Here is a list of characters and character tropes appearing in the Cain Archive
, broken down into folders for ease of use.
Note that the article contains unmarked spoilers
. Even the name of one of the folders is a notable spoiler for one of the books.
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The Imperium of Man
Commissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM
The man himself, fighting with the 597th.
Ciaphas Cain is a man of questionable origin - he is commonly believed to be a Hiveworlder, yet no one knows where exactly his birthplace is, maybe not even himself - tall, imposing stature, handsome, charming, and a pathological liar. He was enrolled in the Schola Progenium, where he acquired his commissarial sash despite middling-low performance in academics, excelling only in sports, combat training and discipline note
. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery unit, the beginning of a positively ludicrous series of heroic exploits. There's no doubt that his actions on the battlefield were decisive, and they usually directly led to glorious victories of various degrees.
However, the reasoning behind them is in the eye of the beholder. According to those he had risked his life to save, he's Cain the Liberator, Cain the Hero, slayer of daemons and leader of men whose biographies verge on canonization. (In fact, one obscure Tallarn cult views him as a living embodiment of the God-Emperor's will.) According to his own secret memoirs, he is a poor, pathetic coward concerned solely with his well-being and escaping responsibility, his every heroic, selfless, or even considerate action taken solely to manipulate others into aiding him.
What is he really? That's left for the readers to decide.
- Accidental Hero: Lots and lots of times. He invariably tries to put himself out of harm's way only to inadvertently wind up in an even bigger mess than the one he was trying to avoid, and ends up having to solve the plot to save his own neck.
- Action Survivor
- Alliterative Name: Commissar Ciaphas Cain.note
- Alternate Character Interpretation: Skillfully invoked. If you examine what Cain actually does without his inevitable 5-page pooh-pooh explanation, he's the biggest damn hero in the entire universe, just one with a perverse sense of humility. On the other hand, accepting his explanation that he's "just lucky/unlucky" and that somehow every single allegedly self-serving and cowardly act he does accidentally results in him saving people's lives and looking good at it would make him even more of an aberration in the Warhammer 40K universe. Even the author isn't sure which interpretation is true.
- In Caves of Ice, there's a passage where he muses sadly about all the brave men and women he's seen die, and thinks he's probably the last man alive who even remembers them. Then, in Cain's Last Stand, he feels a pang to realize he can't recall the face of a man who died in Death or Glory some seventy years before. Yeah, he seems really self-centered, doesn't he?
- And when you think about it, he shows a lot of courage at times. In situations of extreme danger and terror, he somewhat calmly analyzes his chances and opts for reasonable courses of action. It is fueled by his wish for survival, but he still shows admirable nerve. Though in at least one situation, Cain admits he has no idea why he did something incontrovertibly, dangerously heroic - and halfway admits he did it simply because Amberley's life was in danger.
- Cain's disgust for what he calls 'Emperor-botherers,' taking a more practical approach to faith and only showing faith in the Emperor because that's what Imperials do, and it seems to be more of an 'on general principle' kind of thing. One troper from the Tabletop Games page of Alternate Character Interpretation, however, has thought Cain to be the most pious Commissar in the history of the Imperium, considering how much he talks about "Emperor-botherers" and how The Emperor has much better things to do than keep an eye on him, and so he should do as much as he can to ensure his survival to allow The Emperor to focus His attention elsewhere, where it's needed.
- It's also thought among fans that he actually was a Dirty Coward at the beginning of the series, and by sometime in the middle of the series he becomes brave and heroic and thinks he's still a Dirty Coward. It is very doubtful that if he was as big a coward as he claims, he could undertake actions as awesome as assembling a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to take back Perlia or shoot a daemoness in the face with a Meltagun, duel two Chaos Space Marines with his chainsword, or kick a Chaos Warmaster off a roof.
- Adding more fuel to the fire is that his every explanation of how what he does is either for his own benefit, or just the only reasonable courses of action under the circumstances make sense. It's not even a stretch for him to be honest about these things, it's completely plausible, which makes the entire series a deconstruction of "heroism" in general.
- In a spectacular case of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, Amberley Vail notes in the foreword to The Emperor's Finest that the above debate also occurs In-Universe among her readers in the Inquisition.
Amberley: ... A reputation, which, true to form, he continues to insist throughout the current extract is completely undeserved. Many of my readers have taken this claim at face value, and many others have construed it as a rather engaging blindness to his own virtues. Having known him personally, I tend to the view that the truth is a little more complicated than either postulation.
- Anti-Hero: Where he is on the scale is intentionally left to the reader. The "he thinks he's worse than he actually is" theory believes he is generally a type 2/3. The "Character development theory" believes he eventually becomes a Type II.
- Artificial Limbs: Cain has two augmetic fingers, replacing those lost to a glancing hit from a Necron Gauss Flayer.
- Awesome by Analysis: His ingenuity and cunning tend to save his life and end those of his enemies.
- Badass Bureaucrat: As a commissar, this is literally part of Cain's job description. Cain tries to avoid the more onerous aspects of the "bureaucrat" part, foisting most of the day-to-day trivialities and paperwork on Jurgen. In a pinch, however, he can and will use his commissarial privileges, the weight of his reputation, and outright Loophole Abuse to cut through mountains of red tape.
- Badass Normal: Despite being an essentially unmodified human with basic Guard-issue weapons, Cain has managed to defeat or at least hold his own against Space Marines, Daemons, a horribly mutated Chaos Warlord, a Broodlord, and a gigantic Ork Warboss.
- Last Ditch adds a MAWLOC to his one on one records. And a Tervigon of all things with merelya over strength squad and a lone Valyrie fighter jet as backup!
- Badass Unintentional: Very much so.
- Retired Badass — Cain in Cain's Last Stand, along with all the other schola instructors. Let that sink in: he's so badass, he's managed what is a nigh-impossible feat in the Warhammer 40K universe: he REACHED RETIREMENT.
- Bad Boss: Averted and deconstructed. Cain makes plenty of threats, but he's a reasonable man and the only times he's ever executed troopers on-screen were practically Mercy Kill justified cases (or in one case, for trying to kill him). He'd rather earn his soldiers' trust so they're more inclined to protect him in battle and avoid Unfriendly Fire, as tends to happen with unpopular commissars. He and Amberley remind the reader frequently that a commissar's responsibility is maintaining morale, and summary execution is an extreme means of doing so best reserved for desperate cases. (Plus, executions mean more paperwork all around, and Cain's nothing if not averse to that.)
- Both Cain's notable assignments were also situations where the more stereotypical commissar would be unnecessary and counterproductive. The 12th Valhallan was an artillery unit that had few discipline problems and largely fired on distant targets with other Guard units in support. The 597th Valhallan had high morale, high resistance to Chaotic or alien taint, and exceptional supplies. However, the 597th only had high morale as a direct result of Cain's intervention, and in particular due to his reluctance to simply execute a tenth of the regiment to show the rest what happens when you step out of line.
- However, The Greater Good gives us the line "In the Guard people were executed for less [than incompetence]. And some of them by me." Which means that he can be a Bad Boss, should the situation be severe enough. Justified in that he is talking about incompetence that got people killed.
- Battle Couple: Platonically with Jurgen, romantically with Inquisitor Amberley Vail.
- Becoming the Mask: If Cain shows any Character Development over his career, this is likely the cause. The "mask" he wears is one of a humble hero, always eager to put himself In Harm's Way. Underneath that mask, he is primarily interested in self-preservation, having a good time, and avoiding work. However, as he is cast into ever more dire and important situations, his heroic actions become increasingly genuine, even if his thoughts remain selfish. His increasing confidence in his own abilities allows him to consider even relatively dangerous situations "safe" in ways he would not have as a younger man, and his view of self-interest becomes more long-term the more experienced he gets. In his own words:
I'd spent so long hiding behind masks I was no longer sure there was a genuine Ciaphas underneath them any more.
- Beneath the Mask: The novels' keystone premise is that Cain is a very different person from how he is portrayed by Imperial propaganda.
- Boring but Practical: He could easily get his hands on a powerful bolt-pistol, but he'd never forgo his handy laspistol. As unassuming as it is, it's got far higher ammo count and accuracy than the other weapons (especially since Cain mastered the art of firing one from the hip) and both have saved his life in many fights. Oddly enough, he also forgoes getting a Hel-pistol, a stronger variant of the laspistol as he fears the heavier weight will throw off his aim despite having plenty of time to practice.
- Born Lucky/The Chew Toy: Cain is dogged by extremely good and bad luck ... and sometimes both at the same time. To everyone else, all reputation boosts seem to be a good thing, but Cain knows that every boost to his reputation eventually leads to him being put into even more dangerous situations.
- Broken Ace: On the outside, he's a charming, charismatic leader of soldiers who is capable of going toe-to-toe with some of humanity's worst enemies. On the inside, he's a psychological wreck plagued with feelings of inadequacy and an inability to recognize his own selflessness. Or just a Manipulative Bastard, exactly as he claims. Then again, Broken Ace and Manipulative Bastard are not mutually exclusive although somewhat contradictory.
- Captain Obvious: During his time with the Reclaimers as whatever illuminating conclusions he'd draw from a situation when around the Space Marines were recognized by them much quicker, though they chose not to vocalize them unless Cain did.
- The Casanova: He mentions several "non-regulation" relationships he has with a number of women who are invariably quite attractive, and a few more had been implied. His relationships with women were wide rather than deep, at least until he met Amberley.
- Character Development: One interpretation: The young Cain is concerned only with saving his own life; he performs heroic deeds just to keep up appearances and avoid Unfriendly Fire. However, as he survives ever more dangerous situations and matures, his actions become increasingly selfless and genuinely heroic, most obviously in his defense of Perlia during the Second Siege. Cain himself does not seem to realize that this has happened, and still considers himself to be the selfish Dirty Coward of his youth.
- The Charmer: According to Vail's footnotes, Cain is one of these. She notes that a certain kind of woman would be easily drawn to his charms, and one who was not too bright to begin with could find herself soon broken hearted. Cain's offhand references to finding himself spending pleasant time in the company of the young daughters of noble families after attending various official functions seem to back this up.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Despite his amorous adventures (prior to meeting Amberley at least), he never seems to have gotten in trouble for them; the one time he describes meeting an old flame, she certainly shows no sign of heartbreak. The one woman who's hacked off at him for dumping her (by way of a laspistol shot to the chest; It Makes Sense in Context) gives him nightmares for years, and eventually becomes a daemon princess.
- Consummate Liar: Even before he knew about Jurgen, and afterward when he's not around, Cain was confident in his ability to fool mind readers - mostly by controlling stray thoughts. It is implied that he couldn't have defended himself from an actual investigation and is lucky that his memory has never been scanned before. But then again, Inquisitor Amberley Vail is the first human being in his life whom he cannot fool no matter how hard he tried, and she's not even a psyker.
- Conveniently an Orphan: Cain himself notes that orphans from well-off Hive World families are often shipped off to Schola.
- Cool Teacher: Cain appears to have become one prior to the events of Cain's Last Stand (or at least he claims to be more relaxed, to the irritation of his colleagues).
- Cosmic Plaything: Cain repeatedly comments that if the Emperor is actually watching him, He has a sick sense of humor.
- Court-Martialed: The Traitor's Hand wraps up with Cain facing a Commissariat tribunal, basically a court-martial by a different name. The charges of cowardice, which were brought by his old rival Tomas Beije on faulty information, are dismissed pretty quickly, and Beije ends up charged for interfering with Cain's effort to save the day.
- Cowardly Lion: Cain is a near-textbook example; a guy with little courage that nonetheless achieves feats of great daring.
- Cyborg: Cain has two augmetic fingers, and in Caves of Ice he mentions that they're the only parts of his body that don't feel cold when he's out in the freezing arctic wind.
- Deadpan Snarker: Best exemplified in The Traitor's Hand, where he never once lets a "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!" pass unmocked.
- Designated Hero: Cain considers himself to be one, In-Universe. He doesn't think he's The Hero of this story, he doesn't even think he's a' hero. He's just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time who coincidentally saves the day while trying to save his own skin and nothing else.
- Destructive Saviour: Cain has favored this approach on at least five distinct separate occasions. Granted, all of them crossed the Godzilla Threshold. In his own words, no machinery can cost as much as a life of a single soldier (especially if the soldier in question is him).
- In Caves of Ice, he blows up the very promethium refinery his regiment was sent to defend in order to destroy the Necron tomb and active Warp portal located beneath it.
- In the short story "The Beguiling," he calls down artillery fire on his own position in order to destroy a Chaos coven and the daemonhost it was in the process of summoning.
- In Death or Glory he blows up a major hydroelectric dam to drown an approaching Ork army that would otherwise have slaughtered his band of refugees.
- In Cain's Last Stand he tries to blow up another dam (well, technically it's the same one...) to prevent the Necrons from getting their hands on a potent Warp artifact. Unfortunately, they jam the detonation signal and escape.
- In The Last Ditch he blows up a geothermal power plant (and the city it's in) in order to destroy a crash-landed Tyranid Bio-Ship buried underneath it.
- Dirty Business: There are numerous clues that Cain feels the sacrifices he makes more keenly than he lets on.
- In the short story "Sector 13," he discovers a genestealer cult. At the end of the story, amid general celebration, he's trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid thinking about all the Imperial subjects and guardsmen who're being executed because, despite being loyal, they are infected and there's no way to save them.
- In the first novel, For the Emperor, Cain is forced to gun down a squad of loyal PDF at a checkpoint in order to keep his own mission (escorting Tau diplomats back to their enclave) a secret. Cain finds himself disgusted by it, and has difficulty working out what to say to his troopers. He finally tells the sergeant to tell them that he appreciated what they did. The sergeant says he will, with obvious sympathy, and Cain realizes it was the right line.
- Dirty Coward: Played with. Cain sees himself as this, and a lot of his comments do give that impression, but Cain's actions throughout the books (as Amberley notes frequently) make him out to be cowardly only in his own mind.
- Drink Order: Just about any time Cain mentions drinking something, it's credits to carrots that it's either (alcoholic) amasec or (non-alcoholic) tanna tea or recaff if there is no tanna around. He's a honorary Valhallan, after all, and no Valhallan could imagine a life without tea. This reaches borderline obsessive levels in Death or Glory where the lack of tanna, and Cain asking hopefully, "I don't suppose you've got any," becomes something of a Running Gag. Considering that these novels are British in origin, the 40k setting is British in origin, the Schola Progenium where he was educated is depicted by Cain as being akin to a British Public school, the Valhallans are heavily based on Russians, and Britain and Russia are noted for being tea-drinking countries, this shouldn't come as a surprise.
- Dual Wielding: Laspistol in one hand, chainsword in the other — see the section picture. He takes out an Ork Warboss in Death or Glory this way; the warboss is concentrating on the chainsword and gives Cain a chance to shove the laspistol barrel in the ork's eye.
- Exact Words: Often invokes this to tell a technical truth while sounding like something else. Regarding the necessity of blowing up the promethium refinery in Caves of Ice, he states that "As far as I'm concerned, it's not worth the life of a single soldier". The soldier he is referring to, of course, is himself.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: of the IMPERIUM!
- A Father to His Men: Cain invokes this trope wherever possible, because appearing to care for soldiers under his command means those same soldiers will go the extra mile to protect him from harm. It is perhaps telling, however, that there are numerous occasions where Cain could have sacrificed his Guardsmen's lives to keep himself out of harm's way but chose not to.
- First-Person Smartass: Even when he's "in-character", he's prone to making a few offhand wisecracks.
- The Fool: Cain himself, although not as nice or lighthearted as most examples. He goes into situations with minimal knowledge of what is going on and only his quick thinking and a healthy helping of luck see him through each conflict intact.
- Generation Xerox: Comes up once he's a Cool Teacher, in the form of Donal (who's just too much like Cain himself at that age). The kid even makes Commissar (as an It Has Been an Honor Battlefield Promotion., which kinda spoils it).
- Genre Savvy: Subverted in For the Emperor. While talking to the singer at the governor's fete (Vail in disguise), Cain jokingly guesses that a conspicuous rogue trader is an inquisitor because, supposedly, all inquisitors use that disguise. Needless to say, he gets that one wrong...although the trader does indeed have a connection to the Inquisition, and Vail does comment that Cain's assumption was usually correct, Inquisitors do use a certain disguise far too much. Otherwise, Cain is usually right in his guesses and assumptions. Furthermore, he's fully aware of the reputation most commissars have (and their usual fates) and does everything in his power to subvert these expectations.
- Going Native: Whilst living with the Valhallans for an astounding amount of time Cain took some of their customs, such as slang words, usual room temperature to adjust to (even if he still finds it chilling when it's warm for them), and a taste for tanna, a kind of tea which most non-Valhallans find disgusting.
- Guile Hero: Albeit one who gets thrust into potentially lethal physical confrontations far more often than is comfortable.
- The Hero: Both subverted and played straight; Cain spends a good chunk of his memoirs talking of his baser motivations and cowardice while everyone around him praises him as a great hero, due to the results of his selfish and cowardly actions.
- Heroic Build: Going by the cover illustrations, though they are definitely intended to be overblown and not entirely truthful. However, his combat ability and years of practice would make a fit build of some kind to be fairly logical and he's definitely also said to be rather tall in the stories themselves.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: In spades. To give some perspective: If there is a heroic aspect that Cain may or may not have, he has probably belittled it, claimed that it doesn't exist, or given a selfish reason for it. For example, there's his reason for why he does not fit the stereotypical trigger-happy taskmaster, which boils down to: "Soldiers who hate and fear me will be less likely to aim at me! I will be nice to them, therefore I won't get killed by my own troops!" while conveniently ignoring (or invoking) that this is, you know, a genuinely moral thing to do. He has also downplayed numerous accomplishments that are apparently astounding, such as when he casually mentions that he, the Commissar, is close to the commanding officers and present at the briefings. Note that Amberley claims that this is an extremely rare occurrence, with commissars often being seen as an annoying third wheel in briefings. It's best summed up in this quote, when getting an after-action report from Jenit Sulla she mentions that she thought, "What would Cain do?"
Cain: And then did the opposite, I hope.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With his aide, Jurgen. See his entry below.
- Humble Hero: Part of his reputation, much cultivated. Also he frequently fits the part without even noticing it.
- Hypocritical Humor: Rather an inversion of the usual sort. In Duty Calls, Cain is part of a meeting that gets some very scary news. While most of those around him panic, Cain controls his own terror and plans with Colonel Kasteen the actions they'll have to take to deal with the danger. Then he raises his voice to ask a question of the briefer, and notes that his "fraudulent reputation for remaining calm and decisive in a crisis" probably helps settle everyone else down.
- "I only did [heroic thing x] to support my fraudulent reputation for [x]" is practically a catchphrase.
- Indy Ploy: Cain always has a plan... which promptly goes out the window as soon as an unexpected threat shows up. Once this happens, he usually has to think on his feet and come up with a crazy plan to get him (and his soldiers incidentally) out of the situation.
- Informed Flaw: It becomes increasingly hard to believe Cain's really a coward, since we never see him do anything a sensible hero wouldn't do. He says he needs to maintain his reputation so that his allies would make good Human Shields... every time he has to choose between using them as such and risking his own life for theirs.
- In Harm's Way: Inverted. Cain has to maintain the appearance of this trope to keep his reputation intact.
- Invincible Incompetent: A dark and dramatic take on a protagonist who attempts to run away from the action yet always ends up winning.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Depicted with one rivaling Marcus' Fenix's jaw, which his entry on the character sheet has described as "About a third of his face."
- The Leader: His men see him as a bold and charismatic man of action who cares about each and every one of them. Cain himself would say he's the opposite but invokes this so they will protect him.
- Love at First Sight: Cain has never believed in this; though he can remember every detail of the first time he ever saw Amberley. And proceeds to describe it for us.
- The Magnificent: Cain is known as "the Liberator" on Perlia for saving the planet from Ork domination.
- Master Swordsman: Cain is incredibly skilled with his chainsword, and Amberly posits that he's one of the best in the sector. Regardless of which sector he's in.
- Meaningful Name: Mixed in with a bit of Fridge Brilliance. His first name was that of the rabbi who condemned Jesus, referring to Cain being his own greatest critic, despite how much of a genuine hero he eventually becomes. Not to mention the biblical Caiaphas is condemned in The Divine Comedy as a hypocrite (which is more or less what Cain considers himself). The author even mentions that his name was a biblical reference, but without saying what to.
- Mistaken for Badass: Just mention any of his major exploits to him and this is the explanation you'll get from Cain.
- Motivational Lie: As a commissar these are often necessary. Cain himself is a master of these, showing in his internal narration that he can read people very well and quickly choose the appropriate tone and words that would gain him favor or convince them to do what he needs.
- Multiple-Choice Past: All that can be determined for certain before Cain was accepted into the Schola Progenium was that he spent his early youth on the lower to mid levels of a hive city. The name of the hive city and the world on which it was located remain unknown, as does Cain's parentage. The fact that he was in the Schola means that he was orphaned, and tends to suggest that his parents were loyal Imperial servants, (In contrast, Cain described them as cowards on par with his him.) but Vail has revealed no records that say for certain. Cain seems to use this when meeting new people, adjusting the backstory he tells them to his advantage. As a result, Vail advises the readers to take anything Cain says about his past with a grain of salt.
- The Musketeer: Cain is demonstrably proficient with both his chainsword and his laspistol.
- Nerves of Steel: Subverted, he appears this way very intentionally, but even as he deals with terrible danger in an unflappable demeanor, inside he's quivering and panicking like anyone else would.
- Played with: While he always expresses fear, he almost never outright panics and can measure his best options for survival in situations that reduce trained, battle hardened soldiers to terror stricken hysteria.
- Nice Hat: He is a commissar, after all. He'd prefer an actual helmet, though.
- Oblivious to Love: This is the case for Cain, but played with interestingly in that he is oblivious to all positive feelings toward him including friendship and admiration, not just romantic ones. He never lets his guard down with anyone, and while he does spend mutually enjoyable time in other's company he sees it as just an entertaining diversion or keeping up appearances rather than a moment of bonding. Fridge Brilliance comes in when one realizes that keeping other people's spirits up is his job, and he never seems to allow himself to break from it. As a result, if anyone goes out of their way to do Cain a favor or support him, he attributes their motivation to his "undeserved reputation" or his authority as a Commissar and never considers that they might actually like him.
- Opportunistic Bastard: Cain rarely goes into a situation with a concrete plan for how to tackle it (or even, at times, a complete picture of what he's actually getting into), but he has a remarkable tendency to find and exploit any advantage that could possibly give him an edge when he's in the thick of things. Interestingly, he's one of the rare few examples of this trope who's self-aware enough of just how shallow his motives run and who has enough of a conscience to actually beat himself up over it in quieter moments (that is, if we take his own account at face value).
- Overshadowed by Awesome: During the seventh book in both a physical and metaphorical sense as Cain is usually one of the tallest and most skilled combatants in a group with a keen analytical mind that allows him to notice things that may escape the attentions of those around him. The Space Marines dwarf him in stature and fighting ability and are just as perceptive as he is if not more so. This is due to Cain being in a relatively early (if eventful) part of his career and the fact that the Reclaimers are, well, The Emperor's Finest.
- Papa Wolf: Shows shades of this as a Cool Teacher, not even trying to justify with cowardice just how much he cares for his little class of Commissar cadets. A Running Gag throughout the series is his attempts to teach them how not to fall victim to Friendly Fire, and he uses all of his experience to make them as effective as possible. Bonus points for actually referring to them as "pups" and featuring Donal as a Generation Xerox (before Cain has to spectacularly avenge him, fully reaching this trope).
- Parental Abandonment: Prerequisite for becoming a commissar. Vail does wonder how true his story is, though, as Cain is a (self-admitted) nearly pathological liar prone to manipulating others.
- Really Gets Around: Has had enough sexual relations across the Imperium that it is probably littered with his bastard children.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Cain plays with this up and down the scale. He's gained a reputation for being a relatively fair-minded commissar by being willing to listen to other people's concerns, but it's mostly in the interest of saving his own skin. However, when he does investigate the lead everyone else is ignoring, he inevitably ends up uncovering (and defeating) something far more sinister than the original threat. He also mentions repeatedly (and demonstrates it in Cain's Last Stand) that he's trying to instill this approach in the commissar cadets he teaches in 40k's present day.
- Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: He owes his entire career to this trope. The Emperor appears to have it in for him because almost every act of intended cowardice, self-preservation/gratification or caution on his part ends up being turned on its head and landing him smack dab in the middle of another life-threatening situation. Then again he always manages to survive it with flying colours, so the Emperor might just be doing it because he knows he can take it.
- Selective Obliviousness: Cain is often a very sharp man, picking up on clues and making connections no one else seems to. However, at other times he can be incredibly dense, missing things which are obvious to the reader. Amberly is quick to point out such times in footnotes, Lampshading when Cain really ought to have seen something coming.
- Usually his itching palms will clue him into direct physical danger, but when the danger is more subtle they tend not to trigger. It just goes to show how much Cain depends on his instincts to see him through.
- Cain's own Self-Deprecation gets in the way of him realizing his own importance in a situation. Amberly points out how ignorant he seems of his own positive effect on the morale of guardsmen in the present theater, always worried about failing to live up to that reputation.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cain has numerous nightmares over barely surviving his first experience against Necrons. Amberley also states he is plagued by nightmare for other less specific reasons, doubtlessly reasons tending toward this trope.
- Shrouded in Myth: Cain is one of these in the Warhammer 40K world; whenever he downplays his accomplishments, most people think that it's out of modesty. One religious sect has even proclaimed him to be a physical manifestation of the God-Emperor's Divine Will. Vail playfully points out that Cain would be absolutely horrified if he ever learned about said religious sect.
- The people of Perlia have elevated Cain so high on the hero scale that they actually built a gigantic (and hideous) mechanical clock in the planetary capital that tells time by having a commissar appear and lop off the heads of a number of orks equal to the hour. When the capital is bombarded, Cain asks hopefully if the clock has been destroyed.
- Despite frequent mention of his childhood being spent in a Hiveworld, no one actually knows where Cain was born or anything significant about his past prior to becoming a Commissar. He claims at one point that Kroot killed his parents, but Vail points out inconsistencies in his statement and then points out he is, by his own admission, a pathological liar.
- Slave to PR: Heroic example. No matter what he manages to accomplish, the main reason he doesn't run like hell from the opposite direction of danger at first chance is because it would destroy his indispensably useful heroic image. He keeps digging a deeper hole for himself as his deeds cause his reputation to grow, which in turns increases people's expectations of him, which requires that he keeps charging forward into increasingly worse situations, then when he actually accomplishes more impressive deeds...
- The So-Called Coward: Maybe. Before this goes in YMMV, though, remember the massive entry for Alternate Character Interpretation up above? It could go either way.
- Soldiers at the Rear: What he was hoping for when he pulled some cleverly-attained strings to get assigned to a Vahallan artillery division. Everyone knows how well THAT worked out.
- Stepford Smiler
"You could just try being yourself, you know."
The thought was terrifying. I'd spent so long hiding behind masks I was no longer sure there was a genuine Ciaphas underneath them any more, just a quivering little bundle of self-interest.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Cain manages to successfully convince others he has this.
- Taking You with Me: When apparently completely and totally overwhelmed by enemies with zero chance of escape or survival Cain will default to this sentiment and attempt to kill as many of his foes as possible before his death.
- Too Clever by Half: Once in a while his smooth-talking and rhetoric will come around to bite him in the ass, such as when he realizes that his explanations for his current course of action leads to him talking himself into a corner (the corner being effectively volunteering himself for a suicide mission).
- Unreliable Narrator: Cain tends to leave out anything that doesn't directly affect him, so Vail has to use other sources, including (much to her annoyance) the memoirs of Jenit Sulla. Many readers, both real and in-universe, seem to think he overstates his own cowardice. Cain also makes several minor errors of fact which are pointed out and corrected by Vail's notes.
- Unluckily Lucky: Every dangerous situation he gets into is a result of him trying to avoid one that sounds more dangerous on paper, only making it out through luck and foiling an enemy plot in the process. For example, instead of joining the frontline against an ork horde, he attaches himself to a search party investigating tunnels the orks might be able to use, and finds Necrons instead, and only escapes due to Jurgen's Anti-Magic properties. In another, he goes away from the main battle with Chaos forces to an out-of-the-way dredger where there might be a demon summoning taking place. As he'd fervently hoped against, there was.
- Walking Disaster Area: On a few occasions, Cain has actually managed to avoid getting assigned to the more harrowing warzones and found himself in a fairly laid-back posting. Inevitably, something manages to show up and ruin the party. Particularly notable instances include his first field posting to the Valhallan 12th Artillery and his retirement to the schola on Perlia.
- Weak, but Skilled: While he's certainly no slouch by comparison to other humans, Cain is still only a bog-standard human himself (aside from a couple of augmetic fingers). Nevertheless, he has a preternatural ability to manipulate the situation to his advantage when he needs to. He's also one of the best chainswordsman in the galaxy, able to match and occasionally best Space Marine commanders... in an honorable duel, that is; in a life-or-death fight they would just stomp on him.
- We Do the Impossible: Cain's specialty, and the point of the series. His life is an endless cycle of being sent to a new assignment, finding some way to get out of that assignment while still looking like he's doing something meaningful, accidentally stumbling onto the real problem because everyone else was too focused on what was in front of their eyes to investigate, and then throwing every resource at his disposal at that problem because any other option will get him killed. This inevitably inflates his reputation as a resilient, perceptive hero who Gets Things Done, which in turn gets him sent on more of these assignments...
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cain is absolutely terrified of the Necrons. This is due to his first encounter with them, which resulted in the entire squad he was with being killed, save him, plus two of his fingers being shot off. The experience was so traumatizing for him that even over eighty years later in Cain's Last Stand he admits that he still has nightmares about that mission, and spends most of the book ignoring the clues pointing to their presence because he doesn't want them to be real.
- Worthy Opponent: The Tau see him as one, taking his reputation at face value after their representatives witness several acts of heroism on his part. His dedication to the greater good of the Imperium impresses them greatly.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Cain regularly manages to outthink himself, to the point that you can almost set your watch by it. You'd think by now he'd stop trying to come up with contrived "vitally important missions" to send himself on in order to avoid a bigger battle after every time it turns out the trivial distraction he's talked up into a dangerous matter of great importance turns out to actually be highly dangerous and very important. He does it 3 times in the first 3 books alone: first he ducks out of the attack on the rebels in the Heights only to find himself driving into a burning building to rescue Amberley and her party; then he volunteers to lead the team that investigates the ice caves in order to avoid the battle with the orks, only end up walking through a Necron tomb; THEN he volunteers to lead the assault on a fancy brothel in search of heretics rather than going after their supposed main hideout by arguing that he has a feeling that the brothel is the real centre of cultist activity, only to turn out to be 100% correct. Unless this is one of the most prominent instances of his tendency to undervalue himself, in which case he's heading directly toward what seems to be a safe location precisely because he knows it'll be the center of the action.
The Valhallan 597th
The Guard regiment Cain spends most of his career with, made up of survivors of the Valhallan 296th and 301st, which both suffered massive casualties in a campaign against the Tyranids on Corania. Natives of planet Valhalla, a vicious ice worldnote
, are real Vikings in all but the name, providing steady reinforcements for the Imperial Guard. They love snow and tanna - a Valhallan considers it balmy if there's just frost on the windows- and they hate orks with a ferocious intensity. Most of Cain's commissarial career revolved around serving with Valhallans even though he isn't a native; consequently, he picked up quite a few of their habits (although he never did quite get around to being accustomed to cold showers).
In contrast to the stereotype sometimes shown in the main Warhammer 40,000
universe, where Valhallans fight with human-wave tactics reminiscent of the Great Patriotic War at its bloodiest, the Valhallans of the Cain-version of Warhammer 40,000
are extraordinarily proficient and professional soldiers and almost unmatched in arctic environments.
Gunner Ferik Jurgen
Ferik Jurgen is Cain's personal aide. He has the following notable qualities: his foul smell and general disregard of any sort of personal hygiene; his complete devotion to Cain and strong faith in the Emperor; his overwhelming heroism and courage; and, finally, the fact that he is a blank - capable of completely shutting down any sorcery or psychic effects within certain radius. Cain's closest friend, consistently accompanying him throughout his adventures; the two are both inseparable and deadly together.
Understandably but unfortunately, Jurgen is almost universally left out of every story and tall tale about Cain except for his own - all his many achievements are usually credited to Cain, when in reality the two of them tend to work in tandem. Even Jenit Sulla, who obviously enjoyed the esteem and respect of her soldiers, barely noticed Jurgen throughout her career. As Amberley puts it, with the best will in the galaxy, he's hardly the sort of person you want cluttering up a heroic legend.
- Achievements in Ignorance: Cain frequently wonders if Jurgen's life-saving feats are part of a calculated well-hidden genius or if he operates on gut instinct, being unaware that his actions are extremely improbable.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: He really, really likes porno slates.
- Almighty Janitor: Justified. Being able to boss admirals and generals around when they bother Cain is a surprising ability to someone whose rank is the lowest possible in the Imperial Guard, but he's technically assigned to the Commissariat as Cain's personal aide and, since the Commissariat is outside the Guard's rank structure, he claims that his position places him outside it as well. Unless there's something to be gained by claiming to still be inside the Guard's structure, in which case he does that instead.
- Cain himself sort of jokingly lampshades this by referring to him as "Gunner-in-Chief" (a rank he made up himself) rather than a mere "Gunner."
- Anti-Magic: Part of being a blank.
- Badass Beard: Jurgen's waived from shaving, ostensibly for medical reasons but presumably because Cain doesn't want to know what lies underneath his permanent unkempt stubble.
- Badass Driver: Driving like crazy isn't a bad thing when there are plenty of enemies to run over.
- Badass Grandpa: During Cain's Last Stand. Juvenat treatments are one perk of being friends with an Inquisitor.
- Battle Butler: Though he reaches it from the opposite end of the spectrum than most other examples of this trope.
- Berserk Button: He's not too fond of treachery. Unfortunately his going berserk actually makes him less effective as a soldier.
- Bodyguarding a Badass: Cain trusts Jurgen to watch his back because of his unwavering loyalty. He's also a crack shot (with a melta, an anti-armor weapon designed for short-range use, to boot) and capable of neutralizing Warp powers, both of which come in handy when the two of them are in a pinch.
- Book Dumb: The more charitable interpretation of Jurgen, who shows both insight and practical wisdom even despite his ignorance and supposed lack of intelligence. He is, however, clearly socially stunted, probably because of the unfortunate side effects of being a blank.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Jurgen's melta gun and blank abilities save the day at least several times each per novel.
- Covert Pervert: On the one hand, his "nests" often involve several porno slates. On the other, he never mentions this, and certainly never acts on it.
- Crazy-Prepared: Cain describes him as being constantly clad in assault webbing with numerous bags and pouches attached in which he holds everything he thinks he might need. On a couple of occasions he is seen as pulling out something he thought might be useful, such as an extra pair of snow goggles for Cain, or some sandwiches he brought on the chance that Cain might be hungry. Of course, one of those sandwiches got mislaid in the tangle until and forgotten until much later, as in a different book.
- Cursed with Awesome: Being a blank makes him a social pariah and incapable of making real bonds with people (besides Cain)... but the ability to frazzle Warp-based powers has saved his and Cain's bacon many times.
- Disney Death: In For the Emperor he's shot in the head with a bolter. Miraculously, his helmet took the brunt of the blow.
- Drives Like Crazy: But with extraordinary proficiency.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: He doesn't usually notice the more subtle jabs at him, and doesn't really go out of his way to get recognition for his work, but he tends to react very poorly when people fail to respect his position as Cain's aide.
- Dumb Is Good: Jurgen seems to be this at first glance, but he's remarkably insightful, has an amazing knack for scrounging, and is extremely diligent and thorough. What intelligence he may lack is made up for by unyielding faith in the Emperor's will and a pragmatic outlook along the lines of "The Commissar is always right."
- Caves of Ice even has a scene where he thinks so far ahead that he actually saved Cain's life by bringing along an extra pair of snow goggles, reasoning that Cain would forget them himself.
- Empowered Badass Normal: Already an enormously competent soldier, the discovery that he was a blank was the icing on the cake.
- Hammerspace: Downplayed. Jurgen carries so much useful stuff in pockets/belts/bandoleers that Cain wonders how he manages to lug his weapons around and still have enough room for ammo.
- Hard Head: He survives a bolter shot to the head. True, he's wearing a helmet, but bolters are described as bursting human torsos on a regular basis, and it had just killed another soldier.
- Hero of Another Story: The author has stated that Jurgen has a good claim to being the real hero of the stories, "if anyone ever noticed him."
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Cain, as is more and more obvious over the course of the books. Although Cain makes fun of Jurgen frequently in his narration, the two of them are very close — Cain describes Jurgen as the only man he ever really trusted, is crushed when he thinks Jurgen's dead, and is probably Jurgen's only friend even though Jurgen's blank status effectively makes him supernaturally unlikable. Jurgen, for his part, serves Cain with unfailing loyalty and fellowship, is always ready to assist Cain in any capacity, and repeatedly dares almost certain death purely for the sake of companionship.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: He was initially introduced as a Bumbling Sidekick, but rapidly became an elite (if still immensely dirty) soldier who sticks with Cain for practically his entire, insanely dangerous, career. Although Cain is actually a fantastic warrior and leader, Jurgen saves his life as many times (if not more) than Cain saves his and Cain is under no illusions that Jurgen (as a blank) is more valuable to Amberley than he is.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: In The Emperor's Finest Cain has Jurgen take a shot at a fuel tank too far for him to hit himself. Jurgen has to try a few times, but then it's revealed he was actually aiming for the release valve, assuming that was what Cain meant.
- I Owe You My Life: It's never explicitly mentioned, but this may be one reason why Jurgen sticks so close to Cain. See the Fridge Brilliance section for details.
- Kill It with Fire: Jurgen's Meltagun has saved him and Cain a number of times.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: Cain has Jurgen as his sidekick for roughly a century but Jurgen never once gets a promotion. In fact, he spends his entire career with the grade of gunner, the artillery regiment version of an infantry private. Although Cain has occasionally introduced him with the fictitious rank "gunner first class". Potentially Amberley's doing to prevent him from getting more widely known, jeopardizing his usefulness as Cain's (and her) ace in the hole due to being a blank (and as an aide to a commissar Jurgen has authority well beyond his titular rank anyway).
- Literal-Minded: He occasionally has trouble with parsing metaphors, leading to a few amusing incidents.
- Loners Are Freaks: In Jurgen's case, though, it's the freakishness which causes the social isolation. Most other people find blanks to be subtly unsettling and thus look down on them with contempt. The fact that Cain still treats Jurgen like a human being ought to is yet another sign that some readers use to claim that Cain has hidden strength of character.
- Mage Killer: Cain expects Vail to make him one of those, although she decides not to, as having a covert ops blank is indispensable. He still functions as one whenever Cain encounters an enemy with Warp powers.
- No Hero to His Valet: For all of Cain's posturing in an attempt to keep Jurgen sufficiently impressed by him, Jurgen is under no illusion that Cain is invincible or infallible often revealing to his companion's relief precautions he himself has taken in lieu of the latter's carelessness and vulnerabilities. However, unlike most examples of this trope, he nonetheless regards Cain as worthy of his loyalty and respect.
- The Pigpen: Exaggerated. Jurgen's body odour and grime is mentioned constantly. He is exempt from standard Guard cleaning regulations due to his variety of skin conditions. It's suggested that this is supernatural in origin - as a blank, Jurgen doesn't connect spiritually to other people like normal humans do, as interpersonal interactions have an underlying psychic component. It's almost like a really dirty, stinky version of the Uncanny Valley. At one point, the next day after bathing even longer than Cain, Jurgen is described as looking almost as dirty as he was beforehand already. As a blank, he may simply have stopped caring about hygiene and etiquette when he realized nothing he did would make most people like him.
- In fact, it's suggested that Jurgen's body odor is directly connected to the radius of his blank abilities - Cain smelling Jurgen and the anti-psyker effects manifesting are always linked.
- Cain often mentions that he quickly turns any quarters assigned to him into a complete mess.
- Power Nullifier: As a blank, Jurgen often serves this role.
- The Reliable One: Jurgen never fails to be a constant help to Cain in his endlessly dangerous life, sticking with him through everything, saving his life repeatedly and thinking to lug around various things he'd imagine could have been useful.
- Rules Lawyer: As a Gunner, Jurgen is a member of the Guard. As Cain's aide, he is technically seconded to the Commissariat. He tends to ignore the legal snarls about his precise status unless he absolutely has to, at which point he chooses whichever side brings him advantage at the moment.
- The Scrounger: Another indication that Jurgen's smarter than he lets on, though the proxy use of Cain's commissarial authority helps. Cain finds this talent to be quite useful, and admits that he doesn't ask questions about Jurgen's methods to avoid knowing anything incriminating.
- Sidekick: Even if every history about Cain's adventures but his own leaves him out entirely. A fact which Cain reputedly hated, as evidenced by his disdain for the holodrama Cain's Heroes, about his adventures in Death Or Glory, which left Jurgen and several other vital characters out completely.
- Sidekick Ex Machina: The "Jurgen ex machina" is notorious among fans of Ciaphas Cain. He's almost always what allows Ciaphas to execute the killing blow. When he doesn't simply pull his melta and do it himself.
- Spanner in the Works: Nobody ever expects Jurgen, and it tends to be the downfall of anything even remotely psychic.
- The Stoic: Cain frequently describes his general attitude as "phlegmatic." There's remarkably little that fazes or flusters him (and having traveled alongside Cain as his aide, he's seen almost everything the universe could throw at an Imperial Guardsman and lived to tell the tale).
- Not So Stoic: When it comes to orks (like all Valhallans, he despises orks) or, more amusingly, other helpstaff. In the latter case, Jurgen turns outright snarky.
- Too Dumb to Fool: In one instance in For the Emperor, Cain and company are trying to work out how to get the Tau ambassadors they're escorting through a hostile mob. Jurgen's solution? Get the ambassadors to ask the crowd to let them through, as the crowd is made up of Tau sympathizers. It works.
- Understatement: Espouses a lot of these though it's debatable if they're further indication of his simplicity or the subtle hinting of snark.
- The Watson: If it doesn't have anything to do with Orks, combat or his duties as an aide, Jurgen's quite fine with taking things at face value which only provokes Cain into even higher bouts of paranoid (and eventually justified) analysis.
- Weapon of Choice: The trusty meltagun, which also works as a Chekhov's Boomerang. If a melta isn't available, he's quite proficient with that old Guard standby, the lasgun.
Lieutenant (later Major) of the Valhallan 12th Artillery Regiment, and the closest thing Cain has ever had to the best friend. Overly aggressive and rash, but reliable and decent despite that. A big drinker and rumormonger, providing Cain with useful gossip, but also...well, let's face it, he's not very bright.
- Foil: Divas is very enthusiastic about engaging the enemy personally and thus hates the artillery because it shoots everything from miles away... which is why Cain joined it at the first place.
- Leeroy Jenkins: A big fan of charging the enemy head-on.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: He always finds some way to get Cain in trouble (accidentally getting him stuck on the wrong side of some doors or nearly getting him beaten to death by angry Tau sympathisers for example) without meaning to.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Cain's best friend he may be, but that doesn't mean the descriptions of him are too flattering.
Colonel Regina Kasteen
Former commander of 296th Valhallan Regiment, now commander of 597th Valhallan Regiment. During the Battle for Corania prior to Cain's arrival, both the all-female 296th and the all-male 301st were decimated in combat against the Tyranids. The two units ended up being amalgamated into a single combined regiment and immediately began going at one another's throats, creating a discipline problem that eventually required High Command to send a commissar. They were lucky to get Cain; any other commissar probably would have decimated the regiment
As the 296th had been a rear-echelon regiment for most of its history, the newly-promoted Colonel Kasteen felt an immense need to prove herself to the more experienced veterans of the 301st, particularly her newfound subordinate Major Broklaw. She acquitted herself admirably during the 597th's first battle as a unified whole at Gravalax and has since served with distinction.
- Colonel Badass: She's more than capable of holding her own in a firefight.
- Desk Jockey: Holds a bit of a grudge over how she can't kill enemies personally now. When given the chance to butcher heretics on Adumbria, she reacts like a kid in a candy store.
- Hand Cannon: Favors a bolt pistol as her sidearm.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Cain prefers blondes, but finds Kasteen attractive. He doesn't make anything of it, though, because that would overcomplicate their relationships, and because Amberly would kill him — literally.
- Ms. Fanservice: Her military uniform has a cleavage, and around half the male characters blatantly admire her looksnote .
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: With Broklaw; Kasteen is the more passionate and aggressive of the two, fitting the "red oni" personality.
Major Ruput Broklaw
Former commander of 301st Valhallan Regiment, now second-in-command of the 597th Valhallan Regiment. During the Battle for Corania prior to Cain's arrival, both the all-male 301st and the all-female 296th were decimated in combat against the Tyranids. The two units ended up being amalgamated into a single combined regiment and immediately began going at one another's throats, creating a discipline problem that eventually required High Command to send a commissar. The 301st had been a frontline combat unit with decades of service and experience; as such, Broklaw initially resented being junior to a relatively green commander like Kasteen, especially since she got promoted to the colonelcy by virtue of about five minutes' seniority.
Through Cain's manipulations, however, the pair became Fire-Forged Friends
over the course of the Gravalax Campaign. Broklaw and Kasteen have effectively become the command equivalent of a Battle Couple
, functioning more like equals than as commander and subordinate and sharing the regiment's leadership burdens.
- First Name Basis: Lets a "Regina" slip through to his C.O. on occasion.
- Gray Eyes: One of the first indicators of his steely demeanor.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: in his own mind just after the amalgamation, as he was a front-line soldier and the 296th had been a rear-echelon unit.
- Majorly Awesome: Had frontline experience before the 597th's formation as an amalgamated regiment, and puts it to good use in the firefights we see him in.
- Percussive Maintenance: Whenever the hololith malfunctions, he's usually the one to give it a whack if there are no techpriests around.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: With Kasteen. Broklaw is the more cold and calculating of the two, fitting the "blue oni" personality. He's also brusque and doesn't care overmuch for fools.
A former quartermaster officer of Valhallan 296 all-female regiment, she initially hated the merging between 296th and 301st regiments and, by proxy Ciaphas Cain himself, but grew up to respect the new traditions and genuinely admire Cain, seeing him as somewhat a mentor figure. She basically is what Cain is believed to be, perhaps to the extreme. As her patriotic fervor and hastiness verge on Leeroy Jenkins
levels, all her colleagues view her as something of a liability and predict that she'll either be sidelined or get herself killed in an impetuous charge.
In fact no one guessed correctly, and Sulla's meteoric advance ended with her at the rank of Lady Generalnote
, the highest rank
in the Imperial military outside of the high command, and the only
Lady General in history of the Imperium. She was even popular enough to publish successful memoirs, although Amberley describes them as a "one-woman assault on the Gothic language."
Amusingly, Sulla appears to have taken Cain's public persona at face value, and clearly considered him a mentor at the very least.
The soldiers of Grifen's squad are a mixed squad of the Valhallan 597th. They include Sergeant Grifen, Corporal Mari Magot, Janny Drere, and Vorhees. Cain gained respect for them after the events of Simla Orichalcae: Grifen and Magot managed to survive where hardened stormtroopers
- Battle Couple: With Drere.
- Berserk Button: Don't threaten Janny when he's around.
- Screaming Warrior: Cain mentions that there was angry roaring going on when Drere was injured, but doesn't specify if it was Vorhees or the ambull. Amberly allows that "either or both" seemed reasonable.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He's just as nervous around ambulls as Janny is.
A sergeant in the Valhallan 597th, Penlan is noted for being very accident-prone, leading to her nickname "Jinxie".
- Cursed with Awesome: She causes accidents through her clumsiness every time she's mentioned. They all work out in her favour though, so it's something to laugh about. Also, her squad have heightened morale, as they trust her to be the resident Weirdness Magnet.
- Cute Clumsy Girl: She's quite accident-prone, but the fact that it generally works to her squad's advantage has made her into something of a combination mascot / good luck charm.
- Eating the Eye Candy: In The Traitor's Hand she was almost jealous of a picture of Slaaneshi artwork in a sexual position she thought impossible. Cain assured her it wasn't possible, and that even if it was it would be against regulations.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In The Last Ditch she hits a heavy weapon with the butt of her lasgun, causing it to discharge. Fortunately, it hit an Ork pilot.
- Lethal Klutz: Although fortunately for her and her squadmates, she hasn't caused any friendly fire incidents this way — the only things killed in such incidents tend to be things the Valhallans are trying to kill in the first place.
- Sergeant Rock: It's sometimes lost under the focus her reputation for being a klutz gets, but she's an effective leader in her own fashion.
- Unluckily Lucky: Her clumsiness always causes problems, but they always end up working in her and her companions' favor. This actually improves her squad's morale since they trust her to be resident Weirdness Magnet.
Cain: She's not nearly as accident-prone as she's supposed to be. I'll grant you she fell down an ambull tunnel once, and there was that incident with the frag grenade and the latrine trench, but things tend to work out for her. The orks on Kastafore was as surprised as she was when the floor in the factory collapsed, and we'd have walked into right into that hrud ambush on Skweki if she hadn't triggered the mine by chucking an empty food tin away...
- It's about this point Cain realizes what he's saying.
A sergeant in Sulla's platoon, who shows extreme professionalism in his job, something Cain appreciates when needing his back covered.
Amberley Vail and entourage
Whilst travelling around the galaxy aboard her personal yacht Exterminatus Externus
, Amberley Vail finds numerous persons whose talents she may put to good use. No one had denied her requests for help yet, because saying "No" to an inquisitor is usually suicidal at best. As such, she acquires a personal Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
to assist her on her missions. Their personality quirks are numerous to the point that Cain wonders if she specifically searches for Bunny Ears Lawyers
. (Amberley's footnote replies that she doesn't actually look for eccentrics, but she works in a strange business and the people involved are bound to be unusual.)
Although technically Cain and Jurgen work on her behalf, they are still active Guardsmen and as such don't count.
Inquisitor Amberley Vail
An inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos, she's met Cain during his campaign of Gravalax, and he's remained her agentnote
ever since. Amberley appears to be unusually unaffected by her experiences and knowledge, able to face the universe with a smile and a quip, only occasionally allowing the strain to show to her closest allies. To most who meet her, she appears as a cheerful, slightly whimsical young woman about as far from the normal appearance of an Inquisitor as it is possible to be (which is, of course, the point).
She is also the editor of Cain's memoirs, cutting and cobbling them together from a stream-of-conciousness into something readable, providing footnotes and general overview of the current situationnote
. Amberley is both Cain's critic and his ardent defender, as exhibited by her copious footnotes.
Amberley's savant, a sage enhanced with an augmetic implant that gives him access to an enormous amount of information and considerable mathematical and analytical skill. Unfortunately, this also makes him ramble compulsively as his mind forms peculiar attachments. A decent guy, despite being often annoying, and apparently very
helpful when it comes to gambling.
Amberley's sanctioned psyker, Rakel is, by any conventional measure, quite insane. Although Amberley says she's not always that difficult (especially with the proper medication), Ciaphas is habitually wary of her, particularly since she tends to carry a laspistol. Rakel's reaction to Jurgen was how Amberley discovered the gunner was a blank.
A former Commissar who went off the deep end, Amberley picked him up from a Penal Legion where he had been fitted with a combat drug injector.
A former member of the Adeptus Arbites, he was undercover in a cartel for so long his handlers thought he had gone over so they tried to pull him back in. Pelton, however, managed to cause the cartel to fracture under a civil war by a simple murder frame up. The Arbiters were going to execute him, but Amberley managed to attach him to her retinue.
A techpriest, Yanbel serves both the Omnissiah and the Inquisition.
- Cyborg: He's a techpriest, it's a given.
- The Engineer: Can be quite effective in a fight, but usually his role is to maintain Amberley's power armor and other equipment.
A former fast-food worker on Periremunda who was caught in a genestealer assassination attempt on Cain, and actually managed to kill a few. Hired by Amberley, she soon showed that she was competent enough in a firefight, and also served to run errands for Amberley in her disguise.
Members of the Imperial Guard outside of the Valhallans, including some of Cain's fellow Commissars.
Lord General Zyvan
A Lord General of the Imperial Guard who oversaw operations which the Valhallans served in on Gravalax, Adumbria, and Periremunda, and also commanded the Guard on Quadravidia and Fecundia in The Greater Good
. He appreciated Cain's tactical insight and regarded Cain highly.
- The Brigadier
- The Chains of Commanding: Cain often notes that he and Zyvan hit it off and became something of a friends because Ciaphas - as a Commissar, out of command structure - is the only person around whom Lord General can just be himself.
- A Father to His Men: Noted as having a genuine concern about the troops under his command.
- No Name Given: Zyvan's around for half the series but Ciaphas never does tell us what his first name is.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: In contrast to the frequent portrayal of Imperial Guard flag officers as General Failures, Insane Admirals, and/or General Rippers, Zyvan pays close attention to his subordinates' input and makes an effort not to risk their lives needlessly.
A fellow cadet at the Schola Progenium which Cain studied at. He is Commissar to the Tallarn 227th regiment.
- Cruel Mercy: After he finds himself being investigated on charges of gross incompetence for interfering with Cain's mission, Cain mentions that he intends to pull some strings to get Beije off the hook... in part because he knows that Beije will find being in Cain's debt absolutely intolerable.
- Knight Templar
- Laser-Guided Karma: His attempt to arrest Cain on charges of desertion and cowardice get him charged with gross incompetence for interfering with Cain's mission by the Commissariat tribunal he called to charge Cain. Cain said he'd pull a few strings to help him out.
- Humiliation Conga: Dear God. First, he comes to arrest Cain for cowardice and desertion, only to find out Cain has his hands trying to prevent a daemonic summoning. Then a (male) cultist kisses him as he tries to interrogate him. Then it turns out Cain was right, and is perfectly willing to talk back to a Greater Daemon. Then Cain defeats the daemon (Beije getting attacked in the process), earning the admiration and respect of the Emperor-botherers Beije had brought with him, undermining his authority further. Then, once Cain is put on trial, the jury not only clears Cain of all charges, but starts looking into charges of incompetence for Beije. And when they're out of the courtroom, Cain reminds Beije that they still have a duel to fight (Beije having referred to Kasteen as a "petticoat colonel"), so Beije is forced to hastily apologize to her. And finally (assuming he wasn't executed or transferred elsewhere), the Tallarns he was with have started a splinter cult worshipping Cain as the Emperor's will made manifest.
- Lawful Stupid:
- Burned down a Chaos cult's ritual site before the Imperial Guard could investigate it and learn anything. Lord General Zyvan was not pleased.
- Also attempted to torture information out of a cultist. Someone who worships Slaanesh. The God of Pleasure. Whose followers take pleasure from doing literally anything, including having their own limbs chopped off. As is pointed out in the text, torturing masochists is at best counterproductive.
- The Resenter: To Cain. And how. He's EXTREMELY jealous of Cain, because back at the Schola, Cain was... essentially, the same as he is now, but less restrained and probably still really getting around. Cain became a HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, being in frequent contact with a Lord General Militant, having constant praises and honors heaped on him, while by contrast Beije was stuck on Tallarn, with nowhere near a fraction of Cain's glory.
- The Rival: To Cain.
The Commander of the Tallarn 227th. He's very uptight.
Members of the Adeptus Mechanicus that Cain has come across in his lifetime.
A member of the mechanus who was assigned to their end of the investigation into the theft of the Shadowlight.
An Adept on Simia Orichalcae, who was noted as being more reasonable in solving disputes, but also got quite distracted by the Necron tomb on the planet.
- Didn't Think This Through: Went with a group of Mechanicus adepts to explore the Necron tomb, but they were all killed except for him.
- Driven to Madness: Between awe at the Necrons' superior technology and PTSD from his comrades' slaughter at their hands, he cracks noticeably, alternating between referring to them worshipfully and bloody-minded vengefulness.
- Machine Worship
- Reassignment Backfire: Implied. After the events on Simia Orichalcae, Amberley explains that Logash goes onto an unspectacular career as a Magos assigned to the Noctis Labyrinth on Mars. That's the resting place of the Void Dragon, one of the C'Tan who the Necrons worshipped (and is all but stated to be the Machine God the Adeptus Mechanicus worship).
An adept on Perlia, who worked with Cain during his trek across the planet after being separated from his regiment in Death or Glory
. She reappears in Cain's Last Stand
as the Magos in charge of the Mechanicus research effort into the Shadowlight.
- Artificial Limbs: Has a mechandrite that looks exactly like a tail. According to Ciaphas, it is actually attached directly to her tailbone (and Amberly wonders precisely how he learned this).
- Big Eater: Compared to most techpriests who tend to regard food as simple fuel to be taken on when necessary and ignored the rest of the time. In Cain's Last Stand he notes that she still has a habit of frequently snacking on ration bars that she picked up during Death or Glory.
- Genki Girl: Highly unusual for the Mechanicus, who disdain emotions and try to rise above them. One of her teachers thought this would limit her prospects.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Unusually for this trope, we see Felicia both as a rather attractive young woman, and as a typically disturbing-looking tech-priestess as an older woman.
- Machine Worship: Downplayed, as she is noted to be more secular in her outlook than other tech-priests. She does however mourn the "death" of a servitor, and Cain suspects she never really forgave him for blowing up the Mechanicus Shrine Dam.
- Pet the Dog: Surprisingly serves as this for Jurgen. Thanks him and compliments his cooking, calls him a cog (Mechanicus compliment for an unnoticed part that helps the whole function), recognises him the better part of a century later... It's about the nicest anyone ever is to the poor guy, short of Cain himself.
- Rank Up: Made Magos between Death or Glory and Cain's Last Stand.
A renegade member of the Adeptus Mechanicus who stole the Shadowlight from Perlia with the help of Ernst Killian. He and Killian hoped to use the Shadowlight to awaken the psychic powers of humanity to battle Chaos.
A Magos supervising the archaeotech dig that turned into Cain's first encounter with Necrons, in "Echoes of the Tomb." Dies jumping in front of a gauss flayer to save Cain's life. The ironic coincidence of his name's with the villain from Duty Calls
is never examined.
Senior Magos Biologis on Fecundia, engaged in research on the Tyranid hivemind.
- Dying as Yourself/"I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Cain and the Reclaimers realize that Kildhar was infected by genestealers aboard the Spawn of Damnation, explaining her counterproductive actions through most of the book. Cain and Sholer present her with the evidence and after hitting her with the Armor-Piercing Question of when the last time she had herself fitted with new tech was, the genestealer takes over and Cain is forced to fatally shoot her. Her last words are that she was last upgraded 65 years ago, before the Spawn of Damnation, and to use her remains for research.
- For Science!: Entirely willing to toss caution (and what passes for ethics among the Mechanicus) to the wind and run a genestealer breeding program, something that visibly shocks even the deeply pragmatic (and pokerfaced) Tau emissary at first. In addition to that, her last words are a request to use her remains as research material rather than destroy them.
- Manchurian Agent: Was implanted by genestealers over 60 years ago. The broodmind never took direct control of her actions but has been subconsciously "nudging" her towards a disastrous course ever since.
Members of the Administratum, the bureaucracy of the Imperium.
A scrivener who served on Simia Orichale, who was rather reasonable for a Adept of the Administratum.
A scrivener of the Administratum on Perlia, he helped managed the logistics of Cain's ragtag army cut off from the Imperial Guard.
The Administratum adept assigned as bursar to the Schola Cain teaches at in Cain's Last Stand
Ernest Stavros Killian
A Radical Inquisitor who stole the Shadowlight from Perlia, using a group of Battle-Sisters.
Members of the Adepta Sororitas (namely, the Sisters of Battle, their Orders Militant) that Cain came across in his time during the Commissariat. Cain mostly feels them to be a collection of tactically useless Leeroy Jenkinses
The Canoness of the Adepta Sororitas on Periremunda, she was used by Inquisitor Ernest Killian to retrieve the Shadowlight.
The Sister Superior of a squad of Celestians who Cain encountered during the Battle of Periremunda.
- The Atoner: For leaving the Emperor's Temple undefended.
- Badass: Non-badasses don't get to join Celestian squads, let alone lead them, and she is shown to be Badass even by the standards of her order: She racks up a huge body count in the battle for Aceralbaterra and is last seen giving a pretty good account of herself against a Genestealer Broodlord.
- Death Equals Redemption: Saw fighting to the death against the tyranids as atonement for being led astray by Inquisitor Killian.
- Knight Templar: Was so carried away by bloodlust that Cain had to remind her that there were civilians in the Emperor's Temple who needed protection, pulling her back to reality.
Head of the Sororitas at Schola Progenium on Perlia Cain teaches at.
Cain and the Reclaimers aboard the Spawn of Damnation.
The Reclaimers are a loyalist Adeptus Astartes chapter with close ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Cain was the Imperial Guard liaison officer to them during the Viridia and Serendipita campaigns (The Emperor's Finest
), and they were later deployed along with the Swords of the Emperor chapter to relieve the Guard, including the two regiments that would later become the 597th Valhallan, on Corania (just prior to For the Emperor
). A small detachment also made an appearance in The Greater Good
The Reclaimers are one of the Astartes Praeses
, a group of twenty Space Marine chapters originally created to guard the Eye of Terror (seventeen remain, one having been destroyed and two others declared Excommunicate Traitoris
). Their progenitor chapter is not stated, but organizationally they have similarities to the Iron Hands. As a whole they're one of the kindlier chapters but almost as tech-obsessed as the techpriests. Due to their ties to the Mechanicus they have better tech than usual for the space marines, as well as a higher-than-normal complement of Techmarines.
Leader of the Reclaimers expeditionary force dispatched to quell the rebellion on Viridia.
- Badass Baritone: A common trait of the Adeptus Astartes.
- The Captain: To avoid confusion, aboard the Strike Cruiser Revenant Gries is addressed as "captain" and the actual captain of the ship has the title "shipmaster."
A senior Techmarine who sparred with Cain several times while the Revenant
tracked the Spawn of Damnation
. Crafted Cain's augmetic fingers.
- Nice Guy: The other Reclaimers, while courteous to Cain, are still somewhat aloof. Drumon is much friendlier and Cain considered their sparring sessions one of the highlights of his time aboard the Revenant.
- Put on a Bus: Or rather Put On A Space Hulk. Volunteered to remain behind on the Spawn of Damnation as it returned to the Warp at some point after the events of "The Emperor's Finest" and hasn't rejoined the Chapter as of The Greater Good, set 65 years after The Emperor's Finest. Given what tends to happen to those who spend too long in the warp, it might count as a Bus Crash.
- Sword and Gun: Plasma pistol and power sword. Outright compared to Cain's own (less powerful but similar in function) favoured weapons.
A senior Apothecary. First encountered in The Emperor's Finest
, where he is the one to attach Cain's augmetic fingers, then returns in The Greater Good
as part of a joint Reclaimers/Mechanicus research project.
- Everyone Has Standards: While a bit too excited at the prospect of studying live Tyranids, he absolutely refuses to go with Kildhar's plan of allowing recently captured gaunts to join the ones they already had. When Kildhar does this without informing him or Cain, he hits the button to close the gate so hard he breaks it.
- Nice Guy: Like Drumon, he comes across as a lot more personable than most Astartes.
- For Science!: Like his Mechanicus counterpart, he is a bit too excited about the potential revelations to fully consider the risk inherent in experimenting on live Tyranids.
The Tau Empire
A federation of a half-dozen alien species on the Eastern Fringe of the Imperium of Man, the Tau Empire arrived on the galactic stage relatively recently. Spared by a warp storm from Imperial extermination in the 36th Millennium, the tau began annexing Imperial planets in the Damocles Gulf (where the Cain
novels take place) in the 8th century M41. The Imperium retaliated, launching the Damocles Gulf Crusade to reclaim its lost territory and wipe out the xenos, but quickly found that the tau, in Cain's words, "know how to put on a good war."
In the wake of the Crusade, for the next 200 years until the series the Tau Empire has maintained hostilities with the much larger Imperium at the level of a Space Cold War
: duking it out over the odd planet here and there but never committing to full-scale war because neither side can afford it:
- If humanity brought all its force to bear on the tau, the tau would lose, guaranteed, but the force required would allow threats elsewhere in the galaxy to gain a foothold.
- Conversely the tau can't antagonize the Imperium too much or else the humans might take the risk and worry about the cleanup later.
The tau and many of the local human commanders, among them Cain and Lord General Zyvan, are also pragmatic enough to work together against greater threats
such as the tyranids, who care nothing for flags or national borders.
A tau diplomat and a member of the Water Caste, he serves as ambassador to the Imperium in For the Emperor
and The Greater Good
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: Under tau Fantastic Naming Conventions the "El'" part of his name denotes his rank in the Water Caste. He hasn't gotten a promotion in 61 years. That said, it is the second-highest rank a tau can achieve, and few ever get as far as he has.
- Odd Friendship: Cain saved his life back in For the Emperor. Sixty-one years later in The Greater Good, he seeks out Cain as his opposite number in the face of Hive Fleet Kraken's invasion, and the two strike up something of a friendship.