"In the sunless body of our Hive, the flock of the faithful grows. We are guided by our Great Father's sacred vision, protected by his loving hands. Within these holy shadows we dwell, while the impure bathe in spire-top starlight. And what lies between those stars? What sails beyond those distant suns? Shrouded in night, borne within that eternal black: Our redeemers, our Gods -- truer than the silent, long-dead Emperor -- the Children of the Void. We hear them in our dreams, we feel them in our blood. They call and we will answer. We will rise and claim the engines of labour that have bound us in servitude. This world will burn. It will be cleansed, purified, made ready, and the Heavens will deliver our reward!"
- —Unknown Genestealer Cult Magus
A Genestealer Cult is a xenos-worshipping secret society made up of and controlled by Tyranid Genestealers that thrives in the dark corners of the Imperial underworld across the galaxy. Secretive, stealthy, and utterly malignant, Genestealer Cults are the cancers growing unseen in the hidden spaces of Mankind's realm.
Their purpose is to rise up and take control of Imperial worlds in the name of a xenos god that is actually a Tyranid Hive Fleet. Once the world is under their control, the cultists' psychic emanations are picked up by the closest Hive Fleet's extension of the Hive Mind which is then drawn to consume the world, cultists and all.
Some cultists are truly monstrous, skulking along dank tunnels with robes or hessian sacks covering their hybrid xenos anatomies. Others are merely pallid and bald, able to pass for loyal Imperial citizens whilst their wyrm-form tattoos remain hidden.
These latter-generation brethren mingle amongst the herd of Mankind like wolves in sheep's clothing, working so hard amongst the crumbling machineries of Human industry that none spare them a second glance -- but under their work fatigues and rough miner's apparel, they all bear the mark of the alien.
Once their brotherhood becomes strong enough, and all is in place for their great uprising, the Genestealer Cult will make its play. The militant throng boils by the thousand from sewers, tunnels and basements, seeping from the spires high above like insects pouring from a hidden nest. On this darkly glorious day of war, the cult's warriors are already ten steps ahead of the enemy.
Saboteurs have shattered the supply lines of those who would oppose them, hidden agents have assassinated key commanders, and routes of escape have been cut off by demolition crews and blast teams. Those wise enough to flee find the city streets and arterial passageways blocked by burning wreckage -- or by packs of hybrid creatures waiting to pounce. Every eventuality the cult's masters could foresee is accounted for, every advantage stacked in their favour.
The enemy find their ammunition crates empty, their fuel reserves dry, their transport craft hijacked and their supporting fleet holed and listing in orbit. When the cult attacks, the enemy is already surrounded, stranded and half-beaten, ripe for a slaughter long-planned.
The butchery the cult metes out upon its enemies is terrible indeed. Though the greater masses of these hordes are armed little better than planetary militia, their sheer numbers and fanatical devotion make them a fierce prospect in a firefight. High-level threats will be ambushed -- not only by mutant hybrids that hiss and shriek as they impale the foe upon their claws and bladed limbs, but also by the Purestrain Genestealers of generations past and present.
The commanders of the enemy force are met in battle by the leaders of the cult -- the Primus, an inspirational war leader; the Magus, a hypnotic telepath; and the Patriarch itself, a monstrous terror that crossed the vastness of space to bring disaster to the world.
In truth, the cult is in thrall to a far greater power. Unseen and utterly beyond comprehension, this inevitable force, this Great Devourer, is drawn to the prey world by the very cult that seeks to conquer it. When the doomsayers of this dark dynasty cry that the end of the world is nigh, their claims are more accurate than even they imagine.
"We are biological perfection. We blend the ingenuity and cunning of Mankind with the blessings of the Star Children. We are stronger, faster, more intelligent than any who challenge us. We will take that which is ours from the upworlders, and remake it in the image of our true masters. It is our destiny."
- —Monthros Amaparha, Speaker of Galactic Truths
From the dark depths and shadowy streets emerge the Genestealer Cultists, malformed figures united by a sinister worship of inscrutable star-born entities. Secretive, stealthy and utterly malignant, they are the cankers growing unseen in the hidden spaces of the Imperium.
Humanity is beset on all fronts by xenos raiders and the nightmarish forces of Chaos. Billions of lives are sacrificed upon the altar of war every day to keep the enemy at bay. Yet the most insidious threat to Mankind's survival may already have seeped into the bloodstream of the Imperium. Embedded into the infrastructure of countless seemingly loyal worlds, the Genestealer Cults bide their time, spreading tendrils of corruption through the native population until they are ready to begin their bloody insurrections. Once unleashed, they rise up in a surging tide, armed with stolen Imperial weaponry and crude industrial tools turned to horrific purposes.
When the Imperium first encountered Genestealers upon the moons of Ymgarl, they thought them to be a unique alien species. In fact, as the Ordo Xenos discovered after a harrowing series of investigations, they are the vanguard organisms that the Tyranid Hive Fleets seed before them to create disunity and fear in their path. Resilient and possessed of razor-sharp claws that can carve through even Adeptus Astartes war-plate, Genestealers are used in open battle by the Hive Fleets as shock troops.
When infiltrating Imperial space, however, the Genestealers instead show their capacity for stealth and cunning. Slinking and creeping, stalking and murdering in silence, solitary Genestealers stow away on Imperial spacecraft and spread along space lanes like a virus. In theory it only takes one Genestealer successfully slipping aboard a cargo freighter and reaching a populated world to spell the doom of an entire sector. There are legends in the Imperium of titanic Space Hulks infested with tens of thousands of these creatures -- such a nest could bring utter catastrophe to swathes of the Imperium.
Should a Genestealer reach a suitable world, its dark work begins in earnest. In the space of a few Terran years, hundreds of civilians will have been abducted by the creature and infected with Tyranid genetic structures. In time, the infected give birth to vile hybrids of xenos and human -- those descended from the first victims are unmistakably alien, with large, domed heads and razor-sharp talons.
As the genetic corruption continues to spread, subsequent generations are born who can pass as human, and are able to blend in with the wider population -- and even Imperial organisations such as the Adeptus Arbites, the Departmento Munitorum and the Astra Militarum.
As the cult's numbers grow, more specialised hybrids are created to serve the Genestealer, now worshipped as the Patriarch. Maguses are psychically gifted individuals tainted by the Patriarch's will, tasked with converting key targets within the planet's government and military leadership. The hybrid masses are organised and led by Primuses, generals and ambush specialists responsible for coordinating the eventual uprising.
Nexoses provide tactical support to their Primus' strategic plans, their command of detail and contingency second to none. Sanctuses act as assassins, and Locuses as bodyguards, even as Clamavuses preach the word of the cult and foil enemy communications. Atalan Jackals speed into battle upon Dirtcycles and Wolfquads, harrying the enemy flanks whilst Purestrain Genestealers and Aberrant monstrosities -- sometimes bolstered by the gene-alchemists known as Biophaguses -- act as shock troops.
Whether it takes a handful of solar months or many standard years, eventually the cult will go on the warpath. Only then will the Patriarch send the synaptic order to rise up and drown the planet in blood. When the creature's minions receive the psychic command to begin the insurrection, the hybrids arm themselves with purloined military gear and mining tools, and surge forth from their hidden lairs in massed tides.
Guided by the cunning will of their war leaders, they strike first at key tactical locations like communications outposts, spaceports and munition yards. Stripped of its defences and ability to call for help, the planet is left ripe for conquest.
In a frenzy of brutal violence, the cultist uprising falls upon those enemies who pose the greatest threat to the cult's agenda. Bones are shattered by ear-bursting blasts from Seismic Cannons, weaponised rock drills are thrust into vulnerable flesh in a horrifying eruption of gore, and mining charges are used as makeshift grenades. The banners and sigils of the cult are unveiled at last, standards and wyrm-form totems held high by Acolyte Iconwards whose presence inspires the broodkin to new heights of savage fervour.
During the many long years of preparation for this moment, the cult will have stolen and sequestered many vehicles to aid it in its murderous campaign. Rugged Goliath Trucks and Goliath Rockgrinders, a common sight in mines and manufactoria all across the Imperium, are turned to violent purpose. Mounted with a range of heavy armaments, Goliath Trucks rush broods of Acolytes to the front lines, carving a path across even the most rugged of terrain and releasing an unceasing hail of bullets to tear through enemy infantry. Rockgrinders simply crash into the centre of the foe's formations, reaping a hideous toll as their saw-toothed Drilldozer Blades grind screaming bodies into bloody paste.
Should the threat of enemy armour emerge, the cult will respond by deploying stolen Leman Russ tanks and Sentinel walkers, piloted by Neophyte Hybrids who laid hidden in the ranks of human armies for solar decades. Utterly loyal to the Patriarch, they turn their guns on their former comrades without a second thought. The psychological impact of this sudden betrayal is a weapon in itself.
All too often the stimulus for this uprising is the approach of a Tyranid bio-fleet -- those the cult in their delusions see as saviours from above. As the Hive Fleet vomits its swarms of warrior-organisms into the stricken world's atmosphere, the cultists sing rapturous prayers to their deliverers.
Even as the Tyranids exterminate and devour every source of biomass on the planet, still the cultists hold faith in their corrupted hearts that these voracious aliens will elevate the faithful, helping them to transcend their mortal weaknesses.
Eagerly they await the blessed oneness of form and purpose they have been promised. For a while at least, the Tyranids and the Patriarch's brood fight as one, the Hive Mind's psychic control ensuring that the cult is not preyed upon. Maguses hurl illusions that warp and tear at the minds of the enemy, turning them upon each other with sadistic pleasure.
The Patriarch's generals marshal their forces with consummate skill, spending their warriors' lives by the thousands to open a path for the Tyranid assault. In this final, exalted hour the Patriarch himself enters the fray, and his faithful are sent into a zealous frenzy as their prophet rips the unworthy apart with razored claws and shredding fangs.
As soon as the last of the defenders is overrun by this tide of chitin and scything claws, the Hive Mind subsumes the Patriarch into its greater consciousness. It becomes merely another organism in the Tyranid swarm, the psychic Broodmind that once united its cult severed in an instant. In an awful moment of realisation, the cultists at last understand the fell truth.
Those same creatures from beyond the stars that they once worshipped as gods are revealed as their doom incarnate -- for to the Tyranids, all flesh is much the same.
The first confirmed Imperial engagement with a Genestealer Cult occurred upon the mining colony of Ghosar Quintus in 680.M41. Investigating what appeared to be a perversion of the Imperial Creed, Inquisitor Chaegryn led a team of Tempestus Scions to Ghosar Quintus and ventured into the depths of the Great Pit. The deeper Chaegryn ventured, the more evidence of deviance he found. Strangely, his last communiqué stated that all was well, and that the Trysst Dynasty that ruled Ghosar Quintus should be left to its own devices.
It was a full standard year before Chaegryn's fellows in the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition noticed that something was deeply wrong. A five-man Kill-team of Deathwatch Space Marines was sent on a follow-up mission of lethal investigation, yet they too were swallowed by the mysteries of the Great Pit. Only when the steel-willed Chaplain Ortan Cassius mustered his own hand-picked Kill-team was the vile truth unearthed -- Ghosar Quintus was home to a xenos infestation.
Kill-team Cassius fought through hundreds of Genestealer Cultists as they plumbed the depths of the Trysst Dynasty's corrupted world. Though they made it out alive, the Space Marines were changed forever by the gruesome ordeal. Most shocking of all was not the Genestealer Patriarch that lurked at the heart of the cult, but the damning evidence in the mining cult's shipping holographs. Under the guise of industry, the xenos-tainted Trysst Dynasty had spread its curse across not only the Ghosar System, but throughout the sector. The implications were staggering.
The Hidden Dynasties
Only those Imperial operatives of the highest echelon have an inkling of how far the Genestealer Curse has spread across Mankind's realm. For every Cult that has been thrust into the light, whether by its own ascendancy or by the burning fires of extermination, there remain a dozen hidden in the dark spaces of the galaxy, waiting for their moment to strike.
Prior to Formal Imperial Classification, ca. M40
- The Pyropurge (Unknown Date.M40) - The Pyropurge of Jauseth Septima is thought to be exhaustive. Using psychic means, the Puritan Inquisitor Dethrec Balthagar and his Deathwatch allies root out every last trace of Genestealer infection on the planet. However, a fourth generation cultist with the germ-seed of the alien left the infected world three solar weeks earlier aboard a cryopod shuttle, and he later returns to his home planet. Within three Terran years of Inquisitor Balthagar's death in service, Jauseth Septima is overrun once more.
- The Infested (Unknown Date.M40) - The capital world of New Gidlam falls to the Hivecult. The underworld brotherhoods first take over the lower portions of each teeming hive city, then infect the Imperial aristocracy that live a privileged life in the spires above. The gangs that have carved out territory in the lower levels fight to the last bullet, uniting as one in the face of the greater alien threat, but are eventually overcome. New Gidlam's principal human exports -- skilled roachworm silkers and recruits for the Astra Militarum -- spread the infection of the Hivecult from the outworlds of the Imperial domain and into its heartlands. Before the solar decade is out, the largest Hive World in the Segmentum Solar is assailed by the burgeoning Genestealer Cult, and the cycle of war begins anew.
- Death In the Jungle (Unknown Date.M40) - Moraz III, a Death World swathed in carnivorous jungle flora, is struck by the wreckage of a Rogue Trader's menagerie-ship. The Genestealer that breaks free from the ship's hold infects the local populace, giving rise to the nascent Cult Veridian. However, every human and hybrid member of the dynasty is killed when a regiment of Catachan Jungle Fighters uses Moraz III as a training world for their hunt-and-slay tactics. Only the Genestealers escape. Once the Catachans have left the planet, the xenos emerge once more, swiftly becoming the alpha predator of the jungle and reclaiming Moraz III for themselves before beginning the cycle anew.
- The Last Hierarch of Evergrind (Unknown Date.M40) - Robbed of both its Genestealer Patriarch and Magus after a pinpoint strike by the Imperial Navy, the Cult of the Star Saviours misreads a week-long meteor shower as a sign of imminent salvation. Taking the shooting stars in the skies of Evergrind as confirmation that celestial rapture is close at hand, the self-proclaimed "Last Hierarch," Primus Adamant, puts into motion his plans of conquest. On the night of the grand insurrection, every breeder city and dust farm upon Evergrind's surface is lit by the fires of revolution as the cult insurgency rises to impressively destructive heights. The cult's ascendance is like a flame to dry tinder. Riots break out in every quadrant as the local citizens take the opportunity to loot, kill and burn, exacting revenge for endless Terran centuries of oppression by their taskmasters. During the fighting, Primus Adamant is slain by an entrenched heavy weapons team, and with his demise the cult loses much of its cohesion. By the time the new moon rises, the planet has devolved into a post-apocalyptic bedlam populated by warring tribes, lone scavengers and scuttling half-xenos predators. Those craft whose captains are foolish enough to make planetfall upon Evergrind are soon brought low and claimed by the leaderless and atavistic cult -- and the ships' passengers with them.
- A Doom Unstoppable (Unknown Date.M40) - A strike force of Black Guardians from Craftworld Ulthwé descends upon the gyroscopic space station of Delugen. The prophetic Farseer Anathroelle Starseeker leads her warriors into Delugen's corridors. There they slay the Cult Tendricul in the most thorough fashion, putting every human they find to the sword. The station's astropathic distress signal reaches a Black Templars fleet, and whilst the Asuryani are rooting the last of the humans from the station's corridors, the Boarding Torpedoes of the Space Marines strike home. The Ulthwé force is driven off, and the last few survivors of Delugen escape. Within a standard year, the symbols of the Cult Tendricul are seen on a dozen planets, including the Aeldari Maiden World Virgose.
Classification and Dire Implications, M41
- The Ghosar Quintus Anomaly (680.M41) - Inquisitor Chaegryn of the Ordo Xenos investigates rumours of a hidden religion upon a mining planetoid, a "Delverworld," in the Ghosar System. He and his requisitioned Tempestus Scions report many anomalous findings before mysteriously reporting that all is well, that last missive followed by ominous silence. The Deathwatch investigate -- first with a small group of operatives, then, when they too go missing, in greater force. Chaplain Ortan Cassius of the Ultramarines hand-picks a team of elite operatives to form an Aquila Kill-team, and launches a hunt-and-destroy investigation. They find Ghosar Quintus' Great Pit entirely overrun by the Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor, the centre of a web of industrial infestations that spreads across the sector and beyond.
- A Single Seed (Unknown Date.M41) - The wreckage of the freighter Pegasine, destroyed by the Lance strike of an Ordo Xenos corvette, spirals through the skies of the Frontier World Hopefoster. Most of the debris burns up on entry, but the largest section lands more or less intact. After long solar weeks spent healing, a single Genestealer survivor awakens in the wreckage. It becomes the Patriarch of the Voidbrood, and after a Terran century of unfettered expansion, its cult rises up to overrun the planet entirely.
- The Gnarling (Unknown Date.M41) - Upon the Forge World of Ecovoria, the spider-like figure known only as the "Gnarling" becomes a popular bogeyman used to scare the manufactorum caste's children into obedience. Tragically, a kernel of truth lurks in the legend of a subterranean monster clad in a cloak of human skin. Ten generations after the first grand-mamzel tells her wards the Gnarling will steal them away, giant sinkholes appear across Ecovoria -- the secret tunnels burrowed under each forge complex were so extensive that entire portions of the planet's crust fall away. Black-limbed Genestealer Cultists boil out of each underground warren in impossible numbers, first ripping apart the Skitarii maniples sent to quarantine each sinkhole, then attacking the wider populace. Through the carnage stalks the Genestealer Patriarch that gave rise to the Gnarling myth, the leathery devotionals tied to its spine billowing in the winds of open war.
- The Greater Good Corrupted (Unknown Date.M41) - A lone Genestealer from Hive Fleet Gorgon reaches the T'au Sept World of Ksi'm'yen. The creature is captured by the planet's Earth Caste scientists and subjected to extensive analysis, resulting in a lowly worker being implanted with a measure of Genestealer germ-seed. The grotesque anatomies that spring up in the laboratories are seen as curious rather than blasphemous by the ever-inquisitive Earth Caste, for the T'au approach to alien life forms is founded on the concept of acceptance and tolerance. When the research divisions experience a bloody schism twenty Terran years later, the Fire Caste are called in, only to find many subterranean research facilities overrun. Ksi'm'yen is consumed by war, and quarantined for almost ten Terran years before the eccentric Ethereal Aun'ghol declares it productive and clean.
- The Sin of Damnation (589.M41) - Sergeant Lorenzo -- a gifted Blood Angels tactician –- leads two squads of Terminators to board the Space Hulk designated the Sin of Damnation. Within that legendary hulk the Blood Angels erase the shame of their Chapter's former defeat, releasing a poison throughout the behemoth that kills the tens of thousands of Genestealers slumbering in void-hibernation within its cavernous recesses. In doing so, the Space Marines prevent the vanguard organisms from spreading across the stars, eradicating thousands of potential cults before they have a chance to spawn.
- Xenos War (Unknown Date.M41) - A Genestealer Cult rises in the shadows of the Octarius Sector's Scrapworld Dakka. The Orks of Mount Mekaniak are impressed by the massive Gargant Clawbeast, a purple monstrosity of beaten metal built with six limbs. When the Vostroyan Firstborn descend to kill the planet's ruler, Gurnmek of the Iron Fist, Clawbeast is deployed to terrifying effect. The Vostroyans send in whole companies of Devil Dog tanks to carve up the Gargant, and succeed in stopping it in its tracks -- until the Gargant's great belly hinges open, spilling hundreds of Genestealers into the ranks of the Astra Militarum. They tear open the tanks and feast on the fleshy bounty within.
- The Vitria Strike (Unknown Date.M41) - Evidence of Tyranid infestation is uncovered upon the glasscrete world of Vitria. A platoon of Kappic Eagles takes battle to the Genestealers lurking within the shattered pane-habs. They engage the xenos broods in a battle that culminates in a desperate fight against a Tyranid Lictor. The beast is slain, and its lair examined in detail. Its walls are covered with doomsayer ravings -- phrases daubed in blood telling of numberless killers from beyond the stars, of death made flesh, and of a "Great Devourer." Amongst them was a single word repeated over and over -- "Cryptus."
- Beyond Salvation (Unknown Date.M41) - The dusty but adamantium-rich planet of Soharia becomes host to an infestation of the Cult of the Rusted Claw. Wide-roaming, they make little effort to conceal their growing influence. Planetary Governor Endst, loath to inform the proper authorities and hence invite a potential Exterminatus action upon his beloved world, resorts to drastic measures of his own. After arranging systematic bio-scans via his extensive collection of Servo-skulls, Endst takes great pains to sort those untouched by xenos gene-taint from those who may be compromised. He does so in secret, for news of a Genestealer Cult insurrection has reached him from the neighbouring world of Ghord Ninth, and he dares not trigger a full uprising just yet. Instead, those deemed genetically pure are gradually secreted in a network of underground bunkers, each locked with a cellular syringe system that keeps it inviolable against the alien. Then, when he is sure his core supporters are safe, Endst levels a systematic bombardment of hyperfusion missiles from his personal arsenal at all those cities he marks on his prized cartographs as "beyond salvation." The solar-week-long firestorms that follow raze the planet's surface, eradicating 99% of the populace. Only the hardiest and most resourceful escape the firestorms, but unfortunately for Endst, they include a great proportion of outrider cultists from the Rusted Claw. The years that follow, known as the "Dust Hunt," see those same outriders scour the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Soharia for the enclaves of pure-blooded humans forced to ride out the radiation of their own nuclear winter. One by one they are found, compromised, and corrupted by the agents of the Rusted Claw -- and within the solar decade, even Endst himself is converted to the cult's nihilistic creed.
- The Xenos and the Beast (Unknown Date.M41) - An infestation of the Rusted Claw finds it near impossible to move their Magus across the planet of Anacharos at anything faster than a walk. Their Magus' skin crawls with a high concentration of metallophage organisms, and any metal nearby instantly corrodes, rendering vehicles in his vicinity inoperable. Securing the aid of their allies in the Bladed Cog, they commission a succession of Departmento Munitorum crates made of plastic compounds that are just as hard as steel. With these they are able to spread the war leaders of their cult from one planet to another. When their Primus, the resourceful Fender Threnn, hears word of a nest of Ferro-Beasts in the long-forsaken Yimbo System, he uses the same Munitorum crates to capture the armadillo-like metal-eating monsters by the dozen. These he sets loose in the spaceports of Anacharos, causing utter havoc as the beasts go into a feeding frenzy amongst the richly appointed vessels. The distraction is used to full effect as the cult rises up against the rich upworlders -- who, when attempting to flee the planet, find many of their vessels already half-eaten.
- The Bore Wars (Unknown Date.M41) - The Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor takes over the volcano-farming world of Thousandile in a single Terran year. Having been commissioned to "bleed" the lava rivers that are slowly cooking Thousandile's hive cities -- much as a medicae would use leeches to bleed a swollen limb -- the Trysst mining dynasty brings in hundreds of large industrial drills. At first, their work goes well -- or so it seems -- as the temperature in the hives drops to become bearable once more. Then, on what comes to be known as the "Day of Eruption," all of the geothermic tunnels overflow at once -- worse still, their level is swiftly rising. The reason for the rising tide of lava is secondary to survival. In their desperation, all the gangs within the hive move to higher ground, fighting their way into the upper spires and eventually overcoming the Spyrer hunters who attempt to repel them through sheer weight of numbers. Meanwhile, the cultists of the Four-armed Emperor take more and more of the hive for their own territory, and when the lava recedes, use aqua pipes and sluices to harden the metal of the main hive once more. Amongst the melted organic-looking labyrinths of the lower hives, a new order rises -- and this time, its deadly tides rise all the way to the top.
- A Single Shot (Unknown Date.M41) - The first Sanctus of the Twisted Helix, Astrid Xeneca, infiltrates a crowd of Imperial pilgrims upon Immortis IX. From the courtyard of the famed Ivory Basilicanum, she plants a dart from her serum needler in the jugular vein of the Arch-Cardinal Vidderminster just as he is mid-speech on his balcony. The needler, customised to fire a glass tube so thin it bypasses the Arch-Cardinal's electromagnetic saviour shield, delivers a potent cocktail of hypertrophic enzymes. Specially concocted by Xeneca's Biophagus brother, the enzymes go to work with astonishing speed. In front of a millions-strong audience of adoring Imperial faithful, the Adeptus Ministorum leader swells up like a balloon and bursts in a splatter of gore just as he is proclaiming the immunity of the pious man to the insidious scourge of the xenos. It is a blow to the political stability of Immortis IX that leads to the appointment of a new Arch-Cardinal from off world, new trade deals, compulsory medicae visits, and ultimately the New Wars of Faith that lead to the planet's downfall.
- Shadow of the Leviathan (997.M41) - Reports of a new and mighty Tyranid Hive Fleet emerge -- later designated Hive Fleet Leviathan. But the Leviathan moves into the galaxy not from one prime sector, as with Hive Fleets Kraken and Behemoth, but a dozen at once. A wave of insurgencies rises up across the Segmentum Solar. Hundreds of Genestealer Cults reveal themselves in the space of a single Terran month. The Deathwatch, spread too thin to halt these unforeseen conquests, seek help from the wider Adeptus Astartes -- but to no avail.
- The Spawn of Cryptus (998.M41) - Soon after the Kappic Eagles' mission report from Vitria reaches the Commissariat, the Cryptus System is reinforced by Cadians, Sisters of Battle, and the Militarum Tempestus. The area known as the Shield of Baal -- that cordon of space that protects Baal, the homeworld of the Blood Angels Chapter -- is placed on a war footing not a moment too soon. The warnings found on Vitria prove prescient -- tendrils of Hive Fleet Leviathan reach out to consume every living thing in the overpopulated Cryptus System. As soon as the Leviathan splinter fleet's innumerable bio-ships pass through the icy shield of the Aegis Diamando, the corruption upon the capital world of Asphodex is revealed. The ruling family of Asphodex's principal metropolis has long been corrupted by the towering Genestealer known as the "Spawn of Cryptus," and its aristocracy work to undo everything the Astra Militarum has achieved. When a Blood Angels fleet from the neighbouring Baal System arrives to bolster the increasingly desperate defenders, Captain Arenos Karlaen of the Veteran Blood Angels 1st Company, "the Archangels," leads his brothers under the city in a series of escalating battles that eventually sees the Spawn of Cryptus slain and its vile brood scattered to the stars.
- Infestation and Plague (ca. 998.M41) - The Genestealer Cult Tenebrous finds itself becoming the infested, rather than the infesters, when their bulk lander is swallowed by a Warp Storm that strands them on the outskirts of the Garden of Nurgle in the Realm of Chaos. The cult discovers the true meaning of parasitism and horror. Eventually, the Grandfather of Plagues allows them to emerge into realspace once more, horrifically changed and ready to serve their new master's sickly agendas.
- Shadow of the Leviathan (ca. 999.M41) - Reports of a new and mighty Hive Fleet emerge -- not from one prime sector, as with Hive Fleets Kraken and Behemoth, but a dozen at once. A wave of insurgencies rises up across the Segmentum Solar. Hundreds of Genestealer Cults reveal themselves in the space of a single Terran month. The Deathwatch, spread too thin to halt these unforeseen conquests, seek help from the wider Adeptus Astartes -- but to no avail.
- A Deathly Gift (ca. 999.M41) - On the Agri-world of Cornucopia, a splinter fleet of the shattered Hive Fleet Behemoth triggers the rise of the Genestealer Cult known as the Starchosen. The Ultramarines 8th Company put down the insurrection at great cost, its massed Assault Marines taking their Chainswords to the Genestealers and their kin until none are left alive. Planetary Governor Udo Ingloriam sends a cargo ship full of brand new Goliath Trucks to Masali, Cornucopia's twin Agri-world within Ultramar's borders. Only after the vehicles are found to be full of Genestealers, sealed within antique stasis caskets to prevent detection, is Udo Ingloriam's treachery uncovered. The 8th Company returns to Cornucopia. This time, it is all but destroyed, for the Starchosen have grown strong indeed. On the orders of Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar himself, the planet is designated Perdita and subjected to Exterminatus.
- The Wyrmslayers (999.M41) - A Genestealer Cult calling themselves the Wyrms of the Ur-tendril are discovered by Ordo Xenos agents, entrenched amongst the Nordafrik under-archives on Terra. Adeptus Custodes Captain-General Trajann Valoris refuses a request by the Deathwatch to send Kill-teams against this threat, instead leading the purge in person at the head of a huge Adeptus Custodes Shield Host. The cult put up a brutal fight, their sheer numbers and fanaticism allowing them to drag down one Custodian after another and tear them limb from limb. Yet for every one of the Custodians that falls, hundreds upon hundreds of malformed cultists and Aberrants are slaughtered. At last, Valoris himself beheads the monstrous Broodlord that ruled over the cult. He orders the creature's disturbing inner sanctum burned despite the protests from the Ordo Xenos investigators -- Valoris refuses to let anyone other than his comrades witness the foul mural that decorates the sanctum's back wall, of a nest of fanged tendrils emerging from the heart of Sol itself to devour Terra whole...
The Coming of the Great Rift, M41-M42
Note: All dates from this point forward are provisional due to errors in the Imperial Calendar, meaning these events could actually have occurred at any time from the early 41st Millennium to the early 42nd Millennium.
- The War of Beasts (Unknown Date.M42) - As the Great Rift tears open the skies of the Imperium, the Orks of the Supreme Speedlord, Krooldakka, invade the Sentinel World of Vigilus at the mouth of the Nachmund Gauntlet in the Dark Imperium. In doing so they trigger an uprising of the Cult of the Pauper Princes, who fight the Greenskins with great fervour to regain control of the world they were poised to seize. With communication lost amidst an unprecedented level of Warp Storm interference, the Atalans of the cult's outriders come into their own, acting as go-betweens to better coordinate the uprisings in each hivesprawl continent. They fight dozens of running battles against the Speed Freeks who form the bulk of the WAAAGH!, the sharp reflexes of hybrids on agile bikes and Wolfquads lending them a critical advantage against the thuggish upgunned buggies and wagons of the Orks. Control of the wastes passes back and forth as the Imperials counterattack the xenos invaders, but Vigilus has worse to come. The Chaos invasion that follows sees Abaddon the Despoiler assail the world, and hidden Chaos Cults rise up to match their dark faith against the righteous ire of the Pauper Princes. The planet is brought to the brink of utter destruction.
- The Wolf Bites Back (Unknown Date.M42) - When the fortified water reservoirs of Oteck Hivesprawl on Vigilus are corrupted by the Claw of the Thirsting Wyrm gene-sect of the Pauper Princes, a Space Wolves strike force led by Haldor Icepelt track down the mutant xenos hybrids responsible and put them to the torch. Several of the Space Marines fall in the battle, and three of their number are trapped in the rubble when the entire district is collapsed by pre-planted explosives. One veteran of the Fenrisian force upon Vigilus, Brand Sabrewulf, fights his way back out, waging a oneman war against the underground xenos worshippers that culminates in Brand slaying the gene-sect's Primus in a bloody duel. When the Astra Militarum finally reclaims the area, Brand is found wounded and out of ammunition, but alive. Upon his recovery, his knowledge of the tunnels proves invaluable in the wars to come on Vigilus.
- A Subtle Conquest (Unknown Date.M42) - The formidable Neris Vignostiquod, appointed as vizier to the Court Ingenius, is greeted in great ceremony as she descends from her sleek voidship upon the scribe-moon of Hexensix. The event is attended in person by Quillmaster-General Retrovetch, the de facto leader of the court and hence the entire planet. From the moment their eyes meet, Retrovetch is spellbound, for the newcomer has something about her that commands instant respect. So smitten is he that his usual machinations fall by the wayside. Instead he spends every waking moment learning of the new philosophy espoused by Vignostiquod, that of communality in the name of the Holy Sun. When the rest of Magus Vignostiquod's dynasty arrive, the solar cults who have taken control of the planet mean it is already ripe for the taking by the Star Children. Too late the Court Ingenius realises they are, in reality, worshipping a collective xenos entity that will soon blot out the sun above their world...
- A Blade Unsheathed (Unknown Date.M42) - The scions of the Bladed Cog, having thrown off their oppressors on Feinminster Gamma, take their crusade against the oppression of the Adeptus Mechanicus to a string of Forge Worlds across the system -- and to the Iron Hands Space Marines that the priests of Mars call their allies. They propagate the belief that the Machine Cult is misleading the people of the Imperium by cleaving to the mantra that the flesh is weak, and those without access to cybernetic augmentation prove most receptive to the idea they too have intrinsic value. The Bladed Cog welcomes the flesh and blood as well as the cyborg, preaching that flesh is clay to be hardened in the kiln of war rather than replaced entirely. In secret training camps they amass their armies of faith, equipping them with the finest wargear the Imperium can provide. When they strike against the Iron Hands of Clan Raukaan on the Forge World of Ghoulwright, the resultant techwar sees the planet consumed in the fires of battle.
- Parasites Within (Unknown Date.M42) - The Cult of the Innerwyrm spreads far and wide across the Affluix Sector by using the grox-meat export network of Peregrim's World. The steroid-enhanced beasts grown by Ethod Peregrim's famous meat dynasty reach truly massive sizes, altered by the dictates of the industry's selective breeding to have vast torsos and abdomens -- large enough to contain Purestrain Genestealers sewn into their guts by Innerwyrm abattoir workers. By sending the massive grox carcasses to a dozen different worlds in the famously paranoid Fort Adere star system, the Innerwyrm agents bypass the complex bio-scanner protocols that would otherwise have picked up on the biological tissue of the Genestealers smuggled within the meat. A new ecosystem is born on each of the infested planets, though it is not just grox-meat that forms its sustenance.
- The Heart of the Voidbrood (Unknown Date.M42) - After the worldwide invasion of the Agri-world Taurensi IX, during which a vast swarm of Tyranids descended to annihilate the planet's Astra Militarum defenders, the Hive Mind's creatures begin to consume the planet -- but do not turn upon the Genestealer Cultists of the Voidbrood who helped prepare the way for their conquest. Perhaps the strange departure from the Tyranid consumption modus is due to a psychic imperative from the cult's Genestealer Patriarch, or perhaps it can be traced to a flaring of the Cicatrix Maledictum high above -- but to the cultists themselves, it is simply another aspect of their divine ascension. They take to the skies in bulk freighters alongside the vast, sky-spanning bio-ships of the Hive Fleet, and are ignored entirely by the Tyranids, much as the tiny scavenger-fish is ignored by the goreshark with which it shares a symbiotic bond. The rest of the Taurensi System is conquered by an invasion of zealous, frothing Genestealer Cultists and the trillions-strong swarms of the Tyranids that they think of as their allies -- when in truth, the synapse creatures of the Tyranid hordes see the cultists as little more than ambulatory biomass to be consumed whenever the need arises.
- Tiamet Rising (Unknown Date.M42) - Ziaphoria, the repugnant and anomalous Jungle World claimed by Hive Fleet Tiamet, becomes the site of a disturbing new development in the curse of tyrannoforming, the hyper-accelerated biological process that is used to overcome and devour the prey worlds of the Hive Mind. There the conquering Hive Fleets have constructed vast psychic resonators of fleshy, encephalitic material -- some the size of mountains, some large enough to cover entire continents. The world forms the end point of a vast pilgrimage of Genestealer Cultists from the nearby planet of Heinrich's March. Led by a blind prophet known as "the Conduit," they depart from a world plagued by the Dark Gods, plying the stars to eventually land upon Ziaphoria's pulsating crust. Those who touch the corrupted earth with their bare flesh are instantly brought in thrall to it -- and convince their brethren to go back into space as missionaries, carrying the Creed of Tiamet to as many Imperial worlds as possible. They are the first of dozens of interstellar pilgrimages that seek out Ziaphoria, and in doing so, add to its power. The Tyranids of Hive Fleet Tiamet defend the planet so ferociously it is declared Quarantine Extremis and abandoned entirely by the Imperium. Only the Deathwatch of the nearby Watch Fortress Haltmoat -- and Inquisitor Kryptman, who comes out of his long exile to join them -- have any inkling of the threat posed by the immense psychic resonator of Tiamet. The theories they discuss long into the night are so wild, and the other threats facing the Imperium so dire, that they are given little credence by the wider Inquisition.
The Genestealer Curse
Genestealers are vicious and frighteningly intelligent alien lifeforms. They are largely independent, capable of surviving alone for standard centuries. When encountered as part of a brood, however, a gestalt psychic will binds them to one purpose.
Originally encountered upon the moons of Ymgarl, long before Hive Fleet Behemoth breached the Imperium, these beasts were once thought to be an entirely separate species to the teeming hordes of the Tyranids. Only when the Ordo Xenos conducted a harrowing program of investigations did they realise the truth -- that the Genestealer was a vanguard creature of the encroaching Hive Fleets, and that the Ymgarl genus was but one example of the forms it could take.
Genestealers are carried from world to world much as a virus is carried from host to host –- unseen and unbidden. Their physiques are so hardy that they can even survive in the cold vacuum of space. There are scattered reports of armies of these xenos creatures emerging from honeycombed asteroids and torn-open ghost ships. The most severe Genestealer infections have been traced to Space Hulks, vast conglomerate voidships that drift across the galaxy on the etheric tides of the Warp -- on such behemoths Genestealers have been found not in twos and threes, but in their thousands.
More commonly, small broods of Genestealers stow away upon the voidcraft of Humanity's endless armadas. Able to fold their gangling physiques into relay pipes and crawlspaces, they can hide in even the smallest shuttles, entering a hibernatory state until they emerge from their sojourn to sow the seeds of destruction anew. Many a bulk transport has arrived at its destination carrying a lethal cargo indeed.
When a Genestealer reaches a world ripe for infection, it will clamber into the dark and forgotten spaces of a populous area, lurking unseen as it prepares to spread its influence. As with all their voidborn kind, the Genestealer is inhumanly patient, able to subsist on very little sustenance and to wait for Terran decades if necessary before making its move. Once it is certain of being able to acquire victims whilst remaining undetected, it will begin to abduct them and implant them with its alien blight to make them unwitting hosts of a new generation of terror.
A cult can start with but a single organism. Should a lone Genestealer reach an inhabited world, it will immediately go into hiding, emerging only on the blackest of nights. Those who fall prey to the Genestealer's silent ambushes are not torn apart for later consumption, as with most victims of the Tyranid race, but instead put in thrall by its psychically hypnotic gaze.
They are then impregnated with a portion of the creature's own biomass, delivered under the skin via a ribbed tube called an ovipositor. This process is known as the "Genestealer's Kiss." The resultant parasitism alters the infected's body until the xenos taint runs throughout. It also alters the mind, forcing the victim through a bioneural psychic connection to revere the Genestealer as a messianic figure, the idol of an obsessive new religion.
Whenever a Genestealer implants a victim, a horrific birth will soon follow whenever that individual, whether male or female, breeds with others of its species. The resultant Genestealer Hybrids are grotesque and misshapen creatures that are as varied in form as they are hideous to behold.
Certain features are common, such as bulbous craniums and snarling, needle-toothed maws, a pair of extra limbs ending in viciously sharp claws, truncated tail-spikes and mottled, purplish skin. These initial hybrids are known as the First Generation.
The hideous hybrids of the First Generation will reproduce with newly-hypnotised members of the cult, who sire young in their turn. This gives rise to the Second Generation. These new creatures are hunched and stooped -- not in the manner of the old or infirm, but more like pressured springs that are ready to explode into sudden movement. These hybrids may have five or even six limbs, but their eyes and mouths are like those of their human parents, and they can make themselves understood in Low Gothic.
Though their minds are still so alien that they defy analysis, the Second Generation is sapient enough to understand its host society. Some are even put to work in the industrial brotherhoods of their kin, their uncanny strength and resilience allowing them to use heavy mining tools and explosives with far more ease than a human operative.
Purestrain Genestealers propagate with a hideous alien fecundity, infecting generations of human prey until the time is ready to strike. Each new batch of offspring descended from a single Genestealer Patriarch seems more human than the last as the xenos germ-seed is seemingly diluted, but within, the shape of the beast lurks unchanged. At the culmination of the curse's cycle, the original alien nightmares are born anew.
As each cycle passes, the hybrid offspring evince fewer and fewer mutations from the human or other host species' genetic baseline. The Third Generation is typified by an upright stance -- though they appear human from a distance, on closer inspection they have heavily-ridged heads, mauve to violet skin, and may even hide a vestigial limb under their clothes.
By the Fourth Generation, the scions of the Genestealer Cult can pass for fully human, inveigling themselves into positions of power to further the aims of the cult. Leaders of uncanny influence emerge within the hidden cult hierarchy -- psychic magi and charismatic demagogues whose rhetoric inflames the subculture further.
Fourth Generation cult members can breed true. They do not give birth to untainted humans, but instead to Purestrain Genestealers just as alien as the original progenitor of the cult. The parents of these Fifth Generation creatures see them not as the hideous, hissing changelings they truly are, but as soft-skinned human infants, innocent and sweet. They do everything they can to protect them, even giving their own lives if necessary. By this point, the curse's hold upon the dynasty is complete and the brood cycle begins anew.
The Genestealer at the heart of the cult, known as the "Patriarch," has an inherent psychic control over every one of these minions, no matter the generation. The Patriarch unites them in a single sentience -- a gestalt consciousness known as the "Broodmind" akin to the far larger Tyranid Hive Mind.
It is this shared sentience that makes the cult so tight-knit and loyal, that gives them uncanny strength and speed in battle, and that seeks to undermine the spiritual sanctity of Mankind. Such xenos cults have thrived in the dark corners of the Imperium longer than any now suspect. On those occasions when they rise up in open rebellion, they can capsize a planet's defences in a matter of solar hours.
The cultists of these grand insurgencies have spent their whole lives preparing for the day of the final conquest. Generation after generation have been bred in secrecy, cycle after cycle bearing nauseating fruit. The infected have spread the curse to others, and to their children, who in turn have infected more. Like a living virus, they breed exponentially, their numbers swelling until the rulers of the society's underworld are strong enough to seize the entire host planet.
Though the later generations of each cycle have the appearance of common men and women, inside they are xenos through and through. Their allegiance is owed only to the organisms that brought the Genestealer Curse to their world, and the hybrids of their hidden kindred. Their Patriarch, starborne and inhuman, squats at the centre of a web of influence that expands until it covers the entire world. Every soul in the cult is mindlessly obedient to this repulsive creature, and would give their lives to save it.
Once the cult is fully mature, it seeks to propagate once more. Its leaders carefully send selected Purestrains on long journeys to locate new feeding grounds, there to begin the whole hellish process over again.
A full Purestrain Genestealer starts the infection cycle by inserting their genetic material into a host victim. As the infestation spreads and the cult grows, the first Genestealer takes the role of a Genestealer Patriarch and often grows larger into an obese and psychic monstrosity.
The Infected - Contagii
The host victims, or Contagii, return to their own societies and begin to have an urgent need to find a mate and begin a family. This mate also becomes infected with Genestealer DNA through sexual intercourse with the infected host.
Contagii, many of whom become Brood Brothers, still physically resemble other members of their species, though they may have a slight blue or mauve pallor to their skin and can be psychically controlled by the Patriarch through the Broodmind to become mindless slaves, making them the perfect infiltrators.
The psychic control of the Genestealer's Kiss can be resisted by infected Space Marines, as seen with members of the Scythes of the Emperor. However even they wear psychic dampening hoods to keep out the Broodmind's urgings.
Generation 1 - Maelignaci
The first of a cult's vile children, a First Generation Hybrid or Maelignaci is as much of a monster as it looks. More reminiscent of a Genestealer than a human, these foul creatures feature between five or six limbs, each one ending in sharp talons. These mutants often serve as Acolyte Hybrids.
Their bulbous heads have the facial features of their xenos gene-father, with their skin taking on a purple hue. These creatures are little more than beasts, their instincts directing their every move.
Generation 2 - Hybrid
The second generation of hybrids are hunched and stooped -- not in the manner of the old or infirm, but more like pressured springs, ready to explode into movement. Like the generation before them, Second Generation Hybrids, who also serve as Acolyte Hybrids, may have five or six limbs, but their eyes and mouth are more like their human parents, and they can make themselves understood in Low Gothic.
Though their minds are still so alien that they defy analysis, they are still sapient enough to understand their host society. Some are even put to work in the industrial brotherhoods of their kin, their uncanny strength and resilience allowing them to use heavy mining tools and explosives with far more ease than any mere human.
Generation 3 - True Hybrid
Taking a fully upright stance, the Third Generation Hybrid is reminiscent of many mutants in Imperial society. Their foul features go unnoticed in the underhives of many Imperial worlds.
However, on closer inspection their alien form is revealed. They have heavily ridged heads, mauve to violet skin, and may even hide an extra clawed limb under their tattered clothes.
Generation 4 - Primacii
By the fourth generation, the scions of the Genestealer Cult can pass for fully human, inveigling themselves into positions of power to further the aims of their sinister cult. Most of these Primacii serve as Neophyte Hybrids.
They are often noticed by their human overseers as dutiful, hard-working citizens, and as such, often find themselves above suspicion. Many of these hybrids join the Astra Militarum to spread their vile seed across the galaxy, starting new cults and claiming worlds for their four-armed Patriarch.
Between the fourth and fifth generations of hybrids, the Genestealer Cult will prepare for all-out war. They will spawn Hybrid Metamorphs, creatures that echo the warrior bioforms of the Tyranid hive fleets and are built only to serve as vicious cannon fodder for the coming battles.
Generation 5 - Purii
Paradoxically, the Genestealer's pure strain DNA reemerges in the fifth generation of hybrids since the initial infection, giving birth to a full Tyranid Purestrain Genestealer, albeit one showing some physical characteristics of the original host species.
Thus the cycle can begin anew, as the new Purestrain Genestealers have the potential to infiltrate other worlds and become a Patriarch.
The Creation of a Cult
The genesis of a Genestealer Cult is a strange and disturbing process. Though it obeys a loosely cyclical structure, many offshoots and bastardisations occur, resulting in a spectrum of anatomies from the outwardly wholesome to the truly bizarre. All members of this tainted family tree -- even the non-hybrid members, known as the "Brood Brothers" -- remain fiercely loyal to one another, bound as one by the gestalt psychic Broodmind.
The most powerful weapon of the Genestealer Cult is secrecy. From the moment the infection vector arrives to the grand uprising itself, the faithful stick to the shadows. Those elements that emerge into the light of everyday life wear a mask of mundanity; outwardly, its cultists worship the same deity as the host civilisation, albeit a strange variant thereof.
They teach extreme modesty, keeping their mutations hidden under robes and industrial clothing. Latter-generation hybrids work tirelessly, respecting the old and cherishing the young. Only on the day of reckoning is the awful truth of their existence revealed.
Those cults unearthed by the Inquisition have a common hierarchy, largely dictated by the generations and cycles of xenos infection. Though variations occur, the Patriarch is analogous to the monarch of this kingdom, with the Magus as his grand vizier and the Primus the leader of his holy crusades. The dynasty that serves them can number in the millions.
Every iteration of the Genestealer infection can spread anarchy and disaster. Better known as "brood cycles," the mockeries of family lineage that form the framework of each cult are all slaves of the Patriarch's greatness. To celebrate his magnificent strangeness by echoing his form is a privilege like no other. Though all pay homage to the Patriarch, each brood cycle has a strong internal coherence, and many will bear markings that bind them further to their brethren within the cult.
Though the broods of each cycle are similar in organisation, the Genestealer Curse does not conform to the strictures of mortal science. Anomalous bioforms rise to the surface with every new generation, for interbreeding within the cult is common, and Tyranid gene-matter is, by its very nature, highly mutable. Even as the second and subsequent cycles spread the infection anew, the original brood cycle will still be active, casting the web of the Patriarch's influence ever further.
A fully mature Genestealer Cult is huge; it can number in the millions or even billions, perhaps more if it covers several worlds. The Cult of the Pauper Princes, for instance, originated on the world of Chancer's Vale, but has taken its fervent creed to the Sentinel World of Vigilus, and fifteen other planets besides. The original instance, known as the "genesis infestation," is the most numerous, but all subsequent infestations -- sometimes known as "splinter cults" -- have much the same colouration of chitin and flesh.
There might be small differences in markings and even temperament, but they are cut from the same cloth; they may even use fundamentally the same heraldic colours to show their wider allegiance. Necessity often demands that these colours are adapted to fit in with local uniforms and societal norms, but armbands or tattoos are sometimes employed as a unifying feature, albeit often hidden from sight.
All the cultists of a given world are known as an "infestation," and each populous area can propagate several full brood cycles. All the cultists in a given population centre are known as a "gene-sect." Some populations are only numerous enough to support one gene-sect, but on those worlds that teem with life, several can coexist.
Though each gene-sect may further differentiate itself with markings and subtleties of colouration, ultimately they all hail from the same Patriarch, and usually work together seamlessly. Each gene-sect has its own specialist bioforms and war leaders, including a Magus, Primus and Nexos.
These usually hail from the fourth generation, and hence can pass for human. So close are they in thought and deed that they and their peers in other gene-sects may even band together to fight in the same place at the same time.
These gene-sects, usually at least several hundred members strong, are further subdivided into "claws." Claws typically number between fifty and a hundred warriors; formed for specific duties, these are assembled and disbanded according to the cult's needs. Claws will have at least one leader figure that guides them in their mission, and each Magus and Primus will have several claws at their disposal, ranging from Neophyte groups that can pass for human to monstrous broods of Aberrants that are unmistakably alien.
One the cult reaches a point of maturity where it feels secure enough that it can spare the resources to spread, it sends out a Genestealer -- or even an entire brood -- to find new prey. These will either come from the original brood to have made planetfall, known as the "First Curse," or the Purestrain Genestealers of a brood cycle's fifth generation.
These vectors of infection will start a new gene-sect should they find another suitable population centre on the same world, or an entirely new infestation if they reach a planet that can support a splinter of the parent cult.
Typically each planet only has one Patriarch, but it can have many Maguses and Primuses as its lieutenants in different parts of the world. If the existing Patriarch dies, the next Genestealer to have infected a host on that planet will adapt and grow to become the new Patriarch over time. There are exceptions -- should an infestation's outrider organisms find a population centre so rich in life it has the equivalent of a small planetary populace unto itself, the Purestrain Genestealer that is sent out to colonise it can become a new Patriarch in its own right.
This will very rarely happen in contiguous land masses, due to the psychic backlash that could result, but provided the sites are sufficiently removed it can theoretically occur. The two gene-sects will be competing for resources, and may even come into conflict, but when the Hive Fleet arrives, the gestalt mind of the Tyranid species takes overall control.
The Cult of War
From the moment the first hybrid is born, the cult begins preparing for a world-spanning war of insurrection. There are other factors that can trigger a large-scale military intervention, sometimes before the dynasty reaches critical mass. Woe betide those who derail the cult's master plan, for its warriors strike serpent-fast, and their vengeance is terrible.
Genestealer Cults are concerned with their own propagation above all, and will usually only commit to an armed action on its own terms. There remain exceptions, of course, for in the crumbling edifice of the Imperium, even the most watertight plans do not last long in practice. Each ruction, setback or disaster is handled in its own fashion. On occasion, an incautious power-grab or roving aberration may lead to the cult being investigated by Imperial authorities.
If an inquest from the Adeptus Arbites -- or worse still, the Inquisition -- cannot be dealt with by a visit from the Magus or his minions, the cult may soon find itself under attack by anything from a regiment of Militarum Tempestus soldiers to a strike force of Deathwatch Space Marines. Though this calibre of attack can eradicate a Genestealer Cult in a scouring that shakes the underworld to its core, all it takes is for one Tyranid lifeform to escape and the cult can begin anew.
Such purges are uncommon, for the cult spreads its infection in the shadows -- and amidst the vast, sprawling confusion of the Imperium, there are millions of locations where one cannot be easily discovered. With the cult's members inducted from the indigenous populace, they have countless advantages.
Those recruited from the underbelly of society are already wise to the best places to hide, whereas those from the upper echelons have influence enough to cover their tracks with ease. Over time, the cult spreads its creed from one stratum of civilisation to another. A mature cult with several brood cycles will have everything from sewerjacks, factotums and autoproctors to high justices and spirelords under its sway.
On the day of uprising, all the infected members of a planet will act as one, bound to the cause of destabilisation and sabotage as the shock troops of the cult take out the military targets they have proven unable to infiltrate. This broad-spectrum attack has proven utterly devastating on hundreds of worlds; so prepared were the insurrectionists that, in places, the planet's infrastructure was turned on its head and then dismantled entirely in a matter of solar days.
The entire effort is painstakingly coordinated by each gene-sect's Nexos, whose simulations, tactical analyses and hololith-guided battle projections give their brethren a vital edge. In conjunction with a Clamavus, an expert in both the dissemination of information and the disruption of the prey's communications, the Nexos will convey their constantly adapting plans to the greater throng.
Should something go awry, as it sometimes does when the Imperium's megalithic structure seeks to protect itself, it is the Nexos who drives the attack to victory along a different vector. Perhaps they will have to redistribute subterranean assets after hearing word from their Jackal Alphus lieutenant of a drop insertion force of Space Marines sent to stymie the cult's attack. Perhaps they will order their Rockgrinders to block the roads or demolish buildings in order to hold back the mass assault of a mechanised Sisters of Battle army.
With curt orders and split-second decision making, the Nexos will put into motion contingency plans and adaptive strategies that see the cult withdraw as one, only to strike elsewhere -- for they are linked, body and soul, far more than any conventional military force. On a wider level it is they who determine the optimum time for the cult to rise up in unforeseen circumstances; where its war leaders may deal in faith and fury, the Nexos' role is that of cold hard logic.
The Cult's Primus, being a war leader, has a more aggressive approach to the propagation of his kin. He will gather a hand-picked army from the parent cult, and then strike out to claim new worlds in the name of the Patriarch. Often this is done under the guise of industry, making use of existing space lanes and import routes to carry a host of Genestealer Cultists to a new planet.
In the darkness of the cargo holds, shipment auto-crates will hiss open, and the Primus will lead his brethren forth. Should their incursion be uncovered, the cult will strike with swift and overwhelming force. If their assault does not take down their new adversaries in short order, they will scatter like oil-roaches in torchlight, seeking shelter in the dank corners of their new domain before later regrouping.
There are times when a host planet is attacked by outside forces -- perhaps the target of a Hrud migration, a xenos pirate raid, a Greenskin WAAAGH! or even a Warp breach. Most cults, nestled in hiding, will be content to wait for the storm to pass. But if the invasion directly threatens their interests, they will fight like a hive of angered hornets to defend them. Such planets teeter on the brink of catastrophe, rescued from one alien warhost only to find their saviours embody another, far more sinister threat.
Should all go well, the cult will wait with the patience of spiders for their moment, generation after generation spent in preparation for the final battle as they infect ever more territory. Once all is in order, the intricate web of secrecy is finally torn away, and the world is plunged into anarchy.
When a cult rises up to conquer their host planet, it is usually because a Tyranid Hive Fleet has blackened the sky with the immensity of its bio-ships. The Genestealers and their kin are united in a singular desire to slay, to cause havoc, to destabilise and spread terror to every corner of the planet.
Every member that has felt the mind-kiss of the cult's progenitors feels it in their blood, a pulsing, desperate need to kill that has seen even lowly Neophytes tear their victims limb from limb in a frenzy of semi-religious ecstasy. As the nightmare of the Hive Fleet's invasion descends, even a small cult can shatter a planet's defences.
There are those worlds that are conquered by a Genestealer Cult far earlier, claimed by the Patriarch's dynasty when the Tyranids are still hundreds of years distant, or even not coming at all. This may be because their uprising was triggered prematurely, because they have simply run out of ways to spread beneath the radar of their enemies, or because their Patriarch senses psychically that the Hive Fleet that would have claimed them is now lost. As part of a wider onslaught divorced from its Hive Fleet, it will have to claim dominion through its own wiles.
These are in some ways the most dangerous cults to the Imperium, for like a virus spreading to new host bodies, they actively sow the seeds of destruction across a far wider area in the hope of somehow reconnecting with their gods. Using their homeworld as a base of operations, they replicate their successes by any means possible, sending stowaway organisms and covert invasion forces to every planet within reach.
Whole star systems have been conquered by such cults, the beacon of their psychic presence all the stronger for the Tyranid Hive Fleets that will eventually arrive to consume all.
The butchery the cult metes out upon its enemies on the day of their uprising is terrible indeed. Though the greater masses of these hordes are no more potent than a Planetary Defence Force, their sheer numbers and fanatical devotion make them a fierce prospect in a firefight. High-level threats will be ambushed with uncanny synchronicity, for the cult has laboured hard to ensure everything is in place.
At the Patriarch's unheard signal, the shock troops of the cult appear from crawlspaces, air ducts, grates and hidden trapdoors installed by infected work crews but never used before this moment. The Acolyte Hybrids who emerge to fall upon the commanders of the enemy hiss and shriek as they lay about themselves with weapon-like mutations.
Those enemies who a Primus has designated an extreme threat -- those of the Adepta Sororitas or Adeptus Astartes, for instance -- are set upon by the Purestrain Genestealers of the cult's fifth generation, for they are the deadliest of all the cult's warriors save the Patriarch himself. Like a perfectly engineered machine of destruction, the cult strikes as one -- few indeed are the forces that can fight back.
The Hive Fleet Descends
In the subculture of the Genestealer Cult, every action, every uttered phrase, is another step towards a final destiny so apocalyptic it will devour friend and foe alike. Should the cultists achieve their ghastly agendas, each world they have worked so painstakingly to conquer will be stripped bare of everything, even its atmosphere, by their ultimate masters -- the Tyranids.
As a cult pushes its tendrils ever further into its host civilisation, it prepares for the day of its great ascension. Though it may be solar decades, even Terran centuries in coming, sooner or later a psychic shadow will fall upon the star system in which the cult has spread. This is the Shadow in the Warp, the first sign of the utter despair to come.
At first, the strange penumbra of this psychic influence sends soothsayers mad and inspires wild panic in those who channel the energies of the Warp. The Astronomican at first becomes dim, then shrouded completely by the psychic miasma crawling across the stars, cutting the star system off from the rest of the Imperium so it becomes all but impossible to send reinforcements.
Only then does the source of the threat emerge from the darkness. Starlight glints from a flotilla of celestial bodies, visible as a shoal of dots in the night sky. While these bodies may appear beautiful at first, their surpassing ugliness becomes more evident as they draw close. This is a bio-fleet of the Tyranid race, and it has come not to enlighten, but to devour.
The cult sees the arrival of this impossible menace as the long-awaited fulfilment of their prophecies. They believe the Patriarch's kin, unfettered by Humanity's failings, are here to elevate the faithful and lift them into the light forever. The skies cloud over, thickening with xenos Mycetic Spores as the Hive Fleet prepares the cult's world for consumption.
Enraptured, the cult's true believers tell each other that it is always darkest before the dawn. Celebrations and warlike shouts ring through the streets as their devotional frenzy reaches new heights. When the Tyrannocytes rain from the sky like fleshy meteors, the cultists wave their banners high, hoping to attract the attention of the angelic host.
As the giant brood-sacs of the bio-ships split open to disgorge shrieking, blade-limbed war-beasts, a seed of doubt worms into the minds of the cultists. Still, their belief in the notion of star-borne saviours is so ingrained they keep fighting against the wider populace. The Tyranid invaders mass together into a tide of chitin and fang, surging over the lands to cut down or consume the indigenous populations.
With the Hive Mind guiding each brood, the Tyranid hordes do not see the cultists as prey; in fact they are ignored at first by the synapse creatures coordinating the attack. For a short and blissful period, cultist and Tyranid fight on the same side.
Once their adversaries have been slain, the cultists become eager to embrace their distant relatives in celebration, jubilant that their star-spanning family is at last complete. They walk forward, arms wide, into the seething avalanche of weapon-forms. They too are torn limb from limb. Only then does the true magnitude of the cult's folly hit home. The mood of the cult swiftly changes from dogged loyalty to panic.
The final revelation comes both from within the cult and without. Those the cultists once adored turn upon them in the worst of all possible betrayals; any who seek succour from the Patriarch instead go to their doom. With its sentience subsumed by the greater Hive Mind, the creature becomes just another Tyranid, another nameless cell in the void-crossing super-organism that wants nothing less than to devour the galaxy.
As soon as the planet's defenders are overcome, the Patriarch and its brood will attack their own, wicked claws punching into close advisors and trusted minions, who die choking on their own disbelief. Those Purestrain Genestealers spawned upon the host planet attack their devoted fourth generation parents without hesitation, slaughtering them in a flurry of talons and snapping mouths. Those of the cult who somehow survive this grim twist of fate flee as best they can, but they do not get far.
The hail of Tyranid spores intensifies, and the planet itself is altered on a molecular level, becoming a noxious hell. Alongside the bodies of the wider populace, the corpses of the cultists are devoured and regurgitated into the acidic digestion pools that bubble upon its surface. There, they are dissolved into a sickening gruel, raw biomass that is sucked up by ribbed Capillary Towers into the bio-ships high above. So it is that the host population and the cult's parasitic reflection are made whole at last, their bodies mingled in the final act of this apocalyptic tragedy.
Not all those Genestealer Cults spawned across the galaxy meet a grisly end, consumed by the maws of the terrifying creatures they worship. Some rise to prominence, subconsciously sending out a psychic aura that attracts a Tyranid biofleet -- only for that fleet to be flung into nothingness by a Warp Storm, engaged in battle by a conventional fleet, or consumed by a violent celestial phenomenon such as a supernova.
These cults go on to propagate again and again, their brood cycles consuming ever more of the host planet until it is fully claimed by the Patriarch and its kin. Such planets become the cores of a spreading network of infestations that can cover several star systems or even span an entire sector, preparing the way for a destiny that will never come.
In time, they may attract another Hive Fleet towards them -- though until that day they are free to reign supreme over their host domain.
Types of Cults
In a galactic empire of a million worlds, there are countless planets upon which the Genestealer Curse can take hold -- for where there is Mankind, there is always biomass to be harvested.
The Imperium's teeming herds have proven the perfect hosts for the alien parasites of the Tyranids. Mankind has intelligence enough to ply the stars, but not enough to overcome the combination of ambition, hubris and curiosity that leads it into the dark and unwholesome places in which the Genestealer thrives. Unless specifically forbidden -- or prevented entirely -- from doing so, the human race will seek to colonise every corner of the galaxy, no matter what terrors it uncovers in the process.
This tendency, coupled with the relatively swift span of years between its generations, makes humanity the perfect prey species for Genestealers. The vast spread of its colonies, and hence the near-limitless biomass it can provide, have not gone unnoticed by the Hive Mind that unites every Patriarch in a single intent.
The human race has many instances of psychic talent, and these are getting ever more frequent. Psychic individuals are vital for the full panoply of Genestealer bioforms to rise to the surface across the course of a brood cycle. The frequency of psychic ability on Imperial worlds has been rising over the millennia, and since the coming of the Great Rift, there has been such a marked increase that the Black Ships of the Astra Telepathica cannot hope to quantify and harness more than a small fraction of psykers.
Despite the risk of disaster, nascent Genestealer Cults are more than ready to induct untrained psykers into their cult, knowing that in doing so they pave the way for a Magus to ultimately be born. This war leader will lead the cult to new heights of victory as the Patriarch's mind-altering influence spreads further over the host populace.
Hive World Cults
Imperial Hive Worlds represent the archetypal targets of a Genestealer Cult infestation. Possessed of massive, teeming populations, they represent a prime source for a new infection. At the same time, since much of that population is composed of a low socioeconomic class, a cult can spread quickly while a world's authorities remain blissfully unaware of the terrible curse spreading amongst their populations of workers and serfs.
The underhive region of a hive city represents the perfect place for a Genestealer Patriarch to take up hidden residence and oversee the growth of his tainted dynasty. Imperial authorities rarely, if ever, venture into such benighted areas of the Emperor's domain, and the myriad small wars that often erupt between underhive gangers simply provide the nascent cult with its first infusion of combat-hardened personnel and weapons. It is from Hive Worlds that more Genestealer Cult infestations have arisen than any other classification of human-settled planet.
Civilised World Cults
Civilised Worlds -- usually populous enough to have high import demands and well-established exports to boot -- are bountiful targets indeed for the Genestealer Cults. Though the trading restrictions and security of such locations can be stringent, it takes just one mistake, one deadly shipment being accepted, for the germ of corruption to be planted -- and once planted, it has a thousand different ways to thrive.
Used as a springboard, these planets may push a slowly growing cult into an accelerated brood cycle that can see it cross the stars.
Feudal World Cults
On the Feudal Worlds of the Imperium, the word of the king or queen or other ruling noble is law. Should that monarch come under the sway of a xenos parasite, strange tithes, unsettling disappearances and unnatural changes invariably follow.
With most Feudal Worlds having little in the way of technology, the peasantry and knightly orders have only superstitious rites, swords and shields to protect them from the clawed horrors that prey on them from abandoned dungeons, charnel houses, cave networks and dank forests.
Death World Cults
There are worlds in the Imperium so lethal they are classified as Death Worlds; their environments are anathema to Terran life. Many human warrior groups use these planets for extreme training exercises -- and amidst the menagerie of deadly flora and fauna they face, a slinking Purestrain Genestealer can often go unnoticed.
Some of these training groups will be infected, and return to their divisions with a lurking doom in their midst that will soon be brought to whatever world they are sent to protect next.
Cults with a pool of mechanised assets thrive in wide open spaces, such as those of Agri-worlds. With at least eighty-five per cent of their landmasses given over to the cultivation of forcecrops, hydroponics, livestock, algae lakes and cactus forests, such planets are not especially populous.
However, the wide spread of their settlements makes them easy prey for wide-ranging Genestealer Cult elements that soon have the perfect excuse to send their "provisions shipments" to other human-settled planets.
The vast majority of Imperial worlds are militarised in some manner, but some are entirely given over to the production of Astra Militarum regiments and materiel. The most ambitious of Genestealer Cults seek to infect these planets above all others.
Though the tactic is generally high risk, if the initiative is successful, the armed soldiers and resources they add to their own ranks with each new barracks and base they corrupt dramatically increases their chances of future insurgencies meeting with success.
An Astra Militarum regiment stationed upon such a prey world will slowly become populated by Fourth Generation Hybrid or Brood Brother humans who bear the hidden mark of the Genestealer within their anatomies. Soon enough, the regiment inducts new recruits with a certain strange cast to their skin, bulbous craniums and strangely pointed fingers. Within an armed force that recruits such divergent strains of Humanity as Ratlings and Ogryns, mild variations of appearance are often overlooked –- especially when the cadets in question are so efficient and obedient.
As the generations pass, it is common for the infiltrating members of that world's cult to be grouped together into the same platoons. Sometimes they are recruited in such numbers that entire regiments are taken over. Such infected military organs take pains to stay incognito, and as such, have only a rudimentary presence in the Imperium's armed forces and do not boast the wealth of munitions and war machines that a proven element of the Astra Militarum might enjoy.
Still, even a basic military presence on a cult's host world is an asset beyond price. On the day of insurrection, those Astra Militarum platoons seeded with the agents of the cult will reveal their true allegiance. Eyes alight with fanatical fervour, these wolves in the fold finally put their treacherous plans in motion, launching deadly surprise attacks upon their fellow regiments before joining the main body of the cult.
In an institution as immense and diverse as the Astra Militarum, a force as cunning and sly as a Genestealer Cult can thrive for many standard years before the horrible truth is revealed.
Feral World Cults
On the Feral Worlds of the Imperium -- those that are pre-black powder and may even have regressed to pre-ferrous or even Stone Age levels of technology -- it is simple for an established Genestealer Cult to thrive; by bringing powerful weapons, advanced technology and complex tools with them, they are worshipped as gods.
By contrast, a genesis infestation upon such a world is a rare occurrence, as those Purestrains that make planetfall find themselves to be the hunted as often as they are the hunter.
Shrine World Cults
Despite the strength of their populations' faith, the Shrine Worlds of the Adeptus Ministorum are not immune to the Genestealer Curse. A vestal robe can hide a multitude of mutations, and the labyrinthine boneyards and catacombs that riddle the lesser districts are ideal prowling grounds for a species as adaptable as the Genestealer.
Those humans they grant the Kiss to still claim to be worshipping the Emperor as they move amongst the flock, but in truth, their actions further a far darker cause.
Frontier World Cults
Where the Rogue Trader plants their flag, they say, the unwashed hordes of humanity are soon to follow. On the borders of the Imperium, new worlds are claimed in the name of the Emperor with each passing Terran year.
Out there, the lawmakers and enforcers of the Adeptus Arbites are a mere rumour. Though it may take a long time for a Genestealer Cult on a Frontier World to grow to full fruition, by being there at the beginning of a budding civilisation, its members can infect every stratum of human society with ease.
Nonhuman Host Species
The Purestrain Genestealer can, through the modus of implantation via its ovipositor, place its germ-seed in any creature of the requisite anatomy to later sire a hybrid. Over the countless centuries since their introduction into the stellar realm of Mankind, these extragalactic predators have started colonies within the species of the Orks, the Greet, the Kroot, the Aeldari, the Tarellian, and even the T'au.
They tend to choose ambulatory species of sufficient intellect to be space-capable, and hence spread their curse far and wide, and will usually target one whose population is dense enough to keep such a spread secret until it is too late for the infection to be overcome.
The Orks have proven troublesome as Genestealer hosts, for they can sense a wrongness in those infected, something that disturbs the strange psychic gestalt of the Greenskin mind. The Kroot are much the same, though their avoidance of infected members of their society comes from their ability to taste pheromones, and the wisdom of the Kroot Shapers who guide their people's evolution.
The Aeldari have such lengthy gestation cycles that they are simply not viable biological hosts; furthermore, their psychic abilities are so well developed they can often see the shadow of the curse even before it can manifest, and avoid it accordingly in infected members of their species.
The T'au have a connection with their Ethereal Caste that makes hiding an infection by the Genestealers difficult. Only Humanity, so manifold and unruly in its civilisations, has as yet provided an ideal host.
The symbols of each Genestealer Cult are uncannily similar, whether borne on an Iconward's standard or hidden away as a brand of allegiance on a Brood Brother's chest. Many adaptations and interpretations have been adopted by cults across the Imperium, yet they all portray a similar, stylised bioform.
Each cult uses its own variants of the insignia as it solidifies its own identity, but will also display the core symbol of the cult -- a long-bodied creature with ridges upon its spine that echoes the form of the Tyranids themselves often called a "wyrm."
The fact that each cult's icons are so similar, regardless of where they are encountered, is unsettling in itself. Perhaps those that create them are guided by strange dreams and visions brought about by the Hive Mind's Shadow in the Warp, where alien anatomies whirl and bulge in sanity-stealing profusion. Perhaps the form of the Tyranid is encoded within the gene-curse, rising to the front of the cult's collective mind unbidden.
Either way, from the western reaches of the Segmentum Pacificus to the depths of the Eastern Fringe of the galaxy, those worlds that harbour Genestealer broodkin are emblazoned in a hundred different ways by eerily similar markings, brands of ownership that hint at the biological apocalypse to come.
Notable Genestealer Cults
If the High Lords of Terra truly comprehended the number of Genestealer Cults abroad in their realm, they would feel the chill of fresh terror creep across their souls. Though only six cults have been codified by the Ordo Xenos, data-harvests taken from Ghosar Quintus imply the presence of hundreds, perhaps thousands, in the Ultima Segmentum alone.
- Bladed Cog - The slave revolt of the planet Feinminster Gamma eventually proved more powerful than the Cult Mechanicus crusade that surged across its surface. The army of Magos Dominus Ovid Thrensiom had arrived in force seeking a rich harvest of bio-electricty from the planet's living population. The atmosphere of oppression and paranoia that resulted was fertile ground for the spread of an underground religion. When a Purestrain Genestealer was unwittingly borne to the planet's surface by the freighter Redspark, a widespread cult was soon to follow. The xenoform was seen as proof that there were other worlds beyond the clouds and that salvation could be found in its worship. When Thrensiom was overthrown, the broodkin of the Bladed Cog swapped one set of cruel masters for another, though the latter brotherhood are infinitely worse. Infesting the forge-clades of Feinminster Gamma now is the cult of the Bladed Cog. The code-brands and Electoos with which the planet's Tech-priest overseers mark their citizen workers are often altered in illicit inker-dens. The Omnissiah's Cog Mechanicum is changed and adapted to better resemble the jag-spined emblem with which the creed marks out its faithful. Slogan-tattoos are also common, worn across the collarbones or spine.
- Hivecult - The Hivecult is a prime example of a Genestealer infection that has spread like wildfire across a densely populated Imperial world. The planet of New Gidlam has thirteen hive cities upon its pollution-blasted surface, each harbouring tens of billions of souls. All bar one is besieged from below by the same cult. Though the cult's emergence began in each hive with a spate of ritual killings, the violence soon blossomed into all-out war. The icon of the bladed wyrm-form is carried by all the dynasty's members, whether they be the Brood Brothers of New Gidlam's Astra Militarum regiments, or the hiver gangs themselves. So militarised is the cult that the icons themselves are weaponised, appearing in stylised form as knuckle dusters, throwing stars or daggers. They are often used to slay those who stand in the cult's way, an act rich in symbolism originally started by the cult's Magus. Perhaps unwittingly inspired by the coming of Hive Fleet Leviathan, the brotherhood of the Hivecult wear regalia of bone-white and purple. There are those in the Imperium aware of the cult's infection of New Gidlam and their infiltration of the Astra Militarum defenders. However, each hive city's populace numbers in the billions, and the cult is well versed in the arts of secrecy, revealing its true numbers only when sure of victory.
- Innerwyrm - The Innerwyrm Cult infests the abattoir world of Fleishgate. A lynchpin planet that provides the meat of grox, grontock and bovian to the Mawdlin System, Fleishgate has long been taken over by a Genestealer Cult. They take their inspiration from the arm-length intestinal parasites they find within the guts of their livestock, just as their hidden cult grows strong within the fat-bodied mass of Humanity's ignorant herd. The use of the saw-spined wyrm-symbol, inspired in part by the meatslasher machines the Innerwyrm cultists use in their daily slaughter, is not confined to Fleishgate. Many cults have elements that use ripping circular saws, whether to grind rock, cut through steelwood roots or salvage the parts of industrial machines -- it is common for such broods to echo this sigil upon their own standards.
- Pauper Princes - The Pauper Princes have all but taken over the slum world of Chancer's Vale. Most of the populace lives in the squalid shanty towns that pepper the coasts, their skin badly desiccated by the constant salt-mining of minerals from its barren seas. Such is the deprivation and abject poverty of this Imperial world that many of its people turned to worship of the cult -- not because they were forced to by coercion or the Genestealer's Kiss, but because they are desperate for a way off-planet. The promises of Magus Marovitch Tenndarc saw swathes of the world's populace united in their devotions to the Star Saviour. Every Emperor's Day the Magus sermonised to rapturous crowds about the glories to come. Magus Tenndarc died saving the Star Saviour himself -- the cult's Patriarch -- by diving in front of a Ratling sniper's bullet. The Abhuman assassin was torn to pieces within the solar hour, Tenndarc attained the status of saint, and the cult's flock quadrupled in size. Gene-sects of the Pauper Princes also were active on the Sentinel World of Vigilus after the opening of the Great Rift where they became primary antagonists of Imperial forces during the War of Beasts.
- Rusted Claw - The worldwide Minecorps that toils beneath the Mining World of Newseam unearths hundreds of tons of precious metal from the planet's crust each day. The sickeningly rich upworlders forbid the downtrodden miners from keeping the metal they dig out from the seams, let alone spending it, but much is smuggled away nonetheless. Known as the Cult of the Rusted Claw, this embittered brotherhood believes that the all-consuming emptiness of the void devours all, even metal. They see the tarnish of every coin and the rust that eats away at every vehicle as divine entropy brought to their world by their Patriarch, and they welcome its spread. Only when the oppression of the upworlders is gnawed away completely will they be truly free. The hybrids of the cult believe that an eternally hungry beast called the metallophagic wyrm will devour not only the flesh of the unbeliever, but also his creations. Their symbol shows the cog of industry being consumed by the wyrm-form that represents the Patriarch's great hunger.
- Twisted Helix - Hailing from the macro-alchemical distilleries that provide the medicae-class Civilised World of Vejovium III with its exported medicines, the cult of the Twisted Helix has spread far and wide. The cult's broodkin skulk in enormous medifactoria that appear from the aristocracy's spires like the laboratory of some godly sage, all spiral glass pipelines and chimneys that belch strangely-coloured smoke. At a high cost in volunteers' lives, the magisters of the industrial cult have learned how to extract the germ-seed of the Genestealer and incorporate it into the curative syringe-phials that form a major part of Vejovium's medical exports. Though the imperfections of this bio-alchemical breakthrough have resulted in a great many aberrations and metamorphs, the process has seen the Twisted Helix swiftly spread its curse across the Vejovium System...and far beyond.
- Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor - The Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor was originally incepted by the Trysst Dynasty of the "Delverworld" of Ghosar Quintus and represented the first Genestealer Cult ever encountered and officially categorised by the Imperium in 680.M41. It spread its dire influence far and wide before coming under attack from the Deathwatch of the Adeptus Astartes. A dozen new infections have since grown in its image -- the Genestealers the original Tryssts sent to other planets under the guise of industrial shipments have sired new generations and variant cults in their turn.
- Cult of the Second Son - On the infamous Hive World of Necromunda, the spire-like edifice of Hive Secundus was known for being rich in spirit and enlightenment as well as material wealth, more so even than its peer structure, Hive Primus. Scholars sought to learn the mysteries of the Imperium from its extensive archives, and were so entranced by what they found they never left. But its outward appearance was a sham, for Hive Secundus was under the sway of a vast and frighteningly influential gene-sect. When this fact finally came to light, the lord general of Hive Primus ordered the bombing of the rival metropolis with high-yield rad munitions -- so thorough was this bombardment that the entire hive city, built far taller and thinner than its counterparts, toppled onto its side with an immense crash that caused seismic disruptions for hundreds of miles around. The entire area was declared quarantine extremis, and the denizens of Necromunda forbidden from even talking about it. Unfortunately for the hive lords, the bombing of the spire and its subsequent toppling did not prove enough to eradicate the cult that lurked at its heart. So hardy and determined were the cultists that hundreds of thousands of them survived, and ventured out once more through the extensive tunnel networks that tendrilled from their old haunts. The underhive gangs of Hive Primus, their interest piqued by the very forbiddal of raids upon the fallen metropolis, entered those same tunnels. The troglodytic creatures they found in there were mutated beyond all reason by the baleful emanations of the rad bombs -- and every bit as lethal as the Purestrain Genestealer from which they had been born.
- The Brotherhood - The Brotherhood was a Genestealer Cult linked to Hive Fleet Kraken that rose up on the Imperial Hive World of Ichar IV in the days just before the start of the Second Tyrannic War in 992.M41. Their rising was the precursor to the Kraken's arrival in Imperial space. The Brotherhood's rebellion was ultimately defeated by the intervention of Inquisitor Agmar of the Ordo Xenos and the Ultramarines Chapter under the command of their Chapter Master, Marneus Calgar. Later, as Hive Fleet Kraken swept through the same region of space, it would be discovered that some elements of the cult had survived and would aid the Tyranids during their own assault on the planet. Eventually, with the combined support of the Ultramarines, Ichar IV's Planetary Defence Forces and the Astra Militarum, the Inquisition successfully destroyed the invasion and cleansed the planet of all remaining Genestealers and Tyranid bioforms. One of the Astra Militarum units involved in the fighting on Ichar IV was the 13th Penal Legion, the so-called "Last Chancers." The 13th Penal Legion fought the Tyranids on Ichar IV and the bitter fighting resulted in terrible casualties for the Legion.
- Behemoid Undercult
- Cult Veridian
- Cult of the Star Saviours
- Cult Tendricul
- Cult Tenebrous
- Sons of Jormungandr
- Star Kindred
- Wyrms of the Ur-tendril
- Cult Hydraic
Broodmind Psychic Powers
The Genestealer Patriarch and Magus are potent psykers, able to use their formidable powers to bend others to their will. This mental dominance not only ensures that the gestalt consciousness of the cult's masses serves as one, but can also be channelled to crush those who would oppose their plans before they reach fruition. The powers that a Patriarch or Magus can wield include the following abilities.
- Mass Hypnosis - The psyker's eyes glow strangely as they cast their gaze across their chosen victims, using mental dominion to put them into a trance-like state so the cult can take them apart -- or present them to the Genestealer Patriarch for infection -- at leisure.
- Mind Control - Palsied fingers twitch and facial muscles spasm as the psyker's chosen mark is taken over completely. Relegated to a mere passenger within their own body, they are forced to witness their own traitorous actions as they open fire upon or otherwise act against their trusted comrades.
- Psionic Blast - The psyker focuses the alien hatred of their kind into a blaze of pallid energies. Where their gaze falls, the enemy are consumed -- the last thing they hear is a shrill screech of triumph.
- Mental Onslaught - The psyker, well used to forcing their will upon those who would resist them, intensifies their hypnotic power to such a degree it can cause their victims' brains to swell to bursting point inside their skulls.
- Psychic Stimulus - The unknowable power of the cult's gestalt Broodmind flows into the psyker's chosen mortal instruments, spurring these cultists into a religious frenzy that sees them attack with hyperactive speed.
- Might from Beyond - An alien strength lurks in every being that carries the Genestealer's genetic curse. With a low whisper that rises to a scream, the psyker amplifies this hidden might, and their followers are swollen with empowering energy born of the void itself, enhancing their physical strength and combat potential.
Sacred Relics of the Cults
The strange artefacts held sacred by the Genestealer Cults all have some measure of alien power imbued in them by the gestalt Broodmind of their bearers. Some are grown from a combination of psychic ability and the grisly slop of the Patriarch's genesis pool, whilst others are fashioned as holy relics by the adoring throng and handed down through the generations. Only one of each of the following relics is usually found among a single cult.
- Icon of the Cult Ascendant - The sight of this sacred icon can drive all members of the cult into a furious charge against the unbelievers. Cast in blood-blessed platinum, its wyrm-forms polished to a high sheen, the Icon of the Cult Ascendant has been bathed in the psychic energies of the Broodmind. The relic adorned the back of the Great Patriarch's throne for many centuries, soaking up his sheer otherness until it imbued every mote of metal and scrap of oiled cloth. As the time of war comes to pass, the icon is detached from its resting place with the greatest of care and given to the cult's foremost Acolyte Iconward. Those who fight in its shadow find the psychic power of the Broodmind thrilling through their veins.
- Dagger of Swift Sacrifice - Those who work to hinder or reveal the cult are killed in long and painful ritual sacrifices to better appease the Patriarch, often using a weaponised form of the cult's symbol. The Dagger of Swift Sacrifice was devised not for a protracted kill, however, but a near-instantaneous one, the toxin-crystals upon its blade potent enough to kill even the xenos known as a Clawed Fiend with a single scratch.
- Scourge of Distant Stars - The Brotherhood of Distant Stars whispers of the Scourge -- a voidcold sentience that moves from weapon to weapon, aiding the wielder as he lays low the fool and the unbeliever. Whether it inhabits the blade of an Acolyte Iconward or the Bonesword of a Primus is of little import -- whosoever threatens the wielder will find their life sapping from a mortal wound as soon as they raise their blade.
- Staff of the Subterran Master - Capped by a sculpture of a Tyranid god-form, the Staff of the Subterran Master resonates with animalistic power. Its strange psychic allure gives the wielder the ability to cause the very vermin of the land to rise up -- poisonous worms, biting spiders, milliasaurs and plague rats boil from cracks in the ground to assail the enemy even as the cult streams through the streets.
- Sword of the Void's Eye - The sentience within the Sword of the Void's Eye is far more intelligent than its wielder, for within it lies a portion of the Hive Mind. The bio-fleet descending upon the host planet uses the eyes of the sword to spy on the populace and sample the thoughts of those whose blood it tastes. When laid at rest it will slither out a thin tongue that curls and twists in the dust, analysing the dead skin cells of the populace and gleaning vital bio-secrets for the Tyranid invasion to come.
- The Crouchling - The most favoured of cults by the Hive Mind are visited by the Crouchling, a skittering Genestealer Familiar that talks in a high, reedy voice. Though small and weak of limb, the Crouchling is a powerful psychic presence, able to cast hypnotic spells and visit mind-wracking hallucinations upon those who earn its master's ire.
- Oppressor's Bane - The masterwork automatic pistol known in the cult's folklore as Oppressor’s Bane has been machined to superhuman tolerances, fashioned with expert care by the finest of artisans. It is so well weighted it can be spun on the finger in a blur between each killing shot, drawn in an instant and lined up along perfectly crafted gunsights to pick out enemy leaders even amongst a milling throng. It fires bullets of a depleted transuranium element that can punch a hole through an armoured car to kill the hated tyrant riding within.
- Amulet of the Voidwyrm - This crescent-like wyrm-form amulet writhes with psychic power, so much so that in the fog of war it seems to have tendrils of darkness coiling around it. When the bearer is in peril, they subconsciously channel the Tyranid Hive Mind's Shadow in the Warp through the amulet, blotting them from the minds of the enemy at a critical moment.
- The Gift from Beyond - This long-barrelled rifle is painted with the blood of the Patriarch, freely given and potent enough to bless its wielder with uncanny predatory instincts. The gift it bestows upon those under its sights is the blessing of a swift death delivered from afar.
- Sword of the Four-armed Emperor - This peculiar sword in the possession of the Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor has not one blade, but four bound as one -- when its handle is given a sharp twist, the blade splits and splits again until it resembles a sheaf of gleaming tentacles or a striking hydra more than it does a conventional blade. It symbolises the cult's ability to shroud itself in normality until the time comes to reveal the hideous and lethal truth.
- Vockor's Talisman - This talisman drives the wielder to acts of great bloodshed. It is said to contain the departed spirit of Vockor Mai, known as the White Creeper, the scourge of New Gidlam's aristocracy. When Vockor Mai's charismatic allure proved ineffective against the hivelord Thorne due to a protective artefact, Mai crept into the man's bathhouse and slashed his throat with the razored edge of this metallic wyrm-form. In the legends of the Hivecult, the talisman harbours some of that malevolent and murderous intent to this day, and glows hot in the presence of those who have earned the cult's ire, allowing its wielder to strike in melee combat with unusual potency and accuracy.
- Mark of the Clawed Omnissiah - This custom electoo of the Bladed Cog, worn just under the skin of the chest, looks somewhat like a many-clawed incarnation of the Omnissiah. It fizzes with potent bio-electricity, lending its wearer a permanent rictus grin and an aura of static energy that crackles around them. The electoo generates a potent force field that can turn aside even a pinpoint shot from a Lascannon. In times of great physical exertion it can release a burst of power so intense it fries the synapses of those who get too close to the wielder.
- Metallophagic Stave - This rust-clad staff of office for a Magus of the Rusted Claw leaves trails of metallic flakes as it is swept through the air, though it never breaks or loses its structural integrity. War machines touched by the stave are beset by a plague of corrosion; in a matter of solar seconds they rust away as if left for Terran years to the mercy of the elements.
- Reliquary of Saint Tenndarc - The sacred remains of Saint Tenndarc are of vast spiritual importance to the Pauper Princes. It is said that Tenndarc, a Magus of the first gene-sect of the Pauper Princes, dove in front of his Patriarch to save him from a sniper's bullet. He died in the process, but that act of martyrdom has echoed through the cult ever since, inspiring the wider flock to acts of great self-sacrifice and dogged perseverance even when the worst of fates befalls them.
- Elixir of the Prime Specimen - The constant, methodical experimentation of the Twisted Helix has led to a great many claims of the perfect bioform's creation. The finest bio-alchemical concoction to come from the distilleries of Vejovium III contains the rendered-down essence of the Great Spined Beast, manufactured from the corpse of a captured Tyranid wrecker organism that the cult gave much to acquire. Those who imbibe the resultant elixir swell with physical power, their muscle mass increasing to surreal levels even as their minds fill with bloodlust, transforming them into a powerful hybrid warrior form.
Cult Armoured Vehicles
The Achilles Ridgerunner is an Imperial light exploratory vehicle often used to scout out new ore seams by mining guild prospectors and newly discovered terrain on Frontier Worlds by geological surveyors.
Because of its speed, range and sheer durability, the Achilles Ridgerunner also has proven to be very popular for use with the outriders and scouts of the Genestealer Cults.
Goliath Trucks are rugged transports originally designed to bear Imperial factotums through crypt complexes and mining tunnels. The vehicle's dense and robust construction makes it proof against the most hostile of underground environments, and its folded layers of chemically-treated permasteel give it a measure of protection against every industrial hazard the Imperium has yet encountered.
Even an unmodified Goliath Truck can survive acid storms, hurricanes of forge-sparks, malfunctioning rad-chambers, and volatile toxin eruptions. Whatever damage they bear on the exterior, they keep those in their metal guts as safe as if they were locked in a command bunker.
Whilst the cult lies quiescent, its Goliaths are used in everything from subterranean transit to stockpiling munitions. The duraglass screens inside each vision slit can be raised to make the vehicles airtight -- as useful for surviving the choking confines of a hazard mine as the poisonous atmosphere of battle. Their reputation is long-held; even the Astra Militarum has respect for the mighty Goliath.
Though an ascendant cult will make use of any type of vehicle, from lunar quads to civilian stretch-cars to mobile industrial macro-rigs, the Goliath truck is always the most sought after. These vehicles are customised with all manner of stowage, extra armour and sprayed-on cult symbols. They are acquired by means fair and foul by every cult that can find them, for they strike the perfect balance between unobtrusive civilian vehicle and pugnacious war machine.
No one gives a second glance to a column of Goliath trucks bearing rag-draped miners through the streets, and workplace graffiti and personalisation is far from unusual in the lower classes of the Imperium, so even the cult symbols stencilled upon the vehicles' sides often go unchallenged. Then, when the mind-stimulus of the Magus or Patriarch signals the time is right, the broods within these vehicles throw open their hatches and burst out -- some still mistaken for human even in their warpaint and others so alien that even to witness them is to feel the cold claw of defeat clutching at the heart.
Built to the blueprint of a ubiquitous Standard Template Construct, the Goliath truck has been modified and adapted countless times across the industrial worlds of the Imperium. Most common of these variants is the Goliath Rockgrinder. Though compact, the Goliath Rockgrinder is built to withstand rockfalls, dam bursts and the fiery backwash of its clearance incinerator. Those huddled within have a great deal of protection from all but the highest-calibre weapons.
The Sentinel is a single-pilot combat walker that can traverse landscapes where a wheeled vehicle would swiftly founder. Though designed primarily as a reconnaissance asset to stalk the killing fields of the Imperium, Sentinels are so versatile that they are in widespread use even behind the lines. They are a common sight in the industrial zones of the Imperium; hydraulic "bulk lifter" variants of this bipedal vehicle can be found shifting ammunition crates and ordnance cylinders in the shadowy dockyards and cache-districts where Genestealer Cults thrive.
Such machines are easily retrofitted for warfare by the cultists that press them into service. Still more are simply co-opted from the military forces the cult has taken over from the inside. Regardless of source, on the day of battle, these walkers will be grouped together into two main roles -- either used as lightweight Scout Sentinels for forward operations or as heavier Armoured Sentinels that lend heavy firepower to the main body of the uprising.
In terms of sheer piloting skill, the Genestealer Cults may well boast the finest Sentinel operatives in the galaxy. Those walkers that were once industrial machines have been operated day and night by their assigned drivers -- Neophyte Hybrids who have become so expert in their use they can pick through a ruined metropolis with the ease a man might walk across a deserted parade ground.
Such pilots make excellent independent assets when the time to strike is nigh. The Scout Sentinels they operate boast a powerful weapon system that can be fired on the move; they are fast enough to move into position for a kill shot, yet small enough to operate undetected by a larger force. This makes them ideal for covert operations. Often, a crack team of Neophyte Hybrids will send their Scout Sentinels loping around the flanks of the enemy army. At a psychic impulse from the cult's overlords, they will open hostilities with a punishing volley that can rip out the exposed throat of the opposing force even before the battle has started.
Where Scout Sentinels have only a canopy of reinforced bars to protect the pilot, Armoured Sentinels have thick plated hulls, for they are built to operate even in the most dangerous war zones. Such enclosed walkers have the added bonus that no one can see the true nature of their pilot until it is too late, an advantage that is not lost on the cult's overseers. Those cults unable to sequester heavy war assets often use Armoured Sentinels as tank substitutes, fitting them with Lascannons, Missile Launchers, and perhaps even rare and temperamental Plasma Cannons. With such firepower at their disposal, the cult can theoretically take down even the heavy infantry and main battle tanks of an Adeptus Astartes strike force.
Cult Leman Russ Battle Tank
The heavy firepower of the Leman Russ Battle Tank is legendary, and also much sought after by those cults that expect to engage the foe at range. Built to last through standard decades, if not centuries, of harsh conditions and poor maintenance, this Imperial main battle tank is a natural choice for those cults that intend to bide their time before launching a single devastating strike.
Those cults determined or lucky enough to secure entire squadrons of Leman Russ tanks are a terrifying prospect, as deadly at range as at close quarters. These concentrations of force bombard the enemy from afar to crack open even the safest of havens, allowing the xenospawn at the heart of the cult to get at their soft-bodied prey in the process.
The Leman Russ is constructed more as a rolling bunker than as fast-moving support. Its primary weapon is the Battle Cannon, an unsubtle sledgehammer of a gun that sends high-explosive shells hurtling into the midst of the enemy. Even the tanks of the foe can be crippled or destroyed by a direct hit from such ordnance. Sponsons are often fitted onto the Leman Russ' flanks, each bearing either a Heavy Bolter to scythe down enemy troops, or a Lascannon to crack open armoured targets. With the foe reeling, the cult will often follow up the volleys of its Leman Russ squadrons with a devastating assault from the clawing, screaming masses of its throng.
A Genestealer Cult will amass a great many vehicles over the course of its gestation. In terms of popularity, the Chimera Armoured Personnel Carrier is second only to the Goliath Truck. The Chimera is so common a sight that it passes all but unnoticed through the streets of war-torn worlds and the rotting understrata of hive cities, just as the work teams of the Genestealer Cult pass without comment in Humanity's wider throng.
Yet in times of war, this humble transport punches well above its weight. Its combination of Multi-Laser, hull-mounted Heavy Bolter and flank-mounted Lasgun arrays allows it to cut down Imperial infantry, rival gangers, veteran soldiers and even light vehicles.
As one of the workhorses for Mankind's innumerable armies, the Chimera is built to a Standard Template Construct standard. It can traverse all manner of terrain, from acidic silt to the rockcrete rubble of a bombedout city, and even be rendered amphibious should the need arise. The blueprint for this rugged and adaptable machine, a revered relic of Mankind's past, has been replicated times beyond count.
As such, the Chimera can be made from whatever local metals a mechanic has to hand, or even from stranger materials should they have the requisite material strength. To an industrial culture such as that of the Genestealer Cult, the manufacture of a Chimera -- or even an entire mechanised regiment of them -- poses little challenge.
On the eve of battle, those Chimera transports the cult has sequestered are sprayed with cult icons and daubed with the blood of the unbeliever. Some have additional armour plates, auxiliary weaponry or gruesome trophies strapped to their hulls before they rumble toward the front line, forming totems of defiance and conquest even before their heavy guns open fire.
These stolen Chimeras bully a path through the bloody earth of the battlefield, carrying inside them not the ordered platoons of faithful Imperial Guard, but the fully indoctrinated hybrid warriors of the cult. So familiar a sight is the Chimera that those on flanking manoeuvres are often waved through Imperial cordons by oblivious officials, the magnitude of the mistake only becoming evident when the crew and passengers begin the slaughter.
A Tectonic Fragdrill is a form of Imperial mining technology that has been repurposed by the Genestealer Cults to serve their own ends. It is often used to unleash a localised earthquake intended to disrupt the defences of a planetary region that is under assault from the the cult or to deliver cult troops to a target area through subterranean tunnels.
Forces of the Genestealer Cults
|Genestealer Cults Forces|
|Command||Genestealer Patriarch • Magus • Primus|
|Specialists||Clamavus • Nexos • Biophagus • Sanctus|
|Elites||Abominant • Jackal Alphus • Kelermorph • Locus|
|Troops||Acolyte Hybrid • Neophyte Hybrid • Hybrid Metamorph • Brood Brothers • Purestrain Genestealer • Aberrant • Genestealer Familiar • Mindwyrm Familiar • Atalan Jackals|
|Vehicles||Dirtcycle • Wolfquad • Goliath Truck • Goliath Rockgrinder • Achilles Ridgerunner • Chimera • Sentinel • Leman Russ Tank (Leman Russ Eradicator • Leman Russ Exterminator • Leman Russ Vanquisher)|
- Codex: Adeptus Custodes (8th Edition), "The Tale of the Ten Thousand", pg. 33
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (8th Edition), pp. 6-41, 113-114, 116-117
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (7th Edition), pp. 7-9, 11-16, 18-48, 101
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (3rd Edition Supplement) by Tim Huckelbery, pp. 1-16
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition), pp. 92-93
- Codex: Tyranids (6th Edition), pp. 99-100
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition), pg. 40
- Codex: Tyranids (4th Edition), pg. 39
- Codex: Tyranids (3rd Edition), pg. 48, inside back cover
- Codex: Tyranids (2nd Edition), pp. 27-29
- Freebooterz: Space Ork Army List
- Space Hulk: Missions Book (3rd Edition), pp. 2-33, 42-47
- Space Hulk: Missions Book (2nd Edition), pp. 7-20
- Warhammer 40,000 Compilation (2nd Edition), pp. 88-115
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pg. 211
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 140-141
- White Dwarf 114 (UK), "Genestealers," by Paul Murphy, pp. 31-36
- White Dwarf 115 (UK), "Genestealers," by Paul Murphy
- Deathwing (Anthology) edited by Neil Jones and David Pringle (2001 Edition), "The Alien Beast Within" by Ian Watson
- Space Hulk (Novella) by Gav Thorpe
- Deathwatch: Overkill (Board Game)
- Space Hulk (2013 Video Game)
- Space Hulk (1993 Video Game)
- 13th Legion (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Kill Team (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Annihilation Squad (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Belisarius Cawl: The Great Work (Novel) by Guy Haley, Ch. 17