In Novan mythology, angels are servants of the Emperor, dispatched to perform His will in the mortal realm.
Nature and Physical Characteristics
All Novans agree, from the most ignorant serf to the most learned clerics, that angels manifest as physical beings. Whether these bodies are mere manifestations of powerful spirits or an angel’s true form is less clear, and the church does not specify. In Ecclesiarchical doctrine, the precise nature of angels is considered a holy mystery.
Angels are often said to resemble men, but they display powers far beyond those of human beings. Angels are variously said to be able to fly on wings of fire, to stop sword blades with their bare skin, to perform superhuman feats of strength and endurance, and even to kill with their eyes. They are not immortal – many Novan tales speak of angels dying, usually in spectacular and heroic manners – but their durability is literally the stuff of legends.
Angels are a topic of unusual agreement between the white and red priests. Both churches feature angels in their parables and legends, and the two churches are in broad agreement as to angels’ nature and roles (though they tend to use very different language to describe them).
Duties and Mental Characteristics
Angels are first and foremost servants of the Emperor. Indeed, they are sometimes called sons of the Emperor, a phrase that is taken literally by approximately half the Ecclesiarchy. As servants of Him on Terra, angels can perform any manner of task that He might desire, and never appear without a specific task, mission, or quest that they pursue with inhuman dedication. Almost all tales involving angels, however, are soaked in blood. In fact, in colloquial usage, Novans do not speak of “angels of death” but “angels of mercy.” Angels are assumed to be on missions of death; it is their non-violent missions that are remarkable. The death that they bring can be to the unfaithful, but there are many tales of angels fighting on behalf of humanity against orks or daemons, particularly during the Age of Gold and the Age of Brass.
The principal mental characteristic of angels is their relentless dedication to the task for which the Emperor has dispatched them. They can be diverted from their task only with the greatest of difficulty. Those who stand in their way, even to beg for aid on an unrelated matter, are often dispatched with gruesome efficiency. They are not bloodthirsty, but they are virtually unstoppable and utterly fearless. However, these warrior messengers are not mere berserkers or juggernauts. They are also conspicuous for their intelligence, resourcefulness, and imagination. Many tales illustrate the hubris of opposing the Emperor’s will by showing a corrupt knight or prelate who defies an angel behind an impregnable fortress, only to meet a grisly end as the angel finds an unexpected solution to the problem. Dedication, courage, and intelligence are angelic traits. Compassion is not.
Though every Novan grows up with tales of angels, and the majority believe in them as literal physical creatures, they are generally considered to be creatures of the past. Novans who claim to have seen an angel are approximately as rare as those who have claimed to see a manifested daemon – and indeed, most Novans would not care to meet either in the flesh. The appearance of an angel is a dire portent, and even the most pious Novans are unsettled by the prospect of looking into the eyes of the wrath of the Emperor Himself in physical form.
The traditional symbol for angels in both Novan churches is known as the imperialis, a winged death’s head (sometimes described as an aquila with a death’s head instead of a double-headed eagle’s body). The imperialis militant is a closely related symbol, used to represent angels on missions of death. Since this describes most angels, the imperialis militant and the imperialis are often used interchangeably in practice. The imperialis militant has a naked sword thrust behind the death’s head.
Angels themselves are sometimes typically depicted as larger-than-life men (given their militant nature, depictions of female angels are virtually nonexistent). Sometimes they wear plate armor, which is always easily identifiable in art because of its deliberately stylized baroque ornamentation (in particular, massive pauldrons are a staple of armored angel iconography).
It is generally accepted that angels have names, but their names are rarely shared in church tales. Some scholars suspect that this, at least in part, an attempt to emphasize their inhuman implacability. However, a few angels are known by name across Nova.
- Roboute Guilliman is an angelic general who fought alongside the Emperor during the Age of Brass. Though said to have the martial prowess of a hundred knights, Guilliman is most notable for his ruthless cunning. He is said to have outwitted daemon princes and heretic lords on many famous occasions, maneuvering the Emperor’s angelic and human army with utter brilliance.
- The Lord Macragge is an enigmatic figure who appears in many different ages. Lord Macragge is unique among Novan angels in that he is never said to physically set foot on Nova. He appears most often in the prologue of an angel tale, relaying the will of the Emperor to the angel or angels who will travel to Nova. It is said that he was responsible for the first angels arriving on Nova, in the mists of history even before the Age of Gold.
- Tharsus Caryatos first appears in Novan mythology in the Age of Silver. Caryatos is a charismatic figure during the Age of Silver, sometimes even displaying humor even as he performs impossible feats of arms destroying heretics. These tales are in keeping with literary conventions for tales of this Age, though they are so unlike most other depictions of angels that some clerics doubt their authenticity. Nonetheless, they make for good storytelling, and several popular secular ballads keep alive the tradition of this angelic paladin. His last appearance by name is during the Age of Copper, when he is said to have struck down an ork chieftain the size of a farmhouse with a single blow.
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