They can see what you see not...vision milky then eyes rot...when you turn, they will be gone...whispering their hidden song... - Excerpt from the heretical ramblings of the 'prophet' Melchior Keb
Long and strange is the saga of the Bronze Prophets of the Adeptus Astartes. Though once among the finest of marines, the calamities which afflict them have caused many to question their purity. There can be little doubt that their origins lie in that most benighted of times - the Cursed Founding.
Our wars are fought on the edge of Limbo, as its winds roar around us.
The scars of our battles lie on the inside, not on our skin.
The destruction those wounds wreak may leave nothing.
We are the veterans of the wars of the mind, and we know no fear, for the Emperor is with us.
- Inscription above the entrance to the Bronze Prophets' Fortress Monastery
Like many Cursed Founding chapters, little or nothing is confirmed about the creation of the Bronze Prophets. Despite this, many horrific legends surround them, whispered in darkness by the fearful.. Whether these tales are created by the Prophets themselves or are whispers of truth that have slowly spread across the Imperium is impossible to say.
These legends say that the Bronze Prophets, in the early years of their founding, were a mighty force. They were keen of eye, strong of limb, and sharp of intellect, even by the standards of Space Marines. The enemies of mankind fell before them, and each victory was cause for great rejoicing in the Auguria, their monastery on their home world of Pawrath. Many are the stories of their victories – the Dark Eldar raiders outmaneuvered and crushed in the Catacombs of Saint Leoric, the daemonic incursion driven back in the skies above Raja Kush, the annihilation of an Iron Warrior Grand Company at the Battle of Sinclair's Hope – these are only some of the great deeds accomplished while the Chapter was young and eager.
But their prowess was not limited to the battlefield. The Bronze Prophets' Librarians were some of the most puissant the Imperium had ever seen, and their gifts at foreseeing the future almost unparalleled. They took the myriad strands of the future and wove them to form a tapestry which pleased them, letting the Emperor guide them toward the best course of action. Indeed, these gifts of prophecy were a large part of what allowed the Bronze Prophets to achieve their great successes on the battlefield. Nonetheless, their talents were not limited to mere prediction - stories of Bronze Prophet Librarians striking enemy fighters from the sky with their minds and annihilating men with a word still echo in the ears of the enemies of Man.
In dark corners of the Imperium, it was whispered that the power and might of the Prophets heralded the dawning of a new era for the realm of Man. Even in the halls of power and the palaces of the mighty, the unwise and the foolish swore to each other that the Chapter’s victories were a sign of the Emperor's return. Such mutterings drifted to the Bronze Prophets' ears, and they were pleased. It is said that it was this pleasure that was their downfall.
And They Are Evil in My Sight
The mind of the Emperor is not that of a man. It is that of a god. All the knowledge of the universe, that ever was and ever will be. If we could touch it, grasp even a moment of the infinities that it must encompass, we could be even more than we already are. Would that we could witness such a thing.
– Montress the Golden, Chief Librarian of the Bronze Prophets
The Chief Librarian of the Bronze Prophets was Montress the Golden, a man whose powers surpassed even those of his abnormally powerful brethren. Montress was a gifted soothsayer and powerful psyker, eager to scry beyond the limits which bound his compatriots. He looked back in time to the very dawn of the Imperium itself and forward to times where even the stars would fade away. It is also said that Montress reached out and touched the minds of the enemies of Man – Orks, Eldar, heretics, and the darkest of aliens that are only whispered of today. He knew them all, and the weaknesses inside them, and the Bronze Prophets used those weaknesses to win victory after victory. But still there was knowledge he did not possess, and he grew obsessed with touching the mind he knew contained the knowledge of the future of humanity itself – the mind of the Emperor.
Montress swore that by touching the mind of the Emperor he would be able to see the true path for the chapter and the Imperium, and change the galaxy as his master would want. The beacon of the Astronomican, he claimed, also projected the mind of the Emperor into the galaxy. By touching this, one could touch the knowledge of the Emperor – feel his thoughts, know his wisdom. One night, when the four moons of Pawrath aligned in the sky, the Chapter's most powerful Librarians met in conclave, that together they might do what he alone could not. They would look into the mind of the Emperor.
Together, they reached out across the fullness and breadth of space and time, twisting the fabric of reality with their efforts, reaching for the Astronomican and the mind of their Lord and ultimate creator. They looked forward into the future, and back into the past at the same time, and at the same time as that they looked nowhere at all. And as they raised their heads, triumphant, their very eyes poured from their heads as dust, and their sanity poured away with it.
Some say that they were destroyed by the power of the Astronomican, some by the glory of the mind of the Emperor, and some that their fate is a lesson from the Emperor for all who would overreach their station. Others claim that it is a mere representation of the inner corruption being a psyker forces on all so cursed. Whatever the reason, the legends all agree that ever since, the Librarians of the Bronze Prophets have succumbed to the same curse as they reach the apex of their power - their eyes rot away, and their minds rot with their eyes. Those who fall to the curse remain chained below the Monastery to gibber in riddles that will steer the course of the Chapter and the Imperium, and that as year follows year, their numbers grow.
The Bronze Prophets themselves are silent on the subject. Some few in the Imperium claim these legends are but slander and that the Bronze Prophets are still the titans they were five thousand years ago, but their ranks dwindle with each passing century. But the truth is not important, for the Emperor protects.
The Emperor reveals his ways to you clad in yellow! Believe in yellow, for it is the color of the Emperor, and of the future! Follow the yellow sign, and you shall find the truth of the Emperor!
- Unknown street corner preacher, Pawrath
The home world of the Bronze Prophets is Pawrath, a small planet in the far north-east of Segmentum Tempestus. A mostly temperate world, Pawrath's population is concentrated in the feuding city-states which dot the coastline and island chains of its eastern continent. The city-states of Pawrath vary wildly in their governmental styles and favored methods of warfare, but all prosecute their struggles with abandon. Duchies and republics, petty empires and anarcho-syndicalist communes, all constantly vie with pike, sword, and other, stranger weapons for territory, resources or honour. The people are united only by their faith, and the commonalities of architecture, thought and language it has brought.
The church on Pawrath is a powerful institution – the Ecclesiarchy has deep roots in the world, and belief in the Divine Emperor runs at least as deep in the hearts of the citizens. The Imperial Cult is the one organization on Pawrath that can remain relatively aloof from the various internecine conflicts which make the planet so useful as a Space Marine recruitment ground. Education and learning are, for better or ill, maintained by the agents of the Emperor's divinity, and thus almost all aspects of Pawrathan life which are shaped by intellectuals are equally shaped by the influence of the church. The gothic arches and buttresses of fortresses, the invocations of the Emperor's blessing in books, the thoughts of the aristocracy and politicians – all follow the forms of the Imperial faith.
From high to low, Pawrath is pervaded by a belief in the Emperor – specifically, a belief that the Emperor reveals his will to his people so they might better conform to his wishes in all things. The people of Pawrath have, as their belief deepens, become more and more devoted to determining just what the Emperor wants. Through consultation with soothsayers, arcane prophecies, the reading of omens, close consultation of holy texts – every citizen of Pawrath is determined to conclude just what it is they can do to ensure their rightness in the Emperor's eyes. This belief has unsurprisingly extended itself to the Chapter, whose views on the importance of their prophetic gifts mesh well with it.
Whatever the Bronze Prophets may think of the beliefs of the people, their Fortress Monastery remains a silent observer of all these things. The Fortress Monastery, known as the Halls of the Blind to many outside the Chapter and as the Auguria to the Marines themselves, sits within the large Church complex within the largest city on Pawrath. Though initially the citizens were sure that this was a sign of divine blessing for the city, and that the Space Marines would aid them against their enemies, it soon became clear that the choice was driven by the city's central location and large population base. The walls of the Auguria do not open to the outside, except to allow recruiting parties to enter and exit. It only watches, its presence reminding the people equally of their duties to the Emperor and the consequences of failing in that duty.
The population of the planet has little contact with the Prophets, looking at them as something between protectors, demons and gods. Many former Chapter Masters and Captains are preserved in the memory of the population as nigh-mythical heroes and villains. The people’s only real interaction with the Chapter is during recruitment drives, which are conducted as trials of strength and skill in every city, organized by the local authorities under the direction of a Chapter representative. Those who succeed will be taken to the Auguria for further training. Those who fail remain in the cities, ever dreaming of their lost chance to serve the Emperor.
In knowing the teachings of the Emperor, we have become stronger.
- Inscription over the entrance to the Bronze Prophets' Librarium
Unsurprisingly, it is by the prophetic abilities of their Librarians that the Bronze Prophets define themselves. They see the predictive abilities of psykers as the means of humanity's eventual triumph over its enemies, and see their own remarkable gifts in this area as a sign both of the Emperor's favor and of their superiority to humanity in general, and even to other Adeptus Astartes. The Emperor, as the most powerful psyker yet known to humanity, is seen as an ideal to which all mankind can aspire (though, of course, the Bronze Prophets are closer than most). Becoming more like the Emperor and fulfilling his plans for humanity is something of an obsession for many Marines of the chapter.
Their reliance on the visionary gifts of the Librarians is correspondingly immense. Librarians will be consulted for many decisions made by Marines, whether personal decisions or choices which affect the whole chapter. In addition to the words of their own Librarians, they also eagerly seek out other potential sources of information about the future and its prediction – the tunnels beneath their Fortress-Monastery are reputed to be full of tome after tome of ancient prophecy, some accurate, some merely the ramblings of madmen. All of it is analyzed and searched for meaning before being stored in the Chapter Librarium, as are the many other tomes they discover in their hunt for prophetic lore. Those Marines who do not possess prophetic gifts themselves still often participate in the interpretation of the prophecies of others, and many of the chapter’s greatest leaders have lacked the gift of sight themselves.
The Chapter Librarians are thus seen as manifestations of the Emperor's will, and accorded a prestige and importance rare in other Chapters. Where in some Chapters Librarians are shunned, in the Bronze Prophets they are viewed with a quiet reverence, admired for their spiritual proximity to the Emperor. This does not grant them any more authority than in other Chapters – the Prophets remain fully cognizant of the risks of daemonic possession and insanity that accompany the gifts of the witch.
The Chapter's obsession with predicting the correct course of action in any situation has grown more and more pronounced as time goes by, no doubt at least partly due to the influence of the people of their home world, who are, if anything, even more obsessed with the same practice. The Bronze Prophets appear to be dedicating themselves more and more to a standard they seem to be unable to fully determine or comprehend, fighting ever-greater foes and committing themselves to battles further and further afield. Imperial observers have speculated that this reaction may well be confirmation of the terrifying legends which surround the Chapter, and that the Bronze Prophets have viewed their curse as a rebuke from the Emperor himself. Many of these same observers have questioned what the result will be when the Bronze Prophets are finally forced to face their own imperfections and the impossibility of knowing the Emperor's omniscient will.
All that lies within these doors will not avail you without the wisdom to know when and where to use it.
– Inscription over the entrance to the Armory of the Auguria
Generally speaking, the Bronze Prophets are a Codex chapter. The predictive gifts of the Librarians are not easily utilized in tactical combat, where the battle can be over before a Librarian can determine what route will secure victory. Thus, the Chapter follows the Codex Astartes and maintains dedicated adherence to its principles of warfare.
The Librarians of the Bronze Prophets are found throughout the chapter in combat roles, providing a valuable role in assisting their brethren in battle. Their oracular gifts are used to do what the chapter knows their enemies will not expect, and also to bolster the abilities of warriors in combat. Bronze Prophet Librarians have been recorded as producing a wide variety of effects in their compatriots, ranging from the swiftness of an Eldar to maniacal rage to increased potency of weapons and armor.
The amazing power displayed by the Librarians is coupled with an unusually short service life - few Librarians seem to see more than a century of combat before they disappear from public view. This, of course, only adds to the dark rumours surrounding the eventual fate of Chapter Librarians. Nonetheless, they are a powerful weapon in the Chapter's arsenal, and their abilities go some way toward compensating for the usual supply and equipment shortages common to Cursed Founding chapters. The Chapter Librarium maintains numbers in excess of most chapters, and companies maintain additional Librarians on semi-permanent assignment.
Information is ammunition.
– Fragment of an ancient tactica in the Librarium of the Bronze Prophets
Despite their obsession with prediction, the Bronze Prophets have not yet reached the point where they can be easily paralyzed, waiting for the right course to be revealed to them. Though they eagerly pursue any clue which appears, they understand that sometimes no such insights will be forthcoming, and their battle doctrine (as well as their conduct off the field) has thus remained relatively orthodox and flexible.
The Bronze Prophets prefer to use their psychic gifts and psychological warfare against an opponent instead of direct force. A few days of being constantly outmaneuvered is usually enough to break the morale of any force, and the Prophets see this as a key component of ensuring their victories. Often Chapter Librarians will reach out to touch the minds of their enemies, wracking the foe with demoralizing nightmares and visions before a final, crushing, assault.
The Marines of the chapter enjoy using their gifts to taunt and toy with the enemy. They seem to take an almost perverse delight in allowing their enemies the apparent opportunity to escape - though their prophetic gifts make it nearly impossible for the enemy to do so. This has been known to cost the Prophets what would have been an easy victory, a fact that does not seem to diminish their cruel tendencies in this regard.
The process of becoming an Astartes irrevocably changes the nature of a man. It is the answer to the questions of humanity – and yet it makes the questions pointless. You will see all the answers to your questions, Initiate – you will simply no longer care.
– Apothecary Serris of the Bronze Prophets
The gene-seed of the Bronze Prophets, like that of all Cursed Founding chapters, appears unusual. Though the genetors of the Adeptus Mechanicus are certain that it has been modified from its original form, they are uncertain as to how, or what that original form might be. However, it does not appear unstable, and the Marines within the Chapter who lack psychic gifts show no particular flaws which can be ascribed to their genetic heritage, and the Chapter's regular tithes are both timely and of at least minimal acceptability.
Both the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Ordo Hereticus have noted that the marked prophetic abilities of the Bronze Prophets do not appear to have any relation to the populations they draw their recruits from. Their unusually high incidence of Librarians, and those same Librarians' unusual levels of power and powerful gifts of prophecy would appear to be tied to their gene-seed - and it is theorized that this same ability is why the Bronze Prophets may have been created. The benefits of this appear obvious, but those familiar with the Cursed Founding know that a price must have been paid. What that price is, only the Emperor yet knows.
They will hear us roar it in the night. And they will be afraid. - Chaplain Andor Spurrier
We will take your lives and your souls!
* * *
Updated to revise a bunch of the text and add the Astronomican angle. It occurred to me while I was rereading this. And no, I’m not ripping off the Moirae.
Comments and thoughts very welcome.
Edited by Octavulg, 07 March 2013 - 07:11 AM.