Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Pilgrym: Congregation Member of the Church of the Red Athenæum

In an hour of Darkness a blind man is the best guide.
In the past few weeks I have been very busy painting many of the models that I have built for the Church of the Red Athenæum.  With all of the painting going on, I have neglected to post any pictures of the first regular congregation member that I built.  I have plans to make a few more, exploring the different holy wounds that Church members inflict upon themselves.

Even blind and missing his right hand, this Church member looks like he means business.
For building the first regular church member, I wanted to make something relatively simple.  The members of the Church are not very worldly people and therefore would not have many possessions.  I based the model on some robed legs included in the Empire Hurricanum box, happy that they looked a little different from the fanatic legs that I used so often on the other Church members that I built.  For a body, I found that one of the bare torsos from the Dark Elf Doomfire Warlocks worked perfectly.  The model’s head came from the Adeptus Mechanicus Electropriest set (these heads are surprisingly small and work well on conversions with plastic elf models).  I did some greenstuff work to make the neck look natural and modeled a parchment coming out of his mouth. A small piece of plasticard erupting from each of his cheeks completed the cringe-inducing display.
The Church prepares for war.
Beyond just showing you pictures of the model, I though that this post would also be a good way to present an updated and expanded version of the background that my brothers and I have written for the Church.  There is quite a lot of it, so if you think you are up for it, brace yourself!


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.
883.M41 - Aseneth Levedescu, outcast rejuvent surgeon, joins the Church of the Red Athenæum.
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 in a persistent vegetative state.  Aseneth Levedescu, chief Medicae officer and surgeon, 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 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, one not shackled to human vices and rife with corruption. 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 and suffering 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 the 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 wounds, in an effort to get closer to His existence.  

The persecution that lead to the Church’s formation was also the catalyst for solidifying their most “radical” belief. The Church does not believe that the Golden Throne is a benefit to Humanity, but rather it is a prison fettering the Emperor to Terra, trapping his soul and preventing Him from implementing His Divine Will, and from being reincarnated into a new host.  The Horus Heresy was a period of great suffering for the Emperor, but it was only the beginning of this pain.  Since being entombed in the Throne, His entire existence has been one of suffering. He has watched His empire crumble into a pale shadow of its former glory, with the Imperial Truth being replaced with the Imperial Creed.  He is enslaved by the corrupt High Lords of Terra, tethered to a damaged relic from the Dark Age of Technology with the sole purpose of keeping the Astronomicon lit.  It is not His Will that is being promulgated, but that of an amoral Senate of fools.  The Church believes that in order for Mankind to achieve its next stage of evolution, the Emperor must be free to lead His people both spiritually and physically, something that is impossible when He is chained to the Golden Throne.

Since the Church’s 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 whose fate was inseparably tied to future of the Emperor and Humanity itself...  

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, the more fanatical will inflict another Holy wound.  A special dedication from the Congregation is required at the turn of each century, however.   This dedication is a curious practice known as the Red Hour which, in some ways, is a culmination of their belief.  Although heavily ritualized, the Ordo Hereticus has classified the practice as a re-enactment of the confrontation between Horus and the Emperor, with the current Cardinal serving as the Emperor’s proxy.  The Ordo’s assertion rests primarily on the observation that the congregation elects a member of the congregation to murder one of their own Brothers or Sisters, before inflicting another wound to the Cardinal, mimicking the dark acts of the Arch-heretic Horus, a chilling role that parallels that of an Eldar Solitaire within a Harlequin Troupe. This sacrifice is believed to emulate the loss that 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.

The Veneration of Saint Casophili:
The Church of the Red Athenæum has a particular fascination with Saint Casophili, a missionary working with the Missionarus Galaxia during the opening years of the 41st millennium.  While working to spread the Word of the God-Emperor on the feral world of Alena Three in the southern Segmentum Pacifica, he discovered the blight of Chaos.  Despite limited resources, he moved from settlement to settlement preaching the teachings of the Ecclesiarchy, laying the foundation for the intervention of a larger Ecclesiarchy task force.  Fearful of the Casophili’s influence, the tainted counsel of priests ruling the world captured him and after days of torture, put him to death.  Incredibly, five days after Casophili’s death, when the counsel attempted to burn the missionary’s body in offering to their Dark Gods, Casophili rose from the dead and slew his tormentors.  Word of his resurrection spread like wildfire across the planet, and he was able to rally the people of Alena Three against the corrupt ministry, reclaiming the planet in the Emperor’s  name.

Saint Casophili is revered by the Church of the Red Athenæum for his great deeds and because of his miraculous revival.  They believe that the Saint sets a precedence that once the soul leaves the body and enters the Warp, it might be drawn back into a body once more.  Casophilli serves as proof that once the Emperor’s soul is released from the Golden Throne, that it might again return to the mortal realm, the Emperor Reborn, ready to lead Humanity into a glorious new Age of enlightenment and prosperity.

Order of the Crimson Hour:
The Order of the Crimson Hour is the military organization of the Red Athenæum, modeled after the Ecclesiarchy’s Adepta Sororitas, where only females make up its ranks (as per the Passive Decree; 0001288/M36).  Designed to root out heretics and keep order under the Steps, the Order has always remained detached and impartial to the shifting in power within the Church itself.  As such, while the Church has become increasingly more fanatical over the decades, particularly with the rise of cardinal Aseneth Levedescu, the Order has remained constant in their beliefs and practices.  Despite increasing pressure from the congregation to “embrace the Emperor’s suffering” by inflicting more holy wounds, they staunchly maintain only the severing of a hand to join the Church (which is allowed a bionic replacement, to maintain the Order’s fighting efficiency), and the removal of the larynx to join the Order (words are an unnecessary luxury; His Will is the only guiding light they need).

The Order has a very particular preference in weapons, favoring simple, functional ones that inflict the maximum amount of pain possible.  In this fashion, they are initially trained exclusively in the art of knife fighting.  A dying art in most circles, due to the aggressive toll of personal injury required to become skilled, it fits perfectly with the Church’s ethos of pain.  After mastering bladework, they are instructed in the use of firearms, favoring the messy spectacle of the 12 gauge shotgun and the brutal impact trauma of .45-70 Government solid slug bullets.  Furthermore, both of these rounds are relatively simple to load, an important facet of their firearm selection, because they pride themselves in loading each cartridge by hand, blessing every step.

Stance on Mutants:
When Dorian Chandrakesan was cast out from the Ecclesiarchy and his congregation was immolated, the wool was pulled from his eyes and he saw the Adeptus Ministorum for what it was, a corrupt entity that concerned itself more with politics and wealth than venerating the God-Emperor.  Despite his complete devotion to the Emperor of Mankind and dedication to spreading His Word, he was condemned by the very organization he was serving.  This led Chandrakesan to form the Church of the Red Athenæum, a place where he could worship without persecution, away from the petty matters of humankind, in the shadows of the glorious chapels and spires of Terra, in the slums and underhives beneath the Steps.  These squalid conditions where the home of a vast array of mutants, mutants who were forced to live in hiding, lest they be put to the torch as heretics, as well.  A persecution due genetic deviation that is beyond the capacity of the Imperium to even understand, a regime founded on superstition and myth outside of science.  Chandrakesan quickly learned that many of these mutants were as staunch believers in the Emperor’s divinity as any he had come across, despite the intolerance shown to them.  Chandrakesan saw something of himself in these mutants, faithful spurned by Adeptus Ministorum due to fear and ignorance, and began letting them become members of his congregation.  Their life of misery was perfectly suited to the Church of the Red Athenæum’s ethos of suffering and pain.  To this day, the Church is home to a vast population of mutants, souls’ whose dedication to Him is peerless.  It is rumored that some 50 percent of its members harbor some phenotypic abnormalities.

Since its humble beginnings, raised from the hands and mind of Dorian Chandrakesan, the Church has alway had a fascination with glass.  It is said the Chandrakesan, a dilettante chemist, hand-crafted every stained-glass panel and window that dominate the Red Basilica using only the crumbling sandstone blocks of fallen monasteries that litter the underhives.  While the veracity of this statement is difficult to ascertain, the Church maintains an elaborate glass forge, run by the congregation, which supplies much of the surrounding hives’ specialty glass.  Some speak that the Church even holds several contracts with select dioceses within the Ecclesiarchy to produce their glass works, a delicious irony if true.
As such, many of the members of the Church are master glassmiths and artisans.  Many are also trained as chemists, preparing the raw materials and metallic salts necessary for the craft.  While the slums and ruins beneath the Steps are are filled with decaying and derelict buildings, the Church has long since depleted its supply of sandstone, and has been forced to venture deeper into the shadowy bowels of Terra to maintain their reserves of silica, potassium and calcium carbonate from the pulverized remains of forgotten civilizations.  The Order of the Crimson Hour has proven invaluable for these “scavenging” operations.

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.

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 certain that this individual is the Pilgrym that venerable Chandrakesan spoke of.  Sleeper agents the Church placed within local Arbites precincts, notable organ trafficking families of the Officio Sancti Exanimus, and even within the Senatorum Imperialis itself, have confirmed this Pilgrym is the key to repairing the Golden Throne and sustaining the Emperor.  However, the Church believes that repairing the Golden Throne is not the same thing as restoring  it, for even the Emperor did not have the knowledge to restore what damages Magnus the Red’s hubris had wrought to the arcane machine.  By repairing the the Golden Throne, the Pilgrym will forever damn the Emperor to the servitude of the High Lords, allowing the tyrannical status quo that has plagued Humanity for almost 10 millennia to continue.  To prevent this, she has mobilized the Church to conduct a proverbial witch hunt to find this traveler.

The Church reasons that killing the Pilgrym will lead to the failing of the Golden Throne, shearing the Emperor from the physical realm and ending the state of purgatory that He has been trapped in since the end of the Horus Heresy.  Finally, after millennia of servitude to an ever-changing coterie of unscrupulous High Lords, His soul will be released into the Warp, where He will be able to fully exert his Divine Will, instilling His power into those He sees fit.  And ultimately, He will find a suitable vessel to contain his magnificence, and He will be born anew, ready to lead Humanity onward into a new Great Age. 

- Adam Wier


  1. Fantastic. This is true grimdark.

    1. I am glad to hear you like it, both the model and the background! It has certainly been a work-in-progress, but I think we have been able to really flesh out the Church as a whole, and give them fitting motivations.

  2. I missed this little gem. He is quite amazing, very Kopinski like. I'm quite impressed with all the fiddly details you have greenstuffed.

    When it comes to guns you are far more knowledgeable than me. But what came to mind when reading about their prefered choices was the story of square bullets. Supposedly created to inflict more pain... It all sounds rather like an old urban legend and I'm not sure how it would work. But a funny side note that could work with the Church.

    1. The model was inspired off of a Kopinski piece actually! I am glad the inspiration shone through, he he.

      The thought of using different types of bullets, rather than the traditional full metal jacket ones, or just standard lead slugs is a good idea. They could use hollow point rounds that flower open upon impact to cause maximum damage.