"Even if you possess the eyes of God, you can't possibly dodge an attack coming from somewhere you can't see!"
- – Buccaneer, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
"Having an aura of menace is like having a pet weasel, because you rarely meet someone who has one, and when you do, it makes you want to hide under the coffee table."
- – Lemony Snicket
"Pariahs? ... They just kind of up sticks and left, I guess."
- – Kitten
Blanks (also known as Untouchables or Pariahs) are a extremely rare breed of human psyker, even in the explosive populations of the Imperium; they average about 1 or 2 on the average planet of 10 billion inhabitants, with many planets never (or go centuries without) having one be born at all. They function as anti-psykers, having
a warp-becalming presence an inconsistent effect on Psychic energy, but which is highly disturbing on peoples, especially psykers (in game represented generally by a penalty of 3 to the Leadership, essentially making a Space Marine Captain as dumb and cowardly as the average guardsman, and said guardsmen dumber and more cowardly than gretchins... put things into perspective).
This makes them seem unnatural to ordinary people in an indescribable way, and are an anathema to psykers in particular because they shut off their powers and Warp sense. This, unfortunately, has an effect on those people more susceptible to the Warp, causing pangs of sickness and confusion. Blanks naturally and perpetually cause a preternatural sense of revulsion in all living things, since all living things in Warhammer 40K have at least a little bit of a Warp presence. Most tend to die at a young age due to social ostracism or lynching, due in no small part to the fear, horror, and a sense of paranoia in everything around them.
Blanks were supposedly seeded into humanity by the Deceiver, a C'tan god, as a way to counter the powers of the Warp in the future. This was done by abducting humans, and genetically modifying them by inserting a "Pariah Gene". However, this was the pre-5th edition Necron fluff; with the release of the 6th edition's TOMB KINGS IN SPEHSS fluff, this is now pretty dubious since humanity hadn't even evolved yet during the age of the Necrontyr. Though, like with all Oldcron fluff, it could be easily explained by the results of an escaped Deceiver shard, or even mega-shard (a few shards merged together). The more recent fluff gives an alternate spin on this, with some characters suggesting that humanity was unique in that Blanks occurred naturally as a part of their race. Whether those characters (in universe) knew about the Oldcron pariah gene is up in the air.
The ultimate fate of most Blanks is to either be picked up by the Black Ships and turned into Culexus Assassins, or get killed by the overzealous citizens of the Imperium due to their (admittedly ten-amplified) rampant phobia of anything vaguely inhuman, or end up fed to the Kroot by the Tau so they can have anti-psykers of their own. They also used to be turned into Necron Pariahs if ever the Necrons managed to capture a Blank. However, with the fluff re-write, this apparently is no longer the case. Asdrubael Vect kidnapped a few Nulls from an Inquisitor stronghold once. Apparently, something deep underneath the city of Commorragh was trying to get out, and he believed that creatures disruptive to the Warp could help if connected to the proper devices. Horrible, horrible devices, if the Dark Eldar have anything to say about it - though it does beg the question of what exactly constitutes "underneath" relative to Comorragh (and potential horrific implications thereof). Which is just weird, since they have no souls, and therefore cannot be used to feed the Dark Eldar, no matter what they do, meaning that they would be a lot more useful as Sisters of Silence or Culexus loaned from their contacts with the Adeptus Mechanicus secret pact to help in repairing the Golden Throne.
...And then it turned out in the Grim Darkness of 40k, even chaining a bunch of Pariahs and Nulls to your fancy gate to keep out the Warp and The Giant Purple Slut won't save you. Instead, your wall of Blanks turns into paint or, somehow, actual daemons.
Another confusing knot in the fluff is that humans (and Astartes) can be rendered soulless by technological, psychic, sorcerous, or daemonic means. It doesn't appear to be induce any typical effects of being a Pariah, but daemons despise them because a soulless being is utterly useless to them. Being soulless doesn't necessarily automatically kill them either, although this is presented inconsistently too. Whether other races can be rendered soulless the same way is unknown.
Nomenclature and Classification
The terms "Null", "Pariah", "Blank", and "Untouchable" often get used interchangably in the fluff and by Fa/tg/uys. Though it is evident that they are not synonyms, though the exact distinction between them remains largely unstated and can only be extrapolated by comparing various sources.
The Imperium uses a 24-point scale known as The Assignment to classify just how powerful a Psyker is based on the Greek alphabet, with Rho and Pi being baseline humans smack bang in the middle. Below Rho and all the way down to Omega officially classifies how psychically inert a person is with increasing degrees of anti-psyker effectiveness the further down the classification one descends.
Since the Pariah Gene is an actual thing, the term "Pariah" should refer to those who actually possess it and serves to distinguish them from others who are psy-inert for various other reasons such as by ritual soul scarring or by exorcism. For example, a member of the Exorcists chapter might have no psychic signature, be resistant to warp effects, and immune to further possession, but isn't the same as a Pariah. The term also serves to distinguish them from members of xenos species who might be psy-inert but could never possess the pariah gene in the first place (such as the Solitaire)
Just because someone possess the Pariah gene or happens to be psy-inert does not automatically make them an Untouchable or a Blank either. Rob Sanders novel Atlas Infernal creates a firm distinction and clarifies that "Some of these individuals had degrees of immunity to psychic powers and the energies of the warp; some - known as Untouchables or Blanks - had fields so powerful that their presence disrupted the powers of or wounded psychic beings" and later refers to blacksouls being cloned for various purposes. In Dan Abnett's novel Pariah, a couple of Word Bearers complained that the protagonist, a Pariah, was barely even a Blank, let alone a Blacksoul. Further clarifying the difference between the terms Pariah, Blank and Blacksoul in terms of meaning and potency.
Therefore it's clear that the distinction of "Blank" or "Untouchable" is reserved for those inert individuals who actively inhibit psychic powers around them while the additional differentiation for "Blacksoul" appears to be reserved for only the most potent of Untouchables.
The term "Null" seems to exist as a catch-all term for anything regarded as psy-inert, such as Null Maidens honing their "Null Abilities", and the Imperium has technology for manipulating "Null Fields" with "Null Weapons" and even untouchable Culexus Assassin are referred to as "Nulls" or "Null-Entities" in various sources. It is likely that the masses of humans who exist below Rho on the assignment scale would be easily classified as Nulls, even if they are not true blanks or untouchables.
So basically, a Null may not necessarily be a Pariah or an Untouchable/Blank/Blacksoul. But an Untouchable/Blank/Blacksoul will definitely be a Null regardless of possessing the Pariah gene. While the possessor of the Pariah gene can potentially be any of the above.
Sisters of Silence
The Sisters of Silence were one of the most prominent users of blanks in the entirety of the Imperium. They were formed by Malcador the Sigillite during the early days of the Great Crusade to aid the forces of the Imperium against some now-unknown xenos races (who weren't the Eldar, apparently) who had psykers of their own and used them against the fledgling Imperium, and possibly during the Unification Wars as well (the Sigillites were a faction which employed psykers that the Emperor fought against; he was only best buds with Malc.)
During the Horus Heresy the Sisters of Silence proved instrumental in defeating the Traitor Legions and their large groups of psykers. They were present during the Burning of Prospero and were vital in silencing the legions' ranks of psykers. They did however suffer heavy losses, but in the turmoil that followed the Heresy lost a lot of momentum.
According to the newer lore, the Sisters were never "officially" disbanded in the wake of the Horus Heresy. However they did lose prominence to the point where they received little to no support from the Administratum. By M32, only one major convent was found, though it was enough to assist in ending the threat of The Beast.
After that they once again disappeared into anonymity, with a small number being absorbed to man the Inquisition's Black Ships, though the vast majority dispersed to found secret convents to continue the task that the Emperor founded them for. Tannau Aleya, one of the point-of-view characters of Watchers of the Throne, came from one of the latter.
In the wake of the invasion of Fenris by the Thousand Sons and its eventual devastation by Magnus the Red, the scattered Sisters of Silence were quietly (heh) summoned to Terra on the order of the current Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes Trajann Valoris. There they returned to the public eye of the Imperium when they help save Roboute Guilliman from Magnus, and aided in the defense of the Second Battle of Terra that came after.
Hope for the Necrons, or, The Possibility of Pariahs Returning ...MAYBE
In the current Necron fluff starting from the 7th Edition Codex, Illuminor Szeras managed to capture a Culexus Temple Assassin during a surprise incursion against a world held by Chaos (see "993.M41: A Dark Experiment" in the current Codex) and trolls the High Lords of Terra into sending more of them (the old farts respond by sending an entire Assassin Execution Force, though it's not specified if those were composed of Culexus Assassins or other types of Assassins).
As a reminder: Necron Pariahs were once Blanks that were converted by the 'Crons as anti-psyker cyborg shocktroopers armed with Warscythes and somewhat as a retinue for Necron Lords. Pariahs were introduced in the 3rd Edition Codex Necrons as an Elite Choice, but were removed in the 5th Edition Codex.
The above incident with Szeras and the Culexus may even be made into a new Pariah origin story. Even back in the times when GeeDubs were still cool (and their site was still more than a catalogue, and had hobby ideas and more), there was a scenario telling the origin story of how a Necron Pariah came into being: the Necrons had to escort to safety a prototype Pariah (who was de-facto a converted Culexus Assassin who had capabilities of both Culexus AND Pariah and kept his assassin wargear in addition of getting a Warscythe) while protecting him from an Inquisitor and his army.
A Typical Case of Inconsistency caused by a laughable attempt at originality
Essentially, everything in the Materium is reflected into the Immaterium, and both of these aspects are linked with each other. Everything means all objects and phenomenons, be they rocks, plants, minerals, gaz, animals, insects, shrooms and likely, contrary to what some writers pretend, magnetic fields as well since gravity DOES affects the Warp (and this is both why ships avoid to exit the Warp inside a solar system, some old Fluff sources also explicitly state that the Gellar Field is gravity based). In the case of Warhammer's humans, souls are linked to our bodies by a region of the brain called Animus through a chain of willpower; what the psychic power "Force" does is to destroy that chain therefore rendering the victim literally inanimate.
The lore also explicitly states that psychic cum powers consist in manipulating the psychic energy so as to produce a concrete effect on the Materium (and/or on the Immaterium, of course).
These basics having been reminded, what does that mean for Blanks?
Firstly, they are said to have a warp-becalming presence, but is that even possible? This is exactly what Psychic Hoods do: they create a zone of neutrality essentially forcefully removing an enemy psyker's influence on that energy, but also all forms of Alignments in this energy, therefore neutralizing the psychic power. But Psychic Hoods have no effects such as those ascribed to Blankness: the Librarian doesn't fuck up his own brain or soul for that matter, and he doesn't affect those of others either.
Because, what is the natural state of the Warp? Alignment were brought about by complex life forms such as humans, eldars and orks, producing aligned energies... in other words, plants, minerals, low-intelligence animals and so on all have a Neutral Alignment. In other words, if the Blanks really had a be-calming effect on the Warp, they would most certainly not disturb the souls of anybody (to live a primitive life style instead of a civic one has the opposite effect of mental disturbance).
And then, there is the theory that psychic activity and blankness are both caused by genes... let's reformulate that: it's as if Games Workshop was stating that it is possible for a gene to make one being avoided by rays of light (and yes, it is a pertinent example since the Warp mirrors the "material universe", well, technically, the Warp is a material plan, not a metaphysical one). Even so, it makes you wonder: why are the Custodians neither Blanks nor Psykers? In modern Fluff, it is possible that, somehow, the Emperor could have planned to modify Custodians into Psykers if he managed to make them immune to Perils of the Warp (enjoy your Primarch stomping golden dildo with S8 and T8), but also that the Emperor was actually negatively affected by Blank presence too, just like everyone else, making it clear therefore why he would not have wanted Pariahs for Companions. But then, what about the Custodians? Is this Leadership value not disturbed by the Sisters of Silence? Not mentioning Grey Knights, who lost their special rule Fearless, and are also Psykers, but are still represented in the books as unaffected in their behavioral patterns by the presence of the damned blank girls (truth is, the Black Library didn't want to negatively impact sales, nor trigger feminists after making them sympathise with these persecuted forlorn women...).
And more importantly, the existence of the Animus begs a lot of question about blank physiology. For instance, do they have these chains of willpower at all or not? And if they don't have an Animus at all, what effects does it have on their brain (is the brain's structure different, or is the animus present but atrophies?!)? And if they have an animus, what's on the other side of the chain? Is it that unknown thing which is absorbing or neutralizing psychic energies? But if it was absorbing the energy, would it not be like a black hole (but black holes are connected to white holes to begin with...)? What's happening actually to the psychic energies of the surrounding... and what consequences does it have on the physical objects connected to these energies?
The lore about the Blanks isn't very clear or consistent, but this is what happens when you have got multiple writers retconning left & right without getting their shit together (think about it, Games Workshop is scarcely capable of making balanced codices, or rules, miniatures and fluff consistent with each others...).
|Forces of the Inquisition|
|Command:||Inquisitor (Ordo Malleus Inquisitor - Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor |
Ordo Xenos Inquisitor)
|Retinue:||Acolyte - Arco-flagellant - Astropath - Banisher - Cherubim |
Chiurgeon - Crusaders - Daemonhost - Death Cult Assassin
Jokaero - Hierophant - Mystic - Sanctioned Psyker
Sage (Autosavant - Lexmechanic - Sister Dialogous)
Servo-skull - Servitor - Sister Hospitaler - Pariah - Penitent
Ministorum Priest - Militarum Veteran Squad - Warp-Seer
|Auxiliaries:||Inquisitorial Stormtroopers - Deathwatch - Grey Knights |
Sisters of Battle - Callidus Assassin - Culexus Assassin
Eversor Assassin - Vindicare Assassin
|Vehicles:||Chimera - Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader |
Land Raider Redeemer) - Razorback - Rhino