"Each one of the Ten Thousand represents genetic lore acquired over many lifetimes. Each one of you is unique, a work of art never to be repeated. I am miserly with your lives, where I would spend so many others without a thought."
- - Big Emps making it absolutely clear who his favourite creations are.
"We were never soldiers... To them, it must seem as if we are wrath incarnate. To them, it must seem as if we were created for destruction and nothing else. But we were His companions, once. We were the ones in whom He confided. We were His counsellors, we were His artisans. We were the first glimpse at what the species could become, if shepherded aright and unshackled from its vicious weaknesses. Of course, we were taught to fight. He knew that war would come. It was a necessary part of the ascension, though it was never destined to last for eternity. We were the guardians of a new age, and had to be strong enough to keep it secure."
- - Shield Captain Valerian, explaining what Custodians were meant for
The Adeptus Custodes are the guardians of the Emperor of Mankind and the most badass group of genetically engineered/enhanced warriors/motherfuckers the galaxy has ever known (with the exception of the Assassins and the Primarchs). So badass
in-fact that they can get away with dressing like drag queens and transvestites (they love skirts). Well, the skirts are actually a bit closer to the ancient Roman Legionaries, which is pretty awesome in itself, and on the whole they come off as elite and badass.
Origins & Design
The Custodes are warriors unmatched in the galaxy, genetically-engineered by the Emperor himself. The Emperor first created these elite warriors back in the old days of his conquest of Terra, making them souped-up and more long-lived versions of the already hilariously OP Thunder Warriors. In a somewhat dickish move, his preferred recruits for the Custodes were the children of his conquered enemies. While the Thunder Warriors were eventually replaced by the far more stable but slightly less brawny Space Marines, the Custodes apparently still use those ancient methods (but geared towards producing far more stable warriors) and as such lack a gene-seed.
Although the Custodes were among the first genetically-modified warriors to be created by the Emperor, they were never intended to be part of a conquering army (though The Wolf of Ash and Fire shows that the Emperor sometimes rolled with a hundreds-strong posse of Custodes in battle); such a role was to be filled by the latter Adeptus Astartes armies. This is revealed both in their mindset and training: While Custodians share a semblance of 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, when the Emperor remarks that it is humanity's nature for brother to fight brother, one of His Custodians responds that he wouldn't know anything about it, because he has no brothers. Unlike the heresy era Astartes, who were at least capable of empathising with other human beings, the Custodes were generally single minded to the point of autism. Doesn't that concern the Emperor? It's a waste of their time. Actually only one Custodes - Diocletian Coros - was shown to act like this. The rest may not have been like that. Indeed, Aquillon was shown to be capable of bonding with a Space Marine and regretting the human costs of a Compliance action. Ra Endymion didn't give a shit about saluting Jenetia Krole because only the Emprah deserves it, but at the same time he tried to look kind with the Souless Queen's nine-years old aide by giving her his best smile, which result in a fail of epic proportions. 40k Custodes also show a wide variety of personalities. Tribune Maldovar Colquan in Dark Imperium is a contemptuous bastard while Valerian and Navradaran from Watchers of the Throne are surprisingly tolerant and level-headed when dealing with mere mortals showing blatant weakness.
When preparing for war, 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 they are not "mass-produced" as the Astartes are; meaning that each Custodian is a unique investment for the Imperium. It is implied in "False Gods" that the creation of a Custodian was a long and arduous process, utterly different from the creation process of a regular Astartes and much costlier, further, in "Master of Mankind" it is indicated that the age of induction into the Custodes is considerably younger than for Astartes. The given example is of a child of four years of age, so far too young to have proven themselves a worthy candidate for selection, yet they still impose dangerous tests or surgeries that the candidate may not survive.
One ritual that the Custodes do share with Astartes is the recognition of mighty deeds, manifested in their case with 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 932 names prior to the assault of Horus upon Terra.) Such names were inscribed onto the inside of the warrior's battle armour as marks of individual pride. The first name of a Custodian is supposed to be taken from various elements from Old Earth such as mythological figures (Ra, Amon, Aquillon...), historical ones (Constantin, Diocletian, Arcatus...) or places (Beyreuth). Now open a book and try to catch all the references.
The training of the Custodes also differed immensely from the Adeptus Astartes, since they were intended to be bodyguards rather than soldiers. It is clear from their Blood Games that Custodians are trained in the arts of assassination -- both improvised and professional -- in order to counter possible assassination attempts on 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. Even pre-Heresy, they were clued up enough to recognise Warp-sorcery for what it was.
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 a Space Marine would never be expected to fulfill.) This aspect of the Custodian mindset is advantageous, given that the Captain-General of the order often shares a seat with the High Lords of Terra and thus allows him to navigate the political maneuverings of the Imperium's various agencies, while still remaining an awe-inspiring warrior.
The martial capabilities of the Adeptus Custodes remain largely unknown. 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 a Space Marine what a Space Marine is to a member of the Imperial Guard. They are similar to the Grey Knights, the militant arm of the Ordo Malleus branch of the Inquisition, in that both are elite, secret organisations with close ties to the Emperor. Custodes are unique as they have neither a known Primarch nor do they use 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, Chief Custodian to the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, was the same size as the traitor Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion (not a great achievement after all, considering Alpharius was the shortest of Primarchs - the size of a tall space marine)
Dan Abnett's Blood Games, however, provides a different version of the relationship between the Astartes and Custodes. Abnett claims that, although Custodians are slightly larger on average than Space Marines, to an observer it would be a tough bet on who would win in a fight based on strength and size alone.
James Swallow's Sword of Truth sees Captain Nathaniel Garro fight a one-on-one duel with a mid-level Custodian (if there is such a term), which he finds is one of the toughest battles of his life and only wins by playing to his opponent's overconfidence and manages to exhaust himself in the process.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden's The First Heretic further expands on the Custodes fighting style and armoury. Each weapon used by the Custodes is gene-coded to only be used by only that Custodian (Argel Tal stole some and used his demonic powers to unlock them and then kill loyalists. Even funnier when you remember that certain bloody magpies have working Custodian bolter in their armory and some Greeks have a Halbard). The weapons are given to them personally by the Emperor (or at least they were in the 31st millennium, they've probably dropped this rule by the 41st) and as such one of the highest heresies possible is to allow a non-Custodian to handle the weapon. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Adeptus Custodes is the radically different combat approach between them and the Adeptus Astartes: Custodes are not brothers. While Space Marines are trained to support their battle-brothers in combat, each Custodian fights by himself, never intending to receive support from their fellow Custodes. The Word Bearers who observed this were utterly dumbfounded by this approach, thinking the fighting was just "wrong", despite their fighting being individually perfect. They are "tigers" compared to the "wolves" the space marines represent. Ironically though, one becomes good friends with a Word Bearer to the point that they end up fighting in lockstep like true Astartes (even more ironically, that Word Bearer is possessed by a daemon). Also, he has a Custodian named Vendatha kill 3 Word Bearer Chapter Masters in a second, and then survive a full bolter magazine and sword to the face. Just before that, Vendatha believed he even had a tiny but very real chance at taking out Lorgar since the Primarch was unarmored at the time. And on top he has 3 Custodes kill 7 out of 11 the original possessed marines the Gal Vorbak, including a beautiful final kill. Winning.
But in Graham McNeill's The Outcast Dead, an armed and armoured Custodes fights an unarmed and unarmoured World Eater and loses when the World Eater breaks open his armour and rips out the Custodes spine through his chest, something he threatened to do earlier. So fuck knows how good Custodes are, since Black Library's writers can't get their collective shits together and decide. That or Khorne just felt like trolling the Emperor that day. To be fair, said Custodian was crippled so his physical capabilities were just under what was required for active duty guarding the Emperor, hence the reason he was stuck on guard duty. Besides that, McNeill has an annoying habit of dumbing down Space Marines (and apparently Custodes) to be more like super-stormtroopers than nigh unstoppable killing machines.
The Outcast Dead also provides an example of a Custodian taking on two Astartes at the same time. While Saturnalia dies, he does succeed in killing both of his opponents.
In Anthony Reynolds The Purge, Word Bearer Captain, Sor Talgron makes his personal assessment on Custodians, where while he figures that a single Custodian would likely have little problems dispatching a single Legionary, the larger the theatre of war became, the more the odds would tip in the Astartes favour. Because although Custodians might be peerless warriors, they are not soldiers.
In Guy Haley's Throneworld, a Shadow Seer and a Death Jester kill a dozen Custodes between the two of them, before being brought down by "hundreds" more. Note that, although Throneworld is set 1500 years after the Horus Heresy, it's clear that the Custodes were still equipped with golden armour, so inadequate equipment is not an excuse for their poor showing. Perhaps Haley simply did not do the research to find out how powerful to make them. Especially since an especially skilled Astartes is capable of defeating a Shadow Seer or Death Jester (probably not both at once) and basically a Guardsman compared to a Custodes.
Custodes are still individuals, just as the Astartes are. Despite some level of genetic normality their gene-seed can bring among the Marines, some Astartes may be more skilled, tougher or faster than their brethren and the same applies to Custodians. While an 'average' Custodes will be far deadlier than an 'average' Astartes due to intensive training and physical and biological superiority, the mightiest warriors among the Legions may be able to beat one of their golden cousins.
Thus, where the average Astartes would be a take-all-comers warriors some Custodes will specialize in infiltration, some will specialize in war, some go more into politics. With enough Custodians, this means that they eventually cover nearly any possible route to attack the Emperor. This would ensure that any opponent attempting to penetrate the Custodes' defenses (being bodyguards of the Emperor and all) would run into fighting the Custodes who specialize in countering their plan, whatever it may be. Anyway, the overall martial superiority of Custodes makes no doubt for the Astartes themselves, and facing one is generally seen as a death sentence. But because of the lack of exclusive focus on military and strategic matters compared to what Astartes get, if two large forces of equal size came together, it is likely that the Custodians would be cut to pieces due to the Astartes superior coordination and battlefield control.
Or would they be ?
The Master of Mankind by Aaron Dembski-Bowden shows how Custodes deal with real battles. While fighting as individuals, they seem to have an instinctive sense of coordination without needing hierarchy or orders, each warrior knowing exactly how to fight alongside his peers without burdening them. It is also implied that Custodians apply the logic of Blood Games to warfare, gathering and assimilating any information they can about their adversaries as they fight, and probably spending thousand of hours studying the strategies of every opponent met during the Great Crusade. Astartes included ? Very likely. In fact, the Legio Custodes probably knows more about the Legions than the Legions may think, while only a few Astartes have fought alongside Custodians, let alone against them.
Forge World's recent depiction of the Battle of Prospero in Inferno is probably the most violent example of how Custodes are supposed to be OP as fuck against any living thing no matter the scale of the battle. 500 of them - with almost a thousand Sisters of Silence, but still - against 6000 of the Thousand Sons' most elite troops? They win. Psychicaly boosted Sekhmet Terminators and no Sista around ? One banana guy can kill four of them before dying. Thirty of those badass Khenetai swordmasters at once against a lone Valdor? Golden boy 1# doesn't give a shit, get wounded but murdered them to the last like a boss. And if you wonder about the Custodes' tactical acumen, said Valdor was de facto in charge of the whole imperial strategy once the Thousand Sons began to retaliate, saving Leman's ass from being raped by unexpected psychic trickery. Nasty motherfuckers.
All this means that Custodians as individuals are arguably among the most dangerous warriors and tacticians in the entire Imperium, both well-prepared and adaptable. As an army, it is safe to assume that they would enter battle with enough planning, strategic insight and tactical support to face even the Legiones Astartes. GW and FW themselves also seem to consider Custodes considerably superior to astartes if the golden rapestom of death they are on tabletop is anything to go by.
In the 41st Millennium
The Emperor's Legion gives us more than a glimpse into the Custodes of M41. We discover several things: that they didn't choose to be confined to the Imperial Palace, but are bound within it by Imperial law enacted by Guilliman after the Heresy; that they don't fully respect this limitation, sending brothers on missions abroad and maintaining their own network of informants, spies and allies all over the galaxy; that their martial capabilities have been maintained in top shape by constant training against all manner of opponents (often by capturing dangerous foes, like Chaos Space Marines or Tyranids, and then releasing them inside deserted and cordoned portions of the Imperial Palace for a Custodes to hunt down).
Shield Captain Valerian thinks it possible that M41 Custodes are individually more skilled than their Great Crusade era counterparts, owing to ten thousand years of extra experience and information gathering on mankind's enemies. However, he does recognize that the Custodians are not a self-contained army the same way as Space Marine Chapters are, since that was never their intended function; nor are they possessed of any prescient gifts or supernatural abilities that would assist them against the Great Enemy. In this way he compares the Custodians to the Grey Knights, both being descended from the Emperor directly, were incorruptible and immune to the temptations of Chaos, although the Space Marines are a weapon of singular purpose against the warp while the Custodians had been intended to be the guardians of mankind in a future without the warp. Valerian privately believes that it might be the Grey Knights who more faithfully embody the Emperor's final legacy considering how the Imperium eventually turned out, and isn't so sure about which agency is the finest or most faithful, and that shared sentiment skulks around the other Custodians like a foul odour.
The missing element in their deployment had always been the Sisters of Silence, noting that they were always intended to fight together. Sister Tanau Aleya believes that there is no physical opponent that the Custodians could not destroy, thus it was the role of the untouchable Sisters of Silence to anchor supernatural or warp tainted enemies into the physical realm where they can be wounded and destroyed. Thus they act on the opposite end of the scale to Grey Knights, who fight against the warp on its own terms, where the Talons of the Emperor deny the warp any purchase in reality.
The book is not all about Custodes being uber-powerful killing machines however, as it evokes how they spent the last ten millenia cultivating their skills as theologians, historians and philosophers, so they can decipher the Emprah's plan for Mankind before everything was screwed by Horus. They are now basically an order of warriors-scholars, more prone to mysticism than their hardcore rationalist ancestors from the Great Crusade era but still way more enlightened than most of the Imperium. They also seem to suffer some inferiority complex caused by their failing at protecting the Emperor when He most needed them, something that has dragged them even more into isolation but has also taught some of them humility when dealing with other humans. Hence most of the Custodes depicted in the book are rather nice guys to be around - by 40k standards of course - far from the "single-minded autists" stereotype which has recently become abusively prominent after Master of Mankind. Now it's up to you to decide whether it makes Custodes cooler and more subtle than before or insufferable Mary Sues.
For all that, they have grown detached from the greater Imperium, something which they believed was part of their duty (their function being to serve the Emperor rather than the Imperium) but ends up proving to be a problem nonetheless. When Guilliman returns, he orders the old orders rescinded, and Custodes start being dispatched to various warzones, including Guilliman's own Indominus Crusade.
They have the final word on security in the Imperial Palace, and even the High Lords of Terra are subservient to them within its walls.
Although their full numbers remain unknown, three hundred Custodes guard the Emperor's chambers at all times. Also, back before the God-Emperor was interred into the Golden Throne, the Adeptus Custodes was known as the Legio Custodes (Custodes Legion), and numbered in ten thousand golden warriors. It is strongly believed that this is their same number today.
Only three hundred of the Adeptus Custodes serve as the actual personal guard of the Emperor, called the Companions. These are those Custodes that are privileged enough to be in the Emperor's physical presence. 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 Sisters of Battle) during Vandire's Reign of Blood. One such Custodian, Constantine Valdor, was the Chief Custodian during the Horus Heresy. He was the most honoured of all the Emperor of Mankind's creations. No other being had served the Emperor for as long as he, save 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 saving the Emperor's life innumerable times. Along with Malcador, Valdor was his most trusted friend and advisor.
Constantine Valdor was one of the first members of the Council of Terra. He also had a close relationship with the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Leman Russ, although initially Russ and Valdor didn't 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's respect when the former defeated Horus in a sparring match. The two were then together during the Battle of Prospero. There is no mention of when or how Valdor was killed if he was killed at all. He stepped down from command as a High Lord so that he could protect his beloved Emperor, now ensconced within the Golden Throne.
Occasionally you see questions raised on forums regarding their effectiveness after apparently spending 10,000 years on guard duty, suggesting that despite their biological augmentations; without any actual combat experience they might have simply become a symbolic organisation since Terra is so well defended by other means.
In fact the Custodians sat through most of the Age of Apostasy, not participating until the last moment to bring order when the fighting made it to the Imperial Palace. They also were mysteriously absent during The Beheading when the Officio Assassinorum started leveling city blocks. Added to the fact that the admittedly very old pictures of Custodians show them not even bothering to wear their armour any more indicates that they don't actually have very much to do these days.
However, one very important fact remains: The Golden Throne is a portal to the Webway which was broken, and it takes the Emperor every ounce of his concentration to stop that energy spilling out into a new Eye of Terror. Underneath the Imperial Palace Malcador the Sigillite showed one of the human founders of the Inquisition a series of adamantium doors the size of Imperator Titans, and even when standing at the first door it sounds like the greatest battle of all time was going on behind them. So while the Grey Knights are cruising through the galaxy responding to daemonic threats, the Custodians are holding the line at home, fighting perhaps the most significant (and secret) battle in the history of mankind, making them perhaps the most badass of any fighting forces EVER.
However-however, the recent HH books have clarified a bit more about this. There was a war between the Custodes and daemons that was fought in the webway after it was damaged by Magnus' warning attempt, but presently, its sealed now. The Custodes and Sisters of Silence fought together in order to beat back the tide of traitors and daemons trying to force themselves through the damaged gate, while the AdMech was given the task of repairing the gate. This was also the time the Emperor had to confine himself into the Golden Throne to help mend with the repairs and he managed to finalize this by creating a massive golden sun in the middle of the webway entrance to fry daemons trying to get through, although maintaining it was an incredibly taxing job that only he is able to reliably do (Malcador was temporarily assigned to this job when the Emperor got up to give Horus a proper stomping and he withered away into dust from the ordeal).
However-however-however, the Custodes' know their stake in the Imperium's and The Emperor's future: should anyone or anything manage to breach the Emperor's chamber; humanity is doomed in all senses of the word, and they have to be in the right condition and in the right place at the right time. Its not unreasonable to assume that the Custodes didn't budge while the Imperium was burning around them (twice) because that could very well be an opening an assassin was expecting as it is not unreasonable to assume Custodes are likely keeping themselves at peak performance to be ready at a moment's notice because only the ballsiest of assassins would even think of trying to infiltrate Holy Terra itself, they have to be ready to take on anything the galaxy can throw at them.
If you're thinking "isn't that what the Palace Guard is for?", well about that: during The War of The Beast and the Imperium was freaking out over an unstoppable Ork WAAAGH, an elite squad of seven Eldar Harlequins managed to infiltrate The Imperial Palace and muscle their way through palace security in an effort to warn The Emperor about something (or so they claim). They were only stopped at the Eternity Gate after an army of angry Custodes confronted and proceeded to cut them down.
So while it might be unreasonable for the Custodes not to assist the Imperium during its most dire times of need: their own duties are something they cannot slack on for even a moment. This said, some of the fluff has implied that they did occasionally leave the palace (before the Gathering Storm event) if they believed that something directly threatened the Emperor as a primary intent (which is still pretty inconsistent). One of the Custodes even cited a piece of scripture, saying that the Imperium as a whole was the Emperor's Palace (the Inquisitor asking the questions got a little put out at such a direct interpretation but couldn't really do much because both Inquisition and Custodes derive their authority from the same source).
According to Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor's Legion, the Custodes were actually bound by a decree issued by Constantin Valdor, the High Lords of Terra and Roboute Guilliman that prevented them from deploying as a military formation. The High Lords of Terra brought up the subject of abolishing this decree numerous times, but the issue was always stopped by deadlock until Guilliman returned and used his veto powers to set the golden boys free.
As of the closing years of the 41st millennium, Our Spiritual Liege has finally asked Daddy's golden boys to actually do something for once other then being glorified tourist traps. More specifically, he ordered the Custodes to venture out and help out their fellow
meatshields comrades once in a while. Suffice to say, the Custodes are back and woe to any poor unfortunate soul who happens to have to be part of the opposing force of the Custodians. This has worked out well for the Custodes as apparently they were starting to get a little stir crazy after 10,000 years of being stuck on Terra and were more than happy to get out and start purging the enemies of the God-Emperor in His name. However, it is not wise to ask a Custodes to take a photo op for bragging rights especially when he's in a battlefield busy using his Guardian Spear. Accidental collateral damage from attempted selfies. Too many.
Divisions and ranks
The Custodes are divided into five castes based on their combat roles, each with a fancy Greek-ish name (thanks GW for improving our culture):
- Hykanatoi (from Ἱκανάτοι/hikanatoi, "the able ones", one of the regiments of the 9th century Byzantine army): These appear to be the rank and file Custodes, comprising the Custodian guard, the Sentinels and the Hetaeron. Based on what was seen in Master of Mankind, they function in an infantry role in battle.
- Kataphraktoi (κατάφρακτοι, "fully covered", Greek designation for heavily armoured cavalery): The Jetbike squads, serving as mobile fast attack units. During the War in the Webway, they also served as couriers, relaying messages to other spots when the Vox was on the fritz. Other grav vehicles such as the Caladius, the Coronus transport and the Pallas speeder are also part of this entity.
- Tharanatoi (probably a mix between the Celtic word taran, "thunder", and θάνατος/thanatos, "death"): The Terminators of the Custodes and the Sagittarum squads, they are the specialists among the Legio. The Aquilon were armed with Lastrum storm bolter, Adrathic destructors and flamer weapons known as Infernus "firepikes" (yes, it's also the name of the weapon used by Exarchs of the Fire Dragons) and acted as shock troops for high intensity warfare, while the Sagittarum were multipurpose support squads.
- Ephoroi (from έφοροι, "overseers"): Those Custodians specializing in covert operations, intelligence gathering and assassination. All those engaged in the Blood Games were temporarily attached to the Ephoroi for the duration of their service.
- Moritoi (from Latin mortis, "death", with the same Greek-ish flavour): Finally, we have the Dreadnoughts, Custodes who have been mangled too much to continue living without the Dreadnought. Being a very philosophical-minded group, the Custodes often hold debates on whether or not the warrior inside is alive or dead, and have come to the conclusion that all that matters is that the Emperor has decided to keep the Custode living.
In terms of rank, the Custodes are less rigid in their ranking structure than the Space Marines and the Imperial Guard, with "ranks" being more like signs of respect for senior veterans. Indeed, given the Custodes often solitary mindset, they rarely give orders to each other. That said, their familiarity with each other manages to avoid the destructive lack of cohesion this would entail in other armies. The known "ranks" are as follows:
- Captain-General/Magisterium Maxima: the "leader" of the Adeptus Custodes and Chief Custodian to the Emperor of Mankind.
- Tribune: The most senior officers under the Captain-General, they are the war council of the Legio Custodes and have absolute authority on everything relating to the protection of the Emperor or the Palace. During the War in the Webway, three of them served as the senior commanders of the combined Custode/Silent Sister/Mechanicum forces : Kadai, Jasac and Ra Endymion. They were believed to be ten in number, so the seven other were probably killed in the first years of the war. The modern-era Adeptus Custodes is led by two tribunes
- Prefect: A mid-level rank below the tribunes, the title is awarded by the Emperor and indicates veterancy. It's duties are mostly unknown at this time.
- Shield-Captain: Before the Heresy, the title of Shield-Captain was given to a Custodes leading a detachment of the Legio in battle. In 40k, he is the leader of a squad of Custodes. Note that the three above ranks can and will hold this rank when leading squads in the field.
- Constantin Valdor- The big cheese of the Custodian Guard, Constantin Valdor was the Captain-General of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, the first of the Ten Thousand and personal bodyguard of Big E since
his debuts as a bloody-handed and megalomaniac tyrantthe Unification Wars and His glorious crusade to make Mankind great again. A monster of a man, he was described as being a head taller than Amon (who was already significantly larger than an Astartes) and the size of a Primarch (Alpharius to be exact). At one point he defeated Horus himself in a sparring match, however, it is never stated how old Horus was when the duel took place. Valdor was one of the Emperors closest friends and his second most trusted advisor (Malcador the Sigillite being #1). He was described as being the mightiest warrior in the entire Imperium with the exception of the Primarchs and Big E himself (he was almost killed by a warp-boosted Phosis T'Kar on Prospero however, only surviving because Phosis accidentally rolled 22 on Chaos Boon and realized he'd become the 'flesh-change' monster he so hated). Naturally he shared a close relationship with a number of the Primarchs, the most notable being Horus, Rogal Dorn, and Leman Russ. Also, he rolls with the Officio Assassinorum, so he earns massive bonus points there. At the end of the Heresy, he was one of the high lords of Terra, but stepped down sometime after that to be able to look after the Emperor personally. He has since been replaced as Captain-General: in M32 the Custodians are commanded by a new guy called Beyreuth. This makes Valdor one of the major characters of the Horus Heresy whose fate is unknown at this time.
It is hinted in Master of Mankind that Valdor is named after an "ancient king" of Old Earth, probably Constantine the Great, famous for being the first Christian emperor of Rome. The Apollonian spear and sun-shapped iron halo worn by Valdor foster the reference to Constantine, whose tutelar deity before his conversion was the sun god Apollo.
- Amon Tauromachian- One of the most notable Custodes. In combat, unarmoured, versus three " Migou" (I see what you did there) or Genestock Ogres from Nei Monggol (Ogryns anybody?) Amon is impressive, he is apparently strong enough to effortlessly break an Ogryn's arm, relieving it of its punch-dagger, then ram it through the poor sods skull. One of them grabs him from behind in a bear hug, which he literally shrugs off, then punches his hand through the Ogryn's chest and rips out its heart. Mary Sue you say? All this is from Dan Abnett himself from his short story Blood Games. Also, he is probably refered to in The First Heretic as an instructor of at least 2 other Custodes, even though the "last" (well, gene-stock/family) name of said Amon is not revealed.
- Aquillon Marithamus- the "Oculi Imperator" (eyes of the Emperor) and Prefect who was charged with leading four other Custodes, watching over Lorgar and the Word Bearers after the Monarchia kerfuffle. They were kept in the dark about the Heresy until Isstvan V, but left alive because Erebus wanted their blood. Aquillon embarked on a tragic bromance with Argel Tal. Tal seems to have been born for tragedy in general, and perhaps the most perfect example is how, having already become friends with the Custodes and seen one murdered on Lorgar's orders, he had to spend four decades getting closer to Aquillon and pulling the wool over his eyes. In contrast with how most Custodians viewed Space Marines, Aquillon actually came to view Argel Tal as a close friend (well, for Custodes, anyway)... until Istvan V, accompanied by the revelation that the Word Bearers had been ritually torturing astropaths to keep Aquillon's messages from reaching Terra. It ended badly - Aquillon killed Argel Tal's mortal waifu Cyrene, and the possessed Astartes bit his head off.
- Ra Endymion:A veteran Custodes (871 names bitch !) among the thirty first members of the Legio, and perhaps the only person truly privy to the Emperor's whole plan to elevate humanity into the webway and cut them off from Chaos. Told to him in a series of psychic dreams gifted from the Emperor. One of the three Tribunes, he was left in command of the Webway armed forces after his two predecessors were killed while fighting the forces of chaos that forced their way through in the wake of Magnus's Folly. When the Emperor briefly rose from his chair to burn out the Daemons and give time for his forces to fall back, Ra was forcibly possessed by Drach'Nyen, the undivided daemon born from humanity's first act of murder. Since the Emperor couldn't kill it, he figured it would be safely stored in a Custodian's body, and the reason Ra was told the Emperor's plan was to give him a reason to keep fighting against the Daemon in his mind. By 40k we can assume something went horribly wrong, as Drach'Nyen is now literally in the hands of Abaddon as his sword and was given to him by some "golden figure". He is also an absolute beast in battle, slaughtering Astartes legionaries like Astartes do with regular humans (fluffy as hell considering the Legio Custodes Tribune's rules for 30k).
- Diocletian Coros: The big cheese in charge of the Terran side of the War in the Webway. An unapologetic arsehole with zero time for anything not covered by his orders, to the point of almost shooting child refugees because they minorly delayed him. He makes it abundantly clear that the Custodians fight for the Emperor and NOT the Imperium, and considers that if enough of the Astartes felt the same way then the Horus Heresy would never have happened. Basically, he is the reason why people think that Custodes are all heartless autistic bastards. Still, have to feel a bit sorry for him, as he was told by the Emperor that the dream of humankind was dead after the webway was sealed. That's got to be rough. He also wrote a book about the Emprah, the Master of Mankind (no fucking joke), wich is apparently still a best-seller among the nowadays Adeptus Custodes.
- Trajann Valoris: In the novel Watchers of the Throne: The Emperors' Legion Valoris is the Captain General of the Custodian Guard during the time of the 41st millennium, because there are no records of him in the Imperial banks and no details on his conquests or ascent into the order, he could be a 100 years old, or 5000 years old... nobody outside of the Adeptus Custodes know. Rumour has it he also has over 1000 names inscribed on the inside of his armour and before the return of the Primarch, was the most powerful and deadly individual in all of the Imperium both martial and militarily and only a handful of the greatest warriors and mightiest Inquisitor Lords gained an audience besides a few High Lords to speak to him. Killed 20 huge bulky vat-grown rampaging combat servitors as large as enrage groxes armed with heavy chainglaives and other assorted heavy weapons in literally seconds after kicking a really big door inwards within the Imperial Place... he was really mad.
- Sagittarus Malacque: One of the original Custodians and the first to become a Dreadnought. Noted to be choleric and wild, he was nearly killed during the battle in the Webway but survived.
- Valerian: Protagonist of Watchers of the Throne. An intellectual among the Custodes, he does not consider himself to be a warrior but a philosopher, and spends most of his free time studying the Emperor's acts and motivations. Was originally slated to join the 300 Companions, but he failed the first ritual when his body locked up and froze when the time actually came to visit the Golden Throne in person. Its implied later on that this was because the Emperor had another purpose for him, as he eventually ends up going rogue, leaving Terra with a squad he convinced to come with him, and establishing the precedent for the Custodes to finally get their asses out of the Imperial Palace and join the Indomitus Crusade.
- Navradaran: A member of the Ephroi featured in the Carrion Throne and Watchers of the Throne. He specialised in covert operations outside the Imperial Palace, which is quite an achievement for a giant in golden armor. His time seeing more of the Imperium than just the Palace led to him appreciating regular humans for their potential and not their weakness (compared to other transhumans). He was a mentor for Valerian. Before Guilliman returned, he spent a lot of his time trying to reunite the Silent Sisterhood.
- Little Kitten- known on /tg/ as the Captain-General of the group during "If the Emperor had a Text-to-Speech Device". May or may not be Constantin Valdor, it's kept deliberately contradictory, though considering that Kitten is black and Valdor is shown to be white, they may not be the same person, what's known is that he was the Custodian who brought Alicia Dominica to the Emperor during the Reign of Blood. Known for basically telling Big E what is everything. Called "Kitten" for purring up the ranks of the Custodes. Despite the vaguely British accent, he is highly American as he hates Communist fuckers with a passion.
(It's actually because one was tsundere enough that she dropped him before he could tap that ass.)SHIT'S NOT CANON! What is canon though is that he is a black guy (that is, normal human black guy, not Salamander-Class black ("No, I'd call it...uh like, brownish?")). Also manage to beat up a million ton's worth of cheese in a children's card game. Twice.
- "Fab-Custodes (Wamuudes, Custodisi, Karstodes)"- aka the Pillar-stodes, See 2nd picture for an idea of what they look like. Their whole image is based on the old post-heresy depiction of the Custodes from First Edition. They are NUTS, even more so than the dipshit who wrote twilight. They are oily, snickering, gay as Slaanesh's hell and love it. Seriously, even Kitten knows this and is worried for the Emperor's safety around them, saying that none of this was his idea. They are also Tribunes, which means they can also fuck shit up when needed. This is demonstrated when they took on Magnus, and did not get reduced to a smear despite fighting almost naked and while he was raging in his Daemonic True Form.
Getting a codex
40k Has have custodes available BEFORE 30k. Damn it forge world!
Forge World confirmed that Adeptus Custodes, will indeed, get not only rules, but models. The rules will likely be in Burning of Prospero book, which was (originally) the 3rd book in the third HH trilogy. They will be released alongside Sisters of Silence rules (also getting models, let us hope they have nipple spikes like the old Blanche art!)
Rules can be found on this PDF: https://www.games-workshop.com/resources/PDF/Datasheets/Burning%20of%20Prospero%20Imperial%20Datasheets.pdf
As this is going to be a whole army/faction on the tabletop, with likely two different incarnations in the rules to represent them in different time periods. For more details on specific units as they arrive, got to their pages - such as Custodian Guard or the tactics page for more general commentary.
They now have Land Raiders:[]
|Forces of the Adeptus Custodes|
|Command:||Companions/Hetaeron - Shield-Captain|
|Troops:|| Aquilon Terminator - Custodian Guard |
Sagittarum Guard - Sentinel Guard - Warder
|Walkers:|| Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought |
Telemon Heavy Dreadnought
Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought
|Vehicles:|| Caladius Grav-Tank - Coronus Grav Carrier |
Drop Pod - Grav-Rhino - Gyrfalcon Pattern Jetbike
Pallas Grav-Attack - Rhino - Venerable Land Raider
|Flyers:||Orion Gunship - Stormbird|
|Titans:||Warlord-Sinister Pattern Battle Psi-Titan|
|Auxiliaries:||Sisters of Silence|
|Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000|
|Imperium:||Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Mechanicus - Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Space Marines|
|Officio Assassinorum - Inquisition - Deathwatch - Grey Knights - Sisters of Battle|
|Sisters of Silence - Squats - Militarum Tempestus|
|Chaos:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Renegade Knights|
|Xenos:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Necrons - Orks - Tau|