"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.
Mostly AWOL both in fluff and crunch for several editions, Psychic Awakening brings her back up to speed, and while not quite matching Celestine in terms of raw power, she (and her Eldar BFF Kyganil) now has a unique and potent niche in the Sisters army.
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.
Post Gathering Storm, She and Kyganil went from world to world on the Nihilus side of the rift, fucking over Chaos as they went. By this point, Stern had considerable control over her abilities and was effectively a Super-Saiyan. Her actions created a cordon of worlds on the edge of the rift, but she grew increasingly despairing of what she was meant to do or if the Emperor had abandoned her. Worse, her visions showed her a growing "nothingness" that threatened to destroy everything she'd fought for. Encountering Inquisitor Dagover, who had been searching for what her, sincerely believing that she was what the Imperium truly needed, she used her powers to penetrate the other side of the rift and arrive at the world of Severita, which had just been visited by advance elements of the Indomnitus Crusade. A mission of Sisters of Battle were trapped on the world, assailed by unending hordes of twisted chaos cultists, mutants, and deamon engines.
Despite huge misgivings on all sides, she helped the Sisters of Battle, although some of them started to see her as a Saint, something she very much did not like. She ended up kicking the ass of a very powerful Master of Possession (who was able to weaponise raw faith), and saving the Sisters, joining them later on their ship. Whilst they left Severita, the ship was hit by the wave of "Nothingness" - likely Necron dickery - that she had sensed before. Every psyker on the ship started going loopy but Stern suddenly found she could somehow still use her powers and that they had become even stronger than before.
The implication of the above is that Stern is, if not an actual living Saint, then certainly juicing off the same powers as one.
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.
Before Stern's appearance in Psychic Awakening, the canonicity of Daemonifuge was a subject of much debate. Those in favor of it being canon pointed out that, despite it's age, there was very little in the story that conflicted with the current state of things in 40k, and much of that is simply outdated aesthetics. They also pointed out that GW wouldn't be publishing the book if it wasn't intended to be canon. Those who disagreed pointed to Stern's lack of presence in other books; the fact that she's so obscenely powerful and yet was never mentioned or appeared in any other codices or Black Library books was a little strange. The age of the story also led to some questionable events, such as overloading the Culexus assassin.
All doubts were evaporated after she unexpectedly made a cameo appearance in Psychic Awakening, in which Yvraine promised Stern the support of the Ynnari in exchange for the Pariah's aid in finding a Solitaire willing to join the Ynnari. Stern is also listed as a "Hallowed Name" on The Order of Our Martyred Lady's section in the 8th Edition Sisters of Battle Codex. GW has also provided her a plastic model and they're going to republish Daemonifuge (in glorious technicolor!), tying in to her major role in the final book of the Psychic Awakening series: Pariah. Welcome back, Ephrael.
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.
|Kyganil of the Bloody Tears:||8"||2+||3+||3||3||5||4||9||6+/4++|
With the Pariah book for the Psychic Awakening series, Ephrael finally got some rules again and she is fairly nasty. Firstly Sanctity is a +1S D2 power sword allowing Ephrael to be the bane of Terminators everywhere, and she also has the Daemonifuge ability which is a personal smite that DOES NOT POTW AND CAN NOT BE DENIED. Take that Eldrad. She also comes with the standard 4++ invuln but also has a -1 to hit modifier just to add a further middle finger to Eldar players.
Speaking of Eldar, she also comes with Kyganil in one unit, and he is "very helpful". Firstly he gives Stern a 5+ FNP while he's within 3" of her which is quite handy and he has the classic Elf rule as he always fights first and can spit out some extra ap-1 attacks. He's just there to allocate wound onto someone other than Stern and he would be a tax for her if it wasn't for the fact that the unit is really cheap at 115 point, which for a non deniable smite and a Marine level character is an absolute steal, even without Kyganil. Both can also deep strike but neither can be an armies Warlord, so you will still need to bring a Canoness if you run her.
/tg/ Hombrew rules
If you yearn for a time with less Mortal wounds and actual psychic powers, here are Homebrew rules for her and Inquisitor Hand, for your gaming pleasure, courtesy of /tg/ Codex Supplement - Faith Militant. You can find her old 7th edition homebrew rules here.
Ephrael Stern is a single model armed with: bolt pistol; power sword; frag grenades; krak grenades. You can only include one of this model in your army.
|Bolt pistol||12"||Pistol 1||4||0||1||-|
|Frag Grenades||6"||Grenade D6||3||0||1||-|
|Krak Grenades||6"||Grenade 1||6||-1||D3||-|
- Acts of Faith, Sacred Rites, Shield of Faith (see pages 75-76 of Codex: Adepta Sororitas)
- Daemonifuge: When Ephrael Stern manifests and targets a CHAOS DAEMON with the Smite psychic power, it inflicts D6 mortal wounds instead of D3 (whether or not the result of the Psychic test is more than 10). In addition, she has a 4+ invulnerable save.
- Heretic Saint: Ephrael Stern can never have a Warlord Trait. Ephrael Stern can be included in a HARLEQUINS Detachment even though she does not have the HARLEQUINS keyword, and can be included in a HARLEQUINS Detachment without preventing other units in that Detachment from gaining a Masque Form.
- Premonitions: Ephrael Stern re-rolls armor and invulnerable save rolls of 1.
- The Stern Codex: Whenever Ephrael Stern would lose a wound as a result of a mortal wound in the Psychic phase, roll one D6; on a 5+ that wound is not lost.
- Webway Traversal: During deployment, you can set up Ephrael Stern in the webway instead of placing her on the battlefield. At the end of any of your Movement phases she can teleport into battle – set her up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9" away from any enemy models.
PSYKER: Ephrael Stern can attempt to manifest three psychic powers in each friendly Psychic Phase, and attempt to deny three psychic powers in each enemy Psychic phase. She knows the Smite power and all powers from the Daemonifuge discipline. Whenever Ephrael Stern attempts to manifest or resist a psychic power, add 1 to her Psychic test or Deny the Witch test.
FACTION KEYWORDS: IMPERIUM, ADEPTUS MINISTORUM, ADEPTA SORORITAS, ORDER OF OUR MARTYRED LADY
KEYWORDS: CHARACTER, INFANTRY, JUMP PACK, FLY, PSYKER, EPHRAEL STERN
Screaming Cage has a warp charge value of 5. If manifested, pick a visible enemy unit within 12" of the psyker. Both controlling players roll a dice and add their respective unit’s highest Leadership value. If the target’s total is equal to or greater than the psyker’s total, nothing happens. If the psyker’s total is greater than the target’s total, the target unit suffers a number of mortal wounds equal to the difference.
|2||Vortex of Doom
Vortex of Doom has a warp charge value of 8. If manifested, a vortex opens above the nearest visible enemy model within 12" of the psyker. That model’s unit, and every other unit within 3" of that model suffers D3 mortal wounds. The number of mortal wounds inflicted is increased to D6 if the power is manifested with a Psychic test of 12+.
Webway Gate has a warp charge value of 6. If manifested, pick a friendly ADEPTUS MINISTORUM INFANTRY or HARLEQUINS INFANTRY unit within 12” of Ephrael Stern. Remove that unit from the battlefield and immediately set it up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9” from any enemy models.
Inquisitor Hand is a single model armed with a bolt pistol, force sword, frag grenades, and krak grenades. Only one of this model may be included in your army.
|Bolt pistol||12"||Pistol 1||4||0||1||-|
|Frag Grenades||6"||Grenade D6||3||0||1||-|
|Krak Grenades||6"||Grenade 1||6||-1||D3||-|
- Authority of the Inquisition: See Index: Imperium 2, pg 117
- Quarry: See Index: Imperium 2, pg 117
- Unquestionable Wisdom: All friendly IMPERIUM units within 6" of Inquisitor Hand can use his Leadership characteristic instead of their own.
PSYKER: Inquisitor Hand can attempt to manifest one psychic power in each friendly Psychic Phase, and attempt to deny one psychic powers in each enemy Psychic phase. He knows the Smite power and one psychic powers from the Sanctic discipline.
FACTION KEYWORDS: IMPERIUM, INQUISITION, ORDO MALLEUS
KEYWORDS: INFANTRY, CHARACTER, PSYKER, INQUISITOR, HAND