"I tread the path of Righteousness. Though it be paved with broken glass, I will walk it barefoot; though it cross rivers of fire, I will pass over them; though it wanders wide, the light of the Emperor guides my step."
- — Confessor Dolan of Chiros - Sermon on the Road to Gathalamor
Confessor Dolan Chirosius of Chiros, known as the Great Confessor, is a Saint of the Imperial Cult. He was martyred by the Apostate Cardinal Bucharis during the Plague of Unbelief of the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium.
His actions helped bring an end to the Apostate Cardinal's Renegade pocket empire and has served as an example of the power of faith in the Emperor of Mankind for billions of Imperial citizens.
The Apostate Cardinal
Only a few decades after the death of High Lord Goge Vandire and the ascension of Sebastian Thor to the Ecclesiarchal throne in the 36th Millennium, Cardinal Bucharis headed a diocese centred on the world of Gathalamor to the galactic southwest of Terra. Gathalamor was not a rich diocese, but Bucharis, driven by jealousy of his peers' achievements, vowed to build one of the largest temples to the Emperor's glory on his Cardinal World. After brutally enslaving the population of Gathalamor, Bucharis still needed more men and resources. Using an army of thugs and cut-throats, he conquered the nearby world of Rhanda. With access to the richer mines of that world, Bucharis' wealth grew. It was also in the Rhanda System that Bucharis joined forces with the Renegade Imperial Navy Admiral Sehalla and the commander of the 25th Rigellian Imperial Guard Regiment, Colonel Gasto. With Imperial Guardsmen and Imperial Navy warships at his disposal, Bucharis carved out a small pocket empire to the galactic west of Terra and within the next seven standard years, fifty star systems had fallen under his control.
Bucharis' realm was cut off from much of the Imperium by a dense concentration of Warp Storms that raged at this time, and news of Sebastian Thor's ascension as Ecclesiarch and the reorganisation of the Adeptus Ministorum had not yet filtered through to that part of the galaxy. As Bucharis now controlled interstellar travel in his empire, he continued to suppress any information regarding the events on Terra that brought the Reign of Blood to its end. Using evidence from the time of Vandire he declared himself the true Mouth of the Emperor and the new head of the Adeptus Ministorum. To those who heard his elegant speeches, Terra was a lost cause and Gathalamor was the centre of the Imperial faith from then on. The Plague of Unbelief spread and Bucharis' teachings became the word of law. The worlds under Bucharis' control became intolerable places filled with looting gangs and power-hungry nobles. Neighbour fought against neighbour and families split over the spoils produced by this chaos.
Those who rose to prominence amidst such turmoil caught the eye of Bucharis and were rewarded with more power. Companies of his Renegade Imperial Guard and Planetary Defence Forces were despatched to enforce order in the name of Bucharis, led by those fortunate enough to have Bucharis' favour. Those who served the Apostate Cardinal well were suitably rewarded and those who failed him were appropriately punished. In this way, Bucharis' dominion spread to the stellar north and west. Cautious of approaching too close to Terra until his power was total, Bucharis continued to enforce his conquest across his region of the galaxy.
The northerly advance of Bucharis eventually brought him into the territories under the protection of the Space Wolves Chapter of Space Marines. Bucharis' arrogance would prove to be his undoing, for one of the star systems in his path contained the Death World of Fenris, the homeworld of the Space Wolves, who would ultimately blunt the further expansion of his pocket empire. Bucharis' ultimate undoing, however, would come from a different quarter.
Turmoil on Chiros
With Bucharis forced to divert his resources and focus his attention on Fenris and its Astartes inhabitants, the continuing expansion of his empire had been slowed but not stopped. He had many sub-commanders still exploring to the galactic west and more systems had fallen into his clutches. However, reports began to come through of setbacks suffered in one newly discovered system -- Chiros. The Apostate Cardinal heard that despite horrendous carnage on the world of Chiros, the Chirosians were no closer to surrender.
The commander in charge of the assault, a Renegade Imperial Guard Captain, had wisely restrained his use of the more destructive weapons in his arsenal, fearing that he would scar the beautiful planet, which would make an ideal retreat for the aging Cardinal. Bucharis was pleased with the commander's foresight and sent him three extra companies of men, confident that with these reinforcements he would soon be hunting the abundant game of Chiros, chasing down the prey over the rolling hills of such a natural paradise. It was not to be, as the mercenary captain attacking Chiros regretfully reported his ultimate surrender to the fanatical Chirosians.
Bucharis was stunned. He knew the Imperial Guard were not the most elite fighters of the Imperium, but a whole regiment of them should have been easily capable of defeating whatever meager forces Chiros had to offer. Bucharis' agents returned from the system to make more detailed reports. The mercenaries had not faced a few hundred poorly armed, badly motivated defenders. The whole population of the world had risen against them, each with his hunting rifle and other weapons. Millions of marksmen had riddled the hills and forests, ambushing the Guardsmen and gunning them down in droves before using the hunting trails and lodges to disappear into the wilderness once more. The whole countryside was hostile, there were no supplies, there was no respite and when a suicide squad had charged into the heart of the captain's camp and detonated their home-made explosives, Bucharis' army lost the will to fight on.
The Road to Gathalamor
"I am not asking for blood. I can take your blood. I am asking for souls. Only you can give me your souls. "
- — Great Confessor Dolan Chirosius of Chiros. Sermon On the Road to Gathalamor
Soon after Chiros, another world managed to successfully rebel: the Mining World of Curyan. The miners had cut down their guards with drills and hammers, clambering over a mound of their own dead to strangle their foes with the chains of their shackles. After Curyan came Dolsia, then Vaust. The rebellions were cutting a swathe through Bucharis' domain, straight towards Gathalamor. On Colcha, Bucharis' forces laid an ambush and when a small rebel fleet appeared from the Warp it was attacked and almost entirely destroyed. However, a single shuttle managed to reach the planet's surface. Wary of the shuttle that had landed, the overall commander of Bucharis' forces on Colcha, Fredreich Khust, kept his men and tanks on full alert.
The waiting dragged on for a month, then two months, three months, half a year. A year later, almost to the day, the quiet farmers of Colcha went berserk. They burnt the crop fields, stormed the local barracks with crude shotguns and farming tools, losing three quarters of their number before overwhelming the enemy. They stampeded their vast herds of gigantic gorbeasts into tank companies, crushing the war machines under a thunderous storm of house-sized animals. They dammed the rivers and looted the towns where Khust's men were billeted, sweeping away their own homes. Even the elderly and young children hurled makeshift grenades made from the local distilled Promethium fuel, setting light to the air vents of Leman Russ tanks and choking the crews inside. All across both continents of the world the people of Colcha stopped at nothing to rid themselves of their enslavers.
Pushed from Colcha, and then Lima Rogan, Troudor and a score of other worlds, Bucharis' coffers began to empty more rapidly than they could be filled. Many of his soldiers deserted and there was infighting and dissension even within the highest ranks of his army. And still the revolts continued, like an arrow aimed at the heart of the Apostate Cardinal. Finally, Methalor, the closest inhabited star system to Gathalamor, fell to the rebels, its principal hive city destroyed by a raging inferno started by the inhabitants who overloaded its geo-thermal power grid. Bucharis doubled the security cordon on his own system and ordered every vessel to be stopped and searched.
Not long after the fall of Methalor a messenger arrived at the Cardinal Palace on Gathalamor. With a defiant look and a stern voice, the messenger proclaimed himself the envoy of Confessor Dolan Chirosius. Confessor Dolan called for the immediate surrender of Bucharis. The Cardinal was ordered to resign his position and throw himself on the mercy of the Emperor. Most importantly, he was to renounce his heresies and apostate ideas of self-deliverance.
The Great Confessor
"On the Day of Affirmation it is the custom to light a candle, small and sweetly scented, and while it burns to silently think on those days so long ago. For a few minutes every year the whole universe of mankind falls silent and bends its mind to one purpose - billions of billions of souls drawn together in memory of the Great Confessor."
- — From Dolan Chirosius in the "Ministorum Libra Martyr"
The messenger's remains were nailed to the gates of the Palace where the rats and crows feasted upon them. Confessor Dolan would be coming to Gathalamor soon, and Bucharis wanted his populace to have their first glimpse of their supposed saviour be one of a man bound in chains and whipped through the streets. Soon enough, Dolan's shuttle arrived and the Confessor was taken into custody, charged with various acts of heresy and treason against the Emperor. As Bucharis had promised, Dolan was chained and driven through the streets, while soldiers from his army whipped the Confessor with flails and hurled stones at him. They stuck hooks into his flesh and hung them with weights, driving him onwards with kicks and punches. However, the crowds that lined the streets were sullen and wary.
There were no cheers, but there were no cries of condemnation either. Dolan was dragged across the primary continent of Gathalamor in this way, his journey filled with over six months of constant torture and torment. He was not allowed to sleep, he was starved and had but a mouthful of fetid water a day to survive on. Yet all the while, his fiery stare was not dimmed and he never once bowed his head to the blows of his persecutors.
Bucharis ordered a public show trial of Dolan, charging him with blasphemy and heresy, along with other crimes of treachery, sedition and rebellion. He needed Dolan dead, but Bucharis did not want to provide the desperate people under his heel with a martyr. Dolan would be humiliated and scorned and then found guilty of the charges against him. Only when he was proved to be the enemy of Mankind would he die -- painfully and over a long period of time. The show trial was broadcast across the entirety of Bucharis' stellar domain, so that those who witnessed the event would be in no doubt as to its validity. Of course, Bucharis had no thought of giving Confessor Dolan a fair hearing, but to the masses it had to be made to appear so. Following all the correct Imperial procedures and precedents, Dolan and hundreds of others were questioned and cross-examined. Dolan agreed to conduct his own defence and when, after five long months, the prosecution had completed its work and rested its case, a thousand worlds waited in anticipation.
Dolan explained how he had preached to the people of Chiros, explaining the tyranny of Bucharis and decrying the Apostate Cardinal's false doctrines. He instilled in them the will to fight for their freedom in the Emperor's name, rousing the townsfolk and the hunters with his fiery speeches. With his own testimony this power was witnessed. His eyes burned with religious zeal, he gesticulated wildly to punctuate his thoughts and his manner reached into the soul of everyone who watched and grabbed it tightly. He was a fierce man whom some might have even called insane in his zealotry. Yet there could be no doubt that he was loyal to the Emperor and his faith's most sacred teachings. Chirosius would suffer any personal sacrifice and indignity to see Bucharis toppled and he passed on that fervent hatred to those who listened to him.
For three days Dolan spoke, declaring how he had whipped up the grain harvesters of Bellis XIV to drive their massive scythed machines into the enemy camps, though they would be killed in doing so. He told of how he had led the Farradites as they charged the Immortal Tower, spurring them on when over 9,000 of their number fell to the minefields and defence cannons. It was a speech from him that so incensed the population of Resto Primis they overloaded the geo-thermal power network of their hive city, cracking apart the planet's continents with a wave of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. "What matter," he cried as his crushed hands formed fists raised before him, "if a home is lost or even a world destroyed, if the sacrifice means the end to evil and the heresies of the Emperor's worst foes!"
At the end of the Confessor's long tirade, Bucharis finally spoke. He explained that Dolan's own testimony had condemned him, that he had freely admitted to all the grievous acts and crimes he stood accused of. He had not denied a single charge. The Cardinal addressed his followers and reiterated Dolan's flagrant opposition to the true authority of the Ecclesiarchy. He called Dolan and his followers anarchists and idolaters, a threat to the stability of the entire Imperium. Dolan's acts of rebellion and heresy left him no choice but to order the Confessor's execution. Appealing for the mercy of the Emperor upon Dolan's soul, he commanded his men to take him to the dungeons. For almost eight long months Dolan endured unknown torment at the hands of Bucharis' torturers.
When at last he died, his body was flung from the walls of the Palace for the scavenging dogs and birds to feast upon. His body had been maimed beyond recognition. Hideous scars and burns marred his flesh, telling a tale of great pain and misery. Despite the horrendous torments inflicted upon his body, Dolan's face exuded a calm serenity and peace lay like an aura across his corpse. Those who saw it wept openly, even though any who exhibited such grief were themselves accused of heresy and put to death by the Cardinal's security forces. Yet the carrion eaters never had their banquet: Dolan's body disappeared shortly after and was never found.
Death of a Tyrant
In the end, Bucharis' plan to shame the Confessor backfired wildly. In allowing the Confessor to speak, he had given Dolan the means to spread his message further across the stars than it ever would have done otherwise. When the Confessor's death was announced, Bucharis' domain erupted into open revolt. Almost as one, the populations of a thousand worlds attacked their cruel overseers. Inspired by the sacrifice of the Great Confessor, millions of men, women and children faced the guns of their foes with their bare hands.
Bucharis' palace itself was stormed, and traitors within his own ranks opened the gates to allow the faithful to gain their vengeance. As his few loyal servants held back the human tide that poured through the passages and halls destroying everything in its path, Bucharis fled. Using a network of tunnels he made his way to the Cardinal World's spaceport where he intended to board the next shuttle leaving and desert everything he had built to preserve his own life. Again, his own closest followers betrayed him, hoping to save themselves from the savagery of the mob. Warned of Bucharis' imminent departure, the inhabitants of Gathalamor surrounded the spaceport.
They threw themselves at its electrified walls until the generators short-circuited. Bucharis never reached his ship. The mob found him even as he was boarding. Swallowed up in a mass of hundreds of thousands of former slaves crying for revenge and his blood, he was tom apart. His body was never recovered, but when the mass of repressed citizens dispersed, the scattered ashes of a fire were all that was left to mark the place of his demise.
In the wake of Bucharis' death his pocket empire was reabsorbed into the Imperium and the Plague of Unbelief came to its end. The Ecclesiarchy soon canonised Confessor Dolan Chirosius as an Imperial Saint and his extraordinary faith in the God-Emperor and willingness to countenance any sacrifice in pursuit of His will has been an inspiration for thousands of years to countless members of the faithful across the galaxy.
- Codex Imperialis, pg. 39
- Codex: Sisters of Battle (2nd Edition), pp. 40-42, 44
- The Killing Ground (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 304-305