Sunday, October 15, 2023

Vastarian: The Church of the Red Athenæum recap

Vivere est pati.

The Cathedral world of Vastarian is home to a vast assortment of strange splinter cults of the Ecclesiarchy’s Imperial Creed. In addition to its presence on Terra, the Church of the Red Athenæum (which we created for Iron Sleet’s Pilgrym event) also has its own cells on Vastarian and has been trying to expand its influence there. The Church is a radical faction of the Imperial Creed that believes suffering is the highest form of veneration of the God-Emperor. Although we originally created the Church way back in 2016, we started to revisit them in more recent years, creating a host of new models, including a Gunfighter, a heavy weapons specialist, a Halfling, and a new Bibliognost of the Church of the Red Athenæum. All of these models are going to be used in the Vastarian setting, where they will be one of the major factions battling for their spiritual beliefs to dominate the planet. Below is a summary of some of the lore behind the Church of the Red Athenæum, which will continue to get expanded as Vastarian continues to develop!

The Church uses a symbol with an hour glass filled with blood.

The Church of the Red Athenæum:

The Imperial Creed has spawned all manner of eccentric cults across the Imperium, and although the Ecclesiarchy permits some level of deviance from established practices, the line between heresy and acceptance is often blurred. The Church of the Red Athenæum is one such oddity, which is often persecuted for their extreme beliefs, stemming from the idea that salvation can only be obtained by sustaining an existence fashioned after the Emperor’s suffering. Casting out their worldly possessions and desires, its followers are obsessed with the physical sacrifice and suffering of the Emperor, and view the wounds inflicted to Him in his final battle as holy. To venerate the God-Emperor, and join the cult, each member ritually mutilates themselves to emulate one of His holy wounds. In doing so, they are endeavoring 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, or entire limbs removed. The higher ranking members of the Church tend to have multiple wounds, in an effort to get closer to His existence. This butchering is not the radical element that concerns the Ecclesiarchy, however, it is their belief that the Golden Throne is not a benefit to Humanity, but a prison trapping the Emperor’s soul on Terra and preventing Him from implementing His Divine Will. 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 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.

Cardinal Aseneth Levedescu and her congregation of the Church of the Red Athenæum (Terra denomination).

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. In addition to this, at the turn of each century a special dedication, known as the Red Hour, is required from the congregation. During the Red Hour, they sacrifice one of their congregation to emulate the loss the Emperor felt when engaging in that fateful battle on Horus’ battle barge, the 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 Church of the Red Athenæum amasses in force under the Daylight Wall on Terra, searching for the elusive Pilgrym.

The Church of the Red Athenæum and the Pilgrym:

As the last days of the 41st millennium drew to a close, the congregation on Terra was preparing to renew their commitment to the cause; the ritual bloodletting known as the Red Hour was due. This Red Hour was special, as it marked the turn of the millennium and coincided with the coming of a prophesied Pilgrym, an individual who the Church’s agents believed had the power to repair the Golden Throne. The Church believes that repairing the Golden Throne will not give the Emperor back what He has lost; it will merely fetter Him ever tighter to the dark machine and the whims of the petty High Lords. Instead, they wished to sacrifice this Pilgrym during the Red Hour, pushing the clock closer to when the Golden Throne finally fails, and the Emperor’s shackles are finally removed, releasing His soul into the Warp, where He will finally be able to exercise His Divine Will. Kirill Blokhin was selected for a key role in the Red Hour ritual; he was to land the killing blow, a stroke that would change the course of the Imperium and alter the fate of Mankind.

Despite their preparations, the Church of the Red Athenæum failed to kill the Pilgrym during the fabled Daylight Wall Anomaly. Instead, the Pilgrym was whisked away by Captain-Inquisitor Lazaros, Ordo Opscuros, to the Black-aarke, Garm’s Maw. This sent the Church of the Red Athenæum into spiritual turmoil, before they resolved to send Kirill Blokhin offworld in pursuit of the Inquisitor and the Pilgrym, as they continued to spin other schemes to free the Emperor's Soul. 

Moments before Captain-Inquisitor Lazaros teleports the Pilgrym’s armored capsule onto Garm’s Maw.

Expect to see more about the Church of the Red Athenæum on Vastarian in the coming weeks, including some battle reports and how the warband itself is developing! As we suggested in the first post, this is an Open Invitational, so we really hope some of you will get involved and create your own Imperial cults! If you do create anything, be sure to tag it with #vastarian.

- Eric Wier


  1. Love it. Traditionally the winged-hourglass would bear the caption TEMPVS FVGIT (ie time flies)--not sure if you can work that in somehow! :)