40K: Dead Cabal of Spite
The Adeptus Terra
The Imperium covers a wide area of galactic space, sprawling over countless worlds. There are few universal constants amongst these wildly varying planets. Culture, language and even the human form appear in seemingly infinite variation across the galaxy. One of the few constants (at least amongst those worlds of the Imperium that are aware of its existence) is the network of Imperial feudal obligation and responsibility. Each Imperial planet owes fealty to a Planetary Governor. This individual in turn renders to the Imperium’s priesthood a tithe of men, materials and loyalty. The governor is also expected to reject enemies of the Imperium, and to ensure that the psykers upon his planet do not fall into witchery or daemonic possession. In return, the governor can call upon the Priesthood of Earth (or Adeptus Terra as they are properly known) in times of dire threat and request aid. The Adeptus Terra comprises a bewildering variety of departments, bureaus, sub-divisions and offices, each of which deal with a particular aspect of maintaining the continuity of the Imperium. Each order has an obligation to care for its given area of control.
This weight of responsibility grows as feudal obligation passes up through a mind-numbing array of ranks within each Adepta. From lowly scribes computing a hive world’s annual nutra-slurry yield to mighty Sector Commanders overseeing the assemblage of a Crusading fleet, vassalage and power passes ever upwards to the titular heads of the Imperium, the High Lords of Terra. These powerful individuals rule from ancient Terra in the Emperor’s name. Based on Terra itself, the Emperor of Mankind is a silent being of awesome power. His withered carcass is cradled within an arcane artefact of incredibly advanced design from the Dark Age of Technology. This Golden Throne, as it is known, sustains the Emperor’s life force whilst He guards humanity from the Daemonic beings that would destroy Mankind utterly. For hundreds of centuries He has fought this psychic battle and for hundreds of centuries mankind has offered Him their fealty, worship and devotion.
The Imperium is still nominally ruled by the Emperor of Mankind as an absolute monarch. However, since his ascension to the Golden Throne, the duty of actual high-level governing of the Imperium falls to the Senatorum Imperialis – the Imperial Senate, formed by the 12 High Lords of Terra. The identities and responsibilities of these High Lords may vary, as individuals inevitably die and their influence grows and wanes, but its members are always the leaders and representatives of the most powerful Imperial organisations.
Ultimately, the High Lords are in control of the Imperium as a whole, and are responsible for maintaining the functioning of the Imperium through the Adeptus Terra and the Imperial Commanders who govern each Imperial world, sub-sector, sector and Segmentum. However it is not feasible to maintain a completely centralised government over such vast interstellar distances, even with faster-than-light travel and telepathic communication. This means that the Imperium is structured like a neo-feudal confederacy, with the planetary rulers acting as feudal lords subject to the higher authority of the Adeptus Terra and responsible for providing men to the Imperial Guard, but largely free to run their worlds day-to-day as they see fit. Therefore, many Imperial worlds are left to fend for themselves without any direct involvement of the central government save in a time of crisis.
The flow of information in the Imperium is tightly controlled, with several Imperial bodies withholding information (chief among these is the Inquisition, an ever-present Censor) or engaging in misinformation and propaganda (such as the Ecclesiarchy among others). Other organisations zealously protect information that could be used for the benefit of the Imperium as a whole, such as the widespread hoarding of technological and scientific information that is the common practice of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The censorship has been justified by the terrible and dangerous nature of some of this information, and by the sheer immensity of the task of governing the Imperium.
The stellar empire that is the realm of the Emperor is so massive and sprawling that it includes a wide variety of diverse worlds, ranging from pastoral Agri-worlds to jungle planets inhabited by Neolithic savages to polluted ecumenopoleis, great hive cities that are home to billions of people that in some cases cover entire planets. For example, the world of Gudrun is similar to an idyllic 18th Century Georgian-era Great Britain, with stately manors controlling vast estates of rolling green hills studded with small agricultural villages, while Catachan is a hellish Death World covered in a deadly jungle that is populated by giant carnivorous plants and animals (see Planets of Warhammer 40,000).
Most of the organisations or organs comprising the Imperium’s government are divisions of the vast Adeptus Terra (also referred to as the Priesthood of Earth), the great bureaucracy of the Imperial government. The priesthood which serves the Lord of humanity is often referred to as “the right hand of the Emperor”. It falls to the Adeptus Terra to interpret His will and minister to the Imperium. Many hundreds of thousands of souls labour across the galaxy to serve this vast organisation. There are numerous ancient institutions that make up the priesthood, each with various names on various planets. These varying Adepta, as they are traditionally known, each have a specific function to carry out in the Emperor’s name.
There are countless divisions within the Adeptus Terra, and some are so secretive that their existence is known only to a few officials at the very top of the massive Imperial hierarchy. Perhaps the most well-known of the “secret” organisations is the Inquisition, the Imperium’s secret police, which was created at the start of the Horus Heresy by the Emperor’s regent, Malcador the Sigillite, to seek out any hidden threat to the Imperium from without or within. The existence of the other secret Imperial organisations is known only to the higher Imperial echelons. For example, one of the most secretive of Imperial organs is the Officio Assassinorum, the arm of the Imperium tasked with carrying out assassinations deemed necessary to the Imperium’s security and survival. Other organisations are secret enough that nothing other than the fact that they exist is known, such as the saboteurs of the Officio Sabatorum and the Templars Psykologis, who carry out psychological warfare operations.
The most well-known and/or important Imperial Adepta include:
- The Adeptus Administratum, which is responsible for the day-to-day administrative and bureaucratic functions of the entire Imperium. The Administratum is the largest division of the Adeptus Terra, and contains among its teeming numbers of Adepts countless scribes and petty officials. It administrates the Imperium at every level, assessing tithes and taxes, conducting population censuses, recording and planning and even delineating which threats to the Imperium must be dealt with and by which of the Imperium’s myriad military forces. The Administratum consists of innumerable subdivisions, offices and departments. Needless to say, its servants are legion. At the will of the Adeptus Terra, the Administratum collects the Imperial tithe, sends out colonists, mobilises the military, catalogues planets and much, much more. Truly stultifying levels of bureaucracy exist within the Administratum and some wayward souls believe that the Imperium survives despite, rather than because of, its efforts. The Administratum has become synonymous with the Adeptus Terra in many places and, incorrectly, the terms are often used interchangeably. The faceless servants of the Administratum can be found all over the Imperium, ensuring that all things are accomplished in the correct manner, even if that may take a thousand years.
- The Departmento Munitorum, also called the Adeptus Munitorum, is a department or sub-division of the Adeptus Administratum devoted to the general administration, personnel assignment, supply and logistics of the Imperial Guard. The Munitorum has ultimate responsibility for the raising of new Imperial Guard regiments, the training of new Imperial Guard troops, the provision of equipment and supplies to all regiments in the field, and the transportation of troops and equipment to and from theatres of war using the vessels of the Imperial Navy. It is primarily a logistical organisation, like the larger Administratum of which it is a part, but while the Administratum deals with the civilian logistics of running the entire Imperium of Man, the Munitorum deals solely with the military logistics necessary to fight and win the Imperium’s wars on behalf of all branches of the Imperial armed forces.
- Adeptus Astra Telepathica is the Imperium’s network of Astropaths, the Sanctioned Psykers who are responsible for telepathically transmitting faster-than-light messages through the Immaterium and maintaining Mankind’s fragile network of interstellar communications across the galaxy. Blessed are the blind, for they have looked upon the glorious light of the Emperor directly and no true servant of the Golden Throne could ask for more. Through the agonising ritual of soul-binding, these psykers have been gifted with a small portion of the Emperor’s own incredible will. Thus protected from the worst evils of predation by Warp entities, these unseeing servants of Terra can fulfil their primary function, preserving communication between the far-flung worlds of the Imperium.
- The Adeptus Astronomica is the Adepta responsible for maintaining the Astronomican which is used by the mutant psykers known as Navigators to navigate all Imperial starships, military or civilian, through the Warp. The Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica bring thousands of psykers to the birthplace of Mankind every day and many of those so tithed find themselves contributing to the vast psychic choir of the Astronomican. This steady beacon burns bright in the Warp; it is the Emperor’s will manifest, shining from Terra, and guides Navigators across the Imperium. The process of lending their psychic power to focus the beam quickly leaves the choristers as lifeless husks, but they give themselves willingly, for without the Astronomican the Imperium would cease to exist. The organization is based in Terra’s Forbidden Fortress, where even the Adeptus Arbites’ Judges and Inquisitors must receive an invitation to lawfully enter. The Adepta’s head is the Master of the Astronomican, who represents the organisation as a High Lord of Terra and a member of their Senatorum Imperialis.
- The Navis Nobilite is an ancient organisation of mutant Terran nobility predating even the creation of the Imperium of Man by several thousand standard years. It is comprised of noble families who are all human mutants called Navigators who have the unique psychic ability to navigate spacecraft through long distances in the chaotic transdimensional eddies of the Warp. The Great House of the Navis Nobilite are some of the wealthiest and most politically powerful collections of nobles in the Imperium.
- The Adeptus Mechanicus is the priesthood of technicians and scientists dedicated to the religion of the Cult Mechanicus who build and maintain all advanced Imperial technology, vehicles, starships, and weapons of war and whose headquarters is located on Mars. The Adeptus Mechanicus believes that all knowledge in the universe is a sacred emanation of the Machine God and that the Emperor of Mankind is His Omnissiah. Needless to say, the Tech-priests and Adepts of the Mechanicus are viewed as only slightly better than the average heretic to the Priests of the Ecclesiarchy. Outside of Mars, the Mechanicus controls all of the Imperium’s Forge Worlds, the planets where the production of most of its advanced technological items is done. The domains of the Adepts of Mars exist semi-autonomously within the Imperium, an empire within an empire, a right given to them by the Emperor Himself when he signed the Treaty of Mars that created the modern Imperium in the late 30th Millennium. They are the guardians of technology, the magi of machinery. It is theirs alone to know how to coax forth the life of a sun in a plasma containment field, how best to apply the blessings of activation and maintenance to the massive Titan war machines, how to ensure that the engines of the Emperor’s starships run smooth and true. The Adepts of Mars worship the Emperor in the guise of the Machine God. To them, Mankind is in a fallen state from the height of its powers during the Dark Age of Technology, when the secrets of the universe were known to all. Knowledge then, lies in the past and the Adeptus Mechanicus will go to any lengths to uncover the great secrets of antiquity, scouring the universe for any scrap of information from their holy book—the Standard Template Construct system. They hold that, were the knowledge contained within the ancient STC database to be restored in full, it would reveal all of the powers of the hallowed past. The Tech-Priests venerate machines and regard them as superior to flesh. Many of them believe that the Machine God desires them to shed this weakness and so they often sport numerous bionic modifications. These mechanical enhancements add to their air of otherness and further help to set them apart from the rest of humanity. Through rune and hammer, the Tech-Adepts are the wards of the arcane and they guard their knowledge jealously. But for all their might, they are not beyond the watchful gaze of the Inquisition.
- The Adeptus Custodes are the genetically-emgineered superhumans who serve as the guardians of the Emperor’s physical form. They are essentially the Emperor’s bodyguards and royal guardsmen within the Imperial Palace on Terra and they are considered the greatest warriors of the Imperium, more powerful than even the Astartes of the Space Marines. However, despite their skill in battle they very rarely ever venture beyond the confines of Terra. These are among the mightiest warriors in all the Imperium, the praetorians of the Emperor. They stand ever-vigilant outside the brazen doors which seal His holy chamber. They are entirely beyond reproach and they are among the few in the Imperium over whom the Inquisition has no power. They never leave the inner sanctums of the Imperial Palace and serve from birth to death within its hallowed halls. Yet they are among the few servants of Mankind who will ever look upon the Emperor directly, and for that they receive blessings beyond all measure.
- The Adeptus Arbites are the guardians of the Lex Imperia — Imperial Law. It is given to them to maintain order amongst the higher echelons of Imperial governance — wherever a Planetary Governor seeks to abuse his rule, wherever populist unrest seeks to unseat the rightful dominion of the Imperium, wherever thoughts of personal gain at the Emperor’s expense cross the minds of the ruling classes, there you will find the dogged agents of the Lawgivers. The Arbites enforces Imperial Law across the galaxy and its Arbitrators possess the right to serve as judge, jury and executioners on every Imperial world.
- The Officio Assassinorum is the most covert of all the known Imperial agencies, whose assassins are responsible for removing the key leaders of any enemy of the Imperium as determined by the High Lords of Terra – whether that enemy is a threat from without or within.
- The Imperial Inquisition – The Imperium is assailed by countless enemies both from within and without. The attentions of unclean xenos, the invidious influences of the misguided followers of the Ruinous Powers, planetary unrest, mutation, rogue psykers, rebellious Imperial lords and more all work constantly to bring the Imperium down, which will lead to the ultimate extinction of Mankind. Yet somehow it survives and humanity endures. The Inquisition is one of the many reasons for the persistence of Man in an extremely hostile universe. Known as the “left hand of the Emperor”, the Inquisition operates across the Imperium and beyond to suppress and eliminate those forces that would destroy the holy dominion of Mankind over the galaxy. Inquisitors are empowered to go anywhere and do anything — whatever they must to ensure the survival of the Imperium. Their Inquisitorial Rosetta opens all doors, and even the vaunted Planetary Governors must acquiesce to their demands without complaint or delay, lest they be themselves regarded as suspect. They will commit acts, no matter how vile, to maintain the unchanging integrity of the Imperium, and they will put whole planets to death in order to see that this is so. The members of the Inquisition vary enormously in physical appearance, methodology and mentality. Some operate alone and in secret, hidden from the eyes of the common man, while others operate openly and carry dozens of acolytes and agents in their cadre. What they do have in common is that they answer only to their Order, and each Order answers only to the Emperor. Their efforts can be checked by no Adepta and they are utterly, fanatically devoted to the defence of the Imperium. Even the most loyal and honest Imperial citizen is likely to break into a cold sweat on learning that the Inquisition is nearby — and that suits its members perfectly. The Inquisition is itself divided into three major Orders: the Ordo Malleus, which hunts daemons and those corrupted by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos; the Ordo Xenos which eliminates the threat that other intelligent alien civilisations present to humanity’s rule of the galaxy; and the Ordo Hereticus which hunts down mutants, heretics of the Imperial Cult, and all those who would threaten the Imperium from within – including within the Ecclesiarchy itself. The Inquisition’s agents necessarily exist and operate beyond the control of the Adeptus Terra, since part of the Inquisition’s role involves rooting out corruption and gross incompetence from within the highest levels of the Imperium itself. Inquisitors ultimately answer only to the Emperor and to themselves and they are perhaps the most powerful organisation within the Imperium after the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes.
- The Adeptus Ministorum is the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Imperial Cult that promulgates and maintains control of the Imperial Creed and the galaxy-spanning faith of the God-Emperor of Mankind. The Adeptus Ministorum is not formally part of the Adeptus Terra. Rather it is a sister organisation which works hand-in-glove with the Priesthood of Earth. The Adeptus Ministorum derives its power and authority from the common Imperial belief in the Emperor’s divinity. Also known as the Ecclesiarchy, after its high priest, the Ecclesiarch, the Adeptus Ministorum is vast and powerful. Its duty is to guide and interpret the innumerable ways that humanity has found to worship the Emperor, shepherding the myriad worlds of man along the unsteady path that lies between heresy and true devotion. Whole worlds lie within its administration and on many others it represents the most powerful Imperial institution. Like the Administratum, the Ecclesiarchy is a complex and byzantine organisation. A bewildering hierarchy of priests, confessors, cardinals, novices, clerics, bishops and missionaries all owe fealty to the Ecclesiarch in the Ecclesiarchical Palace on Terra. Just as varied are the various roles within the Ministorum, from wandering missionaries, to charismatic preachers and theosophical scholars. Two of the most famous institutions within the Adeptus Ministorum are the training orphanages of the Schola Progenium and the Battle-Sisters of the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas.