Ghosts of the Chapel

By the close of the 41st Millennium the influence and imagery of death has pervaded to every level of Imperial society. Whole worlds are given over to vast mortuaries and every family on every planet, from spire-top to sump, has lost sons and daughters to war. Even the immortal God Emperor himself is said to now be more corpse than man.

Yet death is a dangerous mistress, and should not be embraced or challenged lightly. Trade in the bones of martyrs sees the glorious dead robbed of their Emperor-given rest. Disreputable physicians challenge the edicts of the Genetors by pulling corpses from fresh graves to conduct their unsanctioned experiments. Maddened cults seek to hasten the end, uniting themselves with the sleeping Emperor through cataclysmic acts of destruction, or worshipping ancient, forbidden forces of entropy and despair. In the deepest shadows lurk those who would use a saint’s bones for the most depraved and unholy purposes of all, for the Chaos gods offer great power to those who can tempt them with a worthy sacrifice.

It is through these gloomy depths that the inquisitors of the Ordo Mors must walk. Grim and morbid to the last man their charge is the protection of the Imperium’s glorious dead from the depredations of the rapacious living.

Skeleton Angel

So, after number false starts, my warband for the Chapel has started to gain traction. For those unfamiliar with the Chapel it’s a story-driven collaborative project, spearheaded by Mark of HeresyOfUs so head over there to get the latest. Over the last couple of months I’ve started and discarded a number of different possible projects from scrap harvesting Cult Mechanicus outcasts to knightly crusaders to scheming Tzeentchian saboteurs. None, however, quite stuck so I decided to take things back to basics. The heart of Inq28 and its various feral children will always be the Inquisition and so that is where I headed. Rather than take on one of the better known branches however I decided to cut my own path, partly so I could stretch my wings creatively and partly so I didn’t have to worry about finding myself in the shadow of anyone who’d tackled the Ordo previously.

Having discounted the obvious choices from Inquisitorial factions I started to think about what other areas of the Imperium would merit a dedicated branch of the Inquistion, rather than just being something that the Arbites could deal with. Enter the Ordo Mors, the Inquisitors dedicated to the protection of the Imperial dead.

Mors - Convert Or Die

Even a quick look through a 40k codex or rulebook reveals the Imperium’s all pervasive obsession with death. Today, in the west, the vast majority of deaths occur in hospital. Our population ages, child mortality reduces and great wars do not swallow up whole generations, for now. For most of us who can afford to enjoy Games Workshops products and who have the luxury of time to play with their weird and grubby worlds they create, death is more of an abstract, less a constant companion. That is not to say that death has been eradicated, far from it, or that the population has become so psychotically nihilistic that we no longer fear it, simply that we have been afforded the luxury of distance. Indeed whilst meat-grinder wars exert a powerful, and understandable, fear they also provide the opportunity for lots of bold talk about heroism, honour, patriotism and other things which tend to lose meaning quickly as one lies in a trench trying to hold one’s guts in. However at least those things provide a context through which we can relate to the idea of wholesale slaughter. Not so nuclear armageddon, which is utterly impersonal and dehumanising, and doesn’t even offer the opportunity to write maudlin poetry. There’s no standing in a shield wall with your brothers for us, no thunderous charges of brightly armour knights, not even the industrial cruelty of the trenches. If you’re looking for glory and comradeship in a nuclear war you’d better fit it in quick because most of your time will be spent sitting under your kitchen table spitting your lungs out.

Death Images Convert Or Die (1)

In such circumstances who can blame us, the people of the west, for turning our faces to the wall, and pretending it’ll be all right. We don’t think about death in the way that we used to because it’s either too big and horrifying to face, or because it’s too unlikely. After all no-one is really going to unleash nuclear war are they? And with modern medicine I’ll probably keep living whilst scientific breakthroughs keep extending the human lifespan. Of course such discoveries will probably be the property of the rich to begin with but never mind eh, that’ll be me too soon. After all the American Dream has spread itself around like the filthy disease it is and so, as a temporarily disenfranchised billionaire, I’ll soon be able to afford it. After all death and taxes need not be inevitable, and the very rich have given avoiding both a good go. Just so long as I don’t end up getting killed whilst taking a selfie or crushed to death by a vending machine in the meantime that is…

Historically however death was much more part of the public consciousness. Ordinary people devoted their whole lives to facing the hereafter, often at the expense of their own biological imperatives or the wellbeing of their social peers. Elaborate rituals were called upon to appease angry gods. Victorian women had a strict dress code that allowed one to tell, at a glance, not only that they were mourning but how long it had been since the loved one had died. Walk around an old cemetery and you’ll see all kinds of elaborate statues fetishizing death, grief and mourning. Likewise the art of 40k reveals death to be everywhere, both on the battlefield and in the ritualistic trappings of society. It seemed only natural, then, that a culture so obsessed with death would employ inquisitors whose sole focus was this area.

Death Images Convert Or Die (4)

One of the things that has struck me most about the Chapel project so far is the profusion of ghosts Mark has produced. From the terrifying lash-banshee to the almost-innocuous wisps, the Chapel is a place haunted by a profusion of spirits. The sort of place then that an Inquisitor of the Ordo Mors would inevitably be drawn for the Imperium is a place of crushing order and no line is as inviolate as that which marks the boundary between the living and the dead.


The insufferably arrogant book ghoul can provide travellers with priceless information, it’s just a shame he’s so condescending.


The woeful Lady Marisa who’s haunting undoubtedly obstructs the orderly working of the Imperium!


The gruesome and terrifying revenant boy – for those who weren’t planning on sleeping tonight anyway…

Working on this project also got me thinking about the question of ghosts in the 41st Millennium. Most other fantasy archetypes have been ported across to 40k, making it far more a setting of “fantasy in space” than the science fiction it is sometimes purported to be. The orcs and elves were transferred across from one setting to another almost exactly and once upon a time there were dwarves as well (before the monstrous fangs of IP-control closed over them and the tyranids of legalese gobbled them up). Other crossovers were a little more subtle; vampires became Blood Angels, werewolves became Space Wolves and the trudging hordes of the undead were reinvented as Necrons. Ghosts however don’t get a look in, barring a couple of notable exceptions. Sanguinius, or possibly his loyal bodyguard Azkaellon, may be haunting the Blood Angels in the form of the Sanguinor and the Legion of the Damned may be the ghosts of dead space marines (or equally they may not). The Eldar dead get to enjoy a partial existence in the wraithbone infinity circuits of their craftworlds with occasional ventures out to pilot various war-machines and hang out with the newborn god of the dead Ynnead. For the citizens of the Imperium however it seems to be a fairly uncomplicated process; you live, you die, your soul is devoured by daemons and everyone you knew believes you’ve been taken into the God Emperor’s grace until it’s their turn to die and be feasted upon in turn.

It doesn’t leave a lot of room for ghosts, yet the above examples show that the ground work has been laid. Mark’s excellent ghosts fit into the 40k universe seamlessly but I liked the idea of the restless dead being found far beyond the boundaries of the Chapel itself, whilst a whole Inquisitorial Ordo works in the shadows, banishing them and covering up their existence.

Death Images Convert Or Die (3)

Imagine yourself as an Imperial citizen finding yourself, at the moment of your death, cast from your mortal flesh through the veil of reality and into a sea of hungry daemons. Most would be consumed instantly but a few would attempt to dart back, preferring a liminal existence in the material universe than the eternal torment that waits for them beyond. Knowing what awaited it such a creature would resist banishment with truly desperate viciousness. Even if only a tiny number were able to return in this way of humanity’s teeming billions over ten long millennia the cumulative number of unquiet spirits could present a serious problem for the orderly Imperium.

This however would be nothing compared to the panic if word got out of what awaits on the other side. If word was to spread of the fate that truly awaited one upon death the scale of the chaos that ensued would bring the Imperium tumbling down overnight. Nihilistic dread would bring all work to a halt, armies would not march for fear of death, no-one would breed lest they pass on their curse to future generations, and the demand for rejuvenates and other life extending technologies would see even the most docile rabid with desperation. Meanwhile Chaos cults would proliferate, for only through the – still near unobtainable – boon of princedom could one hope to endure within the Sea of Souls.

Those who are aware of this threat to humanity know it dwarfs the combined might of every xenos species combined. For the Imperium to endure knowledge of what awaits must be suppressed – at all costs and by any means.

Death Images Convert Or Die (5)

Of course this is only a philosophical ramble and may not, if given full consideration, fit into the established cannon of the world. However there is another, very compelling, reason for the Imperium to want any ghosts silenced. The cornerstone of Imperial culture is the idea that the past was glorious. Nostalgia for the magnificent past is everywhere. The present may be grim and dark but it is a temporary hardship that must be overcome if we are to return to the glory days of history. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this reminds you of any current real-world political situations but it certainly makes me think of one or two… Of course what we don’t want is any spirits running around telling people that the past was actually pretty bleak and horrible as well and ruining all our efforts at effective propaganda.

Finally any sensible Inquisitor encountering a ghostly spirit should start by asking themselves, is this really a daemon? Those who cross the veil do not return untouched and, once possessed, an individual can wreak untold havoc before they are banished. Best to smite first and ask questions later.

Death Images Convert Or Die (2)

At this point it would probably be appropriate to show you a miniature or two but of course that would involve having something to show. Fear not however, tonight – all being well – I’ll finish assembling my inquisitor and we’ll be able to get our first look at the man who goes in search of the Chapel’s restless dead.

All photographs used are mine, barring those of the ghosts which – like the spirits themselves – are the work of HeresyOfUs.

15 responses to “Ghosts of the Chapel

  • imperialrebelork

    A fantastic read my friend. Now I’m aching even more than ever to see what you’re bringing to the table.

  • Alex

    Flippin’ brilliant mate – I do appreciate your take on things in general, and the ‘Inquisition of the Dead’ is really great concept! Good choice to roll with that idea, and I can’t wait to see the vision take form.
    The Chapel is all getting a bit deathy, isn’t it? I too shall be exploring the other side of the veil with the other half of my warband… spooky times ahead brother!

    • Wudugast

      Cheers mate! Aye, there’s definitely a bit of a death theme going on isn’t there? Partly I think its a result of all of us feeding off each other and creating a shared pool of inspiration. The ghosts are also one of the main things we’ve seen of the Chapel itself. We’ve also looked at the Albino Woods but others, from the Thorn Moons of the Pylgrim to Outguard to AoS28 are already playing in the woods, whereas the dead seem a little more unique to the Chapel.
      Looking forward to seeing the second half of your warband, xenos activity is suspicious enough but xenos necromancy is simply intolerable! 😉

  • heresyofus

    Nicely written mate and it’s a great idea. I can’t wait to see your work on this project unfold. Thanks for the shout outs to and I’m glad you’ve been suitably inspired by the ghosts. Another one is coming to haunt your sleep!

    • Wudugast

      Thanks very much 🙂 Very inspired by the ghosts mate – inspired to smite them for their audacity in spreading disorder! Seriously, keep them coming, I’m really enjoying how different ghosts seem to capture different moods – some cheeky and disorderly, some melancholic, some downright frightening.

  • Thomas

    Great idea! Very cool take on the Inquisition.

  • The Black Tide | heresy of us

    […] yes one more thing. To Mr Wudugast and The Ordo Mors I hope you’re ready for this particular pain bringer and I dare you to bring a flamer […]

  • Azazel

    A very interesting write-up, though I should point out that as we grow older and see those around us age and pass on while we continue the relentless march towards oblivion ourselves, the spectre of death moves alongside us. Only fools think that they’ll have any chance for anything worthwhile in terms of extending their own lives, and so we turn our faces to the wall and get on with it, since there’s nothing at all that we can do about the inevitable…

    And in the end it doesn’t matter what you thought either way…

    • Wudugast

      Aye, sadly that’s true enough. Of course I can’t know because this is the only culture and era I’ve lived in but it does seem though that we have an unhealthy relationship (or perhaps lack of) with death. In some ways I fear that this makes it lonelier when it does happen, taking away our loved ones, because we have failed to develop the mental roadmap to deal with it. Without wishing to do down anyone I’m not religious (but so long as one is able to be without hurting, persecuting or oppressing others then they should fill their boots) but I do see a value in working towards something that will outlast ourselves. We are tribal mammals and need a sense of belonging in order to be healthy. Too often we are told that everything is meaningless, that we are simply utilitarian robots, that feelings are weakness. I see people, some of them very good friends, striving only to be the richest guy in the graveyard and that worries me. I see too how, even if we reject it, our compulsive need for meaning can be hijacked and exploited by those with a political, social or religious axe to grind as the recent rise of the far right has demonstrated.

      Beyond this hobby I’m involved in a range of causes. Over the last year in particular I’ve seen a growing divide between those who are stubbornly determined that “it’ll be all right” and those who are afraid, who fear they will be uprooted or driven from their homes or who’ve suffered abuse (turns out Brexit Britain isn’t a nice place if a sizeable proportion your friends are EU nationals!). There is a great sense of despair amongst many of my friends and associates, I’ve had people talk to me about feeling rejected, frightened, even suicidal. Add to that a widespread fear in my line of work of even greater economic hardship ahead, plus seeing how we have been politically disenfranchised in order to appease the rabidly right-wing in a different country, and it can all appear rather bleak at times. Sometimes these things spill over, no matter how much I try to keep this blog as a separate entity and a place for me to mentally “step away” from these troubles. I apologise for that because this blog should never be a place for political or societal discourse but rather a place to share our enjoyment of miniatures and this wonderful and creative hobby that we all enjoy. Normal service shall be resumed shortly 😉

  • daggerandbrush

    A thought provoking comment section and a good article. Our hobby, may it focus on historical miniatures or Fantasy always has death as a subtopic or even focus. After all many games are conflict simulations.

    I wonder if this is not a bad thing. I always find avoiding a problem ends badly. If you think about concepts of life and death and turn them into something productive – say a scale diorama of a graveyard, a tomb, a 40k army etc. – this may help to come to terms with our own mortality. There is much beauty in eerie environments and if I think more about it, autumn is my favourite season and a constant inspiration in my terrain.

    Autumn always has sad undertones, as the beautiful colours will turn brown, then fade altogether until only bleak, barren trees remain, yet in this last phase before the colours fade away there is immense beauty to be found. Maybe something to keep in mind when one gets older. Fading is not so bad, if we are all mere leaves in the wind that one day will loose their colour and become one with the soil eventually.

    Legacy, no matter what form it takes, is something we all strive for. I believe, once again, that our hobby can be part of this. Sharing creations online, the physical objects we create, some of it may one day end up with our children, in a museum or maybe just as a keep sake or just as data in the internet cloud. Some of it may just go to the landfill, but I think it is up to us to make sure this won’t happen, when the time comes.

    In the end not all is so bleak. I feel that we all have an effect on the people around us, but also people far away that may read a blog article (such as this one) and provoke thought. If you touched someones life in any shape or form, I don’t think it was all for naught.

    So happy gaming and back to the crafting desk :).

    • Wudugast

      Thanks very much. I do enjoy an article that gets me thinking and like to return the favour now and again. I’ve also really enjoyed the comments, very though provoking.

      Absolutely agree that by failing to face up to our problems we only make them worse. Our civilisation has achieved so much to be proud of, but by failing to address the crisis that has grown around us we have pushed ourselves into global catastrophe and a world that get’s poorer and hungrier with every day. We are unusual mammals in that we seek to leave more behind us than simply our offspring. The disease of our species is in pretending that we can make the pleasures of today stretch just a little longer, at the cost of tomorrow. The greatest thing we have to be proud of is our ability to look ahead, to plan, to dream, to create. In acknowledging our mortality we open ourselves to the idea of leaving the world better than it was when we arrived. Every season is one of transition, every decision is the death of one path and the birth of another. I feel sad to know that I will never live long enough to see and experience everything I want to but this pushes me to try to do as much as I can whilst I’m able.

      As for my miniatures ending up in landfill – I prefer the idea of them sitting in a museum, thousands of years from now, with scholars pouring over them and arguing about their purpose. You can blame that on the hubris of my species as well 😉

      • daggerandbrush

        That is a very healthy attitude. I like the idea to confuse future generations of archaeologists. I could see that high quality dioramas/miniatures may be considered by museums specializing on gaming culture. Unfortunately museums have problems with storage as it is and have to carefully decide what to take on and what to decline. Still, quite heartbreaking to think of our miniatures to end up unloved in an attic or, worse, trash can. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Best way to avoid this: Reduce the lead mountain, because museums won’t take originally packaged mass produced goods :P.

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