“Humanity has reached a dead end! It no longer has the means to sustain itself in the stars. Blind to its own limitations it kills the children that hold the key to its future. We are those children and the future is ours!”
—Broadcast to loyalist relief forces by the rebels during the Tranch War
Rightly regarded as the cause of one of the most dangerous threats to the stability of the Calixis Sector in recent years, the Pale Throng is a mutant cult whose origins lay on the bleak and oppressive world of Tranch. There it led the wave of bloody uprisings that ignited the infamous Tranch War, whose aftermath still lingers to plague many worlds in the Malfian and Adrantian sub-sectors to the present day.
No subtle cult or hidden conspiracy, the Pale Throng is a crazed and degenerate congregation of shambling horrors and decayed and sickening witch–breeds guided by sinister mutant overlords. Its only goal is to throw off the shackles of its oppression and visit bloody vengeance in an apocalyptic rebellion to destroy the Imperium and ultimately seize control of the future of mankind. Born on a world now made infamous for war and suffering, the Pale Throng has since created and inspired revolts on dozens of worlds across the Calixis Sector and beyond. But perhaps greater than the danger that this amorphous army of monstrosities possesses—in terms of the threat to civil order---is the fact that the Pale Throng and what it represents has become a blasphemous rallying cry for the twisted and disaffected. It has grown to become something of a heretical ideology that offers easy answers to the weak and feeds on the resentment and anger of the oppressed---a rebellious whisper far harder to stamp out that any mere physical foe.
Tenets, Goals, and Heretical BeliefsEdit
At the heart of the Pale Throng is a reciprocal hate for the Imperium’s own abhorrence of the mutant and the psyker. Behind this simple hate is another subtler ideology that (flawed though it may be) guides the propagators and masters of the Pale Throng to create rebellion after rebellion across the stars. Theirs is the belief that the future of mankind belongs to the mutant and the psyker ascendant, and to achieve that ascendancy the Pale Throng must rise up and smash the Imperium’s rule by any means necessary. This deeper motivation is based in a belief in the superiority of the mutant. The cult’s higher circles believe that the future of humanity is as a psychic race. The Pale Throng not only denies that the mutant is a twisted abomination, but believes that the mutant is a manifestation of mankind’s metamorphosis into something greater, something of beauty and purpose, and humanity’s passage to this new life form is to be embraced. The mutant (from the cult’s outlook) is superior to the mundane human in any number of ways, sometimes stronger, sometimes able to survive the worst of conditions untouched, and more. The mutant is superior, and because of this, it is the mutant that will inherit humanity’s future.
Expressed in simple terms to the brutalized and ignorant masses of abhumans, subs, and other outcasts that toil under crushing oppression, the Pale Throng’s ideology offers the prospect of liberation and revenge. It promises an end to their sufferings and, most importantly, a sense of acceptance and an end to the shame and stigma that Imperial culture heaps upon them at every turn. This ideology is a heady and dangerous mix, one that appeals to both the downtrodden and the malign, whether they seek only an end to their pain or an excuse to inflict such pain on others.
To many of its adherents, this creed translates into a spiteful sense of self-deluded superiority over the loathed masses of humanity untouched by mutation, which justifies their grievances against the faceless powers of Imperium. This hubris is amplified a thousand-fold among the cult’s wyrdlings and witches, who see those “blunts” untouched by the psyker’s gifts at best as a natural enemy, and at worst as little more than playthings and cattle to be toyed with, used, and destroyed at whim. For many at the cult’s higher echelons, the Pale Throng’s Shroud Masters, mutant demagogues, and petty warlords, this is a creed worth risking all for and is the price of a victory in the coming war between human and mutant.
The Doctrine of the Psychic Ascension of MankindEdit
To the Pale Throng, the psyker is no foul “witch” to be abhorred but a wielder of power more subtle and profound in nature than any normal human can comprehend. This particular heresy is not a new one, but a viperous idea that has flared up time and again in the Imperium’s history. According to such beliefs, to witness the gift of the psyker is to glimpse the future where man may re-order the physical, re-sculpt flesh, and see the true hearts of all. These then, the heretics claim, are the gifts of an evolution of human form that the Imperium loathes and fears. These heretics believe that the Imperium fails to comprehend the truth---that psykers are the foreshadowing of the magnificence that awaits the human race once it has ascended to its true potential.
From the beginning, one of the Pale Throng’s greatest vulnerabilities has been its tendency towards internecine conflict and schism. On Tranch during the uprising, the sheer power and commanding presence of the Shroud Council was enough to hold the disparate mutant gangs, sub-cults, and witch factions together, at least for a time, in deadly united purpose. But in smaller revolts and other uprisings, various groups and individual leaders often fall into open conflict over their particular “truth” of the Pale Throng, their own fitness to lead, or thanks to their own paranoia and often inherent insanity. This instability can lead to a catastrophic failure of leadership in the face of Imperial enemies, leaving the Pale Throng open to manipulation by other, often darker forces.
The Influence of ChaosEdit
The possibility as to whether there was any direct involvement of the taint of Chaos or a wider occult conspiracy within the Pale Throng during the Tranch War remains a mixed and contradictory picture, open to much debate among the Holy Ordos. What seems clear is that during the initial uprisings on Tranch, several of the smaller witch-cults drawn into the Pale Throng did have daemonic taint in their ranks. In addition, at least one malefic cult concealed among the Oligarchs took the uprisings as an opportunity to work its own ills. But, the conclusion that has been drawn is that there was no systematic warp-worship or widespread use of daemonic ritual encountered in the war, simply reckless hatred, unremitting savagery, and the horrors of the mutant and the witch unleashed.
A Thousand RebellionsEdit
The Pale Throng has been linked to scores of mutant rebellions across the Calixis Sector and beyond. Some are simply the razing of an industrial outpost for the loss of a few hundred souls, while others have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. In the aftermath of the Tranch War, petty revolts and unrest sprang up on scores of worlds in the Adrantian and Malfian sub-sectors, occasioning massive crackdowns and a great loss of life. But these troubles have not been an end to the matter, as the Pale Throng and its imitators have risen repeatedly on other worlds to trouble the authorities.
On Sepheris Secundus, the name of the Dionides Mine was expunged from records following a rising of the Pale Throng so powerful that, despite the damage it would do to the planet’s production, the mine was collapsed by atomic charges. In the purge that followed, any amongst the planet’s serfdom who had a connection with the area, however tenuous, was executed.
Rogue psykers, intent on ramming Fenksworld’s orbital docks, commandeered the heavy ore barge Borombarst, causing it to be destroyed by orbital defenses. The subsequent investigation blamed the crime on the Pale Throng’s infiltration of the population of abhuman “subs” used to work the system’s asteroid mines.
On Baraspine, a Pale Throng style revolt by the mutant castes used to tend the wind-blasted Impellor Towers that dot that world’s barrens threatened to plunge the hives into darkness. The Baraspine rising was later revealed to have been backed and instigated by a secret malefic sorcerer cult, the Ghol Voluptara. The cult used the anarchy and distraction caused by the insurrection as a cover for a series of dark rituals which were only prevented by the combined forces of the Adepta Sororitas and the ruling executive’s household troops.
From these gross acts of terror and destruction to the whisper of a witch-kin at work in the depths of the Scintillan underhives, there are a thousand signs that the threat of the Pale Throng to the Calixis Sector is not at an end but perhaps merely beginning.
The cult is known to have been aided in the past by the arch-heretic Coriolanus Vestra.
The Anatomy of a Pale Throng RevoltEdit
At the center of all of the most dangerous uprisings where the Pale Throng has been involved is one of the infamous Shroud Masters. These sinister overlords select mutant populations that they consider ripe for rebellion and instigate an infiltration of that population, be they laboring in mines or chemworks or festering in the wastelands and rad-pits of the underhive. With the Shroud Master often comes a following of other witches and mutants, such as Tranch-bred witch-kin, veteran killers, and covens of wyrd diviners. Once in place, the Shroud Master and his minions begin to spread the name and creed of the Pale Throng amongst the local mutants and dregs. At this point, any resistance or rival mutant leader is crushed or assimilated into the Pale Throng. However, the Shroud Master is not above dealing with underhive criminal elements and other cult groups in order to trade for arms or extend his reach where his twisted followers cannot go.
The Shroud Master and his retinue bring with them tactics and methodologies developed and honed in the nightmare conflict on Tranch. Chief amongst their tactics is the “sudden onslaught” where they simply unleash all of their fury at once, including psychic atrocities, rampaging hulks, waves of abominations, suicide attacks, bombings, and unrestrained bloodletting. Such attacks often serve to conceal and divert forces away from the Shroud Master’s true targets. The destruction generated by these tactics can be immense, especially if the Pale Throng is swollen by large numbers of high-grade rogue psykers. If this initial phase is successful, the Pale Throng rapidly attempts to consolidate its gains by fortifying and defending the areas it has seized, using them as the basis to fight a wider guerrilla war.
If large swathes of territory fall to the Throng’s hands, an orgy of looting and reprisals will often follow, with unfocused acts of barbarism and the enslavement of such unfortunates who do not carry the mutant’s mark often being the norm. However, the Pale Throng has a very poor track record in holding ground, due in the main to its own lack of cohesion. The clashing egos of its commanders and the fact that most of the Throng’s rank and file are little more than ill-conditioned, ignorant rabble serves to tear apart what victories that it may gain.
When faced with superior Imperial forces, the Pale Throng’s defeat in any particular theatre of conflict is largely inevitable, particularly if its leaders and rogue psykers can be neutralized. However, this can present its own dangers. If defeated but not annihilated, the Pale Throng will often fragment into small packs of rebels and marauders fighting their own petty wars. Thus the rebellion can prove hard to finally put down, short of exterminating every twist, sub, and dreg in evidence---a solution favored by many Inquisitors and Adeptus Arbites marshals of a Puritan bent.
Against the ArbitesEdit
The Adeptus Arbites have become a hated nemesis of the Pale Throng, crushing beneath their boots the mutant insurgencies that have metastasized from the rotten tumor of the Tranch War. The war itself, and the seditious work of the Shroud Masters since, has taught every Precinct command the importance of genetic policing, and every fresh Throng atrocity or unmasked conspiracy brings another sharp lesson.
Precinct commanders whose jurisdictions include mutant populations have been building up their vigilance against the twisted mobs, and Verispex and cyber-mastiff units are now regularly staging snap raids on shipping checkpoints, performing tissue analyses on travelers and crews alike, trying to head off the emissaries of the Throng before they can find their way to a new mutant ghetto and infect it with violent rebellion. Since the Tranch War a string of senior Arbites across the Hazeroth worlds have corresponded in detail about the most effective methods to monitor and control mutant activity, and have begun publishing collections of these letters within the organization as a guide for other commands to follow. Lord Marshal Goreman reputedly disapproves of this (he is on the record as believing that Arbites who have time to traffic in words are slacking off on their true work, which is done with a weapon in hand) but has made no move to stop it so far and the books are appearing as training texts in Precincts as far spinward as Scintilla itself. It is this more measured scrutinizing of the mutant underground that first revealed an ominous new strategy by the Shroud Masters, to which the Arbites are only just organizing their reaction.
Rather than work on fostering hatred and violence between mutant and genotypical populations, at least one new Shroud Master seems to be working to reconcile them. Careful work by Detectives across two dozen systems has revealed a spreading trail of foul disinformation and seditious propaganda. The words are sometimes different, deliberately paraphrased to suit local idiom and outfox attempts to link propagandist cells together, but the message is always the same: tolerance of mutation, a rejection of Imperial reverence for the classically-defined human gene-template, and the urging of resistance and violence against those who enforce the purity laws. The Arbites are inevitably singled out for denunciation and vengeance, and the author of the tracts shows a remarkable familiarity with the brutal Arbites repression actions at Tranch, Piety, Thical, and Junos.
None of this is unusual for Pale Throng agitators, but what is unusual is the target audience. The tracts are not intended for the mutant slums but for the literate, prosperous families of the hive spires and steadholds. These gene-dissident movements are trying to erode support for mutant repression among those who are traditionally the bastion of righteous and traditional hate, and trying to seed sympathy and perhaps even collaboration with the classes who are so often the Pale Throng’s first victims.
To most Arbites who first learn of it, these tracts seem like a bad joke. How could anyone openly admitting to foul mutation simply ask for the compassion of pure-gene folk and expect to wheedle them into it? The laughter lasts exactly as long as it takes them to hear about the numbers of sympathizers the tracts seem to be creating, and the speed with which the sedition spreads. Perhaps they could if they could handle one of the tracts themselves, but seized tracts are now immediately destroyed or sealed for handing over to the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition. It has become obvious that the source of this propaganda is an accomplished and subtle psyker, and their witch-gift is the syringe by which they push their moral poison into unsuspecting minds. Reliable Arbites have testified that when they handled an original copy of the tracts they could feel the sweet words trying to corrode their will, and the outright heresy and anti-Imperial thought seeming to take on seductive weight and persuasiveness, as an optical illusion might make a shape on a page appear to stretch into three dimensions.
In its present form the spread of genetic dissidence seems to pose little physical threat to the Imperium. This wandering Shroud Master seems more interested in setting up disinformation networks and moving on than in rousing up the Pale Throng’s trademark revolts. However, the moral threat, and long-term consequences for the rule of law, is profound. The tracts carrying the Shroud’s taint can cause Arbites to briefly blanch; their effect on civilians without the Arbites’ rigorous indoctrination is far more pronounced. On world after world where this toxic literature has appeared, the Detectives have unearthed whole networks of apparently stolid and faithful Imperial citizens who have taken it on themselves to study the dissident tracts, reproduce them, and circulate them (although the copies, thankfully, lack the infectious psyk reek of the originals) and try to pass on their messages. The treacherous whispers of these dupes drift up into hive-spire soirees and percolate down into mutters over hand-stewed liquor after lights-out in the manufactorum barracks. Suspects in the interrogation cells confess to being swayed into the heretical belief that a human soul could exist in a mutant body, and turning a jaundiced ear to the preachings on genetic purity.
The spectre of this sedition reaching an officer of a planetary Magistratum or worse, a courtier of an Imperial governor, is growing stronger each time a fresh network of traitors is exposed. The Arbites are bracing themselves for the day when the two threats come into alignment, and a Throng revolt breaks out on a world whose will to oppose it has already been dissolved from within.