Friday, January 22, 2016

The Pilgrym: The Church of the Red Athenæum

Not willing to rest on their laurels from last years Invitational, the hobbyist/artists from Iron Sleet have embarked on what is likely the most ambitious hobby project ever concieved: building a section of the Shrine-world of Holy Terra, to be the setting of a massive Inquisimunda game played this summer. The Pilgrym. Iron Sleet is not attempting this project alone, and instead has gathered a small group of dedicated individuals, including luminaries like PDH, JRN, Jeff Vader, and none other than Thistle himself! And we are excited to announce that we are going to be taking part in the project as well!

As soon as The Pilgrym project was announced, I knew it was going to be something special, with all the talented people involved, and due to its setting as the birthplace of the Imperium, Terra. But I think the true ambition of the project only really began to sink in when I began reading FPOA’s narrative around the Daerwynne Palimpseste and the Green Man. After finishing reading about FPOA’s Arch Magos Biologis and the biology-focused Mechanicvm, the catch phrase from the old 54mm Inquisitor RPG came to mind: Everything you have been told is a Lie. The Pilgrym project was not simply going to retread tired tropes, it was going to be an opportunity to expand and explore exciting new elements for the setting and the hobby.

This revelation energized us more than anything in recent memory. At first we thought about how some of the Inquisitors we created for last year’s Iron Sleet Invitational might fit into the narrative, but quickly realized that we were thinking too narrowly and not thinking of something that would mesh with the project. We needed to create something new. And after a furious few days of brainstorming and writing, we came up with something fitting for the shrine-world of Terra, and something to push us out of our comfort zone.

A fanatical cult dedicated to feeling the Emperor’s suffering, the Church of the Red Athenæum (more about this below). We also incorporated a headless (yes, headless) double-agent, loyal to Inquisitor Lucanus Molnár (our Ordo Machinum inquisitor we created for the Invitational last year), into the Church, who is determined to prevent any truly heretical deeds from occurring. Let us know what you think! We are busily gathering pieces to start the conversions to make all these ideas a reality!

Age of Apostasy
200.M36 - Reign of Blood.
310.M36 The Plague of Unbelief.
020.M37 - The Great Cull: In their mercy, the High Lords of Terra begin a systematic extermination to ensure that such corruption of faith can never occur again.
Age of Redemption (M37-M41)
Time of Ending (M41-present)
744.M41 - Taggarth, the Seer of Corrinto, proclaims the approach of the End Times.  He is swiftly executed for heresy, however his message of doom echos across the galaxy.
745.M41 - Confessor Dorian Chandrakesan is declared apostate for speculation and promulgation of apotheosis: The Church of the Red Athenæum is formed.
799.M41 - The Red Hour. Dorian Chandrakesan suffers from a cerebral aneurysm at the height of the ritual and is entombed into a stasis throne. Archbishop Remus Ormond is elected Cardinal of the Church of the Red Athenæum.
800.M41 - Cardinal Ormond creates the Order of the Crimson Hour to strengthen the Church’s domain.
899.M41 - During the Red Hour, Cardinal Ormond performs a surgical ritual on himself, attempting to unlock his latent psychic potential.  This Illumination leaves him braindead.  Aseneth Levedescu, a fervent confessor, is elected in his stead.
999.M41 - As the light of the Astronomican grows dimmer, Tech-priests discover irreparable failures in the Golden Throne. Desperate, the Tech-Priests and Radical Inquisitors journey into the Webway and strike a dark bargain. A secret war for the fate of all humanity rages. Forces of evil and good alike hunt for a mysterious pilgrim. The Pilgrym.  The Red Hour approaches.

Apostate Dorian Chandrakesan, Self-stylized (1st) Cardinal of the Church of the Red Athenæum: 

Dorian Chandrakesan, a particularly zealous Arch-Confessor of the Imperial Creed on Terra, began proclaiming that Mankind’s salvation could only be ensured by “Sustaining an existence fashioned after His (Emperor) suffering.” He beseeched his followers to confess their personal heresies and to cast out their worldly possessions and desires. Such a commitment was not something taken lightly, and its members were required to remove a hand in penance (and thus become closer to Him). In the wake of the Seer of Corrinto’s proclamation of the coming End Times (744.M41), where the Imperium and the Emperor would be swallowed into darkness, people were afraid of an uncertain future and returned to faith in their savior, the Emperor, with renewed fervor. Believers began flocking to Chandrakesan’s sermons, which spoke of a simple life committed to the study of His sacrifice, because he did not ignore the rumored End Times. Instead, he spoke of the Coming of a Pilgrym at the turn of the 41st millennium, one that would usher humanity into its next great epoch. Ever wary of new splinters of the Imperial Cult, the Holy Synod of Terra kept a close watch on the Chandrakesan and his followers. Soon they grew worried of Chandrakesan’s gaining power, fearing it would destabilize the delicate balance of faithful on Terra, and the possible political ramifications of his growing influence. Ultimately, the Ecclesiarchy pressured the Ordo Hereticus into eliminating the fledgling faith, citing “Speculation and promulgation of Apotheosis” and had an Adepta Sororitas kill-team burn him and his congregation at the stake. But Chandrakesan did not die; by some miracle he was able to slip away, deep into the bowels of Terra. And thus the Church of the Red Athenæum was formed.

The Church of the Red Athenæum:

Its followers are obsessed with the physical sacrifice of the Emperor, and view the wounds inflicted to Him in his final battle with Horus as holy. To venerate the God-Emperor, and to join the cult, each member ritually mutilates themselves to emulate one of His holy wounds. In doing so, they are endeavouring to replicate and feel His pain. Ironically, since exact details of this iconic battle were never shared with the general population, what wounds they inflict in the Emperor’s name are based solely on myth and rumor. However, there are a few common selections: the removal of the left eye, removal of the larynx, or cutting the tendons in the wrists or removal of the hands. Some even go so far as having their spines severed. The higher ranking members of the Church tend to have multiple of these wounds, in an effort to get closer to His existence. Since its founding, great emphasis has always been placed on the closing days of the 41st millennium, where a great upheaval would occur. In his final years, Dorian Chandrakesan spoke frantically about a wandering soul, a Pilgrym who would guide humanity into its next great epoch. Vivere est Pati.

The Ritual of Recommitment & The Red Hour:

Every decade the Church holds a Ritual of Recommitment, where its members renew their commitment to the Church’s creed of suffering. Typically its members lash themselves bloody or cut off a finger, however, those more fanatical in the Faith inflict another Holy wound. The turn of each century requires a special dedication from the Congregation; it is, in some ways, a culmination of their practiced belief. This is the Red Hour. During the Red Hour, they sacrifice one of their Sons to emulate the loss the Emperor felt when engaging in that fateful battle on Horus’ battle barge, Vengeful Spirit. While the pain of the sacrificed individual in the Red Hour is only fleeting, the pain that the Church’s followers feel at his/her loss must be continuous. The sacrifice of a random individual is not sufficient, as their loss needs to be felt by the whole congregation. Anything less would not properly emulate His pain. The suffering that the Emperor felt when engaging Horus in mortal combat was not simply the loss of his son Sanguinius, or even the loss of favored Horus, but the loss of Humanity’s manifest destiny, the end of the Great Crusade, and a glimpse at the coming eternal suffering of His children. 

M42 approacheth:

As the 41st millennium draws to a close, there are tremors in the Warp and unsettling omens scryed from the Emperor’s Tarot. The Church sees it as a time for a singular sacrifice. Whispers of a mysterious pilgrim have been heard, whispers that say he is the key to the survival of the Emperor. Cardinal Aseneth Levedescu is convinced that this individual is the Pilgrym that venerable Chandrakesan spoke of, and the key to fully becoming one with the Emperor’s suffering. She has mobilized the Church to conduct a proverbial witch hunt to find this traveler. While the ramifications of the arrival of this Pilgrym and their true intentions are unknown, Levedescu is convinced that sacrificing the Pilgrym will uproot the next predestined expansion of the Imperium of Man. To terminate this glowing hope would be to recreate the devastation the Emperor felt at the fall of the Great Crusade, and bring the Church one step closer to becoming one with the Emperor's pain.


The symbol of the Church is an hourglass filled with blood, as opposed to sand. The imagery features a noticeable drop of blood dripping from the upper portion of the hourglass. It represents a commitment to the ethos that Life is Suffering.

Notable Figures from the Past:

Remus Ormond, (2nd) Cardinal of the Church of the Red Athenæum, the Illuminated:

Elected by his peers to take Dorian Chandrakesan’s place after his interment in holy stasis, Ormond made sweeping changes to the Church’s structure, notably establishing the Order of the Crimson Hour, modeled after the Adepta Sororitas. With this military organization, he was able to expand the Church’s influence greatly.

As his 100th year of leading the Church drew near, Ormond because increasingly obsessed with the concept of feeling the Emperor’s psychic pain. This fixation led him to consult mystics, holistic healers, techno-surgeons, and other esoteric individuals, until he selected a neurosurgical procedure dredged up from wormeaten medicae treatises, a procedure that he was convinced would unlock his latent psychic potential. He demanded that the operation be completed at the culmination of the Red Hour, and began referring to it as his coming Illumination. This Illumination was nothing more than a glorified lobotomy, one that rendered Ormond mute and virtually braindead, requiring him to be completely interred inside a life sustaining tomb that was locked away deep within the depths of the Red Basilica. It seems a curious coincidence that, since its inception, both spiritual leaders of the Church were lost at the apex of the Red Hour. As the Red Hour draws near once more, rumors stir of the fate of Cardinal Aseneth Levedescu...

Forces of the Holy Ordos

Roland Arnesen, headless mercenary: 

A Urdeshi storm trooper-turned mercenary, Roland favors the use of a submachine gun-variant of the .45 caliber Urdeshi U90 assault cannon. He is immediately recognizable by the curious lack of a head. Rumor has it that he was double-crossed by an employer, who attempted to have him killed. Miraculously, he survived a 12 gauge shotgun shell to his face, although it cause irreparable damage to his skull. Instead of having reconstructive surgery, he opted for retaining his terrifying headless visage, and had his brain transplanted into a protective chamber located on his back, relinquishing his vision and hearing to an array of sensors. Roland, Headless U90 gunner. The Emperor Protects.

In the later years of the 41st millennium, Arnesen has been employed by the enigmatic Inquisitor Lucanus Molnár, in his search for technology (human or xenos) that might restore the Golden Throne.

Roland’s connection to the Pilgrym Project M42:

Molnár has long known of the existence of Church of the Red Athenæum; he has been kept informed of their actions by one of his agents stationed on holy Terra. But the galaxy is a large place, and the Church’s actions never necessitated direct interference, because despite their radical inclinations, the Church was always loyal to the Throne. In the last few years, however, troubling reports suggest that the Church is planning to mobilize in search of an enigmatic figure, a Pilgrym, whom they plan to sacrifice to the Red Hour. This Pilgrym, however, may hold the key to the restoration of the Emperor of Mankind. To prevent this eventuality, he sent his associate Roland Arnesen to assimilate into the Church the Red Athenæum. His lack of a head seeming oddly fitting to such an organization...

We hope you enjoyed reading about this new cult dedicated to the God-Emperor of Mankind! Let us know if you have any thoughts and/or suggestions, and we look forward to showing you some models soon!

-Between the Bolter and Me


  1. Very fascinating, it feels like a real 40k cult. A perfect mix of mysticism, madness and humility driven to a natural, extreme, maximum. Of course the implied offering of the shepherd has all kind of strange traditions to draw inspiration from. It will be interesting to see how they will take form on the field.

    On a curious side note, my own AoS project darkly mirrors yours in a way. It also centers around ritual torture and body fluids. But in my case it is for the sensations themselves and in dedication to She Who Longs.

    1. Thanks! I am pretty happy with how it all came together. We wanted to create something that seemed somewhat believable and principled, albeit pretty crazy from our perspectives, that would fit in the 40k universe. I am excited to see where it goes from here, and how the models start coming together.

      Your AoS stuff is looking darkly fascinating; I look forward to seeing the rest of the warband, and hearing more about their principles and themes. There certainly do seem to be intriguing parallels with what we are working on here!

  2. Very cool. Very well thought out. Looking forward to more.

    One thing that I have found curious about the whole Pilgrym project, is that even though this isn't sponsored by GW, and none of this is going into the IP's canon, the project seems to have run through the community fairly thoroughly and gotten a lot of people involved and excited for it, and it makes me wonder what the outcome will mean for the community itself as far as timeline? Will the Inq community (or, at least the AmmoBunker-based community) splinter off into a new timeline that takes things off into the possibly post-Emperor M42?

    The ramifications of this project are daunting to say the least.

    1. I am glad you like it, it has been really fun to come up with and write.

      Yeah, to be honest, I am not entirely sure how it is going to impact the 40k timeline. As you mentioned, it isn't sponsored by GW, but a few people from GW are going to be involved with the project. Possibly it will spur GW to start moving the timeline forward, he he? Regardless, it is simply neat to just think about and explore the 42nd millennium.

    2. What would really be fascinating is if the Inq community could in any way be the proving ground for the new version of Necromunda. What would really be cool is if the Specialist Games dept. would take some of the ideas from the community, like progressing the timeline or artscaling marines (I mean, they already played around with scale on the Inquisitor game), and apply something innovated to the Necromunda boxed set.

      Regardless, the Pilgrym project is going to be massive, and with most of the community behind it it's probably going to set a new standard for this kind of narrative gameplay. Which reminds me, I still need to write up something to submit to Migs.

    3. It certainly would be fantastic if GW took notes, and used it as a springboard to re-release inquisitor at the 28mm scale or revamped Necromunda to be used for other settings besides Necromunda.

  3. Now this is great and a perfect fit for you guys :) Are you thinking of joining in with Migs or will you supply with content that expand and enrich the overall setting?

    1. Thanks! I cannot wait to start making some models for it. Also, I am happy to say that we fully fledged members of the Pilgrym group, and will be involved in the actual event come this summer! So much left to do!