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Tear Jerker / Warhammer 40,000

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"Only in death, does duty end..."

"In the grim darkness of the far future there is more than war. There are real people there too."

  • There are actually quite a few tear jerkers in Warhammer 40K literature - usually small, fleeting moments that remind the reader that the characters are still human beings. Commissar Yarrick during the War of Armageddon had just learned that another city had fallen to the Ork invaders, with the defenders being heroically wiped out to the last man. He immediately went to his quarters, and the account goes on to say that "Some say he prayed to the Emperor and renewed his faith. Those who knew him well say he wept." And this was from a badass who once fought a seven-foot beast hand-to-hand with one arm torn off, killed it, and then had its weapon grafted to the stump of his arm.
  • The Emperor of Mankind's fate, if you think about it. For all his flaws and his inability to understand others, his dream of uniting mankind under his empire is born from a genuine desire to ascend mankind to its rightful place is the galaxy. For all the blood he shed, for all the planets that were wiped out and for all the battles he waged was because he believed in his dream of a united mankind, not because of a self-interested desire for power. That dream was cut short during the Horus Heresy, where the Master of Mankind himself is entombed upon the Golden Throne to power the Astronomicon, utterly helpless as the empire he sought to create slowly degenerate into a fanatic, xenophobic carcass in his name. What's even worse is that the Emperor is aware of how things have changed for the worse in 10 millennia, but is utterly helpless to do anything but shed tears for the people who died in his service. And I Must Scream doesn't even begin to cover his situation.
    • This fan comic is quite the tearjerker and really puts his entombment into a harsher light. The Emperor wakes up one day, coming face-to-face with Horus himself. Understandably confused as he remembers killing his favored son, Horus waves it off and helps up his father, gesturing to all the Primarchs enjoying themselves and happily talking amongst one another. Horus assures him that the dream he fought for has been complete and all his sons are together at last, telling him to rest because the galaxy is free of war and strife, with the panel switching to the Emperor's face...only for the Emperor's visage switch into the skeleton we're all familiar with, tears flowing from where his right eye once was. The Emperor knows his mistakes and how much he screwed up, hence why he had the Grey Knights created. Despite that, he's utterly helpless to do anything as much like how he went from a superhuman into a decaying corpse, the Imperium of Man went from a thriving empire to a decaying wreck that's rotting from the inside and out. His favored son's last words are a harsh reminder of a dream that is now in tatters, unable to be achieved again.
    Horus: A galaxy united, free from war and strife. So rest Father...You have more than earned it.
  • Though Chaos doesn't deserve any sympathy, the fact that Warp was once an peaceful, wonderful realm that had been utterly corrupted by Old Ones and Necron war, and later by Eldar, humanity and other species, is sad by itself.
  • Magnus the Red's reaction when he realises exactly what he has done in his attempt to contact the Emperor. Magnus, who is easily the Primarch most concerned about the preservation of knowledge and culture, completely destroys his chambers, smashing dozens of unique and priceless artifacts in his grief. He seems to know that he not only completely messed up the Imperial webway and, by extension, his father's plans, he also has played a significant part in occupying the Emperor and preventing him from acting personally against Horus.
  • Ahriman's entire existence is this. He believes that he is acting of his own will, that he can reverse the Rubric, save his legion, and maybe return to the Imperium. What he doesn't know is that this sense of hope is permitted by Tzeentch, the very god Ahriman hates. Ahriman's desperate grasp at hope only empowers Tzeentch, which Hope is his domain. And while Tzeentch will permit Ahriman brief moments of reprieve, it is only to further Ahriman's delusions that there is still hope of escaping Tzeentch's grasp. Hence Ahriman is doomed to continually be Tzeentch's greatest Champion against his will, no matter how much he despises the Chaos God or insists otherwise.
    • Recent events have broken this while simultaneously making it even more poignant: In the end, Ahriman failed. His attempts to make a second corrective Rubric were indirectly thwarted by Magnus, but in the process Ahriman was severed from his destiny, set free from the machinations of Tzeentch, and found himself no longer estranged from his Primarch. The two worked happily together in the run-up to the End Times, and likely will remain so as the storyline continues to progress.
  • A lot of the traitor Primarchs were downright tragic:
    • Perturabo was a rather tender and peaceful soul who wanted to be an architect but endless years of being pointed at meat-grinder sieges without even being recognized or thanked for his accomplishments turned him into a brutal Straw Nihilist. Worse, he killed the only person he cares for in an uncontrollable fit of rage, realized how horrible he was, and believed the Emperor would never forgive him for it, hence why he joined Horus.
    • Konrad Curze was haunted throughout his life by premonitions and dropped on a planet of endless night ruled by criminals through violence and intimidation, he lived in sewers and ate vermin and eventually became the ruler of the planet by adopting the brutal methods of the planet's rulers and becoming a grimdark cross of Batman and Vlad the Impaler, only for the planet to go to hell in his absence and the justification for all his actions fell apart and his mind went with it.
    • Angron had an implant in his brain which caused him immense pain all the time; he led a slave rebellion against the brutal rulers of his home planet, and right when his friends and comrades were surrounded and faced death at the hands of their slavers, he was whisked away by the Emperor and forced to fight a war he never cared about when all he wanted was to die fighting at the side of his friends on his homeworld.
    • Fulgrim got corrupted by a Keeper of Secrets from the Laer blade, which he realized when it was too late. The traitor primarchs were monsters, but they weren't really given a chance to become anything else.
    • Perhaps the greatest example of them is none other than Horus himself. What drove him to enacting the Heresy was a vision where the Emperor was elevated to godhood by the people of the imperium, him and the other primarchs cast out as traitors and villains, and the imperium eschewing it's desire for knowledge and advancement and devolving back to a brutal theocracy where ignorance is king. What Horus didn't know was that the Heresy he himself enacted was what caused this future (and in some works the Chaos Gods made him realize this just before he died purely so they could twist the knife one last time).
  • The remorse and despair of the Lord of the Unfleshed near the end of The Killing Ground, after being posessed and used by a vengeful revolutionary. Uriel comforts him and shows him a holy icon of the God-Emperor; the Lord of the Unfleshed's visage is reflected as the boy he once was before the forces of the Ruinous Powers turned him into a monster. As the Lord of the Unfleshed sobs in joy, believing that the Emperor never abandoned him, Uriel grants him the Emperor's Mercy.
    "The Emperor loves me!"
    "Yes, he loves you," Uriel said as he pulled the trigger.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, Commissar-Cadet Donal's last stand, alongside Governor Trevallyn, covering Cain and his team's escape from the governor's palace. Made even more powerful by Cain's last words to Donal before leaving, where he takes off his red sash and gives it to Donal, formally christening him as a full-fledged Commissar.
    • Then, at the end of the book, Donal comes back under Warmaster Varan's mind control. With Jurgen's help, Cain briefly breaks the control over Donal's mind, during which he manages to smile and commit suicide. The real hitter is when Cain walks away, quietly folding up the same red sash.
      • This event seems to cause him to snap a little. Notably, his actions afterwards are pretty much free of his usual self-deprecation and justification.
      • Even worse, Donal was Cain's successor is all but name. Cain took extra care to watch over him because he reminded him of himself. That scared Cain, because he knew how close his recklessness and fear had come to kill him at that age. It just goes to show that Cain survived his first few outings by pure luck and even he could have ended up dead on his first battlefield, alone and forgotten like poor Donal. Cain makes extra sure that Varan dies a very ignoble death for it.
  • A similar scene plays out in the novel Grey Knights. Thanks to a conspiracy hatched by a rogue Inquisitor, an Imperial battlefleet was fooled into thinking that the Grey Knights were actually an enemy force. Unwilling to engage his fellow Imperials, Justicar Alaric ordered his ship, the Rubicon, to charge straight for the planet where the Inquisitor was hiding, ignoring all of the damage they were taking from the Imperial ships. It's a suicidal order, but the over one thousand men and women that was the Rubicon's crew did their duty without hesitation. Thanks to their efforts, Alaric and all his Grey Knights made it to the planet, even though the Rubicon and the entire crew perished in the process. Just before they died, Alaric realized that he never really got to know any of the crewmen. He recognized an officer over the radio, and this was their final conversation:
    Alaric: Good work officer. What is your name?
    Officer: None of us have names. Deployment in six minutes, brother-captain. The Emperor Protects.
  • Upon landing on the surface, Alaric then proceeds to give the following speech:
    We do not know what our chances of survival are, so we fight as if they were zero. We do not know what we are facing, so we fight as if it was the dark gods themselves. No one will remember us now and we may never be buried beneath Titan, so we will build our own memorial here. The Chapter might lose us and the Imperium might never know we existed, but the Enemy - the Enemy will know. The Enemy will remember. We will hurt it so badly that it will never forget us until the stars burn out and the Emperor vanquishes it at the end of time. When Chaos is dying, its last thought will be of us. That is our memorial -carved into the heart of Chaos. We cannot lose, Grey Knights. We have already won.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War: Winter Assault has a tear jerker here that invokes true Manly Tears at its awesome.
    "To each of us falls a task, and all the Emperor requires of us Guardsmen is that we stand the line, and die fighting. It is what we do best: we die standing."
    • Many of the endings for Dawn of War Dark Crusade. Especially the Tau, Eldar, and Space Marine ones.
      Apothecary: The gene-seed must be preserved. Get Captain Thule to the Thunderhawk.
      Space Marine: Understood. Join them, Brother-Apothecary. We will cover your escape.
      Apothecary: And you?
      Space Marine: We cannot allow the enemy to claim our relics. This area must be cleansed with orbital fire.
    • The same goes for Gabriel's execution of Isador in the first game.
      • Castor gets a speech almost as good as Sturnn's in Retribution.
      Castor: Merrick, a Guardsman's life is to die. My job has always been to send them where they can die. I am not afraid to spend men, but I never waste them. (Later) So, you can continue with your attempt to kill me, but killing you Merrick would be very... wasteful.
    • Exterminatus You can tell no one wants to do it. Not even the Marine at the trigger. And just before there's this beautiful picture of Typhon Primaris, lush and green with waterfalls spilling over, and you know what's about to happen and you can't stop it...
    • From the same series is this. Jonah Orion has been possessed by a greater daemon, with all his will, he fights the beast and forestalls its regeneration of his body; the exchange below begins:
      Tarkus: He fights you still.
      Daemon: A desperate and foolish gambit. All he can do is forestall my repair of his flesh. By all means, kill this body. It will then be my pleasure to drag the stubborn soul of Jonah Orion into the depths of the Warp.
      Tarkus: The Emperor protects the souls of the Faithful. And Jonah Orion has proven himself true.
      Daemon: The Emperor? Your 'god' is but a withered corpse on a throne, he cannot protect anyone! Kill me now and nothing will save Jonah Orion!
      Tarkus: The man who has nothing can still have faith.
  • The novel of Fire Warrior had the habit of showing events from minor people's perspectives. From other Tau to Space Marines to Imperial Guardsmen and even civillians. One handful of sentences focused upon a pregnant woman in labour hiding on a planet under attack by the World Eaters. The last sentences notes that she thought she heard chainsaws nearby...
  • The Space Marine Battles Novel Rynn's World has an especially heartwrenching scene that doubles as a Heartwarming Moment. Captain Cortez saves a Mother and her children (one of whom is just a baby) from being murdered by Orks. Chapter Master Pedro Kantor is less than pleased with this development, as there are (to his knowledge) only a dozen or so Crimson Fists left after the destruction of their monastery, and they cannot afford to bring refugees along. Nevertheless, Kantor says the family can tag along as long as they can keep pace with the Space Marines, which anyone will tell you is no small feat. After a while, the mother becomes tired and unable to keep up. Kantor moves to the back of the column, to (as the reader is led to believe) "grant her the final mercy." As he kneels next to the mother with his wrist mounted storm bolter pointed disturbingly close to her head, we believe he's going to kill her. Then, after the mother pants that she tried, but her children were just so heavy, Kantor (who did not want her there in the first place) replies with the following:
    Kantor: You did well to bring them this far... It is time that someone carried you now.
  • The Space Marines Battles novel Legion of the Damned actually has one. During the battle in the cloister Zachariah Kersch sees his absterge Bethesda being attacked by two Flesh Hounds of Khorne. She is the only person who has been consistently nice to him, even his own servants believed Kersch was worthless after his past failures, but Bethesda always believed in him. He grabs a whip and gets it around her leg in an attempt to save her, even the company Librarian tries to help by blasting the Hounds who are sadly immune to psychic powers. Kersch is not strong enough and the Hounds drag the screaming girl into an alley. You can guess what happened next.
  • In Eisenhorn, this happens in one instance at the Thracian Gate when a Heartwarming Moment get subverted. A space marine cradles an injured child, intending to carry him safety. It turns out the child was one of the captured psykers that got loose in the confusion, and he made old Gregor kill the marine, and very nearly himself if it weren't for Voke's Big Damn Hero moment.
  • In Void Stalker there are a few Tear Jerker scenes. The best is Talos Valcoran's death. He is the last survivor of 10th company, barring Variel and Lucoryphus, and knows that he is doomed to die from gene-seed rejection in a few years and admits that he never hated the Night Lords, he hated what they made him into. He calmly walks towards Jain Zar, the Void Stalker, and allows her to impale him before detonating every grenade he has to take her with him. He succeeded.
    • Then Cyrion's death. Cyrion is wounded by Jain Zar and dies in Talos's arms. He is blind from the burns and gives his last request to Talos to not have his gene-seed extracted, stating that he just wants to rest, which Talos promises. He then dies with the final line, "I'm dying," he said. "Everyone else is dead. The slaves escaped. So..." he breathed out slowly, " are you?" Definitely a tear worthy moment.
    • Uzas's death is worthy of tears, even more so because of what happens afterwards. Uzas finally realises that he is not responsible for many of the murders he has been accused of, Cyrion is. He attacks Cyrion but before he can kill him Talos fatally wounds him, and tells him he is the worst excuse for a Night Lord in their history and that even Ruven was better than him. But before he dies Cyrion actually apologies to him posthumously, a traitor marine actually apologies to somebody and means it.
    • Xarl's death is much earlier on but is no less heartbreaking. He dies saving the rest of First Claw from a Genesis Chapter Company Champion. His last act is to tell Talos that he was wrong and that there is no shame in wanting more in life than just survival. He falls to the ground, dead, after finishing his sentence. Talos then carries out his cremation and harvesting himself, and cries after burning his friend's body.
    • Mercutian has a heartbreaking death as well. He is mortally wounded by Jain Zar during the fight in the catacombs and volunteers to stay behind and buy them a few seconds. He battles Jain Zar ferociously even though he is dying. She impales him and leaves him to die, giving him the chance to shiv her in the thigh. She finishes him off quickly, but the wound he gave her was the reason that Talos and the others had a fighting chance against her.
  • The novel The Siege of Castellax has a rather surprising Tear Jerker moment. When Over-Captain Vallax escapes the Orks he unwittingly leads a team of Ork Kommandos into the Iron Warriors's citadel and is lambasted by Captain Rhodaan for it. Vallax is horrified by his actions and volunteers to stay behind alone while Rhodaan and his Raptors go off to deal with a traitor in their ranks, despite his armour weighing him down, his weapon being a beaten-up Ork piece of crap and part of his brain still being exposed from the Ork's tortures, and above all that, him despising Rhodaan completely (having tried to kill him multiple times) he still stays behind to buy them the time they need, because they are his Legion brothers, and dies fighting. Later on, the Ork Kommando Kaptain Grimruk has his head and thinks that Vallax fought exceptionally well.
  • In the novel Pariah, the main character Bequin finds several ancient toys as part of her mission. The toys are so old that they pre-date even the Horus Heresy. She notices that the toys still have the letters "CCCP" written on them, and she asks what they mean. The store owner simply replies:
    No one remembers anymore.
    • "CCCP", for anyone who doesn't know, stands for "Союз Советских Социалистических Республик", which in English is Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In other words, they are the last relics from humanity's first space faring civilization, and possibly the last remnant of "our" era in the living nightmare that is the 41st millennium. And they will be forgotten or destroyed very soon.
  • "The Last Church", the earliest story in canon, set during the Unification Wars. It's about what is strongly suggested to be the last Christian church on Earth, run by an old and lonely priest. One night the priest is visited by a strange traveler who has come to discuss religion and morality with him. After a lengthy debate between the two (the traveler argues that religion is bad and should be abolished by this "Emperor" guy, the priest argues that religion is good and this "Emperor" guy should stop trying to force everyone to do what he says), the traveler explains who he is. He is the Emperor of Mankind. He is here to burn down the church and has decided to offer the priest a chance to recant his beliefs so that he needn't perish with it. The priest chooses to instead burn with his church, calling out the Emperor on his hypocrisy and coming failures before walking back inside and quietly praying as twisted prototypical space marines torch the building. As it crumbles, the Emperor and his marines leave, unaware that a large clock in the church is ringing. One that was prophesized to only begin ringing when the end of humanity came...
  • The Doom of Craftworld Malan'tai. A Tyranid creature ate the souls of its people. Twelve years later, Grey Knights find it infested by Tzeentch daemons looking for spirit stones to eat. They defeat the daemons and hand over the remaining stones to Iyanden Eldar. Finally, they sent Malan'tai to a sun to put its people to rest. Due to the Dead at its finest, right there, and a fine example of the subtle humanity that underlines the relationship between the Imperium and the Eldar during peacetime.
  • The ending to The Fall of Cadia. As the name suggests, Cadia fell to the 13th Black Crusade. Creed lost his best friend Kell, most of his men and his arm to Abaddon The Despoiler and was finally left to die on the shattered planet, only to later be approached by Trazyn.
  • The revived Roboute Guilliman's reaction to the current state of the Imperium: "Why do I still live? What more do you want from me? I gave everything I had to you, to them. Look what they have made of our dream. This bloated, rotten carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope, but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fire of Horus' ambition than lived to see this." While Guilliman strengthens his resolve later and swears to do better... it's hard not to understand his despair.
    • If anything, Guilliman’s situation isn’t a fun position to be with overall. Being the only Primarch that’s active in the Imperium (until Lion’s return, that is), he’s expected to bear the burden of pulling the nation he, his brothers and father forged for the sake of humanity back from its dystopian state. While his position as a direct son of the Emperor has allowed humanity to rally behind someone, it also causes the responsibility upon his shoulders to be much heavier as a result. He’s expected to fix the crappy state the Imperium is in and one wrong move can potentially doom it all to ruin. This has understandably caused him to feel lonely and miserable, having moments of rage and frustration in trying to reform an Imperium that’s significantly regressed and only pushing forward because the Imperium will fall apart without his tactical expertise and administrative guidance.
    • Even more tragic is what Guilliman really desires: To live a simple life in an agri-world and wash away his current responsibilities. This shows how despite being a Primarch, someone created to be the pinnacle of humanity, Guilliman is still someone with desires of his own. Unfortunately, he can’t even fulfill that simple wish, not when there’s so much on the line.
    • This fan comic perfectly encapsulates the bleakness of Guilliman's situation. Another battle won for the Imperium of Man, but Guilliman isn't satisfied. He knows with every battle there's more ahead. Between the forces that attack the Imperium from outside as well as the internal issues it faces, he wonders where his brothers are, searching for them and missing their council. He laments his revival, seeing it as a cruel joke and wondering why is he still alive, but he has to keep going, as entire planets are counting on his administration and tactical brilliance. The video ends with Guilliman's hands wrapped around his head, telling himself to push these feelings of doubt and fear away as well as begging his adoptive parents, anyone to help him. You don't see a glorious son of the Emperor, but a man who has many burdens innumerable upon his shoulders. A man who can't be everywhere at once and has to carry the entirety of the empire they forged on his back, not only fending it off from outside invasions but also fixing the corruption and rot that festers within. Everyone is counting on him, and he can't afford to let these feelings of weakness show, lest the Imperium loses morale. The five o'clock shadow he sports and the beer bottle at the end really highlights how depressed and miserable he feels.
    • The 10th Edition trailer adds to this as well - displaying how the Imperium is struggling with the Tyranids, losing one world after another; and yet the Imperium continues to chant "Victory" in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. The visual of a Tyranid ripping apart a Marine like tissue paper juxtaposed with that of a planet's hologram turning red on Guilliman's war table speaks volumes.
    Guilliman: "Our people sing of victory... victory, as the galaxy burns. Victory, as the Imperium rots around us. Victory, as humanity rages against the dying of the light! Victory..."
  • The Beastmen that live in the Warhammer 40k universe have a terribly sad situation that they live in. Unlike a abhuman like a ratling that can have a tolerable life due to a ratlings human like appearance a Beastman has the appearance of a human mixed with animals like goats and unlike their AoS counterpart they are not necessarily aligned with the forces of Chaos. In somewhere like the imperium that can get them killed as soon as anyone that isn’t a mutant looks at them. And this persecution often drives them to the chaos gods reinforcing the belief among imperial humans that they can never be accepted. Everything about their existence and that of mutants in general is a never ending cycle of sadness, fear and hatred.
    • There is a story about a preacher who is sent to give services to a population of beastmen and mutant slaves under Imperial rule, as they work in pitiable conditions for the Imperium (making them (barely) tolerable in the eyes of the authorities). Then some start to go missing; it becomes apparent they are being murdered, but the official authorities couldn't care less. Soon protests arise, the preacher tries to make them disperse so the expected anti-rioting force won't bring the typical answer from the Imperium, to which one of them stands and points out to the preacher a simple fact: they have been loyal to the God-Emperor their whole lives, yet they are still treated as subhuman scum, invalidating the central dogma of the Imperial Cult ("The Emperor Protects.") He's one of the first to get murdered by the anti-riot troopers a few lines later, who fire indiscriminately on the men, women and children present for the "crime" of protesting them being murdered.
    • The end of the story becomes even more sorrowful when the preacher discovers it has been the high echelons of the own planetary government the ones who have been using the slaves as sacrifices for the Chaos Gods, people who actually had the fortune to be born with normal human bodies and in a high social position are using mutant slaves who are nevertheless loyal to the Emperor as expendable offerings to win the favor of the Ruinous Powers.
  • Devastation of Baal gives us several tearjerkers throughout, fittingly for the last stand of the Blood Angels.
    • Before the full invasion begins, Chapters of the Blood stow away their Death Company members. Some go away quietly, some go with anger, caught in the throes of the Black Rage. Among the many cries of hallucination-wrought cries, one of the Death Company marines asks: "Why? Why did you betray us, Horus?" There's no answer to give before the gates shut.
    • During the initial orbital battle, Asante's forces are barely holding back the Tyranid onslaught, when they find out there is a second fleet approaching Baal. Shortly after, he and Bellerophon fall as their ship crashes into Baal. When Dante finds out they've died, he regrets their death, yet cannot recall meeting them for the first time, and finds himself saddened at what he considers a second death for them.
    • Near the end, Dante quietly notes how, despite the some 2000 remaining marines on Baal, the Angelic Host will never recover. Considering how, in the sheer grimdarkness of the universe, the majority of the Blood Angels and their successors have typically been among the most kind and noble Space Marines, it's little wonder Dante cries at the realization that his long reign as Chapter Master will end with death of one of the last few lights of kindness in the grimdark future.
    • Following this, in one long chapter, the Blood Angels choose to coat their armor with blood and soot and release the mutant occupants of the Tower of Amareo, becoming a 2000 strong force of Death Company, and let loose their control over everything in one glorious last charge. Even the Sanguinior and the Legion of the Damned arrive to support them. Yet despite this, the Blood Angels are still embroiled in a futile charge.
    • At the apex of the last charge, Dante begins to hallucinate memories of his past, from his childhood best friend, dead comrades, and mentors he had almost forgotten.
    • Dante finally falls after killing the Swarmlord, and in his death throes, sees the Spirit of Sanguinius himself. Dante asks for death, for rest for his long years of service, only for Sanguinius to sorrowfully tell him that he still must suffer more, as his service is not yet done. Dante can only beg to die as he's dragged back to life by an apothecary.
    • And at the end of all this, when the Indomitus Crusade arrives, and Dante is rescued and being carried to see Guilliman, his already hazy mind hallucinates, just for a moment, that his father, not Sanguinius, his actual father, is carrying him. Even a millennium later, Dante remembers his father, and his typically stoic façade gives way, just for a moment, to tell his father that he became a space marine. And then he's gone.]]
  • Fabius Bile, for all of his cruelty and evil, is nonetheless trying to help humanity survive in the cruel universe. When asked where he would be among the next generation of evolved humans, Bile simply stated that he will be "the first among its foundations" and that there is no place for him in that world.
  • The short story "Xenocide" is set on a world that hasn't been in contact with the Imperium since before the Heresy, and is torn apart by orks. It follows a peaceful farmer as he joins a militia that eventually joins up with other forces. He loses his wife and son (or rather, insisted they join a caravan that almost certainly was wiped out by greenskins, and beats himself up over it), loses many of his Fire-Forged Friends, and we learn he has slight precognitive powers that allowed him to survive this long (and even takes out a Killa Kan by stabbing it through its eyeslit). Finally Imperials arrive and exterminate the orks and immediately begin getting the planet up to Imperial standards... meaning the protagonist, instead of joining a regiment as he wanted, is hauled off into a Black Ship to be sacrificed to the Emperor.
  • In the story "Death of Integrity", whilst the brutal efficiency with which the Abominable Intelligence slaughters the Imperials that have entered its ship-body is frightening, its backstory is surprisingly sad. In contrast to the typical Adeptus Mechanicus propaganda that "Abominable Intelligences" hate humanity and betrayed them at the first opportunity, this A.I. declares passionately that it loved humanity, and found great honor in serving them. It speaks of its former captain as being its "bondmate", and its friend, and even the Mechanicus Archmagos it is speaking to is forced to acknowledge the pain in its voice as it recounts how, at their first contact with the Imperium, that captain and all his crew were taken and brutally tortured to death by Imperial loyalists as "heretics" for attempting to warn the Imperium of the darkness that they had seen whilst time-traveling into the far future. Even as it kills, the A.I. emphasizes that it learned cruelty from the Imperium, and that its only desire now is to leave this "warp-poisoned" galaxy and seek solace in the infinite vastness of the universe. What could have been the Imperium's greatest chance to reverse how far they had fallen instead turns its back on them, deriding them as unworthy of salvation, and it has every right to do so.
  • Just how far humanity has fallen in the 41st millennia and how understandable it is:
    • Hatred of Artifical Intelligence? There was a massive revolution of AI that led to the destruction of humanity's intergalactic civilization and near extinction of humanity as a whole.
      • What is even sadder that not every AI sided with rebels, but they were destroyed nonetheless. The rebels (or some of them) were corrupted by Chaos, as Commissar Gaunt found a Chaos-corrupted STC of Men of Iron.
    • Hatred of psykers? Psykers were used as portals for daemonic invasion during the Age of Strife and the only planets that survived were the ones that killed all the psykers on the planets.
    • The extreme paranoia? Chaos is just that bad.
    • The extreme xenophobia? It seems like every powerful species out there in the galaxy is made of Always Chaotic Evil monsters. The Orks are biological battle robots that have been abandoned to run wild for eons. The Tyranids are a Horde of Alien Locusts that exist only to scour bio-mass from the universe. Genestealers are are subversion agents bred by the Tyranids. The Slaugth are sadistic necrovores that regard human flesh as a delicacy. The Rak'gol seem to be insane. And the Drukhari are the worst of them all; the remnants of an empire that devolved into the deepest depths of solipsism, sadism and decadence, now literally feeding on the suffering and grief of others to extend their own lifespans.
      • As with the AI, this is made sadder: as terrible as those races are, they are not the norm. Many alien races were once completely neutral to humanity, or even helpful to it. No better example exists than the remote world of Traynor's Rest: it had been home to a human/alien alliance that had known nothing but peace and brotherhood for over twenty thousand years. Then came the Imperial missionary Genevieve Almace, who manipulated the human population with lies and forgeries until they turned on their former neighbors and utterly erased them in a seven year long slaughter, an act for which Genevieve is now considered an Imperial Saint.
    • Unfortunately, while Genevieve's actions were deplorable, most of the Imperium is still widely reeling from the effects of the Age of Strife and the Horus Heresy, and much of those scars had run too deep to heal.
  • The Eldar's situation as a race. They were once masters of the galaxy and close to the peak of psychic evolution, but because of their ancestors' depravity spawning Slaanesh, they've been reduced to a few handfuls of scattered survivors (relative to their old population) forever running from a Fate Worse than Death
  • The horrifying fate of psykers sacrificed to the Emperor is bad enough on its own - the psykers' souls are effectively burned out of existence to feed the Emperor, meaning that on top of the horrific agony of being used as a living battery, they presumably don't get an afterlife, so they can't take comfort in even that (a central tenent of the Imperial Cult).
    • Master of Mankind makes this even worse by showing the process from the POV of a teenage girl by the name of Skoia, whose low-level psyker powers let her hear the dead. She's forced to run from her parents as the Imperium come to take its first-ever tithe of sacrificial psykers, hunted down like a dog, and dragged off to the Black Ships. When they actually arrive at Terra, she's locked into a suffocating coffin and plugged into the Throne, left desperately psychically pleading and then screaming for help in vain as her very soul is drained away.
  • The situation of the Necrons is both terrifying and saddening. Being trapped in a robot body for eternity and being soulless, never be able to feel emotions again due to the lack of soul is already depressing enough, many of the Necron overlords, phaerons and phaeraks have expressed a desire to come back to flesh and blood, to have a soul again, to feel again, to be alive once again. This goal seems very unlikely to ever succeed. And even if they were the ones who started everything, from the corruption of the Warp through the War in Heaven and the death of the Old Ones who only wanted the best for the galaxy, nobody deserves to lose their souls and be rendered into soulless automatons like their species did.
    • It gets worse in case of the Flayed Ones, who were cursed by Llandu’gor, the Flayer. Imagine losing slowly of yourself, trying to eat the meat you will never taste, wear the skin of your victims so that you can feel the warmth that should bring you but only to feel the same coldness that has been annoying you, losing your mind in the process and becoming a mindless beast that seeks for the blood of your victims. To make things worse, the Flayed Ones are perfectly concious of what is happening to them, but they can’t stop themselves and keep flaying everything they see. Killing them is the most precious gift you could do for them.
  • Szarekh, in an attempt to win a war he inherited and trying to save his species, unknowingly striked a bargain with the C’Tan that led to the Biotransference of the entire Necrontyr species and that led the loss of the souls. When the War in Heaven was over. The Old Ones were gone and the C’Tan were shattered, he left the galaxy in shame and penitence to atone his crimes, some saying he seeked the cure of Biotransference. While Szarekh played a big part in the war that turned the Warp into what it is today, it’s saddening to see that he only did everything he did in order to help his people and not of simple hunger of power.
  • Zahndrekh has what it’s essentially robot alzheimer, not knowing that he is in a robot body and soulless, thinking that he and everyone he knows are still Necrontyr and that he is only fighting rebels, one time, his bodyguard, Vangard Obyron experiences a case of PTSD realizing he can’t breathe, to which Zahndrekh comes to console him. It’s possible that Zahndrekh knows he is no longer a Necrontyr and now a soulless robot and he is only hiding his sorrow in the veil of a man who believes he is still alive.