"There exist out there in the unbroached void of night and in the deeper darkness beyond, things so terrible and vile that they would devour us and destroy everything we have made. And why? Because they fear us—and rightly so, for we are humanity and the stars are ours."
The Macharian Crusade was a monumental, seven-year-long Imperial Crusade fought between 392.M41 and 399.M41, led by Lord Commander Solar Macharius, the Imperium's greatest Astra Militarum commander of all time and a recognised tactical and strategic genius on a par with the Primarchs themselves. This Crusade took place on the far western edge of the galaxy within the Segmentum Pacificus, reaching as far as the border of the galaxy with intergalactic space and even reaching into the unknown regions of the Halo Zone. The furthest extent of this Crusade reached just beyond the edge of the Segementum Pacificus, where not even the blessed light of the Astronomican could penetrate the dark void. Most Imperial savants agree that Macharius was the most successful and brilliant Imperial Warmaster since the Arch-Traitor Horus. Nearly a thousand worlds were brought back into the Imperial fold in only seven standard years of fighting, yet upon his death the newly-won territories erupted into the civil war known as the Macharian Heresy as Macharius' various generals vied for control, fighting over the spoils as degenerate warlords.
The Lord Solar Macharius' forces consisted of seven army groups of the Astra Militarum, each led by a general appointed by Macharius himself. Though Macharius was prepared to capture a thousand more worlds, his armies were not, for they had been pushed beyond the point of endurance and were exhausted by the relentless pace with which Macharius had driven them. His troops had followed him from world to world on one of the greatest human adventures of all time, but his subordinates refused to travel any further when they reached the edge of the known galaxy. It was whispered that the stars of the Halo Zone were haunted and the worlds which orbited them were inhabited by ghosts. At the edge of the galaxy Macharius prepared to move onwards but his armies, never beaten once by any enemy, wavered and crumbled at the prospect of exploring the psychic darkness at the galaxy's edge. The conquests of Macharius thus came to an end. The Lord Solar had finally been defeated, not by any opposing warlords, but by human fear and frailty. Reluctantly, Macharius agreed to conclude his campaign and return to Imperial space. The Lord Solar was never seen alive again, for he died during the voyage back to his homeworld to announce the full extent of his conquests to the Senatorum Imperialis. The exact nature of Macharius' death remains shrouded in mystery. Yet no Imperial leader has led the armies of the Imperial Guard to more victories or on to greater conquests, nor won so many worlds for the Imperium since the Great Crusade itself.
The Macharian Crusade began its expedition into the unknown on the world of Macharia, now a Shrine World of the Adeptus Ministorum, in the Segmentum Pacificus. It was there that the Lord Solar Macharius rallied his troops before boarding the waiting transports in orbit above the planet. Then the expedition set off to new worlds in unexplored space all the way to the galactic rim, beyond the reach of even the sacred telepathic beacon of the Emperor's Astronomican. Many of these worlds had once been part of the Imperium of Man, but had lost contact with the Emperor's realm during the chaos of the Age of Apostasy in the early 36th Millennium.
The first major battle of the Macharian Crusade took place against the Cult of the Angel of Fire, which ruled over the Karsk System. During the campaign, the Cult was revealed to be a front for the worship of the Chaos God Tzeentch, and a wounded Macharius faced down the Greater Daemon known as a Lord of Change that was the "Angel of Fire" which provided the Cult's namesake, rejecting its promises of power through Chaos and remaining pure in the sight of the Emperor. The Macharian Crusade then ground on across the extreme western edges of the Segmentum Pacificus and into the Halo Stars, and many alien and human civilisations were encountered. A chronology of the most notable campaigns of the Macharian Crusade follows:
- 392.M41 - The Hive World of Persepolis was recontacted by the Imperium after 5,000 standard years. Macharius and his troops of the 1st Army Group joined General Sejanus' 2nd Army Group to fight across the deserts of the world of Gedrosia. Macharius discovered the tomb of the ancient Imperial explorer Indijona the Vagrant and took his golden winged relic helm as a prize he would wear for the rest of the Crusade.
- 393.M41 - One of the most notable operations at this point in the Crusade was a battle against Chaos Space Marines on the world of Zaga IV. During the fighting, a Bolter round embeds itself in Macharius' chest but fails to explode. The Ecclesiarchy Confessors accompanying the Crusade declare it to be a miracle and a sign of the Emperor's grace and love for Macharius.
- 395.M41 - The most important operation of the Crusade in this year was the Battle of Thoth. General Arrian's 6th Army Group captured the last enemy position on the world of Thoth after Macharius arrived with reinforcements from the 1st Army Group.
- 395-397.M41 - During this period General Borgen Crassus launched an assault against the highly advanced independent human civilization that controlled the world of Adrantis Five. Adrantis Five and its advanced technology held Macharius' advance at bay for nearly two standard years, during which time General Crassus' 5th Army Group lost 90% of its combat strength in the grinding, attritional warfare. In the end, Adrantis Five only fell to the Lord Solar after Macharius ordered a comet to be hurled at the world, a weapon of mass destruction that killed much of the world's population and forced the remaining defenders to lay down their arms and accept Imperial conquest.
- 397.M41 - Later in 397.M41, following the conclusion of the campaign against Adrantis Five, the Macharian Crusade forces encountered a massive Ork WAAAGH! whose Warboss managed to inflict debilitating injuries upon Macharius. For a time, the entire Crusade stood on a knife's edge, but the Lord Solar recovered and continued to headlong drive into unexplored space.
Overall, in the first year of the Crusade, one hundred worlds fell to Macharius' conquest. In the second year, three hundred more would be added to the Emperor's realm. By the third year of operations, nearly seven hundred planets had fallen to Macharius' combined armies. Each world so conquered had its population either systematically ground down until there were too few natives left to oppose the Imperial advance or was brought under the direct dominion of the Imperium in a conscious imitation of the policies that had created the Imperium during the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium. In the wake of Macharius' conquering army always came the Missionaries of the Ecclesiarchy and teams from the Inquisition to spread the faith of the God-Emperor to the heathen, eliminate any Heretics, mutants or witches to be found amidst the conquered population and reestablish full Imperial control over the new additions to Mankind's demesne.
By the end of the Crusade in 399.M41, Macharius' armies stood undefeated and at the very western edge of the galaxy, deep within the Halo Zone and at the very limits of the Astronomican's telepathic beacon. The region beyond was cutoff from the Imperium and the home to civilisations that had never known the light or peace of the Emperor of Mankind. At this point, Macharius' generals and troops finally wavered in their resolve to continue into the darkness beyond the boundaries of the Emperor's light. They pleaded with the Lord Solar to reconsider advancing into the dark void of the Halo Stars, which officially marked the limits of the Astronomican and the protection of the Emperor. His fleet would be greatly slowed in that region of space due to the difficulty his Navigators would have in negotiating the currents of the Empyrean beyond the range of the Astronomican, and his Astropaths would be beyond the range of telepathic communication back to Imperial space. In truth, Macharius' troops were also simply tired and suffered from low morale after years of intense and grinding battles on hundreds of worlds across thousands of light years of space. Many of his troops were also fearful of what lay beyond, as many of the scout teams sent into the Halo Zone had never returned and those that did told of strange phenomenon, of haunted stars and entire worlds inhabited by what they could only describe as ghosts and spririts. Faced with this refusal to advance, Macharius became furious and accused his troops and commanders of betrayal and cowardice. He locked himself in his state room, drinking himself into a drunken stupor.
When Macharius finally emerged, clean and sober once more, he ordered his fleet to set course back to Imperial space. His Guardsmen cheered the Lord Solar as a hero and Living Saint of the Imperium, and his generals breathed a deep sigh of relief. However, Macharius was a frustrated man whose dreams of boundless conquests in the name of the God-Emperor had been shattered in the face of simple human frailties and fears that he himself did not suffer from or feel. His will to live broken by his men's refusal, on the return journey to Imperial space in 400.M41, the official version of events is that the Lord Solar finally succumbed to a jungle fever he had contracted on the world of Jucha, his soul ascending to join the Emperor. Other say that he willingly died so that he could finally rest with other ancient heroes of the Imperium who would not balk at danger, unlike those who followed him. But the truth of the matter was that Macharius faced a far darker fate, which was seemingly covered up by Imperial authorities following his death.
Documents retrieved for the eventual canonisation of Macharius as a Saint of the Imperial Cult cast a very different picture of his last moments. Afflicted by various plagues during the first siege of the world of Loki, the Lord Commander had only solar weeks if not days to live when he gathered his personal forces for a last-ditch assault against Richter, a former general of Macharius' army who had turned to the Ruinous Powers. While Macharius did manage to kill Richter, the Lord Commander died shortly afterwards by the hand of a hidden cultist alongside Inquisitor Drake, or so says the official version of his death that obviously did not remain "official" for very long.
There are whispers in the historical record of an even darker truth -- that it was unthinkable to let the Lord Commander die because of Nurgle's gifts. That the Imperium needed a hero, dying gloriously in battle. Based on some accounts, Inquisitor Drake had fed strategic and tactical information to Richter to stalemate the Imperial progress on Loki. According to a lone survivor, after Richter's death, an Officio Assassinorum agent masquerading as an Imperial Storm Trooper killed Macharius, then proceeded to permanently silence Drake as well. Despite their earlier refusal to continue the Crusade, Macharius' men deeply mourned the passing of their general and revered him as a Saint of the Imperial Creed, a second coming of the ancient Primarchs.
Macharius' body was returned to Macharia, where the Crusade had originally began. A massive state funeral was held there for the Lord Commander Solar, which was attended by the High Lords of Terra, Cardinals of the Ecclesiarchy, the Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and many other important figures of the Imperium wishing to pay their respects to one of the greatest leaders the realm of the Emperor had ever known. A million men led the funeral procession, and a hundred Imperial Guard generals laid their swords on his ornate sarcophagus. Not long after his death, the Adeptus Ministorum officially recognised what many had known for years -- Macharius was canonised as a Saint of the Imperial Cult. Macharia was transformed into a Shrine World dedicated to the former Lord Solar, and millions of pilgrims from across the Imperium made the long journey every year to visit the grand Imperial cathedral erected over his final resting place.
Following the death of Macharius, his new additions to Imperial space fell into anarchy during a seventy standard year-long civil war known as the Macharian Heresy. Macharius' various commanders soon fell to squabbling amongst themselves over who should command his expedition, and many sought to carve out their own personal domains amongst the worlds Macharius had conquered. The Imperium was ultimately forced to send a new expedition, this time comprised of many Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, to restore Imperial authority in the newly-conquered regions.
Imperial Order of Battle of the Macharian Crusade
- Lord Commander Solar Macharius - 1st Army Group
- General Sejanus - 2nd Army Group
- General Tarka - 3rd Army Group
- General Lysander - 4th Army Group
- General Borgen Crassus - 5th Army Group
- General Arrian - 6th Army Group
- General Cyrus of Larrentine - 7th Army Group
1st Army Group, Lord Solar's Own
- Donian Imperial Guard Regiments
- Byzant Janizars, Multiple Regiments
- Cadian Shock Troopers, Multiple Regiments
- Death Korps of Krieg, Multiple Regiments
- Merican Fusiliers, Multiple Regiments
2nd Army Group, Sejanus' Steel
- Barac Pioneers, Multiple Regiments
- Cadian Shock Troopers, Multiple Regiments
- Mordian Iron Guard (2nd-6th, 12th, 14th Regiments)
3rd Army Group, The Backbreakers
- Cadian Shock Troopers, Multiple Regiments
- Elysian Drop Troops, Multiple Regiments
- Genswick Rifles, Multiple Regiments
4th Army Group, The Mirage
- Armageddon Steel Legion, Multiple Regiments
- Kanak Skulltakers, Multiple Regiments
- Tallarn Desert Raiders, Multiple Regiments
5th Army Group, Gauntlets of Crassus
- Cadian Shock Troopers, Multiple Regiments
- Harakoni Warhawks, Multiple Regiments
- Praetorian Guard, Multiple Regiments
6th Army Group, Hard Luck Sixth
- Catachan Jungle Fighters, (Vth, VIth, XIIth, XIVth Regiments)
- Methalor Penal Legion, Multiple Regiments
- Terrax Guard, Multiple Regiments
7th Army Group, Fire and Ice
- Catachan Jungle Fighters, Multiple Regiments
- Valhallan Ice Warriors, Multiple Regiments
- Jackals, Multiple Regiments
Adeptus Astartes Chapters
- Lord of Light (Emperor-class Battleship) - Flagship of Lord Solar Macharius during the latter stages of the crusade.
- Pax Imperium (Mars-class Battlecruiser) - First flagship of Lord Solar Macharius; destroyed at the Battle of Charaxdis.
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 13
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition), pg. 22
- Codex: Imperial Guard (2nd Edition), pp. 31-32, 59, 83
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War: Part One, pp. 108-109
- Imperial Armour Volume Eleven - The Doom of Mymeara, pg. 94
- White Dwarf 240 (US), "Conqueror of Darkness - Imperial Lord Solar Macharius", pp. 32-33
- Angel of Fire (Novel) by William King
- Fist of Demetrius (Novel) by William King