“It is born of blood and darkness and to blood and darkness it shall return.”
— Words spoken during a reading of the Emperor’s Tarot at the outset of the Achilus Crusade
The Jericho Reach, once known as the Jericho Sector, is a region of space close to the Eastern Fringe of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Ultima Segmentum. This area of the galaxy was once a part of the Imperium of Man in ancient days, remaining so for millennia until it fell into an age of isolation, disintegration and evil. It has been lost to the Imperium for over four thousand Terran years. During those long millennia, many of its worlds became tainted by Chaos, whilst others were infested by dangerous xenos. To recover the Reach and restore it to the Emperor’s light, the Imperium recently unleashed the Achilus Crusade.
The Achilus Crusade is a war of re-conquest fought on three fronts within the region. It is a brutal conflict waged with every weapon that the Imperium possesses and its leaders have sworn in the Emperor’s name that they will never retreat and never surrender. In spite of such intentions, the Achilus Crusade may yet fail. The growing Tau Empire, ever mindful of opportunities to further spread the Greater Good, has cast covetous eyes over the worlds and resources of the Reach and has initiated its own efforts to claim it. On worlds long forsaken by the Imperium, the slaves of the Chaos Gods reign while at the Reach’s heart, unsuspected at the Crusade’s start, the servants of the Ruinous Powers have created a blasphemous domain ruled by Daemon Princes and Chaos Lords, where the mutable laws of the Warp rather than those of realspace govern the fragile bounds of space-time. Even worse, from the depths of the intergalactic void the Great Devourer has once more made itself known. The Tyranids of Hive Fleet Dagon seek to consume all the inhabited worlds that lie within the Jericho Reach and leave nothing but the corpses of dead planets spread amongst the ancient stars.
While the war between the forces of the Achilus Crusade and its many enemies rages, others with agendas far older than those of the Crusade move amongst the stars of the Jericho Reach. The Reach is watched over by the Deathwatch: the unique division of Space Marines raised from every Chapter that is bound into the service of the Inquisition and tasked with defending the Imperium from the worst alien threats. While the rest of the Imperium turned its face from the Jericho Sector after it fell, the vigilance of the Deathwatch has never wavered. In the long millennia of the Age of Shadow when the sector was sundered from the Emperor’s grace, the Deathwatch still stood sentinel from their Watch Fortress and scattered Watch Stations dotted across the fallen sector. By their hands, many enemies of the Imperium have been defeated, and many great threats ended before they rose up to plague the greater Imperium of Man, even when they were unknown to the Deathwatch’s own distant masters within the Inquisition’s Ordo Xenos. However, these battles have been but the prelude to the terrible strife to come, for according to many within the Imperium the Time of Ending has come at last, and the final watch has begun. The fate of the Jericho Reach now hangs in the balance and only the Deathwatch may possess the skill and tenacity required to bring victory for the leaders of the Achilus Crusade — and protect the Emperor’s children from the terrible threat to all the galaxy that breeds within the Reach’s confines.
With the extraordinary discovery of the Jericho Maw Warp Gate in 777.M41, a piece of advanced technology whose mysterious creators remain unknown but which connects the Eastern Fringe to the Calixis Sector of the Segmentum Obscurus, the possibility of using this stable Warp conduit to launch an Imperial Crusade into the Jericho Reach and reclaim this strategic area of space for the Imperium quickly found favour with the High Lords of Terra. Lord Militant Tiber Achilus formulated a plan to undertake such a unique military campaign and he proceeded to muster forces from the Adeptus Astartes, the Imperial Guard, the Adepta Sororitas, and scores of Imperial Navy warships to enact the Emperor’s will, all under his command. The High Lords were mindful, however, that the existence of such a Warp Gate offered dire peril as well as opportunity, and under a shroud of the deepest secrecy, with the complicity of the Inquisitorial masters of both the Calixis Sector and the Departmento Munitorum, launched an Imperial Crusade from a staging point half-way across the galaxy from the territory it intended to conquer. The Imperium soon found itself faced with significant obstacles in bringing these goals to fruition as the attempted re-conquest soon become mired in blood. The Achilus Crusade would become a grinding conflict fraught with reversals of fortune and beset by enemies both unexpected and nightmarish. As for the Lord Militant Achilus himself, he would not live to see out the campaign’s first decade.
The area of space now known as the Jericho Reach was claimed by the Emperor’s Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade over ten millennia ago and was then-called the Jericho Sector. Though few details of its founding exist within the remainign Imperial records from that time, it is known to have been an exceptionally bloody campaign. The events of the Horus Heresy and the aftermath of that galactic civil war further devastated the worlds of the sector. Nonetheless, in the following millennia untamed worlds were claimed and many xenos empires were destroyed to be claimed for humanity. The Jericho Sector became a bastion of Imperial might, carved from the cold wilderness of space and colonised by a dynamic and expanding Mankind.
Worlds that had been reduced to ash and rubble during the Heresy and the Great Scouring that followed it were rebuilt into mighty industrial centres, colonial populations grew in numbers and wealth and with them also grew the wealth and splendour of the Jericho Sector. The old wounds from the Horus Heresy slowly disappeard due to the guarantee of order and stability in the sector. From the highest obsidian spires of the Hive World of Verronus to the glittering glass shrines of sainted Eleusis, the dominion of the Imperium covered more than a hundred worlds within the sector. Through the ravages of time, wars and other disasters the Jericho Sector remained a paragon of Imperial order and strength for many millennia, until quite unexepctedly all was lost to the darkness and bloodshed from which it had been forged.
AGE OF SHADOW
During the time that became known as the Age of Shadow in the Reach, darkness and anarchy reclaimed the Jericho Sector. This period saw the glory of the Jericho Sector wiped away, reverting the entire region to an area known only as the Jericho Reach on the astrographic charts of the Imperium’s Navigators, an area of the galaxy untouched by the Emperor’s light and awash in evil.
The decline began during the time of misrule, unbelief, and tyranny known as the Age of Apostasy in the early 36th Millennium. During this time of civil war when the Imperium came closer to its own destruction than any other time since the Horus Heresy, for reasons unknown, communication between the Jericho Sector and the core of the Imperium became more and more difficult. Astropaths had an increasingly hard time sending and reciving intact telepathic messages, and starships travelling in and out of the region were lost to Warp Storms that gathered as if to increase the sector’s isolation. To make matters even worse, a massive Ork WAAAGH! on a scale unseen in millennia utterly severd the the great trade routes between the sector and the powerful worlds of the Imperial Realm of Ultramar to the galactic south. With the Imperium as whole awash in strife and war, the Jericho Sector became marginalised and forgotten, ultimately slipping beyond the reach of the Imperium without a single Administratum bureaucrat on Terra noting its passing.
The few records of this time that remain indicate a corrosive dread came to pervade the sector after it was cut-off from the rest of the Imperium. Slowly, one by one, the planets previosuly under direct Imperial rule from the sector capital world of Verronus slipped away. Unable to gain aid from the broader Imperium, some fell to warring on their neighbours as a result of paranoia or unbridled ambition; their leaders laid low by the flaws in their own hearts, or because they clutched at the promises of the Dark Gods. Others, such as Verronus itself, succumbed to rebellion from within. Almost within a single generation, much of the Jericho Sector had slipped into anarchy and feral barbarism due to its isolation. When the last Imperial naval patrol was recalled to Kar Duniash to take on pressing duties, they would report that the last tatters of Imperial order in the Jericho Sector were but small and ragged circles of light beset by encroaching darkness. Soon these too fell, unsung and disregarded, and the sector’s Age of Shadow would claim its worlds and its people for over five millennia. Of the notable events of this period, almost nothing has been recorded. Only the Astartes of the Deathwatch know some of what happened during the Age of Shadow and even they recorded little, for their attention was cast elsewhere and their concerns encompassed far greater events than the fates of a few forlorn worlds on the edge of human space.
The formal end of Imperial civilisation within the Jericho Sector came when the great census and reassessment of the Domains of Man known as the Third Mesericordia Imperialis Mundi was declared in the 37th Millennium by the High Lords of Terra. In the course of that extensive survey of the Emperor’s realm, the Jericho Sector, along with a dozen other sectors along the Eastern Fringe, were decreed to no longer exist until an Imperial Crusade could once again return them to the Imperium’s fold. The region was re-designated by Imperial astrocartographers as the Jericho Reach, and so returned in name and nature to the darkness from which it had been raised almost six thousand Terran years earlier. The Warp Storms and temporal distortion that so isolated the Jericho Reach at the start of the Age of Shadow have never truly abated, while the Imperium’s claimed borders have only shrunken further away from it. As a result, voyaging into the region remained a dangerous task only undertaken by the Deathwatch and a few Inquisitors over the last four millennia. This state of isolation changed, however, with the discovery and opening of the Jericho Maw Warp Gate which linked the Jericho Reach to the Calixis Sector on the other side of the galaxy, making this region accessible to the Imperium once again and unleashing the inevitable Imperial Crusade.
THE JERICHO-MAW WARPGATE
The Jericho-Maw Warp Gate connects the lost Imperial sector that is now called the Jericho Reach in the Segmentum Ultima with the turbulent Chaos-afflicted Segmentum Obscurus that is home to the Calixis Sector and the frontier region of the Halo Stars known as the Koronus Expanse. Its origins remain utterly unexplained, and its true nature is just one of the many mysteries to be found within all of these regions of the galaxy. The Warp Gate was discovered in 755.M41 by the Imperium, and was already active at that time, although for how long that was the case remains debatable among Imperial savants. Within the Inquisition’s Ordo Xenos, many believe that the gate had been dormant for perhaps tens of thousands of Terran years until some unknown event triggered it no earlier than 397.M41. This timing may link the activation of the Warp Gate to the so-called “Year of Dreaming Depths,” a period of sustained and often deadly Warp disturbances that affected the Koronus Expanse around that time. What is apparent is that the Warp Gate was unknown to the people of the Jericho Sector before the Age of Night, because the sector’s own once well-known Warp routes passed through its present location for centuries with no reports of any anomalous activity.
Warp Gates are stable two-way passageways between two distant interstellar locations that have been linked by the gate’s technology through the Immaterium. While extraordinarily rare, they are not unknown to the Imperium, nor are they uniform in nature, appearance, or range. Perhaps the most widespread network of such gates is the Webway of the Eldar, a series of portals interconnecting an arterial network through the Warp that once spanned the ancient domains of the lost Eldar empire, although the network is now much reduced in scope and in constant peril of falling apart or to attacks by Warp entities since their ancient Fall. Other Warp Gates seem to be even older, far predating even the Eldar’s ancient rise to prominence, and belonging to beings and races like the legendary Old Ones who are little more than myths of a lost age in the galaxy’s history. The Jericho-Maw Warp Gate belongs in this category, according to the Imperium’s xenological savants.
The physical structures that represent the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate’s two termini at opposite ends of the galaxy are identical: they are massive, irregular crescents that float alone in the vacuum of interstellar space, immobile and utterly resistant to the action of any external force upon them. They seem to have been crafted from dark stone that is shot through with bizarre geometric patterns in tarnished golden and pearlescent metal. They shimmer slightly when viewed with human eyes, almost as if they were a mirage of no substance. This is an optical illusion that may be produced by the continuous and paradoxical gravitic and electromagnetic stresses encountered within the gate’s vicinity, and the fact that the entire structure is wrapped in a powerful dimensional shearing effect much like — although many times more powerful — an Imperial starship’s or Titan’s Void Shields.
Any solid matter that passes within the sweep of the crescent’s arms, which span a distance of over 100 kilometres, disappears into darkness and is hurled irresistibly to the other side of the gate and spat out, arriving on the other side of the galaxy, through what might be described as a “corridor” or “tunnel” in the Warp. As far as can be determined, the time taken by the transit is negligible; mere seconds of subjective time pass during an icy black dislocation that spans a distance that would normally take an Imperial starship using a standard Warp-Drive several years to traverse, if such a direct journey were even possible. The passage is not without its dangers. Though no Warp-Drive or Gellar Field is required to make use of the Warp Gate, the passage through it is a turbulent one. It was quickly discovered that any vessels not sturdily constructed that attempted to make the journey could be badly damaged or even destroyed outright by the gravimetric stresses of the transit, limiting the Warp Gate’s practical use to warships and other powerfully-built spacecraft.
The existence of the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate is not simply an enigma and an opportunity for humanity, but also a potential source of danger for the Imperium of Man, which the Imperium’s masters are very mindful of. The gate exists and it is now open and so the Imperium must either destroy it or claim it — there is no other choice that is commensurate with the security of the Emperor’s realms. But the problem has been made more complicated by the fact that the Imperium’s savants have so far discovered no method for controlling the Warp Gate’s functions short of destroying the physical structure of one of the two crescent-shaped terminals. This is an action that would require something on the order of the firepower of an entire Imperial battlefleet to accomplish. As such, it was the discovery of the Warp Gate and the difficulty of either destroying it or controlling it that made the launch of the Achilus Crusade inevitable, and may ultimately force the High Lords of Terra to order far more drastic action should it fail.