Literature / Grey Knights

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I am the hammer! I am the hate! I am the woes of daemonkind!

Series by Ben Counter about the titular Grey Knights chapter of Space Marines. It follows the exploits of Justicar Alaric and his squad battling various daemonic and chaotic enemies of the Imperium.

The series currently encompasses three novels: Grey Knights, Dark Adeptus, and Hammer of Daemons, which have since been collected in an omnibus.

There is also an unrelated novel by Aaron Dembski-Bowden entitled The Emperor's Gift which chronicles the Grey Knight's role in the first war for Armageddon.

Please resist the urge to put examples on this page or link to this page on tropes unless you are citing from 40K novels in which the Grey Knights feature. Examples which are specific to rulebooks or other in-universe fluff should go on either the 40K page or in the Space Marines section of the Imperial factions page.


Tropes connected with the Grey Knights themselves include:

  • Badass Creed - The Canticle of Absolution is pretty long (666 words, to be precise), so different parts get quoted throughout the novels.
    I am the Hammer! I am the Hate! I am the woes of Daemonkind!
    • The fandom has produced several approximations, though this one at least is a few words too short.
  • Blade on a Stick: All Grey Knights are armed with Nemesis force weapons that are charged with their psychic energy. There are customised Nemeses, but the standard issue one is a force halberd with a built-in boltgun designed to complement the compact stormbolter worn on the other arm.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: See below. Not only their armor is blingy, but their guns as well.
  • Bling of War: While Grey Knights don't paint their armor at all, sporting a grey gleam of a polished ceramite (a rarity among Space Marines), they more than enough make for it with various purity seals, sacred engravings, votive chains, blessed skull ornaments, holy unguents and other bling to end as one of the more fabulous chapters. And the funniest thing here is that it all works.
  • Church Militant: Not exactly church, as they are formally allied with Ordo Malleus of Inquisition, which is formally a secular organisation, but still the one of the most pious and religion-heavy chapters. In fact, they even view their piety as a weapon.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: They are called Grey Knights for a reason — it's the color of unpainted ceramite of their armor, which they just polish to a high sheen to show off their pureness. And to drive the point home they use a lot of gold trimmings and snow-white cloaks as accessories.
  • Demonic Possession: Averted. No Grey Knight has ever fallen to Chaos even though every one of them are psychics (and thus especially vulnerable to it).
    • Ironically some new fluff heavily implies their true Primarch is Horus. The Flight Of The Eisenstein pretty clearly implies that the first Grey Knighs are the surviving loyalist brothers from the Sons Of Horus, or, rather, Luna Wolves legion, as they've reverted to their old name as a sign of breaking with Horus. This would indeed make Horus their Primarch, though not that the loyalist chapters with the heretical Primarch were unheard of.
  • Demon Slaying: Exactly What It Says on the Tin — it's their job description. They slay various Daemons of the Warp for The Emperor.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: As they are a specialist chapter geared to fighting Daemons, their armory fully reflects this and includes all the manners of anti-Daemonic weaponry, including literal Holy Water-charged bolter shells.
  • Determinator: One of the premiere examples in the setting. Only Black Templars, Blood Angels (during the Black Rage) and Necrons might be consistently in the same league. It's also noted that Inquisitors, while not in the same league, are also much stronger-willed than most folks.
  • Elite Mooks: You can hardly get more elite than that, after all said.
    • When your Primarch is possibly the Emperor himself...
    • This is even discussed in the codices and comes into play on the tabletop. It is entirely possible to end up fielding only fifteen models. This will not stop them from carving through several times that number, but if somebody gets lucky with his lasgun it's going to hurt you a lot more than it would with a different army.
  • Forever War: Uncounted trillions have died since the Emperor ascended to his Golden Throne, but the Imperium has endured for ten thousand years.
  • He Knows Too Much: The Grey Knights' existence is kept secret from most of the Imperium, and if they are ever forced to fight alongside other Imperial forces, they erase the evidence either through executions or Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • Well minus Space Wolves, as censuring the wolves proved to be too costly to pursue.
  • Hopeless War: They are 5000 super soldiers versus an infinite number of immortal Eldritch Abominations, the most powerful of which are Demi-Gods who can shape entire worlds to their will. Add human allies that number in the billions, and you can start to see the problem.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Very few beings in the galaxy can go toe to toe with a Grey Knight.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Basically their whole schtick. They're so incorruptible that not one of them ever fell to Chaos. Of course, the way they achieved such honor was... Well, it's 40K after all.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Fairly standard for more pious chapters, but the preparations for it, and especially tests the aspirants get subjected to are such that hardly anything could be compared to it for sheer unpleasantness — see The Spartan Way below.
  • Ironic Hell: Supreme Grand Master Kaldor Draigo is trapped in the warp, where he is forced to battle all of the forces of Chaos for eternity. He has performed many deeds there that are clearly impossible, from dueling Greater Daemons and winning to tearing down entire fortresses. No matter what he does or how hard he fights, winning victories beyond even the Primarchs, everything is undone and reset to normal as soon as he moves on. Interpretations are divided between this making him a Mary Sue of staggering proportions or a sign that the Chaos gods are just screwing with him.
  • Magic Knight: They are the only Space Marines chapter to consist entirely of psykers. And in 40K that's basically bad, as it makes you much more prone to The Corruption. However they are so badass, that it doesn't matter much to them, making them even more Cursed with Awesome than any other psyker.
  • Mercy Kill: Their motive for killing civillians in daemon infestations. Given its 40k, their logic isn't that insane.
  • Mini-Mecha: With the coming new army book, I give you the Nemesis Dreadknight!
  • No Such Agency: The Grey Knights are officially an urban legend, with only a couple of other Space Marine chapters (the Space Wolves and Blood Ravens) aware of their existence. In addition, they are considered the militant arm of the Ordo Malleus, making them soldiers of the Inquisition. Anyone else who fights alongside them are either killed or mind-wiped after the war is over in order to preserve their secrecy.
  • Number of the Beast: The Initiation Ceremony of a new aspirant include 666 Rites of Emperor — psychic tests explicitly compared to Mind Rape, that most testees fail — either by subjecting to Chaos, or simply going insane.
    • The Grey Knights are also Chapter Number 666, of (an estimated) 1,000. Since there were only a few dozen when they were founded, this caused significant confusion and was probably a joke by their founder Malcador.
  • The Paladin
    • Pragmatic Hero: What they really are. They will happily let a dozen worlds burn, just for a chance to take down a major daemon.
  • Space Marine
  • The Spartan Way: Grey Knights is one of the (if not the) chapter with the strictest selection procedure among the loyalist Marines — and that's before any psychic tests begin — see Number of the Beast entry. And after that the aspirants' memories are flushed to ensure that they don't have any attachments the Chaos could exploit as weak points, which also leads to a fairly high number of subjects going insane. In short, the rejection rate among the aspirants would make Fabius Bile proud.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Castellan Crowe is a walking one. He keeps guard of an Infinity+1 Sword but never uses its power, instead he just uses it as a normal sword, relying on his skills.
  • Superpowered Mooks: See Magic Knight entry. Psykers are common among Space marines, but no other chapter consists solely of them.
  • Super Soldier: Rather self-evidently.
  • Training Accident: Inverted. According to the 7th edition, a daemon tried to sneak onto Titan as a recruit. Another recruit (and a future Knight) defeated him, never even realizing it wasn't part of the tests.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: The first number you should remember when there's a Daemon in your backyard. Not that their arrival would make things much better, but at least you would have chance to Die As Yourself, instead of a terrible Chaos monstrosity.
    • Actually they're the last.
      • Given the Imperium's penchant for covering up their existence either by mind wiping or plain executing those who've encountered the Grey Knights, it's a safe bet that if somebody with the authority to call them in is involved, things have already gone horribly downhill.

Tropes connected with the Grey Knights book trilogy are:

  • Ancestral Weapon: Grand Master Mandulis's sword.
    • Interesting in that it turns out that the sword was needed to revive a daemon and was subsequently destroyed.
  • Anyone Can Die: Even "veterans" like Haulvarn can get killed off.
  • Arc Words: "Survival is not Enough."
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Duke Venalitor.
  • Badass Creed: As Justicar Alaric said:
    "We do not know what our chances of survival are, so we fight as if they were zero. We do not know what we are facing, so we fight as if it was the dark gods themselves. No one will remember us now and we may never be buried beneath Titan, so we will build our own memorial here. The Chapter might lose us and the Imperium might never know we existed, but the Enemy — the Enemy will know. The Enemy will remember. We will hurt it so badly that it will never forget us until the stars burn out and the Emperor vanquishes it at the end of time. When Chaos is dying, its last thought will be of us. That is our memorial — carved into the heart of Chaos. We cannot lose, Grey Knights. We have already won."
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: In Hammer of Daemons Alaric fights against a daemon that tries to possess him. He finally wins by the way of Taking You With Me, but survives.
  • BFS: Duke Venalitor has one of these.
  • The Blacksmith: There's one of these in Hammer of Daemons, implied to be ex-Salamander.
  • Bloody Murder: Duke Venalitor can weaponise shed blood as prehensile tendrils.
  • Body Surf: Magos Antigonus manages to do this thanks to some Lost Technology.
  • Breath Weapon: Lord Ebondrake, taking the form of a large dragon, can breathe black flame.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Averted in Dark Adeptus, where a villain holds Alaric a distance from an active fusion reactor, causing him to start toasting.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Some Guardsmen are mentioned as having "finally lost the will" when they think Alaric has fallen to Chaos.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Ligeia's death cultists do this.
  • Drop the Hammer: Dvorn's Nemesis weapon.
  • Dual Wielding: Alaric briefly wields both an axe and a hammer simultaneously in Hammer of Daemons, though he's not the only one.
  • Due to the Dead: Alaric insists on going to where Ligeia died to pray for her soul.
  • Enemy Civil War: Alaric incites this between the Draakasi Chaos lords in Hammer of Daemons.
  • Enemy Mine: The first novel briefly mentions the underhive gangs of Volcanis Ultor uniting to fight a gang of Chaos followers.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Legeia.
  • Faceless Goons: Shows up sometimes, with the Mechanicus tech-guard in Dark Adeptus receiving a Lampshade Hanging.
  • Feed the Mole
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Alaric is aware that even bolter shells aren't much good against St. Evisser reanimated. Before him, there was Grand Master Mandulis, who recognised the futility of using his storm bolter against Ghargatuloth's physical body.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge
  • Gambit Roulette: Ligeia's Face–Heel Turn was a painful risk to learn Ghargatuloth's true name and hope that Alaric would trust her enough to not discount the supposed gibberish she kept saying when she was questioned, and then to use that name to weaken the Daemon Prince enough to be able to kill him. You'll be able to guess that she never really turned on them if you remember how Ligeia described her death cultists' beliefs and devotions.
  • Genius Bruiser: Alaric is one, if only in comparison to his fellow Space Marines.
  • Gladiator Games
  • Gladiator Revolt
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Balurians from the first novel don't take seeing the tomb of St. Evisser well.
  • Guile Hero: Alaric ascends to this after his plan to defeat the Chaos Lords of Drakaasi succeeds.
  • Healing Factor: The Grey Knights have better-than-human regeneration, though severe stuff still needs an apothecary. The Father of Titans from Dark Adeptus has a self-repair mechanism too.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Alaric expresses this concern to Nyxos after his escape from Drakaasi.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Valinov does this by killing Riggensen, who broke him, with the execution device meant for him originally.
  • I Know Your True Name: Ligeia babbles Ghargatuloth's True Name, which is picked up and used by Alaric.
  • Kick the Dog: Alaric spouts stolid Knight Templar dogmatisms from time to time to remind us that he's not a "pure white" hero.
  • Kill 'em All
  • Last Request
  • Last Stand
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The end result of Valinov's taking advantage of the Grey Knights' secrecy and unknown status in order to paint them as Chaos Marines.
  • Licking the Blade: Mentioned in passing as done by some priests of Khorne.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Grey Knights, though they're far from the only ones.
  • Losing Your Head: Happens to Thalassa.
  • Lost Technology: How Magos Antigonus survives, as well as the Father of Titans.
  • The Mole
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Various Techpriests in Dark Adeptus, Skarhaddoth and other Chaos beasties in Hammer of Daemons.
  • Neck Lift: The Chaos Marine Urkrathos does this to Rear Admiral Horstgeld in Dark Adeptus. The former explicitly circles the latter's neck with his fingers. Duke Venalitor also does this.
  • Never Found the Body: Defied in Grey Knights, where the Inquisition lands the GK redemptor force on Khorion IX specifically because they need eyes on the ground to see Ghargatuloth die.
  • Not Quite Dead: Magos Antigonus in Dark Adeptus.
  • Off with His Head!: How Tancred kills St. Evisser reanimated.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Lord Ebondrake takes the form of one.
  • Out of the Inferno: The Knights did this against burning fuel in the first novel, while Lord Ebondrake's Ophidian Guard do this thanks to their armour being proof against his Breath Weapon.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Ophidian Guard.
  • Pride
  • Red Right Hand: Inverted in the first novel, where the Allking of Sophano Secundus and his retainers pass for normal at first and only reveal their Chaos taint after they are rumbled.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The secrecy of the Grey Knights is used to rouse other Imperial troops against them by Valinov.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Grey Knights are secretive and unknown even by the standards of other Space Marines, which Valinov from the first novel uses against them.
  • Space Is Noisy: The prologue for the first novel takes place on a daemon world whose surface is covered with so many mutilated cultists that their screams are audible from orbit.
  • Taking the Bullet: One of Ligeia's death cultists takes a plasma blast for Valinov.
    • Earlier in the same book, another of them does this for Ligeia herself.
  • Uncanny Valley: An eldar is described In-Universe as falling into the valley. He did turn out to be a dark eldar mandrake, so perhaps this isn't so surprising.
  • Voice of the Legion: Raezazel the Cunning has this.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Castigator claims that this is his motivation.
  • Wishplosion: When Raezazel tries to convince Alaric to be possessed, he claims that he'll make any wish come true. The wish he gets to try and fulfill?
    I wish for a world where your kind cannot exist.

Tropes connected with The Emperor's Gift are:

  • Battle Interrupting Shout: Bjorn delivers one to the Space Wolves and Grey Knights fighting it out aboard the Corel's Hope, causing all present to fall to their knees before him.
  • Big Red Devil: Angron and his fourteen Bloodthirster bodyguards.
  • Cold War: Between the Inquisition and the Space Wolves after Armageddon. It turns hot after the Inquisition fires on the Space Wolf flagship under the guise of a truce.
  • The Cavalry: Inquisitor Kysnaros summons the entirety of the Red Hunters Space Marine Chapter to act as this both so the Space Wolves can't claim the moral high ground by claiming their actions speak for all of the Adeptus Astartes, and so he no longer has to rely solely on the Grey Knights, who have made their disapproval of his methods plain.
  • The Corruption: Chaos, natch. The taint surrounding the demons invading Armageddon is so great that it’s enough to corrupt even inanimate materials like the metal hull of a spaceship.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Inquisitor Kysnaros believes the best way to finally force a capitulation from the Space Wolves was to blockade Fenris with an Inquisitorial armada and threaten to perform Exterminatus on the planet if they didn't stand down. The plan doesn't work, and when Logan Grimnar and the entire Space Wolves fleet, having learned what is happening, emerge from the Warp ready for battle and howling for blood, Hyperion actually asks Kysnaros if he thought the Space Wolves would react any other way to such an action other than with extreme violence.Spoilery explanation 
  • Female Gaze: Hyperion recalls sharing a shower with some of Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr's warband, who verge upon being an Amazon Brigade. Being completely asexual, he notes that they state how 'impressed' they are, though he doesn't understand the reference.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Invoked by Hyperion as he duels Grimnar, telling him that the Imperium of Man isn't a fabled empire of joy where the most moral course of action is the best but a brutal place that is constantly under desperate siege within and without. The Grey Knights, as the Emperor's Gift, know what they have to do is often horrific but the alternatives are worse and they will not stint in their duty.
  • Hero Killer: Angron, who along with his daemonic honour guard slaughters his way through over a hundred Grey Knight Terminators like it was nothing, including several of the main characters.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The Inquisition’s, and also Hyperion’s, excuse for slaughtering the civilians and guardsmen who took part in the campaign to retake Armageddon. They argue it's better for a few thousand potentially corrupt souls to die than risk having to potentially slaughter millions of innocents in the future because they let the thousands live.
    • The Space Wolves resort to using teleporter technology to escape their enemies when the armistice goes awry. Traditionally, the Space Wolves despise using it as it is very dangerous and inaccurate.
    • Inquisitor Kysnaros' view of why he is prolonging the conflict with the Space Wolves: in his view, not bringing them to heel runs the risk of the Imperium sinking into a civil war on a par with the Horus Heresy.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: No Grey Knight has ever fallen to Chaos. According to Hyperion the Grey Knights themselves are uncertain why this is, although most think that their gene-seed’s source has something to do with it.
  • Knight Templar: The Inquisition, of course.
  • Lack of Empathy: Hyperion repeatedly mentions that he finds reading normal people’s expressions and understanding their motivations extremely hard.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Every Grey Knight has this done to them before their training begins. Also the fate of anyone who actually sees a Grey Knight in the flesh, assuming they aren’t simply murdered outright.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Tactical Dreadnought armour looks as though it should be heavy, lumbering and very restrictive, however most of the characters who wear it are still able to act and fight faster and more effectively than those in 'normal' Power Armour. Most notably Logan Grimnir, who can move so fast in his suit that he was able to draw his axe, swing it and kill another Terminator-clad character before anyone else in the room could even react.
  • Long Dead Badass: Many of these are witnessed by Hyperion when he passes through the Dead Fields on Titan, where the fallen Grey Knights are laid to rest.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Logan Grimnar. Despite defying the Inquisition and being responsible for killing Imperial forces like the Grey Knights, only the truly deluded and doomed characters fail to admire his cunning and moral standpoint.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The Space Wolves believe the Inquisition crossed one of these when they invited the Space Wolves to a parley to negotiate a ceasefire, then opened fire on the Space Wolf vessels when they arrived, destroying four with all hands and crippling Grimnar's flagship. Before this incident, the Space Wolves had refrained from trading fire with Inquisition ships while protecting Armageddon refugee ships, not wanting to give the Inquisition an excuse to brand them traitors. Afterwards, the Wolves no longer hold fire or show mercy when confronting Inquisition and Grey Knight forces.
    • When the Space Wolves fleet breaks warp above Fenris to find the Inquisition fleet with its guns trained on the Fang, Hyperion points out to Kysnaros that the Inquisition has done this. Kysnaros tries to negotiate with Grimnar, only to receive a litany of death threats and insults. When Kysnaros starts to panic when he realises the Wolves aren't breaking off their attack on his fleet, insisting that they have to know the Inquisition will go through with bombing the Fang, Hyperion flatly tells him that they do know, but given how far the Inquisition has pushed them, they no longer care.
  • Off with His Head!: Lord Inquisitor Kysnaros at the hands of Logan Grimnar.
  • Oh Crap!
    • The demon-possessed Imperial governer of the planet Cheth and his Chaos-corrupted court's reaction when an entire squad of Grey Knights teleport into the room and Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr orders them to kill everyone in the room.
    • The Grey Knights have a moment of this themselves while probing for information about what is happening on Armageddon when Angron senses their presence and psychically tries to kill them.
  • Old Shame: The Grey Knights refer to the months spent hunting down and slaughtering the fleeing guardsmen (and the billions of innocent people who came into contact with them) the Months of Shame.
    • In fact, it's not just the Grey Knights calling it this. That's the OFFICIAL GW name for that event.
  • Paper Tiger: Grand Master Joros of the 8th Brotherhood. Hyperion describes him as one of the Brotherhood's finest duellists, often able to analyse an enemy's next blow before they make it. Logan Grimnar sprints across a hall and kills Joros with a single blow from his power axe before Joros can get his sword halfway drawn.
  • Peace Conference: Bjorn is able to negotiate a peace deal between the Inquisition and the Space Wolves, allowing both sides to save face. The terms of the deal are: in exchange for the Space Wolves standing down, no Inquisition ship will ever appear in the skies of Fenris again, on penalty of immediate destruction, and the Space Wolves who had learned of the Grey Knights should not be mind-wiped as was normal in such cases, but instead Hyperion should personally explain the Grey Knights' mission and its importance to all of the Astartes within The Fang, so that such a conflict should never again occur due to misunderstanding and ignorance of the Inquisition's mission.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "In the name of the Emperor of Mankind, we do judge thee diabolus traitoris. The sentence is death".
  • Pure Is Not Good: The Grey Knights fight against Chaos and are incorruptible, but they also actively take part in the subsequent purge of Armageddon and the system-wide Exterminatus operations in pursuit of the Space Wolf-aided guardsmen.
  • The Protectorate: One of the first things Logan Grimnar does when he meets the Grey Knights and Inquisitors sent to Armageddon is make it explicitly clear that the guardsmen and civilians there are under his protection, and that he will brook no purges of them after the battle is over. When the Inquisition initiates a purge anyway, it sets the stage for the war between the Space Wolves and the Adeptus Terra.
  • The Magnificent: Hyperion is given the epithet ‘Bladebreaker’ by the Space Wolves after he psychically shatters Angron’s Black Blade.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Logan Grimnar and, to a lesser extent, Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr. Hyperion reasons that the Space Marines, bred to be warriors first and foremost, would see it as a smear on their honour if they prevented a greater evil by allowing a lesser one to occur. The Space Wolves themselves outright state this is their reason for fighting the Inquisition, arguing that the men and women who fought so valiantly to defend Armageddon from Angron's daemonic horde deserve better than to be quietly eliminated so the Inquisition can more easily sweep the truth of what happened under the carpet.
    Hyperion: You've made your point, Rawthroat, now stand down.
    Bran Rawthroat: We're not "making a point", Bladebreaker. We're doing what is right.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Arguably, the Space Wolves. Though mostly about the Grey Knights and, in particular, the rise to fame of one of their number, the book goes to great lengths to show the Space Wolves as being the nicer, more honourable and generally more tactically savvy than the protagonists in nearly every scene in which they appear. Having said that, this IS the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so concepts like "nice" and "heroic" are vague at best.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: [[Bjorn the Fell-Handed]] constantly tells the Inquisition and Grey Knights to stop kneeling before him.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Logan Grimnar ordered his forces to never return fire during the campaign to shield the loyal guardsmen from the Inquisition and the Grey Knights, and was even willing to attend an armistice to discuss terms of de-escalating the conflict. All of this goes out of the window when the Inquisition fires on his flagship during said armistice, after which Grimnar vows to fight to the death.
  • We Will Meet Again: Though the conflict between both sides ends in a (albeit grudging) peace deal, both the Space Wolves and the Inquisition know they will likely end up fighting each other again sooner or later.
  • Wham Line: " Ready yourselves to shed a primarch's blood. The Lord of the Twelfth Legion awaits you on Armageddon.
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