“My Lord Autumnhall, you are a thief.”
It was not long ago that I heard those words spoken to me. I choose to take them as my text.
They were, of course, spoken metaphorically and in jest, over dinner, so I was not constrained to call upon the man who spoke them to make good his accusations at the time of his choice, with the weapons of his choice.
Nonetheless, the sentiment must be spoken of, and entered into the record for all time, lest others imperil their souls in committing the same error of judgement, and questioning the Emperor’s word in their hearts, by wondering if his Anointed Warrant Bearers, commonly known as “rogue traders”, are little better than thieves.
It is the error of mistaking honor for duty.
The margin between honor and duty is razor-thin, yet it is a gap into which many souls have fallen and been forever lost to the Emperor’s light.
The Master of Mankind has many voices to remind us what our duty is, and nearly every man has his appointed master, to demand of him obedience and keep him free from the path of heresy and error. Yet many men believe that because obedience to the Emperor is righteous and honorable, righteousness and honor must therefore be obedience to the Emperor.
It is not.
The Emperor commands our obedience not so that we may vainly glory in our own upright character, nor bask in the admiration of lesser men. The Emperor cares not for our reputation, our honor, or even our righteousness.
No. He commands our obedience that we may join him in His great task of preserving and uplifting our species itself, of serving the great and sacred brotherhood of humanity in its place amongst the hostile stars.
And to that end, He has given each of us a duty.
To the Lords of Terra, He has given the task of guiding his Empire.
To the Eclesiarchal priesthood, He has given the task of teaching reverence for His name, that men might join together and work as brothers.
To Administratum, He has given the task of directing those labours.
To the Cult of Mars, he has given the task of keeping His sacred knowledge, and keeping its burden from those too weak to bear it.
To the common men of a million worlds, He has given the task of labouring to sustain and uplift His Empire.
To the Adeptus Arbites, He has given the task of keeping those common men obedient to their rightful masters.
To His forces of arms, his Imperial Guard, and Adeptus Astartes, He has given the task of purging His enemies from the many worlds.
To His Holy Navy, He has given the task of purging His enemies from the paths between the worlds.
To His Inquisition, He has given the task of speaking with His voice, answering to no master, to purge corruption from his Empire, whether it lies within masters or common men.
And to the Bearers of His Warrant, He has given the task of speaking with His Voice, answering to no master, to bear His Word into dark places that do not yet know His Light, or His Law.
Each man, then, must know and keep to his place, must know his duty and perform it. It is this, and not our personal honor or our reputation of righteousness, that is our sacred charge. We serve his purposes in whatever capacity He deems fit, for the plan is His, not ours.
It is for this reason that the “Rogue” trader, Bearer of His Imperial Warrant, plays the rogue. Because his sacred charge, from the Master of Mankind, is to serve Mankind’s purpose by whatever means are necessary, roguish or not.
And I, Harlan of House Autumnhall, swear now, before these witnesses, to dedicate myself and my House to this task.
By any means necessary.
Because Mankind, and the Master of Mankind, demand nothing less than all of us.