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Characters / Ciaphas Cain

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Here is a list of characters and character tropes appearing in the Cain Archive, broken down into folders for ease of use.

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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.

  • 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.
  • 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 40,000 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.
    • 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" might be the closest thing to an atheist he can be in a theocratic empire. Or it might be that he's the most pious commissar in the history of the Imperium, if he genuinely believes that the Emperor has much better things to do than keep an eye on him, so he does everything he can to ensure his own survival so that the Emperor can focus His attention elsewhere, where it's needed.
    • A relatively common Alternate Character Interpretation of Cain is that he actually was a Dirty Coward at the beginning of the series, but by sometime in the middle of the series, he became genuinely brave and heroic while still thinking of himself as a Dirty Coward. It's 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.
    • It's worth mentioning that a lot of his pooh-pooh explanations actually make perfect sense in that the seemingly suicidal course of action really is his best shot at continued survival and comfort, often because he simply can't trust anyone else to follow his Taking a Third Option tactics and attempting escape wouldn't save him in any case, forcing him to take all the risks himself.
    • Then there is the Sector Thirteen short story. When he sees Genestealer PDF troops running away from him, he's not relieved. He slips into Commissar mode and screams at them for being cowards. The law enforcement officer he's with snaps him back. Keep in mind that this is only a handful of years into his career.
    • 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: While unambiguously an Anti-Hero, what exact subtrope he falls into is intentionally left to the reader. The "he thinks he's worse than he actually is" theory believes he is somewhere between Knight in Sour Armour and Pragmatic Hero. The "Character development theory" believes he eventually unambiguously becomes the former.
  • Artificial Limbs: Cain has two augmetic fingers, replacing those lost to a glancing hit from a Necron Gauss Flayer.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Despite his disdain for "Emperor-botherers", Cain has a fondness for a particular text called The Precepts of Saint Emilia and occasionally quotes from it. In Duty Calls he's infuriated when Inquisitor Ernst Killian misquotes a verse from it as justification for his crimes.
  • 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. The Last Ditch adds a MAWLOC to his one on one records. Plus a Tervigon, of all things, with merely an over-strength squad and a lone Valkyrie VTOL jet as backup!
  • Badass Unintentional: You could make a Drinking Game of Cain assigning himself a mission safely away from what he thinks is the worst fighting, only to end up in an even worse scrape than the one he just escaped and having to save everybody's bacon. It's so consistent that Jurgen thinks he does it on purpose.
  • 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 (such as the ones he's always portrayed with in the artwork), 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. He also consistently forgoes replacing his Laspistol with a more powerful Hellpistol, initially justifying it by saying that the weight might throw off his reflexes as he has no time to practice with it at the time, even though he could switch over during a longer downtime such as a long warp transit and accustom himself to the difference whilst he has time to practice.
  • Born Lucky: While he doesn't see it that way, Cain has extreme good luck. 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.
  • Captain Oblivious: When Mira sets her sights on Cain, the degree to which he apparently completely misses the point of her advances is nothing short of absolutely stunning, to the point of convincing himself that she was looking to marry a Space Marine. Of course he may have been playing this up for dramatic effect, given the benefit of writing with hindsight.
  • 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. Cain seems completely unaware of this, and assumes that these affairs are as casual to the women as they are to him; when one of the women he's seeing starts talking about making plans for their future it catches him completely off-guard.
  • 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.
  • Commissar Cap: He is a commissar, after all.
    "It isn't the scarlet sash and the fancy hat that makes you a commissar, it's the way you wear them."
  • 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. 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: Standard for Commissars since they are recruited from the Schola Progenium, orphanages for the children of Imperial servants who died in the line of duty.
  • 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).
  • Cornered Rattlesnake: Cain will run when he can get away with it. When he knows he can't run (such as when he knows that failure to defeat a threat here and now will mean the destruction of the entire planet), he'll fight with all the strength and determination of any more typical 40k hero, charging unhesitatingly into battle against opponents who could tear him to ribbons, such as an ork Warboss in mega-armour, a Tyranid Hive Tyrant, or a fully-manifested Slaaneshi daemon princess.
  • 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; the trial ends with Beije being charged for interfering with Cain's effort to save the day. While Beije was gleeful in bringing up the charges because of an old grudge, Cain decided he could forgive Beije for doing his job and pulled some strings to get him let off, after letting him stew on it for a few days of course. He decided that Beije could hopefully learn his lesson, and if not, it would be fun to watch him squirm, knowing that he owed Cain his life.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Invariably depicted with a bolter or bolt pistol despite using a laspistol in text. They also tend to portray him using somewhat ornate or well-decorated chainswords when he's specifically noted to prefer the rugged models made for heavy-duty military use.
    • The Greater Good mentions that the iconic bolt pistol which he is seen with in all of the covers is something Cain only received well after he left service with the 597th, and was in fact a weapon that was taken from a genestealer-infected techpriest which he then passed on to Amberley.
  • 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 un-mocked.
  • Designated Hero: It's a case of Playing with a Trope. 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. Yet he has this reputation as THE HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, and the official records of him describe him as such. The actual narrative, the one we real life readers see, does not portray him as a hero because it's a first person narrative.
  • 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 and the Valhallans accompanying him are forced to gun down a squad of loyal PDF at a checkpoint in order to complete their own mission (escorting Tau diplomats back to their enclave). 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. Cain also notes that he still sees the face of the lieutenant in command of the PDF unit (who Cain personally killed in the ensuing shootout) and regrets what happened, knowing the lieutenant wasn't evil, just overeager and unwilling to back down.
  • Dirty Coward: Played with. Cain sees himself as this, and a lot of his comments do give that impression, but Cain's increasingly heroic actions throughout the books (as Amberley notes frequently) suggest that he is cowardly only in his own mind.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: 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.
  • 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.
  • Expy: Cain's characterization draws heavily from the namesake character of the infamous Flashman series. Though unlike Harry Flashman, Cain at least has some genuinely honorable traits to balance out his self-described cowardice.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: of the IMPERIUM! But really, he's actually a downplayed example. He's a self-admitted coward more interested in self-preservation than committing heroics in service to the Imperium or the Commissariat's emphatic morale and discipline enforcement. The practical reality is, while he may have started out the way he describes himself, he's much more a Pragmatic Hero who becomes more heroic as his career goes on. He actually performed all of the heroic deeds he's known for, whether he wanted to do something so dangerous or not.
  • 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 Blind: Every single time he makes up a seemingly important task to keep him out of the fighting it ends up being actually important and more dangerous than whatever he's avoiding. He never spots the pattern. Amusingly enough Jurgen actually does notice that this happens to them every adventure (as mentioned in A Mug of Recaff), but it's so consistent that he thinks Cain's doing it on purpose.
  • Gentle Giant: Despite the covers frequently deliberately lying about much else, they get one thing right: Cain is described as quite tall and broad, and can handle himself well enough to fight Orks and Space Marines hand-to-hand with a fair chance of victory. However, he doesn't generally throw his weight around (figuratively or literally) unless he absolutely has to, preferring to be perceived as a Nice Guy.
  • 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.
  • Good Is Not Soft: While he is a comparatively benevolent example of a commissar, Cain will still not hesitate to execute someone who is a threat. For example, in For The Emperor he immediately executes two suspicious Guardsmen who survived a battle with Genestealers, on suspicion that they were infected and allowed to escape. A quick inspection of their bodies proved him right.
  • Guile Hero: Far more than any super futuristic Imperium weapon, it is his quick wits and creative thinking that doom the Imperium's enemies, although he'd rather they be more successful at getting him out of dangerous assignments.
  • Hand Cannon: Averted. The popular perception of Commissars (in and out of universe) is that they all carry bolt pistols - large and intimidating, armor-piercing rocket launching pistols typically used by Space Marines - Cain, however, prefers the humble, and more reliable, laspistol instead.
  • 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, he is an inspiring model of human physical potential. 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 more 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.
  • Heroic Willpower: Even without Jurgen's assistance, Cain has proven to be remarkably resilient to the mind-warping influences of Chaos. During The Beguiling, he was able to resist and escape the hedonistic sorceries of a secretive Slaanesh cult long enough to recognize the threat and kill the witch responsible.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With his inseparable aide, Jurgen. See his entry below.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: He's a rare nonlethal example. No matter how clever Cain is, any effort he makes to get out of dodge or avoid danger will inevitably end up thrusting him into even greater danger, much to his chagrin.
  • 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. The fact that this always seems to work out in his favor has led to Cain being Mistaken for Badass, and it's one of the sources of his Heroic Self-Deprecation.
  • 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. According to Cain he's a middling shot and passable swordsman who gets by thanks to constant practice and hard-won experience; according to Amberley he's incredibly gifted with both, and she expresses confusion that he somehow remained unaware of that fact no matter how many victories against superhuman foes stacked up.
  • 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.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Whenever he gets involved with Amberly's group or diplomats he has this problem thanks to him not knowing any more about Xenos cultures than the average Guardsman. Amberly mentions in a footnote that she never realized the extent of it until she read his memoirs; for instance, he never realized that the Eldar and Dark Eldar are seperate factions.
  • Lovable Coward: Whether or not he's truly a coward, he's definitely lovable. At least, his soldiers and Amberley think so.
  • 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. And of course, "Hero of the Imperium".
  • Male Gaze: Cain is apparently a fan of ladies' rears:
    • In Duty Calls, he checks out both Amberley's and Kasteen's butts. The second time it actually saves his life — turning his head to enjoy the view a little longer means he sees the assassin drones before they attack.
    • In Sector Thirteen, even with a horde of 'stealer hybrids in hot pursuit, he's able to appreciate the view while following Sergeant Phu upstairs.
  • Master Swordsman: Cain is incredibly skilled with his chainsword, and Amberley posits that he's one of the best wielders of this weapon in the sector. Regardless of which sector he's in. In one particular instance he fights a World Eaters Chaos Space Marine to a standstill long enough for Jurgen to get a clean shot with his melta (having trained with Techmarine Drumon of the Reclaimers during the events of The Emperor's Finest probably helped).
  • 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: Ciaphas is firmly of the opinion that he isn't genuinely responsible for any his major exploits — rather, he feels that what actually happens is that he simply tries to get through crisis situations without dying and afterwards people mistake his scrambling for survival for actual heroism.
  • 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 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.
  • Must Have Caffeine: He once fought half-way around an Ork occupied planet to get to the nearest tanna. Okay, he claims this was a joke in the narration, but damned if he didn't check with every person and munitions dump he found on the way. Jurgen never left home without a thermos of tanna for him again.
  • My Greatest Failure: It's subtle, but over the course of the books it becomes clear that, while he's ok with putting up with all the fame and glory he unintentionally gets, he does feel bad that Jurgen, to whom much of his success can be credited to, gets absolutely no acknowledgment whatsoever.
    Cain himself disliked the [Holodrama based on Death or Glory] intensely, not least because of a wholly invented subplot in which one of the militia recruits has a clandestine love affair with him, and because, almost inevitably, Jurgen fails to appear at all.
  • Nay-Theist: Downplayed. He's disdainful of organized religion ("Emperor-botherers") and doesn't pray much, reasoning that the God-Emperor of Mankind has better things to do than worry about him personally, but he does know the works of some Imperial saints well enough to spot a Quote Mine in one book.
  • Nerves of Steel: 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 to the Waiter: He's deferential to even lower-ranked Administratum drones and other menials, where most Imperial officers would brush them off and insist on getting things done through rigid chains of command. In his usual way, he dismisses this by observing that he only does so because they're the ones who often know the job he needs the best, but the fact that he can think that way at all is itself a step up from the way Guard officers and commissars usually think in this setting.
  • 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. In fact, he often tends to mention himself getting along well with the officers of the 597th, and taking part in their tactical and strategic decisionmaking, which is something that a lot of Guard regiments try to avoid with other commissars precisely because they're considered a nuisance.
  • 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.
  • Properly Paranoid: He always thinks that situation is going to become much worse than it looks like. As he lives in Warhammer 40000 universe, he's always correct, and that's one of the main reasons he survives.
  • Racial Face Blindness: Cannot tell the difference between Craftworld and Dark Eldar. He just mentally files both as "pointy-eared xenos who keep trying to kill me".
  • 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.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Cain has been reported as "Killed in Action" only to turn up alive and well so many times that eventually the Munitorum left standing orders for him to be kept on roster and payroll perpetually — orders which are apparently still in force even after his confirmed death (and burial with full honors).
  • 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 Everything Is Trying to Kill You Crapsack World that is the Warhammer 40K universe: he REACHED RETIREMENT.
  • 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 colors, so the Emperor might just be doing it because he knows he can take it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Cain has tried to pull this on numerous occasions to try and save his own ass. Most of the time it hasn't worked because he blunders smack into a much bigger problem than the one he tried to escape.
    • In his first appearance, his attempts to escape a gargoyle attack on his regiment's position on Desolatia end up with him running smack bang into the main Tyranid attack coming from the flank. Fortunately, he is able to both get back to the regiment and raise the alarm, and manages to cover up his attempt to desert by claiming he suspected what was coming and went to scout the area.
    • In Caves of Ice, upon discovering a dormant Necron tomb on Simia Orichalcae, Cain wastes no time in ordering a complete Imperial evacuation from the planet. While he admits (privately, of course) his primary motivation is to save his own skin, Cain does correctly point out that the Necrons in the tomb likely outnumber the Imperials hundreds to one, and if they do wake up, the Imperials will find themselves caught between the Necrons and the Orks already invading the planet, so the best thing to do in the circumstances is get off planet, alert the Inquisition to what they've found and then call in an Imperial Navy flotilla to obliterate the tomb from orbit.
    • At the climax of Cain's Last Stand, with their position about to be overrun by Varan's vengeful Chaos horde, matters swiftly go from bad to worse when a force of Necrons teleports in behind the Chaos forces and begin annihilating the heretics. Realising the Necrons fully intend to fight their way through the Chaos lines to the Imperial position, and aware they're in no shape to fight such an enemy, Cain wastes no time in ordering a full evacuation and orders the Mechanicus adepts on site to detonate the facility's self-destruct mechanism. The Imperials succeed in escaping, but the Necrons sabotage the self-destruct and escape with a powerful artefact the site was housing.
  • 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.
  • Shoot the Dog: Part of his job. He winds up having to gun down two "survivors" near the end of his first book because they had been infected by Genestealers.
  • 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: In one book, he reflects on how he's spent so long hiding under masks and constructed heroic personas that he's no longer sure if there's an actual genuine personality left beneath them all.
    "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 in regards to facing danger and battle casualties.
  • Survivor Guilt: Despite his insistence that he's a dirty coward that cares for no one but himself, Cain often comments mournfully about the many imperial soldiers and citizens that were killed fighting alongside him, particularly in books set later in his life.
  • Sword and Gun: Laspistol in one hand, chainsword in the other — see the section picture. Cain is demonstrably proficient with both his chainsword and his laspistol, and he takes out an Ork Warboss in Death or Glory especially due to his choice of weapons; the warboss is concentrating on the chainsword and gives Cain a chance to shove the laspistol barrel in the ork's eye and pull the trigger.
  • 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).
  • Trial by Friendly Fire: Cain has called in artillery fire or airstrikes on his own position on at least 3 occasions:
    • In the short story The Beguiling he calls in artillery fire on the isolated chateau he's investigating, once he realizes it's actually home to a Slanneshi cult.
    • In the audio drama Dead in the Water he tells an incoming squadron of Valkyrie attack planes to unload "everything you've got" on the signal generated by his own comm bead, then drops the bead and sprints for the shoreline of the Nurgle-controlled island as fast as his legs will take him.
    • In the audio drama The Devil You Know, he discovers a warp portal leading to Dark Eldar territory and leads the Tyranid hive mind to it. Once he sees that they have committed to invading Dark Eldar space he pulls the comm bead trick again (this time with Jurgen's bead) and again just barely sprints to safety before the local Imperial air forces obliterate the area while the 'Nids and Dark Eldar are occupied.
  • 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. He's also a confessed master manipulator and liar who favors playing Humble Hero to cement his reputation. Unless we accept the idea that nobody was ever supposed to read this account, everything in it is suspect.
  • 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. That said, he's able to hold his own against an Ork warboss and a World Eaters Chaos Space Marine at separate times. Though technically he actually killed the Ork by getting close enough to Eye Scream him with his laspistol, and just held the CSM in one place for long enough for Jurgen to get him with his meltagun.
  • 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...
  • Weapon of Choice: One of the best chainswordsmen in the galaxy and no slouch with a laspistol. He's noted to have refused using another gun out of fear of it throwing off his aim (and his ability to aim with a laspistol is quite considerable).
  • 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.

    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. Both Cain and Amberly have also mentioned that they aren't sure if he's the bravest man they've ever met, or just doesn't fully understand how dangerous his many adventures with Cain actually are. The short stories from his perspective do nothing to clear it up; he doesn't perceive the enemies he faces there as a serious threat, but then he beats them so handily that they clearly aren't. Cain has also speculated on whether Jurgen's tendency to casually drop bombshells in conversation that make Cain look even more the Humble Hero (like casually asking if he needs to act as a second again when someone insults the Colonel) are out of ignorance or just an understated flair for drama.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: He really, really likes porno slates. Possibly because the only woman to ever express the slightest interest in him was a) an Ogryn and b) very drunk.note 
  • 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-First Class" (a rank he made up himself) rather than a mere "Gunner."
  • Anti-Magic: Part of being a blank is that he is immune to psychic attacks.
  • Arch-Enemy: Being a Valhallan, Jurgen absolutely hates Orks. Knowledge of Orks is passed down extensively among Valhallans, which proves to be extremely helpful during Death or Glory, when a younger Cain's knowledge of the myriad Orkish species is academic.
  • Badass Driver: Driving like crazy isn't a bad thing when there are plenty of enemies to run over.
  • Battle Butler: Though he reaches it from the opposite end of the spectrum than most other examples of this trope.
  • Beneath Notice: Most people dismiss Jurgen after their initial reaction to his repulsiveness and body odor. This often lets Jurgen get the drop on his foes or otherwise act without being bothered. Certainly no one suspects he's a blank, and pretty much every official account of Cain's exploits leaves him out, which suits Amberly just fine. Cain less so, though; towards the end of their careers, the Commissar is apparently at least a little miffed that Jurgen never appears in narratives about him.
  • Berserk Button: Rather fittingly, given his Undying Loyalty to Cain and unwavering faith in the Emperor, he's not too fond of treachery or harming a member of the Ecclesiarchy. Unfortunately, his going berserk actually makes him less effective as a soldier.
    • He also really doesn't like it when other bureaucrats or servants try to do his job. This leads to some downright farcical arrangements once he rejoins Cain whilst they're with the Reclaimers, where the chapter serf will bring meals to the door of Cain's quarters at which point Jurgen brings them to the Commissar. Said serf later ends up assigned to Mira DuPanya and the two of them still manage to get in each others' way.
  • BFG: Jurgen acquires a melta, a short-ranged anti-tank gun, in For the Emperor and uses it in every book set afterwards, killing everything from a traitorous guardsman to a World Eaters Chaos Space Marine to a daemon.
  • Blind Obedience: Jurgen operates by the uncomplicated worldview that "the Commissar is always right".
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Cain trusts Jurgen to watch his back because of his unwavering loyalty. He's also a crack shot (both with a lasgun and with a melta, the latter being 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. Emphasized in "The Smallest Detail": despite his lack of education, he spots a crooked quartermaster almost immediately due to his long experience in the Guard. It's because the quartermaster's records are meticulously accurate and flawless, which is never the case for actual Guard quartermasters.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: At first glance, Jurgen's a terribly ugly and unsanitary soldier that was assigned to Cain's aide as a punishment to him because Colonel Mostrue didn't believe that Cain really intended to save the day and was just trying to flee. As it so turns out, Jurgen's said image alone makes him an excellent secretary because no one will go bother Cain unless it's really important if they have to go through Jurgen first, his single-mindedness toward Cain's orders causes him to fulfill all of them to the best of his ability, he's legitimately quite capable in combat, and he has a sense of preparedness (not to mention the blank abilities and meltagun) that has saved the duo often.
  • 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.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Short Story "The Smallest Detail" is told from his point of view, and Cain doesn't appear.
  • 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 — despite regularly making his passengers fear for their lives, Jurgen has never crashed into something unintentionally. Best exemplified in one novel where Cain instructs him to drive a tank through an enemy force and into an evac shuttle. Jurgen guns the engine and plows the tank full tilt through the enemy and up the ramp at full speed, before stopping the tank on a dime. It's characteristic of him, really: Jurgen is bullheaded, Literal-Minded, and very Street Smart, he's just socially awkward.
  • 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. He even gets grumpy if Cain does things Jurgen thinks are below his respect as Commissar.
  • 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 punching straight through body armour and bursting human torsos on a regular basis, and it had just killed another soldier. Presumably the shell hit his helmet at an oblique angle and deflected without penetrating and detonating.
  • 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 (nevermind his personal hygiene issues). 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.
  • Hidden Depths: To most who meet him he's just the disheveled smelly soldier that brings the Commissar's tea. In reality he's one of the most skilled infantrymen in the Guard: a crack shot who is utterly fearless in battle, an expert at battlefield stealth and operating behind enemy lines, possessing significant tactical insight and a keen understanding of how best to engage most of Humanity's enemies won on the battlefield. He's also a skilled scrounger, an excellent (if terrifying) driver, an expert at the Imperial Military's labyrinthine paperwork and official protocol, and loyal to a fault.
  • 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.
    • During the events of Death or Glory, which takes place well before Cain's first meeting with Amberley, Jurgen is still extremely useful because he's a Valhallan. Because of the antipathy Valhallans have toward Orks, Jurgen has extensive ancestral knowledge of greenskin behavior, weaknesses, and psychology, which saves everyone's lives multiple times.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In The Emperor's Finest Cain has Jurgen take a shot at a fuel tank too far for him to hit with his own laspistol. 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.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Jurgen's eating habits are not for the faint of heart, and he's often left to eat privately because he tends to make awful noises while consuming his meals and spraying crumbs everywhere. Cain can easily tell where Jurgen has been camped out because he'll leave half-eaten food and dirty plates lying around.
  • Kill It with Fire: Jurgen's Meltagun has saved him and Cain a number of times. He's also exceptionally fond of burning Orks whether alive or dead (as are all Valhallans), but given their means of reproduction this is entirely reasonable.
  • 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. Indeed, several times Jurgen's blank powers have completely blindsided psychic opponents precisely because they had no idea he was one, and Cain even uses it to trick a radical Inquisitor into picking up a lethal psychic artifact. He also 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.
  • Old Soldier: During Cain's Last Stand he has became old in service to the Imperium. Juvenat treatments are one perk of being friends with an Inquisitor.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: There has been only one time in Cain and Jurgen's entire combined career that Cain has given Jurgen an order and Jurgen has declined to follow it: during Cain's Duel to the Death with Ork Warboss Korbul, Cain frantically shouts for Jurgen to "shoot the frakker!". Jurgen refuses, quickly explaining that if he intervenes in the battle (which Korbul made a 1v1 by challenging Cain himself), the other lesser warbosses serving under Korbul will decide it's fair for them to pile in and kill all of them. Cain knows that if he repeats the order Jurgen will obey despite his misgivings, but decides it's better to trust Jurgen's judgement in this case.
  • 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, and thus his perpetual grime might be how some people perceive him as a blank. 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. In fact, it's often 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, and his presence in an area can often by identified by him leaving random messes around. 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 addition, he has absolutely awful eat habits, frequently making disgusting noises and leaving crumbs everywhere when he chows down.
  • Power Nullifier: As a blank, Jurgen often serves Cain by shutting down Pyskers. He also seems to erratically affect other psychic entities like Tyranids, and can even apparently shield people from detection by certain Necrons.
  • Quick Draw: When the two are surprised he can have his shouldered Lasgun pointed at the enemy and empty a clip before Cain gets his pistol out.
  • 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.
    • This turns into the focus of the Jurgen-focused short story "The Smallest Detail". He goes through a Quartermaster's depot so thoroughly the guy panics and thinks he's being audited. Jurgen actually did find evidence he was selling stuff on the side (the records were suspiciously meticulous), but it's so expected it didn't even occur to him to report it until the man tried to have him silenced. When the bad guys are defeated and their truck full of stolen goods is spilled out on the road, Jurgen loots the pile right in front of the MP officer he was working with.
  • 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.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: 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 is to get the ambassadors to ask the crowd to let them through, as the crowd is made up of Tau sympathizers. It works.
  • 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.
  • Understatement: Espouses a lot of these though it's debatable if they're further indication of his simplicity or the subtle hinting of snark.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Cain. With all of the terrifying situations Cain gets into, it's also just as surprising that Jurgen doesn't shirk being beside him in them either. This is probably Jurgen's most defining trait (apart from his smell).
  • 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.


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.

    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 and redesignated the survivors a Penal Legion.

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 (particularly as she got the colonelcy by virtue of three days seniority). She acquitted herself admirably during the 597th's first battle as a unified whole at Gravalax and has since served with distinction.

  • Braids of Action: On the back cover of Choose Your Enemies she wears her hair in a pair of braids down her back.
  • 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kasteen is regularly described as an uncommonly good looking woman, and finds no shortage of characters who blatantly admire her looksnote . As a native ice-worlder, she also has a habit of undoing the top few buttons of her uniform at any temperature warmer than 'chilly'. Furthermore, there are frequent references to Cain and others admiring her (evidently shapely) backside.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When Cain arrives to act as Commissar to the Valhallan regiments, he notes Kasteen is actually pleased to see him. Since the majority of the Guard regard Commissars with terror, considering the appearance of one usually precipitates a round of executions, this is Cain's first clue he is going to have his work cut out for him with the regiment.
  • 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 three days 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.
  • 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.
  • Icy Gray Eyes: One of the first indicators of his steely demeanor.
  • 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.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: At the time of the amalgamation, he and Kasteen were both Captains. Despite having far more combat experience than his female counterpart, she was chosen for the colonelcy because she had three days seniority in rank over him (Which in context meant that it took his superiors three days longer to get eaten by Tyranids than hers did). He resents this for a sizable portion of the first book, but eventually gets over it.
  • 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.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Engages in this with Kasteen, Cain and on occassion Sulla; initially hostile, but as time goes on, it becomes more good-natured.

    Jenit Sulla 
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.note  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.

  • Animal Motifs: If Cain mentions Sulla, there is a better than 75% chance he'll compare her to a horse - both in terms of demeanor (incredibly enthusiastic, to the point of not actually thinking before doing something) and general appearance.
  • Blood Knight: She's actually a very good officer, with solid tactics, a can-do attitude, and an inspirational and morale-boosting personality. Unfortunately, in the universe she inhabits, it leads to her and her squads charging blood-crazed genetically engineering killing machines (Orks, Tyranids, Chaos Space Marines...) with flak jackets and a laser gun with a knife on the end of it. And winning.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Her personality is quirky at best and she is a lousy writer, but she is an exceptional quartermaster, she is very responsible, and going from a simple enlisted soldier without connections to Lady General means her tactics must have eventually evolved way beyond screaming and charging.
    • Her skills as a quartermaster really shine in The Last Ditch, where she completely decimates the local planet's Administratum to gain access to some orbital shuttles that were 'overlooked'. Cain tagged along to try and add his weight to the discussion, but readily admits he ended up just watching Sulla bowl over the bureaucratic interference like a Baneblade through a horde of Gretchin.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Shortly after Cain's arrival, a riot breaks out between the 296th and 301st that leaves three people dead, fourteen in the infirmary and a multitude of troopers facing disciplinary charges up to and including murder. When Cain investigates what happened, he is somewhat incredulous to find Sulla ordered the evening's meal to be served on the 296th's regimental crockery on account of the fact it was the anniversary of the regiment's founding, clearly not taking into account, as Cain points out, the 301st would probably interpret it as an insult.
  • Giftedly Bad: Aforementioned memoirs contain insanely overcomplicated and frilly language to the point of being utterly unreadable, and Amberly keeps apologizing about including it.
    • To describe how bad it is, it takes her 4 pages plus, to go over a routine patrol where nothing apparently interesting happened. And a single guard shift.
  • Gonk: According to Cain, she looks like a excitable horse.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: Downplayed in that it's only platonic, but it's clear from the excerpts from Sulla's memoirs that she has a major case of hero worship for Cain... while at the same time, it's clear from his accounts that he regards her as both a pain in the ass at times and a rash commander (though he does grow to appreciate her talents as the series unfolds).
    • From his accounts you can see why she thinks so highly of him. Despite his private opinions what he actually says to her is all praise and encouragement, and he endorses her for promotion multiple times.
    • In Choose Your Enemies Amberly outright wonders in a footnote if Sulla constantly gushing about Cain's "noble bearing" is indicative of a crush on him.
  • A Mother to Her Men: Sulla's intense pride and faith in her soldiers shines through her horrifically purple prose, and probably explains her popularity with same. Cain notes that while her units tend to sustain slightly higher casualties than average,note  they also have even higher morale.
  • Tsundere: Sulla initially disliked Cain rather strongly, but quickly shifted to inordinately gushing hero-worship verging on a crush.
  • Up Through the Ranks: Exaggerated. Started as an enlisted quartermaster, and makes it to first lieutenant, then captain and major on-screen. Off-screen, she became the only Lady General in the Imperium's history.
  • Verbal Tic: In her memoirs, she tends to refer to the “women and men” instead of the more traditional “men and women”.
  • What Would X Do?: Asks herself this about Cain.
    Cain: And then did the opposite, I hope.

    "Jinxie" Penlan 
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.
  • Flanderization: An interesting example, combined with Ascended Extra. In the first book, she doesn't even get any lines, simply being the one trooper who got shot in a battle. A couple of books later, her natural weird luck is her ONLY trait.
  • 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... who then crashes, resulting in an utterly beneficial set of Disaster Dominoes. She was sure she had the safety on...
  • The Jinx: It's in her nickname. She's always either causing accidents or getting herself stuck in sticky situations. Fortunately it generally works out for her and her squad.
  • 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 shuts up, finally listening to the words coming out of his own mouth.
    • In her Establishing Character Moment in "Caves of Ice"? She falls down an Ambull tunnel, thereby discovering the Ambull, and basically causing the entire novel to happen.

A competent and professional sergeant in Sulla's platoon, and one that Cain often relies on when he needs someone for more delicate or dangerous missions.
  • Consummate Professional: He's unflappable in battle and quick to follow orders, something Cain likes.
  • Field Promotion: Is bumped up to Lieutenant when Sulla is given a brevet Captaincy.
  • Irony: Lustig was one of those "I work for a living" Guardsmen who disdained officers. His field promotion's irony was not lost on Cain.
  • Sergeant Rock: For most of the series he's a battle-hardened non-com who looks out for his squad.
  • Up Through the Ranks: After many years as a non-com, Lustig gets an unexpected field promotion due to a sudden vacancy in the lieutenant rank above him, and his obvious leadership abilities.

    Captain Shambas 
A Sentinel Pilot and scout commander. He's a highly skilled Sentinel pilot and like most other pilots has an independent streak a mile wide.
  • The Driver: Sometimes ferries Cain and Jurgen in the middle of battle.
  • Military Maverick: Sentinel pilots are noted as being rather independently minded compared to most soldiers, and Shambas (and his subordinates) are no exception. It makes some sense however; as scouts and fast attack units, they have to be confident in themselves and their judgement, and ready to exercise it at a moment's notice.
  • Nice Guy: Polite and appropriately grateful to Cain.

    Sergeant Welard 
Leader of a stormtrooper squad Cain takes to try to close the Necron portal.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: More specifically, he (and most of the rest of his unit for that matter) go mad from exposure to Necron Pariahs and their Blank-like aura of unnaturalness.
  • Jumped at the Call: He volunteers when Cain asks for men to do what might be a suicide mission.
  • True Companions: He and his Squad, who were raised as a unit in the Schola Progena, have this vibe.

    Sergeant Tobias Kelp 
A sergeant assigned to penal duty for his role in a fatal barfight.
  • Exact Words: Kelp says he'll shoot Cain if he tries to make a move. So Cain just orders Jurgen to shoot Kelp instead. As Jurgen uses the melta, this ends about exactly as you'd expect.
  • Jerkass: Kelp resents the unit being integrated, provoking a fight with Sgt. Trebek as a result, leading to the deaths of three people. He is also the only one of the five people sentenced to penal duty to turn on Cain rather than seek redemption. This doesn't end well for him.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Reduced to this after taking a shot from a melta gun at point blank range.
  • Too Dumb to Live: If Kelp had any sense he would have shot Cain immediately and ended it on the spot, instead of trying to gloat and posture.

    Sergeant Bella Trebek 
The non-com provoked into fighting with Kelp, who shares his punishment.
  • Action Girl: She's a competent, and dedicated fighter.
  • Redemption Equals Death: She gets shot just as Cain is marveling at her performance and regretting his earlier concerns she was untrustworthy.

    Maxim Sorel 
A sniper with the newly formed regiment who winds up stabbing one of the provosts fatally during the mess hall brawl.
  • Boom, Headshot!: He's a sniper, it's his job. It's also the way he goes out, as he survives the expedition into the tunnels only to catch a bolter round from Governor Grice with his face moments before the final confrontation.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Discussed: of the group of ex-Guardsmen on the suicide mission, Cain assumes based on his behavior that Sorel is likely to be the one who turns on him. Subverted: Kelp does that, whereas Sorel remains loyal until his sudden death.
  • Cold Sniper: A textbook example, but not completely emotionless; Cain goes out of his way to get Sorel's old assigned weapon returned to him for the mission, knowing how Sorel would have carefully tweaked and customized it to suit his preferences, and Sorel clearly respects the gesture.
  • Sociopathic Hero: In Cain's own words, Sorel had killed one of the provosts during the fight simply because he hadn't seen a reason not to. He's also the first to very casually suggest Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? to the others (and casually calls them all out for not at least being honest about it in the process), though he gracefully concedes to Amberley that very few people succeed in outrunning the Inquisition.

    Tomas Holenbi 
A medical orderly who kills a Naval provost during the fight Kelp and Trebek starts, and also gets penal legion/suicide mission duty instead of a death sentence.
  • Accidental Murder: Holenbi kills one of the provosts in the mess hall fight by slashing their throat with a shattered plate in the heat of the moment.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: He's rattled and frightened during his trial, and seems genuinely remorseful for having killed someone - especially given his career.
  • Battle Couple: With Velade. They developed feelings for each other whilst incarcerated, and fight back to back later on.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Cain shoots him in the head when he realises Holenbi was infected by Genestealers when he and Velade got separated from the group.
  • Combat Medic: He treats wounds in the middle of battle and on the front lines.

    Trooper Griselda Velade 
The fifth and final trooper sent to the penal legions over the bar fight caused by Trebek and Kelp.
  • Accidental Murder: Killed another trooper by crushing their larynx; she claims it was only meant to be an incapacitating blow.
  • Battle Couple: With Holenbi during the suicide mission after they get closer while confined in adjoining cells.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Like Holenbi, Cain shoots her in the head when he realises she's been infected by Genestealers when they got separated.

    Captain Detoi 
A minor, recurring company commander featured in The Traitors Hand. Notably saddled with being Sulla's superior, which puts something of a damper on Cain's appreciation for his competence.
  • Consummate Professional: Cain describes him as crisp while other officers are cheery.
  • Mr. Exposition: Briefs Cain about the conditions they're entering and some landmarks.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Noted as being one of the view officers in the regiment who treats Jurgen with respect.

    Chaplain Tope 
The Vallhallans' chaplain, who appears in a few scenes of The Last Ditch.
  • Badass Preacher: Tope is the chaplain for a frontline combat unit and bravely charges forward to exorcise a dangerous daemon.
  • Due to the Dead: Cain sees Tope performing last rites for several dying soldiers after a spaceship crash.
  • No Indoor Voice: Cain describes him as having a loud voice capable of reaching the back of a chapel without the help of any audio equipment.

    Captain Federer 
The commander of the Vallhallans' combat engineers.
  • Demolitions Expert: Federer is an explosives expert who, despite moments of smugness and pyromania, is fairly ingenious and reliable at his job.
  • Pyromaniac: Federer is primarily called upon when Cain and Kasteen need something blown up, and shows "unseemly enthusiasm" about his job.

A minor recurring platoon leader.
  • Perpetual Smiler: His only notable trait is that he's always bright and cheerful, regardless of the circumstances.

     Jek and Paola 
Two Sentinel pilots who briefly appear in Traitors Hand.
  • Noodle Incident: Cain knows Paola's name because she has appeared before him on disciplinary matters, but the details aren't elaborated on.

Grifen's squad

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 did not.

    Sergeant Grifen 
A squad leader in the 597th. Implied to be in a relationship with Magot.
  • Battle Couple: Implied between Grifen and Magot.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Grifen is blue.
  • Rank Up: She's made Lieutenant by the time of Choose Your Enemies, opening up her former spot for Magot.
  • Sergeant Rock: Thanks to her leadership, her squad is consistently one of the toughest and most successful in the regiment.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Cain. In The Traitor's Hand, she stares down another Commissar trying to arrrest Cain on (fradulent) charges of desertion, making it plain the other officer will have to go through her and her squad to get him, even when the Commissar lines up a headshot.

    Corporal Mari Magot 
A member of Grifen's squad, and implied girlfriend.
  • Berserk Button: Let's just say she has a few, but threatening Grifen is a big one. Sexism seems to be another big one: When a Tallarn squad refuses to participate in an athletic competition because the Valhallan 597th team has women on it, she tracks down the squad leader responsible and thrashes him. To quote Cain: "Knowing Magot, she undoubtedly threw the first punch. And probably the next couple too."
  • Blood Knight: She relishes any chance she gets for a good fight.
  • Camping a Crapper: In Caves of Ice, grabs the chance to kill an ork that's in the middle of a latrine stop.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In The Traitor's Hand, while en route to their warzone, the Tallarn 229th, one of the regiments the 597th are travelling with, having a somewhat conservative attitude to regiments including women refuse to take part in an inter-regimental competition in unnarmed combat as the 597th included women in their team, considering it unseemly. In Cain's clearly amused words, the next time the 229th's regimental champion in hand-to-hand combat entered the transport ship's recreational area, Magot promptly pounced on him and subjected him to an "impromptu bout" in which she pounded him flat, despite the fact she only came up to the trooper's chin—which wasn't an issue, as it only took her a twelfth of a second to bring it down to the level of her knee.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Remarked as being the only other driver in the regiment that's comparable to Jurgen. Cain can recognize when she's behind the wheel, even when he's not inside the vehicle. The following exchange takes place after a Chimera roars into a crowd of refugees and runs over a Tyranid Lictor.
    Cain: Nice driving, Magot.
    Magot: You're welcome, commissar. How did you know it was me?
    Cain: Lucky guess.
  • Fiery Red Head: She has bright red hair, and her... exuberant personality definitely lives up to the fiery aspect — as does her kill count.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Cain notes that to Magot, the word "overkill" is inherently meaningless.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The typically fearless and confrontational Magot does not take her first encounter with Necrons and their brutality well. Luckily, Grifen and Cain are able to keep their senses better, and are able to pull her out of her frenzy.
  • Pet the Dog: Cain gives her a bit of a pep talk to get her moving and provide some encouragement when Magot appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Necron tomb.
  • Psycho Lesbian: A somewhat benevolent version, as most of her lethal instincts are channelled into fighting enemies of the Imperium.
  • Rank Up: With Grifen promoted to Lieutenant in Choose Your Enemies, Magot serves as her platoon sergeant.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Very, very red with Grifen's blue.
  • Sergeant Rock: She's made sergeant in Choose Your Enemies and while we don't really get to see her in action, we can't imagine her possibly being any other kind.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Cain describes Magot as "a cheerfully sociopathic young woman" who would probably have caused the civilian authorities plenty of trouble if the Imperial Guard hadn't channelled her energy towards the enemy.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Cain strongly suspects that this trope is how Magot got into the Guard in the first place.

    Janny Drere 

Janny Drere

A member of the squad injured by an ambull attack during Caves of Ice, saved by Cain's decision to send some soldiers back with her. She was implanted with augmetic lungs due to her injuries. In a relationship with her squadmate Vorhees.

  • Battle Couple: With Vorhees. The two are boyfriend and girlfriend and fight in the same squad, coming out alive together during some of Cain's more harrowing adventures.
  • Cyborg: After needing an augmetic lung.
  • Vader Breath: Her artificial lungs can be heard making a soft rhythmic clicking sound when she speaks.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Understandably nervous about the prospect of ambulls, given the injuries they inflicted on her.



Drere's boyfriend and fellow squad member, he is extremely loyal to Cain for saving his girlfriend's life.

  • Battle Couple: With Drere. The two are boyfriend and girlfriend and fight in the same squad, coming out alive together during some of Cain's more harrowing adventures.
  • 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.

A member of the squad in Caves of Ice who ventures into the tunnels with Cain.
  • Battle Trophy: He's seen trying to cut off a fallen Ork's head to take back home.
  • Bearer of Bad News: Due to being on point a lot he repeatedly calls out unwelcome news of approaching orks or dead bodies encountered.
  • Made of Iron: He struggles to take aim at the orks and keep shooting even after being shot multiple times.
  • Mauve Shirt: He's a decent presence for multiple chapters before being the last member of the squad to die in the book.

  • Ambiguously Brown: Her darker skin tone causes Amberley to wonder if at least one of her ancestors immigrated to Valhalla from elsewhere.
  • Consummate Professional: She's frequently noted as being nervous but professional and efficient.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: After being wounded in the arm, Hail charges forward, shooting one-handed, and manages to take out an Ork before being torn apart.
  • Stealth Expert: Her skin tone lets her blend in better against cavern walls and shadows, and she's a stealthy and effective rear guard.


  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Lunt is Grifen's flamethrower-operator.
  • Secret Message Wink: After telling a Tech-Priest a story about his grandfather being attacked by an Ork frozen in a glacier after thawing it out, Lunt winks at Cain to show that he's just trying to silence their observer's unreasonable arguments.

  • Bring News Back: In Caves of Ice Cain assigns him to take two wounded troopers and some escorts back to base with the news that Orks are definitely in the tunnels.
  • Number Two: Is Grifen's Assistant Squad Leader and commands the second team when the squad splits in two.
  • Sergeant Rock: Is promoted to Sergeant just before The Traitor's Hand.

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.

  • The Ace: Some of this comes with the office: a successful Inquisitor must think fast and well, be a master of plots and deceptions, and fight at least decently. Massive resources and theoretically unlimited social/political power add to the impression as well. Still, Amberley's sheer unflappability and ability to be a step ahead of everyone make her an Ace among Aces.
  • Action Girl: She's an Imperial Inquisitor. Kicking inordinate amounts of ass comes with the territory.
  • Battle Couple: With Ciaphas, at least once while she's wearing Golden Power Armor.
  • Bling of War: Amberley's powered armor is bright gold and covered in lots and lots of devotional icons.
  • Bond One-Liner
    Amberly: Consider yourself relieved of your position.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Invoked. Also possibly a straight example — Cain points out she's using all of her elaborate disguises and personas because she's just having fun.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Amberley usually hides it behind her flippant, cheerful mask, but on several occasions she admits to Cain that it's hard for her to remain detached from the suffering caused by the intrigues it's her job to prevent.
  • The Chanteuse: This is her cover in the first book. Cain specifically notes her sultry contralto singing voice when the two are first introduced.
  • The Chessmaster: Though Amberley is not afraid to get her hands dirty, she tends to prefer solving problems by employing her Inquisitorial authority to arrange to have the right people in the right place at the right time to make a difference. This is a big part of why she and Cain keep running into each other: she specifically requests his regiment to intervene in conflicts she has a professional stake in because she knows she can make use of him directly or count on him to do what is needed.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Amberley shows signs of this in the footnotes whenever the young Cain has a new relationship with another woman. Also, in The Last Ditch, when Cain expressly denies having any liaisons other than Amberley, her comment is as pointed as it is laconic: "So I would hope."
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: An inquisitor's retinue is often a collection of some of the Imperium's most dysfunctional individuals, and Amberley's is no exception. Her sanctioned psyker Rakel in particular often needs Amberley to keep her on her leash and translate her incoherent babbling into something meaningful.
  • Contralto of Danger: As mentioned under The Chanteuse, she has a sultry contralto, and as an Inquisitor she regularly confronts some of the Imperium's most dangerous foes and comes out on top.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Presumably, this is one reason she and Cain get along so famously.
  • Enemy Mine: As Inquisitorial ideologies go, Amberley is clearly on the moderate end of the Radical school, possibly Xenos Hybris: she speaks the Aeldari language with some degree of fluency and can see the shades of grey between tyranids and orks and more reasonable xenos races like the eldar and tau. It doesn't make her any less motivated to protect the Imperium from their predations, but it does help her keep some perspective: she resolves the plot of Choose Your Enemies by persuading the eldar raiding the Planet of the Week to help her and Cain deal with a Slaaneshi cult before it can summon a daemonhost.
  • Foil: Again to Cain. Amberley shares his talents at manipulation, charisma, and snark, but is dedicated, courageous, and a pragmatic idealist of sorts where Cain's a deeply skeptical cynic. She's also ready to defend him when he's always ready to condemn himself.
  • Genki Girl: Surprisingly cheerful and energetic for a fully-fledged Inquisitor.
  • Hero of Another Story: There are just enough hints and passed-over Noodle Incidents in the footnotes to imply that Amberley has been involved in some interesting adventures herself when she's not working with Cain. Then again, she's an Inquisitor, so that's to be expected. In fact, she's even been given a story of her own ("Hidden Depths").
  • Interservice Rivalry: She's noted in more than one footnote that she considers the Ordo Malleus to be a bunch of deranged maniacs.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Though nothing of the sort is ever said "on camera", Vail does at least admit in the footnotes that she and Cain were more comfortable around each other than around most others. Which would be cute enough, if it wasn't an Inquisitor talking.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Not evil by any means, but like Cain, Amberley's very good at manipulating others' feelings.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Amberley nearly ran into Cain early on in his career, when she was sent to help clean up the Genestealer outbreak on Keffia. However, she was delayed by a space hulk clearing operation, and only arrived on the planet after Cain was redeployed to Perlia.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: More like Obfuscating Eccentricity. She acts like a cheerfully whimsical woman, which belies how dangerous she really is.
  • Older Than They Look: Inquisitors have their secrets. She's apparently remained young for around fifty years at least.
  • Only Sane Woman: Amberley certainly believes herself to be among the less-crazy Inquisitors, with similar respect for Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos in general. She has particularly obvious disdain for many of the Ordo Malleus, and unflattering descriptions of the more stereotypical Inquisitors of the 40k universe. Case in point: when Cain describes the Inquisition as "the Emperor's pet psychopaths," Amberley refers to it as "Not the most flattering description." In nine books and counting, she has never once denied that it was accurate.
  • Powered Armor: She owns a suit of it that is so heavily inlaid and decorated that Cain thinks it would make a Tech-Marine jealous. She tends to prefer more subtle equipment as a rule, but breaks it out when she expects high-intensity combat, such as when purging known Genestealer nests.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: Amberley appears to have an issue with the Acronym and Abbreviation Overload that the Imperial Guard, and by extension, Cain tends to pepper their speech with, making explanations (and complaints) about them in her footnotes just about every time they pop up.
  • Spy Catsuit: Amberley is frequently described as wearing a "bodyglove," which is exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes it's because it's the suit she wears to interface with her powered armor, but she's also got a red one which she wears in social situations.
  • Team Mom: To her retinue. Although she's rather blunt and doesn't waste time grieving when one of her aides dies, she's clearly fond of them and seems to treat them as friends.
  • Unequal Pairing: As an Imperial Inquisitor, it's not only most likely illegal for her and Ciaphas to be a relationship, but it's literally part of her job description to execute him if he messes up. It doesn't get much more unequal than that — although she's also much less fanatical than most Inquisitors.
  • Unreliable Narrator: More subtly than Cain, but you'd be just as wise taking anything she claims in her editorial notes with a pinch of salt.
  • When She Smiles: She's charming enough in any case, but her laugh really turns it up.
  • You Have Failed Me: At the end of Cain's Last Stand, Cain fears he will be on the receiving end of this after the Shadowlight falls into the hands of the Necrons, noting that whatever their relationship, Amberly is still an Inquisitor first and foremost, and he has technically failed in his assignment to keep the artefact out of enemy hands. Fortunately for him, Amberly concedes that while not ideal, the Shadowlight is safer in the hands of the Necrons than the forces of Chaos, and agrees with Cain's hypothesis that given how much effort they expended to recover it, the Necrons were clearly afraid of the Shadowlight's power, and thus likely have no plans to use it against the Imperium.

    Caractacus Mott 
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.
  • Artificial Limbs: Bionic legs in this case.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Mott's nature as a Savant means that while he rambles excessively, he can be a massive help in certain situations. Of course, Cain fondly remembers the times that he and Mott decimate any card games with that same ability to count cards.
  • Blessed with Suck: As a corollary to his Awesomeness by Analysis, Vail points out in one story that Mott can get so caught up in calculating the optimum trajectory that he's unable to actually fire the frakking gun.
  • Cyborg: Mott is largely mechanical from the neck down. This gives him the speed and resilience implied above, as well as built-in skates.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    Mott: Which reminds me, thank you for coming to our assistance. It was most timely.
    Cain: My pleasure.
    Mott: Then you have an extremely perverse idea of what constitutes fun. You should get out more.
  • Expy: Of Gregor Eisenhorn's savant Uber Aemos. Mott is a bit more fortunate, though; he seems more just terribly fond of information rather than literally addicted, and his augmetics are of better quality.
  • Motor Mouth: Once Mott gets started rambling, it's very hard to stop him politely, since he has a compulsive need to keep working out his thoughts.
  • No Social Skills: Unless he happens get sidetracked gushing about something he has an interest in and knows a great deal about (which is most things), Mott has a tendency to be blunt, abrasive, and to the point in conversation. Subtlety and tact are not his strengths.
  • Old Master: Caractacus is an elderly sage in a robe. He's also regularly running through firefights with apparently little to no body armor, without hesitation. However, he is a mostly artificial cyborg.

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.
  • Big Eater: Apparently, being a powerful psyker takes a lot of calories.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Rakel's ignorance of, or contempt for, social norms includes wearing a dress that's rather too small for her. Although she's not a bad-looking woman, everyone else finds her madness too disturbing for it to be sexy.
  • Jerkass: Not really her fault; she's just crazy and hard to be around.
  • Mind Probe: Rakel's mostly used by Amberley as a living scrying device to find psychic phenomena. She's never demonstrated any active destructive powers on-screen.
  • The Ophelia: She's a young, attractive woman who spends most of her time half-dressed and spouting what appears at first to be word salad — though there's often a meaning to her madness.
  • Talkative Loon: Prone to babbling on about seemingly random or inconsequential things, though as she's a psyker they often actually make sense once others are aware of the context. Her reaction to Jurgen, for instance, is how Amberley discovered he is a blank.
  • Telepathy: As a psyker, she's able to read people's minds. Cain finds this unsettling, for obvious reasons, though he admits that a disciplined dissembler won't find the passive mind reading to be as formidable as people fear. Rakel even once mentioned that Cain's mind "is like a mirror."


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-Team Firing: Noted at one point to be so hopped-up on combat drugs that he can't usually shoot with any kind of accuracy.
  • The Berserker: When his lasgun ran out of power he started using it as a bludgeon. Against Tyranids.
  • Driven to Madness: He was introduced as "just" a drugged up Penal Legion soldier Amberly picked up, and he flinched every time he looked at Cain, implying that the Commissar uniform was more or less a PTSD trigger. It was later revealed that he was a Commissar, and he succumbed to battle stress and started executing soldiers for failing to salute a superior officer during an artillery barrage. He has an aversion to the uniform, because it reminds him of how far he's fallen.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Cain's reaction to learning Simeon was a former Commissar.
  • Not Enough to Bury: Ultimately overwhelmed and near-completely shredded by tyranid gargoyles during the escape from the convent.
  • Psycho Serum: His injector rig can dose him up with a cocktail of combat drugs potent enough that Amberley has a hard time keeping up with him even when she's wearing her Power Armour.
  • Trauma Button: Simeon can't bring himself to look at Cain or meet the Commissar's gaze, as it reminds him of what he used to be before he broke down.

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 Arbites were going to execute him, but Amberley managed to attach him to her retinue.
  • Cowboy Cop: Was ejected from the Arbites for disobeying orders and sparking a mob war that brought down a powerful cartel. While Cain was impressed by the results, Amberly has to point out to him that the Arbites are very much not a "results justify the means" type of organization; while he was an undercover cop, well and truly stepping out of the bounds of the law by murdering cartel officers was something the Arbites couldn't abide. He was looking at a tribunal and execution, but Amberly got him off by recruiting him into her retinue since the Inquisition is that type of organization, within (admittedly ruthless) reason.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Flicker". Cain initially assumes it's because he's very good at blending into shadows, but it turns out to be because of his habit of flicking his hair out of his eyes.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Instead of allowing himself to be brought in and let his work go to waste, he murdered a syndicate member and pinned the blame on another member. The resulting Mob Civil War brought down the entire syndicate. Cain didn't see the problem with that.
  • Ship Tease: He and Zemelda seem to get some chemistry going in Duty Calls after the latter's recruitment.


A techpriest, Yanbel serves both the Omnissiah and the Inquisition.

  • Crazy-Prepared: Carries explosive charges and detonators around with him just in case they come in handy.
  • 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.

    Zemelda Cleat 

A former Mobile Kiosk worker on Periremunda who was caught in a genestealer assassination attempt on the local Arbitrator. 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.

  • Action Survivor: Literally picked up off the street on Periremunda, she not only survives the events of Duty Calls, she's still serving Amberley what's implied to be years later in Choose Your Enemies.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": She leans a little too much into her disguises at times, to the point that she has to be told not to over act.
  • Dare to Be Badass: She's a Mobile Kiosk worker who becomes an integral part of a veteran Inquisitor's personal retinue.
  • More Dakka: The first major weapon she gets her hands on is an honest-to-the-Emperor machine gun. Cain reasons that, as she's a civilian, she's not going to be a very good shot anyway, so she might as well use something loud that'll draw attention away from him and/or suppress the enemy.
  • Ship Tease: She and Pelton seem to get some chemistry going in Duty Calls after her recruitment into Amberley's retinue.
  • Unusual Euphemism: She likes to use Periremundean slang terms in conversation, all of which are incomprehensible to people not from Periremunda. Even Amberley never figured out half of what she was saying. Though it's not actually that hard for readers to figure out from context.


A Rogue Trader who, like Cain and Jurgen, occasionally helps out Amberley.

  • Meaningful Name: Orelius sounds like Aurelius, which is derived from the Latin word for gold, aurum. Fitting for a scion of a wealthy merchant dynasty.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Cain mistakes him for an Inquisitor at first, due to the in-universe cliche that Inquisitors like to disguise themselves as Rogue Traders.

Imperial Guard

Members of the Imperial Guard outside of the Valhallans, including some of Cain's fellow Commissars.

    Toren Divas 

Lieutenant (later Major) of the Valhallan 12th Artillery Regiment, and the closest thing Cain has ever had to a 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.

  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Cain thinks Toren is rather an idiot, but acknowledges that he's an expert with his artillery.
  • 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 Mostrue 

Commanding officer of the Valhallan 12th Artillery Regiment, Mostrue is implied to have never fully bought into Cain's reputation as a hero, suspecting (quite rightly) that Cain's first act of 'heroism' with the regiment was really an attempt to desert and has reputedly tried to catch Cain out in similar circumstances.

  • Bad Boss: Cain notes Mostrue was always a little too eager to call in artillery strikes on his position when required.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: He never openly calls Cain out on what really happened on Desolatia, but makes his suspicions plain in his demeanour.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: A variation; Cain notes that in the years after Desolatia, Mostrue always made sure to volunteer Cain for suicide missions and the like, hoping Cain would balk at the prospect and show his true colours.
  • Properly Paranoid: In regards to Cain's fraudulent reputation, certainly.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: For all his distrust of Cain's reputation, Mostrue has no problem following Cain's military instinct.

    Lord General Zyvan 

A Lord General of the Imperial Guard who oversaw operations in which the 597th served 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 highly regarded him, to the point that Amberley often inserts footnotes pointing this out whenever Cain implies something to the contrary.

  • Berserk Button: Zyvan really doesn't like being jerked around or not given vital information, whether it's by the Administratum, the Adeptus Mechanicus, or anyone else. Fortunately in the cases where it could be really dire Cain is usually around to be the voice of reason.
  • The Brigadier: Commands an Imperial Guard task force that, for a time, includes the Valhallan 597th. He often defers to Cain's judgment on important matters, and not merely because he's a Commissar; Zyvan seems to have a genuine appreciation for Cain's apparent talents.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Cain often notes that he and Zyvan hit it off and became friends because Cain, being a commissar and thus not part of the normal Guard 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 more than half the series but Ciaphas never does tell us what his first name is.
  • Not So Stoic: Tries to be serious and professional, most of the time, but Cain occasionally manages to coax a little wry humour or The Gadfly esque moments out of Zyvan; in one instance Cain shamelessly compliments the cooking skills of Zyvan's chef and takes an opportunity to grab some more food when Zyvan offers, and in turn asks anyone else at the table if they'd like anything whilst he's up. Zyvan notably declines the offer, only to send one of his aides to go get him some coffee just after Cain has sat down again.
  • Pragmatic Hero:
    • In For the Emperor, the Tau Empire has an entrenched diplomatic presence and security forces on Gravalax and is making inroads with the populace. You'd expect a Lord General Militant of the Imperial Guard to want them gone at whatever cost, but Zyvan states point-blank during a briefing that the planet isn't worth getting into a shooting war with the xenos.
    • In The Traitor's Hand, he chews out Tallarn 227th Colonel Asmar and Commissar Tomas Beije for excessive zeal, namely burning down a Slaaneshi cult site before it could be investigated for information about the cult's intentions.
  • 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.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Subverted; despite his immense strategic skill, Cain always beats him in their Regicide games. Cain muses that Zyvan just can't properly shrink his focus to properly play such a simple game when he's used to dealing with the immense complexity of modern battlefields.
  • Supreme Chef: Well, his staff chef is, anyway; Cain is taken enough by the chef's skills to the point that he's loathe to do anything to sour his relationship with Zyvan simply because he'd lose access to said chef.

    Tomas Beije 

A fellow cadet at the Schola Progenium which Cain studied at. He is Commissar to the Tallarn 227th regiment. He and Cain are none too fond; Beije can't believe someone so flippant and blase as Cain could do half the things he has, while Cain considers Beije a sanctimonious Emperor-bother and a monumental pain in the ass.

  • 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Deriding Kasteen as a "petticoat colonel" only to then realise he said that in front of a squad of extremely pissed off Valhallans from her regiment who are already looking for an excuse to shoot him.
  • Fat Bastard: Though it's not elaborated upon exactly, Beije is repeatedly described as "pudgy" as well as having great difficulty keeping up when everyone is double-timing, leading one to believe that he is essentially an evil, twisted version of Sergeant Schultz.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Cain. Beije sees the honors and glory piled onto his old classmate, who seems to still be the irresponsible layabout he was in schola. Not only that, but Cain seems surrounded by an Amazon Brigade which is full of "special exceptions" to normal discipline, leading Beije to believe that his old rival is sleeping with them. Eventually, it becomes too much for the conservative jackass, and he accuses Cain of cowardice and desertion. This ends about as well as you'd expect...
  • 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 worshiping Cain as the Emperor's will made manifest.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Another amusing contrast to Cain. Whereas the latter can One-Hit Kill virtually anything with his laspistol, Beije couldn't hit a Titan if he were seated in the cockpit. This is best shown during the final fight with Daemon Princess Emeli where, in spite of her very large size (as in she dwarfed a pair of Chaos Space Marines), he was only able to strike a glancing blow after firing a dozen or so shots.
  • Knight Templar: He's the model of the strict, uncompromising "ideal" Commissar. This leads to the Lawful Stupid below.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: His attempt to arrest Cain on charges of desertion and cowardice gets him charged with gross incompetence for interfering with Cain's mission by the Commissariat tribunal he called to charge Cain (with the quite high probability of facing a firing squad). Cain said he'd pull a few strings to help him out.
  • 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.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: Cain mentions this regarding Beije and Kasteen's first meeting, when Cain gleefully asks if Beije forgot to how to read shoulder insignias, he notes that given Kasteen's uniform really emphasises her figure, perhaps Beije didn't look that high.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Invoked; Cain notes that whoever in the Munitorum assigned Beije to the Tallarn 229th made a wise choice in dumping him with a bunch ''of Emperor botherers as pious and humourless as him' as opposed to another Guard regiment where his attitude would have made Beije a friendly-fire accident just waiting to happen.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: His name may be a reference to Tom Brown, the protagonist of the Tom Brown's Schooldays series, where Flashman originally appeared.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Like the regiment he serves with, Beije has somewhat conservative views about Guard regiments that include women. He practically blows up when he learns Kasteen is the 597th's CO.

    Colonel Asmar 

The Commander of the Tallarn 227th. He's very uptight.

  • Knight Templar: The Tallarn are a notoriously devout regiment, and Asmar is no exception.
  • Lawful Stupid: Just like Beije he's too much of a rule stickler and zealot.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Even stoic Asmar is genuinely horrified by what his men find in the agricultural center's lab. Slaneesh will do that to you.
  • Serious Business: Everything he does. Notably, this extends towards those parts of his job that demand his interaction with Cain, so he doesn't dismiss Cain out of hand like Beije does. He just dislikes Cain, he doesn't disrespect him.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: His attitude toward women is not very open, which is part of his problem with the Valhallan 597th.

    Commissar Forres 

The regimental Commissar assigned to the newly founded Nusquan 1st Regiment of the Imperial Guard and, being fresh out of the schola, Forres is everything Cain isn't: gung-ho, by the book and indifferent to extensive casualties. Cain finds his second tour on Nusquam Fundumentibus divided between saving the planet from alien invasion and trying to stop Forres and her troopers from getting themselves killed.

  • Action Girl: She leads from the front like a "proper" Commissar and manages to hold her own against 'Nids.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Her initial view of how an Imperial Guard regiment should operate. Exposure to Cain and the 597th rapidly cures her of it.
  • Character Development: Unlike Beije, who mainly comes away from his encounter with Cain with a collection of humiliations and traumas, Forres starts her book as the Commissar equivalent of New Meat but learns from Cain's example that there's a lot more to fighting for the Emperor than charging the enemy and shooting the slowest man into the fray, coming away from the experience a better officer for it.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Lambasts the Valhallans for electrocuting the floor of the room she and her regiment were in, even though it wiped out the Tyranids trying to eat them. Magot's reaction is essentially this.
    Magot: No "thanks for saving us from being 'nid bait", then. Snotty fem-hound.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After the above example, Forres cuts the power to the electricity by blasting the circuit box with her bolt pistol... killing all power in the room.
    • When it turns out there are Tyranids on Nusquam Fundumentibus, Forres suggests trying to put the 'nids against the Orks they are already dealing with to make the Imperials' job easier. Kasteen, Broklaw and Cain all shoot down that idea immediately.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Seems blunt and tactless at first, but becomes more friendly and tactically savvy as the book goes on.
  • Deconstruction: of the stereotypical "The first one to retreat gets a bolt to the head" type of Commissar so often seen in the Imperium. Her forces only start doing better when they use techniques that aren't massed infantry charges and other suitably Hollywood-esque tactics the Imperium seems to love, and Cain openly shows disdain for the Bolt Pistol she uses- widely popular with the Commisariat for its power and intimidation, but in a battlefield, the humble laspistol is more rugged, lighter, carries more ammo, and is more likely to help you survive.
  • Hand Cannon: Favours a bolt pistol, like many Commissars for its intimidation factor.
  • Hero Worship: Of Cain, as to be expected. She even outright says that the tutors at her schola held Cain up as the ideal to aspire to. Interestingly, she resents this, saying that she disapproved of it, and she ignores Cain's advice right up until it nearly gets her killed. She calms down a bit after that.
  • Know When to Fold Them: When Jurgen mentions that the last time another Commissar called Kasteen's competence into question, Cain challenged them to a duel, Forres takes one look at his well-used chainsword and withdraws her remark.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: To be expected from a commissar fresh out of the schola. Cain gets the worst of it out of her by the end of the novel.
  • No Social Skills: Forres does not do a good job of endearing herself to the 597th. Judging by the reactions of her own regiment's officers whenever Kasteen, Broklaw or Cain takes her down a peg, Cain notes she's probably not very popular there.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Initially between Forres and the 597th, particularly with Kasteen.
  • We Have Reserves: Her idea on how to beat Orks is to charge them in close combat. It takes Cain and Kasteen pointing out that her regiment's casualty figures are three times higher than the 597th's to convince her to try something new (i.e., tactics)

A Gunner in Mostrue's unit. He's convinced that saving the Commissar's life during the first encounter is keeping him from suffering any more severe punishments, and Cain seems disinclined to disabuse him of this utterly false idea.
  • Androcles' Lion: He saves Cain's life in the first short story soon after Cain giving him a mild punishment in his first disciplinary hearing.
  • Blood Knight: Ehrlsen is repeatedly described as being happy and nonchalant amidst intense battles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cain wonders if Erhlsen intends to make latrine duty his full-time job. The Gunner simply fires off a platitude about serving the Emperor as their talents direct.
  • Mildly Military: He's constantly being disciplined for drinking and such and takes being demoted and reprimanded in stride.

A Perlian Leman Russ commander who ends up joining the convoy shortly after the refugees leave the old arms depot.
  • Action Girl: Sautine is a skilled tank commander, a good Laspistol shot, and a great asset to Cain's convoy.

  • Nose Art: On her tank; specifically a badge of a red fox wearing flak armour. Apparently her (all-female) tank unit was called the 'Vixens'.
  • The Stoic: Described as sounding "infuriatingly calm" and matter-of-fact in combat.
  • Tank Goodness: Commands a tank which joins Cain's forces.

A hell-raiser in Mostrue's unit.
  • Manchurian Agent: He turns out to be have been taken over by the broodmind.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: He's introduced seemingly hung over and incoherent. Anyone with half a brain can easily figure out that he was implanted by the broodmind at the brothel, though.

A trouble-making trooper who serves with Cain on Keffia.
  • Death by Sex: Milsen is drugged and infected by a Genestealer prostitute whom he lets approach him in a bar.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Milsen has been repeatedly disciplined for looting and theft, but seems to take his duties seriously.
  • Suicide Attack: An infected Milsen ties several grenades to his chest and blows them up to open a door for the Genestealers.

A friend of Erhlsen, Milsen and Nordstrom.

    Mulenz and Grear 
Two forward observers in Mostrue's artillery unit who accompany Cain during an encounter with Slaanesh cultists, which sadly ends in disaster for them. This is also Cain's first encounter with the long-term antagonist Emeli.
  • Captain Obvious: Mulenz announces their pathway is blocked by a wall when this is painfully obvious to Cain; the Commissar makes a remark to the effect of "no wonder they made him an Observer, nothing gets past this guy."
  • Those Two Guys: They're introduced together and not too distinct.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: They don't survive their encounter with the Slaanesh cultists. One is sacrificed in a ritual, whilst the other gets possessed by the daemon that ritual summoned.

A Guards Comissiar assigned to a tank unit during the Battle of Adumbria.
  • Old Soldier: His service record is twice the length of either of his fellow judges.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dravin is quick to acquit Cain of the unsupported charges filed against him and then proceeds to discipline Cain's accuser for nearly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with his Lawful Stupid antics.

A Psyker for Zyvan.
  • Dissonant Serenity: He generally sounds either flat or casual while discussing torture of daemon invasions during his scenes in the third book.
  • Mind Rape: He does this as a form of interrogation, with it being mentioned that a noble falsely suspected of being a Chaos worshipper will take a long time to regain his faculties after Malden probed his brain.

A Tallarn sergeant serving under Beije.
  • Sergeant Rock: Mahat is a capable and caring leader to his squad. While initially sent to help arrest Cain, he quickly becomes an ally of his upon realizing Beije is risking the lives of his men.

A solider in the unit Forres is assigned to.
  • Rank Up: Lanks starts as a sergeant but is promoted to lieutenant due to his unit's heavy losses and his bravery in the face of the Tyranids.

An officer who accompanies Cain during his first encounter with the Neurons.
  • Ensign Newbie: Tarkus has far less combat experience than anyone else accompanying him.
  • The Neidermeyer: Tarkus defensively ignores anyone who suggests they know better than him. This gets his unit wiped out.

Adeptus Mechanicus

Members of the Adeptus Mechanicus that Cain has come across in his lifetime.

A member of the Mechanicus who was assigned to their end of the investigation into the theft of the Shadowlight.
  • Cool Plane: Well, a Cool Ornithopter anyway. His vehicle is both good at getting where it needs to be, and being properly armed.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Especially for the Adeptus Mechanicus. He wants to find the relic first, but as soon as they are able to confirm that there's an assassin after Cain or Vail, he puts aside his rivalry with Vail to help catch the killer.


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.

  • Admiring the Abomination: Is thoroughly in awe of the Necron tomb. He is also quite fascinated by the ambulls (extremely violent apex predators not native to his planet).
  • And This Is for...: When Cain lets him set off the bomb that detonates the planet's store of promethium, obliterating the Necron tomb, he declares revenge for his slain mentor.
  • 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: He's a Mechanicus priest. It comes with the territory.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Cain later regrets he didn't shoot Logash when they found him in the tomb before he could disseminate the tomb's location amongst his superiors in the Mechancius.
  • 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).

    Felicia Tayber 

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.

  • Action Survivor: Though not a trained fighter, she's still a tech-priestess and has a great rapport with machines. She's able to modify a power loader based on a Sentinel chassis to turn it into what is effectively a flamer Sentinel and used it to deadly effect, and pilots it with the same level of skill as a veteran pilot.
  • 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.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: There are a number of hints in Death or Glory that Cain and Felicia's relationship was a bit more intimate than Cain lets on. Aside from him complimenting her looks, he mentions several surprisingly intimate details (such as the location of her mechadendrite's attachment, or that she doesn't need to sleep) and later on she refers to him by his first name and the two are shown eating breakfast together. Amberly remarks that if they were "socializing" then Cain never recorded it and she has no idea when they found the time to get so friendly.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Cain's convoy wouldn't have gotten far if it wasn't for her constant repairs. The fact that she was able to keep their captured Ork vehicles functional says something about her skills as an engineernote .
  • 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.
  • Hot Scientist: Hot tech priest. Highly unusual given how tech priests are almost always portrayed as nasty looking cyborgs in other 40K works.
  • 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.
  • Nice to the Waiter: ESPECIALLY for a Techpriestess.
  • 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), recognizes him the better part of a century later... It's about the nicest anyone ever is to the poor guy, short of Cain himself.
  • Prehensile Tail: Has a mechandrite attached to her tailbone. Amberley wonders how Cain managed to discover the part of her body it attached to. Although given her habit of leaning on it like a personal kickstand it may have been fairly obvious.
  • Rank Up: Made Magos between Death or Glory and Cain's Last Stand.
  • The Sleepless: She apparently doesn't require sleep due to having part of her brain replaced with cybernetics. Which one again raises the question of just how Cain discovered this.


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.

  • For Science!: His whole reason for stealing the Shadowlight.
  • Mad Scientist: Collaborates with a rogue Inquisitor to experiment on a Chaos artifact.
  • Off with His Head!: He tries to make a run for it only to get scooped up by a tyranid gargoyle and his head (not so) neatly torn off his neck.
  • The Paranoiac: He's been running from the Ordo Xenos for a while now after the joint venture fell apart and Killian took over the Shadowlight project, so a high degree of paranoia is to be expected. Cain thus exploits Metheius' paranoia; he makes Metheius think that the military dataslate case he's carrying contains a device that suppresses the Shadowlight's powers, and that the case is boobytrapped and/or genelocked. Inquisitor Killian also buys into this, and it all conveniently deflects their attention away from Jurgen's status as a Blank - which is what actually suppresses the Shadowlight.


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. Somewhat uncharacteristically for a mid-to-high-level member of the Mechanicus he actually still enjoys eating regular food (most have long since replaced all that messy organic stuff with nice efficient nutrient paste), which is perhaps yet another reason he gets disintegrated.

  • Nice Guy: Once you get past his obsession with archaeotech, he's not really an unpleasant person, just a bit naive and pushy.
  • One Steve Limit: There are two characters named Killian. Neither survive for very long after their introductions.
  • Taking the Bullet: The gauss flayer blast kills him instead of Cain due to his sacrifice.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As with every Adeptus Mechanicus adept, his fascination with archaeotech (specifically Necron archaeotech) gets him and his entire expedition wiped out to a man; only Cain escapes, thanks to diving through a Necron teleporter and being rescued by the Reclaimers.


Senior Magos Biologis on Fecundia, engaged in research on the Tyranid hivemind.

  • Dying as Yourself: Cain and the Reclaimers realize that Kildhar was infected by genestealers aboard the Spawn of Damnation, explaining her counterproductive if not suspicious actions through most of the book, such as the fact the 'stealers escape right when Cain and another high-level Mechanicus official have just arrived at the secret shrine; the tyranid hivemind is clearly angling to kill or even more likely subvert the both of them and strengthen its position. 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.

The highest-ranking Adeptus on Nusquam Fundumentibus during the events there surrounding the ancient crashed tyranid bioship.
  • Bearer of Bad News: Izembard informs Cain and his allies about the dwindling amount of time they have before the Tyrannids will be able to reach out to other fleets and dormant hives, necessitating a desperate mission to stop the Tyrannids.
  • Mission Control: During the climactic battle, Izembard remains at headquarters while radioing Cain and his men information about the power plant they're trying to blow up to stop the tyrannids.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's upset at the idea of technology being destroyed as a side effect of Cain's operations but accepts that there are more pressing concerns and gives his approval. Better a few (ultimately replaceable) geothermal powerplants get blown up and take some tyranids with them than said tyranids eat everyone, after all.
  • The Smurfette Principle: An inverted male example. He's one of the few men in a high ranking position of power on Nusquan Fundumentibus because the Adeptus Mechanicus stands apart from the planet's traditionally matriarchal culture.

A Skitarii at Perlia, part of the joint Mechanicus-Inquisition group working on the Shadowlight. Chief of security for the Mechanicus side of things, his opposite number in the Inquisition being Sieur Makan.
  • Demolitions Expert: Helps rig explosives charges around the Shadowlight.
  • Nice Guy: He salutes Cain and Rorkins even though he isn’t required to, and while apparently unhappy with Sister Julien's presence, he is polite and professional enough not to say so out loud or treat her rudely. Given Sisters of Battle were responsible for the last joint operation being wiped out (at the command of Inquisitor Killian) it's hardly a surprise he's not too happy to see her.

    Vinkel Ernulph 
Logash's superior.
  • Death by Materialism: His obsession with possessing the knowledge he believes the Necron tomb on Simia Orichalcae holds ends up getting him killed when he takes an expedition there and the tomb's guards massacre them all.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ernulph is an arrogant and difficult person, but he does make many good technical points about the campaign, some of which greatly influence Cain's strategy in the final act.
  • No Indoor Voice: He has a booming Vox box installed in his throat.
  • Spanner in the Works: Cain had nearly convinced Kasteen and Broklaw that their only hope against the Necrons reawakening on Simia Orichlacae is to get off world and call in an Imperial Navy flotilla to obliterate the Necron tomb complex from orbit when Ernulph points out in the time it takes a flotilla to arrive, the Necrons could have fully awoke and evacuated using the portal Cain saw in the tomb. Cain realises that they're going to have to destroy the portal before the Imperials evacuate, and he's the obvious choice to lead such a suicide mission.
  • We Have Reserves: He responds to Morel's concern about missing miners with comments about statistically acceptable losses.

A Tech-Priest aboard her father's merchant ship.
  • Daddy's Girl: She insists on serving aboard her father's ship rather than going on to better things, although her father says that she takes more after her mother in many ways (such as religious inclinations).
  • Deadpan Snarker: She's a relatively easygoing and snarky Tech-Priest, especially when trading quips with her father.
  • Dissonant Serenity: She's described as sounding chipper while admitting that she doesn't entirely understand an important situation on the eve of a potential Necron invasion.

The Administratum

Members of the Administratum, the bureaucracy of the Imperium.


A scrivener who served on Simia Orichale, who was rather reasonable for an Adept of the Administratum. Essentially the Administratum counterpart to Logash, but less crazy.

  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's insightful and intelligent when he needs to be, but when recording the notes of a meeting spends a lot of time writing insults about those he dislikes and talking about Kasteen's beauty.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The notes he took during meetings show that he was more interested in the highly attractive Colonel Kasteen than what was in what was actually going on.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: His boss was, being as she was Magos Ernulph's counterpart at the refinery, something Quintus has nothing flattering to say about in the meeting minutes. He, on the other hand, serves as a counterpart to Logash, who is equally the reasonable subordinate to the unreasonable Ernulph.


A scrivener of the Administratum on Perlia, he helped managed the logistics of Cain's ragtag army cut off from the Imperial Guard.

  • Easy Logistics: He and Cain manage to turn their convoy of desert refugees and survivors into an ad hoc army and fight their way across a continent, specifically by Averting this trope. He knows they have to hold on to every scrap of water and fuel they find, and spends the whole story working out where to find more.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Administratum drones have a reputation for being obstructive and using the arcane rules of their offices to stonewall people. Norbert is an exception, thankfully.


The Administratum adept assigned as bursar to the Schola Cain teaches at in Cain's Last Stand.

  • Gossipy Hens: Brasker is noted by Cain as being something of a chatty, gossipy individual, prone to talking about all sorts of unusual things, and seemingly terrible at keeping secrets. This later comes in handy when Cain needs someone to ask around about unusual folk tales dating back to Perlia's initial colonization; anyone else asking around would raise too many eyebrows (or think Cain had gone crazy for asking them to do the digging), but Brasker's innocuous and eccentric enough to not draw any undue attention.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: He's not nearly as hidebound and shortsighted as he may seem at first. He stocks ink just to fake the telltale-ink stains on his hands and clothes that more "old-fashioned" administratum drones expect of someone in his position; he does all his work on a computer. He also turns out to be perfectly capable of keeping secrets when needed.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Subverted. He initially looks like one, but proves effective at working the bureaucracy to gather information and coordinate logistics.
  • Opposites Attract: Has a secret romantic relationship with Sister Julien of all people.

    Kelso Proktor 
A representative from the office of the Governor of Drechia.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: He's quick to help the Guardsmen and is open to hearing their warnings and requests, while even making a decent military suggestion or two.
  • Nerdy Nasalness: He's described as having both a nasal voice and a cold.
  • Oh, Crap!: He takes bad news about the Eldar webway with professionalism, but not without clear unease.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: He isn't afraid to comment on the unreasonableness of his boss.

    Marum Pryke 
Quintus's superior.
  • Interservice Rivalry: She's constantly bickering with her Tech Priest opposite number.
  • Know When to Fold Them: When Kasteen declares Simia Orichalcae under martial law so she can co-ordinate the defence against the Orks without bureaucratic interference, Pryke angrily protests, to which Kastenn retorts Pryke can either put up with it or face the alternative. When Pryke angrily demands the alternative, Cain casually chimes in that the alternative is summary execution for interfering in defeating the Emperor's enemies. Pryke quickly shuts up.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Quintus calls her "The Emperor's Gift to the Administratum, at least in her own mind," and she doesn't do much besides insult people and make unreasonable demands based on monetary calculations.
  • Shout-Out: Gets one to Film/Aliens when she protests the Simia Orichalcae refinery's financial value to the Imperium when Cain advocates destroying it to obliterate the Necrojn tomb complex buried beneath it.
  • We Have Reserves: She responds to Morel's concern about missing miners with comments about statistically acceptable losses.

The Inquisition

    Ernest Stavros Killian 

A Radical Inquisitor who stole the Shadowlight from Perlia, using a group of Battle-Sisters. His mad plans for using it ultimately backfire quite spectacularly, however.

  • Crazy-Prepared: Emphasis on "crazy". His escape plan should his enemies locate him was using a captive Tyranid Lictor to lure in a nearby Tyranid swarm to destroy the Adepta Sororitas convent he was using as his base of operations, trusting the aliens to erase all trace of his presence, and seemingly uncaring about the fact he would be providing the 'nids an all-you-can-eat buffet in the process.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Exposed to the full fury of the Shadowlight's power outside of the psychic-dampening aura of Jurgen. According to Cain, Killian's corpse looks like "flesh and bone had melted together".
  • Didn't Think This Through: In regards to his plans for the Shadowlight; Killian intended to use it to create an army of psykers to take the fight to the forces of Chaos on their own turf. A psyker who examined the Shadowlight later said that, had Killian carried out his imbecilic scheme, the Shadowlight could well have destroyed the entire galaxy. Quite apart from the damage wreaked by these individual psykers, their very existence would have invited possession by daemons, and acted as a gateway allowing the forces of the Warp to flow freely into the Materium. This psyker soberly predicted that, in two generations, the Eye of Terror would expand and swallow the rest of the Galaxy. Cain is sick to his stomach at the very thought of it.
  • Evil Gloating: Is partial to this, which Cain exploits to play for time.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Thought Cain had some sort of device which cancelled the Shadowlight's abilities. In fact it was Jurgen, and the minute he got out of Jurgen's Anti-Magic field the Shadowlight came back on, killing him.
  • Meaningful Name: His first and middle names are clearly a reference to James Bond's early nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and he has several traits of Bond villains.
  • Promoted to Scapegoat: Invoked in "Cain's Last Stand": when the Inquisition and Mechanicus detachments protecting the Shadowlight started arguing over whose fault it is Abaddon has found out about the artefact, Cain defuses the dispute by reminding them that Killian was using a Chaos cult as his pawns to test out the Shadowlight, and if any of the cultists survived the Imperial efforts to exterminate them, word could have gotten to Abaddon from them.
  • State Sec: He's an Inquisitor. Secretive and draconian measures to preserve the peace and root out Chaos and sedition come with the territory. Killian seems to have gone to particularly heinous extremes for even a Radical Inquisitor, however.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Explains, when asked why an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor sabotaged a project operated by the Ordo Xenos, that the internal workings of the Inquisition are far more fractious than the image they like to project to the rest of the Imperium.
  • We Can Rule Together: To a degree; he shows the Shadowlight and explains his plans to Cain, hoping Cain's influence and support of his efforts will convince Killian's rivals in the Ordo Xenos to back off.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: How Radical Xanthians are usually portrayed. Killian doesn't come off so well.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Inferred: when his first facility on Pereimunda at the Hell's Edge mining colony came under attack from the Tyranids, the miners there tried to storm Killian's ship, hoping to get their children to safety. Killian ordered his Sororitas bodyguards to open fire on the crowd.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: To the Sisters of Battle. He used them to raid the Perlia Mechanicus facility to recover the Shadowlight and protect his operation, but was quite happy to leave them to the mercy of the Tyranids to cover his own ass.

    Rasmus Vekkman 
An Ordo Malleus Inquisitor working on Iron found, his area of interest is in Chaos Cults and Daemons rather than Xenos. The sudden appearance of Eldar in the system has put something of a damper on his investigation, something he doesn't appreciate at all.
  • Carry a Big Stick: He wields a null rod, a staff designed to nullify Warp powers and weaken daemons.
  • Consummate Professional; Vekkman is pretty crisp and matter-of-fact for the most part. He's highly focused on his job of rooting out heretics, and while he considers them insane, he's experienced enough to know that they aren't working without a plan.
  • Nerves of Steel: Tackles Emeli, a daemoness of Slaanesh, during a battle.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: While quite competent, he seems to think he's superior to Cain and Amberly. He isn't.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: He seriously considered bombing most of the planet to purge the Chaos taint.
  • Working the Same Case: With Amberly. He's focused on heretics, her on Eldar at the time they appear together. They play off each other at times, as the locals know an Inquisitor is investigating, but not who that Inquisitor is, allowing Amberley to go in and draw focus to the Eldar, drawing attention away from Vekkman whilst he keeps working the cult angle.

    Terie Makan 
The Inquisition head of security for the Shadowlight on Perlia.
  • Inter Service Rivalry: He doesn’t seem to like his techpriest counterpart Yaitz (although he does get along ok with Felicia) and lets some scorn for the local militia into his voice while saying that depending on them is a last resort.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: When Cain sees an unfamiliar kind of daemon and asks what it is, Makan replies “a dead one” before emptying his gun at it. Unfortunately it doesn't help much, given the daemon is being sustained by the Shadowlight.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: He doesn’t hesitate to call Killian an imbecile.

Adepta Sororitas

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, but he respects their astonishing close-quarters battle skills. Though he does think they could stand to wear helmets a bit more often.


The Canoness of the Adepta Sororitas on Periremunda, she was used by Inquisitor Ernest Killian to retrieve the Shadowlight.

  • The Atoner: She's determined to take the brunt of the fighting and danger to make up for being led astray by Killian.
  • Death Equals Redemption: After being led astray by Killian, she concludes that she and her order can only recieve absolution through dying against the tyranids.
  • The Fundamentalist: As a Sister of Battle, extreme, unflinching devotion to the Emperor comes with the territory.


The Sister Superior of a squad of Celestians who Cain encountered during the Battle of Periremunda.

  • Action Girl: She's a highly skilled street combat expert and a talented swordswoman, and despite her unit being the smallest in the battle for the plateau, she racks up the most kills by a visible degree.
  • 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. At least she has the good grace to thank him later.


Head of the Sororitas at Schola Progenium on Perlia Cain teaches at.

  • Chainsaw Good: Naturally, she has a chainsword, and appears to wield it to good effect.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When she wins one of the tarot pots whilst playing with Cain, Rorkins, and Visiter, she declares she intends to squander it on "riotous living" before breaking down into laughter at their stunned faces.
  • It's Personal: With the Necrons, over Sanctuary 101. Whilst details are slim, the incident was one of the first truly confirmed contacts with the Necron, and the facility was a Sororitas base of some description.
  • The Lad-ette: And gets along with the "Emperor-botherer"-disliking Cain quite well because of it. This is a Sister of Battle who drinks, gambles proficiently, and is romantically involved with the schola's bursar. (According to one of Amberley's footnotes, it's a myth that Sisters of Battle have to take a Vow of Celibacy, though most don't have much opportunity to take advantage.)
  • Mama Bear: She doesn't just train the girls of the Schola to fight, she leads them in person, and goes ballistic fighting heretics who tried to capture their school in Cain's Last Stand.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: She's essentially Cain's Distaff Counterpart, appearing to be teaching her Sororitas initiates to value people, not just litanies.

A Notivitiate under Sister Julien.
  • Battle Couple: With Cain’s comimissar cadet Malin, who she flirts with a bit on the eve of the fighting.
  • Cute Bruiser: Cain describes her as a smiling, freckled girl whose reaction to being given a dangerous assignment (one she does well at) implies she sees it as a chance to show off to a boy.

The Reclaimers
Cain and the Reclaimers aboard the Spawn of Damnation.
The Reclaimers are an Imperial 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 Reclaimer's 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.

    Brother-Captain Gries 
Leader of the Reclaimers expeditionary force dispatched to quell the rebellion on Viridia.
  • 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." He actually doesn't suit the trope closely, but he does lead his men efficiently and professionally.

A senior Techmarine who sparred with Cain several times while the Revenant tracked the Spawn of Damnation. Crafted Cain's augmetic fingers.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Inverted Trope. Despite being the most teched-out person on the ship, he's the friendliest person there. Cain later says that his days sparring with Drumon on the ship were among the best of his life.
  • The Engineer: Comes with being a Tech-Marine. He was in fact the one who manufactured Cain's augmetics to replace the fingers he lost to a Necron Gauss blast.
  • 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.
  • Proud Warrior Race: As with most Space Marines. Cain manages to score a solid hit on Drumon's chestplate with his chainsword during one of their sparring sessions, and whilst this causes little more than some minor damage to the paintwork, Drumon remarks that he'll keep the mark as a reminder to never underestimate any foe.
  • 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.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Serendipity bordering on Jinxie Penlan-grade in The Greater Good. Bad news: In attempting to re-close a gate keeping two groups of Tyranids from joining up, he mashes the button so hard he accidentally breaks the control panel and freezes the gate half-open. Good news: the two groups of Tyranids start killing each other, leading to the ultimately plot-solving discovery that different Tyranid broods hate each other.

Governors and other aristocrats

    Mira DuPanya 
The daughter of the governor of Viridia, and a Girl of the Week for Cain, holding an honorary Guard position. She sees Cain as a potential consort, which he finds problematic.
  • Absolute Cleavage: Most of her outfits (including some of her combat ones) show a lot of her breasts, and Cain comments on her doing a lot of Gainaxing.
  • Action Girl: She's a decent las pistol shot and not afraid to go into combat.
  • Bling of War: Cain describes her as wearing a uniform that is better suited for a courtier.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Cain initially dismisses her as a stubborn, egotistical, improbably dressed brat who will certainly get killed due to her insisting on charging head-first into combat but she holds her own pretty well. Despite having little practical experience she turns out to be a fairly competent shot, and manages to use some old hunting tricks to fry a pack of Orks that board the Revenant.
  • Lots of Luggage: Brings a lot of luggage, enough that two serfs are overwhelmed trying to cater it.
  • Nice to the Waiter: She's fairly mocking towards Jurgen, although she tries to at least be polite to his face at Cain's request.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Her boots are painted pink.
  • Put on a Bus: She and Cain break up after she finally proposes explicitly (baffling him, much to Amberley's amusement), and she decides to settle down with a son of the Serendipita System's governor.
  • Stripperific: Her outfits generally show off a lot of skin, and Cain refers to one evening dress as "the gown she was almost wearing."
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Cain notes that she's constantly acting like a flighty Rich Bitch but she sometimes shows a warmer side around him.
  • Youngest Child Wins: She hopes for this, having two older sisters who will inherit ahead of her, and some ambitions of her own.

    Clothilde Striebgriebling 
The Governor of the ice world Nusquam Fundumentibus.
  • The Chains of Commanding: She eventually admits that she actually would like to evacuate herself but feels bound by both duty and the example of her mother and grandmother to stay put.
  • Iron Lady: She's a firm-minded woman of middle-age appearance.
  • Modest Royalty: Cain notes that she got surgical treatments to stop aging in her forties rather than while younger and she's fairly austere at first.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: She becomes more stubborn and hostile towards Kasteen, and to some extent Cain, while refusing to follow their orders to issue a full evacuation.

    Lio Trevellyan 
Governor of Perlia in Cain's Last Stand.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: To Cain's surprise, he is capable of this, as when bringing up the possibility his life may be in danger.
    Trevellyan: If I'd died, my niece would simply have taken over precisely where I left off. In fact, she'd probably do a damn sight better job. But by the Emperor's grace, it seems, I'm going to keep the throne warm for her a while longer.
  • Hold the Line: After being badly wounded, he calmly remains behind to cover Cain's escape. Unfortunately, instead of dying he gets possessed and used as a daemonic Puppet King to sow confusion.
  • Older Than They Look: Cain initially thinks he's young for a governor but then realizes that he's "a great deal older than he seemed" not just because of a juvenat treatment, but because of an obvious relish for life.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's a considerate man with a good head for understanding the military terminology and factors of the crisis.

    Jonas Worden 
The newly appointed Governor of Lentonia after the overthrow and execution of his uncle (a corrupt Depraved Bisexual).
  • Apocalyptic Log: He writes about what's happening him, with his story getting progressively grimmer and less coherent after his infection sets in.
  • Intrepid Reporter: He used to "glean news" for a "well-regarded" magazine.
  • Modest Royalty: He tries to remain humble and average despite his ascension.
    Jona: Jonas Worden, planetary governor. Call me Jona. I've had a life time's worth of "your excellency" gash in the last few weeks.
  • Unexpected Successor: He wasn't the closest relative of the previous governor, and never rallied to be his successor, instead simply writing about the antics of those who did. He was surprised and horrified to be promoted to governor by the officials deciding the matter largely due to their distaste for his relatives.
  • Young and in Charge: A very youthful governor.
  • Zombie Infectee: He's infected with a Plague of Unbelief during an assassination attempt, fighting it hard and then being kept alive as long as possible in order to avoid a morale blow or another succession crisis.

The Acting-Governor of Adumbria.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: He seems fairly frustrated by the scores of claimants he has to deal with.
  • The Good Chancellor: He's serving as a regent during a Succession Crisis but has no interest in scheming to become governor himself and works well with Cain and the others defending the planet.

The Governor of Gravalax, and a secret head of a Genestealer cult.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Amberly shoots him in the neck with a poison dart concealed in a signet ring that causes his neck to swell up and suffocate him
  • Dirty Old Man: He makes unwelcome advances on the much younger Kasteen and has the look and air of a decadent aristocrat whose position brings him a supply of women despite his unattractive nature.
  • Hand Cannon: Uses a bolt pistol concealed in his robes.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: It occurred to absolutely no one how dangerous he actually was, most dismissing him as an inbred imbecile of a noble man.
  • Slimeball: Before the reveal of his true loyalties he comes across as an aggravating parasitic Upper-Class Twit. Afterwards he's an Ax-Crazy Smug Snake.

    Merkin W. Pismire The Younger 
The incompetent Governor of Periemunda.
  • Authority in Name Only: At least in times of warfare. He has no idea about what's going on with his planet and sounds like an idiot whenever he makes a public address. He doesn't even know about a crisis threatening the entire planet until his daughters see it on the news and tell him about it.
  • Is This Thing On?: Asks if his speech sounded reassuring before being told the mic is still live.
  • It's Probably Nothing: A variant. Pismire insists on bringing up all of the alarming rumors about the dangerous goings-on during Cain's visit to his planet, but he also refers to a lot of them as "rumors" that he claims to be sure are unfounded. It's unclear whether he's trying to calm his people or really is too dense to know how many of those rumors are true, although the latter is implied.
  • Noblesse Oblige: The man is a complete fool but Cain offhandedly mentions that he's a rare governor who "actually appeared to care about the welfare of his citizens", and rules a quietly prosperous planet with no major unrest.
  • Upper-Class Twit: One of the most ignorant and least-informed aristocrats to appear in the series, although he genuinely does care about his people.

    Septimus Fulcher 
The Governor of the Forge World Ironfound. He's secretly the head of a cult worshipping Slaanesh.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: He summons an entity of Slaanesh and quickly comes to regret it.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Up until The Reveal he seems impressively level-headed and helpful, even showing more concern with the danger to his servants than his property when his countryside estates were attacked by the Eldar.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: He and his followers get their souls devoured and their bodies torn apart and reshaped to form a host body for Emeli.
  • King Incognito: He sneaks onto his estate disguised as a soldier in one scene.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: His treachery is covered up and he's posthumously made out as a hero of the battle.

    Landen Hoy 
Governor of the Deepwater System, who appears in the short story Traitor's Gambit.
  • Cool Old Guy: To quote Cain's description, he's a "vigorous man of about my own age, whose greying temples imparted an air of wisdom and gravitas to his bearing, and who ruled his fiefdom in the Emperor's name with what seemed to me to be a reasonable degree of competence and integrity." while also having some understanding of military strategy.
  • Sacred Hospitality: He's quite welcoming to Cain and Zyvan.
  • Taking You with Me: Though he's ultimately killed, he manages to take down his assassin using a concealed weapon.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: He has a nice yacht that Cain spends some time on.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: He's killed by infiltrators after barely ten pages.

    Humbert de Truille 
One of the many heirs to the deceased Governor of Adumbria and a potential successor.
  • Hidden Depths: He seems a bit dim but is both smart enough to realize that he and the other claimants are distracting the actual authorities and selfless enough to suggest that Vinzand declare emergency powers to operate without their input.
  • Only Sane Man: the first of the governor claimants to contribute anything useful and recognize the bigger issues involved (of the others only two vote in favor of his suggestion before Zyvan threatens to withdraw his military forces if he thinks the council of claimants is hindering him).
  • Pretty in Mink: A male version, as Cain takes note of his fur jacket.
  • Rise of Zitboy: Cain describes him as having acne.
  • Shrinking Violet: He seems uncomfortable speaking before a crowd even though he has a good idea to present to them.

     Adrien de Floures Van Harbieter Ventrious 
One of the many heirs to the deceased Governor of Adumbria and a potential successor.
  • The Fall Guy: His airfare is stolen and used to frame him as a Slaanesh cultist briefly.
  • Freudian Slip: When de Truille suggests temporarily having the council dismissed, Ventrious protests how "I.... I mean the eventual appointee" is supposed to have respect and authority as governor after being sidelined in the crisis.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: He demands to be given a say in matters he has no clue about to try and stake his political claim.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: He's a sleazy, ambitious man who Cain describes him as an overdressed fop.
  • Mind Rape: After he's framed as a cultist he's subjected to an intense psyker interrogation to ascertain his guilt or innocence, with said interrogator commenting that he should eventually recover. Mostly.
  • Overly Long Name: Just look at it.

    Illyria Trevallyn 
Governor Lio Trevallyn's niece and successor.
  • Little Miss Badass: Her exact age isn't stated, but she's considered to be a good leader by her uncle and joins her stormtrooper escort in fighting off attackers with her hunting rifle.
  • The Ghost: She's often mentioned throughout Cain's Last Stand but never meets Cain and therefore never appears in person.
  • You Are in Command Now: She becomes governor after her uncle is possessed by Chaos.

    Umbart Segundo 
A Chaos cultist on Adumbria and one of the many contenders to be the new governor.
  • Defiant to the End: Captured and facing execution he says Cain hasn't won, and that Slaanesh will return and they are its servants.
  • The Mole: A chaos cultist with status in the system leadership.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: Downplayed. It's noted early on Slaanesh probably has cultists in high places on Adumbria but Umbart was never named, described or given any dialogue before being captured and recognized as one of the many anonymous background characters on the council of governor claimants. Cain doesnt even know the mans name (although one of Amberly's footnotes supplies it).

Local militia and law enforcement personal

    Sergeant Alaric Tayber 
A PDF sergeant on Perlia and the brother of Felicia who hooks up with Cain and earns his respect, more or less.
  • Big Brother Instinct: He convinces Cain to liberate a bunch of military and civilian prisoners largely because his sister is one of them.
  • A Father to His Men: A caring and skilled squad leader.
  • Guile Hero: He falls back on the exact wording of Cain's orders to justify saving his imprisoned sister during a raid.
  • The Remnant: At the beginning of the story his planets military has collapsed and he's leading an isolated band of soldiers resisting.
  • Sergeant Rock: A tough sergeant who braves a lot of danger.

A member of Tayber's squad.
  • Those Two Guys: He's often seen with Jodril (a Flat Character member of the group who carries a rocket launcher).
  • Tunnel King: He used to work in underground hydro station tunnels and uses this expertise against the invaders.

Tayber's vox operator.
  • Communications Officer: A soldier who mans the local PDF's communications.
  • New Meat: Cain describes him as barely out of his teens.
  • Rank Up: Cain gives him command of his own sub unit as they take in more people.
  • Uncertain Doom: A unit he's commanding is swarmed and butchered (presumably but not explicitly to the last man) by the orks but Grenbow himself isn't specifically shown being killed, unlike other named characters who were with him.

    Lieutenant Piers 
Commander of a unit of Perlian Defense Force stragglers recruited by Cain. He reminds Cain of Divas.
  • Due to the Dead: He's mentioned as organizing a burial detail in one scene.
  • Ensign Newbie: Repeatedly described as a "young lieutenant."
  • Leeroy Jenkins: While he does have some sense of tactical caution, Cain notes "the notion of taking on the bulk of the green-skin army almost single-handed seemed to appeal to him."
  • Rank Up: He receives a field promotion to Captain during the retreat.

    Sergeant Wynetha Phu 
A peacekeeper on Keffia.

An Arbitrer on Adumbria.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Goes from an ordinary traffic cop to helping Cain in shootouts with Slaanesh cultists.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He and his father argued over which branch of the service he joined prior to the novel but the success he experiences during it helps mend things between them.

    General Kolbe 
Head of Adumbria's militia troops and the father of Arbitrer Kolbe.
  • The Brigadier: A practical and competent military leader who is rarely if ever seen out of the command bunker.
  • The Nondescript: He doesn't have any Bling of War and when he first speaks Cain has a hard time guessing who he is.
  • The Quiet One: During their first meeting he stays quiet until he has a specific, important question to ask rather than throw his weight around.
  • So Proud of You: Cain notes him swell with pride when being congratulated over his son's heroism.
  • Spit Take: He nearly chokes on his decaf when Cain says they may be looking at a daemonhost conspiracy.

A corporal leading a militia unit on Perlia that encounters Cain twice in Cain's Last Stand.
  • Determined Defeatist: He says most of his recruits might as well be walking around with “targets on their shirts” but will go down fighting.
  • Expy: Of Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: He and his unit (some of it at least) survive the battle despite both Cain and Manrin's predictions they wouldn't.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: A lot of his people don't have much grasp of military manner and he's aware of it.

    Trooper Jaq 
A retired Guardsman and Perlia Militia member serving Manrin.
  • Expy: Of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army, particularly with his comment of how heretics "don't like the straight silver up 'em!"
  • Fearless Fool: Cain considers him overconfident about the thought of fighting Chaos.
  • In the Back: He confidently says most heretics run in a fight and are therefore easy to shoot in the back.
  • Old Soldier: He spent twenty years in the Imperial Guards, retired to Perlia and is proud at the chance to rejoin the militia. Cain repeatedly makes note of his impressive military posture.

A PDF lieutenant whose forces work with Cain for a while in Cain's Last Stand.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: He narrowly survives some pretty intense fighting only for one of Amberley's footnotes to mention that he died later in the battle without Cain's knowledge.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Cain describes Vorlens and his men as unusually well-disciplined for militia soldiers, and appreciates how Vorlens respects him without being an awestruck fanboy, and is capable of making tough command decisions after careful consideration.
  • Tempting Fate: Cain feels this way about a statement he makes that it's time for them to go hunting the Tyranids.

    General Porten 
Commander of the defense forces in Ironfound.
  • The Brigadier: He's a decent enough military strategist positioned behind the front lines of any fighting.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: He's disrespectful enough towards Amberly to earn a thinly veiled threat or two.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Portens spends an unhealthy amount of time awake while supervising the planet's defense and brushes off Cain's suggestions to get some rest.

One of Pho's subordinates on Keffia.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He doesn't impress Cain at all until the actual fighting breaks out.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Cain describers him as so unenthusiastic that in the Guards he would have been court-martialed for insubordination.

An investigator on Ironfound.
  • Red Herring: He's wrongly suspected of being a Chaos agent by Cain and Amberley for a while.

Another of Manrin’s Perlian militia recruits, a teenaged girl.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Cain describes her as being reluctant to take her eyes off of the handsome Cadet Sprie, with her excuse for this being “My mum says it’s not polite to ignore visitors.”
  • Expy: A gender-flipped one of Private Pike from Dad's Army.
  • Mildly Military: She is repeatedly described as not having absorbed proper military training yet.
  • Victory Gloating: She excitedly comments on having shot a heretic, causing her to nearly get killed herself when another Heretic fires at the sound of her voice (fortunately for Franka, he misses).

A militia supply official who has a run-in with Jurgen in the Smallest Detail.
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: He's selling supplies on the black market.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: He's somewhat rude to Jurgen at first but then seems helpful to the investigation and encourages that Jurgen be allowed to contribute and apply any experience he might have learned under Cain. Then it turns out that he only said that to keep Jurgen from returning to headquarters so it would be easier to make another attempt on his life. even before the reveal that he's corrupt.
  • Revealing Cover Up: He tries to kill Jurgen because He Knows Too Much even though Jurgen had no interest in blowing the whistle, and when that assassination attempt draws attention he does a fake inventory claiming all of his supplies are accounted for, causing Jurgen to realize that (given how every base has some pilfering of supplies) he's lying.

A provost official who aids Jurgen in dealing with an attempt on his life in the short story The Smallest Detail.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When Jurgen insists his attackers were in uniform when there's no unaccounted for soldiers.
    Liana: I went to a party dressed as an Ork once, that didn't make me a greenskin.

A Perlian militia sergeant.
  • Sergeant Rock: Cain describes him as a man who doesn't ask his men to do anything he wouldn't himself.
  • Uncertain Doom: Doubly so. Freel's seen alive but panicked over a vox in the middle of a fight with Tyranids and while his death isn't confirmed, Cain doubts that anyone could have survived long enough to make it back to where reinforcements were waiting. And if Freel somehow did make it back to his own lines alive its mentioned that most (although not all) of his unit was killed anyway in another engagement a couple days later.

Head of the Periemunda arbitrators.
  • A Father to His Men: Keesh enquires about the fates of two low-ranking subordinates after an ambush.
  • Mr. Exposition: His primary role is briefing Cain and Amberly on the local unrest.

     Jusicar Billem Nyte 
An aide to Keesh.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Nyte is shot by Genestealer cultists but survives due to his torso armor.
  • The Driver: Nyte takes pride in being one of the few subordinates Keesh lets drive his car and picks up Cain and Jurgen when they arrive on Periemunda.
  • Nerves of Steel: Nyte remains fairly cool-headed during an ambush.
  • Sit Com Archnemesis: Nyte and Jurgen take a quick, relatively humorous, dislike to each other.

     Rolin and Dawze 
A pair of outriders who escort Cain, Jurgen, and Nyte to Keesh's headquarters.
  • One-Way Visor: They have blank reflective visors on their helmets, which keep Cain from making out their facial expressions.
  • Sound-Only Death: Both of them get into a firefight not far ahead of Cain, Jurgen, and Nyte. They call in a few progress reports before Rolin is Killed Mid-Sentence, with Dawze soon suffering the same fate.

The senior law enforcement official of Adumbria.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Hekwyn loses a hand during a Heretic attack and is later described as adjusting to his cybernetic implant.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Hekwyn is flexible enough to consider that Heretics may have infiltrated his command structure with little prompting, and goes out of his way to help Cain's investigation.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Cain describes him as being eager to help out in the field in a way suggesting that Hekwyn dislikes office work.

An Adumbria PDF officer.
  • Ensign Newbie: Cain describes him as an excitable young officer whose barely old enough to shave and wears his cap in a juvenile manner.

Piers' vox operator.
  • Communications Officer: Marquony does most of the convoy's communications work. He helps Cain broadcast messages giving rendezvous coordinates to other military stragglers and comments on their good discipline in not responding before verifying Cain's identity.

Piers' gunner.
  • The Voice: Cain never meets him in person, but twice hears Piers ordering Tullock to open fire over the radio, with Tullock replying, "You got it, LT."

A scout on the Feral Ocean World Archiplaga in the audio drama Dead in the Water.
  • Army Scout: Calen is a native scout who helps Cain search an island chain for dangerous raiders.
  • Category Traitor: Calen works for the Imperium even though many of his people continue to resist their presence.

Commissar Cadets

One of Cain's cadets, who reminds him a bit too much of himself.
  • Dying as Yourself: After being possessed by daemonic forces, he regains control while dying.
  • Hold the Line: Along with Governor Trevellyan. Unfortunately, he suffers the same fate.
  • Indy Ploy: Cain says that he has
    ...the rare ability to think his feet and take immediate advantage of any unexpected circumstances.
  • The Quiet One: He observes more than he speaks in class.
  • Too Much Alike: Cain regularly notes that Donal reminds him a little too much of himself.

One of Cain's cadets, who he views as the most promising of the group but lacking in self-confidence.
  • Nerves of Steel: Cain describes her voice as "tightly controlled" on the verge of a battle.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only girl shown among Cain's class.
  • Teacher's Pet: She's a decent student who answers question to Cains' satisfaction and puts a less intelligent Nelys in his place.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: She wears her hair long and Cain states "her refusal to adopt the short crop of her fellow cadets was the one sign of feminity I'd so far seen her allow herself.

A Perlia cadet who annoys Cain with his rigidity.
  • By-the-Book Cop: A serious young man who lives by the protocol for things. Cain worries he'll suffer an Unfriendly Fire incident out in the field.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He develops a tendency for this during the invasion as a result of his Took a Level in Badass. A prime example is Nelys defusing an argument between two Tech-Priests delaying the evacuation of HQ over which bit of tech or other should be saved by asking which of them is staying behind to make room for it on the last shuttle.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Cain assigns him to question some prisoners and he quickly gets results (albeit partially because one overconfident prisoner thought he could convert Nelys to Chaos just by showing him some pictures).
  • Hidden Depths: It's hinted that he might have a girlfriend among the Battle Sisters Novitiates based on the way he smiles identically to Maklin when Julien and the Novitiates arrive in one scene. He's also shown to have quite a sarcastic sense of humour.
  • Indy Ploy: He quickly comes up with one to end a battle between Cain's team and attacking Tyranids: the Tyranids are coming out of a mine shaft, so Nelys stuffs a mine cart full of explosives, lights the fuse and shoves it down the shaft on the rails, collapsing the tunnel and killing the synapse creature controlling the Tyranid swarm.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Cain describes him as trying to stuff an entire salt grox bun into his mouth in one go.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Dives out of cover to enact his Indy Ploy and nearly gets blasted by Tyranid bio-weapons.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Throughout the incursion he gets a bit smarter and tougher.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Cain compliments him when Nelys doubts his instincts in class, pointing out that following them worked on his Indy Ploy.

A Perlia cadet.
  • A-Team Firing: Cain describes him as the worst las-pistol shot he's ever met (and notes how distinctive that dubious honor is given all of the chaos cultists and such he's fought).
  • An Arm and a Leg: Cain describes one of his hands as a "mangled ruin" after the battle.
  • Toilet Humour: Cain observes him pissing on an overheating autocannon to cool it enough to get the weapon firing again, and notes any Tech-Priests who saw it would be mortified.

One of the Perlia commissar cadets.
  • Hold the Line: When being swarmed by Tyranids, he and several local militia troopers manage to hold back the swarm (despite a few losses) until Cain and reinforcements arrive only for Heskin to die seconds later.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Defied, he knows that doing this near Tyranids is a bad idea.
  • Off with His Head!: One second he's showing relief at Cain's arrival on his face, the next "all traces of expression vanishes, along with most of his head" due to a cloud of fleshborer beetles.

A dim-witted Perlia Cadet.
  • Battle Couple: He quickly seems to be talking and flirting with Monyka, one of Sister Julien's Battle Sister initiates, and both play a role in the remainder of the battle.
  • Captain Obvious: To call Maklin's attempts at describing the ruinous powers obvious, generic, and uncomplicated (after he's called on in class) would be understating just how unprepared he sounds.
    Cain: Maklin, what do you know about the ruinous powers?
    Maklin: That they're really, really bad?
  • Distracted by the Sexy: He's repeatedly noted as paying more attention to the Battle Sisters than to Cain.

One of the Perlia Commissar cadets.

Another Perlia commissar cadet.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: He dies as a result of one when several guards arrive during a fight at the governors mansion but turn out to have been corrupted by Varan, shooting down Briel.
  • Got Volunteered: Cain takes him to the governors mansion along with Kayla, Donal and Nelys "on the entirely reasonable grounds that he'd been the first of the remaining cadets to cross my path after selecting the other three."
  • Shellshocked Veteran: He causes Cain some concern by becoming withdrawn after losing two friends in the first engagements.


  • Nerves of Steel: He's able to eat calmly during a dangerous sweeping exercise and upon realizing that he's surrounded by Tyranids and doomed, he simply yells into the radio for another cadet at the end of the tunnel to assume defensive positions for when they reach him.
    Cain:' The lad would have made a good commissar, probably, still thinking of the bigger picture even as his own life hung by a thread, but he wasn't going to get the chance now.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: While searching for tyranids, Cain notes that Klarch is munching on a ration bar from an opened crate found during the search.
  • Sound-Only Death: Cain hears him give what is described as "his last scream" over the radio right after he yells for Heskin to Hold the Line.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: He warns his militia companions to be careful where they shoot due to a lot of explosive material being nearby.


  • Crazy-Prepared: He carries extra weapons due to Cain having said to have a backup plan.


  • Blood Knight: Cain thinks that he looks more resigned than anything when given a mission away from the front lines.
  • Boring, but Practical: He's assigned to direct crowd control during the final stages of the battle, pointing militia troops in the right direction to go.


    Erasmus Donali 
An Imperial envoy involved in multiple of Cain's adventures; he first appears in the Gravalax incident alongside El'hassai, and later reappears alongside the t'au diplomat in The Greater Good.
  • Consummate Professional: Cain repeatedly references Donali's "calm deliberation."
  • Going Native: Cain (and perhaps others) fear that Erasmus' regular exposure to the T'au as a diplomat has lead to him going a little bit native.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: During his second appearance Cain watches him smooth "a non-existent crease from the front of his immaculate robe."
  • The Stoic: Donali is often guarded and reserved with his comments and facial expressions.


    Colonel Rorkins 
The stormtrooper training officer at Perlia.
  • Card Games: Often gambles with his fellow instructors, notably Cain and Visiter.
  • Colonel Badass: A decorated, forward-thinking colonel who fights at the front, and fights quite well.
  • Properly Paranoid: He has his trainees conduct operations which could be adapted to a potential invasion. He also has the foresight to move the main command operations to the Schola, which proves to be a sound decision when Varan shows up and flattens the Perlian PDF High Command base with an orbital strike.

Naval Personal

    Commodore Hubert Visiter 
Commodore of the naval cadets at Perlia
  • Card Games: Often gambles with his fellow instructors, paticuallry Cain and Rorkins.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He has his cadets due theoretical training exercises which can be used to defend Perlia and assigns Cain a very good pilot.
  • Father Neptune: He's a visibly aged naval tactician who imparts his lessons to the next generation and plays a major role in the defense of Perlia.
  • Nice Guy: He's fairly warm and open towards both Cain and the cadets.
  • Workaholic: He goes a while without sleep working for Perlia's defense.

    Captain Paraji 
Captain of a transport ship in the first book.
  • It's Personal: He is insistent on demanding action against Kelp, Trebek, Sorel, Velade and Holebi for a bar fight which gets three people killed (including two provosts from his ship). Cain correctly suspects this was because Paraji was sleeping with one of the dead provosts.

    Captain Nansi Blakit 
Commander of a vessel in Battlefleet Damocles.
  • Forced to Watch: She had to watch and listen to via vox as another ship get swarmed and wiped out by Hormagaunts.
  • Ignored Expert: She advised her commodore to keep the ships closer together in order to provide support but was ignored.
  • Military Brat: She refers to a superior, the head of the inquiry she's reporting to as "Uncle Jym" at one point.

A Naval cadet at Perlia assigned to pilot Cain.
  • Ace Pilot: He comes out well of several near scrapes and Cain is repeatedly thankful toward Visiter for assigning Sprie to him.
  • Chick Magnet: The teenaged female militia members are pretty aroused by him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: A battle raging on around them isn't enough to keep him form giving Cain a cheerful greeting.

    Karrie Straun 
A Naval Comissiar and a lover to a young Cain shortly before the First Siege of Perlia.
  • Absolute Cleavage: Cain notes that her jacket has several buttons undone, with this effect.
  • Military Brat: She's third generation Navy (at least) with the last two generations having also served on the ship she's commissar for.
  • Oh, Crap!: She's described as looking horrified as Cain is accidentally sealed out of the escape pods.

    Igor Yates 
Captain of the Naval vessel Indestructible in The Traitor's Hand.

    Gianella Dimarco 
The navigator of the Indestructible.


A Perlia local and desert prospector used by Cain and the other refugees to navigate the desert during the First Siege of Perlia.
  • Native Guide: A local road worker and desert expert who guides the group to sources of water.
  • Sacrificial Lion: He's Killed Offscreen near the end of the book after having made enough of an impression that Cain finds himself missing the man and even thinks of him a time or two in later books.

A veterinarian on Perlia who is among the liberated prisoners who join Cain's convoy.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Due to the lack of an actual medical he ends up caring for the injured.
  • Kindly Vet: He is a humble, and sympathetic veterinarian.

    Captain Mires 
Captain of a civilian vessel that once transports Cain and the Valhallans.
  • Redemption Equals Death: His incompetence gets the ship infiltrated by heretics, damaged and put in mortal danger along with its passengers. He then works hard with his crew to find a way to get them down to the planet safely, but breaks his neck in the landing.

A member of Mires' bridge crew.
  • Ignored Expert: As things go badly, Kolyn is quick to point out about how he's been warning Mires about the need for equipment repairs and the reconsecration of wards for some time.
  • Resign in Protest: Fed up with Mires ignoring his recommendations for so long, Kolyn declares his intention to quit as soon as the mission is over. Some Retirony is teased when the ship ends up being destroyed instead, but Kolyn survives (albeit with a broken arm).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Kolyn and the other surviving crewmen are last seen separating from Cain and his men while they flee their ship before it can sink into the lake where they've crashed. Cain speculates that their knowledge of the ship will allow them to escape faster than his party, but they are never seen or mentioned again.

    Demara and Tamworth 
Two members of the Perlia group, a former cop and criminal respectively, who first fight each other, then are forced to cooperate by Cain.

    Artur Morel 
Head of the miners guild of Simia Orirchalacae.
  • Benevolent Boss: When some of Morel's men disappear, he refuses to ignore it and wants an investigation to protect his remaining workers. Morel also shows anger when it is (falsely) suggested that the culprits might be among his staff.

A merchant ship captain who ferries Imperial Guards.
  • Cyborg Helmsman: Durant has so many cyborg parts that Cain almost mistakes him for a servitor, and his mechanical parts are entwined with the ship itself.
  • Good Parents: He's quite warm toward his daughter (his ship's Tech-Priest) and feels that she has the potential to do a lot more than stick around his ship.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When Cain fills his ship with refugees, Durant demands an explanation, but once he gets one, he's mollified and accommodating.

    Kimeon Slabbard 
A freight hauler on Adumbria who is bribed by Heretics.

    The Cleff Family 
Residents of Nusquam Fundumentibus who are briefly mentioned in an In-Universe news article.
  • Not Enough to Bury: When their great-grandmother is attacked by a Tyranid, all her family can save of her is her spectacles.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: It's slightly Played for Laughs, but the surviving family members describe their ravaged settlement as not being "a fit place to bring up kids in now" and announce their intention to move elsewhere.

    Kamella Dobrevesky 
A prostitute on Keffia and Genestealer cultist.
  • Half The Woman She Used To Be: Gets sliced in two by Cain's chainsword.
  • Honey Trap: She seduces various troopers to infect them with the Genestealer taint. Multiple characters describe her as having vivid tattoos which accentuate her curves.
  • Saying Too Much: She blows her cover by calling Cain by name before he can introduce himself to her. This causes Cain to recall that he did just give his name to her pimp downstairs and that Genestealers are telepathic.
  • Tattooed Crook: She's covered in sensuous tattoos which Cain realises as there to help disguise the physical mutations that would mark her out as a Genestealer hybrid.


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.

Most Tau commanders are also far more willing to forge alliances with non-Tau than humans are with anybody else, which grants them control of many auxiliaries, but doesn't always allow for the clearest chain of command.

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. That being said, the Imperium does not like showing weakness to the Tau and refuses to allow them to annex Imperial worlds easily, reasoning that not putting up a fight would only encourage the aliens to push their luck further.

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.
  • Cool Old Guy: It's not clear exactly how old he is, but his appearances are 61 years apart in-universe and Tau consider 40 retirement age.
  • 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 and eight books 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: He's mostly known as El'hassai (a shortened form of his formal name containing his rank and a defining trait that is left untranslated). The "Por" for his affiliation with the Water Caste is only added once and his home sept is never identified.
  • Put on a Bus: After the events on Gravalax the Tau withdraw from the planet, El'hassai included. He doesn't return until The Greater Good, sixty-one years and eight books later. He was also somehow spared the fate of his genestealer-implanted comrades.


Worshipers and agents of the Ruinous Powers whom Cain has encountered over the course of his lengthy career.


    Emeli Duboir 
Once a mortal sorceress and Slaaneshi cultist slain by Cain after she tried to sacrifice him in a ritual, Emeli was rewarded by her patron with transformation into a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh. She serves as the main villain of Traitor's Hand, in which she tries to pull an entire planet into the Warp.
  • Archenemy: Most of Cain's enemies don't survive their first encounter with him. Emeli's attacked him twice and is still out there, plotting a third go. Given the nightmares that Cain still has about her, it's safe to say the loathing is mutual.
  • Axe-Crazy: Par for the course for Slaaneshi cultists and daemons alike.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Talks like a giggly schoolgirl. Probably the most flat out powerful adversary Cain ever encounters.
  • Big Bad: Of Traitor's Hand. She also returns as the Big Bad of Choose Your Enemies.
  • Came Back Strong: Returned from the dead as a daemon with far more power than she'd possessed previously.
  • Dark Action Girl: As a daemon she casually tears apart several Khornate Berzerkers from the World Eaters Legion. Only Jurgen's presence prevents her from doing the same to Cain.
  • David Versus Goliath: Very much the Goliath to Cain's David. As a very powerful daemon, Emeli is leagues beyond not only Cain, but everyone else he's ever fought.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: While her exact status and relative power level are never specified, the fact that she's able to paralyze a room full of people, shred a pair of Berzerkers, and threaten to pull an entire planet into the Warp suggests that if she's not already around the level of a Greater Daemon, she's well on her way to becoming one.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Emeli's cheerful attitude does nothing to hide just how deadly dangerous she is.
  • Evil Plan: She's usually revealed to have one:
    • In The Traitor's Hand, her plan was to use the powerful Warp tides surrounding Adumbria to transform the planet into a Slaaneshi daemon world under her control.
    • Her plan in Choose Your Enemies, is pretty much the same; she intends to turn the forge world of Ironfound into her personal daemon world, though with the added benefits of gaining access to the Webway through a portal left over when Ironfound was an Eldar Maiden World, and getting to devour plenty of Eldar soulstones collected by her cultist dupes to both increase her power exponentially and protect her from Jurgen's abilities, since she inevitably expected another confrontation with Ciaphas.
  • Evil Teacher: When human, Emeli masqueraded as the headmistress of a girls' school.
  • First-Name Basis: Always refers to Cain as "Ciaphas". For his part, he never uses her last name; she's just "Emeli."
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Emeli's always nude in her daemonic form.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: At the core of her character.
  • It's Personal: For both her and Cain.
  • Lust: Her primary sin, and one which she magically evokes in others.
  • Maniac Tongue: As a daemon Emeli's Overly Long Tongue permanently protrudes from her jaws.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Cain right before shooting her the first time around (and note that the short story is set before he meets Amberley Vail):
    "Sorry, I prefer blondes."
  • Psychic Powers: A very powerful witch and psychic when alive, she has gained even more power over the Warp since her "death".
  • Revenge: Ropes Cain into her resurrection plot so she can avenge her first defeat.
  • Revenge Before Reason: If Emeli had left Cain alone she probably could have successfully pulled the planet into the Warp. Instead she deliberately incorporated him into her plans, ensuring her own defeat. In Choose Your Enemies it initially looks like she's made the same mistake, but she was actually trying to take out Jurgen for purely pragmatic reasons.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: After her body is destroyed, her essence is absorbed into the sword of an Eldar Avatar.
  • Smug Snake: Incredibly sure of herself and prone to toying with her victims.
  • Verbal Tic: Describing someone as "silly".
  • Villainous Breakdown: Tends to throw a hissy fit whenever Jurgen gets close to her or when Cain foils her plans.
  • Villainous Crush: Tries to seduce Cain twice over, once when mortal, and once as a daemon.
  • Was Once a Man: Was once a mortal psyker.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Emeli betrays the Slaaneshi cultists who brought her into the material world at the climax of Choose Your Enemies, devouring their souls and using their flesh to create a host body for herself.
  • You're Not My Type: Cain tells her he prefers blondes to redheads (Emeli) as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner on their first meeting.


    Varan the Undefeatable 
A powerful and "self-styled invincible" Chaos warlord with the power to mentally dominate and subvert others through a Compelling Voice, Varan led a splinter force of the Thirteenth Black Crusade against Perlia to capture the Shadowlight artifact held there. He serves as the main villain of Cain's Last Stand.
  • And This Is for...: He gets to be on the receiving end of one of these;
    Commissar Donal sends his regards.
  • Big Bad: Of Cain's Last Stand, though in the Black Crusade as a whole he's a nobody. That would NOT have remained the case if he managed to capture his target in the book, but he blew it.
  • Compelling Voice: His psyker power allows him to turn anyone within ranger of his voice into a mindless puppet follower. It doesn't have any range limitation — he packs a stadium full of prisoners at one point to control them all en masse — but it only works live, not through broadcast. This creates an amusing off-screen moment where some of his captured followers fully expect their captors to instantly switch sides on viewing a recording of his speech, only to be confused when they laugh at his Large Ham speechifying and dismiss the content as generic Chaos propaganda.
  • Disney Villain Death: Falls to his death over the edge of the dam at the end of his duel with Cain (helped along by a kick up the arse from Cain).
  • Keystone Army: Discussed and subverted. Cain hopes that with Varan dead his slaves would come to their senses, but he admits that it's a fool's hope. He's right — if anything, the death of their master sends Varan's forces into frenzy and they rush in for an all-out assault.
  • Large Ham: As is natural for someone who uses his voice for Mind Control. His actual speeches are apparently fairly uninspiring.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: He's initially presented as a Squishy Wizard who uses his voice-activated powers to make up for his lack of combat prowess. During his parley-turned-duel with Cain, he reveals that he also has daemonic talons. And natural scales that render him immune to lasfire.
  • The Magnificent: Varan the Undefeatable.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Of Adolf Hitler — a small, unimposing man with a weedy little moustache who makes trite speeches that nevertheless inspire mobs of fanatic followers. Of course, the real Hitler never had Psychic Powers (that we know of).
  • Tempting Fate: Calling himself "the Undefeatable" like that is simply asking for someone to take him down a peg, a fate that Cain gladly delivers with a boot to the ass.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Completely loses it when Cain goes off-script from what Varan had in mind, proving resistant to his mind control thanks to Jurgen, and then insulting the Warmaster on live television (Varan having insisted on the cameras for his forces) by remarking he's ready to accept Varan's surrender.