The Licenian Heresy
Saint Serena the Conscripted was a rank-and-file soldier in the Imperial Guard more than two millenia ago. Her original regiment, legion, even home planet are now subjects of great dispute by faithful Guardsmen throughout the Calixis, Scarus, and Ixaniad sectors, many claiming her as a famed member of their own storied forces.
Her legend states that in the midst of the terrors of the Angevin Crusade, on a desert world with sands soaked red with the blood of millions of her fellows, with the warp-spawned blaphemous engines of the Yu’vath spitting terror amidst the frenzied acts of their human slaves, this one simple soldier of the Imperial Guard changed the course of history.
The desert world was a vital bastion of the horrific empire of the Yu’vath. Their human slaves mined a rare crystal from beneath the sands that was crucial to their insane warp-fueled technologies, and the vile xenos defended it with every mind-bending power at their disposal. Millions of the Emperor’s faithful were slain in a seemingly endless, unwinnable engagement. Once the connection between the Yu’vath and the strange psychoactive crystals of the planet was understood, the forces of the Imperium felt the flower of brief hope as a company of the legendary Gray Knights of the Adeptus Astartes was dispatched in an attempt to break that sorcerous connection, robbing the xenos of the source of their power. The flower of hope was a fragile one, however, and it began to fail.
The Gray Knights were powerful, their faith pure, their hexagrammatic wards and battle cants impressive, but they were too few and the alien too many. Even supported by the countless legions of the Guard, they began, one by one, to fail, their armoured bodies crumpling under onslaughts of purple sorcery. One such Knight, his name remembered, perhaps, only in the sacred halls of the Chapterhouse on Titan, fell at the feet of a nameless soldier of the Imperial Guard. As she looked into the face of this pure soul as life departed his flesh, she was suddenly filled with the presence of the divine Emperor. She saw a vision of a great cathedral rising upon the corpse-fields, its pure white light washing away the vile blasphemies of the Yu’vath. So transfixed was she by this vision that she ceased to fight, ceased to even see the battle raging about her.
The Gray Knights, however, felt the sudden power of her vision. They re-oriented their formation to support her, changed their Cants using her as the point of their mystical spear, and with a final push that left many of them smoking corpses, cut the Yu’vath off from the planet, severing the psychic connection and leaving the alien panicked and powerless.
It is said by those Guardsmen and women who were there that day that their former comrade shone with a divine radiance, that her voice was a clear clarion call to war, that even the high officers and Commissars obeyed her orders without question as the vile xenos were routed.
After the cleansing of the planet, named Entheo after the theophany, the Guardswoman, whose original name has been long lost to history, was detached from the Guard and inducted into the Adepta Sororitas, although exactly how this happened, in violation of most of the protocols of that order, is debated. It is known, however, that in honor of this induction, she took a new name, Serena, and that she fought on many other battlefields of the Crusade in the company of her new Sisters, achieving the rank of Celestine. But even in the company of the very Brides of the Emperor, she never forgot her humble beginnings as a conscript-soldier of the Imperial Guard, and would look out for the faceless, numberless legions as best she could where others of the Adepta Sororitas would not think to consider their needs when discussing grand strategy.
It wasn’t long before her deeds saw her acclaimed a living saint, and the power of her faith was tangible even in the august company of her battle-sisters. Even the greatest, however, can fall. On a distant world, she faced once more her old enemy. The Yu’vath had been purged from their old haunts, their tainted worlds cleansed and blasted by Saint Drusus and the Crusade. They made a last stand, however, in a far-distant system long expunged from Imperial records, and upon that cursed world Saint Serena died. Her body was defended, it is said, by tens of thousands of Imperial Guard who gave their lives to bring it safely behind the lines. Her last wishes were respected and her body was returned to the desert world of her theophany, accompanied by a vast honor guard, where it was interred. The people of that world, so grateful for their liberation, spent more than a century erecting a cathedral above her mausoleum constructed entirely of the psychoactive crystal for which the planet was known. To this day the Crystal Cathedral of Entheo shines with the constant light of the faithful.
Saint Serena is now venerated as a patron saint of the faithful commoner, a watcher over the humble and the nameless dead. She is especially beloved of the Guardsmen and women of the Imperial Guard, acclaimed as a psychopomp, carrying the souls of the faithful soldiers to the side of the Emperor. Medallions to Saint Serena are a popular talisman for Guardsmen and women of dozens of legions. The Crystal Cathedral that is her tomb is also the center of the Ecclesiarchy in the Ixaniad sector and the seat of the Arch-Cardinal. Her official iconography is that of a battle-sister of the Adepta Sororitas, with the angelic wings of a Celestine, face raised in ecstatic vision. By far her more popular image, however, the likeness carried by millions of faithful soldiers, is that of a plain-featured woman, smeared in blood, in tattered armour, weeping.