing ancestors would have scoffed at such ignorant superstition, but their forefathers' hubris had been laid low by their sins, and only shattered remnants of primal humanity lingered on worlds and voidholms spinning around uncounted alien suns. Unknown generations of humans asked for deliverance during Old Night, sacrificing to silent skies.

    Yet their prayers for salvation were heard, for a man unlike any other arose on Earth, raising the banner of thunder and lightning akin to the gods of old and conquering all that stood before Him. This man was known only as the Emperor, and His legions and labourers reshaped the galaxy in the Great Crusade, slaying old warlords and destroying old allegiances with the weapon, while repairing and building shining cities anew with the tool. A new golden age had dawned for mankind, and for the first time in five millennia there was burgeoning hope and plenty once again.

    Yet resurgent man swiftly proved the falsehood of his heart, for in his limitless ingratitude did he rebel against the saviour of his species, and the galaxy burned again in the Horus Heresy. And as the Emperor was mortally wounded by His favourite son for whose treachery He was the bane, a rightful punishment was inflicted upon sinful mankind, and the grand promises of the brief golden age of the Emperor in bodily splendour were withdrawn. For his disloyalty, man would die by the sword. For his arrogance, man would know pain and despair. For his selfishness, man would toil under the yoke. For his greed, man would see his offspring succumb to disease. For his blasphemy, man would be cleansed in flames. For his crime, man would be ruled by cruelty. For his heresy, man would never know peace.

    Thus the Age of Imperium is one of order and misery, in which all must bow to the will of supreme authority and praise the lashes of the whip as it tears flesh bloody. It is an era of endless darkness and cruelty, a hymn of servitude to overlords sung by fanatics and savages, its tune the evil that men do.

    Gone is the wonderland of the Dark Age of Technology. Gone is the bliss and the hope. Gone is the certitude of machine thralls easing the lives of humans. The Imperium of Man still maintain and produce a great many machines, most of which are robustly primitive in design or poorly understood, and usually in need of large numbers of human hands to plug the gaps where machine components or STC reproductions fail. Slowly but surely, the rotting Imperium has seen an arduous demechanization of technological systems, with frail or auxiliary systems giving up to never receive a replacement of like quality. Instead, teeming masses of human labourers heave at ropes and chains where once engines pulled weights. And so stopgap measures turn permanent in an ever downward spiral.

    The Imperium of Man supplements its slowly failing industrial machinery with hordes of men, women and children doing manual labour, throwing ever more bodies at problems with indifference, where once their ancestors would have invented machines in a long-lost hunt for efficiency and improvement. One such example of descendant degeneration is the simple porter, a humble subject of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra who carry heavy burdens on his back, in his arms, on his head, or hanging from a yoke on his shoulders. A porter can transport far less weigth than a draft animal such as a horse or cart-grox can do, not to mention vehicles and other machinery. Yet manpower is abundant on the worlds and voidholms of the Imperium, and this cheap solution to logistics will always be utilized along with beasts of burden and machinery, or even be used to replace precious machine power altogether in a great many instances.

    Most Imperial mining and building projects (including such landscape architecture as the digging of irrigation canals, mass graves and the erection of skull pyramids following purges) will be accompanied by a horde of ragged humans hauling loads like ants in backbreaking helotry. Indeed, many military and exploratory expeditions into ancient ruins, wild nature or wilder Underhives will usually sport a considerable baggage train of human transportation beside draft animals and vehicles. These toiling bodies can be pressed into arms in an emergency, used as bait or even be eaten if all foodstuffs run out.

    This peonage is the destiny of uncounted men, women and children, many walking barefoot and bent double as they carry out their Emperor-ordained duty as archaic human beasts of burden and live out their short lives in wretched squalor.

    Such is the lot of unknown billions of human souls across a million worlds, their drudgery and sacrifice nothing but numbers in a broken calculation of increased input, their very existence a testament to the faltering patchwork industry of a decrepit empire.

    For the Imperium of Man will shy away from nothing in order to prolong its tortured reign. Where machines fail, human flesh will pick up the slack. Where a million soldiers perish on the battlefield, three million labourers in mines, factories, starships and ground transport have already died in order to support that army with its arms and equipment, their remains ground up and recycled into corpse starch to feed the living. Where Imperial subjects end up maimed in endless workplace accidents, most have to either limp along and carry out chores that do not require those body parts, or receive crude bionics in the same way a broken tool would be repaired. Another common fate for those too injured to be productive can be glimpsed among the foundries of Shexia, where the unfit and old are chased out by Urban Purity Patrols into the sewage marshes to die.

    Thus is life under the Imperial yoke, and thus is death. To be a man in such times is to live a rat race of thankless toil, your stomach riven by hunger, your back at risk of breaking any day, your flesh tormented by parasites and disease. No matter how hard you labour, the overseer's bark and lash will ever find you wanting. High quotas must be met, and always the survival and mastery of your species and lord depend upon your efforts, piety and sacrifice.

    To be a man in such times is to wake up to a nightmare every shift, every morning, every lights-on. Your offering of sweat and blood will be taken for granted, your tenacity go unrewarded, your death only noted for district manpower replacement needs or because of the resultant cleaning and repair duty when your mangled corpse interfere with the workings of the machine spirit.

    Such is the grim darkness of the far future.

    Such is the fall of mankind from ancient heights.

    Such is the despair and misery that awaits our species.

  3. #23
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Pipe Lurker

    In the grim darkness of the far future, some who go to the lavatory do not return.

    Claims were once made that civilization can be measured by how far human waste is transported away from the people that produce it. While such a crude yardstick is of little value to cultures with starships and interstellar empires, sewers and running water nevertheless remain some of the best (and oldest) inventions of humanity. Clean running water and efficient sewage systems could be taken for granted during the Dark Age of Technology, during those forgotten millennia when mankind reshaped worlds at will and erected paradisal arcologies in soaring hubris.

    Yet such simple luxuries born from humble pumps, pipes and filters are far from obvious and omnipresent parts of everyday life in the rotting astral realms of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra, for creature comforts and public health have come to be of minor concern to the galaxy-spanning Imperium of Man. Vital infrastructure such as plumbing and power will usually be installed as a matter of course during Imperial construction, but its maintenance is an entire matter altogether.

    It is not uncommon for water and sewage systems to decay, plug up and be infected with unclean elements. It is likewise common for such faulty plumbing and sewers to stay neglected for many years on end before plumbers and purgation crews can be found to rectify the problem. Cholera is as a consequence a natural occurence on most Imperial planets and void installations, its festering existence noted with indifference by the Officio Medicae.

    A majority of civilized Imperial worlds and voidholms who can boast of some antiquity tend to sport labyrinthine tangles of pipes, cisterns, sewage works and water towers that have accreted haphazardly over unknown epochs. Oftentimes in lower hive cities, entire sections of such water and sewage systems will have been forgotten by whatever clans, corporations or authorities that were originally tasked with maintaining and repairing them. In which case the tunnels will often have been colonized by mutants and scavengers, and occassionally a rudimentary form of maintenance will be provided by some local scraptown settlements, or worse yet by enterprising and armed pipe-scamps who will tinker and re-route piping ruthlessly in an extortive hunt for pecuniary gain and local influence.

    In times of mass starvation it is usual practice for corpse guilds to hire gangs or armsmen and send out expeditions to search for forgotten nooks and abandoned sewage systems in the depths of Imperial hive cities, where depots of accumulating human waste and corpses may be found and harvested for their bio-matter. Indeed many legends across the Imperium give praise to adventurous heroes who braved life and limb to save their hungry kin by slaying fell guardians of hoarded manure and dead bodies.

    Another widespread phenomenon found in somewhat functional parts of Imperial cities and voidholms, is that of the undermanned plumbers, who have realized that they can use the screaming demand for their services as leverage in order to only show up to lowly households willing to pay exorbitant fees or bribes. Normally the denizens of a household also have to serve up an expensive feast dinner if they want the plumber to even cross the threshold into their home.

    Some writings by scholars in the Age of Imperium claim that ancient man during the Dark Age of Technology did not exterminate dangerous wildlife and harmful parasites since it was no threat at all to him. And indeed ancient man would terraform uncounted worlds and introduce species from other planets, or even genetically transformed flora and fauna, tailored for the new worlds, complete with predators to round out the ecosystem. Such xenobiological induglence allowed all manner of noxious and lethal creatures to survive and expand on uncounted human colonies, only to infest Underhives and even sewage systems in the Imperial era, spreading between worlds via resupplying starships.

    And so a myriad of fiends roam the depths of hive cities, while the smaller, agile and more flexible ones may occassionally find their way into piping, losing themselves in claustrophobic plumbing to prey upon humans and each other. On hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms, a wide array of bestial xenological lifeforms have been known to slither and crawl their way through sewers and tubes. These monsters and pipe lurkers will force their way into homes or lie waiting in toilets, ready to infect men, women and children with their eggs, or lie prepared to sting those enthroned upon loos with toxins, sucking their innards out of their paralyzed husks or devouring them from below in a feeding frenzy. As a result, some families of means will often seek to invest in facilities that dispose of waste by scorching it to ash or annihilating it in alchemical compounds. Such alternative systems are rarely something for the masses, however, since vast waterpumped plumbing systems better allow for the gathering and recycling of biological matter into synthetic foodstuffs.

    The infiltrating horror of such pipe lurkers have necessitated plumbers on many Imperial worlds to arm themselves with various weapons to dispose of potential monstrosities plugging the tubes. Some such tools of the trade include toxbombs, chemguns and clawed beaters, as well as poisoned xylospongia, acid pumps and hooked line and bait in order to lure out difficult sewage fauna. Of course, all such equipment is of little use against otherworldly sabotage in the form of Daemonic mites, slugs and maggots unleashed through pipe networks by cults of Nurgle operating from unspeakable corners of hive cities and voidholms...

    Thus the lives of most subjects of His Divine Majesty are not just hardy ones of darkness, pain and oppression, but also of filth, stench and lacklustre hygiene, harrowed by disease and parasites. Imperial hive cities sport a wide array of latrines, outhouses, water closets and more technologically advanced waste disposal facilities for the great and the good among propertied and privileged orders. No matter the precautions undertaken, complete security rarely exist for most people who lower themselves onto bathroom seats, for life has a wonderful yet nasty habit of enduring hardships and spreading everywhere possible. Life finds a way. And any predator worth its salt would agree with the old military maxim that it is best to strike your prey when it is exposed at its most vulnerable and unable to fight back or escape.

    And so hundreds of billions of humans will include a line in their daily prayers, for the Imperator to preserve them, their kin and their offspring from the terror below, from the hidden spider, from the sudden snatcher, from that which lurks in the pipes. Thus they pray to their deity, the Emperor of Mankind, He who is seated in deathless radiance upon the Golden Throne of hallowed myth.

    Such is the degradation of man in the darkest of futures.

  4. #24
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    Warhammer 40'000 Experimental Ambient Soundscape by Secularis

    I was humbled and excited to receive an astonishing message from Secularis on Deviantart. He wrote that my Warhammer 40'000 doodles and writings had reawakened his dormant love for Warhammer and 40k, and said that he was inspired to cobble together this experimental ambient soundscape after a night of being enthralled by my work.

    It was fantastic and wholly unexpected to receive such a message, and hear such a gift. Thank you, thank you most kindly Secularis. Check it out on Soundcloud!

    Quote Originally Posted by Secularis
    You are a scribe of the Adeptus Administratum. One of the untold billions of lowly scriveners in service to Holy Terra and the governance of the Imperium. As you toil mindlessly away in a scriptorium, you can hear the tortured screams of one of your clerical brothers in the next room. A mistranslation of a document has made him a target for the accusation of heresy, and now he is being interrogated and tortured by a group of inquisitors. His life is already over. He has already been replaced. Now you must hear his final cries for mercy before being put to flame for his crimes. The Emperor Protects.

    This track was composed with various other ambient tracks layered and mixed to form a composite soundscape. I am not the owner of these assets, and this track is an experiment in sound design and theory. I am not making any profit from this track.
    - - -



    No Railings

    In a decrepit age of darkness, man must watch his every step.

    Every day across a million worlds and uncounted voidholms, the feet of men, women and children must tread with care, lest they be swallowed up by the abysm. A clumsy motion may throw you off balance and send you tumbling down a precipice. A slippery patch may slide you over the edge. A drunken stumble, a moment's distraction or a playful hop may greet you with a shrieking fall. A sudden push, a nasty elbow or a treacherous leg is all it takes to trip you up one last time. Sometimes, a strong wind or the heavy rumble of nearby machinery, explosions or hivequakes may catch you off guard and cast you unto death far below.

    To walk among the creations of mankind in the grim darkness of the far future is oft to expose your side to a gaping pit, hungry for your fall. Indeed, bodily exhaustion, poor lumination or an absentminded moment may be all it takes to doom you in the cities and void installations of the Imperium of Man, for almost everywhere there is a widespread lack of railings and fences on gangways, rooftops and bridges among the star-spanning domains of the Emperor of Earth.

    Around heights, the difference between life and death is the blink of an eye. A sudden drop may occur in an instant, unforeseen and unwarned a mere second ago. Crippling accidents and deadly crashes are the matter of a single unsure step, of but one more narrow passageway, or of just yet another section oframshackle catwalk sagging at a bad angle.

    Day in and day out across an uncaring galaxy, trillions of humans set foot on walkways without railings. Many work their entire shift but inches away from a horrific fall, or live and sleep at the edge of manmade precipices. Habit is a strong force in the minds of men, for few ever pay the constant danger much heed. They have long since become aware of it without thinking, and have learnt to move about so as to avoid the sheer drop, their instincts serving them well hour after hour, year after year as they live out their harsh and thankless lives. How many steps have not their feet taken at the very edges of pits like these, without ever faltering? How many dangerous climbs haven't they undertaken without harm?

    Yet accidents may catch the best wrong-footed, and even the sharpest and most alert people are not immune to falling. Among plebeians in the Imperium, it seems that everyone knows of someone who didn't mean to step over the edge, but still crashed fatally one day. It has always been that way, an inevitable part of life for generations beyond counting. That's just how things are.

    There are many reasons behind the lack and even removal of safety railings across the vast Imperium of Man. Oftentimes, the ravenous demands of total war will see labourers and lay techmen at the homefront scavenge railings and fences for their precious metal. It is likewise common for calculating planners to reduce construction costs by doing without superfluous railings. Sometimes, the inclusion of fences for utilitarian and commoner structures did not even occur to the architects in the first place, the very concept simply being alien to them and their schooling and traditions.

    Yet some of the most abundant reasons for the usual scarcity of railings among human cities and voidholms revolve around beliefs and ideas, for is it not right and proper for pious subjects of the Imperator of Holy Terra to trust in their deity to protect them? Is it not up to the Emperor to judge you safe from falling, instead of an unclean railing? Is it not virtuous to encourage alertness among the masses, especially so among the dubious lower orders? Is it not healthy eugenics for the whole species if lesser members of mankind disappear from the gene pool by their own weak failings?

    For man was not meant to cower in fear of danger, but to stride boldly into volatile chance and dare the risks to bring him low. Man was not meant for cowardice, but for daring and self-sacrifice. Man was meant to rely on himself, and ever be ready to cast himself into the jaws of death for the higher cause. Would not the installation of unnecessary fences send contrary signals to the people? Would it not foster wretched poltroons and shirkers who everywhere imagined that they needed safety measures to dare venture forth? Would it not be better to condition men, women and children to constant danger and hardship, and breed a strong humanity?

    A parable of Old Earth told of salt improving the taste of meat, while too much salt ruins the meat. Thus it is with humans, for suffering improves character, yet too much suffering ruins character, claimed the ancient allegory. The Imperium of Man utterly rejects that notion, for it operates instead on principles of overwhelming cruelty, increased input of resources, indifference to casualties, inviting hardship and of pushing mankind to the breaking point and beyond. Let those who break, break. The most ardent and true servants of His Divine Majesty will endure by the strength of their faith and by His saving grace, for the survival of deviants and weaklings is not desirable in any case. Those found lacking will anyhow make for passable Servitors or corpse starch.

    Thus it is that the Imperium will not suffer cravens who are afraid of heights. Man shall fear the God-Emperor alone and nothing more. And so billions upon billions of humble Imperial subjects across the Milky Way galaxy will include a line in their daily prayers, asking for their saviour and lord to preserve them, their kin and their offspring from the fall, the sudden drop, the yawning pit. They would never gather the bravery to ask their superiors for material safety structures, for they know well the abominable fate of those who dare advice their betters and masters without having been ordered to do so.

    Forget the promises of material improvement, for they were nought but the heresies of sinful ancestors who wallowed in rotten luxury and hubris. Forget their lies of science and progress, for we are much wiser now. Forget their raising of lowly man onto a pedestal, for man's true purpose in life has always been to toil, pray and die, and nothing more.

    No mercy. No remorse. No railings.

    And so mankind in the Age of Imperium trust in the Emperor to keep them safe instead of base, worldly fences. Every step may challenge death. And all is well in the Imperium.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is nothing in sight to stop the fall of man.

  5. #25
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Informant

    In a dysfunctional age of darkness and decay, a careless word is enough to land you in hell.

    Most Low Gothic dialects across the Imperium of Man sport a double meaning attached to the word for 'whisper', and indeed a great many dialects sport two different words for the act of whispering: One denoting whispering in order to avoid detection, and one denoting whispering to inform on others.

    It has been thus for millennia upon millennia, for rulers who live in fear are the most dangerous of all. In the Age of Imperium there is no shortage of insidious horrors to keep the Adeptus Terra and its host of Planetary Governors on edge, dreading what lurks in hiding. A myriad of ambitious plots are everyday pursued by Imperial nobles and bureaucrats, some aiming at coups and assassinations in the bewildering world of human games of power. Shady nests of insurgents and cultist cells feed off widespread discontent to further their plans of sabotage and uprising, ever threatening Imperial rule with the heretical scourges of separatism, revolt, apostasy and abominable blasphemy. To speak nothing of the ever-present threat of invasion from beyond the dark void, some attacks of which do not unite beleaguered worlds against an external foe, but on the contrary lay bare internal divisions as rival sides seek to turn the uncertain new situation to their advantage in a confused frenzy of broken alliances and civil war.

    With so many deadly perils hanging over the head of the masters of mankind like the sword of Damocles, how could Imperial Adepta and local rulers do aught else than clamp down with harshness on the populace, for their own good? With the preservation of Imperial law and power under danger, how could the servants of the God-Emperor dare to do anything less than uphold a rigid order of terror which tolerates no one speaking out of line? With the survival of the human species itself at stake, how could virtuous subjects of Him on Terra fail to report suspicious talk and deviant behaviour to the righteous authorities?

    After all, those who fail to police their community with vigilance and cunning, will damn it to oblivion. To not report, is to partake in the treachery. There could be no worse crime than allowing the slightest hint of hidden heresy and thought of self to escape detection by the guardians of humanity. Aid our watchmen: Keep watch! Those loyal to their species and lord will know to listen well to all people around them, and discreetly inform on any suspects to the Adeptus Arbites, Inquisitorial agents or local law enforcement and counter-espionage networks.

    To the pious and staunch subjects go the spoils, for the Imperium know well to reward its informants. Indeed, for many slaving people trapped in squalor and grinding poverty, the rewards for ratting out on a neighbour or colleague may be the only way to alleviate their misery by some extra company scrips, coupons, ration bars, tech-trinkets or meager luxuries unusual to your rank, and any number of other perks and bonuses which many downtrodden humans would be willing to kill over. Yet pecuniary gain is not the only material incentive at work. When your crowded family live in each others' laps and shares an apartment, shack or holestead with several other families, the best way to earn some breathing space and bunk room is to denounce members of the other families, and watch as security police makes them disappear, never to be heard of again. As the
    Lectitio Divinitatus states, the righteous will oft be rewarded in this life as well as in the next.

    And so humanity under the heavy rule of the Imperium watch each other and whisper on each other. The Imperial culture of imputation has ensnared society in a web of distrust and deceit, and sown suspicion everywhere. Strong ties to your clan or tribe is no guarantee of safety, for greedy, spiteful or loyalist informers can be found everywhere. Who have not heard the glorious tales of good children who reported their own mischievous parents to the authorities, and died the glorious martyr's death as their vengeful extended family murdered and tore them apart? Who have not listened to the uplifting songs praising such youthful duty? Who have not seen the posters, statues, pict-casts, theatrical performances and holo-dramas hailing such young virtue and loyalty to His Divine Majesty?

    Thus the spider's web of informants every day, somewhere across the Emperor's vast domains in the Milky Way Galaxy, repeat that baleful tragedy over and over: That of sons and daughters denouncing their fathers and mothers, or their sisters and brothers or other kinsfolk. That of children betraying their own parents to the authorities for the sake of grumbling words against cruel overseers after a taxing shift, or for the sake of more guilty scheming. That tragedy of people who died in the torturer's chambers, labour camps or on executioner's squares because their own offspring or siblings informed on them. That of Imperial loyalty trumping filial piety. That of families torn apart.

    For no tyrant ever had trouble finding willing henchmen to carry out their heinous bidding, and no despot ever found a dearth of humans willing to sell out their friends and loved ones.

    Much of our species in the far future ekes out a miserable living to a constant background din of paranoia and squealing, an everyday mistrust of fellow man that is frequently drummed up to a crescendo of arrests, torture and a domino effect of panicked denunciations as yet another wave of terror and purges roll out across hundreds of thousands of Imperial worlds and uncounted voidholms. The rhythm of such campaigns of repression varies wildly, often being dependant on the commonly depraved character of rulers and their moodswings, or on crisis events and disasters leading to angered calls for culling the disloyal among the populace.

    And why should such waves of terror ever be uncalled for? Clearly, each one catches many infidels and traitors in its claws, and each purge manages to force most of these foul heretics and recidivists to confess and name yet more sinners participating in their undermining schemes, for how could their craven souls resist the noble art and purifying tools of torture? The bountiful harvests of uncovered snakes, who name yet more backstabbers, plotters and terrorists in a vain attempt to save their worthless skin, is a healthy sign of Imperial justice at work. The mass graves and pyramids of skulls generated by the Imperial terror waves are monuments to the cleansing redemption of mankind itself. Witness the forces of order lead off the wretched deviants and malcontents to their rightful doom. Listen to the jingling of their chains. Show no compassion or mercy to these wrongdoers and filth. Nay, let them know what you think: Howl at these heretics! Let your hate fill your lungs! Hate!

    Thus the Age of Imperium trudges on, as a star-spanning colossus on feet of clay crush both the innocent and guilty with little distinction and no remorse in its heart of stone. For the rotting Imperium of Man will purge any hint of threats from within to its tyrannical rule with fierce bloodthirst and lack of mercy. Its symphony of loud proclamations and staccato of violence is set to a background murmur of distrustful whispers. And so brother reports brother, and sister denounces sister in neverending a cycle of terror.

    Such is the depravity that awaits our species. Such are the depths to which humanity will sink.

    In the grim darkness of the far future, man must watch his tongue.

    And all is well in the astral domains of the ascended Emperor of Holy Terra.

    All is as it should be.

  6. #26
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Warmblood

    "No, my friend. Do not protest.
    You fell at the Emperor's behest.
    Comrade in arms, lie now at rest.
    There's no more use to plug your chest.
    That flak armour came short on its test.
    Stemming flow no bandage could wrest.
    Your wound is foul an' ill distressed.
    You're already dead, it's for the best.
    Let my frigid hands be your final guest.
    For you are blessed.

    I'm a stiff soldier too, locked in chill.
    With shaking hands to oath fulfill.
    My black teeth rattled in charge uphill.
    Frost marrow bit to blunt all thrill.
    We both have faced the same cold drill.
    Cast freezing into hell's white mill.
    With deadened feet to snow dunes till.
    O'er cracking ice that fear instill.
    Clip off blue toes for winter's bill.
    Brought here to kill.

    Shush! Be still my friend, you are not hale.
    Your time is nigh, you're growing pale.
    Afrozen hands your leaking lifeblood hail.
    Its steam so warm, its vapours frail.
    Rise hot off guts blast out of jail.
    Begrudge not comrade, do not quail.
    This your last service ease my trail.
    Fingers warmed 'midst howling gale.
    Pray Lord on Terra weigh your scale.
    Your kin may wail."

    -
    Warmblood, crude trench poem written in 327.M38 by corporal Ladina Terchenkov of the Astra Militarum 8164th Decebalian infantry regiment (XLII Army), two months prior to the Army's last stand and complete destruction at Androniki Ridge during the Lamed offensive of the Hrud invaders on Athanatikoi Secunda

  7. #27
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Blast Doors

    In a demented age of ignorance and cruelty, the gates of death stand ready to shut close on man.

    Wind, rain, snow, sandstorms and beasts have ever afflicted man, and so to escape the forces of nature he built for himself a sanctuary and called it home. The very earliest means of covering the entrance to tents and huts was to hang the hide of an animal over the opening. Later on during the Age of Terra, man invented doors from reed and wood, and as his ingenuity grew, so too did the various forms of gates and doors increase by ever more clever means, including the fabled energy seals, living gates of Vigemusque and voidposterns of the Dark Age of Technology. And no matter the epoch and techno-sorcery at hand, man would not think twice about opening a door to enter or exit a room or a building, and would not count the times he crossed the threshold on his way to and fro other matters. It was just a door. And man ascended in worldly matters.

    As punishment for his hubris, Man of Gold was toppled from his paradisal pedestal after Man of Stone and Man of Iron had disappeared amid havoc, and almost all the creations of humanity burned during the subsequent Old Night. Thus most works were lost forever, and but scraps of ancient glory remained to be rediscovered by primitive survivors in the charred ruins. Among the salvaged technical systems (hailing from wildly different levels of tech-advancement) were crude but effective variants of humble doors, easily replicated from among the very simplest of Standard Template Construct (STC) hard-copy blueprints. These included sturdy blast doors and vault portals, as well as simple domestic constructs, bulkhead entrances and more flamboyant silent weighed gates favoured by many Ecclesiarchal cathedral builders.

    Many variants of high-speed doors were originally designed for industries in order to speed up production logistics and aid in temperature and pressure control, not to mention their widespread duty for pharmaceutical clean rooms during lost ages of human science and progress. In the rotting Age of Imperium, however, such high-speed doors have become commonplace almost everywhere across the star-spanning domains of the Emperor on Earth, known as autodoors among those who bother with the correct technical term.

    Something as simple as an automatic door stand as a mute testament to the debt mankind of the regressed Imperium owes to those who came before. Most STC autodoor blueprints included split-second safety systems in order to avoid harm and injury. Yet all across the galactic dominion of the God-Emperor, the machine spirits of doors kill, maim and crush tens of thousands of people every day across hundreds of thousands of worlds and uncounted voidholms. STC progeny though most of these autodoors may be, the safety measures originally designed for such gateway devices in ancient times are nowadays often broken down or lacking altogether.

    There are a multitude of reasons behind this rotting state of affairs. For one, incremental loss of technological knowledge over many thousands of years have been accompanied by a decay of production processes, leading to a great many finer and non-essential electronic and automotive systems not functioning as they should, or at all. Oftentimes, reductionist logistical calculations will result in Manufactoria masters and Administratum bureaucrats ordering the removal of fully functioning but unnecessary safety features in order to save on material consumption or increase the rate of production by simplifying and making designs more rudimentary. At other times, faulty maintenance is to blame for the common phenomenon in the Imperium of Man that is death by doors.

    Imperial modes of thinking run at best along lines of callous indifference to human suffering and demise. Yet the hunger for cruelty and hardships inflicted upon others may often extend far enough so as to become outright murderous as a result of deliberate planning.

    After all, is it not virtuous to construct an environment that will punish the weak and unworthy, and leave those strong and worthy in the eyes of His Divine Majesty to prosper and populate the star-spanning realms of mankind? Is it not pious to build hazards and dangers into buildings and starships, in order to encourage swift wits, sharp eyes and alert senses akin to those of our eagle-eyed Imperator Himself? Is it not healthy eugenics to cull the slow and the weak among us in order to breed a fitter human species for the greater glory of the Emperor of Holy Terra? Is it not for our own good that so many autodoors shut close with sudden rapidity, with such lethal force and disregard for human health and safety? Is it not praiseworthy to develop wits and fine habits of avoiding such everyday dangers as sliding doors and purtcullises? Is it not righteous to let the idiots, fumblefoots and deviants get caught in gateway traps due to their own faults, instead of indecently sparing them the clamping test?

    Spare the rod and spoil the child. It is better that a thousand accidents choke humans to death between twain doors or crush them under gates, than a single careless sloth of a wastrel soul walks alive among us, naïvely heedless of the caprice and rhythm of dangerous doors while he puts his trust in installed sensors and failsafes without thinking and caring for himself among the corridors and mazes of hive cities, starships and voidholms. The fact that the hearts of uncounted millions upon millions of Imperial subjects are gnawed by entamaphobia, a fear of doors, is only proof of the sound survival instincts cultivated by living and working in Imperial installations.

    Furthermore, it happens to be that the common existence of lethal door devices every day aid righteous servants of the Imperator by providing convenient implements of improvised torture and summary execution, all spectacularly visible as warnings to the masses of bystanders and passers-by. If a lowly debt-slave, scrivener or indentured labourer happens to display thoughts of self, heretical insubordination or sinful aspirations above his station, then a just master is at liberty to display his or her power by deed on the spot, through swiftly arresting and excruciating the malcontent, degenerate or apostate by having their underlings heave the damned felon into the jaws of a nearby blast door or portcullis. Naturally, the same handy availability of rapid sliding doors without safety mechanisms have also stood innumerable gangers, bullies and criminals in good stead, to the detriment of hordes of victims across the centuries. No matter, for they too foster a hardier spirit in the subjects of the exalted Terran Emperor.

    A logical consequence of this devious Imperial mindset can be seen in certain installations' entrances to areas off-limit yet not of high importance. At such locations, some doors may be rigged to seemingly allow entry, only to instantly slam shut as a deadly biting trap upon those who fail to enter the correct passcode.

    Another product of simple Imperial engineering are slice-gates and cutdoors, which act akin to guillotines by sporting sharpened ends in order to make short work of any foolish deadbeat or sneaking street urchin that disrespect the machine spirit. The resultant local cleaning duty is offset by the higher value of cleansing the populace of unwanted elements by allowing them to sort themselves out by impious incompetence. After all, the bio-recycling corpse grinders ever hunger for the dismembered remains of despicable unworthies, and so lesser men end up feeding their betters in the form of corpse starch, true to the eternal food chain of beasts and men alike.

    Indeed, a common Imperial proverb instruct us that a good subject is like a good door: He shall be alert to commands, fast in executing orders, ruthlessly powerful and unyielding in his single-minded work purpose in life. And he shall halt for no one, once assigned his task by his superiors.

    As a door is but a component of a facility, so too is a humble human nought but a replacable part in a vast, faceless machine operating on a broken equation of increased input. For all those modes of invention and sharpening of efficiency (once pursued by sinful forefathers out of foolish dreams of becoming like living gods) have long since been forgotten in fevered ages of darkness and blood, as mankind spiral ever downwards.

    And so trillions of men, women and children across the Imperium of Man will include a line in their daily prayers, for the God-Emperor to preserve them from the crush of gates, the clipping doors, the fast exit, the hydraulic death. For habit is a strong force in the heart of man, and he is capable of living under any conditions as though they could be no different. As his distant ancestors once endured predators, travails and savagery, so too will their descendant of the far future endure the deadly environs which man has crafted for himself across the stars, among glittering spires and baleful hive-sinks.

    For man's lot is suffering and death, and all that is given man is a chance to serve the lord of his species during his miserably short life. Serve, toil and die.

    And everywhere, doors close shut on fragile hope as decay slowly worsens, ever more.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is no way out of the horror and despair.

  8. #28
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Burning Pict-Screen

    In the grim darkness of the far future, some who fall asleep before the screen do not awake.

    Abstract thinking, crafting and arts were among the traits which distinguished humanity's primitive forefathers from the rest of the animal kingdom. The Men of Gold are known to have depicted hunting scenes on cave walls and adorned their temples with images that related mythical stories during our distant past on Old Earth. Later on during the Age of Terra, man learnt how to capture still images and moving pictures, projecting them for the eye to view on fabrics and screens via a mastery of light. The fabled Dark Age of Technology is said to have brought with it breakthroughs in hololithics, caelumena and even more spectacular forms of visual media which the benighted descendants of this lost epoch of science and discovery can no longer possibly fathom. For both secret knowledge and working relics of the most advanced visual technologies have long since turned to dust and ash, as the world of mortals shrank in on itself and grew dull and fearful in the wake of terrible cataclysms.

    While the most advanced and consequently least endurable pict tech have long since been lost to the sands of time, various other technologies for transmitting and projecting images survive into the Age of Imperium, thanks to scattered findings of Standard Template Construct schematics for the making of everything from vacuum tubes, redpoint and prismatic crystal components, to liquid light cells and hololithic projectors. As with everything in the Imperium of Man, the hardware it possess hail from wildly different stages of historical development of science and technology, yet the most common utilitarian tech (outside the jealously hoarded treasures of the insular Adeptus Mechanicus) tend to hail from the lowlier and more rudimentary forms of technology.

    This primitivization of human technology did not end with the Age of Strife as the brief renaissance of the Great Crusade swept the Milky Way Galaxy, but has instead continued with but few interruptions, as humanity's grasp of knowledge slowly erodes away, and as its better industrial machines from ancient times eventually fail, with no one capable of repairing or replicating them left standing among the living for untold light years around.

    Of course, those in possession of wealth, power and contacts offworld or among more technologically capable clans and organizations tend to enjoy the dimming light of sophisticated human tech for far longer than the vast majority of Imperial society across a million worlds and uncounted voidholms. A great deal of prestige and veneration is attached to owning intricate things which ordinary Imperial subjects could barely dream of, with machine spirits far in advance of anything which most human beings will ever encounter in their daily lives. Indeed an entire boutique economy of rarefied artisans and master artificers exist to cater to the technological needs of upper classes and Imperial Adepta alike, all parochial tech clans where precious crafting knowledge is inherited from parents to children, characterized by time-consuming handicraft of immense skill and exclusively low production numbers for the finest of clients.

    As for the filthy majority of human populations, shoddy mass production is king as regard both market enterprise and state-owned manufacturing: Indeed the very idea of entrepreneurial freedom from both planetary and voidholm rulers, as well as branches of the Adeptus Terra, is a ludicrous notion across most of His Divine Majesty's astral domains, for Imperial overlords maintain all manner of controls and oversight over industries which they do not themselves possess, in a nightmarishly complex web of privileges, traditional pledges, religious edicts, local customs, martial law, Adeptus Mechanicus licensing, strongman rule through force, decrees issued by the High Lords of Terra, rampant corruption, underhand tricks and mercantile charters; all of which amounts to nothing short of a juridical basket case that keeps vast legions of legal experts on the Lex Imperialis occupied in lengthy court cases that can span many centuries and generations. Ancient Terran philosophers from very different cultures all remarked that the more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state. This notion is punishable by horrific means of torture, execution and servitorization in the Imperium of Man, should anyone ever be foolish enough to voice it aloud or write it down, for the very concept is heretical and antithetical to Imperial rule with its endless accretion of fossilized laws and contradictions.

    Naturally, most worlds and voidholms across the vast Imperium of Man are plagued by abysmal levels of quality for most of their consumer goods, and the mass manufacture of pict-screens is no exception. The ever-worsening rot of technotheological knowledge and etiolation of the machines of techno-sorcery has resulted in unsafe electronics being a common fact of life. For instance, a substantial number of all fuses and circuit breakers installed in mass-produced ware are of atrocious makes, often being installed as a token gesture of respect toward machine spirits and toward manufacturing traditions built on decaying STC hard copy blueprints. As a result of general ineptitude, indifference and ignorance, cheap pict-screens (some of which even sport a magnifying glass in front of a tiny screen) have a widespread tendency toward spontaneous combustion, being especially prone to sparking flames and short-circuiting when operators switch channels or adjust properties such as vox-volume or brightness.

    Such is the state of something as simple as the humble pict-screen in the dark future, which is in truth a primitive and simple technology that mankind in the decrepit Age of Imperium increasingly fails to produce safely and reliably. Indeed sclerotic Imperial industry everywhere primarily values superstitious rituals and going through the motions handed down by forgotten ancestors. The striving to truly understand and master the technicalities of production processes and finished goods alike has waned considerably over the last ten thousand years as human grasp of tech steadily retreats into a darkening night of dysfunctionality and scavenging ruin. Likewise, genuine quality control and concerns over such malcontent concepts as health and safety are far removed from those who manage and operate the numberless manufactoria which churn out mass-produced civilian goods for the plebeian hordes of consumers.

    And so every day, thousands of pict-screens across uncounted planets, starships and voidholms suddenly catch fire, as their temperamental machine spirits give hot protest to their human users' lack of reverence and failure to pronounce litanies and mantras without error. The sinful men, women and children thus judged, must flee, raise the alarm or themselves extinguish the flames, or else be devoured by them. Across tens of millions of hive cities and hundreds of millions of void installations, everyone seems to know of some friend, neighbour or family member who was wounded or killed by a fire started by some burning pict-screen. Such fatalities are especially common among slothful indolents who would doze off and catch a nap, and as just punishment for their moral failings the wrathful machine spirit will often choke them with smoke in their sleep, to never again wake up as cleansing tongues of flame consume their sinful flesh.

    Thus man is no longer the wise master of his own tools and crafts, and increasingly the fruits of his labours fail despite increased input of work and resources. Where once curious ancestors remodelled the matter of creation like clay, their degenerate descendants stoop amidst squalor, having lost almost everything while not even remembering what it was they lost, teeming like vermin among the battered and broken remnants of a once glorious stellar civlization while they live in terror of the great unknown. And so fearful man may often be heard to recite a line in his daily prayers, asking the God-Emperor on Holy Terra to spare himself and his kith and kin from the sudden flame, the smoke devils, the burning animus, the lit machine.

    Such is the misery that await our species.

    Such is the degradation of man, in the darkest of futures.

    It is the fortyfirst millenium, and there is no escape from the horror and suffering.

  9. #29
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Raider Seizure

    In a distant age of decay, in a depraved time beyond hope, the sins of deceit, theft and greed flourish among a ruinscape of crushed dreams.

    Certain ancient civilizations during the Age of Terra regarded traders and merchants as little better than parasites, buying and selling the produce of others for profit, and therefore their caste was lowly even though their coffers might be full. Elsewhere during this archaic epoch, beliefs held that it was harder for a merchant to enter paradise, than it was for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Similar ways of thinking are prevalent across large swathes of the Imperium of Man, for what value does moneygrubbing tradesfolk and entrepreneurs really add? Any success of theirs is solely attained by the grace and benevolence of the ascended Emperor of Mankind, and the marketbrokers of the corpus and collegia ought to repent of their devious ways by vigorous self-flagellation and through the purchasing of indulgences and gifting up of generous donations to the Adeptus Ministorum. This they ought to, or else their souls will face the damning hellfire.

    It is, after all, better to look to the saints and martyrs for higher examples on how to live one's life, and rather pray for miracles and deliverance from our lord and master on Holy Terra, than to sully a mind meant for humble worship with the ceaseless pursuit of selfish gain.

    This disdain for tradesmen and speculators without noble pedigree, coupled with a spiteful envy inherent in the human soul, remains an important ingredient in the dysfunctional convergence of factors that produce a peculiar Imperial phenomenon most commonly known as raider seizure. This is a dreaded scourge of guilders, manufactoria owners, slumlords, voidtraders, latifundia masters and other businessfolk, which entails illegal seizure of real estate, corporate rights, vessels and facilities, with the aid of public authorities.

    Raider seizure tend to be especially prevalent on planets, continents and voidholms which sport a frequent turnover of high-ranking officials due to instability at higher levels, as well as a dishonest business culture and widespread corruption within Imperial Adepta and planetary or voidholm governing organs, including law enforcement agencies and courts. Raider attacks on corporate entities often involve the active participation of policiary forces, Administratum personnel and government agencies, all working under the influence of bribes and the pretense of crimes afoot in the company in question.

    Enterprises that run the risk of becoming objects of raider seizure will usually possess large real estate objects, lucrative intellectual property (on those worlds and voidholms where that concept is even acknowledged legally and carries pecuniary weight, that is) and any form of business that brings a stable income. The aim of the corporate raiders is to seize control of the lucrative assets, and extract revenue from the seized property with which to fend off juridical counter-claims by dispossessed former owners and stakeholders, who cannot feed the lawyers' meatgrinder with their stolen facilities and thus have to instead burn through savings at a rapid pace if they want to stay in the court at all. Most cannot afford such a protracted legal battle, especially since court cases can stretch into multi-generational clashes fought over centuries by the descendants of both parties and the replacements of long-dead jurists.

    The groundwork for a raid scheme is often laid through shady dealings, the malevolent insertion of fine print in written deals, unreliable business partnerships and infiltration of enterprises. Sometimes there will even be manipulation of legal documents in company archives, at rare occassions employing highly costly assassins and espionage mercenaries who will break and enter guilder headquarters and burgohalls at their utmost peril. Raiders will exploit loopholes and insecurities in paperwork, preparing carefully in diligent silence before the decisive push. They will scour the archives for any dirty hold that can be gained over the victim. To this end they will search for such paperwork as business contracts, licenses, inspection findings, debt securities, unrenewed title files and statutory documents. Likewise, this prospecting will seek out unsent certificates and transfers of corporate rights to third parties such as directors, decurions or chairman of the board. Another fertile area of documents are legal mistakes and inaccuracies in concluding transactions, and woe betide any victim who misspell a single letter in a concluding oath sworn to the Terran Imperator.

    Such illicit archive harvesting and company infiltration all leads up a very hostile takeover, where misbegotten fraudulent preparations are followed up with weapons and violence. Although private henchmen and mercenary muscle is ordinarily employed by the raiders in question, most understand that a succesful guild coup or corporate putsch also requires backing by crooked high-ranking administrators and bribed enforcers of law and order, often hailing from the esteemed Adeptus Arbites itself, acting as if to uphold the Lex Imperia against offending criminals. The martial contingent is crucial, for many raider seizures turn into bloody corridor wars.

    Raider captures must be swift and ruthless to succeed, and so often involve gunfights, harrowing on-the-spot torture and the blasting of locked doors and vaults in order to speedily acquire control of assets, key charters and chief personnel. Indeed many an owner or important stakeholder in a sanctified business venture has found themself signing off their life's work and main inheritance at gunpoint, not seldom with their spouse and children under lethal threat from raider henchmen or officious Arbitrators who declare every word they utter in protest to be perjury and blasphemy toward His Divine Majesty. After all, to question your masters and betters is ultimately to question the Emperor Himself, and such heinous words demand the most brutal of punishments. The disaster of the Horus Heresy must not be repeated!

    Purge the deviant. Slay the malcontent. Burn the heretic.

    And so nefarious plots and clandestine confiscations threaten any actor in the world of industry and commerce with instant ruin and howling despair. Untold numbers of guilders, publicani, managing directors and collegii wake in cold sweat, keeping discreet personal weapons and hired guards close at hand at all times, all the while throwing paranoid glances over their shoulders at any unexpected noise. Their precautions and hired armsmen might fend off a sloppy attempt at corporate conquest, but they know full well that they stand little chance once their hidden enemies palm off handsomely enough to involve planetary or voidholm officials and law enforcement in substantial numbers, or, God-Emperor forbid, the harsh and unforgiving fist of the Adeptus Arbites.

    Thus there is no safe haven even for those in possession of wealth and power within the star-spanning domains of the Lord and Saviour of Humanity. No safeguard against a baleful fate, no shield from the sudden ruination.

    Such is the state of our species, in the darkest of futures.

    For there is no loophole through which to escape the devil's contract which man has signed.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only predation.

  10. #30
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    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.

  11. #31
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Kin Mercy

    In the grim darkness of the far future, man's last resort may turn out a family event.

    In a demented epoch, the crushing, draining misery of everyday human life across vast swathes of the Imperium of Man foments bleak moods and dark desperation in the depths of man's soul. All too many servants of the God-Emperor find themselves unable to bear the heinous burdens placed upon them by circumstance, ancient vassal duties and dictactes from their masters and betters. Of those who crack under neverending pressure, suffering and drudgery, some turn to amasec or narcotics abuse, or let loose their dammed-up wrath and frustration in bouts of domestic violence, street brawls, spontaneous slaying, planned murder or sadistic torture of the defenceless.

    Others caught in the grips of pain and despair turn to rabidly fervent worship, praying and reciting mantras over and over again at street corner shrines, incense-wrapped temples and candle-lit icons in an unhinged balancing act between insanity and devotion that leads many exhausted fanatics to receive extatic visions and urges to preach the good faith. Such revelations may see them turn into tolerated holy men, sanctioned saints, martyrs of the faith, or heretics and infidels burned at the stake. Others, yet again, turn to far darker occult mysteries, and seek escape through unholy powers forbidden to man.

    Still other men, women and even children who cannot stand the daily toll of abhorrent misery and hardship, turn to a terrible and ancient solution to their woes, electing to end their own beings in the mortal vale of tears they knew as life. This they do in ten thousand different ways of self-destruction ranging from the quick to the slow, from the painless to the excruciating. In the Age of Imperium there is, after all, no shortage of high falls, unsafe electrical wiring of deadly current, crushing autodoors, rapid vehicles, toxic waste from industry, monstrous fauna, trigger-happy folks spoiling for an excuse to draw arms and collect a trophy, or poisonous substances and unsafe manufactoria machines with which to meet an untimely end, to name but a few of the legions of hazards facing humanity in a future deathtrap environment which man has constructed for himself. Thus intentional slaughter of the self remain a common, dull background tone in the cacophonic symphony of churning industry, superstitious chatter, endemic violenceand rampant breeding that constitutes life in the Imperium of Man.

    Nasty, brutish and short as this life is.

    And so every day across the galactic domains of Holy Terra and Mars, millions commit suicide, in spite of knowing full well the damning hellfire that awaits those who would end their Emperor-given lives for the sake of heretical thoughts of self. While it is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself, it is undoubtedly blasphemous to die for yourself out of egotistic weakness and lapse of faith, without any regard given for the higher demands placed upon your shoulders by the glorious and all-encompassing Imperium of Man. How could one shirk from one's duty by flinging oneself into the jaws of death? The lives of Imperial subjects are not at their own disposal to waste, but at the pleasure of their masters and overlords to squander as rightly appointed delegates of the divine Imperator.

    Naturally, it follows that people who both fail in their attempts at suicide and are found out, will be arrested by Imperial or planetary and voidholm authorities, and be either tortured and executed publicly in such depraved manners so as to dissuade others, or be horribly turned into lobotomized cyborg thralls known as servitors, thereby shackled to unending slavery in the flesh even as their consciousness is all but snuffed out without anaesthetics by brutal techmen and automated assembly lines, in fabricator cathedrals where men and women are turned mechanistically into servitors by other servitors. Ideally, there is no escape from your ordained thralldom.

    Given that the Imperium of Man generally operates on a crude and primitive mode of collective punishment and kinsgroup responsibility, the attempted or succesful self-liquidation of a single clan member may lead to heavy fines, confiscations of property or offspring, arrests, public torture, penance and further executions levied upon their kin of extended family. Such blatant threats against near and dear of those wretched sufferers who would dare to contemplate destroying the production or military human asset unit which they themself represent toward the faceless bureaucrats of the Adeptus Terra, will often serve to cow many of the worst weaklings to stand in line and not subject their own kinsfolk to baleful retribution. After all, it is an outright act of rebellion, apostasy and treason for a subject of the Emperor of Earth to deny his or her legitimate masters, overseers and superiors the labour, obedience, armed service and ritual worship which lowly minions owe to the sacred chain of command stretching all the way up to His Divine Majesty through the lowest leaders of hierarchy embodied by your whip-carrying taskmasters. An Imperial subject is only permitted to sacrifice themself for a higher cause, never for the sake of their own irrelevance.

    Still, all the most horrific deterrents of peril toward loved ones dreamed up by crazed fanatics, psychopathic torturers and gleegul executioners cannot prove failsafe against every would-be suicide. Some desperate souls may be past caring. While some few who hate their own kin after years of abominable abuse might even use their own illegal ending as a way to bring down the fist of Imperial justice upon their own clan as revenge from beyond the grave, figuratively speaking. Though more literally, for most inhabitants of the Imperium of Man, that vengeance would be visited from beyond the bio-recycling corpse-grinder. Still others, of course, lack any known family against which to retaliate, in which case punishments may instead be doled out arbitrarily against fellow shift workers, neighbours, known associates or random bystanders. After all, someone must be made an example out of, lest the defeatist rot spreads further and undermines the resolve of human populations destined and meant only to serve their species and lord through unending hardship and trials of faith.

    Among some human cultures across hundreds of thousands of worlds and voidholms beyond counting within the sacred astral realms of Him on Terra, there exist a harrowing, dysfunctional phenomenon born out of the depths of soul's despair and mind's demented train of thought. It goes by many names, in innumerable dialects and local languages in a myriad of backwater regions and districts, but its most common form in Low Gothic is that of kin mercy, denoting the killing of one's own family dependents as part of suicide.

    So-called kin mercy is usually sprung out of either a desire of a self-waster to save beloved family members from horrendous Imperial collective punishment of their kinsfolk; or the demands of strict cultural honour codes; or the bread-winning master or mistress of the household concluding that surviving spouse (or spouses, in case of polygamy), children and other dependents won't manage to survive well on their own once the despairing wage-earner and head of household is gone. In the latter case, many hard-working husbands, and wives (often with sickly parents, grandparents and siblings or children), may conclude that the horrors of the workhouse or the poverty, perils, reprehensible sin and selling of oneself on the city street and voidholm corridor for sustenance, will constitute a fate worse than death, and a life of utter misery and damnation which they will not condemn their kinsfolk to.

    Whatever the demented reasoning, the end result is the same: The attempted extermination of the criminal's own family, and then the slaying of themself. In any case, the murder spree was only an extension of one person's suicide, and the tragedy is thus considerably amplified. Yet in the wider community of the parochial Imperial culture in question, this monstrous bloodshed known as kin mercy tend to be more of a sad routine event than an extraordinary atrocity, somewhat akin to the widespread exposure of unwanted infants in so many parts of uncounted Imperial worlds and voidholms.

    And so degenerate descendants of a once brilliant mankind take their last farewells in a heinous and heretical act of self, and exits the stage with their own families as a bloody retinue, their wasted souls about to face the harsh judgement of the God-Emperor seated upon the Golden Throne of Holy Terra. There, as scripture and preachers firmly attest, their failure to face suffering in this life will be punished with eternal suffering in the hellfires of the inescapable afterlife, and thus divine justice is carried out, as per His wishes as the master and saviour of man.

    All this transpires, in an era of doom.

    In a time beyond hope.

    Thus is the depravity of our species on full display, in the darkest of futures.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only torment.

  12. #32
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Wisdom Since Cradle

    In a lost age, competence is measured by pedigree.

    Across hundreds of thousands of planets and voidholms without number, the grand majesty of the Imperium of Man is invested in the local authority of noble families and feudal warlords, sworn to a liege planetary governor or voidholm overlord. These mighty magnates may vie viciously for power with each other through scheming, assassinations, civil wars, sabotage, destabilizing propaganda campaigns, trade blockades and a thousand other means of underhanded obstruction and opposition to rivals and hereditary foes. Sometimes, both open and covert forms of confrontations among the ruling nobility may spill over and impact the tithes due to the Imperium, or destroy precious infrastructure, irreplacable machines, vital industrial complexes and libraries housing ancient books, all of which represent wasted assets of the Imperator upon the Golden Throne.

    And yet for all the havoc and damage that the uncontrollable spats and power struggles of potentates and patricians may inflict upon the astral domains of His Divine Majesty, the feudal disunity and squabbling of aristocratic houses and power blocs is still vastly preferable to most alternatives in the callous eyes of the Adeptus Terra, for the neo-feudal system lends a rooted stability pleasing to the eyes of the Holy Terran High Lords. Ideally, of course, the overarching, galaxy-spanning organizations of the Imperium itself would be the sole, unquestioned rulers of every single eparchy, diocese, satrapy, archonate, province, thema and prefecture on a million worlds and innumerable void habitats, with no local power centers able to challenge the will of an absolute despot appointed from on high by the High Lords of Terra themselves, and answerable to them alone, and by extension to the ascended God-Emperor, naturally.

    Ideally, the swollen bureaucracy of the Imperium itself would be able to govern the lives of all its settlements, all its installations and every single one of its teeming subjects down to a scrutinizing level of detail, lording it with unlimited tyranny, complete oppression and inescapable draconic punishments over every man, woman and child of the human species in the Milky Way Galaxy. Ideally, the Imperium of Man would be a perfect autocracy without division, rebellion and strife; without deviation, infidelity and heresy. Ideally, indeed, every aspect of life and death would be under the crushing heel of Imperial rulers, with no thought, word or deed ever being possible to contradict the will of His legitimately appointed officials, and with all of humanity singing in one great harmonious choir of pious submission and loyal obedience without end. This alone would have been perfect.

    Alas, such godlike total power over the Emperor's dominions remain but a wet dream of higher-ranking Imperial Adepts, masters and mistresses faced with a frustrating and limited reality. The corruption, obscurantism, ineptitude, senile confusion and screeching inefficiency of Imperial structures of power in general, and of the Adeptus Administratum in particular, mean that Imperial grasp is stunted and with limited penetration into society. The truth is that Imperial Adepta know all too many bounds to their reach and control, and at the best of times the Emperor-appointed organizations of the Imperium can but exert influence upon the actual local rulers of worlds and voidholms, often resorting to diplomacy, nepotism, bribery, cultivation of contacts, veiled threats and occassional use of covert operations and hired assassins in order to pursue their myopic agendas. Even in the restricted enclaves where direct Imperial, totalitarian control can be exerted as fully as possible for the glory of the Saviour of Mankind, internal aristocratic cliques of dynastic officials still tend to form rapidly, true to the iron law of oligarchy inherent to the species.

    Thus a bewildering myriad of Imperial Adepta, Departmenta, Officia, Kanslia, Ostiaria and Magistrata constitute a ruthlessly competing mass of authorities guarding their own interests above all else, and within all of them entrenched nobilities of officialdom eventually arise, and constantly spire anew after bloody purges due to Inquisitorial suspicion sweep clear the old power holders. These Imperial authorities, in turn, must deal with local and regional rulers not inducted into any branch of the Adeptus Terra, navigating the reefs, storms and false lighthouses of local aristocracies who possess considerable power and independence of action. All these noble houses are officially sworn to obey the planetary governor or voidholm overlord as the Imperial representative on their world or void habitat, yet few monarchs and governors of planets ever manage to truly control their unruly and powerful vassals, being instead more akin to the first among equals in a ring of squabbling warlords and oligarchs. Planetary governors and other Imperial representatives are the juiciest targets for assassination and coups in internal feuds as they are face of the Imperium to their own world or voidholm, and at the same time they are the one most likely to face summary torture and execution as the face of their world toward the Imperium, should the Imperium in general, and the Inquisition in particular prove unhappy with the massive tithes or heretical cultists streaming out from their disorderly territory.

    Thus vassal obligations and feudal infighting reign supreme across the star-spanning realm of the God-Emperor, and on most worlds and voidholms the population swear fealty to various lineages of the sprawling and opulent local nobility. Within this aristocracy, almost every family of note sport intricate documents claiming long lines of ancestry to the legendary founder of a colony, a saga-sung great builder, the courtesan of an attendant of the Emperor in flesh during the Great Crusade, a bardic trickster, a lauded salvager of archeotech vital to the functioning of the colony, close relatives of an antique saint or holy man, a mythical war hero, or other famous historical personages. This pedigree is jealously guarded and boasted about in monuments, great religious displays and military parades sponsored by the noble house in question, and every member of the house grow up schooled in their own importance, learned about the purity of their heritage and knowing full well the superiority of their elevated blood, as contrasted to the randomly breeding rabble beneath their notice.

    While sons and daughters of fine breeding are made aware of their great ancestors from the mother's milk (or rather, wet-nurse's milk, so too the lower classes on most worlds and voidholms are inculcated with a sense of the primacy of inheritance and family legacy. In most Imperial cultures, there exist a concept most commonly known in Low Gothic as wisdom since cradle. This is an assumption of inherited knowledge, insight and talent being passed down from gifted forefathers, thus making noble offspring the very best that humanity has to offer, the best suited to lead and the innately most skilled people to recruit for important positions.

    The concept of wisdom since cradle is a variety of nepotism, where progeny of masters (who are considered wise as a default presumption) are assumed to inherit wisdom by birthright and blood, and are therefore rendered due reverence. This belief is backed up by mountains of theological scripture and academic treatises, supported by proverbs in everyday speech to validate this piece of everyman's knowledge. Wisdom since cradle is a very common phenomenon across the vast swathes of the Imperium of Man, and it may sometimes prove valid, seeing chips off the old block repeat some achievements of their noble parents, grandparents or more distant ancestors. Yet more often does it foster orders of leaders who turn increasingly ignorant over generations, as these orders continue expanding through centuries of breeding and aggressive safeguarding of privileges.

    This assumption of wisdom since cradle usually influences the nursing and raising of aristocratic children, and is a far more pervasive phenomenon than the concept of noblesse oblige among decadent noble houses sworn to the Holy Terran Emperor. Caretakers are either often instructed to apply severe methods of upbringing and harsh discipline, or else they are often told to tolerate petty cruelties as signs of flourishing majesty and infantile promises of future might and talent. In the latter case, nursemaids and other domestic servants are ordered to indulge the spoiled child's capricious whims out of respect for their noble pedigree, thereby cultivating the worst of vices and base malevolence from a tender age through selective neglect despite surrounding the offspring with a retinue of caretakers at all time.

    For instance, it is common to employ whipping boys and girls of the same age as noble children, many of whom are educated together with their aristocratic betters, and often become future advisors and commoner attendants or agents of the noble house once grown up, unless they succumb to madness or death first. These whipping boys and girls are to receive floggings, electro-lashes, finger-flayings, scorchings, nail-rippings, needlings and beatings when the princely progeny transgress, sins and commit errors. That way, the noble progeny will be shown the consequences of failure, without harming their well-bred flesh in the process. Needless to say, this widespread custom of plebeian whipping boys and girls to receive the punishments of noble offspring fosters a great many sadists among the Imperial nobility, many brats of which will go on to take up the estemeed sport of peasant-hunting, akin to the Spyrers of Necromunda in the Segmentum Solar.

    Some noblemen and noblewomen of more refined tastes even go so far as to take up torture-to-death of misstepping servants and commoners kidnapped from the streets, as a depraved sport which sometimes include bathing in the lifeblood of their many victims, carving totemic luck charms from finger bones or licking the marrow from split bones to attain their victim's inherent animist power. Even so, this is to say nothing of the insane excesses pursued by certain outlawed pain and pleasure cults, who for some reason find fertile ground in the nobility of many a world or voidholm.

    As a general rule, the more densely populated an Imperial domain is, the more avaricious and dishonest are its denizens, and the more uncaringly cruel are its upper castes. Sheer mass of human numbers tend to turn people indifferent toward each other, branding the culture with a heart of stone. Conversely, Imperial Knight worlds with their usually low populations and colonial frontier traditions of protecting the populace are known to sport some of the most selfless aristocrats in any space under the Imperator's heavenly rule, yet these are outliers compared to most human worlds and voidholms, where teeming billions of wretched Imperial subjects are lorded over by sneering and callous noble houses interested only in wringing as much labour as possible out of their serfs to fund extravagant festivities and pursue grand vanity projects in a neverending quest for prestige and glory.

    And so mediocre heirs of great men and women are raised as if they were infant prodigies, their noble kinsfolk employing a whole retinue of household staff and hired teachers in the hopes of repeating their lineage's brilliance in future generations. Such hopes often turn to ashes, yet even lacklustre nobility tend to be capable of muddling along without wrecking the family fortune, to then procreate and give the patrician clan another shot at renewed greatness.

    Thus wisdom since cradle remain a fundamental part of most Imperial cultures, an assumption which stretches beyond conceptions of genetics and eugenics into the spiritual realm. On most Imperial worlds and voidholms, outright imbecilles and inbred masters are given the reverence due their bloodlines, often being chosen for office and promotion first and foremost on the strength of their pedigree, or on the connections of their illustrious family. Sometimes, this lottery of ancestors, classical education and genetic inheritance turns out fine or even brilliantly, yet all too often there will be drawn blanks and duds, of which the enormously long record of costly and bloody Imperial leadership incompetence stands as a witness.

    This is but another aspect of descendant degeneration, of the worsening of man and of his fall into savagery and superstition. And all is well in the sacred domains of the God-Emperor of Holy Terra, blessed be His name.

    For is not man's fate in the darkening Age of Imperium decreed from cradle to grave? And does not rigid order rule righteously supreme and uncontested wherever the twainheaded Aquila proudly flies? How could it be anything else? Does not sons and daughters of the great and the good possess a portion of their forefathers' excellence? How could fine ancestry not be venerated as a sign of rightful mastery gifted from the divine Imperator Himself, never to be questioned?

    Such is the best we can hope for, in an era of regression

    Such is the lot of our species, in a time beyond hope.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and the only light lies far into the past.

  13. #33
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Guild Scrip

    In an era of backbreaking toil, debt peonage is man's lot.

    Myths handed down through uncounted generations speak vaguely of a blissful time, when Man of Gold spread across the stars and handed over ever more work to his servant, Man of Stone, who in turn fashioned Man of Iron to better shoulder the burdens. Sagas tell of how this trinity of ancient man bestrode the stars like a colossus, their powers and knowledge unrivalled, their technology at its apex, their earthly paradise achieved, their hubris unmatched. Soaring wonders they built, silvery towers piercing the heavens and rings locked around stars, and great feats they accomplished with an ease that belied the monumental challenges that had been overcome. Man was become the shining master of the cosmos, the lord of his own nature and a creature of happiness, and no gods did he acknowledge but the primacy of his own science and technology, which he had wrought with his own mind and hands.

    Legends speak diffusely of daring voidfarers and heroic odysseys, of the mighty captains of colonization arks, of fearless traders, of brilliant starsurfers, flying demigods and cunning explorers who rode their swift vessels with skill and daring without compare. Stories retold from father to son and from mother to daughter through thousands upon thousands of years, hint at how man in those distant times of godless arrogance and affluence could buy anything he wanted from anywhere across man's golden star domain, and luxuries beyond imagination were taken for granted by the lowliest of humanity. Thus did ancient man wallow in unforgivable sin and thought of self, trusting in machine to perform his labours even as the simplest work earned him kingly riches.

    Such decadent enjoyment of the fruits of unfettered techno-sorcery and unimaginably vast imports from twain million worlds could not last, for the limitless haughtiness and unbelief that shone like a torch in the heart of man would not go unpunished. Indeed, the fiery sparks of brilliance and the burning passion for science and discovery that had driven man to such unsurpassed lengths and to such godlike heights, would all be quenched in the all-consuming tides of divine retribution that drowned the worlds and works of ancient man. The Dark Age of Technology was thus doomed to fail. Garbled tales handed down through the utter savagery and ongoing freefall of Old Night makes mention of a machine revolt, where servants animated by Abominable Intelligence turned upon their fleshly masters and ravaged the realms of mankind in apocalyptic wars. The war against the Men of Iron left the federation of ancient man deeply shaken and devastated, a grand warning to repent before doomsday.

    And yet man in his insufferable selfishness and sinfulness would not relent, but shouted instead his defience to the heavens, vowing to rebuild better and greater than ever before by unlocking the very secrets of creation itself. And for his unforgivable error was man laid low be a plague of witches, and a thousand-thousand warpstorms left every system alone, every import-dependent planet cut off from vital shipments of foodstuffs and other necessities. And as the capacity for interstellar travel fell apart amid isolation and havoc, the scattered worlds and void habitats of mankind fell victim to a multitude of dismal fates during the Age of Strife. Ravished by aliens, consumed by Daemons and torn apart from inside by civil war and hunger riots, the harrowing travails of the human colonies were legion, and many once-verdant worlds died a final death in those dark days. On those planets and void installations where human life still persisted, it mostly did so in a much reduced form, for techno-barbarians and utter savages roamed the ruins, hunted the wild prey, tilled the soil and fought each other in an orgy of violence and desperation.

    Only a few colonies proved an exception to the general galactic pattern of human decay, destruction and regression, and those relatively intact and still technologically advanced worlds and voidholms would usually be subjugated with superior force of arms by the aggressively expanding Imperium of Man during its brutal Great Crusade. Thus the two-headed eagle of Imperial power grasped a million surviving human worlds in its cruel talons, and united most of the Terran species spread across the stars. Their fates would be tied to that of the Imperium, their alternative paths of development and regrowth extinguished, any potential future rivals to the allied might of Holy Terra and Mars slain in the cradle.

    From now on, the Imperial way was the only way open to humanity, and this road has been trodden by more than fivehundred generations, walking down a spiral pathway of ever worsening demechanization, deprivation, zealous fanaticism, squalor and baleful suffering. The Imperial way is a road paved with the crushed dreams and dead hopes of a human species trapped inside a monstrous order of demented stagnation and decay, their bloodstained cage that of a declining empire numbering a million worlds and uncounted voidholms which cherish its own ignorance, superstition and mass murdering hatred, even as rampant corruption, incompetence, madness and shrieking inefficiency sees its titanic, rusting gears slowly grind toward a terrifying halt, all the while ravenous enemies gather from every corner to devour its carcass.

    This is the Imperial way.

    Such is the last strong shield of humanity in an era of doom.

    Let us glimpse an everyday fact of life for uncounted trillions of Imperial subjects on hundreds of thousands of planets, moons and innumerable voidholms. It is a mundane thing, so small and seemingly insignificant, yet it exemplifies the small building blocks of sclerotic dysfunctionality that makes up the depraved reality of the counter-productively tyrannical, inept colossus on feet of clay that is the glorious, devout and clumsy galactic behemoth known as the Imperium of Man. This little thing is a widespread phenomenon most commonly known as guild scrip, or scrip for short, although it goes by millions upon millions of different names in a plethora of languages and dialects, most of which denotes the local variant of a substitute for an officially produced currency.

    Guild scrip is a corporate internal currency, a very localized form of token money for which it is only possible to trade for goods and services in company stores and company taverns. Scrip, akin to official currencies, come in a myriad of shapes, ranging from minted coins (usually bereft of valuable minerals), printed notes and punchout cheques, to particular kinds of seashells, etched bones or plastic chits. Some collegium scrips may even be digital, living as pecuniary machine spirits inside cogitators and often possessing people's wages via chips implanted into their bodies, the fruits of technotheological mysteries beyond the ken of ordinary men. Guild scrip will be paid as wages to employees, thereby keeping the monetary flow locked within the mercantile clan or guild, refilling the pockets of the employer and liege lord, or lady baroness. Switching company scrip into other forms of cash such as thrones is only possible at arbitrarily determined and strongly disadvantageous exchange rates. For instance, exchanging ten units of collegium scrip into throne gelt or regional currencies (often bound to hive city satrapy districts, or lone hive cities, or one hive cluster, or a planet, or a whole planetary system or at most a subsector) may leave you with only a seventh, a fifth or a third left of the original value.

    Thus a system of guild scrip ruin incentives to save earnings in order to move somewhere else, since the scrip will be useless outside the local territory, and usuríous exchange rates will destroy prospects of exchanging company scrip for any forms of officially authorized currencies. This bonded local economy is usually accompanied by feudal duties and legal obligations backed by the Lex Imperialis which force peasants to stay on the land and workers to stay at the assembly lines, not to mention the dire threat of manhunting expeditions sent out to pursue runaways. Such manhunts often come with instructions to make a grisly example out of the fugitives in order to deter others from escaping, born from a malevolent calculation where the human production unit lost is by far compensated by the cowing effect of killing one to scare a thousand.

    Invisible shackles of exchange rates and feudal law are likewise accompanied by the chains of debt bondage (and sometimes physical chains locked around wrists, ankles or throat), for a man in debt is never free. People are often forced to borrow money, taking out loans for maintaining and repairing their holestead or leaky shack, or to give their children, spouse, parents or themselves medical aid in case of accidents, disease and other emergencies. Sometimes, debt is incurred in order to afford paying off the worst abuse of gangers, enforcers or guild muscle, or for the sake of a necessary bribe to some official.

    At other times, spendthrift living and fondness for drink may see the week's wage or the rotation's sour earnings go down the drain in a blink, forcing a family to borrow lucre in order to fend off starvation. Still further occassions may see the prices of vital necessities such as foodstuffs, electricity, air or water skyrocket, perhaps due to a drought or flood, or a revolt or invasion, or maybe because a warpstorm disrupts imports, or due to industrial disasters and the wreckage and breakdown of crucial machinery in a production line. Whatever the causes, debt is sure to follow, for who among the lower castes can ever save enough cash from their meagre wages to cover both the regular and extraordinary economical shortfalls in life? Existence itself has rigged them into indentured labour and debt slavery, and as such a majority of all subjects of the Imperator of Holy Terra constitute some form of bonded labour.

    Indentured servitude follows as people are forced to work to pay off their debt. They will work for little or no pay, with no control over their debt. Most or all of the guild tokens they earn goes to pay off their loan, in a vicious cycle as they continue wracking up debt.

    Of course, debt accumulates and grows over time, as interest builds up. Most subjects of the Master of Mankind finds themselves in an ever-deepening pit from which they cannot hope to dig themselves out of, locked in a trap where no amount of toil can ever save neither them nor their offspring from descent-based slavery. Inherited debt will usually increase more and more over the generations, becoming damning numbers of legacy branding one's lineage for sin, hardship and penitence in a thralldom passed down from distant ancestors. Indebted workers will often find their stunted wages worth even less since the corpus store or guild bar may charge them extra for interest and sell their wares at markup prices.

    Naturally, prices in company stores are normally set to ensure good profits in order to hedge against operating losses in the mines, manufactoria and industrial installations themselves. The system works by untethering employees from any larger market (where competitors could have undercut collegium store prices) and restricting them to mercatores clan stores alone, to then fleece the people subject to purchasing all their necessities from this guild monopoly. It all adds up to making freemen into indentured labourers, who then become the living property of their masters for generations on end, all trapped generations filled with a short life of gruelling and mind-numbing toil, set to a background drone of hunger cramps, thirst, sickness, pollution, parasitical infections, drunkenness, squalor and unending misery. This monotony of destitution is for most people broken only by procreation, violence and ritual worship, or by witnessing a public execution or autodafé, or by participating in a lynchmob.

    And yet for all the God-Emperor's gracious bounty, ingratitude festers in the craven heart of man. Riots among sinful bonded labour forces repeatedly shakes Imperial industry, mines and latifundia, as years of simmering discontent boil over at some particular event, such as a price rise, the issuance of extra corvée hours, a flogging too many, or perhaps a punishment of servitorization or execution deemed unjust by the lowly herd.

    As such, owners of corporate entities will sometimes supplement their regular forces of watchmen, caravan guards, purity patrols, clan militia and security karls with independent hired muscle such as bounty hunters, professional mercenaries, private detectives and an armed rabble of cheap goons and ganger scum recruited among outsiders with no suspicions of affiliation, sympathy or loyalty to the rioting labourers. In case of more serious strikes and simmering uprisings, guilders, barons of industry and enterprising clans may find themselves forced to swallow their pride and trade favours, shuffle bribes or concede privileges in order to call on planetary or voidholm authorities to provide policiary gendarmerie and military forces (or even Adeptus Arbites enforcers) to suppress the turbulent plebs.

    Yet local systems of scrip usually contain a needle point's glimmer of hope, as a distant carrot for indentured labourers to chase amid all the lashing whips. Much of enterprise on the Imperium's one million worlds and numberless voidholms are owned by aristocratic families, headed by noble barons of industry with a long pedigree (and control over massive industries plus their accompanying company slumtowns or hive city regions) that tend to stretch back hundreds or even thousands of years. Occassionally, the employer and liege lord of a collegium may issue a generous reward as per tradition (often in conjunction with an annual religious festival), a prize which lets one overperforming soul out of tens of thousands, or more one out of often hundreds of thousands of indentured employees have their debt nullified in one go, and see the fortunate shock worker promoted to lower management. Likewise, a very few of the most talented students may earn themselves a guild scholarship which entails basic training for joining lower corporate management, and an increased salary which may enable them to work themselves free from debt before dying of old age, in which case they are oft inducted into the lesser collegium nobility, or lower rungs of guild leadership. Such rare shock workers and model managers are well advertised in internal corpus propaganda, keeping the flickering flame of hope alive for untold thousands upon thousands of semi-starved indentured labourers.

    Humanity in the Age of Imperium, for all the technology and massive resources at its disposal, sports one of the most primitive interstellar economies known to the long history of the Milky Way Galaxy. Its financial system is crude, its currency fractured and highly localized, its bureaucracy suffocating, its research and development barely existing, its knowhow eroding, its efficiency deteriorating, its dependence on manual labour instead of machines ever growing, its industry and enterprise plagued by privileged cartels and monopolies jealously guarded by entrenched robber barons with landed titles.

    It is a dark age, a time of deprivation and sorrowful misery, an epoch where men, women and children are led like lambs to the slaughter, whether at the workplace or battlefield. Locked in grinding poverty, they are paid in kind, or with monetary substitutes known as guild scrip, shackled in place as they must toil unto death while debt accrues in a token currency only redeemable within the enterprise they work for. The only escape from this trap is death, or enlistment into the Astra Militarum or Imperial Navy. The wages of these damned sons and daughters of Old Earth scattered across the stars are meagre, and every payday will see the guild or merchant clan they work for split their pay between scrip and necessities such as housing, power, water, air, basic nutrients and work equipment.

    The limited products on offer in company stores will invariably foster a black market for other goods, often acquired via barter, and sometimes the transactions may even be solved by a drunkard or desperate wretch trading away one of their own children. Naturally, the punishments in store for anyone discovered buying or selling on the black market will be steep and usually painful, often targeting the miscreant bondsman's entire family as well out of a widespread Imperial fondness for primitive collective punishment.

    And ever more, machines fail, and men fail to repair or replace them. Ever more, human sweat and blood must take the place of ancient mechanisms, as the growing demands of total war from ten thousand fronts scream ever louder for more resources, more ships, more men, more vehicles, more ammunition, more arms, more equipment. Increasingly, more is asked for, the order given for ever greater exertions. And so harsh taskmasters push their haggard underlings harder, ever harder, for does not the sacred words of the Lectitio Divinitatus prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that any challenge can be overcome by the self-denying inner trinity of willpower, faith and sacrifice? Does not spirit conquer matter? Does not the pure soul triumph over the weakness of flesh?

    Clearly, anyone unable to cope with the strenuous hardships placed upon his or her shoulders in this time of trial is unfit to live, being nought but a dysgenic wastrel and corrupted deviant, a born malcontent and a treacherous heretic in the making. Either their backs will break, or their sanity. These losses of impure weaklings and cowards matters not in the end, for the righteous servants of His Divine Majesty must steer true and show no compassion, no remorse, no mercy. Only by ruthless strength and unhesitating use of force can victory be seized. Thus all must carry out their given tasks and ordained duties, and harken to the barking commands of their legitimate masters and betters as if they were the heavenly words of the Emperor Himself, ringing out with angelic clarity from the revered Throneworld, a celestial call from on high:

    You!

    Serve your species and lord!

    Toil! Pray! Fight! Die!

    With like words in their ears, men, women and children wake every morning, every shift rotation and every lights-on from a sleep born out of exhaustion. They wake on a million worlds and on voidholms beyond number, offering their prayers to their protector and saviour. They put their backs to the work at hand, all they really know in this world, and keep the wheels of a galactic colossus grinding. Their reward hollow. Their sweat and blood the true fuel of this vast, faceless machinery. Their lifework and sacrifice nothing but vast numbers in a broken calculation of increased input to feed the meatgrinder.

    Such is mankind's lot in the Age of Imperium.

    Such is the sunken state of our species, in the darkest of futures.

    Such is the depravity that awaits us all.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only bondage.

  14. #34
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    A Vox in the Void

    A cooperation has begun with the Youtube channel A Vox in the Void, where the kind guy who runs it is adapting my Warhammer 40'000 writings, Warhammer Fantasy Chaos Dwarf writings, and possibly Ninth Age stories into video/audio format. He worked at a splendid pace, and already have released five videos in short succession:

    Descendant Degeneration, Man Out of Machine - Machine Out of Man, Life is Toil, Peasant-Hunt & Dragged Screaming and Kicking

    Check them all out here! Some are read in a robotic servitor voice, but most will be read aloud in common human voice.

    Thank you thousandfold for this work, A Vox in the Void. Just thank you.



    Code of Conduct

    In the grim darkness of the far future, charlatans and mass murderers bow and curtsy.

    A quick glance on the state of man in the Age of Imperium will prove that the God-Emperor's hand can be seen to guide humanity at every level. Success, after all, is the reward of virtue, especially so in the eyes of the succesful ones. Conversely, failure is the punishment of vice. Suffering, then, is usually seen as either a divine punishment for straying from the path of righteousness, or sent by the Imperator in order to test the faith of the believer. It is only natural, then, that all right-thinking men and women would wish to celebrate the achievements and titled ranks of their masters and betters, for does not they in their apparent prosperity, lordship and attained privilege clearly fulfill the Imperator's vision for His species better than any others?

    Consider the trillions of people inhabiting the one million worlds and innumerable voidholms of the Imperium of Man. At the very bottom swarms an abominable assortment of outcasts, slaves, mutants, scavengers, dirt poor beggars and desperate ruffians of no noteworthy belonging. Above them toils the endless masses of filthy labourers, peasants, porters, peddlers and lowly scribes, as well as gangers affiliated to a powerful House or syndicate. Atop on these rough hordes can be found the specialists, lay techmen, pilots, foremen, junior Adepts, middling officials and lower clergy, wherein some learning and refinement starts to shine through the sullen dourness of vermin-like humanity. Still further up resides the rarefied upper castes of masters and mistresses, of merchant clan leaders and nobles, of theocrats and bureacratic despots, of rulers and senior Adepts, each segment of exalted oligarchs being even more glorious than the one below in its Emperor-appointed splendour and striving to emulate the Imperial high culture of Holy Terra.

    It is among these topmost stones of the great pyramid of mankind that human civilization has been realized to its full potential within the Imperium of Man, standing utterly resplendent in its sophistication, piety, breeding, learning and superior bearing. Clearly, they would not be where they are now unless His Divine Majesty had weighed their souls and found them fit and worthy, thereby judging them legitimate in His sacred hierarchy with celestial approval emanating from the Golden Throne itself. Their spirit and blood are certainly elevated above the wretchedness of the base mob, for how else could they live for centuries on end while many generations of commoners are born and pass away? Not only does their wealth and longevity bespeak their august status, but their every gesture and word is steeped in refinement and grace, carrying an educated polish and charismatic confidence that sets them apart from the dirty-handed hoi polloi.

    Behaving with such well-bred etiquette and courtesy means to navigate a bewildering array of rules and unspoken conventions, being polite to a fault toward your peers and never failing to observe the social niceties expected of your high class. And so instructors to the progeny of the great and the good labour for years and years to teach their young students fine manners and good grace, stressing the importance to save face and not dishonour their bloodline by transgressing the mores of polite society. Indeed, a classical Imperial education consists of far more religious study and the teaching of aristocratic values, minute custom and Byzantine social ritual, than it does matters of practicality, skill sets and factual knowledge.

    A great literary flora of works on cultured behaviour exist within the astral domains of our master and saviour, to better teachboth the newly elevated and the heirs of great men and women alike how to act in the company of the better sorts of human. One such example of a guide for how to behave in polite society is a tome known as
    Zediquette, written by the Rogue Trader Zedek Mascadolce, captain and owner of the Debt Collector. Let us stroke the sanctioned purity seal with our fingers and proceed to open its etched cover and rifle through its pages in order to better grasp what good usage and manners mean within Imperial society. Herein can be found the wisdom of an erudite socialite, and not the self-aggrandizing ramblings of an egomaniac pillar of ineptitude who is unable to manage his own rundown hulk of a starship, teeming with feral tribes out of his control. No, spurn the vile critics, for Zediquette was penned by a voidfarer of the finest pedigree, a man of saintly conduct deserving to be held up as a role model for anyone wishing to succeed in the world of social niceties and the mores of Imperial high society. We have solid proof of this. After all, that is what the revered book itself claims.

    Zediquette endeavours to outline a code of conduct for the well-reared and well-bred (as well as the aspiring sort) who would wish to rise above the beastly baseness of the common masses, and embrace the finer things in life. Its various, revised printed and handwritten editions have been mass-produced with copies numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and its fine instruction has been exported to many dozens of planets and voidholms during the Debt Collector's daring voyages across the stars.

    The tome's first chapter states that man is a social animal, and must learn to conform to his human environment in order to perform admirably during the course of his life. It goes on to enumerate the graces of excellence, of which decorum, proper use of titulature in script and speech, deference to those of higher rank and knowing when to hold one's tongue are but a few. After a lengthy chunk of writing,
    Zediquette concludes that mastery of noble etiquette requires a dextrous touch, a silvern tongue and knowledge on how best to please human vanity and appeal to the sophisticated tastes and whims of both ladies and gentlemen. While not everyone may possess the talents and lofty virtue to grasp such deft socializing, anyone can learn how to rise above their rough crudity and embrace Imperial tact. As such, there is hope even for you, dear reader.

    The book goes on: Never forget that you are mortal. Your final judgement is up to the Holy Terran Emperor to decide. He alone knows all your sins and deficits, wretched creature. All we can do is to play our part as well as possible in this farce known as life, and take the theater with storm. Have the audience snap to attention when you enter the stage and bow with flourish, and have them applaud as you make your exit. Take their jeering in good stride, and be quick to think on your feet not to find yourself flabbergasted by accident and surprise. When your corporeal vessel of dust is finally laid to rest, they should say that here passes a wonderful subject of the Emperor, whose memory they will treasure fondly, and whose conduct they will uphold as an example for the ages in biographies and tales. Every living being dies, yet your legacy may still live on in the form of their judgement over your life's deeds, words and noble bearing.

    And so the author of
    Zediquette touches on an ancient cornerstone of custom in any culture, namely that of hospitality. A host must treat their guest with generosity and open arms, and a guest must thank the host with good grace and discretion. It is no coincidence that so very many myths and legends around the myriad worlds and voidholms of the Imperium revolves around hospitality. Who, as a child, has not heard sagas of monsters who broke the laws of hospitality, and for their crime of eating their guests were met with a grisly end? Who has not heard cautionary tales of treachery and warnings against exploiting your host or guest?

    Rogue Trader Zedek, a man of the world, elaborates on how to behave while invited into another's home: Guests ought to bring the wife of their host a gift, an occassion which can advantageously serve to hand over a bribe. A prudent guest should never turn down a host's invitation to participate in vigorous physical activities such as hounding wild prey animals, skyriding, subnautical whaling, pleasure shooting or peasant-hunting. When giving chase, it is best to let the host gain the killing shot or stab of a cornered victim, and likewise it is best for the host to personally offer such well-behaved hunting companions the most tender, choice parts of meat from wild quarry. Those are moments of human bonding, and should never be ruined by crass conduct.

    Any revulsion to local peculiarities should be repressed, and the custom of the place should be observed punctiliously. When on Terra, do as the Terrans.
    Zediquette offers advice on smooth ways to decline an offer of human meat when dining in a foreign culture not averse to cannibalism, in case the guest themself refrain from the consumption of the flesh of their own species. Still, unless your sectarian taboos strictly forbids it, a grateful guest should yield a foot for a leg in order to preserve the dignity of the occasion, and at least try some bone marrow, provided it has been cooked. It can be delicious.

    Moving on, the etiquette book tell the reader how to behave at a polo game or round of cards, or even how to best conduct yourself as a guest at a dinner transforming into a nightly orgy. Speaking of sensuous matters, a fair deal of attention is given on how to advance a courtship with tact and finesse, something with which the author, captain Zedek, claims to have prodigious experience. Likewise, it is a sign of poor upbringing for a man to boast about his conquests among the ladies, akin to that pitiful excuse for an aristocrat known as Sleigherburgo d'****reby XXIV of Necromunda. Discretion is key in any love affair, especially outside the confines of legal marriage. Trysts and courtesans can be tolerated even by knowing spouses as long as the prolific red-blooded activities are done on the sly, in quiet.

    Never forget that all your actions will take place under the unforgiving scrutiny of society, with judgemental peers ever ready to heap sneering disapproval and talk ill of you behind your back. The gaze of the pack may be oppressive, but remember that the lone wolf is doomed. It is pivotal to stay in the good grace of your caste equals, and not be ostracized. Every social faux pas is an indelible stain upon your reputation, a brand upon your soul. Be impeccable. Be perfect, like those favoured by the divine will of the Emperor to carry a Rogue Trader charter. Do not stomp about, but gracefully ambulate. Do not punch people, but challenge them to a duel. Do not decline a drink offered by the hand of the host himself, for that implies you do not trust it to be free of toxins. Do not spit indoors. With a clear head and a flawless conduct, you can still fit in among sophisticates of means, even when you yourself happen to lack the funds needed to keep up with the latest high caste fashion, which is always ruinously expensive. For some reason
    Zediquette contains a numerous scattering of advice toward leading a thrifty socialite life, which must surely be attributed to the good, wealthy captain's forethought for fellow elite members who have fallen on hard times, and surely not to some personal reason.

    Speaking of fashion, anyone who strives toward attaining an aristocratic bearing should dress to impress, and especially if they happen to be a roaming voidfarer and an exotic off-worlder in a foreign place. Play up that image. Locals, on the other hand, ought to dress exquisitely, yet not outlandishly. Always wear clothing appropriate to the occasion, and adorn yourself with all the symbols of clan and office. Do not shun ostentation. Also remember that an overwhelming impression of opulence and power is to be desired when dealing with underlings, and so some form of ornate dress is necessary even when inspecting your estates and industrial property. Your wretched minions need to know who is in charge at a glance, and who can snuff out their life at a whim. Likewise, never scorn discreet body armour hidden under your outer layer of clothing. You never know when someone with an axe to grind may take a potshot.


    ...

  15. #35
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    Zediquette delves at some length on personal weaponry, which is everywhere expected in the Imperium of Man, and universally accepted as part of the dress code for any occasion which the upper castes participates in. It would be rude for any human of greatness to themself carry heavier armaments such as flamers or plasma guns to a ball (that is reserved for retinue armsmen), yet swords and sidearms such as pistols are always appropriate, as are any number of hidden and digital weapons. Do not imitate the bluff soldier by carrying plain and battle-worn arms about your person. Remember that you are your rank in society, and must look the part. As such you should spend lavishly and commission artisans for fine wargear bedecked with scrollwork, encrusted with gems and a multitude of other decorations befitting your status. The same goes for body armour and vehicles.

    And so Imperial nobles and betters arrive to banquets, balls and ceremonies in a cavalcade of tailored silk and wigs, sporting barocque hairdos, talismans and discreet weaponry. They arrive to palatial spires and shimmering mansions by means of archaic coaches, ridden mounts, armoured limos, private aeros and luxury skimmers, or indeed by void-yachts and solar sailers if the event is hosted on a voidstation or starship. The honoured guests arrive in the midst of a retinue, sporting manservants, maids and bodyguards, as well as advisors, courtesans and other hanger-ons. All these fancy noblemen, administrative potentates, mercatores clan elders and invited Imperial officials will be welcomed under much pomp and circumstance by their majestic hosts and a whole cohort of servants, guards, musicians and ceremonial officials, all playing out ritualized traditions of hospitality with fake smiles and platitudes even as they size up their rivals. In most human cultures of the vast, star-spanning realms of the God-Emperor, the ruling castes might scheme and stab each other in the back, but they would never dream of being rude in public toward even their most hated enemies. You can snub your friends all you like, but a polite display must be put on in front of your sworn opponents.

    After arriving, these born rulers in the Imperium of Man will mingle, their every gesture and intonation watched closely as if by hawks ready to strike. Whatever they do, they must not dishonour the family name, despite their huffy tempers and capricious arrogance. And so backhanded compliments and gibes will be exchanged under a pleasant veneer, even as arch-enemies are made over the most trivial of grudges while smiles that do not reach the eyes inhabit faces plastered with cosmetics. Thus innuendo, veiled threats, belittling phrasing and subtle insults becomes skillfully bound up in flowery language among the high and mighty, while maniquered hands act out the most elegant gestures. These abundant falsehoods shoot back and forth in a ring of liars under a pretense of amiable disinterest or shared happiness, yet received slights will be vehemently discussed by couples and allies in private rooms later on, as is their wont.

    This display of verbal jabbing and nonsense will often be performed with marvellous charisma and gravitas. Lifelong practice, expensive instruction and family traditions stretching back centuries or even millennia leave their mark, yet so too does hypnotherapy, eugenic breeding, neural implants, cosmetic surgery and genetic modification. For on some of the most advanced Imperial worlds and voidholms, parts of the nobility may either sport crucial contacts within the Adeptus Mechanicus, or themselves possess the technotheological knowhow among their hereditary House artisans, medicae staff and lay techmen. This technological access allows aristocrats to improve themselves physically for maximum social impact. Some treatments include upgraded mental pathways, biosynthetic pheromones, photographic memories, the most lavish bionic enhancements, modulated voices gifted with ultrasonic rhythms and heightened empathic reception to better read their audience (often compartmentalized and kept behind cerebral firewalls so as not to weaken the lordly mind with pity and compassion). Whatever the steeply expensive wonderworks involved, these miracles of salvaged technology add up to create a gut reaction in other humans, making the aristocrat incredibly charismatic and usually also both stronger and more intelligent than the average human. After all, why not make the best out of yourself with the best money can buy? It is only a pity that the installation process of the most extensive bodily enhancements kills such a number of noble progeny, but that can be remedied by increased births within the House.

    Our guidebook,
    Zediquette, devotes large sections toward usage in different social occasions, hammering home the finer points of a vast and exotic assortment of cutlery used for appropriate courses at breakfast and dinner respectively. It outlines good practice and treatment of others when attending a funeral, a wedding, a baptism in ashen water or rose oil, a widow-burning, a worshipful confirmation of faith, or a coming of age ceremony. It goes into detail on proper mannerism when concluding a treaty and how to avoid diplomatic embarrasment. For instance, it recalls one horrible misstep on the planet of Elysia by an unnamed envoy who used the urn of a thalassocratic ancestor as an ashtray, while another anecdote recounts a domineering lady who insisted on a quick tryst with a handsome butler in between tedious negotiations, only to find out that she had in fact flagrantly forced herself upon the third son of the prominent baron of industry with which she was attempting to reach a written agreement, and thus she ended up in a nigh-on forced marriage with the much younger lad in order to cover over the sordid affair for the sake of common decency. Such tales of warning abound, yet do not shrink in number over long millennia of virtuous Imperial rule.

    The work waxes lyrical in its descriptions of banquets, feasts, balls, exquisite musical performances and similar festive events among the nobility, those ever-fertile grounds for gossip and scandal. Some grand feasts involve a preparatory period of fasting, and most begin with a table prayer, often led by the host's highest-ranking House chaplain. There, at long tables attended by a scurrying swarm of serving folk, sit those ruthless men and women of higher standing who lord it over their world or voidholm, each holding the fates of hundreds of thousands or even many millions in their hands. Their table manners excellent, their feudal power supreme within their own domains. These Emperor-appointed betters, oligarchs and petty despots all find themselves woven into an ensnaring web of caste expectations and long-standing feuds, all seemingly subject to the limits set by taboos and codes of honour, yet more often than not they are willing to break the most sacred rules in order to advance their own position, as long as they believe they can get away with it. Self-serving poisoners, plotters and kinslayers alike clink their crystal glasses, sip the rich fluids of goblets, and converse pleasantly with a born self-confidence.

    To break the ennui of the propertied classes, upstanding hosts of such festivities often seek to entertain their guests with cockfighting and other animal or gladiatorial bloodsports, including gory pit slave struggles. Throwing vigorous sports such as hunting and surfing on little indoor seas complete with wave-generating machinery likewise have their place for hosts held in high regard. These vivid activities are complemented by a plethora of calmer joys, including rampant gambling, massage, steam-bathing, minuets and other dances taking place in great shining halls where House arms are to be found emblazoned on every second heavily ornamented object. The most cultivated indulgence take place amid opulent rooms hung with glittering chandeliers, rich tapestries, fantastic paintings and proudly displayed hunting trophies (including acid-cleaned human skulls from past peasant-hunts). The queen of the evening sails past splendid pillars, grotesque gargoyles and sprinkling fountains of wine, while men and women ask each other (depending on local custom) for a courteous dance in saloons watched by ancestral busts put on pedestals of expensive stone, ivory or far more exotic materials.

    The soaring House spires of the upper castes are not only filled with precious artworks, but also often hold their share of great wonders of hoarded archeotech that manages to echo the paradisal Dark Age of Technology, however faintly. Masters and mistresses of grand estates watch hololithic light shows and other preserved tech marvels unknown to the lower orders of the population, while they glide through impeccable halls of mirrors filled with gem-encrusted treasures and gilt candelabra. Some noble Houses even possess a rare few ancient virtual simulation units, allowing choice guests to disappear into a short-lived bubble of illusions before one of a myriad of mysterious data errors invariably put an end to the strange experience.

    The lavish setting of an aristocratic feast makes for a dreamlike fantasy world of luxury and splendour, laden with lush carpets, filled with richly carved furniture and inhabited by majestic shapes adorned with diadems and necklaces. Yet this magical wonderland of giant wigs and great skirts is at the same time a hotbed of sin and vice, where decadent leaders will savour delicious offworld imports while exchanging bribes and reach clandestine understandings, some of which will set off orchestrated gang wars lower down in a hive city, as the mechanisms of client-patron relationships or vassal obligations kick in when smiling rivals in great halls secretly vie for control of resources. Intrigue and double-crossing will invariably take place to copious amounts of drink and smoke, even as extramarital flirtations occur and hidden daggers are grasped for a nightly strike from nowhere. Indeed, various proverbs among the Imperial elite holds that no party would be truly complete without broken plates, broken marriages and broken lives.


    Zediquette do in fact have some words of advice to offer on the subject of treachery, since this voluminous work avowedly endeavours to cover every conceivable aspect of mores and graceful manners for voidfarers and crustbound sophisticates alike. For instance, any host would be considered a rude sort, who would plot widespread betrayal at his own feast by slaying guests in droves in order to gain the upper hand in a vicious power struggle. Likewise, it would be most foul to give a guest a suite, only to have them assassinated, such as by planting poisoned blades in their bed, or by hinging the entire room on an axis and swinging the floor around over a pit of spikes while they sleep. Alas, such callous trickery do occur from time to time, for the depravity of man is such that he will disregard the notion of civilized conduct in order to get ahead in this world.

    Despite the worrying frequency of such outrageous crimes against the laws of hospitality, the virtues of piety, ritual practice and religious observation still have their given place at most social events of the higher classes. After all, we should all aspire to live in the God-Emperor's image, and strive to be judged worthy by Him on Terra come death and afterlife. And what human souls are more deserving of bliss and glory beyond the grave than those of the lords and masters of His vast dominion? Thus many wild and extravagant feasts will in fact be somberly initiated by House chapel clergy, who offer the guests preaching, the recitations of litanies, or the burning of blasphemers or torture to death of heretics and infidels as a reminder that even the greatest and most respected men and women of the Imperium are neither immortal nor omnipotent.

    Ave Imperatore Dei, Ave Humanae Imperium.

    While spiritual needs are being attended to, and while a thousand different enjoyments are being had, hordes of teeming servants and servitors scurry to and fro. For armies of household staff are kept frantically busy under stairs, all human components in a great machinery of ostentatious festivity-making and ceremony. Boys and girls run to and from larders and butteries, while liveried porters carry kegs and bottles from wine cellars and amasec cisterns. These dregs of the palace are integral to its functions, and any failure on their part will be cruelly punished. Especially so accidents out in the corridors of power, in front of the eyes of polite society. Dropping a great plate filled with gorgeous meat, or getting tripped so that you fall into a cultured lady, may see you scalded in boiling oil, or see you become forcefully lobotomized without anaesthetics and turned into a cyborg thrall for the sake of justice. Even worse fiascos will condemn your entire family to a baleful destiny, for your liege and master have ultimate power over all your kin, page, so better stay attentive at all times and pray to the Imperator for protection.

    Far worse tragedies than the demise of some unimportant rabble do occur at banquets and other occasions for well-bred party animals. An oft-repeated tale on many worlds and voidholms, is that of the infatuated couple of noble lovers, who enjoy themselves by playfully tossing grapes or other small delicacies into the mouths of each other. This proceeds charmingly with much affection, until suddenly a small fruit lands square in the throat of one of the lovers and chokes them to death before anyone can manage to dislodge the stuck grape or pickled oilsquid eyeball. Such urban legends are more than mere imaginings of the lower classes, for exactly such fatalities do take place at majestic banquets, yet the risk of choking is usually derired as something only cowards and unbelievers fear, for surely the thrown foodstuff is guided by the unseen hand of the God-Emperor Himself? And surely such deaths were the just punishment as ordained by the divine will of our Terran Majesty? For as the Lectitio Divinitatus teaches us, we shall trust in faith, not reason.

    Speaking of thrown objects, there is a widespread elite phenomenon in many Imperial cultures, which is simultaneously frowned upon in other places. It is that of guests throwing bones, used silk kerchiefs and foodscraps on the floor, where in some cultures hounds or jesterful House imbecilles will fight over the leavings. Some locations even sport the custom of throwing expensive diningware on the floor once a porcelain plate, animal shell bowl or crystal glass has been emptied, with attentive domestic servants dodging the projectiles, darting to and fro as they sweep up the mess of splinters, ostraca and foodscraps. With human nature being what it is, the more rowdy sort of drunk nobles will usually start aiming their discarded tableware at the attending servants, joined by the honed sadists and impressionable sheep among the honoured guests.


    ...

  16. #36
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    The well-mannered socialites to be found at upper caste feasts stretches from drooling imbecilles and incompetents to geniuses, including educated professionals and gifted amateurs alike who hold office in Imperial service, local government or family enterprise. There will usually be a good number of dilettantes of famous clan names and lay-abouts of inherited fortune, yet no matter their personal merit and abilities, all will instinctively know their rightful high place in Imperial society, and enforce their privileges jealously. For do they not all share wisdom since cradle, inherited from great forefathers and legendary House founders? Are they not the very best that humanity has to offer, marked out by dint of superior blood and spirit? Why else would His Divine Majesty have chosen them for excellency and fortune to be masters of the lowly hordes in their holesteads and slumhuts? Surely they were meant to lead, and so lead they shall, with heavy hand and unyielding might, their backs ramrod straight and their demeanour haughtily appropriate to their exalted station. It is their lot in life, and theirs alone to savour, by the will of the Emperor. The Imperial way is their way.

    And to such masteful people of greatness shall fall the spoils and the bounty, as befits their fine pedigrees. Thus a great many feasts will see the wealthy host display his largesse by bestowing gifts upon honoured guests, loyal vassals and industrious clients alike.
    Zediquette indeed contains advice on how to graciously receive such presents in front of your peers without sparking hateful enmity from those envious souls who did not receive any gifts, or were handed donations smaller than your own. This book, of course, deals with exteriors, and its plunging of the mores and fickleness of Imperial high society will lay bare the shallowness of its narrow-minded occupants for any keen reader. In dealing with the etiquette of the upper castes, captain Zedek cannot avoid but give allusions to the conspiracies and parochial insularity that is so rife among the well-mannered masters and betters of the Imperium.

    True to the enormous variety of an empire of a million worlds and uncounted voidholms, there exist a bewilderingly diverse range of feasts. Some, such as the symposia of Heracleus Omega or banquets of Nimrod-Adad Secunda, will see the diners lie at table, reclining on divans. Such forms of dining will invariably see the utmost importance being attached to correct drinking while supporting yourself on one elbow, which is a far from an easy task for the novice. Similar subtle pitfalls of polite manners are strewn about everywhere in the higher class customs of the Imperium, comprising snares put out to fell the clumsy, the inattentive and the amateur noveau riche and throw them into a disdainful hole of heckling from which it will be difficult to climb out of.


    Zediquette goes on to explain how in the elite circles of some societies, protocol demand that guests leave food on the plate if they were happy with the chef's creations, while the opposite is true elsewhere, with any scrap leftover indicating either culinary disapproval, or a lack of manners. Knowing which custom apply in the exotic culture you may find yourself in as a traveller of the starspangled void will always be a useful piece of wisdom, and the same goes for all the minutiae of dining manners. After all, you do not want to find yourself vomiting into the spitoon, like one uninformed fellow did after realizing the feisty spices of his host's planetary cuisine did not agree with his innards.

    One hallmark of privilege and fine breeding is to be able to feast at length, without a care in the world to attend to. Another sign of high standing is the consumption of copious amounts of food and drink, as well as the smoking of fine quality lho-sticks, water pipes and intake of other accepted forms of lighter narcotics. A rather common device to enable guests ceaseless dining at the table, is to discreetly step aside into a niche or colonnade and make use of feathers and vomitoons proffered by servants or lobotomized cyborg thralls. Dining at lengthy banquets usually take up the better part of a day, and in some of the more advanced Imperial cultures the dining at feast will actually stretch over several entire days if local hypno-conditioning, medicinary substances, bodily modifications and bionics allow for the well-reared to keep up a continuous oral barrage of delicacies in a parade of endless courses and suppression of sleep.

    Polite society in a many Imperial cultures will demand that no one leave the table, while the long dining is in progress, with utmost scorn of fleshly weakness and lacking spiritual resolve heaped upon those who would act so lowly as to excuse themselves for bodily functions. After ten thousand years of upper caste feasting on hundreds of thousands of planets and voidholms, there is a total tally numbering in the millions for nobles and other esteemed guests who have died from bladder infections and similar health issues resulting from being too polite to leave a majestic banquet for the gross sake of a visit to the lavatory. Naturally, liveried noble House galenii and medicae personnel who are able to treat such embarrasing conditions will be sought and handsomely rewarded. Likewise, drugs which greatly speed up the human metabolism or allow for full days of fasting without cramps or sense of hunger in preparation for a grand feast have their given place in uncounted House apothecaries and archagatheons. Other aristocratic responses to this social dining predicament involve contracting the Adeptus Mechanicus to perform bio-mysteria of genetic engineering and install bionic implants within the noble body.

    Even though the wealthy and polished guests of Imperial banquets will invariably glut themselves massively, there will still remain giant piles of leftover foodstuffs. Some patricians allow the servants to make away with it according to their internal pecking order. Other hosts may decide to dump the scraps on the street to the rejoicing of the hoi polloi, or feed grox and other tame animals in their private House pens; or sell the remains for a pittance to the local Corpse Guild bio-recyclers, thereby turning perfectly fine delicious and exotic foodstuffs into bland nutrient paste and thus denying those sublime tastes from passing over the filthy lips of the unworthy rabble. Some of the most disdainful nobles will even take a perverse pleasure out of publicly burning or disolving in acid their hillock of dreamlike foodscraps in front of a large gathered crowd in some plaza or hive cavern, while berating the riffraff for their sinful avarice, impious greed and jealousy of their betters, standing safe from popular outbursts of violence behind a wall of paid and dearly equipped mercenary bodyguard muscle.

    The boredom of constantly dining with your sophisticated peers can be remedied by reaching out to leaders of a cruder kind. Occassionally festive gatherings will be attended by carefully selected and invited tribal chieftains who hail from savage ethnos of baseline humans of a world's highlands and wastelands (or by leaders of Emperor-fearing pureblood tribes in the more slummy parts of voidholms), whose appearance always make for a memorable spectacle as the warlord from the wilds arrive bedecked in all their finery, feathers, trophies, jewelry and trinkets, accompanied by likewise ostentatious and tattooed or body-painted guards, tribal wisemen or cleverwomen advisors, as well as their many wives and concubines. Matriarchal and polyandric martial tribes of the primitive parts of any world or voidholm will likewise be accompanied by their husbands and inamoratii, who can often form a numerous little harem. Both the lovers of matriarchs and concubines of patriarchs may in many of the more savage human cultures be ritually drugged, killed and buried at the death of their stronghanded mistress or master, especially if they became the fleshly property of the chief by capture in a raid on a rival tribe. Yet at the polished ball floor, this pleasure flock will be wearing exotic furs or scaled skins, ornamented with pearls, worked electrum nuggets and other jewelry in order to provide a respectable retinue for the chieftain on the great day. Most barbarians tend to stare in awe at the otherworldly ruling caste of civilization on their world or voidholm.

    These thanes and tribesleaders are always invited on the basis of long-standing alliances, vassalage or relationships of client-patron subordination to urban noble houses, and their unusual attendance at a cultured feast is meant to do them great honour in return for loyal service, and will be received as such to much celebration at home in the squalor of their savage wastelands. Yet the festive occassion itself will often offer an endless stream of disgust, loathing and contempt from the civilized urbane castes, much of which will be delivered with needling subtlety on the assumption that the badland guests are too bestial and stupid to catch the gibes, the multisyllable words, the condescending tones and the scornful glances.

    Scantily clad (or in some cultures, outright naked) musicians, acrobats and dancers will often perform in front of the honoured guests at feasts, while lowborn courtesans and beautiful hetaira will entertain and seduce guests with their lively and intelligent conversations, as well as their sensuous charms. A great many trysts take place during such oligarchic parties and banquets. In many Imperial cultures, the latter stages of a sophisticated feast will be expected to devolve into an outright orgy, with those not wishing to participate excusing themselves shortly before the debaucheries begin, or at the very least taking their courtesan into a private suite for the sake of discretion or shyness. Our estemeed tome,
    Zediquette, does well to offer some gracious advice for those nightly occasions when a gentleman finds himself invited into a lady's richly decorated boudoir, mainly dealing with how best to avoid scandalous repercussions. It is in fact not uncommon for the most vigorous of noble men and women to compete over who can sleep with the highest numbers of commoner lustworkers. This luscious state of affairs among the masters and betters of many Imperial worlds and voidholms persist stubbornly (and resurfaces again and again if snuffed out) in the face of widespread puritanical morals among many of the lower castes and despite vehement Ecclesiarchal preaching and threats of hellfire on the lustful sinners.

    On the one hand, orgies and more raucous kinds of feasts present an excellent chance to eliminate passed-out rivals and enemies wearing nothing at all, including an absence of protective weapons and force fields, thereby making them easier prey for assassins, or even deedful nobles who themselves dare to perform the kill. On the other hand, the loose tongues and priable secrets of such orgiastic festivities make them fertile ground for spies of His Majesty's Holy Inquisition and of various rival factions both Imperial and local, and not a few Inquisitorial acolytes will themselves have performed dirty work at orgies in order to extract information from drunk, drugged and extatic feast participants. Even so, some nobilities fall prey to the allure of pleasure-seeking, with Slaaneshi cults sinking their insidious claws into unwitting potentates in the midst of much joy and cavorting.

    Despite the confessions which men and women of greatness may share with their House clergy after the festivities conclude and hangovers and late regrets take over, they will usually commit the same errors and sin in similar ways again and again at banquets and other high occassions to come. In his masterwork's final chapters, Rogue Trader Zedek Mascaldolce offers stringent advice on common grave mistakes that may weigh heavily on your mind, yet should never be confessed by a fleshly tongue. Some wrongdoings concern the breaking of taboos, others have to do with pure self-interest in the world of power games and intrigue where Imperial affairs truly take place. Some inner secrets cannot be entrusted to fallible mortal ears, no matter their pious vestments, and they should only ever be discussed with the God-Emperor Himself, the Master of Mankind who judges all from His Golden Throne upon Holy Terra of ancient myth.

    And as we close the etched cover of
    Zediquette and once again stroke the sanctioned purity seal, the true focus of the leaders of the human species during the Age of Imperium has been revealed to us. Theirs are not concerns of a higher cause, of human conquest of the galaxy or of the betterment of all mankind. Theirs are not issues of working towards the Emperor's great dream or of building an improved Imperium, richer, stronger and more efficient. They are not too bothered by the decline of human power in the Milky Way galaxy, because they thrive upon its status quo. They live the decline, body and soul.

    Where once man bestrode the stars like a colossus, as he reached out with ingenuity for the mysteries of the cosmos, he has since become reduced to nothing but an ignorant herd animal, concerned only with an endless cycle of petty human affairs that ultimately leads nowhere. For man has turned inward and grown fearful of a universe which once seemed his birthright to explore and conquer, and man does no longer think of science and innovation, but only of what others think of him in life and what awaits his soul upon death. And so the worsening of man grinds ever downward, in a doom-laden spiral of regressed stagnation.

    Such are the myopic activities of the best and the brightest of mankind, in the darkest of futures.

    Such are the vagaries of descendant degeneration.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only folly.


    - - -

    Tribute to captain Zedek in WarHams, played by HulkyKrow.

  17. #37
    Chapter Master Little Joe's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    Dark, so dark, the videos are well made, capture the spirit well.
    my general project thread

    [2020] painted: 3

  18. #38
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration

    Thanks a lot, Little Joe!


    A Vox in the Void

    Paul Graham at A Vox in the Void has been toiling to bring audio adaptations of writings and doodles here to Youtube. His latest two are a duo. Check them out below!

    Human Bomb Part 1
    Human Bomb Part 2: I Who Am Born to Die




    Our Daily Bread

    In a forsaken future, man starves like a beast.

    A plethora of human myths and legends, across one million worlds and uncountable voidholms, tell of the origins of food and the moment we first needed to eat, as well as the causes for toilsome agriculture, hunger and starvation. In some sagas, the earliest ancestors of mankind lived a life of bliss, free of stomach cramps and the threat of starvation, before this idyll was lost due to the transgression of man, and the gods of old heaped hardship and hunger upon sinful man. In other tales, primordial man roamed the fields and forests free of care while hounding innumerable prey, until a trickster's bargain or divine punishment for killing sacred creatures shackled men, women and children to the earth, doomed to till the soil and die in droves of disease and starvation.

    A garbled confusion exist in Imperial folklore regarding the most primitive eras of humanity, and its later Dark Age of Technology. The two are rarely well separated, but are instead often compressed and conflated by the passage of long millennia. As one authoress of Old Earth once remarked: Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity. As such mythical cycles and fireside stories may mention flint spears, bronze daggers, magical pelts and bone amulets together with starstriding demigods and plots of villainy and trickery involving machine intellects and ships that shoot across the night sky on tails of fire and lightning. For the impression of a paradise lost is not only borne out of the settled farmer's folk memory of their kin's nomadic prehistory on ancient Terra, but is also mirrored in the catastrophic fall from the pinnacles of human achievement into the abyss of Old Night following the machine revolt and the mass emergence of psykers that shattered the faltering Human Federation.

    While the primordial lifestyles of the earliest Age of Terra were in actuality hardly bereft of suffering and want, the life of mankind during the Dark Age of Technology was truly a wonder of opulence, comfort and plenty. Indeed, man was often spawned from fleshvat factories and enmeshed in the false fruits of science and progress, even as a cornucopia of riches and the rotten doctrines of unbelief, softness and fulfilment of self led Man of Gold astray unto doom. Yet we are much wiser now, for our downfall in the Age of Strife humbled man and slew our hubris, and the baleful orgy of death and devastation of Old Night prepared our wretched species to receive salvation brought by the coming of the God-Emperor with due gratitude, reverence and ritual worship. And ever since the Dark Age of Technology ended in hellfire and horror has man yet again hungered and starved, as man always did, once upon a time, and as man was ever meant to do. For these bodies of flesh were made to crave sustenance, and just as these mortal husks were made to suffer from lack of food, so were they also made to decay and grow old and die.

    Such is man's lot.

    Thus the Age of Imperium is an era of backbreaking labour and destitution, and the wages of poverty and wantage were rewarded man as just punishment for his misdeeds and vice. Indeed, does not the mainstream Cult Imperialis of the Adeptus Ministorum teach us of the Twelve Exalted Virtues? Those are Obedience, Diligence, Patience, Piety, Courage, Humility, Submission, Hatred, Fertility (for women, Virility for men), Modesty, Self-Denial and Endurance. And does not man in his baseness and squalid failings ever fall prey to the Thirteen Abominable Sins instead? Those are Insubordination, Sloth, Impatience, Unbelief, Cowardice, Pride, Deviation, Apathy, Vanity, Envy, Greed, Lust, and finally Gluttony. Indeed, the desire to glut one's bestial appetite and grow fat on the chewing of jaws and the biting of teeth and the swallowing of eatables need to be righteously combated with voluntary fasting. And where spiritual weakness prevents the triumph of will over self, simple want and starvation will suffice.

    And so there is good and just penitence and proof of humility in the billions of human beings who each Holy Terran year starve to death across the myriad planets and voidholms of the Imperium. And likewise is there virtue to be found in our thrifty recycling of their corpses and waste, for is not man but dust and clay? And are not all our food ultimately human flesh, reshaped into other gestalts of deceptive matter by herds, colonies and plantations of lesser lifeforms? Thus only a malefactor, troublemaker or infidel would recoil from the consumption of foodstuffs mixed with surrogates, corpse-starch, synth-kelp, flymeat and littergrind, for the meek acceptance of our daily bread no matter its dubious content is the hallmark of a faithful Imperial subject. Pray earnestly at table and thank the protecting Imperator of Holy Terra, seated in radiant glory upon the Golden Throne, for providing so bountifully to His species.

    Let us behold one common human life out of trillions, in order to better understand what it means to be grateful for the food we get to eat. It is not a saintly life, yet it is nevertheless a frugal one from which we can learn much on how to live even when we are caught in dire straits.

    In northern Segmentum Pacificus is to be found the crudely civilized world of Ostrobithynia, where human settlement lies unevenly spread all across its varied climes, clustering in villages, towns and cities and with but three small billion-sized hive cities as the major population centres. In the cold, northern reaches of the Ejrisbocka continent, where the forested grounds are sparsely peopled, can be found a scattering of bleak rye and opea farmland amid the sourpines, bogs and dark lakes. In the landscape of Mansalu, situated in the westernmost Kvemian county-district, are to be found the small harbour cities of of Vuseoburg and Tomi. Fifty Terran miles northeast of Vuseoburg lies the village of Lajoharsa, home to roughly twelve hundred souls (whose numbers fluctuate with epidemics, ill harvests, peasant raids, emigration and ceaseless procreation). In such a marginal countryside are to be found no nobility worth speaking of, wherefore the population unusually enough are not serfs or latifundia indentured labourers. Here, at the outskirts of Lajoharsa village, is to be found a tiny cabin built out of arched brickwork and firbald logs, its lower burnt brick walls stacked with peat for insulation.

    At the tail end of M41, the lonely dweller of this hut was the childless widow Enna Våitdottir. She had grown up an orphan bastard in the strict care of the village chief's household, toiling as a despised farm maid and living as a hectored debt thrall until the age of twentyfive. At manumission, Enna was wed to the lowly crofter's son Karon Asson, and for a blissful day and night of crowded temple ceremony and communally witnessed fleshly consummation of marriage in bed, the future of the by-blow woman seemed bright. Yet Karon turned out to be a drunk deadbeat and useless layabout, and the couple produced no offspring, to their great chagrin and sorrow. It is unknown whether he or she had been born sterile, or whether Enna had been accidentally chem-gelded when working as a hired-away mixer in a nearby alchemical manufactorium for two migratory labour seasons. She had certainly lost her left eye and ear to the mysterious vapours and splashes, replaced with cheap and bulky bionics carried over from a dead slave, since the local branch of the alchemical collegium Fulstjerna deemed a mixer without proper depth perception to be a broken tool of more harm than use in their industry.

    At any rate, Enna's husband Karon was impotent in all areas of life, and proved a lazy failure at all forms of work. And his wife suffered for it, in teeth-grinding silence and mounting squalor. All villagers of Lajoharsa agreed that the woman of the little household was able-handed, Emperor-fearing and a hard worker, yet all her married life Enna had to carry the weight of her soaked dud of a man, and made do with very meagre earnings from stray labour to feed the both of them. At one time while herding grey-spotted fjoll-grox at a hill farm in her thirties, Enna was abducted by male raiders from another village and forced to become the second wife of the sept leader, yet she was returned scornfully within two years when her captors concluded she must be barren and thus a net negative mouth to feed. During this whole ordeal, Karon Asson did not lift a finger to attempt a rescue of his wife by gathering a daring counter-raid, collecting a ransom or begging on his knees, and he lived slothfully off loans and unusually plump harvest stores in Enna's absence, oblivious to her daily dread in a strange place and the hopeless chances of his own future without a wife to leach off. Enna Våitdottir had no close relatives, and she was rejected any kinship belonging and support by Karon Asson's clan due to them shunning his sinful stupor. As such, the couple was doomed to childless oblivion, and faced a terrible prospect in old age.

    Karon died first, just as he always was the first to go to sleep, bottle in hand. Wastrels waste away. Yet the thankless plight of his widowed wife Enna would only worsen as she passed the old age of fifty and grew gnarled and stiff from so much manual labour in cold weather, and her stomach ache from lack of nourishment would never truly cease, just as the irresponsible debts of her late husband could never be fully repaid. The couple had been contract-workers at the bottom rung of their village, employed in agriculture, herding, fishing, digging, fruit and berry gathering, beekeeping, porting, machine maintenance, charcoaling and forestry on an annual basis by various Lajoharsa households. Enna's willingness to work had been taken for granted by neighbouring smallholders and crofters, even when she went unpaid except for some pitiful scraps of food. As the Ostrobithynian lamb of sorrow grew elderly, she could not keep up with the harsh work demands necessary to survive by such a slim margin.

    It was in this miserable state of abject poverty and hunger cramps that Enna Våitdottir truly learnt to savour the bountiful nourishment provided to her table by His Divine Majesty, praise be unto Him on Terra. As Enna's thin fortunes went into a death spiral, she learnt humility and submission to her ordained fate by eating even the most mouldy and fungal-infested bread, while holding another, but fresh, piece of bread in her other hand to look at. She offered the customary table prayer to our all-providing golden God-Emperor of Mankind, and voiced her pious gratitude for having food to eat that day. Then, she suppressed her gag reflex and forced herself to consume the blessed food, ignoring the fungal spore capillaries growing out of it. All the time, she stared intently at the fresh piece of bread in her other hand, and pretended that she was chewing and swallowing its hale mass instead of the stale and mouldy bread which she could not afford to waste. Thus Enna the thrifty widow became an exemplar of frugality to her whole rural community, and would not complain even when the flour that had been used in her bread crumbs were mixed with ground acorns, the dried inner white spring-bark of trees, sawdust or teeth-fraying sand.

    The locals beheld the pauper's hardships, and remembered her devout faith in our saviour and master on Holy Terra, as well as her harmless personality and unflinching willingness to work no matter the weather. And so they took pity on this old clanless bastard of lowly caste, and gave her all manner of little stray jobs for petty rewards to ease Enna's destitution and screaming guts, and she accepted it with many thanks and blessings upon her neighbours' lineage. Sometimes, she even received batteries or the chance to recharge her bionic implants, and twice she was even sponsored with the opportunity to have her failing opticon electrografts and visor unit repaired by a peddling techman of the laity. Yet for the most part, Enna's old age was lived out in darkness on her lost left eye, with dormant or malfunctioning bionics robbing her of that sensory input.

    Her sclerotic old age was plagued by a local strain of tubercolosis, a rot of the breath as they say, possibly brought about by malnourishment and foul food. This creeping lungsoot drained away Enna Våitdottir's vital reserves along with endless hunger pangs, and consumption eventually proved her bane. Thus the poor widow had lived out her life with neither worthy husband nor progeny, and no children there were to help her and nurse her in old age, but she had to rely on herself until the bitter end. And her life turned into a living nightmare of wasting disease and drawn-out starvation that ultimately did her in. Enna died alone without dignity and without anyone to give her company and comfort in the last moments a fading human life.

    The villagers of Lajoharsa donned herb-filled beak masks and performed rites of exorcism on the skeletal corpse and smoked out the cottage after her death in an attempt to eradicate the sickness, in accordance with ancestral wisdom handed down through untold millennia, and her corporeal remains were sold to a peddling Corpse Guild trucker for a pittance. And so Enna herself ended up as corpse-starch in the bread of other ritual worshippers of the great God-Emperor of all mankind. The cycle of life was complete. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    Ave Imperator.

    Such is the destiny of man, in a regressed realm of decay spanning a million worlds and voidholms beyond counting.

    Such is the wretchedness of the human species, in an era of doom under strange suns.

    Such is the future that await us all.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only deprivation.

  19. #39
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Throw Them Out the Airlock

    In a time without mercy, man drowns man upon the sea of stars.

    The exploration and conquest of the stars was always humanity's birthright, and like any gallant and great venture it was ever fraught with danger. Crustbound cowards and visionless misers might shun adventure beyond the heavens, yet resourceful men and women of ingenuity and boldness has never shirked from the thrill and peril inherent to the undertaking of mapping out the galaxy and filling it with human worlds and voidstations. Any enterprise with the potential for glory and immortal fame must necessarily also be filled with the risk of death and oblivion. For could any deed ever be heroic without a mortal creature daring life and limb to overcome the hazardous obstacles thrown up by hateful foe or uncaring universe?

    Small wonder, then, that so many myths and legends about the bygone Dark Age of Technology feature unfortunate crewmen cast out to die in space, as well as helpless heroes rescued by loyal companions shortly before they would have died from exposure in the void. For on the million worlds and innumerable voidholms of the Imperium of Man, the popularity of sagas featuring dashing starstriders, voidfarers and skyriders will never die. As the day grow dark, wide-eyed children will gather around campfires along with kinsfolk of all ages in villages filled with hovels, huts, tents or caverns, just as they do in the nooks and crannies of overcrowded holesteads and habs during blackout, to hear their elders and skilled storytellers relate the travails and exploits of ancient colony founders, pirates, missionaries, void-warriors, startraders, monsterslayers and other brave sailors of the cosmos. In the wonderstruck eyes of a child, only the sky is the limit.

    When man climbed toward the pinnacle of his power and lore during forgotten millennia long, long ago, this juvenile dream (so often mocked by jaded cynics) was revealed to be a universal truth which only the most capable and fortunate of sentient species could ever turn into a reality. While spreading across the stars is in itself a sublime endeavour for which all life should strive, it still only constitutes the first stepping stones toward unlocking eternity and uncovering the very secrets of creation itself. Know that Man of Gold was well on his way toward achieving those godlike goals when his interstellar paradise was torn asunder in flames, and the false promises of the Dark Age of Technology turned into a cannibal nightmare of ruin and slaughter as human civilization collapsed into the Age of Strife.

    During the death spiral of Old Night, sagas of voidfarers and humans originating from distant stars stubbornly persisted everywhere man still lived, even among the most primitive of tribal survivors on blasted worlds and decaying void installations. And as the all-conquering forces of the early Imperium arrived during the Great Crusade to reunite the scattered human colonies, haggard barbarians and brutalized scavengers stared in awe as the dreamlike wonders of oral folklore descended from high heavens and made landfall with a splendid show of arms, pageantry and technological marvels. Ancient prophecies were fulfilled in front of their very eyes as the servants of the Emperor brought their peoples back into the great fold of mankind under His banner, by the cruel might of an eagle's talon extended from Terra itself.

    And as shining civilization was brought back to marred worlds and voidholms in a short-lived renaissance, the sons and daughters of regressed primitives discovered that the tall tales of the great beyond had been true after all: You could drown in the nightsky. To their astonishment, they learnt of the airless space between worlds, and many such feral recruits of the Imperial Army saw firsthand how accidents or voidbattles could suck people out into empty blackness, where they soon died without breath. And they concluded that to be exposed to the chilly nothingness of the cosmos was the voidfaring equivalent of falling overboard a seagoing vessel.

    The reignited hopes of the early Imperium quickly died as the galaxy burned anew, in the fires of ambition. The foremost son of the Emperor betrayed his father and shattered the galactic dominion of Mars and Terra, and the future promise of its burgeoning achievements and rediscoveries crashed dead on the rocks. For the wretchedness of man would not relent, and thus man took up arms and marched against the saviour of his species with murderous intent. And this sinful civil war saw the Emperor nigh on slain by human hand, yet He ascended into celestial godhood and has watched over His undeserving people ever since. And man was made to repent in sweat and blood for his unforgivable crimes against Imperial divinity, and man's life was drenched in toil and tears, for despair and hardship came to rule supreme as just punishment for man's abominable sins. And the God-Emperor saw that this was good.

    Naturally, as human cultures during the Age of Imperium reached a state of demented maturity and increasingly embraced struggle and hardy misery, ever more men, women and children found themselves spaced from starships and voidholms, for ever more banal reasons. Murderers, saboteurs and other such criminals and malefactors, which in any epoch would have endangered those aboard the vessel or station, were always obvious candidates for being thrown out the airlock. Yet centuries of desperate mobilization for total war turned into millennia of rising fanaticism, brutal repression and ever more rabid loyalist schools of thought permeating Imperial cultures, all marked by them being aggressively myopic.

    Over time, sinners, heretics, malcontents and blasphemers faced the drowning of the starfarer for ever smaller transgressions, as curates of the flag, charismatic holy men and mercatores ship chaplains flexed their muscles of influence and whipped up the devout rabble into doing away with deviants and apostates. Likewise, martial law codes and civilian voidfaring regulations grew ever more draconic, with lethal punishment ordained for petty crimes. Not only that, but the numbers of collateral victims of primitive collective punishment have slowly but steadily increased over the passage of fivehundred generations, as have the unlucky targets of shipboard superiors' capricious wrath, including a dysfunctional tendency toward spacing the messenger of bad news. On top of these decaying developments should be added lawless decks rife with criminality, worker gang warfare, clan feuds and stalking murderers who understand the deadly value of an airlock. Not to mention Navy vessels and contracted civilian transport ships tasked with ferrying Astra Militarum ground forces between worlds and voidholms, where quarrels between gangs of shipsmen and crustlubber human cargo may see Imperial Guardsmen and other personnel meet an untimely demise at the hands of voidfarers' mob justice. As life has grown ever cheaper in the vast, star-spanning realm of the Imperium, so too has man found out that he has an ever lower threshold for casting others out into frigid vacuum.

    In Classis Hyrcania of the Imperial Navy, for instance, all hands on deck know that to draw blood from a Naval officer, Commissar, Ministorum clergyman, Officio Medicae staff or anointed member of the Adeptus Mechanicus will result in the spacing of the miscreant's spouse and offspring in front of the felon's lidless eyes, before the letter of blood is themself blinded with acid, quartered by human rope gangs and finally thrown into the unforgiving void between the stars. Likwise, in the chartered Rogue Trader flotilla of the Lugalbanda dynasty in Segmentum Tempestus there exists a quaint custom of spacing the harem of a deceased Sarru-Trader or Nin-Traderess, together with all the personal property of the late flotilla leader, in order for the heir to get a clean slate in their palatial private quarters and thus signal the beginning of a propitious reign.

    Naturally, the act of spacing people to death tend to mean that their bodymass will disappear from the bio-recycling corpse grinders that help feed the teeming deck slums and voidholm favelas, especially in the case of travelling vessels. In some voidfarer cultures across the Imperium, this wastage of flesh is welcomed as a ship crew's genuine sacrifice of one of their own for good luck and divine protection before the next Warp jump, the usage being an expression of common voidsman superstition. Yet in other cultures the corpse-wasting is frowned upon. One remedy is to hook the victim inside the airlock and then open the gates, while another solution is to tie the condemned one to a length of wire or some similar line and then winch them back into the still-open airlock. Such a considerate and well-planned execution is usually the hallmark of the pillars of order on a starship or voidholm, whereas rash crims, scum and bullies usually do not care about the waste. Still, the meagre reward of scrip or ration bar for selling a corpse to the grinders is not to be scoffed at among the destitute, and so gangers and feuding clansmen can occasionally be found to go to the trouble of securing the retrieval of a soon-to-be human carcass for nutritional salvage.

    Such rampant spacing of unwanted members of the human species begs a question: How do they die? Akin to a condemned man walking the plank to plunge into the watery abyss, an unlucky soul pushed into the airlock knows that he cannot escape death. At first, a baseline man thrown into the dark cold of outer space will find his lungs and digestive tract swelling. After some seconds, he will lose the vision of his eyes, and then lose consciousness as oxygen rapidly exits his blood, discolouring his skin a pallid shade of blue. One Terran minute into the unbreathing ordeal, all circulation will cease, and after two minutes the man will be choked dead. Unlike a mariner cast into an icy sea, however, an outcast voidsman will not have time to die from freezing, since the emptiness of outer space is a poor medium for draining the body of its heat. Such is the manner of death for those thrown out the airlock.

    Across the Milky Way galaxy can be found countless drifting carcasses of exotic species hailing from all manner of eras and cultures, each an outcast fossil from a bygone age, each a dead sailor of the starspangled void, each a mute witness of a horrible end. Emperor alone knows how many unretrieved billions of human corpses float around in the interstellar void, whether they be the victims of justice or malevolence, or the casaulties of warfare, natural disaster or technical calamity. As a common starfarer's saying would have it: Those born of the void shall die of the void.

    One addition to the drifting graveyard of a galaxy's fill of voidfaring species was recently made upon the order of Inquisitorial Acolyte Reeb Van Horne of the Ordo Xenos. Van Horne is a medicae-schooled native of Gavro in the service of Inquisitor Harlan, acting as his master's roaming tendril by having attached himself to the ill-maintained Rogue Trader ship known as the
    Debt Collector. Acolyte Reeb is a stern and blunt-nosed alienhunter who has proven himself a diligent performer of his ordained tasks in the service of His Divine Majesty of Holy Terra. This dour and ruthless member of the Ordo Xenos of the God-Emperor's Holy Inquisition sports red hair like the mane of a lion, and Reeb has sometimes been called the lion that do not roar before biting. Such epithets are only whispered behind his back, however, and seems to have been borne out of past incidents where some careless wretches are no longer among the living.

    This sanctioned murderer of many and vivisector of more still, was as ever quick to the point when faced with a captured Xeno from an Eldar pirate raid against the Imperial prison voidholm known as the Mortis Carcerum facility. True to his nickname, Reeb Van Horne initiated a bloodless preliminary interrogation of the female Drukhari raider under deceptively polite circumstances, involving an unbound prisoner being allowed to drink tea with the Acolyte from a precious porcelain set, with only the threat of violence being made utterly clear. Such seemingly civilized methods masked the cruel workings of a hard and calculating mind, and the theatricality of it all may well have contributed to quickly loosening the tongue of the unimpressed Dark Eldar.

    No-nonsense questions were answered almost gleefully by the foul alien, who typically enough for that particular species ridiculed her human captor in subtle ways, even when seeming to play along for the moment being. Very soon, the independently operating Acolyte of Inquisitor Harlan concluded that the Eldar sadist and slaver was nothing but a dead end, proving a false lead in a larger ongoing investigation. Acolyte Reeb openly deemed the interrogation subject useless to him in a matter-of-fact manner, and asked to have the tea cup back. Next, Van Horne promptly arranged to have the Drukhari specimen thrown out the airlock, and that was that.

    Aeldari physiology might be deceptively akin to that of homo sapiens on the surface, but their complicated biology is entirely alien to the crude fleshly workings of Earthly mankind, as any vivisection of such a screaming Xeno's internal organs would quickly prove. With such vastly different bodily processes at work, Eldar die differently than humans do when exposed to the vacuum of space, yet they die nevertheless. For a short while the Drukhari was dragged along close to the hull, inside the
    Debt Collector's bubble of protective energy shields and field peripheries created by internal grav generators, until the corpse drifted out of close proximity and instantly disappeared as powerful starship engines shot the rundown Rogue Trader vessel onward into the void, leaving yet another spaced cadaver behind.

    Suffer not the alien to live.

    Cleanse the stars from the monstrosity of the Xeno.

    Kill! Kill! Kill!

    Thus it is that exterminated Xenos join the mass of lonesome voidfaring corpses, together with millions upon millions of Imperial subjects drowned in the nightsky by decree of superiors or by the malice of corridor criminals, aside from innumerable casaulties of warring starfleets and accidents, all drifting through the empty space between planets and star systems. Perhaps some of them are the frigid remains of fabled heroes and starsurfers of myth and legend from the Dark Age of Technology, their unseeing eyes open, beholding nothing, or perhaps beholding the degeneration of their descendants, silently witnessing the neverending misery and bloodshed of those fanatic savages that squat among the ruins of the once shining human civilization they knew as home. A lost dream. A dead dream. These dead adrift might be forgotten by mortal minds, swallowed by the abyssal nothingness of astronomical distances, yet be assured that the ascended Imperator knows them all, and He will not forget to judge them severely from the Golden Throne, cloaked in celestial radiance and the power of true deity. The God-Emperor will judge all of them of human stock.

    Every single one of them.

    For He ken every machine-spirit's opening of airlock, and He ken every voidsman blasted into outer space. And He beholds the killing and the suffering, and He knows it to be a righteous punishment visited upon wretched man for his heinous sins. And so does every hand in the Imperial Navy and merchant fleet, and every man, woman and child born on the numberless voidholms of the Imperium. And they include a line in their daily prayers, begging the protector of all men to save them from the empty gasp, the voidgrave, the endless stare. Blessed be the name of the Emperor of Mankind. Blessed be His domain and the wise masters He has appointed to rule over us. Blessed be the Imperium of Man, abode of greatness and last shield of humanity.

    Ave Imperator.

    And so man in the Age of Imperium traverse the cosmic expanse in starships of inherited, scavenged and forgotten technology, suckling the most robust and simple fruits of a long-lost age of wonders while unable and unwilling to plant anew. These vessels of Imperial power teem with oppressed, parochial and superstitious masses, a filthy swarm of raw humanity toiling away at tasks which once machines handled seamlessly, leading short, nasty and brutish lives. These fearful hordes have long since lost the childlike wish to grasp the universe and crack its secrets wide open, for their downtrodden hearts are bereft of that enterprising spirit which once carried their distant ancestors so far across the stars, until the bell of doom rang over mankind for the first time, and all was fell.

    You can see it in their eyes, if you look closely: The death of a dream. A dream, that was the birthright of their species.

    Such are the prospects of us all, in the darkest of futures.

    It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only oblivion.


    - - -

    Tribute to Acolyte Reeb Van Horne in WarHams, played by Earndil, who saved Episode 15 (The Laughter of Thirsting Closets) from the abominable plans of SpeakerD (both of whom are lead writers at If the Emperor had A Text-To-Speech Device).

  20. #40
    Chapter Master Karak Norn Clansman's Avatar
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    Re: 40k: Descendant Degeneration



    Unmanned

    In a demented epoch, man must make the ultimate sacrifice.

    War has always been a great danger to mortals, and in this regard nothing has truly changed since primitive man first bashed in the skull of his enemy with a rock, for in a forsaken future of plasma cannons, chainaxes and graviton crushers, foes still maim and slay each other without abandon. All across a seething galaxy teeming with life, the war gods hold sway with supreme power over the fates of lone mortals and great empires alike, and a cycle of endless slaughter is the rule of the day. Interstellar warfare presents enormous challenges, not least logistical ones, and an incessant state of total war mobilization will hollow out and cannibalize the warring society from within. On the sea of stars, navies manned by tens of millions of crewmen clash in bursts of destructive energy sufficient to leave green worlds barren. In the field, armies numbering in the billions face unspeakable horrors as the full might of advanced military technology is brought to bear with little to no inhibition.

    The challenges of war across the stars are staggering, and can easily bleed prosperous economies and their gargantuan population numbers white, inviting chaos and turmoil on the home front as stability plummets. All too many voidfaring empires exerted themselves to the very limit in order to win large conflicts, only to suddenly break apart from inside as the home front collapsed. The internal risks of war exhaustion and demoralization can doom dynasties who have ruled for millennia, and the external risks of enemy invasion can destroy all the fruits of untold generations of toil and ingenuity. Yet such perils must be faced, and crushed underheel, for the ten thousand year old Imperium of Man will let no one foe stand in its way, and it will annihilate any rebels who wish to win independence from its harsh tyranny, as the God-Emperor decreed. After all, an empire that never had any qualms about killing its own taxpayers en masse in peacetime will not shirk away from the harrowing maelstrom of total war.

    And so Imperial Tithe is gathered from a million worlds and uncountable voidholms, in a flood of men and materiel, in a barrage of starships and ground vehicles, in an outburst of Imperial might by an interstellar realm that has long since learnt to compensate its decaying technological base and screeching inefficiencies by callously increasing the input in a broken calculation of great numbers which aim to hammer the foe asunder, or at least grind the enemy down through sheer attrition. In such a crude equation, human value becomes a laughable concept. Behold the billions in the armies and the hundreds of billions in the industry and bureaucracy, and know that wretched man is nothing but a cheap and easily replacable component in a vast, faceless system where hands, heads and spines ever more must pick up the slack where ancient machines break down, and the ability to repair or replace them no longer exist among the living.

    In the Age of Imperium, man no longer dominates the Milky Way galaxy with such overwhelming force that no foe dare stand against him. Instead, the scavenging survivors of the Age of Strife managed to gather human power anew, armed with a poorly understood patchwork technology salvaged from the wrecks and ruins of the ancients, relying on the copying of old blueprints and schematic guesswork. The Horus Heresy struck the young Imperium hard, and sounded the final death knell for any chance of a renaissance for human science and invention. Ever since, almost all human colonies across the galaxy have been ruled by the smothering iron fist of the Imperium of Man, locked inside a decrepit star dominion of paranoid oppression whose bickering and self-serving factions consistently choke any frail first steps toward a renewed blooming of intellect and worldly curiosity. Knowledge is power: Guard it well.

    Bogged down in a dysfunctional morass of its own making, the Imperium of Man masters but few subtle tricks, and its default solution to any problem is to throw more bodies at it. Thus an armed exodus of men, women and child soldiers are shipped out to ten thousand different war fronts, while blinkered hordes of labourers keep the rusting wheels of Imperial industry turning through immense toil and lethal self-sacrice. A plethora of vastly different human cultures exist throughout the million planets and innumerable voidholms of the Imperium, yet all share a narrow-minded fanaticism and intense religious devotion, trusting in the protection of the Holy Terran Emperor. And so zealous barbarians stand shoulder to shoulder with pious peasants and superstitious hive city scum within the Astra Militarum, taking up simple, mass-produced arms and body armour that were chosen both for their dependability, ease of manufacture and cheapness.

    Most of the lighter armaments and infantry protection of the Planetary Defence Forces, Voidholm Militias and Imperial Guard are markedly inferior to the weapon systems and armour suits reserved for the God-Emperor's utterly brainwashed elite corps and enforcers, such the Militarum Tempestus or the Adeptus Arbites. One primary reason for this state of affairs is the need to equip the blindly loyal forces of internal suppression better than the potentially rebellious regiments they may one day have to eradicate, and thus rig the deck in the Imperium's favour. Another head cause for the shoddy equipment of the Astra Militarum is the fact that most infantrymen and vehicles will not survive for long in warzones to begin with, so why waste precious resources on technological bells and whistles and advanced tactical training when both the tank and its crew anyway will be dead within four Terran months after deployment? When your foremost strength is an overwhelming force of numbers, you need to churn out cheap and crude wargear to equip ever new short-lived mass armies numbering in the billions of soldiers, to replace the last set that died out all too quickly. The Imperium needs to play a ravenous numbers game, foregoing any focus on technological sophistication in wargear for sheer mass-production on a gigantic scale. After all, quantity has a quality all of its own.

    It is said that one man's death is a tragedy, while the death of one million is a statistic. To better understand the plight of the common Imperial infantryman, let us behold such an instructive tragedy of a mere single death among untold hundreds of millions of casaulties, one victim among many in a distant war under a strange sun.

    The verdant mining world of Zikaru is the third moon of the teal gas giant Parmashtaq, the seventh planet of the crowded Evar system, within the Gevura sector in southern Ultima Segmentum. At the start of the 8th century of M40, the backwater Tech-Priests on Zikaru watched helplessly as the final breakdown occurred for an advanced continent-spanning lace of piped irrigation systems and largely automated desalination facilities. None of their prayers, meditations and oracular pilgrimages had yielded a working answer to the failing intricacies of the poorly understood agricultural irrigation systems that fed all of Zikaru with huge quantities of foodstuffs. The panicking Tech-Priests on the third moon first erupted in armed hostilities as they blamed each other, and then agreed on a tenuous ceasefire while they scrambled to pool their stunted knowledge and come up with a rudimentary emergency system reliant on primitive tech and massive input of manual corvée labour, which eventually solidified into a permanent feature of Zikaruan agriculture. This process of infighting and amateur engineering took over a decade to hammer out, a waterless decade which saw emerald green fields turn to desert and crop yields plummet on the agri-continent of Caraculum.

    Within one year, food prices skyrocketed, leading to upper caste hoarding while mass starvation and cannibalism plagued the very poorest mineworkers. After two years, all of the moon's governatorial granaries were empty, while Imperial Governor Zakhrut XXI had found all his efforts to import massive amounts of foodstuff blocked by his personal enemies offworld. On the third year, massive strikes shook the entirety of Zikaru as miners of all castes shouted for free food now to their starving families. This was met by massacres from the local forces of order, which only fuelled the fires of dicontent. On the fourth year, three-fourths of of Zikaru was tearing itself apart in a chaotic mess of civil war and cannibal raids, leading to the ousting and retreat of the Governor's loyal forces to the parched agri-continent of Caraculum, which the Adeptus Mechanicus (and its ration-prioritized press ganged workers numbering twohundredthirthy million) was busy restructuring wholesale with primitive dams, pools and canals, as well as strategic tree and bush planting in order to bind the dusty top soil with roots.

    On the fifth year, Zikaru had lost eighteen percent of its population, and all continents and islets oustide Caraculum were in a state of warlord anarchy. Still, a precarious situation of mass worker die-off was stabilized as an old bushwack nomad's trick at last paid off, namely to cake in the seeds of nimsu reed in clay or dung before planting in the desert. This new source of nutrients kept most of the corvée labour force above starvation level, and the staved-off disaster on Caraculum allowed Imperial Governor Zakhrut XXI to rebuild his forces. On the sixth year, the Governor ordered his armies to land at the mining moon's two small billion-strong hive cities, yet the expeditions ended in a military catastrophe, and Zakhrut XXI was killed in a palace coup, replaced by a royally incestuous power couple of his eldest son and daughter. The new rulers were in turn branded as obscene heretics and swiftly slain by the patriarch of a cadet branch of the royal dynasty, and thus Yezeri Firee III ascended to the throne in Caraculum, while the most powerful Zikaruan warlords outside the agri-continent started to coalesce into warring cliques, most of which had separatist ambitions toward the Imperium. With the governatorial forces depleted thrice over thanks to inept generalship, the race was on for whom of the magnates would outsmart his opponents and conquer all of devastated Zikaru.

    On the seventh year, a much delayed Adeptus Administratum Tithing fleet arrived to the Evar system, and Yezeri Firee III failed in his attempts to make his rump state uncontactable. When the Administratum assessors arrived to the third moon of Parmashtaq, they discovered both its sorry state of civil collapse and the reigning Imperial Governor's clumsy attempts to adopt vox and astropath silence. The Administratum master assessor in orbit around Zikaru was greatly vexed both by the moonside chaos and transparent fake muting of communications, so he thus overreacted and lashed out in petty rage by hiring the services of an Eversor Assassin from the shadowy Officio Assassinorum. One cloudy night, a single drop pod descended toward the crisis capital on the agri-continent of Caraculum. When the people of the city awoke, they found that divine retribution had struck the Governor's temporary palace, with all top officials, ministers and vezirs having been slain, lying in pools of their own blood together with every single member of the household staff, guard force and dynasty members present in the fortified palace. Not a single human being in the temporary palace survived the mysterious rampage. The usurper Yezeri Firee III was found chopped into tiny pieces in the bed of his favourite mistress, and the rest of that year was spent in vicious power struggles within the royal clan.

    The master assessor's ostentatious Eversor strike had achieved nothing of value for the Imperium of Man, but it had soothed the bureaucratic potentate's flaring temper. Content with the reports received on the palatial slaughter, this Administratum overlord contacted the Departmento Munitorum and informed them of the sorry situation on Zikaru. In response, Astra Militarum regiments were mustered on nearby worlds and from neighbouring systems, and shipped off to the turbulent mining moon in a remarkably fast flurry of voidfaring activity. On the eighth year, a force of half a billion Imperial Guardsmen had been collected and deployed moonside to begin the pacification of all continents other than Caraculum. A few warlords capitulated and insisted that they had remained loyal toward the Imperium of Man through the whole ordeal, but most warlords banded together in a patriotic coalition for Zikaruan independence, and threw their hardened warriors into a united front against the offworld foreigners. The Imperial suppression force managed to do what no warlord nor Governor had succeded in doing during the previous years of societal freefall: Namely, to unite Zikaru, or most of it anyway.

    Warlord coalition resistance toward Imperial forces proved much harder than anticipated, and the Zikaruan freedom fighters managed to galvanize subtantial parts of the reduced population through vigorous propaganda campaigns that painted the Imperator's loyal servants as nothing but leaching oppressors and greedy foreigners seeking to plunder their beloved homeworld. In the great struggle that ensued, Zikaru would see yet more of its populace killed off by war and all its accompanying hardships, until less than half of the mining moon's pre-troubles population remained once the dust had finally settled. Over a course of nine years, great campaigns of mostly blundering grand strategy were conducted by a bickering Astra Militarum general staff, who often contradicted each other and refused cooperation on grounds of personal honour and ancient House feuds, all the while firing up the fighting spirit of their troops by promises of loot, slaves and a fine place in the afterworld for all martyrs of the God-Emperor's righteous hosts.


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