The Holy Order of the Penitent Saint
The Pnoabsterix sub-sector lies in the Ultima Segmentum, a bastion of humanity in the deep galactic northeast. For over three millennia, the word of the God-Emperor and the authority of the Ecclesiarchy have been defended by the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint. Originally a preceptory of the Order of the Valorous Heart, this Order Minoris has been a staple of Pnoabsterix since arriving on the cardinal world of Othellum in late M38.
Communication and travel across the vast void of the galaxy is unpredictable and haphazard under the best of conditions, and in the Ultima Segmentum, these risks and impediments are only greater. When the first sisters of the Valorous Heart arrived on Othellum, they had their initial orders to enforce and defend the Ecclesiarchy present there. It would be more than a century before they received further contact from their Order Command and as such, the sisterhood had to self-reliant. Over time, the preceptory on Othellum adopted more of the local customs and traditions, growing more and more distant to their founding order.
The Order’s true genesis came after participating in the Cleansing of Pnoabsterix, a series of crusades made up of virtually all of the sub-sector’s military forces. The preceptory on Othellum had lent nearly every available battle sister to the crusades, determined to bring the God-Emperor’s wrath to the foul xenos. Over the decades-long conflict, the Sororitas engaged the greenskins in void warfare, defending ships from enemy boarding assaults as well as launching their own, driving deep into the enemy crafts to cripple the vessels from within. These grinding battles of attrition were well-suited for the Sororitas, and the excruciation suffered by the sisters only served to push them harder. When the Imperium limped out of the Ork realms victorious, the battle sisters were amongst the forces that had suffered the greatest casualties, as well as having earned the most accolades and honors.
Upon returning to Othellum, the preceptory command held a vigil for their lost sisters. It was there, before the Sarcophagus of the Saint of Pnoabsterix that the sororitas present had a shared vision. They claimed that the God-Emperor’s light shone on the jeweled coffin, and the spirit of the Saint spoke to them, instructing them that only through great pain and sacrifice, much like what they had just experienced, could they find their Lord’s grace. With the backing of the Cardinal of Othellum, the preceptory established itself as the Holy Order of the Penitent Saint.
After its founding, the Order rapidly expanded across the sub-sector, establishing missions and minor sanctuaries on many worlds. With the constant threat of Ork invasion ended, the sub-sector fell into a period of relative peace and stability called the “Pax Pnoabsterix”, and much like the regiments of the Astra Militarum raised from the worlds or the Skitarri legions of Alcrondre, the Order of the Penitent Saint was deployed to combat the God-Emperor’s enemies outside their domain. The number of Holy Wars fought by the sororitas of Othellum were tremendous, and with each victory, the Order’s reputation grew. In the sub-sector, the Pax was maintained in part thanks to the efforts of the sisters who worked with Ordo Hereticus agents to root out heretical cults and would-be traitors. Holy pilgrimage vessels were defended from pirates thanks to the Penitent Saints on board, repelling enemy boarding parties. Across the sector and the local segmentum, the Battle Sisters of the Penitent Saint were known for their steadfast conviction to their faith and their duty, at any cost.
In the late 41st millennia, before being executed, the heretic-scholar Allexia Hrustis claimed that the Order was running out of enemies they could absolve themselves against. While none would dare to give voice to similar concerns, any such fear would be terribly cast away shortly after the heretic burned.
The Order and the Wars of the Mega-Tyrant
Pax Pnoabsterix came to an abrupt end in 936.M41 when WAAAGH!!! Tortoof emerged from the once-defeated Ork worlds. Caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of the massive and dispersed Ork horde, the Imperium quickly lost the initial battles, including the fortress world Wuhaeyr, which had been the bastion that had held back Ork WAAAGHS! In the millennia before the Cleansing. No Sororitas of the Order of the Penitent Saint fell on Wuhaeyar, as the order had recalled its last remaining mission a century before. The failure to be present for the battle was considered a great shame amongst the sisters of the Order, and the Canoness Superior, Gladisonia Vrebel, resigned and joined the swelling ranks of the Sisters Repentia.
The Order redeployed to meet this new threat. On Pretlus Beta, the order took charge in the defense of two of the hives, and when the planet was abandoned by the Imperium after over twenty years of constant warfare, the battle sisters fought valiant rearguard actions to allow the withdrawal of material and personnel. In the jungles of Qingdal Septimus, the Imperium achieved its first major victory over the Orks behind the mass charge of Repentia, Mortifiers, Arco-Flagellants and Penitent Engines. After the fall of the crown world of Caivengh, the Order of the Penitent Saint gave in to mounting pressure from the Departmento Munitorum to focus on defending several key worlds instead of the sub-sector at large. The Sisters of Battle could not defend the forges during the Looting of Alcrondre, but were instrumental in preventing the xenos from capturing an Ordinatus that was unearthed during the conflict.
Ultimately, the wars for the sub-sector came down to the Ork’s assault on Othellum, a world unprepared for such cataclysmic battles. Churches and chapels were converted to bunkers, and brutal urban combat was waged in the streets made for the procession of the faithful. Knights clashed with Gorkanauts under the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals, crushing pews underfoot, and seraphim dueled with stormboyz in the minarets high above. The warlord Tortoof led his biggest nobs and warbosses to sack the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory, making three assaults upon the main doors. The first was rebuffed at great cost to the defenders. The second managed to knock down the massive doors before finally being forced back. It was a foregone conclusion to all present, human and ork alike, that the third would push past the threshold. While the guardsmen present were on the brink of shattering, the resolve of the Sisters of Battle could not be shaken. If it was their ultimate fate to spend their lives in the same place the Saint had died, then they were prepared to go down with the God-Emperor’s name on their minds and his glory on their lips.
As the third assault came, a golden warrior appeared, wielding a flaming sword, bathed in pure light and borne through the air by wings of bloodied chains. Those present swear it was the face of the martyr Vrebel who led that final defense, and buoyed by the presence of one of the God-Emperor’s personal angels, the sororitas of the Order of the Penitent Saint sallied forth to meet the green tide. In the middle of the swirling melee, the golden saint dueled with the ork warlord, preventing him from smashing the defenders himself. Ultimately, Tortoof shattered the holy sword and crushed the winged warrior, only to see his hardest and best nobs and warbosses slaughtered around him. With his forces in a clear rout, Tortoof was forced to abandon his ambition for sacking the great cathedral. The ork’s fate would be decided off-world, but the Order of the Penitent Saint wouldn’t be present for that final battle.
Othellum was cleansed of the Orkoid menace just as the Cicatrix Maledictum opened. Half of the sub-sector had been devoured by the greenskins and new threats were taking advantage of the discord sown across the once-prosperous realm. Cut off from their Sanctum and the Imperium at large, the Order of the Penitent Saint is poised to be the light in the darkness, in the God-Emperor’s name.
Othellum is a temperate world, a garden that exemplifies the Holy Terra of old legends. The world is nearly 80% ocean, with one massive continent and dotted by thousands of isles. The world has been a Cardinal world of the Ecclesiarch for millennia, covered in cathedrals, chapels and churches. Originally an agri-world called Beta-Sigtum IV, the Ecclesiarchy overran and renamed the planet after discovering the tomb of the Saint of Pnoabsterix.
The capital city of Thellia lies in the middle of Othellum’s central plains, vast waves of amber and green surrounding the largest cathedrals in the sub-sector. On the north side of the city is the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory, which houses the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, which in turn is the final resting place of the Saint of Pnoabsterix. Stretching out from the Basilica are various other magnificent, architectural wonders that espouse the word of the God-Emperor, but there is no more holy place in all of the sub-sector than the Chapel, a former Munitorum depot that the Saint was buried beneath. After the Ecclesiarchy arrived, the saint was exhumed and placed into a magnificent sarcophagus, memorable for the vast quantity of turquoise and precious gems inlaid and adorning it.
This extravagant display of wealth and affluence isn’t unique on Othellum. The prosperity of the sub-sector during the Pax Pnoabsterix was heavily tithed by the Ecclesiarchy, who bedecked the cardinal world with gemstones and rare minerals. That is not to say every inch of the world is a jewel; many billions live on Othellum, and holy pilgrimages from across the sector draw many more souls to the world. The impoverished masses of humanity who live in the shadows of the great cathedrals are suppressed and pushed out by the Ecclesiarchy, who strive to present the world as an idyllic bastion of the God-Emperor’s glory deep in the darkness of the Ultima Segmentum.
In contrast to the lavish extravagance displayed and enjoyed by the agents of the Ecclesiarchy, the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint live a far more spartan lifestyle. Their armor, icons, symbols and emblems may showcase the wealth of Othellum, but the battle sisters themselves rebuff the pampered and excessive waste. Their sanctuaries are marvelous facades, the exteriors decorated by the Ecclesiarchy to maintain the world’s jeweled look. On the other hand, the sparse and mundame interiors would seem out of place to a visitor, if one were allowed to view them. Several fortresses dot the cardinal world, far from the cathedral cities, where the Order can train and drill without impeding on the world’s pristine image.
Despite their aversion to the extravagance on the Eccliarchy’s displays, the Order command is housed in the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, below the sarcophagus. Greatly expanded, it is from these subterranean levels that the Holy Wars persecuted by the Order are planned and organized.
Beliefs and Dogma
The Armor and Colors of the Order
The titular Saint has served as an inspiration for the Order in all things. Much as their dogma is drawn from the Saint’s life, their colors come from the Saint’s death. Drawing upon the ornate sarcophagus of the Saint, the majority of the Order wears turquoise armor. Gold symbols adorn their pauldrons, with silver filigree decorating various elements. The white and red vestments represent the purity of their purpose, and the life blood they are prepared to give. In this manner, each sister goes to battle knowing they are encased in their own sarcophagus, ready to lay their lives in the name of the God-Emperor and His Faith.
The Order of the Penitent Saint takes its name from the Saint of Pnoabsterix, a figure of incredible importance to the sub-sector. As the long millennia have gone by, the true story and details of the life of the Saint have been forgotten, misremembered, or, as whispered amongst the foulest heretics, fabricated. Much like every other institution in the sub-sector, the sisters of the Order have their own version of the Saint’s saga, as given to them in visions by martyrs and living saints. What is generally agreed upon across the sub-sector is that the Saint’s long-reaching effect on Pnoabsterix was in three parts.
During the flames of the Horus Heresy, Pnoabsterix was besieged by traitors. The Saint rose to prominence as a brilliant military leader, who eventually led the defense of loyal worlds. To the Order, the Saint was once a humble ground-soldier who stepped up to fill the void when her regiment’s command was wiped out. Against overwhelming odds, the Saint won a heroic victory, throwing back the tides of darkness. It is proclaimed a golden light surrounded the Saint afterwards and in short order, she assumed command of most every Imperial force until she was the Grand Commander of the sub-sector, imbued with the Emperor’s righteousness that none could deny.
Near the end of the Heresy, the Saint committed their greatest sin. With victory for the loyalist forces of Pnoabsterix all but assured, the final battle occurred on Ghreylis, a productive agri-world that the Administrum was eager to hold. The Saint deployed forces to the world, a vanguard that was made up of her dissenters and rivals. In an act that served as a mirror of the actions that had started the Heresy, the Saint ordered Exterminatus on the world. In only a few short hours, all of the Saint’s enemies were dead, as well as the bounty of the world.
What happened in the aftermath is lost to time. What is known is some time later, the Saint re-appeared as a humbled, contritious figure. For the rest of her natural life, the Saint gave up all worldly possessions and spread the holy word of the Emperor across the sub-sector, helping lead cults out of the darkness. It was on Beta-Sigtum IV where the Saint passed away, and was buried beneath a local Departmento Munitorum depot. Eventually, this depot became the Chapel of the Penitent Saint, and millennia later, the Saint’s body lies inside an ornate sarcophagus inside the chapel, which is housed by the Basilica of the Emperor’s Righteous Glory.
To the sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint, the Saint’s saga of a righteous warrior being susceptible to the sins of their humanity is at the root of their dogma. Alongside the martyrdom of Saint Lucia, the sororitas of the Order believe that only through great suffering can they find forgiveness. The Saint spent their twilight years trying to atone for the massacre of Ghreylis and the betrayal of the God-Emperor’s values of loyalty and selfless sacrifice. The sisters defend the Ecclesiarchy of Othellum and the sub-sector, but they believe that they are the only true inheritors of the Saint’s legacy. As such, they believe that the Saint’s sins are their burden to repay.
The Scripture of Penance Owed
One of the Order’s most important relics is the Scripture of Penance Owed, a catalog of all the crimes, sins, failures and transgressions of their past. These misdeeds are passed down generation after generation amongst the sisterhood, the sins of their forebears becoming their own. Over the long centuries, some acts have been lost to the passages of time, but the punishment owed is never forgotten. The Scripture is the authority as far as the Order’s absolution is concerned.
And it isn’t just the Saint’s sins that have been passed down to the Order. No organization in the Imperium is without its black marks, and the Order of the Penitent Saint is no different. Each failure, betrayal or other transgression is remembered and recorded, and the Order believes it is their collective duty to search for their diety’s forgiveness. Repentance is the greatest virtue for the sororitas of Othellum.
The need to seek absolution in the hellfire of war is so ingrained in the sororitas that there is never a lack of volunteers for the Repentia. They each bear the transgressions as listed in the Scripture of Penance Owed, and as such, each are capable of qualifying for the Repentia. Those sisters who are forcefully inducted into the ranks due to crimes of their own are given brands on their faces, marking them as having increased the Order’s list of sins. The need for penance is so deeply engraved in the Order’s collective psyche that often willing sisters have to be turned away from serving in the repentia, lest entire commanderies dearly sell their lives too quickly.
It is their deepest belief that the God-Emperor will walk again once all of humanity has paid for their transgressions, and that the terrors of the galaxy and the incessant wars waged are the Imperium’s punishment. For the battle sisters of the Order of the Penitent Saint, those who are engaged in the Imperium’s battles are all martyrs, doing their duty to mankind and the God-Emperor.
As an Order Minoris descended from the Valorous Heart, the Order of the Penitent Saint favor warfare centered on brutal battles of attrition, scorched earth, and measured advances. Grinding out painful victories and exacting extreme and total devastation of their enemies is how the sororitas of Othellum measure their accomplishments. Each warrior knows that they must endure, must absorb as much punishment as the enemy can give, in order to defeat not just their foes, but to achieve the repentance the Order seeks.
It is no wonder that the Order is always capable of fielding large numbers of Sisters Repentia, Mortifiers and Penitent Engines. Mass formations of Repentia are deployed at every opportunity, and alongside the engines of penance, these crazed warriors have led many a vanguard for the Order, delivery crippling blows in the form of wanton slaughter to foes unprepared for the fury of the true faith. The success of entire crusades have swung on the charge of these sisters and warmachines, and the engine and eviscerator are as much a symbol of the Order as their turquoise power armor.
When a foe is too implacable to be ground down, and too resilient to be battered by the repentant, the Order turns to its avenging angels. Drowning the enemy in a hail of bolts, plasma, holy fire and blessed blades, the Seraphim and Zephyrim of the Order are deployed in mass to shatter the resolve of the enemy. These righteous demi-goddesses of war are often at the center of many reported miracles, and have ended the tale of many a xenos warlord, slaver, heretic and traitor.
Above all else, the Order of the Penitent Saint seeks to constantly be waging the God-Emperor’s wars. They will answer any call for support, will fight in any environment, and will mercilessly and tirelessly hunt down any foe on any world. The Order has persecuted many crusades, being the driving force of the Imperium on lost worlds as weapons of faith. In the sub-sector, it is not uncommon for missions to disappear into the hives and underbellies of Pnoabsterix, only to emerge years later, diminished and battered, having rooted out and eliminated traitors and cults. Wherever conflict can be found, the battle sisters of Othellum are often in the midst of it.
Despite being based on Othellum, the Order of the Penitent Saint has missions on every major world in Pnoabsterix, and a presence on nearly every other occupied one. Prior to the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum, the Order received its recruits as every order did. But since the appearance of the Great Rift and the loss of communication with the Convent Santorum and Ophelia VII, the Order has had to take a more proactive hand in the local Schola Pregenium. Fortunately, in the wake of the Mega-Tyrant’s invasion and the subsequent wars, there are a rapidly growing number of orphans who can be indoctrinated.
Constrained by dogma to maintaining only six preceptories, each one is often much larger than their typical counterpart in another Order. On occasions where the warp has cut contact between a preceptory and Othellum, it is the custom to found a new preceptory with the designation, duties and traditions of the lost one. When the God-Emperor has blessed the Order with his mercy, calming the warp and bringing the lost sisters back into the fold, the new and old preceptories will be merged, with a ritualistic combat held between the two canoness preceptors for the right to lead the joint force. The victor is the one that stains the ground with their lifeblood the most without losing consciousness, signifying the burden the canoness is capable of enduring for her sisters.
Each preceptory represents one of the 6 Acts of the Saint’s Repentance. For example, the fourth preceptory is dedicated to void-warfare, serving aboard the Order’s ships as well as the vessels of the Ecclesiarchy, representing the Penitent Saint’s service feeding the ratings onboard an Imperium warship. On the other hand, the 2nd preceptory is dedicated to hunting down heretical cults and false prophets, a dark mirror to the Saint’s act of bringing the God-Emperor’s cults out of the shadows and into the light.
The angelic host of seraphim and zephyrim are called “the Companions of Lucia'', named after the patron saint of the Valorous Heart. The Order of the Penitent Saint only recruits Companions from sisters who have survived the rigours of serving in the Sisters Repentia. They are marked as true exemplars of the Order’s values, trading the turquoise armor of the Penitent Saint’s sarcophagus for the pristine white of the God-Emperor’s glory. Embodying the Order’s highest ideals and traditions, the Companions are found at the center of the most important rituals and most vital battles.
“Our Faith is Eternal, our Repentance, Unending!”
Edited by toaae, 16 May 2020 - 03:07 AM.