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The Palatine Aquila, ancient symbol of the Imperium of Man

An Iterator was an Imperial rhetorician, propagandist and educator who was a part of the Imperial Corps of Iterators created by the Emperor of Mankind to accompany every Expeditionary Fleet of the Great Crusade during the late 30th and early 31st Millennia.

The Corps of Iterators was created by the Emperor specifically to spread and reinforce the atheistic and rationalist Imperial Truth among all the worlds conquered during the Great Crusade and brought into Imperial Compliance. Iterators were present on every Imperial world where they served as educators and propagandists who sought to insinuate the Imperial Truth into every aspect of human life.

Iterators paid particular attention to the eradication of any religious or superstitious beliefs among the populace, replacing them with calm, cool rationalism and a strong, almost Victorian belief in scientific progress. Iterators also served as sources of knowledge and inspiration for the Astartes of the Space Marine Legions and Imperial Army troops who served in the various Expeditionary Fleets.

None could explain the advantages brought by Imperial civilisation or the reasons why the conquest of tens of thousands of new worlds by the Imperium was a necessary requirement for human advancement despite the sometimes terrible cost as well as an Iterator.

History

It was said that the Iterators were selected through a process even more rigorous and scrupulous than the induction mechanisms of the Astartes. "One man in a thousand might become a Legion warrior," an Imperial saying of the Great Crusade went, "but only one in a hundred thousand is fit to be an Iterator." To be an Iterator, a person had to have certain rare gifts that belied simple physical or genetic enhancement, including psychological insight, articulateness, political genius, and a keen intelligence.

The latter could be boosted, either cybernetically or pharmaceutically, and a mind could be tutored in history, ethics, politics and rhetoric. A person could be taught what to think, and how to express that line of thought, but he could not be taught how to think, which was the critical specialty of the Iterator.

Yet Iterators were not simply schooled in the art of public speaking. They were also trained in both sides of the business of persuasion. Seeded amongst a crowd, Iterators could whip it up into enthusiasm with a few well-timed responses, or equally turn a rabble against the speaker.

In this way, the Iterators were actually the precursors of those Imperial agents who would become the Commissars of the Astra Militarum and Imperial Navy after the Reformation of the Imperium following the Horus Heresy. Iterators often mingled with audiences, especially on newly conquered Imperial worlds, to bolster the effectiveness of their colleague doing the actual speaking. Most Iterators could be found within the great Archive Chambers of the Astartes Battle Barges that led the Great Crusade's many Expeditionary Fleets.

These Archives contained ancient books, hololiths and dataslates left from the ancient past of Terra, some stretching back into the Age of Strife or even the Dark Age of Technology. Iterators were expected to hold tutorials for the Astartes of their fleet to educate them in other aspects of human knowledge for the glorious day when the Great Crusade at last came to its end and peace reigned across the Emperor's vast realm.

The most famous and perhaps skilled of the Iterators was Primary Iterator Kyril Sindermann, who served as the chief Iterator for the Warmaster Horus' 63rd Expeditionary Fleet and dwelled aboard his great flagship, the Vengeful Spirit. Sindermann was a particular favorite of Captain Garviel Loken of the Luna Wolves, with whom he often discussed the weightier matters of philosophy and the reasons why the Emperor had undertaken the Great Crusade to force other human cultures into His Imperium, by diplomacy if possible, but by force if necessary.

Sindermann was a dedicated atheist and powerful proponent of the Imperial Truth until the day during the Luna Wolves' conquest of the world designated Sixty-Three-Nineteen when he and several Remembrancers from the 63rd Expedition witnessed the daemonic possession of the Luna Wolves Battle-Brother Xavyer Jubal. To see what could only be described as a daemon called every one of Sindermann's most cherished beliefs into question.

He spent solar months after the incident cooped up in the Vengeful Spirit 's Archive Chambers hunting for answers in the knowledge of the human past. He was particularly concerned by one burning question: why would the Emperor have promulgated the atheistic doctrine of the Imperial Truth if He, as humanity's greatest psyker, was keenly aware that such entities existed within the Immaterium?

Sindermann eventually spoke with Euphrati Keeler, the Remembrancer who had taken hololiths and images of Jubal's hideous transformation, but had come to grips with her own confrontation with the daemonic by becoming a devoted follower of the Lectitio Divinitatus, the growing Imperial religious cult that believed in the divinity of the Emperor and ultimately laid the foundation for the Imperial Cult and the Ecclesiarchy.

Sindermann attempted to use fragments of text and images taken by Keeler and other Remembrancers to decipher the religious text sacred to the Word Bearers Legion known as the Book of Lorgar which supposedly held the collected wisdom of many dark priesthoods and superstitious faiths across the galaxy and had been created after the Primarch Lorgar had completed his infamous Pilgrimage decades before.

While reading a portion of the text aloud from the heretical tome, Sindermann inadvertently summoned a Lesser Daemon from the Warp that began to damage the library stacks of the Archives aboard the Vengeful Spirit until Euphrati Keeler banished the creature back to the Immaterium through the exercise of her extraordinary faith in the Emperor, after which she fell into a coma-like state.

This second encounter with the daemonic broke Sindermann's remaining tenuous belief in the atheism and materialism of the Imperial Truth and forced him to confront the reality that he lived in a universe where spiritual beings did exist and could hunger for the lives and souls of human beings. In such a universe, the only thing that could protect humanity was the power of other supernatural beings.

Thus Sindermann came to exchange the Imperial Truth for a new faith in the divine Emperor as embodied in the teachings of the Lectitio Divinitatus. By this time, the corruption of Chaos had wormed its way deep into the Warmaster Horus and most of his renamed Sons of Horus Legion, and so with the aid of Captain Iacton Qruze of that Legion, Sindermann, the Remembrancer Mersadie Oliton and Euphrati Keeler managed to escape the Vengeful Spirit during the start of the Battle of Istvaan III.

They made their way to the Imperial frigate Eisenstein. They were taken in by the Death Guard Loyalists under the command of Battle Captain Nathaniel Garro and escaped from the Istvaan System to Terra after many trials and tribulations to warn the Emperor of His son Horus' great betrayal.

Upholding the Imperial Truth

While the very nature of the Warp is unreal, the threat posed by the daemon extends beyond the metaphysical to tear at the very foundations of reality. Many would choose to deny that this threat was real, and for them the armour of ignorance would be shattered alongside their fragile sanities during the Horus Heresy.

For those who sought to hold the darkness at bay -- the organisations established through the years of the Great Crusade -- the threat which they girded themselves against was a very practical concern. These dauntless protectors would struggle to endure in the tumult of unrealiry unleashed by Horus and his allies, though they would clad themselves in the armour of knowledge, and wield powerful weapons in the forms of archeotech and psyarkana -- the arts of psychic technology.

These weapons of esoteric provenance were both as real and as unreal as the sinister denizens of the Warp, and were used to turn the arcane against the Empyreal. However, such potent weapons hold edges which cut both ways, and the Imperium would suffer under the attentions of its own protectors.

During the terrible period of history known as Old Night, evil rose to its zenith in the galaxy. For thousands of Terran years, unabated horrors assailed the isolated worlds of humanity, bringing it to the very brink of annihilation and reducing Mankind to a pitiable race, a shadow of the glories of its past.

This era of horrors, perpetuated by vivisector-warlords and techno-barbarian ryrants, was marked by plagues of insanity, the scourge of famine and the tragedy of unending war. Worst of all of the terrors faced by humanity in this era was the incursion of the Warp, brought about by the emergence of ever more psykers and the machinations of sorcerer-kings.

Human worlds were swallowed whole by the Warp or else subjugated to become the slaves of daemons. On such worlds, the human body became inconstant, rife mutation twisting the shape of men and women beyond recognition into something entirely alien. Cruelty, brutality and suffering were the only constants of this age -- this is the galactic anarchy which the Emperor opposed and the horror of the darkness which the Imperial Truth was employed to hold at bay.

If upholding the Imperial Truth was a necessary evil of the galactic dominion the Emperor sought to achieve, it also served many purposes in the growth of the Imperium of Man, from the breaking up of communities which shared common beliefs that might oppose Him, to creating an equality of opportunity such that any citizen of merit might rise to prominence of their own accord.

Furthermore, by breaking the tribalism and in-fighting different cultural groups had held for Terran millennia through the creation of a single Imperial cultural doctrine, and by freeing the Imperial populace of the cosmic dread which mortals feel when contemplating the vastness of the galaxy, He enabled all of Mankind to set their focus towards the single goal of the Imperial dream.

These are all noble and rational causes, though they are shadowed in significance by what appears to have been the greater advantage, as observed by those who were aware of the Great Lie. Every religion, ancient and esoteric, encountered by the Great Crusade in two standard centuries shared one common factor: that worship draws the attention of the Ruinous Powers within the Warp. Organised religions, cults of personality, the worship of god-kings and of xenos, all of these, through some ethereal means, empower beings madmen describe as the "True Gods."

It would not be beyond reason to posit that one of the secret motivations of the Emperor in promulgating the Imperial Truth was to weaken the psychic threads which bind humanity to the foul sentiences in the Empyrean, and break the grasp of the Ruinous Powers. Given the vital importance that the Imperial Truth became a universal galactic doctrine, the means taken by the Emperor and Malcador the Sigillite to ensure that it was enforced were many, and in some cases, extreme.

However, their consistent purpose points to some justified ends being served which may be unfathomable to lesser, human intellects. This purpose was to suppress at all cost wider knowledge of the supernatural nature of the Warp. To this end, specific and covert bodies were created, and for the duration of the Great Crusade they largely succeeded.

Foremost and most well-known of these bodies acting in support of the Imperial Truth were the tools of the vast Imperial propaganda machine. The Iterators, that order of rhetoricians, philosophers and educators, were primed with the express purpose of propagating the message of the Imperial Truth throughout the Great Crusade.

They would ply their trade on every Compliant world newly entering the Imperium, as well as reinforce the secularity and rationality of the tenets of the Imperial Truth on worlds decades or centuries part of the Imperium. The Iterators were recruited from the most erudite, sharp-witted and silver-tongued teachers of Terra, men and women trained at the direction of Malcador the Sigillite to have such a firm belief in the Imperial Truth and keen grasp of rhetoric, debate and diplomacy that when making their orations they could smother any arguments, however sensible, to the contrary of their specific dogma.

While considered an overwhelming success from the perspective of the great and good of the Great Crusade, on many worlds the speech of Iterators was seen as bombast and unconvincing, for deep-seated strictures and beliefs cannot be easily changed with the introduction of new and often inflammatory concepts like atheism.

The master of Jungmagr is recorded to have said of the army of Iterators which spread among his populace after that bloody Imperial Compliance action, "Better fangs chew'd us through, than left these serpents' honeyed tongues to turn us, for snake is root of our evils and woes befall us now forth."

Though many Compliances may have seemed peaceful thanks to the work of the Iterators, more often than not it was the threat of the Bolters of the Legiones Astartes standing at the Iterators' sides which cowed worlds into Compliance, rather than eloquence and logic.

As the pre-Imperial adage goes, "a mind changed against its will is of the same opinion still" and as such should have been more closely heeded, for in the haste to move on to greater conquests, the Great Crusade left behind a string of worlds ready to reject the Iterators' platitudes, ripe for the influence of the demagogue and the powers of the Warp to fester and ferment rebellion.

Sources

  • Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett
  • False Gods (Novel) by Graham MacNeill
  • Galaxy in Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter
  • The Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow
  • The Horus Heresy Book Eight: Malevolence (Forge World Series) by Neil Wylie and Anuj Malhotra, pp. 24-25
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