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Ciaphas Cain

Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium

Ciaphas Cain (pronounced KAI-a-fass KANE) was a commissar of the Officio Prefectus who was assigned to service with the Astra Militarum and who was eventually hailed as one of the greatest heroes of the Imperium of Man.

He was in active service during the last century of the 41st Millennium, and was over 200 Terran years old when he was recalled into service during the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler.

It is certain that he survived more than a quarter of a standard century into the 42nd Millennium. Imperial propaganda made him out to be a great hero of the Imperium in the 41st Millennium, although in truth by his own admission he was primarily focused on his own survival during his long career.

However, Cain differed from many other Imperial commissars in that he would not readily sacrifice his soldiers unless it ensured his own survival and he had no interest in carrying out the savage discipline for which so many commissars were known.

Cain tried his utmost to avoid engaging in actual combat, but usually was required to do so to maintain his status as a "Hero of the Imperium," which ironically would involve him in more dangerous situations than any he would usually have seen as a simple commissar. He often found himself trapped by his own excuses, uncovering the worst dangers of all in the very places he sought safety in.

He was responsible for many successful campaigns throughout his career and retired to become an instructor for new Imperial commissars at a Schola Progenium. He eventually died of old age and was buried with full honours as a Hero of the Imperium.

Despite his death and state funeral at some point in the Era Indomitus, Cain is still officially listed on active duty by the Officio Prefectus. Due to repeated instances of Cain turning up alive when reports of his death were already fully entrenched in Administratum records, as in the wake of his crash-landing on Perlia, the Departmento Munitorum eventually issued standing orders that he should be kept on the active roster at all times, no matter what reports anyone received to the contrary. As the Imperium does not make mistakes, Cain is always officially listed on active duty.


Cain's Memoirs

Commisar Ciaphas Cain

Commissar Ciaphas Cain of the Officio Prefectus

In the early 42nd Millennium, Cain's private memoirs were published amongst the ranks of the Inquisition. They were sequestered by order of the Inquisition, and were kept and organised as the "Cain Archive" by Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Amberley Vail with whom Cain had many encounters over his career, and shared a close working and personal relationship.

Vail edited Cain's chaotic notes, and using information from additional sources, such as the memoirs of Valhallan General Jenit Sulla, published 101.M42, made available -- for the internal use only of the Inquisition -- first-person accounts of several Cain missions, often annotated by herself.

It is worth noting, as Inquisitor Vail did in footnotes throughout the memoirs, that Cain was a skilled liar and dissembler, however his narrative is refreshingly honest concerning his shortcomings, and even, according to Vail, overly modest in recording his victories against the enemies of the Imperium.

The Cain Archive was no intentional memoir; Cain apparently wrote it solely to organise his own thoughts, and indeed expected that whatever Inquisitor found it after his death would expunge the whole document. It should not be confused with his official public memoir, To Serve the Emperor: A Commissar's Life. Inquisitor Vail noted that the latter was not only far less candid than the private Cain Archive, but comparatively poorly written to boot.

Origins and Early Life

Cain makes numerous mentions of his homeworld, apparently a Hive World, though he never mentions a name or any feature which could lead to it being identified. Inquisitor Amberley Vail speculated that Cain may not in fact know the name of his own homeworld. However, he shows a definite affinity for underground passages and has a natural sense of direction when underground.

He claimed that his parents were killed by Kroot while serving together in the Astra Militarum, which is why he was sent to be trained as a commissar. However, it has not been stated in which regiment they served, and no Hive World in the nearby sectors is known to have fielded mixed-gender regiments in the appropriate timeframe. Additionally, Cain claims his parents were petty criminals who joined the Astra Militarum to avoid arrest, but this does not explain how their son was admitted to a Schola Progenium, a privilege usually reserved for the orphaned children of senior officers or decorated Imperial heroes who were killed in the Emperor's service.

Cain's record at the Schola Progenium where he was educated and trained shows that his marks were on the low end of average in everything save sports and combat training. He also had a clean disciplinary record, however this probably means he didn't get caught that often in bad behaviour.

Service History

Ciaphas Cain and Valhallans

Ciaphas Cain in combat with his regiment.

Throughout his service in the Officio Prefectus Commissariat, Cain seems to have served predominantly with regiments raised from the Ice World of Valhalla. He picked up a number of their habits and slang terms, although he never became enamoured of the cold they enjoyed, or their habit of taking showers in ice water.

His loyal aide Ferik Jurgen was a Valhallan Guardsman who happened to be a psychic Blank, and served Cain faithfully for many standard years. Also with him was future General Jenit Sulla, early in her career. She was a lieutenant in most of the published extracts from the "Cain Archive," later promoted to captain.

Cain began his service as a commissar with the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery in 919.M41, apparently as a commissar attached to the command battery, but soon took up duties over the entire regiment.

His first taste of battle came in 919.M41 was on the world of Desolatia, where the regiment had been defending against an assault by Orks, but soon they were faced with a Tyranid splinter hive fleet, which they held out against until an Imperial Navy fleet arrived to pick up the Imperial forces remaining on the planet. During the Tyranid landing, Cain attempted outright desertion in a commandeered Salamander, only to run directly into a previously unnoticed flanking force, including a Hive Tyrant. His panicked contact report and desperate retreat back to the lines were misinterpreted, according to his own account, as a heroically successful scouting mission and baiting maneuver, painting the first strokes of his grand reputation.

Cain, and his regiment's next destination was the planet of Keffia, where he spent a restful few years of the decade of the 920s M41, and the only major battle he participated in was assisting the local Enforcers (calling themselves Custodes, though the title is unrelated to the Adeptus Custodes of the same name) in revealing a Genestealer infestation in the sector and assisting in the defence of the Custodes' headquarters.

From Keffia, Cain went in 924.M41 to the world of Perlia, where he was first earmarked for greater things. After a space battle, he and his adjutant Jurgen were left isolated on the ground of Perlia, presumed dead after their escape pod crashed behind Ork lines.

Ciaphas cain vs Tyranids

Ciaphas Cain faces off against the Orks.

From there, he raised an army of freed slaves and PDF survivors and, in what became known as the March of the Liberator, successfully fought his way through the Orks to the Imperial front line, killing the Ork Warlord personally. The Imperial forces took the opportunity to attack the remaining Ork forces, who were in disarray.

On the world of Slawkenberg, Cain and three Guardsmen were nearly seduced by a Chaos sorceress whilst accompanying scouts, but managed to destroy the enemy position with artillery.

From there, Cain was assigned to Commissariat Command for a few years, which was at first a simple desk job, but his reputation meant that he was sent on risky missions. These included a trip in 928.M41 to Interitus Prime, a Necron Tomb World, Viridia and Viridia Secundus, the cleansing of a space hulk, campaigns against the Craftworld Aeldari, the cleansing of the world of Sanguia, and the campaign to reclaim Archipelaga.

He survived these campaigns purely by being able to keep his head down, and commonly being the only survivor. Before long, he requested transfer back to a full regiment since it seemed to be less dangerous work.

Of these experiences, Cain notes that his encounter with the Necrons was the most horrific, and left the most lasting impression on him.

Currently the majority of extracts available from the Cain Archive tell of his time serving with the 597th Valhallan Regiment. While serving with that regiment Cain appears to have been very close to the troopers, particularly with the senior officers with which he had a personal friendship.

This bond is only natural; Cain himself can be said to be responsible for founding the regiment in 931.M41, which was comprised of the combined remains of the 301st and 296th Valhallan Regiments. One was an all-male, frontline assault regiment, and the other was an all-female, rear-echelon garrison regiment. Designated the 296th/301st Valhallan Regiment, they had a deep and bitter resentment of each other, which escalated into a cafeteria riot which left a few regiment members and a few transport voidship's crewmen dead.

Cain took steps and petitioned the Administratum to allow the regiment to be renamed the 597th Valhallan Regiment -- which was the sum of 296 + 301, a name symbolic of their origins while also enforcing the unity of the combined regiment. He insisted on mixing troopers from both regiments in every squad, and instituted a few rewards for good behaviour and performance, practices which turned it into an unified and disciplined force, and remained traditional even after he moved on from the regiment.

Ciaphas Cain and Tau

Ciaphas Cain fighting alongside T'au Fire Warriors against the Tyranid menace.

Cain was present with the 597th Valhallan Regiment of the Astra Militarum for their first action during the Gravalax Incident of 931.M41, where he was awarded the Order of Merit of Gravalax, Second Class, for his part in preventing the T'au Empire's annexation of the planet Gravalax on the Eastern Fringes of the Imperium. Cain was to joke in later years that if he had allowed the T'au to kill Governor Grice, the grateful populace would have given him the First Class decoration!

In truth, the planet had been infested by a Genestealer Cult that had been trying to spark off a meaningless war over a backwater planet between the T'au and the Imperium in order to distract them both from the approach of a Tyranid hive fleet.

It was during this affair that Cain first encountered Inquisitor Amberley Vail, and also discovered that his aide Jurgen was in fact a psychic Blank: a trait which saved Cain's life as he duelled the Genestealer Patriarch.

The campaign concluded with the death of Governor Grice, revealed to be a member of the cult, at the hands of Inquisitor Vail and the withdrawal of T'au military assets from Gravalax.

A year later, in 932.M41, Cain served on the world of Simia Orichalcae, defending a refinery against Ork predations and an awakening Necron threat beneath the ice.

Shortly after this in 933.M41, he was sent to the planet Periremunda in the wake of a civil uprising. It was discovered that Genestealers were behind the uprising, and had already attracted the attention of a Tyranid splinter fleet. After many hard-fought battles, the infection was finally cleansed, and a rogue Inquisitor neutralised in the bargain.

After fighting the xenos Hrud on Skekwi and Orks on Kastafore, Cain arrived at Adumbria in 937.M41, where he assisted in uncovering a Chaos ritual and defending against landing Chaos forces. His actions defeated a Daemon Prince and prevented the transformation of the planet into a Daemon World.

He was later court-martialed, an action initiated by Commissar Tomas Beije, for leaving the front line on Adumbria to attack the site of the Daemon Prince's summoning, but Cain was cleared of all wrongdoing, and Beije was charged himself for obstructing Cain's activities. Beije was later acquitted after Cain testified that Beije was incompetent but did mean well and was attempting to perform his duties as he believed them to be.

The Valhallan 597th was called on in 938.M41 to help with the pacification of Lentonia. They arrived as the battle took a new and sinister form; a strange plague was sweeping through the Astra Militarum and locals alike, and those killed by it would rise from their graves to attack the still-living.

Ciaphas Cain vs Tyranids 2

Ciaphas Cain makes a stand against a Tyranid swarm.

Attempts to create a vaccine worked in laboratory settings, but failed when used on the infected. Cain happened to notice that a cut Jurgen had suffered from one revenant had healed completely, when less-severe wounds inflicted by their claws festered in others. Cain realised that there was both a physical and Warp factor to the unnatural plague, and that Jurgen's Blank nature had blocked the second factor, allowing him to heal normally.

At Cain's suggestion, some vaccine was blessed by a hierophant of the Ecclesiarchy, and then proved fully effective. While carrying blessed vaccine to be placed in artillery shells for use against the revenants, Cain and Jurgen encountered the Nurglite Chaos Cult controlling the revenants and destroyed them.

In 942.M41 Cain and the Valhallan 597th were tasked with suppressing an Ork outbreak on Nusquam Fundumentibus, a remote Ice World outside of major Warp routes, where Cain had been on a mission two solar decades earlier. While pursuing the action against the Orks, Cain discovered the presence of a Tyranid swarm that had been hibernating for millennia (likely since pre-Imperial times, certainly long before the arrival of Hive Fleet Behemoth) in the planet's permafrost, carried over by a crashed Hive Ship. The swarm was partially awakened by the action on the planet, but the Hive Mind was destroyed before it could become fully operational, largely due to Cain's efforts.

In the mid 900s.M41, Cain left regimental service to become the Commissarial Liaison Officer on Lord General Zyvan's staff. As with his earlier command posting, it wasn't quite the routine desk job he was hoping for.

In 990.M41, T'au sympathisers in the Deepwater System would have destroyed Zyvan's flagship (with the lord general on board) had Cain not intervened.

In 991.M41, Cain accompanied reinforcements to Quadravidia, then under attack by the T'au, and was present when the T'au requested a truce to deal with Hive Fleet Kraken. Cain then accompanied Zyvan and a T'au emissary to Fecundia to coordinate that world's defences.

An undated fragment from the "Cain Archive" may fall in this time period as well, or may be from one of the occasions when he was pulled out of retirement during the Tyrannic Wars.

Cain was forced into a temporary alliance with a Drukhari Succubus when a Tyranid force attacked the world both were on. The Succubus attempted to capture Cain to boost her own standing in her cult, but he outwitted her in the resulting duel and slew her. He then ordered an airstrike to destroy the Webway portal the Wych Cult had used to reach the planet.

Ghosts of Perlia

Ciaphas Cain Charges in Salamander

Ciaphas Cain charges into battle atop his personal Salamander.

Cain's actions on the world of Perlia would come back to haunt him on two occasions during the eighty standard years between the first and second sieges of that planet.

The first occurred during the campaign on Periremunda, when Cain discovered that the Ordo Xenos and the Adeptus Mechanicus had been working on a secret project surrounding an artefact known as the Shadowlight.

This unusual artefact, which predated the existence of Mankind itself, activated the powers of latent psykers and boosted the powers of already active ones. The Shadowlight had been contained in a secret Mechanicus shrine located within the hydroelectric dam in the Valley of Daemons on Perlia's eastern continent, until it was stolen by a rogue tech-priest named Metheius, in the employ of Inquisitor Killian of the Ordo Hereticus.

When Cain arrived at the dam -- shortly before destroying it, flooding the valley and drowning thousands of Orks -- he found that the Tech-priests of the shrine had been killed with surgical precision only solar weeks before. He learned standard years later that this had been the work of Killian and Metheius, Killian having co-opted the services of an Adepta Sororitas force to raid the shrine.

Killian had allied with a number of Chaos Cults on Periremunda and intended to use the Shadowlight to boost their psychic powers, turning them into servants of the Emperor without them realizing it. His ultimate plan was to use the Shadowlight to create an army of psykers powerful enough to storm the Eye of Terror and take the fight to the forces of Chaos on their own ground (a plan that another psyker deemed could potentially have caused the destruction of the galaxy).

At Inquisitor Amberley Vail's behest, Cain assisted in tracking Killian down to his lair at an Adepta Sororitas convent on Periremunda. Having already made several attempts to assassinate Cain, Killian tried to win the commissar over as an ally, but upon learning of Killian's deranged plans and discovering he was using a captive Lictor to lure in a nearby Tyranid swarm to cover his tracks, uncaring of the civilian casualties his escape plan would incur, Cain refused him and a firefight broke out.

In the confusion, Jurgen grabbed the Shadowlight and Killian, unaware Jurgen was a Psychic Blank, made the mistake of assuming Cain or the Mechanicus had found a way to deactivate the device. He seized the Shadowlight from Jurgen and attempted to make a break for it, only to be fatally exposed to its full power once he was out of range of Jurgen's abilities. Methius, who was accompanying Killian, was later killed by Tyranid Gargoyles during the evacuation of the convent before Vail called in an orbital bombardment to exterminate the Tyranids.


Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium

After Killian's death, the Shadowlight was returned to Perlia in the shrine set in the rebuilt dam in the Valley of Daemons, where it would remain for another sixty standard years.

The other occasion when Cain's actions on Perlia would come back to haunt him was during the Second Siege of Perlia, in 999.M41. Cain had by that time retired and made Perlia his home, teaching at a Schola Progenium on the western continent, in a mountainous village near the planetary capital of Havensdown.

Meeting with the Rogue Trader Orelius, whom he had met on Gravalax, Cain discovered that there was a Chaos force headed in the direction of Perlia, having overrun two neighboring star systems. It was Cain's suspicion (and Inquisitor Vail's as well, as she had sent Orelius to meet with Cain) that the Chaos horde and their leader, Warmaster Varan the Undefeatable, had their sights set on the acquisition of the Shadowlight artefact, potentially either at the behest of Abaddon the Despoiler or to gain his favour.

Called once again to defend Perlia, Cain coordinated with the commanders of the Planetary and System Defense Forces, appearing in pictcasts calling for civilians to join the militia, and leading attacks against Chaos insurgents, culminating in a final showdown with Warmaster Varan himself. Though Cain succeeded in killing Varan and effectively ending the Second Siege of Perlia, the Shadowlight was taken by a Necron scouting party, presumably to destroy it as psykers were the most potent weapons that could be used against the Necrons.

From the Necrons' actions Cain and Amberley Vail theorised that the Shadowlight may have been built by the Old Ones in order to combat the Necrons, who had a documented fear of the Warp and psychic powers. While not an ideal resolution, Cain and Vail concluded that if the Necrons had feared the Shadowlight so, they likely had no plans to use it against the Imperium, which made it preferable for the artefact to be in their hands, rather than those of the forces of Chaos.

After the 13th Black Crusade

Cain spent the years after his service during the 13th Black Crusade in ca. 999.M41 teaching at the Schola Progenium on Perlia and writing his memoirs -- both his public memoir To Serve The Emperor: A Commissar's Life, and the secret Cain Archive that Inquisitor Vail distributed among her colleagues.

Cain presumably died sometime in the first or second century of the 42nd Millennium, and is the only person in the known galaxy to remain on the active duty roster of the Astra Militarum even after being buried with full military honours. This is the result of a confusion in the records of the Departmento Munitorum during the First Siege of Perlia, in which Cain was listed as killed in action until some point after he rejoined his regiment at the campaign's end. This pattern of returning alive after being declared dead occurred often enough during Cain's career that the Munitorum made a special ruling that Ciaphas Cain is to never be considered dead, despite evidence to the contrary.

It is interesting to note that there is a small sect in the Tallarn Desert Raiders regiments of the Astra Militarum who consider Cain to have been a physical conduit of the Emperor's divine will.

There even exists a religious text of the Imperial Cult dedicated to Cain, called the Book of Cain. This was written by Alem Mahat, a trooper who accompanied Commissar Beije in his misguided attempt to arrest Cain. Mahat witnessed Cain's defiance and defeat of the Daemon Prince Emili, whose mere presence brought even Chaos Space Marines to heel, and like most people he failed to understand Ferik Jurgen's contribution to Cain's victory since he was a Psychic Blank.

Personality and Skills

Ciaphas Cain Space Marines

Ciaphas Cain being escorted by Space Marines of the Reclaimers Chapter.

Although Cain performed acts in his long commissarial service that were nothing short of heroic, they were always -- by his own admission -- done reluctantly.

He chose his first posting with the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery specifically to avoid front-line combat, as artillery regiments generally remained at the rear of any Imperial army.

After the events on Desolatia, however, Cain often made the observation that his commanders were bent on sending him into deadly situations simply on the basis of his reputation. The first thing on his mind was always his own safety, and how he would be able to escape the situation he was in. Despite his reluctance to participate in combat, Cain was by no means unprepared for it, as one of the things he focussed on while at the Schola Progenium (in addition to sports) was combat training.

Cain was described as an exceptional swordsman who even had the respect of the Adeptus Astartes -- a skill which "undoubtedly came from the sort of combat experience no amount of practice could emulate," in the words of Inquisitor Amberley Vail, though he still practiced his techniques anyway. In his memoirs Cain described his chainsword skill as a habitual and instinctive one. On at least two occasions, a rival commissar backed down from a proffered duel with Cain upon taking in the battered and hard-used condition of his chainsword.

He was also skilled enough with a Laspistol to accurately hit his target well beyond the weapon's accepted operational range, even against Necron Warriors. Most images of him, however, incorrectly depict him wielding a Bolt Pistol, a weapon he considered impressively destructive but too ammunition-hungry to rely upon.

Cain's upbringing in an underhive left him with an instinctive affinity for underground spaces. He could resolve three-dimensional maps at a glance, and had a keen sense of direction that kept him oriented while traversing labyrinthine corridors. He could also navigate and even fight in complete darkness, making use of his hearing and other senses.

The one exception to Cain's habit of trying to avoid combat was when sorcery was involved. If he became aware of a sorcerer or sorcerous Chaos Cult in his theatre of operations, he always resolutely hunted down and eliminated these Heretics as soon as possible. However, in his memoirs Cain described this drive as neither bravery nor zeal, but simply a belief that there is no outrunning the horrors that successful sorcery can produce; the only way to really be safe from Warpcraft is to find and exterminate those who would wield it, before their plans bear fruit.

Though he rose to a level of accomplishment and seniority that would easily justify the title of Lord Commissar, Cain disdained the term and refused to be addressed by it.

While Cain believed in the divinity of the Emperor of Mankind, he thought Him a distant deity, far too busy with galactic-scale concerns to look out for the welfare of any individual worshipper. He had little patience for the overly pious, such as Battle-Sisters and certain fellow commissars, finding such "Emperor-botherers" unpleasantly humourless and self-righteous. Even worse, he considered them dangerously prone to tactical idiocy, based on what they imagined to be holy commandments. However, Cain did hold that certain problems were the rightful purview of priests. He was also fond of the writings of Saint Emilia, which struck a compassionate, understanding tone that he appreciated.

Cain had a great degree of social acumen, which he used throughout his career to reinforce his public image as a hero of the Imperium. His deep grasp of practical Human psychology led him to be much more lax about discipline than he would have been within his rights to be as a commissar. The cold-acclimated Valhallan soldiers, for example, were allowed some leniency in their dress as a concession to the uncomfortable temperatures they experienced in non-freezing climes.

Cain always tried to find a way around executing soldiers, and preferred to give friendly warnings rather than outright punishments. Cain admits this was to cultivate popularity and give the guardsmen incentive to try to keep him alive.

Whatever the reason, Cain's regiments tended to have high morale without necessarily compromising discipline or combat effectiveness.


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