Sisters of Silence
"That's their function... Aside from the fact that they fight like bastards. Got the pariah gene in 'em."
As stated, the Emperor formed this all-female army at the beginning of the Great Crusade as a counter-measure against untrained psykers, which 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 odder 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.
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, albeit with no armored helmet or other head protection aside from the massive jaw-like collar that hides their mouths (it's called a gorget, mate), 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), while 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 enthronement 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 nascent Inquisition to crew its Black Ships, or serve 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 millenia, and by the end of the 41st Millenium, 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
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 millenia.
Although 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 Fenris simply rendered it legal.
Their first 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.
In the novel Dark Imperium, it turns out the Sisters have fully 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. Since most of the book 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.
- Tannau Aleya: One of the 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 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. So Seeker Cadre to Vigilator?
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.
- 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|