Rubric Marines, also known by the High Gothic term Rubricae, are the spectral remnants of those Astartes of the Thousand Sons Legion who are now trapped within their suits of ancient Power Armour as mindless automatons. The Rubric Marines are those Thousand Sons Astartes who lacked psychic abilities and were inadvertently created when the Chaos Sorcerer Ahriman cast an incredibly potent spell called the Rubric of Ahriman to halt the process of degeneration and mutation caused by the energy of the Empyrean that afflicted his Battle-Brothers after they were exiled to the Planet of the Sorcerers in the Eye of Terror. Though their genetic corruption had been halted and they were now devoid of mutation, the Rubric Marines were all but stripped of independent will as well.
- "As I am your son, they shall become mine."
- — Magnus, as he knelt to accept Primacy of the Thousand Sons from the Emperor
The tale of how the Rubric Marines came upon their unique fate is a twisted one. It has its beginnings in the time when the Emperor's Primarchs were mysteriously scattered from their incubation upon Terra. The one who would be called Magnus came to rest upon the remote colony world of Prospero. He could hardly have been more fortunate: Magnus was a ruddy-skinned mutant who would have been feared and most probably slaughtered had he arrived on any other world in the Imperium. Instead, he was delivered upon a hidden planet of kindred spirits, because, as fortune would have it, a commune of outcast human psykers had settled the planet Prospero.
Magnus quickly reached maturity, having grown into a giant in the psychic, intellectual and physical senses. He lived in the lone city upon Prospero, which was nestled deep in the planet's ventral mountain range. Tizca, the so-called City of Light, was a glittering metropolis with silver towers, soaring obelisks and majestic pyramids. Its citizens devoted themselves to the pursuit of knowledge and the mastery of their psychic powers. Magnus too showed great psychic attributes. He did not just channel power from the Immaterium, however, but instead the Primarch could see into that very realm. Magnus the Red quickly went from adept to absolute master. And then, one long foreseen arrived upon the isolated world of Prospero. The Emperor had perceived and recognised his prodigy through the Warp and made haste to find him. It was said that the two knew each other immediately –- their minds having long since found each other across the Immaterium. The Emperor immediately granted Magnus the command of the XV Legion of Space Marines –- the Thousand Sons. They had been created from his own genetic profile and thus far had already shown a strong tendency towards psychic mutation.
The first thing Magnus did upon taking over the Thousand Sons was to halt the flesh-curse mutation that had swept through the ranks – although finding the knowledge in the Warp to achieve this cost Magnus an eye. Next, Magnus led the Thousand Sons to join the Great Crusade -– the epic campaign that swept outwards from Terra. It was the Emperor's plan to reclaim humanity's lost colonies and to establish a galaxy-wide Empire. During the far sweeping conflicts, the Thousand Sons made extensive use of their psychic powers. In battle, it was their way to avoid close combat, instead relying upon their sorcerous ways to carry the day. Guile, feints, confusion and misdirection were their hallmarks. The Thousand Sons were very successful, achieving via arcane means what many Legions lost vast numbers of troops to achieve.
That the Thousand Sons accomplished their triumphs through deception as often as by strength of arms did not initially draw concern. Victory was victory, after all. However, the further out the Emperor's new realm expanded, the more tenacious grew the opposition. More and more frequently, the Legions of Space Marines would make planetfall and find not colonies of Mankind eager to join the fold of the Imperium, but societies of mutants and psykers who violently opposed them. Many of those they encountered were enthralled to daemonic forces from the Warp. These new foes were granted powers that few could fail to notice were much akin to those wielded by the Thousand Sons of Magnus.
Gradually, it emerged that there were some amongst the Imperial court that were suspicious of the Thousand Sons' methods. Paramount amongst them were Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guard, and Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves. Throughout the fledgling Imperium many called for the purging of all psychic mutations, save the third eye of the Navis Nobilite. The growing schism threatened to undermine the foundations of the nascent Imperium. To solve the growing dilemma, the Emperor himself convened a meeting on the planet Nikaea to debate. This event would later be known by Imperial scholars as the Council of Nikaea.
In the end, neither Magnus nor those who opposed him prevailed, and instead a compromise was adopted. Human psykers were to become a priority – those that proved they could serve Mankind would be rigorously trained and sanctioned. Outright sorcery –- summoning and incantations –- was to be outlawed forevermore. To many non-practicers this was a very fine line, for all such powers seem as witchcraft to those who are most suspicious. It was not the decision favoured by Magnus, and the Emperor himself halted the Primarch before he could storm from the hall in protest. During that fateful face-to-face confrontation, the Emperor bade Magnus to cease the practice of sorcery and the pursuit of all knowledge related to the arcane arts. It is said that the cyclopean Primarch's face appeared as stone as he received his father's command. Magnus bowed, pledging that he and his Legion would obey.
The Great BetrayalEdit
The threat to the Imperium resolved by the Emperor's council and the Edicts of Nikaea served to mask other, darker deeds already in motion. On the world known as Davin, events were reaching their tragic climax as Horus, first amongst the Primarchs, Warmaster and right arm of the Emperor himself, fell under the manipulative sway of Chaos. This impending doom would not be resolved by any debate or decree. Staring into the depths of the Warp from his sanctum upon Prospero, Magnus beheld a vision of Horus' pledge of fealty to the Dark Gods. Every detail was laid bare -– for Magnus saw the foibles of his brother Primarchs, seeing all too clearly how Horus would play upon them, turning them to his unjust cause. He saw the trap being laid upon Istvaan V, and the decoy that lured away the Ultramarines and Dark Angels. Alone in the entire galaxy, Magnus saw more clearly than any what tragedy was about to unfold. He understood each consequence and every role, save for his own.
In this precognitive vision, Magnus thought he had found certain proof of the value of his magical studies. He would need yet more sorcery in order to warn the Emperor in time. With the combined power of his fellow sorcerers, the Primarch set about casting a spell across time and space. Breaching all protective wards on the Imperial Palace of Terra, Magnus projected his warning of impending revolution into the presence of the Emperor himself, naming the Warmaster as traitor. If Magnus hoped that this would be his moment of triumph, it did not turn out so. The Emperor, his own works ruined by the breach caused by the Primarch, judged Magnus' blatant use of arcane powers the worst sort of oath breaking. Magnus' continual pursuit of forbidden knowledge was deemed tragic proof that he had fallen under the sway of the very powers the Emperor had warned him about. It was said that the Emperor broke contact with Magnus' projected visions with such force that psychic wards through the palace arced with lightning and shattered. Magnus' warning was delivered but unheeded, and the Emperor directed Leman Russ to lead his Space Wolves to attack Magnus upon Prospero.
The Fall of ProsperoEdit
There are many accounts of the Space Wolves' assault upon Prospero –- some of which contradict each other. What is beyond dispute, however, was the massive destruction they brought down upon Magnus' homeworld. The City of Light was being ravaged, many of its libraries already burning, half of its silver towers toppled. It was the ultimate horror for the scholarly Thousand Sons, as Russ and his Space Wolves rampaged through their city of learning. Pyres of books, parchments and ancient scrolls lit the night. Everything that mattered to Magnus was burning to the ground – but he knew he could still save his Legion, still save what was left of his accumulated knowledge. By turning fully to the powers in the Warp, Magnus knew he could salvage much, but the Primarch at last realised that the true power of magic was not something he could master – but rather one that he must submit to. Magnus hesitated, but even as he debated within his superior mind, his city, works, and Legion were being reduced by the howling brutality unleashed by the Emperor. In the end, Magnus felt he had no choice at all. With that, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons changed his allegiance. In that instant, to the amazement of Leman Russ and his Space Wolves, their foes disappeared. In a flash of blinding furor, the City of Light – all its remaining towers and libraries, along with the Thousand Sons and their cyclopean leader, vanished forever from the face of Prospero.
The Rubric of AhrimanEdit
- "The minds of gods are not for mortals to know or to judge. Accept that Tzeentch has a place for all of us in his grand scheme, and be happy in the part you have to play."
- — Proclamation of Magnus the Red
Following the Burning of Prospero during the opening days of the Horus Heresy, the Thousand Sons settled upon a world prepared for them by their patron Chaos God Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, upon the Planet of the Sorcerers deep within the Eye of Terror. Given the potent psychic heritage of their Primarch, it can be no surprise that the Thousand Sons Legion was always prone to mutation. Prior to the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, stringent genetic purity checks and relentless discipline had kept mutation at bay whilst the Astartes of the XV Legion simultaneously developed their potent psychic powers. Having steeped themselves in the raw power of Chaos, however, the Thousand Sons fell prey to the rampant and uncontrolled mutation they called the flesh-change, to such an extent that a cabal of the Legion's senior Librarians, led by their Chief Librarian, Ahzek Ahriman, determined that something drastic must be done to save the Legion from complete dissolution. With the Legion's Primarch Magnus the Red retired to the highest tower of the City of Light on the Planet of the Sorcerers, his mystic, all-seeing gaze cast bitterly upon the dimensions without, Ahriman and his cabal of like-minded Chaos Sorcerers set about enacting a mighty spell that would purge the Legion of mutation and impurity.
Ahriman delved deep into the pages of the Book of Magnus, a massive tome compiled by Magnus during the Great Crusade that was filled with forbidden lore and knowledge of the Warp from ancient, forgotten days. Ahriman believed the Book of Magnus held the key to his Legion's salvation. In the labyrinthine collections of formulae, incantations and rites, Ahriman devised what he believed would be the beginnings of a mighty arcane spell to undo all that had befallen his Battle-Brothers, known as the Rubric of Ahriman. Ahriman and his cabal cast his Rubric, and the skies over the Planet of Sorcerers erupted in an etheric storm of unprecedented proportions. The spell they wrought was of such unimaginable power that even daemonic horrors fled before the roaring maelstrom. The Planet of Sorcerers was enveloped in impenetrable storms of blue and yellow, forks of titanic energies arcing across the planet to strike down each of the Thousand Sons.
Bolts of power formed from the raw stuff of the Warp arced from the roiling clouds, each striking a Battle-Brother of the Thousand Sons, until all but Magnus in his tower and Ahriman's cabal of Sorcerers had been scoured by the mighty rubric. But when the storm receded, Ahriman saw the awful truth of what he had wrought. Those that possessed the greatest psychic powers found their abilities augmented, and they arose from the lightning strikes as the most dangerous sorcerers in the galaxy. The majority of the Thousand Sons, however, had a much more sinister fate. Instead of purging the flesh of ravening mutations, each of the Thousand Sons had been transformed. The seals and joints of their Power Armour had been welded shut, and the body within turned to ashes. What remained was a suit of animated armour inhabited by a captive spectre, devoid of mutation, but of all independent will as well.
The newly created Rubric Marines were living suits of ancient Power Armour which still moved and functioned, and could respond to orders just like a sentient man, though they were now little more than automatons. They quickly fell into inactivity unless a Thousand Sons Chaos Sorcerer was nearby to direct them, although in the fire of combat something of their former battle hunger returned and they moved with greater clarity and purpose. The Thousand Sons Chaos Sorcerers use their Rubric Marine brethren as bodyguards and enforcers as well as guardians for the great libraries of grimoires and vaults of ancient scrolls established on the Planet of the Sorcerers. The Rubric Marines are quite excellent at the latter role, for they have no spark of curiosity left and are utterly loyal. If promised knowledge and an opportunity to enhance their psychic powers, the Sorcerers are willing to offer the services of their unliving warriors to others. In battle, the Thousand Sons' Chaos Sorcerers enchant their weapons and those of their unliving bodyguards, their bolts blazing with baleful sorcerous energies and exploding with sorcerous blasts that burn the souls of their targets as much as they do physical damage.
The Rubric MarinesEdit
- "All is dust...All is dust...All is dust...All is dust...All is dust...All is dust..."
- — Battle-cry whispered by the Thousand Sons
The suits of armour that once were worn by proud Space Marines from the Thousand Sons Legion can magically move and function thanks to the Rubric of Ahriman, but the mindless shells need orders to do so. They respond to the mental commands of a Sorcerer, obeying him to the letter. Upon completion of their task, however, the sentience of the Rubric Marines will once again lapse. Without a Sorcerer nearby to issue new directions, the Rubric Marines freeze in place -– appearing for all intents as statues, mere displays of ancient power armour. The Thousand Son Sorcerers have many uses for the Rubric Marines. When they travel from the Eye of Terror in search of arcane knowledge, or to acquire slaves to fuel their magical experiments, they take with them the silent, relentless warriors. They make excellent enforcers and bodyguards. In the midst of combat, something of their former selves returns. During such actions, the Rubricae are able to move with clarity and purpose for as long as the battle lasts. They are formidable fighters and can shrug off horrendous wounds. There are countless reports of the Rubric Marines sustaining great rents in their armour –- their breastplates blown apart by plasma blasts or run through with power blades. The arcane power that surrounds and animates the armoured shells allows them to sustain the damage better than any being made of flesh and blood could ever manage.
When the Rubric Marines fire their bolters, they do so with ensorcelled shells. Writhing with rune-inscribed fury, the shells burn a blue-white contrail of flame and hit with the ability to blast through power armour and sear their target’s very soul. While the automata provide a solid bastion of firepower, the Sorcerer himself is free to work his incantations –- sending out his own arcane doombolts. As they are empty vessels, Rubricae make excellent guardians for the libraries of grimoires and vaults of ancient knowledge hoarded by the ancient Sorcerers. The Rubric Marines contain not a spark of curiosity and are utterly loyal without exception. They will stand on guard for a day, weeks, months, years or centuries –- yet should any breach the wards of their Sorcerous masters, they will lurch into action as if mere seconds had passed. Their enchantments ensure that their armour never rusts or malfunctions, and they do not suffer the weakness of the flesh, having no need to ever eat or sleep.
The Rubric Marines are almost impossible to destroy, and only the total destruction of their power armour tombs is enough to release the spirit trapped inside. With an audible sigh, a cloud of dust escapes and drifts away into nothingness. How, or even if, the Rubric Marines are reinforced is a secret only the Sorcerers of the Thousand Sons and Tzeentch himself know. It has been theorized that Sorcerers can use spells of reincarnation to reinstall those spirits freed by the destruction of their armoured forms – rebinding them within new tombs of power armour. Or perhaps Ahriman himself has had his hand in recreating his infamous spell of old? For Ahriman remains the most powerful of the Thousand Sons Sorcerers, and has been endlessly active since his banishment. Over the millennia, he has raided more magical knowledge and stolen more arcana than any – his guarded hoard nearly as sizable as that of Magnus. However they are sustained, the Rubric Marines remain relentless enemies of the Imperium, as they have been for nearly 10,000 years.
As recently as 998.M41, furious battle erupted in the twilight realm of the Webway as Chaos Space Marines of the Thousand Sons Legion fight their way to within sight of the Black Library. Protected by the indomitable advance of their automata Rubric Marines, the Sorcerers wreak terrible havoc. Their leader, the Master Chaos Sorcerer Ahriman, is only thwarted when a powerful force of Eldar Harlequins and allies from both Craftworld Ulthwe and Craftworld Luggarnath counterattack. Several major arteries of the webway are choked with the dead before the warrior-psykers of the Thousand Sons are driven from the secret path. The breach is runically sealed, but many neighbouring sections of the webway are lost to Chaos forever. It can only be a matter of time before another such attack is launched.
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 37, 51
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pp. 29, 62
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Codex), pg. 21
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 87
- Index Astartes III, "Masters of Forbidden Knowledge - The Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion", pp. 62-69
- Index Chaotica - Rubric Marines (Digital Edition), pp. 3-4, 6-16, 18-19
- White Dwarf 267 (US), "Index Astartes First Founding: Masters of Forbidden Knowledge, The Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion"
- White Dwarf 230 (US), "Bitter and Twisted: Ahriman"
- White Dwarf 227 (US), "Chapter Approved - Ahriman: Chaos Sorcerer, pp. 73-80
- White Dwarf 202 (US), "The Sorcerer: Tzeentch, Ahriman", pp. 9-14
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- All is Dust (Novella) by John French
- Battle of the Fang (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Ahriman: Exile (Novel) by John French