"I would know what you are, girl!"
"You are the Inquisition. I am whatever you say I am."
"What manner of creature are you? Be you daemon, heretic, or saint? I would have the truth!"
"I am Ephrael Stern, Sister of Battle."
- Inquisitor Silas Hand meeting Ephrael Stern
Ephrael Stern, also known as the Thrice-Born, Daemonifuge, and Heretic Saint is one of, if not the, most badass Battle Sisters of all time. Seriously, if she had up-to-date rules, she'd probably be up there with Celestine in terms of power and points-cost. Basically, she's the 40k version of Lucy, but with less superficial pseudo-scientific bullshit and more awesome.
Originating in a Warhammer Monthly comic, Daemonifuge, Ephrael Stern was a gifted Seraphim Superior from the Order of Our Martyred Lady who had shown great promise, achieving her rank in record time (and considering the Ecclesiarchy's records go back thousands of years, this is impressive indeed) before experiencing a meteoric fall after she led a team to investigate a lost convent of the Orders Pronatus on the planet Parnis. The Orders Pronatus were a branch of the sisterhood who specialized in the study and care of holy relics, so ensuring their safety was a matter of great import to the Ecclesiarchy. No one knew what happened on that world, but Stern was the sole survivor of the expedition. When Stern returned to Ophelia VII, she was barely cognizant, twitchy, and constantly muttering to herself. The Prioress ordered her to be locked away in a cell until her condition (and whether or not they needed to purge her) could be ascertained. Four years later, and Stern's condition remained unchanged, as she had covered the walls with strange glyphs and markings, all while continuing her mad ravings. Desperate, the Prioress gave the Inquisition a call to get their opinion on the matter. As soon as she got word of this, one of the guards to Stern's cell busted in to BLAM her. Dodging the shot, Stern tackled the errant guard to the ground, punched through her throat, and yanked a daemon of Slaanesh out of her body.
With the confirmation of Slaaneshi corruption on Ophelia VII, Inquisitor Silas Hand of the Ordo Malleus arrived on the scene. After a brief investigation confirming that the sister killed by Stern had indeed been corrupted by Slaanesh, and that the same corruption had spread to the Navis Nobilite, Hand ran Stern through a series of tests to see if she was corrupted or not. Satisfied of her purity (at least, as much as an Inquisitor can be satisfied with anyone's purity), she was restored to her rank and sent with Hand to Parnis to conduct another investigation of what happened there. After entering orbit, Hand received a message from his agents informing him that the corrupted navigator was on board with them. Hand, Stern, and some battle sisters went to the navigators quarters to find him actively copulating with a slaaneshi daemon. Suffice to say, his subordinate was quickly promoted. Satisfied that the ship was secure from the taint of chaos, Hand led Stern and a force of battle sisters to the planet below. Unfortunately, he was wrong, and the ship detonated at the hands of corrupted crewmen shortly after their departure.
After barely surviving a crash landing, Hand was psychically tormented by a daemon of Khorne whom he had fought in the past, only to be saved by Stern, who entered the warp and fought him off. This was enough to earn Hand's implicit trust. Stern, Hand, and the surviving Sororitas set out for the ruins of the Orders Pronatus monastery. Unfortunately for Stern and her squad, the sisters on Parnis weren't studying relics, but a Keeper of Secrets, by the name of Asteroth, one of the most powerful daemons the Imperium had ever encountered. The sisters had landed on the planet intending to make it just another outpost when they discovered Asteroth imprisoned in a crystalline stone, and couldn't pass up the chance to study it up close and personal (which is probably what the daemon wanted all along). Even the extreme zealotry and faith of the sisters wasn't enough to stay its corrupting influence, and many fell to chaos in their studies. Eventually, some of the corrupted sisters survived long enough to set it loose, whereupon it captured all the sisters of the order, flayed their skin, and weaved it into a structure called a Screaming Cage. This linked all the sisters, body, mind, and soul, so that any suffering it inflicted on one of them would be shared by all. What it hadn't counted on, however, was that their faith was shared also, which protected them from the Keeper's corrupting influence.
Upon encountering the Screaming Cage, Stern's memories came flooding back to her. Her fellow sisters had been corrupted within moments of making planetfall, turning sister against sister, and leaving Stern the sole survivor (and easy pickings for Asteroth). Despite super-murdering her, the sisters trapped in the Screaming Cage managed to use its combined faith to bring her back from the dead. This also gave her a fragment of their combined knowledge about Chaos and Slaanesh, hence why she was a little crazy when she returned to Ophelia VII. Now that she'd returned, they could finish implanting their combined knowledge and power into her. Once Asteroth realizes this, it attacks in force, so Hand and the surviving battle sisters left tried to hold it off for as long as possible while Stern got super-charged with forbidden knowledge. The knowledge transfer was successful, though Stern was, once again, the sole survivor of the incident, as the other sisters were killed by Asteroth and Hand sacrificed himself to banish it back to the warp.
Stern survived alone on the planet for a indeterminate (but lengthy) amount of time. During this ordeal, she wrote The Stern Codex, which contained all of the information she'd absorbed from the Screaming Cage, though she had to write it in her blood to prevent the book from mutating due to the vile knowledge it contained. Eventually, she was rescued, though she quickly realized that the Ordo Malleus had branded her a witch and was actively hunting her, as were the agents of Slaanesh, who were desperately trying to keep her knowledge from falling into the wrong hands. Stern lost her Codex to the warp during this hunt, making her position even more precarious. It was during this period that a Shadowseer took note of Stern, and dispatched a disgraced harlequin, the Pariah, to bring her to the Black Library for safe-keeping. Stern, meanwhile thought to hide on a pilgrim ship and, in keeping with her abysmal luck, was captured by Dark Eldar raiders and forced to fight in the arenas of Commorragh.
After surviving for an unspecified amount of time (though long enough to be noticed and sponsored by an Archon in the Wych-cult arenas), she was rescued by the Pariah, who explained that they're both hunters of Chaos and that she would be best off in the Black Library. Given her recent experiences with the Imperium, Stern was inclined to agree, and they set off into the webway... only to be intercepted by Ahriman. After the both of them were telepathically violated by him as he rooted through their minds for knowledge pertaining to the Black Library and the warp, the Ordo Malleus intercepted his ship and teleported a massive strike force of Grey Knights over. Trapped between several parties who wished to use her, and none of them well, Stern elected to kill herself and end the whole debacle.
In the aftermath, the Grey Knights turned her body over to the Adepta Sororitas, having detected no signs of chaos taint on her. Agreeing with this assessment, the Sororitas gave her an honorable funeral at a hospitaller convent combating the diseases of Nurgle. The Pariah stood watch over her tomb, waiting for the moment when she would be resurrect for the second and final time. Some months later, Inquisitor Hand's old apprentice, Inquisitor Fazael arrived to exhume the body, only to find the tomb empty. Nearby, one of his agents locates a barely-conscious Stern wandering through ruins infested by the taint of Nurgle. The Pariah rescued her and began leading her to the nearest webway gate with Fazael close behind. During this journey, Stern finally began to comprehend her power, and how to use and control it. Armed with this knowledge (and frankly tired of running), Stern turned around to face her pursuers. Unfortunately, Fazael came prepared for such an occurrence and sent in a Culexus Assassin to finish her off once and for all. Just when said assassin was on the verge of consuming her soul she gave him a kiss which blew his body apart.
Following this, she manifested a webway gate out of thin air and beckoned for the Pariah to come and take her to the Black Library. Turning to Fazael, she pointed out that they're on the same side and his energy would really be better spent fighting Chaos than her. Nevertheless, he vowed to pursue her to the end of days as she and the Pariah departed.
Ephrael von Stern - Sister of Sigmar
Warhammer Monthly also published a one-shot reimagining of Stern as a Sister of Sigmar, aiding the witch-hunter Silas Handschaff in rooting out heresy in Mordheim. Unlike Daemonifuge, this story is explicitly non-canon.
Although GW republished Daemonifuge in 2016, its canonicity has been a subject of much debate. Those in favor of it being canon point out that, despite it's age, there's very little in the story that conflicts with the current state of things in 40k, and much of that is simply outdated aesthetics. They also point out that GW would not be publishing it if it wasn't intended to be canon. Those who disagree point to Stern's lack of presence in other books (the fact that she's so obscenely powerful and yet is never mentioned or appears in any codex or other Black Library books is a little strange) as well as the age of the story leading to some questionable events (overloading a Culexus assassin, for example).
Ephrael Stern's original incarnation was as an Adepta Sororitas Dreadnought. Ignoring that silliness, she and Inquisitor Hand both had miniatures and rules as part of the Black Library character series in the early 2000s. Despite her apparent badassery in the fluff, her rules were fairly lackluster, leaving her slightly better than a standard Seraphim Superior. You can still occasionally find the pair on eBay from time to time.
Ephrael Stern (250 Points)
- Unit Composition: 1 (Unique)
- Unit Type: Jump Infantry
- Wargear: Power Armor, Bolt Pistol, Power Sword, Frag and Krak Grenades, Jump Pack
- Warlord Trait: Pure of Will,
- Special Rules: Act of Faith, Adamantium Will, Eternal Warrior, Fearless, Hit and Run, Independent Character, Infiltrate, Psyker (Mastery Level 3)
- Daemonifuge: Ephrael has the Preferred Enemy, Fleshbane, and Armorbane rules when shooting at or assaulting models with the Chaos Daemons faction. Daemons of Slaanesh must re-roll successful invulnerable saves against wounds caused by Ephrael. Additionally, she has a 4+ invulnerable save and cannot generate Perils of the Warp.
- Heretic Saint: Ephrael's detachment is considered Come the Apocalypse with any Inquisition detachments. All Inquisition units have the Hatred (Ephrael Stern) rule.
- Act of Faith: The Emperor's Deliverance
- Psychic Powers: Ephrael knows all powers from the Daemonology (Sanctic) discipline.
Inquisitor Silas Hand (100 Points)
Silas Hand may be chosen as an HQ choice for a detachment of Inquisition.
- Unit Composition: 1 (Unique)
- Unit Type: Infantry
- Wargear: Power Armor, Bolt Pistol, Force Sword, Frag, Krak, and Psyk-out Grenades, Psybolt Ammunition
- Warlord Trait: Daemonhunter,
- Special Rules: Independent Character, Stubborn, Psyker (Mastery Level 1)
- Custodian of Stern: A detachment that includes Silas may also include Ephrael Stern as an Elites choice. If this is the case, ignore the Heretic Saint rule.
- Psychic Powers: Silas generates his powers from the Daemonology (Sanctic) discipline.