"Would you have Mankind grow old and withered, running to fat on the fruits of remembered glory whilst its enemies tear at its frail extremities? I think not. With each trial, we become stronger. My brethren and I provide."
- — Attributed to Inquisitor Vechorte
Denounced by many as warmongers and destroyers, an Istvaanian (or Isstvanian) is a Radical Inquisitor who believes that mankind must be strong to survive and ascend to its rightful place amongst the stars. Strength to the Istvaanian mind is only truly created in times of trial, conflict, and sorrow. In times of disaster, mankind shows its potency and its potential: unbending, decisive, and valiant, while the weak are cast on to the flames of history as fitting sacrifices to the Imperium's greater glory.
The Istvaanians believe that the survival and strength of the domains of the God-Emperor depend on a process of continual trial and eventual triumph that ensures that they continue and grow. In the Istvaanian ideology, only by passing through near-destruction can the weaknesses of mankind be shed and the strong prosper. These are the convictions of the Istvaanians, and the beliefs for which they willingly spend the lives of the Imperium's citizenry and soldiers and the genesis of the wars, misery, and bloodshed that they create within the realms that they are sworn to protect. For if they do not act, then mankind's strength will fail, the Imperium's defences weaken and it will be beaten down until humanity is rendered extinct.
Interestingly, several well-respected members of the Inquisition have recently come out in favour of the Kiniel Proposal, a motion proposed by the infamous Istvaanian Inquisitor Gastus Kiniel. The proposal seeks to enforce military service upon all members of Imperial society fit for conscription. Given the current abundance of threats to the Imperium of Man's future, this may well be considered by the High Lords of Terra, and has already gained considerable support within the ranks of the Inquisition. It is testament to the manipulative skills of Kiniel that he has secured the support of many Monodominant Inquisitors with the fire and passion of his xenophobic sentiments. Needless to say, this militarisation of untold billions of Imperial citizens would be a great victory for the Istvaanians, and possibly even Humanity as a whole.
The Istvaanians take their name from the massacre which began the most terrible conflict to have engulfed Humanity, the Horus Heresy, initiated by the Traitor Warmaster Horus' virus bombing of Istvaan III at the start of the Istvaan Atrocity. What most Imperial historians view as the worst disaster to ever befall the Imperium, the Istvaanians champion as the catalyst for many of its greatest accomplishments. Despite their extreme stance and drastic methods, history seems to vindicate their beliefs, as from the greatest periods of upheaval the most profound developments within the Imperium have stemmed. With an objectivity born of hindsight, they claim that the Heresy weeded out the weak-willed and traitorous from the ranks of the Adeptus Astartes, and ultimately caused the Emperor's ascension, allowing the Master of Mankind to ascend to godhood. They point to the Age of Apostasy, when the Imperium was devoured by a fever of blasphemy, as the cause of the Ecclesiarchy's necessary reformation and the coming of Sebastian Thor. Great advances and leaps of faith are undeniably possible when Humanity is tested to its limit, and it is for this reason that the Istvaanians actively cultivate war. The modus operandi of the warmongering Istvaanians is sometimes so extreme that many of its militant components have surpassed even the uncompromising Monodominants.
It is not recorded when Istvaanianism was born or how it first flourished; these facts are lost to ancient secrecy and drowned by the tides of blood that have engulfed the Imperium down the millennia. But it is an old doctrine, and along with Xanthism it vies for position as perhaps the most established and embedded strain of Radicalism within the Inquisition. The convictions and creed on which the Istvaanian doctrine is founded are not new; the ideas and theories on which they are based are as old as human civilisation and perhaps older still. They came with humanity to the stars like a cold shadow in the mind, and have been part of the fundamental psyche of the Imperium since its inception. It is possible that the Istvaanian doctrine as a cogent theory and movement is in some ways the inevitable product of minds forced to seek the answers to unforgiving questions about humanity's place in the universe and the perils it faces daily -- why do some resist the temptations of the Warp or triumph over the alien, and why do others fall so easily into treachery, corruption or cowardice? Seeing conflict as a test that revealed weakness and honed strength, the first Istvaanians were drawn to not simply observe and note these qualities, but to promote the circumstances that give rise to them. With time, their convictions deepened, and the management of conflict gave way to promotion and finally outright creation. In that moment, Istvaanianism was born.
What hand Istvaanians have had in the long and bloody history of the Imperium cannot be known, even by those that advocate its path. Theirs is a doctrine based on the importance of evolution and trial and thus does not require that the exact end is always known, only that conflict and disaster arises to try the Imperium. It is always too early to say what the final effect of any given action or intrigue will be, and when those intrigues are designed to be things of awe, blood, and power, this is doubly so. The ripples of a single engineered war may be felt for standard centuries, even millennia. After all, the consequences of the Warmaster Horus' bombing of Istvaan III still reverberate more than 10,000 standard years after the end of the Horus Heresy. It may be that were one able to see all causes that led to the rise of a genius or tyrant or to the destruction of a thousand stars, one would find the will and conviction of those such as the Istvaanians. Ignorance of the ultimate consequences of their actions is of little concern to Istvaanians. It is simply enough that conflict is nurtured so that mankind might be tried -- and in that trial will find strength.
The Crusade into the Calyx Expanse
Not all wars have at their heart the conspiracies and designs of an Istvaanian, but the war that created the Calixis Sector did, according to those Istvaanians who passed the torch to their successors within the Conclave Calixis today. For millennia before an Imperial Crusade was launched to claim it, the Calyx Expanse was known thanks to the writings of the Rogue Trader Solomon Haarlock who declared it to be a "chalice of great and ancient wickedness" that would only be purchased for the Imperium with a "great effusion of blood." It was this malign reputation that drew the notice of Istvaanians, who saw it as a cauldron of wrath and fire into which servants of the Imperium could be plunged, and so be tempered by a war of the bloodiest kind. Of those Istvaanians active in Segmentum Obscurus at that time, it was the great and notorious Inquisitor Lord Stark who saw the possibilities of the Calyx Expanse as a field of trial. He used the patronage and the alliances he had assembled over hundreds of standard years to draw together a conspiracy of Inquisitors of Istvaanian convictions. Under the direction of Lord Stark, these disparate Radicals bent their will to create a movement for war to be waged in the Calyx Expanse.
It took a decade of manoeuvring in every branch of the body Imperium before their objective was at last in sight: the raising of a warrior to the rank of Lord Militant and the granting to that warrior of a writ to persecute a Crusade within the Calyx Expanse. The design of Inquisitor Lord Stark and his fellow Istvaanians was a success in all but one, crucial detail. At the last minute, the High Lords of Terra decided to pass over Lord Stark's carefully groomed choice for Lord Militant and instead invested Golgenna Angevin as Lord Militant of the crusade. So it was that the Istvaanians succeeded in creating their crucible of blood and fire but saw the forces plunged into it led, not by a fierce and blooded warrior of their choosing, but by a weak and vain man obsessed by status and patronage. No matter what great qualities lying poets would later give him, to the Istvaanians Angevin's weakness was plain enough that it would require no testing to be proved. To them Angevin's slow decline and the rise of a stronger figure was inevitable, for the only other alternative was that the Crusade would turn to a slaughter and the Calyx Expanse remain a place still of darkness.
The Fenksworld Calamity
The Fenksworld Calamity lives in infamy as one of the greatest disasters of the Angevin Crusade. Its consequences can still be seen in the towering mausoleums on the world of Orendal's Tomb, to say nothing of the decades it took to complete the conquest of the Calyx Expanse. In 359.M41, a second front of the Angevin Crusade was opened by a fresh army group gathered from the core worlds of Segmentum Obscurus. Commanded by High Admiral Vaakkon, the new front was intended to link up with Lord Militant Angevin's forces in the central worlds of the Calyx Expanse and shorten the Crusade by years. Such was the intention, but from the outset the Vaakkon's forces were beset by Warp Storms that threw battle groups off target, causing a terrible toll in ships and troops who were lost to the Warp. Intelligence on the strength of enemy forces and hostile worlds also proved terminally inadequate, as the 100,000 troops lost in an attempted landing on Woe attested. Despite these setbacks, Vaakkon's forces moved forward inch by blood-bought inch, and it seemed to all on the second front that matters could get no worse. In fact, they were very wrong. The eventual misjudgement, although none knew it, was the product of premeditated design by servants of the Holy Ordos.
The planet of Fenksworld had been established as the Angevin Crusade's primary staging point. The space above the planet swarmed with loaders, troop transports, and spear-prowed warships, all gorging on the fuel and supplies fed to them by the installations that had been towed into the system and anchored in high orbit. The life blood of the second front flowed through the docks of Fenksworld, and its loss would be disastrous -- but also nearly impossible, given its defences. Impossible, that is, as long as one ignored the possibility of treachery. The Istvaanian cabal that shadowed the Crusade had so far been most satisfied with how the Admiral Vaakkon and his forces had risen to the challenges on the second front, but in Fenksworld they saw an opportunity that could not be wasted to grant the man either death or glory which would see the endeavour of the Crusade "put back on the right track."
It took solar months of careful work by covert agents to introduce just enough terminal stress and potential flaws into the systems controlling the movement of voidcraft around the Fenksworld docks, and considerably more effort to get suicide-programmed Tech-priest and Assassin Acolytes aboard the Apocalypse-class Battleship Tempest's Child. Then, as the vast form of Tempest's Child approached Fenksworld, several crucial scanning and communication systems were crippled, the bridge crew massacred, and its engine and reactor output locked to maximum. As flocks of voidcraft jostled in confusion around the docks, the stricken warship ploughed into them. Over fifteen warships, twenty mass conveyors, and countless other voidcraft were lost in an expanding cascade of destruction. The Fenksworld life line was cut, and hundreds of thousands of troops scattered amongst the hostile stars had their support stripped away. The Fenksworld Calamity did not destroy the second front, but cost the lives of millions and extended the Crusade by standard years, even decades. For the Istvaanians, their actions were later vindicated when the unbreakable warriors that came out of the hell of the second front became the keystone of the battle against the dark forces that were to beset the Crusade in later years as it pushed ever onwards into the Hazeroth Abyss and the Adrantis Nebula. They would say that such heroes were bought by fire and calamity in the void above Fenksworld.
The Mara Landing Massacre
The Mara Landing Massacre was, apparently, one of the greatest tragedies of mis-navigation ever to occur within the Calixis Sector. The Ice World of Mara is a cursed place where no man is permitted to set foot. A frozen world devoid of life, Mara was once home of a number of Imperial installations, including a mining facility. Through a series of incidents so dark and terrible that their details are held under seal by the Holy Ordos, Mara was stripped of all living souls and left alone in the cold void to be a place of secret legends and tales of madness. It remains quarantined to this day, patrolled by ships from Battlefleet Calixis.
The tragedy of the Mara Landing Massacre began when the troop transport Vervilix, bound for the war on Tranch, suffered a critical navigational error and dropped out of the Warp close to the Ice World of Mara and within the cursed world's quarantine zone. Disaster might have been averted had the ship's engines and communications not failed and left it drifting alone and lost above one of the most dangerous places in the Calixis Sector. Not knowing where they were but detecting structures on the surface, the officers commanding the 100,000 troops on board decided to mount a landing onto the surface in an attempt to gather information on their position and press aid from any that might live on the Ice World. This decision was to cost the lives of over 50,000 men.
Soon after the landing, all communication with the surface was lost. First-person reports from breathless dropship pilots told how the troops deployed to the surface had begun to slaughter each other, and discordant sounds began to rip through the communications networks -- alongside cries imploring someone to "make the buzzing stop." Not knowing how to respond, the officers poured more troops onto the surface of Mara until most of the soldiers had been deployed. When the Imperial Navy patrol ships reached the Vervilix five solar days later, only a few hundred survivors could be recovered from the thousands who had set foot on Mara. An investigation by the Holy Ordos determined that it was a tragedy of misadventure. Most of the survivors were executed, and quarantine patrols around the Ice World were doubled. Since the massacre, rumours have persisted in the Calixian Conclave that the cascade of accidents and coincidences that led to the disastrous planetfall were not the product of chance, but carefully planned and orchestrated by the Renegade Istvaanian Inquisitor Amaros and her close servants. It is said that Amaros was keen to see whether any useful survivors could be created and harvested from exposing untried Imperial Guardsmen to such a great, unknown threat. The involvement of Istvaanians in engineering the circumstances of the massacre has never been proven, although a number of the survivors who were not executed for potential taint were quietly drawn into the service of several Inquisitors with suspected links to Amaros, a fact which may itself have sparked the theory. This harvest of survivors was bought in the blood and madness of thousands, but if the stories are true, its creator likely considered it a small price to pay.
Strength Through Trial
"The price of our survival is pain, suffering, and death."
- —General Cradtz at the Golgenna Offensive
Istvaanians are named after the infamous planet Istvaan III. At the outset of the Horus Heresy, the greatest conflict that mankind has ever faced, the Renegade Warmaster Horus virus bombed Istvaan III and in that moment ignited a civil war that would see brother kill brother, the galaxy in flames, and the death of billions. Istvaanians point to this moment as the moment that mankind's future was forged. Though the Imperium was forced to its knees and teetered on the edge of the abyss, it ultimately triumphed, and from that triumph came strength: strength to face the reality of Chaos, strength not to trust, nor cease in vigilance, and strength to act with fury and decisive might. The dark times of the Horus Heresy were moments of transformation and revelation that made the Imperium rise to greatness, whilst times of relative peace and prosperity have brought nothing but venal weakness and corruption. To the Istvaanian, the strength of the Imperium was born out of the trial of the Horus Heresy, its achievements wrought out of the necessities of survival. The Imperium, however, cannot rely on the trials and triumphs of the past. The Istvaan III Atrocity was the true birth of the Imperium, but for the future, mankind must achieve its own revelation and strength in moments of blood and pain. It must face times of terror and disaster and emerge with its head unbowed and its soul made stronger.
The Evolution of Might
Istvaanians believe that strength is the vital quality in a hostile universe. It is vital, because it is strength that allows mankind to defend itself, strength that keeps it unified, and strength that allows it to destroy those that would destroy it. Without strength, mankind would be doomed to extinction. The strength which Istvaanians value is a result of surviving and triumphing over trials; they believe the more severe the trial, the greater the strength that results. This true strength is the vigour of a battlefield veteran -- his body is sacred, his soul yet armoured, his skill at arms is without peer. Istvaanians and their servants create trials for mankind by creating conflicts in which humanity can struggle, and disasters in which they can find their true strength. When many are tested, some fail, and if the trial is a real test of mind, body, or spirit, those that fail may not survive at all. Those who cannot survive and cannot triumph are consumed. The Istvaanians view this as a blessing, as it removes weakness from the Imperium and leaves only what is strong. This elimination of those who are tested and found wanting is a principle that Istvaanians put into brutal practice: they winnow out the weak-willed, easily tempted, and decadent with war, revolt, and bloody crisis.
The Revelation of Adversity
Istvaanians believe that revelations and wonder follow in the wake of the mayhem they create, and that it is not just strength that results from disaster and conflict. They point to many of the Imperium's greatest achievements that resulted from extraordinary and violent events. In the times of greatest strife and bloodshed, the Imperium took its greatest steps forward in all areas of achievement. A favoured example often used in Istvaanian polemics is the coming of Sebastian Thor, his reformation of the Ecclesiarchy, the elimination of the hidden weakness of Ecclesiastical dominance, and the renaissance of Imperial power which followed it. All of these were only made possible in Istvaanian eyes because of the bloodshed and tyranny of the Age of Apostasy that came before it. Others point out that the genesis of the Imperium itself and those that defend it, from the Space Marine Legions to the Adeptus Mechanicus, were born out of the Emperor's great War of Unification.
To the Istvaanian, the truth is clear for those unafraid to grasp it. These moments in which mankind makes a great leap forward are only ever made possible in the face of annihilation, the willing sacrifice of blood, and the revelatory experience of imminent destruction. Many go further and state that the more terrible the danger and the greater the price of failure, the greater the heights that the Imperium will ascend to in order to overcome it. Therefore, they reason, if humanity is ever to truly dominate the stars, it must pass through ever greater and more terrible conflicts than before. The Istvaanians also believe that it is the Inquisition's role to aid and manage this process for the betterment of all; their gifts to the Imperium are the conditions of blood and sorrow from which it may be reborn.
The Engendering of Conflict
The chief concern of Istvaanian Inquisitors is engendering and managing vital conflict. Although all conflict interests them -- from personal ambition, to economic and social struggles, to the viperous infighting of the Imperial nobility -- raw violence is the form to which many Istvaanians prefer to devote their attentions. Warfare and the battle for survival tests all aspects of the participants; it has the highest of stakes for all involved and is fatal to those that fail, winnowing out the weak. The scale of conflict may be as small as a blood feud between noble houses, or as cataclysmic as a war that engulfs planets and stars and consumes millions of lives before its force is spent. The outcome of the wars, insurgencies, and the vendettas they create is often of little interest to an Istvaanian. The fact these ordeals exist and the effect that they have on those who pass through them is everything, and most such Inquisitors pride themselves on a measured dispassion toward those involved.
Istvaanians' interventions are always a matter of judgement and wisdom, as above all they wish to strengthen the Imperium, not destroy it. It is those who are perceived as weak in their eyes that are the most likely to be subjected to their attentions. But where this fine line of judgement is placed can be a matter of some difference and discord among the faction and between individual Istvaanians. While some would not strike at a world or sector already at war, others take a grander view and see that war and its outcome in the context of the wider area, or even weigh a conflict's outcome against wars and threats yet to be. They may see a sector or army grown complacent on victory as easy prey for the foes of the future and better purged now; the chaff weeded out from the strong wheat, rather than destroyed utterly later. It is this wanton creation of anarchy, mayhem, and discord as an end in itself that makes many Inquisitors outside the faction look on the convictions and conspiracies of Istvaanians with incredulous horror.
The methods Istvaanians use to create conflict vary from subtle and measured to wild and indiscriminate, as suits their current aims. Many Istvaanians believe that conflict and aggression are mankind's natural state and that a nudge in the right direction will create all the bloody conflicts that could be desired. By fanning the natural resentment of a populace, working on the paranoia of a Planetary Governor, and introducing a fog of disinformation, an Istvaanian or his agents can create a world of fear and bloodshed from an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Others will create phantom threats whose power to induce terror grows with every whispered conversation and whose existence demands a response. Such illusory threats can be small enough to only affect a local population (such as a killer preying on local officials) or vast and terrifying enough to seize the minds of billions and cause the Imperium to mobilise vast resources. Some, of course, abstain from such subtlety and simply start a war when they feel the cause is sufficient. A notorious tactic of Istvaanians is to first strike one side and leave evidence implicating the other. This in turn creates a counterattack, and before long, an all-out war will have sprung from nowhere.
The Creation of Disaster
To the eyes of the most extreme Istvaanian Radicals, a disaster is an extreme trial that leaves those it touches either remade or crushed by its passing. It is a trial by fire in which the epitome of Istvaanian doctrine is rendered into a moment of pure revelation. Those Istvaanians who follow this path often manipulate the circumstances that lead to a disaster and let events take their course, rather than create them outright -- although such agents will engage in major acts of sabotage and terror if it suits their purpose. The more established, comfortable, and indolent the circumstance in which such a disaster occurs, the more it achieves the ends of an Istvaanian as the greater the shock to the system. Should one of these Inquisitorial patrons of calamity find in their judgement that a world is too soft, too fat, and satisfied with its own success, he will see it as his duty to make that world pay for its privilege. If it is strong despite its appearances, it will survive, but if it was wanting, then that world will be brought down in fire and ruin, and the Imperium will be stronger for it. For a desert settlement, such a disaster might be the destruction of their water supply; for an Imperial Navy Battlefleet, it might be the destruction of a critical warship carrying the command staff; and if a sector comes under the judgement of an Istvaanian cell, then the result might be the assassination of the Lord Sector or the destruction of an entire planet.
The Hand with the Iron Gauntlet
One paradox of the Istvaanian position is the desire to build up the Imperium's might at the same time as insuring that it is challenged. As a result, Inquisitors of the Istvaanian creed not only create conflict, but also expend much of their energies to help forge the iron fist of Imperial might so that it might triumph in war. The Imperial Guard, Imperial Navy, the leadership of Imperial Governors and Commanders, the Adeptus Arbites and even, where possible, the Adeptus Sororitas, Adeptus Astartes, and the Inquisition itself all come under the Istvaanian's scrutiny and judgement. Each is a vital part of the Imperium's war machine that must be honed and sharpened in the face of the enemy. Most Istvaanians have close ties with the militant branches of Imperial authority and use their influence and resources to manoeuvre strong individuals of proven ability into key positions. While this may seem a practice more in accordance with the conservative doctrines of the Puritan factions of the Inquisition, it is in fact merely a consequence of the Istvaanian quest for creating strength through trial. Often an Istvaanian will promote or manipulate a capable warrior into a position that brings him closer to carefully selected conflicts. In this way, Istvaanians both forge the weapon and ensure it remains strong for when it is truly needed.
Istvaanians Within the Holy Ordos
The Istvaanians, like any other Radical faction of the Inquisition, are but a small percentage of the Holy Ordos, and most make no overt show within the Conclave of their allegiance and creed, the better to go about their true work. The Istvaanians' presence and ideology is long-established within the Holy Ordos furthermore, for every true "warmonger" (as they are often disparagingly named by their comrades) there are still more fellow Inquisitors who give some credence to the Istvaanians' concerns and theories, if not their more extreme acts. Rather than a grand conspiracy, one of the faction's greatest strengths is that it holds to a single ethos rather than an organisation. In practice, this means that while Istvaanians can and do band together to form covert cells to plan and carry out their interventions, just as many operate on their own, following their own compass of conviction without recourse to each other's knowledge or approval.
Istvaanians see every facet of the Imperium as worthy of their attention, and everything in it either as possible tool for creating vital conflict or for defending humanity. As such, Inquisitors of Istvaanian conviction can be found throughout the Ordos Hereticus, Xenos, and Malleus, each with his own particular sphere of interest and expertise. Those within the Ordo Hereticus use the internal strife and factionalism within the Imperium to create civil wars and blood feuds, while also playing on the fear of the mutant and the witch to create violent reactions to perceived threats. Istvaanians within the Ordo Xenos attempt to bring the Imperium and alien races into open war by provoking conflict or by stirring up hatred and fear of the alien. And though their involvement is rarer, the Ordo Malleus provides Istvaanians with such nightmarish possibilities that give even the most diligent Istvaanians pause: inciting malign Chaos Cults to violent action, releasing forbidden lore or artefacts to attract the attention of the weak and corrupt, or even the "controlled" release of daemons to sow terror and thereby prove the need for ever greater vigilance and brutal response. A significant number of Istvaanians are affiliated with no single Ordo, however, and must find their own focus and means of achieving their ends, changing fluidly and quixotically between creating strife and purging evil according to what they judge the Imperium to need.
"Our test is crisis; no others are of worth. All life is war, all war is life. It is self-evident. Every human being is born with blood on their hands."
- — Lady Alecto Amaros, On War, Vol I
Istvaanians are commonly seen as rash and headstrong individuals who will not allow the Imperium a moment's respite from strife and conflict. The relative current stability of the Calixis Sector might, therefore, indicate a small or inconsequential involvement by the warmonger Inquisitors within the sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. Istvaanian actions have been woven into the fabric of the sector since before the Angevin Crusade, and a hardened core of Istvaanian Inquisitors operates at the heart of the Calixian Conclave. The current situation is simply the quiet before the coming storm as far as they are concerned, a storm that may be unleashed if several powerful Istvaanian conspiracies bear fruit.
The Hyades Locks
A number of powerful Istvaanians within the Tyrantine Cabal have discovered passages within the deep archives that speak of the Hyades Locks, a subject with which they have become rapidly obsessed. The nature of these devices is uncertain, but the fragments of ancient legend and prophecy speak of them as "great locks to the portals through which all shall pass to endless sleep, held fast by ages and secured by the key," and indicate that they are present on a number of worlds within the sector.
It seems clear to the Istvaanians that opening these locks will destroy the worlds on which they rest. The efforts of a number of Istvaanian Inquisitors, including Lady Amaros, have uncovered indications that one of these devices exists in the heart of the Golgenna Reach. Using any means at their disposal, these Inquisitors are racing to discover the exact location of this and other Hyades Locks, and the keys to open them. Whether the key is metaphorical, allegorical, or literal is currently unclear, as the only reference to it is contained within the Propheticum Hereticus Tenebrae and speaks only of a "key once held by the herald." The intent of the Istvaanians, should they find both lock and key, is simple: open the lock and let the death of a world shake Calixis out of its dormancy and content. Unfortunately for the Istvaanians, the matter of the Haydes Locks pertains to events and powers already in motion far outside the Warmongers' usual remit. They are dangerously late comers to a particularly dark and terrible game and may well suffer for it.
The Madness of Marius Hax
Sector Governor Marius Hax is a fair and even-handed man who many believe is slipping into paranoia and tyranny. This change has not been one of his own making, nor a consequence of some weakness of mind. It is the product of careful manipulation by agents serving masters of the Istvaanian conviction, Inquisitors who see the myriad threats and dark prophesies that are rising like shadows all around the Calixis Sector as a coming trial by fire, in which Hax must prosper or the sector must die.
Devoted to ordered rule, and harsh in his judgement of anything that threatens it, Hax has had his nature played on by carefully engineered assessments of the sector's stability, steered by incidents which cause him to question the loyalties of his servants and the Adepta. Moreover, advisors who serve other, secret masters have been carefully positioned to bend his ear. By these means, a number of Istvaanians have succeeded in making Hax increase the military power of the Lord Sector's office beyond its direct necessity and secure the armed forces loyal to him alone, such as the notorious Chaliced Commissariat. These manipulators are also nudging the Lord Sector's perception and mental state further and further into fear of rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy. Inch by inch, they are creating Marius Hax as a fanatic who will rise to a crisis at the head of a tide of blood and iron. Such a deadly crisis is surely not far off.
Acolytes of the Istvaanians
Many Acolytes who serve Istvaanian Inquisitors are drawn from the militant arms of the Imperium or from worlds where strife and destruction is a way of life. Given their bombastic and warmongering nature, this preference is unsurprising. Many Istvaanian Inquisitors have contacts within the Imperial Guard, Adeptus Arbites, Departmento Munitorum, and Imperial Navy who they use to recruit warriors, killers, and saboteurs into their service. Given their proclivities, Istvaanian Inquisitors are particularly fond of recruiting and sponsoring "survivors" into their service, a practice that is far from uncommon throughout the Holy Ordos, but sits particularly well with the Istvaanian mindset. Particularly prized are individuals who are veterans of great conflicts or who have overcome appalling adversity and beaten the odds to survive. So valued are the progeny of such calamitous events that some extremist Istvaanians will engineer a particular kind of catastrophe so that they can recruit the hardened individuals who emerge from its rubble and ashes.
Many Istvaanian operations are undertaken covertly within the Imperium, often in direct opposition to Imperial authority. Acolytes who serve an Istvaanian master must be more than mere blunt tools; they must be resourceful, capable of autonomous action, and of course deniable, should they be discovered. Many are trained infiltrators recruited from Assassin cults or other organisations that exist on the borderline between Imperial sanction and heresy. Istvaanian Inquisitors must first make sure to completely sever any remaining ties to their Acolytes' past lives and ensure that previous loyalties are stripped away.
The Istvaanians and Other Inquisitorial Factions
The Istvaanians' agendas as warmongers and agents of anarchy tend to conflict with those of most other Radical and Puritan factions within the Inquisition. Those who perhaps comes closest to concordance with Istvaanian convictions are the philosophies of the Recongregators, who wish to tear down the stagnant monoliths of the Imperium and replace them with bold agencies of change. Both factions frequently foment rebellion within the Imperium, operate covertly, and create mayhem and disorder. This agreement is, however, largely superficial, as the creation of conflict, disorder and mayhem is an end in itself to the Istvaanians; what comes after is an inevitable consequence of the disaster acting on mankind. On occasion, agents of the Istvaanians and Recongregators work in concert, but it rarely results in more than the briefest alliance. Like the Recongregators, the destabilising nature of Istvaanian operations puts them in frequent and bitter conflict with the powerful Amalathians who value order and continuity above all else.
Other factions, both Puritan and Radical, are seen by Istvaanians as being of little importance in terms of what they believe or do, but are seen as vital for creating conflict within the Inquisition itself. It is not uncommon for Istvaanians to wade in on one side or another of a clash between Inquisitors of rival factions for no other reason than to make the strife between members of the Inquisition all the more intense. This, however, can lead to profound trouble for the Istvaanian forces involved, particularly if they have meddled in the affairs of powerful or supremely dangerous factions such as the Xanthites or the Libricar, whose retaliation is likely to be both brutal and swift. Like all Radical factions, the Istvaanians are either viewed as contemptible or dangerous by the Puritan majority, while many other Radicals see Istvaanians as destructive and impetuous fools who upset and destroy things of which they have no deeper understanding, and whose actions ultimately weaken the Imperium.
Istvaanians within the Calixis Sector
Like much of the Imperium, the Calixis Sector is no stranger to war, and it is to these zones of conflict that the Istvaanians flock. Less interested in local, isolated struggles, such as the constant fighting on Iocanthos or the civil war on Acreage, Istvaanians seek out places where the fighting may spill out across star systems, setting countless worlds ablaze with carnage and strife. Such Inquisitors commonly travel the fringe where the rule of the Imperium is most in dispute, and xenos forces, Renegade worlds, and the slow seep of Chaos are strongest. The Halo Stars, in particular, are a breeding ground for conflict, one which the Isstvanians have been known to nurture when it suits their purposes.
Across the sector, Istvaanians and their agents seek to stir up conflict and tear down weak leaders and regimes. In the process, they have been known to invite invasions and cover up small, benign problems until they mutate into large, malignant ones. Istvaanians also work covertly within the networks of the Recongregators, ostensibly appearing to aid them in their efforts, only to send carefully engineered events spinning out of control at the eleventh hour. This has earned them a dire reputation among both the Recongregators and the Amalathians, who both have, intentionally and unintentionally, ended up working on the same side against the "unpredictable" Istvaanians.
The Istvaanian faction attracts a certain kind of Inquisitor, such as the merciless and cruel Amaros. Having made a name for herself in the Ordo Xenos purging indigenous life forms in the Josian Reach, Inquisitor Amaros was repeatedly appalled by the lack of action that local sector authorities were taking to combat what she saw as the spread of potentially dangerous xeno-forms. To remedy this problem, she manipulated a cabal of smugglers and bio-pirates into modifying and distributing gene-engineered aliens as pets and guard-forms. The result was the Trygor Xeno Plague, which led to the deaths of countless citizens and the Euthanous Edict which in turn led to the purging on a dozen worlds of all non-human life. Amaros' whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Istvaanians prefer not to waste excessive efforts on concealment or moving behind the scenes in the same way the Recongregators or Amalathians are known to do. Rather, they act swiftly and decisively, bringing with them fire and ruin. In years past, Ork invasions have cut through the Calixis Sector, spreading destruction in their wake and rallying the sector's forces against them. Some Istvaanians believe that the time is almost ripe for another such invasion. Through rumour and divination, they have begun to get an idea of where and when a strike might occur. Rather than try to avert the disaster, they are, of course, creating havoc in its path. They are destabilising worlds that they perceive as weak and diverting questionable military commanders to the area. Thus, when the hammer blow of the Ork attack is felt, it will ring out loudly across the entire sector.
- Lady Olianthe Rathbone - Lady Olianthe claims membership of none of the three great Ordos. She originated among the Calixis Sector's nobility and still favours magnificent ballgowns and elaborate wigs, which would not look out of place in the ballroom of some governor's palace. Beneath the finery, her piercing, ice-cold grey eyes betray a keen and ruthless intelligence. Some say she was originally an Interrogator in the employ of Lord Inquisitor Zerbe but there is never any obvious familiarity shown between them. Lady Olianthe is very difficult to know and impossible to befriend, and manages to suggest that everyone around her is her inferior without actually stating it out loud. Secretly a deep-seated Radical, Lady Olianthe is an Istvaanian and believes that for the Imperium to become stronger, it must be exposed to war and catastrophe. The Calixis Sector, to her way of thinking, is bloated and irredeemable, and desperately needs a major cataclysm to weed out its weak and corrupt citizens. While she is not averse to combating particularly horrible threats like Chaos Cultists or the mutants she personally despises, Lady Olianthe is also constantly on the lookout for ways to manipulate the power structures of the Calixis Sector towards strife. She intends to do this by subtly coaxing the sector's leading noble houses towards conflict or rebellion. She is willing to pursue this agenda personally, treating her Acolytes as little more than intelligence gatherers who have no idea of her destructive ambitions.
- Codex: Inquisition (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), pg. 38
- Dark Heresy: Ascension (RPG), pp. 164-165
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 321
- Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (2nd Edition) (RPG), pg. 317
- Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods (RPG), pp. 179-180
- Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook (RPG), pp. 78-83
- The Inquisition - An Illustrated Guide to the Secretive Protectors of the Imperium by Nick Kyme, Lindsey Priestley & George Stirling, pg. 37