Sisters of Silence
"That's their function... Aside from the fact that they fight like bastards. Got the pariah gene in 'em."
Near the onset of the Great Crusade, the Emperor formed them as a counter-measure against untrained psykers, whose numbers had increased at the start of the Age of Strife. To do this, the Emperor ensured that they were all pariahs, human beings with no presence in the Warp; one has to wonder though whether they had to compete with the Officio Assassinorum for recruits (probably not, seeing as the Culexus Assassins are primarily males). As such, a psyker's abilities would have no effect on them, being cancelled out when they got close enough to the Sisters. In one of his stranger decisions, the Emperor explicitly had the Sisters take literal vows of silence upon becoming full Sisters. They could communicate via several sign languages (including Astartes battle-sign) but would not speak a word upon completion of their training. To ensure communication between other branches of the Imperium of Man, Sisters-in-training would serve as communicators.
Given recent revelations about the nature of the Emperor, this may or may not have been to stop them blabbing what they saw under his glamours. It's implied that what a Sister sees when she looks at a warp entity is not the same as what a regular being will see; Tannau Aleya describes Bloodthirsters as being horrific looking creatures but that's it.
The Sisters of Silence are also consummate warriors, trained to the same levels as the Space Marine Legions and using similar wargear, such as bolters and power weapons, as well as being covered in SoB-like power armour; theirs lacks an armored helmet or other head protection aside from the bevor that hides their mouths, which leads to a lot of deaths from headshots during the burning of Prospero. As a military force, they are formidable; during the Burning of Prospero, they were deployed to augment the Space Wolves and the Adeptus Custodes. While this was more because the pariah gene would neutralize the Thousand Sons' psyker abilities, they were more than capable of fighting against the Astartes. They would also in turn augment the Custodes, the Imperial Fists, the Blood Angels, and the White Scars during the Siege of Terra, where the pariah gene became a boon fighting the Daemons unleashed by the traitors.
After the Horus Heresy
For the longest time, the fate of the Sisters of Silence following the Horus Heresy had been an object of much speculation in the fandom. It is only recently that what they've been doing has been brought to light, and while some of the theories have been surprisingly spot on (that many Sisters were absorbed into the Inquisition to man their Black Ships), others... didn't quite hit the mark. Thanks to their own mini-codex, as well as the War of the Beast series and Watchers of the Throne and Dark Imperium, a somewhat clearer picture of what happened to the Sisters can be reconstructed.
It turns out that the Sisters were never "officially" disbanded by the Administratum. However in the wake of the Emperor's placement on the Golden Throne, the surviving Sisters suddenly found themselves without direct support from the Imperial Bureaucracy. This made a lot of the surviving Sisters bitter obviously, but a number of them shrugged, and decided to continue with their Emperor-given mandate anyway... just with less resources than they're used to.
As previously mentioned, some Sisters were absorbed into the Adeptus Astra Telepathica to crew its Black Ships, or served as retinues to important Inquisitor Lords. Many others, however dispersed, back into the general populace, settling down to have normal lives, and in doing so passed down the Pariah gene down to their descendants. Lastly, some quietly found secret Convents in out-of-way worlds, far from view of the average Imperial citizen. It is one of these Convents that Slaughter Koorland approached and convinced to aid the Imperium in the War of the Beast.
By M32, the Sisters of Silence refused to recognize the Imperium in its political form, seeing it as a corrupted simulacrum of what the Emperor actually intended, but they still acknowledge the Emperor as the focus of their loyalty. Thus, when their services are required again, they accept the calling and return to Terra, where they are granted an audience with the Emperor in his sanctum, a privilege that not even the High Lords are afforded. Just how exactly that would've worked is a mystery, given how the Emperor can presumably only communicate psychically at this point, which probably wouldn't work at all on a group of nulls.
Although that particular Convent was wiped out slaying the Beast, many more survived through the millennia, and by the end of the 41st Millennium, the number of Sisters had swelled into the tens of thousands. And it was just as well too, as the Imperium would need their aid really REALLY soon.
Returning to the Fray: The Rise of the Primarch
Shortly after the reappearance of Magnus the Red during the Fenris campaign, the High Lords of Terra issued a writ that would summon the Sisterhood back to Terra, where they would be used once again. It transpired that Trajan Valoris, Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes had pre-empted this decree and had quietly been collecting disparate Sisters to Terra in advance, knowing that the time may come when they were needed again; the knee-jerk response of the High Lords to Terra simply rendered it legal.
Some of the exiled Sisters resented this greatly, having been ignored for millennia. In the novel Watchers of the Throne, one particular sister, Tannau Aleya, spends most of the book (quietly) raging about how her convent was left without support for so long, especially how the Custodes seemed to be "pampered" by comparison, despite being stuck on Terra for nearly ten millennia. Aleya also "talks" a fair bit about the mentality of the Silent Sisters, stating that the Sisters ironically crave human fellowship, as it temporarily fills the void they feel inside due to their nature as blanks. This also leads to extremely strong bonds between the Sisters described as a fierce almost desperate love, due to sharing such a unique bond and having been reviled and hated by most of the people they'd ever come across. The sisters also seem to grow close to the custodes they fought with during the great crusade, to the extent custodes could tell what a sister was trying to convey without her even having to sign it to him, something that later made one sister immediately realize Drach'nyen was impersonating a custodes. They also never entirely get used to the reaction they cause in others, with every twitch and every appalled expression twisting the knife every time they see that reaction.
Overall they come across as somewhat tragic, as they spend their lives protecting a species that can't even stand to be in the same room as them, and hates them without even being able to articulate why.
The Sisters' first "official" action was to deploy with the Custodes on Luna to save a recently resurrected Lord Guilliman from being used by Magnus to mop the floor, and they later helped fight back against a Khorne daemon invasion of Terra directly. When Guilliman returned from his audience with the Emperor, he dissolved the standing order that restricted the Custodians to Terra, and he ordered the Sisterhood to coordinate with them and join the front lines.
By the 41st Millennium it turns out that some Sisters had converted to the worship of the Emperor, even describing the Emperor as "holy" right in front of Lord Commander Roboute Guilliman, while considering the Primarch to be his divine messenger and demigod son. Though this is not entirely new information, as even during the Horus Heresy, there were some Sisters who had already started to consider the Emperor as a God, and were willing to break their vows of tranquility. Some had even "read the book" (the Lectitio Divinitatus) according to Kyril Sinderman, and allowed the faithful to escape custody from the Somnus Citadel on Luna so that they could continue to spread the word.
Since most of Dark Imperium was about Guilliman trying to come to terms with what humanity had become since the Heresy, it was all Guilliman could do to not eat his own bolter then and there. However, giving the appearance of converting to the faith is the easiest way to integrate themselves with the Imperium without getting grief from the other branches. This is definitely true for at least one convent; Aleya's was said to have had "sham" shrines and it's implied that those Sisters feigned their faith to avoid being persecuted as heretics. There is also a difference between those sisters that manned the Black Ships versus those that were outside of the Imperium's control, with those that were aboard the black ships having closer ties and a lot more loyalty towards the Imperium's leadership, to the extent that Aleya didn't trust them to do what was needed without waiting for permission. It's possible the Emperor-worshiping Sisters are those that were recruited and controlled by the Imperium for the black ships, while those outside of Imperial control and influence managed to keep their old ways.
- Jenetia Krole: AKA the "Soulless Queen of the Imperium" was the Knight Commander of the Sisters of silence and the single most terrifying woman in the entire human race. No, Really. She could be placed in a staring contest with an entire Convent of Sisters of Battle, Inquisitor Greyfax, A warband of Night Lords and a FUCKING Dark Eldar Haemonculus and she would stare them all down until they ran away with their tails between their legs. Her Pariah aura was so strong and distracting she caused members of the Adeptus Custodes to avert their eyes because it pained them to look at Her. When Big E needed the Thousand Sons "disciplined" she challenged the legions most powerful sorcerers to duels and Killed them, and then she Killed a Daemon just for good measure. She then fought in the Webway and survived the retreat to the Imperial Palace losing 3 fingers on the way, not really seeming to care about her lost digits. She used a Zwei-hander sword dubbed "Veracity" that was used by The Emperor during the unification wars, so yeah, that's cool too.
- Amendera Kendel - A former Sister of Silence turned Agentia Tercius to Malcador. She is still a Pariah of course, but she gave up her vow of silence to become one of the first members of Malcador's band of merry travellers. She is quite possibly the first "True" Inquisitor, by virtue of her background as a Witch-Hunter and the later development of her character which shows her radically using the authority granted to her by the Sigillite to get shit done: Co-opting Space Marines from the survivors of the Eisenstein into her retinue, and later ordering a battle-barge to enact Exterminatus on a planet turned renegade, despite the fact that no-one other than a Primarch or the Emperor himself had ever ordered such an act before her.
- Tannau Aleya: One of the (previously mentioned) POV characters for Watchers of the Throne. A Sister from the convent located on Araissa, she becomes its sole survivor when it is attacked by the Black Legion while she was away hunting down cultists on another world. Hot-headed and very opinionated, Aleya spends most of the book bitter at the Imperium for ignoring the Sisters for so long, and infuriated that Shield-Captain Valerian (the other POV character of the book) seems impossible to goad into anger, but takes her duties as a Sister very seriously, and was willing to lay down her life at even a chance to cave in some Black Legion heads. Started out using a heavy flamer to do her work, before turning it in for a greatsword once she got picked up by Navradaan on the way to Terra. She is also an absolute badass, winning a firefight that was 5-1 and taking on a Chaos Marine in close quarters alone and WINNING, then removing his helmet and spitting in his face for killing her sisters.
Mini-Codex and Moving Forward
A common rumor is that they will be added into some upcoming Sisters of Battle relaunch. If so, that would be an interesting revision; on the one hand, the Sisters of Battle, despite being designated witch-hunters, are lacking in the anti-psyker department. On the other hand, the Sisters of Silence, much like the Space Marines, are big believers in the Great Crusade era of the Imperium, and likely won't mesh well with the Ecclesiarchy. On the other hand, Dark Imperium implies they fully converted to the Imperial Cult over time so their ideology would likely mesh together well. So, in conclusion, the most probable thing that GW can do with the SoS is to say that the Adepta Sororitas in its current form can trace its origins to the M36 Daughters of the Emperor as well as offshoots of the original Sisters of Silence and find some way to reconcile them both.
As of 2018, any news on them has been slow and via the Horus Heresy Team at Forge World. They stated that there would at least be some 8th edition rules for Talons (which includes Grey Knights apparently) coming eventually while they're not working on all these other Horus Heresy, Titanicus, Necromunda, and Blood Bowl projects. So far nothing on Sisters but Custodians at least got a handful of new kit.
Why they weren't simply added to the Custodes codex, only GW knows.
- Warhammer_40,000/Tactics/Talons_of_the_Emperor_(30k) - For the Heresy Era rules representing their original incarnation.
- Warhammer_40,000/Tactics/Imperium(8E)#Sisters_of_Silence - For the far more limited 40k rules.
|Forces of the Sisters of Silence|
|Command:||Excruciatus Cadre - Oblivion Knight-Centura|
|Troops:|| Null Maiden Cadre - Oblivion Knight Cadre |
Prosecutor Cadre - Pursuer Cadre
Seeker Cadre - Vigilator Cadre
|Vehicles:|| Grav-Rhino - Kharon Pattern Acquistor |
|Titans:||Warlord-Sinister Pattern Battle Psi-Titan|