Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Thousand Sons

Go To

The Thousand Sons are a Legion of Chaos Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000, which have a trilogy of books written by John French, centering on their most famous member, Azhek Ahriman. The first book, Ahriman: Exile, features the eponymous Ahriman having been exiled from his Legion after casting the infamous Rubric of Ahriman. Meeting up with a group of Space Marines whose Chapter was declared renegade, he takes them into his service when the Brotherhood of Dust, a Warband composed of several of his former battle-brothers, begin hunting him. The second book is Ahriman: Sorcerer, and features Ahriman, now a powerful warlord of the Prodigal Sons, seeking to undo the damage the Rubric had done by seeking the Athanaeum of Kalimakus, which holds the words of his Primarch, Magnus the Red. The third book, Ahriman: Unchanged, sees Ahriman and his warband trying to return to the Planet of the Sorcerers to cast the second Rubric. Another sequel, Ahriman: Eternal sees the Progidal Sons attempting to correct their past mistakes with Necron technology.

The story was collected in Ahriman: The Omnibus in 2017, along with the short stories "All is Dust", "Hand of Dust", "King of Ashes" and the novella The Tale of Ctesias.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • Inquisitor Iobel shoots Ahriman with a bolt shell made from consecrated silver. Ahriman survives, but some of its shards become too deeply buried in his body to extract surgically, and they're psychically warded against sorcery so he can't use his power to extract them. He notes them moving closer to his hearts throughout the story and they reach his hearts at the climax of the second Rubric, but end up being eliminated as a consequence of the Rubric's power.
    • Ctesias carries a bolt pistol whose rounds contain vials of daemon “blood” instead of an explosive charge. When fired, the vial shatters and the daemon it contained is unleashed.
  • Alien Geometries: When Knekku first enters the Labyrinth of Tzeentch, he finds himself standing on a flight of stairs floating in a misty void. The stairway has no visible beginning or end, other staircases branch off from it at random, all of them twist in impossible ways so that a person on one section would appear to be upside down from the perspective of someone on another section, and the stairs can change direction or vanish altogether when not being observed. When Knekku starts making progress, he suddenly finds himself in a crystal tunnel that stretches off to infinity, and the stairs are nowhere to be seen when he looks back the way he came.
  • Alien Sky: The Planet of the Sorcerers has nine suns, which is one of its least bizarre aspects.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Kadin loses all four of his limbs during the mission to the astropathic relay station. Ahriman assumes that they were torn off by daemons, but in reality they were shot off by the Thunderhawk’s gun batteries when Kadin was daemonically possessed. He gets all four of his limbs replaced with crude prosthetics.
  • Animalistic Abomination: In King of Ashes, a young Magnus ventures into the Warp for the first time and encounters animalistic avatars of the Chaos Gods. Khorne appears as a scarred wolf with blood-matted fur, Nurgle as an undead moth with the eyes of a fish, and Slaanesh as a multicolored cobra with a human face. Tzeentch, meanwhile, appears as a hunched figure with the heads of three different birds stacked one atop the other.
  • Animated Armor: The Rubricae are this because of the aforementioned Rubric, with their physical bodies being turned to dust. The trilogy focuses on Ahriman trying to reverse the condition.
  • Anti-Magic: Seraphs are blank arco-flagellants, deadly combat cyborgs whose mere presence disrupts sorcery and psychic powers. The Inquisition uses them as bodyguards. A group of more conventional blanks guards the Athenaeum of Kallimakus in Sorcerer.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The Prodigal Sons inflict what is at least a Class 5 on Vohal by unleashing a defoliant that kills all plant life on the planet within twenty-seven hours, removing its ability to support life and condemning its population to a slow and horrible death by starvation or asphyxiation. By the time the Inquisition arrives to set up a conclave there, Vohal has been a dead world for centuries.
    • Prospero gets a Class 6 via bombardment by cyclonic torpedoes, leaving its surface utterly obliterated.
  • The Archmage: Ahriman himself. During the Horus Heresy he was the First Captain and Chief Librarian of a Space Marine Legion full of powerful psykers, and his powers have only grown greater since then. Even while rusty and out of practice at the start of the first book, Ahriman is still powerful enough to take on four other sorcerers, a Chaos Lord and his Champions all at once, killing all but one of them in the span of five heartbeats. When he magically teleports himself onto an Inquisitorial ship in order to kidnap its Navigator, his mere arrival destroys every protective ward and psychic disperser on the vessel. At the climax of the book he takes control of hundreds of Amon’s Rubric Marines, and thirty-six other sorcerers working in concert cannot break his hold over them.
  • Assassination Attempt: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Tzeentch tasks the Changeling with killing Ahriman in his moment of triumph, and the daemon spends the bulk of the novel maneuvering itself into a position to do so. It comes within a hair’s breadth of killing him, only for Tzeentch to change its mind and call off the hit. Ahriman never realizes the danger he was in.
  • Batman Gambit: When the Inquisition detects that Ahriman has broken through a blockade of the ruined planet of Prospero, former homeworld of the Thousand Sons, they fear that he's planning some sort of ritual there and order a preemptive Exterminatus. Ahriman is planning a ritual there—a ritual that would allow him to return to the new homeworld of the Thousand Sons in the Eye of Terror, the Planet of Sorcerers. To do so, he needed to recreate the fires that burned Prospero and a key part of the ceremony. So he made sure to be detected on his way in so that the Inquisition would destroy the planet again in an attempt to stop him.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: A brief one ensues between Ahriman and Inquisitor Iobel toward the end of the former’s Mind Probe of the latter, with the foreign mind trying to cause as much damage as possible to the native mind before being brought down. Ahriman is actually impressed by the damage Iobel does to his memory palace.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Over the course of the three books:
    • The Big Bad of Exile is Amon, the lord of the Brotherhood of Dust, seeking out Ahriman to use him in his plan to bring salvation to the Legion by destroying the Thousand Sons. Ahriman uses the knowledge of the Rubric to unmake Amon, take his armor, and take leadership of his warband, which becomes the Prodigal Sons.
    • The Big Bad of Sorcerer is Sanakht, who believes Ahriman's plan to save the Legion is ultimately doomed to failure and resolves to kill him, plotting with Ignis to kill Ahriman at a moment of weakness. However, Sanakht is merely an Unwitting Pawn of Ahriman, who knew of his treachery, and used the non-Thousand Sons that turned against Ahriman as part of a mass sacrifice to fuel a warp portal allowing the Prodigal Sons to escape from Apollonia. Ahriman is the real Big Bad of Sorcerer.
    • The Big Bad of Unchanged is the daemon bound to Astraeos, which is actually a piece of Magnus representing his wrath. The second Rubric would have put Magnus back together with the wrath aspect in control of the greater whole, but it was ultimately defeated by Knekku sacrificing himself for Magnus.
    • The Big Bad of Eternal is the Necron Phaeron masquerading as a mere cryptek, Setekh, and the Harelquins, who contrive to cause as much chaos as possible.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ahriman: Unchanged: The second Rubric succeeds in putting Magnus back together with the wrath aspect under control and averts the War that was prophesied to consume the galaxy, but fails to reverse the damage of the first Rubric, while a dying Astraeos walks off on the surface of the Planet of the Sorcerers, content that Ahriman has failed. However, several days after the second Rubric was cast, it's discovered that one of the Rubricae, Helio Isidorus, was returned to life, initially remembering nothing before the Rubric was cast, but eventually remembering his name.
    • Turned into a Happy Ending Override in Eternal; The second Rubric didn't end up restoring Helio Isidorus at all ; it created a complex backlash called the Pyrodomon, which randomly turns non-rubric Thousand Sons into Rubricae. The being that appelates to Helio Isidorus is merely an avatar of the collective memory of the Rubricae.
  • Blood Magic: The Oathtaker uses the blood of sixty-four slaves to magically project its consciousness across time and space in order to confront Ahriman on Prospero.
  • Bloody Murder: Of the Boiling Blood variant. Ahriman kills Gzrel by destroying the chemical bonds that hold his blood cells together, making his face bloat and then melt off.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Tzeentch is so pleased with Ahriman’s attempts to defy fate that it decides to grant him “the reward he deserves but does not crave”—oblivion—and tasks the Changeling with carrying it out. Both Tzeentch and the Changeling sincerely believe that they’ll be doing Ahriman a favor by ending his life, as obliterating his soul will grant him peace and freedom from the hell that awaits most servants of the Changer of Ways.
  • Body Horror: Along with the many scenes of horrifying body mutation that happen as a result of Warp taint, the Space Wolves that have been chasing Ahriman have been in the Eye of Terror for so long that they are beginning to mutate as well, taking on feral Wulfen-like traits.
  • Broken Pedestal: Sanakht was once Ahriman’s most loyal lieutenant, to the point of Taking the Bullet on Ahriman’s behalf long before the trilogy starts. When he learns that Ahriman plans to cast the Rubric a second time, however, Sanakht concludes that Ahriman’s obsession with correcting his past mistakes will be the death of them all, loses faith in him, and turns against him.
  • Captured Super-Entity: The Athenaeum of Kallimakus is a psychic conduit into the mind of Magnus the Red. The Inquisition keeps it locked away in their secret fortress on Apollonia, where it is guarded by blanks and bound in crippled human hosts, in order to use Magnus’ knowledge against the Thousand Sons. Ahriman steals the Athenaeum to further his goals.
    • In Eternal Helio Isodorus, or the entity he presents as, is the avatar of the Pyrodomon, the collective memory of all the Thousand Sons AND the second Rubric. If it regained it's memories of what it was, it could legimately destroy all the Thousand Sons, regardless of where they are.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Maroth shows off his newly-made daemonhost to Ahriman early on in the first book, made using a simplistic spirit of hunger and carnage. Ahriman assumes that Maroth plans to use it in a bid to take over the Harrowing, but after Ahriman’s past catches up to him and Maroth is reduced to a gibbering wreck, the daemonhost is left to languish in its cell. Later, the daemon is revealed to be not only sapient, but intelligent enough to be plotting and using Maroth as a cat's paw. Much later on, Astraeos binds this daemon to himself as part of a desperate plan to rescue Ahriman from Amon’s clutches.
  • The Corruption: The Space Wolves have spent so much time hunting Ahriman through the Eye of Terror that they are slowly being corrupted in body and mind, turning into feral, werewolf-like monsters. The Wolves recognize what is happening to them, and hope to kill Ahriman before they fully succumb to the Warp’s corruption.
  • Death Seeker: Thidias chooses to sacrifice himself in a You Shall Not Pass! moment because he knows how far he will fall if he continues to follow Ahriman, and would rather die now “as a warrior who could still remember what honour was”.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Inquisitor Iobel inadvertently enters the Labyrinth of Tzeentch and encounters Magnus the Red, who commands her to do his bidding. She’s initially cowed by him, but after realizing that Magnus can’t harm her because she’s already dead, she spits at him and starts insulting him.
  • The Dragon: Sanakht is publicly this to Ahriman, while Ignis is this to Sanakht. Except Ignis is Ahriman's real Dragon.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Deconstructed. Astraeos disguises himself as one of Amon’s lieutenants in order to infiltrate the Sycorax and rescue Ahriman. He’s able to board the ship without incident since they were expecting his return, but his deception falls apart the instant that he steps out of the shuttle since the Thousand Sons wear individualized and highly distinctive suits of armour—and the badly damaged armour he’s wearing belongs to a sorcerer who is well known for having a twin brother who never leaves his side. When the maintenance crew sees the “twin” step out of the shuttle alone, they immediately realize that something is wrong and sound the alarm.
  • Dual Wielding: Sanakht wields a matching pair of swords (one a power sword, the other a force sword) as his weapons of choice.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Magnus’s Thousand Sons know that Ahriman is returning to the Planet of the Sorcerers and start preparing their defenses for his arrival. They send out daemons to watch for incoming fleets, their own fleet is ready to repel Ahriman’s, and they even reconfigure the planet’s geography to make a land invasion of the City of Towers impossible. Ahriman circumvents these defenses by using a ritual to teleport his entire force right into the heart of the City from halfway across the galaxy, and their cataclysmic arrival throws the defenders into disarray.
  • Eldritch Location: The trilogy is set within the Eye of Terror and various other Warp-tainted regions of space, so Ahriman visits bizarre locations and planetoids on a regular basis. For specific examples:
    • Several locations are connected to the Crystal Labyrinth of Tzeentch, where stray thoughts and telepathic messages echo off the walls as audible sound, and where travelers can wander the endless corridors for long stretches of time before suddenly finding themselves in cavernous chambers with no visible entrances or exits. Unchanged shows that another part of the Labyrinth is a misty void full of floating stairways that veer off randomly and change directions when not observed, or in response to a person’s thoughts.
    • Exile: Menkaura lives within the hollow core of a perfectly spherical moon made of a single piece of black crystal. Its interior is implied to be part of the Labyrinth, and The Tale of Ctesias reveals that the moon is a "fane of oracles" which compels any daemon that takes up residence there to answer any question asked of it truthfully.
    • Sorcerer: Apollonia appears to be a normal moon on the surface, but its interior is riddled with perfectly circular tunnels that were formed by the stray thoughts of Magnus the Red. The place has been so heavily eroded by the Warp that the Athenaeum of Kallimakus (a psychic conduit into Magnus’s mind) is the only thing holding it together, and Apollonia implodes once Ahriman takes the Athenaeum for himself.
    • Unchanged:
      • The Planet of the Sorcerers exists in a state of constant change. The buildings and streets of the capital city shift around on a daily basis, the streets echo with whispers and conversations that happened centuries ago, and the only semi-fixed landmark is the Tower of the Cyclops, which only appears when Magnus chooses to manifest on the planet. Magnus himself has complete control over the planet’s weather and geography, and he can grant this power to anyone he chooses.
      • Prospero isn’t just a dead world with a corrosive atmosphere and frequent acid rainstorms. The planet is surrounded by a Warp storm born from the pain and terror felt by its long-dead inhabitants, and several characters describe Prospero as a bleeding scar in the Warp. Anyone who enters the storm or sets foot on Prospero’s surface will be plagued by the whispers of the dead and vivid hallucinations of marauding Space Wolves.
  • Epic Flail: Gaumata wields a morning star on a chain. It’s a force weapon, which lets him channel his psychic powers through it and set whatever it strikes on fire.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Thousand Sons have this as their hat. All the ones that are still alive are powerful sorcerers.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The city of Tizca on the Planet of the Sorcerers is filled with these, with the largest by far being the Tower of Magnus. Its base is as wide as an entire mountain range, and it has no doors. The only way to get to the top is by walking up its side (which is only possible because Magnus controls the planet'a gravity), and the ascent may take an eternity or no time at all.
  • Exact Words: Ahriman, after threatening to pluck out an unnerved Maroth’s eyes if he doesn’t cooperate, promises Maroth that he won’t take his eyes and that he will live. He then gives Maroth over to Astraeos so the latter can take revenge on the former, prompting this exchange:
    Maroth: No! You said I would live.
    Ahriman: I did. You will live, and I will not take your eyes.
  • The Exile: Ahriman himself, having been exiled from the Thousand Sons for unwittingly condemning most of the legion to an eternity of mindless, undead servitude.
  • Eye Beams: Powerful sorcerers like Ahriman and Amon can emit white-hot beams of supernatural fire from their eyes.
  • Eye Scream: Maroth plucks out one eye from each of the captured renegade Space Marines on the Titan Child, and later confides to Ahriman that he ate the eyes. Ahriman allows Astraeos to return the favour by tearing out both of Maroth’s eyes later on, and Maroth spends the rest of the novel wandering blindly while the flesh around his empty eye sockets rots away.
  • Fin Gore: Sylvanus accidentally bites off three of his fingers while guiding Ahriman’s fleet through a particularly rough Warp storm in Ahriman: Unchanged. He’s quite disturbed when he realizes this, and even more disturbed that the fingers grew back before he even noticed they were gone.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The trilogy is set millennia before the “present day” of Warhammer 40,000, where Ahriman is still alive and still trying to free the Rubric Marines from their curse. Ahriman won’t die, but his plans won’t succeed either.
  • Forgiveness: At the end of Exile, Ahriman forgives Carmenta for betraying him to Amon. When she asks him why, he simply gives a tired smile and says, “We must all hope that betrayal can be forgiven.”
  • Gambit Pileup: The first two books had enough of this as is, but in Ahriman: Unchanged, Ahriman juggles at least six conflicting agendas. Some plans going against each other are made by the same person.
  • Glamour Failure: When the Changeling steals someone’s identity, the impersonation is normally flawless to the point that people who have known and worked with the person all their lives can’t tell the difference. When it impersonates Ignis, however, the robot Credence sees through the disguise immediately and tries to attack it.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Astraeos, in an effort to rescue Ahriman from Amon’s clutches, decides to make use of every weapon at his disposal and binds Maroth’s daemonhost to himself, an act which has far-reaching consequences.
    • Ctesias is forced to summon all of his bound daemons at once on two separate occasions: first to fend off the millions of Slaaneshi daemons that would have massacred Ahriman’s fleet, and later as part of Ahriman’s attack on the Planet of Sorcerers. Both times, the act of summoning so many thousands of daemons at once nearly kills him.
  • Handicapped Badass
    • Kadin loses all four of his limbs at different lengths and has to be fitted with low-quality, ill-fitting prosthetics. Being a Space Marine, this does not stop Kadin from kicking copious amounts of ass with a bolter or chainsword.
    • Sanakht took the psychic attack by Khayon intend for Ahriman, taking most of his psychic strength, but he still remains the best swordsman in the Thousand Sons in general and the Prodigal Sons in particular.
    • Ctesias is physically weaker than his brothers, but can still fight for days without tiring, and in return has gained a large collection of powerful daemons at his beck and call, including such juggernauts as Doombreed.
  • He Knows Too Much: In Ahriman: Unchanged, it’s mentioned that almost everyone in the task force Inquisitor Malkira assembled to attack Prospero will be killed once the mission is complete, so that they can’t spread any information about the Thousand Sons.
  • Heroic BSoD: At the end of Ahriman: Unchanged, Ahriman slips into a depressed, unresponsive funk for weeks after realizing that the second Rubric failed and the Rubric Marines are still undead automatons. It isn’t until the Prodigal Sons discover that one of the Rubric Marines was restored to his prior human state that Ahriman starts to recover.
  • Horns of Villainy: This is the story that explains how Ahriman picked up his signature helmet.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Ahriman was once the Chief Librarian and First Captain of the Thousand Sons, as well as the equerry and favoured son and of Magnus the Red. Then the Horus Heresy happened, and Ahriman was banished. The trilogy begins with him hiding from his past under an alias, serving a petty Chaos Lord as one of his pet sorcerers.
  • I Call It "Vera": Ignis calls his hulking, heavily-armed robot bodyguard Credence.
  • I Know Your True Name: Ctesias specializes in binding daemons by learning their true names and breaking them down into their component syllables (which he holds in psychic traps within his mind). As he puts it:
    Names are more than titles. They pin our existence in place. Unname something, break its title, undo its calling, and you pull it apart. Ahriman did not want to talk to the Oracle – he wanted to chain him, and he had brought me to forge the links.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Ignis, former Master of the Order of Ruin, which used the "sacred numerology of destruction" to plan the XV Legion's campaigns. In short, the Thousand Sons kill you with Psychic Powers, Ignis kills you with math.
  • Immune to Fate: Ahriman asks Menkaura to read his future in the epilogue of Unchanged, only for Menkaura to discover—quite painfully—that the paths of Ahriman’s potential futures are now hidden by thorns and shadows, making it impossible to predict his actions. It’s implied that Ahriman gained this ability when Tzeentch decided to spare his life.
  • Internal Reveal: In Ahriman: Unchanged, the daemon bound to Astraeos telepathically confronts Ahriman in the middle of his ritual on Prospero. It drops several bombshells on him all at once, including the fact that Astraeos (whom Ahriman assumed had died at the hands of the Inquisition in the previous book) is still alive and now hates Ahriman’s guts. The reader already knows thisnote , but this revelation shocks Ahriman to his core.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Amon feels this way about the Thousand Sons. He feels that the Legion is hopelessly corrupted and that there is no way to free most of his brothers from the living death the Rubric of Ahriman condemned them to, and so he believes that the only way to save the Thousand Sons is to destroy them. Ahriman, whose dark deeds were motivated by a desire to save and preserve the Legion, is horrified when he learns this.
  • Just Between You and Me: In Unchanged, Ahriman telepathically contacts the chief sensor operator of a soon-to-be-destroyed Imperial warship to gloat that the sons of Prospero are coming home. Later, agents of the Inquisition discover and revive the operator’s corpse, learn what Ahriman told him, and head to Prospero to try and stop whatever Ahriman is doing–which is exactly what Ahriman wanted them to do.
  • Kill and Replace: In Unchanged, the Changeling kills and impersonates a number of people in its quest to kill Ahriman, from a lowly deckhand to a Space Marine Captain. The one exception is Ignis, whom it impersonates but doesn’t kill because they’re destined to die elsewhere.
  • Kneel Before Zod: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Inquisitor Malkira asserts her authority over a gathering of Space Marines and naval officers by commanding the Space Marines to bend their knees.
  • Literal Split Personality: In Ahriman: Unchanged, it's revealed that Magnus's soul was shattered into separate pieces, but Ahriman somehow put his back together. However, one piece, representing Magnus's wrath, remained free, and if the second Rubric were to succeed, would reincorporate it into the greater whole of Magnus, but allow it control. That would be a bad thing.
  • Living Memory: Inquisitor Iobel dies as a result of Ahriman probing her mind for the location of the Athenaeum of Kallimakus, but for some reason her personality continues to exist as an autonomous entity within Ahriman’s mindscape, effectively becoming his Enemy Within.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: Ahriman gets shot with a silver bullet in the first book. The resulting shrapnel can’t be removed and will kill him once it reaches his hearts, forcing him to constantly harden and heal the flesh around the shrapnel in an effort to slow it down. The shrapnel finally reaches his hearts in Ahriman: Unchanged, but is destroyed by the reality-warping magic of the second Rubric before it can kill him.
  • Mad Mathematician: Ignis. He’s obsessed with “the numerology of destruction” and sees mathematical formulas in everything, from a person’s posture to the synchronized firing of a warship’s guns. These formulas blend into a constantly changing pattern which allows him to not only predict the outcomes of events with a high (but not perfect) degree of accuracy, but also to influence the tides of the Warp in various ways. The other Thousand Sons find him strange and difficult to get along with, while Ignis himself seems to prefer the company of robots to his brothers.
  • Mad Oracle: Menkaura used to be one of the Thousand Sons’s greatest Seers, until he got sucked into the Labyrinth of Tzeentch and saw things in its crystal walls that drove him to claw his eyes out. In the centuries since then he has become a daemon known as the Oracle of Many Eyes, offering prophecies to those who seek him out.
  • Made a Slave: In Exile, Ahriman kidnaps the navigator Sylvanus in order to replace the Titan Child’s deceased previous navigator. In Sorcerer, Ahriman’s Prodigal Sons enslave Hemellion, king of the planet Vohal, after destroying his world and exterminating his people. Hemellion despises Sylvanus for meekly resigning himself to their situation, and vows to take revenge on their captors. Sylvanus survives the trilogy, while Hemellion doesn't.
  • Manchurian Agent: In Ahriman: Sorcerer, Sanakht brainwashes Hemellion into becoming a sleeper agent as part of his plot to overthrow Ahriman. He successfully assassinates his target, Carmenta, dying in the process.
  • Master of Your Domain: Ahriman can petrify his own flesh and organs, which he uses to trap a Warp-Talon’s arm within his body before killing it, and later to keep the slivers of Inquisitor Iobel’s silver bullet from reaching his hearts and killing him. He’s also able to regenerate his hand after Sanakht cuts it off. In Unchanged, Sar'iq grows a pair of wings this way.
  • Master Swordsman: Sanakht was regarded as the Legion's best swordsman during the Horus Heresy, and is still this even after the loss of so much of his psychic potential.
  • Mental World: Ahriman’s mind contains an elaborate—and literal—memory palace where each of his memories is stored in its own room. He can use his powers to bring other people into this memory palace for the purpose of showing them his memories. Inquisitor Iobel ends up razing the palace to its foundations as part of her Batte In The Center Of The Mind with Ahriman, forcing him to construct a replacement. She also becomes a permanent resident of the palace after turning into a Living Memory.
  • Mind Probe: After capturing Inquisitor Iobel, Ahriman starts telepathically probing her mind for the location of the Athenaeum of Kallimakus. Or at least, that’s what she assumes is happening. In reality Ahriman has pulled her mind into his own in a sort of hostile Mental Fusion so that he can sift through her memories in the guise of her companions. Once she realizes this, a Battle in the Center of the Mind ensues as she starts to fight back.
  • Mind Rape: Ahriman damages Maroth’s mind with a psychic attack, reducing the haughty sorcerer to a gibbering, weak-willed wreck that spends most of his time crawling around in the shadows. It's later revealed that Maroth is faking it.
  • Mind Screw: Fitting for a series based around Tzeentch's favored Legion, keeping track of all the schemes, order of events, and what may or may not be real can be quite difficult at times to wrap your head around.
  • My Greatest Failure: Ahriman feels a lot of guilt for accidentally transforming most of the Thousand Sons into suits of Animated Armor when he first cast the Rubric, and wants to correct the spell’s flaws so that he can cast it a second time and restore their humanity. Unchanged reveals that he’s repressing an even deeper sense of guilt for failing to save his brother Ohrmuzd from dying of the flesh-change.
  • Mythology Gag: The way Magnus' appearance keeps changing depending on who's looking at him is a nod to how the original miniature of him from the tabletop game looks almost nothing like his current depiction.
  • Nay-Theist: Ctesias acknowledges that the Chaos Gods exists, but refuses to worship them on the grounds that they don’t need or deserve it, and he views other Chaos Space Marines that do worship the Dark Gods with contempt. This is one of the few things that he and Ahriman can agree on.
  • Nightmare Face: Ichneumon is so heavily mutated by the powers of Chaos that his face no longer resembles anything even remotely human. One half of his face is covered with clusters of eyes, and the other half is dotted with lamprey-like mouths.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: The epilogue of Ahriman: Exile reveals that Maroth, who has been a gibbering and almost feral wreck ever since getting Mind Raped by Ahriman, is far more coherent and lucid when no one else is around.
  • Occult Blue Eyes: Ahriman is an extremely powerful sorcerer, and he has piercing blue eyes that other characters often find intimidating.
  • Out-Gambitted:
    • Ahriman: Exile: At one point, Ahriman travels to a desolate space station and summons a powerful daemon in order to learn more about Amon’s plans. Amon predicted that Ahriman would summon that specific daemon, however, and pre-emptively bound it into his service: when Ahriman summons the daemon, it easily breaks free of his control and unleashes a horde of lesser daemons upon the station, forcing Ahriman and his allies to flee for their lives.
    • In Ahriman: Sorcerer, Sanakht and Ignis begin conspiring to overthrow Ahriman and take control of his warband. While Ignis sets about recruiting people to their cause, Sanakht brainwashes Hemellion into becoming a Manchurian Agent. When the time is right Hemellion will assassinate Carmenta, and the forces loyal to Sanakht will destroy those loyal to Ahriman and blow up his flagship, the Sycorax. At the same time, Sanakht will accompany Ahriman down to the surface of Apollonia to retrieve the Athenaeum of Kallimakus; since Sanakht knows that the Athenaeum is guarded by blanks, Ahriman won’t be able to defend himself with his psychic powers and thus Sanakht—being the superior swordsman—will have a chance to kill him. Unfortunately for Sanakht, Ignis is actually loyal to Ahriman, and is using this opportunity to identify the disloyal elements of the Prodigal Sons so that they can be purged later. Ahriman and Ignis’s plan also requires Carmenta to die and the Sycorax to be destroyed, as their sacrifice will tear open a Warp rift and allow the Prodigal Sons to escape from the Inquisitorial fleet that is pursuing them. Finally, Ahriman brought Sanakht with him to go get the Athenaeum because it can only be removed by allowing it to possess someone, and by offering up Sanakht he’s killing two birds with one stone.
  • Pieces of God: The Shards of Magnus. Each one is an autonomous fragment of a fallen demigod, each one embodies a different aspect of his character, and each one believes itself to be the real Magnus. Ahriman spent most of the Horus Heresy chasing them down in order to put Magnus back together, but missed a few. Now the Shard bound to Astraeos, representing Magnus’s wrath, wants to finish the job and make itself the dominant aspect.
  • Possession Burnout: The Athenaeum literally burns through its hosts. The Inquisition keeps spare bodies in an adjacent room, ready to be brought in and possessed the moment the current host starts sizzling. Ahriman correctly gambles that a Space Marine could better withstand the possession than a normal human and chucks Sanakht into the Athenaeum.
  • Power Gives You Wings: Sar’iq grows a pair of feathery wings using Biomanipulation at one point.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": In Ahriman: Sorcerer, Ignis lets out a string of these when a Grey Knights strike cruiser suddenly shows up during the Prodigal Sons’ attack on Apollonia, throwing a wrench into his carefully-orchestrated designs.
  • Red Is Heroic: In Ahriman: Exile, the Brotherhood of Dust have a red color scheme, the color of the Thousand Sons when they were loyal to the Emperor. This is part of Amon's desire to find redemption in the eyes of the Emperor by annihilating the Legion.
  • Reduced to Dust: Ahriman kills Amon by unleashing the power of the Rubric on him, reducing him to dust.
  • The Reveal: In Ahriman: Unchanged, the daemon that Maroth summoned back in the first book and that Astraeos bound to himself in Ahriman: Sorcerer is revealed to be a Shard of Magnus the Red, embodying his wrath and vengeful nature.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Carmenta, fearing that her precious Titan Child will be destroyed if she continues to follow Ahriman on his foolhardy quest to stop Amon, betrays him by contacting Amon, welcoming his men onto the ship, and luring Ahriman into a trap on the bridge. Once Ahriman has been subdued and captured, Amon thanks her for her assistance by frying her with a psychic attack and ordering his men to destroy the Titan Child, though ultimately they fail and she survives.
    Amon: Titan Child. It is done. You are free. But betrayal should buy no peace.
  • Rousing Speech: Ahriman gives one to his Prodigal Sons near the start of Ahriman: Unchanged:
    I failed.
    You have all walked paths that I would not have chosen for you. You walked them because of me, because of the future I convinced you of. You believed. You followed me, and that first dream failed. And we have all paid the price for that error. Even those who stand elsewhere, far away from this place, on other worlds and following other fates, all of us, all we Thousand Sons suffered for a failing. For my failing.
    We are the exiled ones. We are the sons cast from Magnus’s side and who have borne punishment for daring to defy fate, a broken circle at the edge of existence, fugitives, outcasts, proof of what awaits those who deny the whims of gods. We believed in our own vision. We reached high. We were cast down.
    But fate is still a lie!
    Nothing is inevitable! Nothing is certain! Nothing is written! If the path to salvation lies through the halls of purgatory, then so be it!
    We have suffered but still we stand. We are warriors against fate, my brothers, and now we are going to war one last time. we are returning to the land from which we are banished. We will stand on the Planet of the Sorcerers. There we will enact a second Rubric. The dream of the past will be made anew. We will see it done, you and I.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Maroth goes insane after being Mind Raped by Ahriman and having his eyes gouged out by Astraeos, and the formerly proud sorcerer is reduced to little more than a gibbering, feral wreck. The epilogue reveals this to be a case of Obfuscating Insanity, as he acts far more lucid when no one else is around.
    • Connecting to the Sycorax takes a heavy toll on Carmenta, and her mental faculties suffer as a result. Ahriman's allowing of Sanakht to Mind Rape Hemellion into killing her is partly implied to be a Mercy Kill on Ahriman's part.
    • Happens more and more to Astraeos as the series go on.
  • Screw Destiny: Ahriman describes himself as a warrior fighting a war against fate itself on several occasions, and his overall goal in the trilogy is to save his brother Thousand Sons from the fate which he had inadvertently damned them to when he cast the Rubric. His efforts don’t pan out this time, but the end of the trilogy implies (and the wider Warhammer 40,000 franchise shows) that he will never stop trying.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: When Ahriman summons a daemon in order to interrogate it about Amon’s plans, the daemon attempts to break Ahriman’s concentration (and thus escape from its bindings) by taking on the form of his dead brother Ohrmuzd. Ahriman, being no stranger to the ways of daemons, is unfazed.
  • Shapeshifting: The Changeling has a role in the third novel at the command of Tzeentch himself.
  • Shout-Out: Menkaura's poetic description of time in the Warp as a stormy sea as opposed to a river is taken almost verbatim from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
  • Slashed Throat: In Sorcerer, Hemellion slices Carmenta’s throat with a shiv.
  • Speak of the Devil: No one ever refers to the Chaos Gods by name, presumably for fear of drawing their attention. Any character that has to talk about them will instead use epithets like the Lord of Skulls (Khorne), the Changer of Ways (Tzeentch), or the Plague Father (Nurgle).
  • Split Personality: Iobel accuses Ahriman of having a mind that's spent so much time steeped in sorcery and dealing with the denizens of the Warp that there are parts of it that are no longer his. She becomes an aspect of his mind after her death.
  • Squishy Wizard: Averted by most of the Thousand Sons, but played straight with Ctesias. An incredibly long lifetime spent binding thousands of daemons has left him frail and emaciated, and he can’t hold a candle to other Space Marines in close combat ability.
  • Stable Time Loop: Astraeos and his brothers are the last surviving members of a Space Marine chapter that the Inquisition destroyed for no apparent reason. They seek refuge in the Eye of Terror and eventually become renegades in service to Ahriman. Years later, Astraeos is captured and interrogated by the Inquisition, but thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball nature of the Warp, his interrogation is actually happening before his chapter was destroyed, and his corruption is the reason why the Inquisition destroyed it. Astraeos realizes this during his escape, and does not take it well.
  • The Starscream: In Ahriman: Sorcerer, the previously loyal Sanakht begins to fear that Ahriman’s obsession with casting the Rubric a second time will lead the Thousand Sons to ruin, and starts plotting against him. Ahriman knew of Sanakht’s treachery from the start, however, and Out Gambits Sanakht in spectacular fashion.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In Ahriman: Unchanged, Ctesias comes face-to-face with Czetherrtihor, a Chaos Titan infused with the powers of nine greater daemons of Tzeentch. He responds by summoning Doombreed, the mightiest Daemon Prince of Khorne, who makes short work of the Titan.
  • Summon Magic: Ctesias specializes in the summoning and binding of daemons. He has tens of thousands of them at his beck and call, and on two occasions he's had to cross the Godzilla Threshold by summoning all of them at once.
  • Summoning Ritual: In Ahriman: Exile, Ahriman and Astraeos summon a daemon through an elaborate ritual—involving ninety-nine mirrors floating in zero gravity, complex spirals carved into the floor, and a personal blood sacrifice on Ahriman’s part—in order to interrogate it about Amon’s plans. Unfortunately for them, Amon anticipated that they would summon this exact daemon and had already bound it into his service; the daemon pretends to be under Ahriman’s control, then attacks him when he lets his guard down.
  • Sword Beam: Sar’iq can shoot bolts of black lightning from the tip of his sword.
  • Taking the Bullet: Sanakht took a psychic attack from Iskandar Khayon on Ahriman’s behalf at some point in the backstory. He survived, but the attack burnt out much of Sanakht’s psychic potential, and now he struggles to perform the most basic psychic feats like Telepathy.
  • Taking You with Me: When Ahriman defeats Tolbek and starts probing his mind for information on who sent him, Tolbek immolates himself, body and mind, in an attempt to kill Ahriman while also denying him the information he seeks.
  • Telepathy: The Thousand Sons spend more time communicating with each other telepathically than they do with their actual voices. They can also use their telepathy to invade other people’s minds and brainwash them, as Sanakht does with Hemellion.
  • Thought-Aversion Failure: Hemellion knows that the Thousand Sons can read minds. He tries not to think about how much he hates them for enslaving him and destroying his world, only for Sanakht to inform him that he’s effectively broadcasting his hatred for all to see.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: In Ahriman: Sorcerer, Ignis meets with a group of Chaos Lords to persuade them to take part in Sanakht’s scheme to overthrow Ahriman and take control of the Prodigal Sons. One of the Lords refuses the offer and, realizing that Ignis will kill him to keep word of the plot from getting out, tries to kill Ignis first—only to get his head torn off by Credence.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Carmenta vents most of the Harrowing into space after she regains control of the Titan Child.
  • Time Stands Still: The daemon bound to Astraeos stops time while Ahriman is in the middle of a ritual in order to have a one-sided chat with him. Ahriman remains conscious and aware of his surroundings while time is stopped, but cannot move or speak.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The series really plays up this aspect of the Warp and the Eye of Terror. For the destruction of Vohal they actually travel back in time several centuries to ensure an Inquisitorial conclave will occur to Iobel, a person Ahriman has already met. The biggest, however, is where Astraeos's capture by the Inquisition in Ahriman's service is what convinces the Inquisition to wipe out his Chapter.
  • Undying Loyalty: Ultimately subverted with Sanakht to Ahriman. While he didn't believe in the first Rubric, he did believe in Ahriman. However, when he learns that Ahriman is planning to cast another Rubric using the Athanaeum of Kalimakus, he begins plotting to kill Ahriman, believing that Ahriman would only end up making things worse.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Many of the warlords who followed Ahriman were genuinely loyal even if it was just out of fear for his power. Ignis summoned many of the warlords and offered them a chance to turn against Ahriman. This was a ploy by Ahriman to sacrifice the lot of them in a ritual later down the line. Any who refused to betray Ahriman were killed to "hide their betrayal". In fact, expect Ahriman to sacrifice any non-Thousand Son who follows him and even a few of the Thousand Sons to boot.
  • The Unreveal: In Unchanged, the Changeling shows its true face to Ahriman after Tzeentch commands it to spare him. Ahriman is shocked by what he sees, but the Changeling erases his memory of the encounter and disappears before its face can be described.
  • Villain Protagonist: You may find yourself rooting for Ahriman to succeed, but make no mistake, he is not a nice person.
  • We Have Reserves: The trilogy plays up this aspect of the Inquisition.
    • In Exile, Iobel and her fellow Inquisitors are returning to Cadia from a long and dangerous scouting mission in the Eye of Terror. It’s mentioned that their ship’s entire crew will be executed upon arrival, just in case they were corrupted by Warp exposure.
    • In Unchanged, Inquistor Malkira has assembled a task force of Space Marine and Imperial Navy ships to attack Prospero. She reflects that no one can be allowed to remember the mission, and while the Space Marines and most indispensable crewmembers will just be mind-wiped, everyone else will be put to death.
  • Weather Manipulation: In Sorcerer, Ahriman and his Circle kick off their attack on the Inquisitorial conclave at Vohal by summoning a blizzard which engulfs the entire planet.
  • Wetware CPU: Carmenta can plug herself directly into the Titan Child, letting her control the ship’s systems with her mind and run it with a skeleton crew of servitors. This takes a toll on her mind, however, and she occasionally has trouble remembering where Titan Child ends and she begins.
  • Wham Line: In Unchanged, the daemon bound to Astraeos introduces itself to Ahriman with a line that reveals its true nature as a Shard of Magnus the Red:
    Did you think that I would not have my vengeance upon you, my traitorous son?
  • Willing Channeler: Astraeos binds Maroth’s daemonhost to himself toward the end of Ahriman: Exile. This amplifies his sorcerous powers and allows him to control the monster in battle. After crossing the Despair Event Horizon near the end of Ahriman: Sorcerer, he allows the daemon to possess him directly, drastically enhancing his powers at the cost of Body Horror and eventual burnout.
  • Wizard Duel: A common occurrence in the series, since Ahriman and many of his allies and enemies are all powerful sorcerers. The fights often involve the combatants blasting each other with telekinesis and elemental powers, deflecting attacks with telekinetic shields, invading one another’s minds, and having their souls leave their bodies to do direct battle with each other, and more.
  • Wolverine Claws: Ignis’s weapons of choice are a pair of lightning claws.
  • Worthy Opponent: Ahriman gains a grudging respect for Inquisitor Iobel after she inflicts significant damage to his memory palace during their Battle in the Center of the Mind. The respect is not mutual on her part.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: After they devastate Vohal, the Prodigal Sons retreat to the Warp and wait for the Inquisition to set up a base on the dead planet. From their perspective, two years pass; from the Inquisition’s perspective, Vohal has been a dead world for hundreds if not thousands of years by the time they arrive.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Magnus the Red. Any two people who look upon his physical form will see two very different things, and neither of those will be an accurate representation of the Humanoid Abomination that he has become.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Ahriman inherits leadership of Amon’s warband after killing him at the end of Ahriman: Exile. Ahriman cements the change in leadership by using his powers to strip the red paint from their armour and repaint them blue to match his own.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: In Ahriman: Exile, Thidias holds off an endless tide of daemons just long enough for Astraeos and Ahriman to reach their shuttle and escape, and he kills quite a few of them before finally being overwhelmed and disemboweled.