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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.

Note that the article contains unmarked spoilers. Even the name of one of the folders is a notable spoiler for one of the books.

The Imperium Of Man

Commissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM

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 [1]. 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.

What is he really? That's left for the readers to decide.

  • Accidental Hero -- Lots and lots of times.
  • Action Survivor
  • Added Alliterative Appeal -- Commissar Ciaphas Cain.[2]
  • 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 40K universe.
    • 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. Yeah, he seems really self-centered, doesn't he?
    • And finally, let's not forget that it's possible that Cain considers himself a coward by the standards of the Imperium, a martyr culture if there ever was one.
    • 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 Amberly's life was in danger.
    • Note Cain's disgust for what he calls 'Emperor-botherers,' taking a more practical approach to faith and only showing faith in the Emperor because that's what Imperials do, and it seems to be more of an 'on general principle' kind of thing. One troper from the Film page of Alternate Character Interpretation, however, has thought Cain to be the most pious Commissar in the history of the Imperium, considering how much he talks about "Emperor-botherers" and how The Emperor has much better things to do than keep an eye on him, and so he should do as much as he can to ensure his survival to allow The Emperor to focus His attention elsewhere, where it's needed.
    • It's also thought among fans that he actually was a Dirty Coward at the beginning of the series, and by sometime in the middle of the series he becomes brave and heroic and thinks he's still a Dirty Coward. It is 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.
    • Adding more fuel to the fire is that his every explanation of how what he does is either for his own benefit, or just the only reasonable courses of action under the circumstances make sense. It's not even a stretch for him to be honest about these things, it's completely plausible, which makes the entire series a deconstruction of "heroism" in general.
    • Even the author isn't sure which interpretation is true.
  • Artificial Limbs -- Cain has two augmetic fingers, replacing those lost to a glancing hit from a Necron Gauss Flayer.
  • Badass:
    • 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.
      • Last Ditch adds a MAWLOC to his one on one records. And a Tervigon of all things with merelya over strength squad and a lone Valyrie fighter jet as backup!
    • Badass Unintentional -- Very much so.
    • Retired Badass -- Cain in Cain's Last Stand, along with all the other schola instructors.
  • 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. 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 597th Valhallan had high morale, high resistance to Chaotic or alien taint, and exceptional supplies. The 12th Valhallan was an artillery unit that had few discipline problems and largely fired on distant targets with other Guard units in support.
      • 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.
  • Beneath the Mask -- The novels' keystone premise is that Cain is a very different person from how he is portrayed by Imperial propaganda.
  • Born Lucky / The Chew Toy -- Cain is dogged by extremely good and bad luck...and sometimes both at the same time. 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Charmer -- According to Vail's footnotes, Cain is one of these, though he seems largely ignorant of the full extent that his charms go. 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.
  • 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.
  • Conveniently an Orphan
  • Cool Teacher -- Cain appears to have become on prior to the events of Cain's Last Stand (or at least he claims to be more relaxed, to the irritation of his colleagues).
  • Cosmic Plaything -- Cain repeatedly comments that if the Emperor is actually watching him, He has a sick sense of humor.
  • 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. But then again, 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.
  • Cowardly Lion -- Cain is a near-textbook example.
  • Cyborg -- Cain has two augmetic fingers; 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 unmocked.
  • Designated Hero -- Cain considers himself to be one, In-Universe.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward -- Played with. Cain sees himself as this, and a lot of his comments do give that impression, but Cain's actions throughout the books (as Amberley notes frequently) make him out to be cowardly only in his own mind.
  • Drink Order -- 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.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero -- of the IMPERIUM!
  • A Father to His Men
  • First-Person Smartass
  • 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 Savvy -- Subverted in For the Emperor. While talking to the singer at the governor's fete (Vail in disguise), Cain jokingly guesses that a conspicuous rogue trader is an inquisitor because, supposedly, all inquisitors use that disguise. Needless to say, he gets that one wrong...although the trader does indeed have a connection to the Inquisition, and Vail does comment that Cain's assumption was usually correct, Inquisitors do use a certain disguise far too much. Otherwise, Cain is usually right in his guesses and assumptions. Furthermore, he's fully aware of the reputation most -Commissars have (and their usual fates) and does everything in his power to subvert these expectations.
  • 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 Gargle Blaster drink that's strongly implied to be a drug.
  • Guile Hero -- Albeit one who gets thrust into potentially lethal physical confrontations far more often than is comfortable.
  • 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 Self-Deprecation -- Cain, in spades.
  • 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.
  • 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 -- Subverted; 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.
  • 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 Magnificent -- Cain is known as "the Liberator" on Perlia for saving the planet from Ork domination.
  • Master Swordsman -- Cain is incredibly skilled with his chainsword, and Amberly posits that he's one of the best in the sector. Regardless of which sector he's in.
  • 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 -- Just mention any of his major exploits to him and this is the explanation you'll get from Cain.
  • Motivational Lie: A true master of this trope.
  • 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 descibed them as cowards on par with his 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.
  • The Musketeer -- Cain is demonstrably proficient with both his chainsword and his laspistol.
  • Nice Hat -- He is a commissar, after all.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason -- He owes pretty much 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 colours, so the Emperor might just be doing it because he knows he can take it.
  • Selfish Good -- Debates over his deeper motives and hidden strength of character aside, it's quite clear that on the surface, Cain is primarily concerned with his own self-preservation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stepford Smiler

 "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

The Valhallans

The inhabitants of planet Valhalla, a vicious ice world[3], 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 comissarial 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 40000 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 40000 are extraordinarily proficient and professional soldiers and almost unmatched in arctic environments.

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.

  • 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 Comissariat as Cain's personal aide and is therefore higher in rank than them.
    • Cain himself sort of jokingly lampshades this by referring to him as "Gunner-in-Chief" (a rank he made up himself) rather than a mere "Gunner."
  • Anti-Magic
  • Badass Beard -- Jurgen's waived from shaving, ostensibly for medical reasons but presumably because Cain doesn't want to know what lies underneath his permanent unkempt stubble.
  • Badass Grandpa -- During Cain's Last Stand.
  • Badass Abnormal -- Already an enormously competent soldier, the discovery that he was a blank was the icing on the cake.
  • Badass Driver
  • Battle Butler -- Though he reaches it from the opposite end of the spectrum than most other examples of this trope.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang -- Jurgen's melta gun and blank abilities save the day at least several times each per novel.
  • 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.
  • Disney Death
  • Drives Like Crazy -- But with extraordinary proficiency.
  • 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.
  • Hard Head -- He survives a bolter shot to the head. True, he's wearing a helmet, but bolters are described as bursting human torsos on a regular basis, and it had just killed another soldier.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills -- In The Emperor's Finest Cain has Jurgen take a shot at a fuel tank too far for him to hit himself. 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.
  • Kill It with Fire -- Jurgen's Meltagun has saved him and Cain a number of times.
  • Literal Minded
  • 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. He still functions as one whenever Cain encounters an enemy with Warp powers.
  • The Pig Pen -- 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. It's almost like a really dirty, stinky version of the Uncanny Valley. 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. 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 fact, it's 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.
  • Power Nullifier -- As a blank, Jurgen often serves this role.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Stoic
  • Too Dumb to Fool
  • Weapon of Choice -- The trusty meltagun, which also works as a Chekhov's Boomerang.

Toren Divas

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

  • 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 -- Type I. Cain's best friend he may be, but that doesn't mean the descriptions of him are too flattering.

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.

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. She acquitted herself admirably during the 597th's first battle as a unified whole at Gravalax and has since served with distinction.

  • 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 Abdumbria, she reacts like a kid in a candy store.
  • Heroes Want Redheads -- Cain prefers blondes, but finds Kasteen attractive. He doesn't make anything of it, though, because that would overcomplicate their relationships, and because Amberly would kill him - literally.
  • Hot Amazon
  • Ms. Fanservice -- Her military uniform has a cleavage; around half the male characters blatantly admire her looks[4].
  • 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.

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.

  • Gray Eyes
  • Majorly Awesome
  • 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.

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 ultimately get killed in an impetuous charge or sidelined.

In fact no one guessed correctly, and Sulla's meteoric advance ended with her at the rank of Lady General[5], also known as the highest rank physically possible not to mention being the only Lady General in history of the Imperium. She was even popular enough to publish successful memoirs, although Amberley describes them as Sulla's 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.

  • Blood Knight
  • 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 officer without connections to Lady General means her tactics evolved way beyond screaming and charging.
    • Her skills as a quartermaster really shine in The Last Ditch, where she completely decimites the local planets Admistratium 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.
  • Giftedly Bad -- Aforementioned memoirs contain insanely overcomplicated and frilly language to the point of being intentionally unreadable.
  • Good Looking Privates -- Averted for once. While pretty much all the other women in Cainverse are attractive, Cain describes Sulla's face as reminiscent of a pouting pony. This diminishes over the years, though, so maybe he's just letting his severe dislike of her aggressive tactics taint his opinion.
  • Mother to her Women and Men: Sulla's intense pride and faith in her soldiers shines through her horrifically purple prose, and probably explains her popularity with same.
  • Tsundere -- Sulla initially disliked Cain rather strongly, but quickly shifted to inordinately gushing hero-worship verging on a crush.

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, where Grifen and Magot managed to survive.


Mari Magot

  • Blood Knight
  • Berserk Button: Let's just say she has a few, but threatening Grifen is a big one.
    • Misogyny seems to be another big one. When a Tallarn squad refuses to participate in a 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."
  • Fiery Redhead
  • Psycho Lesbian
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Very, very red with Grifen's blue.
  • 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.

Janny Drere


"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 pretty much every time she's mentioned. They all work out in her favour though, so it's something to laugh about.
  • Dojikko
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sergeant Rock


A sergeant in Sulla's platoon, who shows extreme professionalism in his job, something Cain appreciates when needing his back covered.

  • Consummate Professional: 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.

Amberley Vail's 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 agent[6] 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 situation[7]. 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
  • Badass Adorable
  • Bling of War -- Amberley's powered armor is bright gold and covered in lots and lots of devotional icons.
  • Bond One-Liner

  "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.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl -- Amberley shows signs of this, minus the clingy part, in the footnotes whenever the young Cain has a new relationship with another woman.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • 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
  • 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.
  • ManipulativeBitch -- Not evil by any means, but like Cain, Amberley's very good at manipulating others' feelings.
  • Obfuscating Eccentricity
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unreliable Narrator -- More subtlety so than Cain, but you'd be just as wise taking anything she claims in her editorial notes with a pinch of salt too.
  • When She Smiles -- Laughs, to be precise.

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.

  • Badass Grandpa -- 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.
  • Brown Eyes
  • 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

 "Which reminds me, thank you for coming to our assistance. It was most timely."

"My pleasure."

"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.
  • Sherlock Scan
  • The Madness Place -- A verbal form. 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.


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.


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.

  • The Berserker -- When his lasgun ran out of power he started using as a bludgeon. Against Tyranids.
  • Driven to Madness -- While a Commissar, he succumbed to battle stress and ordered a squad executed for failing to salute a superior officer during an artillery barrage.
  • The Political Officer -- Used to be his job.


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 Arbiters were going to execute him, but Amberley managed to attach him to her retinue.

Zemelda Cleat

A former fast-food worker on Periremunda who was caught in a genestealer assassination attempt on Cain, and actually managed to kill a few. 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.

Imperial Guard

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

Lord General Zyvan

A Lord General of the Imperial Guard who oversaw operations which the Valhallans served in on Gravalax, Adumbira, and Periremunda. He appreciated Cain's tactical insight and regarded Cain highly.

Tomas Beije

A fellow cadet at the Schola Progenium which Cain studied at. He is Commissar to the Tallarn 227th regiment.

  • Knight Templar
  • Laser-Guided Karma: His attempt to arrest Cain on charges of desertion and cowardice get him charged with gross incompetence for interfering with Cain's mission by the Commissariat tribunal he called to charge Cain. 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.
  • The Rival: To Cain.

Colonel Asmar

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

Adeptus Mechanicus

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


A member of the mechanus who was assigned to their end of the investigation into the theft of the Shadowlight.


An Adept on Simia Orichalcae, who was noted as being more reasonable in solving disputes, but also got quite distracted by the Nercon tomb on the planet.

  • 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
  • Reassignment Backfire: After the events on Simia Orichalcae, Amberley explains that Logash goes onto an unspectacular career as a Magos assigned to the Noctis Labyrinth. That's the resting place of the Void Dragon, one of the C'Tan who the Necrons worshipped.

Felicia Tayber

An adept on Perlia, who worked with Cain during his trek across the planet after being separated from his regiment.

  • Artificial Limbs: Has a mechandrite that looks exactly like a tail.
  • 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.
  • 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: Actually subverted, as it was noted that she was more secular in her outlook than other tech-priests.
    • She does however mourn the "death" of a servitor.
    • Also Cain suspects she never really forgave him for blowing up the Mechanius Shrine Dam.


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.


A Magos supervising the archaeotech dig that turned into Cain's first encounter with Necrons, in "Echoes of the Tomb." The ironic coincidence of his name's with the villain from Duty Calls is never examined.

The Administratum

Members of the Administratum, the bureaucracy of the Imperium.


A scrivener who served on Simia Orichale, who was rather reasonable for a Adept of the Administratum.


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


The Administratum adept assigned to the Schola Cain teaches at.


Ernest Stavros Killian

A Radical Inquisitor who stole the Shadowlight from Perlia, using a group of Battle-Sisters.

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.


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


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

  • The Atoner: For leaving the Emperor's Temple undefended.
  • Death Equals Redemption
  • 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.


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


  1. A word which here means "not getting caught"
  2. three hard 'C's in case you're wondering, and a long "i" sound in "Ciaphas".
  3. Also a Russian / Scandinavian counterpart culture
  4. Everyone else does that subtly
  5. Female version of Lord General
  6. And a lover
  7. and very likely editing personal commentaries about herself and other women Cain have known over the course of the series
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