“What harm can there be in the delight of knowing? In the joy of witnessing beauty or appreciating genius?”
—Durlis Talin, Hive Infernis Prefect, burned for heresy 265.M41
There are things it is better not to know, things best left uncontemplated and unconsidered, certain truths it is better never to face. Humankind, unfortunately, has ever been inquisitive, always thirsting to know what secrets lie hidden behind the curtain of ignorance. To the Ruinous Powers, such desires are an invitation to reward the seeker of truth with what he craves and in the process destroy him utterly. The folly of Ateanism is a warning that it is not only the malign cultist who can bring on the storm of Chaos but also the follies of the weak, the vain, and the arrogant.
Ateanism is a school of thought and a scholastic and artistic theory. It holds beauty and the pure achievement of the mind above all other goals and believes that at the heart of the drive to perfection and purity in any field lies a single magnificent truth. To this end, Ateanists strive to use a set of formulae and processes that grant them a glimpse of the majesty of the truth that lies beneath all of man’s greatest works. Sadly for these deluded fools, the revealed truth they seek is a lie wed to the powers of depravity and hubris that echo in the warp. In applying their flawed and blasphemous patterns, Ateanists constantly court a blind dance with corruption, destruction, and damnation.
The Obsession of Julius AteanosEdit
Ateanism is named for Ateanos, the damned founder of this school of thought. Ateanos was an archivist and scholar whose hubris would unleash a tradition that has violated souls without control since his death over two centuries ago. Scholar, savant, archivist, and illuminator, Julius Ateanos was chief curator of the Library of Knowing on Fenksworld. The echoing vaults of the Library were Ateanos’s home, and its stacks of books, parchment rolls, and data stores were his beloved charges. Yet, for all his learning and intellect, Ateanos did not understand a fundamental truth---that to be a curator of knowledge in the Imperium is to keep it contained and confined from those who should not have it. Had he treated the knowledge at his disposal with the suspicion of a gaoler, many souls might have been saved.
Ateanos’s first steps to damnation were the fault of his own flawed character, his complete confidence in his own intellectual abilities, and his belief in the purity of intellectual endeavor. For decades he had pored over the works in his charge. He had read of great thinkers who had built the foundations of knowledge, been dazzled by the beauty of ancient Terran poets whose names are lost, and felt the tingle of illicit pleasure at secretly reading proscribed works in the dark watches of the night.
In his quest, Ateanos crossed the boundary of necessary knowledge and in time he became not simply content to absorb the achievements of others and dreamed of being like the ancient champions of art and truth. This dream became Ateanos’s warm and comforting companion in the grey drudgery of his mundane work, and it sustained him as he obeyed the orders of what he considered to be lesser men. After long years of discontent, he decided to follow his dream to fruition, and took a step into nightmare, not beauty.
Perhaps inspired by fragments of the work of an ancient philosopher, Ateanos came to the conclusion that a complex but common property underpinned all great art, thought, and human expression. It was this unknown property expressed in the form and proportion of sculpture, the cadence of poetry, or the elegance of theory, he believed, that spoke to the depths of the soul and spurred humanity to achieve all that was great and admirable.
What was more, Ateanos was convinced that this property could be expressed and separated from those works of which it was the fundamental but hidden part. It would be perfection itself rendered to its supreme and absolute form. The means of revealing this property would be Ateanos’s great gift to human knowledge. He fantasized about it as the making of his immortality and fame, and thus was the focus of a deep and secret obsession in the last decade of his life.
The Truth RevealedEdit
Unfortunately, Ateanos had stumbled upon a truth, though not the truth that he expected. As he poured himself into his work, exploring obscure areas of knowledge and diverse disciplines, he was spurred on by glimpsed snatches of his glorious goal. Long after the departure of his underlings from the library, Ateanos labored by failing lights, furtively musing over hidden works. He became a haggard figure, his eyes hooded by fatigue, his sight ruined by long secret hours of work. Finally, his labor was done and he basked in the warmth of a man close to having his life’s work vindicated.
The product of his long labor was a strange formula written in symbols almost lost to human understanding. It was his key to the magnificence of things created by art and contemplation, for he was sure that the strange formulae would reveal the hidden property behind all truth and beauty. Perhaps, buried deep beneath his obsession, he knew what he had formulated in the symbols of dead men was something terrible, for he delayed the final proof of his work. Instead he laid out all he had done in a secret journal and he labored over rendering the Eris Transform, as he dubbed it, and the theoretical method of its applications onto the finest Terran vellum. Each page was a wonder of the illuminator’s craft that gleamed with golf leaf, fractal-etched adamantine, and the deep hues of rare inks. Once all embellishment was done came a moment when Ateanos could delay the proof of his work no more. He began the first application of the Eris Transform. What Ateanos chose to first apply the Transform to remains unrecorded, but whether it was a renowned sculpture or the work of a long dead poet, it had an effect more wondrous and terrible than Ateanos could have dreamed.
As the final stroke of the Transform’s application was completed, the world changed around and within Julius Ateanos. A feeling of infinite doors of possibility opened to him, smothering his mind, and his being ran with an understanding of the untapped beauty of all things. He heard beautiful yet discordant sounds that made the soul ache and weep at their impossibility. He felt transported to a higher, more refined realm where things worked in different ways, and where experience of any kind was like gazing into a kaleidoscope in space and time from which he could not look away.
However, even as he reached this peak of rapture he felt the lie to his bliss and the cold greasy feeling of touching something monstrous and mocking. His surroundings blurred and flowed like wax, lithe faces leered from the corners of his sight, and the air became thick with the smell of sweet corruption overlaid with a thousand cloying scents. Ateanos records his final experiences in his journal in a crazed, shaking hand, writing at the last that something was coming for his soul.
The fate of this foolish genius is not known. A whispered tale exists amongst servants of the Ordos who chase the fragments of Ateanos’s legacy that if one were to find the original manuscript of the Eris Transform, he would find in the illuminated margins a tiny robed figure, screaming.
After Ateanos vanished, the manuscript of his rendered work was first recorded in his successor’s papers and then swiftly disappeared amid scandal and a spate of mysterious deaths. Meanwhile, his journal was discovered and seized by the Holy Ordos. Since then, the manuscript has spread in often-incomplete copies and fragments between the hands of warp dabblers, jaded artists, and overweening scholars. The original has long been lost, and its damning power has been weakened by errors and omissions in inferior successors, but to those with sufficient faculties and learning, its application represents a blissful release from drudgery and mundane toil. To a scribe who labors over the copying of a book that will never be read or to the artist who’s imaginative reach goes beyond the grasp of their talent, Ateanism represents the possibility of beauty, bliss, and rapture.
Ateanists are often desperate or jaded people who seek out and apply its proscribed formulae compulsively to all manner of subjects in the hope of being granted a moment of pure perfection. Many never experience what they crave, their application or copy of the Eris Transform being in some way imperfect or incomplete. Some unfortunately do receive what they desire, and from that moment forward they are compelled to repeat the process by an infernal addiction more powerful than that inflicted by any chemical.
The Eris Transform and its Application Edit
A practitioner of Ateanism is chiefly concerned with the application of the Eris Transform to works of art and intellect, such as a work of literature or music. To have any use, however, the would-be Ateanist also requires the connected methodology---a cipher which is made up of a mass of strange translation tables as well as geometrical and occult diagrams of equivalence. These elements can appear together or separately and occur in many forms, from scrolls to encoded data slates. Many works also contain additional notes by previous users and commentaries on the exact method of application.
Ateanism is not a unified movement but a chain of individuals and small groups linked only by the passing of copies of the Eris Transform. Those copies and the lore that passes with them are of variable quality, and many do not work at all or will only work with the most imaginative handling. The quirks of practice that have crept into Ateanism over the centuries (over what it should be applied to, in what circumstances, the use of mirrors, special accompaniments, and so on) have even led to schism and murder between its followers.
Almost all Ateanists are ignorant of the daemonic influence they open themselves to by their acts, as if some external force was preventing those involved from discovering the truth (which may, in fact, be the case). Instead, most think of Ateanism as the pursuit of truth and beauty in a universe of drab repetition and crushing, philistine dogma.
Cost and Availability: Copies of the Eris Transform are usually exchanged between friends, fellow aesthetes, or academic contacts and are not generally traded items or sold on the open market for money. If one were to try and obtain a copy it would entail several thousand Thrones at the very least. The Eris Transform is a highly proscribed item, and obtaining a copy is a matter of moving within the circles through which it passes. It therefore has no Availability value, as obtaining it should never be a matter of simply rolling dice.
Application: A character wishing to apply the Eris Transform must have the Logic (Int) Skill and be Literate in the language of the copy methodology he is using. He must also have an object of intellect or creativity to apply it to. Attempting an application takes 1d10 hours minus the applier’s Intelligence Bonus, to a minimum of one hour.
Effects: At the end of the time required for the application, the applier makes a Logic (Int) or Trade (Artist) Test. Such Tests should have a base value of Hard (–20), further modified by circumstance and the quality of the Eris Transform he is using. If the Test is failed, there are no effects. If the Test is passed, the effects are determined by the degree of success (see Table 4-7: The Effects of Applied Ateanism). A GM may, of course, decide on an effect that he feels to be appropriate rather than using the chart.
Inquisitorial Threat BriefingEdit
The Inquisition knows of Ateanism, it knows its threat, and it knows how it spreads. This knowledge has not stopped Ateanism being one of the most subtle and persistent problems faced by the Ordo Malleus in the Calixis Sector. There have been 87 recorded incidents relating to the use of the Eris Transform in the centuries since Ateanos’s disappearance.
Since Ateanism is not a cult in the common sense, it is even more resistant to purging and is incredibly difficult to uproot. All that is needed for Ateanism to continue to exist is for copies of the Eris Transform to change hands between deluded and willing fools. These copies are often made by hand and so preventing their production is almost impossible, which is not to say the Inquisition is any less resolute in trying.
Like the most endemic of weeds, Ateanism is a constant problem for the Holy Ordos that can bear the most horrific fruit, and though its adherents are often little more than pompous, deluded fools, their actions can have dire consequences. Therefore, they are shown no mercy.