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Funny / Ciaphas Cain

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Being a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the absurdly "grimdark" Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Cain series is full of hilarious moments.

  • Amberley's footnotes. Most of the time, they're strictly informative, providing perspective, illuminating context, or explaining terms. When they're not...
    Cain: "I've only got room for one lethally dangerous woman in my life."
    Amberley: "Which I choose to take as a compliment..."
    • Cain mentions being impressed at how much Amberley was eating; Amberley responds that she had been fighting genestealers all day, and was both hungry and tired. And besides, she only ate two of the snacks. And for that matter, they weren't very big snacks...
    • In another book, Amberley pokes fun at Cain for how much food he's piling onto his plate, which, as Cain notes in his memoirs, would be more stinging if Amberley's own plate wasn't equally overloaded. Amberley vehemently denies this.
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    • Cain describes how Amberley's displacer field teleported her out of the way of a bullet just as she was diving for a gun, but he heard a crash and "some unladylike language" from where she ended up, meaning she'd collided with a nearby table. Amberley goes into detail about how the displacer field preserves momentum (in other words, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out) and concludes, "It was a stupid place to put a table anyway."
    • On discussing how to rig the results of a tribunal:
    Cain: "Bribery and threats are popular methods for getting what you want, but the Inquisition is better at both and tend to resent other people using them."
    • Cain and Jurgen are saved from genestealers by a mysterious figure in golden Power Armor, and Cain admits he was stupefied to discover it was Amberley.
    Cain: With all due modesty, I have to say I recovered remarkably fast under the circumstances.
    Amberley: So he says. I recall a distinct resemblance to a stuffed fish for quite some time.
    • From The Last Ditch:
    Cain: [I was] reluctant to let go of either of the weapons I held until I was convinced we were safe... [I was] immediately obliged to grab hold of the nearest stanchion to prevent myself from being pitched straight out of the closing hatch."
    • From The Greater Good:
    Cain: I'm not easily spooked(...)
    Amberley: Ha!
    • Not to mention, the footnotes are chilly enough to sprout icicles whenever Amberley comments on Cain's experience with women. Such as in The Last Ditch when Cain introduces himself to a civilian who goes, "'Course you are. Nice one. Bet the fems fall for that all the time, eh?"
    Cain: "They have been known to," I admitted, truthfully enough, although my days of carefree dalliance were pretty much behind me by that point.
    Amberley: So I would hope.
    • When investigating a Slaaneshi cultist ritual site in The Traitor's Hand, Cain offhandly comments on a room full of cushions and pillows that "had no discernable function that [he] could see".
    Amberly: For a man of the galaxy, as he undoubtedly was, I feel Cain was being a little disingenuous here.
    • In The Greater Good Cain gives contradictory facts about Lord General Zyvan's flagship. First he identifies it as a battleship, and Amberley, using the records, concludes it's the Retribution-class battleship Throne Eternal, then Cain describes Furies and Starhawks in the hanger (which a Retribution-class wouldn't carry, leading Amberley to conclude it's a cruiser). Finally, a line by Cain indicates that there are no dedicated fighter hangers, and Amberley assumes that it is the Throne Eternal and stops there.
    Amberley: I give up.
    • In Duty Calls, when faced with a particularly dense blurb of Zemelda's street cant:
      Zemelda: Beats the hell out of flogging gristle pies or flyposting for slash gigs, I can tell you.
      Amberley: No, I don't know either.
      • From context clues, it can be inferred that she's saying "What we are doing is better than selling meat pies on the street or putting up posters for musical concerts."
      • It's even more hilarious given that Amberley, who, as an Inquistitor, probably speaks at least a dozen versions of Gothic, understands Eldar, and may even speak the Tau language, doesn't understand the street cant of someone who served her for years.
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    • In Duty Calls, her annotation to Cain's comments after seeing a group of Battle Sisters torn apart by Tyranid bio-weapons and wondering aloud that he has no idea why they don't bother actually wearing the bloody helmets that come with their power armour is quite funny.
    Amberley: Apparently because most of them believe their faith in the Emperor is armour enough. A couple of extra centimetres of ceramite probably couldn't hurt, though.
    • One of her funniest comments was made in response to a comment by Cain in Choose Your Enemies about how she would get dangerously cross with him if he was late for a dinner engagement.
    Amberley: Exaggeration for humorous effect. I'm fully aware that neither of us were entirely able to set our own schedules as a consequence of our respective vocations, and that our social interaction was inevitably disrupted from time to time as a result. That said, he really could have made more of an effort.
    • She throws two more gems out in a following meeting with Cain, the 597th's command staff, and relevant local authorities, in which she ends up in the hot seat (as much as an Inquisitor facing non-inquisitors can be in such a position, that is), having to admit she led the Eldar to another opening they could exploit.
    Ciaphas (With Amberley's footnotes in numbered notes): Amberley positively squirmed although only I would have known her well enough to see through the facade of unconcern she continued to project.
    • Equal parts amusing and heartwarming: a couple of Amberley's notes indicate that she sits around and watches movies and vox-dramas with her Inquisitorial retinue, and has a thing for cheesy action films.
  • In The Emperor's Finest, there are references to Magos Yaffel's much unread book Soylens Viridians For The Machine-Spirit.
  • In an awesome battle with a Chaos worshipper, Cain says 'Frak this, my soul's my own and I'm keeping it!' A witness heard it as. 'Then the prophet spake: saying "Frak this, for my faith is a shield proof against your blandishments!".' Just the fact that a splinter cult worships Cain as the living embodiment of the God-Emperor's will at all...
    • Oh no, it gets better. At no point does Amberly state that these are heretics. This is an officially sanctioned splinter cult, authorized by the official church as one of the variant religions of the worship of the Emperornote .
      • Oh, but it gets better. See, since the guardsman who founded the church was the one who saw Cain beat the daemon, he would have had to have been checked over by the Inquisition and put on a watch list. Then, once he gets home, he founds the religion, which means that forms and bureaucracy take over again, which takes time. Then the Inquisition, the Munitorum, and the Ecclesiarchy would have to send people out to check again on the guy to make sure that everything is above board, and not only does he check out, all of this happens in the soldier's lifetime, which is shockingly quick for all of this stuff to get done in the Imperium. And no one in that whole chain of events objected or protested strongly enough for this to not happen.
  • Even in the grim darkness of the far future, people stepping on rakes is good for a laugh.
    Medicae records for the district show no fatalities among the anchorites, although several were subsequently treated for minor injuries apparently related to treading on hastily-discarded gardening tools.
    • Also, even in the grim darkness of the far future, students still don't pay attention during class.
      "Time to rendezvous with the troop transport?" I asked, turning in my seat to regard the double row of cadets, most of whom made a hurried attempt to look as though they'd been sitting upright and paying attention instead of playing regicide on their data-slates or swapping salacious holo-picts.
  • Later on in the same book, Cain is giving a lecture to his cadets on how to spot Chaos cult infiltration in their assigned regiments...then pops a suprise question on the cadet who's clearly paying more attention to the Sororitas novitiates doing combat exercises outside the class window.
  • Anytime Jurgen gets behind the wheel. Duty Calls has some of the best moments, such as when Jurgen and Cain are idling outside of a landing shuttle, and Jurgen is ordered to "get aboard as fast as you can" and proceeds to drive the Salamander up the shuttle's ramp at full speed. Keep in mind, the Salamander is a forty ton tracked scout tank.
    • In The Traitor's Hand, Jurgen and Cain are running late and stuck in traffic, so Jurgen whips the Salamander around, drives it up a line of nearby stairs, past a horde of shocked Administratum drones, across a food court, and through a subway tram terminal, before slamming it into place in the parking space at their destination with a few inches to spare. As far as Jurgen is concerned, the Commissar can never be late.
    • Commented on even as early as For the Emperor. In typical Cain fashion, hoping to avoid marching into the thick of things, he arranges to 'investigate' something going on somewhere else, assuring everyone that he'll be able to make it back in time to join the fun.
    "I'd put money on it." Kasteen smiled. "I've seen the way Jurgen drives."
    • At another point in The Traitor's Hand, Jurgen and Cain are raiding a cultist mansion when they come under missile fire. Cain orders him to get them under cover ASAP, so naturally Jurgen does so — by driving into the mansion, scattering the crew of one of the rocket launchers and running one of them over. Cain is literally at a loss for words.
    Cain: Jurgen, that was... (Beat)
    Jurgen: Resourceful?
  • Also in Duty Calls, Cain has to lay out the basics to a shocked civilian woman quickly and concisely:
    Ciaphas Cain, regimental commissar, Valhallan 597th. My aide, Jurgen. Terrorist attack.
  • Cain's tailing-off rebuttal of Penlan's accident-prone nature, and her resultant nickname, "Jinxie":
    "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..."
  • Caves of Ice has an excerpt from a children's book about promethium, with a footnote by Amberley saying she still finds the pictures of Pyrus the Flame immolating heretics to be amusing.
  • "The Wheels on the Bus" isn't quite grimdark enough to teach to Imperial children:
  • This little gem from a pre-chapter quote in For The Emperor, popular among commissarial cadets:
    When beset by doubt,
    Run in little circles,
    Wave your arms and shout.
  • In Caves of Ice, the notes taken of the meeting, which, Amberley observes, the functionary obviously thought would never be read.
    Minutes of the meeting of the Committee for the Defence and Preservation of Simia Orichalcae From the Orkish Incursion (by the Grace of His Majesty), convened this day 648.932 M41 (just too early for a decent breakfast.)

    Those Present:


    Order of Business:

    Defence of the refinery (actually the only thing we discussed.)


    Colonel Kasteen called the meeting to order. Then she called it to order again. Major Broklaw fired his bolt pistol into the ceiling, and the meeting quickly came to order...
  • Cain and his squad meet a witch, who uses her powers to appear as whoever they care about the most. He sees Amberley. Once he figures out it's a fake...
  • Cain's Last Stand:
    Cain: Cadet Maklin. What do you know of the Ruinous Powers?
    • Probably the safest answer one can give. Unfortunately. note 
    • Also the fact that Cain picks him to answer the question because he notices Maklin is far busier paying attention to the Adepta Sororitas novices exercising outside the window than to the class.
  • Dead In The Water:
    "Who's been drinking all my bloody amasec... Cain's been here."
  • In The Traitor's Hand, a techpriest guides Cain through disarming a car bomb.
    Techpriest: Simply cut the red wire.
    Cain: They're both purple!
  • The Last Ditch: While Cain and Jurgen watch a horde of orks thundering towards them in the distance, Jurgen makes small talk about the weather. Cain tries to remember the last time he saw his aide look at all bothered by overwhelmingly poor odds, and comes up blank.
  • How Ciaphas Cain met Amberley Vail. It was most certainly not Love at First Sight, as he does not believe in such things, and can merely remember the exact moment he first saw her, with perfect clarity, even a century later. Cue his conversational attempts to not have a simple cabaret singer see through his every attempt at playing the "modest hero," Kasteen's silent mocking as they waltz, and a final attempt to impress the new lady friend... By voicing suspicions that the Obviously Evil Rogue Trader has to be an Inquisitor, which leaves poor Amberley visibly nervous and trembling—with what had to be a stubborn refusal not to burst out laughing.
  • After his near-death experience on Interitus Prime:
    To my drug addled-mind, the voice sounded like that of the Emperor Himself, and I found myself wondering if I should have spent a bit more time in the temple and a bit less in bars, gambling dens and bordellos, but it seemed a little late to be worrying about that now. If I had indeed arrived at the Golden Throne, I'd just have to hope its occupant was in a good mood, and try to steer the conversation on to safer ground at the earliest opportunity.
    • Amberley's footnote:
      He is, of course, joking here - or so I sincerely hope.
  • In The Traitor's Hand, there's a (relatively) minor Khornate invasion going on at the same time as the Guard is trying to ferret out a Slaaneshi cult. The Praetor of the local Arbites calls up Cain to deliver intelligence on the latter situation when he is very rudely interrupted by the former.
    "... Excuse me a minute."
    He was interrupted by a burst of incoherent screaming which sounded like the warcry of a Khornate fanatic note  and which terminated abruptly in a thud of a power maul on full charge and a gurgle that sounded distinctly unhealthy. "Well he's not getting mine ... Sorry commissar, where were we?"
  • Vail confirming with varying degrees of subtlety that she and Cain have an intimate relationship.
    Cain: Well, at least it seems Zemelda's in good hands.
    Vail: I'm hoping she won't be the only one tonight.
    • And later:
    Lazarus: I hope your interaction with the inquisitor has proven satisfactory?
    Vail: It has.
    • By Cain's Last Stand, she's not even trying to hide it.
    Cain: I've always been lucky.
    Vail: Not always, but maybe tonight.
  • In A Mug of Recaff we get this glorious sentence that sums up all of the books (and is written from Jurgen's perspective):
    As usual Commissar Cain had outwitted the heretics they were hunting with ease, leading the squad of Guardsmen assigned to escort him straight to the heart of the coven, while the bulk of the raiding force provided a diversion by attacking the heavily-fortified stronghold of the renegades.
    • The entire short story is a crowning moment of funny really.
    • Jurgen finds a Chaos Psyker who summons a demon... and then thanks to his warp-nullifying powers he muses that things like this are always made out to be tougher than they are.
  • The endings of Cave of Ice and The Last Ditch are hilarious. Both involve Amberley. The former being that Cain puts the moves on Amberley and that the night probably led to sex. She cut out the end of it for being a personal matter. The latter ends with Amberley giving Cain a new mission and she cuts out the swears that that draws from him.
    Amberley (footnote from Caves of Ice): Cain's narrative continues for several more paragraphs, but since it only covers personal matters of no interest to anyone else, I've chosen to end this extract from the archive right here.
    Amberley (footnote from The Last Ditch): At which point the narrative abruptly concludes, with a few unflattering remarks I see no reason to repeat.
  • The Emperor's Finest has Cain listening to an explanation of automated scout devices called CATs being used to explore a space hulk. It seems fairly straightforward... up until they describe how the CATs maneuver around obstacles (hit obstacle, turn ten degrees to the left, repeat until clear path is found) and the reader realizes that in the grim darkness of the future Space Marines use recon roombas.
    • Later, Amberley adds in a footnote that techpriests often build these simple devices as a form of meditation, and it's nearly impossible to visit some shrines without tripping over free-roaming CATs. Also, the Techpriests insist they definitely don't use them as mechanical pets.
      • In short: In the Grim Darkness, Techpriests are crazy cat people but with roombas.
  • From Death or Glory, which is set prior to Cain meeting Amberley, Cain talks about a woman techpriest who is his type and mentions that he discovers over the course of their association that her mechanical arm attaches to the base of her spine. The funny part is Amberley's footnote:
    Amberley: "How Cain discovered this we can only speculate; perhaps it came up in casual conversation."
    • It might actually have, given her equally-funny habit of leaning back and using the mechadentrite as, basically, a portable barstool. Also, she's really upbeat and likes talking.
  • Also from Death or Glory: the man responsible for writing a ridiculously detailed series of books about the Siege of Perlia only managed to write a few volumes (and by few we mean 37, which only covers the first 9 weeks of the 2 year campaign)...because he was killed by his own falling stacks of library papers.
  • The Running gag from 'Death or Glory'' about Cain asking anyone he meets if they have Tanna is worth a chuckle or two. But what makes it funny is the realization that the reason why Jurgen always has a thermos of Tanna on him is the fact the last time Cain ran out, he attacked an entire Ork Warband to get to the only source of it on the planet.
  • Cain picking up a squad of Guardsmen from custody after a rowdy night:
    Cain: Hochen, Nordstrom, Milsen, Jarvik, and the inevitable Gunner Erhlsen. Tell me Erhlsen, are you planning to make latrine orderly a full-time career?
    Erhlsen: We serve the Emperor as our talents direct.
  • This little gem from The Traitor's Hand. 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 unarmed combat as the 597th included women in their team. As Cain notes, this did not go down well with some of the female members of the 597th.
    Cain: Relations hadn't really turned frosty, however, until they'd refused to take part in the inter-regimental unarmed combat competition because the 597th had included some of our women in the team. This, Colonel Asmar curtly informed us, was 'unseemly'. To no-one's surprise except Asmar and probably Beije, their regimental champion was promptly and informally challenged to an impromptu bout the next time he wandered into the recreation deck. I have to report with a certain degree of satisfaction that he was subsequently pounded flat by Corporal Magot, a cheerfully sociopathic young woman who barely came up to his chin. (Which made little difference, as it only took her about a tenth of a second to bring it down to the level of her knee).
    • Also, later on when Beije wants to go over their reports on the matter, Cain notes that the normally rigid Beije hasn't had the Tallarn trooper in question shot, since according to the rulebook, he technically assaulted a superior officer by fighting back. Beije retorts there were extenuating circumstances, which Cain notes hilariously in both his spoken response and his internal monologue:
    Cain: [speaking] Knowing Magot, she probably threw the first punch.
    Cain: [thinking to himself] And knowing her, likely the next couple as well. Mari Magot was a woman for whom the word 'Overkill' was inherently meaningless.
  • One of Amberley's footnotes explains that Cain has apparently been mistaken for dead, only to subsequently make a heroic return so many times that the Departmento Munitorum got sick of constantly having to update his file between "Active" and "Killed in the line of duty" and issued a special injunction that indicated that he should always be considered as an active soldier, regardless of any reports to the contrary. Note that this order continued to be in force for years after Cain retired, died of old age, and was buried with full military honours.
  • There are few things on Perlia that Cain hates more than the hideous clock tower in Liberation Square built to commemorate his victory over the Orks during the First Siege. He is rather disappointed to learn that the tasteless monument didn't take a scratch when the forces of Chaos attacked the planet during the Second Siege.
  • Vail goes to her fellow inquisitors for help in explaining Wrap travel... or rather, "I consulted some of the less deranged members of the Ordo Malleus among my colleagues in the Concilium Ravus".
  • The short story "A Mug of Recaff" has a demonic invocation from a Chaotic psyker written as "Heyla, heyla sheyla, heyla sheyla, heyla hoh!"
  • Mira, Cain's Girl of the Week in Emperor's Finest, is a Planetary Governor's daughter who wants to marry Cain because his heroic reputation would make her a shoe-in for next Planetary Governor (over her siblings). Cain entirely fails to notice until he accidentally agrees to her proposal. Mira's not even subtle about it; he's just that oblivious. This is a woman he's regularly having sex with.
    • When Cain is woken up by an urgent message, Mira urges him to Come Back to Bed, Honey, but Cain can't refuse an order note . Mira says that one day, he'll be powerful enough to refuse, to which Cain appreciates the interest she has in his career advancement.
    • Mira outright tells him that she boarded the Revenant to bag a consort. After eliminating the servants, Techpriests, and Jurgen, Cain concludes that she's looking for a Space Marine. What makes this better is that Space Marines are sterile.
    • His rejection is full of Exact Words. He tells her that he can't marry her because of his duty to the Imperium, but if he could, he would stay. What he means is that the Commissariat would shoot him for desertion if he tried, but he'd be happy to retire to a life where nobody's shooting at him.
  • Amberley's descriptions of things that are familiar to someone from the second millennium, but not to every Imperial citizen. For example, she assures the reader that the Freezy Stick (popsicle) sounds strange, but is actually tasty.
    • Some things are twisted a little, like the above example of "Tracks on the Land Raiders Crush the Heretics". The Mystery Play is similar to the Pantomime, Mummers, and Commedia dell'Arte, in that they use stock characters, trap doors, ham acting, and Toilet Humor, but the plots are now the lives of the Saints or the Emperor. Just imagine the likes of Saint Celestine, the God-Emperor of Mankind, or even the frakking Primarchs in this kind of play. Better yet, while this sounds like a heresy cream pie, the Ecclesiarchy tolerates it, because their congregation actually pays attention for once. These are actually a real thing in Christianity (for example), but they fell out of favor in the 16th century.


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