- "These men are my bodyguards, their lives forfeit to the guarantee of my physical safety. Of their loyalty to me there shall be no question nor doubt. I, and I alone, shall have the authority to stand in judgement over them. No other commander shall they have in battle nor in service. None shall bar them from me and none shall hamper or stall their mission. So it is decreed!"
The Adeptus Custodes, known as the Legio Custodes before the Horus Heresy, is the Imperial Adepta responsible for guarding the Imperial Palace and the physical body of the Emperor of Mankind. It is an elite cadre of genetically-engineered transhuman warriors who are even more potent in combat than the Adeptus Astartes. They are to the Space Marines as the Emperor is to His Primarchs, and it is rumoured that they were created using the Master of Mankind's own genecode. Where Space Marines represent the mass-produced genetic soldiers of the Imperium, the Adeptus Custodes are a force of individual warriors, each a bastion in his own right.
These warriors have stood in the presence of the immortal Emperor of Mankind since before the time of the Unification Wars. For ten thousand years and more, the Custodians have stood watch over their lord and master, serving as the Emperor's personal guardians and praetorian bodyguard. During the Great Crusade these resplendent warriors guarded the Emperor wherever He went and swore to give their lives to protect His. After His incarceration in the Golden Throne following the Horus Heresy ten standard millennia ago, they have taken a far more limited role in the Imperium of Man. They almost never leave Terra and only very rarely leave the Imperial Palace as they watch over their recumbent master and patrol the precincts of the Emperor's Palace, ever vigilant of threats. It is only the Adeptus Custodes who decide who may enter the Sanctum Imperialis of the Emperor at the heart of the Inner Palace, and when they may do so.
Brotherhood of Demigods
- "Give thanks to those most courageous and loyal of guardians, the Adeptus Custodes, who stand in constant vigil over the Emperor's palace. A veritable legion of warriors ready to lay down their lives without doubt for the beloved ward of Mankind. None pass through the Imperial Palace without their knowledge; steeped are they in the arcane secrets of that labyrinthine edifice. Ten thousand blades await the call to arms; to defend against any threat, from without or within."
- — Atr. Unknown
The Adeptus Custodes. It is a name spoken in reverent whispers, for these warriors have stood in the presence of the immortal Emperor of Mankind, and are charged with his protection. His greatness runs in their veins, undiluted by the passage of aeons. They have been called the Emperor's right hand, for they act with his authority and fight in his name. Only now, as the threat of Chaos grows ever greater and takes its dreaded toll, does that gilded hand reach out and become an eagle's claw. The Custodian Guard are the talons of the Emperor unsheathed, and they will tear the corruption of Chaos from the Imperium no matter the cost.
Near immortal are the Adeptus Custodes, for the golden elixir of the Emperor's own blood runs in their veins. Though outwardly resplendent, there is a scar upon the soul of the Custodian Guard, an inescapable disgrace that has tainted their history and lives in the heart of every warrior, from fresh inductees to veterans over a thousand years old. Clad in baroque, golden artificer armour and armed with priceless relic weaponry, the Adeptus Custodes make for a magnificent sight. They tower over mortal men; each has the statuesque physique of an ancient hero, close to nine feet in height even without his scarlet-crested helm. Yet for all their might, for all their bravery, the Custodians were unable to prevent the Emperor from falling to his traitorous son, the Primarch Horus.
For millennia, the Adeptus Custodes have formed the unyielding core of the Emperor’s multi-layered defences. Those Custodian Guard charged with the physical protection of the Master of Mankind spend every waking second devoted to their task, refining their warrior skills and constantly testing and updating their own strategies to ensure the sanctity of the Emperor's throne. They are his last line of defence against a hostile galaxy hell-bent on Humanity's destruction. If they fail in their task, the Imperium will collapse from the inside out. Their duty is so sacred, their reputation so profound, that even Space Marines and Inquisitors kneel before them.
Though few truly realise it, Humanity teeters upon the precipice. Aliens and fiends hurl themselves against the Imperium's borders even as the rot of treachery and the mutating curse of Chaos gnaw at it from within. Under such impossible duress, Mankind cannot endure. Once, the most part of the Adeptus Custodes would have stood stoically by as the Emperor's foes advanced upon Terra, each lordly champion stern and immobile until the foe crossed the pitch-black moat of the Sol System and hammered upon the palace walls themselves. After all, to keep vigil is the oath they swore to fulfil, and they have never abandoned it, even as thousands of worlds have burned.
Now that sovereign duty has changed. In Mankind's darkest hour, a legend has emerged from the annals of history -- the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman, an icon of authority. The coming of this legendary High Lord has galvanised the Adeptus Custodes, and after long consultation, seen them reorganised and given new life. The golden brotherhood now numbers not only guardians, but also crusaders. Alongside the anti-psykers known as the Sisters of Silence, the Adeptus Custodes bring war anew to the enemies of the Imperium. All shall learn to fear their golden warships, for they herald swift and unmerciful slaughter. These are heroes of fire and blade, and they will not stop until every threat to their immortal master lies slain.
- "Only in Death does Duty End."
- —First Maxim of the Legio Custodes
The origins of the Custodian Guard are shrouded in myth and legend. The ancient Legio Custodes were the bodyguards and sworn protectors of the Emperor and His chosen emissaries, and when the need arose, His most deadly executioners. Genetically engineered warriors of unswerving loyalty and unshakable purpose, their might and skill-at-arms was greater even than the Space Marines of the Legiones Astartes, while their weapons and wargear were uniquely potent, representing the apex of the Imperium's technology. Their history is a long one, and for centuries they have walked in the Emperor's shadow as His praetorians and the protector of His secrets.
The Legio Custodes are by many accounts the Emperor's true firstborn, prefiguring even the Thunder Warriors. They are His first genetically-engineered, psycho-indoctrinated warriors, perfected weapons crafted by the Emperor's genius from the dread lore of the Dark Age of Technology. They are in almost every measurable way superhuman: stronger, faster, more acute of senses and more resilient even than the doomed Thunder Warriors or the Space Marines who would follow them, and so far beyond the limits of an unaugmented human as to be almost godlike in comparison. Indeed, only the Primarchs and above them the Emperor Himself exceeds them in corporeal might, and to meet them in open conflict is to court death for human or alien alike.
They are rare creatures, these firstborn of the Emperor's gene-craft. Such was their psycho-physical design, and the intricacy and sophistication of the gene-craft involved, that the modifications which went into their creation required such strict biological and psychological criteria that only a mere one in many thousands of potential candidates might prove suitable for the simplest of the steps involved in the Legio Custodes creation process. Even of this small pool of candidates, survival through the decades of alchemical augmentation and psycho-memetic training were far from guaranteed. In this fact can be seen a pattern also replicated in the Space Marine Legions, only to a far more highly pronounced degree, so that while the numbers of the Legiones Astartes were prevented from growing beyond perhaps a million at their greatest strength by the limitations inherent in the means of their creation -- a paltry sum compared to the billions of others who took part in the Great Crusade -- the Legio Custodes could never, upon the available evidence, have operated on the scale of the Space Marine Legions, even if the attempt had been made for them to do so. The number of active Legio Custodes warriors has never, it is believed, exceeded 10,000. This figure was first attained towards the middle stages of the Great Crusade and maintained diligently enough that the "Ten Thousand" itself became a cognomen for the Custodian Guard in the works of the Remembrancers and the notaries of the Imperial Court since, whatever its literal accuracy.
Certainly no more than a thousand have ever been seen together at any one time, and then only once at the famous Battle of Gyros-Thravian, fought during the Great Crusade against the Ork Warlord Gharkhul Blackfang and his vast Greenskin horde. The Primarchs Horus, Rogal Dorn and Mortarion and their Legions were vastly outnumbered and close to defeat when the Emperor led an assault from His golden Battle Barge, the Bucephelus. At the head of a thousand Custodians, the Emperor struck at the very heart of the Ork horde, confronting Gharkhul atop a towering Gargant. As the Emperor decapitated the giant, black-skinned Ork, the Custodians laid waste to the warlord's prime warriors. It is said that within moments over a hundred thousand Greenskins died and the WAAAGH! was broken. Legend has it that only three Custodians fell at the battle, their names enshrined forever and engraved on the Emperor's armour thereafter.
Wrought by the Emperor's Hand
It is not an uncommon belief, even among the learned across the wide sweep of the Imperium, to suppose the Custodian Guard are themselves some variant of the Legiones Astartes -- if so crude a term might be applied, an "advanced" form, perhaps even a second, improved iteration. While this explanation might seem to fit the facts, particularly to those without intimate knowledge of the Imperium's birth pains during the final acts of the Unification Wars on Ancient Terra, it could not in fact be further from the truth.
The bloody chronicles of the Unification Wars, particularly in their earliest stages when the Emperor first rose from the nightmarish bloodshed of Ancient Terra's long night to cast down the reign of the warlords and monsters that had long carved the birth world of Mankind into a thousand slaughter-haunted pieces, are difficult now to comprehend. Many are rightly sealed from the Imperium's scholars and even the Terran Court, the dangerous truths within suppressed. But in those dark chronicles the Custodian Guard, in some form or shape, have their part as far back as any can record or those few souls who survive yet from those times can remember. Upon the pillars of the Black Manse of Nas'sau, capital of one of the earliest of the techno-barbarian holds to submit before He who was to be known as the Emperor, inscriptions record the "Lord of Lightning" coming before their warlord-kind flanked by His "four giants of crimson and gold," demanding surrender. Solar decades later, according to detailed extant records preserved in the Trans-Nordyc Akashic archives, a companion guard of thirty "Custodians", bearing Power Spears, clad in Augment-Armour and personally commanded by the Emperor, fought at the head of the newborn Thunder Legion in the assault against the formidable Maulland Sen Confederacy. One of their number is even recorded as being responsible for striking the head of the Confederation's Tyrant-Prophet from its shoulders in the aftermath of the campaign's climactic "Battle of the Red Frost".
Decades later still from this infamous battle, it would be the Custodian Guard in their hundreds, in a form akin to their most modern aspect, who would be charged with leading the cull of those same Thunder Warriors who had once served the Emperor and who had then rebelled in the wake of their forcible disbandment and internment. Only this time the Custodian Guard would be accompanied by the new gene-crafted warriors meant to replace the Thunder Warriors; the first few thousand prototype Space Marines, most of whom would go on to form the nascent I Legiones Astartes, later known as the Dark Angels. The evidence then is clear; since before the first worlds were conquered as the Great Crusade left the Sol System, since before the taking of Luna and the Treaty of Olympus, since before the Cataclysm of Ursh and the fall of the Yndonisic Bloc, before the Space Marines and before the Thunder Warriors, the Custodian Guard have walked at the Emperor's side.
To accomplish the ends to which the Legio Custodes were designed, not only is a Custodian's superhuman physical power honed to a razor's edge, but so also is the individual Custodian's intellect, mental fortitude and martial skill developed with ruthless application and zeal. The result is the creation not simply of a preternaturally deadly fighter or master assassin -- though they can readily serve as both -- but to create a being whose perception and apprehension of threat and how to counter it is literally beyond the natural limits of man or the powers of a machine. By means unknown and unknowable beyond the Emperor's own forbidden laboratories are the minds of the Legio Custodes programmed and fortified, filled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the arts of death, deceit and destruction they might encounter in their duty, and how both to counter and employ them. Beyond even this their education is prodigious, for not simply the Emperor's protectors in intention, they are also made to be His companions and with Him they are armed to converse on such matters of warfare, politics and philosophy as He wished. Most importantly, their psyches are also crafted and shaped as a master gemsmith might cut and polish a perfect stone, fashioned to precise order and pattern, a pattern to which loyalty and discipline, duty and unflinching obedience to the Emperor goes deeper than blood and bone, deeper than conscious thought or unconscious desire. If at any stage in the process the merest flaw is encountered, as with the gemsmith's search of the perfect stone, the flawed subject is discarded.
The product of these amassed arts, arcane, academic and militant, is a body of warriors these living weapons make up -- the Legio Custodes itself, the Ten Thousand. As an organisation, it is in many ways both alike and unalike to the Space Marine Legions in formation and structure, a paramilitary force unique in history, inviolate in action and answerable only to the Emperor. While each Legion was, at least at conception, a highly stratified and self-contained military organisation designed to be the shock troops and principal agency of the Great Crusade, the Legio Custodes was similarly self-sufficient and self-contained, but was never armed or expected to prosecute war, but instead to utterly dominate whichever particular close battle in which they fight. Their base of operations is Terra itself and their own domains interwoven with that of the Emperor. They hold few voidships of their own, but could command by edict any such vessel of the Imperialis Armada or later Imperial Navy to their task, and in fact requisition anyone or anything within the Imperium in extremis to serve their most sacred and undaunted task; the protection of the Emperor and His works from all the foes of humanity.
Whether serving as part of a detachment acting as the destroyers of some ill-fated foe, or tasked as a bodyguard for the Emperor or some element of His household, or even where a handful of Custodians might be deployed to act as the personal protectors to an Imperial emissary or Lord Militant, they are tireless, vigilant and remorseless. They are armed, created and trained to be the match and the death of anything they might encounter face-to-face, be that human, xenos or machine, in any circumstance of single combat, counterattack to ambush or close-range assault. Again and again has history seen the Custodian Guard stand off and defeat odds that seem beyond reason or belief. It has seen them slay monsters foul enough to have been dredged up from pure nightmare, and defeat and slay assassins born of arts both dark and subtle beyond human ken. Tested again and again, be it on alien worlds before now untrodden by humanity, or within the tangled under-hives of the domains of Mankind lost to the Age of Strife, or the twisted palaces of alien warlords, the Legio Custodes proved themselves warriors of terrifying ability. Their service and their mystery has seen the Legio Custodes quickly become a legend equal in wonder and terror even to those alongside whom they served and in the echoes of whispered stories in every corner of the burgeoning Imperium. To the common soldier and Planetary Governor alike, the golden-armoured image of the Custodian Guard is a visible sign not only of the Emperor's direct protection and the embodiment of His will and agency, but also the omen of His unstoppable wrath, as personal and as terrifying in their way as the Angels of Death, his Space Marines, are impersonal and all-conquering avatars in the minds of many of the Great Crusade itself.
The Horus Heresy
After the breaking of the Orks upon Ullanor, the Emperor returned to Terra, taking his Custodian Guard with him. The seeds of doubt he left behind soon became the roots of treachery, for there is darkness in every soul, and the Ruinous Powers have always known how to exploit it. Before a single generation had passed, the insidious taint of Chaos had infected a full half of the Emperor's Primarchs, Horus foremost amongst them. These arch-traitors spread the moral decay to the Legiones Astartes they led, and the galaxy was lit with the fires of strife and civil war.
At the climax of the Horus Heresy, the Custodian Guard fought monstrosities without number, for those in the Traitor Legions powerful enough to reach the gates of the Emperor's Palace were twisted body and soul by the baleful gifts of Chaos. A thousand victories were won by the Custodian Guard, but they all turned to ash when the Master of Mankind teleported aboard Horus' flagship, the Vengeful Spirit. There, a strike force of Legio Custodes fought the fiercest of traitors to protect their master. They were found wanting. Though Horus was defeated in single combat at the last, it was at an unimaginable cost; the Warmaster cast down the Angel Sanguinius, and dealt his gene-father a mortal blow before being slain in turn. Though the Emperor's psyche remained active within his shattered body, since that day, the Custodian Guard have stood vigil over little more than a broken corpse, wizened and immobile upon a slowly failing life support system.
Long have the Custodians worn the shroud of shame after that fateful day. In grave ceremony they donned black cloaks to symbolise the pall of darkness that had fallen over their order. The Emperor’s realm, wracked by the tempest of heresy, was reforged by those Primarchs that survived the great upheaval. Largely through the efforts of Guilliman, the Imperium's byzantine organisations were reordered in such a way as to ensure that no one faction or power could again threaten Terra. In doing so, they relinquished some of their strength. The Legiones Astartes were divided into Chapters of a thousand. The Legio Custodes, though it kept its numerical strength of ten times that number, was reforged as the Adeptus Custodes before the time of the Second Founding, becoming castellans of the Imperial Palace whose sole and solemn duty was to protect the Emperor from final death.
In the 41st Millennium, the personal sanction of the resurgent Primarch of the Ultramarines sent shock waves through the Adeptus Custodes. After ten thousand years of mourning, the Custodian Guard have cast off their black cloaks and taken to the sea of stars once more. The fires of battle will absolve them, a baptism of blood that washes away the stain of their one great failure. Now, they crusade once more against the dying of the Emperor’s light, a vengeance long-awaited finally within reach of their blades.
Role in History
Even in the days before the Heresy, it was a rare and blessed thing to see a member of the Legio Custodes, and due to the confinement of the Emperor to the Golden Throne, it has become an almost unthinkable event for a present-day citizen of the Imperium. Even during the Battle of Terra, only a handful of Custodes joined the Emperor when He made His assault upon Horus' flagship, the Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit. Since the death of Horus and the mortal wounds he inflicted upon the Emperor, the Legio Custodes, renamed the Adeptus Custodes after the Reformation of the Imperium conducted by the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman in the early 31st Millennium, have taken a more limited role by acting solely as the protectors of the physical form of the Emperor on Terra and the primary providers of security for the Imperial Palace. The Adeptus Custodes are the Auric Mortalis ("The Golden Death"), the dread guardians and only living beings permitted to be in the presence of the Emperor unencumbered. Now ensconced deep within the Sanctum Imperialis on Terra, they continue their eternal watch over the recumbent form of the Emperor.
Despite their long vigil, the Adeptus Custodes have continued to play an important role during some of the most tumultuous times in Imperial history. The Custodians were instrumental in ending the rule of the High Lord Goge Vandire during the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium. It was the actions of a few members of the Adeptus Custodes, utilising secret passages within the Imperial Palace known only to themselves, that brought the Sisters of Battle, then known as the Brides of the Emperor, to fully realise the acts of base treason perpetrated by Vandire. After their leader, Alicia Dominica, was brought before the Emperor Himself by the Custodes through the secret passages of the Palace, she returned and executed Vandire personally for his apostasy and betrayal of the Master of Mankind.
No one knows for sure how many hidden coups, secret rebellions and misguided attempts at assassination the Adeptus Custodes have foiled. That their martial skills remain so sharp after ten thousand standard years, however, is evidence that they have not stood an idle vigil. They have been called the Emperor's right hand, for they act with His authority and fight in His name. Only now, as the threat of Chaos grows ever greater and takes its dreaded toll, does that gilded hand reach out and become an eagle's claw. The Custodian Guard are the talons of the Emperor unsheathed, and they will tear the corruption of Chaos from the Imperium no matter the cost.
Into a New Age of Darkness
The hour of action is nigh. With the surge of Chaos activity across the galaxy and the threat of eternal damnation more real than ever, the Adeptus Custodes have taken their vow of protection to its logical extreme – they will see the destruction of those forces who pose a threat to the sanctity of Terra. First amongst these are the dread hordes of Chaos. The best form of defence is attack. It is a maxim that has survived through the millennia, and with good reason. Of late, it has become the mantra of all Adeptus Custodes commanders. In conjunction with the alpha-level Astropaths and doomscryers that dwell within the Imperial Palace, these officers launch terrifyingly effective strikes at those whom they deem a threat to the Emperor’s works. More than one galactic tyrant, laying plans for a crusade that he envisages culminating on Terra itself, has found the warriors of the Emperor descending from the heavens to strike him down before he has even taken to his ships.
There are those who believe that the Adeptus Custodes stand immobilised by ritual and rote, but they are sorely mistaken. Only the Custodian Guard know what occurs behind the Sanctum Imperialis' colossal doors, and the lengths to which they have gone to keep their vigil. Their sacred task has by no means led to inactivity. Hundreds of wars have been fought by the Adeptus Custodes over the aeons -- some in Terra's defence, some in secret, and some further afield. Even when the din of war recedes, these warriors work to test and refine the protective aegis they hold before their master, sending agents into the Sol System to divine likely routes of infiltration and assassination so they can stay ahead of even the most inventive enemies. The Adeptus Custodes have long honed strategies and tactics in case they should be called upon to join the front line fight for Humanity's survival. The day of that remit has finally arrived. Primarch Guilliman has met alone with his father, the Master of Mankind, and emerged with a clear vision of Humanity united in battle.
Those Custodian Guard known as the Companions -- the three hundred warriors charged with the direct defence of the Emperor -- remain by his side, just as the colossal edifice of his palace continues to be bolstered by a standing army of golden heroes. The rest have taken to the stars. They have done so in no small force, for this majestic legion still numbers ten thousand blades and more. With the Sanctum Imperialis secure under the vigil of the Companions, the crusaders are free to pursue the war of aggression they have long desired, putting into place war strategies perfected over the centuries through fractal thought exercises, cogitator-spawned algorithms, long study and even simulated conflicts waged in hallucinariums. These give the Custodians a tactical edge that allows them to counter the enemy's actions before they have begun.
In an effort to seize the initiative, a strike force was mustered on Terra, supported by an entire army of Adeptus Custodes. The Custodes, for long millennia the bodyguard of the Emperor, were charged with the unthinkable -- to leave His side and strike against those who would see the Master of Mankind dead. Just as a spring tightly wound uncoils with all the more force, the Adeptus Custodes have taken war to the enemies of the Imperium with extreme alacrity and vigour. It is tradition that when one of their number falls, Terra mourns, and the giant Bell of Lost Souls is rung in memoriam; with a new era of war upon them, that sonorous toll has been heard more frequently than ever. They do not fall easily, however, for they have access to the finest weaponry, and the museum-arsenals of the Imperial Palace are theirs to use as they see fit. Few post-Heresy variations of tank, aircraft or weapons systems are at their disposal, but they are perhaps stronger for it – every weapon the Custodian Guard uses to wage war has earned its place a hundred times over. Their armoured support elements were perfected when the Imperium was still in its infancy, and they remain just as potent, their machine spirits more bellicose and powerful than any latter-day equivalent. The Adeptus Custodes employs squadrons of gold-hulled gunships -- some of these are the very same craft used during the Horus Heresy, painstakingly maintained and blessed each day with sacred oils and unguents.
When a direct vector of invasion is called for, the Adeptus Custodes utilise Godstrike pattern teleportarium arrays, appearing in the midst of the fray in storms of golden light. Their spaceships have ancient translocation bays where blessed incense drifts in the chill air, each station permanently attended to by high-ranking Tech-Priests and blessed to such a degree that even Contemptor Dreadnoughts can be teleported straight into battle. The warriors inside, their armour proof against the wrenching forces of this arcane technology, shake off their disorientation in a heartbeat before launching thunderous assaults their foes could not have seen coming.
The willpower and fortitude of the Adeptus Custodes is such that even the most fiendish sorcerers find their mental assaults rebounding from a wall of sheer conviction. The Custodians share the blood of the Emperor, after all, and their loyalty to their primogenitor is unshakeable. If the Adeptus Custodes could be said to have a weakness, it is that they fight as individuals rather than squads of soldiers, as proud lions rather than cunning wolves. Each wears armour crafted to his particular physique, fights in whatever style he deems most effective, and is given free rein to attack or defend as he sees fit. This makes him a terrifyingly effective combatant -- a single Custodian can break a charging horde by himself, though he may take a few good hits in the process. To outsiders, their supreme self-confidence may seem like arrogance. They pay little heed to mortal men, and even the Adeptus Astartes are kept at spear’s length for their former transgressions. Yet the reason is a noble one. Every act, thought and deed is made for the furtherance of the Emperor's cause, and therefore the survival of the Human race. Those who stand in the way of such paragons of surety do not last long.
Exemplars of Terra's Might
There are many ranks within the Adeptus Custodes, the highest of which is that of the Captain-General. Following in the footsteps of historical titans such as Constantin Valdor, this lordly warrior is entrusted with an autonomy that eclipses that of even a Chapter Master. Occasionally chosen to serve as one of the High Lords of Terra, the Captain-General has ruled over the Legio Custodes since the order's inception, and is tasked with the solemn duty of safeguarding the Golden Throne and directing the gleaming warriors that guard it. Under his auspices are Supreme Castellans, Aquila Commanders, Shield-Captains and a dozen ranks besides.
The Custodian Guard have always fought as champions rather than soldiers. They see unthinking loyalty, such as that of a dynasty or a conventional military structure, as a weakness ripe to be exploited – after all, it was such a culture that saw the Legiones Astartes turned against their creator. Only those who win the respect of the Adeptus Custodes can hope to command them, but should such a leader unite them, their loyalty will never fade.
The Custodian Guard do not age biologically, so a veteran officer might be well over a thousand years old. As with all their kind, warriors who believe they are no longer fit for duty will bequeath their armour to the colossal Hall of Names and go abroad into the galaxy disguised under a hooded black cloak. Those crippled in battle but willing to fight on may be remade, mightier than ever, as a magnificent golden Dreadnought
Organisation and Structure
The full details of the organisational structure, disposition and regulation of the Adeptus Custodes are shrouded in secrecy as befits an institution dedicated to ultimate security. Those outside its ranks, even though they operate close to the Senatorum Imperialis and the highest levels of the Divisio Militaris, cannot hope to know more than a degree of detail which is purely observational, and likely barely scratches the surface of the no doubt byzantine Custodes. What can be outwardly observed is contained here within this account, as are the various details and titles with which the Custodian Guard openly interacts with the other organs of the Imperium's power.
The first mystery that outsiders must cope with is that of identity. The Custodian Guard are themselves effectively ageless and as unchanging as granite, and just as impenetrable to outsiders. They each profess to a given name, often a compound drawn from the lore of Ancient Terra's roll of kings and tyrants, gods and legends. Whether or not this represents some humour or deliberate irony on the Emperor's part given the Custodian's role is something that it is perhaps unwise to speculate on. Such true names they knew as part of their birth and origin are likely obliterated by the process of their creation, but the myths that have grown up around the Adeptus Custodes have long held that each Custodian Guard garners over his centuries a long list of additional names and titles grated purely by the Emperor for their deeds, history and character. Such names are held as a secret of their Order and never betrayed to others, though some myths would have it that this roll of honour is graven in hidden fashion upon their golden armour or even etched microscopically into their very bones. It was said that Captain-General Constantin Valdor obtained 932 names prior to the assault of Horus upon Terra.
In terms of structural organisation, it is apparent that the Adeptus Custodes is unique unto itself in terms of form, offering little in common with the rest of the Imperium's agency of warfare such as the Astra Militarum of the Adeptus Astartes. This is only fitting as the Adeptus Custodes, like other elements of the so-called "Talons of the Emperor," can be more accurately described as a paramilitary rather than a strategic force, neither geared nor equipped towards the fighting or winning of wars, but to its duties of protection and where needs be, execution.
Command Structure and Tactical Disposition
The overall command of the Adeptus Custodes of course lies within the purview of the Emperor directly, but serving as the head of the Order is a single officer; the Captain-General, and due to the importance of the Adeptus Custodes in the governing of the Imperium, since they always stand the closest to the Emperor, the Captain-General often holds a position amongst the ruling High Lords of Terra on the Senatorum Imperialis.
Below the absolute authority of the Captain-General lies the Custodian Tribunate; a senior cadre of perhaps ten in number, forming the Adeptus Custodes' council of war and policy. This body has the incomparable privilege of providing their services as counsel to the Emperor Himself should He so desire it, and in the matters of the security of the Imperial Palace's inner sanctums and the person of the Emperor, no higher authority exists.
In rank below the Tribunes of the Adeptus Custodes can be found the Custodian Prefectorate and the Shield Captains. The distinction between the two, not apparent entirely to outsiders, is one perhaps of seniority and function, with the title of Prefect accorded as a reward of veterancy and favour in service by the Emperor, while the rank of Shield Captain indicates an active field command over a particular detachment or deployment. Below these ranks, the Custodians seem to be peers as in the manner of a warrior caste or aristocracy, rather than links in the more familiar chain of command found elsewhere in the Imperium's armed forces. Their functional titles adapt to their chosen role and panoply of war in whichever command they have been included, with the following broad distinctions applied in communication with external forces on a tactical level, their titles drawn from various ancient sources.
The main strength of the Custodian Guard comprises this role at any given time. They are the bearers of the spear, the bodyguard of the Emperor and the executioners of any who would offer threat or opposition to His will. They are the image of the golden-armoured warrior that is summoned in fear and awe when the Adeptus Custodes is brought to mind. Their numbers include variations of force, wargear and panoply such as the Sentinel Guard and Custodian Guard proper, as well as the elite Hetaeron Guard -- the most skilled fighters among a force of warriors whose martial skills are already well beyond human.
Though there are few opponents that the Hykanatoi cannot deal with, they are not a rounded military force in the sense that they are not configured to deal with exigencies such as siegecraft or attrition warfare that fall outside their purview. However, the Adeptus Custodes still maintains the ability to deploy its forces as heavy shock troops should the need arise, or indeed to counter a foe that directs overwhelming force against it in high-intensity warfare. These counterassault forces are known as the Tharanatoi, and encompass custom-modified suits of Terminator Armour optimised for use by the Custodian's superhuman frame, as well as vastly potent portable firepower such as carried by the Sagittarum Guard, whose weapons include those few dark relics known as Adrathic Weapons --disintegration beams of phenomenal destructive potential, long gathered to the Emperor's household and entrusted to no other.
Long before the Emperor's retreat and seclusion on Terra after the appointment of the Warmaster Horus to command His forces, the principal role of protection and defence the Custodian Guard engaged in was a mobile one. They went wherever their master did, no matter what blasted alien world or lost cityscape of ancient glory He trod. In this the elements of speed and mobility were paramount to their success, as was reconnaissance and counterstrike in lightning response to threat. Those of the Legio who specialised in such tactics and the means of employing them were called the Kataphraktoi; they flew interceptors and gunships of sublime sophistication and power, and piloted a range of repulsor-lift grav-vehicles; tanks, transports and strike skimmers, Jetbikes and interface flyers advanced beyond anything else in the Imperium's arsenal.
The division of the Custodian Guard about which the least can be said for certain, the Ephoroi were those of the Order that were tasked with covert operations, countersurveillance and the vitally important task of simulated attack and infiltration. It was they who tested the Legio Custodes defences and preparations just as foes would, as well as conducted their own hidden missions to dispose of potential threats within the Imperium, and enact final and sometimes utterly secret justice as the Emperor's will demanded it. There are those who have posited that where the Ephoroi ended and the powers that controlled the Officio Assassinorum began at certain junctures was difficult even for the wisest of the Lords of Terra to discern, and it is certain when they wished that the Assassins of the Temples of Terra were the Legio Custodes to command. It is clear from ancient Imperial records that the Custodians participation in the so-called Blood Games -- a series of war games in which Custodians seek to identify all of the possible ways that the Imperial Palace could be infiltrated or assaulted -- that Custodians were trained in the arts of assassination, both improvised and professional, in order to counter possible attempts on the life of the Emperor. It was not uncommon for several Custodians to be on detached duty for these Blood Games so that the Legio remained vigilant against developing threats to the Emperor's person. Furthermore it is clear that the Custodes were also well-versed in the political etiquette of Terra, and have been known to act outside of Imperial law, to infiltrate influential Imperial noble houses and to investigate any potential threats. This aspect of the Custodian mindset was advantageous, given that the Captain-General of the Order often shared a seat upon the Terran Court, which allowed him to navigate the political manoeuvring of the Imperium's various organisations while still remaining an awe-inspiring warrior. It is unknown if this particular branch of the Custodians still functions in the present era of the late 41st Millennium.
The smallest and most singular division within the Legio Custodes was the Moritoi; the "honoured dead who walked". Just as with the Legiones Astartes, it was possible for a Custodian Guard, having suffered injuries so terrible that even they could not recover from them but within whom the vital spark of life remained, to be interred within the cybernetic life support sarcophagus of a Dreadnought. The first of these was made while the Unification Wars were being fought, in a modified Ur-Gholem Pattern Dreadnought, the first iteration of its kind intended for use within the Thunder Legions, and as the number of Dreadnought patterns and subtypes within the Imperium's arsenal increased across the Great Crusade's decades of warfare and innovation, so too did the Legio Custodes keep pace with these developments. Though they remained relatively rare, with less than perhaps a hundred Dreadnoughts of the Legio Custodes in service at the time of Magnus the Red's folly and the subsequent attack on Prospero, they represented a phenomenally powerful concentration of force, most having had their chassis upgraded to the Achillus Pattern, a variant of the Contemptor Dreadnought manufactured with materials and technologies far beyond even the vaunted war machines of the Legiones Astartes.
Rank Structure and Formations
- Captain-General of the Adetus Custodes - The senior-most officer within the ranks of the Adeptus Custodes, the Captain-General is the Emperor's most trusted companion and guardian, a watchman of inviolable purpose and all but unmatched fighting skill. Due to the singular importance of the Adeptus Custodes, who stand the closest to the Emperor in eternal vigil, the Captain-General holds a position amongst the ruling High Lords of Terra on the Senatorum Imperialis.
- Shield Captain - The rank of "Shield Captain" is a generalisation used when referring to one of the senior ranks within the Adeptus Custodes, as the upper command of this elite paramilitary organisation is far from transparent to outsiders. Within the Adeptus Custodes such senior ranks range from Prefect to Lictor, Proconsul to Tribune, following the ancient patterns of Terra's lost history. Elevated both through the trust held among their peers for their judgement and skill, but first and foremost advanced by the direct approval and in some cases intervention of the Emperor Himself, these are warriors not only of consummate and superhuman ability, but also rare insight, acument and knowledge. Afforded the rarest of and finest of the Imperium's arms, each of these legendary fighters command the Adeptus Custodes against all manner of threats against the Emperor, His works and His domains.
- Tribune - During the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras, below the absolute authority of the Captain-General was the Custodian Tribunate; a senior cadre of of perhaps ten in number, which formed the Legio Custodes' council of war and poly. This body had the incomparable privilege of providing their services as counsel to the Emperor Himself should He have so desired it, and in the matters of the security of the Imperial Palace's inner sanctums and the person of the Emperor, no higher authority existed. By the modern era, sadly, there were only two such positions that were still maintained by the Adeptus Custodes. One of these Tribunes served as the commander of small cadres of Custodians across the wider galaxy, taking the fight to the myriad enemies of Mankind, while the other served as the master of the elite Hataeron Guard -- the personal Companions of the Emperor -- who oversaw the security of the Sanctum Imperialis.
- Prefect - The title of Prefect is accorded as a reward of veterancy and favour in service by the Emperor.
- Hataeron Guard - Part of the inner circle of the Adeptus Custodes, the Hataeron Guard serve as the Emperor's closest protectors, aides and confidants, leaving His side rarely but for the direst of circumstances. Selected individually for their service by the Master of Mankind, they represent some of the most potent fighters in the Imperium, almost like demigods of the battlefield. During the earlier years of the Great Crusade, when the Emperor still walked amongst Mankind, the Hataeron were a regular feature upon the worlds deserving of His attention. Yet as His actions were turned elsewhere, His inner guard would follow too, becoming almost a myth in their absence. In the 41st Millennium, it is said that only 300 of these elite Custodes serve as the personal guard of the Emperor, called the Emperor's Companions. They are charged with the eternal vigil over the the Emperor's Sanctum Imperialis chambers at all times and are privileged to always be in His physical presence.
- Aquilon Terminator Sodalities - These elite warriors wear Tactical Dreadnought armour, known as Aquilon armour, that was specifically developed for the ancient Legio Custodes use. Advancing yet further upon the Cataphractii Terminator armour patterns, the Aquilon pattern took into account the enhanced physique of the Custodians as being able to bear more weight and strain than even a Space Marine, and so is fitted with additional integrated power systems and capacitors which make up for some of the limitations of the origin-pattern. This enables the Aquilon pattern to retain the Cataphractii pattern's famous durability, but allows for a higher degree of speed and manoeuvrability the former lacks. Within the ranks of the Adeptus Custodes, Aquilon Terminator Sodalities are only employed rarely, and only as need dictates, particularly on those rare occasions where they are required to operation under conditions designated as 'Zone Mortalis' or required to storm a breach.
- Sentinel Guard - Sentinel Guard Squads are the defensive formations of the Adeptus Custodes, designed to function as a mobile bulwark to protect emissaries on hazardous ground and hold defensive lines against the most grievous onslaught in open battle. In order to achieve this, they are equipped with energy field-reinforced 'Praesidium' shields -- a precursor technology to that later employed by the prototype Legio Astartes Storm Shields -- which are able to resist the heaviest weapons fire. When deployed outside the walls of the Imperial Palace, their charge is often to protect key aspects of allied detachments and resources liberated from the enemy. However, it has been witnessed during large scale sudden assaults that their close formations also served to disrupt enemy lines. While they still retain the loose unit structures of the Adeptus Custodes, the Sentinel Guard by their nature utilise a greater synchronicity between warriors in service to the various phalanx formations that could be required of the squad at any given moment.
- Agamatus Squadron - The Agamatus squadrons specialise in the use of one of a number of customised grav-skimmer and and jetbike designs still utilised by the Adeptus Custodes -- the heavy duty, plasma motor-boosted Gyrfalcon Pattern as their steads in battle. The increased power of the design supports not only the heavily armoured Custodian Guard, but also allows it to mount a powerful Iliastus Pattern Bolt Cannon as its on-board armament. The Agamatus Squadrons exploit these war machines to operate both as a rapid response and suppression unit in the field. In this they operate much in the manner of the elite cavalry forces of ancient times, screening the main Adeptus Custodes force from potential encirclement, reacting quickly to blunt enemy attacks, and hunting down mercilessly any foe which breaks and flees before the might of the Adeptus Custodes, ensuring the utter extermination of the enemy.
- Pallas Grav-Attack Squadron - Pallas Grav-Attack Squadrons specialise in the use of the Pallas Grav-Attack vehicle, utilising it as a highly manoeuvrable hunter-killer, and for its rapid strike capacity greater than that which could be afforded by the use of ground troops alone. They often use the superior agility of these advanced vehicles to inflict devastating hit-and-run assaults on the enemy or to hunt down fleeing targets. In addition, its abilities allows the Pallas Grav-Attack Squadrons to also be used as reconnaissance units or as skirmishing forces large enough to pin or delay the enemy in place as the main bulk of the Adeptus Custodes detachments are deployed.
- Sagittarum Guard Sodalities - Though less common within the ranks of the Adeptus Custodes than their peers, those warriors who comprise the Sagittarum Guard Sodalities nevertheless fulfill a number of vital roles within the Custodian's order of battle. Their art of war, in contrast to the rest of the Custodian Guard, is focussed on the slaying of the foe primarily at distance and upon the devastating application of firepower on the battlefield. In addition, the Sagittarum have entered legend as the hawk-sighted sentries of the Terran walls, charged with vigilance over the external borders of the Imperial Palace in ready anticipation of attack. Through decades of duty, their ability to recall movement patterns, faces and speech even years after the original incident was honed even more so than that of their peers, and as such their enhanced ability to analyse crowds for anticipated response grew in import upon the battlefields of the Great Crusade. Their skillset was cultivated so that they could precisely exercise the greatest threats of an enemy assault, annihilating it in the actinic fire of their deadly weapons.
Custodes Creation and Training
As has been mentioned, the Custodian Guard and the Space Marines are related in form, as perhaps might be expected of works of a same creator's hand, but they are very different in function and capacity. There are of course similarities between the two. Both are physically transformed well beyond "natural" human limits in terms of strength, endurance and fortitude, and fitted for inhuman environmental adaption and resilience, though in this the Adeptus Custodes are the markedly superior of the two in might, if not in adaptability. Both are subject to extensive psychological and cognitive conditioning, and are physically and mentally reworked to render most of their baser drives inert and their beings rechannelled towards aggression, goal acquisition and the fulfillment of duty, and as a further safeguard against distraction and as a biological control, both are of course incapable of procreation. In both cases all that is left are beings of singular purpose; in the case of each Astartes, what is created is a living engine of conquest that cares for little else, and in the Custodian Guard, each is created protector of unrelenting diligence and savage capability -- a watchman whose vigilance will never tire.
What also differs truly between the two, Custodian Guard and Space Marine, is not just their functional purpose, but the extent of their augmentation and the means by which it is accomplished. While the process through which the Adeptus Astartes are fabricated from a human being is well-enough documented in its outline, though its details are, of course, rightly held secret by those parties involved in the process on a Chapter by Chapter basis, genuine facts about the manner in which the Custodian Guard are created are very few, even within the hands of the Imperium's hierarchy. This is because -- as with all else about the Custodian Guard -- it is a matter for the Imperial Household alone, and that authority is one none may gainsay or question. What is known, however, marks them as different. Firstly, there is the matter of the age of the candidacy. For a child to become one of the Adeptus Custodes, it is known that they must begin the process in their late infancy and certainly before adolescence has taken hold on their physical structure. This stands in stark contrast to the Space Marines whose implantation is only possible after adolescence and best served before full physical maturity. This may link to a second of the few known facts about the creation of the Adeptus Custodes: that the gene-craft and alchemistry that transforms them is as absolute as it is subtle, and worked upon the smallest conceivable microscopic level of their genome and cellular structure. It is a process that effects such change on the mortal human form that, when complete, unless they suffer such massive bodily harm as to forcibly end their lives, they are effectively immortal, without perceptible ageing taking place after full maturity.
Not then for the Adeptus Custodes the pattern of surgical grafting and organ implantation that creates a Space Marine, no such crudities of augmentation at all mar the Custodian; what creates them is as invisible as it is potent, worked upon the core genetics and at a deep cellular level, and perhaps tailored to each specific inductee. There are those who insist that so invisible and yet so powerful this process is that it crosses over into a metaphysical realm of biomancy and psychic manipulation on a level unguessed at. Given that it is said that the Emperor Himself has overseen the creation of every single Custodian Guard who has ever lived, this may well be true. The peerless warriors who then result from this arcane process are a rare breed indeed, and not to be squandered recklessly on the battlefield. They were created with a single purpose in mind; to be the Emperor's own elite guard. They were a force created both to defend the Emperor from physical harm wherever the Great Crusade might take Him, to stand watch over His private domains and most guarded secrets, and to serve as the direct agents of His will -- as His personal emissaries -- be that will to protect, to venture, to claim, to keep secret, or to execute without remorse.
Role and Capabilities
The Custodes are warriors unmatched in the galaxy, genetically-engineered by the Emperor Himself. The Emperor engineered few of these warriors once the swifter method for creating superhuman warriors using Space Marine gene-seed became more viable. The martial capabilities of the Adeptus Custodes remain largely unknown at the present time. What is known is that they possess skill beyond even a "normal" member of the Adeptus Astartes. It has been said that the Adeptus Custodes are to the Emperor what the Space Marines are to the Primarchs; that the Emperor's own genetic matrix was used in their creation and through this their loyalty to Him is assured. Others argue that the Custodians are not like the Emperor in the way that a Space Marine is like his Primarch, and that some other source was used as a template for their physical and psychological form; a source that was lost during the anarchy of the Age of Strife. The truth will likely never be known. The Adeptus Custodes are similar to the Grey Knights, the elite Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus branch of the Inquisition, in that both are elite, secret organisations with close genetic ties to the Emperor. Custodes are unique as they have neither a known Primarch nor do they use Astartes gene-seed to produce their genetic modifications. They stand a full head taller than a Space Marine and it is said that they were almost the same size as a Primarch. In fact it was said that Constantin Valdor, Captain-General of the Legio Custodes and Chief Custodian to the Emperor during the Horus Hersey, was the same size as the Traitor Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion.
Only 300 Custodes serve as the actual personal guard of the Emperor, called the Hataeron Guard, the Companions of the Emperor, who guard the Emperor's chambers at all times. These are the Custodes that are privileged enough to be in the Emperor's physical presence. The Companions fall under the command of a Tribune, one of the Custodian Tribunate; a senior cadre that formerly consisted of ten in number, forming the Adeptus Custodes' council of war and policy. In the matters of the security of the Imperial Palace's inner sanctums and the person of the Emperor, no higher authority existed. In rank below the Tribune can be found the Centurions or Shield Captains. Each unit of Companions is led by a Centurion. It was one such Centurion that led a small group of Companions to meet Alicia Dominica, head of the Brides of the Emperor (later the Sisters of Battle) during Goge Vandire's Reign of Blood in the Age of Apostasy during the 36th Millennium.
One of the Companions, Constantin Valdor, was the Captain-General and Chief Custodian of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy. He was the most honoured of all of the Emperor of Mankind's creations. No other being had served the Emperor for as long as he, save for the Imperial Regent of Terra, the potent psyker Malcador the Sigillite. Valdor was a proud and respectful warrior unmatched in his devotion and loyalty to the Emperor. Valdor was ever-present at the Emperor's side, always protecting Him from unseen enemies and he saved the Emperor's life innumerable times. Along with Malcador, Valdor was the Emperor's most trusted friend and advisor.
Constantin Valdor was one of the first High Lords of Terra chosen after the end of the Horus Heresy to guide the Imperium forward following the Emperor's internment within the Golden Throne. He also had a close relationship with the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Leman Russ, although initially Russ and Valdor did not see eye to eye. Dorn was ever-present at the Imperial Palace during the Great Crusade and so Valdor and the Primarch spent much time together. On the other hand, Valdor only earned Russ' respect when the former defeated Horus in a sparring match. The two then served together in combat during the Fall of Prospero when the Custodes and the Space Wolves joined to punish the Thousand Sons Legion of Magnus the Red for his continued use of sorcery despite the edicts of the Council of Nikaea. There is no record of when or how Valdor was killed or if he was even killed at all. He eventually stepped down from the Senatorum Imperialis as a High Lord so that he could continue to devote all of his attention to protecting his beloved Emperor, now encased within the Golden Throne.
However, other accounts of the Custodians' exploits provide a different version of the relationship between the Astartes and Custodes. These records indicate that though the Custodians are slightly larger, on average, than Space Marines, their fighting skills are more or less equal. While Space Marines don their armour ritually and in the presence of their squadmates in order to focus themselves entirely on their martial calling, Custodians arm themselves alone and in silence, reflecting on the varied duties they must perform in the service of their master. As bodyguards, the Custodes not only protect the Emperor's person but also maintain scrupulous surveillance on all the other factions of the Imperium to police their loyalty, infiltrate the households of suspicious individuals among the Imperial nobility, and enter deep cover to test the strictness of their own security within the Imperial Palace, exercises which are called Blood Games. Additionally, these records also confirm that each Custodian's name consists of numerous components typically awarded for feats of arms; Valdor's full name, for instance, is over nine hundred components long.
Magisterium and Misericordia
One of the singular features of the ancient Adeptus Custodes as an organisation, and the power of its individual Custodians, is their place in the scheme of the Imperium's law. While an accredited Imperial Planetary Governor is effectively tyrant of their own world within the edicts and parameters of wider Imperial law, and few would gainsay the Adeptus Astartes in any demands they were to make, the Adeptus Custodes are alone officially afforded the power of the Magisterium Lex Ultima in the high form, which is to say they are beyond all law and all command save for the direct authority of the Emperor Himself. In addition to this, each one is a lord of the Imperium in their own right. This fact is symbolically represented not only by the right to still carry the single-headed raptor and lightning bolt heraldry of the Unification Wars campaign, but also by the carrying of the Misericordia.
For long centuries of unbridled internecine carnage on Ancient Terra during the Age of Strife, the Blade of Mercy or Misericordia came to represent the complete power oflife and death the warlords held over the mass of humanity which toiled beneath their yolk and suffered at their whim. From the dust wastes of Ursh to the Manakonite Temples of the No'rad ice hive, the bearing of such a blade, usually in the form of a long dagger or short sword made to perpetrate a single, killing thrust, came to symbolise the dread authority of the executioner-judge. Beyond the power it represented, the Misericordia might also be used in practice to carry out a "clean" sentence of death on a transgressor, or to offer terminal surcease to a warrior grievously wounded in battle at their master's discretion, in either case living up to its name as an agent of mercy as well as death. When the Emperor came to mastery of Terra and ended the bloody cycle of the warlords' reign, His agents and judges, and only they, came to carry the Misericordia as His mastery eclipsed all others, and it is a tradition the Adeptus Custodes still uphold.
Panoply of Arms
Since ancient times, the Adeptus Custodes' panoply of arms and armour, its wargear and even the vehicles and support systems it employed are often unique to the Adeptus Custodes and them alone. Whether ancient relic or newly-made, these items were not only customised exactly to task, but were also produced without any regard to the consumption of resources or rarity of component or lore required; to arm and outfit the Legio Custodes to the optimum, nothing was spared.
This supremacy is evident from the Auramite alloy-reinforced armour the Custodian Guard wears, each a planet's ransom in worth, to the plethora of repulsor-lift grav-vehicles under their control, most of which were derived from designs brought back by the great technoarchaeologist Arkhan Land and forbidden for use by any other. Likewise, their singular weapons, be they blade or Bolter, are masterworks, produced by entire sequestered sub-cults of the Adeptus Mechanicus and clades of hereditary artisans beholden to no other and tasked alone in the Adeptus Custodes' provision. Even greater than these resources at their disposal is the Custodian's ability to draw upon any facet of the Imperium's war machine and uncounted hosts it needed to meet its ends, extending its potential power to unguessed-at-levels.
The reason for this supremacy above all in arms is a simple one, for not only are the Adeptus Custodes fitted to match any potential threat from without, but also from within, and a clear demarcation was enforced between the potency of the Custodes' arms, and those of any other Imperial forces, not least of all the Space Marines, who they already overmatched in physical might. It is perhaps one of the great questions of lost history: what might have been in the wars of the Horus Heresy had the Legio Custodes not been so heavily waylaid by the disastrous consequences of Magnus' great sin on Terra and more able to take an active hand, had not so many of them been trapped for years in a terrible parallel war all but entirely hidden from the eyes of the cosmos? But that is a darker tale yet, and the weighty duty of a different record than this to tell.
Before the Emperor's internment within the Golden Throne, the Custodes had access to some of the most advanced wargear within the armouries of the Imperium. However, in the years between the Horus Heresy and the birth of the Great Rift, they took a far more limited role in Imperial affairs, and almost never left Terra and only very rarely left the Imperial Palace. It is unknown how limited the Custodes' wargear choices are due to the unknown workings of this elite and reclusive paramilitary specialist force that remains an organisation apart from the rest of the Imperium. They would also more than likely remain aloof in regards to the composition of their wargear and equipment as well as their overall tactical capabilities. Whenever they Custodians are seen outside the walls of the Imperial Palace, as rare as that was, it was in their martial aspect. Mortals would fall on their faces as if before gods. To them, these gold-clad transhuman warriors seemed as if they were wrath incarnate, created for destruction and nothing else. But this was far from the truth, for the Custodes were the Emperor's companions once, the ones in whom He confided, acting as His counsellors and His artisans.
The Custodes had been created to be the guardians of a new age and were charged to be strong enough to keep it secure. But in this sacred duty they failed. Following the internment of the Emperor into the Golden Throne after the defeat of Horus on his flagship during the Battle of Terra, the Custodes outwardly wore the mark of their failure in the black robes that covered their auramite. It was a permanent reminder, replacing the traditional cloaks of blood-red that once adorned their battleplate. It weighed heavy with every Custodian, for they knew more of the nature of the fall than most. This bleak colour change reflected that the Custodians were in permanent mourning for failing to protect the Emperor in His hour of need. But with the return of the Avenging Son, the resurrected Primarch Roboute Guilliman, the Adeptus Custodes have cast off their black cloaks and now don their crimson cloaks of old. Taking to the sea of stars, they now bring the battle to the Great Enemy, intent on absolving themselves in the baptism of fire and blood for their failure in their duties ten millennia earlier.
In Rogue Trader (1st Edition) the Custodes were the Guardians of the Emperor and the Imperial Palace. They wore simple but effective clothing: boots, leather breeches and a black cloak, their torsos naked and corded with tattooed muscle, and they carried laser-tipped halberds said to have been built to resemble the traditional Guardian Spears. Their helms were tall and ornate works of art, giving the Custodes a threateningly impassive appearance. They were considered superior to the Astartes of the time, although not as loyal to the Emperor. Clearly, this version of the Custodes has long since been superseded in current canon.
Great Crusade & Horus Heresy Eras
- Constantin Valdor - Constantin Valdor was the Chief Custodian and Captain-General of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Just prior to the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, Valdor was charged by the Emperor to accompany the Primarch Leman Russ of the Space Wolves in bringing the Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons to account for breaking promises he had made during the Council of Nikaea which had strictly forbidden the use of sorcery and psychic powers within the Imperium. Valdor, with a contingent of the elite Custodian Guard, fought alongside Russ and the Space Wolves during the Fall of Prospero. He and his forces were responsible for killing at least three of the greatest psykers of the Thousand Sons Legion and routing a force much more numerous than their own. He was also responsible for saving Bjorn the Fell-Handed when his arm was corrupted by the sorcerous powers of a Thousand Sons psyker. Valdor sliced Bjorn's arm off to prevent the corruption from overrunning his body. After Horus' betrayal became known to the Imperium, Valdor was present during the meetings of the Officio Assassinorum's Clade Sires and Siresses. It was Valdor who suggested that an Assassin from each Clade operate as a team to assassinate Horus, rather than act alone as was the standard mode of operation. It is currently known that after the Horus Heresy Valdor would become a High Lord of Terra, but would eventually step down voluntarily to protect his beloved Emperor.
- Mikaelor Cobernus - Cobernus was a Shield-Captain of the Legio Custodes during the 31st Millennium.
- Ra Endymion - Ra Endymion was a Tribune of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy and the commander of the Custodians who fought in the Imperial Webway War. He was born on Terra during the Unification Wars to Koja Zu, the Minister of the Anuatan Steppes, around the time of the Battle of Maulland Sen. Ra's father was executed by Constantin Valdor for the high crime of stealing Terra's last remaining ocean when Ra was only four years old. He was then taken by the Legio Custodes as a potential candidate. The young boy received his name 'Ra' in honour of the ancient Gyptian sun god and eventually rose to become the leader of Squad Dynastes, who were later dubbed the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself. This squad was composed of twenty sons and nephews who had been taken as tributes from various defeated Terran rulers and warlords. By the opening years of the galaxy-wide conflict known as the Horus Heresy, Ra had earned eight-hundred and seventy-one names in honour of valorous deeds and was raised to the rank of Tribune. Following the Crimson King's folly, when he tried to warn the Emperor through sorcerous means, the wards placed on the Imperial Webway deep within the Imperial Palace's dungean were breached, which allowed the legions of Chaos to encroach upon the Emperor's Palace. Five years into the war, things began to go badly for the Imperial forces, as the neverending legions of Chaos threatened to breach the sanctity of the Palace's dungeons. With the deaths of both Tribunes Kadai Vilaccan and Jasac, Ra Endymion was given sole command over the Custodian fighting the war within the Imperial Webway. When the derelict city within the webway known as Calastar (also known as the 'Impossible City') fell to the invading daemonic hordes, the Emperor finally left the Golden Throne in order to cover the retreat of the decimated Imperial forces and to confront the Daemon Drach'nyen. Taking the form of a Stone Epoch war-chief, he impaled the Emperor, claiming that it would be His death. But the Emperor tore the daemon, now in the form of a great daemonic sword, from His body and with armour-boosted strength and powerful telekinetic force, He hurled it from His grip at Ra. The sword impaled the Custodian causing the daemon to be bound within him. The sword quickly disappeared, for it was now bound within the Custodian's body, caged within Ra's flesh. The daemon within him could not be killed, not even by the Emperor Himself, only imprisoned. As the last remaining Imperial forces retreated from the webway, the Emperor ordered Ra to run deep within the myriad tunnels of the webway as far as possible. Ra's ultimate fate is unknown.
- Kadai Vilaccan - Kadai Vilaccan served as a Tribune of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium. He fought and eventually died five years into the fighting during the Imperial Webway War only two weeks after the death of Tribune Jasaric.
- Jasaric - Jasaric, known also as Jasac, was a Tribune of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium. He had the honour of being one of the original thirty Cudtodians created by the Emperor of Mankind, and had fought by his liege's side since the Terran Unification Wars, and was present during the Battle of Maulland Sen. He fought and eventually died during the fighting in the Imperial Webway War. He was succeeded by Tribune Kadai Vilaccan.
- Helios - Helios served as a Tribune of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium. He fought and eventually died during the fighting in the Imperial Webway War. He was succeeded by Tribune Jasaric.
- Ixion Hale - Ixion Hale served as a Tribune of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy in the 31st Millennium. Hale's ultimate fate is unknown.
- Diocletian Coros - Diocletian Coros was a Prefect of Hykanatoi and served as a part of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy in the 30th and 31st Millennia. He fought in the Imperial Webway War under the command of Tribune Ra Endymion. He was charged with organising a fresh wave of Imperial forces to resist the encroaching Forces of Chaos, which included the condemned prisoners of the fallen Imperial Knight House Vyridion, who would aid the beleaguered Imperial forces at Calastar just as the Chaos hordes began to overrun it. During this final epic battle, Diocletian fought at the sides of both Ra Endymion and the Emperor Himself, and eventually fought their way back to Terra and escaping the confines of the Imperial Webway just before the Emperor sealed the portal, effectively ending the war within the webway. Following the battle, the Emperor began to show Diocleitan visions of both His and Terra's past, as much as he had done with Ra. This could be an indication that Diocletian was raised to the status of Tribune following Ra's disappearance into the webway. Diocletian's ultimate fate is unknown.
- Aquillion - Aquillion served as the Occuli Imperator, the "Eyes of the Emperor", the Custodian who was assigned to watch over the Primarch Lorgar and his Word Bearers Legion after they were found to have violated the Emperor's trust during the Great Crusade by spreading their belief that the Emperor was a God to newly conquered human worlds. Aquillion and a team of four other Custodians (Vendatha, Sythran, Nirllus and Kalhin) were assigned to the Word Bearers Legion after that Legion's humiliation on the world of Khur and the destruction of that planet's capital city of Monarchia by the Ultramarines Legion on the order of the Emperor. Aquillion used a two-handed Power Sword in combat rather than the standard Guardian Spear. Aquillion and his four-man-team were all eventually slain by the Word Bearers so that they could not inform the Emperor of Lorgar's betrayal. The leader of the daemon-possessed Gal Vorbak, Argel Tal, decapitated Aquillion by biting his head off.
- Kalhin - Kalhin was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. While attempting to kill the traitor Cyrene Valantion, Kalhin was shot down by Incaradine, the mechanical Conqueror Primus of the 9th Maniple of the Carthage Cohort of the Legio Cybernetica.
- Nirallus - Nirallus was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Amongst his fellow Custodes and the warriors of the Word Bearers, Nirallus was considered the "swordmaster" for his skill with his Custodian Spear. He used this skill to slay Malnor, one of the strongest of the daemon-possessed Gal Vorbak, but was torn apart seconds later by two other members of this warrior elite of the Word Bearers Legion.
- Sythran - Sythran was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over the Primarch Lorgar and the Word Bearers Legion. He was part of the elite Squad Dynastes, called the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself, which comprised twenty souls, each one a scion of an extinct royal Terran bloodline, taken as tribute in conquest during the Unification Wars and inducted into the Ten Thousand. Before leaving Terra to watch over the Word Bearers Legion for 50 standard years as part of the XVII Legion's punishment for violating the Imperial Truth during the Great Crusade, Sythran swore an oath that he would not speak again until he set foot on Terra once more with this duty complete. He kept this promise until the moment of his death at the hands of the Gal Vorbak, when he mocked the Word Bearers' Chaplain Xaphen just after killing him for his betrayal of the Emperor.
- Vendatha - Vendatha was one of the four other Custodians assigned to serve under the command of Aquillion to watch over Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Vendatha was used as the tenth sacrifice to summon Ingethel, the daemonic Emissary of the Chaos Gods.
- Zerin - Zerin was a participant in a "Blood Game" alongside Amon, Haedo and Brokur. Out of the four, Zerin did the worst, as he did not even make it into Imperial Territory before he was caught by his fellow Custodians in the city of Irkutsk.
- Iacus - Iacus was one of the 15 Custodes sent to watch over the Word Bearers Legion who was not assigned to watch over the Primarch Lorgar with Aquillion. Iacus and his fellow Custodes watched over First Captain Kor Phaeron and First Chaplain Erebus instead. Before the Word Bearers' treachery came to light, Iacus and all his Custodes had fallen in battle alongside the Word Bearers, never knowing of their betrayal.
- Arcatus Vindix Centurio - When on Terra the Emperor Himself imprinted the genetic knowledge of the Primarch-programme onto Corvus Corax, he also ordered a squad of his very own bodyguards to accompany the Primarch of the XIXth Legion back to Deliverance to protect the sensitive knowledge. Although the knowledge imprinted into Corax's mind would slowly fade, the Custodes would continue their Emperor-given task to protect and watch over the Primarch of the Raven Guard. As leader of this new bodyguard and the man whose task it had been to watch over the Raven Guard during their stay in the Imperial Palace, Arcatus Vindix soon became a figure of influence within Corax’s war council, as the Raven Lord enjoyed debating with the leader of the Custodians when not on the front lines or even in the heat of battle. Whereas Corax always marvelled on Horus' temerity to declare war on the Imperium, Arcatus had a quite different point of view -- Horus would never have turned traitor if he hadn't been sure from the beginning that he would win. Alongside the ever-active Raven Guard, Arcatus and his brothers saw much combat, participating in such venture as the Raid on Kapel-5642A or the Day of Vengeance on Carandiru.
- Brokur - Brokur took part in a "Blood Game" alongside Amon, Haedo and Zerin. Brokur emerged as the runner-up in the contest as he made it to The Hegemon before he was caught. Valdor had not expected anyone to get closer to the Imperial Palace than Brokur, but Amon succeeded in infiltrating the Palace itself.
- Saturnalia Princeps Carthagina - Saturnalia was a member of the Legio Custodes during the Horus Heresy era. He was assigned to the Psi-Hunter Team charged with the task of capturing the Outcast Dead -- the surviving members of a small Legiones Astartes honour guard known as the Crusader Host that was stationed on Terra. The fugitive Astartes were members of the Traitor Legions that had sided with Horus in his rebellion against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy. They had been imprisoned in the maximum security prison known as The Vault since they could no longer be trusted, but they managed to stage a break-out and escape. Saturnalia became part of the hunt team led by the Seer Hunter Yasu Nagasena to track down the Outcast Dead in an attempt to regain his honour after letting the Outcast Dead take his prisoner, the Astropath Kai Zulane. During the final battle with the Outcast Dead in the Temple of Woe, Saturnalia managed to kill Subha, a World Eaters Berserker. Subbha's twin, Asubha, attacked him and drove a Custodian Guardian Spear through Saturnalia's head, just as Saturnalia managed to stab Asubha in the heart with his own Guardian Spear.
- Haedo Emankon - Haedo Emankon took part in one of the many "Blood Games" alongside Amon, Zerin and Brokur. Of the four participants in the contest, Haedo was the third most successful, as he made it to Cebu City before he was caught. Haedo Emankon was later charged by Constantin Valdor to gather incriminating evidence on a member of the government of unified Terra who was suspected of treason against the Emperor alongside Amon Tauromachian.
- Khorarinn - Khorarinn was a member of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras. Following the Istvaan III Atrocity, Khorarinn was assigned to work alongside the Knight-Errant, Agentia Primus Nathaniel Garro, a former Battle-Captain of the traitorous Death Guard in determining the loyalty of a ragtag refugee fleet that sought sanctuary within the Segmentum Solar. They were led by the loyalist World Eaters Captain Macer Varren. Khorarinn was highly suspicious of Varren's motives as well as Garro, as they were both formerly members of known Traitor Legions. Further tension was built up between Garro and the Custodian when the latter threatened to kill Tylos Rubio should he utilise his psychic powers in direct violation of the Emperor's Decree Absolute, as laid down during the Council of Nikaea. Ironically, he showed respect towards the White Scars Captain Hakeem, an unexpected member of the refugee fleet, who turned out to be a traitor who was loyal to the Warmaster. Ironically, Hakeem and his traitorous White Scars would eventually go on to kill Khorarinn as those whom the Custodian accused of disloyalty attempted to save his life.
- Amon Tauromachian Leng - Amon Tauromachian was a member of the first circle of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy in the 30th and 31st Millennia. Amon was present during the Triumph of Ullanor, where Horus Lupercal was invested by the Emperor with the title of Imperial Warmaster and command over all the Imperium's armed forces and overseeing the final stages of the Great Crusade. When he was manning a checkpoint alongside a fellow Custodian, Haedo Venator, as well as seven Null-Maidens of the Silent Sisterhood, Primarch Magnus the Red was impressed by Amon's stoicism and dedication and predicted that there were great things ahead for him. Many years before the start of the Heresy, Amon was present at the Council of Nikaea to watch over the trial of Magnus the Red for his use of sorcery. Whilst protecting Kasper Hawser, a skjald of the Space Wolves, Amon was attacked by a minion of Chaos in the disguise of a Thousand Sons Space Marine, but managed to survive the encounter thanks to the efforts of the Astartes of the Space Wolves. Amon was later charged with protecting the Emperor when Terra began the process of fortification to withstand the coming assault by the Warmaster Horus and his Traitor Legions. After news of Horus' betrayal reached Terra, Amon was tasked with taking part in the "Blood Games", a rite all Custodians endured and one which set them against the formidable defences of the Imperial Palace in the hope of improving the Custodians' defence of the Emperor through the exposure of flaws in his protection. Following his success in the "Blood Games", Amon Tauromachian and a fellow Custodian Haedo Emankon were sent on a dangerous mission by Constantin Valdor, the Chief Custodian, to gather incriminating evidence on a member of the government of unified Terra, who was suspected of treason against the Emperor. Amon would go on to be regarded as one of the greatest members of the Legio Custodes. His ultimate fate is unknown.
- Sumant Giri Phalguni Tirtha - Tirtha was a Veteran Custodian, whose name was said to bear at least seventy-six awarded titles. He was one of the gaolers at the high security Imperial prison on Terra known as The Vault. It was not known how Tirtha had come to Khangba Marwu. He bore no obvious injury and was in prime physical condition, but rumour said he had once questioned an order from the Captain-General, Constantin Valdor. Tirtha was charged with the duty of guarding an extremely dangerous group of prisoners known as the Outcast Dead, the remnants of the Astartes honour guard known as the Crusader Host that was stationed on Terra whose parent Legions had turned Traitor and sided with Horus. Tirtha was killed during the Outcast Dead's successful escape attempt from The Vault, when Atharva of the Thousand Sons took control of an elite soldier with a Plasma Gun and made him shoot Tirtha in the stomach.
- Uttam Luna Hesh Udar - During the Horus Heresy era Udar was the lead gaoler of the subterranean high security prison built to detain those individuals deemed hostile to the Emperor and isolated from the world above. Built beneath the Himalayan peak known as Rakaposhi, only the most senior Custodians bothered to use its original name, Khangba Marwu, and for those condemned to its cells, who would never again see the light of day, it had an altogether more prosaic name. They knew it simply as The Vault. Udar was removed from the fighting ranks of the Legio Custodes after being exposed to an Ork bacteriological pathogen, whose aftereffects greatly reduced his reflexive response times to a level below the minimum required for front line service amongst the Custodians. A proud man, he took his removal from the front lines hard, but eventually adapted and took to his new role as a gaoler at The Vault with the same determination and attention to detail that had seen him come the closest to the full infiltration of the Imperial Palace in the Blood Games until his peer Amon Tauromachian Leng bested him. During his tenure, Udar was charged with watching the last remnants of The Outcast Dead -- a small group of Astartes warriors drawn from the Traitor Legions that were the last of the Crusader Host, an honour guard of Space Marines comprised of representatives from each of the 18 Space Marine Legions that served on a rotational basis within the Imperial City outside the Imperial Palace on Terra. Udar met his ultimate fate when The Outcast Dead engineered a successful escape attempt. Udar was slain when he confronted one of the berserker World Eaters Astartes in close combat. The berserker in question, Sergeant Tagore, ripped out a section of Udar's spine through his chest, just as Tagore had promised he would during his confinement.
- Sagittaras (Sagittarus Malacque) - Sagittarus was one of the first thirty Custodians created by the hand of the Emperor of Mankind and served alongside his liege as His personal Honour Guard during the Terran Wars of Unification. Choleric and wild, he was the first Custodian to be wounded unto death, and interred within the sarcophagus of the Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought as a part of the Legio Custodes Moritoi.
- Primarus - Primarus was a Custodian who had been interred within the adamantium sarcophagus of an unknown model of Dreadnought, to continue fighting on behalf of the Emperor during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras. His ultimate fate is unknown.
- Senitorus - Senitorus was a Custodian who had been interred within the adamantium sarcophagus of an unknown model of Dreadnought, to continue fighting on behalf of the Emperor during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy eras. His ultimate fate is unknown.
- Gathas - Gathas was a member of the elite Squad Dynastes, called the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself which comprised twenty souls, each one a scion of an extinct royal Terran bloodline, taken as tribute in conquest during the Unification Wars and inducted into the Ten Thousand. He fought and eventually died during the fighting in the Imperial Webway War under the command of Tribune Ra Endymion.
- Mycorian - Mycorian was part of elite Squad Dynastes, called the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself which comprised twenty souls, each one a scion of an extinct royal Terran bloodline, taken as tribute in conquest during the Unification Wars and inducted into the Ten Thousand. He fought and eventually died during the fighting in the Imperial Webway War under the command of Tribune Ra Endymion.
- Juhaza - Juhaza was part of elite Squad Dynastes, called the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself which comprised twenty souls, each one a scion of an extinct royal Terran bloodline, taken as tribute in conquest during the Unification Wars and inducted into the Ten Thousand. He fought and was badly injured during the fighting in the Imperial Webway War under the command of Tribune Ra Endymion. Juhaza's ultimate fate is unknown.
- Solon - Solon was part of elite Squad Dynastes, called the Lords of Terra by the Emperor Himself which comprised twenty souls, each one a scion of an extinct royal Terran bloodline, taken as tribute in conquest during the Unification Wars and inducted into the Ten Thousand. He fought in the Imperial Webway War under the command of Tribune Ra Endymion. Solon's ultimate fate is unknown.
- Trajann Valoris - Current Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes and perhaps the deadliest individual warrior in the entire Imperium. There were no records in the Imperial databanks on his martial conquests or his ascent into the order. For as long as any living mortal could remember, Valoris' name was spoken of with nothing short of reverence, for many considered the Captain-General to be the personal representative of the Emperor Himself. Even the High Lords might be mocked, when in wine or in anger, but to do so with the Captain-General was simply beyond imagination. For to mock Valoris was to mock the Emperor Himself. Such blaspheme would not go unpunished, and would inevitably result in a transgressor's untimely death. While the two tribunes of the Adeptus Custodes were generally occupied with the many ritual purposes of the order, the Captain-General had no set remit, but governed the forces under his command with complete freedom. To the extent that if the Ten Thousand had dealings with any part of the Adeptus Terra, they were carried out through him. Though the Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes traditionally served on the Council of the High Twelve under the most dire of circumstances, such as during the War of the Beast in M32, it was only through the persistence of Chancellor Lev Tieron that persuaded Valoris to assume the seat that had been left vacant for some time, following the death of Lord Brach, the Chancellor of the Estate Imperium.
- Beyreuth - Beyreuth was the Chief Custodian and Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes during the War of the Beast in the mid-32nd Millennium. During this crisis, he led the Custodian Guard in battle against the Harlequins of the Troupe of Joyful Tears, when they managed to breach the sanctity of the Imperial Palace, intent on personally delivering a message to the Master of Mankind, Himself. Only Shadowseer Lhaerial Rey and Death Jester Bho reached the chamber that led to the Sanctum Imperialis, they were able to kill dozens of Custodians, all the while as the Shadowseer insisted that she had come in peace. She explained that she had been sent on behalf of Ulthwé Farseer Eldrad Ulthran to deliver an important message to the Emperor. But the Adeptus Custodes would not relent in their sworn duties, and so, pressed their attack against the xenos interlopers, killing Bho and impaling Lhaerial to the ground with a Guardian Spear. As the Shadowseer continued to insist on meeting with the Emperor, the enraged Captain-General was about to give the order to kill her, until the timely intervention of Inquisitor Lord Veritus saved the Harlequin's life. Using his position as the Inquisition's representative to the Senatorum Imperialis, Veritus force Beyreuth to release the Lhaerial to him so that he could interrogate her. After the tragic event known as The Beheading occurred, the de facto rule of the Imperium fell to the sole remaining High Lord of Terra, the Officio assassinorum's representative, Drakan Vangorish, who reminded Beyreuth of the fact that the Eldar nearly breached the threshold of the Eternity Gate. This argument convinced Beyreauth to join Imperial politics and to take his place amongst the esteemed ranks of the Senatorum Imperialis alongside Vangorich.
- Heracleon - Heracleon is one of two tribunes who serves in the modern era Adeptus Custodes. He serves as the master of the Hataeron Guard, the elite cadre of Custodians who oversees the personal security of the Emperor within the Sanctum Imperialis itself.
- Italeo - Italeo is one of two tribunes who served in the modern era Adeptus Custodes. He commanded the few Custodian forces that were abroad fighting the myriad foes of Mankind in holy warfare. Often, he would be impossible to reach by summons due to the inherent danger inherent in his duties. Following the destruction of Cadia, and the formation of the Great Rift, Italeo was mortally wounded during the Second Battle of Terra, while fighting against a massive incursion by the forces of the Khorne, though he managed to kill one of the Bloodthirsters who was leading them, before his death. Following his death, Italeo was seceded by Maldovar Colquan as Tribune.
- Maldovar Colquan - Maldovar Colquan is one of two tribunes who serves in the modern era Adeptus Custodes. Maldovar spent many years in service, holding vigil over the Emperor as a member of the elite Hataeron Guard. Following Itaelo's death during the Second Battle of Terra while battling the forces of the Blood God, Maldovar was chosen to replace him as Tribune. Following the resurrection of the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman, who was later acknowledged as the acting Lord Regent of Terra, Tribune Colquan served as a liaison between the acting Lord Commander of the Imperium and Captain-General Valdoris. He later joined the assembled Terran forces and took part in Lord Guilliman's Indomitus Crusade, to take the fight to the Archenemy. Tribune Maldovar led the Custodian contingent for well over a century and took part in many notable campaigns, including the Battle of Raukos, which signaled the end of the century-long Crusade. While Colquan served Lord Guilliman faithfully, the Lord Commander could not help but take notice that the Tribune, like many Custodians, had remained superlative individual warriors. But the Adeptus Custodes had rarely served as generals since the old times, and centuries of isolationism had dulled what command abilities they had once possessed. The Tribune's contempt for baseline humanity also troubled Lord Guilliman, a sentiment that was all too often shared amongst Colquan's fellow warrior elite. The Custodians had spent their lives guarding the Emperor, yet they had forgotten who the Emperor guarded in His turn. He chastised Colquan to be more forgiving.
- Adronitus - Adronitus is a Shield-Captain of the modern era Adeptus Custodes. Following the conclusion of the Terran Crusade, led by the resurrected Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman, Adronitus confronted the Emperor's son before the Eternity Gate. After making his determination, he permitted Roboute Guilliman to enter within the sanctity of the Sanctum Imperialis to commune with his father, the Emperor. Just before entering the chamber, Guilliman ordered the Custodian Guard to seize Cypher and his fellow Fallen Angels. Adronitus did so, and escorted the Astartes the prisoners to a prison cell within the Imperial Palace.
- Valerian - Valerian served as a Shield-Captain in the modern era Adeptus Custodes as a part of the Palaiologian Chamber of the Hykanatoi. While taking part in one of the Custodes' Blood Games, he was asked by Heracleon, the Tribune of the elite Hataeron Guard, to join their order. Having long striven to become a member of the Companions, Valerian eagerly accepted this great honour. Led to the Last Door of the Sanctum Imperialis, he prepared himself to face the Hataeron Guard's first trial -- to cross the threshold of the Last Door and enter the presence of the God-Emperor. But after catching a glimpse of the Master of Mankind, Valerian could not compel himself to take a step, for his body refused to obey him. Valerian felt great shame and embarrassment, having failed this first of many trials, and so, he returned to his former duties on the Outer Walls of the Imperial Palace. But he would later make up for his perceived shortcomings, when he helped to valiantly defend the Palace defences during the mayhem and madness that ensued following the aftermath of the formation of the Great Rift, and the subsequent Second Battle of Terra.
- Ynnades - Ynnades was one of the Adeptus Custodes' Revered Fallen -- a mighty leviathan of the Contemptor-Galatus pattern. The entombed warrior had been roused from his centuries-long slumber when Terra was engulfed by mayhem and chaos, following the formation of the Great Rift. He would later take part in the valiant defence of the Imperial Palace during the Second Battle of Terra against a massive incursion by the forces of the Blood God.
- Armoury Thrall - Armoury Thralls are mortals who have continued to serve as bonded servants to the Adeptus Custodes since the earliest years of the Imperium. Capable warriors in their own right, they carry extra ammunition and armour sealant for their Custodian masters while they are in battle. Following closely behind them while they perform their duties, when the Bolt Casters built into their Guardian Spears or Sentinel Blades run empty, the Custodians throws the weapon to an Armoury Thrall or casts them into the ground. The Armoury Thrall then proceeds to gather the discarded weapon and reload it and then is strong enough to throw the weapon back to the Custodian.
- Custodian Armour - The panoply of the Adeptus Custodes represents the pinnacle of the armourer's art. Far more sophisticated than production-model Space Marine Power Armour, it is fashioned with rare auramite alloy such as that used for the armour the Emperor Himself wore in battle. Each suit is unique to the Custodian Guard who wears it, and it is fitted with arrays of proximity sensors and Refraction Field generators to further enhance its defences.
- Praesidium Shield - Ornate precursors to the later Storm Shield, the Praesidium Shields of the Adeptus Custodes are forged from all but indestructible layered Ceramite and resilient alloys reinforced with built-in field generators.
- Aquilon Pattern Terminator Armour - This is a variant of Terminator Armour uniquely designed to operate in conjunction with the physiology of the Adeptus Custodes. Its origins lie with the Cataphractii suits of the Space Marine Legions, but with far greater power capacity and customised neuro-fibre uplinks, it is said, redesigned by the mind of the Emperor Himself for His elite forces.
- Teleporation Transponders - Although more often employed in the role of bodyguards and sentinels, when the Emperor was active during the Great Crusade, the Legio Custodes often made use of the teleportarium of their Imperial warships to swiftly gain planetfall. Such mechanisms employed for this were the most advanced of their kind and little was left to chance in their operation.
- Refraction Fields and Iron Halos - Although relatively rare owing to the resources and arcane lore required to construct them, a variety of personal defence energy shields are nevertheless common in the armoury of the Emperor's direct servants, serving both as a badge of office and a means of protection.
- Magisterium Vexilla - The ancient icons and standards borne by the Legio Custodes represented the inviolable and nigh-omnipotent authority of the Emperor. In particular was the Magisterium, a seal of ultimate sanction and the might of Mankind. Their mere presence on the battlefield is enough to fill those loyal with resolute zeal and wrack those who face His wrath with fear and dread. Moreover, these banners and icons were also technological artefacts containing Vox relay systems and subsonic inducers, augmenting their battlefield role far beyond the merely symbolic.
- Arae-Shrikes - Ancient devices of the Dark Age of Technology which twist and distort electromagnetic signals, these counterintelligence devices are considered blasphemous in principle and arcane function by the ancient Mechanicum, and persist only in the hands of the Emperor's retinue. By the use of malifica-djinn and hostile blight-code, they pervert the data-readouts of unshielded Cogitators and telemetry plotters with lying reports and malign falsehood, and what they cannot deceive, they simply blind and deafen with a shrieking multi-frequency cacophony.
- Guardian Spear - The signature weapon of the Adeptus Custodes and in many ways their symbol of office is the Guardian Spear. Elegant and deadly, it is a potent and unique design incorporating a Power Blade and a highly advanced integrated Bolter weapon, and in the hands of a Custodian Guard it can strike and parry at blinding speed despite its size. More rarely, these weapons mount not Bolters but advanced specialised sub-weapons such as compact Meltas or even Adrathic Disintegration Beamers, issued against the deadliest of expected foes. The most beautifully wrought and deadly weapons of the Custodians' arsenal are the Paragon Spears, storied weapons wielded by the most noted Shield Captains and Tribunes among the Ten Thousand.
- Sentinel Warblade - This is another unique weapon of the Adeptus Custodes, brutal where the Guardian Spear is precise. The hyper-pulse disruption field generators found in the warblade are able to tear apart flesh and metal on contact, while built-in to the blade is a double-barrelled Bolter able to lay down a hail of fire at short range.
- Solerite Power Gauntlets and Power Talons - First fashioned in the pattern of ancient relics to arm the elite of the Thunder Warriors, the Solerite Power Gauntlets and their raptor-taloned variants are potent weapons. They differ from the standard Power Fists and claws utilised by the Adeptus Astartes in both the near-irreplaceable artefact power coils which energise their disruption field generators and the nigh-indestructible materials their casings and blades are fashioned from, forged as they are in furnaces recovered from the ancient Tempest galleries near Terra's molten core.
- Adrathic Weapons - Relics of the Dark Age of Technology believed to be all but unique to Terra, Adrathic weaponry uses a potent but dangerously unstable energy beam to sever the internal bonds of matter, causing objects caught in their path to unravel in a spectacularly destructive manner, leaving only a flaring after-image of what was. Such weapons were legend during the Age of Strife, and devastating wars were fought on anarchic Old Terra solely over the possession of some unearthed cache of Adrathic Weapons and the promise of the power they held. When the Emperor came to dominion and ended Old Night on Ancient Terra, all Adrathic Weapons were given over to Him on pain of death, not simply to the one who retained them but to their entire land and nation such was the importance He placed on controlling this technology. These weapons have remained in His care ever since, and only His own personal weaponsmiths gained and kept the knowledge of how to replicate them in small numbers, much to the jealousy of Mars.
- Adrastus Bolt Caliver - Developed as a hybrid of later pattern Imperium Bolter weapon designs and Dark Age of Technology "Adrastite" disintegration beam weapons prohibited from general Great Crusade issue, the Adrastus Bolt Caliver is a potent shoulder arm serving as a portable heavy weapon for the Adeptus Custodes. This combination weapon is able to unleash a fusillade of explosive rounds at long range with the potency of the Heavy Bolters carried by the Adeptus Astartes, or at shorter ranges fire a disintegration beam able to rip a target apart at a molecular level, causing its victims to cease to exist in a howling flare of energy.
- Lastrum Storm Bolter and Bolt Cannon - This pattern of Bolter weapon is named for the weaponsmiths of the Lastrum Core Clan of the Appolyne workshops of Terra. Other than being exemplars of their kind in terms of skill of fabrication, they would not be remarkable save for their uniquely powerful ammunition. Rather than the usual "Kraken" type bolts utilised by the wider sweep of the Adeptus Custodes, the artisans of the Lastrum clans hand manufacture only customised mass-reactive heliothermic warheads for their bolt shells. Once within their target, these burst into brief, but sun-hot incendiary detonations, incinerating their victims from within. These shells are uncommonly dense, requiring a far stronger charge to launch than common bolt shells, and only the Lastrum's uniquely sturdy construction for a weapon of their size can withstand the stresses of their repeated firing. The sheer resources and artifice of these weapons were immense, and they could never hope to be mass produced to arm the Space Marine Legions, and even the output of entire generations of the Lastrum themselves could barely satisfy the Legio Custodes' demands.
Adeptus Custodes Battlefield Support Weapons
As with much of their personal armoury, the weaponry of the Adeptus Custodes' unique war machines is an expression of the height of the Imperium's technological capacities. Many can be described as paragon variants of well-established Imperial patterns such as the Arachnus Blaze Cannon, which were recognisably developments of widely used Imperial las technology, but built with esoteric and powerful components which could never be replicated en masse. Others, such as the Iliastus Accelerator Cannon, were however at the cutting edge of new military developments, incorporating technologies gleaned and tested on the frontline of the Great Crusade.
- Coronus Grav-Carrier - Perhaps one of the most well-known of the vehicles used exclusively by the Adeptus Custodes, this transport was already widely utilised across the Legio Custodes in the closing decades of the Great Crusade, replacing the limited numbers of the relic Jocasta Pattern Grav-Craft that had survived the Unification Wars on Ancient Terra. The use of heavily protected grav-craft by the Legio Custodes granted their force a degree of speed and agility that could not be matched by the grinding armour of other forces of the Imperium, allowing them to deploy, redeploy and evade without the danger of being easily pinned down by enemy troops or hazardous terrain. The Coronus Pattern also served as the inspiration and technological basis for the Pallas and the Caladius grav-craft, developed to meet the specific strategic needs of rapid attack and line of battle tank, respectively.
- Caladius Grav-Tank - Based upon the technology of the Coronus, the smaller Caladius grav-tank was designed to utilise the firepower afforded by the heaviest elements of the Legio Custodes' arsenal on a highly-mobile, protected platform. Given the fusion of advanced systems and weapons, the Caldius was perhaps the most powerful battleline armoured unit of its size in the Imperium's forces, utilising technologies and materials derived not only from the Dark Age of Technology, but from developments made as a result of the Great Crusade's two centuries of warfare. The principal armament of the Caladius was a double-barrelled Accelerator Cannon, an advanced weapon which became a precursor to the more mass-produced cannon retro-developed into the armament of the Legiones Astartes Sicaran Battle Tank, which fulfilled a similar role to the Caladius as a high-speed armour destroyer. A less common variant was the "Caladius-Annihilator" which featured an enhanced capacitor-fed Arachnus Blaze Cannon that is potent enough to pose a threat even to super-heavy armoured vehicles.
- Gyrfalcon Pattern Jetbike - One of a number of customised Jetbike designs utilised by the Legio Custodes Agamatus Jetbike Squadrons, the heavy duty, plasma motor-boosted Gyrfalcon Pattern Jetbike served as the Custodians' steeds in battle. The increased power of the design supported not only the heavily armoured Custodian Guard, but also allowed it to mount a powerful Iliastus Pattern Bolt Cannon as its on-board armament. The Gyrfalcon was more powerful even than the Scimitar Pattern Jetbike associated with the Legiones Astartes, a heavy-design more akin to an armoured one-man speeder than a true Jetbike. In addition, it augmented its grav-repellor systems with a plasma-thrust motor for huge temporary bursts of speed. The Agamatus Squadrons of the Legio Custodes exploited these war machines to operate as both a rapid response and suppression unit in the field.
- Pallas Grav-Attack - Designed, it is reported, to incorporate advanced manoeuvring and autonomous response systems recovered by the great Techno-archaeologist Arkhan Land, the Pallas Pattern grav-attack was one of the most recent designs entering service with the Legio Custodes prior to the Burning of Prospero. Clearly based upon the lineage of the Coronus and Caladius grav-vehicles, it was smaller than either, a single-seat high-speed attack skimmer analogous in role to the Land Speeder more commonly employed by the Legiones Astartes. Designed as a high-manoeuvrability hunter-killer, the Pallas Pattern grav-attack squadrons provided the Legio Custodes with a greater rapid strike capacity than could be afforded by the use of ground troops alone. In this it replaced standard pattern skimmers as well as larger war machines such as the ancient Jocasta Pattern grav-attacks, themselves relics of the Unification Wars, and considerably smaller Hermes Pattern grav-sleds, which while highly agile and swift, offered little in the way of combat survivability.
- Orion Assault Dropship - Created as a dedicated super-heavy assault dropship for the Legio Custodes, the Enyalas Pattern Orion can carry a full task force of the Emperor's Talons into combat. Protected by frontal armour superior to that of the Legiones Astartes Thunderhawk gunship, its Arachnus Heavy Blaze Cannon and Heavy Bolters can swiftly clear a landing zone of hostile infantry and armour with brutal efficiency, allowing the units within to deploy before it soars back into the sky to unleash death upon any foe who dares approach.
- Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought - In those isolated cases where the body has been all but irrevocably destroyed but the Custodian's mind remains intact and their will to survive undimmed, internment within the cold and unyielding body of a cybernetic Dreadnought is the next step. To this purpose, the few Dreadnoughts of the Legio Custodes were as singularly advanced as their other wargear, outfitted with weapons and systems artificer-made by the servants of the Imperial Court. At the time of the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the most widely employed was the Contemptor-Achillus, a general battle unit which combined phenomenal strength and speed with the echoes of the interned Custodes' own unmatched martial skill. In battle, the Contemptor-Achillus often utilised a deadly Achillus Dreadspear for close combat. These were scaled-up versions of the iconic Guardian Spear of their Legio that possessed devastating power. For fighting at range, they also often utilised a pair of wrist-mounted Storm Bolters, Infernus Incinerators or Adrathic Destructors.
- Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought - A sub-variant of the Contemptor-Achillus, the Contemptor-Galatus was designed to provide a mobile anchor point for a Legio Custodes battleline in the field. To this end, the Galatus was analogous to the specialised Sentinel Guard formations of the Legio Custodes, and was armed with a potent combination of a huge Galatus Warblade and vastly enlarged version of the Praesidium Shield. The warblade allowed the Contemptor-Galatus to swiftly and efficiently reap a murderous toll of any massed infantry assault at close quarters, or indeed hack through armoured vehicles and monstrous xenos with equal ease. It was the defensive power of the hulking Praesidium Shield, however, that was the Contemptor-Galatus' most significant feature, as with it the already durable Contemptor chassis became nigh on impregnable, even against the heaviest of heavy firepower.
- Telemon Heavy Dreadnought - Fewer than a handful of Telemon Dreadnoughts were to be found within the ranks of the Legio Custodes, each intended to stand sentinel over its charges no matter the force brought against it. In part this rarity was due to the cost in labour and resources for the creation of such a superlative engine of war, for each bore at least one plate worked by the Emperor's own hand, and also the rarity of appropriate candidates to control them. The honour of interment in one of the few existing Telemon sarcophagi was awarded only to the most celebrated warriors within the sodalities of the Legio Custodes, and until a worthy candidate found his end in battle, the Dreadnoughts stood silent and empty. Despite this, the sheer power of an unleashed Telemon class Dreadnought far outweighed the trials of its construction, for few could stand against the array of esoteric, hand-crafted weapons that graced its chassis or the ferocious will and warrior skill of the master Custodian interred within.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pg. 20
- Codex Adeptus Custodes (8th Edition) (Forthcoming)
- Codex: Adeptus Custodes (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 1-9
- Codex Imperialis (2nd Edition) by Rick Priestley, pp. 12-14
- The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Artbook), pp. 10, 28-31, 67, 73, 143, 148, 150-152, 239, 241, 286, 312, 322-323, 347, 350, 354-355, 366, 368, 371-373, 379, 381, 392-393, 400, 404-405, 407, 412-413
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pp. 20-21, 25, 28, 34, 40-41, 46-48, 50-53, 57, 59-60, 61, 63-65, 112-121, 242-246, 252, 256-257, 260-262, 264-265, 268-269, 272-275, 277-279, 282-283
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 27, 50-51, 53, 79, 90, 278
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 267, 275, 280, 541
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 134, 139, 403
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 105-106
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 94
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pp. 133, 139
- Tales of Heresy (Anthology) edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley, "Blood Games" by Dan Abnett
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Nemesis (Novel) by James Swallow
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Prospero Burns (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- The Outcast Dead (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Deliverance Lost (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- The Imperial Truth (Anthology) edited by Laurie Goulding, "Hands of the Emperor" by Rob Sanders
- Inquisitor (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Watchers of the Throne - The Emperor's Legion (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Dark Imperium (Novel) by Guy Haley, pp. 61-62, 66-68, 152, 234, 263-264, 268-269, 273, 275, 277
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- Warhammer Community - The Golden Legion Goes Forth
- Warhammer Community - Adeptus Custodes Preview - Part 1: The Heroes
- Warhammer Community - Adeptus Custodes Preview - Part 2: The Troops