The religion of Is’Malal is based on the Revelation of Caleb Daark the Prophet. Caleb Daark was born on the Alpha Legion Homeworld (the original name is lost but the Kirwan refers to it as Irem, a garden world in the Segmentum Solar). Caleb Daark was born into a wealthy merchant family but he was also a fierce warrior. His martial talents came to the attention of Alpharius and Caleb Daark was recruited into the Alpha Legion of the Adeptus Astartes.
His great tactical acumen – it is said he never lost a battle – led Alpharius to adopt Caleb Daark into his own household and raise him to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Caleb Daark became a great champion of the legion, leading his vaunted 2nd cohort to many victories.
When Horus rebelled and declared himself a god, Alpharius joined his mentor but Caleb Daark had his doubts about the divinity of either the Emperor or Horus. He contemplated the matter for 40 days and 40 nights on his garrison world of Hira in the Eastern Fringe. After fasting and praying for 40 days, the messenger of Malal revealed himself to Caleb Daark.
“Child of Earth, Thou knowest the True Way – SPEAK!”
Caleb Daark hesitated at first but the angel insisted – “SPEAK!”
Caleb Daark began to speak and thus he revealed the Kirwan – the True Way of Malal the first and only True Chaos god. The angel said, “No more shall you be called Caleb Daark but Belkor shall be your name for you are the revealer of Malal’s truth to the sons of men.”
The Prophet Belkor went among his men and taught them the True Way, many became his willing disciples. No longer dupes of the False Emperor nor pawns of the Ruinous Powers, his men struck out to claim the galaxy for the True god, Malal.
The Alpha Legion garrison on Hira was attacked by the forces of the Ecclesiarchy soon after the Legion was declared Excommunicatus Traitoris by the Emperor. Leading the assault was a charismatic and beautiful canonness of the Sisters of Silence named Laila Munira. As her forces approached the Adeptus Astartes fortress, Belkor asked for a truce and parley. Such behavior was unheard of among the genetically enhanced supermen who comprised the Astartes. Intrigued, Laila agreed. Belkor publicly disavowed Apharius and the Chaos Powers he served – he revealed the will of Malal to rid the galaxy of the cancer of Chaos. Convinced that Belkor was no pawn of the Ruinous Powers, she joined her forces to his in the Death Pact and became Belkor’s wife.
In the course of the Horus Heresy, Hira was attacked by Loyalist and Traitor forces alike, neither obtained control of the planet, and Belkor was heralded as a hero. The people willingly embraced the True Faith seeing it as the path to salvation – a belief confirmed by the many victories of the Hirani Garrison.
A key tenet of Is’Malal is the concept of Amtal – a philosophical concept with the basic premise that in order to know a thing well, one must know its limits. In other words, only when an object is pushed beyond its limits will its true nature be seen. For societies that live in the harshest of environments, Amtal is the only logical test of objects upon which people depend for survival. On Hira, for example, even during the years before Belkor, the natives were strict practitioners of Amtal.
Regardless of its purpose, every design as well as every piece of material was tested until it was literally destroyed. It is not difficult to understand why such societies would so zealously apply Amtal. Theory could not be depended on if one’s own life and the life of the community were at stake. However, such societies rarely viewed Amtal as merely a practical way of reducing the dangers of failure. Amtal became a religious ritual. Life on Hira was the ultimate test in which all things were known by how they were destroyed.
The hostile nature of the environment was personified by Malal, the great Examiner. Only Malal appears to be exempt from Amtal, and the reason seems to be that this deity is the ultimate tester, the final applier of Amtal to all things on Hira.
With such mythology, Amtal, in even its simplest forms, takes on a metaphorical dimension. In any of its applications, it represents life itself and is applied finally to human beings as well as to objects. If a failed power armor suit means certain death for an individual Alpha Legionnaire, the failure of an individual to carry out a necessary task means the death of an entire community. All Hirani are, as a consequence, subject to Amtal at all stages of their lives. Every act becomes a further test to prove the worth of each individual to the community. If an individual fails that test, the consequences are the same as if an object had been pushed beyond its limits: The individual was destroyed.
It must be pointed out, however, that an individual’s failure and death does not necessarily mean shame. For the Hirani, how the individual faces that failure is highly significant. After all, it is in the ending, in the extension beyond natural limits that the truth is revealed. Thus for societies like the Hirani, Amtal is the very cycle of life and death.