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Adeptus Custodes

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2drones.gif This article is about the Imperial bodyguard unit; for the Tau space vessel, see Or'es El'leath Class Battleship
The Custodes' symbol[9]
A Custodian of the Adeptus Custodes
Custodian Guard c.M31 (during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy).

The Adeptus Custodes, renowned as the Brotherhoood of Demigods[19], the Golden Legion[19] and a host of other titles, (The Guardians, Watchers of The Throne, The Thousand Companions[9], The Ten Thousand[15a]), but most commonly known as Custodians, are the guardians of the Imperial Palace and the Golden Throne, as well as being the personal bodyguard to the Emperor. Due to the vast size of the Imperial Palace, the Custodes always act as a defensive army[1]. Together with the Sisters of Silence they represented the Talons of the Emperor being the right hand of the Emperor.[25f] For the most part the Custodes themselves never leave Terra, and only rarely leave the Palace. It is the Adeptus Custodes that decide who may enter the throne room of the Emperor, and when. Such is their authority that in this matter that Space Marines and Inquisitors must kneel before them. Custodians are the mightiest of mankind's warriors. They are to the Space Marines what those transhuman warriors are to common Guardsmen, an elevated elite whose raw strength and willpower are wholly insurmountable.[19][25]

History

The Adeptus Custodes were known originally as the Legio Custodes or Custodian Guard. The original Custodians were the first genetically and psychologically altered warriors to appear in the Emperor's armies during the Terran Unification Wars, where they served as the Emperor's personal bodyguard.[4a] The original recruits of the Custodes were from the offspring of Terran nobility.[19] The first known appearance of the Custodes was early in the Unification Wars during the fall of Techno-Barbarian fortress at Nas'sau.[17d] However the origins of the Custodian Guard are shrouded in myth and legend. During the Great Crusade, the Custodes always kept a contingent with the Emperor for his protection, but also traveled individually as envoys. The Emperor valued the Custodians above all his other warriors, and while he was willingly to expend countless of his servants he was always hesitant to bleed his Praetorians.[15] Since the Emperor's internment in the Golden Throne, the Adeptus Custodes have taken a more limited role as protectors of the Imperial Palace, as ordered by Roboute Guilliman during his reorganization of the Imperium.[19]

The Custodes were equipped with the best power armour of the age, and had access to the most highly advanced weaponry and vehicles of the Imperium Equipment, including designs that were not permitted to the Space Marine Legions.[17b] After the end of the Horus Heresy and the enthronement of the Emperor, the Custodes were said to have changed the colour of their cloaks from red to black to symbolise the darkness that had fallen over their order.[2b] By the end of the 41st Millennium with the reappearance of Roboute Guilliman, the Custodes abandoned their shrouds of shame and were seen again wearing their traditional red garments.[19]

The Custodians ring the Golden Throne.

During the Age of Apostasy, the Adeptus Custodes reemerged briefly during the siege of the Ecclesiarchal Palace of Terra in the reign of Goge Vandire. During this time, the Custodes attempted to make their way towards Vandire, halted only by the Brides of the Emperor whom Vandire had convinced into becoming his personal bodyguards. After a long and fruitless discussion, the Custodes convinced the leader of the Brides, Alicia Dominica, to return with them to the presence of the Emperor. What happened during that moment is unknown, but the effects resulted in the Brides of the Emperor rebelling against Vandire, ending his reign once and for all.[21b]

Centuries later during the Terran Crusade Custodes arrived to reinforce the reborn Roboute Guilliman as he battled the Thousand Sons on Luna. Shortly after, Terra was besieged by Daemons, proving to many Custodes that they had been wanting and let the threat of the Archenemy arrive on the Emperor's doorstep.[25d] Later, the Custodes permitted Guilliman to enter the Emperor's Throneroom alone for an entire day.[18] The reappearance of a Son of the Emperor galvanized the Custodes, and behind closed doors Guillian and Captain-General Trajann Valoris amended the role of the Custodes that would see many of them journey across the galaxy on Crusades.[25d] Now members of the Custodes will bring war to the enemies of mankind, while the Companions oversee the safety of the Emperor's mortal form.[19]

The Adeptus Custodes are so revered that it is deemed heresy for the Administratum to record them ever losing a battle. Thus it is officially recorded that any warzone the Custodes are deployed to is an Imperial victory, even before they arrive.[25c]

Combat History

Organisation

The Adeptus Custodes at war

The warriors of the Adeptus Custodes are a department of the Adeptus Terra, the Imperial government, but its members are answerable only to the Emperor and their own leaders. The organization's leader carries the title of Captain-General, and due to the importance of the Adeptus Custodes he often holds a position in the Senate of the High Lords of Terra[1]. Below him are two Tribunes, though during the Heresy-era there were three.[22b] Individual squads of Custodes are overseen by Shield-Captains[13]. The Custodes' nerve center and command & control headquarters is the Tower of Hegemon within the Imperial Palace[3] while a small elite of three hundred Custodes, known as the Companions, form the Emperor's personal bodyguard and never leave his side.

Although the Legio Custodes originally numbered ten thousand, around five years into the War Within the Webway they had been reduced to around a thousand[15d]. However by the 41st Millennium, they had rebuilt to their original 10,000 strength.[22b]

Ranks & Titles

The ranks of the Custodian Guard are noted as somewhat informal, as much gestures of respect towards veterans and gifted individuals as a true command structure.[15i]

  • Captain-General - Chief Custodian to the Emperor[1]
  • Custodian Tribunate
  • Tribune - Senior Officer[15b]. There were 3 Tribunes during the Horus Heresy era, though now there are two.[22b]
  • Proconsul[17a]
  • Prefect[15a]
  • Lictor[17a]
  • Supreme Castellan[19]
  • Aquila Commander[19]
  • Shield-Captain - Squad Leader[13]. These are the most veteran, well-knowledged, and experienced Custodians. The rank exists concurrently with other Custodian titles such as Prefect, Lictor, Proconsul, and Tribune.
  • Custodian[17a]

Castes & Subdivisions

Custodians belong to a caste determined by their wargear and battlefield role.[15g]

  • Hykanatoi[15a]- The main strength of the Custodian Guard. These are Guardian Spear-equipped heavy infantry. Their numbers included the Custodian Guard proper as well as several specialized units
    • Sentinel Guard - The defensive formations of the Custodes, used to defend emissaries and special facilities. During battle, they would be charged with holding the line against enemy onslaughts and as such had a greater level of teamwork than the rest of the Custodes. Sentinels were normally equipped with Praesidium Shields and Sentinel Blades.[17b]
    • Hetaeron Guard - The elite inner circle of the Custodes. The Hetaeron Guard formed the personal guard of the Emperor himself and frequently acted as his aides and confidants. The Hetaeron Guard would only leave the Emperor's side under the most dire of circumstances.[17b]
  • Kataphraktoi[15a] - Jetbikers[15f]. They form fast attack and reconnaissance units known as Agamatus Jetbike Squadrons or Vertus Praetors[24]. The Kataphraktoi also operate the Custodes fighters and gunships.[17d]
  • Moritoi[15a] - The smallest unit of the Custodes, they consisted of wounded brothers interred within Dreadnoughts[15e][17d]
  • Tharanatoi[15a] - Terminators[15g]. They serve as elite shock troops, siege units, and counter-attackers.
    • Sagittarum Guard - A sub-unit of the Tharanatoi Caste, they were among the least common Custodes. Their primary role was the slaying of enemies from a distance and with the use of devastating heavy firepower. In addition, they were known as the sentries of the outer perimeters of the Imperial Palace.[17c]
  • Ephoroi - A highly secretive order tasked with covert operations, counter-intelligence, assassination, and infiltration. During the Great Crusade it was said that they commanded the Officio Assassinorum.[17d]
  • Custodian Wardens - Elite warriors whose skill is above all others.[23]
  • Vexilus Praetors - Standard Bearers[23]
  • Warders of the Vaults of Rython - Shadowy sub-force of the Custodes deployed deep within the Imperial Palace.
  • Eyes of the Emperor - Sect of retired Custodians

Shield-Hosts and Companies

The modern Adeptus Custodes are deployed in contingents known as Sodalities, Shield Companies and Shield Hosts.[25a]

A Shield Company consists of a contingent led by a Shield-Captain, typically consisting of a few squads of Custodians, a Vexilus Praetor, a Vertus Praetor squad, and a Allarus Terminator Squad as well as accompanying vehicles. Conversely, a Shield-Host consists of multiple Shield-Companies and is led by several Shield-Captains as well as a counsel of Vexilus Praetors.[25a]

Known such formations include the:

Appearance and Equipment

Generally, the Custodes are larger and much more powerful than Space Marines, however they are far more alike the legendary Thunder Warriors, as they were created by a similar process. [3] The armour of the Custodes is a finely wrought form of Power Armour, greater than that of even Astartes models[6], made with auramite rather than ceramite.[15c] The right shoulder guard of a Custodian's armour depicts the Imperial Aquila and all armour is adorned with precious gems harvested from the deeps of Terra and cut by skilled artisans. The colour of the left shoulder guard clearly show to which shield company or shield host Custodes belong. For these purposes takes precedence the latter organisational tier. This colouration will often match the Custodian’s tabard, and also with any robes he may wear.[25g] The colour of gems often depicts the shield company of Adeptus Custodes. When he switches such organisation to another, gems always carefully extracted from armour of Custodes and replaced with those of a new appropriate colour.[25g] Some Custodes further protect themselves by carrying a Praesidium Shield, Storm Shield[13] or equipping themselves with Terminator Armour.[25h]

For armament, the Custodes are renowned for carrying Guardian Spears, mighty power weapons that have been carried by the Adeptus Custodes since long before the Emperor's confinement. This weapon is closely associated with the Custodes, and is depicted on their banners and badges.[2][4a][5] Other weapons carried by Custodes include Sentinel Blades, Power Knives, and Custodes Vexilla[13].

As befitting of their role as the Emperor's guards, the Custodes were given access to the finest and most advanced technologies of the Imperium. This is often reflected in their vehicle designs, which are mostly Anti-grav. The Custodian Guard is known to have used Grav-Rhinos, Caladius, Pallas, and Coronus Grav-Tanks, and Paragon Pattern Jetbikes.[4]

In the ten thousand years since the Heresy the Custodes have meticulously maintained and preserved much of their equipment. However few of their technologically advanced vehicles remain and they rarely use post-heresy designs.[19]

When heavy support needed Adeptus Custodes ride to battle inside the indomitable Venerable Land Raiders.[25i]

Fleet

The Custodes operate several Cruiser-class vessels that patrol the Sol System. These are sometimes used for special missions by the Ephoroi caste within the greater Imperium.[22a]

The spaceships of the Custodes have ancient translocation bays utilizing Godstrike Pattern Teleportariums where blessed incense drifts in the chill air. Each station is permanently attended to by high-ranking Tech-Priests and blessed to such a degree that even Contemptor Dreadnoughts can be teleported straight into battle.[19]

Known vessels of the Custodes include:

Outlook and Training

Although the Custodes were among the first modified warriors to be created by the Emperor, they were never intended to be part of a conquering army; such a role was to be filled by the latter Astartes armies. This is revealed both in their mindset and training, where the Custodes do not fight as brothers and as a greater whole but rather as individual warriors. This is in stark contrast to Space Marines, who employ a high degree of teamwork and collective tactics in battle. At least some Astartes look down on the Custodes for these tactics, and it may be that this was deliberately designed so that they shared a bond with none but the Emperor himself.[6a] Whatever the truth, the Custodians are undoubtedly fanatically loyal to the Emperor and will carry out any task he demands, regardless of how brutal or suicidal it may be.[19]

While Custodians share a genetic kinship with one another within the formation, they do not foster the same spirit of brotherhood that is instilled within the Astartes in order to function together as a unit. Indeed, each Custodian prepares and inspects his equipment individually, rather than on military parade The individuality of each Custodes is further promoted by the fact that the processes required to produce them is not as refined or as simple as that of the Astartes and thus are not "mass-produced" as the Astartes are; meaning that each Custodian is a unique investment for the Imperium. One ritual that the Custodes do share is the recognition of mighty deeds, manifested in the awarding of names, which are added to the Custodian's title to represent the actions he has performed in service to the Emperor (Constantin Valdor obtained 1932 names prior to the assault on Terra)[3]. Such names were inscribed onto the inside of the warrior's battle armour as marks of individual pride.[8]

The training of the Custodes also differed immensely from the Astartes, being bodyguards rather than soldiers. It is clear from their Blood Games that Custodians are trained in the arts of assassination - both improvised and advanced - in order to counter possible assassination attempts to the Emperor. It is common for several Custodians to be on detached duty for these Blood Games so that the organisation remains vigilant against developing threats. Furthermore it is clear that the Custodes are also well versed in the political etiquette of Terra, and have been known to act outside of Imperial Law, to infiltrate influential Noble Houses and to investigate any potential threats (a role that an Astartes would never be expected to fulfil.)[3] Moreover fitting of their status as the Emperor's aids the Custodes are given an intense appreciation of finer concepts. Their training involves mastery of the arts, diplomacy, geography, history, and countless other fields.[25d]

This aspect of the Custodian mindset is advantageous, given that the Captain-General often shares a seat with the High Lords of Terra, which thus allows him to navigate the political maneuverings of the Imperium's various agencies, while still remaining an awe-inspiring warrior.[Needs Citation]

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.[19]

Gene-Seed & Recruitment

The source of the Gene-Seed of the Custodes is a mysterious issue. Some say that the Custodian Guard are to the Emperor what the Space Marines are to the Primarchs; that the Emperor's own genetic matrix was used in their Gene-seed creation} and through this, their loyalty to him is assured.[14a] 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.[12] Recent sources however seem to firmly establish that the Custodes were created from the flesh and blood of the Emperor himself. [19] The genetic enhancement that forms the Custodes is different from and predates that developed to create the Space Marines.[3] Each Custodian is a unique work of art, the product of genetic lore collected over many lifetimes[15b].

The process of creating a Custodes is far more grueling and time consuming than that of a Space Marine. Unlike Astartes, whose recruits begin implantation during adolescence, the creation of a Custodes must begin during the subjects late infancy. The genetic tailoring of each Custodes is unique and far more complicated than the comparatively crude Astartes. Originally, it was said that the Emperor himself oversaw the creation of each and every Custodes.[17d] However now, the gene-enhancements that create new Custodes are shrouded in secrecy, only the most accomplished bio-alchemists and Chirurgeons of Terra are trusted with their creation. The exact method of their creation remains unclear, they do not receive simple implants like Space Marines. Rather, bio-alchemy is used to trigger the subjects own transformation, an effect that takes root in their cells and very soul.[25d]

It is said that the first Custodes recruits were drawn from children of Terran nobility. The practice continues to this day, and all new initiates are drawn from infants among Terran nobles.[25d] New recruits are presented before the Avenue of Sacrifice outside the Ascensor's Gate of the Imperial Palace. However a handful of these aspirants survive the grueling genetic enhancements and training necessary to become a member of the Emperor's personal guard.[19] How long the process takes is not known, though it is substantial and ends with the subject taking their name from the mythology and history of Terra. Such is the potency of this enhancement, that there are no finer or more fearsome warriors in the Imperium than the Custodians. Biochemically fashioned from infancy to function as supreme combatants, tacticians and bodyguards, they are death incarnate to those who defy the Emperor’s will.[25][25d]

The cellular alchemy that creates the warriors of the Adeptus Custodes leaves them forever touched by a spark of the Emperor’s own divinity. Beyond their martial might and incorruptible nobility, this energy manifests itself as an almost supernatural warding, as though the Custodians were protected by the hand of the Emperor. Bullets and bolts are turned aside at the last moment, blades fail to strike home, and even the psychic powers of the foe can suddenly and inexplicably flicker away to nothing in the face of the Ten Thousand. Some Custodians find that the holy light of the Emperor glows around them in a sublime halo, blinding enemies in their glory, forcing them to recoil in pain and terror.[25]

Battle-Cry

Adeptus Custodes doesn't have a battle-cry at all. They fight with silence and grim determination.[22b]

Known Custodes

While Custodians often fought as lone operatives it was not uncommon for them to work in groups in special circumstances.

Heresy-era

Assigned to Lorgar

Assigned to Corax

Post Enthronement

Known Elements of Adeptus Custodes

Vehicles

Images

Miniatures

A Squad of Adeptus Custodes miniatures

See also

Canon Conflict

  • Both Thunder Warriors and Custodians have been stated to be superior to each other at some point. Thunder Warriors were described as being unparalleled in physical might during the time of the Custodes. Conversely Inferno! (Magazine), described Custodians as being stronger than Thunder Warriors.

Sources