- "We are mute but not without power, we are silent but not without resolve, we are untouchable but not without courage, we are sisters and have but one father. We are seekers and we shall find our prey, we are warriors and woe to those we oppose, the Emperor's mark is on our brow, all who deal with the Warp must beware, His Judgement and vengeance is ours to deliver!"
- — Motto of the Sisters of Silence
The Sisters of Silence are an all-female Imperial order of Witch Hunters who were most active during the time of the Great Crusade in the late 30th and early 31st Millennium, whose purpose was to hunt and kill rogue human psykers whose activities presented a terrible danger to the people of the newborn Imperium of Man. Also known as the "Silent Sisterhood," the "Witch-Seekers," the "Pale Scourge," the "Soulless Ones," the "Null Maidens," the "Eyrine" and the "Daughters of the Abyss," they were once the militant arm of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica and were referred to internally within the records of the Adeptus Terra as the Departmento Investigates. Riding the dark void between the stars upon the dreaded Black Ships during the Great Crusade, the Silent Sisterhood were the enforcers of the Great Tithe, known by some as the "Psyker Cull" and the "Hunt That Never Ends." Each one of the warriors of this Order are Anathema, a soulless thing that inspires dread wherever they walk. The Sisters of Silence's primary base of operations was the Somnus Citadel on Luna, the moon of Terra, which was maintained by the ancient Selenite Cults who had long governed that world.
Along with the Legio Custodes, the Sisters of Silence had the right and duty to walk freely within the inner sanctum of the Imperial Vaults, the sovereign and sole domain of the Emperor and His Household at the behest and license of the Master of Mankind. Following the end of the Horus Heresy, Mankind became superstitious and fearful of the unknown, and the Silent Sisterhood was cast out by a distrustful Imperium. They disappeared from Imperial history for nearly 1,500 standard years, until the Imperium faced annihilation at the hands of the massive Ork WAAAGH! led by the Warboss known only as The Beast. The last vestiges of the Silent Sisterhood would play a key role in defeating this Ork WAAAGH! and diverting disaster. Though officially disbanded after the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium, many enclaves of the Silent Sisterhood still fought for the Imperial cause, albeit in a more secretive and elite capacity than before. With the resurrection of Roboute Guilliman as the Lord Commander of the Imperium after the birth of the Great Rift in 999.M41, the Silent Sisterhood has begun to serve more openly alongside Imperial military forces once more.
- "As a child on Gehenna, I remember the stories of the white maidens; terrifying ghosts that would come in the night to steal away the witch-born and children who had done terrible wrongs. It was said that they could find the wicked no matter how deep in the hive they sank or to what forgotten spire they climbed. As I grew, I came to believe such things were no mere superstition, but now that I am an officer of the Great Crusade, bloodied upon the battlefields of a score of worlds, I have come to find that my childhood fears were true, and quite valid."
- — The Memoirs of Lt. Colonel Gudrun Ceax (Rt.) 227th Gehennan Rifles
Of all the Emperor of Mankind's servants, the Sisters of Silence were perhaps the most secretive and mysterious. They are a covert organisation that served as the militant arm of first the Divisio Astra Telepathica and then the Adeptus Astra Telepathica since its foundation, and within whose ranks and titles they are known, at least in formal documentation, as the Divisio Investigates -- a rather obscure phrase which covers up a shrouded world into which very few have ever had the power or the authority to look within.
The duties of the Silent Sisterhood were complex and manifold, but at their core they were warrior-investigators, hunters and gaolers. Their charge was to seek out, apprehend and process psykers from the human population of the ever-expanding Imperium, and return them to the Divisio Astra Telepathica for assessment and disposition. As part of this never-ending task, their duty was also to hunt down Renegade psykers and destroy those who are deemed too dangerous to live. This was a perilous task well beyond the abilities of any merely human law enforcement or military force, but it is made possible, indeed in some cases seamless, in its execution not simply by the martial prowess of the Sisterhood itself, but crucially by their fundamental nature as psychic Nulls.
The Daughters of the Anathema
The most singular thing about the Order was that each and every one within its ranks was an "Untouchable," a rare sub-set of of humanity who cast no shadow in the Warp, and whose minds are immune to psychic assault and an anathema to those with psychic powers. Their mere proximity is enough to cause psykers discomfort and pain, and in truth they will even sow fear in the hearts of those whose minds are without the psyker's gift, no matter how strong willed they may be. It is a simple and irresistible reaction to the fundamental 'wrongness' of the Untouchable or as it is often put more melodramatically, a body without a soul. This curious and macabre phenomena goes beyond simple absence, as one might feel disturbed by a mannequin or automata which apes humanity but remains unalive -- instead it is an observably preternatural effect which seems to strike deep against the fundamental unconscious perceptions of all living beings as something malignant and contrary to the natural order of existence. There appears to be perceptible degrees of this effect which vary from individual to individual, with some Untouchables 'stronger' in the phenomena than others, and it is from the strongest of these that the Sisters of Silence were drawn.
It is also noteworthy in fact to the extent that the disturbance caused by an Untouchable is evident not only to humanity, but also all other lifeforms and xenos species encountered to some greater or lesser extent. There are in proof of this many recorded incidences of the unsettling effects of human Psychic Nulls being enough even to unnerve the blind brutal savagery of rampaging Orks, while to the Eldar xenoform, psychically attuned as their race is, the presence of a human Untouchable is a thing of acute existential horror.
The most potent and perhaps shocking power of the Psychic Null however is that which makes them the perfect hunters and slayers of psykers; Untouchables such as the Sisters of Silence are almost impossible to affect with Empyreal powers. Their minds cannot be taken over, their perceptions cannot be altered and their bodies cannot be possessed. Even the cruder but more direct manipulations of the environment or ambient energy by the psyker such as conjured fire or the hurling of debris by telekinetic force is lessened and sometimes negated outright by the Untouchable's proximity. With Psychic Nulls such as the Sisters of Silence, specifically chosen for the 'strength' of their gift, it is the case that their minds are not simply absent or inert to a psyker 's mental perception, but howling abysses of darkness that not only negate psychic force directed at them, but actively interfere with the flow of the Warp around them. The profoundly phobic reaction they engender extends to both human and xenos psykers as well as entities and creatures of the Empyrean, their mere presence a debilitating toxin.
Further, there are those among the Sisterhood who through arcane training and practice, and whose nature has never been revealed to outsiders, are able to develop their 'null' abilities further until they are actively disruptive enough to make any use of psychic power in their presence extremely hazardous. These Sisters are honed into the 'Oblivion Knights', and within their Order they are the foundation stone of an elite force specially tasked not with the day-to-day enforcement of the Great Tithe, but the destruction of alpha-level rogue psykers and the ceaseless training for battles of this deadly kind.
In their studies, the Sisters of Silence read many of the great texts that were found in the towering stacks of the Libraria in the Somnus Citadel on Luna, from the earliest surviving volumes of the Psykana Occultis to the Voiceless Judgements of Melaena Verdthand. Within these tomes of psychic research and ancient lore, the young Sisters-in-Waiting learned much concerning the nature of the witch. They came to believe that skill in the Power Sword and Bolter were but one half of a Sister's armoury, for knowledge of their quarry carried equal weight. In this quest they had learned a great deal about the extremes of psykerkind to be found in the human-settled galaxy. The Sisters learned to ferret them out, combat them and, if need be, execute them with extreme prejudice for the greater good of all Mankind.
The Pariah Gene
The exact biological source -- as it is believed to be -- which creates in a human being the state of Psychic Null, the so-called 'Pariah gene', has proven an elusive and ephemeral subject of study, and in testing no single 'gene' at all. Such attempts to exploit or isolate it when pursued by both the Imperial Archotechnologist Corps and the Mechanicum during the Great Crusade's early years courted disaster, and as a result the Emperor decreed a general moratorium upon the study of the biological basis of the Psyker Null phenomena, affecting all but His own direct experimentation should He wish it. What remains of those extant studies indicates that most attempts to synthesise, propagate or even weaponise the Psychic Null were tragic failures or worse. Despite all this evidence, shadowed accounts of certain Clades of the Officio Assassinorum and the dread and obscure Ordo Sinister also contain evidence of the Emperor's own 'engineered' use of the Psychic Null in warfare. To others however, the mystery of the Pariah gene, if it truly exists, remains out of reach.
So many unanswered questions revolve around this most arcane and dangerous of topics. Foremost are those which centre around theories of how the Pariah gene came about: was it perhaps the result of xenos tampering of the human genome or some strange and terrible experiment of the Dark Age of Technology? Or, as the wildest theories state, is is some perverse evolutionary development against the Warp-given cosmos itself? There is also the observation that no Space Marine, or Custodian Guard for that matter, has ever been recorded as being a Psychic Null. This factor weighs the evidence of some scholars that within the Space Marines gene-seed itself is perhaps a shadows the Emperor's own genetic material and a sliver of His own psychic power crucial to the process and success. If this is the case, it would be wholly an anathema to the Pariah gene and likely simply kill its implanted subject. It can only be speculated that if even a single Legion of Psychic Null Legiones Astartes had been possible, how very different history may have been -- just as without the involvement of the Sisters of Silence in the war and the Emperor's great work, Horus' treachery may well have ended in triumph upon the broken throne of Terra.
Foundation of the Divisio Investigates
The Silent Sisterhood as it stood during the 31st Millennium was not part of the initial pattern of the Imperium's forces laid down by the Master of Mankind, though some contest this, and claim that what became the Silent Sisterhood long dwelt in the shadows awaiting their time. During the Terran Wars of Unification it was doubtless true that a number of so-called Untouchables did serve under the banners of Unification, but evidence suggests that understandably perhaps they did so at a remove both from the Emperor Himself, and His aide and minister, Malcador, then vizier to the Lord of Lightning, the both of them being psykers of prodigious strength, with He who was to be Emperor the greatest psyker humanity has ever know. These 'soulless' servants were, according to such rumours that persisted in those times, in the nature of covert agents and assassins, and few in number, rather than a distinct militant Order. In fact, the only analogue in Ancient Terran history for the Sisters of Silence, as they are now known, can be found in the Akashic records of an entirely different age and hue; the darkly famed 'Hollow Ones' who served the Unspeakable King -- himself by some legends a Psychic Null -- in the terrible lost centuries of Terra's Age of Strife before the coming of the Emperor.
The First Harvests
During the Unification Wars, there had been many terrible threats born of psyker-witchery and warp entity possession encountered during the pacification, but these had been fought head on and overmastered by the power of the Emperor and the raw might of His warriors, but in the latter case at a terrible and disproportionate cost in lives. As the Great Crusade began to leave the confines of the Sol System and the first waves of the newly created League of Black Ships followed in their wake, where the Great Tithe was concerned initially, newly founded paramilitary investigation and enforcer cadres were employed to minster it on the ground, commanded by a cabal of loyal Primaris level psykers drawn from the Scholastica Psykana -- this was the first incarnation of the Divisio Investigates -- and to Terra directly they returned their harvest.
Though by all accounts well led and ably armed and armoured, this new militant Order's track record was not one of unalloyed success as the size of the Imperium rose to encompass first dozens, then scores, then hundreds of inhabited star systems, and the strain quickly began to show. It was swiftly apparent in fact as the years passed that mortal losses among the Divisio's armed forces, incidences of psychological breakdown and bloody tragedy involving them were far too frequent to be borne. Such records that exist available to the auspices of the Terran Council indicate that it was known at the time that a better solution to the problem of the apprehension and control of psykers was clearly needed, but with the Great Crusade still in its infancy, its future configurations were not yet set and much was in flux, and many of the Emperor's purposes had not yet been made plain or found their final form. It is also said that at this time, a number of radical solutions were put before the consideration of the Emperor and His counsellors, but before a ruling was made, matters came to a head with the Cataclysm of Pentacanaes.
The Plague of Madness
A largely impoverished but relatively societally stable Sol pattern hive world, mere weeks in distance from Terra by the tides of the Empyrean, Pentacanaes had been both an early and an easily acquired bauble for the Great Crusade. Struggling to barely maintain an industrial technological base, its only advantage was as a fleet anchorage, and the only resource it offered the Imperium was its vast human population which ran into the tens of billions of lives. Under an Imperial governorship which displaced a squalid mess of rival competing petty kings and confederations that had held the planet beforehand, Pentacanaes had grown first into a frontier outpost, then into a port-of-call, with hundreds of Imperialis Auxilia regiments temporarily stationed there before mustering and redeployment to the front lines. During this period, many of the native population's ablest and fittest youths also took up the call of the Great Crusade, thus stripping the world of its best and brightest to form departing regiments of its own. The end result was a planet in a steady, slow rot from within.
Vice and petty corruption bred in the shadows of the vast landing yards and barracks complexes, while in the hive sinks and deep-core slum falls, bypassed by the wealth that had come to the world's upper castes and bled of hope and prospect, dark beliefs and strange cults began to fester despite the best efforts of locally posted iterators of the Imperial Truth and enforcement purges to stamp them out. Eventually, intelligence reached the Imperial governor of a particularly dangerous doomsday cult, calling itself the 'Final Banquet', having taken root in a desolate slum sector known as the Distempora. The cult violently resisted any attempts to destroy it and it was reliably rumoured to be led by a 'holy family' with the power to 'work miracles'. The League of Black Ships was duly informed, and when next one of the tithe vessels arrived in Pentacanaes' orbit, a quintet of heavily armed gun-cutters was dispatched to descend into the Distempora sector carrying a strong Divisio Investigates force to end the cult and seize its leadership, who were judged in absentia doubtlessly to be rogue psykers. It is not known precisely what happened next, but the gun-cutters and their crews were never heard from again, and within hours all of Disternpora was riven with a cataclysm of hideous and unreasoning bloodshed.
A state of emergency was declared and units of the Imperialis Auxilia barracked on Pentacanaes were activated and moved to form a cordon around the affected sectors, but even they could not hold, and worse, soon many of their own ranks began to succumb to the madness. The Imperial governor of Pentacanaes was also a victim, shot down by his bodyguards as he attempted to end the lives of his own children as the madness took him. Authority now fell to the highest ranking Imperial officer in orbit, the master of the same Black Ship that had triggered the massacre: Captain Gigan D'antès. Elements of the VI Legion -- not yet known as the Space Wolves -- had been alerted and were inbound from Terra, but their arrival would not be for days and Gigan D'anres judged that Pentacanaes did not have that long. Even the desperate measure of targeted lance strikes and orbital barrages could not halt the spread of the anarchy across the world, and wherever Captain D'antes looked, all was in disarray. No force already in combat could hold long against whatever psyker-born madness afflicted that damned world. No force, he noted with surprise, except for one.
The Daughters of the Crow was what the manifest of the stationed Imperialis Auxilia named them, or more formally the 5th '9-13' Indentured Irregular Infantry Regiment. They were a primarily female-culturally phenotype (techno-barbarian) force from an obscure feral world in the southern reaches of the Segmentum Solar, so obscure in fact it lacked a proper name in the records, only the designation of '9-13.' Recently raised and folded into the Great Crusade, landing only weeks previously for muster, the regiment had not yet seen active service, but the sparse records available showed a number of ill-defined complaints raised against the regiment by those who had been barracked alongside it; numerous fractious incidents were logged and discipline masters had been frequently sent out in force to break up trouble between the 9-13'ers and others. Sent in with the rest of the Auxilia as the tide of madness had spread, the small regiment had not only held against the onslaught, it had driven back the afflicted horde, and not one of its fighters had suffered psychic contamination. Not one.
To Gigan D'antès, versed in the lore of the Scholastica Psykana, there could only be a single answer; the Daughters of the Crow -- or at least a very significant proportion of them -- were Untouchables. It was unprecedented and doubtless something that needed later investigation, but for now they offered a lifeline to a world besieged by madness. With air support from the orbiting Black Ships, the Daughters of the Crow took the battle to the very heart of the nightmare -- the depths of the Distempora Sector. Here they gave battle to the transfigured horrors that had been unleashed from the gestalt minds of the 'holy family' of the cult and slew them. The effect was akin to extinguishing a fire by hurling an explosive into its midst. The spreading stain of madness had been cut off at its source, and now mere anarchy and disaster reigned, where dark purpose had previously ruled all. It would take the VI Legion to bring Pentacanaes back to heel, and in the aftermath a billion dead were accounted for and half a world left a burned out shell. By then the survivors of the Daughters of the Crow were long gone within the hold of D'antès' Black Ship, while far off across the Segmentum Solar, it is said that scores of other Black Ships appeared in the skies of the obscure planet designated '9-13' and in their passing left a world half emptied.
The Birth of Silence
In the wake of the events of the Cataclysm of Pentacanaes, this account stands in blessed isolation in the Imperium's records in regards to the origins of the Sisters of Silence, and it seems certain to many observers that '9-13' and its bounty of Untouchables are all evidence the core upon which the remade Divisio Investigates was formed. Or so it seems. There are those who doubt the veracity of this account, or at least its significance. Others merely contest that the historical account has been doctored. Some later speculated that the whole Pentacanaes affair was arranged; a kind of bloody experiment -- a field test whose results were bought at the the deliberate sacrifice of a billion lives. But like many things that occurred during those early years of the Imperium, much of the extant record has become unknowable. Some insist that the origins of the Silent Sisterhood go even further back, either in the mind of the Emperor, or some lost agency of the Dark Age of Technology, that they awaited perhaps only a critical mass of Untouchables to act, or at least to operate in the open. Regardless, within an unknown exact number of years, but no greater than four decades into the Great Crusade, the Divisio Investigates became synonymous with a new militant Order, that of the Sisters of Silence.
Unique in the Imperium's service, this Order comprised human Psychic Nulls, all female, thousands strong and beholden to none but the Emperor. The Great Tithe now included direct action to reinforce their numbers in the harvest of worlds, garnering Untouchable female children just as it did the psyker-marked. Structured in isolation and with the ironclad rule of discipline, this militant arm of the Divisio Astra Telepathica operated with remorseless efficiency and under an unassailable vow of silence and secrecy, a distinction which gave them a ready common name to those of the Imperium's authorities with whom they dealt, and to the Imperium through which they began to pass ghostlike upon their dark harvest, they became objects of fear and awe. Exactly where and how the Sisters of Silence came into being remains but one mystery among many where they are concerned, and that the shadow of some techno-barbarian culture is part of their bloodline seems clear, but from whence exactly it came not even the wisest of Imperial military historiographs can state with clarity. But as a postscript to the official account of the Cataclysm of Pentacanaes, it can be said for a fact that the hive world endures; although it is a ravaged, half-empty domain of gloom and ashes now, steeped in old tragedy and long since left behind as the Imperium has expanded across the galaxy. As for the world designated '9-13', no such sphere is listed in the Cartographica Imperialis -- the numeric is simply missing from its lists.
An Ancient Order
- "Fools may call these women abominations, hags and freaks. Only the wise known the Sisters as the bravest of all Humanity's saviours -- they who battle Chaos itself."
- — Inquisitor D'Maros
During the Great Crusade, the Emperor kept a standing battalion of the Silent Sisterhood within his personal armies. They were tasked with hunting and exterminating those who would use their psychic talent against the Imperium during the wars for Compliance. Since that time, the remit of the Null-Maidens has demanded that they wage near-constant war.
The Sisters of Silence are rare pearls in the limitless ocean of Humanity. Each Sister is one in a trillion, for the mental architecture of those who harbour the Pariah gene is nothing like that of the common herd. They have only a startling void in place of that emotive, spiritual core that empowers and guides a typical human. No simple absence is this, but a hungry, sucking abyss that makes even the spiritually inert feel unsettled and nauseous. It is this anomaly that makes the Sisters the bane of warlocks and daemons alike. The Emperor once referred to this quality as a rare gift within his most esoteric servants, but in many ways it is an alienating, inescapable affliction. Yet in a galaxy where the shadows of Mankind’s worst excesses are given physical form, it is indeed a precious resource. The sacrifice these Pariahs make is profound, but without it, Humanity may well have consumed itself long ago.
Mankind's surety of purpose, restored by the tremendous success of the Great Crusade, was shaken to its core by the treachery of the Warmaster. The corruption Horus spread through the Legiones Astartes eroded the Imperial Truth -- the secular wisdom, laid down by the Emperor, that saw the furtherance of logic and science outlaw the concept of supernatural entities. The Emperor knew of the powers that haunted humankind, and had long sought to starve them of influence by denying their existence altogether. Part of this strategy was the manipulation of the Pariah gene, an extremely rare genetic anomaly that broke the link between the Immaterium and the material universe. Even the presence of a single Pariah is an ice-cold blanket over the fires of the soul, a suffocating chill that can turn a nigh-omnipotent psyker into a weakling ripe for slaughter.
It was not through fear of his own boundless psychic talents that the Emperor waged his war of atheism, but through hope for a galaxy of order and reason. He resolutely denied his own godhood, even if it meant the most dire censure for his subjects. To openly admit there were psychic entities in the universe was to open a channel that the foolish and the greedy would seek to exploit. He was right to do so. As the Legiones Astartes began to fracture, the worship of Horus’ new gods saw many psykers treat with daemonic forces, creatures coalesced from Mankind’s dark reflections within the Empyrean. Some did so unwittingly, and the resultant manifestations tore tiny holes in the fabric of realspace -- holes that the fiends lurking behind the veil would gladly rip wider. Others deliberately opened such gates, dooming entire worlds to daemonic invasion. Perhaps the most infamous example of loyal psykers turning against the edicts of the Emperor was that of the Thousand Sons. The warrior-mystics' home world of Prospero died in flames after a punitive strike from the Space Wolves, the Custodian Guard, and the Silent Sisterhood who, by their very presence, forced the Thousand Sons to stop their use of outlawed magic.
Such was their zeal and focus during the Horus Heresy, the Sisters of Silence have been given unprecedented autonomy. They are trusted implicitly by the High Lords of Terra, for those deaf to the whispers of the Warp are amongst the most reliable of agents. Theirs is the duty of monitoring the masses via a network of trusted agents within the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. They then hunt down any untrained or rogue psykers they find, often alongside the Inquisition and the infamous hunter-squads of the Black Ships. There are few other roles members of the Sisterhood could fulfil, for their talent is inescapable, and magnified by the Emperor’s ancient artifice. Though they are trained to control their unsettling auras, projecting them until it becomes difficult even to look upon them, or suppressing them at need, the Sisters can never truly be rid of their genetic curse.
After the Warmaster's rebellion was halted at Terra and the Emperor was interred upon his Golden Throne, the Sisters of Silence found themselves without direction. Many were slain or lost forever, scattered and stranded across a war-ravaged galaxy. Undaunted by the sudden lack of guidance, they went abroad into the wider Imperium to continue their work. There amongst the stars they hunted savants and witches with unstinting fervour; some as part of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, some as lone but loyal agents who eventually settled within the teeming hordes of Humanity. In some rare cases, these hunters learned to suppress their uncanny auras to some degree, and in living alongside others begot their own bloodlines. None of these would-be settlers ever stayed in one place for long, for the Pariah gene is not named idly. Wherever the Sisters of Silence sought out new lives, they were hounded into exile once more by those that hated them for their intrinsic otherness. Still, not all were reviled or burned as witches. The offspring of these few had children of their own, and over the generations, the genetic peculiarity of the Silent Sisterhood found its way further into the vast spread of the human race.
The Sisters of Silence have banded together but rarely since their devolution at the end of the Horus Heresy, with each major instance of their gathering for war expunged from Imperial records. Even then, their various orders remained divided by necessity, gathering only in secret. In the years since, their numbers have grown, gradually but steadily, into the tens of thousands. Now the Sisterhood is a vast army of psychic nulls, standing ready to extinguish the dark flames of Chaos that threaten to consume the Imperium.
The Witch-Seekers and their Works
- "Fools may call these women abominations, hags and freaks. Only the wise know the Sisters as the bravest of all humanity's saviours – they who battle Chaos itself."
- —Inquisitor D’Maros
The Silent Sisterhood as an organisation was one of singular reach and secrecy. Its exact numbers were unknown save to the Emperor, for though it remained nominally part of the Divisio Astra Telepathica, it had long become interwoven with the will and direct agency of the Emperor Himself For while the Legio Custodes guarded the Master of Mankind directly, the Sisters of Silence became pivotal to the carrying out of the Emperor's great and secret works. By the later Great Crusade, the Sisters of Silence certainly numbered in their tens of thousands, though this force was widely dispersed, and the Sisterhood's Untouchables crewed and commanded the vessels of the League of Black Ships. In addition, they maintained a strong presence both on Terra itself as well as notably at their Luna headquarters, the Somnus Citadel -- a facility handed over by the ancient Selenite cults -- and the Magdan Orbital Construct -- the fortified orbital anchorage station utilised by the League of Black Ships in the Sol System to deliver their cargo, and forbidden to all others. It was also taken as fact that much of the initial sifting and processing of the Great Tithe took place not in the Sol System but elsewhere on several isolated and otherwise prohibited star systems nearby -- an understandable change from the tithe's early days given the sheer scale of the operation as the Imperium had expanded and the potential security risks involved in so many untrained psykers being concentrated in a single area.
These Divisio Astra Telepathica administered star systems were only known to other arms of the Imperium as vague and shifting code designations, but here the Silent Sisters alone held sway and what numbers, facilities and resources they possessed in these sovereign domains, none save they and the Emperor knew. In fact, such was the shroud of secrecy surrounding the Great Tithe that only the Navigators of the League of Black Ships know the location of these processing worlds and various Black Ship anchorages, collection-node stations and outposts scattered across the Imperium, and their lives were led in sealed biome-crucibles, prisoning homes which auto-incinerate all within should their seals ever be compromised; such was the priceless wealth in human potential of the Great Tithe judged and guarded.
To Hurl Back the Darkness
Though a portion of the Silent Sisterhood still garrison the Black Ships, many more have answered the call to war in the wake of the birth of the Great Rift. With Warp Storms ravaging the Imperium and the Daemon Primarchs walking the worlds of the material universe once more, the moment has come for the Silent Sisterhood to change the course of history. They will not be found wanting. Those in whom the Pariah Gene makes itself fully manifest -- sometimes known as Untouchables -- are still highly prized by the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. Often they are sought out at great length and considerable expense. Once they have been secured, they are taken up by the Black Ships and returned to Holy Terra. Most perish during the stringent loyalty tests and punishing physical regimes they must endure as part of their training. Some, should they be judged fit for it, are taken to the Fortress of the Officio Assassinorum, where they are trained and transformed into the soulless horrors known as Culexus Assassins. Others become soul-guardians within the Imperial Palace. Despite the intensity of their trials, a significant number of these female Pariahs have the sheer fortitude to make it into the Silent Sisterhood.
It was Roboute Guilliman who, upon his resurrection in 999.M41 and resumption of the duties of the Lord Commander of the Imperium, ordered the remnants of the Silent Sisterhood located and reinstated to the Imperial fold. With more and more incidences of psychic activity and increasingly violent Warp Storms dividing the Imperium, Humanity had need of the Sisters of Silence more than ever. He gathered up the broken remnants of their order after arriving back on Terra during the Terran Crusade. As the influence of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica had waxed and waned over the millennia, their military arm had become less prominent. There had once been a large population of Sisters of Silence during the Great Crusade and the Heresy. Though numerous enough to play a role in the War of the Beast a thousand standard years after the ed of the Heresy, by the late 41st Millennium they had dwindled almost to extinction. Those remaining were occupied aboard the Black Ships, hunting psykers and performing the crucial role of damping the potent and uncontrolled abilities of their cargo. The militant orders of the Emperor's day had been disbanded, diminished or lost to war. The last surviving few were scattered around the Imperium, most reduced to a handful of members. They had fought on, here and there, but their glory days were a myth at best. They were unremembered by the people they had died to protect. But after thousands of standard years of obscurity, when Guilliman returned, the Sisters of Silence came back willingly into the light, not because of who he was, but because of what he was. To them, the Primarch was a Living Saint. It shocked Guilliman that the Sisters of Silence worshipped his father as a god as so many other misguided souls of the present dark age did. Not for the first time this made Guilliman think of his brother, Lorgar, the Daemon Primarch of the traitorous Word Bearers, who had been so hungry to find someone worthy of his devotion.
No longer centralised within the vast spire-convents of Luna, the Sisterhood recently reestablished a presence in every Segmentum, forming many new orders and offshoots. Some are charged with specific duties -- such as infiltrating the hyperspatial tunnels of the Webway to stymie the plans of psychic xenos races, recovering Pariahs from enemy forces that seek to use them for their own gain, or neutralizing spectral attacks in strategically vital locations. Others have carte blanche to pursue their own agendas, provided they culminate in the destruction of the Great Enemy's forces. If there is any quality these genetic deviants share in abundance, it is self-reliance.
The Sisters of Silence have been a largely fleet-based force since the reconvening of their orders by the Primarch. They have long-standing pacts with veteran Astropaths and Navigator houses that are better able to endure their presence on interstellar voyages. Under Guilliman's instruction, they have been instrumental in navigating the turbulent Warp Storms that tear through the galaxy since the onset of the Noctis Aeterna, gathering in large numbers to project a null-field capable of repelling the Empyrean itself. This approach is still dangerous, however. The effect of the Pariah Gene is exponential and can cripple a war effort through unintended fear, confusion and astropathic malfunction if used poorly. But the Sisters' efficacy cannot be denied, even by those who abhor them; they can becalm eldritch storms and cast back daemon invasions with only the force of their presence.
In many ways, the Sisterhood stand guard over Humanity's psychic evolution. Truly these women are death incarnate to those who believe that their unnatural powers make them gods amongst men -- the Talons of the Emperor are always ready to tear such fools down from their pedestals.
The Vow of Tranquility
Secrecy was more than just the watchword and the method of the Silent Sisterhood; it was core to their very being. After their training was complete and their induction to the Sisterhood was confirmed, a process which began when they were taken up in childhood, the final step on the path of the Order was the Vow of Tranquility; a solemn dedication to their duty unto death which manifested outwardly as the vow of silence which gave the Divisio Investigates its more common title. From this point onwards no Sister of Silence utters a single spoken word for the rest of their lives, not even under the duress of pain, be it the stroke of blade or impact of a bullet, such was their stoic resolve. No secret could or ever shall pass from the keeping of the Sisters of Silence, and no word of remission or clemency from the was ever given. Further symbolic of this absolute vow was the portcullis-style armoured gorget they wore as part of their panoply of war, which, often in combination with a death's-head skull, had become identified with the Order in the iconography of the Imperium.
Sisters of Silence Sign-Language
Communication within the Sisters of Silence took the medium of a complex series of physical sign language forms, ranging from highly efficient and abrupt tactical cants designed for the battlefield, detailed forms geared to the ready and precise expression of strategic concepts and actions, to hugely complex and mimetically sophisticated systems intended to deal with philosophical and technical abstracts. This latter range was needed because the Sisters of Silence remained an organisation dedicated not only to the ministration of the Great Tithe but also to investigation, pursuit, inquiry and judgement. They also possessed and had to express when needed an unmatched and encyclopedic knowledge of the psyker and the Empyrean, which they alone, owing to their Psyker Null status, were uniquely safe in keeping.
Communication outside their ranks was usually facilitated by one of two sources. Firstly, through the involvement of selected apprentice-acolytes of the Sisterhood, themselves Untouchables and warriors in training of various ages, who acted as intermediaries, known as the 'Proloquors', and secondly through a number of techno-linguis systems which allowed the symbolic-structure of their Sisters' sign-forms to be rendered machine-readable at great speed, and if needed in extermis, outputted as vox-signal via servo-automata. The Silent Sisterhood maintained fluency in nuermous other forms of gestural and non-verbal linguistic communication such as Legiones Astartes battle-sign of various types, voidsys and graph-binarc for conversing with other military forces of the Imperium directly when the need arose.
The Silent Sisterhood made use of several different types of sign language, including the following:
- Thoughtmark - Thoughtmark was one of the symbolic sign languages employed by the Silent Sisterhood. Small in scale, full of delicate gestures of finger and thumb, it served to convey concepts of great subtlety or intricate nature. It was far more graceful than the large, sharp motions of BattleMark.
- Battlemark – Battlemark was the command sign language used by the Sisters to communicate on the battlefield. The gestures used to communicate in Battlemark were large, sharp motions that enabled a person to convey their thoughts in line of sight and can be seen at extreme ranges. This gestural language is most similar to Astartes battle-sign and may have a similar origin.
- Orsköde – Silent Sisterhood transmissions sent to locales beyond line-of-sight were despatched not with words but in an ancient machine-readable variant of Thoughtmark known as Orsköde, a mechanical rattle or clicking that to untrained ears would resemble the sounds of turning cogwheels.
The Art of War of the Silent Sisterhood
Beyond their unique abilities as Psychic Nulls, the Sisters of Silence are also a highly trained and relentless paramilitary force, ably equipped to their task and skilled in overcoming any opposition they may encounter in their sworn duty, be it deluded bystanders, mind-ridden soldiers, hordes of psychically-puppeted corpses or even armed cults sat at the heart of a world's ruling caste. The Sisters of Silence are as remorseless, dedicated and as formidably skilled as any human fighting force of the Imperium, while the cold darkness of their minds makes them a more terrible foe than any to the witch, the rogue psyker and the Warp-touched.
Given their particular duties, their training and tactical bias focuses on close-quarters combat, short-ranged, high-intensity warfare which often sees them fighting from a position of numeric inferiority and on unfamiliar ground, and their skill in such conditions is supreme. Fear is alien to them, their conditioning and experiences exposing them to horrors against which even a veteran of the dark frontiers of the Great Crusade could not easily endure. Glory and honour -- as these things are generally understood -- are of little value to the Sisters of Silence, theirs is a higher calling and only the attainment of their goals has meaning to them. Given this, stealth, covert surveillance and torture are all tried and tested weapons in their repertoire to be used when needed, and they know well the value of mystery, shock, awe and terror in their work. They will readily invoke their Emperor-given authority to use and discard any intermediaries and agencies of the Imperium as they require, and 'collateral' destruction in pursuit of their targets is judged as a thing to be avoided as a matter of course, but irrelevant in cases of necessity.
Beyond their extreme training and coldly rational tactical discipline, there was also something that had been quite deliberately invoked of the barbaric and the arcane about the Sisters of Silence as a militant Order. This was not simply to provoke fear in others, although clearly this effect was ably achieved, but also it lent them a distinct and singular entity, as well as a murderous intensity in combat seldom encountered beyond the Imperium's superhuman fighting forces such as the Legiones Astartes. This deliberate element of feral barbarism found its expression in many forms, ranging from the totem-like names chosen to designate their tactical sub-units during deployment, to the aesthetic design of their ornate battle gear, which was styled to invoke imagery of the warriors of ages past but match the function of the finest power armour, to their manes of long hair, said to remain unshorn unless the Sister had a sworn quarry escape them.
In the modern era, when the Silent Sisterhood take to the field in conventional warfare, they take commands from none outside their order -- they answer only to the ultimate power of the Golden Throne. Fully ordained Sisters communicate only via Thoughtmark, dealing with others via interlocutors from the Sisterhood's lower echelons. Each such exchange is still fraught, for the would-be allies of the orders cannot help but feel the shadow of the Null-Maidens upon their souls. When these lithe warriors come close to humans, such as the soldiers of the Astra Militarum, even stoic veterans find cold sweat prickling across their skin, eyes itching and stomachs churning. The touch of a Sister of Silence, should it ever be felt skin on skin, is enough to make a man convulse with repulsion. Space Marines grimly endure their presence, aware that they stand in the presence of the Emperor’s own elite. The Grey Knights are the exception; relying on psychic warfare as they do, they cannot bear the company of the Silent Sisterhood, and are content to watch them from afar. To a daemon-hunter, the power to send a Warp-fiend shrieking back in horror merely by advancing upon it is impressive indeed.
The weapons of the Silent Sisterhood are trusted mainstays of the Imperial arsenal. Their gleaming gunships and transports are much like those of the Adeptus Astartes, for it is imperative the Sisters of Silence strike fast and hard, then withdraw to fight again. A force so small in number has no other option if it wishes to make its mark upon a hostile universe. Their most trusted weapons are the bolter, the flamer and the sword. They tend to use these in overlapping wave assaults. First, Prosecutor squads unleash a deafening, flesh-shredding hail of bolt shells, then their Witchseeker sisters incinerate those who skulk in cover to escape retribution. Should an adversary prove tough enough to survive this double salvo of firepower, melee specialist Vigilators will dart forward with gleaming, powered great-blades, their immaculate sword-form seeing enemy heads fly from necks as they slash, cut and slay. The Sisters have more esoteric methods for hunting foes whose sorcerous abilities make them proof against physical harm. Psyk-out grenades, for instance, contain the ground-down ashes of cremated martyrs from the ranks of the Sisters, bodily remains that have lost none of their potency as weapons of nullification. The foe reels after each detonation as the Sisterhood close in to deal the final blow.
- Imperial Webway War (004-009.M31) - When Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons, learns of Horus's fall and attempts to warn the Emperor using psychic arts forbidden by the Edict of Nikaea. He inadvertently unmakes his father's great work, destroying the psychic wards around the Imperial Palace and breaching the Imperial Webway gate by allowing a Warp rift to open up within the dungeons of the palace. Thousands of hideous daemons poured into the webway and immediately set about attacking the Imperial forces within. The workers of the Mechanicum were slaughtered in their thousands and the Custodian Guard were hard-pressed to hold back the tide of daemonic fury that had been unleashed upon them. As the Imperial forces within the webway were being attacked, the Emperor mustered the remainder of his Custodian bodyguard and the Null-Maiden warriors of the Silent Sisterhood. Slowly, but surely, the Imperial forces pushed the blockades forward as the pressure from the daemons' attacks waned. As the war raged on new troops appeared amongst the hordes of daemons attacking the Imperial forces. The powers of Chaos sent foully corrupted Space Marines, Titans and other war machines into the webway to try and force a victory. The war within the webway soon took a turn for the worse, as both the Custodian Guard and Silent Sisterhood took many casualties. But after five years of remaining within his prison as He sat upon the Golden Throne, trying to keep the portal between reality and the Immaterium closed, the Emperor began to show signs of physical exhaustion. Sensing the birth of the powerful Daemon Drach'nyen, the Emperor knew the war in the Webway was building to a critical juncture. He ordered the Sisters of Silence to gather a thousand psykers across the width and breadth of the galaxy in order to use their innate psychic abilities to feed the growing demands of powering the Golden Throne. With this task accomplished, the sacrifice of the psykers powered the Golden Throne for a single day, which allowed the Emperor to leave it and lead his forces in a swift counter-attack. The Imperials eventually emerged victorious, but at great cost.
- Scouring of Prospero (004.M31) – The Sisters' most successful campaign during the early Horus Heresy occurred during the Imperial assault on the Thousand Sons' homeworld of Prospero after their Primarch Magnus was found guilty of violating the anti-sorcery edicts of the Council of Nikaea. The Sisters of Silence deployed in support of the Space Wolves Legion and a contingent from the Legio Custodes, and provided the main line of defence against the potent psychic abilities of the Thousand Sons Legion.
- Jorgall Persecution (005.M31) – A cadre of Sisters were despatched on the orders of Malcador the Sigillite, the Regent of Terra, to aid the XIV Legion of Space Marines, the Death Guard, in an attack on the xenos known as the Jorgall. During the ensuing battle, the Sisters managed to wound a mutant Jorgall psyker and capture it to be transported back to Terra for study.
- Battle of Terra (014.M31) – The Silent Sisterhood provided a stalwart defence of the Imperial Palace during the Siege of Terra. They were also instrumental in the defence of the Imperial Webway located in the subterranean levels of the Imperial Palace against a massive daemonic incursion from the Immaterium.
- War of the Beast - Second Invasion of Ullanor (544.M32) - A massive Ork WAAAGH! of the Warlord known only as The Beast rampaged across the Imperium on a massive scale, growing in size until it became the greatest Greenskin invasion that the galaxy has ever known, eclipsing even the one defeated by Horus upon the world of Ullanor during the height of the Great Crusade. After several setbacks, Koorland, the last surviving Imperial Fists Space Marine, realised that in order to defeat The Beast and his WAAAGH!, they need to counter the Greenskin's potent WAAAGH! gestalt psychic power. Koorland received a helpful lead from the High Lords of Terra's Inquisitorial Representative, Veritus, on the world of Nadriries, located in the far reaches of the Segmentum Pacificus. It was there that the last forgotten bastion of the Sisters of Silence had remained for 1,500 years. When Lord Commander of the Imperium Koorland arrived, he found Nadiries under siege by the Orks, who feared the Pariah psyker-killers. Koorland led the effort to lift the siege, and once inside, he attempted to convince the reluctant Sisters to join him in his crusade. The leader of the Sisters explained that they had been cast out by a distrustful Imperium, and although they were fiercely loyal to the Emperor and the Primarchs, they would rather see the now-corrupt Imperium burn than aid it in its time of need. Koorland convinced the reluctant Sisters to join him only after he revealed that he had the blessing of the recently returned Salamanders' Primarch Vulkan himself. A small cohort of the Sisters of Silence took part in the subsequent invasion of The Beast's homeworld of Ullanor, as part of an elite assassination force. Utilising a captured Ork psyker, the Sisters of Silence's innate Pariah Gene caused the Ork psyker to implode, which started a chain-reaction amongst the Greenskin horde and swept across Ullanor. The Ork's technology was temporarily disabled, allowing several Astartes, including Koorland, to launch their final attack and slay The Beast. This victory was short-lived, however, as another larger and more vicious Warboss entered the throneroom -- one of six "Prime-Orks," each a Beast in its own right, and a commander of their own Greenskin "Legion". The new Beast and its reinforcements easily swept aside the Imperial assassins before confronting Koorland, and they killed the "Last Son of Dorn." The Imperial assassin force fled with Koorland's body, and the Imperial forces withdrew from Ullanor. Following their involvement in this campaign against the Greenskin menace, the Silent Sisterhood once again faded into obscurity. Their fate wouldn't be revealed until the latter years of the the 41st Millennium.
- Talons of the Emperor Unleashed - Battle of Luna (999.M41) - The Forces of Chaos begin their most concerted invasion of the Imperium. Under the eye of the Warmaster of Chaos, Abaddon the Despoiler and his 13th Black Crusade, countless worlds fall during their sector-wide campaign in the Segmentum Obscurus. Upon the Fortress World of Cadia, the last obstacle barring the way for a full-scale invasion from the vile Traitor Legions and the Daemonic within the Eye of Terror, the Imperial defenders hold their ground as long as possible, mounting a valiant defence. But alas, the severely outnumbered Imperial forces soon face annihilation, as the world of Cadia soon falls to the vile machinations of the dread Abaddon. Receiving help from an unexpected quarter, in the form of the mysterious Yvraine, high-priestess of the Eldar god of the dead known as Ynnead, leads the Imperial defenders through a Warpgate and into the Webway, away from their Chaotic pursuers. They soon arrive in the Realm of Ultramar and make all haste to the Chapter home world of the Ultramarines. After seeking audience with Chapter Master Marneus Calgar, the mysterious Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Eldar high-priestess Yvraine, have the means to resurrect a long-dead hero to help lead the defence of the embattled Imperium -- the Primarch Roboute Guilliman himself! Using both arcane and technological means, they managed to successfully raise the long-dead Primarch from his millennia-long stasis. After making short work of the Forces of Chaos on Macragge and many of its surrounding worlds, Primarch Guilliman and his Terran Crusade, proceed to set out on their long sojourn to the Throneworld of Terra itself, so that the Avenging Son can commune with his father, the Emperor. After many trials, tribulations and setbacks, the surviving forces of the Terran Crusade arrive upon the surface of Luna, where they are soon beset upon by the treacherous Thousand Sons. Things go from bad, to worse, with the arrival of the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red, whose mastery of sorcery begins to turn the tide of the battle in the Thousand Sons favour. But the Chaos Space Marines, and most especially, the Crimson King's arrival did not go unnoticed. Within the bowels of the Imperial Palace on Terra, the all-female Order of the Sisters of Silence are called upon in the Imperium's most direst need, to put to torch to the upstart sorcerers and undo their supernatural foes with their innate nullifying power. With a detachment of Adeptus Custodes by their side, the Terran Defence Fleet soon arrives, and the Null-Maidens and golden armoured giants of the Custodian Guard set upon their foes with righteous fury. Utilising their innate abilities, the nulls helped the beleaguered Guilliman, turn the tide of the battle in the Imperials favour, driving back the Daemon Primarchm as the Avenging Son rained down hate-filled blows upon his former brother. With the distraction of the Null-Maidens, Guilliman was able to land a mortal wound upon the Crimson King, who staggered back into the webway gate from whence he came. With an invocation from Yvraine, the webway gate was shut, and the Crimson King was cut off from Luna. The battle was good as won. Bolstered by the sudden arrival of the Silent Sisterhood, Adeptus Custodes and the Imperial Fists, the crusade drove the Thousand Sons back, and soon, the remainder of the Traitor Marines were swiftly cut to pieces. Following this battle, the Primarch was escorted back to the Throneworld, where he was granted an audience with the Emperor within his Sanctum Imperialis. Following his reemergence after a couple of days, the Primarch vowed to take the fight out amongst the stars to meet the enemy in the Emperor's name. The Silent Sisterhood now stands ready, in case the need arises, where their unique abilities are needed once more.
The Divisio Investigates is an organisation more akin in structure to the fusion of an agency of legal enforcement and a secret society or secular military Order of old. As with so much that surrounds those who orbit close to the centre of the Emperor's work, its ways and dispositions are all but impenetrable to outsiders beyond certain open ranks and divisions observable by those who were called to fight alongside them. A complete accounting of the Sisters of Silence's ranks is then impossible, but the simple extrapolation of logic from the notional size of the League of Black Ships required at the minimum for the Great Tithe to function, as it assuredly does, places the Sisters of Silence at tens of thousands of active Witch-seekers.
The high command of the Order outwardly comprised three high offices and individuals that were known to the hierarchy of the Imperium at the time of the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, though doubtless there were others that went unknown outside of the Sisterhood itself. Most famed of these is the rank of KnightCommander; the most senior field officer of the Silent Sisterhood. This title was held by one of the most sinisterly renowned warriors in the Imperium-Jenetia Krole, known also by popular myth as the 'Soulless Queen'. Of equal importance to the execution of the Great Tithe is the rank of the Mistress of the Black Ships, and in effect, the grand admiral of the Divisio Investigates' fleet; this was held by Varonika Sulath. Lastly is the Nemesis Praxia, Ebon Naroda; she who was high guardian of the compiled lore and estates temporal of the Divisio Investigates, and ultimately responsible for the training of its acolytes.
Other ranks within the organisation progress through that of Acolyte - of the First, Second and Third rank- more informally known as 'Sisters-in-waiting', who had not yet formally been initiated into the Order. Further ranks of the Sisterhood proper were referred to with melodramatic flourish as the 'Null Maidens' by the Remembrancers of the Great Crusade. These are structured both in terms of seniority and tactical disposition, ranking in order: Seeker, Prosecutor, and with Vigilator as the most senior of the three. Other specialist units such as the Pursuers, the Aquilai Astra and Questora, accounting for cyber-beast handlers, pilots and void crew, and Investigators/Enforcers respectively branch off these. The Sisters of Silence were also organised into multiple warrior cadres that were readily identifiable by their corresponding animal totem (the Frost Lynx, Ice Leopard, Iron Lynx, Raptor, White Falcons, etc.) and squad types which were differentiated by their armour colour schemes and iconography.
Above this level, the Order's hierarchy bifurcated to outside eyes into two distinct groups: the Chamber of Oblivion and the Chamber of Judgement. The first was an elite militant sub-faction comprising the most powerful Psychic Nulls and most martially skilled of Vigilators, and from its ranks of Oblivion Knights and Knights-Centurathe battlefield commanders of the Order are taken. The latter chamber is if anything more feared. It comprises the dreaded Silent Judges of the Excrutiatus, whose task is to weigh the actions of the guilty and innocent when it comes to those concealing psykers from the tithe, and where matters are not clear regards those believed to be psykers, to determine the presence of the psyker's gift, and where it is found, to pass judgement on whether the accused should be taken by the tithe, or executed as a danger to humanity.
- Knight-Commander – The Knight-Commander is the most senior field officer within the Order and serves as the overall commander of the Silent Sisterhood.
- Mistress of the Black Ships - A rank held by a senior sister who is responsible for the execution of the Great Tithe, this position is, in effect, the grand admiral of the Divisio Investigates' fleet.
- Nemesis Praxia - A rank held by a senior sister who is the high guardian of the compiled lore and estates temporal of the Divisio Investigates, and ultimately responsible for the training of Silent Sisterhood's acolytes.
Chamber of Judgement
This latter chamber is more feared than its counterpart, known as the Chamber of Oblivion. These ranks include:
- Excrutiatus - These comprises the dreaded Silent Judges of the Excrutiatus, whose task is to weigh the actions of the guilty and innocent when it comes to those concealing psykers from the tithe, and where matters are not clear regards those believed to be psykers, to determine the presence of the psyker's gift, and where it is found, to pass judgement on whether the accused should be taken by the tithe, or executed as a danger to humanity. The Excrutiatus were clad in thick, buckle-studded coats of red-leather. These Sisters had no eyes, for in their place they had two heavy lenses or ruby-coloured bionic implants in place of their natural eyes. It is said that to attain this esteemed rank a Silent Sister must have personally slain 100 witches.
- Witchseeker Pursuivant – A Witchseeker Pursuivant is a senior-ranking sister who ranks above an Oblivion Knight and Knight-Centura within the hierarchy of the Order.
Chamber of Oblivion
Above the lower and middle-tier ranks, the Order's hierarchy bifurcated to outside eyes into two distinct groups, with the Chamber of Oblivion being one of them. These ranks include:
- Knights-Centura - A senior-ranking Sister that acts as a battlefield commander of the Order.
- Oblivion Knight - Oblivion Knights were senior-ranking Sisters who lead other Sisters of different ranks on their various missions on behalf of the Emperor and the Sisterhood.
- Investigators/Enforcers - A rank that performed unspecified duties on behalf of the Silent Sisterhood.
- Questora - A rank held by a Silent Sister that acted as part of the void crew of a vessel.
- Aquilai Astra - A rank held by a Silent Sister that was responsible for piloting that various air and space craft of the Silent Sisterhood.
- Pursuer - The Pursuer cadres were the cyber beast-handlers and hunters of the Silent Sisterhood, called upon to track down a fleeing quarry and either flush them out of hiding for capture or destroy them on sight as needed. As some of the most agile of their Order, they were typically deployed away from the bulk of the detachments among the streets, hab-blocks and alleyways of the targeted city in order to monitor for potential ambushes, those attempting to escape the tithe or other dangers which might threaten the operations of the detachment.
- Null Maiden – A Null Maiden was a full-fledged member of the Sisterhood who had taken the Oath of Tranquility. These are structured both in terms of seniority and tactical disposition, ranking in order:
- Vigilator - The most senior-rank amongst the Null Maidens, these Sisters were members of the Execution blade-equipped close combat elite of the Silent Sisterhood -- it was their task and the task of cadres like theirs to close rapidly in combat with enemy psykers and dispose of them with the bloody certainty of a power blade strike, preferably one inflicting a decapitating blow. While they relied not only upon their power as Psychic Nulls, but also their skill and speed as well as the protection of their advanced armour to defend them from harm in such close assaults, to serve as a Vigilator was still to invite peril and death, but this was an honour that the Silent Sisterhood's ranks aspired to above all.
- Prosecutor - A mid-tier ranks amongst the Null Maidens, Prosecutor cadres were among those Sisters most commonly seen by the general populace of the Imperium, forming the foot soldiers and guards of the paramilitary organisation of the League of Black Ships, and as strike infanty well suited to combat missions outside of their silent halls. In field operations, Prosecutors specialised in open engagement of massed targets, favouring a modified variant of the Terran boltgun more commonly seen in the hands of the Legiones Astartes for its flexibility, stopping power and high rate of fire.
- Seeker - The most junior rank within the Null Maidens, Seeker cadres were often deployed for the widespread purgation of opposing forces, condemned criminals, tainted abhumans and other gene-threats, as well as the pacification of aggressive, rebellious or resistant crowds and bystanders. Primarily armed with Flamers or more rarely assault needlers, their secondary tactical function was to deny rogue elements of escape routes, cut off avenues of ambush and prevent encirclement by often numerically superior opposition forces. They were also deployed to prevent the interruption of the retrieval of the Imperial Tithe.
- Novice-Sister – A Novice-Sister was an Aspirant to the Order who had not yet taken the Oath of Tranquility but was considered to possess more skill and knowledge of the Sisterhood and its ways than a Sister-in-Waiting. A Novice-Sister was not required to perform as many menial tasks as a Sister-in-Waiting, as she had more important tasks to fill her days, such as learning witch-lore and practicing her combat skills.
- Acolyte – An Acolyte - of the First, Second and Third rank - more informally known as 'Sisters-in-Waiting', are those who have not yet been initiated into the Order. Acolytes are responsible for performing all of the menial tasks within the Order and waits on the appraisal of the more senior-ranking Sisters. Since Sisters-in-Waiting had not yet sworn the Oath of Tranquility they often acted as interpreters for the senior Sisters when dealing with outsiders.
Notable Sisters of Silence
- Knight-Commander Jenetia Krole - Jenetia Krole, known also by popular myth as the 'Soulless Queen' was the mistress of the Raptor Guard and one of the Emperor's personal battle confidantes, as well as the highest-ranking Sister of Silence during the early days of the Horus Heresy. One of the most sinisterly renowned warriors in the Imperium, Jenetia Krole was one of the most mysterious and feared warlords of the Imperium. The foremost battle leader of her Order, Jenetia Krole stalked the shadows of the Great Crusade at the behest of her master, the Emperor. She commanded whole armies, who sought out and slew psykers turned would-be gods, and cut the lives short of those who aimed either to subvert or deny the Great Tithe, and brought down blood retribution on any who slew those of her Sisterhood.
- Mistress of the Black Ships Varonika Sulath - Varonika Sulath was responsible for the execution of the Great Tithe and held the rank of Mistress of the Black Ships, and in effect, the grand admiral of the Divisio Investigates' fleet during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras.
- Nemesis Praxia Ebon Naroda - Ebon Naroda served as the high guardian of the compiled lore and estates temporal of the Divisio Investigates, and ultimately was responsible for the training of its acolytes during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras.
- Sister-Senior Celia Harroda – Sister-Senior Celia was the Witchseeker Pursuivant, and heroine of the Sisters of Silence during the Battle of Terra, when there was a massive daemonic incursion within the Imperial section of the Webway created by the Emperor within the subterranean levels of the Imperial Palace. On one occasion a mighty Bloodthirster, the greatest of the daemons of Khorne, fought its way through the Imperial defenders and to the Webway gate into the Palace itself. Only the last minute intervention of Sister Celia Harroda was able to stop the beast from crashing through the gate and into the Imperial Palace's dungeons. Sister Celia confronted the huge daemon, her presence chilling the air around it and stifling its otherworldly power, and silently she despatched the monster with swift strokes from her blade of frost. The effort utterly exhausted her and with the final, banishing stroke of her sword she collapsed upon the threshold between the Warp and realspace never to take another breath.
- Sister Emrilia Herkaaze – Sister Herkaaze was an Oblivion Knight of the Silent Sisters. Alongside Amendera Kendel, Sister Herkaaze was drawn to the notice of the Sisters of Silence as a child. Each of the Sisters were recruited from worlds in the Belladone Reach. Kendel and Herkaaze had shared a vague kinship throughout their Aspirant trials, but as they had grown into full Sisterhood, the women's early friendship soured. Years later, they were bitter rivals within the Order, each nursing antipathy for the other. How this bitter enmity began is not truly known, but one story, told to novices by other novices, said that the women had once fought with a fire-witch on Sheol Trinus; Herkaaze, unwilling to fall back before a powerful enemy and regroup, had been struck by burning debris and later turned the blame upon Kendel for refusing to support her. Sister Emrilia's extensive old wounds might indicate that there was indeed some truth to this tale. She would later break her vow of silence before Amendera Kendel and stated that the Horus Heresy was happening because the God-Emperor wished for it to happen.
- Sister Amendera Kendel – At the outset of the Horus Heresy, Amendera Kendel was thirty standard years old and, like her fellow Sisters, cut an impressive figure; she was lithe and poised, clad in a shimmering snakeskin over-suit of dense mail and a sweep of golden armour plate that resembled a bodice. She wore her purple-black coloured hair in a topknot from a seamless scalp, bare but for a blood-red tattoo of the Imperial Aquila. Sister Kendel was an Oblivion Knight and commanded the Black Ship Aeria Gloris. During the Great Crusade Sister Kendel was a part of a cadre of Sisters sent on the orders of Malcador the Sigillite to deploy alongside the Death Guard Legion in the prosecution of the xenos known as the Jorgall for daring to venture into human space. The Sisters proved instrumental in attacking and wounding a powerful mutant Jorgall psyker. They then captured the wounded creature for transport back to Terra and further research into its abilities. Sister Kendel then moved on to perform other duties. After the opening shots of the Horus Heresy occurred on Istvaan III, Sister Kendel volunteered to protect the Death Guard Captain Nathaniel Garro and the survivors of the frigate Eisenstein at the Somnus Citadel on Luna. She was later forced to lead her fellow Sisters into battle with the corrupted Death Guard Astartes Solun Decius who had finally given into the Nurgleite contagion inflicted upon him by the reanimated corpses aboard the Eisenstein. His corrupted body had mutated into a daemonic entity known as the Lord of the Flies. After defeating this potent daemonic threat, Sister Kendel, Captain Garro and Captain Iacton Qruze of the Luna Wolves were confronted by Malcador the Sigillite. The Regent of Terra informed them of his intentions to form a new organisation which would need to utilise "men and women of an inquisitive nature" and offered them a place within this new fellowship of Loyalists, even promoting her to the rank of Agentia Tertius. While Amendera Kendel's ultimate fate remains unknown, she has entered Imperial history as the first mere human to order the ultimate sanction of Exterminatus carried out on the treacherous world of Proxima Majoris.
- Sister Thessaly Nortor – An Oblivion Knight, Sister Nortor possessed a taut, scar-sharpened face which was usually drawn down into a scowl. The second-in-command of the Storm Dagger cadre had made no secret of her disdainful opinions for the Warmaster Horus’ mutiny against his father the Emperor. Sister Nortor’s breath would rasp quietly through the mechanical apparatus at her neck; almost three-quarters of Nortor’s throat had been replaced with a mechanical augment. Made of a polished silver-steel, her cybernetic implant served the function of flesh destroyed during an engagement against the Jorgalli, inside one of the xenos’s bottle-worlds. As well as her neck, much of the Null Maiden’s lungs were also synthetic proxies assembled by the Sisterhood’s biologians. Many of her fellow Sisters were privately envious of the dour Sister Thessaly; Nortor’s larynx had been lost to the acidic bite of the bottle-world’s alien atmosphere, and she had refused to allow her augmentation to be fitted with an artificial replacement for her missing vocal cords. The woman was as silent as was humanly possible, and therefore an ideal to be emulated by her fellows within the Order.
- Knight-Abyssal Kavalanera Brassanas - Kavalanera Brassanas was one of the last remaining fifty Sisters of Silence by the mid-32nd Millennium, who lived in exile upon the world of Nadiries. Commanding a Purgatory Squad, Brassanas, like the rest of her order, held utter contempt and disdain towards the current Imperium of that time, but nevertheless, were convinced by the "Last Son of Dorn," the Space Marine Koorland, the lone surviving member of the Imperial Fists Space Marine Chapter, to help aid the Imperium against the deprivations of the Ork WAAAGH! led by the Warlord known as The Beast. During both the Second and Third Battles of Ullanor, Knight-Abyssal Brassanas led her squadron in a ritual utilising their innate Pariah Gene to cause a captured Ork psyker to create a "reverse WAAAGH!" effect that slew The Beast. Her ultimate fate remains unknown.
Panoply of War
In terms of armament and equipment, the Divisio Investigates was particularly well served, and second only perhaps to the Legio Custodes in the scope and customisation of its arsenal. It had long maintained myriad different weapons and tactical systems suited to its needs, from patterns of the Terran bolter -- a weapon more commonly associated with the Space Marine Legions -- manufactured for use by unagumented humans, to the exquistely fashioned and utterly lethal executioner's power blades carried by its Vigilators. The Divisio Investigates also had access to large stockpiles of advanced and specialised weapons such as las-borer alchem needlers that could render a target comatose for capture as readily as slay them, and with them a poisons cabinet whose contents have been drawn from across a thousand worlds. Though the Sisters of Silence have access to the multitude of the Imperium's STC designs, which they have often relied on in their duty, during the late Great Crusade these were largely replaced in the field with unique patterns of grav-repulsor craft outfitted with sophisticated covert operations and stealth systems better suited to their needs. Besides this, the Order had access to certain far more arcane technologies all but unguessed at outside the Divisio Astra Telepathica; most prominently psi-negation and disruption weaponry whispered to have been created for them by the hand of the Emperor Himself.
Sisters of Silence Wargear
- "Fear not death, for it is nature's sole intent. Fear instead a death devoid of meaning."
- — Ancient Terran Proverb
- Vratine Armour - When a Sister-aspirant takes her final oaths of duty and said the last words she will ever utter aloud in her lifetime, she is given her panoply of war: the Vratine armour - literally 'the armour of the oath'. It is a sub-pattern of technologically advanced battlegear which shares design elements with both the power armour of the Legiones Astartes and the silicate-mesh of Selenite void-mail, though unlike either of those famed armours, it is not -- at least without additional gearing -- fully environmentally sealed or designed for extended operations. It does however provide formidable protection from ballistic impacts and directed energy weapons, and is tailored and forged uniquely to its intended wearer to allow for their complete freedom of movement and to augment their reaction speed.
- Enhanced Voidsheen Cloak - The voidsheen cloaks worn by Oblivion Knights are made from micro-vitrious mesh designed to diffract and absorb energy, and are particularly effective against diffuse attacks. Those worn by the commanders of the Silent Sisterhood are further reinforced by refractor generators, and are used as a mark of their rank and office.
- Spectra-Vestments - Worn by the Sisters of an Excrutiatus Cadre, the bloody-coloured raiment of the Silent Judges and the chill silver of her acolytes conceal sophisticated field generator technology that allows it to blur and shift to adapt to its surroundings or simply bleed shadow at will, concealing them from sight should they wish and making them things of darkness rather than substance when viewed from a distance.
- Flamer with Compression Tanks - Utilised by Excrutiatus Cadres, these deadly weapons are used to render down the most dangerous of the condemned to a fine dusting of ash and little more, compression tanks can temporarily boost the power of a conventional flamer weapon, making them burn at a vastly higher intensity, but depleting the fuel store.
- Instruments of Torment - In addition to their other wargear, the Excruciatus Cadres carry poisons and neuro-disruption barbs of staggering potency that can be brought to play against their chosen victims to lay low the mightiest, even transhuman creatures should they able to surround and harry them.
- Psyk-Out Grenades and Missiles - Produced under secret conditions within the temples of the Great Astronomican on Terra, the material that comprises the warhead payload of these weapons is akin to psychically-charged ash. On detonation this particulate substance blankets the immediate area, refracting psychic energy and disrupting a psyker's control over their abilities with potentially lethal results.
- Proteus Neuro-Lash - Fashioned in the shape of baroque multi-headed flails or ornate three-sectioned staves, the Proteus neurolashes are relics of the Age of Strife used by the most skilled warriors among the ranks of the Silent Sisters to subdue large numbers of assailants at once. The neural prongs that adorn the weapons generate a phase-conducted shock field which works to overload a victim's nervous system with bursts of intense agony, so that even the slightest touch leaves them helpless.
- Execution Blade - In addition to their role as witch-seekers and stern guardians of the tithe of the psyker-born, the Sisters of Silence also serve as remorseless executioners when the need arises, with the time-honoured method of beheading before immolation their preferred agency of final sanction. To this end they often carry unique, finely-wrought two-handed blades, forged to the same exacting standards of the ancient Charnabal sabres favoured for duelling among the Terran Courts, which are edged in diamond-hard silica glass, making for a wickedly-sharp cutting edge. A skilled strike from one of these weapons can part the seals of the finest armour in battle just as easily as it parts the head from the shoulders of the condemned.
- Silent Sisterhood Ranged Weapons - As the militant wing of one of the Imperium's most important institutions, the Sisters of Silence had access to a plethora of resource-intensive, rare and obscure weapons and technology, much of which had been specifically modified or developed solely to meet their unique needs. The most common of these were compact bolt weapons which were created to be handled safely by unenhanced humans rather than the superhuman Legiones Astartes without an appreciable loss in firepower. More unusual and esoteric firearms used by the Silent Sisterhood included magnetically accelerated Stake-Crossbow launchers firing silver stakes embedded with nega-psi and pyro-toxic materials, high-energy Needlers which delivered a variety of narcotics and poisons, Snare Guns which discharged rapidly hardening fibro-plastic nets to capture prey, and even examples of rare Adrathic Destructor beam weapons, deployed only against the direst threats.
Sisters of Silence Vehicles
- Kharon Pattern Acquistor - One of a number of unique and highly sophisticated vehicles utilised exclusively by the Silent Sisterhood, the Kharon pattern Acquisitor was in truth a paramilitary rather than battlefield design meant for the execution of the great psyker cull of the burgeoning Imperium's worlds. Built to incorporate numerous systems to approach its targets silently and with utmost stealth, it was also made quite deliberately to be a thing of mystery and terror when its presence was unveiled, to cow potential resistance through fear as much as the threat of force.
The Black Ships
The League of Black Ships itself cannot also go unremarked in any overview of the power of the Silent Sisterhood. It is a fleet of uniquely designed void craft of considerable size and power, most being variants of more commonly known long-range cruiser and battlecruiser designs. They are heavily armed, well-defended, rigged for extended operations and above all equipped with systems that allow them to go unnoticed by signal and auspex scan if needed. Just how many there are is a matter of conjecture, but this figure by the end of the Great Crusade certainly ranged into the hundreds, if not thousands. They are a shadow upon the stars of the Imperium, coming and going all but unseen, even as the wars of the Heresy unfolded, bound to no purpose or authority but their own. Just as secret are the location and capacity of many of the orbital ship forges and docks which serviced them. The vessels are also highly automated, reducing the need for human crew who might be imperilled by their cargo, and allowing for voyages of long duration without resupply when needed. They are by their nature a hell for any psyker taken on board as their structure is interlaced with aphonoria systems -- great spaces within their hulls where sound-deadening technologies could provide a near-absolute silence -- to block out and resist the psyker's connection to the Empyrean, as well as numerous cells for internment, punishment and interrogation, and cryo-crypts and stasis chambers for the storage of the most dangerous subjects. The largest and most powerful Black Ships also carry limited supplies of Exterminatus class weaponry- usually planet-mantle breaking cyclonic torpedoes and rare vortex warheads rather than bio-weapons for reasons of intended outcome. This enables them to enact world-kill protocols or the more confined if no less absolute annihilation of an area if a rogue psyker crisis threatens a catastrophic warp breach on a world's surface, though such incidents are thankfully rare.
Notable Black Ships
- Aeria Gloris (Black Ship) - The Imperium's Black Ships were originally the flagships of the Silent Sisterhood during the Great Crusade and were responsible for carrying them back and forth across the galaxy on the Emperor's witch-hunting missions. The Aeria Gloris was one such vessel under their command.
- Codex: Sisters of Silence (7th Edition)
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Background Book)
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 12, 21-22, 33-34, 46-47, 50-53, 59-60, 63-65, 122-131, 247-251, 253-255, 258-259, 263, 266-267, 270-271, 276
- The Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow
- Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Tales of Heresy (Anthology), "The Voice" by James Swallow
- The Silent War (Anthology), "Ghosts Speak Not" by James Swallow
- The Primarchs (Anthology), "The Serpent Beneath," (Short Story) by Rob Sanders
- The Beast Arises - Watchers in Death (Book 9) by David Annandale
- The Beast Arises - Shadow of Ullanor (Book 11) by Rob Sanders
- Dark Imperium (Novel) by Guy Haley, Ch. 22 "Theologica," pg. 267
- Games Workshop Online Store - Sisters of Silence Squad
- Games Workshop Online Store - The Horus Heresy: Burning of Prospero (Tabletop Game)
- Games Workshop Resources - Burning of Prospero Datasheets (Tabletop Game Supplements)